I was born too late to be a yuppy, to early to be generation X, or a member of the Chemical Generation. So I watched Human Traffic with a strange disassociation. These were people I recognised but didn't recognise. The nearest to a moment of true recognition was an aerial shot of Cardiff castle. I recognised that.
Human Traffic is about five friends over the space of a single evening. It's about the lives that they lead, and the drugs that they take to escape from those lives. The characters are sympathetic, appealling even, and there's no attempt to staple a moral on to the film - these characters go out and live life as it is lived, and there is no attempt to make a judgement against them. Such, says the movie implicitly, is life.
At times, the movie is hilarious. It's almost always interesting to watch. And if it has a message at all, it's that life is a bit dull, and that sometimes you want to escape from it.
No matter what generation you 'belong' to.
It's not the fourth of July, but another year has gone by. And, as ever at this time of year, I am forced to think about wastes of gunpowder.
From the beginning of October, I have been acutely aware of fireworks. From the beautiful, well organised variety, down to the hand held variety, thrown by local youths at passing cars since October (skangers wi' bangers, apparently). I've wondered at the wisdom of celebrating bonfire night in Ireland, and I've found myself thinking 'what a good thing it is that I am not a dog of a nervous disposition'.
You see, when I was a kid, we had to keep our dog that we didn't own indoors on the 5th of November, and that was it. No other time. Certainly, you could be quite comfortable that if you heard explosions on Christmas Eve that it wasn't the people in the house two doors away setting off fireworks at ten at night. After all, that's just silly. And probably dangerous, given that they seemed to be shooting into the air, falling down, and exploding directly outside our window.
Well, clearly I only saw one episode, but I thought that it was comedy of pathos, and I'd like to focus my comments mainly on the accents, which were nasal and quite devoid of cadence
Pot. Kettle. Black. Bit of Calling.
Well, Sinead Quinn may not have won Fame Academy, but she still signed a deal to record up to five albums. The value of the deal is apparently EUR1m, but the article here doesn't say if that's the value to her, the cost of the investment, or the profit that the recording company expect to make.
Regardless, it's an example of the real thoughts that are going through people's minds when they're voting for these drawn-out talent competitions. Vote for the underdog, because if the runner up is any good, they're going to get a contract anyway...
I have a bruise on my forehead. And a little scarring. It's all very nice. But I have no idea where I got it from.
I mean, yes, I was out drinking and such like last night, and all on an empty stomach, but that's pretty reasonable.
If you were in O'Connell's and heard a group of people discussing whether or not Dublin's shiny spike will be visible from space, then that was us. Sure, we had a few drinks but we were just merry, like. And we walked home without any worries.
But I've got a bruise on my forehead. And a wee scar.
I occasionally come across curious references in other people's web logs and other people's lives. Things like "I got a text from my boyfriend last night, wanting to come over". Or "I've not seen him for a couple of weeks. I don't know what he's up to." And there's something about these references that strikes me as odd. Maybe faintly concerning. And then I remember - I used to be just the same.
I've lived with Mr Twinky for two and a half years now. I guess that part of me has forgotten what it was like before that point. Where spending time with him was more of a luxury than a habit, where we could still pretend that, on some level, we were completely independent.
Which isn't to say that I take him for granted, or that I take us for granted. Not at all. I still get the same flush of excitement of realising that there is someone out there for me, that there is an 'us' that is so much larger and better than we are on our own.
I think about a story in Alexei Sayle's The Dog Catcher - an excellent read all round, really. The story concerns a solitary man whose life is basically quite happy, but is turned upside down by a variety of disturbing influences. It's about what he gains from the experience, what he has to give up, and what he does to address the situation. It says everything about living with someone, and is the outstanding story in the collection (although the rest are damn good too).
Myself? I suspect I'm just lucky. Having found the right person, and having lived with him for two and a half years, I wouldn't change a thing.
Architectural thought for the day.
Over at neohomo, Brent is pondering the British terrace - and we're not talking about the gorgeous Georgian terrace, built with an classical aesthetic, with gardens, and with grandeur. He's talking about the Victorian terrace, the workman's home, the red-brick version, cheap and small, and built in row upon row, handy for the factory.
In a comment, he ponders "Can you tell me why there isn't more vertical building in the UK, more skyscrapers?"
I used to think I knew the answer to this one. I don't, though. I've seen skyscrapers working as a living environment. I've seen them failing dismally. Generally, they've worked best in areas where they've been well thought out, and well managed. I've lived in a couple myself, on the 15th floor, and on the 27th floor.
In some ways, they're not that dissimilar to terraces...
When I was a student, back in the late 1980s, I flirted with a few alternatives to study. I trawled through bookshops, I searched for the perfect cup of coffee, I bought records by Ella Fitzgerald from the second hand record shop on the way to the Grafton Centre. I wrote. I sang. Occasionally I would study a little. And at one point, I thought - half seriously - about changing my degree course.
I didn't, obviously. I continued to study mathematics, and at the end of the day, that is what my degree is in. Everything I've done since graduation is a consequence of the choice of subject of my degree. But at several points I was at least half convinced that I was going to change to Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic.
It fascinated me, and I read a couple of anglo-saxon texts. Or they might have been norse. Or celtic, for that matter. I was intrigued by the stories, you see, and about how stories evolve. That still fascinates me, and I'm glad I didn't go through the process of studying it, or deconstructing the texts and the language. In a sense it could have been like stripping away the magic, and for me the magic was at least half of what intrigued me. But it would give me something to talk about with Sue Bailey. Indeed, depending on our relative ages, we might even have shared lectures, in the universe next door to this one...
I mean, weeks ago, it was ages away, and now it is virtually upon me, and I'm completely disorganimated about it.
Every year it's at the same time on the same date, and some years I am oganimated, and some years I am completely flamboobled by it. This is a flambooble year. I'm so much at sixes and nines, that it has stunted my vocabulary.
Ufcawss, it's never quite that simple. I have a shiny new keyboard and mouse that I bought for myself, so I know that at least I've been looked after.
Next year, Christmas planning starts in June.
Well, it's been a day.
I was out late last night, it being Christmas. You'll have noticed the rain. At least, you'll have noticed it if you're in Dublin.
Today, I've been in meetings with Marketing all day - which is actually a lot of fun. They're nice people. And late on, I've been stuck here waiting for things to happen, so I've been coding the new look for Oddverse 2003, and that's been fun too, although I'm not cut out to be a programmer.
But in the middle...
In the middle I got caught in an interview with a journalist for the Telegraph. And that was not fun at all. Fortunately, she didn't get my name, so she doesn't know who I am. And I will never have to appear on Watchdog.
Stupid stupid stupid.
Tesco's John Burry said: "The potential market for our sandwich is enormous. You only have to think of how huge the ring-tone market is. There's no doubt many people will in future choose sandwiches for their music, as well as their filling."
Oh dear oh dear oh dear.
Oddverse's Skurvie Lepe said: "The ring-tone on a telephone serves a purpose. A ring-tone on a sandwich is just annoying. And if it's really annoying, it will mean companies banning musical sandwiches from the workplace"
Last night, we went for the usual Tuesday night trip to the cinema. Our opus of choice was Sean Biggerstaff's new movie "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets".
While I'm tempted to focus on Sean and moan about the padding (ie all the scenes that he wasn't in), that would be very shallow of me. And also, it would be very unfair.
On the whole, the movie was superior to its predecessor. The effects were more realistic, the acting improved. As in the book, it benefitted from needing to spend less time setting up the rules of engagement, and could rattle straight into the plot.
The three leads were good, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Julie Walters and Kenneth Branagh were excellent, Dame Maggie Smith was on fine form, although probably cursing ever having played Miss Jean Brodie. Biggerstaff, sadly, was less impressive than I remember him being in the first film. Still, the memory cheats. Always has done, always will do.
It's an interesting question? Is art a luxury?
It's clearly not something that is common in the animal kingdom. I can't think of any examples. I'm prepared to be proven wrong.
However, in terms of what sets us apart, what gives mankind purpose...?
Art is inextricably linked with the evolution of language, with the building of tools. It's linked to the concepts of abstraction, of stretching the mind in new ways. Art has been, in its time, representative, an effort to capture, to record. It has paved the way for advances in technology, in all fields of science.
Art has been pure entertainment - perhaps its most frivolous form, its least essential. But even then art manipulates emotion, it helps to shape the environment, even if it is solely to relax the audience rather than to challenge.
Even representational art is evolutionary, it is camouflage, it is marketing.
Conceptual art can be entertaining, can be thought provoking, can be awe inspiring, can be revolting. It changes the way we look at the world, it reminds us that we are alive, and sometimes vibrant.
Mankind evolves. Art evolves, and challenges that evolution. It becomes commercial, it becomes less commercial. It breaks free of boundaries. It gets absorbed into the mainstream. It is everything and nothing.
I ask myself, without art, who would I be?
There are few things that get me shouting at the television. University Challenge, sometimes. Adverts set in my flat, perhaps. And, of course, Channel Four's coverage of the Turner Prize, 2002.
Do these people not understand the idea of art?
They pay lip service to it. The idea of art, they say, is to challenge. I can't disagree with that. Art is about repositioning the observer with relation to the universe. It is about creating a reaction in the mind of the audience. I would argue that even if that reaction was 'why did they bother?', that is still a valid reaction. 'Art' that I walk away from with no change in emotion is art that, for me, has failed.
So, watching the Turner Prize, I saw the art of Keith Tyson, and it left me feeling apathetic. There was a film about him. There was learned commentary. The art was explained to me. In that context, I could see what he was trying to do. So that was it.
Still, I didn't care about his work. Because Art that needs explanation before it says anything is Art that is incomplete. To me, the works presented and judged were different. The works as presented failed to interest me. The complete works, including the commentary were more meaningful.
But I still got more from the interior design of Liam Gillick, the interplay of text and form of Fiona Banner, or the incredible imagery of Catherine Yass.
Perhaps I'm doing Tyson an incredible injustice. I do know that there is a huge difference between interacting with art in context and observing it through the guided medium of television. Perhaps, like in so many cases, I am merely dancing about architecture.
What's a guy to do?
A few months ago, it seemed like everyone else was splitting up, or was moaning about their singledom. Relationships were rocky, and the end of the world was nigh. I'm not talking about myself here, obviously.
But over the last month or so, the tone of my inbound e-mail has changed. Life is suddenly full of prospects and promise. Love, apparently, is in the air. December is the month when good boys get themselves someone to hug for Christmas.
I'm not pretending that everyone I know is in a happy relationship. But birds are suddenly appearing, here and there.
I realise that I know quite a lot about change management.
I was thinking about this in bed on Sunday morning, realising that over the years I have evolved from someone who was quite reactionary, who hated the idea of any change, to someone who quite relishes change in some ways. We must change, or else we stagnate, I was thinking to myself.
But that's not entirely true. We want to keep that which is precious to us. The people we love, the home that shelters us, the keepsakes that trigger memories. On the whole, though, I believe that change is good.
So, this brings me to my immediate reaction to the fire in Edinburgh.
It didn't burn through my memories, leaving a dark scar where my youth had been. That would be silly. It brought back memories long submerged, gave me some moments of pleasure. And, thinking about it even more rationally, none of the places that I remembered from ten years ago were the same any more. They'd all changed names, changed management, changed clients. And even once you take those points in to consideration... they were all undamaged by the fire. It was a block away.
Knee-jerk reaction versus the considered opinion. Always important when dealing with change...
It's ironic, really. If I'd been flying over Edinburgh this morning, I could have seen the dark smoke. I wouldn't have felt the warm feeling of coming home that I felt. I would have felt the emptiness, the loss.
It's interesting. I look at the coverage on the news, and the streets look empty and dead. They just look like a place. With nothing in it.
My memories of the places that are gone... the pubs that I used to drink in until two, three, four in the morning. The club where I first snogged a girl. An old-style department store, a warren of departments that was full of mystery and opportunity. This is where I spent a large and incredibly significant part of my teens and my twenties. And it's gone.
On Thursday morning, round about dawn, I was in a plane flying over Edinburgh.
It was a beautiful, crisp morning, and the sky was that deep, yet light, blue colour that glows with its own light, yet illuminates nothing. Below me, Edinburgh was nothing but a mass of lights.
I matched the lights, the darkness, to the map in my mind. There, clear, was Arthur's seat, the Georgian grid of the new town, the apron of streets spreading downhill, northwards, to Leith and to the firth.
It was enough, oddly. The airport is to the west of the city, and I headed further west from there, so I never made it in to town, but that glimpse, the rationalisation, the association was enough.
I'd been home.
Last year, for World Aids Day, I took part in "Link and Think". It was an appropriate time, really, as I was about to have to undergo the beautiful humiliation of a surprise HIV test. I had something that I wanted to say about the issue at the time. This year, I decided not to take part because I had nothing new today.
I also thought that, as a gay man, I represented the minority of the "at risk" group, and therefore I would be muscling my way in on something that should really be someone else"s issue. After all, I"m more likely to get cancer. Or get knocked down by a bus.
Today, I was looking at an application form for life insurance. There"s half a page on HIV/AIDS. I"ll quote some of it.
Have you tested positive for HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis B or C, or are you waiting for such a test?
I actually think this is a fair enough question. It doesn't ask if you've taken the sensible precaution of having a test that was negative, as these forms used to.
Do you belong, or have you ever belonged to any of the following AIDS high risk groups?
- Homosexual Men
- Bisexual Men
- Intravenous Drug Users
- Sexual partners of the preceding groups
This sucks. The form requests a yes/no answer to each of these alternatives, rather than a blanket "yes, I'm in one of these groups", which is significantly less intrusive. But given the current statistics, this question seems outdated, and overdue for a rethink.
I know statistics can be manipulated. I know that one life insurer cannot independently decided to adopt a more enlightened policy. I know how I felt reading the questions above.
I had a point here. I think that it was this: regardless of the numbers, regardless of how I personally feel, and how I live my life, this issue affects me. I don't mean HIV, which has only brushed my life, and will probably never do more. I mean the reactionism of the 1980s which still echoes now in the 21st century. I may try to pretend that it has gone, but every so often I am confronted with institutionalised pig-headedness and my own ostrich response.
Sometimes, I hate the lack of inflection in the written word.
I have the audacity to think myself something of a wordsmith, one who can craft sentences, turn them from the free-flowing rant into calm and clarity. Words can create images, can stir ideas that can never be captured on canvas or celluloid. At the heart of language is this dichotomy - a picture is worth a thousand words, but a word can capture ideas that can never be expressed.
All of us, every day, transform thought in to language. We dream in colour.
Much can get lost between the mind and the lips, the pen, the keyboard. Meaning fails, the listener understands something other than that which was intended. Meaning changes, sometimes in small ways, sometimes radically.
The lack of inflection, the lack of the tone that fixes the meaning of the words, sometimes more than the words themselves do, can lead to unintended confusion, anger, admiration, love.
There's no inflection here. There is no clarity. This is just one more link in a giant game of chinese whispers - silent, but nonetheless furious.
Out of this chaos comes understanding.