Berlaken, A Parlous Feare

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The new job is challenging. A little nerve-wracking to start, but I was soon in the swing of things and beginning to enjoy myself.

Thank you all - it's great to know that you're all pleased about this - and Krissa and I are grateful for your sentiments. We're chuffed too!

The rehearsals for A Midsummer Night's Dream are coming along as well. I mean, I felt a little out of place to start, because I haven't done any acting since I swore off Shakespeare at the age of 12. I had two public performances as Mark Anthony in Julius Caesar, and both days I ended up having stitches at the local A&E for totally unrelated incidents.
But still, I thought I was taking the hint.

Tonight, after a little improvisational game play and general larking about (and a Venti Iced Mocha Latte from Starbucks), I really relaxed into it...even after my first day at the new office, which is really saying something.

Krissa and I went out to Long Beach on Sunday, a..um...well...long beach on Long Island, and we swam and played in the allocated area of the sea and we burnt ourselves to a crisp under a sun moderated by deceptively cooling winds.
After coming home we still felt fine, and I even had a hot shower before heading out to see March of the Penguins, but it was only after coming out of the cinema that I felt the all-too-familiar crawl of heat across the skin on my back.

That night, a faint *glupglupglupglup* sound could be heard from our bedroom as Krissa and I absorbed vast quantities of moisturiser.

Summer is a cumen in, lewd sing cuckoo.

Hometown

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Got a job.

A bona fide New York City full-on professional engineering job.
Full-time.
Permanent.

And that's a relief.
All the hope, fears and worries - having a temporary permit to work, struggling to keep it going so that all of the jobs I had applied for at the beginning could still consider me if they wanted to...failing...

Getting that permit in February, working in Macy's...working in Dumbo, knowing that it wouldn't last...and now this.

There was a lot riding on my employment. Krissa and I were facing up to the fact that if I couldn't find a job in New York, we might have to move where the engineering jobs were more plentiful...there was talk of Schenectady, Texas...but now we get to stay in the city that we both love so much.


Excellent.

Let the games begin.

Krissa is set on learning Welsh. Biscuit seems very supporting to her and is even making noises like he will too.

As someone who has occasionally tried to learn Russian because I like the sound of it I'm really not in a position to talk, but after listening to Krissa reeling off the Welsh for 'Bog Off' in her best pirate accent, I'm not sure I can really deal with this much beyond the jokey late-night browsing of bbc.co.uk/wales.

1. Join The Theatre.
2. Really Join The Theatre.

So yeah, I'm in a play. I play one of the rude mechanicals in a play called 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' by some bloke called Shakespeare who you may have heard of. Krissa's also in the play, but she's a fashionista fairy, and rehearses on different nights...in between learning Welsh, presumably.

3. Become a Zen Buddhist Monk
4. Think Again.

Ommm.

5. Go On The Road With The Band
5.5 Join A Band
6. Become Internationally Famous Musician.

Ommm-yeah.

7. Take assertion courses and resist the coursing of the Welsh language through your home.
8. Chip in with the occasional helpful assisting phrase when your wife is stumped.
9. Re-emigrate.
10. Acquire that sports-bar-local that you've been meaning to do for ages.

I might take up running again. Krissa has roller-blades now, so we can run/blade together, and there's nothing stopping her clearing out her sinuses/ learning Welsh while we're moving along...

11. Join Foreign Legion
12. Try and find New York offices of said Foreign Legion

Edge

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Well.

Every time my mouse reaches for the 'New Entry' button, I wonder about this whole Revolution that I'm meant to be a part of.

As far as I can see, the world, or parts of it, have stepped back to allow bloggers room to impress. The thing is, we aren't out for impressing. We aren't out to turn anything over. Regardless of how you view it, all bloggers as a whole are out for, is speaking.

We type and speak and have our say.
If anybody was expecting anything more than that, well...sorry.
We're doing our thing. Sorry if it wasn't what you hoped it would be, or whatever you thought it might become.

We will raise our voices.
That's it.

We weill raise our voices to political, religious, or social ends. We will raise our voices whenever and wherever we feel like it, and that's the whole thing.
Our voices can and will be raised, and the records of our voices will stick around forever in search engines and cache and memory.

If you were looking for more of a revolution than that, you might think you've set your standards too high, but then again, we might think you haven't paid enough attention to the revolution we're already offering.

I'm a personal blogger. I don't pretend to be anything more. Occasionally I will post about something outside of that remit, but I don't have strict rules. I will post whatever I want to post, and so will everyone else, and good on them for doing so. What journalists fail to see in their 'Look at these crazy people' articles, and what politicians fail to see when they bypass the opportunity to become bloggers, is that we have voices. And no matter how loudly we are heard, and no matter how quietly we are heard, we have spoken.

And despite everyone looking to the future, when it is considered what was said about what matters...our voices must be taken into account. And as accounts are taken, and time piles up...the opinions of people, not just their voting choices, must be taken into account.

...and that's it.

Ablation and Amendment

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I have forgotten why the sky is blue.
Or why the night sky is not bright with an infinity of stars.
I don't know how rainbows work.
I have forgotten some things, and other things I never knew.

I have forgotten 'Friends, Romans, Gentlemen...'.
And the procedures for a landing approach.
I don't know how to play Backgammon.
I have forgotten some things, and other things I never knew.

I have forgotten the names of my beach friends.
And how to tie a bowline.
I don't know how to do Laplace Transforms.
I have forgotten some things, and other things I never knew.

I have forgotten how to develop black and white film.
And whether Matisse was a cubist or fauvist.
I don't know what makes this tick.
I have forgotten some things, and other things I never knew.

The Speaker

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No time for real content. Have another photograph.

Love you really.

Puccini In The Park

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Summer, and New York is a different city.

On Tuesday evening Krissa and I and several thousand other people bore down on the Great Lawn in Central Park, for a performance of Tosca by the Metropolitan Opera.

"This must be the bit where Angelotti and Mario are panicking from the sound of the cannon signifying that Angelotti's escape has been discovered...and yes, here are the police and Baron Scarpia."
"Yes yes, all right. Can I read the story summary now please?"

We took some french bread, some salami and some cheese, a little olive oil and a bottle of white wine. We laid out a pale blue sheet on the grass in the middle of a huge crowd of other people and listened to the music as the day paled and the constellations came out.

"That's The Big Dipper, there, you just can't see the faint one which is the end of the skillet handle yet. It's also called Ursa Major, The Great Bear."
"What's bear-like about it?"
"Well, if you're going to draw around it."
"Well if you're going to draw around it. I suppose."
"That's The Big Dipper."
"That's Trump Tower."
"That's Columbus Circle."
"That's the GE Building."
"That's the approach queue for JFK."

The music was sometimes lost in the hubbub, but it didn't matter. The atmosphere was fabulous. Krissa looked magnificent in a yellow summer dress. The police turned a blind eye to everyone drinking wine. People lit candles. The lights of the city rose up around the park. The voices of the singers shone out.

We left before it ended, when the dew had fallen and the grass was damp, but the air was still warm on the skin. We made our way through the paths of the park to Fifth Avenue, walked across to Park Avenue and stood in the subway station eagerly awaiting the air-conditioned train. We held hands and hugged around the carriage poles on the way home, each stop heralding a blast of hot night air from the open doors. We walked hand-in-hand from the subway to our apartment building and showered and slept.

Opera in the Park is one thing...and the summer has much more to offer.

O Mundo Sorrindo

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Or why Brasilian dental care is the best in the world.

Seventeen years old, a young, lean, tanned and lovely young lady walks out in the morning sunshine of Ipanema, catching the eye of every one who passes.

She has just returned from a summer in the interior with an aged aunt, and it feels good to be back at home in the city. There doesn't seem to be much of a breeze, but there is a haunting voice in the streets...a gentle, sussurating presence of sound, like the wind.

She settles in her favourite place on the beach, nestling into the warm sand and catching the feel of the sun on her skin. A beach boy with a coolbox on his shoulder pads by, kicking up clouds of sand. She ignores him and lies back.

There is no wind and she loses herself in the sounds of the waves on the shore, the noise is wide and around her as the water pounds the sand and the vibrations surround her.

She is troubled. On her return her mother has declared childhood to be over, and after the summer, she has to confess that the evidence is on her mother's side. It is time for her to get a job; earn a living.

But there is nothing in life that she feels passionate about. Her family is all about passion, but the sun and the beach and the city are what she loves.

As the morning wanes on the sun climbs to a point where it is too hot even for this girl, and she reluctantly rolls up her towel and heads home, winding her way through streets with old men at cafe tables sitting and watching the world go by. Again, even though there is no movement of air, she is haunted by the sounds of wind moaning through the washing lines above the streets...well, that's what it sounds like.

This is our man, the reason for The Specialisation, the reason for the boom in medical immigrants to South America, the reason that teenagers from all the rich countries of the world are dragged by demanding parents to the crazy tapestry of Rio de Janeiro; the principal man behind the boom in dental care. He doesn't know it yet. The decision that puts him in this role has yet to be made, but he will make it.

He's a teacher. A young, enthusiastic type. A man with a dream, a passion. He wants to help the young ones, you see, and the headmistress can see it in his eyes. He does twice as many lunch duties as any other of the grizzled and world-weary staff members, and he has yet to notice. He also holds, rather pivotally for our story, the post of Careers Tutor.

Here we find him, idly spinning a pencil back and forth between his fingers and staring vacantly at a faded map of the world pinned with tacks to the wall. His class is being taken for morning prayer by Father Santos, and he has ten minutes to himself. His tie is wrought thin and absent-mindedly against a pale blue shirt. He is thinking about his geography class this afternoon.

A strange noise rises and breaks through the dampening effect of the plaster wall. It's a breaking wave of gentle vocal exhalation, but the sheer number of lungs giving rise to it brings it above the threshold of hearing.
There is a knock at the door.

"Come in."

The door is opened, slowly, and our familiar young girl from the beach walks in. There is a chair to one side of our teacher's desk, and she crosses the floor of the office to reach it.

"Aaaaah."

The young girl flinches.

"I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me," says the teacher.
"It's okay," she says. "It's happening a lot."
"Er, right...what is?"
"The aaah thing. Lately."
"Right, what can I do for you?"
"Mother says I need a career."
"Really? Any ideas?"
The girl shakes her head.
"Okay," says our teacher, and he nods to a chart on the wall. "Take a look at that chart over there and let me know if there's anything you like."
The girls gets up and walks, slowly across the room.
"Aaaaaah."
The teacher frowns at himself and the girl flinches again, but she peers at the chart.
The whole financial makeup of a continent hinges, with bated breath, upon this moment.
She traces a finger along a line on the chart.
"Where are you?"
"Uh, 'Do you like helping people?'"
"And?"
"I like it a lot."
"Where does that bring you?"
"It says 'Medical'."
"Okay, sit down, and let's chat."
The girl looks at the teacher warily.
"Come on, come on," he says, "sit."
She passes the front of the desk again.
"Aaaaaaaah."
"LOOK," explodes the girl, "WHAT IS going on? Why is everyone doing this?"

Our teacher is flabbergasted. He starts fiddling with his pencil again. Flicking it back and forth, over and round and swinging again around his fingers.
There is a pause while the world holds its breath.

"How do you feel about becoming a dentist?"

Hie, And Hear The Good News

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Dave is back.

Biotechnology Corner

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Good morning people.

I only have time for a very very quick post, so I'll keep this brief, but I'll get the apology in now.

Sorry.

Anyway.

Last night I was thinking about DNA, genetics, and evolution as it pertains to increasing complexity of biological systems.

Let's hypothetically take a comparatively short, already mapped genome. I think some work has been done on annelids, so let's take a strand of worm DNA.
Unwind it and lay it flat.
If we were to generate a random thread of equal length, but still obeying the basic G, T, C, A pairings of actual DNA, what would be the statistical difference in patterning between the two? Would there be a notably higher order of arrangement and organisation in the evolved DNA as opposed to the randomly generated strand?
I am thinking in terms of analogy between the order and organisation of pattern in the two DNA strands and the scientific concept of entropy; namely, the degree of disorder within a system. Would the worm's DNA have higher 'entropy' than the randomly generated strand? Could there be patterns within that which could lead to a greater understanding of how the DNA (along with the RNA and the process of protein generation) generates the phenome?

Just wondering.
I haven't got a lot of time on my hands, so mega-super-duper bonus points, and quite possibly additional copies of my Summer Burn CD to anyone who can point me in a beneficial direction.

Now you know why I apologised.

Gewinnen durch Technik

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Once, walking across the lobby of the building where I have been working recently, one of the elevators' doors opened for me. There was no one else in the lobby and the call button had not been pressed.

The next time this happened I noticed where I was walking - dead centre, towards the call button.

This morning, I walked towards an open doored elevator to one side of the lobby. It was already half-full of people, all of whom were facing me and watching me walk towards them as the doors began to close. No one reached out to stop them. Faces were blank. Impassive and drone-like; blameless for the closing doors. Commuter faces.

Until I hopped three feet to the right and made the door open all by myself.
Everyone reacted to that.

Weekend

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I had a great weekend.
Saturday we had the Artfesten as discussed further down the page, and then yesterday was long because I got up with Krissa at 7.30am as she prepared to go to church to take photos. I took advantage of the early morning and did an enormous bunch of chores which left me feeling accomplished enough to sit around and do pretty much bugger all for the rest of the day.

I 'invested' in a new pair of stereo headphones on Saturday. The inverted commas make an appearance because even when I am at my most impoverished I struggle to define $19 as an investment...and the great thing is, the headphones are brilliant. After yesterday morning's chores, (soundtrack provided by Gorillaz) I am more than happy to mention that the Maxell HP-550F are a really good buy. Even if you have big ears. They're the first headphones I've had that can cope with the Bass Boost on my Sony CD walkman without distortion and crackling...and that includes the headphones which came with the discman in the first place.

On Pete's advice I stole a couple of planes on Sunday afternoon, scratching the itch I had to take to the skies over San Andreas.

I also finished, 'Wish You Were Here' the official biography of Douglas Adams, written by Nick Webb. It was a broad-reaching and affectionate look at his life, work and philosophies, but not, I think, too rose-tinted. I'm not usually one for biographies, but I enjoyed it a lot and I suppose it satisfied a curiosity I had about Adams that I only half knew I had.

Partly because of the Adams biography and partly because I've read so much about it elsewhere for so long, I sought out and bought a copy of Richard Dawkins' 'The Selfish Gene', a look at evolutionary biology and behaviour. It's incredibly well written, and I had to exert a little self-control to stop reading when I reached my desk this morning.

Work is winding down, but I am waiting to hear of a potential interview for a temp-to-perm position later this week.

How're tricks?

We failed to attend all the photographic exhibitions in Chelsea before sundown.

A picture:

Krissa is wearing lacy black underpants and a white wifebeater, and lying next to me on the bed as I type naked with the Mac resting dangerously in my lap (it is unbearably warm and humid in the city tonight, so I hope you'll excuse my abhorrent nude intrusion into this otherwise rather saucy mental image). This innocent white iBook G4 is being prevented from wiping future generations of human beings into ignominous inexistence through the intervention of a pillow 'twixt ball and battery. That's a regular pillow, folks, just a spongey $19.99 thing, available from all good bedding shops. Preservation of near-infinite numbers of grateful descendants is included in the price.

Anyway, after that short soft porn and gene pool-themed interlude (of which there can never be too many, let's be honest), we shall get back to what everyone wants to hear about - buckets and buckets of Art.

So there's quite a lot of galleries in Chelsea, as it turns out. And more than a few of them have photographic exhibits. So we didn't make it around all of them, but we did find a pretty good pub after seeing more than a few.

The first stop was Hiroshi Sugimoto's Conceptual Forms. This one literally leapt off the page of reviews in New York magazine with the stunning assertion 'a new series of photographs of stereometric plaster models used in the late nineteenth century to illustrate complex trigonometric functions'. Indeed, it was my motivation to see these photos that got us up and running at exhibitions all day today.
Honest.
In effect the photos were underwhelming and dry. The artist's assertion that unintentional art is more valuable and in fact better than art which is intended wasn't exactly borne out - his close up shots of mechanical devices were also a bit...flat. And this is the opinion of someone who likes looking at mechanical devices. I am a mechanical device enthusiast...but somehow...nah. Didn't work.

But at the other end of the spectrum was something which Krissa really wanted to see because she thought it would be bad - Gregory Crewdson's Beneath the Roses at the Luhring Augustine gallery. I'm a fan of photography. Marrying an adept photographer will do that to a man. I feel that the challenge of photography lies within the art of anticipation and visualisation, the art of execution and skill, and finally within judgement and presentation. Capturing a moment is easy. Capturing a moment which communicates and engages a viewer, which endures in the mind and has value because of those attributes is manifestly difficult.
Beneath the Roses isn't like that. The scenes are fake, created, artificed.
The subject was suburbia...recurring themes of roses and pills and lovelessness and decay and loneliness echoed throughout the incongruous and unsubtle tableaux. Everything about the pictures was staged; to the point of people in cars carrying lights in their laps to better show their faces, spot lamps behind bushes threw bizarre shadows across people beside train tracks, and pill bottles and cosmetic products were all turned to show their names to the camera, while impossibly dirty household fittings dotted scenes, and messages so unsubtle as to be the photographic equivalent of a raging temper tantrum were presented in each photograph.
I didn't like it at all. I thought it had all the artistic value of that painting: 'Dogs At Cards'...something which a couple of the photos actually reminded me of.

We also saw an interestingly brief mini exhibit of Weegee's Idiot Box...a single small white room of about ten black and white photos of 1940s TV...and a TV showing 1940s TV. Didn't really know what to do...so we left.

These are the ones I can remember through reading back through the listings in New York magazine...we ventured through the funky swinging doors of a bundle of other places, which included some interesting wall-sized paintings emblazoned with stand-up comics' one liners, backed with the contents of a few of the artist's chequebooks...some interesting commentary on the future of living space...some porcelain puppies, a woman who photographed herself in about twenty different costumes, and, topping us off on the weird-shit-o-meter, an odd blobble thing, sitting in an upstairs gallery room by itself, with three faces of different colours; six eyes, three mouths, all conversing and shouting at each other unintelligibly.

The pub was called 'The Half King'. It's on 23rd and 10th Avenue, and they do a wicked Mac and Cheese.

I also invested in Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene and some Aviator sunglasses. All in all, a great day, especially rounded off as it was by Krissa and I deciding to go into a Mexican restaurant where the waiter brought us two extra margheritas by mistake.

But none of this matters, because you're still thinking about me being naked, aren't you?

Hippo Tuesday

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Krissa and I are poised to take on the Art World (capital letters out of deference to those who are more adept at Bullshitting than oneself) and in particular the photographic aspect of it (photography is hard as diamonds, I'll grant that) by touring every photographic exhibition in Chelsea before sundown.

It says a lot about our level of confidence that we're still at home and contemplating a diner breakfast before we get down to business.

We'll let you know how it goes.

Incidentally, as we're on the way out the door (there's a californian ommelette out there with my name on it) can anyone tell me if there's some sort of service whereby you can obtain prints of past 'New Yorker' magazine cartoons?

The one I'm after is pretty old. By a chap going by the name of Paul Crum and features a couple of hippos...first published in Punch before the Second World War and republished in the New Yorker I don't know when.

*shrug*

Anyway.
To battle!

Hot on the heels of my good lady wife's post on 'does anyone remember memes and shit?' Carrie of Little Distraction has hoofed a Friday meme up the pitch to me, and I fully intend to play.

So...yeah.

Total volume of music files on my computer:
Oooh, tough one...mostly because I'm not working at my computer. I think it's about 3.5Gb. This might not seem like much, but Krissa and I have separate profiles on her 40Gb iBook, so despite Tiger doing funky profile-switching swooshiness, we're still sharing hard drive space, hence the restrained volume of tunage.

The last CD I bought:
On a flighty trip into the Virgin Megastore in Union Square I bought Gorillaz: Demon Days and Gomez: Split The Difference, temporarily satisfying my neverending hunger for bands with names which start with GO and end with Z.

Song playing right now:
Funnily enough, it's Gorillaz - a tune called 'Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey's Head' about a mountain called Monkey who is unwisely mined for diamonds and takes volcanic revenge. Never mine a mountain called Monkey for diamonds, kids. Just say no.

Five songs that I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:
Well, if I was at home on the iBook I know iTunes would throw up the recent iPod commercial tune 'Jerk it out' by The Caesars, and Yellowcard, 'Way Away' - both tracks from the video game SSX3...and my Audioscrobbler Profile has been eternally skewed by accidentally leaving a small downbeat/depressing playlist on overnight with the volume off, so there's not much to be gleaned from that...I'll just freestyle, then.

Third Eye Blind - Semi Charmed Life

I will never forget the feeling of hearing this song being used on the trailer for The Tigger Movie. Mostly because of what I know about the song now, but we'll get to that.
In the summer of '98 (...I think) I loved this song. It spoke to me of ambition and desire and the physicality of the presence of another person in your life and arms and the joy of being. Well, the lyrics I could make out spoke to me of that, anyway. A few years later, I had played it so much on university radio that if I didn't play it on my weekly show people asked after my health. That's how much I loved this song.
Then I heard from someone that it was all about smack, crack, heroin, ecstasy, MDMA, PHP, poisoning your sweet old innocent grandmother with radioactive tea and biscuits and probably slaughtering babies and pedophilia and genocide as well.
Or something like that, anyway.
But now you know why I was surprised to hear it on the trailer for The Tigger Movie.

New Radicals - Mother, I Just Can't Get Enough

People who have been on the receiving end of a CD compilation of almost any ilk from me in the last couple of years are more than likely to be familiar with this song. It rocks the face so far off my face that my face is probably under forensic examination by the Hong Kong police, who are no doubt manfully struggling to find out why a man's face fell from the sky for no apparent reason. Make my nipples hard, let's go!
Indeed. A motto for our times.

Lemon Jelly - Ramblin' Man

The only thing I don't like about this track is that it segues from the previous track on the album, meaning you can't slip it onto a compilation or playlist easily - it jumps in. That's it. Everything else is fantastic. It's a grandiose, majestic introduction, over which two middle aged chaps seem to be conducting an interview about lifelong travel. After a blissful musical bridge, the interviewee's voice begins to rhythmically and evocatively say the names of places from all across the globe, the enunciation of which totally complements and enhances the music behind. The place names, the procession of which throws up an enormous amount of imagery and association...Dubai ... Sydney ... New York ... Tokyo...Murmansk...Cairo... Sri Lanka...begin to speed up, until they are overlaid and blurring into each other and anything and everything you can make out from the sussuration of names makes you feel as though you are spinning the whole world faster and faster as though it were a globe in a study and you are spying these places whizzing by...
I fucking adore this song.

Blur - Tender

1998. Working in supermarkets to fund European travel. Listening to blur on library-borrowed CDs to save money. Feeling more than a little down-at-heel and not a little lonely. Singing the lyrics to 'Tender' while wheeling around the Safeways' warehouse on a stock trolley because the acoustics were, somehow, awesome; certainly good enough to make my attempt at the lyrics sound less than painful to my own ears, anyway. In the Blur v. Oasis battle I was always a Blurrite, if less passionate and vitriolic than some, and this is my favourite Blur tune.

Radiohead - No Surprises

This one might come as a little bit of a...well...an unexpected choice. I haven't listened to this in I don't know how long, it's not a particularly favourite track. But it is tied in with an experience so viscerally that bringing to mind the electronic harp-like tones alone paints memories from 6th form life that are sharper than most. An unpleasant morning after, for what it's worth, one of my first real hangovers, and gut-wrenching guilt, fear and panic...unsurprisingly resulting from the spur-of-the-moment acts of the night before. Stepping outside the Common Room to chat, this song was on the stereo and all I could hear was this song and all I could think was 'bloody pertinent radiohead' and 'No Surprises Please'. Please no surprises. I can remember the colour of the paint on the swing doors, the view out of the corridor windows across the courtyard between different blocks of the school and the trees lining the green playing fields and the blackened chewing gum flattened and eroding in the purple carpet and the grey of the cloud on the December morning.
Like I said - visceral.

And on that IMMENSELY cheery note I end the memey-wossname. I won't pass it on to anyone, but if you want to do it...do it, I say.

Incidentally, has anybody seen my camel?

Speaking of distractions, and we are, let's talk Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

I want to talk about the game, so if you're one of the multitude of X-Box or PC owners who are waiting for the other-platform release, and don't want to spoil it, bugger off. Or at the very least, don't read this. Don't act so affronted! This can't be any kind of a surprise. If you're still in the dark about the game, for the past year you've been sitting in the corner with your fingers in your ears humming 'La Marseillaise' VERY LOUDLY.

Go on.
Hop it.
Right.

So; San Andreas. I say I say I say.

It's extremely impressive. The virtual environment is EPIC. Really. It's huge. Enormous. Big enough that the provision of a highway system in the virtual State of San Andreas is a welcome addition. The thought of crawling around the state at the sort of pace exhibited by the background traffic in GTA3 would frustrate me beyond words.

Now I have a few gripes. They might arise because I'm a hardbitten veteran of the previous two PS2 Grand Theft Auto titles. I say 'hardbitten veteran' because I completed the story missions of both GTA3 and GTA: Vice City...and on several occasions in my life I have indeed been bitten quite hard.

Anyway. The story missions in San Andreas aren't...really...very...challenging.

Before I bought the game I drank in the online reviews and a few blog posts, and everything dealt with the sheer immensity of the game, its scope. The graphics, the increased draw distance, the gameplay, the vehicles, the freedom.
I don't think anyone really mentioned the missions.
I acknowledge that after two huge 3D games in a similar...well, nearly identical vein, the mission ideas and themes might run a little dry, and Rockstar Games have done brilliant stuff, I acknowledge this, too. But after learning the ropes of control and strategy on the other two games, this one can be a little easy, and, at the same time, a little frustrating.

In Vice City, I would save the game at the first opportunity after successfully completing a mission, and every time before a mission too, to preserve my state of health and my cache of weapons so as to have that position to start from again should I fail. I know that this is, in essence, against the spirit of the 'continous play' of the games, but this is how I went. Not religiously, just...practically, so that if I wanted to have another shot at a mission, I could - straight away. I was careful. I prepared for missions by buying weapons or casing approaches to areas I knew would be involved.

Yesterday, over a slice of toast, I wandered into one of the 'assault and steal' missions with, and I'm being honest here...no weapons or armour. I stopped, before committing myself, to wonder if I wasn't really taking it seriously, and the answer was, of course, no.
Because it's a fucking video game, isn't it?
So I had a go at it.
After running at the first yokel who came at me with a shovel, I had a weapon, albeit a bit...rural in nature. But then I used that to bonk another yokel over the head, which gave me a sort of Winchester rifle, and from that point on I was okay, braving a row of heavily armed farmers and Daisy Duke-style characters and making away with the Combine Harvester in question.
A lucky break, maybe.

But the rate at which I've made my way through the story missions has had it's drawbacks. The enormous amount of sideplay and mini-games is not freestanding. There are phases which interlock with the plot. At one point, an entire 'turf-war' style phase of the game began, where you have to try and launch assaults on different areas of your home city to gain them for your gang, wresting them from the control of other gangs. This bit of the game was a brilliant twist for me. It was new, it was different. It was non-linear, apparently random, and might develop strategically, whilst having a strong pro-active element.
But I don't know.
Because after taking over a couple of turfs (turves?), but still with the bulk of the city to be won, I did a couple of story missions, and then the turf-war period was over. Gone. Done with.
Ended.
Boo.

I could, of course, go back to a saved game, but...but...I'm ahead now! I'm movin' on.

I confess I haven't fully explored the options offered by all of the new flashy bits in San Andreas. I've played a bit of basketball at the courts, played pool at the local bar, taken delight in the ever-so-meta video games within the video game, done a few taxi runs , a few stunts, and had a confusing go at the 'Pimping' side mission. But in reality, I'm ploughing through the story missions because I want a plane.

I really, really want a plane.

Talent

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Last night, Krissa and I had this conversation whilst shopping for a housewarming gift for the freshly-apartmented Biscuit.

Stuart: I think these flowers were the best ones anyway. We made a good call.
Krissa: Oooh! Cookies!
Stuart: You are the most easily distracted person in the-
Krissa: Oooh! Or Cake!
Stuart: - world.

I think that the ability to be distracted, or, in the worst cases, the ability to distract yourself, is a function of a number of things.

(Ah...viewing life as analogous to functions. No matter what I do with the rest of my life, I will always have been an engineering student, and some ideas will stick)

First, propensity for distraction has to be linked to the enthusiasm to whatever it is you are distracted from. Whether it is your enthusiasm for buying cookies or your urge to get on with the tasks your boss gave you to do today, the higher the enthusiasm, the less likely you are to be distracted.
But.
Brains and caffeine. The higher your level of alertness or heightened awareness through stimulants, the more likely you are to notice other things beyond what you are doing. The same goes for general intelligence or observantness. The higher the level of this mental agility, whether inherent or acquired, the more likely you are to get distracted.

(I have my doubts about the validity of 'observantness'. Let's go for...say....visual acuity. Still not right, but by now I'm sure you know what I mean.)

Before nipping over to the factors which lessen the propensity for distraction, let's consider will and character. Characteristically if you are a determined, methodical person with the will to do what you are doing then you are less likely to become interested in something else. If you are the kind of person that doesn't like to be bogged down but enjoys skipping from task to task (keeping all the plates spinning, as it were) then distraction, and the ability to apply yourself intermittently to a range of tasks be they industrious or frivolous, is necessary.

Urgency and focus. Deadlines produce a marvellous focus and intensity in the mind, don't they? The opposite is also true.

I'm not quite sure where all this is going, to be entirely honest with you. I was amused by Krissa's flitting around the store last night, and I was building up to making some deep and meaningful point. Then I was going to sum up by crediting all you workaday blog readers with above average intelligence, but I've lost my way a little by considering things too deeply.

This should lead you to your own conclusions.

So...er...who's up for a drink this evening?

Amnography

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Wind across the table lifts the paper napkins she placed next to her plate and almost at the same time the sun, sinking behind moving clouds, lifts the scene from white grey to orange and light. She looks up and smiles as a waiter walks past with a high tray stacked with baskets of nachos and spins past a woman holding a small dog in one hand and a beer in the other. We both turn sharply as the woman spills the beer on herself and walks away resignedly, then smile again as our eyes return to each other.
The sun is out for the first time since we took our seats, and the river is bright and moving with the light of the afternoon.

Later we sit precariously, it seems, on the end of a jetty in the river. Growing up surrounded by the sea, the constant strong streaming flow of the river gives me a feeling like vertigo, like movement.
What did we talk about?
A man in jeans, a woollen sweater and deck shoes sits behind us next to a charter boat, reading silently. Behind his boat the city roars, muted by trees and water. Helicopters chatter overhead, following the river.
The helicopters. We talked a little about the helicopters.
I look at some of the boats moored and facing the flow of the river, wondering what it must be like to arrive in the city by boat from somewhere far away. We hold each other, sitting with our legs over the edge of the wooden beam, over the eddies of the water. The sun is moving below the buildings on the other bank.
We talked about friends, and England, and weddings.
We stand, awkwardly, carefully, and walk along the jetty to the bank and the path which is busy with cyclists and runners, and we take the wrong way back to the street, walking around a roundabout as traffic growls past.
The wind drops. The wispy clouds above the city blocks drift, imperceptibly.
When we look up the buildings don't look like they are falling from below.
We catch the subway a couple of stops uptown.

We wait outside a sushi bar and catch a bus home, the city darkening around us. By the time the bus is speeding across the Triboro, it is dark and the city is glowing, sharp points in intricacy. The view is untouchable for a moment until the netting on the bridge masks the way and makes the panorama elusive, fleeting, something to seek rather than drink in. We are holding hands. The bus comes down the long gentle ramp of the bridge and turns off and we are amongst bodegas, gas stations, apartment buildings, stores, inexplicable juice shops. We get off the bus after it stops under the elevated subway line and walk, slowly, in the warm air and gentle breeze, home.

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