Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Five things you might not know about Qenny

The lovely Brian Sibley, writer, broadcaster, and lately blog whip-cracker extraordinaire, tagged me with a meme in which I am to write about five things that few if any people know about me. Alas, my workload of late has made it difficult to get around to doing it. However, better late than never. Here goes.

I used to be very religious. I studied for the Catholic priesthood for eight years, starting in junior seminary when I was eleven, and eventually leaving senior seminary about six months after my nineteenth birthday. I also had an early and quite active involvement in the charismatic movement, frequently attending prayer meetings from the age of seven onwards - at my own instigation, I hasten to add. There was no pressure at all from my family to do this, it all came from me. In my mid teens, I was given the gift of tongues, one of many deeply affecting and moving experiences that I had during those years. (I have since learned the delights of giving the gift of tongue, and have had many more deeply affecting and moving experiences as a result.) Looking back on it all, I can see the psychology that was at work, and understand how these experiences came about. At the same time I can recall the intensity of feeling, and how powerful the subjective experience was. Now I can understand it, and be delighted by the power of the human mind without the need to invoke any supernatural explanations. Just as well, really. It would do my atheism no good at all if I couldn't!

I shat my pants in Palmerston North. This is one of the two most embarrassing things that I can remember happening to me, and it's a pretty recent memory. I've been toying with the idea of getting it all out in the open by posting the full, gory details as a blog entry. There is more to the story than just erupting in explosive skitters. Oh, yes. That was only one facet of the full horror of the situation. As for the other more embarrassing thing, I'm not sure whether it would make a suitable blog entry. If you think the Palmerston North story sounds bad, the other story is much, much worse. So bad, in fact, that when I regaled my sister with the details, she came close - very close - to being physically sick.

I once pretended to have seen a ghost. I used to pop down to the chapel in my junior seminary to play the magnificent pipe organ down there. It was quite a creepy place to be on one's own, and I would invariably leave in something of a hurry. One night, I decided that it would be quite good fun to make up a story about having seen something. It was very believable, and I managed to work in references to a suicide that had happened several decades before. It created a bit of a stir for a time. These days, I wouldn't do such a thing, because I have found over the years that any sort of dishonesty invariably leads to problems, and I simply can't be bothered trying to keep two separate strands of truth/reality going at the same time. I have no idea how pathological liars (such as my ex) find the energy to maintain their lies. It's exhausting! (Actually, I think they convince themselves to "believe" what they're saying. They seem to think that as long they stick to their version of events, their lies will become the truth, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence contradicting their claims.)

I played Mabel in The Pirates Of Penzance. My junior seminary had a long, proud history of putting on Gilbert & Sullivan operettas at the end of the scholastic year. In my first year there, before my voice broke, I gave my Mabel opposite my best friend TK's Frederick. At the dress rehearsal, during our duet sequence, I ripped my dress quite badly (along the seam), so that at the same moment on the big night, my bare knee shot right out into full public view - most unlady like!

I once came very close to ending it all. At the end of a traumatic relationship, I was sufficiently upset that I made plans to see for myself evidence of my then bf's infidelity, after which I was going to throw myself off one of Aberdeen's very high bridges. In the event, his evening didn't quite follow its usual formula, and by the time I did see him (heading off home with someone that was so not his type, but he was drunk enough not to care), I was more angry than upset. It was a traumatic experience, and I did come very close to following through (not in the Palmerston North sense, I hasten to add). However, it was also very empowering because it was the beginnings of a long process by which I shook off the shackles of self-doubt and unworthiness that I had acquired through my earlier years, and started to learn to love myself. In a rather weedy, new-age way, it has to be said.

Rather a serious note to finish on, I know!

Anyone reading this who hasn't already played the game, please consider yourself tagged.

You're it!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Inappropriate Bragging

When I bought my most recent mobile phone, it came with an industry-standard mini-SD card. The card had some stuff on it, including a ring tone that I rather like. Unfortunately, the capacity of the card is only 64Mb, which isn't a lot to play with if you want to have the device double up as a sometime MP3 player. So, I bought myself a nice 1Gb card. Swell. Holds a decent amount of music, and in such a tiny little bit of plastic.

Thing is, I can't transfer the bits I like from my original card, because SD stands for "Secure Digital", meaning that the people who sell you the card can put content on it that is "secure". Nothing to do with enhancing my security, it's all about ensuring that the seller's content cannot be moved or copied. From my point of view, this is a terrible restriction, because it means I can't use the ringtone I like even though I paid for the bloody thing.

This made me pause to think how odd it is that the name of the thing, in this case Secure Digital Media, actually brags about something that is a benefit to the seller but a significant restriction for the buyer. Why not come up with one called Huge Markup Media?

From the buyer's point of view, a more accurate name might be "Restricted Content Media". In other words, even if you pay for the thing, don't expect to be able to use it freely.

Similarly, I have a lot of sympathy for the thinking that DRM, the orthodox translation of which is "Digital Rights Management", could more accurately translated as "Digital Restrictions Management", since from the point of view of the consumer, DRM takes away my ability to do some things, and so it seems more accurate to use the word "restrictions" (which the technology imposes) rather than "rights" (which the technology removes).

It anyone could point me to a bit of software that would allow me to crack the security on my SD card and therefore use the ringtone that I like, I'd be delighted.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Blackpool Or Bust

Actually, this doesn't have to be an either/or choice, since in Blackpool, it is easier than it is in most towns to pick up a fake bust. Or an inflatable lady. Or man. Or any of a number of other tasteful products. Even off season. As it was last weekend.

Yes indeed. Last weekend, I went along to Blackpool for their annual magic convention. I'd never been before, but had heard of it from many people. It's the biggest (I believe) annual magic convention in the world. There were dealers, performers, lecturers, competitors and magicians from all over the place.

My first impression on walking in to the venue was similar to how I felt the first time I attended a Gay Pride event. I found myself thinking, "Oh my god - I didn't realise there were so many of us!"

Magicians as far as the eye could see. Some of them doing the kind of things that are common to magicians and muggles alike: getting pissed, stuffing a sausage roll into a mouth, attempting the surreptitious removal of an ill-adjusted boxer short from an arse-crack. Others were doing overtly magical things - levitating bank notes, cutting cards in manner bewhildering, producing foreign currency from the orifices of passing youths.

I caught up with friends old and new, and discovered new connections that had been staring me in the face all along - such as a fellow Magic Circle member who, it turns out, is the son of a guy I know from the magic club I belong to in Auckland. I also got to see some of the worlds best magicians, not necessary well-known names in the muggle community, but names that are known to most magicians, and spoken with reverence and respect.

One of my oddest experiences of the weekend was holding onto a chiffon that was perched on a table as the table itself floated off the ground. That was odd. But what was really odd is that the guy making the table float let go so that it was just me holding this chiffon, and I know I wasn't doing anything to make it happen.

Amongst the many performances I saw, I have a hard time choosing between the close-up magic of Greg Wilson and that of David Roth. For entertainment value, probably Greg. For sheer magical wonder, David. Getting to see both in the same weekend - priceless.

There was rather a lot of alcohol consumed over the weekend, and so I ended up crawling off early on the Sunday rather than stay for the full day. Next year, though, I'll be back, and I'll be sure to take the Friday and the Monday off work, and make the most of it.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Letter "R"

My fellow magician Brian Sibley recently indulged in a little memicry, describing ten likes and dislikes beginning with, in his case, the letter D. He must have been delighted to get that letter, because it allowed him to put his lovely man, David at the top of the Likes list. (David is also a fellow magician, and one who has performed for no less a goddess than Kylie Minogue herself. But I'm not jealous. Not. Honestly. I'm not even jealous that my Lovely Husband™ met her at a party in Sydney once.)

Anyhoo, Brian volunteered to bestow letters upon whomsoever requested such a thing, so I did just that, and he endowed me with the letter R.

So, without further ado - one of Shakespear's less well-known works - on with the show.

Wot R Ur Likes?
  • Roger, as in Jolly. I always had a thing for pirates, and their twisted but nonetheless appealing flag. That, and the big, blousy shirts that they invariably wear. Oh, and I must point out why pirates are called pirates: because they aaaarrrrrr!
  • Romantic music, particularly Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. Perhaps I'm not emotionally sophisticated enough to appreciate music's ability to influence one's feelings on a more subtle level, but give me a stirring bit of this stuff, and I'll be happy as a clam called Larry.
  • Rail. There is something quite delightful about travelling by train as opposed to car, aeroplane or ferry. And it's probably just as well that I can enjoy such travel, because I'm doing a lot of it these days.
  • Ribaldry. As anyone who knows me can testify, I do like a bit of dirty humour. There are times when I draw the line because something has ceased to be amusing. My Lovely Husband™ will laugh for much longer than I will at a TV show or film featuring someone farting or having the skitters, for example.
  • Razzmatazz. I'm a big girly queen. Of course I'm gonna go for this one. As with everything, it has to be done right. But when it is, oh! Heaven!
  • Rainbows. They're so magical. And living in New Zealand, one sees so many of them. Until I moved there, I had seen perhaps five or six double rainbows, and one very faint triple one in my life. Five years of living in New Zealand, and I've seen dozens of doubles, and several triples. And sometimes, just one rainbow, but a very, very clear one. A friend of mine once convinced me that they are complete circles in space, and it's an optical illusion when they seem to end in the ground somewhere. I have since been convinced otherwise, although this hasn't resulted in meeting any leprechauns.
  • Rough, as in a bit of. And indeed, my Lovely Husband™ is able to exude that kind of allure whenever he sees fit. As I have been known to do myself from time to time.
  • Randy. It's a much better word than "horny", less vulgar, more playful, with an extra helping of ambiguity, and I would love it re-enter the common parlance.
  • Rain. Not the song by Madonna, although I love that, too, and I'm told it had some lovely deep notes that you only get to enjoy if you have a sub-woofter plugged into your system. No, I mean the lovely, refreshing stuff that falls from the sky. And in the summer, the gorgeous whiff of petrichor that swiftly follows.
  • R - the letter itself. I'm hoping this doesn't invalidate the terms of the meme. I like this letter because with my beautiful, lyrical Scottish brogue, I can actually pronounce it properly, unlike my many less fortunate English and Kiwi friends.
  • Rabbits. I hate them, except in a stew. Friends had one as a pet, and it bit me and scratched me quite badly when I was looking after it for them. Since then, I've eaten them at every opportunity that has presented itself. I don't know if there is a word for people who eat their enemies (apart from cannibal - I mean something ending with -phage).
  • Riding. And for this one, there is an eating-related word - hippophage - which I would love to be. Actually, we're going to Belgium for a weekend with friends, so I think I'll be making sure I eat some horse whilst I'm there. The reason for my dislike of riding is that I did it a few times, seemed to be going well, and then had a horrible experience with a horse that will be dog food and glue long before I'm worm food, despite it's best efforts to cut short my life by throwing me off it, and then later (when I was back in the saddle), taking off at high speed and threatening to start jumping over hedges.
  • Rap music, but not all rap music. Some of it is stunningly clever, both lyrically and rhythmically, but so much is mundane, cheap, nasty, glamorising and celebrating things that are neither glamorous not worthy of celebration - gun culture, drug-taking, misogyny and homophobia, to name but a four.
  • Religion. It's big, it's nasty and it kills people. Worse, it makes nice people do evil things, and think evil things. And it has gone on for far too long. We need a new enlightenment.
  • Racism. People should only ever be judged on the basis of their actions, not on the basis of who or what they are. Racism makes so little sense to me. Mind you, I also dislike the abuse of the word "racism", which to my mind is applied far too broadly. Using a word like that indiscriminately (sic) undermines it's power.
  • Republicans. I'm sure there are some nice ones, but generally, my impression is not favourable. Besides, the agenda pursued by the neo-con faction over the last few years has created a mess that will cause problems across the world for a long, long time to come. What's not to dislike?
  • Reality Television. Designed to keep the ignorant ignorant, and allow us all to feel good about ourselves because not matter how crap our life is, or how ignorant, stupid or worthless we are, we can always look down on the people who participate in these ridiculous obscenities. I read an interview by an actor recently in which he praised a TV show (a drama, in this case), and apologetically said that it was nice to see something on the telly with actors rather than contestants.
  • Royalty. There is no god-given right of kings, because there is no god. Royal families, whether in this country or elsewhere, are an embarrassing anachronism. And some of them even see fit to comment on social and political issues, labouring under the rather bizarre impression that a life of privilege has somehow provided them with valuable insights into the human condition.
  • Road Rage. There is no excuse for it. Nor indeed, for many sorts of rage, except perhaps the out kind.
  • Ringtones. Polyphonic ones, specifically. I use them because I was kind-of forced into it, and indeed, I'm in the process of developing a magic effect that makes use of them. But I still don't like them! If I set my ringtone to a tune that I like, why would I ever want to answer the phone, rather than listen to the tune that I like?
There! Done. I am pleased to say that I really struggled with the dislikes list, because I'm generally quite easy-going, and it takes a lot for me to get worked up enough about something to dislike it.

Anyone else fancy a go, drop me a comment or an email and I'll happily allocate you a letter. I'm tempted to give Tickersoid a consonant, but you did ask Brian for one, so I expect that he will provide.