Thursday, April 14, 2011

I am not mad...

This photo is of a gate near to my apartment block. Beyond this gate is a rather heavily wooded walled, one can only call it a, compound. Now, this gate is high and thick and solid, but there’s no wire or spikes atop it to stop someone climbing over it. It is thus logical to infer that it is not designed to bar something that could easily climb over it, such as people. No, this gate, it would appear, is designed to bar ground based animals, unable to climb.

Peering through the gate, one can make out several cameras and motion sensors attached to trees. They’re not all pointed at the gate; in fact, several of them seem to be pointing away from it, into the woods. So, it seems the cameras aren’t necessarily concerned with people breaking into this compound. Rather, they seem concerned with what is already in the compound.

When passing this compound, especially at night, I have several times heard strange animalistic noises, similar to bird calls, but louder and deeper, as if from very large birds. Or animals related to birds. In fact, what they most reminded me of was the movie Jurassic Park. On one occasion, I heard the bleating of a sheep or goat, which ended in a scream, and then silence. It reminded me of the scene where a goat is fed to the dinosaurs in the movie Jurassic Park.

Somebody, whoever owns that walled compound, has cloned a number of carnivorous dinosaurs, probably velociraptors, and right in the middle of an urban area. They have a herd (pack?) of these dinosaurs already, and are feeding them goats. Possibly the goats are also cloned. Certainly, I have never seen goats being brought in. This is clearly a recipe for disaster.

A few days after I made the realisation about what was happening inside the compound, and mentioned it to a few select and trusted friends, I saw walking down the street, an exact doppelganger of my close friend Eli Mordino. This double was remarkably similar in every respect, including hair style and length and dress sense. He even,  almost as soon as I spotted him, ducked into a second hand book shop, which I have often remarked that Eli would enjoy.

Several days later, another dead ringer for Eli, this one have the slight difference of being Spanish, appeared, sat at the next table from me in a local coffee shop. The next day, he approached a mutual friend of Eli and mine on a bus, asking a number of penetrating questions.

The cloners somehow know that I know about them. They have made several clones of my friend Eli, and are using them to get close to other friends of mine, perhaps in an effort to clone them too. These clones may be used to deter my investigations, to discredit me, or perhaps something far m ore sinister. All I know is that I can no longer be certain that anyone in my life is not a clone bent on my utter destruction. Be aware, that if this blog is not updated in a regular and timely fashion, it will not be due to laziness on my part, but because they have gotten to me. The truth, as a great man once said, is out there...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

North of the Border, Up Mexico Way

It’s the buses that I’ll remember most. Long hours, or days, or even weeks in a cramped seat, without enough leg room, hoping against hope that your phone battery doesn’t die, so that you can at least have twitter to keep you entertained. I imagine that this is what purgatory is like. Do they still have purgatory? I know they abolished Limbo a few years ago. It was probably to do with budget cuts.

 I was travelling to Belfast for the Irish Blog Awards. Yes, they are a real thing. I was a little surprised myself. Still, any excuse to get hideously drunk in a room full of other drunk people. And nobody drinks like a room full of people who describe themselves as writers.

The ceremony itself was, frankly, rather a let down. The host seemed bored and anxious to be elsewhere, there was no free booze, a big tray of cup cakes that people got given out to for standing too close to, winners had to pick up their own trophy from a big table of them on the stage, and the whole thing felt like everyone involved in the running of it just couldn’t be arsed. Maybe they couldn’t be arsed, I don’t know. Apparently, it’s the last year that the awards are being run, and perhaps the organisers are burnt out. They did have big Styrofoam letters though. Mainly “b”s, but I did see a few “p”s, and even a “q” or two.

This had been my first excursion North of the Border, and to be honest, I spent most of my time panicking slightly, in case I said the wrong thing to the wrong person, and ended up coming home without kneecaps. Apparently, saying Ulster is ok, but Ulsterman might be offensive to one group or the other. I’m told that giving someone the nickname Jaffa Cakes is right out, even if they have ginger hair. I’m not sure, but I gather the Unionist community still believes them to be biscuits. A sensitive issue indeed.

So, what lessons were learned? Firstly, one should never give a sandwich to a guide dog. This is seen as poor form, akin to going up to one of those guards outside Buckingham Palace who aren’t allowed move, and tickling his balls. Second, The Arrogant Frog is a great name for a wine, and is tasty to boot. Third, it’s ok to call a clothes shop in Belfast Republic but Free State is probably a no-no,. Fourth, one should never make fun of someone because of their looks, unless they’re really annoying too; then it’s all good. And finally, calling someone a cunt for no reason on the internet is both big AND clever, and is a sure fire way of increasing your blog readership.  Billy Zane is a cunt.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Someone Bring me a Cornetto... And a can of Coke...

It’s Sunday morning. My head hurts. It aches, in fact. My stomach feels decidedly dickey. My throat is drier than a camel’s arse. I know that that’s not really a great analogy, and that camels’ arses might not be particularly dry, but did I mention the POUNDING JACKAHMMER PAIN IN MY HEAD?!? Jesus, this isn’t fair! I wasn’t drinking last night! I had to put myself into debt to pay for my drinking on Friday night. And so could definitely DEFINITE LY not afford more pints last night. Why then do I now feel like death warmed over?
The technical, scientific name for it is a Pavlovian Hangover. It has to do with circadian rhythms, and conditioning and all sorts of other things they teach you in psychology, that are genuine science, and in no way made up hoodoo to make psychologists sound like proper scienticians instead of bluffers.  The basic idea is that your body becomes so accustomed to being abused with drink on a Saturday night acts accordingly on a Sunday morning, delivering the mingled feelings of pain and shame and general awfulness of an actual hangover.
This is not the whole story of the Pavlovian Hangover though. This is just the so called “Evil” Pavlovian Hangover. There is also the “Magical” Pavlovian Hangover.  Just as sometimes one can wake up after a night of heavy boozing and being rejected by attractive women in “da club” and feel absolutely wonderful, so one can wake up after staying in, having a mug of cocoa,  and getting an early night, and feel amazingly chipper.  “Well duh!” you’re undoubtedly saying, “why wouldn’t you feel good after getting an early night?” The difference being, with a Magical Pavlovian Hangover, the body expects to feel like utter shite (despite the lack of booze) and so when it discovers that it feels pretty good, it over-compensates, and releases loads of “awesome endorphins”, leading to feelings of euphoria, mild mania, and general WICKED!-ness. The Magical Pavlovian Hangover is about as blissful a feeling as one can get without the actual aid of alcohol or other drugs (and even then, one can only experience it if one has a regular habit of drinking too much).
It’s interesting to note that Pavlovian Hangovers promote the exact opposite feelings towards future drinking than actual hangovers; when one wakes up feeling like shit after drinking too much, the idea of ever drinking again is usually pretty repulsive, until at least four pm. With an Evil Pavlovian Hangover however, stung by the sheer injustice of the universe, one is left with a self destructive urge to drink as much as possible as quickly as possible. If you’re going to feel like shit anyway, the general reasoning goes, you might as well do something to deserve it, like necking half a bottle of tequila, and making inappropriate advances towards your female friends. Possibly you’ll call them sexy mamacitas (whatever the hell that means), try to grab their ass, miss and fall onto the coffee table. This sort of thing, you reckon, will show the universe who’s boss around here.

Unfortunately, I can’t afford to drink myself into oblivion. Gathering up the loose change from around my room, I just about manage to make enough to buy myself a kebab. If I’m going to feel like I had a heavy night out, then the least I can do is eat a container of grease, chilli sauce and genuine animal product...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I must break you!

It's been too long. Too long since I pulled an all nighter to get work in for a deadline. I'm not used to it any more, not sure my body can handle it, especially since I'm still recovering from some flu-like thing earlier in the week. A few hours ago, I came close to thinking I was Ivan Drago and found myself unwilling to type in anything other than block capitals, threatening to break the work, like Ivan threatened to break Stallone. About an hour ago, paranoia started to set in; shapes moving just on the periphery of my vision, sounds of people moving down the far end of the room where there is nothing but empty desks. Half an hour ago, the paranoia started to feel comfortable, like an old dressing gown. It was my only friend; it was all I could trust. It's too late now, in all kinds of senses. Time to just send it in, and go get a coffee.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What are the moves to the funky chicken, anyway?

It's not that I'm embarrassed by my mother's dancing; it's her daughter's wedding, and she's enjoying herself, getting into the party mood. But there's something a little unsettling about seeing your dear old mum bopping away to House of Pain's Jump Around, and Blister in the Sun, a song by The Violent Femmes purported to be about masturbation. Maybe you disagree; maybe you've one of those trendy mothers, who helped design your obscene nun tattoo, and gave you your first heroin cigarette when you were sixteen. That's not my mum. My mum bakes apple tarts, and secretly regrets that none of her children, now all over thirty, still need her help to tie their laces. There she is though, giving it socks. Shine on you crazy diamond. And don't pay too much attention to the lyrics. That's not a conversation I want over breakfast tomorrow...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fly Me to the Moon

Four thirty am. The airport is eerily quiet, most of its shops still closed. The stillness is enhanced by the sheer size of the place; it's all open and wide-screen and airy, like a stadium, or a cathedral. A cathedral to what though? Travel? Shopping? Modernity? It's hard to say.
Sleep would have been nice. Somewhere, from one of the few open shops perhaps, hip hop music is playing. It feels like I'm being kept awake by an unruly neighbor's house party. It feels like insomnia times ten.Achingly numb.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You Can Check Out Anytime You Like...

I’m sitting alone in a hotel room. As a Responsible Adult, who does Important Work, I stay in hotels now, instead of on people’s couches. People’s couches are where wastrels, and ne’er-do-wells and Ryan Reynolds characters stay. I’m in town to use a copyright library, dammit! I’m a Visiting Researcher! We merit hotels!

Hotel rooms are odd spaces. For one thing, they always seem to be poorly lit. Oh, there will be several lights in the room, but they’ll all be quite weak. They also all operate on different switches, all located at different points around the room, so it’s usually impossible to turn all the lights on or off without doing a lap of the room. It’s unclear to me why this is. It does mean that one has the option to light only one or two small areas of the room, leaving the rest of the room in darkness. I’m not sure why I’d want to have the area by the door of my room lit while the rest of the room remains unlit, but I have a few more days here to think about it.

The furniture in most hotel rooms (or most hotel rooms that I can afford to stay in. While I am a Visiting Researcher, I am not yet a Jet-Setting Billionaire Playboy, and so my hotels of choice tend to be what I think is commonly called “budget”) is generally quite distinctive; obviously not expensive, but also not dirt cheap, and always sturdy, and strong, and plain, to avoid, I suppose, as much breakage or damage as possible, and so the need to spend money on replacing it. This plain furniture style, along with the muted colour schemes of browns and creams, and perhaps the odd burgundy, on the walls and carpets and bed spreads, lends the typical hotel room a clean, sparse, aesthetic which, to some seems aseptic, to me has a simple elegance about it. I reckon if the ancient Spartans were alive today, they’d live in rooms like these.

The cleaning staff in hotels always unsettle me slightly. Despite my high social standing as a roaming academic, I am, and so far always have been, without the financial means to employ even a small domestic staff. But even this mild class discomfort aside, the way that they clean my room while I am out makes me feel somewhat... perturbed. It always seems that the cleaning staff tidy not just for the sake of tidying, but also to make it obvious to the guest on their return that the room has been tidied. So, books that had been stacked neatly on the dressing table, are now stacked on the other side of the dressing table. Little things. The kind of things you might not consciously notice, but which your unconscious picks up on, making it feel like you’re the protagonist in a horror movie, and the crazed stalker has been in your house while you were out, and you’re only now realising that he still might be here! Maybe in your bathroom! Of course, if this were a horror movie house, then the soap dispenser probably wouldn’t be nailed to the wall to prevent me stealing the soap (no doubt made from rose petals crushed between a young virgin maiden’s thighs, and so insanely expensive, and in need of protection from rampaging Spartans, lured in by the aesthetic of the room), so I’m probably safe from stalkers. Probably...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Halcyon Days

And so the festive season has come to a close. After weeks of complaining about how Christmas has become too commercialised, and how Christmas shopping is so deeply vexing and frustrating, and how spending time at home with our familys left us feeling claustrophobic and inevitably led to arguments, and how we dislike the enforced celebrations of New Year’s and how the pubs are always too busy and cramped and invidious, we can at last settle into a few weeks of telling each other how depressing it is that the festive period is over, and we have nothing to look forward to for months.
There is a wonderful phrase in this year’s Doctor Who special discussing the meaning of Christmas (but avoiding any silly religious mumbo-jumbo, this being a secular sci-fi show produced by the godless, liberal heathens at the BBC), which describes the mid-winter period as being a time to celebrate our having made it half way through the darkness of winter, and beginning our slow but steady progress back towards the light and warmth of summer. This time is, for me at least, one of the best of the year; a time to look, janus-like, both back and forward over the previous and coming twelve months, mourning losses and celebrating joys, and rueing mistakes and vowing to learn from them, and thinking of ways to improve and enhance and refine one’s life and mind and body and soul.