Monday, 30 April 2007
Saturday, 28 April 2007
Wednesday, 25 April 2007
Today I had the pleasure of a three hour contract monitoring meeting, with the most anally retentive man I have ever met. Form upon form, upon bloody form.
Twice he had to leave the room to "Get another coloured pen". God forbid an edit got confused with an addition. I swear, he had a spring in his step when he got up to retrieve them.
His Pièce de résistance was revealed two hours and twenty minutes in.
"Now Scott, this year we have two new forms we have to complete." He said, gleefully. "You'll see that they've been designed in Excel, so I've been able to colour code them."
He was visibly exited by this. Sad bastard.
"I call this first form 'Appendix one', and the second one I've called..."
Wait for it...
I'm not a violent man ordinarily, but I lost it. In a rage, I tipped over the tables, jumped on top of him and throttled him until he went blue.
In times like these, one's imagination is the only reprieve.
Tuesday, 24 April 2007
The brain however, is an efficient filter. Once sufficiently tuned in, it can divert this cacophony away from the attention. It does it so brilliantly, that your ears hear only silence.
When I left home, it was weeks before I could get a good nights sleep. My digs were in a Psychiatric Hospital, exiled from society, in the middle of the countryside. It was so deafeningly quiet there, that I couldn't sleep for the noise of my own breath.
There was however one night, that living in a terraced house was of great benefit to me.
I was lying in bed, about to drop off, when I heard through the wall, the most wonderful noise. It sounded like the biggest string orchestra I'd ever heard, holding a single note for what felt like forever. That alone had my ear against the wall.
Then I heard those first clear notes from David Gilmour's strat. E, D, E...
I decided there and then I wanted to be a guitarist. The next morning, I knocked on Mark's door and asked him what tune it was. He told me, and generously gave me a copy of Wish You Were Here on tape.
These days I can't abide Pink Floyd. They represent to me, the worst excesses of self indulgent toss-rock. Back then however, I thought they were fabulous. Especially Shine On You Crazy Diamond. I remember saving up my pocket money to buy the cheapest guitar I could get, simply for the purpose of learning to play Gilmour's solo.
It was a battered Encore Strat copy. It cost no more than a tenner and came with a set of worn out 12 gauge strings. The guitarists amongst you will know that these are pretty beefy strings. Better defined as cables, I suppose. Bending them, like Gilmour does, isn't easy with 12 gauges. It's even less easy for a fourteen year old with delicate skin on his fingertips.
I swear, I practiced so hard to play this song, that my fingers bled. No joke.
Saturday, 21 April 2007
However, there was one thing that kept me coming back.
I was besotted by her. She was, by any teenage measure, lovely. She had long brown hair, deep dark eyes, and a womanly confidence that belied her thirteen years. She had breasts too!
Being new to this puberty thing, I had no idea what to do with this obsession. Even if I did, the shackles of shyness wouldn't have let me.
So, I did what any self-disrespecting geek would do; pretend, as hard as I could, that I wasn't interested at all. I opted instead, to rely on Brownian Motion. I dreamt that she would randomly bump into me at the back of the church hall and spontaneously fall in love. That way, I'd needn't risk rejection and confirmation that I was the Sunday league to her Premiere.
Eight-thirty each Sunday, the fellowship walked home. A great gaggle of us tripped up North Road. The Boys, being boys, pushed and shoved. The Girls, being girly, gossiped out in front.
One summer night, my Brownian strategy paid off. By some serendipity, our groups hadn't split and I found Emma next to me. She didn't look at me of course. She was laughing with the cooler guys to the right. They did buzz around her.
As was my way at the time, I dropped back behind the crowd. Not a chance, I thought. Emma slowed with me. Again we found ourselves together. You'd have never seen it, but inside I exploded with joy.
So, we walked home together, the two of us. All the way up North Road, left on to Thompson Street and way past the Crematorium. A whole fifteen minutes of her and me. I could have died with happiness.
"Bye", we said awkwardly outside her front door. Nothing more. Not a jot.
The next day at school, she didn't acknowledge me at all. I did the same, of course.
So it went for the entire week, until Sunday evening. On the way home I hung back, chicken like, hoping for a repeat of the previous week. It seemed that night, my 'prayers' were answered, as she loitered with me again. Emma chose to walk home with me. Yes me!
Once more, we did nothing at her front door other than say bye to each other.
So it went, for the entire summer. Sunday evenings, Emma and Scott walked home at the back. Mid week, Monday through Friday, they ignored each other. Each Sunday they loitered at her front door, both knowing what they should do, yet neither of them having the guts to complete on the deal.
Until one autumn night, she lost her temper.
"Oh for Christ's sake!" She said, and grabbed me behind the neck. She pulled me on to her and kissed me in open mouthed relief.
My first real kiss.
Now, tunes have a habit of sticking in one's head. That night, that moment even, the Art of Noise 'Close to the Edit' was running through it.
So it was, that my first snog went like this;
"Hey! Hey! Hey!"
Thursday, 19 April 2007
Nonetheless, I do think he was on to something. Like Mojoey, music is hugely important to me. I would, in all honestly, struggle to live without it; it has a most powerful effect upon me. A pure experience, it could be said.
Putting aside my love of Miche & the kids, music provokes in me, the strongest feelings of delight, happiness and wonder. It has a very real effect on my body. It is part of who I am.
Therefore I am delighted to join Mojoey in listing my top ten songs. Now, I would struggle to decide on my top ten songs of all time. They change by the day. I know that any list I decide upon, would change unrecognisably by the time I'd finished writing it.
So, my top ten is more a description of my musical awakening. I plan to tell you about the music that is significant to me, and how it defines key moments in my life.
So, where to start? The beginning I suppose;
In 1980 I was eight years old. I went to bed at eight o'clock. One evening per week, (I think a Thursday), Top of the Pops (TOTP) was aired on BBC1 at 7:30. Before this fateful night, TOTP and 'popular' music for that matter, wasn't of any interest to me. Dinky cars and mud were more pressing priorities. So, as usual, this programme only registered in the background.
Until I heard this song.
I swear it was an epiphany. I'd never heard anything like it. Never seen anything like it, for that matter. I immediately fell in love with the song and remain infatuated to this day.
This marks the start of my musical journey, and my ongoing love of all things Bowie.
Wednesday, 18 April 2007
Here's a simple one for you;
Three symbols, D - o - g
There you have it. A picture of a canine in your head, perhaps an odour. The sound of a bark, even. Give yourself a moment to explore what 'Dog' means to you. Forget about my patronising didacticism for now.
The metaphor 'dog', should I let it, could set me off on a reverie, dull enough to put a nation to sleep. These three symbols have considerable significance to me, you see.
This ability to think and communicate metaphorically, makes us what we are. We define ourselves by them. Without them we'd be nothing. Non-human, if you like. I think of myself in these roles and attributes. All of which are metaphors;
Dad, husband, family-man;
Thoughtful, reflective, geek;
Musical, creative, introspective;
Existentialist, Nihilist, Aestheticist, Atheist;
Blogger, writer, bullshitter.
I think that we've become the very idea of ourselves. Living metaphors perhaps. This is the price we've paid for evolving consciousness. You see, it's both a blessing and a curse.
We've become separated from ourselves and no longer experience life with the immediacy of animals - eat, survive, procreate. It's almost as if we're third party observers of our own bodies.
Some are more sensitive to this phenomenon than others. There are some, I'd swear, that have no conception of it at all. Insensitive, selfish and superficial people, mostly.
Those that are aware of it, run the risk of becoming anxious (as they obsessively monitor their bodily functions), depressed (as they evaluate their metaphorical roles negatively), and/or Nihilist (as everything they observe seems absurd and ultimately pointless).
However, those that are aware of this dichotomy, can also harness their abilities to re-engage with life as it is. For me, one of the most effective ways of doing this is through the extended metaphor of art. By this I mean not only visual art, but stories, allegories and music.
These things help me experience my identity as less separate from the world. They help me understand and experience more fully, emotions such as love, happiness and contentment. They help me put to one side, for a while at least, the ever present angst and futility that is our ultimate reality.
Tuesday, 17 April 2007
I, for one, plan to enjoy it to the fullest. I make no apologies for staring at the grass whilst grinning like a fool. I like green.
It takes time, knowledge and effort to learn how to best enjoy our delusion. This is the purpose of Sans God.
I also like blue, for what it's worth.
Friday, 13 April 2007
If I were born before 1700, I'd probably agree. In this period, landscapes weren't considered particularly worthwhile, even for the artist. Of course the rest of us were far too busy with our noses to the ground to notice them.
As far as I know landscape art is rare, prior to 1700. The human form took precedence in Europe. Perhaps it was some puritanical notion that the pleasure found in natural things was dangerous to the soul, because it diverted it from god. I'm sure St Anselm had something to do with this rubbish.
Claude Lorrain (1600-1682) it's said, led the surge of landscape art in Britain. He 'perfected' the form, and set strict rules on how landscape should be depicted. To aid the aspiring artistic fop, he advised bringing along a mirror to a sitting upon the hill. Once the fop had found an appropriate vista, Lorraine advised that he turn his back on it. The artist must then set his mirror on its stand, and paint not the landscape, but what he framed in its reflection. Hmmn.
This new form - the landscape, was seized upon by many. It became a mainstay of our aesthetic. One that remains to this day; the world in a reflected frame.
It troubles me to think that the awe I experience, when peering at a 'beautiful' landscape, could be one that I've been educated to feel. There is no beauty in hills. Perhaps I've just been indoctrinated to think that there is. In different circumstances, I could have learnt that barren, glacier gouged landscapes are inhospitable, ugly places that should be avoided at all costs.
Thursday, 12 April 2007
A dog, whilst out and about, spends much of its time searching for evidence of other dogs. Once found and duly investigated, it douses said marker in joyful celebration that “I AM HERE!” So it goes, for the remainder of its jaunt. In ever decreasing volumes, the dog declares its place in the world. Until at the last post, it finds itself spent. In a last ditch and twitch attempt, it leaves all that it can. In this drop, it whispers, “I was here.”
Tuesday, 10 April 2007
Our universe is, for many of us, beautiful by its very nature. From the movement of stars and the geology of our planet, to the complexities of Darwinian evolution, we can find beauty anywhere we choose to look.
Beauty however, does not have form. It doesn't exist as something distinct. A mountain is a mountain in the same way a star simply shines. Whilst each have mass, volume and density, their beauty indexes remain elusive.
All interpreted beauty, such as music, painting and literature is an attempt to make this notion real. In painting a landscape for example, the artist attempts to capture this elusive quality and restrain it within a wooden frame, so that others may see it and grasp the mind boggling nature of our universe.
Brilliant as we are, we still lack the capacity to wholly comprehend the universe. Therefore we rely on our artists to describe it metaphorically, and our scientists to describe it physically.
For me, the works of the scientist and artist converge most clearly in the field of mathematics. Now,the extent of my mathematical education reaches no further than GCSE (B), and slightly advanced sociology statistics, or 'how to manipulate the truth'. I like maths, but I've chosen a different path for my life. So, this is what Bertrand Russel had to say about it,
"Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty -- a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show."
I like recurring decimals. 3/10 = 3 and a third. The third = .3333333333... ad infinitum.
I like the maths of orbit using Newtonian assumptions.
I like how prime numbers seem random.
And of course, who could not like PI. The most beautiful of numbers.
Many see divine intervention in mathematics. I see patterns and beauty. No God. Our minds are build to see patterns, trends and significances. The temptation to see God in this most irrational of numbers gets the better of many.
Just like Maximillian Cohen in the film PI. Here's a great clip from an even greater film;
Monday, 9 April 2007
Which is one way of looking at it, I suppose.
Could it not also transmit the lowest and worst feelings to which men have descended? Plus all that's in between, surely? Whilst we're on the subject, what the bloody hell is art in the first place?
Now, I have no intention to clog up this blog, any more than it is, with turbid musings on the nature of art. Many have disappeared up their own arses doing this very thing. It's a risky occupation I tell you, and one that I have no appropriate qualification for.
However, I've been bleating on about how the experience and understanding of beauty is perhaps the most powerful way of countering the boredom and angst that our modern world provides for us. Art of course, is a crucial medium for this.
Perhaps then, I should have a crack at defining what I personally find beautiful. Don't despair too much - I'll try to keep the noise down to a minimum. But what is blogging, if not self indulgent?
So, over the coming weeks, my plan is to elucidate my thoughts, in taught, beautifully written posts, which on reading, you will be bedazzled by my conception of beauty.
One can dream....
In the meantime, I've started a related photo blog to lend some visual ballast. Unfortunately I don't have a good camera, as the last one died a sudden death. So for the moment, I'm making do with my cellphone camera. Some people say that this lends some immediacy to photographs. Perhaps it does, perhaps not. For what it's worth, I'll be sticking stuff up there as I snap away each day. It keeps me off the streets, I suppose.
Thanks to Holly for the inspiration.
Saturday, 7 April 2007
Some of us are less skilled. Ho hum.
For us dullards, some words can come ready made, primed and ready for use; safety catches disabled, you could say. These are labels;
Take Fundamentalist for example. Which is a "strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles". It can also mean violent, dangerous, wrong, intolerant, Muslim, evil, foreign and frightening. Fundamentalists want to eat your children, I'm telling you.
Whoever first juxtaposed "Atheist" and "Fundamentalist" knew what they were doing.
Mistrusted x Dangerous = Terrifying.
Friday, 6 April 2007
We got to chatting. He seemed like a really nice guy. He said,
"Scott, I've seen you run past my house sometimes, are you a keen runner?"
"Yeah", I said, "I get out pretty regular, it's something I enjoy." I was feeling pretty smug about it, to be honest.
"Yeah me too", said Dougie, "Though I don't get to run as much as I'd like"
"Well, I'm going for a scarper tomorrow morning, if you fancy joining me?" I offered.
He seemed up for it. We agreed to try an 8 miler, of course, we were sizing each other up and like any bloke, neither of us would be trumped. I'm surprised we didn't end up planning a half marathon.
So this morning at 8:30 we set off. And at a fair clip too. Certainly faster than I would ordinarily. I kept my mouth shut about that, of course.
After four miles I began to sweat, and my legs began to protest. But we carried on.
He & his wife have recently divorced, sadly. This morning however, it was a blessing. Dougie obviously wanted to spill the beans and recount the whole story. He chatted, barely out of breath the whole time. All I had to do was concentrate on not passing out and offering the odd, "Yeah?" or "Hmn..".
Somewhere in mile seven, I asked,
"So, what do you do in the RAF then?"
"I'm a Physical Training Instructor." He told me, without even a bead of sweat on his forehead.
No fucking wonder then. I felt like a reet tosspot.
I'm sat at my desk now, barely able to move, as me legs have all but seized up solid. I've just checked my Garmin for the run stats; 8.3 Miles, average pace 7:36 minute/mile.
Never again. Never again am I going to let my male pride get in the way.
I'm going out for a few beers with him next Saturday. I've already told him I'm a wimp when it comes to drinking...
Thursday, 5 April 2007
| You scored as Existentialism. Your life is guided by the concept of Existentialism: You choose the meaning and purpose of your life.|
“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”
“It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”
“It is man's natural sickness to believe that he possesses the Truth.”
More info at Arocoun's Wikipedia User Page...
What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with QuizFarm.com
Now that I have, I've found that much of what we find novel about our lives has in fact been done, numerous times before. "The Long View", a favourite radio 4 programme, addresses this very issue. It looks for the past behind the present, and explores a moment in history which illuminates contemporary debates. Fascinating.
So, imagine my delight, when I came across this Guardian article, that sets all that I've been bleating on about, in a historical context. The article is an extract from this book, which I've now ordered and can't wait to read.
Here's some choice passages that'll give you a flavour;
Beginning in England in the 17th century, the European world was stricken by what looks, in today's terms, like an epidemic of depression. To the medical profession, the illness presented a vexing conundrum, not least because its gravest outcome was suicide. In 1733, Dr George Cheyne speculated that the English climate, combined with sedentary lifestyles and urbanisation, "have brought forth a class of distemper with atrocious and frightful symptoms, scarce known to our ancestors, and never rising to such fatal heights, and afflicting such numbers in any known nation. These nervous disorders being computed to make almost one-third of the complaints of the people of condition in England."
[So, nothings changed then]
...to my knowledge, no one has suggested that the epidemic may have begun in a particular historical time, and started as a result of cultural circumstances that arose at that time and have persisted or intensified since. There is reason to think that something like an epidemic of depression in fact began around 1600, or the time when the Anglican minister Robert Burton undertook his "anatomy" of the disease, published as The Anatomy of Melancholy in 1621. Melancholy, as it was called until the 20th century, is of course a very ancient problem, and was described in the fifth century BC by Hippocrates. Chaucer's 14th-century characters were aware of it, and late-medieval churchmen knew it as "acedia". So melancholy, in some form, had always existed - and, regrettably, we have no statistical evidence of a sudden increase in early modern Europe, which had neither a psychiatric profession to do the diagnosing nor a public health establishment to record the numbers of the afflicted. All we know is that in the 1600s and 1700s, medical books about melancholy and literature with melancholic themes were both finding an eager audience, presumably at least in part among people who suffered from melancholy themselves. ...the rise of depression and the decline of festivities are symptomatic of some deeper, underlying psychological change, which began about 400 years ago and persists, in some form, in our own time. Lionel Trilling wrote in 1972, "that in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, something like a mutation in human nature took place." This change has been called the rise of subjectivity or the discovery of the inner self and since it can be assumed that all people, in all historical periods, have some sense of selfhood and capacity for subjective reflection, we are really talking about an intensification, and a fairly drastic one, of the universal human capacity to face the world as an autonomous "I", separate from, and largely distrustful of, "them".
[ringing any bells?]
The European nobility had already undergone this sort of psychological shift in their transformation from a warrior class to a collection of courtiers, away from directness and spontaneity and toward a new guardedness in relation to others. In the late 16th and 17th centuries, the change becomes far more widespread, affecting even artisans, peasants, and labourers. The new "emphasis on disengagement and selfconsciousness", as Louis Sass puts it, makes the individual potentially more autonomous and critical of existing social arrange-ments, which is all to the good. But it can also transform the individual into a kind of walled fortress, carefully defended from everyone else.
Mirrors in which to examine oneself become popular among those who can afford them, along with self-portraits (Rembrandt painted more than 50 of them) and autobiographies in which to revise and elaborate the image that one has projected to others. In bourgeois homes, public spaces that guests may enter are differentiated, for the first time, from the private spaces - bedrooms, for example - in which one may retire to let down one's guard and truly "be oneself". The notion of a self hidden behind one's appearance and portable from one situation to another is usually attributed to the new possibility of upward mobility. In medieval culture, you were what you appeared to be - a peasant, a man of commerce or an aristocrat - and any attempt to assume another status would have been regarded as rank deception. But in the late 16th century, upward mobility was beginning to be possible or at least imaginable, making "deception" a widespread way of life. You might not be a lord or a lofty burgher, but you could find out how to act like one.
So highly is the "inner self" honoured within our own culture that its acquisition seems to be an unquestionable mark of progress - a requirement, as Trilling called it, for "the emergence of modern European and American man". It was, no doubt, this sense of individuality and personal autonomy, "of an untrammelled freedom to ask questions and explore", as the historian Yi-Fu Tuan put it, that allowed men such as Martin Luther and Galileo to risk their lives by defying Catholic doctrine.
As the 19th-century French sociologist Emile Durkheim saw it, "Originally society is everything, the individual nothing ... But gradually things change. As societies become greater in volume and density, individual differences multiply, and the moment approaches when the only remaining bond among the members of a single human group will be that they are all [human]." The flip side of the heroic autonomy that is said to represent one of the great achievements of the early modern and modern eras is radical isolation and, with it, depression and sometimes death.
Wednesday, 4 April 2007
Of course, individualism allows for some self-respect and agency. This is a good thing. We think of ourselves as beings with rights, responsibilities and aspirations. No longer are we the primitive, so deeply mired in community and ritual that it can barely distinguish a "self".
As Yi-Fu Tuan noted however, "The obverse of the new sense of disengagement, is a loss of natural vitality and of innocent pleasure in the givenness of the world, and a feeling of burden because reality has no meaning other than what a person chooses to impart to it."
From this viewpoint, the outside world becomes absurd, meaningless and utterly pointless. Which of course it is. I fail to see how it could be anything otherwise. However, a blunt and singular acceptance of this fact, isn't particularly useful. There is little point, it seems to me, to dwell on it.
This leads to the obvious question - "What now?"
How we best go about answering this question, is perhaps the greatest human quest of all.
Beauty, interconnectedness and 'spirituality' may be inherently pointless, but they represent the best opportunity we have to live our lives without the delusion that there is an inherent purpose (eg God), or within the repression of drugs, banality and denial.
This is a truth, according only to me.
Tuesday, 3 April 2007
Sunday, 1 April 2007
When all's said and done, my spirits are higher now, than they we're last Friday. So, to mark the end of this week, here's a few photos of it. Complete with a full frontal of me! Yes, Me! I've omitted the nudity bit, you'll be pleased to know.
However, given the traffic I've been getting recently, from people searching Google for "Nice Breasts", perhaps I should post more of these Full Frontal antics. Can you imagine the bewilderment of these "nice breast" scarfers, when they land on my post about Psychodynamic Group Theory. At the moment, Sans God is on the 1st results page. Laugh out Loud.