Saturday, January 6, 2007

Twelfth Night

It sounds more magical to me than Hallowe'en, as if the witches, goblins and trolls would frolic more supernaturally tonight than in October. And it has a magical f.

My magical f for the day, perhaps unpredictably, is family. Now there's magic and mystery, chemicals and craziness for you. I've been enjoying the calm of G's house this weekend, very quietly, in the hope that rest of my life won't notice.

After hearing of it through a friend at Christmas, G has bought a new game called 20Q. It's a small purple plastic ball with some kind of electrickery inside it. You think of something. An apple, a dragonfly, a monkey, whatever. Then the ball asks you 20 questions. Then it tells you your word. And it almost always does. My friend said that her one didn't get France. Last night, it didn't get skirt (that's not a crime-noir euphemism). I'm fascinated by it and have no idea how it works.

I think pixies do it.

You don't have to buy your own, if you're interested. This realworld version of the game is based on an original artificial intelligence game of the same name - try it and let me know how you do. Great for when the boss isn't looking - not you, Chief. I am always working hard at my computer and never faff away my/your time skating around frivolous websites. Obviously.

I like the 20Q website, at first glance. You can choose to play the British game (our portable one is American - it guessed sidewalk for pavement) and then you can choose to play some of the 'younger' games, that are still learning, according to the website. I'm guessing that the AI programmes kind of evolve with each game, and at the time of writing, over 47 million games of 20Q have been played online. It may be addictive. I might see if it can guess Twelfth Night.

Which, incidentally, is today's Read of the Day - and yes, you can start with the film if you want to. I can feel virtuous about it, because we studied it at college. I can read it all over again in style now, because Pids and Nikki bought me the complete works for Christmas - a beautiful, huge, heavy edition that only needs to acquire some dust before reaching perfection. If it's any incentive, TN contains some great Shakespeare moments that may tempt you.

If you can't face Twelfth Night, can I recommend She's The Man, starring Amanda Bynes, which is loosely based on TN and had me and my sister and I giggling on the flight to the States last summer.

Three Great Twelfth Night moments

Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.

Love sought is good, but giv'n unsought is better.

Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage.

And it's got Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek in it - what more do you want?

Friday, January 5, 2007

The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand. Frank Herbert

Happy Birthday Glenn!!!

After such frivolity yesterday (which has ended I note, in my brother calling me a tool - not for the first time. He only gets away with it because no one makes me laugh as much as he does), I slept in late this morning. I'd only been awake for a couple of minutes when the date hit me and I realised that the first thing of note I would have to place on today's blog would be the birthday of my gorgeous old friend, Glenn.

He's 42 you know. Ok, Ok, I'm just kidding, he's only in his 30's. I'd give you his exact age but that would undermine his air of international mystery....

I'm spending the weekend over on Hayling Island with my family. It will be good to spend Twelth Night with them tomorrow, and in addition to the usual day's magic rituals, I'm hoping we can all spend some time, as Bill Emory from the Black & White blog suggested, thinking and talking about the year that has just gone and the year to come. I might even share some of my secret plans (for world domination) with them. I love the sound of the words, Twelth Night; it makes me think of a mystery unfolding.

Today's Read of the Day is Freakonomics, by Stephen D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

It's a very hard book to describe, and I think I may have mentioned it on the blog a couple of months ago, but it just made Amazon's most wished for books of 2006 list, and it's definitely on my interesting reads list. To make economics interesting takes some doing, but to make it relevant to the average Josephine requires even more, er, doing. Levitt is the young whizz-kid economist here and Dubner is the journalist who paired up with him to write the book.

If you're not sure about reading this book, check out the book's
website first and see what you think, then read a few posts from the blog. I got Freakonomics from the Library a few weeks ago, and have only just picked it up again (I am such a loose reader, I jump from spine to spine). I spent too long in a too-hot bath before dinner just to find out about the economics of cheating. Half a journey of intellectual detection and half an interesting journey through a random series of facts, this book will make sure you never run out of dinnertime conversation again. Especially if you dine with geeks, or geek sympathisers. Like me.

I was lucky enough to get a witch's Spell A Day Almanac for Christmas, which is my favourite thing du jour. In the introduction, the editors mentioned 'Chambers Book of Days.' Being ever-curious and drawn to unfamiliar things (I'm very fond of things I know well, but often I don't find them as interesting - often true of people, too I find, which is further proof of my ongoing selfishness, I suspect), I Google searched it this evening. I was delighted to find, as I suspected I would (if it exists it must have been partially digitised by now), that someone has put the contents of the Chambers Book Days online, so you can consult it from the comfort of your own pc chair every day.

Today's entry in the Book of Days yielded such interesting information on ways that Twelth Night Eve was often celebrated in Britain's strange past (for your info: by getting bulls to toss cakes off their horns and singing to apple trees - we crazy Engleesh), the death of Edward the Confessor and the fact that today is a feast day for "St. Syncletica (4th century ?), virgin."

Most interestingly to me, however, was the tale of Saint Simeon Stylites, founder of the so-called pillar saints, who earned their name by their peculiar means of worship. In 423, St Simeon "fixed his residence on the top of a pillar, which was at first nine feet high, but was successively raised to the somewhat incredible height of sixty feet (forty cubits). The diameter of the top of the pillar was only three feet, but it was surrounded by a railing which secured him from falling off, and afforded him some relief by leaning against it. His clothing consisted of the skins of beasts, and he wore an iron collar round his neck. He exhorted the assembled people twice a day, and spent the rest of his time in assuming various postures of devotion."

Funnily enough, there weren't ever a huge amount of pillar saints. It never really caught on. We've still got David Blaine though.

Now no one has written to me complaining that the Beautiful Things have gone, I have decided to replace them with a series of random 3-item lists. Suggestions always welcome.

Today's Cultural Confessions

1. I don't like Celebrity Big Brother, yet I will watch Dermot's supporting show if I catch it

2. I haven't seen Titanic, either of the Bridget Jones movies, any of the Godfather's or all of the Star Wars movies. And I don't want to.

3. In Les Miserables, I wanted Cosette to die because I like Eponine better.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why. Kurt Vonnegut

Turning Point, by Donovan Crosby (2005)

I discovered the paintings of Donovan Crosby in a long-winded Google search prompted by the word 'champagne' - you never know where these links will take you. When I am unsure of the image I wish to use on the blog, I type something into Google, hit the first response that appeals to me and then follow links in that site, and so on, until I find something. You can always find something, and I like what leaving things to chance can lead you to. Infinite possibility, the World Wide Wonder Web.

The website I found this picture on, SixSpace, belongs to a gallery in LA. I spent a while just toddling around their website. The websites of art galleries and museums from around the world have become a bit of a procrastination habit of late.

I had the dentist today, which was not ideal for my week off work, but in the end I satisfied myself with the thought that everything is material. It's a strange experience, the dentist. It's so intimate, in a sense. The only others who get so close to my mouth are usually about to put their tongue into it (ideally).

I like my dentist. Not in a kinky way, but in a distantly fond way, as you admire a particular statesman, or historical figure. Although that kind of kick is way outside my boundaries, out of curiosity, are there people in the world who do get off on trips to the dentist? Ah, the sound of the drill.....?

He's an older man, my dentist, South African; and he hums and sings gently to himself as he works. If it wasn't for the social and interpersonal inconvenience of someone continually placing an assortment of odd-shaped items in my mouth, I'd probably find it quite relaxing. Probably.

Another poem today, courtesy of G's desk calendar.

The Stars Now Rearrange Themselves

Dana Gioia

The stars now rearrange themselves above you
but to no effect. Tonight,
only for tonight, their powers lapse,
and you must look toward earth. There will be
no comets now, no pointing star
to lead where you know you must go.

Look for smaller signs instead, the fine
disturbances of ordered things when suddenly
the rhytms of your expectation break
and in a moment's pause another world
reveals itself behind the ordinary.

And one small detail out of place will be
enough to let you know: a missing ring,
a breath, a footfall or a sudden breeze,
a crack of light beneath a darkened door.

I'll have to spend some time with this one, maybe learn it by heart.
My brother came to the dentist with me, knowing I sometimes find it disturbing. After, we drank champagne to celebrate ourselves with and then we played a variety of games on his X-Box 360 - don't ask me what this is, it's a miracle that I remember its name. I beat him at Mortal Kombat, which outraged him, but he beat me at Frogger, which irritated me, so we wound up even.

Later, we watched a film called Ghost in the Shell, an animation based on a Japanese graphic novel. If you like this sort of thing (in spirit and style, it really reminded me of The Matrix, so you might use this as a guide), you're in luck, there's a copy of both Ghost in the Shell and its sequel in Portsmouth's Central Library.

Today's Read of the Day is an entry on someone else's blog, this time Jenny Diski. She's one of my favourite writers and her blog has only been a very recent find. In this post, she describes her reaction to an animated 'game' called Falling Girl. I first encountered this game a year or so ago, when, as Jenny says, the animated character was not a scantily clad girl, but George Bush. It was far less disturbing then, but it remains as alarmingly addictive.

We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true.
Robert Wilensky

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

There is no red gold. There is no perfect man. Traditional Chinese proverb

Well, unless you count Simon Pegg, obviously. I've just finished watching Shaun of the Dead. I've seen it before, but I always forget how much it makes me laugh and I have the girliest crush on Simon Pegg. Actually, I quite fancy Nick Frost, too, come to think of it. Childish but true. If anyone reading hasn't seen the series Spaced then you should. Email me and I'll let you borrow it and everything.

Big news tonight, it's THINK PINK's release day so there are now no further excuses for not having a copy. Truly. Huge congratulations to the ever inspirational Lisa Clark, too, who is far too good at making a whole world of hard work look effortless, and manages to inspire so many others at the same time. You have to buy a copy, because although you're welcome to borrow my Spaced, my Think Pink copy is not going to leave my bag. If you need any more convincing (and I'm not sure why you should!) then check out the new Think Pink website, which has just had a delicious makeover.

A couple of poems tonight for some New Year inspiration. These are courtesy of the wonderful poets, of course, but the first is also, indirectly, down to G, who gave me a desk calendar called Poetry Speaks. It features a different poem every day and is one of my New Year favourite things. For someone who claims not to be too comfortable with the whole New Year thing, I seem to be thinking about it an awful lot.

(written from Peking)

let me wear the day
well so when it reaches you
you will enjoy it

Sonia Sanchez

The second poem of the day is by contrast, heavier on the mind. I haven't reproduced it here as it is a trifle too long, but if you have the inclination or the mood for a beautiful piece of writing, please have a look at Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach.

Did I mention that you should be ordering a copy of Think Pink by now?

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

...the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am. Sylvia Plath

Tonight's image is from Helmut Scheurlein, courtesy of Dr Scheurlein's site

Strange, beautiful, inevitable New Year.

I passed a chilled-out, low-key, slurry-tipsy (i.e. not lying unconscious in a pool of my own vomit) in Lynbridge, Devon (smack between Lynton and Lynmouth). Pippa, an old housemate and close friend of Kate's from University, has a family cottage there and we went from Sunday to Tuesday. Lovely food, great company and tempestuous weather outside, peppered with rushes of heavy rain.

Despite the deliciously low-beat pitch of our New Year celebrations, my inner state more closely reflected the storms outside. I spent the two days under a bewildering enchanted cloud of twitching, uncertain, unsettledness, which I didn't even vaguely understand and feared inflicting on the others.

Perhaps it is the season itself that unsettles me; the cultural expectations of impending change amidst mantras of New Year, New You - the Great Possibility. This does not affect me so usually; I have rarely been restricted to imposing or accepting sudden change only at New Year. Instead I think it is more specific, the season mixing with my own expectations and desires for change, and the uncertainties and questions these bring with them.

I kept thinking of Esther Greenwood in the Bell Jar, all her options outstretched as if upon the branches of a tree...

...which is why The Bell Jar is today's Read of the Day.

"I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree....

From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet."

I think of just a handful of my possible choices, my hopes and dreams for 2007 and beyond, and I struggle, like Esther to know which to reach for; first, at once, at all. Although I'd be lying if I were to tell you these thoughts don't make my heart beat just a bit faster, I know one thing for sure, thanks to an adage of the Chief's.

Change is inevitable. Except from a vending machine.

Today's Beautiful Things

1. Full moon. Almost. How many more excuses to be a little lunatic does a girl need?

2. G - for posting for me when I could not do my twenties journalism

3. Staying up til midnight with Pinot Grigio and the Live Lounge

Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy New Year Everyone

Sorry to disappoint you readers but this is G posting apologies on behalf of the lovely and talented Sarah (yes, I am biased but I also believe it to be true). Due to a "communication nightmare" she cannot dictate her posting as she had hoped to do. As you know because you would have read it in the previous posting, she went away for her New Year celebrations and is in a small village where there is no signal for her mobile and, as that law would have it, the land line phone is not working. You will be pleased to hear she will be back tomorrow and will continue her postings then.

So, on both her behalf and mine I wish you all a
Very Happy New Year

Sunday, December 31, 2006

He is winding the watch of his wit; by and by it will strike. William Shakespeare

I started reading a new book last night called The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. It's by Haruki Murakami and I can't leave it alone.

This is inconvenient because I'm a guest at Kate's and thus far I am the most incommunicative one here, but in half an hour we are picking Pip up from the station and the three of us will make our way to the cottage in Devon.

Obviously Haruki Marukami's Wind-up Bird Chronicle is the Read of the Day.

What do I like about this book? That I wasn't really looking forward to reading it and a small half-sense of regret that I hadn't brought one of my other Christmas reads with me. That I started it and within two pages I was hooked. The writer is a beautiful story-teller and also a strong and thoughtful writer.

I like the seamless way that the author moves his characters between their own 'real' and 'imaginary worlds' and the way he blurs the dividing line between the two. I like the strong scent of spirituality and soul searching that runs beneath the story.

I like my admiration for the main character, Toru Okada, whose life is unravelling, I like that I was fond of him within the first few pages. I like how simply human and unpretentious and slow and directionless he is. And I like that he is so easily led. In the first part of the book, life seems to be something that is just happening to Toru, over and over, but in Part Two, which I have just started, he is beginning to take control of his life.

I'll probably still be reading it on the stroke of midnight and come to in an abandoned room in the early hours of the morning having just finished it, only to find the revelling has stopped.

Despite not drinking much yesterday to recover from my hangover, I feel oddly lethargic today. Everything is an effort. I hate to say it but I'm even a little bit dreading New Year. I must be old before my time, but all I really want to do is curl up in front of a log fire with a book, a bottle of Baileys and maybe a pretty man, in reserve. Well, I might finish the book and find myself at a loose end.

It's a bummer to feel antisocial on the most social day of the year. Probably worse for the people who have to hang around me though! Here's hoping no one notices.

I hope that all the Daily readers have a great New Year and that the computers are finally struck down with an impossible virus and none of us can go back to work next year, and we all have to become spiritual travellers and journeyers and re-organise the world from scratch.

I would find a cave in the mountains. With a little fire. I'd meditate and sing, and dance and have friends over for hot milk and cocoa every night. And maybe a bottle of Baileys. The old habits die hard.

Three Beautiful Things

1. To err is human

2. Monkey see monkey do

3. Irritation is more powerful than it looks