Apr 28

It’s been a busy week.

With what, I don’t know exactly.

I had a good weekend, meeting an icon of the 80s (so I’m told anyway) and getting a signed copy of his autobiography for my uncle Derek. Since my name isn’t Derek, and it would have been a bit strange to say I wasn’t a fan but wanted a signed book anyway, for about 5 minutes on Saturday I led a double life and was Derek, Spandau Ballet-loving fan with a book in his hand.

All in all not the most exciting foray into the world of alter-egos. No cool cars, no supervillains, nothing.

I also had a job interview, so I spent large stretches of my Monday and Tuesday nights winding myself up like a cheap watch and rehearsing answers to various kinds of questions. So much so in fact that it feels strange not to talk about management experience and the ability to manipulate and present complex information here. Had the interview on Wednesday morning, so wherever you may be in the world, do me a favour and think good thoughts. I swear if I get the job I’ll buy you a drink. Can’t say fairer than that.

One strange side effect of this busy week has been that I have suffered an increasing sense of guilt about not blogging. On the one hand this obviously isn’t a good thing since guilt isn’t exactly number one on the list of “fun emotional states to experience” but the more I think about it it might have some positive aspect to it. Maybe my blog and the whole blogging experience is becoming a little more integral to my life? There must be some reason that when I am away from it for a week or so I get a twinge of regret whenever I happen to look at it. I do get excited when I see people have left comments (which sounds geeky and stupid I know, but if you haven’t gathered that I’m a) very geeky and b) profoundly stupid by now then with the greatest respect, your reading skills need a brush-up) so maybe this whole blogging thing, which I started off out of genuine curiosity, is sneaking in the back door and becoming more important to me.

Bet you wish I hadn’t bothered coming back now.

Good thoughts, remember.

Good thoughts.

Good thoughts.

Apr 19

Just as I write about getting a new office so many other people seem to be either getting new ones too, or looking to get new ones, or keep the ones they have. The Cardinal Formerly Known As Joseph Ratzinger (hereafter known as TCFKAJR, which I think might catch on) is on his way to a new office and a whole new position in the eyes of the world. About 600 or so men and women are preparing to defend their offices while a whole legion of people line up to try to take them off them.

It’s a strange thing – I am very interested in politics (to a geeky level) but am not religious at all (I’m not even Catholic), yet I have been following both election processes with considerable interest. One was closed, one was open. Both have centuries of history, an awesome responsibility and the weight of consequence about them. One just concluded, the other still up for grabs. They’re like one another in some ways, but different in others (good thing you don’t come to this blog for insight huh?).

I suppose the upshot of this freeform babble is that both election processes have me wondering where things will go from here. The previous Pope was the only one I ever knew, he was elected the year I was born and every time I’ve heard “Pope” I’ve always thought of the one face. The only Prime Minister I’ve ever been under (as a voting adult I hasten to add) has been Tony Blair and his labour government. One has just changed, I wonder if the other will?

One good thing I suppose…at least when I got my new office I didn’t have to take the name of “Benedict”. I might not be a Catholic or even a particularly religious man but at least TCFKAJR has managed to make me feel good about that. Five minutes in the job and he’s not doing too bad already.

Apr 14

On the rather spiffy and superlative Dooce.com there have been a few entries in the last few weeks that centre around slips of the tongue, or entertaining comments that could easily be taken out of context, that have really amused me a lot. This one is, I admit, a pun based in schoolboy humour but this one really made me laugh because it’s a perfect example of saying something, and realising it could be taken badly out of context just as you finish saying it. This is a situation that I have found myself in many times over the years so it is always nice to hear of other people having similar trouble. As they say, misery loves company.

All of which brings me to the subject of this sorry tale, which revolves around my darling better half. At the weekend she and I were messing about and in the course of things I demonstrated, while lying down, what I looked like when I was running (long story). Obviously I looked silly, and with the strangely snooty expression I adopted my better half laughingly said that I looked like a photo of an old Victorian gentleman, but that (and I quote) “…someone had stolen his velociraptor.”

Yup.

After a confused silence on both sides (during which I was wondering if there was some clever joke there that I couldn’t understand) she then went on to say “of course, I meant velocipede, not velociraptor.”

Velocipede. Velociraptor. Easy mistake to make. Would have made history lessons a lot more interesting if it had been the other way around I have to say. Well for one thing the Victorians probably wouldn’t have been so repressed. Jurassic period wouldn’t have been so much fun though.

And Spielberg would have been so screwed.

Apr 13

As I walk up the fine marble stairway to MCF Mansions I uncomfortably adjust my tuxedo, worryingly aware of the multicoloured superhero suit underneath. After one last nervous check of my reflection in a highly polished window to make sure my super-logo isn’t visible through my shirt, I ring the doorbell. An old, slightly camp and incredibly stereotypical English butler lets me in and, after a snooty inspection of my rather elegantly typed invite, shows me into the main function room.

The subject of this heroic gathering is the discussion of our top 5 heroes from any medium. Trying to pick 5 champions from the whole of human experience is a daunting task but hey, I suppose that’s why I’m paid the big bucks to wear spandex under this dinner suit. Managing to snag a glass of champagne from a passing waiter I cast my eye around for the host, noting with a smile that the seventh book on the top shelf of the last bookcase is suspiciously dust free, unlike the rest of its companions on the shelf. They say a professional can always tell, and if I’m worth my salt I’d lay odds that that book isn’t one meant for reading.

I suppose my first hero, as I walk around the room and take in fragments of conversation as I pass each group, would have to be Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Calm, wise and possessed of a keen mind Picard was a scholar and a diplomat who could still manage to go toe-to-toe with the worst villains the universe could throw at him. A dignified man, he has helmed two Enterprises (to date) through battles, first contacts, hostage situations and numerous wars and minor skirmishes. Picard was proof positive that you could be British, bald, have a penchant for English literature and still manage to be cool. As I live in Britain, have an English degree and my hairline is creeping ever upward, this is excellent reassurance.

I grab another glass of champagne and make my way over to the host, who has just appeared at the other end of the room. As I pass a suspicious looking phone made of transparent red plastic, I can’t help but smile again. Villains get an unfair share of the blame for being formulaic. Heroes like their clichés and catchphrases just as much as any supervillain, perhaps even more so.

Second up would have to be the Doctor from the iconic British TV show, Doctor Who. An ancient Time Lord from a powerful planet known as Gallifrey, the Doctor wanders space and time in his old type 40 time machine, known as a TARDIS. Starting off as an old man, his body was shown to have the power of regeneration, meaning he can change from one body to the next in case of serious injury. The Doctor is enigmatic, funny and always seems able to pull a solution from his capacious pockets when the time is right. He has also by turns been shown to be something of a dandy, a manipulator of events and even something “more than a time lord”, which is an interesting line of thought indeed. Anyone who can pull off the line “Nice to meet you Rose, run for your life!” deserves to be added to someone’s list somewhere, so why not here?

From there it’s a short hop to my third hero. All we need to do is hop over the dividing line from TV sci-fi to historical fiction…there we are! Third up is Horatio Hornblower, from the Hornblower series of novels by C.S. Forester. Self doubting but capable of great things, Hornblower was a man in some ways perfectly suited to his time, and in some ways born out of it. He was a capable warrior and approached a fight with the detached and analytical viewpoint of a born scientist. He deplored the violence and cruelty inherent in the system he was a part of, but his ultimate loyalty was to his mission and to his country. Even so he was capable of surprising acts of kindness, and overall gave the impression of a fundamentally gentle man who gave his considerable gifts and abilities over to his country when it needed them. A hero through and through.

I notice that the crusty old English butler from earlier has approached the host, who looks very grave. A quick whispered conversation and he is off down the hall. As he turns a corner I could swear I heard the squeak of a tuxedo sliding down a pole into a subterranean cavern, but out of politeness I don’t comment.

Fourth in line sees another switch in genre, this time from books to comics. Arise, Optimus Prime. At over 15 metres tall and weighing in at several tons Optimus is physically different from the other heroes in the list (though he has had almost as many new bodies as the Doctor) but is just as heroic as the rest of them. Originally a filing and records clerk on Cybertron, Optimus stepped up to lead the Autobots when called upon to do so and devoted his entire being to the task. In ways similar to Hornblower, Prime was often victim of his own doubts and at times seemed to be his own worst enemy. He always seemed to have faith though, and found a way forward. Having no regard for his own safety he died several times in the course of the comic series, always coming back fighting. That, and he turned into a truck, which just screams cool to a geek like me.

To the practiced ear the distant roar of a rocket powered car is easy to pick up. I wish the occupant of that car a heartfelt godspeed and turn back to the party, figuring it will be a while before the host shows up again.

The last addition to my heroic band is a slightly obvious choice, but I suppose this is my team so I can include anyone I like, right? Step up, Han Solo. You all know Han, and I feel no introduction is necessary. Holder of the Kessel run speed record, Han is everything I wanted to be when I was a kid. Dangerous. Funny. Attractive to ladies. Owned his own starship. Could speak Wookie. He’s in.

There you have it, my five heroes. Is that a large egg shape being beamed onto those clouds? Ooops, have to go now.

Thanks for the champagne. Next time, my place.

Apr 13

Time off, I am coming to realise, is something of a mixed blessing for me.

On the one hand it is good to have some time away from my desk and the pressures of work. I’m enjoying the chance to get some rest, watch DVDs, catch up on my reading, listen to music and even surf the daytime TV channels and just enjoy the sunlight coming in through the windows. Time off reminds me that I work to live, not the other way around, which is a trap I fall into all too easily.

On the other hand, time off removes structure from my day and I eventually turn night into day and lose track of time completely. I sleep later, I stay up later and one day runs into another in very short order. Say what you like about work, at least it gives your day a basic structure that can be worked with. When I’m off that structure collapses pretty quickly for me, which has the end result of my being incredibly tired when I do go back to work because my sleep pattern has been knocked all to hell.

I’ve taken yesterday and today off of work, and have enjoyed myself immensely. Unlike my previous long weekend, which was quite a productive effort, this one has been far more laid back. I finished watching Firefly on DVD (the end credits on the last episode rolled with my better half and I shouting “And they cancelled THIS?!?!?!?”) and started in on my Battlestar Galactica (remake) DVD boxset. I’m continuing to enjoy reading my way through “The Republic” (heavy going, but rewarding) and have developed a worrying taste for shopping channels. I even got the chance to kick back on Saturday night and watch the new Doctor Who episode without having to record it.

Oh, and I slept a lot.

The end result of which is that my sense of time is pretty screwed up. I’ve always been a night owl and I spend most nights up late, but as I sit and write this it’s 10pm and I’m worryingly perky. I swear my body thinks it’s only 4pm. I can see me being very quiet at work tomorrow, just concentrating on working through my backlog of emails and not collapsing onto my desk in a snoring heap.

Hell, I’ve even run up against the deadline for the Blog Party, which will never do. Turning up at a party fashionably late is one thing, but missing it entirely just isn’t cricket.

Apr 06

Having come pretty late into the whole blogging arena, it still strikes me as a novel experience to log in here and share my thoughts, observations and even my lame jokes with you (that last one is better suited by the word “inflict” rather than “share”, I know). It seems so new to me – despite the fact that the quickest and most cursory look at the figures shows that there are millions of blogs out there, reflecting a staggeringly diverse pool of people. Exploring the blogs that are out there, some of which have been around for years, some months, some a matter of days, and coming to terms with the fact that there are a lot of people out there a damn sight funnier and better at this than I am has really opened my eyes. Which I suppose is the point of the whole thing, really: to impart a new perspective and make you think about things you might otherwise never have thought about.

So as I thought about it, read, enjoyed, commented on and added more and more blogs to my bookmarks (which I will have to put on my little blogroll down there to the bottom right) I looked around at other things and just like that, my perspective shifted just so and boom, I saw something I hadn’t really noticed before. Something that will no doubt have struck many of you as patently obvious, but I make no apologies for my relative dullness in this case. The (minor) revelation I happened upon?

Ladies and gentlemen, blogging isn’t anything new at all.

Sure, the name is new. The medium is new and still an unknown to many people in the world today, which can be attributed to economic, age or any number of other factors. The degree to which blogs can interlink with one another to form a living, breathing network of documented thought and experience is new. What isn’t new is the fundamental act itself, which is basically communication of experience and providing thoughts and context to those experiences.

I’m not talking about diaries (well, not all of them), which are a very different animal indeed. Blogs are intended for public consumption – the author might wish to remain anonymous, but what he/she says is out there and anyone can find it if they spend half an hour or so looking. Diaries are intensely private and I’ll be the first to admit that there are things I would write in a diary (if I kept one) that I would not put up here.

What I am talking about is a particular style of writing. I was reading a book the other night in which the author refers to a mister Ike Hoover, the Chief White House Usher for many many years and one of those people who, quite unlike the slightly more powerful residents of that place, had the fortune to develop a perspective over decades rather than chunks of four to eight years. Hoover’s memoir is essentially a blog – it is intended for others to read, is witty, plays to its audience and relays experience, but (and this is the important part) also imparts his perspective on those experiences. If he were to be alive and doing his memoirs today, a blog would be the ideal format for him.

In point of fact the very book I was reading all of this in, “Letter from America: 1946 – 2004” by Alistair Cooke, is also a blog on paper. Cooke was a British correspondent who moved to America and eventually took up residence there permanently. His radio broadcasts of the letters, transmitted once a week in what was to become the longest running radio show in broadcasting history, carried out the same function as a blog, just a very long running and influential one. The dooce of his day, you might say.

There are more of these books out there, and I am going to start looking for them a little more earnestly now. I know this might all sound terribly self evident and not just a little boring, but I was fascinated by the idea that this modern phenomenon, this thing that I have just recently started to get into, this trend that has increased my nightly net reading by a sizeable percentage…has been going on for centuries. Instead of being one voice in a vast chorus, I find I’m one voice in a continuum of history filled with different, overlapping choruses, counterpoints and themes, each overlapping and complementing one another. From participant in a purely modern phenomenon to one single atom in an entire, dizzying universe of experience.

Talk about your shift in perspective.

Apr 05

Seems MCF is in the process of organising himself another Blog Party, so as a good neighbour I’ll find it in myself to chip in. This time the subject of conversation is your top five heroes of all time: comics, cartoon, books, film, anything would seem to be up for grabs. So expect some spandex clad, lantern jawed and quite possibly kryptonite-fearing shenanigans to come your way on the day of the party, which is next Tuesday, the 12th of April.

MCF's Blog Party III - Heroes

I’ll need to get my thinking cap on for this one. The last one seemed to be easier than this. Maybe that just means I’m not very heroic (no great surprise there) or I’m heroic, but more comedic with it. And just so you know the amount of times I have typed “herioc” into this damned thing doing this is just not funny. Three times on the title line alone.

I’ll also host my own blog party at one point soon, so watch out.