Monday, July 31, 2006


Yes, well, er, that went well, I feel.

Um, nothing to see here.

*whistles nonchalantly*

Social Etiquette 2.0

UPDATE: Ahh, massive waves of blog-related paranoia, it's quite like old times. So, let's put this one back...

Spent a goodly portion of the train journey back from Cornwall pondering the most appropriate way to casually inform the assembled crowd of blog-readers (if indeed there's anyone left following the frankly pathetic frequency of posting recently) that I seem to have become - ahem - romantically involved with another blogger.

In the end I gave up pondering and listened to some loud, inappropriate punk songs instead.

Far the best approach all round, I think.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Quick cry for help - does anyone have access to the Oxford English Dictionary 2005 or 2006 edition, if so, could you please tell me what its definition of 'blog' is?

Many thanks!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

So Long, Chaps

I'm off on a whistle-stop Grand Tour of foreign countries, including France, Switzerland, the Slough Trading Estate and Cornwall, for to bring back exciting and rare objects for my private collection.

Normal service will perhaps be resumed ere long.

UPDATE (because I know you're all, without exception, fascinated by my every move): I'm no longer going to Switzerland, which is fortunate, because the conversation I was going to have in Switzerland took just ten minutes on the phone, but I am going to Suffolk. Does that count?

Actually I'm not really going to many foreign countries at all, am I?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Female Bloggers: Rumoured Existence Confirmed

Hurrah, someone has finally done a survey of bloggers (in the US), and discovered that 46% of America's 12 million bloggers are women.

Blogworld pundits can download the full survey (33-page PDF) here.

Many thanks to Tom L for the top tip-off.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Out For The Summer...Maybe...

I might be taking a little break now, so don't be too distressed if I don't post anything for a while.

On the other hand, I might be back on Friday. But if not, then thanks to everyone for reading/commenting/being generally lovely, and I'll see you in a bit.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Pelargonium Update

The third pelargonium is still in situ, thanks, I like to think, to the near-ceaseless vigil I have been keeping over the last forty-eight hours. So I've only had four hours' sleep! Who cares! The security of my leafy ward is paramount.

So far it has not demonstrated any particular displays of gratitude for my watchfulness. At no point, for example, has it broken into a stirring rendition of 'I Will Always Love You', but that is because self-restraint and a stiff upper lip are all-pervasive attributes among the denizens of Quinquireme Towers.

Having now been forced to return to work in order to earn money and stuff, I have taken the precaution of drafting in a crack squad (well, one) of Cornish scriptwriters to maintain watch. These scriptwriting bodyguards are terribly expensive, though, always demanding payment in the finest Moleskine notebooks and suchlike, so I fear that later in the week I'll need to make alternative arrangements. Especially as on Wednesday night I'm scheduled to attend a launch event that worryingly promises to be like the party from Eyes Wide Shut held at the top of the Towering Inferno.

I would take the pelargonium with me, but I'm not confident that anyone is going to make it out alive. In fact if any of us live to see another blog post, it'll be a Hollywood feel-good miracle.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Mystery Of The Second Pelargonium*

I returned home from work yesterday to discover a white china bowl, which had previously contained one red pelargonium, smashed to tiny pieces and scattered all the way down the front steps.

Evidently the bowl had been toppled from on high by a mysterious agency, but what of its contents? The pelargonium plant itself is nowhere to be found, although a few petals and one solitary leaf still garnish the steps like a minimalist Thai salad.

The third pelargonium (or The Third Pelargonium, as it shall henceforth be known) remains intact - but for how long?

If this was real life, The Third Pelargonium would be packing its bags and hieing itself to a safe house in Starfield Road. But this appears to be a third-rate psychological thriller in the vein of Sleeping With The Enemy, so for the sake of audience titillation, The Third Pelargonium has elected to stay put in spite of the clear and present danger.

I can barely bring myself to leave the house (which is no bad thing, because I have a lot of work to do). Who knows what will happen next? I can but watch and wait...

* Not 'geranium'. Never that. (Thanks for the clarification, cello!)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

25 First Lines

At this very moment I'm supposed to be in London E8, watching Ed Harcourt play in the exotically-named Spice Festival, currently taking place in the exotic locale of Mare Street, Hackney.

However my shadowy contacts on the Eastern front have gone all nichts neues on me, so I find myself ensconced instead in the familiar surroundings of Quinquireme Towers, London W12, with a mug of peppermint tea at my side and a crepuscular breeze ruffling the remaining geraniums.


So while I'm here, let's play the first lines game! You know the score: I write down the first lines of the first 25 songs iTunes's Party Shuffle feature throws at me (excluding instrumentals and songs where the first line is also the title), and you name them. No cheating by looking them up!

There's a FABULOUS PRIZE to be won by the person who can name the most, which may or may not be my dog-eared spare copy of Cold Comfort Farm or my mouldy spare copy of Decline and Fall. What more incentive could you possibly need?

UPDATE: I now declare the contest closed, with the results as follows:

With HALF a point: Billy

With ONE point: Annie Rhiannon, Annie Slaminsky, Longcat, Prolix and the lovely Sara

With ONE and a HALF points: POE

With TWO points: Heather, Occasional Poster of Comments

And the winner, with a mighty FOUR points: Nibus!

This is dead handy actually, because Nibus sits next to me sometimes, so I don't even have to put the FABULOUS PRIZE in the post!

I'll be the first to admit this competition was terribly hard, so very well done to everyone who guessed anything correctly. Remaining answers now filled in below...

1. Peter said to Paul 'you know, all those words we wrote...'
Girl in the War, Josh Ritter

2. I have walked your sorry streets, and lived amongst your people
Catapillar, Lambchop

3. Everything is exactly right, when I walk around here drunk every night
St Ide's Heaven, Elliott Smith - POE and longcat (happy birthday, btw!)

4. Why, keep in touch with my crimes, cos I left it far behind
Rollercoaster, The Jesus and Mary Chain - Billy and POE

5. We was walking through the park
Was It You?, Spoon

6. She loves a soul that I have never been
Wolf Among Wolves, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Annie Rhiannon

7. Now that your picture's in the paper being rhythmically admired
Welcome to the Working Week, Elvis Costello - Heather

8. Life could be so easy, why you gotta make it so hard
Strange Machines, Peter and the Wolf

9. I've been outside, invited in, but I couldn't abide, wouldn't miss it again
Let's Get Lost, Elliott Smith - POE

10. In those days there was a kind of fever that pushed me out the front door
Losing Haringey, The Clientele

11. In this secret time, ah
Reel by Real, XTC - Nibus

12. The rising moon faces the sickening sun
Twilight of a Champion, The The - Nibus

13. Tonight we don't have a lot to go on
Matching Weight, Trespassers William - Occasional Poster of Comments

14. I get a feeling there's gonna be a riot
Six Days, DJ Shadow

15. All the things that will be, all the places we'll see
Yr Room, The Shortwave Set

16. The light colour in this room
Mistress, Red House Painters - Nibus

17. Wake up you sleepyhead
Oh! You Pretty Things, David Bowie - Annie (honourable mention to Sara)

18. Loosen the wire, your time has expired, the only word left is 'goodbye'
The Velocity of Saul at the Time of His Conversion, Okkervil River

19. Through the woods and frosted moors
Spell, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Heather

20. You gave me hope amidst my sorrow
New Light of Tomorrow, Husky Rescue - Occasional Poster of Comments

21. The light dissolves the darkness
Love Becomes a Savage, The Lilac Time - Nibus

22. If my senses fail, stay with me till they go, cos I don't want to be alone
Greetings in Braille, The Elected

23. Everybody find they own thing, and I guess you think you've found yours
Break in the Road, Betty Harris

24. When the devil came, he was not red
Hell is Chrome, Wilco - Prolix

25. I feel I walk, my body lies, I am lying here with you in my bed
Go Check, Ms John Soda

Go to it! I'll tick them off when they've been correctly guessed...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Degrees of Separation

At the weekend, Billy invented this game on his blog which I'm convinced is incredibly meaningful on all kinds of levels.

The aim is to go to a random blog by clicking on the 'next blog' button (which everyone apart from me seems to have) at the top of the screen, and then find your way back to through blogroll links. Keep a note of the blogs you travel through, there's no going backwards unless the blog you arrive on doesn't have a blogroll, and the smallest number of hops wins.

I was astonished, and probably a bit more excited than is healthy, to find that I made it back fairly easily from two random blogs to Billy's; one in 15 hops, and one in 8. What struck me was how much it was like being lost in the real world: you instinctively head for something that looks familiar (a city, an industry, a special interest), and you get an odd sense of relief when you get to a blog you recognise and know that you're going to make it back.

When you do get back, you almost feel like putting the kettle on and having some tea and chocolate biscuits while your socks dry out and you regale everyone with stories of the wonderful things you've seen.

This all tells me:

1. There must be an equivalent to the real-world six degrees of separation rule in the blogosphere, and if lots of people do this experiment, it should be possible to work out what the average number of degrees of separation is.

2. Contrary to the traditional view of the blogosphere, where the value of a blog is measured by the number of links into it, in this game the valuable blogs are the ones with lots of links out. I don't know yet if that means anything.

3. The blogosphere probably isn't as big as we think it is.

4. This experiment hints at what a blogosphere map might be like. GSE says blogosphere maps already exist, but I've never seen one and can't even begin to imagine what it would look like. For a start, it would be constantly changing as new blogs start and others die, and people link to new blogs and remove links to others. There is an early attempt here, but I think they must have given up in horror at the enormity of the task.

5. There must be blog equivalents of Clapham Junction* for this game, where you can orient yourself if you want to head in a particular direction. I think the characteristics of these must be: a) their name indicates they're based in a certain city and/or b) their name indicates they revolve around a certain industry or special interest.

6. I am plumbing depths of geekiness to which even I had never previously sunk.

I have no idea what it all means, though. I think it's a case of 'write this down now, because it might become important later'.

* Just remembered that Sean told me earlier that Malcolm Gladwell is on the case with this already, though his is slightly different, because in this game the individual bloggers may not be 'well connected' in the social sense at all; they just have lots of links out.

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Crouching Plotline, Hidden Ending

I saw that film Hidden hier soir, and while it was undoubtedly gripping from the off, and there was a very nice white leather sofa in it, and Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche were commendably bourgeois throughout, am I the only person who didn't get it?

I mean, is it just me, or does the film just stop, without explaining anything? I still don't get who sent the tapes. But then I am quite remarkably stupid with films and telly.

Anyone wishing to explain the plot to me in words of one syllable enunciated very slowly, please feel free to do so via email (not in the comments, otherwise that would be terrible spoilers).

Oo, it's just like Memento all over again.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Albums I Would Buy Just For The Cover, No. 1

The Tiny - Starring: Someone Like You

I don't know if that's a giant Moomin (Moominzilla!) weeping over some Toytown tower blocks, but isn't it just lovely?

Apparently Swedish acoustic 'collective' The Tiny were on tour last month with my top showbiz chum* Ed Harcourt. How I missed this is beyond me.

Tomorrow, if I get my webspace working, my inaugural mp3 posting (hubristic pre-emptive fanfare please) will be The Tiny's 'Lake', which is seven minutes and eleven seconds of icy Tori Amos-esque vocals, sparse double bass and twinkling piano bits, and is an exquisite song about being in love while at the same time being in the middle of a lake, for reasons unspecified. And as such it should definitely have accompanied those scenes in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are making snow angels on the frozen lake.

Oo, wouldn't movie soundtrack-chooser just be the Best Job Ever?

Right! Not quite the way I was going to do it, but here goes:

The Tiny - Lake

(buy from iTunes | buy from Amazon)

UPDATE: Oh my GOD, it actually works!! It seems to be in iTunes (m4a) format, rather than mp3, but it works, by god! Oo, I feel like the Wright brothers!! Right, best go and see to some disclaimers...

UPDATE 2: Oh yes, that's what I meant to say - everyone is to go to Billy's, where there is a fabulous pop lyric quiz on the go! No cheating now...

* In the sense that I was once introduced to him, whereupon he said 'hello', and I said 'hello'. Oh yes, I'm quite the dazzling raconteur, me.


Thursday, July 06, 2006


Things that have gone missing from my flat recently, despite the fact that no one has been round:

1. A white hand towel

2. My Archer Prewitt CD

3. A geranium

I think my flat is being haunted by the malevolent spirit of Linda Barker. Either that or I've got a dose of Le Horla. Frankly I'm not sure which is worse.

UPDATE: The Mystery Of The White Hand Towel (a lesser known Dorothy Sayers work) and The Archer Prewitt Enigma have now been solved, with the respective miscreants owning up in the comments box. The Curious Incident Of The Geranium In The Night-Time remains unsolved at the time of writing.

UPDATE 2: The Great She Elephant is doing a survey about blogs and PR, and I urge you all to go and impart your wisdom and experiences at this special site she's set up (oo, get her, all rigorous and that!)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Mary Dejevsky Update

Just letting everyone know that I (like others) have had a reply from Mary Dejevsky of the Independent.

Here it is below - it's polite and fair and above all concedes that we do exist:
oh dear, more and more hot water. i set out to do one thing, which was to reply to iain dale's question - why so few female bloggers. he was talking about politics, but my impression - yes, impression - was similar. so i offered some reasons why. it now transpires that i (and perhaps he) have been looking in completely the wrong places, or not looking assiduously enough at all. lo and behold there are hundreds and hundreds of women bloggers out there - all demonstrating their existence. that's great. i have no idea how to count bloggers.

one day maybe i'll write another blogging column, repenting. not quite yet, though. i've still got a whole lot of protests to answer. all the best, mary
I'll be interested to see what she comes up with by way of a repenting article - but even this goes to show that we *do* have the power to change mainstream media perception, which is not only interesting but also quite exciting.

All credit to Mary for replying - I think we can probably call off the attack dogs now!

Normal Service Resumes

Right, everyone, quick - over to the quite wonderfully named Bricolage Fantasy*, where you can download one of the loveliest, shimmeriest, Finnish countrytronica songs ever, to wit, New Light Of Tomorrow by Husky Rescue.

The album remains highly recommended (not just for its splendid artwork), and I see they're even selling it in FOPP these days.

And this weekend I swear I am going to stop cheekily linking to other people's downloads and start posting up mp3s of my own, if only I could get my webspace working. Why is everything so difficult?

* Which is very similar to the name I would choose if I ever formed a band, viz. Formica Travesty.


Monday, July 03, 2006

An Uppity Opinionated Ho Bag* Writes...

UPDATE: Spinny has had a (mystifying) reply from Mary Dejevsky, see here!

UPDATE 2: I've put my original post up on (actually, is that a terrible breach of netiquette?), so if you fancy digging it, go here. May as well test this 'citizen journalism' malarky to its limits...

Well I don't know about Tim or Spinny, but I certainly haven't had a reply from the now-infamous Mary Dejevsky to the email I sent her à propos of her article in last Thursday's Independent (see post below).

So here for the record, before we move on to nicer, more frivolous things, is the email I sent:
Hello Mary,

I read your article in the Independent on Thursday. Please let me introduce myself. I'm a woman, and I have been writing a blog for four years. I'm 35, married but divorcing, I have no children, I run a company that has 15 employees and I am taking a part time Master's degree with the Open University.

I would like to invite you to visit my blog. It's at If you do come along, and you are most welcome, please look at the list of links on the right-hand side. This is called a blogroll - it's a list of links to other blogs I read. It's divided into two sections: 'Meatspace' (people I know in real life) and 'Cyberspace' (people I know on the internet).

I link to 44 other blogs. Two of them are written by the same person, so that's a total of 43 other bloggers. Twenty of them are women, and 23 of them are men. This does not suggest to me that female bloggers are 'few and far between'.

If you click on any one of these links, you will arrive at another blog with another blogroll on the right-hand side. Here again you will find a fairly even distribution between male and female bloggers.

I have no children and no husband at home, but plenty of my female blogger friends do. You might like to look at the following, for example:

You might also like to consider the number of female bloggers who are too young to be married and have children. Having a blog is just a normal part of life for today's teenage girls and young women.

Although I do not have children or a husband at home, this does not mean I have plenty of time on my hands. I work 12 hours a day, and at the weekends I am studying for my postgraduate degree. However, I love blogging. I make time to blog. I get up at between 3.30am and 5.30am most days, so I have time to do all the things that I like doing as well as the things that I have to do - and that includes blogging.

Blogging gives women - and men - an opportunity to voice their own opinions and tell their own stories, which on the whole are not dull and tedious, but fantastically varied, intelligent, funny, moving and fascinating. It also gives women - and men - an opportunity to reach out and find new friends, chat to them, support them and be supported by them. For women - and men - who spend a lot of time at home every day with young children, blogging is a way of socialising without leaving the house. It's fun, it's healthy, it's interesting, and millions of women are doing it. I'd really like it if you came and saw for yourself.

Well, Mary, you had your chance.

Meanwhile, here in the Land of Make-Believe, the La Redoute catalogue has just arrived, featuring the most loveliest raspberry floral-print Princesse Tam-Tam** underwear, which will be mine forthwith, oh yes...

And in other news (lest anyone think I'm going a bit girly and might start writing about gynaecology at any moment), peerless independent music outfit Boomkat is having a Summer Bargain Clearance sale on everything ever released on the matchless Morr record label!

Morr is home to a ton of achingly cool, ethereal, Scandinavian, German and Japanese electronica, and much fey indie goodness besides. I shall be taking this opportunity to stock up on Lali Puna and Múm, and, ooh, who knows what else. Go to it, good readers!

As a taster, here's Lali Puna covering 'Together In Electric Dreams', which I found at Music Is Art, one of the most beautiful blogs I've ever seen. Must learn web design skills immediately.

Lali Puna - Together In Electric Dreams (mp3)

* Thanks to First Nations for this fine designation.

** Warning: Flash, scantily-clad women, music.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

From Your Non-Existent Correspondent

There was an article in the Independent on Thursday called There's A Good Reason Women Don't Write Blogs, written by columnist Mary Dejevsky.

The Indy wants you to pay a pound for the privilege of reading this ill-informed tosh, but I've done that for you, and have pasted the full article below. I've also highlighted some choice bits in bold.

I could do a nice Fisking job on this, but that would make a very long post, and we'll see if that happens in the comments.

But I would like ask to the following questions:

1. Where does Mary Dejevsky get the idea from that 'except in areas such as childcare and gynaecology, it is across the board that women bloggers are few and far between?' She has no statistics to back up this assertion*.

2. Is Mary Dejevsky aware of the hypocrisy of using an opinion column in a national newspaper to claim that women are 'too bashful' to voice their own opinions?

3. Or is she inviting us non-existent female bloggers to be inspired by her example, as an 'opinionated [woman] expressing forthright views in [...] the media'?

4. If we're to be inspired by columnists like Mary Dejevsky into writing a blog, why then does she say that blogging is a passing fad that is attractive to men because of its 'gadgetry and self-aggrandisement'?

5. How does she square her point that most women are too busy looking after their children and cooking dinner for their husbands to blog, with the fact that she's said that most female bloggers are writing about 'childcare and gynaecology'?

Should you be moved to thank Mary Dejevsky for bravely speaking out on behalf of the nation's timid, downtrodden legions of 50s-style mothers and wives, her email address is

Enjoy. And thanks to Sean for alerting me to this article.

Mary Dejevsky: There's a good reason why women don't write blogs

Men seem to take it for granted that they've something to say and that the rest of us want to hear it

Published: 29 June 2006

Iain Dale is a Conservative pro-Cameron MP. I do not know him, and I am just as certain that he does not know me. He does, though, put himself about. He writes one of the more prolific blogs (**) to come out of this Parliament, purveying commentary, analysis, gossip and the like via his website, with what seems like hour-to-hour, if not minute-by-minute, frequency.

Iain - as I am sure he would like me (and you) - to call him, recently made an observation that simply leapt out of his stream of consciousness. "It doesn't matter whether you're talking about Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem bloggers," he wrote, "you won't find many written by women." He went on to observe, admitting the sexist stereotype, that women, "being much better gossips than men ought to be ideally suited to the world of blogging". I curtail his prolixity, but he concludes: "There must be some reason why women don't blog as much as men in the political sector."

Well, Iain, I venture to correct you on one point. It is not just in the political sector, as you call it, that fewer women blog. Except in areas such as childcare and gynaecology, it is across the board that women bloggers are few and far between. And it does not take a huge of the imagination to suggest at least two reasons why.

The first is that, for all the efforts to educate men and women equally, to encourage them to compete for honours, even to feminise the examination system by introducing coursework, women (still) tend to be more bashful than men about what they think. It is not that, as veteran male gender-warriors might growl, we have much to be bashful about. It is rather that we tend to be less confident than men that the rest of the world wants the benefit of our opinion.

Men seem to take it for granted not only that they have something to say, but that the rest of us should find it worth hearing - or, in the case of the blogosphere, reading. Iain Dale is not the only verbal incontinent who ploughs on, apparently regardless of who might be listening or reading. Alas, his confidence is repaid by the dozens who seem to respond to every post. The cacophony of so many (mostly male) opinions is deafening.

Our female bashfulness, I submit, may be gradually being drummed out of us by a combination of good teaching, co-ed schools and colleges, and the example of opinionated women expressing forthright views in other parts of politics and the media. The second reason why women don't blog, however, is more serious, because it is more intractable: women simply do not have the time.

Earlier this week, I heard Finland's minister for foreign trade and development, speaking in London to celebrate the centenary of women's suffrage in Finland. They were the first women in Europe to gain the vote. And the record of women's participation in Finnish life is as laudable as one would expect from Scandinavia.

Yet, as Ms Paula Lehtomaki noted, without the diffidence that might attend the same observation in this country, the next frontier had to be the home. Women had come a long way: safeguards against discrimination, for equal pay and opportunities were all in place and largely observed. But the fact was that in joining the workforce on equal terms, women were all too often tied to two jobs: equality, even in enlightened Scandinavia, all too often stops at the front door.

How many homes are there - here, or in tech-savvy Finland - where the man will think it quite excusable to shuffle in late for dinner because he has been reading or writing his online diary, but would greet with ridicule or fury the prospect of dinner being late (or non-existent) because his partner had been delayed in the blogosphere?

And for dinner, we can substitute baby's bathtime, the children's high-tea, the regular taxi-service families run between sports and after-school clubs, the elderly parents that need looking after. It is this old-fashioned, and persistent, division of responsibilities that frees men to indulge in the time-consuming fashion of the day; and the gadgetry and self-aggrandisement involved in blogging only make it that much more attractive.

Iain Dale calls his blog "Iain Dale's diary". Those of us of a certain age - I can faintly recall the signature tune - know this to be an allusion to the fictitious radio diary of a GP's wife and receptionist which was broadcast on weekday afternoons. It was a soap opera for its day, very BBC Home Service. More tied to the Fifties way of life than The Archers, it did not survive into this more hurried, less homely age.

But there is a point here. In the days of Fifties-style, essentially segregated working, Mrs Dale had the time to keep a diary. Today's Mrs Dale would be the doctor herself, rushing in to the surgery from the school run and organised enough to assemble dinner at the end of the day. She would be too tired at the end of it all, or have more pressing things to do, to advertise her thoughts in the blogosphere. Diary-keeping, unlike family responsibility, has entered the public sphere and crossed the gender-divide.

* I have no statistics to refute it, but it's not borne out in my experience, and I'm sure that Pash, Tabby Rabbit, Scroobious, Lizzy, Extemporanea, Annie, Belladona, Betty, Great She, Smat, Spinny, Ori, Taiga, Arabella, First Nations, Biscuits, Surly Girl, Catpee and Urban Chick would agree. And that's just from my blogroll.

** Who, as Prolix points out, has himself fisked Mary's article here.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006


I'm reading this biography of Philip K. Dick by Emmanuel Carrère, as recommended to me by a pseudonymous individual on a chat forum far, far away. It is fabulous. Funniest bit so far (with apologies to anyone who knows this joke already):

Terry Carr, the Ace paperback editor, used to joke that if the Bible had been published as science fiction, it would have had to be cut down to two volumes of twenty thousand words each; the Old Testament would have been retitled Master of Chaos, and the New Testament The Thing with Three Souls.

I'm quite scared to keep reading this book, as I just know that poor old Phil is going to go increasingly nuts, and I can't bear stuff like that, especially as I find PKD's thought processes and neuroses uncomfortably familiar. But it's so well written and funny and engaging and a great* insight into McCarthy-era America that so far, it's just great.

In other news, apparently some football is on soon. Better go.

* Where by 'great', I mean 'disturbing and eerily reminiscent of the pseudo-paranoia of terrorism that our government is trying to instil in us today'.

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Academia Blues, Part 2

While in the shower, I had this sudden image in my head of me, thirteen years ago, sitting down to my final degree exam in Twentieth Century French Literature.

This was my favourite of all subjects. I'd been revising for months. I'd read four books by Sartre, two by Camus and one by top nutter Alain Robbe-Grillet, and I knew them more or less off by heart. I'd even found a handwritten letter from Robbe-Grillet inside one of his books in the library, which no one had ever taken out. I figured that because I was the only person who'd bothered to read the book, I was somehow entitled to own this letter. So I stole it, and promptly lost it.

I had no money, and I hadn't eaten for four days. In the exam I had to write three essays out of seven given questions. There was one question covering the entire oeuvre of Camus and Sartre. There were no questions about Robbe-Grillet. There were five questions about books I hadn't read. And there was a seventh question which is still etched on my mind, thirteen years later. It went:

Nothing is simply one thing. Discuss.

I got up and walked out of the exam without writing anything.

UPDATE: I have a nasty feeling that someone is going to come along and tell me that *was* the question about Robbe-Grillet.

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