Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Bonus Ball Post

You lucky people, today you get two posts for the price of one. I've had this song for quite a while, by Fionn Regan, Be Good or Be Gone, but today I saw the video for the first time and had to post it for y'all.


Phantom Pornographers Come In the Night

I woke up this morning knowing that I should have been somewhere else. It was actually a very similar state of mind to the one in which I went to bed, minus the wine-heavy induced fug. Is fug even a word? Well, if not, it probably should be.

Fug: noun, a cloudy, dispossessed state of mind.

There. It is now.

Everyone should invent at least one word every year. It should be mandatory. They should sneak it into their everyday use and familiarise other people with its meaning until it's been accepted by their entire social circle and has become a familiar reference. Then let the word spread outward to friends of friends until it has infected an entire town, a region, a country. Before you know it the dictionary would be populated with these words, and believe me, this would be no bad thing.

If you're in any doubt about this viewpoint, check out this TedTalk.

Unless you're as lexicographically fascinated as I am, you may not last the whole thing, but try. It's worth it and Erin McKean is one of the most engaging speakers I've heard for a while. And she has great glasses.

So, the phantom pornographer, you're doubtless wondering. Where's the link? Well, I'm glad you asked.

When I left the house this morning, the front door was ajar (How can the door be a jar? I hear you cry. Stop being so silly). This is not too worrying as we have an interior front door that was closed and locked. But more mysterious than this was the fact that in the space between the two doors, our utility cupboard had been opened. I wasn’t worried about this either, I had a nose around in there when I moved in and apart from spiders and a lot of dust, it was entirely empty.

Now to open the cupboard really does require intent, it’s not just a handle, you have to turn these catches and then the door just comes off in your hand really. The door, when I found it this morning, had been taken off and left next to the front door.

Odd, I thought.

When I went to put the cupboard door back on, I saw something on the top shelf (this would turn out to be quite ironic). I put the door down again and turned back. On the shelf was a copy of Mayfair, a well-known (or so I’m told) porn mag.

Really odd, I thought.

So, any theories gladly welcomed. Why would someone pry open the front door of the house and leave a copy of Mayfair in an empty cupboard? If they wanted us to try it out, why wouldn’t they just post it through the door with a note saying ‘Saw this and thought of you?’

Do you think we are becoming the assignation point for a group of rebellious, porn obsessed teens? Answers in the comments box to the usual.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Of Internet, Information and Dissent

I love this picture. I found it on Facebook this morning on a feminist group there. Facebook is a strange phenomenon. It's put me back in touch with a lot of people I didn't expect to hear from again, and it's put me in contact with a lot of people I probably wouldn't have got to know without it. This morning, for instance, someone contacted me about a piece of research I conducted for a children's play advocacy organization, PLAYLINK, which was published in September. They need help with their dissertation and found me on Facebook.

But I understand there are also some dangers. My friend Charlie, one of the Peace Cafe Irregulars, posted a short film on the perils of information gathering on Facebook on my Funwall. You can check it out on my profile page or at Youtube, here.

There are other perils to being on Facebook, too. For instance, a few people were sending me strange posts about being a pervert and mentioning obscenity (they were mentioning it, I mean, not me, although I do, from time to time) -I mean, stranger than the messages on this topic that I normally get. It wasn't until I logged onto my own profile page that I realised my friend Kerry had posted a picture of a man with an unusually well developed, er, gland. Now for that, you really will have to check out my profile page.

I wrote about Facebook here a while ago, about a conversation my friend Shelley and I had about Facebook etiquette. I like Facebook, it has to be said, it's just another way of chilling out for me, and a great example of the interactivity of Web 2.0 technologies. Facebook exists for people to interact, and according to the film Charlie sent me, to gather a hell of a lot of information about its users while they do so.

But this is not news. Information gathering is a topic in its own right, and it happens way more than most of us want to think about. I remember Naomi Klein touching on the subject in her fantastic book, No Logo, which, if you haven't already, you should read, by the way.

And talking of Naomi Klein, I wandered over to her website and found a great short film on her latest book, The Shock Doctrine.

Watch this. Check out Naomi's website for yourself, and for God's sake, people, read her books. Like the film says, Information is Shock Resistance. Arm yourself.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

While James Plays Piano

If you had a duck, as a pet, what would you call it?

No, it's important. I really need to know. I'm building a theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their answer to this one basic question.

After dinner, I ask James this significant question. He thinks about it for a moment.

"Alf." He answers.

"Alf?" I splutter, surprised.

"You're thinking like a brown mallard, right?"

"Er, yes," I state, after a blinking pause.

"Yeah. Alf."

We are both silent for a moment. I can actually see Alf. He wanders into the room. I watch him waddle his way over to stand behind James. He lifts his wing and starts to preen the feathers underneath. James is staring at me, and I jerk myself back to reality. Alf disappears in a puff of feathers.

"Not Alfie?"

James wrinkles his nose in revulsion.

"No. Of course not." This is final.

"I would call him Alfie," I confide quietly, "When you weren't around."

I demonstrate, "Alfie! Alfie!"

James looks at me with vague disapproval.

"Although if it was brown, it would be a female," he says.

"A female called Alf?" My certainty is shaken. The Alf I saw just now was definitely male.

"No. That wouldn't work. Maybe Georgetta?" He frowns. "No, the other ducks will take the piss."

My friend Howard has a theory that you can tell a lot about a person from their answer to this fundamental question:

What's your favourite monkey?

I'm inclined to agree with him on this. Mine's an orangutan, although technically this is an ape.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My fake personality

Today's quiz - name this TV show. Now name the two main characters. Now sing the theme tune. OK, stop, you really shouldn't sing in public.

Thanks to my little advice pixie who recommended smearing myself in ice cream to deal with the withdrawal from caffeine (that was what you said, right? Or this could be embarassing AND it would explain why the office went so ominously quiet at break time) - I think I know who you are. Not because you have a distinctive style of writing or anything too Clarice Starling of me, but because the rest of my readers gave up on me ages ago when The Daily became the Periodically. Bring me the smoothie maker at your convenience. You know I don't mean that, take it out of the toilet right now.

So, I was writing about hormones a couple of days ago and the advice from Dr It Could Be Worse recommending I knock out caffeine. Well, I’ve now done almost two weeks caffeine free, and guess what? That magical time of the month has come spinning around once more. More information than you really need? Like I care.

So the question on everyone’s lips – not least my boyfriend’s – is has the CFP (Caffeine Free Policy) worked?

Well, I was moody as a big old sinful bag of sin yesterday, but not hysterical moody, just sulky teenager moody really. And today, I’ve felt a little, well, irrational, but nothing like I would normally be expecting. So, I’m feeling hopeful.

It will be great if the absence of caffeine genuinely abates the mood swings, cramps and huge emotional chaos of my once a month blues. In addition, my productivity at work is maintaining an unusually high standard, much to The Chief's joy.

However, I miss the larking about that accompanied my crazy mood swings. You know, the desire to jump around and sing, and the need to climb under my desk and surprise people by suddenly grabbing their ankles as they walk by, whilst barking like a terrier (me, not them – people don’t often walk past my desk barking like terriers, that’s obviously my job).

And so do my colleagues. Admittedly it took them some time, in which they too have probably enjoyed higher than average productivity without me blasting out the theme to the A-Team, or inventing jingles for each team (Events, for instance, fits distinctly well to the theme tune for the Flumps – remember them? They were fab). But over the past few days most of the women in my office have expressed concern over my sudden ‘quietness’ – many of them have asked if I’m ill, and I’ve had to admit that I’m actually suffering from the ill-intended effects of health, for once.

I have a dilemma. I feel like a manic depressive who’s been prescribed mood balancers and found that they preferred the swings of mania – except in reverse. I’ve taken a drug away from myself, not placed myself on one. I’m not sure I like this new me. Without the caffeine, is this the real me?

If so, I’m not sure I like her. I think she’s boring and balanced and banal. She’s everything about b’s that I don’t like. But if I go back to caffeine, I’ll know it’s a fake personality – I can’t believe it’s come to this. Coffee was the basis of everything I like about myself.

So what would you do? Do you think it’ll get easier?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Violet's uncertainty principle

Check out more Lemony treats

I was in the Slug and Lettuce in Palmerston Road last Friday, with my soul sister and her new baby. He's beautiful. So is she, so I was in good spirits before I got there. But until I sat down and we started to talk, I didn't realise how much I had missed her, how well we know each other, how easy it is to talk to her and how much love flows between us while drunken students and middle class wine drinkers weave their way between table and bar.

It's a strange kind of pub, the S&L. It has a kind of London feel to it, but it's in the heart of Southsea. For some reason all the students in there were male, they were all wearing chinos and an assortment of 'hilarious' hats and I suspect that more than an average proportion of them were named Roger and excelled at Rugby. I do not have a reversed class prejudice, honest. I just often find myself resenting posh people, and I could stop that anytime I wanted. I've given up caffeine for forking out loud, now anything is possible. I'm psyching myself up for the London Marathon next.

Shon and I are very similar in lots of ways and our life experiences have some mirrored moments in them that has created an easy, shared understanding of the world and each other. This is rare. You may know Shonagh in fact, as she is now a national award winner, who recently scooped a Public Servant of the Year award at the recent Times Awards. She is also the most amazing, intuitive, generous and kind friend I am ever likely to know. She defines loyalty.

At her side was Shonagh's beautiful son, who looks more like her every time I see him. I've never been one for babies, even when my friends create them, but Shonagh's son is the exception that proves the rule. I don't think I'm that good with Hamish, but Shon reassured me that he was utterly attuned to my energy and she was certain he liked me. As if on cue, he rewarded me with a huge grin, which made my heart melt.

"You'll have a baby," Shonagh grinned, "I've always known it."

This has become a frequent topic of conversation between us since Hamish was born. At first, Shonagh issued a command that I should have a child, so that we could hang out together and our babies could be friends. The long silence that followed this suggestion was one only a best friend could ignore. At points, she can be quite Mrs Doyle of Father Ted fame about it: you will have a baby. You will, you will, you will, you will, you WILL. This is despite the fact that I've stated plainly that I would not have children since I was about 14. Again, only your best friend can state your mind, dreams and destiny more plainly than you can.

"You've always known it," I repeat, looking at her doubtfully. Repetition is often the best course of action when Shonagh is determined. She cannot be argued with. She's like a member of the Borg: resistance is futile. Thank god she hasn't got a penis, or she'd probably have been shagging me on the pub table - "You DO want to get pregnant!!"

"Ever since you used to say that if you ever had to name a girl, you'd call her Violet, because it's only a consonant away from violent and you thought it was only fair to give people warning."

I laughed, delighted that she remembers one of my favourite lines from my 'conversations to make people leave you alone when they start hassling you about not wanting kids.'

"But you will have a child, Sare," Shon's sincere expression stopped my heart across the table, "It will be a girl and she'll have red hair and you'll be brilliant."

I smile at Shon. Inside, this conversation is starting an emotional and psychological earthquake that I push to the back of my mind until I have time to feel the tremble. What is my aversion to having kids anyway? Is it linked to the Chief's assertion that my desire not to get married is a way of shirking adult responsibility? Am I a Petra Pan cliche who's afraid of growing up and falling into the trappings of middle class family life (yeah, maybe because seriously, just writing those words makes me reach for the razors)? Is this a failing?

Frankly, that's a whole other show.

In other news, thanks to the Merry Swankster for this post of Bats for Lashes' What's a Girl To Do - I love this video more than I love whiskers on kittens. Not that I have a particular dislike for whiskers anywhere else. Well, maybe......ok, there's no need for me to really get into this, is there.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Decaff is coming

I'm moody. This is a statement of being, not a description of my current state of mind. My moods are influenced by many things, but when I go to see my doctor about the rather more extreme mood swings that occur during my menstrual cycle, the consultation surprises me.

"How long do the mood swings last?" he asks, after I pre-empt his suggestion that I go on the pill with a firm negative.

"I don't feel like myself for about three days. Sometimes it's like thinking through fog, and my emotional state becomes all-powerful, it can be hard to maintain a firm sense of rationality," I answer, thinking that by 'firm' I mean 'any'.

He looks at me like a plumber might look at a challenging job, drawing in a long, whistling breath.

"The thing is," he says, "PMT is incredibly difficult to treat. Almost impossible really."

Great, I think, nodding politely but trying to convey anticipation of something more useful to follow this helpful observation.

"The first thing I need to tell you is that it could be worse. I see women who lose two weeks a month to PMT."

He gives me a long look and I wonder if this is the end of the consultation.

This is a model of medicine that is new to me. The 'It could be worse' diagnosis. As he stares at me meaningfully, my mind wanders. I imagine stumbling into A&E with my foot hanging off.

"It could be worse. It could be the whole leg, you see. That's much worse. In fact, someone came in this morning with a gunshot wound to the head. He died. Your injury is nowhere near as bad as that."

I snap back to the moment. My doctor is still staring at me.

"Right," I manage. Am I supposed to leave now with this slice of sagacity under my belt? I imagine comforting those worst affected by my moods with the 'It could be worse' diagnosis: my partner, my boss, my friends. I smile.

The doctor sighs, as if guessing correctly that this is not quite enough.

"Do you drink a lot of caffeine?" he asks, finally.

I'm surprised by the question, and images of the dozens of cups of coffee, tea and green tea that I drink in an average day fly through my mind.

"Er, quite a lot, yes," I admit, not meeting his eye. Doctors bring out the innate sense of shame in me.

"Right, well try removing that from your diet."

I splutter the word, "Completely?" in the same tone I would use for the question, Are you high on crack right now?

"Yes. Completely. You'd be surprised how much it affects your moods."

I stare at the carpet, slowly taking in the full horror of his advice. On an average day there is more coffee in my veins than blood.

"Right," I murmur, glumly. There are stains on the carpet at my feet. I shuffle my shoe backwards and wonder what they are.

"Drink grapefruit juice when you have cramps and take these tablets if it's particularly painful. Come back and see me if giving up caffeine doesn't seem to have any effect. Oh, and don't drink alcohol during your period."

He hands me a prescription as I stare at him with violence in my eyes.

So, I'm drinking decaff coffee. This pains me. My friend Kyo called me a fake when I brought a cup to the table. James and I have taken to calling my decaff coffee 'pointless coffee,' which just about sums up how I feel about it. I'm also drinking decaff tea and the green tea has been eradicated from my diet completely.

The effects, or rather the lack of the effect of caffeine was notieable to me almost immediately, especially at work. My swings of mood are legendary at the Ministry, with sudden bursts of energy leading me to sing, to laugh maniacally at random thoughts and it's been known for me to occasionally impersonate larger marsupials around my colleagues' desks.

Without my caffeine highs, I work steadily and fairly quietly. My productivity has increased but my happiness is somewhat dented. I feel as though I've lost a section of my personality.

Thank God he didn't mention anything about giving up the crystal meth.