Up Sticks, Down River

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Well all, I have finally gotten around to doing something about the hosting for autoblography.co.uk.

Farewell Supanames. You were great to start with. Then you got a bit pooey. Sorry to leave you, but I just wasn't happy.

So...yeah.

I'm not sure if I've done this right at all. I have a horrible feeling that I've waded into a realm of shifting sands and uncertain waters, and I'm not sure if I've taken the right route. If you can read this, I'm doing okay.

If all this disappears...keep checking back, because there ain't no bugger gonna steal this place from me if I have anything to do with it. Built this place with someone else's bare hands, so I did. I remember when all this was 404 - Page Not Found.

Yes. Well anyway. If all goes tits up - literally - if you come back and this is just ads for pr0n and cellphones...look for me to the East at dawn on the third day. Or over here.
Just so you know.
Just in case.
Y'know.

Ahem.

Nefertiti & Arthur, Make My Day

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Some days, my imagination dulled by the office, I meander toards the subway in an insulated malaise. Not exactly depressed, but far from chirpy. I sit on a plastic seat and dig out my book, because a little escapism seems like a good idea. Then BAM! something catches my eye, and my imagination, and my spirits are dragged along for the ride, because something unusual has cropped up. It doesn't have to be exciting, just..unusual.

Today it was lolling orange in my peripheral vision. A girl further along the carriage was wearing rubber rain boots with a heiroglyphic motif.

Egyptian Wellingtons.

What a delicious pair of words to say.

Egyptian Wellingtons.

What an absurdly brilliant thing. The modern incarnation of waterproof footwear named for an Irish-born general, decorated with the funereal friezes of long dead African kings...on the feet of a girl in a train under the ground under a city in a country...

That little spark of the unusual catches the tinder of my perception and all of that grey sackcloth feeling of accepting familiarity burns away and the world can be and is a magical place again.

Egyptian Wellingtons.

It just rolls off the tongue.

Miami / Vice

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The digital age and all its wonders has produced a new mental state. I call this low-grade sensation of weirdness digi-vu; the feeling of having seen something or been somewhere before by electronic means.

Example: seeing your friend's party photos online, and then later visiting them for the first time at the house where the party was held. You recognise some of the wall decorations and the furniture, and you know what that innocent-looking umbrella stand was used for in its dark and sordid past.

Example: this past weekend, when Krissa and I were driving around Miami. I don't even want to tell you how strange it felt driving across the causeway to Miami Beach, just like I didn't want to tell Krissa, who was driving, because it would have made her tut and possibly roll her eyes and think, "Video Games!" in a sort of disapproving yet still loving way, which is a complicated emotion to have and involves a lot of effort, and hell, I get nervous enough when she gestures and drives at the same time (especially when she uses both hands to get her point across), so I just kept quiet.
I digress.
Let me show you two maps:


This, ladies and gentlemen, is a map of Miami as pertains to the said area, vis a vis, South Beach, causeway, et al. City of rollerskating, relaxing, streetside hookers, sunbathing, tourists, boats, gorgeous beaches, wide roads, 80s TV shows, and warm, choppy seas.






This, ladies and gentlemen, is a map of Vice City, including inconvenient aqueous environs, Vice Beach, causeway, et al. City of rollerskating, sun, tourists, boats, helicopters, streetside hookers, rather monotonous beaches, roads that aren't quite wide enough, 80s music, machetes, rocket launchers, buckets of drugs, understandably forceful police officers and constant, relentless background gunfire. I have 'spent' quite a lot of time 'here'.

I knew Vice City was based on Miami, but I didn't realise quite how much until I looked up our South Beach hotel on google maps, and the pattern-recognising part of my brain said, 'Oh, that's just a few blocks down from the first save point hotel'.

As we drove into South Beach and promptly got lost, my brain was doing slow, lolloping backflips.
South Beach is real and Vice City is a mere ghost of it.
Fair enough.
But when you've been in a place long enough you develop a sense of where you are in relation to everything else; in Manhattan and in Miami Beach, that sense relies heavily on the water.
Miami Beach and the right-hand island of Vice City are almost the same shape and the causeway comes in at the same point, so despite never having been to Miami before, that half-baked navigational sense worked.
Sort of. It was straining and my brain was trying to use it.

Thankfully we managed arrived at the hotel without the need for me to evoke a supernatural panpipe soundtrack, solemnly point down a road and say 'My gift tells me this is the way'.

We parked across the street from the hotel as it began to rain, and a store next to us was pumping radio out into the street.

"You're tuned to 97.3 The Coast, on our all-80s weekend! Fifty minutes of the BEST 80s music EVERY hour."

As I ran back and forth from the parking meter to the Pay & Display machine, an Harley-Davidson motorbike crackled past, its driver in a black leather waistcoat on bare skin and a girl in jeans and a white t-shirt with her arms around his shoulders.

We duly listened to the All-80s Weekend at every opportunity, speeding across the causeway to Duran Duran, W, and Blondie, driving up Miami Beach on the wide roads past the tall palms and spotting the beach between the tall pastel pink and blue hotels.

Krissa has put up a few cameraphone pictures from our trip down south on Flickr.

It was was great fun, and if you get the chance, I would heartily recommend visiting Florida. The graphics are fantastic.

On How Things Change

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It must have seemed odd, as a reader, to see the change that came over this weblog when I moved to New York last year. From talking about my impatience, my confidence in our future, my love for this fabulous woman who was about to become my wife, I stopped blogging about Krissa, it seems, almost immediately.
And of course there was a reason.

All our lives we are bombarded with stories; we learn to read with simple cardboard tales of dogs running for balls and graduate to epic celluloid sagas of blooming red explosions and passionate sex and deadly drugs and ironic humour. All our lives we learn the stories, we tell stories, listen, take in and develop a sense of how stories work, and "happily ever after." is story-speak for "and nothing exciting or interesting happened after that."
But when you're living the story of your life, there isn't a cut-off until the very end. So when something wonderful happens, say, you fall madly in love with the girl of your dreams and move in with her in The Big City with fantastic friends and a lifestyle so hectic that even the paper itinerary of a random month would give your past self a headache if he didn't have one already, well, your long-acquired narrative sense starts to ring-a-ding-ding at the back of your mind pealing and screaming that it is all happening to counterpoint, in a Hollywood stylee, the forthcoming fall from heaven.

To begin with, I think that was part of it. It was so perfect that I didn't want to talk about it to anyone.

But maybe it was because I had the sense of walking off the set into that happy ending, and that maybe the story, told as it had been, should be left there.

But screw that.

Krissa, I love you, I love you, I love you.

Coals To Newcastle

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There is something about New York: you can't deny it.
It is spunk.
It is the go-get-'em attitude.
It is guts.
It is the entrepeneurial spirit.

This is the seventh day of rain in a row for New York City. It has been a long wet week, and umbrellas have been dying in their thousands, the weak and feeble weeded out by wind, fatigue, and bad stitching, to find their ignominous ends with their crumpled souls thrust deep into the murk of green trash cans. Bin by bin, they look like bunches of startled birds; heads perkily aloft and alert for predators.
The umbrellas still going well, still waterproof, still braving the sudden gusts of wind as their owners come to bear in the rushes of air which wait around street corners, well!
They are the fittest, they are the strong, they are the great and the good.
New York has been systematically purged of crap umbrellas.
Yet the umbrella salesmen persist, as they must.

The exit to my subway station is covered and pleasantly dry, but then the wetly gleaming traffic swooshes by and you're reminded of the real weather. This morning I walked away from the subway steps and popped open my stalwart black umbrella - eight hundred foot across, stiff against the wind, waterproof as only extremely waterproof things can be, and due to be commandeered by the city of Beijing for the upcoming 2008 Olympics.
Full of confidence, I strode out into the falling drops.
"Umbrella, umbrella?" asked a hopeful asian woman, sitting behind a rack of said items.
I stopped and looked at her. Then I looked at her umbrellas. Then I looked at my umbrella. Then I looked at her again. Silence thronged damply between us.
"Umbrella?" she asked again.
I was protected from the elements, and a lucky thing it was, because at that moment a half-hearted breeze would have deprived me of the organ in my skull.
But of course I'd stopped now, and in spite of the excellent awning I was already sporting, she thought she had a customer. An insane one, obviously, but the possibility of a transaction was on the cards.
"Er, no," I retorted, wittily.
Still fascinated, I stood for a beat too long.
"Umbrella?"
Sorry, I thought, got to go. I have a brain to catch.

The Morning Mail

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I just checked my autoblography.co.uk mail for the first time in a while, and spotted this amongst the spam:

(this message was composed on Mon, Mar 15, 2004)

Dear FutureMe,

How hangeth it? Just thought I'd pop you a quick mail from back here in 2004 to say hello, and to ask how New York was...and the rest of the year an' all that jazz.

I hope you're cutting back on the old vino, sleeping right, eating proper. Basically I'm emailing you from the past to nag you.

Hope things are rosy.

Okay, so you won't really need to be told this, I hope, but just write, okay? Just pick up a fricking pencil, sit at a keyboard and write.

That's about it.

Happy Birthday.

Oh, and tell them.

Stuart

This minor freak-out was brought to you by Future Me, a website that enables you to email your future self.

MAN, if 2004 Stuart knew the things I know, WOW would it blow his mind. Sitting there in that blue chair at the paper covered desk in the office in Hatfield, worried that his passport might not arrive for his first ever trip to America. Little does he know what is about to hit him.

Hmm.

The thing is, I don't think I did tell them, because I can't remember who they are, and what they might have needed to be told.
Um.

I might have to reply to find out.

Miscellany

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Riding the train from London to Southampton I get the impression that South East England's future is one long, luscious and exquisitely cared-for 18,000 hole golf course.

Um.
Hey there.

In much the same way that Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Garp, and many others have found, commiting suicide lends a note of gravitas to your work. Maybe the same applies to having your site dwindle away in the cache of the all-powerful google; a sort of Internet Hades where shades drift unacknowledged into the grey.

I haven't done anything about renewing my webspace just yet, and it's up soon.
Help me someone.
I don't want to die.

I'm with Supanames and I'd dearly like to move; much as I suspect they would dearly like me to move, as I seem to be so much of a bandwidth burden that they repeatedly took the drastic action of suspending all sorts of workings deep within autoblography home territory. Recommendations for people I can renew my domain name with and all that bumpf will be heartily received.

I'm just blurbing tonight; nothing serious, nothing heavy, nothing re-read and changed, just a mad end-on post without rhyme or reason and no great point to conclude on. Krissa is topping up valuable Alias viewing time with Shiv and Biscuit, and I bought a couple of cans of beer on the way home.

I'm reading Catch-22 at the moment. Krissa and I have an absolute GLUT of books at the moment after the Bryant Park Literature Orgy, or whatever it was called, and my birthday yielded some real gems from all sorts of corners - Mark (also hiding, partially, over here) gave me Freakonomics which I'd seen around but thought was something completely different, Shana gave me Forever, which would appear to be the literary equivalent of a candlelit dinner in my ongoing romance with New York...my Mum sent Monsieur Terry Pratchett's latest offering in the form of Thud! and the wonderfully obscure and tittilating Bryson's Dictionary Of Troublesome Words.
Musically I was surprised, astonished and then thoroughly chuffed to recieve Beck's Guero from the NaNoWriMo-approaching and constantly wonderous Lady Crumpet.

So tonight I think I might just read and listen to music.

None So Blind

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I should have seen that coming.
Only no one's ever thrown me a surprise party, or a surprise gathering, or...a surprise...thing...before.

So it wasn't in the repertoire of things I was expecting. I wasn't expecting anything. Krissa was convinced that I knew, what with our group of friends going in for surprise parties a lot and the classic set-up, but I just didn't see it.

So much so that when we were standing outside the Belgian place near my office with everyone, unbeknownst to me, waiting inside, I was about to propose that Krissa and I have a cocktail in the bar next door because I'd seen it a few times and wanted to give it a try.

That's how unsuspecting I was.
So it was a surprise.

The word surprise looks weird right now.

It was my 26th birthday on Monday.
Krissa set last night up by asking if I wanted her and I to have a date for my birthday, which was a great idea, I thought, because celebrating in the lushly forested wilds lacks a little something in the way of sophistication, even if being woken in a tent with a cupcake and a candle in was grin-inducingly wonderful.
So people ate moules et frites and drank Trappist beer from bottles with pink elephants on the labels and Shana laughingly began her one-woman anti-television crusade with her TV-B-Gone keyring.

On to a bar, and we sequestered a loungey area at the back of the place behind the pool table and laid out a couple of hours of music on the jukebox. Mark and I won the pool table from two loud, rotund and sneeringly rude barflies (so very, very satisfying) and so everyone played pool and drank and laughed at the jukebox selections and talked about camping and Maine and Alias and fishing and England and New York.

It were reet good.
Thanks for coming along, everyone who was there, and if you weren't there, you were fondly missed.

I Beg Your Leave

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If you'll excuse us, my wife and I are off to the wilds of Massachusetts with six books and our fishing rods.

If any bears trouble us I shall endeavour to bring back polaroids of their open-jawed, wide-eyed, surprised faces.

Dear Ladies,

I love you.
You have both been extremely accommodating, and I cannot truly express how grateful I am for that. I might only be married to one of you, but things between the three of us have never taken on the ugly sheen of jealousy; something else I think marks us out as pretty special.

I may have only met one of you by accident, but I had my eye on the other for a while before; I hope this will never become a source of problems for us.

It has been an incredible experience, getting to know the both of you. I feel like I've grown in the past twelve months. I've matured. I know little things about the pair of you I never expected.

So, in the best traditions of you both, I'm really busy and I don't have a lot of time, so I'll sign off here.

Thank you, both of you.
You're brilliant.

Love,

Stuart

I Want To Walk Through You, Please

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At six twenty-five this morning my Mum called the apartment. I was two and a half minutes into five minutes of snooze that would have been repeated three or five times had the phone not rung. In a world where apples are meant to be a better wake-up assistant than coffee, it turns out that a distraught parent is better than both; possibly better than apple flavour coffee.

Mum heard the news on UK early breakfast television, and waited until just before 11.30am to call us, worried that we would take the subway without being aware of the alert. Mum didn't know about the press conference here last night where Bloomberg gave the details of the threat.

The warning of a terrorist attack on the subway meant that I was much more aware of eye contact this morning, and there was a lot of it about. The downtown 4/5 was practically empty, and it is normally packed to the gunnels.
(I imagine the gunnels are quite high up on a subway car)

Before I left the apartment I asked Krissa to call my Mum when she got to her office, to let her know she was all right, and I planned to do the same. I was reining in the more gruesome aspects of my imagination while on the train, but the second I hit the steps coming out of the station I began to think about how much more of a target that station was; a four-track station under a major city administrative building, and how old that building was, and how tall...
And all of a sudden I was grabbed by panic and I longed to walk through all of the slowly puttering commuters in front of me like so much mist.

Today marks one year since I moved to New York. Every time something like this comes on the news I am not so much scared by it as I am worried that my family will worry, and my Mum in particular. We all knew that New York was a terror target when I moved here for love.The distance amplifies the sense of powerlessness which everyone has to deal with when faced with such a vague, far-reaching danger. It's bad enough with me downtown and Krissa in midtown, so what it must be like for Mum from England...

For what it's worth, the anniversary of my arrival being marred by the looming threat of terrorism does not change the act of looking back over the year, which can be summed up nicely as this:

I've still got a map in my bag, but I'm unintentionally losing the t's on the ends of words.

Oh, and I still think 'please' when panicking.

How About

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Oh look, Beedogs.

Via paulyg. This isn't your usual 'via blahblahblah'. Go and see paulyg and Teej's fantastic breakfast experimentation. A must for all Mac users, unconventional artists and breakfast enthusiasts.

Fireside Stories

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It is dark in this forest clearing, and a small fire flickers in the centre of a circle of huts. It's darker than you're imagining right now. Come on, get your finger out. The shadows are bluer. The trees are taller. That's better.
No electric light brooks this primeval sky. Stars and a thin moon hang silently and do their best, but can't quite manage to pull off the effect you get when the light of six million sodium street lamps bounces off concrete. As a result the night sky is staggeringly beautiful.

An old man shuffles through the dust and settles down next to the stones around the fire.
"Let me tell you a story," he says. "Gather round and hear the old man."
"What sort of a story?" asks a little boy, sticking his finger in his mouth in an irritatingly coy way.
"The story of the creation of this world," says the old man, "so sit down and shut up and let me tell you the bloody story."
The little boy sits cross-legged in front of the man and he is the only obvious audience, but grown-ups are sitting in the shadows of the huts, mending nets, fixing pots, tending to scrapes and cuts from the day's fishing.
"Before the world began," says the old man, "there was nothing. Then came a man-"
"What sort of a man?" asks the little boy.
"A great big man, huge muscles, strong and brave. His name was Gerry. Gerry took some mud and fashioned the world and everything in it. He made the sun and the stars to lighten the day and the night-"
"Where did he get the mud from?"
"What?"
"Where did he get the mud from, if there was nothing?"
"He made the mud," says the old man. "And then he made the world from the mud. 'Took' is figurative."
"What?"
"Look just shut up, all right? Gerry came and made the world."
Sniggers from the grown-ups in the shadows.
"Gerry made the world," says the old man in a louder voice, "and everything in it. He made the trees and the seas, the earth and the sky, and he took some of the earth, gave it a soul, and made YOU!"
The little boy quivers at the old man's pointing finger.
"And what did you say to him when he did that?" says the little boy.
"It's a figure of speech," says the old man. "I wasn't there."
"Oh," says the little boy. "Sorry, but...where did Gerry come from?"
"Gerry always was," says the old man.
"How does that work?" asks the little boy.
"It just does," says the old man, and the little boy nods.
At this point I stride out from the shadow of the third hut from the left and cuff the old man around the head with a stick, because it's my story and I'll do whatever the hell I like.
"What in Gerry's name did you do that for?" asks the old man.
"Because you're talking bollocks," say I.

So; how are you? I want to talk about complexity today, the unease of ignorance gives as it rests on the human mind, and our appetite for stories, but not necessarily full stories.

If I told you that an ex-girlfriend once swore to kill me with a sword, but it was a long story, and I also told you that I once mistook a supermarket manager for a minor radio celebrity, but it was a long story, which story would you rather hear?
You'd prefer to hear about the ex-girlfriend, right?
Because listening to a story is an investment of your time. You want a return on your investment. You want to be entertained, to learn, to be scared, to enjoy the experience.

As with any investment, if things are looking bad, you think about pulling out. If you're halfway through a book and the writer is mid-stride on a lengthy description of a testicular wart, the shape of which is crucial to the outcome of the story, you're going to be weighing up your options.

You've read this far, but is it really worth going any further?

Maybe you're thinking that about this post, because it's fucking long, and there were a bunch of other updated blogs on your Kinja, you're feeling a little hungry, and you're not sure what I'm getting at.

There can come a point when someone is telling us a story that we don't really want to know any more. We don't care. If it is difficult to understand, doesn't seem relevant and isn't very interesting...we're more than happy to drift off and do something else.

I am not challenging the world's religions with the semi-story above; I just wanted something that would illustrate that moment of not wanting to ask the next obvious question, or not being bothered about the details. Sorry that a religious theme suggested itself first; that's the way of things, I'm afraid.

You're wondering if it's true about my ex-girlfriend swearing to kill me.

There is a story which has become part of the accepted wisdom; the current scientific understanding of evolution and natural selection. It stands independent of religious belief and history, it doesn't detract from those beliefs. Some would argue that evolution renders religious texts irrelevant, others would say that the two do not contradict one another, and others would say that because of religious texts the concept of evolution simply cannot be right.

Evolution is a very complex idea. Douglas Adams said that if it hasn't blown your mind, you haven't understood it. I'm not going to go into it. I just want, in this little ditty I'm penning, to paint the current scientific state of the understanding of evolution as a very complicated story, one which involves one hell of a lot of explanation, new ideas, new concepts, and, as a story, an awful lot of investment from the listener.
When you ask questions about evolution...'How does that work? Seriously? Are you shitting me?' eventually you get down to the big question that no one really knows the answer to, which is, 'How did life start?'

Science doesn't know, and we don't like that science doesn't know.

There is an awful lot that is difficult to understand about the mechanism of evolution, and it takes a lot of listener investment. If an alternative is posited - 'It happened this way because an intelligence made it that way', then most...and I say most, because I'd like to believe that some wouldn't- most people, and children certainly, will happily accept that, because they're close to their investment-pull-out moment and they're not really that bothered.

The alternative of Intelligent Design is, effectively, undercutting evolutionary science, giving an easier route out of the story, an easier explanation of why things are the way they are, and I think, regardless of religious belief, motivation or political cant, the teaching of Intelligent Design would be a disgustingly underhanded trick to play on the children of America.

Teach religion.
Teach science.
Teach creationism, teach evolution, teach Flying Spaghetti Monsterism for all I care, but what I feel is totally, completely and abhorrently wrong in all of this would be the act of intellectually undercutting something that you are opposed to as an attempt to depose it.

As a species we love our stories to be simple. Simplicity is often mistaken for truth.
Occams' Razor is often quoted as being 'The simplest explanation is probably the right one'.
This is wrong.
Conveniently for my point, Occam's Razor is a little more complicated.
'Whichever explanation rests upon the fewest assumptions is probably the right one.'

One of the reasons that the tool is misquoted as the former is because we want that to be true. We love our simplicity.

And you're still wondering if it's true about my ex-girlfriend.

Perked Eyebrows

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Ideological Stance

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W has pushed forward a replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor - a long-time adviser of his; Ms. Harriet Miers.

Never having been a judge before, Miers' stance on ideologically charged issues is difficult to fathom, but having looked at a few photographs of her today, I would like to suggest, based on this photograph that she is colourblind and shaky of hand when applying make up. Either that or Ms. Miers wanders around protesting, "I AM a LADY, you know!" a lot of the time.

But Then Again...No

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Four bottles of Sancerre at the Bryant Park Cafe.
Two enormous tote bags packed with books.
Taxis to everywhere.
The most frou frou Full English Breakfast ever seen - served with baby tomatoes fried on the vine with a poached egg, arranged with a discreet sausage, refined bacon and a half slice of toasted bread in a sort of piled construction in the centre of an enormous plate.
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.
Arguably the best pizza in New York.
Coldwater Creamery Cheesecake ice cream.
All of which is fabulous, but forcibly jammed into just two days?
Criminal.

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