Give Us Our Daily Blog

As I started redeveloping this site, it became apparent that I wanted to link to my collection of daily blog reads and this became the place to keep them.

In common with any page of links, many of the pages noted below have long since moved, closed or cease to be updated in any regular kind of way. Facebook and Twitter have meant some of those who I used to read have moved on to the next way to communicate their thoughts. I keep this here as a nice remineder of the early days of blogging!

As I started redeveloping this site, it became apparent that I wanted to link to my collection of daily blog reads and this became the place to keep them.

The first, almost daily, read is Jase Wells. I guess I have been something of an invisible online stalker to this site for years. I have watched it move, change and develop since sometime in 1994 when I first came across it. It still remains one of the best personal homepages on the web – and I am very pleased to see that he has turned it into a blog.

Next on the list is Tom Coates’ plasticbag.org – which must be one of the best around and, if I am honest, I miss it if he doesn’t post. You will find notsosoft linked from there which, I think, contains some of the best writing on the web.

trabaca, posterboy, eric and contrasts.net provide additional regular reading from the US, while Adam’s photoblog provides stunning pictures on a regular basis. overyourhead is a UK take, while prolific is based in Amsterdam. Haddock blogs is a collection of well-known UK internet names.

Of course, blogsphere is represented well by Metafilter which I try and check out most days.

Other’s of note include Nick Denton and Brendan O’neill for opinions; Scott Andrew, Ben Hammersley and Jason Kottke for web-related stuff and Stuart Towns for his travelogue.

Finally, if you’re not interested in reading the ramblings of people you may never have heard of, then click along to Wil Wheaton’s blog which is a fascinating take on the world of celebrity.

Donnie Darko

The Guardian said, Is it a horror film? A black comic parable of Generation X angst? A teen drama with a psycho edge? If not, what the hell is it?

Possibly the strangest and most compelling film I have seen all year and it’s not had a great deal of coverage. Donnie Darko’s website is very wierd and I am not sure you’ll get much from that. Tom, on the other hand, raves about it. You can read more reviews here or at The Guardian. I can’t explain it. Go see it.

Go Out

I’m not the most active member of this community but I certainly feel it is a community and one I am happy to be part of.

This morning the post man knocked more than once. PY, who always jumps out of bed for parcels and post, decided to answer the door where he discovered a large parcel from Out – my lovely black fleece had arrived (from OutOnTheStreets to be precise). This event, and Tom’s post (which I highlighted the other day and started out as a response to this) set me thinking about notions of community.

Now Out is an online community of (mainly) gay men from around the world – although at the moment it’s predominantly UK based. It’s a great place to be and very unlike many of the other commercial gay sites. It’s all about social interactions and not about sex (like some) nor about profit (like others). It funds itself by way of a non-compulsory licence fee and sells merchandise to add to that. It encourages real-world events and traditional social interaction.

Now, I have never attended one of the events and I don’t log on every day (like some). I don’t count many of my friends (online or otherwise) as being members and I can’t say I have made any lasting friendships on Out – although many have.

However, it is still a community and I am still part of it. I choose to contribute financially and I should do more in real life. There are many issues raised by Out that I shall discuss in more detail at some point soon (paying for online content; the concept of zero exploitation and the concept of online communities) but at this point all I want to say is that I feel similar about blogging. I do it primarily for my own record/entertainment/amusement. As a by-product, I get to tell the world how I feel about things and strike up some interesting discussions and relationships along the way. It’s a place for me to express and, most importantly, it’s another community that I belong to. Again, I’m not the most active member of this community but I certainly feel it is a community and one I am happy to be part of.

Inspirational Eden

Tim Smit provides an insight into the group vision that resulted in one of the more successful Millennium projects – Eden. And the fact that it is the work of a committed group of people is not lost on the reader. Smit regularly repeats the mantra that Eden was only developed thanks to the work of a wide range of individuals from contractors to councils, and not forgetting the plant-men.

Tim Smit provides an insight into the group vision that resulted in one of the more successful Millennium projects – Eden. And the fact that it is the work of a committed group of people is not lost on the reader. Smit regularly repeats the mantra that Eden was only developed thanks to the work of a wide range of individuals from contractors to councils, and not forgetting the plant-men.

If you want to understand some details behind the way such projects are developed then this is a book you should read. When the project was floundering while all the funding partners came together then Tim Smit was there and he relives it through the book. Sometimes you wonder how it call came together.

On the other hand, if you are a plant-lover, gardener or horticulturalist then this is also a book you should read. Smit tells the fascinating story of the development of the biome concepts and the plants they chose to grow. More importantly he discusses the relationship between man and the natural surroundings we inhabit; debating our fragile relationship with a range of environments along the way.

However, what you take from this book is a mixture of all of the above. Landscaping, plant husbandry and environmental considerations sit alongside planning, funding, road building and visitor education projects. It’s one man’s personal account rather than a definitive history and the cast of characters seems endless and, sometimes, confusing. However, the determination and vision that drove the project; the commitment and enthusiasm of all the people and the role Eden believes it should be playing on the world stage are all presented in an accessible, very readable account of, what seems to have been, a long but successful process. If this book doesn’t inspire you to aim higher and better, then nothing will.Buy Eden at Amazon.co.uk

Hope I Haven’t Missed Your Birthday

My trusted Palm Vx – from which sprang the this blog (why just write stuff for my own reading when I can bore everybody else?) – contains many useful freeware/shareware and fully-paid up pieces of software that didn’t come pre-installed. The most useful is DateMate. Datemate is a simple little program that stores birthdays, anniversaries and events and is able to populate the Palm Date Book with update information so that I can always recall how old somebody is and how many years they have been married. If you own a Palm I would wholeheartedly recommend you look at it.

Sadly, however, I have done two silly things in the past months:

  • Firstly, I changed my synchronisation settings with Outlook so that all birth dates and anniversaries were wiped from my Date Book. This is OK, as DateMate will retain the backup and all I had to do was re-enter them but ..
  • Secondly, I updated DateMate and forgot to read the update instructions so I have updated to a later version that won’t accept my registation number. As a consequence, I can’t export a list of all the entries to enable an easy re-entry procedure. So now I am going to have to upgrade and I am not sure it’s 100% necessary.

Ah well, maybe it would be easier to maintain a paper diary but it wouldn’t be as much fun, would it?

Wasted Weekends

I feel very strange things about this Monday morning. You see I didn’t do any of the things I wish I had done over the last weekend.

I feel very strange things about this Monday morning. You see I didn’t do any of the things I wish I had done over the last weekend. I had great plans to spend the time decorating the exterior of my house before the windows fall out due to the winter rains and frosts. Then I thought I might finally finish the clearing of the back garden so that some form of order is visible (again before the winter frosts come). No. I couldn’t do any of this because I went to sleep.

Instead of going late night drinking after seeing Taboo on Friday night, PY and I came home because I was exhausted (I don’t think anybody else really wanted a long drinking session either but that is not the point). I slept late, got up, had breakfast and started a few general household chores. Then I thought I would have forty winks. Unfortunately, I slept until 5pm and then realised that Saturday was gone. A whole weekend had then to be squashed into Sunday (where I stayed in bed late again) and I wasn’t very enthusiastic. I also had to have a late-Sunday brunch-style event in Notting Hill with some friends over from Australia. That was great (and seeing people who live outside London always make me crave space and forget the advantages of this great city) but I can’t believe I didn’t do anything very much around the house. I had such great plans.

So, that’s why I am now somewhat deflated. The weekend – which I look forward to like every other office-bound individual – turned out to be a let down. And now I am faced with another whole working week before I get some time off. And to cap it all, I will then have to do all last week’s little jobs as well as any new ones I come up with. I hate days like this and weekends like that! And I resent the fact that it is all my fault.

Elsewhere: Everything Taboo

I thought Taboo was fantastic and I wasn’t sure what to really expect. I think I had envisaged it as something akin to Closer To Heaven, but it wasn’t really like that at all. I loved the fact that The Venue is quite small and quite intimate which made you feel closer to the stage (and the audience bits help) and, of course, it brought memories flooding back (although I was watching events in the early-80s from the safety of the north).

I went to see Boy George’s Taboo last Friday and have been contemplating the blog entry ever since. I have to say that I thought that it was fabulous and I want to see it again (I even ordered the soundtrack last night!). It’s a fictional account of a lot of real people but most of the plot must be based on Boy George’s own life story as I recognised may of the characters and plot lines from his book Take It Like A Man. Obviously, he is a key (though not the central) character. I would thoroughly recommend to this anybody visiting London regardless of the way you feel about Boy George. It’s a strange time capsule of a musical and his songs are great – although several of them are old (some of which are taken from the under-rated album Cheapness and Beauty which I regard as one of the best of all time). The story is tender, the performances top-rate and the whole thing is laugh-out-loud funny (especially, Julian Clary). Lastmiunte.com often has cut-price tickets a few days before a show. Go see it. Often.

I also posted a review to the musical fan group at Yahoo! This is what I wrote:

I thought Taboo was fantastic – and I wasn’t sure what to really expect. I think I had envisaged it as something akin to Closer To Heaven, but it wasn’t really like that at all. I loved the fact that The Venue is quite small and quite intimate which made you feel closer to the stage (and the audience bits help) and, of course, it brought memories flooding back (although I was watching events in the early-80s from the safety of the north).

I am a big fan of Boy George’s more recent albums – Cheapness and Beauty is one of my all time favourites. When I heard some of the songs were being reworked for the show I was worried. Luckily, few have been re-penned and those that have been re-done are still as good as they are on the CD (although different). I was stunned by how much the mannerisms of the Boy George character seem to be like the Boy George we see on TV etc. It was a remarkable performance. Duncan Bennett as Billy was superb (was he really in the band Point Break? I don’t remember him) as well as being some appealing eye candy 😉 It was a thoroughly entertaining night out and I would recommend it to anybody.

Julian Clary was superb and, of course, looked stunning in those Leigh costumes. I would be interested to see how other people play the part as he put his own stamp on it without it seeming to be too Julian Clary.

I’ve ordered the CD – the cheapest I could find it was £10.99 at play.com – although it was on back order I notice tonight that they have posted it to me. I’m sure the CD doesn’t do the show justice (they rarely do) but I hope it will be brilliant anyway! Lastminute.com always seems to have discounts on top price tickets. I bought the cheaper seats direct from the box office and, to be honest, I think my view was as good as anybody with the more expensive ones (the theatre isn’t really large enough for it to make a difference). However, Lastminute’s discount seats are even cheaper and I shall certainly be going again.

[Links: BBC News – George breaks 80s Taboo | BBC News – Matt Lucas’s comic extremes | Guardian – We were so naughty | I Love the 80s]

Working Late (again)

Working. I want to work, that’s for sure but I am not sure what I want to do for a living. My job is OK and pays well but it’s hardly the most stimulating of careers and, what’s more, I was in the office until almost 9pm. 9pm on a Friday night. Somehow, I don’t think this is right:

  • I do not think it’s right for me to work so many additional hours. It’s not the first night this week by a long shot. I do get paid reasonably well but I want to work to live rather than live to work.
  • I do not think this is right for my relationship. I am so exhausted by the time I get home that all I do is eat and sleep. This is not much of a life really.
  • I do not think this is right for my health. Lengthy hours equal stress in the desire to get home (and I am sure must lead to mistakes somewhere along the line). I need to eat (decent food) at a decent hour and not (fast food) at some late hour before I fall asleep on the sofa or crawl to bed.
  • I’m not even site it’s right for the company that employs me. I’m sure that by putting this much pressure on me, they are not getting the best out of me.
  • And above all it’s not right for my spirit. It depresses me to spend so long working. I know I am lucky to have a reasonably paying career but if this is all life is then I am not sure I want it. The career, that is, I do want the life!

But at last, the weekend! Time to re-charge.

Our Country Friends

How many of us who live amidst an urban sprawl would rather be living in the countryside? I suspect it’s a conversation that keeps the wine bars of large parts of London alive. The quest for a quieter, simpler life is something many people search for. Indeed, it is something I have thought of many times. Move all my worldly goods to the South West and see what happens. Well, in truth, at this moment in my life I don’t actually want to do it. Sometimes, however, I wish I could lose the congestion and stresses of inner-city (or, in my case, suburban) living.

And why am I asking myself these questions? Well, last Sunday was the day The Countryside Alliance marched through London. I avoided the centre of town for most of the day but I did enjoy a lunch at Wandsworth Common. Seated at most of the tables surrounding us where groups of people who, quite evidently, had been on some part of the march. What intrigued me was why so many of them had taken a train out of central London to Wandsworth Common.

Of course PY, who seems to have a greater understanding of many of these things than I, claimed that many of those people sat there on Sunday afternoon were in fact local residents but they had been marching for the countryside cause – “Liberty and Livelihood”. Upon reflection, I think he was right. Many of them may have other houses in the country, perhaps even own large amounts of land. But what struck me most was a simple economics. If all the money they spent in the restaurants of Wandsworth Common each Sunday was spent in the countryside then rural communities would be booming. Not only that, but if they all went and lived outside the city and enjoyed the life they were marching to protect on a daily basis (rather than at weekends), then they would free up a great deal of housing stock in urban areas. Thus, the countryside benefits (it’s full of people spending money and supporting the “lifestyle”) and those of us wishing to remain (for the time being) city dwellers would also benefit from less ridiculous housing costs. Doesn’t everybody win? (Well, I know there is the matter of jobs, schools and other infrastructure etc. but you have to admit it’s starting point, if not wholly thought through. And more importantly it’s plainly hypocritical to march for something you don’t actively – economically – support).

For a more interesting read on tweed in the town, see here.

Nike 10K

I want to pass comment on the fact that PY, my significant other/partner/general love of my life, ran the Nike 10K Run London event yesterday in a time which beat his run last year. I was nearly in tears when he crossed the line – isn’t that sad?

The event itself did not seem as well organised as last year. We waited at Wimbledon where there were not enough shuttle buses. The transportation problems lead to a delay at the start and, I imagine, a good number of competitors who didn’t make their allotted start time. The atmosphere was not as good as last year either. In Kew Gardens and with half the number of competitors, last year’s race seemed more intimate and fun. This year, Richmond Park, was spread out and didn’t seem to have the same number of things for those non-runners amongst the throng, to do.

The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband

… on seeing the three-headed comedy, The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband at The New Ambassadors Theatre.

After much walking around London yesterday, I eventually got PY, American Colleague and Myself tickets to The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband. It’s on at The New Ambassadors Theatre, which can be an intimate and interesting venue. It stars Alison Steadman and Daisy Donovan.

It’s a three-headed almost-farce like comedy (I was waiting for a Vicar and no trousers) and it’s only mediocre. Firstly, the title gives the game away. Secondly, the story is too weak to be carried for ninety minutes and thirdly, sadly, some of the acting isn’t great. There’s an old adage that everyone’s a critic and at £32 a ticket I think I bloody well deserve to be. Daisy Donovan, who I find hilarious on television, seemed out of place – although maybe that was just me as reviewers seem to think she handled herself well. However, when the main comedic thrust of her role was the comedy dancing – which might work on TV but looks very strange on the stage – I didn’t think she stood a chance. I imagine that Alison Steadman did her best but I think, the material was just not up to it. It didn’t give Daisy Donovan anything to make her West-End debut with and it didn’t give Alison Steadman anything to get her teeth into. This review says all this in a much more articulate way.

Still, despite its shortcomings, it was an OK evening. Middle aged couples and pairs of gay men. There is something faintly disturbing about that mix. And, perhaps, one should always remember that food is as important as sex.

Tired

Another night of entertaining on Old Compton Street

Bet you’re thinking, not another entry about food. My office (more-or-less) took American colleague out for dinner again last night and, again, on Old Compton Street. Pizza. Huge pizzas (not had such a big pizza in London for some time) that were bigger than any plates that the restaurant had available. Many office-type things to speak of but I will reserve judgement on the evening for another time (how mysterious).

So now I am dog-tired. I have been entertaining or being entertained, all week. I have to arrange theatre trips for tonight and other things for the rest of the weekend. It’s very strange, as I haven’t felt this physically exhausted in months. I feel really drained but I couldn’t sleep any longer than I did. My brain was awake and I was getting to that point when lying in bed hurts more than the thought of getting up pains me. Maybe it an age thing.

Fast Food Nation

It did not come as much of a surprise to find that so-called fast food is not the healthiest food in the world.

Fast Food Nation BookIt did not come as much of a surprise to find that so-called fast food is not the healthiest food in the world. It was certainly no surprise to discover that the fast food chains are not the greatest employers in the world. It wasn’t unexpected to read that the big brands employ so many people that they wield great economic power.

What did, however, surprise and alarm me was the sheer influence Eric Schlosser claims the fast food companies have over the whole food chain and related economies. Is it really in the consumer’s best interests for the large food giants to have such a firm grip on the production of the raw materials that make up their final products? It is suggested that this power has knock-on effects on the health of (not only) consumers but on the shape of the entire economy.

Schlosser’s book makes disturbing reading. It’s unashamedly populist in its approach, suggesting that economic gain and corporate profit are more important than the well-being of the consumers. However, regardless of the author’s standpoint much of the evidence he produces is damming and that makes it a compelling read. If you’ve ever eaten fast food you should read it. It has certainly made me think harder about ordering anything “with fries to go”.

The Full Monty

I saw The Full Monty at The Prince of Wales Theatre, London, last night. I have to admit that it was a lot better than I expected it to be. The central story that you’d recognise from the film is there but it has been adapted for the stage and re-set in Buffalo, New York.

In particular, the introduction of some new characters (the excellent Lynda Baron as Jeanette and the lovely Julian Essex-Spurrier as Keno, a professional male stripper) helps the story along well. The songs were strong and I shall be looking forward to getting the CD. In my opinion, Ben Richards (Jerry) was excellent as the show’s main character – which is useful, as he does seem to have a majority of the show to carry. The rest of the cast were great: Paul Keating made Ethan into a amusing character, adding a slap-stick dimension to the humour and David Ganly carried Dave’s insecurities and vulnerabilities well.

Without taking anything away from the show I would have liked to see it set back in the UK and the main narrative driver (Jerry’s need for money to keep seeing his son) was somewhat unbelievable (even for a West-End Musical). However, if you fancy an evening in a theatre that is 70% groups of women (although it didn’t seem overly hen-nighty) then I would thoroughly recommend it.