Saturday, January 13, 2007

The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else. Umberto Eco

Mark Titchner (2003)

Tonight's Daily is a bit dedicated to artist Mark Titchner. I've just discovered his work on the Interweb and I feel the need to buy an empty house, paint the walls white and cover the entire place in his images. I'm extreme. Sometimes. I like to think I'm filled with the Divine Feminine.

I've been preparing to make a birthday dinner for the lovely Glenn tonight, who has been dealing with my notorious unreliability since Christmas with no complaints. With a little help from the ever-delightful Richard at the Ministry yesterday - whose advice I would share with you if it didn't involve giving away the secret of, I hope, tonight's success - I spent the day only peripherally engaged in the preparation of dinner.

After a relaxing evening with the lovely Bean last night, which ended in me hooking him on House, I woke up this morning refreshed and ready to go. Bean and I headed into town, bought the food, went for a cooked breakfast in Albert Road and still had time to browse for an hour or so in an old favourite haunt of hours - the Holy Grail of Second Hand Bookshops.

Mark Titchner

This afternoon, after a long, hot bath spent reading a biography of Harry Houdini (I've decided to pursue a secondary career in magic), things got a little more hurried and I am literally, I'm afraid, cramming the blog into the space between preparing the soup and waiting for the oven to heat for the vegetables.

For our dip into the cultural foray today, I want to reproduce a bookmark that I 'acquired' (this means it is in my possession but I can't recall how it got here), which hangs on the wall next to my desk. It's written by Mark Titchner, who you can find out more about here, courtesy of the Turner Prize 2006 and Tate Modern. I love the words on the bookmark, but I understand that his work is a combination of words and images, slogans and banners and much more.

We want mutual loyalty
we want to realise potential
we want to improve the human condition
we want unyielding integrity
we want to shape the world's future
we want to make dreams a reality
we want your contribution
we want continuous improvement
we want to be open and transparent

It reminds me of the infamous 'because' statement of the feminist movement, which hangs on my bedroom wall.

And speaking of feminists, many apologies to Shonagh for the incomprehensibility of my Google Reader ravings last week. I love Google Reader - Shonagh, I had posted about it previously, and the paragraph of instructions that were incomprehensible to you followed a post about Google one or two days previous. Basically, for anyone still not following, if you read a lot of blogs, check out Google Reader. Just do a Google search for it and check it out for yourself. Now I sound as though I'm sponsored by Google. Bugger.

Mark Titchner

On the Menu

1. Buttersquash soup with red pepper harissa

2. Breast of chicken stuffed with portobello mushrooms, wrapped in parma ham, served with roast potatoes, parsnips in a honey and mustard dressing and greens sprinkled with parmesan

3. Fresh strawberry tarts with cream (and a lot of chianti)

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Angel Falls

Photo courtesy of Sam Javanrouh over at the Daily Dose of Imagery - definitely one for your Google Reader.

An industrious, but easy on the soul day at the Ministry. The Chief was out of the office and it literally is not the same place without him. His absence meant that I got to dominate the company of the practically perfect in every way Miss Sally, which was an absolute gift. Miss Sally was doing some New Year tidying and sorting of the office, and I found her background busy-ness comforting.

This evening I'm spending the evening with Bean, we've eaten dinner and have been chilling out to the Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC 4, another good reason why it's one of my favourite channels. Bean loves the show and delights me with titbits and celebrity gossip about the bands that were playing in the seventies. Tonight's show is profiling California and the sound carries the ease and sun of the state.

I was intrigued by another show on BBC 4 tonight, about teenagers 'borrowing' other people's children. I caught an item on BBC breakfast (you're forgiven for thinking I'm sponsored by the BB Corp at this point) earlier in the week - a sort of 'Is it/Isn't it ethical?' thinly veiled promotional piece about the show. At the time I was inclined to agree with Hicks' example on the movie Basic Instinct:

But you know I saw this movie this year called last year called er, 'Basic Instinct'. Okay now. Bill's quick capsule review: Piece-of-Shit. Okay now. Yeah, yeah, end of story by the way. Don't get caught up in that fevered hype phoney fucking debate about that Piece-of-Shit movie. "Is it too sexist, and what about the movies, are they becoming too dddddddd." You're, you're just confused, you don't get, you've forgotten how to judge correctly.

Take a deep breath huuh, look at it again. "Oh it's a Piece-of-Shit!" Exactly, that's all it is. Satan squatted, let out a loaf, they put a fucking title on it, put it on a marquee, Satan's shit, piece of shit, walk away. "But is it too, what about the lesbian connot.. ddddd." You're, you're getting really baffled here. Piece-of-Shit! Now walk away. That's all it is, it's nothing more! Free yourself folks, if you see it, Piece-of-Shit, say it and walk away. You're right! You're right! Not those fuckers who want to tell you how to think! You're fucking right!

Sorry wrong meeting again. I keep getting my days mixed up. tomorrow, it's the meeting at the docks. Tonight it's comedy entertainment with young Bill. Horrible film. And then I come to find out after that film. that all the lesbian sex scenes, let me repeat that, all the lesbian sex scenes were cut out of that film, because the test audience was turned off by them. Ha. Boy, is my thumb not on the pulse of America.

But these things can suck you in quite fast, can't they? Hicks is right, before I knew it I was thinking: is that take people's children and put them somewhere else........

It's irrelevant, it's already happened, there were consenting adults involved and I don't care. The annoying thing is that after ten minutes, I did care, I was interested. I know these shows are designed with a viewer in middle England who feels entitled to sit in judgement of others - and in this case, the apparently shocking selfishness of teenagers. To whom is this quality news? - but more horrific to me than that is my capacity to be that viewer. I've decided television is toxic and rots my logic. And that I am too weak-minded to go near reality TV. It's like a bad drug.

If you have an hour to spare over a glass of wine at the weekend, call me. Just kidding. I've got stuff to do. Instead, check out these two short films from TED's (Technology Entertainment, Design), he's showing two beautiful films, by Wade Davis and Phil Borges, two photographers, presenting on various topics to a backdrop of their own work. Thanks TED.

Today's MicroView: life in small print

1. For as long as I've been at the Ministry, there has been a solitary Lil-let in the (to the best of my knowledge, broken) 'feminine hygiene' machine in the 2nd floor toilets. Is it the same Lil-let or is someone replacing it when someone uses the last? I think of it as the Emergency Tampon. I could steal it and find out if someone puts it back, but I'm thinking it would disturb the magic.

2. At the Ministry, the trees outside are whipping in the wind. Their ability to yield to the gusts plays a part in making sure they don't fall down. This is a lesson in choosing one's battles carefully, I think to myself, as I watch them the from the window.

3. Moments of arbitrary abuse today made me feel loved. I wonder in the scheme of things how strange it is to feel happy when Shon emails to call me Gillian McStool.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. Flannery O'Connor

Zane Lowe
probably the most golden tonsiled DJ in the World

I was impressed with the Chief today when he told me that he had listened to Gary, lead singer of Snow Patrol, fronting for Zane Lowe on Radio 1 last night. I've been busy every night this week thus far and so have missed not only Snow Patrol's shift but also The Automatic, The Young Knives and my very favourite Mike Skinner of the Streets (Oi! oi! oi! - that's a Streets joke and you'll only get it if you're cool as beans).

Tonight it's the turn of the gorgeous Kelly Osborne, and if like me, you're likely to miss that one as well, then fear ye not! We can listen to all of the shows online at the ever gorgeous and divinely voice-boxed Zane's R1 webspage. Which is also where I found out Zane has his own MySpace site that I will pretty soon be toddling along to.....

Blog of the day definitely goes to The Happiness Project - which I found through the Marginal Revolution Blog - for being such a wonderfully positive idea. I love her post about ideal gifts and changing lightbulbs. I've been wondering what my 'thing' for making people happy could be. the Daily makes a small contribution, but actually, I'm quite like Gretchen, I have a talent for tidying up, as long as it's other people's space, so if this is of any use to anyone reading, mail me, and I'll bring a little happiness to your world by tidying your house! Probably.

Talking of happiness, I went to a purely pink soiree last night to celebrate Clarky's book - it was lovely. There was a chocolate fountain pouring pink chocolate (that was actually white chocolate with dye, I'm actually increasing my heart rate by writing about it) and pink sparkles and best of all was the gorgeous Lisa Clark, looking like a princess authoress. I'm not intending to be a parent, but I think I caught a glimpse of what parental pride might be like. I even got phantom nerves beforehand. I know Clarky was a bit nervous about the evening (she's so good at bigging everyone else up but feels a bit self-conscious when it's all about the Clarky!) but she was the very picture of an authoress. Perfect pinkocity!!

Can I also take this opportunity to big up the Google Reader again. You need to get yourself a Google account, here. When you have your Google account, go to the Google Reader page and sign in. Now go to the Add Subscriptions bit of the page, on the left in the list and start choosing your blogs! All you have to do is type in or cut and paste the address of the blog in the box, click on add and this will subscribe you to it. Then you won't have to go to all your blogs individually each day, you can go to Google Reader and see exactly which of your fave blog writers have written on their blogs and which of them got so drunk they couldn't walk, let alone type.

Now isn't that progress?!

Today you need to check out three things:

1. The Youngest Indie (recommendation from Clarky) which today is all Walker Brothers and tears, but still beautiful.

2. For anyone who is also fast becoming a ColdPhoto addict - Laurel's arrived in Norway!

3. Charlotte Moore's book, George and Sam (available in the city's mighty fine libraries). If you're not sure whether you'll like it, read one of her Mind the Gap columns. If you enjoy that, you'll love the book. And if you have a crazy fascination with autism and Aspergers (what? It does happen), it's a must-read.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"I don't even butter my bread. I consider that cooking." Katherine Cebrian

Albert Einstein - the thinking girl's crumpet

Do you know that this is The Daily's 100th Blog Entry?

It only seems like yesterday that the germ of an idea to blog every day (almost) became a little blog baby of my very own. And now my baby is, er, 100. I know the posts are sometimes late (like today, for instance); I know that some days are better than others, but here at The Heights, home of The Daily, we strive every day for excellence and, of course, for you. Taking you to the cultural places that the BBC culture show simply can't reach.

Today was eventful. I slept until two o'clock in the afternoon (I had stayed up til 3am - it's becoming a habit. In fact, it's an old one I haven't indulged for years, and I quite like it); I turned down an interview for a job; joined a singing group - a capella, seeing as you ask; and found an unexpected epiphany with a close friend.
I also drank too much wine and didn't blog so I'm posting twice today to make up for it. I was celebrating my induction to the African Women's Forum A Cappella singing group. I was nervous about joining, mostly because I can't actually sing very confidently (though I do sing a lot. Almost as much as I talk to myself. Sometimes I talk to myself in song, just for something different), but when I got there and everyone there said more or less the same thing, I began to relax, and before I knew it, we were all singing Nkosi Sikele Africa (apologies for the spelling), South Africa's anthem.
G and Kate came along too, and now we are all committed choir members. I know at this point you'll be feeling left out, but fear ye not, because there are still places in the group going spare. We currently have about twenty members and there is no upper limit, so feel free to tell your friends. Anyone interested in joining can contact me, we meet every Wednesday at 7pm at the Wesley Centre in Fratton. Our leader and teacher is the wonderful Jo, a music teacher herself at a school in Southsea, who often sings our instructions to us to boost our confidence. All in all, it was a heart-warming amount of fun and I would recommend it. I was also encouraged by the fact that at our first meeting we decided on a date for our first group night out to get drunk!
And for those of you staying in on Thursday night, Snow Patrol are covering Zane Lowe from 7-9pm - it's one not to be missed, and if I was going to be home I'd be listening to it with you. Well, technically, not with you, exactly, but at the same time as you. You know what I mean.
There's a great post today over at The Age of Uncertainty on phobias. Steerforth - a bookseller from Sussex and the author of the blog, confesses to a phobia that I have never heard of: Apeirophobia, the fear of infinity. I think all of my fears are more mundane, and I confess that I can't think of a single strange or obscure phobia that I might possess (does the irrational fear that babies might be aliens count?). Although G has a fear of looking at the hulls of ships moored in dry docks, which is back-breakingly specific as a fear, I've always thought.
Three Apologies:
1. To the Dear Reader, for failing to deliver the blog on time
2. To lovely Lou - I am sorry you had to see that comment, but it was NOT me that called Nick Frost the Fat Bloke, nor would it ever be. I love that man as if he were my very own.
3. To Glenn, for being so completely crap - I will cook something AMAZING and be absolutely devoted company at the weekend if you'll forgive me, I promise

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

I stroke the scudding clouds with laughter

Image courtesy of cognitive psychologist, Steven Pinker, Harvard University
(his books are pretty good, too!)

I May, I might, I must

If you will tell me why the fen
appears impassable, I then
will tell you why I think that
can get across it if I try.

Marianne Moore

Last night I discovered Google Reader, which looks after all your blogs for you and which has revolutionised my life. All my favourite blogs are now stored in one place and I know exactly when they are updated - perfect. Ah, the wonders of modern technology.

I am glad that my other readers have maintained the high ground by abstaining from the childish debate that has become my DJ name competition. Shonagh and Matt - you're swines, proper bounders, the pair of you and I shall say no more about it. Both lists have, I think, caused especial joy to those who often feel the rough side of my own, too-caustic personality. I am certain I heard the Chief laughing hard enough to fall off his chair at those lists in the Ministry today, and I know I heard him mutter with a giggle, "A head like a small ginger pea!" Well, did you ever?

I took some comfort from an email from the London Boss tonight though, when I finally got around to catching up with some emails. He sent all his team a Christmas and New Year message in which he described me thus as:

"Sarah, regally perched in her seafront facing flat in Portsmouth, humming tunes and stroking the scudding clouds with laughter."

This is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful ways in which anyone has ever described me. The London Boss is thus my favourite thing of the day, fickle in my favour as I am.

Another great day at the Ministry though, mixing both fun and frantic hard work as the New Year sweeps in. The highlight of my working day, though, was definitely going through the Disney process with Lisa Clark, published author extraordinaire. We both climbed beneath the desks of our pod and had a long conversation about life, work and the wonder of local authorities. And you know the strangest thing about it (yes, other than that we were both sat under our desks, I mean), although several people noticed - including Human Resources, who are extremely liberal about such things, and whose tolerance should be applauded - no one said a thing.

Hats off to the Chief though, who came back from an important meeting, utterly ignored us and then called our bluff by sitting in my chair until my shocked giggles at being face-to-face with the Chief's left thigh caused him to drag me out from under my desk by my ear. Well, not quite: he merely regarded me for a long moment and stated, "I knew you were there, I could see your boot as I came in."

After work, I spent the evening with Shonagh, which was glorious. I met Shonagh first when I was about ten years old and we became firm friends some months later when she had settled into our school. Our friendship has never wavered over the two decades which have passed in between. She is my yardstick, my measure for what love is meant to feel like, and she is consistent proof that as long as I have the love of someone so bold and so beautiful, both inside and out, that I must be doing something right. Though we have passed many long periods of our lives in which we have not been able to see each other as much as we would like; even after the longest separation, when I'm with her it's as if we have not been apart.

We didn't do anything dazzling, we sat on the couch and chatted and swapped commentaries on CBB, but it was one of the best evenings I've had in a long while. Tonight's poem is dedicated to my Shonagh, who possesses the unique gift of looking straight into my soul and making me feel safe and beautiful. I have grown up with you from a girl into this woman I am now, and I'll grow up with you a hundred times more before I'm done.

(for Sian, after thirteen years)

oh this man
what a meal he made of me
how he chewed and gobbled and sucked
in the end he spat me all out

you arrived on the dot, in the nick

of time, with your red curls flying
I was about to slip down the sink like grease

I nearly collapsed, I almost

wiped myself out like a stain

I called for you, and you came, you voyaged

fierce as a small archangel with swords and breasts...

you commanded me to sing of my redemption

oh, my friend, how

you were mother for me, and how

I could let myself lean on you

comfortable as an old cloth
familiar as enamel saucepans

I was a child again, pyjama'ed

in winceyette, my hair plaited and you

listened, you soothed me like cake and milk...

when we met, I tell you
it was a birthday party, a funeral
it was a holy communion
between women, a Visitation

it was two old she-goats butting
and nuzzling each other in the smelly fold

Michele Roberts

Monday, January 8, 2007

We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are - that is the fact. Jean-Paul Sartre

Sir Nick, of the Frost kingdom (where the 20Q pixies live)

A picture of Nick Frost for Lou and I. Probably just us, actually. What is it about Nick Frost? BTW and FYI, Lou, Sir Nick has a fansite, too, called....wait for it......Frostitution. Awesome.

First day back at work. The Chief rang me this morning to remind me and really made me laugh when he sang. The song was my favourite thing of the day (though the competition was tough - it was a good day). Miss Sally and I, reunited, irritated the Chief (and probably everyone else) with our endless giggling, and made each other laugh whilst drinking lots of cups of tea and achieving an astounding amount of work because we are both highly skilled multi-taskers.

In fact, it's amazing how much work you can do when you're pretending to be Rocky sprinting the Museum steps (Miss Sally was being Rocky and I supplied the theme tune). I perfectly reconnected what I like about my job today. Playing with words, acting like a zoom lens, tweaking with images and making them clearer and testing my memory and my ability to proofread (on the last - needs work, could try harder, just ask the Winchester Doctor). Plus I get to do what I love surrounded by interesting, kind, funny, generous people. When I finished work, I felt gigglingly euphoric all the way home in the wind and rain.

A quick phone call to an ex-boyfriend ended that, however (but only briefly - you can't keep a pioneer down for long. Well, you can, but you have to make it well worth her while). I had to ask a favour, which I was a bit dubious about. Ex's and favours don't always go hand in hand. Well, unless a huge amount of alcohol is consumed, and anyway, I wasn't after that kind of favour. He said no - more than his job was worth.

After the call ended, I became paranoid. I wondered if it was only because I was asking the favour that he said no, and that he would do it if it were someone else. I spent a small amount of time feeling resentful and bitter about it. Fortunately, Matthias came round to see me in the nick of time and spent the rest of the evening making me laugh until I wheezed and snorted, and realised I was making a big old fuss about nothing. I even laughed when he put a comment on the blog answering my (admittedly, now that I look back on it, stupid) question about my what-if DJ name. He has no shame. For that DJ name.

Matt downloaded GoogleEarth to my computer, which I have to recommend, purely on the basis that it's very, very clever. Almost as clever, in fact, as 20Q, which is one of the cleverest things I know that doesn't breathe. Fact. That's because pixies do it and magic things don't need to breathe because they only exist in the ethereal realm and don't require oxygen. Fact.

I'm back on the 'Tec Tales as Christmas brought me the most wonderful collection of Roaring Twenties Whodunnits, which, despite the old adage, I must admit I love as much for the cover as the contents. The first one I read was by Annette Meyers, 'Timor Mortis'. The detective of the story is a poet called Olivia Brown, who inherits her detective firm from her spinster great-aunt, Miss Evangeline Brown. She - Evangeline, that is - lived out her days "in Greenwich Village in a Boston marriage with Miss Alice." Perfect.

Figures that this criminal collection is today's Read of the Day.

In honour of my return to work, today's collection of miscellany is:

Today's Ministry of Culture Quotes

1. Miss Sally, on office gossip: "...and as for the rest, it's just a tissue of lies."

2. Me, on bacon and ham in one day: "What? I'm big on pig."

3. The Chief, on festivals: "I'm certainly never going into a mosh pit; I'm never going to spit; and I'm never wearing a t-shirt that hasn't been washed for a week."

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Today's Trouble

Today's image is NASA's Image of the Day and depicts the Dunes on Mars

I finally got around to visiting my MySpace today after spending the afternoon engaged in some serious paperwork archiving of bank statements, insurance documents, payslips and even scraps of old poems (quite a lot of those, actually - when will I stop writing bad poetry about my last relationship when I'm drunk?).

I was really glad that I'd finally gotten round to checking MySpace because there were a truckload (read handful) of messages from people on there that had been waiting months for me to read.

First, was a message from the writer, Kenneth Harvey, whose book The Town That Forgot How To Breathe haunted me during my Stateside Trip to California this summer. He wanted to thank me for mentioning his book on my site! I was so chuffed I squeaked a few times at high volume. Of course, THTFHTB is today's Read of the Day. Handy, that.

Then I got a message from the lovely guy from Costalots in Waterstones, who I gave the blog's address to a few months ago, when I was in there with the Chief. During a brief conversation, he mentioned a quote that he couldn't quite remember, in response to me mentioning that "if you want to make God laugh, you shold tell him your plans." The quote was from Matthew 6:34:

"Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today."

Isn't that beautiful? There was also a message from the talented and ever-travelling photographer, Laurel of ColdPhoto thanking me for mentioning her blog a few months ago on The Daily - how cool is that? So I've added ColdPhoto to the Daily Links section, which, I hope you've noticed, is ever growing for your pleasure, as t'were.

So, all in all, it's been a perfect Returning to Work Eve, which is just what I've needed. I'm planning to spend the rest of the evening with a bottle of red and X-FM's Mix session - Eddy Temple-Morris is today's favourite thing.

Three Pertinent Questions

1. Why are all the pretty, interesting boys so damn young?

2. Why didn't I choose to make my mark on the world as a famous DJ in the mix?

3. If I had a DJ name, what would it be?

(Matt - you are excluded from this competition because the name DJ Tool doesn't count and neither does DJ Ginger, DJ Shorty or DJ Munchkin, and if you're even thinking DJ OompaLoompa, I will post bad pictures of you on the InterWeb)