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Dec. 23rd, 2007

abnormal psychology

Bratton Fleming

Sue and I have split up. Reaction to this news has varied from shock to, I was rather startled to discover, an almost complete lack of surprise. So, if anyone is still in any doubt, yes, this time it's serious, and no, we're not getting back together. It's been a curious mixture of all very sudden and coming for some time (and failing to notice that is probably largely my fault). And it's definitely the right thing to do. I'm upset, obviously, and probably still in shock, but bearing up pretty well all things considered.

I'm staying at my Mum's for Christmas. She moved this year from Ealing, where I grew up, to a house just outside the Devon village of Bratton Fleming. It's a glorious piece of 1920s architectural mayhem, perched on the side of a valley. The view from my bedroom window - once I've wiped it clear of condensation - stretches all the way to the sea on a clear day. Right now, though, the valley is a bowl of mist, the sunshine marking a golden crest on the treeline opposite, with the meadows in shadow a frosty white peppered with deer. It looks like someone invented the scene, as though there's no way something that beautiful could exist in reality. (The camera - or is it the photographer? - completely fails to capture this, as ever.)

Only the cold - it's sub-zero out there right now; you can see your breath inside the house before the fires are lit; my brother's just woken up complaining that his head's gone numb - takes the edge off. I'm heading into Barnstaple this morning to pick up some gloves so I can smoke without losing my fingers, and some spices for mulled wine because it's that kind of Christmas and it helps keep your hands defrosted. Cheers!

Dec. 5th, 2007

abnormal psychology


In 2008, psychonomy resolves to...
Find a new counterculture.
Keep my batman clean.
Tell my family about sherlock holmes.
Cut down to ten cats a day.
Take lowlowprices raving.
Ask my boss for a pixar.
Get your own New Year's Resolutions:
Posted largely on the basis of the first one, which sounds about right.

Nov. 24th, 2007

Fairy Victim

Alphabet Clique

A friend recently mentioned that a friend of hers associates days of the week with colours, which reminded me of something I wrote years ago about the different characteristics of letters of the alphabet.

Nov. 14th, 2007



Crowds at Heathrow Airport 
In the course of my work-related researches today, I have discovered that this company will be running the UK's largest offshore windfarm, the London Array

DONG Energy guarantees a reliable supply of energy and an accountable utilization of our natural resources. 

I wish there was a more sophisticated level of humour going on here so I could feel good about myself. But no, there it is. 

Oct. 6th, 2007

Fairy Victim

NZ Road Trip

PS: Google video. Three times the datarate, and it still looks like pants.

Oct. 3rd, 2007


Hall of Mirrors

I sometimes worry that I seem to be smarter and more inventive when I'm half asleep, as though being conscious somehow interferes with the operation of my brain. I mean, I know that all sorts of stuff can bubble up from your subconscious in the netherland between waking and sleeping, stuff that you weren't even aware of that surprises you with its intellectual shortcuts, poetry and deftness. But I'm talking about stuff orders of magnitude away from the lumpen, plodding activity my mind seems capable of when fully awake.

Case in point. Yesterday I watched the new Superman animated movie, Doomsday. Aside from the fact that the PG-13 rating seems to have been used purely to justify some gratuitous violence - "SEE! Superman coughing up a stomachful of blood! WATCH! As more blood drips from the Toyman's flattened corpse! REVEL! In the kind of child endangerment they never let us get away with in the 90s!" - it's really rather good.

Sue wasn't remotely interested. This is disappointing to me, since one of my joys is sharing the excitement of watching cheesy SF, or reading cheesy comics, with her. Indeed, instead of watching Doomsday last night, we struggled through five episodes of 'The Armageddon Factor', the highlight of which was Sue's gasp of disbelief at K9 Turning Evil.

Floating only in the neighbourhood of consciousness this morning, I recalled watching an old Justice League ep, "Comfort and Joy'. with her. She'd enjoyed the fact that one of the Flash's enemies, the Ultra-Humanite, had used the word 'jejune'. This is funny on several levels. First, the Ultra-Humanite is a large, albino gorilla with an outsized brain. It's well established that monkeys doing human things is funny - lorry-loads of tea have been sold on that very principle - so making them big monkeys with brain cancer is even funnier. Secondly, the Ultra-Humanite is a comic-book baddie with refined sensibilities - the kind of evil genius who takes a child's toy called 'DJ Rubber Duckie' and reprograms it to tell the story of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.

You'll find the 'jejune' moment at about 04:53 in this:

Most importantly, however, 'jejune' is funny because it's being used in a Saturday morning kids' cartoon, and because the writer, Paul Dini, knows that we'll find it funny because it's in a Saturday morning kids' cartoon, and because he knows that we know that as well and, what's more, that to boot. And so on. It's an infinite "I know, he knows" regressive loop.

Although, crucially, it's not actually a loop, because each circuit depends upon the previous circuit for its humour value. It's actually a never-ending conceptual spiral, spinning down into increasingly abstract humour until our minds simply cannot keep track of it anymore and we are left with no option but to laugh. Or, under similar but less amusing circumstances, scream.

MC Escher, known for his depictions of 'impossible hair'
But we don't actually go through that mental process, or 'decide' to laugh. It occurs to me that laughter might be an instinctive reaction to hovering on the precipice above such a spiral. we instantly recognise the kind of infinite loop out minds could be caught in were we actually to consider the implications of the use of 'jejune' in that context and so, almost as a self-defence mechanism, we laugh. It distracts us, diverts us, preventing us from going down a path with no logical end. It's a short-cut to sanity.

Which is where we come back to one of my pet hobbyhorses, the Cogito. I've heard it described as 'self-fulfilling', a tautology logically incapable of revealing anything. But I contend that, like 'jejune', it's a hall of mirrors: an infinitely regressing reflection of one's consciousness, with the value of each cycle dependent upon the cycle before it. In that sense, it is less a syllogism than a mantra, something that not only proves the existence of the individual, but can be used to express the nature of that existence and thereby, hopefully, encourage people to understand it.

You might not actually find the Cogito funny, of course. But I'm sure it makes people scream from time to time.

Sep. 27th, 2007

Fairy Victim

Return from Oz

Sorry about the lack of updates, but Australia doesn't seem to have heard of in-room internet access and before that we were out in the wilds of NZ where they've barely heard of the 1960s.

Now in Singapore, waiting for room service to bring our breakfast up, looking out over a city which last night was a blistering array of neon and moonlight and is this morning a dull, Surbiton grey. Singapore is one of the rainiest cities on the planet, and we were both woken up last night by what I thought was an earthquake - our 12th story room actually shook - but which turned out to be thunder. Even now, four hours later, lightning is crashing across the sky.

Sue's done her usual thing of jumping into the path of whichever bug is most likely to cause snot and sore throats but, on the plus side, her croaky voice does have a certain sort of Fenella Fielding something going on. Am trying to persuade her that Singapore not much cop in this weather, and that we should stay indoors having sex and ordering more room service all day.

Back in Blightly tomorrow, what ho, with more in the way of Youtubery to follow. Although it might be Googlevideoery, given the quality of the previous uploaded snippets.

Sep. 19th, 2007


Viewing and Listening Device


Crunchy Frog

Full-on video of our first proper day in NZ tomorrow but, meanwhile, here's an out-take. Sue has a funny turn while walking in Wellington's botanical gardens...

Sep. 17th, 2007


The Temple of 10,000 Cultural Taboos

What ensues when you site a popular tourist attraction of a temple with 10,000 Buddhas next to a rather un-tourist friendly Buddhist cemetary?


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