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Showing posts from December, 2009

Sufficiently Advanced Technology...

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"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Arthur C Clarke My old iPod broke down irretrievably the other day. Well, I say irretrievably, but I'm sure someone out there knows how to replace the hard drive for a tidy sum, but in the meantime it's quicker and easier (and probably not that more expensive) for me to buy a new one. After all I've had it nearly five years - that's an eternity for a modern gadget. It was good to finally have a proper reason to visit the new Apple store in Churchill Square. It had been sitting there between River Island and the Build A Bear Workshop for a few months now, a tempting technological candy store for the kid in me. And now I was finally going shopping there. I decide to go for the middle of the range iPod Touch. With a capacity just over that of my previous iPod, I decided that it probably had what it takes for all my music and podcast listening needs. What I didn't realise was how many

Isms and Isn'ts

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"I never use the word 'atheist' of myself; it's scarcely worth having a name for. I mean, I don't have a name for not believing in pixies..." Jonathan Miller, Five Minutes With Sir Jonathan Miller, BBC Atheism seems very popular these days. You can hardly move for events, benefits and poster campaigns. And a good job too - far better to start the new decade (which I have a horrible suspicion will end up being called The Teenies ) as a largely secular people. Strictly speaking I suppose I am an atheist, being as I don't believe in a god. However, it does seem a little strange to define yourself by what you don't believe, as Jonathan Miller so clearly states in the quote opening this blog entry. Evangelical atheists have a very convincing logical argument with which to counter the godbotherers' strident cry of " But you can't prove that god doesn't exist! ", which is commonly known as the parable of the Celestial Teapot . In i

Crawlspace of the Year

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It's that strange time of year again, when, due to the odd way I visualise numbers and dates , I start to get (santa) claustrophobia. There is something about the period between Christmas and New Year that feels the wrong size. The whole of the final quarter of the year seems to be a build up to the festive season, which whatever your belief system and curmudgeonity-level is at least a break from the day to day grind of everyday life and a chance to relax and recharge the batteries. What's more, if you're fortunate, you get over a week off work gratis without having to use up any valuable leave days. Then after the blowout of 25th December you crawl up through the trapdoor into 26th and realise there's nowhere to go. It's not so much another storey like the rest of the weeks have been, but the attic of the year, and not one that's been given a swanky loft makeover either - this is the old fashioned kind with bare beams, darkness, spiders, old cardboard boxes

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

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The good thing about social media is that you don't have to suffer in silence. I spent an evening of irritation at Gatwick Airport yesterday and its the kind of annoyance that just keeps on giving (quite apart from the fact that my plans for the festive period were royally stuffed). Still, at least I got a blog entry out of it. It started out OK - we got through security in record time, having been diverted via the spare suite on the upper level. It was when the gate for our flight to Edinburgh was due to open that the trouble started. At around 6.30pm, the information available for flight EZY713 went from Gate opens at 18:25 to Please wait . At this stage I wasn't that bothered - I was assuming that this was just the prelude to Boarding at Gate 6 . After all, I reasoned, surely at around half an hour before take off they'd know (and pass on the information) if it was going to be delayed or even cancelled. Please wait . Take off time came and went. At this point I was

Volte Face

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It has been interesting to watch the behaviour of the popular press and some of the celebrities involved in the run up to the announcement that Rage Against the Machine were Christmas number one for 2009. Earlier in the week there was outrage. The Sun even dedicated their front page to it in a short piece littered with words such as " sickened ", " dreadful ", " hate " and " upset ". Cowell himself called the internet campaign " stupid " and " cynical " and said it was going to " spoil the party ". At this point the average reader could be forgiven for thinking that the campaigners were wicked old Scrooges intent on ruining everyone's Yuletide, burning their presents and defecating in their Christmas stockings, leaving a trail of weeping toddlers in their wake. Then suddenly towards the end of the week things started to change. The Sun ran a sympathetic interview with Rage Against The Machine, emphasising the

Talking shit

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One of the things people say about me is that I'm quiet. Sometimes this is a criticism, other times not. I've already explained that part of the reason for this is because I find small talk difficult . Well, not just difficult, I find it pointless. If there's something worth discussing, I'm quite capable of amputating the hindquarters of a member of Equus africanus asinus with my garrulousness. Some people just can't help themselves though. As Douglas Adams once said " if they don't keep exercising their lips, their brains start working ". I usually come across them whilst I'm out and about, on public transport or in shops. You can hardly call it eavesdropping; to avoid overhearing these types you really have to be listening to Napalm Death on your iPod. Its incredible just how much you can overhear without picking up any genuine content. It's all filler, conversational fluff designed to prevent the other person getting a word in edgeways a

Dimensionally Transcendental Confession 5: For Who the Cloister Bell Tolls

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I walked through the doors and then pushed through a heavy black velvet curtain, the top of which seemed lost in the tangle of dark confusion up above and suddenly found myself standing in a building on the surface of an alien world. I was on Traken. Or rather I was in a studio at the BBC Television Centre on the set of The Keeper of Traken (1981). A lot had changed for the Doctor since I'd met him in Wood Green . The series was undergoing a change in direction, similar to that experienced at the end of the Pertwee era . Once more the old Doctor was having to cope with a style of programme that would become his successor's stock in trade. The title sequence had changed; gone was the familiar time tunnel, to be replaced by a rather tacky looking starfield. Yes, we were definitely over the page again... Even more shockingly, Delia Derbyshire 's definitive arrangement of the theme tune had been replaced by a new one, realised by the Radiophonic Workshop 's Peter Howel

Now you're under control...

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There's a bit of minor furore at the moment about the fact that Rage Against the Machine might beat X-Factor to the Christmas number one slot as a result of a concerted Facebook and Twitter campaign. Rather doing the sensible thing and ignoring it (after all on Sunday it'll all be over bar the shouting of " Fuck you I won't do what you tell me! ") I've decided to wade in and express my own opinion, despite the fact that I doubt anyone's interested. This is the reason for this extra blog entry (usually I only write every other day). The people making the noise seem to fall into two camps; (1) those who are behind it and think it's a great idea and (2) those who are against it and think it's a terrible idea. For reasons that I don't fully understand myself, I find I disagree with opinions expressed by both sides. Group 1 seem to think they're doing something bold and exciting and sticking it to the man. Well that's not really the ca

You Smell

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"The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it [but] as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me ... immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents." Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past There seems to be nothing quite like smell (and its twin brother taste) for stirring up the memory in a way and to such a powerful extent that none of the remaining senses are able to. At the moment I seem to be stopped in my tracks by this experience on an almost daily basis. I step out of the building onto the frosty campus and am instantly thrown back to any one of a number of past winters; in the playground at school, on this very same campus some twenty years previously, visiting my grandmother f

Dimensionally Transcendental Confession 4: The Xcho Years

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A second major problem in basing a memoir like this around Doctor Who is that as I start to describe things that happened when I was older, the memories are far better and more detailed. If I'm not careful I'm going to end up with a blow by blow account of every episode by the time I get to the 1985 hiatus which quite apart from being incredibly time consuming would probably make for very boring reading. Another script that my dad brought home ostensibly for me to draw on the back of was EPISODE 1 of SERIAL 4C , namely The Ark in Space (1975). For some reason the pages of this one were yellow rather than the more usual white; probably some BBC colour coding scheme. I found the story fascinating and a million miles (literally) away from the military-based runarounds and pompous galactic federations of the Pertwee years. Despite the lack of oxygen the episode was a breath of fresh air for the budding SF fan. A deserted space station in the far future with a crew in suspende

Unexpected Opinion in Blogging Area

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It's that time of year and that time of decade when people start looking back at the previous ten years and start making lists. This is the third occasion I remember clearly; in theory of course I was old enough to remember the Seventies Retrospective, but perhaps there wasn't as big a deal made about it at the time; perhaps there were still enough new and exciting things around for the media of the day to be looking forward rather than back. And perhaps the media itself was still enthusiastic and experimental enough still to find getting caught up in nostalgia and retro a bit boring. Never mind what happened in 1971, look what's around now in 1979! The Clash . Independence for Zimbabwe . Kate Bush . The first Star Trek movie . Tubeway Army . Sheep Farming in Barnet . Blondie . Blake's Seven . The Police . City of Death . Joy Division . The list is endless, the future looked bright. That said, the current look back at the past decade seems a bit lacklustre this tim

Dimensionally Transcendental Confession 3: The Regeneration Game

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There was something different about Jon Pertwee's final season. To my youthful mind this difference was all wrapped up in its position in the Radio Times Tenth Anniversary Special; the as yet untransmitted adventures were listed "over the page" from the rest of the guide on a page of their own. This, and the fact that they lay in the future set them apart. Of course there were other major differences. There was a new "time tunnel" title sequence, Jo and The Master had gone and there was this annoying Sarah Jane Smith woman following the Doctor around and being over self-consciously "feminist" every other line, although they called it women's lib in those days. Even as a nine year old I remember thinking they were labouring the point to the extent that it almost felt as if the scriptwriters were taking the piss. I had no idea the character would still be around thirty-five years later. The final story Planet of the Spiders (1974) had a melan

Self and Sociability

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I don't know what to say. In the past this used to get me into trouble. I'm not talking about big trouble with a capital T, it was just that when I was placed in social situations I never knew how to engage in small talk and ended up saying nothing. This meant that even the people that liked me found me hard work, and those that didn't thought I was rude and aloof. I wasn't; it was just that in the absence of any guidelines I usually ended up frozen into inactivity. I'm somewhat better now. When placed in a social situation I've observed enough small talk and sociability over the years to be able to come up with a fairly convincing facsimile. It's always conscious though; whilst people may not find me hard work as much any more I still find them harder work than ever. You might think that someone to whom social interaction doesn't come naturally would be cold and uncaring, ultimately selfish, but I would hope I'm not like that at all. It

Dimensionally Transcendental Confession 2: The Thbda Years

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Of course one problem in basing a memoir like this around Doctor Who is that it's all been done before and if I'm not careful, people are going to accuse me of ripping off 2006's Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf (so I'll have to be careful not to mention John Abineri) or even 2007's Dalek I Loved You (so I'll have to be careful to sound like I actually like Doctor Who). There was something about the beginning of the seventies that felt like a big change, even to someone as young as I was at the time. It still feels as if everything in my life up to the end of 1969 was in black and white, whereas in 1970 I started being broadcast in colour. Even though we moved to London in (late?) 1968, my memory has shifted this event to 1970 for dramatic reasons and so the move from Birmingham to London also seems to have been simultaneous with the transition from monochrome to colour. Likewise, I don't remember watching any episodes of Doctor Who featuring Patrick Troug

The Worst of Both Worlds

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Well it's now December which means it's time to look back on not taking part in NaNoWriMo . Any regular readers of this blog may recall that I said despite not taking part, I was going to use all the inspiration in the air to try and write great swathes of my novel . I didn't manage that but did fill in a lot of the gaps, managing in total I would guess around 4,000 words. What with the 8,000 words of blog written during the month it comes to around 12,000 words, which isn't too shabby. Maybe next year, eh? During this time I also finally completed reading Daniel Dennett's " Consciousness Explained ", a book which took me a long time to finish but which provided a lot of inspiration and information for many of my blog entries about the mind and brain. I was surprised by the ending - it turns out the Central Meaner did it in the Cartesian Theatre with the lead piping... But seriously I did find the ending a pleasant surprise. I was expecting, what with

Dimensionally Transcendental Confession

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It's a worthy organ with a long history, but these days there seems to be so little time that buying the Radio Times hardly seems worth it. As a kid an issue would seem to be around so long that it had time to get dog-eared and tattered; now it seems like I've hardly had time to shake out all the advertising supplements before sticking the thing in the recycling. I'll be buying it this week as it has a cover featuring Doctor Who . This seems to be a tradition with me; they were worth collecting because Doctor Who based Radio Times covers used to be few and far between. It may surprise you to learn that Tom Baker never got one during his seven-year tenure. Nowadays you could wallpaper the living room with them. But what's so special about Doctor Who? Well, I'm a fan. That's fine these days of course, but there was a time that such a confession was not to be made unless you were absolutely certain you were amongst sympathisers lest you bring down the ridic