I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Part of love, part of committing yourself to a relationship, is the voluntary surrender of part of your emotions. You depend on another person. You are effectively giving that person permission to make you feel incredible. And also, to hurt you.
And when that hurt becomes too much to bear, then it's time to walk away. And walking away hurts too. It's all a matter of balance.
When did I become such a f*cking expert on this. I'm writing complete nonsense here. Just ignore me.
Because I can't think of anything clever to say, I'll let someone else be crude.
My cousin Walter jerked off in public once. True story. He was on this plane to New Mexico when all of the sudden the hydraulics went. The plane starts spinning around, going out of control, so he figures it's all over and whips it out and starts beating it right there. So all the other passengers take a cue from him and they start whipping it out and beating like mad! So all the passengers are beating off, plummeting to their certain doom, when all of the sudden, the hydraulics kick back in. The plane rights itself and they land safely and everyone puts their penises or, whatever, you know, away and deboard. No one mentions the phenomenon to anyone else.
From the arguably classic 1995 movie, Mallrats
I've been thinking about Vietnam for a few minutes, and I even managed to find a picture of the view from my old office there. It's curious to think that I've not been there for over a year.
Vietnam is up there with India as one of my favourite countries to visit - despite, or because of the immense contrasts involved. Both are countries that you can believe in, in some sense. Countries with a sense of purpose, that know that they are alive.
You'd expect the winners of the Best Picture category at the Academy Awards to be the sort of movie that I'd like. After all, I'm a fan of quality cinema, I like to be challenged by it. Mind you, I also like Dougal and the Blue Cat. But you'd expect that the films that win would become instant classics. Wouldn't you?
So, let's run back the last 20 years, and see what I think.
I don't think there's actually any point to thinking about this, as I've got no real conclusion to draw from it.
I have to note the Steak Sandwich which I had on Saturday. I bought the steak myself, with no particular recipe in mind, and hobbled halfway across Dublin with my groceries in one hand, and a 11kg toolkit in the other. And Mr Twinky's suggested recipe was a steak sandwich, which he'd make himself. For some reason, this included making everything from the most basic ingedients possible. I'd forgotten to buy bread, so he made some. From scratch. First attempt. And it was excellent.
One of the great things about my life at the moment is the food. I'm worried that I'm starting to take it for granted, though.
I'm analysing my fear of heights.
I can remember the first time that my fear manifested itself. It was in Edinburgh Castle (I think), and someone - I believe it was my mother - held me over a well, so that I could see how deep it was. Whether that was the genesis of my fear or if it's just an old memory doesn't really matter. What I'm examining today is the precise circumstances in which the phobia manifests itself.
For example, I had no problems at all living in a 27th floor apartment when I was in Hong Kong. I had fantastic views, and I could look down at the ground below without any problem at all. However, when I took the photo on the left, last August, I was flat against a pane of glass at the top of the World Trade Centre, and I was scared silly, even though I was indoors. Somehow, my phobia is triggered by lack of a visible barrier. All I need is something to hold on to, and I'm fine.
They say that a fear of heights is a fear of falling. Perhaps that's true. I can rationalise my safety until I'm blue in the face, but the irrational fear is still there. They also say that most irrational fears are incredibly irrational because people don't ever test them. I do. The photo here isn't a great photo, but it's a photo that took a lot of effort to take. And I'm proud of it.
Part of my history, Zip, has gone. This was the bar in Hong Kong where I used to go in my wildest period (1999), mainly as a place to meet new friends whose names weren't really important. Mr Twinky and I first saw each other in Zip (although we didn't talk to each other). Famous for not having a sign, this is a complete falsehood. It did have a sign, just not a very big one. The last I heard, Zip planned to expand. Instead, it seems, it has been unfastened.
Nemesis the Warlock was a great anti-hero, or at least so I thought when I was a teenager. He was an amoral alien with a human sidekick, who later turned against him, as you do, when you're a human sidekick to an amoral alien. Part of an incredibly convoluted web of stories (which the cynic in me believed was only so complex in an effort to sell more comics). Scarily, one of the comics published in about 1988 is an influence on my writing almost fifteen years later.
I guess that's because of the amoral alien in me.
I know I've been on about bad service before, and I'm on about it again now. I know why this particular bugbear happens, and I understand that it's generally efficient but this is my gripe today.
Letters from banks that give contact numbers in call centres.
Why do they do this? Simple. Most calls can be answered efficiently by call centres, and this is an economical way of providing a generally good level of customer service. It frees up the bank staff to do face-to-face service, since there's nothing more annoying than going into a bank and finding all the staff on the phone and queues out of the door. Yay banks.
Why do I hate this? I get a letter from a named individual in a bank, and I have a query about it. The first thing that I do when I call the bank is ask to speak to that person. That person is a hundred miles away, and wee Jeannie on the helpdesk has never heard of her. Nonetheless she asks, very professionally, if I can explain the nature of my query, and maybe she can help me. I explain. She can't help. And I get put through to the branch, to the person who wanted to speak to me in the first place. Waste of time.
Scenario Two, the one I just tried. Phone the number, knowing that it's a call centre, and sit patiently in a queueing system. Explain my problem to the woman at the other end of the phone. Get blank voice, and put through to the branch anyway. Explain my problem for a second time. Get some sort of help, and eventually, prompted by the woman sitting next to her, an actual answer to my question. I then ask another question. My response is "Thank you for calling". I repeat the question. Same answer. At this point, I put the phone down, exasperated.
I can't blame any individual. The people I've dealt with have been unfailingly polite, and have dealt with my problem to the best of their ability. No individual has gone out of their way to cause me trouble. But I'm still exasperated, by procedure.
How can this be made better? There's obviously been a policy decision to stop people calling their bank branch, at least directly. Some queries will still require branch attention, though. If you give out a branch direct-dial number for those queries, people will actually call it for less serious matters. So it's not a starter to have one number for general enquiries, and another number for people who are replying to actual letters.
However, putting a code number on the letter might be a starter - with the right technology you could call a central number, quote your code, and be transferred - while copies of correspondence are automatically zapped up on people's screens.
Ultimately, though, it's about maximising customer service while minimising cost. It's a shame that it keeps frustrating me.
I decided a few years ago that while it was okay to be stressed in some senses, like the adrenaline rush and so on, it was counterproductive to escalate that stress by worrying about it. After all, it's usually largely out of one's control, so the trick is to accept that, prioritise and deal with what you can, and accept the remainder on the principle that life, basically, sucks. With me so far?
So this week, I'm doing five major pieces of work, all annoying, and there's a minor domestic worry, which only really has the impact of reducing the amount of time that I am happy to spend working. I'm busy, but I don't think that I'm showing external signs of stress, and I don't think that I'm feeling panicky. But I'm having strange flashes.
Last night my dreams included a bad computer-animation of Liberace.
Clutter. It's inevitable in a consumer society. It grows. It has "value" but it just eats space.
The problem with getting rid of clutter is the value. It's something that you've paid money for. It's something that - chances are - someone else wants. But there's a hell of a lot of effort involved in realising that value and getting rid of that clutter. Part of it is the emotional attachment that comes with time - merely by owning something for four years, say, you think you're attached to it. Another part is that the emotional response aggregates with the quantity of clutter. Things stop being keepsakes, worth a few quid. They become (and I shudder here) a collection. By definition, a collection is worth at least as much as the sum of its constituent parts. It's a big unit, with a big value. And the larger something is, the harder it is to throw out.
I couldn't sleep on Saturday night last week, when faced with the clutter from a particularly cluttered phase of my life. I looked at my clutter, and even though I could discard two thirds of it fairly easily, I still despaired.
It's hard to break packrat tendencies. If it's like an addiction, the first step is to admit that there is a problem. I have a problem.
Counting to None: In which time collapses, the universe is rewritten, and people have sex with ideas. There's a lot of leather and sex and death, anarchists fighting for good and basically all of your usual stuff that you expect from Grant Morrison. And as usual, it's all tweaked to the nth degree to keep you just off balance.
Maybe it's screwing with my mind, though, sitting through a consolidated dose of this. Maybe it will make me invisible too...
With my new identity, I have told Amazon that I've seen the Moulin Rouge DVD, and I've given it five stars, which is nice. Amazon has now got over its initial reticence to give me any advice, and my prime recommendations are now
None of these grab me instantly. More thoughts later.
It's far too easy to grow up as a gay man convinced that the best thing all round is to be straight. After all, straight is the norm, isn't it? Being straight is what's expected of you. So you should try to be straight. Because it's the easy option, because it will make you happier. Because it will make the people that you love, and who love you happier.
I have a wonderful image of Victorian times, with Victorian values. With people living shells of marriages solely for appearances, denying their feelings in an effort to comply with the norms of society. Sure, times have changed, but they are still changing. And in the mean time, gay men are still hiding behind heterosexual masks.
Now, I'm not saying that this is either a good thing or a bad thing - it's just a thing. I spent most of my twenties hiding behind a heterosexual mask, and I'm well aware of the pressures of doing so, and the painful slowness of coming out to myself and my friends and family, piece by piece. I'm just grateful that I always maintained enough self-doubt never to get in to a situation where I was a father.
Gay Dad Syndrome. The tensions between the mother and father are at a peak, because one of them has been lying about something fundamental in the relationship, and they can't explain what or why to the kids. The feelings are highly charged - surely she should have noticed, surely there should have been something there. Was it something she did wrong? No. Obviously not - when you think about it, and when you throw away the basic assumption that you should be able to tell, that sexuality is something that is tattooed onto the buttocks, and that all you need to do to tell if a man is gay or not is flip him over. It's not that simple. Human sexuality is a spectrum. Love is not black and white.
Gay Dad Syndrome. The nagging feeling that a gay man cannot be a suitable parent. That he'll set a bad example to his kids. That he'll turn them gay, in the same way that his father didn't with him. That he'll do depraved things to them, because the tabloid press link gay men with child molesters and other damaging practices. All utter balls.
Fatherhood is not about being gay or straight. It's about being a father.
It's an odd thing to have an emotional response to the flag of another country. I mean, your own country is fine; you were brought up there, and the flag represents more to you than just a piece of design; it's part of your cultural thingie. But I have an emotional reaction to the flag of Hong Kong. I like it a lot.
It's simple, for a kick off. A single white image on a red background. The image itself isn't that simple, incorporating five stars against a backgroupd of a stylised bauhinia flower (Hong Kong's national flower, a mutant orchid), but the design contains a pleasing rotational symmetry that works against the simple rectangularity of the flag. It's a design that can be carried forward effectively into notepaper, rubber stamps, and multimedia presentations (and all without people decrying it as treason). It's sufficiently similar to the Chinese flag to give some sort of continuity of feel, without slavishly reproducing the Chinese brand trademark in the top-left quadrant (a particular pet hate of mine).
The flags of the world graded for design probably wouldn't like it, but they don't even mention it. Probably because of its relative newness.
Well, we had 48 hours in Scotland this weekend. That means about 3 hours sitting in airports, about 14 hours sleeping, and about 4 hours travelling from one side of Scotland to the other. I revisited a lot of my history, in more ways than one, and I threw a lot of it out. And I rediscovered clutter. It scared me. Partially it scared me because of the sheer quantity, but partly it scared me because it represented a phase of my life where I was probably very unhappy and didn't realise it. Stuff, eh?
Someone I knew in Hong Kong died last night. I didn't know him very well, but we liked each other. I don't know the precise circumstances of his death, but I know that it was a heart attack, and I know that he was 32.
This leaves me feeling incredibly mortal. It's not grief - there isn't really a sense of loss, as I never expected to have any interaction with him again. I haven't been left feeling cheated and angry. I've been left feeling that this could happen to me. And that's scary enough.
Mr Twinky reckons I've been in a funny mood all week. Maybe I have. I've read a lot of subversive comics, and that can't really have helped. I've also broken my diet fairly badly, and that would have an impact on my mood (and self perpetuation). Also, Mr Twinky's been telling me that I've been in a funny mood all week, which probably helped to put me in a funny mood. This doesn't help.
What's not to love about babies? They're sweet, and ickle, and to be honest, I'm completely crazy about this one on the left, even though a part of me resolutely believes that he's no different from any other baby on the planet. Babies work in tune with our biological imperatives, lying there, helpless and demanding, screaming and spewing, while at the same time generating love. They're the most powerful sources of love in the world, perhaps.
Love is a many splendoured thing, love lifts us up where we belong, and ultimately, love will tear us apart. Love binds our lives to others, it makes us vulnerable and gives us strength. Love is, perhaps, as strong as death. But the flip side of the wonder of new life is that all love will end. Everything changes. Knowing that love ends doesn't make it easier to bear, though. It doesn't help you slough loss and move on to find new focus. It makes you wonder if it's even worth being in love with anyone.
After all, if you don't know love, then love cannot hurt you, you can't feel the pain that losing it causes. If the pain is so great (and trust me, it is), why not just avoid it?
Love is worth it. And the pain is worth it too, because it reminds you of the love. The worst thing is not that love ends, but that it always ends too soon.
I worried Mr Twinky this morning by sitting and reading for half an hour before going to work. I reassured him that I was okay. Re-reading the post above, I find myself thinking that it reads in a very maudlin tone. I'm not down, or depressed, though. Just a little contemplative, maybe.
I've got major muchies, so I am stuffing my face with sugar free gum. And I don't even like it. The heady mix of Xylitol, Sorbitol , Manitol and Aspartame are doing nothing except numbing my mouth. Aspartame was one of the fallen angels that even Lucifer didn't like.
Thanks to Gregg, I have scanned myself for Human Viruses, and found that I suffer from quite a lot, including being British. Fortunately, there is no cure needed for that. Almost as interesting as testing the difference between Nessie and God, and kind of embarassing to do, in the sense of making you cringe, rather than flashing up pictures of giant penises on your PC at work. Neither this test nor the philosophers stuff do that.
Dublin's Front Lounge is that rarity that so many of us seek but rarely find. It's a decent pub.
By this I mean that it's not too busy, but not empty, it's got a good atmosphere, and it's reasonably priced. And it's only a gay bar up to a certain point. It just shies clear of the awful cruisiness of many gay bars, and there's a signifcant proportion of the clientele who aren't gay, which is just the way that things should be. Or I could be talking out of my arse.
So I fell asleep during the second episode of 24. Fortunately, the BBC has a minute by minute breakdown on their site. Much hyped to be one of the important series on television, it follows the central conceit that each hour long episode takes place in an hour of real time.
One of the characters is played by Richard Burgi. I don't like his character at all. There's something about him that just screams 'stranger danger'.
Well, last night, we talked rings. And we talked vows. Actually, last night we talked about a hell of a lot of things, most of which I'm not going to mention here, but one of the major things that we talked about was rings.
It wasn't really a proposal as such, because there wasn't any getting down on one knee or anything like that. It was almost conversational. In the middle of telling each other how important we are to each other it just slipped into conversation that I hadn't found a Cartier stockist in town, but I had found a ring that I wanted for myself. And we promised each other that we would buy each other these rings, but we didn't set a timescale.
So, I guess, in a sense, I proposed and I was accepted. But it wasn't the focus of the evening, and it wasn't a "big" thing.
The main reason that it wasn't "big" is that we are already so entangled in each others lives that in a real sense it makes no difference. We're a committed couple with all of the trappings and joys and complexities that brings. Rings won't change that.
Long, long ago, I was looking for web sites relating to Grant Morrison's comic "The Invisibles". This was back when the internet was cool, when web sites were generally run by fans for fans, and the idea of an official site was a good thirty minutes in to the future. I found The Bomb. This site was cool. It looked great. It had good use of colours, great use of simple images (including the delightful young man who appears on the left here), and it had a wealth of information. It was clearly a labour of love.
The web site was maintained and largely written by Tom Coates, and held his web log before it migrated to its current home at plasticbag.org. I read this for at least six months before I realised that this was something that I might enjoy doing myself. The old web site was a masterpiece, really. Simple, fast loading, but with just enough colour to grab the attention. I remember fabulous oranges and blues.
Sadly, I think that the last few months have seen something of a decline in the quality of Tom's work. The last two designs for plasticbag.org have been less than stellar, if the truth be told (although he currently has a picture of himself up on his site - a sure fire way to attract). It's a true shame, as the man is clearly capable of greatness. Fingers crossed that he gets himself a job soon, and finds some inspiration to build brave new sites. But until the inevitable resurrection, The Bomb still looks great.
Like Zillions of others, last night I watched "When Louis Met...Ann Widdecombe MP". I've said some unflattering things about Miss Widdecombe before, largely because she's said some unflattering things about me. It wasn't anything personal on either part, really. But I digress.
The fascinating thing about watching these programmes is the obvious fact that Louis Theroux, the presenter, has always agreed guidelines with the victims beforehand. And he always steps over those marks. You know he's going to do it, and you assume that the victim knows as well. Which makes me wonder how much editorial control the victim has over the programme.
For instance, Theroux interviewed Widdecombe's mother, without Widdecombe herself being present. On the one hand, you can understand Widdecombe's desire to protect her mother. On the other hand, the mother, a sprightly nonagenarian, acquitted herself well in the interview, and both she and Ann came across as "better" people as a result. Fascinating. And it makes you wonder how much is scripted.
The main message that came through to me is that there is something very sad - in a tragic sense - about Ann Widdecombe. At fifty-three, she sees herself as too old to marry. That's her call, fair enough. But she cares for (and clearly loves dearly) her mother and her cats. She seems to have sacrificed a lot for her political career. And she's taking this with immense dignity.
As usual, a fascinating portrait.
I received a comment that was posted from Rich's Immac. This is all uninteresting, until one considers the major factoid presented on the site. Immac is rebranding as Veet. Gone will be the connotations of immaculateness, and in will come connotations of Veet, whatever that is.
Global branding is changing. Big time. Gone are the days when you can have the same product called two different things depending on where in the world you buy it. Jif becomes Cif, Marathon becomes Snickers, Oil of Ulay and Oil of Ulan both become Oil of Olay and then Olay. New words are appearing that are easy to pronounce in almost any language and don't rhyme with the chinese for 'death' or 'animal husbandry'. Against this background, marketing is becoming more localised. McDonalds has dropped the scary-yet-anodyne clown from marketing in France, and replaced him with Asterix. Those hilarious dubbed adverts are fewer and farther between.
A classic example of this is hair dye. I can't remember whose hair dye, but Andie McDowell has been plugging it for years, long after her heyday in Hudson Hawk and her bit part in Charlotte Coleman vehicle "Four weddings and a funeral". After years of being dubbed into an English accent, this woman is now allowed to speak to British people with her own voice. Words cannot express how happy this probably makes her.