Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Bloggerstock: The Story Of What Is On Your Desk

A couple of months ago, a few 20-something bloggers came up with the inspired idea for Bloggerstock; a blog swap that's been extending the number of blogs involved month by month. Blogger A sends their post to Blogger B, who posts it on their site, and in turn sends their post to Blogger C. A, B and C then become the best of friends. Today, I've flown the nest and have sent my post to Pepper [here] who has been kind enough to put me up [I hope - I'm posting early from work because I'm off out on the razz!]. And kindly manning the TBR fort here is Kelly from Not the Only Stargazer. Without further ado, over to Kelly [round of applause]:

Bloggerstock: The Story of What is on Your Desk

Heyyyy! I’m Kel from Not The Only Dreamer and this is my first Bloggerstock experience. I’m really super excited to be posting from across the Atlantic for TBR today!!!!! Bloggerstock is a blog swap project where each blogger posts on the name that comes after them on a pre-determined list, forming a biiiig ring. It’s fun! You should try it! Visit the Bloggerstock site to see what it’s all about, and to join the ring!

Anyway, the topic this week is about what’s on our desks. My desk? Well my ‘desk’ per say is quite a relative term. I’m a mobile hairstylist, so I go to my clients’ homes to do their hair. I pretty much set up shop in each and every home I visit, and it’s a blast!! I bring my color bowls, foils for highlighting, combs and clips, and most importantly, I bring my shears.

When I’m not out making a ‘desk’ somewhere else, I have an entirely different desk at home in my garage. I’m an artist, and I specialize in painting, so my ‘desk’ in the garage is COVERED in paint. I’ll spare ya’ll with a visual of the madness in its entirety, but here is a small preview.

As you can kinda see in the lower right corner, I have an adorable green plaid plastic table cloth over the table, so that I don’t get paint all over it. It’s not exactly adorable, it was just the crappiest thing I could find in the back of my linen closet. Because I paint in my garage, and the summer heat is simply unbearable right now, I have a big osculating fan set up on the workbench right in front of me. I have a big lamp that used to be nice and pretty and fancy, but is now covered in splattered paint on my table. I have a small tv that has a built in VCR (SCOREEEE!!!) also on the workbench in front of my table, so that I can watch tv (or old vcr movies that I steal from my dad’s house haha). I very rarely ever watch something that I need to pay attention to while I’m painting, so I often put the nature channel on. I think I just like the noise more than anything. I have an old hair blow dryer that I keep out there, and I use that when I’m getting impatient with how slow the paint dries (which is pretty much all the time) so that I can start on the next layer of my painting. I have boxes and boxes of paint all around my ‘area’. I have an old Folger’s Coffee container where I put my water to rinse my brushes between colors. I have a painter’s box where I store all of my brushes. I have another box full of all different things that I might glue to my canvases, including faux plants, marbles, seashells, crushed seashells, and most recently, I added some old postcards that I found in an antique shop.

Here’s my latest piece that I created on my ‘desk’, I used one of those post cards for the picture, along with course pumice gel (when it dries, it’s like cement), acrylic paint, and glue on a canvas.

As you might be able to tell, my ‘desk’ at home is an absolute disaster area, but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way J.

Visit my blog here: to see what Allison had to say about her desk, and to see more entries by me. Thank you to TBR for letting me post here!

That's no problem, Kelly. No problem at all. The artwork deserves an extra round of applause, I think - how funky is that? *claps enthusiastically*

Sunday, 27 June 2010

On The End Of Days

Spiders I can just about handle, snakes don’t scare me and I’m not afraid of the dark - but one thing that always causes me to lose sleep is the end of the world. N has given up trying to talk sense into me - it’s no use. While I understand that if the world is to end there’s very little I can do about it, I would at least change the way I live my life. Take 2012 for example - if the pesky Mayans are correct, we have less than two years left. If I knew this to be true, there's no way in hell that I’d be pissing about trying to pay off debt and working long hours to keep my job safe. Nay, nay and nay again. I would have hundreds of credit cards and I’d be enjoying the jet-setting, globe-trotting playboy lifestyle for which I was born.

But there’s the problem, there’s absolutely no way I can ascertain whether it’s true because, basically, people can’t predict the future. Can they? This should be enough to put my mind at ease but it doesn’t - and this isn’t the first time I’ve felt like this. This isn’t the first time that some ancient trouble-maker has disrupted my sleeping pattern. Far from it, in fact.

I can’t remember the year in which this occurred, but I was at primary school. Normally, the playground at lunchtime was a picture of gender segregation - the boys playing football and the girls skipping around the edge. However, this day was different. The gossip in the queue for the water fountain did not revolve around which two 9 year-olds had decided to get married or whether Mrs Appleton was in a good mood. The shouting, laughing and crying had given way to a feverish whispering. A huddle of children, girls and boys [all in their hideous maroon uniforms] gathered in the middle of the playground.

You see, somebody had heard their parents talking. The world was, so they said, going to end before the year was out. Suddenly football, kiss-chase and skipping were of secondary importance - before any of that could resume, we wanted to know how the End of Days would occur. Many a theory was ventured; alien invasion, asteroid collision, flood. One girl, from a devoutly religious family, offered the warm and fluffy opinion that God would make everybody on earth look in the same direction, and send a wave to hit them in the back of the head, so that we wouldn't see anything coming. Others drew their inspiration from less than divine sources, and feared invasion by killer tomatoes or biker mice from Mars. Anyway, the year passed and, perhaps to the disappointment of some, the world survived and secondary school began.

As if teenage angst doesn’t make life difficult enough, my secondary school years were overshadowed by predictions of the world ending in 1999. Good old Nostradamus and the Millennium Bug had consigned the planet to the Universal Recycle Bin in the sky. Of course, it fizzled out in an extraordinarily anti-climactic fashion - the planes still flew, the computers still worked, the new millenium still dawned and Nostradamus experts continued to predict apocalypse every year thereafter.

I should, by now, be sufficiently experienced in Armageddon-scares to be unaffected by the Mayan prophecy, all the more because I’ve heard that this interpretation of what’s written is questionable and discounted by many experts, but I can’t help but worry. I would feel hugely hard done by should it come true. I was going to have a country-themed fancy dress party to mark the start of the London 2012 Olympics, and it’s not really fair that I should die without ever achieving the global fame I deserve, but the ball is not in my court. I shall just have to wait and [after a nervous breakdown in December 2012] see.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

On Family

Before I get started, I want to check something. I had far too much time on my hands last night, and decided to rename some old posts. It wasn't necessary and I probably should have just let sleeping dogs lie, but I went steaming in anyway. I really hope that changing the posts didn't fire them all back into your feeds or reading lists - I did ask Google if it would first, but I didn't completely trust its answer [this once - normally Google's word is law] and have been fretting about it all day. I promise I won't do it again. Anyway...

I was reminded today of the phrase 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts'. Oddly, my mental wandering was triggered by ripping the back of my jeans under my [brilliant] shoes. Of all the genetic traits I inherited from my father, you see, the one that's most often referred to is my short legs. It's something for which I'm most angry with him. It's almost impossible to find trousers that fit properly - and too often my [amazing] shoes are overshadowed by ruined jeans.

When I eventually arrived home, leaving shreds of denim in my wake, I found two of my mum's friends in the living room. This wasn't a problem in itself, they were invited and didn't break in, but it meant I had to prepare my stock response for what has now become a generic, predictable greeting:

"Oooh, don't you look like your mum."

Yes, yes I do. It's true, but that doesn't make it any less boring to hear. Please, ask me about my job, the weather, tell me you like my shoes - try and mix it up a bit for crying out loud. However, I can't deny the fact that they are 100% correct, I am definitely my mother's son.

My mum's father is Irish, and I've only met the Irish side of the family once - when I was a wee lad of seventeen. When I first met them, it was like falling into a room full of different versions of me; some male, some female, some old and some young. I've inherited from her (and them, I suppose) freckles, dark hair and pale skin. Further evidence of my mother's Irish genes is found in the 'McGinley flick' (pictured above) - an eyebrow flick that is impossible to correct or hide. The female clan-members pluck their eyebrows but I've decided to wear it with pride, despite the fact that it does make my eyebrow look rather unruly. Add to this the fact that it's only on one bloody eyebrow and it makes my whole face look asymmetrical.

Anyway, onwards to the point; these (non-)events have given me an odd feeling. These are two examples of things I've inherited from my parents - things that they, in all probability, inherited from one of their parents. I feel like the sum of many parts - as if different aspects of different people, passed down through generation after generation, can still be found in me. It's a comforting thought, I think. You could completely lose touch with your family but you'd never be able to cast them aside as they are, to an extent, part of you. What's gone before informs the present. Relatives and ancestors you will never have the chance to meet have given something to what you have become; a patchwork quilt of hundreds of annoying traits, physical features, likes and dislikes.

I know a lot of it depends on upbringing; that genealogy cannot account for everything about me - and I don't mean to imply that the person you become is dictated by your family or ancestry - you can of course change the person you are. But I do like the feeling that I'm linked to all those people who form part of my family tree; that I share something with them. Perhaps there was once a Victorian chimney sweep who was pleased to have short legs as they made him less likely to get stuck, or a suffragette too busy campaigning for the female vote to pluck her eyebrow flick. And then, hundreds of years later, some poor bastard combines the two and is left with ripped jeans and a wonky face.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

On Sticking My Oar In [Part II]

Just when I thought my blog-well was dry and could think of nothing to write about, Gingerella saved the day with a meme. Gingerella I am indebted to you!

What is your most embarrassing moment of all time?

There are plenty to choose from, but this one stands out from the crowd:

I was at university, and so drunk I fell over on the dance floor [if only the embarrassment stopped here]. Seeing me sprawled on the floor in a puddle of drink, a bouncer came down to escort me out; I was, to be fair, far too inebriated to be anywhere apart from my bed. He asked me to follow him, which I did, and everything seemed fine, until he turned round and said,

"You don't have to hold my hand."

OH. MY. WORD. I didn't even realise, but as we walked through the crowd, I'd grabbed his hand. I must have been afraid of losing him in the throng. If only. On the upside, however, he did change his mind about sending me home - he must have decided I was far too soft to pose a real danger to anyone.

If you could eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Wasabi peas. Again and again. Although I'd need a drink to wash them down, they're fiery little bastards for someone with as low a tolerance for hot foods as I. I shouldn't love them this much, but I do.

How old were you when you had your first kiss?

Hmmm...I don't know. I was such a slut. That's a joke, I wasn't. It just doesn't stand out as a memorable moment. This milestone, this rite of passage, probably passed me by due to the intense concentration required to avoid carving the other person's lips up with my brace. Bad times.

What is your browser home page?

At home, just Google. At work, I have iGoogle, with a translator (which is woefully inaccurate at times), a currency converter and a Spanish Word of the Day. Today's word was 'tranquillo', which means calm. I now know the words for calm, monkey, beer, fuck and toilet. This could make for an interesting sentence...

What colour do you never wear?

Beige. I'm open to most other colours though, and wear black and white too much.

Nature lover or city slicker?

This is hard to say, but I'd probably choose a city over the countryside. I like to be in the middle of things. I love busy places like stations and airports and tourist traps. You don't get that in the countryside. You're all alone, and if I'm alone I think, and if I think I'm in trouble.

If you were granted three wishes, what would they be?

In attempt to keep this post light-hearted, I'm going to put three superficial wishes. There are things that are more important to me, but I'll save those babies for a time I'm really miserable and wish to drag you all in to share my woe. Suffice it to say, for the moment, that the following would bring a smile to my face and a tear of joy to my eye:

1. England to win the World Cup [we'll need some magic for this to happen].

2. A lottery win would do nicely, as always. LOTTERY GODS SMILE UPON ME. MAKE ME HAPPY. Money shouldn't make people happy or sad, but it can completely alter my mood. I don't think I need it to be happy, but it does remove a lot of obstacles.

3. The world can't end in 2012. Simple. It must not; I have plans and an apocalypse will inconvenience me terribly.

Do you have any scars? How did you get them?

None of any interest. I think I have one under my eyebrow from headbutting a flower pot when I was little, but my eyebrow hides it.

Have you ever seen a ghost?

Not seen one but...[click for an account of my only paranormal encounter] - sorry for lazy linkage, but it's quite a long-winded story, and it's past my bed time!

What is your dream job?

When I was young, I wanted to be a button designer. I used to raid my mum's sewing box for interesting buttons. I still feel that there is a niche market for bespoke buttons and have not given up on my dream of one day breaking into this most sought-after industry.

I'm supposed to pass this meme on, but I know some people don't like them, so I'd like to set this meme free, like a bird from a cage. If you want to, take the bird in, feed it, give it a place to roost for the night, then send it on its way. If not...erm...shoot it, cook it and eat it?

Sunday, 13 June 2010

On Moaning (or England's National Passtime)

For the last couple of weeks, World Cup-related advertising has assaulted me at every turn. England legends of the past stare meaningfully down from billboards and St George's flag flutters from every other car or house. TV guides are chock full of fixtures and when there are no games to fill the schedules they whack in a 'Top 50 Goals' or 'Most Shocking Football Moments' montage to ensure that the stay-at-home fan can remain wedged into his armchair and needn't seek entertainment elsewhere. N and my brother have even started collecting football stickers and have built up an impressive network of other collectors to swap with [all of whom are old enough to know better].

The World Cup is a unique event in a country so used to pessimism. It's unusual for the English to really get behind something and I'm relishing the surge of hope - all the more because we know exactly how hopeless our chances are but dive into a ridiculous patriotic hysteria nonetheless.

Whenever I see a TV interview with a South African [or whenever I manage to turn a work e-mail to S.A. into an opportunity for World Cup banter] I'm left with the impression that they are deeply proud of their country for hosting the tournament. A client from Johannesburg told me she couldn't sleep all weekend for the noise of the vuvuzelas, and liked it, as it added to the atmosphere. That must be some atmosphere. I know that there has been some criticism around the fact that such phenomenal sums of money could be better spent elsewhere - the Rainbow Nation is not without its problems - but then which country is? In my humble opinion, they've put on a great show so far and deserve to be proud of it [Although admittedly I am easy to please; opening ceremonies make me want to cry]. Of course, I actually know nothing and the South African papers and populace may have shat all over the World Cup preparations and hate it with a passion - but from an outsider's perspective, it looks good and I'm jealous.

Which brings me, finally, to my point. London is due to host the 2012 Olympics and I wish that we could be as proud as the South Africans seem to be. Alas no; it's highly unlikely that the English will ever manage to discard the national passtime that is moaning. The papers will rip it to shreds - some have already started. And just this evening I had the misfortune of overhearing a group of commuters on the train talk about how they're planning to book holidays to avoid the 'inconvenience'. The inconvenience caused by hosting what is possibly the world's most prestigious sporting event. I've don't think I've ever met anyone who hates the Olympics - it's like an all-you-can-eat buffet of a tournament, with something for everyone. I'd really like it if, just once, we could actually hope for something to be good, for it to go well, to work. If we could take the mentality we develop around the World Cup of hoping for the best, despite fearing failure, we could enjoy being the centre of something amazing. It seems a shame that while the eyes of the world are on London, Londoners will be running the other way. If I'm still here, which I fully intend to be, I think I might invest in a vuvuzela. Scrap that, I might buy one tomorrow and liven up the train to work.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

On The English Language, Going Forward

DISCLAIMER: This post touches on the importance of good spelling and grammar. That's not to say that this post includes good spelling or grammar, just that it mentions it in passing.

When I joined Twitter, I thought it would be rude not to follow Stephen Fry; the man is a legend after all. Yesterday he pointed me (and the rest of his army of followers) to this interesting article in The Times. It would seem that an institution may be set up with a view to protecting the English language from the corruption of the dreaded Text Speak. Mr Fry is dead against this. Now, I'm a stickler for good grammar and correct spelling but I'm not sure what side I'm really on. I think all children should be taught, as far as possible, to write correctly. They should be taught why punctuation is important and what it all means. They should be told what the rules that govern how things should be written are, so they at least have some knowledge of them before hitting their teens and substituting every second letter for a number.

At the same time, I accept that languages evolve, as necessary, when new circumstances arise and that to even try and impede this process would be pointless. When faced with a nemesis as powerful as Text Speak, resistance is indeed futile; it's easy, it's quick and it could even save you money. People are going to use it, whether an academy recommends it or not. It might not be elegant or graceful, but it's evidence of the adaptability of language and, as such, should be tolerated.

One thing I cannot tolerate - however - one thing that irritates me so much I shake with rage - is Management Speak. It makes my blood boil.

The main reason for my boiling blood is that on Tuesday, I had a work-related disagreement over email with a colleague. I put a fair amount of effort into making sure that my point was communicated clearly, concisely and correctly. What I received, in return, was complete and utter drivel - whole paragraphs written in Prickish. There was plenty of talk about how I had been 'given ownership' of a task; a task that hadn't, unfortunately, been completed by the 'drop-dead date' of 'end of play Friday'. Oh, how the rage consumed me. Rage. I would have so much more respect for a manager who spoke to me in English - or French, Norwegian or Cantonese for that matter. As long as they used real, constructed language instead of this ridiculous and unnecessary jargon.

Despite my best efforts to put an end to it, Management Speak continues to make worrying advances into our society. Last weekend, I happened to tune into the Junior Apprentice. It's basically a group of 16-17 year olds competing in various business-related tasks, in the hope of winning £25,000 which will then be used to fund the development of their career. What upset me about this programme - and I don't think 'upset' is too strong a word to use - is that these 16 year olds weren't getting drunk, getting off with each other or having a laugh. The girls argued about sales pitches. The boys fought over margins. When I was their age, pitches were for playing football (or rather where other people played football while I was sneaking out of the school gates) and a margin was a line down the side of a page. Watching a group of teenagers boss each other around, wearing suits and talking perfect Management Speak reminded me of the scene in Animal Farm when the pigs left the farmhouse walking on two legs and wearing the farmer's clothes. It just wasn't right.

I'm sorry for this rant - I don't mean to sound like a miserable old bastard - I just wanted to bluesky my thoughts on the situation and ensure that we're well placed to handle it going forward.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Just Finished - Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Finishing this *ahem* Man Booker Prize Winner has made me happy. Firstly, it was a bloody good book, which dragged me in from the word go. Secondly, it is HUGE. I was given the hardback edition for Christmas and it weighs a tonne. The Man Bag has struggled and my thigh is bruised where its vicious corner bounces against my leg. Being bigger than your average book, it's taken me around a month to finish, but it was worth it - worth the time, the effort and the physical pain .

It follows the life of Thomas Cromwell, who was an adviser to Henry VIII. The Tudors are a dynasty I studied at school, and I've always found their reign an interesting period. It was a time of massive political upheaval and in England, among other places, of previously unimaginable religious change too. With the basic knowledge I have, I had heard of quite a few of the characters before, but I've been used to seeing them depicted very differently. For example, I went to a Roman Catholic secondary school where there were four form groups in each year, each named after an English Martyr. Thomas More and John Fisher were among these- chosen for their extraordinary virtue and unwavering faith, and also crop up in Wolf Hall. In the book you're shown events from a dramatically different angle; More especially becomes a particularly unlikable character, while Cromwell and Cardinal Wolsey are painted in an entirely different, favourable light - which, I believe, is the opposite to what they normally receive.

While the history of the time is well-known, the viewpoint from which it's witnessed here is completely different to anything I've read before, and had me hooked from the beginning. Mantel takes a story that has been told a hundred times before, but makes you appreciate the characters as people, with clear personalities, rather than cardboard cut-out historical figures. She takes the history, dusts it down and delivers it in a way that entertains throughout. Possibly my favourite this year...

Friday, 4 June 2010

On Being a Pauper Among Princes

Sometimes I feel like there's no light at the end of the tunnel. I lose the ability to imagine a time when I will be financially comfortable and not have to live from payday to payday.

As you know, I think London is an amazing place and, I imagine, an a-m-a-a-a-z-i-n-g place for those with enough money to really go to town. However, when you're down on your luck it's possible to feel completely invisible. Friday was one of those days. I walked from work to the station, passing swanky restaurants and chic bars full to bursting with the suited and booted and, despite being too hungover to really want to partake in any drinking, my green eyed monster couldn't be tamed. I got stuck walking behind a woman in designer heels, her fingers dripping in diamonds and clutching bags full of newly purchased haute couture. I can normally appreciate sophistication, but on Friday it felt like a slap in the face. I got off the Tube, and walked through the City to catch my train; through a Tetris like landscape of skyscrapers and high-rise office blocks. To think of the amount of money that flies through these companies doesn't help - as staggering as the figure may be, my pockets remain empty. Carving a living among these cliffs of glass, steel and concrete can seem impossible.

But, at the same time, it's not all bad. I would do well to remember that broke for me isn't actually broke at all - I still have a roof over my head, a job and great friends who will kindly provide me with drink and good conversation (you know who you are); I should try to keep an objective head on my shoulders. And despite London offering plenty for a high price, you don't have to be rich to enjoy it. There's loads to do that isn't too expensive, and my time in the posh restaurants will come - because something else London offers in abundance is opportunity. I'm quite happy to put up with my meagre pay for a while yet, until I win the lottery (which I have scheduled for late 2011).

Going off on a complete tangent, I leave you with a line from this article in the Guardian, which I came across earlier today and really liked:

We love as hard in Harrow as Hollywood, but nobody's interested in our tender limericks, written on an iPhone on a night bus home, or our verging-on-misogynist pet names.
Someone loved us once too: one day we'll prove it with our archived texts.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

On Books

"Don't worry dear friends, you're safe here."

As you may have guessed from my tedious book-related posts, I'm quite the bibliophile, as, I believe, are most bloggers. I wonder though, whether most bloggers are as technophobic as I am? I am never the first to embrace new gadgets or the latest technology - I generally come limping along a couple of years after the rest. It's not that I'm resistant to change, or progress. I don't consider myself stuck in the past. I'm just very good at making do with what I know.

One technological advancement that fills me with a crippling fear is the e-reader. My feelings towards this piece of apparatus have reached dangerous levels. If I see one on my journey to work I get angry. Angry. I am that ridiculous. I'll be honest, I hate them. I will now rush to point out that I do understand the wisdom behind them and don't judge the owner of the device - I acknowledge, wholeheartedly, that this is my issue. It's not you, Mr E. Reader - it's me. For someone who travels a lot I imagine they are a godsend. All those words on such a handy device, who wouldn't love it? Me. That's who. I can't bring myself to turn my back on the old, trusted way of reading. I know books aren't perfect - as an industry publishing is probably up there with the least environmentally friendly. And some books are the most inconvenient things in the world - the one I'm reading now is a hefty hardback that, no matter how I position it in the Man Bag, manages to dig a corner into my thigh. But I love them despite these faults. I love the covers, the crack of a spine, the way they gather dust on the shelf. I LOVE THEM.

This rant came about thanks to Sky 1's adaptation of Terry Pratchett's 'Going Postal'. I've never read any of the Discworld books, despite seeing them in every bookshop I've ever been in. This one revolves around the quaint, old-fashioned post office struggling to survive against a newer, faster technology called the Clacks. The parallels with the real postal service and the advent of the internet and e-mail are clear, and they left me with a really depressing thought. I imagined a little postman, in the 80s, sorting out his letters for delivery - love letters, job offers, chain letters - letters from pen-pals who have never met, from distant relatives and angry constituents. Madonna's getting into her groove on the radio and he's thinking about rumours of a new technology that would remove almost all need for his services. He underestimates it - it doesn't see how it can challenge the status quo. How wrong. How wrong Mr Postman! Flash forward twenty years and he's delivering junk mail and credit card bills.

I know this is silly; it didn't happen quite like that and there is and always will be a need for the postal service. But will books die out? Am I being ignorant in refusing to embrace the e-reader? Will I find myself, in a few years' time, with no books to buy?

I stress that if any of you have e-readers, I'd never judge you for it. If anything, I'm a little jealous. Jealous that you've been able to let go when I'm destined to stand out a man listening to a cassette, on a walkman in a room full of people with I-Pods.