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Meme lag

I’m suffering from (or committing) something that I hereby dub Meme lag. I haven’t done a lyrics quiz. I haven’t done a “five lies”.

Not that I have to. But I will.

Probably after such a long time that they’ll seem all fresh and new again.

Picture credits

It has occurred to me that, since I started using my picture, I haven’t credited it (or even asked permission).

took the picture, using ‘s camera. I edited it to fit the LiveJournal limits. You can see the full. original version at .

I don’t know whose copyright I’m infringing. I believe that, if you take a photograph you inherently own the copyright, but who owns it if you take it with someone else’s camera?

Oh well. I’m sure you don’t mind, guys?

The thief of time, or: Where the hell did those two years go?

It’s a truism that time appears to pass faster as we get older. Just how true this is was brought home to me anew when it crossed my mind that I had, a while ago, been thinking about writing a piece with a similar title to the above.

Then I realised that I had been thinking about it around last New Year. Yet it felt to me like it had been no more than a few weeks before.

Then on Radio 4′s Today program, before I left for work this morning, they were doing a piece on time-saving devices, and how some people think that they don’t save us time, but merely free us to waste it in new ways. And how we’ve lost the sense of process.

To paraphrase:

We travel only to be at our destination, not to experience the journey; we treat food as something to eat, not something to cook; we wash merely to have clean clothes or dishes, not to get them clean.

Which is all very well, but what exactly is the problem with that? Especially in the case of the last point: I’d say, “Damn right” to that one The single best household good we ever bought was the dishwasher.

As for travelling, well of course we do it to be at the other place. For example, I went to ‘s with Frances and the kids for New Year, and the purpose of the travelling was only so that we could be with our friends. If I could have stepped onto a transporter platform and beamed there in an instant I’d certainly have done so in preference to experiencing the dubious pleasures of the rain-drenched M11.

On the other hand, I do enjoy cooking, but what with work and kids and band there’s little enough time for home life. And at the same time, it’s slightly ironic that they should run that piece just a week after many if not most people in the country have spent a day cooking (or helping to cook) the biggest meal of the year.

Here’s a thought: if, on Christmas Day, you could press a button and instantly have a classic Christmas dinner ready, with no preparations and no cooking, would you? I think I probably wouldn’t. Because part of the whole Christmas experience is the preparation and cooking.

Though I would certainly use such a magic button at other times…

With the year-change bringing thoughts of time, the other time-related quote I was thinking of using as a title was, “Time takes a cigarette”, from Bowie’s
‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide’. Then what do they go and use as part of the backing for the Radio 4 piece? Plagiarists!

It was an interesting piece, though, and I would have liked to listen to all of it; but I was already late leaving, and so (of course) I didn’t have time.

And last year’s piece? Inevitably I never found the time to write it.

In a nice touch of real-world LiveJournal linking, just after the year turned at Si’s, we got a phone call from . Which was nice.

The Death of a Hero

Joe Strummer died yesterday.

For me, the word “hero” is not too strong. The Clash were my favourite band of all time, and I’ve continued to follow his solo work. He’ll be sadly missed.

There are two spooky coincidences about this two me. First is that I heard about it in a text message from . This is a strange, sad echo of his recent posting in which he dreamt that he texted me about discovering a Clash gig at a con.

The second is that yesterday, I set up my turntable for the first time in several months. The second record I played was Combat Rock.

When do we forgive?

Or maybe that should be, “when do we forget?” or, “When do we let it lie?”

I was thinking about the Saatchi ad agency, and how all decent people in Britain despised them throughout the eighties and nineties, because of their work in getting the Tories into power, and keeping them there.

You may remember how, just a year or two ago, Iain Banks admirably refused to go to some awards ceremony or other, because it was being held at the Saatchi gallery. “Words matter,” said the writer, correctly[1].

Indeed, it was that phrase that started this whole train of thought. On leaving work I noticed what I thought was one of the many casual misspellings that haunt our public spaces. In this case it was on a London Borough of Merton electronic noticeboard by Wimbledon station. “Run with the Wimbledon Windmilers”, it said, and I wondered whether it was a pun on the distance they run. Wimbledon has a windmill, though, and I somehow doubted that members of an athletic organisation would be that keen on wordplay. A quick websearch showed me that I was wrong, though.

Indeed, I imagined a literate member of the organisation complaining about it to their colleagues, and being told, “It doesn’t matter: it’s only a word”.

But it’s their name. And names matter. Words matter (the fact that I was mistaken, and there was no misspelling doesn’t matter, for the sake of this argument).

So when should we let the Saatchis — or at least their name — back into polite society? It’s hard to say; and not an immediately pressing matter, as I have no particular desire to visit their gallery, nor a need for an ad agency.

It’s not like that first time I bought South African wine after apartheid ended. That was both difficult, and positive. Difficult because I had developed such an ingrained reaction against South African goods; and positive because I could feel I was supporting the new regime.

That, of course, was several orders of magnitude more significant than the doings of a seedy little political party and their advertising lapdogs (hmm, I wonder whether the lapdog relationship was actually the other way round?)

I suppose, though, if it comes to making the decision, I should ask myself, “What would Iain Banks do?”

[1] Though I have to admit to doubting my memory when I find that Google can find no record of this event, either on the web or on Usenet. And, as I always say, if Google can’t find it, it’s probably not there.

Oh, the humiliation

I used to go to Edinburgh University. For the first two years I was nominally doing Astrophysics, until it proved too difficult, and I backed off to do plain Physics (which, in turn, I only just managed to pass; but that’s another story).

In our house we’re regular watchers of University Challenge. So imagine my excitement last night when Edinburgh were on with a team of scientists, including two astrophysicists.

And imagine my embarassment when they were roundly trounced by a team from Southampton.

It did seem slightly ominous when Paxo specifically said that they were weak on arts. It’s common for arts-heavy teams to be weak on science; but I’ve never seen a team of scientists that were so bad on arts.

Actually I don’t think I’ve ever seen a UC team that was all scientists before, but I’ve never met four scientists who knew so little bout the arts.

Maybe standards really are slipping? Or maybe today’s science students just aren’t reading enough Science Fiction. Who knows. Though by the look of that last link, even SFSoc don’t read much now.

Incidentally, when I was there, we didn’t have any of those websites. Because we didn’t even have the web. Seems hard to imagine now…

A first entry

The waiting emptiness of a new blog is even more intimidating than that of a blank page. Especially when, as with LiveJournal, there’s an already-existing community who all seem to know each other. It’s a bit like it must be to go to an SF convention when you don’t know anyone.

I once saw a guy in the bar on the Saturday night at a con, (I think it was that Eastercon in Docklands) sitting on his own, wearing a walkman. He seemed to be saying, “I want to be here, but it’s so hard to get in that I might as well make my own entertainment.” I kind of wanted to ask him to join our group, but I didn’t, partly because of my own reticence about approaching a stranger (and fear that I’d end up having to babysit a weirdo for the rest of the con, if I’m honest) and partly because, of course, the other thing his walkman was saying was, “Don’t talk to me.”

Now I don’t want to be saying that, so I’ve got all the comment options enabled. And fortunately I know swisstone and zotz. So that’s a start.

My reasons for joining the blogging revolution (not that I need to give any) are: ego (I want to be like Charlie Stross or Cory Doctorow or Doc Searls) and not wanting to miss out on a bandwagon (if I can paraphrase the Bard (of Barking): “So join the struggle while you may/The Revolution is just a text editor away”).

And I’ve been meaning to set up a personal website for ages anyway. And one day I still will. But in the meantime (and after, in all likelihood) I’ll publish anything I want here.

Thank you for your attention.