Monthly Archives: December 2003

Happily minding everyone’s business.

The other day I happened to be walking down the street. Happily minding everyone’s business.

A man came walking the other way towards me. And he was singing. And here I’m referring not to the realms of half hum half murmur which is usually the case. No he was fully fledged belting out a show tune. I unfortunately am not aware of which one I seem to have blanked it from my mind.

So as he passed me I made the obligatory check for headphones. I feel it’s always best to distinguish between the unguarded and the deranged.

We all know that if we are listening to music it sometimes takes hold of us and causes us to sing uncontrollably. Normally these practices are confined to the comfort of ones own home. However in the case of headphones something rather odd happens. For some reason the complete feeling of aural surround sound makes us feel more alone. We can’t even hear ourselves singing so we feel safe.

But this man had no headphones. He was just singing. Other than the singing he looked completely normal. And that’s the worrying thing he could have easily just stopped singing and looked like a normal person. Quite a worrying state of affairs I’m sure you’ll agree.

Talking of trying to look normal on the street this reminds me of a friend of mine who revealed to me one drunken evening (drunken for him not me which is why I can remember the anecdote) that he was a sucker for talking to himself. It was his favourite thing in the world. The worst time, he assured me, was when he was on the streets. There he found much to talk to himself about but felt that society in general would frown on such behaviour and lock him up.

This lead him to his eventual saviour. He simply took a mobile phone. Held it to his head and started talking. Nobody gave him a second glance except one time when he’d been rabbiting away and had received an actual phone call. Since that incident he assured me he kept his phone on silent. So he could pretend he was getting a second call.

I haven’t mentioned it to this friend again recently but I imagine with everyone having hands free his affliction has become much easier to deal with. So many people seem to be talking to themselves until you spot the headphones. And that, my friends, is why I check so very carefully.

Now men, in general, I think dress almost exclusive for their peer

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl in possession of a boyfriend must want to be thinner than he is so said a good friend of mine – approximately – the other day. Her current boyfriend had, for a time, been thinner than she was which was, she assured me, an unpleasant experience. For a start there was always the worry of secret cross dressing. Normally this is something that is very obvious. Any cross dressing that has gone on usually will distort the clothes.

Now at this point I would like to point out that cross dressing isn’t a bad thing. The only bad thing here is the secretive angle. And if they are thinner they have the opportunity. But I digress this wasn’t the original point. And neither is the fact that I have seen the boyfriend in question wearing a ball gown.

The main issue, I guess, I some of self esteem. And here I think there is a bit of a gender divide. And now for the next couple of paragraphs I’m going to generalise and some of this isn’t going to apply to everybody. Just don’t kill me if it doesn’t apply to you – I know it doesn’t I’m talking about the other people.

Why do people look good? Why do people dress up when they go out? Some people will suggest that it’s all about sex. And perhaps that’s a big part of it but I don’t think it’s everything. There are at least two other things going on. People are thinking about themselves. there is certainly a lot of self-image development being dealt with. In the way that the clothes we wear say a lot about ourselves not just who we want to have sex with but also who we think we are. The other aspect is that of how we think what we are wearing shows us against our peer group. Do we want o blend in and disappear or do we want to appear completely different?

All of the different things are factors and so it’s a combination that’s going on. And I think and here comes the generalisation, that women tend more to dress for themselves and their peer group then for sex. I’m not talking about all the time just in general. When out on a date or in search of a date obviously the balance changes.

Now men, in general, I think dress almost exclusive for their peer group. Except when they are looking for a date.

And pretty much the moment they convince somebody to go out with them they go back to regular clothes mode.

And of course I’m not just talking about clothes I’m also talking about general cleanliness, amount of pleasant smells applied, fitness and so on. In general it seems single men and women in search of a partner are fit, smell nice and are wearing nice clothes. Women in relationship stay the same. Men revert to slob status.

How this is related to how this article started I’m not exactly sure. But there, as they say, you go. But I do know one thing, Grayson Perry, the man who won the prestigious Turner art prise this year wore a dress to the awards ceremony. His wife was quoted in the paper the next day saying that she didn’t ever mind going out with him dressed that way because it always made her look good by comparison.

So there’s conversation. Ah the sitcom.

When watching sitcoms on tv with your partner you will, from time to time, find yourself reacting very strangely to a joke. It’s the jokes about sex.

There really isn’t enough sex feedback in the world. And by this I do not mean that there are certain positions which after a loud wail will keep going forever. There isn’t enough, after the fact analysis. I mean most shops have customer feedback forms. And while I’ll assume most readers aren’t paying for sex certainly a form would be handy. Forms is great because it means you don’t have to have any of those embarrassing conversations. But on the other hand we can probably assume that the presence of forms in a relationship is probably a sign that something is wrong.

So there’s conversation. Well that’s out.

So what else do we have? Ah the sitcom.

If you were to watch a couple watching a sitcom exactly at the moment that a joke about, say, premature ejaculation had been told. You will notice very clearly that any guys are pretending to laugh.

Now these same goys would laugh at the same joke if their partners weren’t there. And they would be happily laughing at all of those other guys out there who suffer from that problem and are therefore not like them in any way.

But with the partner in the room they’re thinking, “How much are they laughing” and “Is it a knowing laugh”.

And women, I’m sure, are doing this too. And the question is what the hell are we doing? Why don’t we just ask?

Expedition to the centre of the brain – Part 5

Day 5

Five nanobots went in and, yesterday, three days later three emerged tired and hungry with many stories to tell.

However none of them are related to why I’m rubbish at remembering to put articles up on Mondays.

Today while having breakfast Captain Lawrence Oates fell out of my nose and into my cereal.

This weeks articles are dedicated to Lawrence, the bravest nicest nanobot I ever had the pleasure to meet. I hope he’s gone to the great tympanic membrane in the sky.

Expedition to the centre of the brain – Part 4

Day 4

I can’t believe it was an accident. And I don’t really know why I’m writing in a dead man’s diary.

I can’t believe I just admitted he was dead. I wasn’t sure I believed the others until I just wrote that. Now I know that I know he’s dead.

So what was I writing? Oh I was saying I didn’t know why I was writing in here except. I suppose I do. I was going to write that I thought it wasn’t an accident. But now I know it wasn’t. He knew he was going to fall down the Eustachian tube. He was trying to save us. And it might have worked.

We are making good progress. It’s easier on the bigger rations but it’s harder without him.

We used to call him Captain Oates after all those oatcakes he used to eat each night. Now it doesn’t seem like the best way to refer to him. His real name was Lawrence. Although I never heard anyone use it. He told me what it was last night. After the first time we had – what was his phrase – known each other.

I’m not sure if I should write this part. This next bit. Because. Well. It doesn’t make me look very good in the company’s light. Or any light. I’m scared to write it but I have to.

I faked it.

I faked the endorphin rush.

I just wanted an excuse to break the ice. And it seemed the best way to do it. I never meant for anyone to be hurt. I promise I never meant for any of this to happen. And now I’m as scare pf getting out and facing up to what’s happened as I am scared of being stuck in here forever.

Expedition to the centre of the brain – Part 3

Day 3

I wake suddenly and desperately thrashing out in the darkness. There is, of course, nothing out there. It was the end of my dream letting itself out into my awake self.

We must start moving immediately if we are going to make it out. Even not it will be a miracle if we get out. The food supply is dangerously low.

We start moving. After a few hours we are at the membrane. Tired, hungry and very dispirited. Once we get to the ear what little of our spirits we had left desert us. The subject is sick. He’s blocked up. His ear is completely filled with wax. Normally this would delay us. But normally we would be facing this almost half a day earlier. And not while tired and hungry.

But we cracked on. We had to. What other option did we have?

It was hard demoralising work. Each break we took I sit a bit further from the group. They know I’m to blame. Well Wally and Leftie just suspect. Julie knows. She was off her head. I shouldn’t have taken advantage of the situation.

I’m writing this on what I know is my final break. In the next few minutes we’ll be through to the connection to the nostril. I know what I have to do. I have to take the plunge. I’ll pretend to fall down the Eustachian tube. I know I wont survive. But I know the extra supplies will help my group. So I must do this. Eventually my body will work its way through our subject’s system. But I will be quite dead. It may be some time.

Expedition to the centre of the brain – Part 2

Day 2

I’m the first one up this morning. I feel fabulous. That great feeling when you’ve really earned your good night’s sleep. I worked hard and slept well. I only had pause for a moment when I realised I couldn’t remember if I’d had any dreams. Nothing came to mind, just a general elated feeling. No specifics but that’s okay as I was feeling… I was sure it was a good dream. I wondered vaguely if it was about Julie.

Once everyone was up and had eaten breakfast we started on the main work of the day. We would need to head to the brain as soon as we could. We started off. The aim was to get the information and hopefully back to the ear again tonight. Sometimes it takes longer at the brainface than that and then you have only an hour or two back at the membrane before leaving. But missions were never longer than three days since the Spiegalman incident. Now these things were so routine that nothing like that could ever happen. Hell even I’ve only emergency I’ve ever faced was a drill.

It took us most of the morning to reach the brainface. At this point we like to split up into groups of two as it speeds things up. As chance would have it Wally and Leftie decided to go off together leaving me and Julie to look together.

The thing with this job is that really only one of you can work at a time in a region. Julie wanted to go first. She was still new to the game and got a kick from experiencing all of the subject’s emotions. I mean I’m not saying that it didn’t affect me. I mean of course it does, you wouldn’t be a nanobot if it didn’t. But over time you do get more used to it. Anyway I was quite happy to lie there on a soft mound watching Julie probing away. She was just chatting away about all the stuff she was experiencing. And the sound of her voice was just babbling away. It was, I don’t mind telling you the happiest moment of my life up to that point. But the happiest moment now was what was going to happen next.

Suddenly Julie stopped talking and started giggling. She was laughing and smiling. And as I looked up all over her face was a look of unbelievable joy. I knew exactly what had happened but I could scarcely believe it. It was so rare. She had hit an endorphin stream. She was completely off her head on happiness!

She stepped towards me. Rather wobbly at first. But soon she was walking right over to where I was half lying – half sitting in stunned statuesque silence.

“I know something about you.” She said, her eyes glittered like they were finishing her sentence in semaphore.
“Oh do you?”
“Yes. You don’t think I know but I do.”
“Oh. What’s that?” This part wasn’t the happiest bit of my life. In truth I was quite nervous at this point.
“I know you’ve, how should I say, taken a shine to me.”
“Ah… I can explain…”
“You don’t have to explain. I reciprocate. I fancy the pants off of you.”

This bit was the happiest bit. I was quite pleased with myself. Now for this next part I must draw a delicate metaphor over the events. Suffice to say that we knew each other.

Much later the voices of Wally and Leftie came to our attention. We dressed hurriedly. And I don’t think they were aware of what had happened. Then with a mounting sense of dread they reminded me of the time. It was so late. There was no time to get back to the ear tonight. It was already one in the morning. We would have to camp by the brain.

We were in trouble and I knew it. I felt very guilty but I also felt like it was worth it for what had gone on that afternoon. In fact I felt guilty for that thought too.

I’ll need my oatcake to sleep tonight. I am so uncomfortable internally and externally it’s impossible to imagine that I’ll sleep at all tonight.

Expedition to the centre of the brain – Part 1

This week we bring back the diary entries of the expedition that travelled into my brain to discover, primarily, why I was particularly bad at updating Monday’s articles on time. They left all the way back in this article: [Anyway so I’m pretty sure it’s making us cold blooded.]

It will make much more sense if you read all the articles in order.

Day 1

We managed to convince the subject to lie down to allow us to enter his ear. He protested at first but we explained that the additional altitude that would be required for even a seated entry would mean so much additional danger money that his medical insurance wouldn’t cover it. So he lied down and didn’t even complain too much when it took Wally three attempts to get the grappling hoot into his ear lobe.

We started our accent. I always try and go first in these situations because that’s the most dangerous time and I like to think it inspires confidence in my group. I get up tot the top and set up the safety system for the rest of them.

The rest of the group makes it up with little incident. I’ve been looking down at them the whole time. But I realise now that as each man has arrived up they are stood facing into the inner ear. The last one up is the only girl of the group a cute little minx called Julie. I want her desperate but I’m trying to conceal this desire with every fibre and maintain some level of professionalism.

As she proffers me her hand as she reaches the cusp I help her and try to not obviously look straight down her shirt. I swear she’s not wearing a bra. As she arrives on a sure footing I turn around and see what they’ve all been staring at. The inner ear stretches out before us giant, dark, terrifying and quite full of wax.

Each one of us knows we’re about to advance. And we automatically reach out with a torch in our right hand and an ear but in our left. Every one of us except Leftie who rather ironically, even though I shouldn’t say so myself because I came up with it, is the only one of us who is right handed.

We started off. It was hard work but we had known it would be. And we were all looking forward to the tympanic membrane. The most comfortable place to sleep in the body bar none. I know you’ll get some who say it’s the soft tissue but that’s not for me. Wally, he’s the most technology savvy of the group, he’s got an artificial membrane at home. He swears by it. And one time although he lives quite a long way from me I went down to visit him. I said I was doing some shopping locally but he knew I’d come to try out the membrane. I t was nice. I mean it was good even. But it wasn’t quite the same. All the time I was lying there it kept making me think of the real thing and how this wasn’t as good. And while in my mind I was thinking about how many more jobs I could pick up to get me back to where I was heading right now Wally was explaining just how difficult it was to water.

Soon enough we got to the final stages. We slipped as quietly as we could into the tympanic area. Once there we could talk again. Just not by the cavity. It won’t damage anything, and I know some do but I think it’s unprofessional. Quite often we’re going into the brain to deal with a mental problem anyway. Giving them voices in their head doesn’t seem like the greatest of ideas.

So we’re here. Base camp for day one. We’re all tired and I’m just writing my journal as I see one by one each lamp go off. I’m sure Julie looks over at me for a moment before she turns her lamp off. I wonder if I’ll dream about her. Right that’s it for me. Just a quick oatcake to help me sleep. And then bed.

Cheers, The Man on the Moon. x

I want to end this week of articles themed on the subject of America by looking to the future.

In this article I will make reference to the following items: Jumpers, Beagles, Sir Edmund Hillary, Apollo, Britain, China, the USA and Tasmin Archer.

I just hope you’re ready and have them all to hand.

On Christmas day this year Britain is hoping to break some records with a Beagle. And no it isn’t to do with chain-smoking. Beagle 2, to give it it’s number, is a probe which is due to land on Mars.

After this news was released it was announced that China was planning a trip to the Moon. Almost instantly America said that it was going to the moon again because frankly they hadn’t been in ages and although they still exchanged Christmas cards each year the messages were getting shorter and shorter and they wanted to sort of rekindle the relationship. And frankly I think the president was worried about receiving an e-mail like this from the moon:

Dear George W.,

Glad to hear spot is doing well. It was a big year for us this year as the Chinese came to stay. It was very exciting. They brought a flag. And I’m sorry to say this because I’ve always liked your but they’ve had this really great idea and put a little battery powered motor in there so the flag actually looks like it’s moving in the wind. It’s really lovely. Well, I hope to see some of you Americans soon, it’s always nice, you know you’ll be welcome. And if you’re coming please do remember that rock you promised me back.

Cheers,

The Man on the Moon.
x

Well that would be enough to frighten anybody so the Americans are going back. Neither party have revealed if they are going to do anything to the evidence left by the previous trips. Maybe the Americans will steal the batteries out of the Chinese flag?

But the Americans are also going to send a man or two to Mars too which is all very exciting.

The thing is, and this is where Jumpers* and Toni Braxton** come in. Is it a really good idea to go to these places. Isn’t part of the thing about them the fact that we don’t really understand them?

The moon stops being a magical object the minute that you can go there.

And mars will too. And there is a good aspect to this because the moon and mars aren’t magic. Magic doesn’t exist per say. But it’s still disappointing when someone tells you how the magic trick works. You already knew it didn’t work the way it appeared but when you know how it works it’s actually disappointing a little. And that’s the same situation with the moon. The idea that you could go off in a space ship and discover things is much more exciting before it actually happens.

So in a way it’s better if they don’t go. But in the end of course we must go. Why? It’s the same thing as this: After Sir Edmund Hillary Everest, he was asked why he did it, he answered, “because it was there”.

* Tom Stoppard’s play Jumpers is at least in part about the feeling of loss when man went to the moon.

** Here are the lyrics from a song by Tasmin Archer. She holds all copyrights for this material and it is only provided for recreational or educational purposes as long as you don’t inhale:

Sleeping Satellite – Tasmin Archer

I blame you for the moonlit sky
and the dream that died
with the eagle’s flight
I blame you for the moonlit nights
when I wonder why
are the seas still dry?
Don’t blame this sleeping satellite
Did we fly to the moon too soon?
Did we squander the chance?
In the rush of the race
in the reason we chase is lost in romance
and still we try
to justify the waste
for a taste of mans greatest adventure.
Have we got what it takes to advance?
Did we peak too soon?
If the world is so green
then why does it scream under a blue moon?
We wonder why
the earth’s sacrificed
for the price of its greatest treasure
Did we fly to the moon too soon?
Did we squander the chance?
In the rush of the race
in the reason we chase is lost in romance
and still we try
to justify the waste
for a taste of mans greatest adventure.
And when we shoot for the stars
what a giant step
have we got what it takes
to carry the weight of this concept?
Or pass it by
like a shot in the dark
miss the mark with a sense of adventure
Did we fly to the moon too soon?
Did we squander the chance?
In the rush of the race
in the reason we chase is lost in romance
and still we try
to justify the waste
for a taste of mans greatest adventure.

Fala was a black Scottish Terrier and was FDR’s constant companion.

So after some less than light hearted looks at America in this themed week I think we might try a little bit of a different topic. Today I’m going to talk about Murray the Outlaw of Fala Hill.

It’s important to know that that isn’t just an added on bit ot Murray’s name like a sort of Alexander the Great situation. All of “Murray the Outlaw of Fala Hill” appeared on his birth certificate. This may be an opportune moment to mention that I’m talking about a dog. Obviously all of that is a bit of a mouthful so the dog’s owner, Franklin Delanos Roosevelt – for it was he, used to call him Fala.

Up until this point the Roosevelts had had very mixed results with pets. They had always done well until they had arrived at the white house. In the first year of their being the First Family one dog brok it’s own foot and another bit a senator.

At that point they decided not to have any pets until Fala arrived seven years later as a gift. Fala was a black Scottish Terrier and was FDR’s constant companion. At least at first.

At first Fala went everywhere, even meeting Churchill several times. However in 1944 disaster struck. Fala was left behind accidentally on the Aleuthion Islands. And the Republicans seized upon this incident and tried to turn it to their political advantage. They claimed that FDR had used tax payers money to rescue him. But Roosevelt made an important rebuttal saying Fala’s “Scottish soul was furious” at the accusation and that Fala had “not been the same dog since”.

Just one year later FDR was dead. And if the Aleuthion Islands incident had changed him this destroyed him. Fala lived on another seven years but never really adjusted to living with Mrs. Roosevelt. When he died he was buried in the same garden as FDR.

FDR said famously that there is nothing to fear except fear itself. Interesting George W. Bush also has a dog. It is called Spot. As far as we know it doesn’t have any spots.