Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Up The Twitter, Part 2

Having been befriended in the night by Norse blog-goddess Annie Rhiannon, I have started thinking about Twitter again.

Naturally I can't just muck about on Twitter like everyone else, oh no. I have to understand what's so important about it.

I have to develop a Theory.

Is it fragmenting our linear sense of time, by showing what hundreds of different people are doing at the same moment? Is it shattering our sense of direction and meaning and purpose into kaleidoscopic shards of inconsequential thoughts and actions? Is it like blogging for ADHD sufferers? Can anyone communicate anything meaningful in 140 characters or fewer? If so, will it give rise to any new literary formats? Is it just a bunch of self-regarding old arse?

Your views would be much appreciated. In the meantime I am going to have a nice cup of tea.

UPDATE: I'm now feeling very smug, because just a few hours and ten comments later, and thanks in no small part to the contributions of Valerie and Sean, I reckon I've finally understood what Twitter is all about!

Basically it all harks back to what Sherry Turkle was saying in this article from the New Scientist in September last year - that people are becoming so used to having a social network on the internet that their feelings and experiences no longer seem real to them unless they share them online. So essentially people like typing what they're thinking or doing into Twitter because it makes it seem more real.

I suppose it is a sort of new version of taking a photograph, or capturing something on video.

Anyway, that theory makes a lot of sense to me, because most of the people on Twitter don't seem like idiots, but rather they seem to be very webby, connected people who are used to being online all the time. Bingo.

Thanks to everyone who suggested things in the comments - you have no idea how happy it has made me to be able to solve a problem with the help of disembodied blog-friends in Reykjavik, London, Bristol, Bangkok and San Diego. Ahhh, it's enough to restore your faith in the internet, isn't it?

Dear lord, I think the isolation is getting to me.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Things I Would Have Photographed If Only I Had A Camera


A yummy mummy and her toddler are standing in front of a large plate glass window, facing away from it.

YM: Do you want to go for a wee?

Toddler: No.

YM: You'll tell me when you do?

Just centimetres behind them, an enormous, angry Sumatran tiger bares its teeth at their turned backs. Oblivious, yummy mummy and toddler move off towards the fish and chip stall.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Not Trying To Be Funny Or Clever, For Once

Wyndham and cello both kindly asked how I felt about moving back to France again.

I'm not keen to talk too much about this situation, because a lot of people are emotionally or logistically involved in one way or another, and some of the people involved read this blog, and some of the people involved don't read this blog, and it doesn't seem right to talk about any of these people too much.

So the basic story is this: my mum lives on her own in the rural south of France, in a house that I bought for her after she and my dad split up. She is very ill with cancer, and she had some chemotherapy, which has helped a bit but not entirely, and now she needs a lot of looking after.

For the last eight months my lovely brother and I have been taking it in turns to spend a few weeks down here, but for reasons I won't go into, it makes more sense for me to take over full time, at least for the next year or so.

So I've given up my flat in London, as of the end of April, and the current plan is to move all my effects and belongings down here in the week after Easter.

My feelings on the subject are probably neither here nor there, but they are decidedly mixed. Obviously I am very distressed about my mum, especially as there's nothing I can do to make her any better. Other than that, and apart from the fact that I will have to work remotely, I suppose the three things that worry me most are:

a) The loneliness - that picture in the post below is the view from my terrasse, and as you can see it does not exactly depict civilised society in full throng.

b) My complete lack of practical skills - it's all very well that I am here, but I can barely cook and my looking-after-seriously-ill-people abilities register at about minus 15 on the Florence Nightingale scale. Although I am learning to spend at least some of my time in the real world, however difficult it might be.

c) Maintaining a long-distance relationship - I've done it before and have no qualms about doing it again, but it does become worrying when I don't know how long I will be here, and of all the places his career might be heading, the most rural part of the poorest département of France isn't really likely to be one of them.

So that's it really - everyone has obstacles and problems to contend with in their life, so I'm not seeking sympathy. But it *will* be very nice to know over the coming months that you lovely blog-readers and commenters are there; your (virtual) presence will make a big difference to me.

Friday, February 23, 2007

So That's It Then

In April I am moving from here:

To here:

Now I suppose I just sit back and wait for my £70,000 advance...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Treading Water

I'm treading water on the blog rather, while several pivotal, crucial and unimaginably far-reaching aspects of my life click into place.

At least I hope they're going to click into place - they might shatter under the pressure and fly off in hundreds of different directions, like the retaining wall of a lego viking fortress when a cack-handed amateur (me) attempts to slot in the gate to the dragon's cage.

I was going to regale you in the meantime with a colourful tale from my past, probably the one about when I was manhandled by the police during an episode of mass civil disobedience on royal property (my relationship with QEII & co having been somewhat varied over the years), but then I started thinking about the weighty aspects of my life that are about to click into place (or not), and then I started thinking about lego, and then I thought I'd quite like a cup of mint and liquorice tea, and then...

*goes to make tea*

...but you know, by this time next week everything should have become clear, and I can stop wittering on in such a vague and annoying fashion. I hope.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Eaten Trifles

After a 25-year hiatus, I have now eaten trifle twice in the same week. I am wondering if this is a sign. Are we in for some kind of 70s party food revival? Will there be cheese footballs and sausages on sticks? Will it lead to joyless wife-swapping, Nana Mouskouri and oversized spectacles?

I have some pictorial evidence (not of joyless wife-swapping), but New Blogger isn't letting me upload photos just at present.

In foreign media news: I started giggling twice in the paper shop this morning; once at the title of a magazine I hadn't seen before, called Psycho Enfants, and once at French Elle Decoration's giddy declaration: 'On craque pour le style girly!'*

(Must buy floral teacups immediately.)

In music news: Chicago's finest unsigned twee electro-country band, Track a Tiger, have a new album. Possibly the only US indie band to link to Cricketing Dave from their website, Track a Tiger are generously giving away two tracks from the new opus, viz:

Track a Tiger - Saint About To Fall (mp3)

Track a Tiger - All These Accidents (mp3)

As ever, it isn't going to change your life, but it'll sound nice while you're potting geraniums, having a bath or sipping Lapsang Souchong from a floral teacup. Which, after all, are what Sundays are all about.

* The lovely Mr BC promptly translated 'on craque' as 'on crack', which made me laugh a lot.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Simulacra Saturday

For some reason, in the mp3 blogosphere, Saturday is traditionally Covers Day.

(I might just have made that up, but it seems like a good tradition to me.)

So here for your entertainment are four lovely tasteful covers that will bring joy to your ears and a wanky postmodern knowingness to your music library:

The Magic Numbers - Crazy In Love (mp3) [Buy from Amazon]
Lo-fi acoustic cover of chavtastic Beyoncé floor-filler. Genuinely makes my stony little heart feel quite skippy. Is that wrong?

Lambchop - This Corrosion (m4a)
Lo-fi, ponderous version of everyone's favourite overblown goth anthem, with lovely piano bits. Still my favouritest cover ever.

Devotchka - Venus In Furs (m4a) [Buy from Amazon]
I've never really listened to the Velvet Underground original, but Devotchka make it sound like an itinerant crew of whirling dervishes having a party in Castle Dracula. Which can only be A Good Thing.

(With thanks to Occasional Poster of Comments for introducing me to Devotchka in the first place.)

Nina Gordon - Straight Outta Compton (mp3)
Thanks to the lovely Mr BC for this one, erm...lo-fi acoustic cover of top sweary NWA gangsta rap classic. Strangely beautiful.

NB If anyone has any noisy, obnoxious covers of lo-fi acoustic songs, please do send 'em over. It would be nice to get a balance.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Seven Things

Stolen from Tim and Spinny:

Seven Things I Have Wanted To Be

1. Archaeologist

2. Journalist

3. Waitress

4. Japanese

5. Steven Johnson

6. Clay Shirky

7. Taller

Seven Things I Have Been

1. An estate agent

2. A boy

3. In love

4. An indie kid

5. A raver

6. On medication

7. Happy

(It's that kind of day.)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

It's Time To Face The Truth

I just found myself googling james blunt you're beautiful lyrics.

I don't think I can show my stony little face in the blogosphere again.

COMPLETELY UNRELATED UPDATE: Does anyone know the code for showing the labels in the sidebar? I don't want to shift over my whole template to one of the new ones, but I want to list the labels...thanks in advance!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bloggers Are Lonely Outcasts, Says Canadian Bloke

I know, I know - what better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than by idly trawling through my ex-husband's ex-lover's blog? Ah, the romance of it.

Still, I'm glad I did, because she posted a link to this article from the Windsor Star, in Canadialand, in which local author Michael Keren declares that blogging is 'melancholic and illusionary', and that 'the majority of [bloggers] remain in the dark, remain in the loneliness'.

Worth a read, not only for Professor Keren's Hardyesque cast of mind and whimsical use of pop cultural references to explain the fundamental sadness and alienation that lie at the heart of blogging, but also because if you screw up your eyes and peer through your fingers, it's a bit like reading an article from the Onion.

Happy Valentine's day, my fellow lonely, deluded outcasts. And remember: I am not real, and neither are you.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ask The Audience, Part 2

Despite my best efforts, nothing in the least bit interesting has happened* in the last few days, so I find myself at a loss for something to blog about.

I think I can get away with this once a year, and last year your suggestions kept me going for just about the whole of March. So I think it's time once more to ask you lovely people: what should I blog about next?

* To give you an idea, highlights of the past week include:

1. Slight mauling at hands (or rather, teeth) of large Rottweiler.

2. Re-installed last.fm.

3. Ate trifle for first time since 1982.

4. While strolling among the vines, acted out scene from World of Warcraft, which resulted in second slight mauling, this time by an Alsatian.

5. Got rash on face, not sure how. Possibly transferred by Rottweiler or Alsatian during episode of slight mauling.

6. Wrote a shopping list, went to supermarket. Omitted to take list out of back pocket during shopping trip. As a result, failed to purchase Twinings Earl Grey tea bags.

7. Drank a lot of Liptons Russian Earl Grey, which is horrid.

So as you can see, I need help.

UPDATE: Although I *did* listen to Loganoc's Saturday afternoon radio show, 'Twee as Fork', which was ace, as she played a nice song by Elliott Smith and that CSS song that I like.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

How To Win Commenters And Influence People

Silicon Valley gossip-rag Valleywag reckons it has the definitive guide to writing really popular blog posts.

Apparently it's all about winding people up, but also making them feel loved and a bit sexy at the same time:

How To Achieve Blog Nirvana

NB Although I see the post itself has two comments...

NNB Of course, as any fule kno, comments are only one indicator of blog popularity, two others being 'readers' and 'people linking to you'.

NNNB Ooh, talking about blog popularity is making me feel all dirty and vulgar. It's like talking about money, or sex. Brrr.

NNNNB Unless you're writing about money and sex in a funny or educational way, obviously.

NNNNNB Shut up now patroclus.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

What All Indie Music Should Be Like

1. Catchy guitar hooks (which sound a bit like what I remember the theme to The Magic Roundabout being like, no, wait, that's the keyboard bits, I'll start again...)

1.5 Swirly keyboard bits that sound like the theme to The Magic Roundabout

2. Androgynous French indie-girl singer

3. Cute Swedish indie-boy guitarists

4. Less than three minutes long

5. Endearingly DIY video, featuring endearingly DIY 'effects'

6. Infectious shouty bits that make you want to go and shake your hair a lot in indie clubs, even though you are thirty-six years old

7. Brilliant.

Oh dear god, I posted a YouTube video. It must be the beginning of the End Times. Here, have an olde-worlde audio file as well; it's considerably better quality:

Envelopes - Freejazz (m4a) [Buy from Amazon]

Monday, February 05, 2007

Expat Biscuit Dilemma

Most people when they go to the supermarket simply buy things and go home again. Not so my dad, who is the sort of person to whom Things Happen.

(While I go to the Spar in St Chinian most weeks to buy cat food and milk, Dad goes to the Spar in St Chinian once and ends up in court as a witness to an episode of Britons Drunkenly Failing To Integrate.)

Dad's trip to Intermarché in Bédarieux the other day was no exception. A casual mention to the checkout girl that it would be nice if they stocked tins of Ambrosia Creamed Rice led to his being whisked upstairs for a meeting with The Buyer, an enthusiastic individual with commendable aspirations to retail excellence.

The Buyer was excited to have captured a real live Brit, and pressed my dad into spilling the culinary secrets of his homeland. Did the British really want to buy Mars drinks, blueberry muffin mix and cans of Dr Pepper, as his supplier would have him believe? The amount of sugary muck that the store was having to throw away had led him to suspect otherwise.

Eventually, my dad agreed to take away the supplier's catalogue and return with a list of grade A, sure-fire exemplars of British cuisine that could not possibly fail to fly off the shelves.

Which is how Nibus, the lovely L, my dad, the stunning J and I found ourselves last night hunched over the supplier catalogue engaged in heated debate about the relative merits and saleability of a cavalcade of tinned and processed goods.

No category of foodstuff emerged as being more contentious than that of the chocolate biscuit. The room was divided over whether the milk chocolate Digestive or the milk chocolate Hobnob was the surer path to expat retail nirvana. Eloquent, passionate, statistical and probabilistic arguments were presented for each. At one point I attempted to clear the impasse by texting Britain's foremost snack food expert for a second opinion, but no reply was forthcoming.

With The Biscuit Question still unresolved, we eventually produced a list of five products so loaded with nostalgia, Sehnsucht, primordial cultural resonances and E numbers that no expatriate Briton could possibly resist their allure.

A commemorative case of Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup ('Out of the eater came forth meat, out of the strong came forth sweetness') to anyone who can guess all five correctly.