Friday, August 18, 2006

Booked

Da Nator recently hit me with a book-related meme. I wasn't able to get onto it immediately (story of my life, I know, although in this case additional lube wasn't going to help). However, I'm now free as a bird, so I thought I'd give it a bash.

I haven't made a huge amount of effort to stick to the "one book" limitation for each question. I've never been much of a one for favourites. If people ask me what my "favourite" colour is, or my "favourite" piece of music, I can't really answer. I find the idea of favouritism restrictive and not a little childish.

So. Onwards and upwards.

1. One book you have read more than once:

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry

The Crysalids by John Wyndham

I have to confess, I'm a sucker for re-reading books that I've enjoyed. So, Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, and all of the Harry Potter books have been devoured at least twice each, along with Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. In the last year, I've spent a lot of time being apart from my Lovely Husband™ either because he was on the other side of the world, or because I was working away. This has entailed a lot of long, lonely hours, so I bought books, read them and re-read them. Included amongst this list of recent read/re-reads is a series by Kelley Armstrong about supernatural folks living amongst the general populace in a contemporary US/Canada setting, and the first four of Garth Nix's Keys To The Kingdom series.

2. One book you would want on a desert island:

I think it would have to be the Worst Case Scenarios Survival Handbook - Extreme Edition, in those circumstances. Or perhaps one of the various bushcraft or SAS survival manuals. Especially if the latter involved pictures of men in uniform :-)

3. One book that made you laugh:

Misfortune by Wesley Stace - but only a little

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie - quite a bit, although it was obvious why some folks got upset by it; and boy did I ever delight in how Rushdie uses language

Various bits of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle - a lot

4. One book that made you cry:

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry. There are scenes in there that I can't read without tears pricking my eyes. And some that I simply cannot read aloud with being reduced to a red-eyed quivering mess. I can even (and I know this is true, because I tested it out last week) find this book in a bookshop, read one particular chapter, and end up with tears streaming down my face. Okay, so I'm a big poof. So sue me.

The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom. I got almost all the way through this thinking that it wasn't going to get to me, and right at the end, in went the knife, and *twist*. And then came the waterworks.

5. One book you wish you had written:

Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. I have never been so in awe of a piece of writing as I was reading this. Amazing, erudite, witty, clever, funny, well-researched, inventive, delightful, informative, ingenius ... I could go on. I know it was published as three books, but as the author himself noted, he was grateful that he found a publisher willing to bet on his ability to write what was, in effect, a 3000 page novel.

6. One book you wish had never been written:

The Bible. The Qu'ran. The Book Of Mormon. Dianetics.

(Have I missed any of the bad ones?)

Oh, and A Life Of Erwin Schroedinger by Walter J Moore, which has to be the most tedious biography ever committed to print. By the half-way point I was struggling to keep going. Round about two thirds of the way through, I finally snapped and hurled the book against the wall in an effort to distance myself from the sheer tedium of the thing. Schroedinger was an amazing scientist, and his physics was worth recording and commenting on. His life, alas, was not.

7. One book you are currently reading:

The Play Ethic by Pat Kane. A manifesto for a different way of living, brought to you by a former member of Hue & Cry. I only got it yesterday, so I'm only a couple of chapters in and couldn't possibly comment on it yet.

8. One book you have been meaning to read:

The Qu'ran. To get the low-down, and try to understand how much of what we hear is twisted from the original meaning, and how much (in terms of homophobia and mysogyny) is actually built right in there.

9. One Book That Changed Your Life:

Books don't change my life. I do. Sure, books can enhance it, and I love them. Words are my playthings, tools and friends. But even if a book inspires me to change, it is I that have changed my life, not the book that inspired me to do so.

10. Now Tag 5 bloggers:

This is probably trickier than any of the other questions, because I don't know how many of my regular readers are inclined to play along with such games. I'll go for the following:
  • Tickersoid, the man who's got to be a bit gay - so we can find out how Welsh steel workers occupy their minds.
  • Dan at Project 76 - this may be something of a busman's holiday given Dan's profession, but we might see some gems.
  • Inexplicable DeVice - although I'm not sure whether I'd rather have the host respond, or the witch himself. I suspect that neither of the subconsciouses will be up to the job.
  • Nick, with his Unnatural Vision - who knows what such vision might see in our bookshops that we mere mortals miss.
  • CyberPete from SayHey, his camp camp.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Britney's Mascara

Oops, I ...

We went to Comedy Camp last night, mostly to see Ida Barr, although my Lovely Husband™ had to leave before she came on. However, we did very much enjoy the first three acts together, and then I made friends with a couple of nice ladies at the bar for the rest of the evening, so I didn't feel like Norman No Mates.

That was just some background for a rather embarrassing incident. I was at the bar trying to get served during one of the intervals. There was a very pretty girl next to me, and it looked like her mascara had run. Ever the friendly, helpful person that I like to be, I pointed this out to her. Whereupon she explained that it was a birthmark. Oh, the ground could have opened up and swallowed me hole. And the rest of me. I apologised, and said that I now felt really bad for having said anything. She said that she is used to it. She often gets women coming up to her in the toilets and trying to wipe it off for her. I apologised again, and said I just thought she had been laughing so much that it had run.

You know, you try to do a good deed, and sometimes it just comes back and bites you on the bum.

And on that very subject ...

At The Magic Circle this week, Ali Bongo mentioned a request he had received for volunteers to perform at a Christmas party for HIV/AIDS patients and their families and friends at one of the big London hospitals. I promptly put myself forward, and gave the organiser a call yesterday morning. He asked if it would be possible for me to come in some time and meet him and his colleagues, and since I have a lot of time on my hands at the moment, I arranged it for that very afternoon.

So, off I toddle at the appointed hour. Get there, have the meeting, discuss how I perform, what the composition of the audience will be, what kind of material will be suitable, etc. All in all, it went very well. I think they're delighted at the prospect of having a gay magician to perform for them. Obviously, I did a couple of effects to show them what I do.

I left feeling very happy, and decided to pay a visit to the cardiac outpatients part of the hospital. My family has a congenital heart condition (dilated cardiomyopathy), and we have been part of a long-term study of the condition for a number of years. Since most of my family live in Scotland, a team from the hospital have travelled up to Glasgow and carried out tests there. Since I was living in London at the time, I've been along to the hospital several times to have tests. All okay, I hasten to add. Anyway, there was a recent round of tests on members of my family, and I had been meaning to ring the hospital to find out whether I should be arranging to come in and have a seeing to. I thought, and not unreasonably, that it would make sense to pop in and find out.

Along the way, a very helpful staff member gave me directions because she thought I looked a bit lost. Already, I'm developing a strong sense of a well-organised, service-oriented organisation.

Then I got to the reception desk for cardiac outpatients, and that impression was destroyed.

There were two women behind the desk. I approached. One of them looked up, so I smiled. She said, "It's no good smiling at me, it's her you want to talk to" (indicating the other women).

So I approached the other women. I explained that my family had been having tests and I wanted to find out whether I should make an appointment to come in for some, too.

"You can't just walk in here and make an appointment, you know. It doesn't work like that."

I explained that I appreciated that, but that my family were having tests, and I'd come in to the hospital several time before.

"You know, if you can't even tell me the name of who is doing these tests, then there is nothing I can do."

I explained that they were tests for dilated cardiomyopathy, and reiterated that my family was in the process of being tested, and that I had been for the tests at the hospital before, expecting that she would ask for my name, look up my details on the computer, and sort something out. Indeed, she was tapping away on her computer. For several minutes. Whilst I stood there. Waiting.

Twice, people approached the desk, and she looked up, "Can I help you?" and dealt with them. She never once even glanced at me, and I was standing right in front of her. After four or five minutes of being pointedly ignored, I walked away, fuming.

I'm sorry, but that woman should not have that job. There was no point arguing the toss with her there, because those kind of people know that if you lose the rag with them, they win. They make me sick.

So what I'm going to do instead is to write a very strong letter of complaint. And if I do get to see the professor who runs the study into my family's condition, I will complain to him, too. It might also help that one of the directors of the hospital also used to be a director of the first company I worked for, so I could reasonably CC my letter of complaint to her. I want to take that receptionist down!

You may ask what I expected. I expect to be treated like a human being. I was well-mannered and friendly in my approach when I spoke to the woman. I expect the same courtesy in return. I didn't receive it. She is a receptionist. I expect, therefore, that if someone comes in who doesn't have the full detail necessary to progress their request, that the receptionist should do what they can to help - look up records on the computer, ask questions to help find either useful information or to identify someone who can help (what is the study about, when did you last get tested). Instead, I was met with a work-shy, jobsworth disdain. How very dare she!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bridget Jones's Chicken

My Lovely Husband™ had intimated that he fancied something light for dinner last night. Since I'm currently between contracts, I'm doing most if not all of the cooking and other sundry chores. I decided that a nice chicken and vegetable stir-fry would fit the bill, and off I popped to the local supermarket.

(I am making an effort to do more shopping from markets and butcher shops and such like, but it isn't always an option.)

Whilst I was perusing the shelves of our "local" Sainsbury's - I say "local", because we live surrounded by forest and it's a bit of a hike to get anywhere, including the nearest supermarket - I spotted something that looked like it would make a good addition to my ingredients: purple carrots. I checked that they didn't have too many food miles associated with them, and learned that they had come all the way from Norfolk, so that's not bad at all, in the scheme of things. It's always nice to have an unusual addition to the standard veg one finds in a stir-fry, I believe.

Dinner was a success. The melange of lovingly prepared vegetables, sliced chicken breast, and honey & coriander sauce worked beautifully. However, the natural dye from the purple carrots ran. Everywhere. The chicken ended up looking sort of dark grey.

I made enough that there was a load left over. I've just had some for lunch. Except now that it's been sitting around for a while, the dye from the carrots has had more time to do its thing. Now, the chicken, the cashew nuts, and various other parts of the leftovers are blue. A really artificial-looking blue, too. It tastes great, but it really looks bad. Baaaaaad!

Who let that sheep in here?

That is all.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Randomata

This post is likely to be a bit of this, a bit of that, and a bit of everything else.

Let's start with Thursday's neologism. Here it is: fameish. (I didn't want to include the "e", but since "famish" is already a word, I had to make do.) It's a word that can be used to describe D-list (or lower) "celebrities". People who once gave Lionel Blair "All The Good Men" in two minutes or less, as Humphrey Littleton might put it. Folks who snatched five consecutive gold runs from Bob Wholesomeness on Blockbusters before they were in their twenties. They're fameish.

I've always liked "ish" words, not least since reading Gore Vidal's "Live From Golgotha". When someone is described to one of the characters as Jewish, he responds with "Jewish? How can someone be Jewish? Either you're a Jew or you're not."

Anyway, the reason fameish happened is that on Thursday, I was meeting up with my Lovely Husband™ in Sohohoho. I was feeling a little peckish, to I popped into Ed's Diner to a bite. The woman in front of me seemed pleased to hear another Scottish accent, and we got chatting. I didn't mention it at all, because I don't watch it and really don't like it, but she was a former Big Brother contestant, a Glaswegian pre-operative transsexual called Sam. She was quite lovely.

I got quite tipsy that night. That's code for very drunk. We went to the Duke Of Wellington (which seems to be my LH's favourite haunt), then Compton's, then G-A-Y bar, and finally Molly Mogg's to watch drag. I left my card behind the bar for use as our tab, and then got too rat-arsed to remember either the card or to pay the tab. I was fretting the next day that someone would be running up a big bill in mink and home entertainment systems on my card, but got to the bar just after lunch to find it still nestling in its glass, waiting for me. Phew! Oddly, whilst at Molly Mogg's I met a straight couple whom, it turns out, live only metres away from us. (That's yer actual metric.) It's a small world. But I wouldn't want to have to paint it.

Friday, I met up with a woman I worked with briefly. She's very lovely, and more bubbly than a glass of Widow Cliquot's finest shaken up with a couple of alkaseltzer and a fizzy vitamin tab. She's getting married soon, and had the most excellent idea of booking a high quality magic act to entertain the guests during the parts of the day where ice-breaking is helpful. So, I got the low-down on what will work for her, agreed a rate, decided what attire would be suitable, and so on. All done and dusted. Seven weeks from today, we'll be in Liverpool for the weekend, and will finish off our trip with me doing my magic thang at the wedding.

All this being off is turning me into something of a lush. We went out again on Friday night. There was a mix-up over where and when we were meeting, so I ended up dining alone in a great Morroccan place on Frith Street, then caught up with my Lovely Husband™ at Kings Cross. He got there very early, so had spent a long time trying not to look like rent. We headed off to Central Station to see Lizzie Drip. My, what a laugh. It's years since I've seen her, and it's still the same old act, but it's such a funny one that I could watch it again and again. And indeed, I have. In fact, we saw her again yesterday at Brighton Pride.

Yes, Brighton Pride. I don't know what it is about Brighton. I seem to be jinxed when it comes to that place. Every time I've been, I've either had a horrible time (e.g. being dumped whilst supposedly on a little weekend break - this was quite a few years ago, mind), or a merely less than pleasant one. This time, we actually had a really, really good time, but the journey there and back was Hell On Four Wheels. Never again! Well, not by car anyway.

We spent most of our time in the cabaret tent, and saw Lizzie Drip, Drag With No Name, Laquisha Jonz, Claudia Patrice (the girl we saw last weekend at West 5), Dave Lynn, and The D.E. Experience. Marvellous stuff. Then we mooched around the Prowler tent with our friend A who was working the booth, and got giggly playing with his helium balloons and singing Steps in squeaky voices. Marvellous.

Another neologism came up yesterday. We often find songs that we can imagine Cher singing. Now they can be described as either Cherable, or - if it's more that we could see it being rewritten for Cher - réCherché.

Oh, and I bought a hat. It's a leather trilby. Apart from the odd baseball cap, I've never worn a hat. I'm curious to see whether I'll take to it.