Tuesday, August 31, 2004

back to school blues

Woke up this morning with a back-to-school feel. The sun didn’t seem so bright, the air felt colder and I didn’t have time for breakfast. Yeah, I’ve only had a week off, but my body is still hard-wired to september-back-to-school-days-get-shorter-end-of-summer-fun syndrome. I don’t forget those 18 years of education easily. There’s also the fact that Amy is actually back to teaching tomorrow, so has been uttering “I don’t want to go to school” for at least a week.

Walking through town I’m hit by a wave of profound sadness. So much waste; wasted time, wasted effort, wasted lives. All these people scuttling about in their morning ritual, ready to kowtow to the dollar bill for another day. And me just the same. How do we go on, why do we go on? We’re all drowning in a world filling with shit and the only way through is with blinkers.

Two weeks ago I was putting up the ‘back to school’ signs. I swore I’d never be that person.


Just finished a new essay for monkeyinfez. Paul, here’s a link to the bit of my site it’s on so you can bypass all the pictures that upset your computer.

I’m also planning to get some new photo galleries up over the next week or two, so watch this space.

Monday, August 30, 2004


It’s finally done, Si and Sue’s wedding pictures are finished and it only took me 3 weeks! Much like other Paul and his comic illustrations I got stuck in that rut of wanting the work to be done, and done well, but either not having the time or the motivation. I’m never that keen on doing wedding stuff as there is some pressure to get great shots and also the requirement to direct groups of people (this is just horrible!), but the actual taking of the pictures wasn’t too bad in itself.

Worse is the sorting and print preparation. This is the same problem I’ve had with my last few band shoots – I end up with a lot of pictures and actually sitting down, looking through them and optimising them becomes quite an arduous task. It takes a long time to do it properly, and I find that during this long time I loose the ability to judge what is a good photograph. I cease to be able to tell the good from the great from the average, due to boredom, fatigue or overexposure. Unfortunately there’s no solution to this other than to stop taking pictures in the first place, so I’ll stop moaning about it now! At least this batch is done, and hopefully they’ll be pleased with them so it’ll all be worth the effort.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

some quotes from times past

music: 1977 by ash (for the first time in about 3 years, but it's great!)
mood: restless

Failing to do much tonight, i feel too tired but can't be bothered to go to bed, so instead i'm just flitting about the internet. I've also been having a browse through some old stuff and found a few choice snippets...


"Strange how when you’re young you have no memories. Then one day you wake up and, boom, memories overpower all else in your life, forever making the present seem sad and unable to compete with a glorious past that now has a life of its own."
Douglas Coupland, Microserfs


"Privatisation: They’re privatising the NHS, when will I be privatised? Why can I not take drugs, commit suicide or make a 101 other personal choices that are against the law? I am state run while everything else becomes privatised..."
Me, 15/01/02


"Look at you humans, pathetic creatures of meat and bone, panting and sweating as you run through my corridors, unable to challenge a perfect immortal machine."
Showdan AI, System Shock (PC game, circa 1996)


"I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was – I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creek of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost."
Jack Kerouac, On The Road

more bauman

Here's another quote from Wasted Lives that pretty much sums up my earlier rant on corporate culture/work:

“Liquid modern culture no longer feels like a culture of learning and accumulation like the cultures recorded in the historians’ and ethnographers’ reports. It looks instead like a culture of disengagement, discontinuity and forgetting.”

I knew I was onto something, it's a shame it's already in Bauman's book!

Friday, August 27, 2004

speaking of beauty...

Here's a bit of Bauman discussing the very same:

“In our liquid modern society, beauty has met the same fate suffered by all the other ideals that used to motivate human restlessness and rebellion. The search for ultimate harmony and eternal duration has been recast as simply an ill-advised concern. Values are values in as far as they are fit for instantaneous, on-the-spot consumption. Values are the attributes of momentary experiences. And so is beauty. And life is a succession of momentary experiences.

‘Beauty has no obvious use; nor is there any clear cultural necessity for it. Yet civilization could not do without it,’ Freud mused. ‘This useless thing which we expect civilization to value is beauty. We require civilized man to reverence beauty whenever he sees it in nature and to create it in the objects of his handiwork so far as he is able.’ Beauty, alongside cleanliness and order, ‘obviously occupy a special position among the requirements of civilization.’

[...] It is out of a hunger for beauty that civilizations (that is, the efforts to ‘civilize’, the ‘civilizing’ process) have been born. But far from placating that hunger, they seem to have made it insatiable.”

Zygmunt Bauman, Wasted Lives, p121

Beauty surrounds us

Been feeling good this week; no work, just been pottering around the place with Amy and her parents. I noticed the other day that I haven't done much photography for quite a while. I think it’s mostly because I’ve stopped looking at things. I’ve always been interested in the fact that there is beauty everywhere around us (and have explored this idea in some of my previous essays), but it’s often the case that you simply don’t notice it or are too busy with other things to care.

This is where I’ve been for a couple of months, going to work and not a whole lot else. But this week, with some time to ponder and some energy to use for purposes other than stacking books, things are looking interesting again. So here’s a couple of pictures, one of some beauty happening outside my window and one of some beauty I saw on a walk in the peak district. Ok, they embody fairly traditional notions of beauty, but it feels good to be noticing things again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Two transcendental experiences in three days? I tell you, this whole thing of seeking out new experiences and ways to see life is becoming really old-hat, it seems as though everyone is doing it these days.

Here are some pictures of transcendentalism pt 2, if you're in the area you must go. Stop reading this and just go, unless it's outside the hours of 12-6pm, in which case don't go as it'll be closed.

For more check out the people who do this stuff. In case you're wondering where 'the area' is, it's the lakeside arts centre at the university of nottingham, until 30th August.
(click pics for bigger versions)

Monday, August 23, 2004

pretty girls make graves

I've just watched pretty girls at the rescue rooms and they were fantastic. There's always several factors that go into a live gig: sound, mood, booze... all factors that comprise the gig experience, and all present and correct tonight. I don't think i'd be going too far to describe it as 'transcendental'. For me this is what great live music always strives for, to be something more than a CD, to be something that motivates the body and dissolves the mind. And my mind was floating off somewhere tonight, carried beyond by the music but still ensconced within the sound. Splendiferous. They even handled equipment breakdown with wit and musicianship.

It was also good to hear that Seachange had made the band welcome by feeding them up with a proper english sunday roast. I thought it was pretty fortuitous that they could still move enough to get on stage after my own similar lunchtime experience. The rest of the crowd were shit though, the rescue rooms were less than half full and many people left immediately after the last song without even cheering for an encore. The whole concept of an encore is a little passé, but the band were fucking great and for once i really wanted one, but nobody could be arsed. Bastards.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

(the third) one from the archives

A scene of incredible beauty. (26 08 03)

Driving home we chance across a tractor in the field, ploughing by floodlight in the August darkness. 6 bright lights form a semi-circle above the cab, complemented by 2 more to either side of the radiator. As we round the corner this strange arrangement appears like some alien craft, close encounters made real.

All else is dark, and this apparition seems to just float there, there in a space of its own creation. Beholden to no one, it sits in a spotlight of existence. As we pass by the rear of the vehicle comes into view; behind the tractor sits the plough, tossing pieces of stalk and earth up into the light. Like a sunlit blizzard placed into a snow-scene toy it exists only within tight boundaries, the radius of the lights.

I want to stop and take a picture, but I find that I cannot. It feels wrong, too intimate. Like this machine and its driver have shown me a beautiful secret that I must not share; a feeling that if I snap this I will steal its soul, the beauty of the lights trapped in my camera for me alone. So we drive on.

I can’t shake the image, it haunts me all the way home. I should have photographed it, should have stopped and drunk it in. This is my regret, my sadness stems from the worry that it may never be repeated for my eyes. I promise myself that I will make it a project, a series: farms by night. I will capture its like, photograph similar and more. So I say, but I know it will never happen.

Friday, August 20, 2004

brain surgery

mood: tired but contented
activity: drinking amerretto (thanks al)
music: mark radcliffe on radio 2

I don't have much to say, except how interesting it was to watch 'battles with my brain' on c4 tonight. A fascinating insight into both some of the possible effects of parkinsons disease and the pioneering medical techniques employed to do something about it. I mean, come on, if someone told you they'd spent 13 hours chatting to a surgeon while electrodes were pushed into their brain you'd be amazed; but to see it... really amazing! And just a little icky.

And now i've got a week off. Nice.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

(the second) one from the archives

First timers (04/06/01)

A friend visits for the first time. It’s interesting showing them around because you notice all the little things you’ve stopped noticing. The postcard on the wall, the toy on the shelf, the picture in the corner….

These are the things that are so much a part of your life, the objects that tell your stories and memories, that you forget them as your brain itself forgets these events. So looked at that you no longer see them, no longer make a concerted effort to look.

But when someone comes around, someone who has never visited before, they do look around the place and actually see these things.
“Where’s this from?”
“Oh, that was what my girlfriend got me for my birthday last year.” Oh yeah, that’s really cool….
“What about this?”
“That’s when I went to California with my family.” Wow, I remember that. Had a great time….

So it is good. The memories come flooding back, the feelings, the sights, the sounds. I am happy to know that I’m not forgetting these things just yet, and happy to enjoy the memories again. Equally my joy for the objects themselves is refreshed, I remember what a nice postcard that is, how much I like playing with that toy… brilliant.

I should get people round more often…

balls to it (mk 2)

What a load of shit. I’m tired, I’m pissed off, and I’m even more pissed off that I’m actually pissed off about work (again). I spent hours moving shit tonight, and while I’d become pretty placid about the whole idea for reasons mentioned in the previous post (i.e. not being respected, so ceasing to give a toss) the actual physical effort involved and time wasted has left me wanting to go and find some of the highly paid marketing people in their plush offices and fucking hurt them... at least mentally. I mean, it’s all just so pointless and futile, the new system is badly designed, frequently illogical and to cap it all doesn’t even follow its own system half the time. And the people involved – who’ve apparently spent weeks on it – don’t seem to have even sussed out that not every computer package can be classified as ‘graphics software’ (Coldfusion? Acrobat? Powerpoint? Premiere?).

Why can’t they just stop and think for a change?

Friday, August 13, 2004

i just said what?

Just realised i wrote earlier: "So the system propagates its nihilistic and greedy worldview, and those in charge forget that none of this matters one iota." Now, if someone is nihilistic could they also forget that none of this matters? Surely this would actually be their over-riding concern?

Well, my OED says of nihilism "1) the rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless. 2) philosophy extreme scepticism, maintaining that nothing has a real existence"
I think parts of both of these apply; we need to define a 'corporate nihilism', which takes on board the religious and moral connotations, and believes that life is meaningless except for corporate growth and profit.

Or perhaps i was just groping around for a nice turn of phrase but actually need to brush up on my philosophy?

(the first) one from the archives

THUMBNAIL sketch (22/08/03)

Walking down Rembrant way toward town, I can hear a murmuring. It seems to be coming from all around me, yet I cannot make out any of the words. It is dusk, the streetlights are on but the sky is still light. The air smells faintly of dying summer; a combination of sweat, rotting plants, industry and warmth. A tang that hangs in the air, indistinct but acting through nostalgia, bringing to mind all that has been over the last few months without actually reflecting any of it. Whatever.

I walk past houses, bungalows to the left and right. Formal gardens, bright colours still visible in the fading sunlight, increase in complexity as I proceed down the road. It’s a real case of keeping up with the Joneses. But they have no soul, only blind ambition. I realise I can see in through the windows I am passing. There are blinds, but they do not hide. Dark lounges with chairs near the street, chairs facing toward televisions. And there it is, Eastenders. Eastenders. Eastenders. On every television that I pass.

No movement, no life, no spirit. Just television, television in the dark. Television showing the same thing in every home. The same trash, the same imitation of life. Pretend you have a life by watching the lame exploits of others. And then I realise, the murmuring, the incessant background, is actually a superposition of all these television sets. All these copies of Eastenders playing at the same time in darkened rooms with the windows open has led to this meltdown. Sound and pictures coming together to create nothing. This is the source of my funk, but the solution to nothing.

Work? What work...?

mood: fading annoyance
tv: borat and newsnight review

So here’s the second dilemma of a ‘personal’ blog – do I talk about work? It’s easy with a political rant: mention names, events, whatever... it’s all comment on people and events from the public sphere, my own opinion on things that are already ‘out there’ in the papers and on the internet.

But work is different, if I mention names and events then I might upset someone, perhaps get in trouble? Then again, I still have the right to free speech, and merely relaying my opinion of events that have happened is surely not morally wrong. After all, no matter how much we like to admit it, work becomes a large part of who we are, even if it’s for no other reason than the amount of time we spend there. And this is for posterity, for my own pleasure and memory. So fuck ‘em. I might keep it fairly general though...

Today’s ire has arisen from corporate management. In this sense it is a pretty general topic, I’m sure my complaints are common in our globalised society. It happens whenever someone new comes into a position of authority. They feel they must stamp their mark on the job, and they are expected by their superiors to be seen to be doing something to increase sales/improve productivity/communication or whichever management buzz-word is currently in vogue. But it often seems to mean that the notion of linear, logical progress is thrown out the window. Positions change and policies see-saw back and forth: now we must have a corporate image; now we want individuals to have an influence, show initiative; now our priority is sales; now it is orders; now it is blah blah blah. So we spend time changing things, improving procedures in ways that we think work and then, after all the effort, we’re told to change things back to how they were, as though we haven’t changed them for a reason. And a couple of years (months, weeks?) later it’s all change again. There is no notion of progress here, and no notion of respect for those that have to deal with this shit. I now have to deal with the repercussion of rearrangement (i.e. a load of work at a time when we’re already busy and understaffed, not to mention the inevitable complaints when the bad old system is reinstated), plus the feeling that any personal effort and initiative I’ve put into my job has been for naught. The fact is I’m not paid enough to care, but I kind of did. Now I don’t give a toss.

And this is why this system must eventually fail. It’s just a make work scheme. There is nothing at its heart: no soul, no point, just emptiness. There is no respect from those in charge, whose consultation consists of listening to your concerns then telling you to do it anyway... and no doubt they have the same from those in charge of them. So the system propagates its nihilistic and greedy worldview, and those in charge forget that none of this matters one iota.


On a lighter note, I’ve just watched the Borat Show and it was brilliant. His finest moment was a segment with his Austrian fashion presenter Bruno. Interviewing a minister who devotes his time to converting homosexuals to Christianity he poses a series of questions as to what constitutes godly behaviour. Apparently it’s fine for one to eat a chocolate desert after a meal and in the company of good Christian friends, although there is the small proviso that there must be no sinful influences in the vicinity. If, however, the chocolate desert is being consumed as part of a homosexual lifestyle, or act, then it is most definitely not ok. Brilliant! Just imagine the meticulous care and attention to detail he must take at every step of the day!


Anyway, I really hate talking about work. But the fact remains its 8 hours a day, and that’s a lot of my life. Bugger.


Thanks Ali (again).

Thursday, August 12, 2004

another blog, but why?

mood: thoughtful
music: m83 - dead cities, red seas & lost ghosts; depeche mode - exciter

Here we are then, a new blog. The question, of course, is to what end. I spent the day doing nothing and feeling a bit grumpy, and it occurred to me that I’m missing this outlet. I have monkeyinfez for photography and essays, falling down for socio-political rants, longshoredrift for random culture creation, but no direct, personal blog.

I was never really sure if I wanted one before; I’m still not sure. But I’ve recently been reading some friends’ blogs and realised both how enriching an experience it can be, and what a good way to get to know people it is. I also recall someone mentioning how they like to have a different website for each part of their personality. I quite like this philosophy. It’s certainly true that I could just post everything on one site, but it’s quite nice to have a little network of different sites for different moods and topics; almost like an electronic rendering of the brain with its different lobes, hyperlinks taking on the role of the electronic impulses which whisk your thoughts from one region to the next.

I’ve always kept a notepad, not really a diary but a repository for random thoughts and events. I’ve never really had the compulsion to share this in an unabridged format before (nor would most of it probably be that interesting), but I have recently found it very interesting to look back over old jottings. I’m planning to put some of these back-entries on here as well, just to keep things interesting and to help me in my ongoing quest to not forget everything I’ve ever been. This idea may have been encouraged by the Pepys Diary blog project – well worth looking at if you’ve not seen it before.

Writing is the other thing I’ve been missing lately. It’s been a long time since I wrote anything more sustained than a few hundred words of blog, but I’m not sure why this is. Again the thought has been put into my head by a friend, I recently read a story of hers and thought it was brilliant (thanks Ali). More so I was impressed she was actually showing it to me as this is one of the major steps I’ve never really managed to overcome with fiction. I have no problem posting an immense essay on some ridiculous topic thanks to a whim I had for a couple of hours, but any fiction I produce always seems difficult to share. Partly, no doubt, because I never think it’s quite as good as I’d like. But also because it never feels finished, in fact much of what I write is just short vignettes rather than sustained fictions. So, following tall Paul’s example of a blog about trying to get some creative projects off the ground – which is helping him do exactly that - I’m going to post some of it here.

In fact, there are a whole load of philosophical issues surrounding the whys of blogging, I’m planning to get into these in more detail in a rather more extended essay sometime soon. There’s something to look forward to!

So, mission statement in a nutshell: what does your soul look like (pt 4) is diary-style creative space which is to act as an outlet for all my gubbins which have no place elsewhere. It doesn’t have to be here, it doesn’t have to be read, but the mere fact of having it and using it will hopefully spur me onwards and, perhaps, help with those all important issues of legitimacy.


So, what’s been happening lately? Today was always earmarked as a hangover day, but I actually didn’t feel too bad when I got up and thought I might get something done. After a while I did start feeling quite bad, so all plans of doing anything except watching a couple of films went right out the window. I didn’t even feel energetic enough to look at the wedding photos I did last week (sorry Si & Sue). Managed to fit in a great afternoon nap though! Work is going to be pretty knackering for the next couple of days as the academic stock arrives (there were about 9 trolleys of the stuff yesterday), so I think this time-out was pretty necessary.

Except now I feel like I’ve just wasted the day. It comes down to that fine balance between consumption and creation. If no one spent any time consuming culture then there’d be little point in creating our own. The creation may be fun and rewarding, but without any possibility of sharing our works we’d all ultimately stagnate. On the other hand, spend too much time just watching and you start to feel empty, as though you’re just a conduit through which life, and specifically other peoples’ life, is flowing. Life becomes a passive exercise, a voyeuristic journey to nothing.

I did have a good time last night though. Thanks to everyone who came out, and to those who kept buying me birthday drinks. And Becky, sorry if I talked utter crap at you on the tram home… in hindsight I think I was a little more drunk than I realised at the time.

Well, that feels like enough for now. Well done to anyone who has actually bothered to read all of this, but then most of my reason for doing this is for myself, any external readers are a bonus rather than an aim or priority.