Staying in JW Marriott has allowed us to observe children in their natural habitat; running around unsupervised. Of course, being a relatively decent hotel, we can observe better behaved children. The fusion child, standing beside the piano dancing and pretending to hit the keys while the pianist boldly ignores him. The girl in the dress that looks more like a maternity dress than anything else, her arms wide as she spins and spins and spins. The boy playing hide and seek with his sister. All with only the loosest of supervision.
Moving out of the flat today, and into a hotel was pretty scary. It's like the move to Hong Kong was in the first place, only I don't know where I am going at the end of this one. And there are many more tickets. But I guess there's some security in there, somewhere. I do, after all, have faith that I can pay my tax tomorrow, and that I will somehow manage to survive nine weeks of Mr Twinky...
My corporate university just gave me a mouse mat. It's got a picture of happy smiling people on it. The main reason that they're happy is that they don't work for us.
It's nice to get presents like this around 48 hours before leaving the company, and I am so excited, that I have ordered a mouse so that I can use the damn thing. Or I may let it double as a frisbee.
Most of the packing is done. The computer is dismantled. We need to pack some suitcases, redirect the mail, and work out how to get at my address book so I know what people's e-mail addresses are. That said, I can at least get e-mail, so that's nice.
I'm waiting now for a telephone interview that I didn't ask for, for a job I don't want. They're supposed to call me, and it's fifteen minutes overdue. I'm sitting in the office, and the air conditioning is off. Not the most comfortable place in the world. I am, however, the only person IN the office, so I guess I could take my shirt off. Which would leave me interviewing topless, which probably wouldn't help with getting the job.
"And this one's only five minutes walk from the Holloway Road. That's where Joe Orton used to go cottaging"
The Washington Post's Style Invitational asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are some recent winners:
The threats of a possible 48 hour trip to the UK this weekend have vanished. I now have something on the job front. I didn't pass my exam, but I don't know how close I was.
2nd July fly Hong Kong to Sydney, Australia.
3rd - 7th: Sydney
8th - 21st: Sydney to Adelaide by car and a pit stop to Ayres Rock.
22nd July fly back to Sydney then on to L.A., USA.
23rd - 31st: Time in L.A. then on to San Francisco by car.
1st - 4th: From San Francisco to Seattle by car.
5th - 11th: Time in Seattle then on to Chicago by air.
12th - 18th: Chicago to New York by air.
19th - 25th: New York to Boston by car then on to Ottawa, Canada by Car.
26th - 31st: Ottawa, Canada.
Mr Twinky will then spend a week in Ottawa while I visit my beloved relatives in Scotland.
I've been invited to go for an interview in Stuttgart at some point in the next two weeks. [All my stored passwords have disappeared from my laptop. My shift key still doesn't work properly.] There are three things you should never try to do at once. Moving country, taking a long holiday, and getting a job in another country.
I love Neneh Cherry. I need her to do more. I love everything she's done, from Raw Like Sushi through Homebrew to this.
Highlights are basically every track - but the closer, Everything, is a complete stonker that just leaves you wanting more. And this was released five years ago, dammit.
I worked in a bank over a summer, in the clearing department. That was where I learned how to type large columns of numbers on a numeric keypad without looking at my fingers. That was also where I learned that there are two ways to listen to songs. I listened to the record (as things were in those days) Tracy Chapman by Tracy Chapman and picked out "For My Lover" as a favourite, based on the expressions in the voice and the instrumentation. I discussed this with a female colleague - and she had actually listened to the lyrics, and formed her opinion based on that! But she liked Deacon Blue, so what did she know. She thought she was a chocolate girl, and I was far too busy reading Grant Morrison comics.
Can't remember her name, though.
Sadly, Make It Better is not as impressive as Disgraceful, but still an enjoyable listen. Sarah Blackwood's vocals are as good as ever, the songs are deadpan stories of communal suicide, mass destruction and astral projection. Not as much of a grabber as I would like, but still a few stand-out tracks on this. Particularly "Stay"
One of those albums that amazon recommends to you endlessly, despite the fact that you own it, love it, play it to death again and again. It's music to wallow in, music to enjoy and luxuriate in, guitar driven, mellowed out, perhaps a touch angsty, but certainly touching in all the right places at all the right times. A bitter-sweet melancholy with moments of pure inspiration.
I need to talk about my shady past. Back in 92, when I was commuting frantically and trying to hold down an evening job as a masseur, I was approached by an elderly client, a man in his fifties with silver hair and a smooth tongue, a man who offered me a new way to raise cash.
He explained it to me as we sat in the Falkirk branch of the Seattle Coffee Company. It was low risk, I would enjoy it, and although it wasn't technically legal, I would be bringing joy to thousands, maybe even millions of people. And all I needed was my natural charm, my boyish good looks, and a willingness to extend the concept of personal service a little further than most. I was interested.
His name was Charles, if I remember correctly, and he suggested that we should become lovers, principally for appearances sakes. I declined politely, but agreed to move in with him for financial reasons. He lived in a house that had been built and decorated in the 1920s, and he had a shrine in the spare bedroom where he kept pictures of those members of his family who had gone beyond. He liked to drink claret, to hum Mozart, to quote Shakespeare and to shoot pool. That was our typical Saturday night, in fact.
And during the day, I fell deeper into his shady world.
I'm currently looking at five jobs in theory. In Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany and Switzerland. In practice, I only really know anything about one of them. And I want to make a decision like yesterday. Gosh.
Logging on to BBC news and seeing the headline Doctor Who returns to the BBC excites me in ways that I can't fully explain. Part of me wants to see the show return, part of me wants to bury it, and a large part is completely amazed that I actually care about it at all.
Apparently, the British have had recent problems with an election. Rather than have a new one, they decided to re-run the previous one, except smaller. I'm so glad that I live in a country where I have no opportunity to vote, and even if I did it would be for an ineffectual body with no executive power at all. How happy I am to be spared the burden of choice, instead handing it over to faceless martians. Oh joy.
Radiohead's previous album, Kid A, underwhelmed me in the extreme. I don't know if it gets better on a second listening, because I didn't bless it with one. Amnesia went straight on to repeat as soon as I'd heard it all the way through.
It's one of those things about Radiohead that it's hard to talk about them in anything except extremes. Their music is something that you either "get" or you don't. The fact that so many people "get" it is either a testament to good PR or a testament to the fact that Radiohead tap into the right bit of the zeitgeist. Anyway, I like it.
We only went to Miss Saigon because it was there. We got cheap tickets, that turned out to be six rows back and slap in the middle, with a bloody good view. Excellent performances, stunning spectacle, and a dramatically satisfying mix of bitter and sweet. And of course we have to love this sort of thing because it's in the rules.
Naturally, I look at the whole thing with an eye for historic and geographic accuracy. After all, the whole thing is set in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, two places I know very well. And it passed with flying colours. I just wish that I knew less about Vietnamese prostitutes than I do.
Once upon a time Bob wanted cake. He'd heard that there was a company in Seattle that did good cake, but there was no way to get hold of that cake in Guatemala, where Bob lived. And to be fair, he didn't know that much about the cake anyway. He had his own local cake that he liked just as much as the cake he'd never tried.
Then the world shrank, and Bob found that he could get to Seattle in under an hour. So he went, and he tried the cake, and he enjoyed it. But he still couldn't get it locally. Instead, he placed an order and got it shipped. And he shared it with his friends, and they got their cake shipped from Seattle too. Soon, the Seattle Cake Company set up a branch in Guatemala and everybody was happy. Except the local cake shop.
Things started to get nasty. The local cake shop started bad mouthing the Seattle Cake Company - accusing them of unfair practices. Then some people started to get upset that the local cake makers had been forced out of business, and nobody was making traditional Guatemalan cake any more. The fact the Bob and his friends preferred Seattle Cake was treated with suspicion... had the boffins at the Seattle Cake Company indulged in unfair marketing practices to make Bob and his friends believe that they liked Seattle Cake more than Guatemalan Cake? Was it just the fact that Seattle Cake was cheaper?
It turns out that Seattle Cake was made in the Philippines, by pre-natal workers, who were paid a fraction of the cost it would be to make the cake in Seattle. But these pre-natal workers were supporting their entire families from the money they were getting making cake, and otherwise they would have had to sell their grannies to melt down for glue.
At this point Bob's head exploded.
Meanwhile, Bob's brother was complaining that his Region 2 DVD player wouldn't play Region 1 DVDs, but that's another story for another day.
I almost let this pass without a mention, for which I am ashamed. Last night was the twelfth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. 48,000 people attended a peaceful rally in Hong Kong, where Beijing was criticised by the alliance for suppressing religious groups, racial minorities and dissidents. Some of the attendees were as young as 13 or 14.
Ignore, for a second, the mainland's views on dissidents and undesirables. Turn aside from the consequences of such a strong anti-Beijing sentiment in Hong Kong, a city with a wonderful schizophrenia about its place in its part of the world. I'm thinking about the children.
I'm thinking about the words of wong Wing-yan, aged 14 who was at one of these commemoration gatherings for the first time. "We're patriots and we love China. So we are here to know more about June 4, and about China."
There's a lot of patriotism here, and a lot of it is new patriotism, uncertain patriotism. But it doesn't have to be blind patriotism. One can love one's country without blindly accepting the decisions of its leaders.
It's incredible... the pleasure that can be discovered in re-reading old writing, and finding that you like it, and that you think it's actually pretty good. It's a shot in the arm, as well as a kick up the arse to make you write more. As a result, I present a few choice extracts of my own that remind me of this fact.
On the outskirts of Las Vegas, there's a dirt track that leads off the main highway. It's not a remarkable road, nothing that you would even look twice at. There's a simple sign that points the way to Clearwater View, but aside from the fact that it's in the middle of a desert, there's nothing you'd notice about it at all.
A couple of miles down the track there's a store. A gift store. It sells souvenirs - postcards, mainly, and little snow globes showing a fictional winter over the fictional skyline of Vegas. Everyone stops at the gift store, and most people turn back there. There's nothing to see at Clearwater View, they're told. So you might as well go home.
Just after the gift store, the track heads into the hills, and becomes harder going. You pretty much need a four wheel drive to get that far, and you'll probably find yourself wishing you'd taken their advice back at the gift store and headed back to the bright lights of the big city.
But if you press on further, you'd find that the road enters a tunnel. Interesting, you might think. It looks like an old mine, although you didn't know there were any mines here. You start to wonder why they were so keen for you to turn back, back at the store, and you think that there's something a little odd going on here.
About a hundred yards in to the tunnel there's a gate, with a dilapidated sign saying that it's dangerous to proceed further. You pull up, wondering what to do now. You've got pretty much no option but to reverse back out of the tunnel and head back to Vegas.
But you're curious. You get out of the car and get the flashlight from the trunk. You decide to have a closer look at the gate, see if you can make out what's beyond it. Something isn't quite stacking up here, you think.
And it's round about this point that you feel something poking into your back, something that your instinct tells you is probably a gun. Since you're shot in the back fairly quickly after that, you don't have time to register that nobody asked you who you were, they just took matters into their own hands. And then you die.
Except that's not where it ends.
It ends hours later with a sudden awareness, a pain where your eyes used to be, and something in your mind. Something that is so alien that you can't understand it, can't react to it, and you drown in it.
More later, I think.
Any search on Amazon finds Pearl Harbor. This is kind of annoying. The more I find out about the film, the less I want to see it, and this saturation marketing merely serves to make me not want to see it even more than I not wanted to see it before.
Marketing and hype can kill a film. So easily. I resisted Titanic because of the hype, and I quite enjoy that. I resist every film that has the word Hanks associated with it because of the hype and the fact that I have seen some of the films. Yes, the man can act. Yes, the opening of Private Ryan was horrific and realistic, but it was also self-indulgent, award seeking and kind of... tedious. Mind you, I was ill, and slept through most of the film.
But then, I sleep through most of most films. Except last night, when I had insomnia, and found myself watching Buffy at 1.30am, and staying awake until at least 2.30, which was round about the time that Buffy faced Adam. And just as it was getting interesting, I dozed off.
Sometimes, it's confusing growing up.
Some people have it easy. They're the ones who know that they're gay or know that they're straight. They're the ones who can pigeonhole themselves and never have a moment of doubt.
And then there are the rest of us, and there are more of us than you might think.
If you're seventeen, socially awkward, and don't have a definite Knowledge of your sexuality, then you're probably going to be straight. By choice. Because as you know, sexuality is a choice. But that's another argument. You're going to pigeonhole yourself in to the conventional closet, because it's safe. If you're socially awkward, conformity is a wonderful thing because you can feel like you belong even though you don't.
And that's the thing. You don't belong. And you think it's because you're socially awkward.
Nobody makes people choose to be straight. People do it to themselves. You can blame society, and you might be right. But ultimately, it comes down to the choice of playing safe, or risking something, maybe everything (but probably nothing) on admitting publicly that you are different.
And this brings us to Willow Rosenberg (supporting character, Buffy The Vampire Slayer), who falls right in to this category. She put herself in the 'I like boys' group, and tried to do the right thing. And it worked, and it might even have been love. But there's a difference between love and LOVE!, and trust me, if you don't know the difference then you've never found the second one.
So, after the self imposed denial, comes the self acceptance. And that's not easy. It involves re-assessing every relationship you have with everyone you know. People can be cruel, people can feel wronged because you, in your confusion have innocently lied to them. So you ease it out gradually. It's a long slow journey between waking up in the morning with a member of the same sex beside you, and beginning to use the word 'gay' to describe yourself in polite conversation.
Which brings me to me. Because that's where I think I am now. I've more or less reached the point where I identify solely as gay, and don't make any claims to the contrary. More than that, although I've had sex with women, and I've been in love with women, I was gay at the time, just gay and confused and in deep denial that I should have been able to identify at the time. And I feel that there's got to be some way to show the youth of today and tomorrow that confusion is okay, and getting over the confusion is okay too.
Back to Willow for one last point. She's been through this. This is what I went through. This is what millions of people go through. She's become a role model, not by showing how wonderful it is to be gay, but by showing that it's okay to take a bit of time to get used to the idea. And for that, I hope that the youth of tomorrow are grateful.