Friday, April 28, 2006

Guerrilla Magic

I met up for dinner last night with a fellow magician called Paula. We originally struck up an acquaintance via one of the online magic discussion fora. I got in touch when I arrived back in the UK last year, but she had moved away from London. I've been spending a lot of time in Norwich recently, but have only been driving up in the last few weeks. It was then that the penny dropped - I pass a turn-off for the town where Paula lives, so it might be possible to meet up for dinner and some magic chit-chat.

So, I dropped her and email, and between last week and this, sorted it out. In the event, she came to Norwich, and so off we trotted to one of Norwich's many fine eating establishments. I had a very nice time indeed, and I think Paula did, too. You know when you meet someone for the first time, and you just get on? It was like that. Really easy, friendly, and lovely.

Within two minutes of arriving in the restaurant, Paula had her magic kit box out and was off at the next table doing some guerrilla magic for a lovely little girl who was there with her mum and dad. I was really quite amazed at how easily Paula just got into it, and after a while, I joined in, too. In between courses, we did some more, and then we retired to the bar for more gossip, magic talk and show and tell of favourite effects.

One of the things that many magicians like about our clubs and so on is the social aspect of it. I've struggled a bit with that, because my first forays into that world were marred a bit by an attitude that had a whiff of homophobia, which obviously made me feel about as welcome as Gary Glitter at a girls school. However, the kind of magicians that I like to hang out with tend to be the ones closer to my own age, and they tend not to have an issue with the whole gay thing. And amongst the older ones, those who are full time professionals tend to have had sufficient exposure to the world of theatre to be quite used to hanging with the queens; and they're also the ones who are full of wisdom and insight acquired over years of performing.

Hanging out with Paula last night reminded me of why I want to be in a magic club. Also, she showed me some really cool magic, and that's always enjoyable.



Bible Basher Bashing


I've never had much time for that line that supposedly xtian phobes use about how "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" I'm sure they find it highly entertaining in their non-thinking, crowd-following* kind of way. However, even if your accept their "god created ..." premise, they only manage to push their agenda by careful editing. Fine, so god created Adam and Eve. But if you believe that he created the first two, then clearly he didn't stop after that. He's gone on creating. Including Trevor and Roger. And Trish and Lisa. And quite possibile Adam and Steve.

And whilst we're on the subject, whatsisname was a bit of an early career jockey, innit? Starts off with a good apprenticeship in carpentry, but packs that in for fishing (Matthew 4:19), tries his hand at shepherding (John 10:11), has a go at teaching (John 13:13). He didn't half jump about for an era in which there wasn't much in the way of career mobility. Wouldn't it have been fun if he'd stuck with the carpentry, and drawn all his analogies from that, and if the various biographies had stuck with that theme.
"Follow me, and I will ... erm ... give you a right good banging."

"You know, if you used a wooden mallet rather than a metal hammer, you'd be able to take these nails out after you'd finished with me, and use them on the next person."



The Vexing Ex


My ex, about whom I may one day write, wasn't very familiar with computer technology. One evening, I was steering the browser for him whilst he navigated to a few web sites that he wanted to visit. He had finished with one particular site, and I had started typing in the address for the next one, when he stopped me and asked me to go back one page at a time until we got back to the home page of the site we were on. Then he started reading out the address for the next site. When I asked him why he had done that, he said "For the next person."

At the time, because I loved him then, it seemed sweet and thoughtful. With the benefit of hindsight (which delivered unto my attention a full of appreciation of his role as a lying, cheating, money-grabbing, manipulative parasitical slut), it gives me something - more - to laugh at him for.

You know, there are times when you bury the hatchet but you just can't make yourself forget where.

Or stop wishing that the "where" was in their skull.

:)


* I know that carpenter they follow often described himself as a shepherd, but surely that doesn't oblige them to become such sheep?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Chocolate Porridge

I was working late last night. Again. However, I'm not going to pretend that this isn't very much par for the course. In my industry, it's not at all uncommon to burn the midnight oil for a couple of weeks, especially when project go-live dates are looming towards us, cruel and unstoppable, like a Pitcairn Islander.

As is common in such circumstances, we broke for a while during the course of the evening to fuel ourselves on healthy, wholesome slices of pizza. Yet when I came in this morning, after making several trips during the night to fill the bowl with chocolate porridge, it was only to discover that I was the only one who had been so afflicated. I had had the same pizza as everyone else, yet no-one else had suffered.

So perhaps it was the half-cooked chicken, shiny bacon and pungent salmon and prawn cocktail that I had for lunch.

Despite the long hours in the office, I feel a bit more free now that the MC exam is out of the way. So I've been playing with a new card effect which is the brainchild of my mate Greg in NZ. One of a number of brain children, I might add, the second being at least as amazing, and one of the most memorable ways I've ever seen to hand out a business card. Both very cool effects, but for consistency with the rest of my normal act, I have to work out a way to gay them up a bit. Maybe.

---

The US administration moves suspected terrorists to a country that has different laws concerning the use of torture on prisoners.

A UK or US citizen moves to a country that has different laws concerning the age at which it is legal to have sex.

If the US administration and Tony Blair think its okay for them to practise "extraordinary rendition", then they haven't a leg to stand on when it comes to criticising paedophile sex tourists. And that's probably - hopefully - not a position that they really want to be in.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Real Words - Fake Etymology

ampersand(n)

A typographic symbol (&) used to replace the word "and". These days usage is normally restricted to commonly paired words (fish & chips, Mr. & Mrs.) rather than to replace every instance of conjunction.

Until the advent of the electro-mechanical presses of the late 19th century, typesetting had been a labour-intensive, time-consuming process. Abbreviations and symbols were used extensively to cut down on the amount of work required to typeset a complete page.

One of these early symbols - & - was created by Georges Frederick Ampère, a Viennese scientist originally from Louvaine. The symbol was introduced in England around the early 1500s, where it quickly became known as Ampere's And. Before too long, this name was corrupted into the word that we use today.


Made Up Words

hippocrit(n)

A person of large proportions (i.e. a fat bastard) who nevertheless feels inclined, entitled or obliged to pass comment on the size of other people (i.e. other fat bastards).

Derived from "hippo" meaning big fat creature, and "crit", which is an abbreviation of criticism, as in lit.crit.


Euronate (vb)

Paying money to use a lavatory in a country within the Euro zone (i.e. those that use Euro as their currency).

Carmen Cruise

So, poor little Tom Cruise is having to keep jets primed and ready to go at a moment's notice so that he can drop everything and rush back home to his wife and new child. Aw. Bless. I'm sure the child will live to thank him for the environmental impact of that.

And on top of the stress of new fatherhood, the world's most successful scientologist* is dealing with the stress of promoting the latest film from his Mission Impossible franchise. And this time round, it's MI-III. Or, M-aye-aye-aye-aye (hence the subject of this blog entry, just in case that needed spelling out).

In the tradition of celebrities naming their offspring after the place of conception, the new baby is likely to be called "Kitchen", since that's where the turkey baster is kept.

---

I've just reassessed how I marked my own performance in the Magic Circle exam, and have decided to move from a 1 in 3 chance of passing it to a 1 in 2 chance. 50/50. Not bad. Now, if only the examiners see it that way, too.

I'll stop writing about it for fear that it might seem that I'm obsessing.


*I was going to put in a comment here about how L Ron Hubbard might have a good claim to that title, but upon futher reflection I decided against it. If we were talking gambling rather than scientology, Cruise would be a successful gambler, whereas Hubbard would be the guy who owns the casino.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Examined

I can finally stop - after this post - wittering on about my Magic Circle exam, because it has now been and gone. I suspect that at some point later in the year, I'll start wittering on about it again because I'll be making another attempt. I'm afraid so. I think I'll be getting a letter along the lines of:
"We are very sorry to inform you that your application has been unsuccessful on this occasion."
There were three of us up for examination. I was on first, because they do it alphabetically.

My opener went surprisingly well, given the hassles I had in rehearsal with it. I fumbled a tiny little bit getting my props together for the second item, made a bit of a boo-boo with the third item (but not one that many would have picked up on, fortunately), and had some serious trouble at a couple of points in the big item at the end. That's the bad side.

On the good side, the third item played really well - even got some applause, which from an audience of magicians is quite an achievement; oh, and a ripple of laughter in the middle of it. (I was using some cocktail recipe cards, and when I came to Sex On The Beach, I suggested that it was probably a bit early in the year for that - big pause - what with it being more of a summer drink.) The final loads for my shell game / cups and balls routine worked well (a cherry, a bit of fresh lemon, and a cork). Also in my favour, I think the structure was appreciated, as was the fact that it was a complete act where each item segued fairly well into the next.

If I were marking me, I would probably have allocated points thus (the maximum for each category is shown in brackets):
Presentation and personality (marks out of 30): 15 - 20
Magical ability & technique (marks out of 30): 10 - 18
Entertainment value (marks out of 15): 7 - 10
Patter (marks out of 10): 6 - 8
Structure of performance (marks out of 5): 5
Originality (marks out of 5): 4 - 5
Appearance (marks out of 5): 5
This would result in a score somewhere between 51 and 71. The pass mark is 65, so based on my range of score, it's more likely that I've failed (51 - 64) than passed (65 - 71). In fact, it works out at a very clean 2:1.

Thing is, I don't get to find out for weeks! The examiners submit their feedback to the membership committee, which meets every month or two. Those who have passed are recommended for membership, whereupon any of the members of the committee may veto that decision if they know something about the candidate that would make them unsuitable (being the Masked Magician, for example). It is only then that the whole membership thing kicks off. Badges and certificates are issued, etc.

Several of the folks who watched my performance were very kind in providing feedback, and saying that thought I would get in. I'm not so convinced, especially since the other two examinees were much more polished.

Hey ho. That's what I get for working such long hours in the run-up to my exam and not getting enough rehearsal in.

Obviously, if I do end up getting good news, it will now come as a pleasant surprise, having conditioned myself to expect the worst. I did that with school and university results too, and they all worked out in the end.

The other examinees were very good. One in particular, a chap called Clive who does a Tommy Cooper tribute act, was very funny, and had a fantastic routine with a magic bean under an empty bean tin. The ending was a killer - I think it took quite a few people by surprise.

I also had a lovely time after the evening's lecture chatting with Jon Tremaine and his lovely wife Suzy. Actually, Suzy and I had a good old gossip. It was great.

So, anyway, fingers crossed, and I'll let y'all know.

----

I just followed a link from Da Nator's bastion of bloggity blogness to a test at OKCupid! - The 3 Variable Funny Test. It decided to categorise me as The Wit, with a combination of 57% dark, 70% complex, and 64% clean. Personally, I suspect the "clean" score is way too high, since the opposite end of that axis is "vulgar".

Friday, April 21, 2006

Stifling (Warning - scatalogical)*

I've just come back from the loo. I'm a regular visitor. Much more regular than I have any right to expect, given that without the prompting (and exquisite cooking) of my Lovely Husband™, I would happily subsist on a diet of meat and lard.

Seriously. I could happily have a roast chicken for dinner, just on its own, or maybe with some mayo or pickle. Lovely Husband™ doesn't consider it a meal unless there's a big vegetable presence. And we're not talking Celebrity Can't Cook Won't Cook featuring Steven Hawkings.

There's always at least 3 and often 5 different types of veg when my man's been at it in the kitchen (which is most days). And he doesn't even count potatoes as a vegetable! Whereas, if I have a packet of crisps, that's one of my 5-a-day, thank you very much. In fact, it's two of my 5-a-day, because they're cooked in vegetable oil, so that's got to count for something.

We tried the Atkins Diet once. I thrived on it (part of me wants to write "throve"). He hated it. Couldn't take eating all that fat. Me, I was tucking into streaky bacon covered in a sauce of cream and cheese. And losing weight! (And developing halitosis that could strip paint. They don't mention that in the book.)

If life was fair, Lovely Husband™ would enjoy better downstairs movement than I do, but 'tis not so.

That was all background. Here's what I wanted to write about.

I'm working in a new building, which isn't fully fitted out yet. I head into the gents to drop one after lunch (within half an hour of putting something in one end, I usually have to allow something out the other). There's a guy in there doing some tiling.

Hmm. I head into a cubicle, regretting the beans I had at breakfast this morning. I can feel it coming, and it's not gonna come quietly. He's going to know it was me. There will be no avoiding the guilt and shame. I mean, what am I gonna do - belt out a few numbers from Sunset Boulevard to cover the other sound effects?

There is a handy tactic that used to work for me in situations like this. I think of it as The Widespread Silence. Lately, however, it has been failing me, most likely because of a change of diet.

The Widespread Silence is performed by reaching behind with both hands, getting a good grip on either side of your bum, and pulling your cheeks apart so as to spread the lips of your cloaca. Then when you relax, gas can escape with little or no sound, since it's more like breathing out through an open mouth as distinguished from forcing air out through tightly pursed lips.

Something about the internal feedback suggested that The Widespread Silence wasn't going to cut it for me on this occasion, so I had to come up with something new. And I got it, by george I think I got it. Took a piece of paper, did the same action that I normally would for wiping, but let the gas out whilst I was doing that. There was a little noise, but I doubt it was audible above the sounds of earnest grouting coming from elsewhere in the room. Marvellous. And wouldn't Ernest Grouting make a really good name for a character in a play?

All of this reminds me of a story or two from my years in New Zealand. Perhaps I should save them for another day.

*I come from a West Central Scotland working class background. We find bodily functions amusing. What can I say?


------

Someone that I work with - let's call him Floella - just handed me his new mobile phone to charge. I don't know why, but I seem to be Mr Mobile Phone Charger. A number of colleagues make a regular habit of getting me to fill them up when they're out of juice (sic). Floella's new mobile phone is "ruggedized", not to mention rubberised. Or rubberized, if you must. In fact, it looks as if it was designed to work underwater. Why?
I'm going diving this week, but if you need me, just ring, and I'll blow some bubbles at you. Whilst drowning.
Mind you, if I knew someone who had such a phone and took it on a diving trip, there would be an enormous temptation to replace the ringtone with the scary cello music from Jaws.

When will this weekend?

I've been putting in long hours this week, because we're in the middle of testing, and as usual, we're discovering bugs and problems. This is very much par for the course, as is the fact that our timetable and deadlines were all predicated on us not finding any. How I love this industry!

The long hours are clashing with my need to rehearse for my magic exam on Monday. I did manage to squeeze in a couple of hours last night, and there are interesting parallels between the testing that I'm doing at work and the testing that I'm doing of my entrance performance piece. A number of "bugs" showed up first time I tried to walk through my set. A few more appeared yesterday. I tried for ages to resolve them, but in the end had to settle for compromising my original requirements (I'll produce a shot glass of liquid from nowhere rather than a glass of champange).

And I'm working all weekend, too. Still, I'll have the place more or less to myself, and if I can crack through it at a reasonable pace, I might have a bit more time in the evenings that I have had this week. And because I'm working the weekend, I'm taking Monday off. And that means I'll have all day to rehearse before showing up at Magic Circle HQ at 17:30 for my big moment.

Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Poppadom Preach

I was in trouble deep when I finally got around to thinking about food yesterday evening.

It had been a long day. I got up at 05:40 because I wanted to get to Norwich before 09:00, and had to pack my case, making sure I took all the bits and pieces I need to continue rehearsing for my Magic Circle exam.

In the course of the afternoon, I took a bit of a break during a slack period where I wasn't very busy, but came back into the office shortly after 17:00, and worked through until 21:30 or thereabouts.

Upon my return, after pottering around the room for a while, I grabbed the room service menu and tried to order something proper, only to discover, to my horror, that it was after 22:30, the chefs had left the building, and I would have to order from the 24-hour menu instead.

I plumped for the Lamb Jalfrezi. What a terrible mistake. The sauce was bland, indifferent but mostly inoffensive. The meat though. Yuck! So yuck, it crossed my mind to write "yuck" on a bit of paper and leave it on my tray when I popped the sad, yucky remains outside my door for collection by the yuck-collectors.

Lamb? Chopped up bits of shoe leather more like. Really, I couldn't have choked it down if I tried, and believe me, that's quite something given some of the things I've choked down over the years.

Still, I suppose it meant fewer calories. Although 10 minutes in the gym would have been better.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Rolling Stone

I took my Lovely Husband™ to G-A-Y on Saturday, and ended up having a smashing time. He doesn't usually like big clubs, but really enjoyed it because it was a bit like a high school disco. Also, he had been playing Shayne Ward's new single all week, so there was the thrill of seeing that very visually appealing young thing performing live on stage. Little Miss Ward, to his credit, did belt out a f*cking awesome rendition of "Over The Rainbow".

At random junctures in the evening, they released one or two huge, round balloons that looked a wee bit like rover from The Prisoner.

Because we arrived there quite late on Saturday night, it meant that we were still there when Jesus rose from the dead. Like he does every year. He's very reliable like that, and I think that's a commendable trait in a Messiah.

As I took callous delight in punching a balloon away from the clutches of the short-arses around me, I thought to myself, hey, I'm like Jesus rolling the stone away from my own tomb.

Book*, as the kids are saying these days.

I'm not sure if there was an intended spiritual message in the balloon release, but the exertion involved in punching them back up towards the ceiling probably helped to balance the chocolate intake the next day, so I'm not complaining.



*Because when you type "cool" using predictive text, it comes up with "book", and the cheeky little scamps can't be bothered changing it, so they've decided to change their language to fit. Allegedly.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Help For The Lonely

Are you looking for someone special in your life? Do you despair of ever finding that right man or woman? Worry no longer, for now, you can find the mate of your dreams, using Qenny's guaranteed recipe for love - the Melody Can, as recommended by ABBA*.

Start using it today, and you'll soon be living in blissful harmony with the man, woman or animal of your choice.



*nothing can capture a heart like a melody can (Thank You For The Music)

Results may vary.
Not intended for use by transplant surgeons.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Bits That Fit

Finally, all the bits are coming together for my Magic Circle exam performance on the 24th.

I'm used to making it up as I go along, getting cheap laughs for bum jokes, and generally being a gobby queen who sometimes does rather miraculous stuff. However, for the exam, I have been advised against using any "blue material". I don't think they were referring to my fabric swatches.

That rules out most if not all of my usual act. And given the injunction against "blue" stuff, I decided that it would be better, for the purposes of getting my foot in the door, to hide my fairy light under a bushel. So, my aim is to do a very straight-laced performance. The kind of thing that the examiners seem to like even though it's exactly why magic has suffered quite a bad name in recent decades.

There was a period during which I wondered if I still wanted to join; but after attending a meeting or two as a guest, the temptation is far too strong. It just has too much going for it to put me off the rigmarole involved in joining. If I can channel my excitement about it into actually getting off my arse and practising, then maybe I'll get in.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Democracy and Northern Ireland

[Qenny saddles up one of his many political high horses, and sets off ...]

Northern Ireland. Let me see. Despite my background, I have very little sympathy for either side of this conflict. It appears, however, that as long as they have a majority, the Unionists will insist that any change has to be decided democractically.

I couldn't agree more. But let's remember that given that we are talking about membership of Club Britain(TM), change should be decided by the people of Britain. As a whole. Let's have a referendum across the whole of the UK, and ask everyone in the country if we want to be continue being saddled with Northern Ireland and its problems. I'll bet the democratic answer would be a resounding "no thank you".

There would also have to be a referendum in Eire to see whether they are prepared to give it a go. Who knows what the result of that one would be.

In the end, Northern Ireland might end up being independent within Europe, and everyone being sort-of happy because no-one is actually happy. Which seems to be what they all want.

Sheesh, the way I sort the world out sometimes makes me think I should take up hairdressing or taxi driving.

[ ... and dismount]

Why is everything so complicated?

[Qenny saddles up one of his many political high horses, and sets off ...]

There are lots of things that make modern life complicated. However, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that this is a statement that has been true of human life since it began.
... so now Ug is expecting to me to learn how to use tools. Tools! I ask you. I'm still getting the hang of this opposable thumb thing, now he wants tool-use. It will be fire-tending next.

Just get one of the kids to do it. That's what I do.
We have the option in many areas of life to make things less complicated for ourselves. To outsource the complexity of life, if you like. Trouble is, when we do that, it costs us, either in money or in power.

We can get accountants to sort out our finances. We can simplify our debts by getting a consolidation loan. We can get a cleaner. All of these things cost us money.

We can accept Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) as a fair exchange for easier access to digital music. We can register all our software products in return for easy access to updates. We can give all service providers direct access to our bank accounts (via direct debit) so that we don't have to worry about paying bills. All of these things cost us power.

What frightens me is that when it comes to politics, a lot of people want all the complicated stuff taken care of for them, so they are willing to give up having to think about something as long as someone else will put the bell on the cat.

Scariest of all is the huge number of people who are happy to elect "leaders" who think it that being simple and wrong is somehow better than tackling the complexity and getting it right. Sure, getting it right in the context of a complex situation is never just "getting it right". It is more likely to be an involved process that generates an optimal set of outcomes. But an optimal set of outcomes is surely preferable to just plain wrong.

Too often, people are seduced by the simple-but-wrong guy because his answer has the appeal of being definitive. The simple-but-wrong guy is the kind of person who will ask you: "Give me a straight yes/no answer - do you still physically abuse your partner?"

They don't want to hear you explaining that their question makes an implicit, incorrect assumption, and that in fact you have never physically abused your partner (except in a consenting sexual context in a back room in Berlin). They think that if you don't give them the "yes" or "no" that they have asked for, then you are being overly complex, overly clever, and are "unable to give a straight answer to a straight question".

It's all too complicated. I'll vote for Simple Butt Wrong, because at least I know where I stand with him.

[ ... and dismount]

Incorrectitude

I sometimes deliberately think very non-PC thoughts, because I find it's a good way to stimulate my brain to come up with arguments against the opinions of those I don't agree with. Also, because I don't like having opinions that I haven't fully explored, I sometimes decide to adopt a non-PC point of view on a particular subject until I convince myself - or get convinced by someone else - to change my opinion back to what it was in the first place, but with more conviction than it had previously enjoyed.

This approach does have some rather unintended consequences, like today, when there are some chaps here commissioning the water in the building where I work . It's one of the many joys of labouring in a new structure - that and the men in hard hats. Well, I think it was their hats. Anyhoo, I wasn't allowed to take a dump for three hours whilst they were doing things with spigots, or whatever they use these days. At one point, they had to turn on all the taps to allow the heavily chlorinated water to run through the pipes, as a result of which they had left the door to the disabled toilet wide open.

Wow! That place is palatial! It's about half as big as the entire cubicles + urinals + sinks of the able-bodied toilet. So that triggered a thought I shouldn't have had, and resulted in the following, for which I will probably be sent to the bad fire. Well maybe. It sounds much worse at the start than it ends up being.

Oh to be a cripple
With a well-appointed bog.
You can whizz right past all others
When you need to drop a log.

Oh to be a cripple
When you go to see a show.
Trundle right on past the hindmost aisle
And down the front you go.

Oh to be a cripple
As you rush to catch the bus
And endure the other travellers' stares
At all the extra fuss.

Oh to be a cripple
At the bottom of the stair.
Perhaps its time we worked this out.
And start - perhaps - to care.

Weight Gain 101

I've been adjusting over the last few years to being described as broad-shouldered. I've always been tall, but when I was growing up, I was a bit of a beanpole, or as one of my uncles described me, a big drink of water. (Big girls blouse might have been more accurate.)

Skinny as a rake, I enjoyed a metabolic rate so high that I was on the verge of gaining superhero powers. In 30 minutes I could put away 6 jumbo sausage rolls, a couple of tins of beans, and several slices of bread each bearing a centimetre-thick layer of butter. And I never gained an ounce.

For years, I stayed at 7 stone (or 44.5 kg if you'd rather). Then some time in my teens I went up to 9 stone (57 kg) and stayed there for a long, long time.

Then something happened. The pilot light on my crazy metabolism went out or some such. But it wasn't too bad. I went up to 14 stone (90 kg) - and by this time, I had started thinking in kg because it's a lot easier to work with. So, I have been 90 kg for a while. Except now I'm 101. Almost 16 stone. I'm not happy.

Admittedly, because of my height, and because somewhere along the line I stopped being tall and skinny and started being tall and broad, I don't look especially fat. But this last jump in weight has been on the back of an extended period involving little exercise and lots of huge hotel breakfasts. It's got to change. I've got to get back on the treadmill. Literally.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Only Straights & Horses

It has been slowly dawning on me that the hit comedy cult classic* "Only Fools & Horses" is enjoyed by almost all the straight people I know, and almost none of the gay ones. In fact, quite possibly none of the gay ones at all.

I think I might start using that to replace my faulty gaydar, which hasn't been working since I lived in New Zealand for five years. It took ages to recalibrate it for the land of the long white cloud, and since I got back to jolly old stinky old London, it hasn't been very accurate.

The problem was that when I first got to NZ, it looked like the whole country was full of buff gay men with beautiful skin tone and shaved heads. They all looked like Stepford Boyz, or at least a bunch of Old Compton Regulars. And the women - all fiesty, assertive and cool, and often featuring fuck-with-me-and-die glares which they are happy to bestow upon anyone getting in their way. It took a while to realise that the buff lads weren't the queens (although some of them are), and the fiesty women weren't the dykes (although some of them are). Months of reprogramming the gaydar ensued.

I'm not suggesting that if you don't like "Only Fools & Horses" that makes you a big poof; merely that if you are a big poof, chances are you won't like it. I'll have to double-check with my sister to see if the same applies in the lesbisexual community, because after all, there are those unusual differences, like the dyke penchant for Barry Manilow.


*I only used these words because they tend to be all flung in when something like this show is being described on the telly. They might not all be used at once, but they do all get trotted out. No pun intended.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

My chickennnnnnnnn!

I popped into Soho's trendy Soho district this weekend to catch up with the husband who had been dragged kicking and screaming to see a musical. (He doesn't have the gay musical appreciation gene. On balance, that's probably a good thing.)

Along the way, I was quite surprised to see a physical manifestation of Gollum from Lord Of The Rings. I paused to wonder how they had managed to turn a CGI character into a living breathing creature, and get it so exactly right. The ancient, paper-thin skin stretched over bones old enough to carbon-date; the leering rictus grin; the simpering, grovelling, twisted, insincere Uriah Heap mannerisms. Then I noticed which venue I was walking past, and the penny dropped. It was just Jeremy Joseph.

For those of you who don't know, Jeremy is a promoter. Primarily of himself, but also of his club, G-A-Y.

I actually quite like the club. What I object to is the full name of the place: "Jeremy Joseph's Good As You". Oh, d'ye fuckin think so? I beg to differ. Jeremy Joseph's good as me - at what? I don't think that list would be a long one. In fact, the only thing that springs to mind at which he excels is drooling over young gay men who haven't quite gotten through their acne years. And, frankly, I'm happy for him to be better than me at that, rather than merely as good as. To hear him tell it, though, he is the patriarch of gay rights in this country, single-handedly vouchsafing our right to listen and dance to camp choonz. Because that's what being gay is all about.

Until you're about 20. Then he isn't interested.

It got me thinking about the apocryphal story that the word "gay" stands for "good as you". I've never been very happy with that etymology. For one thing, the word was being used a lot earlier than its official adoption. It was used knowingly to carry additional meaning amongst Noel Coward's set; and I can't see the man who wrote "Hay Fever" being content to claim that he was merely as good as the people around him who weren't being frightfully gay.

Besides "we're as good as you" sounds to me like the war cry of a loser. It's intrinsically apologetic and defensive, and although these were once undoubtedly handy survival qualities for letsbegay people, I suspect we've done enough by now to prove our fabulosity and worth many times over. Got a run-down inner city area you want to improve? Send in the queers. Need some help choosing shoes? Bring along a gay friend. Need your leaky tap fixed but don't want to disturb the cat who has just had a litter? Get a lesbian plumber. (That's a lesbian who happens to be a plumber, rather than someone who fixes lesbians' plumbing. The latter is more usually referred to as a gynaecologist.)

Having said that, at my Magic Circle entry exam (15 days to go), I'll be avoiding any of the gay banter that I usually rely on to get me through. It wouldn't go down well with the examiners, and I have a reptutation to maintain. Could I walk tall down Old Compton Street knowing that I had failed to go down well - even once? Can't risk it. Still, I'm sure it will be worth the effort. If I do go down well, I'll be allowed to enter the Magic Circle. Story of my life.

But let me finish the aimless witterings sparked by Mr Joseph. I don't want to go suggesting that all of us gay folks are better than all of them straight folks. I don't really do them and us, and besides, "Better Than You" doesn't work as an acronym. What might, though, is "At Least As Good As You" - or "a la gay" for short. Myriad uses suggest themselves. Disco a la gay. Shopping a la gay. DIY a la gay. I'd better stop in case the "a la" thing is misunderstood by anyone of a religious persuasion.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Hidden Scab

Oh, the irritation! Oh, the ignominy! Oh, the temptation!

As we all know, scabs were made for picking like Nancy Sinatra's boots were made for walking. For some of us, the "made for picking" quality is something that scabs share with noses - even if we only ever do it discreetly (toilet cubicle) and hygenically (wash hands afterwards). In one's car doesn't usually count as discreet, hence the observation that the difference between noses and strawberries is that you don't see people picking strawberries at traffic lights.

There is a type of nose-picking that is socially acceptable in company; but the company in question has to be that of a qualified rhinoplast.

For the last few weeks, I have been suffering from dry bogie syndrome. There's been some dry thing up there that was really difficult to get out. It took days of teasing. When it finally did arrive, it had grown so attached to its nasal home that it decided to drag a bit of lining along with it. Now I'm having daily scab growth over the damaged lining, but it feels exactly the same as more dry bogie syndrome, and the temptation to tease it out is even stronger because it's not just a dry bogie, it's also a scab. This looks likely to go on and on until I have scratched the inside of my nose out of existence, and I end up looking either like a septum-free coke fiend, or a body dysmorphic plastic surgery junkie.

I'm going to be reluctant to tilt my head back this weekend during QT with the husband, so no Kath & Kim style snogging for us. Hubby is a bit funny about snot. He always flares his nostrils and gets me to check before we go out, to make sure that he doesn't have any bats in the cave. I don't think I'll be doing the same thing, not whilst I'm enduring the living hell that is scabbie bogieitus.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Pipe Management

I have had the misfortune from time to time to work for project managers who function like Unix pipes. I have also worked for companies where the collective consciousness exhibits similar characteristics.

My understanding of Unix pipes is that they perform relatively simple operations on whatever input they are given, and then produce some output.

In comparison, Pipe Managers have no recollection of what has already happened. There is no concept of what is yet to come. They operate purely in the present. No planning ahead. No tracking.

Working for a Pipe Manager is horrible if you like any degree of structure. Any plans you make will be adjusted. Anything you try to do will be interrupted. They lurch from crisis to crisis, entirely reactive. Any date they give you can't be trusted. Priorities shift from day to day, or hour to hour.

The existence of methodologies doesn't seem to make much difference to them. They can be fully PRINCE2 accredited, and carry on in exactly the same manner. (Actually, perhaps I shouldn't even think of starting on PRINCE2. I have lots of things to say about it, but not many of them are very positive.)

If only I could believe that Pipe Managers were a dying breed. But there are loads of them, and they don't seem to be going away.

Bad English

Over the last few years, as standards have fallen and the populace has been seduced by marketers into being the weak-brained sheep that we are today, I have observed many a word and expression that is being used incorrectly. I've been meaning to capture them somewhere, and here is as good a place as any. I might also throw in unnecessarily fancy words that are over-used. That happens a lot.

Used In Error

  • squash instead of quash
  • ferment instead of foment
  • Pacific instead of specific
  • Asterix instead of asterisk
  • would of / could of instead of would have / could have (with thanks to Inexplicable DeVice for the reminder)

Unnecessarily Complicated

  • utilise instead of use
  • administrate instead of administer

General Horrors

  • "As well," at the start of a sentence
  • Using the word "literally" for emphasis (e.g. "I was literally climbing the walls." You were? Have you recently been bitten by a genetically modified spider?)
  • Use of the non-word "irregardless", the bastard offspring of "regardless" and "irrespective"

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Pink Pound

Rich Bastard:
If people are reasonably well educated, they're going to realise that they don't need to buy my over-priced crap. What can I do to make sure I still have much more money than I'll ever need, and can pass on my excess wealth to my lazy, degenerate off-spring?

Marketing Guruji:
Let me see ... oh, I know. Children are much more gullible. Let's try to extend childhood so that adults (who have the money) think and act like children, but get lots of reassurance from their peers that their behaviour is acceptable.

Rich Bastard:
How on earth can we achieve such a thing?

Marketing Guruji:
Let's start with gay men. They're more gullible, and more susceptible to marketing. Just look at the money they spend on clothes and moisturiser. Let's start by getting them to refer to themselves as boys. Even when they're in their 40s.

Rich Bastard:
Hang on, though, isn't there a danger that if we get people acting like children, they will refuse to accept the responsibilities of their adulthood, causing massive social problems? Not that I care, I just don't to have to pay more tax to keep them in prison.


Marketing Guruji:
Well, that's part of the beauty of going for the gay men. Most of them don't have the same adult responsibilities as straight men, because most of them don't have kids. It's having real children that tends to make straight men grow up a bit and start being more careful with their money. Once we get gay men to think of themselves as boys, we can start working on the straight men. That's always easy. We've already programmed straight women to look to gay men for guidance about how their boyfriends and hubsnads should be. We get the gay men to act like boys, then the straight women get their men to follow suit, pretty soon we'll have a nation of childish adults, and we can sell all sorts of crap to them. Best thing is that when it all goes horribly wrong, we can blame the queers. It's perfect.

Rich Bastard:
Kaching!


Addendum: there will be more of this; you have been warned.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Losing My Way In Norfolk

I seem to be making something of habit of getting lost in Norfolk. Last week, due to some dodgy directions, I spent an hour or so driving around the Norfolk countryside trying to find my hotel. It turned out to be very close to where I had started, but I didn't learn that until winding through country roads, almost ending up on the Norfolk Broads. I've met a few of them, and didn't wish to pursue the acquaintance for fear of giving the wrong impression. I was beginning to have horrid mental images involving banjoes and squealing like a pig.

Later the same week, I ended up heading out of town in completely the wrong direction, so my 20 minute journey ended up taking 80 minutes.

I'm was hoping I had made all the mistakes I was going to make, but this morning that hope was shattered. I fell foul of a combination of badly marked roading and the distraction of singing along to Bananarama. Well, someone has to. As a result, I ended heading for Ipswitch rather than Norwich, and getting back on the right road took an awfully long time!

So, hopefully I've now made all the mistakes I'm going to make.

On a completely unrelated note, the trainer from my project was visiting the site today. Let's call her Trevor. She has scary eyes. They're a bit too dark, and make you feel like if you look into them, they'll suck out your soul. We've crossed swords a few times because rather than learning how the system works so that the training can be delivered, Trevor spent a lot of time telling us how it should work. This would have been welcome if we were at a stage where we could do something about it ...

Anyway, I've said "no" to Trevor so many times, that when we speak together these days, the time it takes her to go from normal voice to shrill voice is very short indeed. I almost feel bad that I've made someone so on-edge with me. I know I can look a bit intimidating when I'm annoyed, but I didn't really expect it to have quite that impact. Clearly, just too butch for my own good.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Woops, there goes the neighbourhood

Our Burns Supper at the end of January was a great event. After dressing up in my kilt, overseeing the food, reciting the poetry, and generally playing hostess avec mostess, I then got rather inebriated, to the point where I did something I probably shouldn't have done. And although it was kind-of bad at the time, it now seems kind-of worse.

I hadn't quite been able to suss out the chap who lived downstairs. Let's call him Mandy. I eventually decided that the balance of evidence was that he preferred to kneel on the same side of the church as myself and my husband. But I wasn't 100% sure. So, in my intoxicated state, I just asked him outright. It went more or less like this:

Everyone left at this party is gay, so I just want to make sure that doesn't make you uncomfortable, because I'm kind-of assuming that you take it up the gary, too; now's your chance to tell me otherwise.

I had preceded this with some observations about how hubby and I had been wondering if we were living in a very gay building, because we couldn't really tell about Mandy, but had an inkling that Phil - an older woman who lives across the hall from Mandy - had something a bit sapphic going on.

Anyway, when prompted, Mandy confirmed that he is, in fact, a red-blooded hetersexual. This came as a great surprise to half the queens there, and totally failed to surprise the other half. Is it any wonder my gaydar wasn't up to the task? He added, though, that he is very comfortable around pooves, because his mum is a Being of Les.

I didn't think much of this afterwards, and there certainly haven't been any nasty slogans daubed on our front door in red paint, or horses' heads turning up in the bed (although it would give us a good excuse to ditch the Argos duvet cover ...)

However ...

Today, we took our octogenarian next door neighbour to Leeds Castle, and on the journey back, she stunned us with some information that we had completely missed. Phil is Mandy's mum! Oops.

I came too this morning

I'm sorry, the title has nothing to do with the content. I just like it.

Had a day most marvellous with my lovely husband, and later with the first two letters of the alphabet. We ended up a fab Thai place that I had been introduced to by my old chum Alison Wonderland and her husband. (Her surname isn't really Wonderland, but I would change it by deed poll if I were her.)

The weather turned out to be a lot better than the gloomy predictions of the weathermen, and today we're piling ourselves and our octogenarian next door neighbour into the car and heading off to Leeds Castle, which is nowhere near Leeds, obviously. It's one of my favourites, largely because it has a really, really good hedge maze, and I love them. I might put in some funny contact lenses and wander around with a stick pretending to be a possessed Victor Krum. That should frighten the children, but will make their maze experience all the more enjoyable.

One of the best things about the maze is that once you get to the middle, you get to climb up a little tower thing and laugh at the poor lost souls wandering aimlessly below. And when you tire of that entertainment (as if anyone ever would), you get to descend beneath aforementioned tower and wander through a rather odd grotto with a water feature here and there, and several pieces of seashell sculpture (for want of a better phrase). I don't mean the "traditional" matchbox covered in seashells that you get in the average "craft fair". (The only craftiness going on is in the ability of stallowners to get The Public to pay for their crap.) I mean something a bit more exciting - big, gargoyle face things made from shells. They look a bit primitive and pagan. Like a really good bit of trade.