Friday, June 30, 2006

That's You, That Is.

Our company is launching a new Roman-themed MMORPG. This conversation may or may not have taken place yesterday:

K: Ooh, and we've got an interview with History Today.

Me: Excellent!


Me: See that centurion? You love him.


Me: See that leaky impluvium? That's your girlfriend, that is.


Me: See that testudo formation? That's you, that is.


S: Patroclus.

Me: Mmm?

S: It's a BBC magazine.

Me: Oh.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Slight Case Of Overblogging

While I'm in the midst of writing my dissertation about blogging, writing this blog, writing the work blog, tarting myself around the business blogs to voice my opinions about blogging, touring round the very fine blogs of my blogging chums and thinking about the article about blogging that I haven't written yet for that other blog, this company phones me up and asks if I will mastermind the press launch of its new blogging tool.

Could be time for a holiday.

In the real world.

UPDATE: These days I want to accompany every post with a song. So here's terribly under-rated singer-songwriter Archer Prewitt* singing a song whose title might suggest to non-Americans that it's about vaginal lubricant, but actually it's about Kentucky. This man writes lovely, lovely songs that sound quite conventional and MOR-ish at first, until you realise that they're fantastically well crafted and wonderful and veer off in unexpected directions all the time, and are, well, just great really. Can't recommend him enough.

Archer Prewitt - O, KY (mp3) - courtesy of My Old Kentucky Blog

* Ignore the Amazon review comparing this with that whining oaf David Gray. There is no comparison. None.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sunday Night Music

Sometimes I like to listen to horrific, mental, bleeping techno tracks, and sometimes I like to listen to cute, romantic, insubstantial indiepop songs.

Tonight is one of the latter times.

Josh Ottum - It's All Right (mp3) - courtesy of Mill Pond Records.

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England, Their England

When I was out with Smat last weekend she gave me a right telling off for referring to the England football team as 'us'.

"When are we playing next?," I ask her. "What do you mean, 'we'?," she replies. "We aren't in it."

Smat thinks I should think of myself as Scottish, like she is. Like her, I was born there and I grew up there. But unlike her, and my brother, and my two cousins, I never had a Scottish accent. My accent has always been quite posh and English to the core.

The primary school I went to was full of English kids, because we lived by an RAF base, which was full of flight lieutenants and squadron leaders on postings from sister bases in Cornwall and Lincolnshire. My secondary school was a posh public school full of rich English kids whose Dads worked in the City and thought that a spell of roughing it in the North of Scotland would do their kids good. (Mostly it didn't.)

I developed a strange fondness for England from the first time I went there at the age of about 12, and realised that in England, fields are separated by hedges, not fences. For some reason, this was the one thing that made me really want to live there. Fences are horrible. Hedges are nice.

As it turned out, I went to live in Italy before I ever lived in England. Upon leaving school at the tender age of 17, I dispatched myself on a nightmare 48-hour coach trip from Inverness to Florence, where I'd got a job as an au pair. I arrived at five in the morning, to find no one there to pick me up, and unable to speak a word of the language. It wasn't an auspicious start.

It rapidly got less auspicious as I realised that not only was I rubbish at being an au pair, I also wasn't the least bit interested in the things that 17-year old Italian girls were interested in, namely handbags, makeup and Italian boys. In fact I still can't see the appeal of any of these things. The Italians struck me as being obsessed with outward appearances, from clothes to makeup to interior décor, and not so hot on the things that I liked, namely being moody, writing avant-garde plays (obviously Luigi Pirandello was a bit of an exception, but I didn't know about him then) and thinking a lot.

In the end I got so depressed by it all that by Christmas I was on tranquillisers.

Fortunately by Christmas I was also more or less fluent in Italian, and when my employers told me they no longer required my services, I realised that I had achieved what I'd set out to do (i.e. learn the language), and was free to go home. Hurrah!

I finally got to move to England a week shy of my 19th birthday, when I fetched up at the furthest possible university from the parental home, namely Exeter. With no disrespect to any of my Scottish friends (er, that'll be you, Smat), I thought that England was the greatest place on earth. I thought I'd found somewhere I really belonged. It had proper shops, and proper goths, and bands played gigs nearby, and it was full of proper small-town indie kids with proper Arthurian-style* hippy leanings. It was great.

My university chums had other ideas, though. Most of them came from towns and counties within 100 miles of Exeter, and to them I was some sort of exotic outsider. They were constantly teasing me for having a Scottish accent, which was very odd, because I don't**. My name is sort of Scottish, and they assumed that so too was I. So in the end I felt like I didn't really belong at all.

Even after having lived here for 17 years (give or take a couple of years in France), I still don't fully feel like I belong. When I go back to Scotland, I feel like I belong there even less. It's not like I'm an immigrant from some far-flung country. In fact it's such small-scale rootlessness, it's laughable. But even so, the words 'English' and 'Scottish' throw me into a bit of confusion. And even after 17 years, the Cross of St George seems alien to me, while the St Andrew's Cross seems right and familiar.

I'll still be supporting England this afternoon, though. Sorry Smat.

* Well, somewhere between Arthurian-style and Neil-from-the-Young-Ones-style.

** Unless I've been labouring under a misapprehension all this time, and I do in fact talk like a character in an Alan Warner novel. In which case, could someone please let me know? It'll do wonders for my sense of identity.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Choke On That, Causality!

NEWSFLASH: Hurrah - more Futurama finally on its way!

Looks like I won't be cancelling my Sky subscription just yet after all...


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Academia Blues

That essay I wrote during the unearthly small hours of last week came back from the tutor the other day.

I thought it was such an appalling load of facile rubbish that I couldn't even bring myself to open the envelope and confront the inevitable scathing critique. But today I had to, because I had a tutorial this evening. And bugger me if it doesn't have comments like 'this is really exciting!' (for a bit I wrote about Sandi Thom, for Christ's sake), and 'this would make an excellent PhD research topic!', for a bit I wrote about how we all work for Google now.

I can only think of four five possible explanations:

1. Academic standards have dropped so far that a hastily cobbled-together paragraph about the Arctic Monkeys now counts as a work of considerable scholarship.

2. My tutor is insane.

3. My tutor is patronising me.

4. I am doing the most Mickey Mouse degree ever*.

5. My tutor fancies me. (Highly unlikely, but he is quite nice**, so I thought I might as well put it in).

I'm inclining towards 2., since a section I wrote describing what the internet is made of (servers and hubs and puppy dogs' tails) elicited the comment 'I had no idea about this!'.

Next essay is on 'things people make in the blogosphere'. If anyone's seen any cool things (writing, art, photography, comics, poetry, music, recipes, knitting patterns, bits of code that do stuff etc.) that bloggers have made with their own little typing fingers, please do let me know. I *am* doing my own research, honest. I just wouldn't want to miss anything really great.

* I can't make up my mind about this. Sometimes cultural studies seems like this really brilliant secular belief system that explains everything we see around us without having to invoke some invisible, omnipotent Creator (sorry Dave). Other times it seems just to consist of a lot of people spouting a lot of incomprehensible polysyllabic guff about not much.

** I've just remembered I gave him and my fellow MA Pop Culters the address of this blog, oh dear.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Waiter, Waiter, There's A...

I just found a dead mosquito in my M&S salad. Should I:

a) Run around hysterically screaming 'eww! eww!' until my one of my colleagues slaps me across the face?

b) Contact Watchdog immediately?

c) Take it back to the shop and create some kind of almighty scene?

d) Blog about it, in the hope that it will spark some kind of grass-roots consumer uprising against our retail-industry oppressors?

e) Remove it and finish eating the salad?

Cast your votes - and quickly, because I'm starving.

UPDATE: Thank you all for your suggestions. In the end I did d) and then f), which was 'dither about until it starts to smell, then wrap it up in a bag and throw it in the bin'. Oh yes, I'm quite the crusader for consumer justice.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Unsuitable Clothes I Have Worn

I have no real explanation for why I ever wore any of these things:

1. That really short leopard-print miniskirt

2. That even shorter cream-coloured PVC miniskirt

3. That even shorter, furry, dalmatian-print skirt

4. Those black PVC trousers (although actually I really liked them)

5. Those green Red or Dead hotpants (I was drunk when I bought them)

6. Those silver lurex hotpants (although to be frank, I quite liked them as well)

7. That snakeskin-print top (shudder)

8. All these things have

9. Long since been dispatched to the charity shop.

10. Thank god.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

There's A Rainbow Inside My Mind

At one point on my Grand Tour through the subcultures of Britain's youth, I was a raver.

I can't say I ever *really* got into it, mind you. For one thing, I was far too self-conscious to go around sucking lollipops while wearing my hair in bunches, which seemed to be the de rigueur get-up for raver chicks in the very early 90s*. For another thing, well, it wasn't a very intellectual scene, was it? There were no deep and meaningful lyrics to analyse, or corpuses of literature that one had to read in order to 'belong', not like there was with indie and goth.

No, mostly it consisted of getting totally wasted in fields and warehouses, dancing to really mental, bleepy music, blowing whistles, sniffing Vicks inhalers and babbling on about shamanic insight and transcendental journeys to other planes. Hardly Friday night at Les Deux Magots with Jean-Paul and Simone.

So I wasn't particularly sad to hang up my whistle and glowsticks when Britpop came along, and I haven't really looked back since.

Until last September, that is, when long-term Quinquireme readers may recall that I briefly attended the Bestival festival on the Isle of Wight. Not only did I end up wearing a cowboy hat, but I also ended up dancing like a nutter, with 25,000 other people, to Soulwax's mental, bleepy set. Ooh, it was just like 1992 all over again. Fantastic!

So obviously I had to download this Soulwax remix thing that turned up on Said The Gramophone the other day. Oh boy. This is really not for the faint-hearted. The first minute and a half seem to go on forever, and sound like 10,000 old-school fax-modems that have taken it upon themselves to dial straight into your brain and deliver an incoherent message about shouting and excuses. But luckily once the beat kicks in, it just gets better and better and better, until all I want to do is pull my hair into bunches and jump around non-stop for eight hours in a West Country field**.

If there's anyone reading who has ever held aloft a glowstick like the oriflamme at Roncesvalles, this is for you:

Soulwax - NY Excuse (Justice Remix) (mp3) - courtesy of Said The Gramophone

NB I may or may not have listened to this eight times in a row on the way to Islington today. This may or may not be why I now have a terrible headache.

* I wasn't too self-conscious to go out into the world wearing silver lurex hotpants, but that's another story.

** Better not, though - I've got a meeting tomorrow.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Newsflash: 'Carpentry The New Blogging' Shocker

You heard it here first. Well, unless you read it on Ben Hammersley's blog two weeks ago, in which case you heard it here in another ordinal.

Now, where's my brad awl?


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Cop Out

It's been, ooh, four days, so I thought I'd better write something to show I'm still alive. Although I suppose it's possible that this post could be being written by a ninja Turing nanobot rather than the 'real' me, and [continues in cyberpunk-lite vein for several hours...]

I thought about writing something (not something interesting, don't worry) about dating, but my stringent editorial policy doesn't allow that. Then I thought about writing something about the currencies of the blogosphere, but I'm *always* writing about blogging, and anyway if I don't write it here it means I've got something to write about for the nice people at Open Journal Montreal who have asked me to write a guest post. They found me through a tag - yay for tags!

Then I thought about posting up the summer barbecue playlist that I created with help from the Hype Machine (go go go, if you use the search box, it's like a nice, tidy Napster for thirtysomethings), but the sun's gone away, so it wouldn't be right.

Plus this week's heavy schedule of writing pseudo-academic rubbish at 3.30am, oppressing the proletariat at work (although I did unchain them from the spinning jennies in time for the football, because I'm an enlightened despot) and debating the similarities between Bleak House and Big Momma's House with Pashmina, Wyndham, Annie and Tim has made me really quite tired, so... I... think I'll stop now.

Oo, but before I go, here's a soaring, joyous summer song. You know this one, but it's still brilliant. Apparently it was on a Baileys advert, but I don't watch TV so I can listen to it without having to think about how Minnie Riperton has been co-opted twice - once into supplying the vocals for this tune, and once again to sell some gloopy, faux-Irish whisky-based drink. I heartily encourage you to do the same.

4 Hero - Les Fleurs (mp3) - courtesy of Cubik Musik

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Here Is The News

1. Deadline for 4,000-word essay: 9am tomorrow morning. Number of words written so far: 1,769, all of them rubbish. Hmm.

3. I've forgotten to drink my tea again.

4. The always lovely Danny O'Brien turns up in this week's Economist, going on about how O'Reilly wanted him to write a book of Life Hacks, but he couldn't find the motivation to do it. Ho ho ho.

5. That Heart-Shaped Box/Superstition/Jenny From The Block mashup (mp3) is still the greatest tune ever.

4. I haven't watched television for 23 days.

6. Wikipedia now a metaphor for the whole of 21st-century civilisation.

7. Crikey, it's hot, isn't it?

UPDATE: I was going to fix the numbering, but actually I like it better like that.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Conversational Highlight, Mashuptasticness


Tabby Rabbit, LC, M. and I are having a valedictory drink (non-alcoholic mojitos, mmm) to see TR on her way to Boston, Mass., where she'll be setting up the US division of our company.

Tabby Rabbit: ...and there's just so much going on over there, technology-wise, and there's MIT, and there's Harvard, and our new office is actually on Harvard Square, so we'll be right in the middle of it...

Me: Our new office is on Harvard Square? Wow, that's cool.

LC: You're a company director! How can you not know these things?

Me: Mainly because I live in a complete fantasy world.


Me: Things not to say to the staff: 'I live in a complete fantasy world and have no idea what's going on'.


LC: Did you just call me 'the staff'?

Me: Things not to say...

This conversational highlight was partly brought to you by Luke Enlow*'s tip-top 'now with hands-in-the-air breakdown section' version of Apeboy's Smack My Bitch Up/Orinoco Flow mashup, which is *just* the thing to be listening to indoors with the blinds down on the hottest day of the year when you're trying to write 5,000 words about the death of the culture industry while everyone else is waiting for the football to start:

Apeboy - Enya vs. Prodigy (Lenlow Edit) (mp3) - thanks to James for that one.

(MASH)UPDATE**: This J-Lo/Nirvana/Stevie Wonder one is also outstanding***, and I command you to play it at all your summer barbecues:

Lenlow - J-Lo vs K-Co vs S-Wo (mp3)

* Who, as it turns out, also hails from Boston, Mass. This isn't the first time that's happened, either. Spooky musico-geographical coincidences abound on this blog. Sinister!

** Sorry.

*** [About 87 listens later...] Where by 'outstanding' I mean possibly the GREATEST TUNE EVER, with the GREATEST INTRO EVER. Ahem.


Readers! Please help me with my Unscientific Blogging Survey!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Patroclus, Like, Totally Betrays The Sisterhood

The other day I was having some top comment- and email-based chat with Scroobious Scrivener about whether female bloggers are held in lower regard - both inside and outwith the blogosphere - than our male counterparts.

Scroob was convinced that this is the case; I, being the eternal optimist, was trying to argue that all is actually fair and equitable in the fluffy world of blogging. I even went so far as to suggest that female bloggers may have the upper hand over men, seeing as there seem to be more of us, and 'communication' is a skill traditionally associated with the female of the species.

Even this nasty Guardian piece that Tim found didn't sway my judgment. Catherine Bennett is just ill-informed and misguided, I thought. Women aren't victims of patriarchal oppression in blogworld; they participate on an equal footing, they have interesting things to say, and they say them well.

I am clearly a champion of gender equality. Go me!

Then yesterday at work we got a request from our industry rag asking us to nominate blogs that we like. I dutifully dashed off a list of media-friendly favourites, complete with witty and pithy commentary on just what makes each one so great.

No sooner had I pressed 'send' than I thought 'hang on a minute...' and reviewed the list again. All of them, without exception, written by men. I thought about sending an addendum with some of my favourite female-authored blogs in it, but I worried that the (male) journo might have considered them 'frivolous', because they tend to eschew a single theme or gimmick in favour of a mixture of 'serious' topics and personal stuff.

To my absolute horror, I realised this means that even *I* subconsciously think that stuff written by men is more 'important' and 'worthy of attention' than stuff written by women. How on earth did this happen?

*stands back and awaits torches, burning pitchforks, bitter polemic, ad hominem (poor choice of words there) attacks, recriminations, tears before bedtime, etc.*

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Signs Of The Times, Part 3

I think this kind of thing so often nowadays that I asked the lovely and talented Biscuits to make it into a cartoon:

That isn't me in the picture by the way. I can't wear things with buttons down the front.

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Readers! Please help me with my Unscientific Blogging Survey!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Song Of The Week

If, like me, your hatred of the summer months borders on the psychotically violent, then you, like me, will be wanting to listen to soothing music like this:

Peeping Tom - Sucker (mp3) - courtesy of Berkeley Place

Warning: Swearing. Mentalness. Norah Jones*.

CORRECTION: This is the one with the mentalness (and Massive Attack). The other one only has swearing and Norah Jones:

Peeping Tom - Kill the DJ (mp3) - courtesy of Culture Bully

Oh, the narrative in this post has gone all non-linear. Perhaps this is what Rudy Rucker's metanovel is going to be like, in which case, god help us all.

Either way, the Peeping Tom album is pretty damn excellent, in a sweary, mental, totally eclectic kind of way.

* And I'm sure she used to be such a nice girl.

Readers! Please help me with my Unscientific Blogging Survey!

Saturday, June 03, 2006


This afternoon I discovered three things:

1. It's eminently possible to sunbathe from the comfort of my own bedroom floor. Result!

2. While reclining thus, I noticed that someone had hidden something up the chimney. It turned out to be a framed photograph of a half nice-, half evil-looking young man in a cream-coloured cardigan leaning against a drinks cabinet upon which are arranged a number of elaborate liqueur bottles whose appearance suggest a Costa del Sol holiday resort provenance. If I had any imagination, I could invent a story about how someone came to conceal this photograph in the chimney. But sadly I have none, so all I've really got is a manky old photograph and a lot of feathery fairy dust and dried-up bits of old bird's nest all over the carpet.

3. Also while reclining thus, I discovered under my bed a box of letters that Camo Netting Man sent me in the early 90s. Most of our relationship was spent apart, so we both became prolific letter writers. The collection provides what is probably one of the most extensive eye-witness accounts of the early 90s London rave scene that anyone could possibly wish for. On Feb 16, 1992, for example, CNM writes:

This afternoon I walked up to Hammersmith and found a Maplins shop*. I popped in and found a couple of excellent kits which enable you to build complex things. The first was a kit for a ZMW laser and its controller (£125) and the second, slightly more affordable, was for a TVFX module - which (if built correctly) would plug into the TV and generate all sorts of trippy psychedelic patterns, plus there's even an option for a sound to light mode (i.e. the music generates the patterns). It's £70, so if M. and I bought it together, it would be actually affordable. I'd want to see one working before I splashed out a week's worth of money on it, but it definitely sounds like a fun thing to have.

The letters are all brittle and yellowing now, and for all their talk of lasers and technomancy, the very fact that they belong to a pre-internet** era makes them feel like relics from another age. For a moment I thought of donating them to the magnificent Museum of Techno, but there's too much sentimental value attached.

Next week: What I Found Behind The Washing Machine.

* Coincidentally, the same one as I visited here.

** In that we knew it existed, but we'd never seen it.

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Readers! Please help me with my Unscientific Blogging Survey!

Unscientific Research

As I never tire of telling everyone, I'm writing my MA dissertation about blogging. In three years' time this will probably seem terribly quaint and mid-noughties, but for the moment it's still a newish and fascinating subject, which has opened up all kinds of ideas and avenues of enquiry that would never have suggested themselves to me otherwise.

I'm quite far forward on the theoretical side, and now I want to get a better understanding of why people like blogging so much, and also what kind of people like it. So, lovely readers, I want to get some insight from you.

This is highly unscientific and won't stand up to any kind of academic scrutiny, so I'm not going to be quoting anyone in my essay thing. However, if you feel so inclined, I'd be very grateful if you could answer all or any the following questions for me as background research:

Questions for people who have their own blog:

1. Why did you start writing a blog?

2. Has your blog changed your life in any way, and if so, in what way?

3. Has your blog ever caused you any kind of worry, and if so, what sort?

4. How do you decide what to write about?

5. What's the best thing about blogging, in your view?

Questions for people who read blogs but don't have their own:

1. Why do you like reading people's blogs?

2. What sort of thing do you like reading about the most?

3. Why don't you want to start one of your own?

4. If you used to have one but gave it up, why did you give up?

Feel free to put your answers in the comments or send me an email at quadrireme at googlemail dot com.

Much obliged to you all!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hauled Before The Beak

Pashmina correctly notes today that blogging is a good thing, because it inspires you to go out and do stuff so that you have something to write about.

If I didn't have this blog, for example, I would never have skinny-dipped in the phosphorescent waters of the southern Caribbean, attended an obscure electronica festival in Helsinki or met cyberpunk-tastic author Bruce Sterling.

But when I got up this morning I was convinced that today's shenanigans would top all of those. Ever since that time I was tear-gassed in Park Lane amid the burning cars, I've quite fancied myself as an urban guerrilla, a lone fugitive from justice, an off-world outlaw cruising the meatspaces and metaverses of West London armed only with a samurai sword and a copy of Elle Decoration.

My mysterious-lone-renegade status manifests itself in many ways, including, it seems, accidentally failing to pay for vital local authority services. So when I was summoned to court for not paying The Man's own repressive Council Tax, I judged that I had two choices: submit weakly, or defend myself heroically in a Court of Law. 'I could just phone the council,' I thought, 'but going to court - now *that* would be something to blog about'.

So off to court I went, having taken the sensible precaution of actually paying the council tax first, just in case they wanted to send me to prison or something. That would be something to blog about as well, but I don't think they let you take laptops in, and even if they did, they probably don't have wi-fi.

In my mind, I'd imagined it would be like the climactic courtroom scene in JFK, with Kevin Costner (me) delivering a moving and brilliant soliloquy that demonstrated beyond any doubt that The Man had no case against me, and that I had as much right to have my rubbish removed and my street illuminated as any other tax-paying resident of W12.

To my great disappointment, it wasn't like that at all. I was ushered to a table where a nice lady told me that I wouldn't have to pay any court charges, seeing as I was up to date with my payments, and asked me if I wanted to pay by direct debit from now on. I said 'yes please' and filled in a form. The whole thing took two minutes. I briefly considered creating a scene, just so I could have something to blog about, but I had to get back to work.

I didn't even get to use the blog post title that I'd made up on the way there, which was 'I Mumbled A Bit At The Law, But The Law Won'. Still, I *did* get to use the phrase 'hauled before the beak', which is one of my favourite expressions in the whole of English idiom. So perhaps it wasn't a wasted effort after all.