Saturday, April 28, 2007


Today Kent was struck with an earthquake, 4.3 on the richter scale, it damaged houses, caused gas leaks, spread terror throughout the land.


I slept through the whole thing, first I heard was my flatmates talking about it.

-Ben "sleeps like the dead" Hollingum

Thursday, April 26, 2007

bad literature

Over the course of the last few years I have read a lot of books, unsurprisingly, considering i do an english degree. A lot of what I read is, as you'd hope, really very good; it makes you think, laugh, cry, and fart. There is, however, a significant amount of the stuff I've had to read that is rubbish. I mean really unreadable shite.

This unreadable shite heap can be divided up into two distinct types:

The first category is stuff that I didn't like, but I'm not willing to discount the possiblity that it has some literary merit that I'm completely missing for some reason or other. In this category I put the stuff too complicated and pretentious for me to be able to understand (James Joyce's Ulysses, Ezra Pound's Cantos) and the stuff that might have some great merit but, due to its soporific dullness, I've never actually managed to finish (Most Victorian Novels, Anything by Wordsworth). This is by far the biggest of the two categories, probably making up about 90% of the stuff that I didn't like at university.

Ther other, much smaller category, is stuff that is just plain bad. This category is one which, considering that most of the time I'm studying works from the literary cannon, you wouldn't expect to exist at all. There are, nonetheless, periods of literature when writers were so focused on a particular mode of literary expression (19th century england's obsession with the novel, for example) that scholars of other kinds of literature are forced to really scrape the barrel looking for decent examples of their craft. Anyone who has had to read what passed for theatrical drama in the mid victorian era, or post romantic poetry will understand my pain.

The thing that has sparked this train of thought was reading the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I don't know whether they included the poetry in the anthology out of a sense of completeness, or because, having included her husband, they felt they had to include her too (like asking a friend with a boring girlfriend to a party) but either way, her poetry is really terrible.

if you don't belive me read this

I think that she should be put up there with such immortals as William Topaz McGonagall


Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I have a lot of hair at the moment. I’ve always had extremely thick hair, ever since hair started to grow on my extraordinarily lumpy head as a small child, but right now I have a lot of hair – it reaches about halfway down my shoulder blades. I’ve not bothered to get my hair cut in about 18 months and it grows pretty fast.

I’ve enjoyed having long hair; it prevents me from getting sunburn on the back of my neck in the summer and keeps my head warm in the winter. Although I won’t deny that it can be very, very annoying - when it’s been blown across your face by the wind, when it’s dirty but you can’t be bothered to wash it but have to because otherwise you’ll look like a goth. I have, however, been willing to put up with these annoyances as the perks outweigh them: you get to pretend to be Jesus all the time, to flick your hair around, and generally look like one of the Allman Brothers.

About a week ago, however, I was shaving (not shaving off the beard, but shaving around my beard), just staring aimlessly into the mirror and grinding off the Amish style neckbeard which my body wants to grow so badly, and I was gripped by an urge to cut my hair off with the beard trimmer. I actually went as far as flicking the thing open and standing there for about two minutes just holding it next to my head and fighting an unexpected internal battle.

I really don’t know why but since that morning I’ve been thinking about little else. My hair is annoying me - it’s too long now and makes me look stupid, it curls around my face in a really bizarre way and, when it is combed or dirty, invariably makes me look like I listen to slayer and do computer science.

There was a point around Christmas when I really liked the way my hair looked, it was all cool and funky, wavy and shiny. But now it’s just a floppy irritant. I have been thinking about getting it trimmed, styled, or something like that, but I don’t want to, I want it gone. I dislike guys with well kept hair, and I know that if I cross the boundary that stands between someone has long hair because he’s not cut it in years and someone who has neatly styled girly hair I’ll be one of them. It’s not particularly rational and looking at this it really doesn’t show me in a very good light. I think I should point out that what happened in the bathroom wasn’t the voices telling me to do things but a moment of epiphany – I looked stupid and have looked stupid for some time.

It did take a year to grow this fro though, and I’m very wary about cutting it off. Perhaps this urge will pass. I'll try some different hair products, see if my opinion changes.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

The World is Clearly Insane

This is something that I've always suspected but recently the evidence has just been heaping up.

Look at this -

I'm not sure if you can see this on the screendump I took but I had to make sure that this wasn't lost the moment the things gets bought.

It is a bass that has been 'Relic-ed' That is fender make a Precision Bass then guys with acid and beltsanders come along and scrape off paint, corrode hardware, and generally make the thing look like it has been used lovingly for the last 40 years. It is the weapon of choice for the musician who wants to look like a road warrior without actually you know, having to give up his job as an accountant.

These things piss me off no end anyway, but this one is special.

If you look carefully you will see that this is in the 'Scratch and Dent' category - That's right, an instrument designed to look all manky and beat up has been reduced in price because it got scratched in transit.

I really hope this is just some kind of late april fools joke and not an omen of the coming apocalypse.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Part the Third (a bit late)

I wrote the first two parts of this account in the first few weeks of my third year, a couple of weeks after the events described. The reason why it stopped there wasn’t because I didn’t want to write anymore, but because I was busy. It’s really not that much of exaggeration to say that I’ve been busy pretty solidly since then, the third year was hard, my marks have stayed roughly consistent but the amount of work required to get those marks seems to increase with each essay, the last two nearly killed me.

But hey, it’s over now, I handed in my last two essays of ‘ever’ on Monday and have been drunk pretty solidly for the last few days. I’m now sitting around on a nice day listening to loud music and nursing a hangover; my friends who were staying here have all gone and I’ve got nothing particularly pressing to be doing so here is the rest.

Well. That’s the plan anyway, I don’t know how much I’ll be able to write, or whether I can remember it clearly enough to write about it.

My first day in America was largely spent staring blankly into space and trying not to fall asleep. I was very happy to be there but I wasn’t entirely sure of myself, not 100% convinced that it was all actually real. We went to Kristen’s sister’s flat in Harlem – which, to my surprise, actually looks exactly like it does in films and TV shows - although there weren’t any crime scenes, which is generally the only reason why American film makers ever shoot things in Harlem. I remember that the flat was very cool, full of strange artwork done by the people she lived with and oddly hewn furniture.

I think I probably seriously offended Rachel by not appearing to be particularly interested in going sightseeing in New York, and generally not being hugely sociable or entertaining. In my defence I think I should point out that I was tired, confused and (due to sitting down rather awkwardly on a chair that was much, much harder than it looked) reeling from what felt like a really hard kick in the balls.

[Note for women: Being kicked in the balls in just about the most unpleasant feeling ever, it combines extremely sharp physical pain with often pretty serious nausea, aching and the fear that you’ll be left infertile and walking like a cowboy for the rest of your days. So please, don’t kick guys in the balls unless they absolutely unequivocally deserve it]

Where was I? ah, yes, being dull and uninteresting in New York. That night me and Kristen ate some tasty floppy pizza, planned the escape from New York with Rachel and slept in the spare room on a surprisingly comfy airbed. I slept like a log, probably woke up half the building snoring but I’d been awake for about 40 hours by that point, so I figure that I deserved it. The next morning we went out for a brunchy-lunchy type thingy in a diner downtown which gave me my first proper idea of what my meals were going to be like on this journey…

In a word, Big. Very big. I ordered a ham omelette which was billed as one of their healthy options and was presented with a mountain of food on a plate the size of a hubcap. I really should have guessed it would be like that from the fact that the diner proudly displayed a notice telling the customers that they had a defibrillator behind the counter…

I recall stuffing as much of my behemoth of a breakfast into my mouth as I could manage with half my mind paying attention to the conversation and the other half looking at the poster on the back wall, of which all I could see was the header: CHOKING VICTIM - and wondering why they were promoting a skacore band in a downtown diner.

Needless to say I still wasn’t 100% there.

We said goodbye to Kristen’s sister and set off some time in the early afternoon; unfortunately after about 20 minutes of travel the camera keeled over and went to sleep. I’m not sure if it’s because of that or just because the first day’s travel wasn’t hugely eventful but my memories of that day are fairly hazy.

I remember driving over bridges and under overpasses going out of the city, marvelling at how people in New York appear to have developed a quite complicated means of communication using only car horns, Trying to navigate using the sketchy directions from Kristen’s sister and a map that I hadn’t yet got the hang of (American maps are strange) and fumbling for toll money.

I remember going across the Tappan Zee Bridge in the sunshine and thinking it was really amazingly beautiful, going along that long causeway section down close to the water level with the main ironwork bridge silhouetted against the reflections of the water and the blue sky.

I remember stopping somewhere in New Jersey to look at the map and get petrol, it was all green and sunny, there was a jeep parked next to our car. It felt like England, but hotter.

I remember, unfortunately, the first night trying to get a room in Washington – how the one way systems in Roslyn and the edge of town funnel you inexorably into the centre of town regardless of your intentions. How, bizarrely, due to the bad map I did a lot of the navigating from my memory of Washington’s street layout drilled into me by playing Midtown Madness 3 too much whilst very bored. By some kind of divine intervention (which must have been conferred by some kind of clerical error) we managed to get a room in really swanky hotel on the edge of town that didn’t mind knocking about $250 off the normal nightly price for a tired, stressed and generally bedraggled looking young couple. If I was ever to meet that woman again I think I’d probably give her a big hug and buy her a few drinks. Americans are, on the whole, very good at customer service, friendly and pleasant. I think I only got one scary look in our whole journey which was in a Seven Eleven somewhere in North Carolina (I think) where I went to buy something and, standing there with my long hair, beard and strange accent, got looked at like I was some sort of talking moose or alien or something. You could probably argue that one of the big problems with America today is that all the nice people in Washington DC work in the service sector.

But yes. We went to our decadently massive hotel room, with its kitchen and big TV; its monster bed and sofas, showered, sat around talking for a few hours and then fell asleep. Thus ends the first day proper of my travels in America. Wow, considering how long ago it was now the fact that I can remember any of it is quite impressive, testament partly to how very cool it was and how crushingly little of note I’ve done in the last year otherwise.

I’m going to stop writing now because this is making me all sad and wistful. I’ll probably write some more soon, but right now I’ve got a nice bass with new strings and a new jacklead which is angrily demanding that it be played.