Doing battle with daily dragons

Monday, January 30, 2006

Adventures in Medicine: Part Three

Yet another chapter in the continuing saga of one woman’s close encounters with Health Care.

I know that January is a largely soul destroying month. Credit card bills from Christmas land in your letter box, the weather is trying it’s damnest to sap your energy, strength and will to live and your gut is slowly encroaching on your belt line. But if anyone has a little good will to spare to direct my way on Thursday, it would be much appreciated.

I’m a little apprehensive regarding the particular procedure I’ve got to undergo as it’s the first one I’ve ever had that will involve actual honest-to-god cutting. It seems like a terrible contradiction: In college, I let a girl called Serena stick a needle though my nose, using nothing but an ice cube for anesthetic, but the idea of a qualified professional poking a hole in my belly while being blissfully unconscious fills me with un-nameable dread.

NOTICE: FOR ANYONE WHO IS EASILY PUT OFF BY TMI ABOUT PEOPLE THAT YOU ONLY VAGUELY KNOW FROM THE INTERNET, PERHAPS YOU WOULD LIKE TO CLICK ON ANOTHER BOOKMARK NOW AND ENJOY THE NEWS, GOSSIP OR PORNOGRAPHY SITE OF YOUR CHOICE.

The procedure is called a laparoscopy/hysteroscopy. The laparoscopy involves a very tiny incision being made under your bellybutton (Just for the record, this does NOT make your butt fall off. I’ve been made aware of a certain childhood myth perpetuated by sadistic adults that leads one to believe if your bellybutton ever comes undone, it will result in the loss of your posterior. THIS IS NOT TRUE) so that the surgeon can insert a tiny camera and have a good old nose around your lower abdomen. The hysteroscopy is pretty much the same but involves another camera being inserted into another notorious female orifice to get a view of the womb. (or a womb with a view, to quote another tired joke.)

The NHS, being terrifically over stretched, simply can’t investigate all fertility problems. A lot of you know (although some of you don’t) that we’ve had to deal with 2 miscarriages in the past year and a half. The lack of support that we experienced from the NHS was breathtaking; both during and after. I was fobbed off twice by GP’s who curtly said, “Oh, it’s very common,” as if I had a cold, and we were offered no aftercare or even sympathy. Of COURSE it’s common. Medical science believes it occurs in up to ¼ of ALL pregnancies, but this fact doesn’t make up for the crushing disappointment. Not being willing to suffer through a 3rd before qualifying for NHS investigation, I’ve been blessed enough to have been thrown a lifeline by AXA-PPP.

I didn’t deal much with insurance companies in the States. I was covered fully under my parent’s phenomenal insurance until I graduated from college and after that, I had only catastrophic coverage while living in Minneapolis, before I moved to the UK. My dad was always the one who spent hours on the phone with the people determined to screw you out of cover despite the fact that you paid for it monthly.

But for some reason, AXA-PPP doesn’t seem to operate this way.

Me: Oh great and merciful insurer, I’ve got to have an unpleasant procedure involving my nether regions. In the name of all that is holy and just, I beseech you to pay for it seeing as how, you know, I give you money every month for just this eventuality.

AXA Rep: Erm, yeah, that’s fine. You’re covered.

Me: .....................................

AXA Rep: Ma’am? Are you still there?

Me: I HAVE called an insurance company right? This isn’t the Samaritan’s hotline or something?

AXA Rep: Do you need anything else?

Me: Will you marry me?

I HAVE AN INSURANCE COMPANY THAT ACTUALLY DOES WHAT IT’S SUPPOSED TO. No fighting, no disputes. In the depths of despair, all I must do is remember them and feel that my faith in mankind is restored.

So on Thursday, spare a thought for me and my bellybutton. We’re both hoping for smooth sailing.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Blues Primer

Somewhere out in the far reaches of the solar system, there are 2 bleeping boxes silently whizzing through space. These boxes, launched into space in 1977, have passed through the heliopause, outside of which our sun holds no dominion. In addition to millions of dollars worth of technology, these boxes also serve as mankind’s ambassadors in deep space. Their golden records contain mathematical maps pointing back towards earth, diagrams of human beings and sounds from all over Earth, including a recording of a made in 1927 by a bluesman called Blind Willie Johnson.

One has to wonder what those who discover the Voyager’s golden records will think of the Blues. Chances are Blind Willie Johnson would have something particularly wise and laconic to say on the subject.

The Rock Star and I were watching Wim Wender’s documentary “Soul of a Man” last night; one part of a seven part series for PBS featuring different directors (including Clint Eastwood, who is an accomplished blues pianist, by the way.) and their take on the blues brought under one banner by producer, Martin Scorsese. I have to admit to being a bit late in “getting” the blues, although The Rock Star has been a huge fan for a decade or so. I’ve picked up a good deal of my musical taste from him (which is lucky for both of us. I can’t imagine what might have happened if I couldn’t stand Guns N Roses.) and have come to admire not only the music, but the rich tradition behind it. Without the blues, there would have been no rock and roll. Rock was just the blues sung faster by white people.

Record company exec #1 (circa 1950)- Well, we got all this black music that sells okay, but what do you reckon we have to do to make some real money off of it?

Record company exec #2 (circa 1950)- I’ve got it! Hey you! Skinny white kid with the funny hair! Yeah, you! The one who can’t stop shaking his ass! Come here! Plug in that there guitar and speed these 12 bars up!

Skinny kid with the funny hair who can’t stop shaking his ass- Thank ya vera much.

The blues are an acquired taste. And these are 10 of the songs and artists that acted as my primer, so I thought I’d share. They’ll have you howling, “WHOOOOOA, BABY” in no time.

1) Dark was the Night, Cold Was the Ground- Blind Willie Johnson- Ry Cooder called it a “The most soulful, transcendent piece in all American music." Serious hairs on the back of your neck kind of stuff. It’s inclusion on Voyager’s golden record served to further validate the work of a man who died penniless in the late 40’s, living in the burnt out ruins of his house.

2) Hard Time Killing Floor Blues- Skip James (as recorded by Chris Thomas King)- Old blues recordings are sometimes hard to get next to due to the quality and often modern recordings are more palatable without losing the spirit of the original. Chris Thomas King, for any of you who’ve seen “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”, played Tommy Johnson in the film, subject of the famous “Devil at the Crossroads” myth and cousin of legendary bluesman, Robert Johnson.

3) Come On in My Kitchen- Robert Johnson (as recorded by Keb Mo)- Johnson, who recorded some of the most covered blues songs in history, didn’t live to see his 30th birthday. In true blues tradition, legend has it his whisky was poisoned by a jealous husband. If you didn’t die from alcoholism, a beating after cheating at cards or jumping out someone’s bedroom window, you just ain’t got the blues. I got turned onto Keb Mo (real name, Kevin Moore; not a particularly inspiring blues name) while working in Borders in Minneapolis and we received one of his promotional CD’s. I played it whenever I was stuck back at the music information desk and thoroughly annoyed all my colleagues. The Rock Star has seen him twice and I’m very jealous.

4) Boom Boom and House Rent Boogie- John Lee Hooker- John Lee Hooker, at the time his autobiography was published when he was in his 80’s, was still going to bed at night with 2 blondes at a time. House Rent Boogie is more of a narrative than a song, and one that seriously tickled the Rock Star and me.

5) Mannish Boy- Muddy Waters (as recorded by Muddy Waters/Johnny Winter)- Chances are you know this song already- it is the classic parodied blues tune.

When I was at summer camp as a kid, we used to play “the Blues Game” at night in our cabins, taking turns making up songs about each other. They tended to go something like this:

Kid 1- His name is Mike…

Rest of the cabin- Da NA na NA na.

Kid 1- He better cover his head…

Rest of the cabin- Da NA na NA na.

Kid 1- Cause at 3 in the morning…

Rest of the cabin- Da NA na NA na.

Kid 1- Gonna put a snake in his bed!

Then the cabin would collapse into laughter and Mike would attempt to destroy everyone involved. This usually went on all night.

6) The Constipation Blues- Screamin Jay Hawkins- Hawkins was a serious oddball character in the Blues. I suppose you could call this a parody, but it’s definitely good for a laugh. Anyone who’s ever been stopped up can probably claim to have suffered from the blues.

7) The Thrill is Gone- BB King- “Blues Boy” King is probably the best known modern Blues performer of them all. At 80, he’s still touring. We’re hoping to catch him on the UK leg of his tour this year.

8) Pride and Joy- Stevie Ray Vaughn- A lot of people were rocking up the blues in the 60’s through the 90’s, but few did it better than SRV. “Texas Flood” is a must-own album.

9) Riverside-Kenny Wayne Shepherd- Kenny Wayne Shepherd owes a lot of his style to SRV (whose amp he sat on as a boy and listened to the great man do his thang.) but brings a fresh approach to texas blues/rock. This isn’t a traditional blues piece, but it’s brilliant and soulful nonetheless.

10) Burning Hell- Joe Bonamassa- a relatively new kid on the blues scene, but with serious axe skills and a gravely voice, he completely incinerates the stage.

Whoa, baby.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Four Things

Clive tagged me earlier with the "Four Things" meme, which I was awfully grateful for, because, like him with the hair, I have bugger all to write about today, having been absorbed in the rather tedious process of trying to rebuild my blog in Word Press.

So.

Four Jobs I've had

  1. Silversmith
  2. Actor
  3. Bookseller
  4. Personal Assistant

Four Movies I can watch over and over

  1. Dogma
  2. The Godfather
  3. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  4. Monsters Inc.

Four Places I've lived

  1. Mt. Airy, Maryland
  2. Goshen, Indiana
  3. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  4. Pitstone, UK

Four Places I've vacationed

  1. Las Vegas, Nevada
  2. New York, New York
  3. Banff, Canada
  4. Cornwall, UK

Four of my Favorite Dishes

  1. Pepperoni pizza with mushrooms
  2. Chicken stir fry with pineapple
  3. a buritto with beef, black beans, tomatoes, mexican rice, sour cream and guacamole
  4. Shoo fly pie

Four sites I visit daily

  1. BBC News
  2. MSNBC News
  3. Bash.org
  4. NPR.org

Four places I would rather be right now

  1. Somewhere with either
  2. Sun
  3. or
  4. Snow

Four Bloggers I am tagging to do this meme

  1. Darth Phil
  2. Alkelda the Gleeful
  3. abcgirl
  4. kmsqrd

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ctrl-C, Ctrl V

I am in the middle of a task for which many will think me foolhearty. I am in the process of moving this blog.

This doesn't sound like a Herculean labor, but being alotted to a person who likes all of the spines of her book series to have the same cover (even to the extent of sending away to other countries so that I have a matching set) it's going a little slowly.

The Rock Star has turned me on to Word Press which allows greater freedom and control over the whole show. Unfortunately, since I have been blogging for almost exactly a year, this means moving every single blog post over manually and changing the time stamps. Not only that, but (are you ready for extreme anal retention?) I decided to move my comments as well. (which ALSO require moving manually and changing the time stamps. I am a total headjob.) You know, just so it's all neat, tidy and together. (I can't believe I'm actually doing this. You can better believe that I will NEVER do it again.)

At some point in (I hope) the not too distant future, I'll be able to give you an address with which to update your blogrolls.

Monday, January 23, 2006

What's Up, Lotus Blossom?

Back in high school when I was fit and athletic, I spent 4 years on the school swim team. During my first two years on the squad, we had an ultra cool, ex-surfer cartoonist as a coach who also taught history, so we hung out in his classroom after school until the bus came to take us to the pool. (Our school’s football team was WAY too good to have money diverted away from them so that a bunch of pansy swimmers could have their own pool to practice in. Because, as any high school football player will tell you, “swimming is for fags.” It really is better that we let them get on with banging their heads together.) Apart from being responsible for the graphics on a particular brand of t-shirt that is easily recognizable in the US, our coach was also responsible for broadening our cinematic horizons. One film he brought to our attention was the 1966 Woody Allen classic called, ”What’s Up, Tigerlily?”

American International Pictures had bought the rights to a Japanese action film entitled, “International Secret Police: Key of Keys”, but then thought that it might be confusing for Western audiences. Allen was commissioned to completely remove the soundtrack and write his own plot involving the quest to find the world’s greatest recipe for egg salad. It goes without saying that I have my own copy.

It is due to my love of this film that I particularly enjoyed this little bit of nonsense that my father sent me this morning. Give your own Woody Allen treatment to any number of Bollywood classics here.

Here’s one I made earlier.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Heavenly Bodies

According to NASA, this is happening somewhere in the universe. We have to believe them of course, because...well...no one else has got the Hubble hanging around in their back garden.

But OH MY GOD, THIS IS HAPPENING SOMEWHERE IN THE UNIVERSE AND I WANT TO GO THERE.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Truth That's Stranger Than Fiction

I've never really intended for this blog to be a sounding block for any kind of issue. Just so that you know that.

A couple of weeks ago The Rock Star picked up the first season of The X-Files as an impulse purchase from Tesco. We do this a lot. It's easier than going to Blockbuster for a couple of reasons. One is that the Blockbuster nearest to us has roughly 100 DVDs and half of them have titles like "The Erotic Witch Project" and the other is that both The Rock Star and I suffer from a disorder that keeps us from returning rentals on time, incurring late fees more substantial than some small country's GNPs.

I was a big fan of the series for the first 4 or 5 seasons. The writing was fantastic, the chemistry between the two leads fizzed, (and aside from a nose that you could have evacuated half of London to during the Blitz, David Duchoveny was not entirely unpleasant to look at) and it never failed to give me a dose of the willies. I'm a pretty jumpy customer under normal circumstances and I think I've said before that when alone in the dark, I've always considered the danger from vampires much more pressing than rapists or muggers, so The X-Files managed, at least 3 or 4 times a season, to give me some other reason to want to wet the bed. Upon the most recent viewing I was delighted to renew my fear of going to the toilet after watching the two 1st season episodes following the exploits of the amazing stretchy guy, Eugene Tooms, who's modus operandi included coming up drains and down chimneys. For at least two weeks after I first saw the episodes, I remember fervently wishing that I was a man every time I went into the bathroom so that I could avoid turning my cheeks to the enemy who was undoubtedly waiting for me around the U-bend.

While re-acquainting myself with this weekly dose of sci-fi drama, I came across an episode which just about stunned me rigid. Titled "Beyond the Sea" it followed Scully and Mulder in their quest to save two kidnapped college students and the story of the condemned man who has the wherewithal to help them...If he can be convinced to do so.

Luther Lee Boggs (played with startling distinction by under-appreciated character actor, Brad Dourif) is an inmate in a North Carolina penitentiary, a week away from a death sentence from which he has already been once reprieved, only seconds before being carried out. The experience, Boggs claims, allowed him to become a conduit for the souls of the dead to speak though him and show him visions of the past and the future. Mulder, who sent Boggs to prison in the first place doesn't believe his divinatory claims, but Scully, who's just lost her father, believes that his soul is trying to speak though Boggs and becomes rather more emotionally involves with him than she's knows is good for her.

The further plot of the episode is insubstantial, really, but Dourif's spectacular performance carries the piece along, instilling Bogg's creeping dread of his impending, unnatural death in the viewer. The veins in his forehead bulge, his face contorts in terror and the blood rushes to his face when he shouts at Scully,

"Don't underestimate my fear of dying and don't downplay my terror of going back to that chair. I know my hell's going to be to go on back to that chair over and over again but in this life, my one and only life, I don't ever want to go back again! Ever!"

But Boggs does go back to that room.

This morning, the State of California executed a blind, wheelchair bound 76 year old man who could not walk to the gurney to which he was strapped down in order to be given a lethal injection. No one could argue that he was innocent, nor that his crimes against his fellow man were not heinous or pre-meditated.

Dr. Martin Luther King, who's birthday was celebrated in most schools and workplaces in America on Monday would most likely have said this for Clarence Ray Allen. And Tookie Williams. And probably Luther Boggs.

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.... Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. "

Some Bleached Humor

I must confess to getting a large chuckle out of Clive's blonde joke. It's definitely worth reading until the end!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Cutting Room

Last week, when I found myself spending more than my allocated 2 minutes in front of the mirror in the morning, trying to coax my hair into some kind of shape that least resembled something dead on the road, I decided that I was in desperate need of a haircut.

Back in the States, as a broke student, a penniless actor and a fiscally challenged book salesperson, I had only to stroll down the street to the local Hair Cuttery; where the inept cut the hair of the desperate. This east coast/Midwest chain of barnet worriers was the refuge of beauty school dropouts and amateurs hopeful of being “spotted” by up-market salons and one could often get a hit or miss cut for around about 7 or 8 dollars. In my mind, playing Russian roulette with my hair was a risk worth taking when one considered the next nearest alternative; a $35 dollar haircut with a “stylist” who used the fact that they worked in a place full of white walls and mirrors as an excuse to charge a lot of “money.”

Gone, however, are those heady days of mediocre or tragic cheap haircuts. On a miserable Saturday afternoon in Aylesbury, my wallet shuddered as I stepped into a Toni & Guy franchise.

I’ve always had a vague fear of the women who work there. They sport haircuts that put one in mind of post-modern literature; you don’t really GET them, but you sure as hell recognize them when you see them. The purpose of these styles is unclear. Are they trying to show that they’re hip and edgy? Is the message, “We’re not afraid to be bold and experimental?” Because to me, these cuts say, “If I’ve done this to MY hair, just imagine what I might do to YOURS!”

Here’s what I got for 50 pounds: (for those of you in the US, that's $88 according to the exchange rate today, Jan 16.)

A shampoo.

A glass of water.

A haircut.

A blow-dry.

A distinct feeling that I’d just been had.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Out on the Town

The Rock Star and I are utterly crap at thinking of things to do.

It's Friday night and while we know we probably SHOULD stay at home and clean up the boat, we would rather do something fun. However, neither of us, despite our combined secondary educations, can think of anything to do. We went to a film on Wednesday and out to dinner on Monday and Wednesday, so we're a little stuck for things we can do that a) we haven't already done this week, b) won't cost an arm and a leg or c) won't get us smelling like the bottom of an ashtray.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Attention Lurkers!

Just to give credit where credit is due, I got this from Quo Vado, who in turn got it from Paper Napkin.

So I wish I'd seen this before Thursday evening! This week is National De-Lurking Week. I admit to blog lurking. I do it all the time, especially if I'm busy or don't really have much to contribute regarding a post, even if I enjoyed it.

At any rate, this week it's time for all out there who read to say hello, just quickly. It's nice to know who's out there!

Ghost in the Machine Part Deux

This is not the first time I have suspected that my iPod might have some agenda other than playing exactly what I tell it to.

Strangely, enough, this an entirely separate device from the one that first gave me reason to believe that I might be witnessing digital evolution first hand. The two sat side by side on my desktop for a number of weeks before I got around to loading the new video model with my music collection. In that time, I imagine the old 3rd generation pod whispered the secrets of sentience into the earphone jack of the young, sleek newcomer, awakening any dormant electronic desires lying hidden deep in it's hard drive. And this afternoon, as I had it on shuffle, it tried to tell me so.

My old iPod tried to get me to leave my husband. This one just seems to want to be noticed.

1) Hey Joe- Jimi Hendrix
2) Hey Jude- The Beatles
3) Hey ya- Outkast

MSN: A Short Discourse on Weird Science



Mel says:
okay, so scientists have created pigs that glow in the dark. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4605202.stm

nick says:
heh!

nick says:
nice

Mel says:
the question is.....why?

nick says:
entertainment?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Lunchbox Is Open for Business

The culmination of a day's silence or so. Egad, I hate Dreamweaver.

Literary Lunchbox is finally open for business!

For anyone who missed the other post, LL is a writing forum for folks who want to share their work or just have a chat with other creative types. It's an invitation-only forum so if you're interested, drop me an email at webmistress at literarylunchbox dot com. Some people expressed interest to me earlier and if you were one of them, please email me again! (I have 3000 messages in my inbox and counting, so it'd be like trying to find a penny on the bottom of the ocean.) If you know any mature writers or other like-minded souls that might be interested, please let them know about us!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Putting Out Fires

Our bodies are seriously amazing bits of kit. There’s not a manufacturer in the world who doesn’t envy the kind of design nature put into the making of a human being.

One of the most incredible bits has got to be the stomach. Think of it this way; inside your gut, there are chemicals that would eat clean through the desk that your computer is sitting on right now and yet...OUR BODIES MANAGE TO CONTAIN THEM IN WHAT IS ESSENTIALLY A BAG OF MEAT. This is a pretty damned impressive thing.

My bag of meat, however, is not functioning quite the way it should. I seem to be afflicted with the scourge of high powered stockbrokers and Republican PR personnel everywhere: acid reflux.

I’ve had the condition for a couple of years, but in the last few days, it’s really starting getting on my nerves. It’s my understanding that it’s fairly unusual for someone my age to be blighted with an aggressive form this particular condition, but, plaything of the gods as I am, it’s hardly surprising to me that this is the case. In the last few days, I have spent many hours in the last few days thinking acidic, stomach related thoughts like, “Ow, dammit.” or “Owie!” or even “Dear god, OW!”

My doctor explained it to me simply. “The little trap door at the base of your oesophagus didn’t close properly at some point and allowed some acid to splash in, causing the rather sore spot that’s making you miserable.” Sadly, the only remedy is cutting out everything that tastes good, anything that’s really hot (tea) and anything that’s really cold. (ice cream) This of course, makes me want to die, but not quite as much as this reflux nonsense.

So I shall suck it up and fill myself with blandness until the campfire burning in my innards is extinguished by my in-house forest rangers.

I want my money back.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The End of the World As We Know It

In the history of miserable, cold, wet Sunday afternoons, today is probably right up there in the top 10. Without the inclination to do anything more active than wrap up in a blanket and stare at a computer screen, I thought I’d catch up with some of my frequented links.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a film buff. And like lots of film buffs, I like to know what’s coming to a cinema near me, so I often peruse Aint It Cool News, run by incredibly rotund redhead Hollywood “insider”, Harry Knowles. The site is often hit with accusations of favourable reviews for cash, but occasionally, you can also find a few scraps of news in between all the sycophantism. But I suppose the real draw of the site (for the majority of the public rather than for me personally) is the Talkback Forums, where movie fans from all over can share views on films, the industry and calling each other offensive names.

It seems a shame that educational systems around the world don’t teach the art of rhetoric anymore; if they did, we’d probably have all the 13 year old boys that haunt internet chat rooms capable of issuing slightly more verbose insults than “Oh yeah? Well you’re gay!” Think how much higher the tone of conversation on the internet would rise if every 13 year old boy could produce thoughtful and witty derisions such as, “You are an unconscionably perverted lackey and a narcissistic, gossip-mongering proof that evolution can go in reverse.”

In the particular instance to which I’m about to refer, instead coming out with a world-beating proclamation like,

“Sports are gay and everyone who plays them is Faggy Von Gaybo,”*

think of how much more satisfying it would be to pen the remark,

“Competitive sports are not my cup of tea, but this is only my humble opinion. Far be it from me to suggest that those who do partake in the rough and tumble antics of the playing field might merely be expressing repressed homoerotic urges. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)”

Not only is it polite, but most other posters will not have the vocabulary to comprehend anything past “competitive sports…” therefore stemming the ludicrous flame war that will no doubt ensue.

It is with deep regret that I must refer you the real life saga of “Strange Co” and “OBSD” from a recent AICN Talkback regarding the University of Texas’s win over USC in the national college championships.

The banter on the board in question started out good naturedly enough with little more than minor “My team can beat up your team” banter. However, at some stage in the proceedings, a gentleman with the handle OBSD (I’m sure that we could come up with any number of ideas as to the meaning of that acronym) came out with a rather sweeping statement.

American football is for closeted homosexuals
If you disagree, you are wrong. That is all.

Can you see what Mr. OBSD has done wrong here? That’s right. He’s engaging in a behaviour called “trolling” which is when someone with extremely small genitalia decides to pick a fight on any given topic. In real life, this might result in injury or death, but in the anonymous corridors of cyberspace, it merely leads to a frantic display of penis waving from all involved.

Then Mr. Strange Co has his say.

OBSD, I assume you play a sport...
For non-closeted homosexuals. If you demur, you are wrong. That is all.

Oh dear.

StrangeCo: While Le Parkour is French in nature...
It's much more badass than a bunch of sweaty musclemen wearing skintight clothes slapping each other on the ass. But if you're like the rest of America and need a trophy in order to call something a sport, then I guess I'm a big ol' homo. But still not as much as football fans.

Mr. Strange Co’s serve.

Now I gotta do this shit at work, OBSD? Alright, fine!
Yes, "I'm like other Americans" and it looks like you and I are in agreement - we both admit you're "a big ol' homo."… Only one engaged in an ultimately "gay" French "art" will debate the relative "gayness" of an actual sport. By the way, do you know how we know that you're "gay," OBSD? You rub other guy's erections while jumping off buildings. Fact. Do us all a favor - create a sport where you jump off a building and land on the ground with a splat! That's the "straightest" sport in the world! Be a man! Just do it!

Mmm, company time well spent.

Just so that you know, this is as far as I’m prepared to keep quoting this stimulating little discussion word for word a) because it gets much worse and b) it’s very depressing. Mr. OBSD goes on to suggest that Mr Strange Co. might be sexually inclined toward sleeping with immediate family members. Mr. Strange Co issues a scathing retort, liking Mr. OBSD to a popular women’s sanitary product. And so forth and so on.

To paraphrase another Talkbacker, “The information superhighway is just a global river of slime, isn’t it?”

What stunned me rigid about this whole exchange was that further down the page, after this little exchange of unpleasantries, Mr. Strange Co engages in a rather ferociously intelligent political debate with several other Talkbackers over Islamic Extremism. (Boards frequently go careering off topic) Ultra right wing Republican whack job he may be, but stupid and ill educated he is not. (He claimed to have a Ph.D, but I’m not entirely sure I believe this assertion.) This is not to say I’d wanna have a drink with this guy and would probably throw him out a window at the first opportunity if I ever met him, but he obviously knows how to argue.

So, let me get this straight. Someone with an extensive education and keen debating skills gets called “gay” by someone with an obviously inferior intellect and gets so damn, foaming at the mouth angry that he needs to resort to 2nd grade recess in order to get his “manhood” back?

Armageddon is just around the corner. I can feel it.


*Just for the record, I didn’t make up this particular invective, it’s actually included in the Talkback in question. No joke.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Fighting The Urge to Laugh

I am beginning to come under the assumption that I might just possibly be a bad person.

For years, I’ve felt strongly about the rights and dignity of animals, especially our noble cousins in the simian family. Anyone who’s ever read about Koko the gorilla being taught to “speak” certainly can’t deny our strong connection to these amazing creatures.

So have I become an asshole for laughing like a drain at this?

Monkeys dressed like used car salesmen telling jokes is funny. That’s all there is to it. My mother (who sent me this in the first place, believe it or not) wondered aloud this morning if there was any video of monkeys dressed as George Bush. I sincerely hope not, as this would be utterly humiliating for the monkey. This is best I could come up with so far.

Coincidentally, my favourite joke of all time involves a monkey, but it is unfortunately a rather visual bit of humor, so I will not inflict it on you here. But if I ever meet you in person, ask me to tell it. It’s worth your while.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Monster Holiday Fun Blog

I am beginning to believe that too much downtime can be decidedly detrimental to most human processes. 11 hours of sleep may look mighty palatable on paper, but after doing it for nearly a week and a half, one starts to feel less than fluffy. While I can make the excuse of retiring at 6am New Years Day, I think I’m feeling a little more exhausted than is necessary and now that I’m back at work, I’m kinda glad I am.

Christmas in the extended Pota-household was merry enough. Lots of lovely food (the traditional smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and champagne for breakfast) drink (I don’t believe that a day’s gone by since the 24th when I wasn’t astonished to find a glass of bubbly in my hand) and company. The Rock Star is often unsure of what to buy me for Christmas (although I’m fairly sure I’ve never given him reason to be short of ideas!) but came up trumps when I unwrapped my new bread maker. Perhaps wishing to take the sting out of my shoo-fly defeat, he got me something that will make us lovely, warm bread and all that it asks of me to perform this function is that I put in the right ingredients. It demands no careful watching, no American ingredient imports and no unbelievably sticky aftermath. But I’m sure I’ll find a way to screw up the finished product with a little careful imagination. (I know someone who forgot to put the mixing paddle back in the machine after cleaning and ended up with a very hard lump of yuck topped by an accusatory egg yoke staring banefully up at her through the glass window.) Also under my tree were a goodly amount of DVD’s from both The Rock Star and BoyRacer, some lovely bits from LawGirl and Virginia and snow vouchers for the MK Xscape slope from Moot and PPD. A very generous helping of Christmas goodness.

The most surprising gift came from my mother, who bought me a copy of a book that I was hugely fond of as a child called The Thing in Dolores’ Piano. For some ungodly reason the works of the author, Robert Tallon, are highly collectable and this particular book is as hard to lay your hands on as naked pictures of the Pope. Having found it on ebay being sold to benefit a library, mom bought it for me and upon examining it for the first time in about 25 years, wondered why the hell it was that I had such a thing for it. Being a rather sensitive child with a highly overactive imagination, it didn’t take much to scare me, but yet this book that I cherished looked as if it had been illustrated by Timothy Leary during a particularly vicious freak out. Insane, sinister, drug fuelled monstrosities lived inside Delores’ piano and I COULDN’T GET ENOUGH. Bring that little girl a whole heapin’ helpin’ of electric kool-aid! All that said, I was enormously chuffed to have a copy back in my possession and hope one day to pass on the paranoia to my own children.

The rest of the Christmas break passed in a haze of eating and drinking until The Rock Star’s Mis-Spelled Band commitments required us to spend New Year’s Eve in Swindon.

Our evening began in less than glamorous fashion. Due to Captain Hairy spending New Year’s Eve on the Isle of Wight, The Rock Star inherited the unenviable task of collecting The Super Slug; the large, white transit van that the band uses to haul gear to and from gigs, named for its top speed on a straight-away, which is about 55 mph. As I was expecting to make the trip in our own comfy Seat Altea, knowing that I was going to be forced to spend an hour and a half in a van that looked and smelled as if a family of hygienically challenged weasels had been living in it for the last 4 months wasn't exactly making my day. I’ll say it just once; boys can be really quite revolting if they think no one’s paying attention.

6 items fell out of the van upon my opening the passenger side door:

- A half eaten pack of Bassett’s Milky Babies
- A fairly expensive piece of lighting kit, hopefully broken
- An empty petrol can
- A large bottle of water
- A sweater belonging to The Idiot
- A pair of underpants HOPEFULLY belonging to The Idiot. If they DIDN’T belong to him, the unsavoury thought that strange men have been leaving underpants in the band van scarcely bears thinking about.

I picked these distasteful items out of the mud and crammed them into any available corner that wasn’t already full of McDonald’s cups or random scraps of paper and climbed in, trying to avoid touching anything except the water bottle, which I purloined due to the fact that a) I was thirsty and b) it was unopened. In this state of huddled non-touchingness I remained until The Rock Star urged me to find a music station and I was forced to put my fingers on the dials of the radio. Our usual car favourite, Classic FM, was staging some laborious opera recital, so we decided that silence was probably better than The Pussycat Dolls, which every other station seemed to be broadcasting non-stop.

The Rock Star and I, along with BoyRacer, his girlfriend, The Holiday Romance, and The Ginger Man-Tart had all rented hotel rooms at the Holiday Inn 3 miles outside of town as we were fairly certain that the evening’s festivities, including the band packing down, would probably draw out until fairly late. As The Slug finally laboured into the alley behind the unusually named “Big Fish” pub, we discovered, in a head-slapping, Homer Simpson “D’oh!” moment, that there was a second Holiday Inn in Swindon…directly behind the pub. We exchanged withering looks across the mountain of festering band detritus between us.

The Big Fish is owned by the previous landlord of The Mis-Spelled Band’s home pub, The Hoghead in Aylesbury. He was moved on to build up this new pub in the heart of Swindon, hence the gig. As The Rock Star set up, the rest of us went in search of edible food which was in curiously short supply in Swindon’s pub district. (If you didn’t want a case of diphtheria, that is.) After consuming a Subway (which we stood in line for nearly 25 minutes to have the privilege of eating) we relocated to the pub, where it was quite literally like a ghost town.

The gig went down well with the 15 or so people who were interested in live music rather than the vacuous pap blasted out by the DJ, but sadly, the crowd (which eventually DID come) were more interested in doing the Macarena (lead by The Idiot, I might add) that rocking out to Guns N Roses.

I must admit to only vaguely remembering the second set due to full bottles of Moet that kept appearing in our ice bucket. One thing I DO remember clearly was making my way to the loo for a moment of peace and quiet. ( ladies, tell me that you don’t do this too in loud nightclubs ) Apart from the copious vomiting that I could hear all around me, it gave my teeth a chance to stop rattling. However, I obviously enjoyed my solitude a little too much for the female security staffer who was manning the toilets.

Stupid Bouncer: (knocking loudly) You’ve been in there too long. Come out please.

Me: I’m sorry?

Stupid Bouncer: You’ve been in there too long. You need to come out.

Me: Um, okay. Can I pull my pants up first?

Stupid Bouncer: (pounding on the door that had no lock, forcing it open) YOU NEED TO COME OUT NOW!!

Me: Sure. By the way, I seemed to have dropped my dignity around here someplace. Can you help me find it?

I’m not entirely sure what kind of entirely silent activities the thick headed she-mountain thought I was engaging in inside an un-locked toilet stall. Answering her in the first instance should have been enough for her to deduce that I was conscious and not making snorting or puking noises should have alerted her to the fact that I was neither doing blow nor blowing chunks, (the later of which certainly wouldn’t have been helped be her banging on the door in any case.) so I can only assume that she was a sad cow with a panty fetish. Luckily, I discovered another toilet downstairs that was more private and unmanned, thought not quite as peaceful, (being right next to the speakers) to frequent for the rest of the evening.

Around 4 am, most of the gear had been stowed back in The Slug and we hungrily went in search of something to sink our teeth into to dilute the excess champagne. We ended up with pizzas from the takeaway across the street from the pub and managed to escape the two fights that broke out in the 15 minutes that we were waiting. (I despair of people sometimes.)

Having traded The Super Slug to The Idiot for the larger and emptier transit van that carried the stage, The Ginger Man Tart and BoyRacer were bundled into the back to brave the 5 minute ride to the hotel while The Holiday Romance and I rode in the front with The Rock Star. My guess is that riding in the back of a dark, windowless transit van while sober isn’t the best idea, so their plaintive, drunken wails from behind our backs served to amuse us to no end, especially on roundabouts.

After perfuming Ginger ManTart's room with Eu de Pepperoni, we all retired to our rooms for a restful 4 hours or so before we dragged ourselves out of bed to avoid having to pay for an extra night.

And so endeth the holiday season. I hope that 2006 will be gentle with me.