Friday, 26 April 2013

Options for Change

Staying Alive: So I was going through a phase of drinking full cream milk. For some reason, a random magazine article read in the barbers perhaps, I thought that it would increase my sperm count. Of course there was no need to do that, my little swimmers had long since retired to the beach and were lounging about waiting on some happy hour and watching the Mediterranean sun go down. I'm sure I expected the milk to do other things for me, build bones, repair brain cells, that sort of thing. The fringe benefit is that if you do eat healthy things (?) and do a little exercise then you do feel a bit better and less susceptible to the unplanned attacks of some passing grim reaper.

Exercise: It was about this time I discovered that my only semi-smart phone contained a pedometer. I was called the Walk Mate Eco and it required of me, without me setting it up or entering into any formal agreement, to walk 10 kilometres a day, whatever the weather. I took this as something of a challenge, man v phone as it were. If I did this then a direct benefit would be, according to the App that I'd save 1000g of CO2. Now that sounds impressive until you think about it, then it quickly becomes meaningless. So I decided not to think about it. Unless you get the bus 10k from home, get off and walk back it turns out that 10k is a lot of daily walking, unless you are a postman or a professional walker of some sort. I did try valiantly and I got close but other things, seats, couches and cars got in the way. I did find that by sitting down and in a non exercising way bouncing the phone on my lap I could fool it into thinking I was walking. That was cheap and cheating so I just lowered my expectations for myself a little and let it all be.

Food: Back to food then, oily fish in particular (usually in another kind of oil) and a few olives as well and leaves and olive bread and that super anti-cancer fruit/vegetable the tomato. It's hard to get a good tomato these days, most are like red golf balls if they are the normal size. The smaller ones are like gob stoppers and they are too small to cut up and too big to stuff in your mouth but you do. Then you get that unpleasant kangaroo testicle sensation when you bite into the tomato and it explodes like a burst abscess inside your mouth. It's worse if, as is the custom with modern food, it's been trapped in a refrigerator for week. The tomato then becomes an icy hand grenade going pop against your inner cheek. Not good but good for you. That probably sums it up unless it's an avocado which is good and rare enough to be a treat and good for you in a Mexican kind of cool but Latin way. Lets get more avocados.

Dairy: Then the dairy cabinet opens up it's bountiful world of sanitised promise. Yogurt, so full of mysterious, helpful cultures and formulas that you understand why previous generations just curled up and died, they had none of this for their working class digestions. Just brown ale, potatoes and herring with the bones in and facing the wrong way. Times were tough. Now we can eat yogurt of all types, though they all taste the same. Some promise you the arse of a Greek horse, others a huge couch cuddling experience with the Spencer Davis Group, others find a swift route round your struggling innards like some white python, cleansing and purging and pulverising any non-yogurts that get in the way, then there's the thin ones you just drink like a shot of bovine voodoo placed in your fridge by the Dharma Foundation. It's brilliant what they've now done with all that underpriced sour milk and jam and they've put it all like a sci-fi elixir into aerodynamic containers that are smaller on the inside than they look on the outside, like a busted Tardis, but it's fresh, clean and it fits into any lunch box or designer handbag easily.

Eyesight: I can see most things but when I cant I apply a conveniently located pair of pound shop bought reading glasses to the situation. These are set at somewhere between +.5 and +3 whatever that means. Putting them on is like giving yourself an instant hangover. Nothing in the room makes sense except for the cooking instructions that you're trying to read on the upturned back of the M&S ready meal. The cooking, well heating or warming really, instructions are seldom given pride of place in the packaging and a deliberately small font is mischievously used to baffle the consumer. The information is there but masked by the various lists of ingredients and chemicals – as if we're bothered or believe any of that bollocks. Once you've got the time from the packet and ceremonially pierced the film (always film to pierce) with a sharp knife you can set the oven. Of course after going through this you realise that it's yet another homogenised product, they all need twenty minutes at 180 Degrees, it's then ready to burn your tongue on, whatever it is.

TV volume: You can never get it right. I'm sure there's a master volume somewhere in the broadcaster's box of tricks and they just fuck about with it behind the scenes. They turn it up at the beginning of a programme to shock you into attention with the sonic booms of music and title sequences and then, slowly, trickily they turn it down. You are struggling to hear and then you turn your remote up so you don't miss any of that vital dialogue. Then just when your volume is on the up they turn theirs up so that as the commercial break comes you're at hit with a Tsunami like blast of some heavy metal band grinding into gear to sell you...yogurt or Vauxhalls. Bah! The sponsors love it I'm sure, nobody sleeps round here when Sky Atlantic's on.

Fruit: Plums are ok but overrated and they've no silent d in them, just a pip.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Different Question

He's answering a different question than the one you asked. The one you asked was about power costs and the system's overall efficiency. He's describing something quite different, the inherent and inevitable waste that's in the generation cycle. It's one of those apples and oranges things, communication failure. We're talking about different things, it's all unintentional and well meant but it's common, a typical, a regular thing. Questions and answers that fail to produce clarity and understanding and so away we go again, in the wrong direction. 

What we wanted was a moon rocket and we got a Mars probe with an instamatic camera. We needed a time machine but we just ended up with a device that allowed me to explore parallel universes while cleaning the toilet. Then there was the great alchemy failure, we tried to make gold and ended up with platinum – edible platinum. We built a tower, taller and grander and housing all the collected artworks, knowledge and wisdom of the world. We were locked out when we lost the key. We tried to synthesise artificial intelligence and then found God. Then God, perversely but predictably confounded us all by denying his own existence. Who could argue? Science, theology and convoluted conversation, chat and mindless goals, tyranny and mutation.

Chrissy Amphlett

I love myself,
I want you to love me.

There was a certain soft sexual fantasy in there. The word risque was made for this. I remembered her as softer and blonder for some reason but she clearly wasn't. Not quite so rasping and husky. She was older too, the grainy video never lies it just gets more recurring hits. This version has four million hits or so. I suppose that's good going and inch for inch, groan for groan a lot of on screen sexual fantasy. I didn't ever buy the single, I probably hummed along to it myself. It was all about self really and in truth it was a tacky piece of embarrassment. Just about acceptable on Radio 2 in the afternoon and probably talked over by some inane self important DJ. Self rules again.

The guitar was nicely out of tune, thin and squeaky, a Les Paul Jnr. and she was writhing about and pouting, touching wispy hair and moving in and out of shot. The editing was deliberately annoying, never settling on anything long enough for it make sense and it was all interiors and a soft focus muddle. It look cheap and probably everybody was surprised when it became at hit. You can imagine the high times and the celebration meals, the hope of building on this foundation, world domination beckons. When I heard that she was dead I played it on You Tube, I got about three quarters way through it before I clicked back onto the BBC. That was enough. The Huffington Post had some link to her Facebook page, there were a few tributes there. She was older, a bit puffy, defiant with two illnesses, the pop career long gone and filed out only by the vague memories of some floating generation of innocent voyeurs like me. There was a Judy Garland episode, that's entertainment for you.

I guess that that kind of fame, short and burning then settling into a more conventional arc, bit parts and the possible creeping income that goes with it is better than most achieve, it's a living and a video archive existence. Art in suspended animation, a kind of media art anyway and everything is a kind of art. Innocent, angry and at it's peak full of dangerous, latent energy then gone, replaced by some other, younger piece of titillation.

A while ago I went into work and a dumb receptionist was singing along to it and giggling without irony. The radio again. It was proof of how blatant rock and roll innuendo misses so many listeners, lost in the ozone layer. All they hear is a glossy beat and a lah lah lah lyric. You feel sorry for the Dylans, Cohens, Mitchells and Waits with their blunt pencils, typewriter fingers and their researches into fine literature. All that work and depth recognised by the few but missed by the masses, that's the problem with entitlement, education and the black hole of erotica. “I don't want anybody else, when I think about you...” it does say a whole lot. That's culture and value and meaning all grasping their respective nettles when all you need to say is what it is you really mean. Direct messaging I suppose. I thought about her back story, somewhere in New York, seeing the downhill path, becoming sick, some medical expenses. Cancer and Multiple Sclerosis and five minutes of fame and a promising career on the stage, a curious set of gifts. That's too cruel an ending at fifty three. I hope she's still dancing and pouting some place else.

I forget myself,
I need you to remind me.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

So in all this

"So in all this I remain, forever and a day, essentially unknowable."

I realised that I'm of a certain age and that, as it stands it is my sworn and solemn duty to remain alone and unknown in this life. The truth is I've never really been all that interested in other people, their lives or their ideas. I'm happy enough for them to be there, for them to be let be and for them to let me be. They can busy themselves with factories and farms and fighting pointless wars but as for me – I'll try to stay out of it. The goal being the vigorous anonymity of passing through.

Thinking about it, it's all down to friction, tone of voice and smell. Other people just make me uncomfortable, they produce those things and really I've no need to be overpowered or lambasted by their ideas, odours and their unconscious need to rub themselves against me. My space is vital to me and I would, if pushed possibly kill in order to maintain that space and restore a safe and some kind of untouchable distance.

So I'll remain in orbit around myself, self destructive but also self sustaining. Taking in those dim exterior shots like a lazy camera and occasionally, by slim gesture or a faint word broadcasting back into the void, that'll do for me. As I pass the tree a leaf may fall or a twig may snag. That will be the sum total effect of my presence in the world. I'll lend nature a little help, a whispered piece of aid as I drift pass like some ether ghost, here and there and nowhere. I'll suck up some oxygen and soak water and wine and bread but in the end the smoke and vapour will all be self consumed. The footprints I leave will not be mine even though I made them. I've bequeathed them to the desolation of the nation, the space and vacuum in the modern consciousness that I almost but not quite might occupy.

There is no proper answer in patience or humour either, I've tried these things, they get you nowhere. Sucking in a received word or idea and sparing the enemy the return death blow, holding back and waiting. Some clever retort that will only be misunderstood. Patience is like so many other pointless things a virtue, as far as the self styled virtuous are concerned. I tried that and I didn't enjoy the space and the trace or just made me nervous and as for humour. We laugh for a time, we laugh like rocking horse headed idiots. Great stadiums rolling in a perverse agony at the bidding of some comedian peddling irony and common experiences, rolling in the aisles. Then once back on the street the memory is erased, blinking in the street lights, sober again, like a blank pub conversation that was all about something but you've no idea what. Maybe a bland happy memory is enough, some dumb good experience but one that has no staying power. I marvel at the evaporation of thought and memory. I marvel but I refuse to participate.

So I remain religiously alone, my own defender and saviour; finding comfort in a rare book, an article or a vulgar screed on a website that somehow rises above the back lit screen and, as if written or printed on a quality paper actually has some meaning and substance. One thing's for sure, I've no intention of going out and really looking for any of that can find me and I wont break sweat. I'm sure that's the essence of some universal truth. If there is truth, if it exists at all then it will find you, there is no need to seek it out.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

My head is a mess of thoughts and clouds

So here's the lens cap open
A thousand images distortion free
Trapped in a billion pixels
It's just the tear in the fabric of me.

He stood outside the imagined house and observed the scene. For him what made it all really interesting was the knowledge that at any moment everything, all he was, all he stood for and had built could just come crashing down. He imagined that crash, what it might look like if it happened. The first cracks, the slow motion collapse, the sounds of things breaking, the creaks and the splintering. All those elaborate constructions reaching a critical point of loading and that point being overtaken by consequence and action. Pings and wisps of dust fly out milliseconds before the bursting point is reach. Structural failure. Then it happens, a cacophony, an explosive chaos, like a orchestra being hit by a tidal wave, an earth quake in a clogged up city centre, a thousand punches in a thousand faces. Recoil and tremor, explosive criss crossing fragments and great slouching balustrades and buttresses falling in the sick syncopation of destruction. That would be his life, come the day, the hour and the comprehensive doom.

He thought about the opera “Carmen” by Bizet. The stupid Don Jose, run down and grounded by the tempestuous Carmen, an exotic gypsy girl who leads him away from his military career and family with disastrous consequences. She loves the toreador Escamillo, a sin too far for Don Jose who overcome by jealousy and passion stabs Carmen whilst in the background Escamillo receives the applause of the bull fighting crowds. The thought of normal and extravagant human behaviour, the extremes and the unreasonable. How they might be like puppets, more puppet than people sometimes. Willing participants in the fatal collapse, bringing it all on, sowing the seeds of destruction whilst building some solid illusion. Songs and dancing and lights and costume, the contrived drama of all relationship and humanity. You will pay dearly for your passions if you allow them their full vocal range. Never getting better or easier just getting...

Then he was back at his own situation, still turning himself inside out to be the strange sum total of some kind for his appetite of sexual perfection. Like an operatic performance, pomp and drama and song carrying archaic language in which to frame all that useless feeling, bloated and pretentious as if it was incapable of standing on it's own. He thought more, he considered himself and the worth and merit of gaining knowledge and holding opinion. How useful is any of and what difference does it really make? You can have knowledge and informed views but all the effort and turmoil of sustaining such a position is pointless if they are not shared or exercised. There in your own head striving only to be placed in an intellectual bubble, alone and aloof and impotent. It makes your position no better than that of a dumb ignoramus, contributing nothing. It was an unfortunate debate, a one way street of conjecture, a spiral. He realised this for the thousandth time he was stuck in a loop of an unresolved perpetual and perplexing issue. The ultimate worth and value of knowledge and the point of study.

His head was sore with it all and he moved to the lounge. There on the far wall there was a large drinks cabinet. He poured four fingers of malt whisky into a crystal glass and sat down into a battered arm chair and began to sup on the drink. Outside, through the glass he saw a robin in the garden. It hopped from branch to branch in the hedge. It cocked it's head back and forwards jumped a little higher and sat on the window briefly making eye contact with him. He took and deep draft of the warm liquor. It seemed at that same second as the warm alcohol hit the back of his throat the little bird winked and twisted it's beak into a cheeky little smirk. He heard a voice in the back of his head, “you'll be ok, trust me.”

Sunday, 7 April 2013

How I got here

I do house clearances, I pick up all sorts of things, odd things. Some goes to auction, some goes to charity, the rest of it, the smaller stuff I stick on Gumtree or maybe EBay if I'm not so sure of the possible value. That was how I came across the guitar. It was in a old biddy's flat in Stirling, she'd been dead and gone for a while. To be honest there wasn't really much of any great value in the place. Some china, some prints but the guitar was there, left behind I guess and putting two and two together I thought it unlikely it had belonged to her. It was my simple assessment anyway. The guitar was a three quarter sized acoustic, six string and sunburst. Now I didn't really know much about guitars but I knew that by the age of the wood and the weight that it was a decent piece. There was no name of the headstock and only a very faded label in the body hidden down beyond the sound hole. The print on looked indistinct and had faded so it wasn't much help. It was a bit dusty and worn looking but I considered it to be interesting. I had a friend who knew about these things though so I put the guitar into the back of the van, wrapped up in a blanket just in case.

That was a few weeks ago and the guitar had just been lying in the office, I hadn't really got around to doing anything with. It was collecting more dust. So this girl comes in, she's got a bill to pay for a removal job we did the other day. A proper job with an invoice and so she hands me £250 cash for the day's work and I scribble on the receipt. “I need this for the insurance,” she says. Then she looks around and spots the guitar. “That for sale?” As I'm not sure the value I hesitate and look at the guitar and then back at the girl before responding. “Well I picked it up a few days ago, I've not had the chance to value it properly, it looks old enough to be worth a few pounds. Did you have a figure in mind?” “Well not real money but I'd give you this lottery ticket.” My jaws clearly drops as she produces a worn looking lottery ticket. She sees that I'm puzzled and says, “it's winner and I'll trade it for the guitar.” “Let's see the ticket.” There's nothing special about it, it's about a month old. “Ok but before it's a deal let me check those numbers.” At this point I expect her to drop the charade and offer me fifty quid for the guitar but she just looks straight at me and says, “Yeah, you go check those numbers, when you do you'll hand me the guitar.”

I nipped into the back office and flipped up the lottery results page on my phone. April. There were the winning numbers; 16 23 26 28 42 49. I looked at the ticket, the numbers matched. It looked like a genuine ticket and not a forgery. I was trembling, this was crazy. I stopped and thought for a minute. This made no sense, it was too good to be true and I knew too well what that meant. There has to be a scam in this and why bother for an old guitar even if it's worth a bit more than I might have thought? Then I thought about the ticket and saying nothing and just handing over the guitar. I also thought I needed a witness to at least corroborate whatever the facts were from now on in but there was no one else around. I counted to ten and looked at the ticket. Through the office glass I could see the girl, she was staring at the guitar and chewing gum.

I took a deep breath, “Hi, ok I'll take the ticket, you can have the guitar, that'll be fine if that's what you want.” She seemed to be looking right through me. “Thanks, you'll not regret this.” She walked over and picked up the instrument, casual pinged a few untuned strings and a dull chord rang out. She giggled at that and without turning around walked away and dropped the guitar into the back of her car. I watched her as she drove off, my thumb and index finger squeezing the lottery ticket between them as I held it in my pocket. I waited a long time, I counted the traffic lights and junction times before I moved. I wanted to count her out and away. The time seemed stuck in single figure minutes but I moved eventually. I went to the office door and locked it. I took the ticket out of my pocket and put it on the desk. I fired up the laptop and checked another lottery results website. I looked at each number on the ticket, I held it up to the light. Everything was checking out, everything was the way it should be except for the fact that I'd just swapped a jackpot winning lottery ticket for an old, battered guitar. That didn't check out but sometimes life's like that and you just have to go with the flow.

All that was eighteen months ago. I'm now settled down on the Cote d'Azur. I cashed in the ticket and bought a tidy villa up in the hills above Nice. I'm here with my girlfriend. We've a nice pool and some statues in the garden. I treated the family and my pals, bought a couple of nice cars and now I'm holed up here, happy and there's enough sitting in a Monaco bank to pay the bills well into the future. But I still think about that day when she came into the office, I wonder if it was all real. I wonder was there ever a girl or a guitar? I tried to trace her from the invoice address, no luck. I looked around for the guitar in salerooms and on EBay but got nothing. Looking back on that day in the office it was all over in a tiny sliver of a moment. Was it just my ticket, lost in my pocket all the time and my subconscious played a recovery trick? Did I have a breakdown? Am I in a parallel universe? Was she an angel? There certainly was a ticket. I framed the photocopy. I'll never forget that sequence of numbers either. Sometimes life, even when it adds up doesn't add up.