All entries for May 2005

May 26, 2005

Musical meme

My Music Top 20 (if anyone is in the remotest bit interested). I originally wanted to compile a Top 10 but, realising the sheer impossibility of such a task resigned myself to a score. I doubt that this list, roughly in ascending order of preference, is 100% reflective of my musical preferences, and no doubt I shall be editing it somewhat… every time I play a CD hereafter ;-). Nevertheless, I think it is fairly representative of my personal favourites and what they mean to me:

*Adagio from the String Quintet in C, Franz Schubert (in my opinion the most sublime piece of music ever written. Indispensable for summer walks in the English countryside)

*Set Me Free, Chris Rea (awe inspiring; will give me a boost however low I am feeling)

*Pavane pour une Infante Défunte, Maurice Ravel (poignant; for those times when one must resign oneself mournfully to fate)

*Libera me and In Paradisium from the Requiem, Gabriel Fauré (respectively powerful and serene; the fusion of Night on a Bald Mountain by Modest Musgorsky and Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria at the end of Disney’s Fantasia achieves this equally well)

*La Mer, Claude Debussy (veritably a symphonic poem)

*Brünnhilde’s Immolation from Götterdammerung (sung version) from the Nibelungen Ring Cycle, Richard Wagner (a more than adequate substitute for sex)

*Adagietto from Symphony No. 5, Gustav Mahler (ultra Romantic)

*The theme tune from the ‘Inspector Morse’ TV series, Barrington Pheloung (am a Morse fanatic)

*Overture from The Magic Flute, W.A. Mozart (I imagine this would be great for driving to down country lanes, with one’s foot on the accelerator)

*Nocture no. – (will add the no. once I’ve tracked it down), Frederick Chopin (nostalgia for Poland)

*Come Rain or Shine, Frank Sinatra (What will be rushing through my mind the first time I French kiss in the rain)

*Adagio from Spartacus, Aram Khachaturian (Perfectly depicts a ship at full mast on the high seas – as the producers of the ‘Onedon Line’ series must have realised; to me it also invokes positive Victorian values)

*The Beyondness of Things, John Barry (vast expanses)

*Tapiola, Jean Sibelius (the beauty of the Tundra)

*Nocturnes, Claude Debussy (Secessionism in music)

*The Whale, Electric Light Orchestra (urban, industrialised England)

*The Weekend, Michael Grey (clubbing)

*Adagio in G Minor for Strings and Organ, Thomaso Albioni (an absolute must for my funeral)

*Simply The Best, Tina Turner (the most uplifting music ever)

*True, Spandau Ballet (for the camp moments inherent in every gay man’s life)

May 24, 2005

The End of the World is nigh

I am not habitually superstitious and view the following as a source of interest rather than as anything to be taken literally. However: walking past a newsagent's window earlier today my gaze was arrested by the cover story of Horoscope magazine, (which also happened to be irradiated by a ray of sunlight that beamed its way between two rooftops to illuminate the corner of the aforesaid store front where the aforesaid magazine was displayed.) In bold type read the title: Pope Benedict XVI spells the Apocalypse.

Upon further online investigation I found myself rather gripped by this Nostrodamian affair. Notwithstanding the fact that Ratzinger's election as pontiff took a conclave of 115 cardinals, four rounds of voting and followed a lifetime of service to the Vatican, it would appear that, according to Internet doomsayers and a 12th century Catholic prophecy by St. Malachy – an Irish archbishop, at least, that Jugement day shall be upon us in the near and not too distant future.

Apparently St. Malachy was said to have had a vision during a trip to Rome around 1139 of the remaining 112 Popes. Benedict XVI is number 111 on that list. He is also described in a text attributed to St. Malachy as the "Glory of the Olive". What's the connection? I hear you ask. Well Malachy-watchers point to the choice of the name Benedict -an allusion to the Order of St. Benedict, a branch of which is known as the Olivetans. Others have speculated that the new pope will be a peacemaker in the Church or in the world and will therefore carry the olive branch.

Critics widely dismiss the Malachy prophecy as a forgery and possible propaganda meant to influence a 16th century conclave. Doses of scepticism even appear on the most energetic Malachy web pages.
But believers point out some startling similarities between the prophecy's descriptions and past pontificates: John Paul II, number 110, was described in the prophecy as "de labore solis" – or "of the labour of the sun". Strikingly he was born on May 18, 1920, the same day as a solar eclipse and was buried on April 8, 2005 – the same day as a partial eclipse, visible in the Americas.

More pressing for doomsayers, however, are the prophecy's references to the last Pope on the list, Peter the Roman, who will lead the Church before "the formidable judge will judge his people". Given that Benedict is already 78 years old, Peter the Roman must be coming soon, and with him, it would seem, the end of the world.

May 15, 2005

All work and no play makes Alex a dull boy

All work and no play makes Alex a dull boy
All work and no play makes Alex a dull boy
All work and no play makes Alex a dull boy
All work and no play makes Alex a dull boy
All work and no play makes Alex a dull boy

All work and no play makes Alex a dull boy

All work and no play makes Alex a dull boy

All work and no play makes Alex a dull boy

All work and no play makes Alex a dull boy

All work and no play makes Alex a dull boy



and no play

makes Alex a dull

boy. All work and no

play makes Alex a dull boy

All work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boyAll work and no play makes Alex a dull boy

Mwhahahahahaaaa! Prepare to be taken care of, Ruby – yeah, that's right, I mean you, Ruby. In seven minutes I'm going to hack you up into tiny little pieces. Then I'm going carve up your body parts into cute little star shapes… before shovelling them all into several Tesco's two for the price of one extra strong bin liners and storing them in my industrial size freezer. And don't smirk like that, I am closer than you think. In fact I'm watching you right now – I can see you sitting there, smugly, in front of your computer screen, focusing with your eyes on these very words, one hand poised on the keypad… Getting a bit worried now aren't ya, Rubes? Well don't even think about reaching for the phone, Frisky, I've cut the… oh fuck it… erm, yeah, I removed your sim card earlier today… And remember: you have 7 minutes to live. Mwhahahahahahaaa!

May 10, 2005

30 raisons pour detester les francais/ My Year In Merde

I apologise for and disclaim responsibility for any offence I may herebelow inadvertantly and unintentionally cause to French or Francophone visitors to my weblog.

I could just as easily produce a longer list of things that I like about the French but it wouldn't be so funny.

'My Year in Merde' is a reference to a recently published book in the UK. Over the last academic year I have been studying in Lille, Nord (59) and my observations are for the most part first hand experiences. They may therefore not necessary be reflective of France as a whole.

1 Smoking is a national pastime (cigarette manufacturing was once a state monopoly – quelle surprise!)
2 Their streets are paved with dog turd (in England we have what is known as le 'pooper scooper')
3 Their streets are lined with beggars (this rather whiffs of social problems/ industrial apathy, doesn't it, Monsieur le Ministre de l'Interior?)
4 They speak French
5 They have a habit of meaning what they don't say and saying what they don't mean – rather like women (sorry girls)
6 No one gives a frigging centime for anyone else
7 The state or 'l'administration' has its own courts, police and legal rules, which I have to learn :-(
8 They overwhelmingly drive Pergeots, Citroens and Renaults and buy French – whatever happended to the Internal Market and the Free Movement of Goods?
9 Generally speaking they effortlessly look stylish, slim and tanned
10 Their economy is about as stagnant as a cess pool – job security is very high meaning that the incompetent remain employed while the newly qualified remain out of work
11 They are obsessed with sex and the body image
12 They drive on the wrong side of the road
13 They cannot pronounce 'h' – eg. 'Ello 'Ello
14 They cite the separation of church and state as a motivation for religious intolerance – the banning of muslim chadars and Jewish kippas in state schools etc.
15 Their mobile phone companies enjoy charging hidden fees 'hors forfait'
16 Despite being president for 10 years Jacques Chirac still regularly puts his foot in his mouth at international conventions
17 VAT stands at 19.6%
18 Unemployment at around 11%
19 In order to terminate a contract you are obliged, by law, to send a letter by registered post to the other contracting party (no wonder La Poste has managed to stay afloat – in contrast with Royal Mail)
20 Cheddar cheese is not available
21 Baked beans are not available
22 Disgestive biscuits are not available
23 Blue tac is not obtainable (got bored with 'available')
24 Students write on graph paper – lined paper is not obtainable
25 You could be forgiven for thinking that their gyms haven't received investment since the 1980s
26 Holding protest marches and strikes is a national past time
27 They are going to vote 'no' to the EU Constitution (despite having created the EU themselves 50 years ago – Jean Monnet, French foreign minister, long dead white man, remember him?)
28 Their formalism can be OTT (my lecture note print outs are headed 'Madame le Professeur…') Documents have to be stamped and you can't simply sign and date a contract – you have to state where it was signed and write out 'read and approved' as well
29 They get away with having substantial 'overseas departments' – French Guyana; Guadaloupe; Martinique etc. while the British are still labelled internationally in certain quarters as colonialist pigs.
30 They think they are internationally significant – to be fair they do have a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, rather like the British.

May 08, 2005

Graphic politics

I realise this is lamely timed since we've just had a General Election but if you haven't already visit, read the explanation and take the test! My recommendation rockets out beyond our stratosphere. With dazzling clarity my earlier fragmented reasoning of politics has been wiped away by a brilliant, coherent and hollistic explanation, in short, simply because the political compass adds a new axis and thereby a new dimension to the problematic and unsatisfactory right-left analysis a relic of pre Revolutionary France. The extremes of the new axis are fascism or authoritarianism and libertarianism – or, if one travels far enough, anarchy. Contrary to popular opinion, communism is not the polar opposite of fascism – indeed these two maybe merely at acute angles to each other, though their differences have fuelled and continue to have the potential to fuel more bloodshed then any other. Communism is in fact not authoritarian per se but because it is polar opposite of neo-liberalist, laissez faire free market economy, it necessarily entails regulation and control and will therefore tend towards authoritarianism. Conversely unbridled corporate freedom can prove to be equally as comandeering though exploitative of greed rather than of fear.

This 2D graphical representation of politics, festooned with dots representing the relative positions of well-known politicians, has explained, inter alia, current affairs in a way that has hitherto escaped my understanding. Speaking topically, this includes the war in Iraq; the hypocrisy of Tony Blair in vectoring the political field of the UK towars the NE and why he must now stand down from his presidential – sorry, I meant prime ministerial – perch; why the leaders of Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and, I daresay, China manage to co-operate so effectively, despite purported ideological schisms; why Robert Mugabe is regarded as scum while Ariel Sharon is appeased and why right wing politicians, such as Edwina Currie and Michael Portillo may be simultaneously liberal and liberal politicians, such as the liberal democrats may be simultaneously right of centre. It furthermore illustrates which ideological quadrant one should occupy (SW) in order to obtain political sainthood of persons such as Nelson Mandela, Ghandi or the Damai Lama.

Eats(,) shoots and leaves

A Giant panda or an impolite cowboy in a saloon?

Like her editor I also romanticise the prospect of dining with Lynne Truss, the author of this esteemed insight into our punctuational crisis, at l'Apostrophe (a Parisian restaurant)

Language and the rules that bind it together emblazon an incredible palate of colourful possiblities from which the most expressive artistic creations may sporn their genesis (or is that a double tautology?) Puns are an endless source of amusement. Exemplis gratis:

ounce – the snow leopard or 1/16th of a pound
pound – 1/14th of a stone or a lock-up for stray animals
stone – an instrument for killing adulteresses in certain countries or 1/2240th ton

Did you know?
'Victoria, England's Queen' is an anagram of 'rules a nice and quiet land'
'Schoolmaster' is an anagram of 'the classroom'
'A man – a plan – a canal – Panama' is a palindrome (the same statement may be read from right to left)

26 little-known lexicographical gems for the day:

Aboulia – loss of willpower or the ability to make decisions
Bushido – Japanese code of chivalry
Cerumen – ear wax
Demijohn – a broad glass bottle for holding wine with handles and a narrow neck
Endomorph – a person with a typically stout corporal dimensions
Friable – having the property of being easily reduced to crumbs/ powder
Germicide – killing germs
Heuristic – encouraging desire to learn discover
Indaba – an international Scout conference
Jemmy – a burglar's short crow-bar
Kermesse – a cycle race in an urban area
Lucipotomy – the art of creating white horses, as may be seen on the chalky hillsides of Wiltshire
Marmelise – to thrash, defeat heavily, destroy etc.
Nudibranch – a shell-less marine gastropod with gills exposed on the back and sides of the body
Oubliette – a dungeon with no opening except at the top, into which a prisoner could be precipitated and then forgotten about
Pantophobia – a morbid fear of everything
Quinquagesima – the Sunday preceding Lent or fifty days before Easter
Remuage – the process of turning or shaking wine bottles so that the sediment collects at the cork end for removal
Spry – nimble or agile
Teapoy – a small tri or quadripedal table
Uranous – uranium in lower valency
Velleity – volition in its lowest form – i.e. wanting to do something not quite badly enough to warrant elevating oneself from one's fundamental support
Wobblegong – a carpet shark (I still don't know what this means, but it does fire the imagination, doesn't it)
Xenonium – a present given to a stranger
Yammer – to lament or wail
Zugzwang – a blockade position in chess where any move is disadvantageous to the the blockaded player

Life is but a terminal disease

So a pessimistic acquaintance of mine once proclaimed. I don't think we should contemplate our five senses nor our Freudian egos or ids (mistranslation of 'it') in this way. After all, everyone living in the developed world, bar, I grant you, those suffering from unbearably painful illnesses has something to live for, whether a can of Heineken, another measly cash handout from the welfare state, the light of day (literally: a serotonin booster) or the likelihood of happiness in the future. As little red haired Annie sings, Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow, you're only a day away…'
I believe in liberated capitalist markets but only insofar as they generate social well-being – ie. local employment; quality products and services that will improve the calibre of life for everyone. Supporting competition (anti-trust) laws and reasonably restrictive regulations proportional to the size and capability of their target enterprises, imposed with the objective of ensuring environmental sustainability, is indispensable for meeting our obligation towards future generations (inter-generational responsibility) especially when we are childless ourselves. I am furthermore skeptical of the notion of choice: simply increasing the availability of potential materialistic options does not translate as a broadening of choices since choice is necessarily a mental process. If choices are too numerous for the average human being to know their number and make comparisons logically the word then becomes a misnomer. At the opposite end of the spectrum, if cultural and social expectations cloud and narrow our paths too restrictively we become disillusioned by the illusion of incarceration. Education, or perhaps more specifically a heuristic society/ culture that promotes useful education, is also a quintessential instrument in the alleviation of poverty.
It would be shortsighted to focus on objective causes of unhappiness such as financial insolvency when so much depression is the nefarious prodigy of emtional/ hormonal activity, amorous departures and neurological disorders. Yet even if we remain ignorant of the available remedies and despair over the very fact that as intelligent beings our despondency is reasoned are therefore incontrovertible, in infinitely greater measure we are likely to remember that there is hope. If all else fails our self-preserving antediluvian instinct for survival, in whatever horrifically mutated form it currently resides (I'll continue smiling fallaciously at my loathsome boss because someone else is, betimes, likely to accept my offer of employment) shall, mercifully, save us.
Here's a war song to raise the spirits (before we drink them):
_Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile.
While there's a lucifer to light your fag, smile boys that the style.
What's the use of worrying, it never was worth while, so
Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile :-) _

Why, as a gay man, I abhor the gay scene

From my experience gay urban culture is characterised by a lack of respect, intolerance, selfishness and egotism. The gay nightclub, bar scenes and saunas are little more than glorified cattle markets observing a Darwinist pecking order according to superficial physical appearances, where souls are destroyed through unrestrained liberal hedonism. Lustful greed, promiscuity and schadenfreude for the losers are rife. The haunts, are therefore cruel breeding grounds for misery, cynicism and bitterness. Machiavels exploit the physically saleable and while both may 'have fun,' giving vent to their adolescant single-orientated mindsets they will suffer in the long term as they gradually realise the unsustainability and increasingly unrewarding nature of their addicted lifestyles. Meanwhile the timid, self concious and undesirable for aesthetically defective, will suffer painfully in the shadows, tortured, in cruel irony to the social equality that we preach so vociferously as we parade our banners and our bodies during Pride Marches. We must remember that not everyone is, nor has the capacity to be a mental Hercules, not to speak of a physical Adonis.
Homosexuality between consenting adult men or women (where it may be reasonably presumed that each is mature enough to understand the consequences of their actions) is not wrong per se; certainly not because unsubstantiated biblical passages from Leviticus and Romans dogmatically so state. It is, in any case, unrealistic for the literate and informed modern population to unquestioningly accept religious scripture verbatim. However, though idealism may incite me to state otherwise, the nocturnal scene lifestyle followed by many gay people, a lifestyle that is actively promoted at our peril, is fundamentally flawed. I believe that this largely attributable to the perception among gay people that there are no alternative fora for finding matches – whereas the opposite is often true. GLBT social groups and hobby groups exist, but sadly do not receive the same publicity as the commercially run exploitative haunts.
Until gay relationships are unremittedly accepted and normalised by society through institutionalisation (e.g. single sex marriage) and and can flourish respecting moral norms outside hermetic gay venues; until civilised debates motion constructive criticism on well argued grounds and until we have the courage to detract ourselves from a ruinous lifestyle centred around nightclubs, where drinking and substance abuse foster we can expect mental instability, depression and suicide within the gay population to continue.

May 2005

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