Saturday, March 29, 2008

Happiness is a hotpad

Not to be confused with hotpants, which aren't nearly as good for a sore shoulder.

Friday, March 28, 2008


This week I am having the hardest time writing anything at all. I feel like I should either find a good, entirely impersonal topic to talk about, like my having finished Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, or I should say what's on my mind, and talk about all of the random anxiety. I am anxious by nature, or rather have been anxiety-prone for the last three or four years. I am good at immediate coping, not good with long-term stuff. Anxiety will build up in my life like pressure behind a dam.

I need a haircut.

For some reason at times like these when things feel out of focus music moves quietly into the foreground. I have Woody Guthrie's Hard Travelin' stuck in my head. Not because of anything profound, because I am nothing if not superficial, but because I was listening to it the other day and it is catchy.

So...that haircut? Appointment made.

Which brings me back to the anxiety and my style, which would have appalled my English profiency prof. Knowledge is not always power. I read up on things, and that seems like a wise thing to do. Better the devil you know, after all (does anybody ever wonder "better the devil you know - what?" like me? Or am I just weird?) To quote Elvis Costello the truth can't hurt you/ it's just like the dark/scares you witless/ but in time you see things clear and stark.

Well, sort of anyway.

I love that song, the Elvis Costello one. I am being vague, I know, about what is going on. This is on purpose. I'm sorry. Maybe it would have been better not to write at all, but I'm here now.

I do love my dramatic music.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Things you sometimes want to tell people

I've had this stuck in my head for days. The sentiment, if not the content, is appropriate.

That, and I love that she sings I'm a five-foot mirror for adoring himself; here's seven years bad luck.

On a more soothing note:

Bragg is of course the better songwriter, and few of his songs are as earnest as this one -
Sweet moderation, heart of this nation, desert us not, we are between the wars.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


I've been away, I know; not literally, just emotionally. Stuff happened. Like Easter, and Easter brunch. We cleaned the house. We caught up on sleep.

It looks like my encounters with the medical profession are not at an end. This is kind of depressing, although it is good to know that nothing major is afoot. *sighs* Well, at least they have been nice so far, which counts for something*.

*That said, my doctor has warned me that the next round with specialists might be tricky, as "80% of them are jerks".

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Can it be Friday now?

If I have been fairly absent this week, there have been good reasons for that. Yesterday, for example, I went to the theatre and saw an incredibly impressive production of August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean. Then I failed to do my Java (quite bad) and failed to sleep (very bad). I have not been sleeping enough, and this is not conducive to writing.

More theatre: early this week my esteemed friend Miss J. sent me a theatre review. There were a number of elements in this review that were bound to get my attention:
a) the play is by Caryl Churchill, whose plays I read in college and rather liked
b) it is called Drunk enough to say I love you? and while I don't hold with the question mark, it is a great title
c) the review is very positive
c) the play has Sam West. Squee!*
I was going to get grumpy about life being in London and how I missed a million great plays by not being there, and then the photo caption caught my eye - it said "NYTimes"

New York.

New York, which is a mere four-hour drive from here. I try to remind myself that I have no money and that driving to New York to see a play is the equivalent of driving to Paris from Belgium, but all I can think is that it is not so far, and that we were going to go to New York anyway. New York**! I have wanted to go back, and now there is Sam West playing Britain on Broadway, and it would be treachery not to go.

Also in the news: Easter's coming up. There are (wet, windswept) daffodils and I should start to prepare for the brunch we're doing. Eggs, hot cross buns, chocolate bunnies and perhaps that obnoxious Wordsworth poem, just to annoy people. Or something like that.

*I was going to say something along the lines of "whom I unconditionally adore as an actor" or "with whom, as you know, I have a long-standing fixation;" but then I realised that "squee" conveyed the same information in much fewer characters.
**Am I thinking of Frank Sinatra yet? Actually, I am thinking of Simon & Garfunkel ...
New York...looking down on Central Park...where they say you should not walk after dark

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Some days the world is your oyster, and some days you wonder if it is too late for everything.

Somehow today is both.

If I sound obscure, just ignore me.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Wherever the rest of me was

I am back home and feeling whole, and clean. The West was as expected - not much leaving of the hotels, lots of shiny things, lots of silly jokes, some public speaking, fun people, and some cocktails. Hors d'oeuvres and elaborate Star Trek discussions.

Pretty good; but I am glad to be home.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


In a brief break from the professional duties, I report from the west coast. The clip above is the thing I think of every time I fly into this state.

In other news: I finished Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and like it, and am really appreciative of the appropriate ending - too many books are spoiled by their endings. She achieves what she sets out to do, dragging a host of historical figures into it. It just occurred to me that strictly the book is a sort of alternate history, a subject to which I devoted some words in my reckless youth. An interesting sub-genre, and one which one can find hanging out in sci-fi, historical fiction, post-modern writing and, of course, romances.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Day 5

I guess I also owe you all a Java update. I spent quite a few hours on Java this weekend, but I did finish both my second coding exercise and the nifty external assignment (for extra credit!) suggested by the Spouse.

Time to finally start day 5.


I am finishing Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I am curious to see how it ends, and rather dreading a very dark ending. Before I find that out, I will say this: it is a great backstory book. My knowledge Britain in the 19th century, while not at all necessary for one's enjoyment of the book, does give me an extra degree of respect for Susanna Clarke. She writes slowly, intricately, but with gusto, and a great deal of historical understanding. As a book, it reminds me of nothing so much as Mervyn Peake's (glorious) Gormenghast trilogy. When I listen to it - audiobook - I feel like it needs illustrations, and I was very gratified to find out that the print version actually has illustrations. I wish I had the print, though I would be very unwilling to give up the audio version, even if the narrator does mispronounce some important words. My point, approximately, is that regardless of what I end up thinking of this book (and I'll be sure to tell you), I am really enjoy how well-developed it is.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Blackadder and Shakespeare

For those of you who know Shakespeare, Blackadder and/or Ken Branagh.

Just a day, an ordinary day

It is a quest, I told you that before. All of it is a quest; the marriage, the job, the volunteering; even the blasted Java is a quest. This is a good week for the quest, but kind of a hard week for the TDEC. The TDEC is kind of tired. Next week it is off to the west for work. Perhaps also coffee with the Old Nemesis (not to be confused with the former nemesis at work). Part of me hopes that said Nemesis will forget. Part of me will be disappointed if he does. Reminders of my unflattering past make me feel tired. It must be the year for such reminders, and not all of them come with mixed feelings, fortunately.

It is all a struggle for balance. I think Paula Cunningham says somewhere that balance is the biggest part of movement. Cunningham is a Northern Irish poet whom I saw speak when I was in Belfast. She seemed uninspiring as a person, but I have a small purple book of hers - blandly signed - which have moved a million places with me. I don't read much poetry, though I love it. Poetry never settles for craftmanship, like a good detective novel or fantasy. Good poetry must always change you, tug at your mind.

Here, your moment of Zen:

b. 1963, Omagh, Co, Tyrone qualified as a dentist • began writing poetry in 1994 • "Hats" refers to the Omagh bombing of 15 August 1998, in which the so-called Real IRA murdered twenty-eight people (including nine children)


This year I tried on voices just like hats

Whore hat
Bored hat
Life's a fucking chore hat
Tore hat
Sore hat
Never bloody score hat
Can't take any more hat
Roar hat
Soon be thirty-four hat.

I was running out of fabric

But then I found a blessed hat
Poetry obsessed hat
Need a bloody rest hat
Got to go out west hat
Realized that politics are best avoided
Put on my Sunday best hat
Soon got bored with that.

Tried on my dead serious issues hat
My rhyme all the time hat
My why can't I write like Paula Meehan hat
My fek it have a drink and write like Brendan Behan hat.

This year I tried on voices just like hats
The weather changed
The cease-fires came
And screaming like a banshee
My severed tongue grew back.

My father wore a hat when I was little
we lived in Omagh O-M-A-G-Haitch or -Aitch
depending on belief.
He was a traveling salesman fro ice cream;
a Dublin firm Hughes Brothers or H.B.
he was their Northern Ireland diplomat.

He knew his clients well—a studied discipline,
some would not buy HB ice cream on principle.
My father'd done his homework;
to some he'd sell Haitch
B, to others Aitch B.

One day in Derry/Londonderry my father's car was hijacked.
The men wore hats pulled down with holes for eyes and mouth.
They held a gun, they nudged his hat.
They asked my father where he lived
and ordered him to spell it.

This year I tried on voices just like hats.



Bring the muse into the kitchen
(Walt Whitman)

A man is squeezing oranges in my kitchen.
I am down the corridor in bed
and he is squeezing oranges
in my kitchen.
From where I lie
I cannot see
the man
but I've deduced
that he
is squeezing oranges.

There is something tremendously erotic
about a man
squeezing oranges.
What is erotic is the sound.
This man
has found my orange squeezer
without my prompting.
He does not know I know
he's squeezing oranges.

Lying here, listening
to the sound of a man
secretly squeezing oranges
at 1.09 of a Sunday afternoon,
I am struck by the fact
that I've never heard any sound
quite so erotic
as the sound of a man
squeezing oranges.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Did I mention that I hate Java?

And I am not gracious about learning it either. It wreaks havoc on my peace of mind. It fails to compile for no good reason.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The boy who cried "retirement"

Brett Favre is retiring. Or so he says: "After flirting with retirement for years, Brett Favre means it this time."

*laughs loudly*

Whatevs, Brett, whatevs. Whatever makes you feel most manly.


"As the season gets closer, I wouldn't be surprised at all if he changes his mind," said Aikman, a Fox analyst who played 12 years with the Dallas Cowboys."

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I think I can confidently say that I have not felt as stupid as I have these last few evenings in many, many years. It is just possible that I have never felt as outright obtuse as I do when trying to learn Java. I know that this is a trial which I have inflicted on myself; this only makes matters worse. Learning Java required approximately every quality which I am furthest from possessing: attention to detail, a certain mathematical mindset, a good memory, linear reasoning and, of course, patience.

The idea when I started the trail of pain and suffering that is Sam's Teach Yourself Java 6 in 21 Days, completed, in some ideal universe, in twenty-one days, I had some vague notion that I would read the book, take notes, do the exercises, and eventually acquire the skill. In reality, I have become more, rather than than less, bewildered over the course of the book. At the end of the Platonic Ideal Day Four, I have no clue how to fix the code I'm writing for one of only two exercises at the end of each day. Even the ever-patient Spouse, who knows much more programming than I do and has been angelically helpful, lost his temper yesterday. It is all most vexing. In my quest to vanquish this beast*, I found the Obvious: Sun's Java tutorials. I don't know who wrote them, but whoever they were, they seem to be at least moderately acquainted with didactical principles, not to mention the English language. Can someone introduce them to whatever evil spirit conjured up my book? Yes? Thanks.

*In my head a voice says "How your English theatre after 1950 professor would berate you for your florid style! How this book you're reading is making you relapse into the soft, welcoming arms of baroque prose!"

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Poste extraordinaire

Folks, it has been quiet this weekend. I've been looking after the sick Spouse and listening to Mr Norrell and Jonathan Strange, which is fairly impressive so far. Meanwhile, something rather strange has happened on my run-of-the mill blog: I seem to have gotten into a discussion about Helena Bonham-Carter with a very young person. See here *

All I can say is this: I am amused, puzzled, and grateful for the link to the lady's blog, which I have added in my "Hmm" linklist. I highly recommend it. Seriously. Though perhaps not for the reasons intended.

* For some reason my last comment wouldn't come out right, so I tried a few times, then gave up - it keeps messing up the text and links.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

In a good way

It has been some time since I have had a really good dream, and last night's, while incoherent and not necessarily happy, was good compensation for nightmares earlier this week.

It was night, and a friend and I were getting ready to go to a kind of nightclub where I was going to try to get a job. My friend knew the despotic yet charming owner, and I had worked for him once before washing dishes. We get to the nightclub, take the stairs down the side of the room to get to the main floor, and there are a few people there, including Jonathan, the owner, a darkhaired man. I start working as a sort of hostess, making sure everything is running smoothly, while Jonathan, who is a fabulous dancer, is charming the middle-aged ladies.

At some point, I go outside, and outside is a futuristic city, a Willy Wonka-esque crazy network of tubes, monorails and elevators. I get in one of the elevators, knowing that taking one is a risk, since it may take you to a precipice or fire. I am wearing my coat and Slytherin scarf, which has a red V embroidered on it, for Villain, like the Scarlet Letter, only cooler. Outside, Jonathan has transformed into a Scrooge-like old man/evil genius out for world domination. The elevator comes out high in some building, just by the edge. Whoever is with me and I look out over the city, and see Jonathan doing his evil genius thing, hands thrown in the air.

Cut to Wesley from Princess Bride, that part where he is lying on the bed still paralysed. The topic of true love comes up, and the tragic demise thereof. Cut to sentimental Christmas card, and suddenly everyone is crying because it is all so sad and poignant and because Jonathan is Scroogey. The complete cast is then assembled back in the nightclub, on the stairs, people are crying, Jonathan is still being dramatic and evil genius on the main floor.
Curtain. (or something like that)