Monday, 14 May 2007

Could this post be any more random?

You are going to have to excuse the nonsensical rubbish that you are about to read. Despite the fact that I am a pretty appalling writer at the best of times I’ve decided to outdo myself this time by choosing to write this post whilst listening (and unfortunately singing) to Senegalese music. The music itself is good, at least in my opinion (hence the singing) unfortunately I don’t really know what the words are so I’m just making sounds that are somewhat similar which is probably driving my neighbours crazy but its about time seeing as he’s been doing something similar to me with his dartboard night after night underneath my room - thud, thud, thud….thud, thud thud…. Between those darts and the tomcat that doesn’t get any sex and has to tell the world every night, for hours on end, its probably just as well I don’t live in America otherwise I might have been tempted to use my right to carry arms in a negative manner, instead all I have is my Senegalese music to fall back on.

Anyway the blogging moment, that wasn’t it.

Today, for once in my life, I was feeling flush and decided rather than make my lunch at home or order a take away from the Italian café in town I would instead drive a mile out of town and order food from The Stables. The Stables is a bar/restaurant type place situated on its own along the canal, and is surrounded by countryside. There are restaurants galore in each of the surrounding towns and villages but since this isn’t in town it has for all intensive purposes a monopoly of customers. Cyclists and walkers use it when they are going along the canal, and drivers stop there when they are going into or leaving the town. I used to come here often but I haven’t been since it had a change of management and an upgrade last year.

When I entered the premises the restaurant was heaving with customers and I almost walked straight back out, thinking so much to that idea but then I looked in the bar and noticed there was some space in there, and for some reason its cheaper to eat in the bar. Turned out to be lucky day after all.

Of course there was a catch. There always is. To get to the food, I had to get past the barman who takes your orders. This a man more Bond villain than bon vivant. To walk into that bar is to laugh in the face of fear. The barman welcomed me with all the warmth of a Transylvanian butler in a B-movie. He drops menus on my table with a sneer. He repeatedly ignores my attempts to order. As he walks past, the guy sitting in the table next to me whispers that barman picked up his tattoos in a Russian prison. I think he’s having me on, but I can’t be sure. From that point on, we both called the barman “Igor”, funny enough this didn’t improve the service any.

It’s possible, of course, that this man is in the wrong job by accident, and were the restaurant owner to read this post “Igor” would be fired. I’m not convinced. I think Igor is all part of the plan.

Why would a restaurant deliberately sabotage the dining experience? A restaurant with a good reputation and a brilliant chef acquires some degree of power to name its prices. With that power comes the temptation to try to separate out customers and charge a high price to the expense-account lobbyists and a cheaper price to me and my friends who only come by when we can afford to. A nice idea, but trying to charge different prices for the same product is not easy. Something must be done to keep the lobbyists in the full-priced restaurant, and that something is Igor.

Anyway the food was great, I’d go back again but I might wait until I discover the shift pattern of Igor.

And it really is my lucky day, I might be moving to a new place – RENT FREE – that’s right my own one bedroom apartment won’t cost me a penny, and its in a very beautiful part of Scotland called Perthshire. Tourists spend hundreds of £’s a week to live there – hah suckers!

It will mean a little more traveling to work in the morning but I think I can manage that, seeing as most people do that every day I was just lucky that I could practically fall out of bed in the morning and be at work. The apartment itself isn’t totally free, I do have to do 12 hours work a week for it, but the number of hours I work already I won’t really notice that. Sometimes the world is beautiful. Shut up - let me enjoy the moment.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Not Sure Why I Did It But I Entered My First Photography Competition....

A couple of months ago I came across a photography club that has monthly competitions and I basically just started off looking out of sheer unadulterated nosiness but for some reason when this months theme was to be 'Urban' I found myself thinking 'I can do that!' Of course after I submitted my image I started immediately having doubts about my sanity, I felt for sure that the other photographers were going to pick it apart with faults in technique and execution etc, etc.

However I've been pleasantly surprised so far in that I've only had positive comments I even had one person say "I like this shot a lot, you have captured an urban scene so well, the colouring good,a clear sharp picture that should without doubt be the outright winner of this months comp." After I recovered and was able to take the glekit look off my face and stop saying things like 'Huh, what, are you sure you are talking about my picture???" I then had a look at the pictures of my fellow competitors which up until then I didn't really want to do because I didn't want to compare my picture with theirs. Having done that I realised that he probably said that to everyone, because there was no way that my image was the best but for a brief moment I had hope, which was nice. Strangely though I didn't enter to win, I was quite happy not being the worst photographer out there and thankfully although I'm not the most talented I don't seem to be the worst either.

Where I did let myself down was the title, this is a part the other photographers seem to take very seriously. I originally wanted to name my image 'Take a seat, people!' but I changed it at the last minute because I wasn't sure if the title had to have the word 'urban' in it. Which of course it didn't. Bummer!

Anyway I think I might try again next month. The Theme for the month is 'Cool'

I was originally going to enter this picture with the title 'Cool! Ducks! Dad!'

But I decided against doing so because I didn't think the boy was young enough or the image close enough. Besides I noticed one of the other photographers has a very photogenic daughter of about 7 years of age, the kind of beautiful little girl that makes you think that being a parent must be great when you get them past the crying, shitting and teething stage'. I don't even like other peoples kids, normally I can take so much and then I want them to take them back but this little girl has these sweet innocent facial expressions so with no kids of my own I decided I can't compete with that and decided to take another direction.

So this is the image I've decided on (I think, it might well change again), I did consider cool summers day as the title but it seems a bit naff so I need a new title - and that's where you come in.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Celebrity Role Models

It goes to show the lack of ambitious policies in British politics when a couple of weeks ago on the run up to today’s elections one of the leading politicians of the country found the time to announce that ‘Britain has fallen out of love with celebrity’. At the time I think he was trying to suggest that the British people were more concerned about serious issues than trivia but personally I would have taken him more seriously if he had given me reason to believe that his political party was different from any other political party out there. I don’t want politicians talking about celebrity. I wanted a reason to vote. I wanted to see some new ideas for a better Scotland or new improved future for Britain but more about that in another post.

For now lets just take the statement and analyse it for a second, personally I think it’s a lot of nonsense, it was said by someone who never understood the British obsession with celebrity. Personally I’ve never understood why people are interested in celebrity either but I do know this, its anything but dead. If it was dead we wouldn’t have Big Brother and people wanting to go on Big Brother with the sole purpose of becoming famous. It won’t be allowed to die either, too many newspapers and magazines make money from it for it be allowed to die.

If it was dead, people wouldn’t be buying clothes from the Kate Moss range, or perfumes by Sarah Jessica Parker.

As much as the media loves celebrity it loves to hate it too. Early on in the supermodel career of Kate Moss the media were quick to blame her for the eating disorders of young girls. Yes she was thin but she was naturally thin, she wasn’t one of these people who had to worry about her weight going up and down. She was of the lucky ones. She was also blessed with great bone structure that looked good on camera so she got modelling contracts from designers that liked her look. She didn't deserve to be the target. It wasn’t her fault that she was thin and deemed too thin by the media, if there was a question to be asked it should have been aimed at the designers who decided to use her at the time and not some other with a model with a more naturally achievable figure for the general population. But the media are fickle they go after the easy target, and likewise when the witch hunt is over they soon forget, at least until the next witch hunt.

When she was able to carry on working with dignity whilst journalists were throwing mud in her direction and none of it was dirtying her image those same people went looking for another easier target. However they were never going to stay away for long. Whilst she was able to walk down a catwalk looking good in fabulously expensive clothes she was also human. And being human she was capable of mistakes and the pen merchants were biding their time when she would make a mistake.

Her human failing was she had a tendency to like the bad boys of rock. And so she fell for one such boy that had the bad habit of taking drugs and eventually she was allegedly caught taking drugs herself. Before she could deny it or say she made a mistake her reputation was in tatters and those companies who had been willing to show her support were shamed into dropping her from their campaigns.

As good looking and rich Kate Moss is, I’m glad it's her and not me. I don’t know if I’d want to live in a world where I wasn’t allowed to make mistakes. It can’t be an easy world to live in.

Although it saying that it doesn’t seem to have done her any harm, she has managed to turn her career around again, not only did she shrug off the drug story but she got her contracts back again and added a new string to her bow, now she is designing clothes for a high street name.

As much as I sympathise with her and celebrities like her when they have to deal with the downsides of fame I can’t help question why she should get to design clothes just because has been walking down a catwalk for 10 or more years when there are young talented designers just coming out of art school desperate for a chance to show off their skills, and unable to get that opportunity because she has just taken that chance away from them. Nor can I understand why Sarah Jessica Parker, an actress, is putting her name to a perfume, maybe she has a great nose for a good smell. But I can’t help thinking she might be better at acting and letting someone who equally has a good nose, and can’t act, make and sell perfumes.

Maybe Kate Moss is a naturally gifted designer and didn't need to go to art school to learn but I suspect her contract for designing clothes had less to do with her design skills and more to do with role model credentials. And because she is role model someone with genuine talent is going to miss out on a job that could have been very rewarding.

And then there is the other side of the coin of celebrity culture in Britain's new star racing driver Lewis Hamilton. Lewis is a young and talented driver proven by the fact that in Adelaide for the first grand prix of the new Formula I season, and the first grand prix in which he had ever driven, he got a podium finish, and then he finished in the top three again for the second race, and again in his third.

It takes a Formula 1 fan like me to fully appreciate how unusual it is for a driver to do this on his first three drives. Even a non-car-nut will appreciate that it can't be easy, because all those other drivers want it too, and they can all drive. There were other British drivers who finished further down the field who had been at it for years and had never done what young Lewis managed to do. Two of them had won FI races but they hadn't reached the podium on their first time out. In fact no British driver, until Hamilton came along that is, in the history of Formula 1 had managed to do what he did.

Jenson Button, who for the last seven years had been the next English hope had won only one grand prix so far, could console himself with the knowledge that some very good drivers go their whole career and never win anything, but there he was down there in Adelaide getting nowhere in his eco-friendly Honda that apparently offsets its carbon emissions by going slowly. And then there’s David Coulthard, Scotland’s current hope for a Formula 1 world champion, he has won thirteen races in his time, he used to drive for the team that Lewis now represents. Now though he drives a car further down the field, one that seems to have developed a passive-aggressive personality.

A nice man in real life, David Coulthard will live to laugh at his bad car days, but at the moment he probably doesn't find anything very amusing about the spectacle of yet another young Briton taking his turn as Britain's boy wonder. He knows all about the pressure that comes with being British and talented at what you do. And he probably feels for the latest talent because not only is he young and talented and British, this boy wonder automatically gets more press than any previous British boy wonder of whatever height, class and degree of good looks, because this boy wonder is black.

Luckily, for the other drivers and for everybody else in the formula one world, skin-colour won't enter into it. Race has got nothing to do with racing. For a long while there wasn't a single black contender to help prove this to be so, but finally there is one, and he seems to have all the other qualities too: qualities which drivers as gifted as he is usually develop later, or never. Naturally wise, considerate and modest, he's graceful, he’s ambitious, he believes in his own abilities without the arrogance that some his older peers have.

But there lies a problem, he’s storing up troubles for himself. He just wants to be a racing driver the best racing driver he can be and presumably wants to be world champion, but just by being a talented driver and a talented black driver at that he has been thrust into the world of celebrity. He will get tv coverage and magazine coverage, some of which will be because he can drive but some of it will inevitably turn to him being a role model. Some members of the press won’t be able to resist turning him into a representative. He hasn’t asked to be one, all he wants to do is drive but it will be his destiny nonetheless. It’s his destiny because he’s British and Britain lacks true genuine winners in sport. It’s his destiny because there aren’t many black sports car drivers around. For the crime of being able to drive a car round a circuit very fast, he will be a role model, for the young, for Brits and for blacks.

It’s a heavy price to pay for being good at something. He’s 22 years old, found out by chance that he is good at one thing and now he his going to be one of the superhumans, one of the few that aren’t allowed to make a mistake. So far he hasn’t made one. He’s done all that has been asked of him but because of that there will be somebody there waiting to kick him down again. That one time when he shows a little bit of arrogance when he believes in himself and his own talent and forgets to show humility we will hear all about it. And it will be one those same people who are writing pieces just now about how great he is, that will do the kicking. So Lewis has not only got to be the perfect driver but he has to be the perfect character to, otherwise if he lacks humility, or experiments with drugs at a party like many of his age will do, or if he swears at a photographer when his privacy is being invaded we will hear all about it from someone sitting at a computer who has the same human traits as he has but we will never hear about those because they aren’t famous like Lewis. Those who are quick to judge who we should idolise or not, as the case may be, seem to forget that we are all just human and all need the chance to make a life for ourselves.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Just Testing

There is no rhyme or reason for this post other than me testing the capabilities of Pando, so don't be surprised if this post gets deleted soon after.

What Am I Working For?

Here I am browsing the net looking for a new place to rent. I’ve given up on my dream for now of buying a place to call my own. Any way I look at it its just ain’t going to happen. I’m not going to get my feet on the property ladder. That’s despite this month being the ninth year that I will have been self employed. Saving for a house is a waste of my time.

This is why.
In the 9 years I have been self employed I have increased my wages on a yearly basis slightly above the inflation rate but not in line with the house price inflation rate. I could not afford to do so.
I started my business in ’98, now I can only find house price information as far back as 99 so you will have to bear with me here.
In ’99 the average house price in Glasgow was £70,353
By ’05 this had increased to £123,842
That works out as in increase of 76%
Screw me! Screw me sideways! Screw me running! Screw me anyway you like just explain to me how the hell was I meant to keep up with that?
If you think that is bad, the little town that I live in, and have lived in for most of my life, the house prices have went up by 134% in that same time scale. How the hell does that happen?

This is all great news for those that own a house of course, their house is making them money and they don’t even need to work for it. In fact many of them are buying second houses from the profits they have made on their first, and making money from renting it out. Greedy bastards! But who can blame them? I’d do the same thing myself. If only I could. Meanwhile I can’t afford to live in the town I love, the town that is near the city yet still surrounded by countryside with the hills just 10 minutes away.

It’s not like I want a house with a bathroom that has brilliant gold taps, virginal white marble, a seat carved from ebony, a cistern full of Chanel No. 5, and a flunky handing me pieces of raw silk toilet roll. Under the circumstances I'd settle for anywhere. The irony is I can afford to rent a place on my own income, paying someone else’s mortgage and giving them a little profit for their troubles but a bank manager looks at my income multiplies it my 3.5 times and then the computer says ‘Sorry Sir, no mortgage for you today, come back another time’.

The only way I can come back another time and get a different answer is if I have a marriage of convenience. And don’t think I’m the only young single person in this boat.

Its not like I’m a big spender of useless crap, I’m not the type of person who looks at the neighbours’ with jealous eyes. I don’t look at them and convince myself that I need two cars, one for weekdays and one for the weekend. Or think that I need to watch the mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows on a 56inch plasma wide screen television. All I would like is to buy a place of my own, preferably with 2 bedrooms so that if someone wants to visit they can do so, is that so much to ask?

Ah well fuck money!

Anyone want to dance?

There may be trouble ahead,

But while there's moonlight and music,

And love and romance,

Let's face the music and dance.

Ever want to do something different, but not sure what?

There are times I just get sick of the old 9am – 9pm routine, there are times when it can be mentally and physically exhausting doing the same job every day.

Maybe just one day a month I’d like to spice it up a little, do something different for the day before going returning back to my old job. I’m not sure what job I’d do but it would be nice to do something different but returning to my old job with a new appreciation for the career I chose.

I have a malicious streak at times; perhaps I’d be a traffic warden. Now normally I would have no interest in doing this job, certainly I wouldn’t want to do it full time I can’t stand traffic wardens but then there are times when I can’t stand other drivers either. There is something quite delicious about the street theatre played out when a motorist returns to find a warden in the process of issuing a ticket. It offers pathos, pleading, anger and occasionally a spot of violence. I particularly enjoy watching the traffic wardens in action during the Christmas shopping season, when the city streets are polluted by motorists on their missions of rampant consumerism.

One lunchtime stroll was immensely cheered by the sight of a lady, laden with shopping, having to watch her car, carelessly abandoned, being hoisted on to the back of a lorry and taken off to the police car park. Another time I saw a vehicle being taken away and watched, from across the street whilst eating my 3 course meal, as the driver returned and went through the gamut of emotions as he found himself deprived of his precious sports car.

It must be a grand life as a traffic warden, and healthy too with all that walking about. Also you are contributing to society by helping to control the insidious effects of the internal combustion engine. But, mainly, it’s the get-it-right-up-ye factor that appeals.

But as far as I know, there are no openings for freelance or locum traffic wardens. I would happily be an unpaid vigilante-style warden, especially if my powers extended to penalising drivers who drive around talking on their mobile phones, or with music reverberating at an unholy level, or who drop litter out of their cars. Or, indeed, ladies who apply their make-up while driving along at 32mph. No hands, no brains.

Maybe just maybe if I was a freelance traffic warden my inconsiderate neighbours would park properly and allow me some space to park in my own cul-de-sac at night, instead of having to drive 4 or 5 streets away.

Second thoughts maybe I wouldn’t want a job at all, maybe I’d rather be a bonobo. The bonobo is a species of ape found in the forests bordering the Zaire river in Africa. They have 98% of the same genes as humans, which makes the bonobo our nearest relative.

The bad news for the bonobo is that they are being hunted almost to extinction to put food on the table of hungry Africans. The good news is that the bonobo, when left to their own devices, enjoy a society based on love not war. The art of sexual reconciliation may well have reached its evolutionary peak in the bonobo. For these animals, sexual behaviour is indistinguishable from social behaviour.
Basically, the bonobo is too busy getting it on to get involved in acts of aggression. Sexual contact is as natural to them as a handshake is to a human. It’s as if, instead of a leaving a comment on a blog or two you had a quickie on the nearest double bed you could find.

I’m up for following the bonobo code. It certainly seems better than the way of life pursued by those of us with the other 2% of the genes. I am sure I could cope, given that your average male bonobo manages a coupling in 13 seconds.