Monday, August 24, 2009


The Bible is a recipe for human misery. And yet in amongst all those dreadful tales, the one that strikes me as the most insidious, the most subversive, the most evil, is one that could seem at first blush to be relatively innocuous, at least compared to some of the stories.

Incidentally, I initially wrote "has always struck me". I changed it, because that was inaccurate. It hasn't always struck me so. There was a time when I thought it was a marvellous, inspiring story, back in those days of long ago when I was studying to be a priest. Oh, how times have changed.

It's the story of Doubting Thomas. The moral of the story is that belief in the absence of any supporting evidence whatsoever is something laudable. Sneaky. But completely evil.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


As I mentioned in my previous post, I did a magic gig at the weekend. What I didn't mention is that it was in Liverpool. But rather than have a weekend in Liverpool, we drove up on Saturday morning to Manchester, checked in to the place we were staying, and then I left my Lovely Husband™ to his own devices and drove on to Liverpool to perform.

On my way along the M62, I spotted what looked like a giant, white phallus poking through a neatly clippered pubic forest of fir trees. It turned out to be Dream, a big piece of sculpture only recently erected. And I really mean erected. The sculpture is of a young woman with her eyes closed, but the whole thing is elongated, and the hair has a very symmetrical parting which makes the whole thing look remarkably like a penis - at least when driving past it.

I thought it might have been an image of John Lennon or some other local big name, but it turns out not to be so. Also, it's a relatively recent addition to the landscape. And it turns out to have cost a huge amount of public money. This seems to be the in thing, now. Ever since the Angel Of The North, huge big statues seem to be the order of the day. Apparently, there are plans for a giant white horse somewhere in Kent. Is this how it's going to be - huge pieces of public "art" turning up all over the place?

Personally, I'd much rather the money was spent on things that are functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct springs to mind, not that I'm suggesting for a second that we build aqueducts just for the sake of it, although I do think the Falkirk Wheel is a good example of the kind of thing I mean - beautiful, elegant, amazing, yet imbued with purpose.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gigs and giggling

I did a magic gig at the weekend. It had been a while. I've been more focussed on the stand-up comedy in the last few months. Interestingly, I found that my comfort and confidence levels have soared since my last magic gig, and I am now much better at controlling attention, and being completely on top of the pace at which I present my magic, not dragging or milking anything, but really getting the most from it, and maximising the entertainment value, the magical impact and the comedy. What has changed? It must be the stand-up.

Quite a few of my stand-up chums have suggested that I ought to use magic. I've largely resisted, apart from once when I was doing the compere role at Rye Wit (Wednesday nights, Catcher In The Rye, Finchley). It can make sense as a compere piece to do a big of magic. For me, it doesn't make sense within the context of a normal stand-up set.

What I love about performing magic is almost exactly the opposite of what I love about performing comedy. With magic, I have a fixed set of physical actions that I must perform to make the magic happen. Although there is some flexibility about the things that I say and the interactions that I have with the audience during such a performance, the tricks themselves provide a fairly rigid performance framework, and more or less dictate the trajectory of the entire act. There is less flexibilty, but on the other hand, having to work through the physical actions is almost like having script in front of me, and that can be a great comfort. In contrast, stand-up is much freer. I do try to have a decent narrative arc or at least to sequence the material in a way that makes sense, but I'm completely at liberty to talk about anything, with no bits of rope or cards to worry about. On the other hand, this liberty comes at the cost of flying without the safety net provided by the "script" of physical actions.

Besides, most of my magic is close-up and doesn't work on stage.

I'm on the very lowest rung of the stand-up ladder - the free or pay-to-play open-mike gigs, usually in pubs, often with an audience comprised of at least 50% comedians. At this level - and to be fair, even a rung or two above this level - it is not uncommon for acts to write cue words on themselves, usually on their palm, back of the hand, or wrist. I've done that once or twice, but I've stopped. I never really wanted to do it, and would prefer not to have to. And at the longest (and most important) gig I've had to date, I was a bit too concerned, and wrote a lot ... then ended up looking at my hand far too much. And that looks bad. That reminds the audience that you're not really sharing your extemporaneous thoughts, you're actually delivering material. It shatters the illusion a little. So these days, I don't write anything, I just make sure that I've rehearsed what I'm going to say. It's better discipline anyway, I think.

In my head, these days when I have a magic gig, I think of it as a gig. When I have a comedy gig, I think of it as a giggle.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My life according to Pet Shop Boys

My thanks to fellow comedian John Grindrod for this meme, the results of which he posted on his Facebook page. (He also writes the excellent Shouting At The Telly blog.)

Here are the rules:
Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Pass it on to 15 people you like and include me. Try not to use the band I used. Try not to repeat a song title. Repost as "My life according to (band name)"

I'm skipping the "pass it on" bit, mostly because I'm no longer at primary school. You're all grown ups. If any of you fancy doing it, go ahead. I must confess, it was a toss-up between Pet Shop Boys and Madonna. No, I'm not an obvious, classic nelly-woofter at all, am I?

Are you a male or female:
Did you see me coming?

Describe yourself:
Losing my mind

How do you feel:

Describe where you currently live:

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
Where the streets have no name

Your favourite form of transportation:
The Truck Driver & His Mate

You and your friends are:

Favourite time of day:
Yesterday when I was mad

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called:
How can you expect to be taken seriously?

What is life to you:
A Red Letter Day

Your relationship:
Home & Dry

Your fear:
It's a sin

What is the best advice you have to give:
Was it worth it?

Thought for the Day:
I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing

How I would like to die:
So hard

My soul's present condition:
It's alright

Friday, August 07, 2009

Age and the perception of beauty

I find that as I get older, the world becomes increasingly populated with people I find attractive. With a few exceptions (Sean Connery, and my old friend IM spring to mind), the age group of men I find attractive tends to extend no more than about 5-10 years more than I am at any given age. However, there are often younger chaps who are pleasant to look at (although only to look). And as I get older, that means that an increasing number of the population falls within the range of what I generally find attractive. It's great. The world just keeps getting more beautiful. Not necessarily by proportion, but definitely by raw numbers.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Age and the perception of time

Over the last few years, as the perceived pace of life has quickened around me, I have developed the notion that the illusion of years passing more quickly as we get older is all about proportion.

When I was 4, it seemed like forever before I got to be 5. But then, the year from 4 to 5 added another 25% onto my entire lifespan. When I considered all my experience - which was even less than the starting 4 year point because my earliest conscious memories are from when I was about 3 - that year from 4 to 5 was a very substantial part of it. In contrast, I will soon be 39, and the time to get from 38 to 39 seems to have flown past at a rate of knots. But then, the year from 38 to 39 represents only 2.6% of my entire life experience.

I think because we hold memories of what has gone before, our experience is always diluted depending on how much is in that store. With only a little in the store, between 4 and 5, another year is a significant contribution. With a lot already in the store, one more year makes little difference.

Another way of looking at it is to compare one's life experience to a pie that gets cut up into slices, one for each year. When you're 4, those are big slices. By the time you're 38 or 39, the slices are getting pretty thin. Each year, individual slices become less significant, just as each year, the year itself becomes less significant in the scheme of things, and seems to go by very quickly because, hey, it's just another year.