Friday, 31 August 2007

Random Ranting

I don't know what I dislike more - my stubborn, pig-headed, perfectionist, I-can-do-it,-I-know-I-can-and-I'm-not-stopping-until-I-do! nature or computers (eh, any machines for that matter) that don't work. It's probably a close call.
The trouble with me, (well one of many but for now we'll ignore the rest), is I don't know when I'm beat. Now that attitude works well on the rugby field but not so good when broken electrical equipment need fixing. It can be a right pain in the backside to be sure.
Strangely when someone asks me if I an help them fix their computer I can usually do so without much trouble but when mine decides to act up it has to do so good and proper to such an extent that it had me pulling out my hair out for 3 days. As I suspected the power supply unit blew and needed replacing. I correctly diagnosed this within 30 minutes, but it took me the rest of the 3 days to work out that it also took the processor and motherboard with it.
It didn't help that it was the weekend and I had to figure out what parts might be broken and then find a shop open that sold the parts needed at a price I could afford. Easier said than done when this was the month I had to shell out for a new tax disc for the first time since Gordon Brown decided to help the environment (yeah right) by doubling the cost of registering a vehicle.
Anyway at least I have my computer working now. Well kind of. Now I'm left with a computer without sound because the speakers connected to a socket on the old power supply unit, and the of course the new unit doesn't have this socket. Why oh why can't anything technology be easy? Now I need to figure out if I just need new speakers or a new sound card, or (worse) both.

On a separate issue entirely - who shrunk Mars ice Cream?
I admit its been a few years since I've had any but when I saw them for sale at half price in Morrison's I suddenly felt the need to satisfy my tastebud's urge for soft ice cream and caramel. What I didn't realise was that somewhere along the way somebody decided to shrink them by approximately half since the last time I had the pleasure. Tasted just as good as ever but somehow it didn't feel as much of a bargain as I thought it was.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Punched In The Gut In Edinburgh's Botanical Gardens

Yesterday I escaped the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh’s Festival induced crowded streets with a two hour sabbatical in the Botanic Gardens. Whenever I’m in Edinburgh in August I usually spend some time in the Botanic’s in an effort to recapture my inner calm when I’ve had all I can take of the pedestrians who stop dead directly in front of you without any warning. There I expected to people watch in a relaxed atmosphere, where young kids torment pigeons & ducks and where big-kid-at-heart grown men attempt to feed tame squirrels. What I did not expect to find was yet another exhibition. I should have known better. Every possible square inch of the city seems to be home to an exhibition or show of some kind. If I’m being honest I’d had my fill of exhibitions for one day but I was drawn to this open air exhibition by the sight and sounds of those staring and discussing it with a hushed intensity.

Within seconds of looking at the first image of the exhibit called Hard Rain, I too was staring just as intently at it as the others. Forget Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth you won’t learn anything new there, its all been seen before and is largely only going to preach to those already converted. In contrast, Hard Rain should be shown in every school, as well as to every government official, whether national, regional or city, no matter whether they are elected or just a civil servant. That is if we are serious about wanting to change the world in a fairer manner and reverse some of the damage we are doing to the earth.

As an exhibition its made up of a series of photographs in response to Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall. Some of the images you might have seen before, I certainly have but in no way did that take anything away from the power that these images had.

The concept of the exhibition, is devastatingly simple. Environmental photographer Mark Edwards takes the words of Dylan's apocalyptic song and illustrates each line with a single image. There is also a succinct commentary, calmly condemning "wilful, inane and immoral carelessness towards people and planet by both our leaders and ourselves". And that's it.

So how come I think everyone should see this exhibition, especially those who are in a position to change the way we do things? Well quite simply, because each image powerfully portrays a world gone desperately wrong. The overall result of the exhibition as you walk away from it is our shared responsibility for climate change, for poverty (both spiritual and material), for habitat loss and for the abuse of basic human rights. The message is that environmental and human poverty reinforce each other. Many sensitive and informed people are aware, to at least some extent, that if only through their consumption patterns they contribute to the raping of our environment and to appalling mistreatment of our fellow beings, human and non-human. These images, from many countries and many contexts heighten that awareness, and bring it into acute focus like someone punching you hard in the gut.

On a personal level this exhibition allayed some of my fears that I had in regard to the overuse, and manipulation, of images was taking away our ability to be shocked by horrible events,

The first time I can remember images that shocked me I was around 7 years of age. I had just had a lecture for not eating the food on my dinner plate when I turned on the news and for the first time in my life I saw the effects of famine in Africa. It was 1984, the famine was in Ethiopia, the pictures of those malnourished babies I can still remember today as well as the way they made me feel, I literally felt sick to the stomach. Since that day there have been many famines and the effect has never quite been the same since that first time. When you’ve seen and heard it all before you learn to switch off. Same as you can go shopping in the best parts of Glasgow and pass by the homeless man selling the Big Issue without giving him a second glance. It’s a learned response to something that we don’t want to see.

This exhibition though, brought Ethiopia 1984 back into the present here and now. A written line of Bob Dylan’s song and a single silent image had a power all of its own. It is as if he, and Dylan, take us by the hand and lead us to the many dark places we prefer not to know about. Edwards, a superb photographer, is aware that in our daily lives, and through our democratic political systems, "we pay attention only to the short term, the visible and the nearby".

You see a picture with the Taj Mahal in the background, one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, but in the foreground, by the edge of the River, lies a human corpse, half silted over, with a scabby dog nosing it. Just beyond the dog, on a sandbank, stand three vultures, waiting. Its masterful photography that you don’t really want to look at and yet at the same time, as you head takes it all in, you can’t pull yourself away from it.

Edwards's pictures are about the destruction of people, animals, plants, forests, oceans, rivers and communities and about the destruction of dignity and hope as well as of life. That is why they are each so disturbing.

If you are in Edinburgh I urge you go and have a look for yourself. You’ll find it in the Botanic’s, just outside the Palm House. If you aren’t in Edinburgh then you can still see it for yourself in book form, ask you local library for Hard Rain by Mark Edwards.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Life is simple isn’t it?

On Friday I reached my third decade. I’ve been on this earth just a few hours less than the King of rock n roll has been off it. I don’t much go in for the contemplating big life moments but seeing as I have free time and can’t think of anything else to blog about I might as well look back, assess, and once its all done not give it a second thought or learn a damn thing.

Life all happens by chance. Through no choice of your own you are born. No-one thought to ask you if you wanted this. You just come kicking and screaming into the world. The kicking and screaming may end on day one or you may choose to continue it right up until adulthood. In the meantime you learn what the world is all about, you get educated, and you choose subjects and courses that will probably have no bearing on your future. You choose a job that doesn’t pay anywhere near enough compensation considering the idiots you have to work with. You choose yourself a girl and settle down. You choose to fuck like rabbits, or sloths, or something in between, or abstain completely. You choose to buy your first home, which involves choosing a mortgage from the 1000’s available on the market, each more confusing than the last. You settle on a mortgage that rips you off of money that you don’t yet have. You have your wife and your house now you choose the impossibly big television with the even more impossibly big price tag. You choose your 100 channels that you will never ever watch. You choose your 3 piece suite from DFS that doesn’t even get in the front door. You choose your friends, or if you are a soft touch they choose you. You lose a few along the way and find them again on Friends Reunited or Facebook only to remember months later why you stopped talking to them in the first place. You choose to have a family which turn out to be the most selfish inconsiderate brats that man has ever known. You choose to not end it all and grow old. You watch as the devil spawn finally move out and make their own fucked up choices which you pay for with your bank account. Your pension that you chose sometime earlier doesn’t mature like it should have. You have to sell the home that you spent years of endless Sundays doing up just right. You choose to move into a home, only to find the neighbours have problems with incontinence. By now you are even more of an embarrassment to the brats that are continuing your gene pool, so they choose never to visit. You die, but not before you have to choose burial or cremation. Life is simple.

Or at least it should be. I’m up to the choose a girl part. This is where it has become tricky, essentially because I’m a picky bugger. I have no right to be this picky but because its my life and no-one else’s, I am. If the girl doesn’t have the right kind of smile it will probably take something special for me to give her a second look. And if she does have the perfect smile I will on most occasions come over with self doubt and find excuses as to why she wouldn’t be interested. Like she doesn’t laugh at my jokes, it could never work. Or she laughs too hard, it would never work. But if by some miracle she has the perfect smile, eyes that can make a man melt, and I ignore the self doubts and find the courage to take a step into the unknown and she laughs just right 18 months can go past in a flash. In that time I’ll find out she’s as gorgeous a person on the inside as she is on the outside, super intelligent too, can speak seven languages. She gets me, she really does, and as a special bonus she can cook great too, meaning I’ll never starve. You’d think this would be my perfect woman. So would I. Except when it happens. There must be something wrong with her, she has to have bad taste, I mean I look like my father, I barely get by with English and can just about cook pasta or a stir fry. What the hell does she see in me.... Bad habits are hard to break.

And then there is the job thing. I’ve been doing the same thing for 9 years which is for me a long time to do anything. I’m very good at what I do but there lies the problem, The challenge factor is no longer there. I’m restless. I need something new. I just don’t know what. I want to do so many things but probably none of them for the rest of my life,

I’m beginning to see why I don’t do the contemplation thing, its unhealthy to think too much, I’d need therapy. I think I’ll go back to the caring less, laughing more approach I took before. If that fails, I can always take comfort from the fact that the television will be a simple decision as I largely don’t much care for the latest technology.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Apologies To Irvine Welsh

In an effort to get through my period of writers block, I'm going to try to break it by, well, writing. I'm sure it could be written more eloquently another time but what do I care, it's not like this blog makes me money. I don't make you read it.

Anyway this post may well become a series, if I get the inspiration....

It's Shite Being Scottish

It's shite being Scottish, we’re the lowest of the low, the scum of the fucking earth. We’re instantly recognisable wherever we are. It's not because of the jimmy hats. Or even the linguistic adventure that your ears suffer when we talk at a hundred miles an hour in an accent and dialect that you can’t comprehend.

You can be on a beach in Majorca surrounded by multiple nationalities and still you’ll recognise the Scots who just arrived fresh from the airport. It won’t be the blue and white face paint or the Rangers and Celtic tops that will give them away. It will be the Scottish complexion. We aren’t a dark skinned race, we aren’t even white skinned. We are pale fucking blue skinned.

After a couple of hours of sunshine that pale blue skin will go through a change. While everyone else on the beach will be developing a tan if they hadn't already got one before they arrived, the Scots on the beach will develop a milk bottle white complexion.

Few Scots’ ever develop a tan, a proper tan like the rest of the world’s population seems to manage with ease. We go from pale blue, to milk bottle white, to, on those rare days of summer when the sun is visible all day and we descend on Kelvingrove Park like locusts lying on every blade of grass, to lobster red. That’s right pale fucking blue to lobster fucking red. The day after the sun shone all day long, Scots men everywhere will be out, wandering the streets of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, or wherever, bare chested, as if proud of the fact they are no longer pale fucking blue but lobster red.

And the Scots’ who use the tanning salons, and there are a lot of them about. They’re worse. They aren’t pale blue. They aren’t milk bottle white. They aren’t even like lobsters. They’re Orange! They look like they’ve drank too many litres of Irn Bru.

Disclaimer: This post was written in jest, it was not meant to be taken seriously, no Scots should be offended by the Its Shite Being Scottish tag, if you were offended you need to get a life.

Go on, join in the fun, make your own Its Shite Being (insert your nationality here) post.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

When Writers Block Makes Your Blog Die A Slow Death Resort To T-Shirt Humour

You can blame Just A Girl for this post and me having nothing better to do at 7:48 in the morning.

You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a Scotsman.

I like that one for the streets of Edinburgh during the month of August. I might even sell them myself next year, and if I can get everyone in the Royal Mile to buy and wear one I might be convinced that the profits should go to charity. Of course I'm more likely to get a 100 punches in the nose before that happens but life, risks and all that.

I have a head for business and a Scotsman for sin.

Now if only I could convince my neighbour with the chocolate eyes to wear that one.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Wormholes & Shotguns

One minute I was on a Scottish mountain contemplating how despite the rains best efforts it was really quite a nice place to be. Then suddenly the peace was broken.

There’s nothing quite like a man dressed in army style camouflage, complete with balaclava and shotgun, coming towards you on a quadbike, at speed, to break up the solitude and serenity of your spot on the mountain.

I was tempted to run for my life, whilst in a state of confusion over how I had come across a wormhole that had taken to me to a different time and place. Having passed no signs that said ‘Keep Out! You Are About To Enter A Militarised Zone’ I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how I had ended up in the 1970s and had come across an IRA stronghold whilst walking up Ben Lawer on a very wet Sunday in the year 2007. ‘Act normal’ I was telling myself while my deeper instincts were to drop to my knees and pray. Surprisingly I didn’t ask God to save me one last time, instead I heard myself say “Afternoon!”

Afternoon? WTF? I know I was brought up to be polite but that was neither the time nor place for general courtesies, not when some nutter with a shotgun is approaching on a quad bike and there are no witnesses around. And yet apparently it was, instead of stopping and taking aim, he drove past and muffled (the balaclava was still worn) an “Afternoon” in my general direction.

I’m guessing he was off to cull dear or something. At times having an overactive imagination can make you feel mighty silly.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

For The Competitive Amongst You

The Sunday Herald is looking to find Scotland's best blogger, if you want to take part all you need do is is a write a blog titled 'My Modern Scotland' and submit it at There's even a prize of a writing masterclass up for grab's although when you consider the like's of William McIlvanney and Alexander McCall Smith have already taken part, the winner might not need it.

I like the idea, but would be a little overawed in such company so I doubt I'll submit anything however its an interesting topic that could have some interesting interpretations so I wouldn't mind seeing how a few of the bloggers I already read handle the challenge. If I get any inspiration of my own in the upcoming weeks I may well post my own version here.

Sunday Morning Walk

A morning walk in the rain - Free.
The Sunday paper s- £1.30.
Keeping the papers dry on the way home by putting it underneath your jacket - Also free.

The look of the 3 Chinese girls as they walk past whilst you prevent the papers from falling down - Priceless.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Its Not A Good Thing When Your Own Words Can Be Used Against You

Sometimes I like to pretend that in my finer moments residing on this planet of ours that I am an intelligent human being. However events of my own making usually quickly unfold to break that spell of delusion. This afternoon is a case in point.

Whilst working at home my cousin came round to raid the fridge, as he tends to do, and also to distract me somewhat from my work (also something he likes to do), granted today my mind wasn't on the job and I was quite able to find suitable distractions before he arrived. However eventually I had to get some work done and so I left the house for a couple of hours leaving the cousin inside to raid the fridge some more. This a day after spending £45 on food isn't exactly a genius idea but at least food can be replaced. Leaving the pc on with the homepage set on this blog and coming home to find cousin reading the November archives is an act of stupidity that cannot be undone or so easily put right.

Now a part of me would like to think that he was reading for its articulately written with not a word wasted or just because its a mighty fine read but lets face facts here I write about nonsense and with my lazy eh-can't-be-bothered-checking-for-typos-missed-0ut-words-or-accidentally-deleted-half-paragraphs attitude I don't do a very good job of it either. So even though I gave him my best poker faced expression when he turned his head away from the screen, I know the sneaky devious little bastard knew it was my blog.

Now, due to my own stupidity, I'm having to wonder if there is any material on here that would be grounds for blackmail. I have to admit to not thinking too hard about this (mainly because I don't want to know any different) but as far as I can remember I've never mentioned names nor sexual conquests, or lack off, so I should be safe. Yet doubts persist about the grounds of that belief.

Just in case I have some forgotten incriminating wordage on here I have to start using my noggin in developing ways of possible payback. That's right cousin if you are watching, to steal a line from the men with the moustaches, I have your number!

Blatant Blog Promotion & A Little Begging Too

Misssy has started a new blog Celebrity Llitigation and what it needs is a few more ghost writers, especially of the fairer sex to even things up a little. So if you've got time to spare - check it out. It might not be as satisfying as finding the cure for cancer or finding the mathematical solution to Third World Debt but it might be more fun.