Sunday, June 30, 2002
We hung out in a girly, giggly, way, and I even painted her toenails a fabulous shade of purple. It was all a bit Sandra Dee/Grease but without the fifties clothes and stupid pyjamas. But by the time I'd left and picked up some Sunday papers and talked with Q on the phone for ages (more girly giggliness - it's infectious), I got over to A's birthday kinda late. Turned out it was the second sitting... it had started at eleven, and a bunch of people turned up lunchtime, and when I got there fourish, it was Glastonbury meets male-bonding-drum-group in Maida Vale. Kinda mesmeric, but not for the neighbours, who kept looking out of the window in a slightly annoyed/unsure quite what to do fashion.
Two years ago, I took my then boyfriend to A's party and he got together with D (his other half)'s cousin. It was not a good experience. Obviously I got over it, but I was angry that I didn't find the right response at the time for "sorry, I got a better offer" and it came to me some weeks later. But it's too rude to even write here. Anyway, I'd just missed them. People kept saying to me, "Do you know D? He was just here. He's from Manchester. You must be friendly with him, he's just like you." Whatever that means. (Aside: I have many friends called D, I know. But what should I do? Label them? D1? Music-D. Ex-D. It would get silly).
I've just realised that I've started doing that emotional exhibitionism thing. You probably don't want to know about my tortuous break-up with an ex. Sorry.
I ended up staying at A&D's for ages, and not making it to (other) D's singy thingy. But you can't do everything, right? Well, I can't. Figure I should get an early night, for a change.
That D has a lot of insight.
And of course there's the actual pronunciation. Jewish people tend to pronounce it kab-a-la (all short a's) - the traditional Hebrew pronunciation. Occultists seem to pronounce it ku-bar-lar (long a's), which they probably don't know is a Methodist pronounciation, based on the system developed by Brown Driver & Briggs in the 1920's.
I spent a fun hour trying to track down a copy Scholem's Kabbalah , Friday. I called all the Jewish bookstores first (as I live in North London), and was firmly told that the book was out of print. Even when I gave them the ISBN number and told them it was available on amazon, they were convincing in the way that only Jews in retail can be. (And let me tell you; if I make that joke in the spirit of self-determination, it's fine. If you're not Jewish, and you make it, it could be considered anti-semitic.)
So next, I call a bunch of occultists off Charing Cross Road. We had a couple of confusing moments on each call when I asked for ka-ba-la and they asked if i meant ku-bar-lar. But after the babel fish moment, we were on the same page, so to speak. Infinitely more helpful, but no one has the book in stock.
So I don't really know why I'm telling you this. Except to say that I can't find the book, and I need instant gratification, or at least delivery before Friday. When the recipient of the gift leaves.
My neighbour's party went on till 4am, and now I know what descarga is; it's that jamming with drums thing to a salsa-ish rhythm. And Williams Cumberbach is both breathtakingly beautiful and shy. There was much drinking of beer, wine, spirits and many other addicitve/non-addictive substances. I know; it was in the garden and the smell of the addicitve/non-addictive substances wafted up to my bedroom window. It was practically a contact-high.
Because I knew that the party would go on forever, I went out in the middle to the JC in Kentish Town to hang out with assorted Barbeloids and other online folk. It's dead interesting meeting people in the flesh. And when they've had a few drinks. Believe me.
D came over 11ish, and impressed women with his South-American looks. Even though he's from Woodside Park. And saved me from my neighbour's friend who's conversation went something like this "you ees married? boyfriend? wanna fuck?". Can you believe I turned down an offer like that?
Because motivation is not my middle name, I'm going to write down what I plan to do today. I have a habit of intending to do things, and then not quite making it. Even if they're nice things. So here goes. I'm going to be in the gym at 9am and go for a twenty minute run, and other stuff. I'm going to go to something too embarassing to write here, at 11am. I'm going to reward myself this afternoon by going to A's birthday party (which will probably include more drums/drugs) and tonight to see D (different D) in her singy thing in the Suburb.
I live on the edge, right? Later.
Saturday, June 29, 2002
They set the sound system up at around 3pm. I am going, don't worry. It's just that I know this party will go on till like next week, so I thought I wouldn't get there too early. D is coming over later, because he can salsa. And also has a cuban-gangster beard-tache combo to die for. Though I'm never sure it goes with his leather trousers. But I think his overall look and lingusitic ability will go down well with the crowd. Which is good, as I speak neither spanish nor brazillian portugese. Nor, for the record, do I have leather trousers. Or even f(aux)leather trousers.
I'm just looking out of my spare room window, and all the men are tall, tan, tightly-t-shirted and have upper arm muscles to die for. All the women are zeitgeistly hip, and many are wearing that bandana-tied-tightly-around-head look which makes them look uber cool but would probably make me look like someone's cleaner.
Friday, June 28, 2002
I just saw her on V Graham Norton(I know, I know, I've been home two nights on the run and even written about it, but I just looked in my bank account and staying in has to be the new going out. For a while, at least). She looks like someone who works in a bank and has a cool haircut for going clubbing on the weekend.
She's about as fucking revolutionary as my middle-aged next-door neighbour. OK, she still has blacker-than-goth spiky hair, but so do half the models in Trevor Sorbie. It's seventies. It's the look. She lives in France. With her pussies. She sounds for all the world like a Surrey matron retired on the proceeds of her well-managed divorce.
And she had nothing to say. Even when Graham primed her. Another one of my idols shot down. Rant over.
So I'm kinda new to the blogosphere (I know, swearbox for even thinking the word), and I stumble across this . First off, I thought it was some kind of policital campaign: Free The Friday Five. A bit like Radio Free Ben Hammersley. He's an institution, that man, or at the very least a republic in SW7.
But I digress (which is what I'm best at). I read a few FFs, and thought, this is dull. I know it's not cool in the online-o-sphere to not think everyone else is fabulous, but it's boring. Admit it. The Friday Five is for people who can't think for themselves, who relish the system over the content, who acquiesce to structure without considering what the structure is about.
It's about link-whoring. It's a traffic generation scam for the visitor-challenged. And I don't have a problem with that - in a way, it's what makes blogs/personal websites interesting. If I hadn't met The First Blogger (well, first one I'd met) last year, I wouldn't have gone on the link journey of writing and thoughts and ideas that has brought me here today writing tosh for you. So, it's a good thing, then, right?
Wrong. I respect independent thought. Original perceptions. Chaos. And, I guess, leaders over followers.
The Friday Five and its ilk (I'm sure there's a Thursday Three and a Tuesday Two, but I don't want to know) is pyramid selling for the blog generation. It's taking the meme to its ultimate, teeth-clenchingly dull final resting place.
Or is it that, deep inside, we're all emotional voyeurs? Or perhaps some of us are emotional exhibitionists? Like, I don't really know Ben but I've seen his wedding pictures. And, I don't know Mike, but I know about his whole life.
Don't get me wrong. I've read some inspiring writing online in recent months. And I'm sure I've written things here that people think are way too personal. But you should know what's in my head that I haven't written. Believe me. And I know that the blogger-as-personal-editor thing means that no-one ever writes anything they don't choose to.
The blogs that interest me are personal, to some degree. I mean, sure, I like good links and weirdshit as much as the next person, but it's the personal stories that make me come back. But almost exclusively when they're well written.
And maybe that's why so many people go for the McDonalds-stylee content of the Friday Five. It's like an Ikea-flat-packed version of a human relationship; you don't have all the parts and the instructions are meaningless. You try in vain to fit the dowls into the stupid little holes and then give up and go get the real thing. For more money/investment/energy.
You don't have to think about what to write or whether it's interesting. You're just following orders. Right? You just know that the majority of Friday Fivers would torture their pet if the psychologist doing the experiment told them it didn't hurt.
Herd followers, I say. And weird people; the woman who co-ordinates them, answers the "Have you ever helped a stranger?" question today with "This one's pretty tough. I don't have a lot of contact with strangers and I'm more likely to spend my time and energy helping a friend. We did give money to BFAS last time we were in PetsMart."
She should get out more.
He looked like a cross between Bob Monkouse and someone my Mum and Dad met in the karaoke bar on holiday in Marbella in 1983. That boxy leather jacket! The oh-so-perfect hair! He was so very eighties gameshow host.
But he can still sing. And he went down a storm with the audience.
Thursday, June 27, 2002
You know what they say; cleanliness is next to godliness...
I too have made-up words. Two that I remember. My best friend at school, Louise Hart, and I invented the word ferguile which means cool/sexy/snoggable and generally in relation to boys if you're like fourteen.
And I was pretty sure there was no word in the English language that rhymed with orange, so me and Claire, a former flatmate, made up borange. . But apporximately 470 people have had the same idea.
Well, not quite. We had a modern Indian meal at Cafe Lazeez, where the menu is divided into traditional or evolved dishes. I think, given that choice, I'm evolved. In all circumstances, not just vicular. Oh, and rather a good bottle of un-Chardonnay, which loosened us all up enough to flirt with the waiter (though I wasn't sure if he was winking at us, or had something in his contact lense. Sometimes it's just too hard to tell) and do creative, girly things.
We spent at least twenty seconds trying to work out the past tense of wink. Wunk?
And D and I came up with a new phrase: Sheitgeist.
I think I'm definitely going to be writing a column called Capturing the Sheitgeist. I'm thinking a beat-the-bullshit no-holds-barred deconstruction of stupid things people do in the twenty-first century. Feng Shui. Joining Gyms. Low-sodium diets. Paying for a De-Cluttering Consultant. Subscribing to magazines you're too busy to read. You tell me.
Saw this, at the Soho Theatre last night. The writer, Tim Fountain, describes it as "the complete, warts and all story of Burchill's rise from a Bristol council estate in the 1960s, via rock journalism and 1980s Soho to her current seaside retreat."
I'm not sure I'd say that. It's funny - but then all the lines are Julie's, and she's dead funny - but I'm pretty convinced Tim went down to Brighton, had a few lunches with Julie and wrote them up. There's great observations though:
"I love hearing seagulls, they sound like all their PMT came at once. I think the reason they sound so sad is that each sagull contains the spirit of a Londoner who always meant to move ot Brighton but died before they managed it and now they're condemned to fly endlessly in search of their final nesting place"
"There's just two school of male writing, the pansies and the pugilists. You're either a Parisian faggot who writes between asthma attacks, or you're Hemmingway and you fit it in betewen bullfights."
Ultimately the play is just a stringing-together of Julie's best one-liners, delivered with a post-modern plotless simplicity that makes me think I'm a playright, too. Jackie Clune represents her well - and thank God she doesn't do the squeaky voice the whole time - and she manages to capture Julie's impish flirtatiousness rather well. I always thought of Julie as a fifteen year old struggling to get out the matronly body she'd found herself in. And for cleavage lovers, I'm not entirely convinced that Jackie was wearing a bra.
The audience watching, on the other hand, was mesmeric. I was sitting next to Marie Helvin, and I couldn't help noticing that my thighs are least twice the size of hers. She really didn't look well; I think you can have too much plastic surgery. Her face is permanently surprised. Her theatre companion also had a Nazi handbag and I have brusies this morning beacause she kept hitting me in the shins. Maybe you're not supposed to look at Marie directly?
Matt Lucas was in the bar downstairs and it was all very jolly-media-crowd. Though I have to say that this is the second thing I've seen at the Soho Theatre, and it just feels like a very upmarket college environment. It's not quite a real theatre, and it wasn't quite a real play.
When I graduated, I went for a host of graduate-type jobs. One was with Comag, the magazine distributor. It was in zone 112, past the airport, and not very near North London, where I was planning on living.
But I was utterly seduced by the fact you got as many free magazines as you wanted.
They loved me. We'd arranged a start date - for my highly paid executive photocopying assistant job - and the interviewer said, "just a formality, there's a psychometric test you need to fill out."
Having interviewed a bunch of graduates in my life, now, I know that I was good because I could look people in the eye and was fairly sociable. I mean, how hard can photocopying be?
Aside: I was once hiring gradautes for a conference company, and the first response I got, out of the Guardian, in fact, was a faxed reply with a brilliantly witty cover letter, from a languages graduate who lived in Highgate. I noticed from the fax address that it had probably been sent from her Dad's office.
I interviewed her first, convinced that I'd found a smart, bright, on-the-ball graduate without even having to look. There is a God. When she turned up, she was shaking, couldn't look me in the eye, and was so chronically shy that she kept her hair over her face at all times, and visibly quaked if anyone talked to her.
We sat in a meeting room, and I didn't want to say too much, as she clearly thought I/anyone was the employer from hell. And she clearly wasn't the woman her application said she was. I asked, as gently as I could, who'd written her application. "oh, er, m-m-m-m-y d-d-d-dad." I was never sure he was doing her any favours.
But back to Comag. So they sit me in a dark room with a psychometric test, and I'm twenty one and desperate to please. And I think, "I must try and be the person they want me to be." It wasn't even Belbin, it was Myers Briggs, I'm pretty sure. Anyway, I answered each question with the answer "I thought they wanted."
Afterwards, the HR woman marks it, and they come back to me with a changed demeanour. Don't want to get to close. Looking at me as if I might pull a knife any moment.
"Sasha, thanks for doing the test. We're not sure you'd, er, fit in here. Don't call us, we'll call you."
You should never lie. But especially in psychometric tests.
Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Conversationally, we covered the full range of work/play topics (A and I used to work for the same company, I discovered, and have the same good friend, Alison, in Oz, and G's sister is bizarrely getting married to someone I know) - travelling, people we know, music, books..
We had one conversation about putting your foot in it.
Here's a true story; I'd been working abroad for two years or so, got back, and ran into J, and old friend who I'd last seen with his wife. Conversation went like this:
Me: J, how are you? Nice to see you. How's X (his wife).
J: She left me.
Me: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. I didn't know.
J: For another woman.
Me: Oh, I'm sorry -
J: Whilst I was in hospital.
Me: I'm -
J: After my business went bust.
There are some times when you just want the floor to open, right.
A conversation ensued about who the "other woman" is. If I leave you (presuming you are a bloke) for another man, you are Man A and he is Man B. Hence, "another man". But if I leave you for a woman, she is Woman A. Or, I guess I could be Woman A and she is Woman B.
M says it's some kind of social parellelism. I think this means we all have an inherent desire to do conversational feng shui and make everything match and stuff.
I served on a jury in the summer of 1998. I tried desperately to get out of it on the basis of work commitments, but couldn't. When I got there, I was the only person going to work before and after (court hours are 10 till 4) and my fellow jurists largely older/unemployed/people with dull jobs) thought I was a little strange sitting there with my laptop between doing nothing and getting a coffee.
There's a lot of sitting around when you do jury service.
Day one, you have to get there at 0930 and they show you a video about how to behave on jury service. It's a Monday in central London - hardly anyone gets there on time. The clerk rewinds the video every time someone new arrives. We see the beginning a hundred and nine times and never see the end. I suggested, quietly, afterwards, that maybe they could play it on a loop. The clerk replied "that's not the way we do things around here."
Of course, theoretically, I'd have to kill you if I tell you about this, but, hey, I've never killed anyone before, why should I start now?
I was eventually on two cases. I was called for a few more, but my involvement was hampered by knowing lots of barristers, and juries having to be recalled. I was not popular with the judges. Especially because I had hurt my back and couldn't sit down for more than twenty minutes. Whenever I stood up, the Judge looked at me, askance.
The first case was a young guy who worked in a leather jacket shop and had allegedly stolen a leather jacket. It was never quite clear if it had been on some kind of loan, but the case was complicated by two things; first, that his barrister appeared to be pissed most of the time and couldn't remember his name or any of the salient facts, and second, that he was an illegal immigrant, and a case that went against him would mean that he was deported to somewhere that was not particularly safe.
The second case was a recovering drug addict on a methadone treatment from a clinic (bizarrely, one my friend N's boyfriend had been working in at the time, and I remembered him telling me the story), who had pulled an extremely realistic fake gun on the clinci staff in order to get more faux drugs. Many of the staff had got PTSD as a result.
Deliberations in both jury rooms was very much along the lines of "got a guilty face", "can't trust those foreigners", "drug addicts are all the same" and other reasonably thought out views. Most people hadn't written notes in the second, more complex case, and some had no recollection of the key facts.
There was no serious debate. People clearly went on gut feel. There was a moment at the beginning of the second (gun) jury meeting where we all sat round a table and no-one said anything. No-one. I was willing someone else to speak. Then a queue at Kwik-Save conversation started.
But I got incensed because we were deciding someone's future in such a no-shit way. And I realised that I was probably the only person in the room with hadracha - leadership - training. Finally, all those years of being in a Jewish Youth Movement paid off.
I picked up the fake gun and held in a particularly obnoxious woman's face. She looked scared.
"Are you frightened?" I asked her.
"Well, that's all we have to decide. What was his intention at the moment he pulled the gun. Did he intent to seriously frighten people?"
Suddenly, eleven people agreed with me.
Juries. Truly powerful groups who decide whatever the most persuasive person in the room wants them to. And of course, now I've told you this story, I'll have to kill you.
Tuesday, June 25, 2002
When I went to a funeral on Sunday I bumped into my former - now retired - dentist. Am assuming that he is not a regular blog-voyeur who followed me there.
For the first time in months, my parents and I are in the same city.
Three people I've run into this week have been reading Generation X.
Friends Reunited have sent me email saying that two new people have signed up in my year.
One of the "new" girls wrote this:
"...despite losing a large amount of weight at University, I'm still the same but with more wrinkles and better clothes!..."
I registered but didn't write anything. I did get mail from a bunch of people I'd prefer to have fond memories of, rather than dull email exchange. A, my best friend from school pointed out that Polly Walker is not poring over her PC trying to make her life look better than it really is.
Friends Reunited aside: my ex, European Sales Director of a mid-range CMT, went to Mabfield College, an intimate hippy-style school in Sussex. Looking down the people from school, he noticed that one of his twenty sales people had put in his blurb: "now the European Sales Director of XXXX Ltd (a niche content management tool)".
Running into him in the lift, my ex said to him, "Oh, I didn't know you went to Mabfield?"
Lifts, small places, folks. Never lie, I tell you. It always catches up with you.
Monday, June 24, 2002
Last week I did a big entertaining thing on the weekend, and Friday afternoon I was running around like a lunatic because I'd forgotten to buy whisky.
I went to Sainsbury's in the O2 centre - plastic nirvana, like even the fish - evaluating the whiskoid situation and trying to work towards a purchasing decision.
Just as I'm looking at the shelves, a youngish guy comes up to me. Twenties, thirties, I don't know. Smartly dressed in a marginally uncool way. He smiles at me.
"Excuse me, Miss." Now I wasn't his Sunday School teacher, and as soon as I heard his oh-so-polite slightly out of context opening conversational gambit - I mean who under sixty calls anyone Miss anymore? - I fingered him as partially released into Care In The Community and probably involved in some kind of training programme where he had to fall into three easy and natural conversations before he could graduate.
"Miss, could you reach that bottle of whisky off the bottom shelf?"
I do as he asks, and as I hand it to him, I know I should keep my mouth shut, but am strangely compelled to respond.
"Hurt your back?" I ask. I'm still there twenty minutes later. I can't fucking escape.
Eventually, through a mixture of failed eye-contact and purposefully poor social skills on my part, he leaves.
Before I've drawn breath, an old woman with an almost empty trolley comes up to me. She has one box of cheap'n'tacky Naughty French Wine type vino in a box. With an orange reduced price sticker.
"You should get this," she says to me, as if we are old friends, "it's reduced. From fourteen pounds to seven."
I am suddenly enabled to make a speedy whisky decision, grab a bottle and run out of there. Do I have sucker tattooed in indelible ink on my forehead? They really can see me coming.
As I remember, in the product review section it lists all ingredients in non-haircare English. The majority of products are 80% water, whatever you pay.
I have curly hair. Frizzy hair. Difficult to manage hair. I've spent my life trying to get my hair ringletty rather than frizzy, and used a lot of African hair products in the late eighties, before the Hair Care Product Revolution (HCPR).
Those rare, Good Hair Days are like fondly remembered great dreams (often the ones that include mind-blowing sex).
Bad Hair Days are like I've arrived at a planet where fabulous hair-care regimes are the norm, and everyone else is sleek and perfect. And I feel grim. Grim, I tell you.
Sometimes I have flatmates with curly hair too, and then our bathroom turns into an upmarket Boots with every product in the known curly-frizzy hair universe appearing on our shelves. And of course, none of them truly help. It's like therapy; it makes me feel better but has no discernable interest to the casual observer apart from me playing with my hair in a possibly Freudian way.
When I stare at shelves of hair products, and start reading the blurby-shit (for example, my current favourite, Modern Elixirs Styling Serum - sold to me by my hairdresser on commission that probably paid for her flat in Essex - claims to "create body or sleek control". Aren't those, like, diametrically opposed?) I generally get choice-intertia. Or oscillate between feeling that if only I spend another fourteen pounds fifty all my problems - and they are not all follicular - will be solved, or getting choice paralysis and doing what I do most of the time. Nothing.
I taught in Sunday school when I was a teenager. Every year I'd do a "ask any question you want, anonymously" box, and the kids could post whatever question came to their mind. Generally I expected questions of the "is it true really religious people do it through a sheet" type (answer = no). One year, I take out the first question, and open it, to the rapt attention of twenty eleven year olds.
And - expressive drum roll - the question was:
"Miss, why do you always flick your hair?"
It's the big, important questions that count.
Sunday, June 23, 2002
It was a very pan-London, pan-media crowd. And I love Americans. Especially the fast-talking and friendly ones. All of S's friends seemed cool and stylish, and I met both her former neighbours (hi, Rob) and current neighbours (nice bloke in the events business).
I even invited myself over to supper at Rob's sometime. The margaritas, they can do that to you.
Saturday, June 22, 2002
My weekend so far has consisted of: dinner party/serious drinking for L's birthday last night. A lie in with Gershom Scholem (figuratively speaking) this morning. Lunch at F&M's till about six. Walking home with C and her two-year old J at the slowest snail-pace imaginable. Kids, eh?
Tonight's party should be cocktail-laden - I'm hoping for Mojitos - and then tomorrow I'm househunting with a friend - I feel that in a parallel universe I would like to be an estate agent - going to the gym, meeting an old friend, D, for coffee. Going to a funeral - under some duress, more later - at 2pm. And then dinner/drinks with M in town from New York. The world's a village. Well, West Hamsptead is.
But I think it's mostly based on Leaving Reality Behind; The Battle for the Soul of the Internet by Adam Wishart and Regula Bochsler (porn star name, surely?)
Update: Just a crap site. Turns out you can register. So read the article. (username and password sashablog).
Diane Lane literally runs into Olivier Martinez on an unfeasibly windy day in New York. She is wearing a ridiculously revealing wrap-over skirt, and he is carrying a vast number of books. He invites her up to his appartment, where the dialogue goes something like this:
Olivier: [in faux Naughty French Wine accent] I am a twenty eight year old French bookdealer living in a friend's appartment rent-free, and I'm great in bed. Look, I've got tattoos, I must be a creative lover.
Diane: I, on the other hand, am an early forties married-with-kid suburbanite, who just came into the City looking for excitement, and the opportunity to show my fabulous legs to anyone on Mercer Street. Can I borrow your phone to call my son in front of you just to clarify my family responsibilities? (I have a cellphone, you'll see it later, but for now I need to be beholden to you in some way, so let's just forget that.)
It's all down hill from there, believe me. Though I'm sure that it will come as no surprise to you that she's unfaithful. With him. If you liked Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, he looks like someone's Dad now. And their kid is spectacularly plain-boy-next-door for the offspring of such an attractive union.
Wait till you can't sleep and they show it at 2am on ITV in 2005. Really.
See, like I said. A rich interior life.
I never knew that Strange Fruit, the Billie Holiday song, was written by a New York schoolteacher after seeing a lynching photo in 1937. And now there's a book that's the biography of the song.
And there's an exhibition in Altantaabout this history of lynching. Reminds me of Mississippi Burning.
Friday, June 21, 2002
The driver had taped red tape on the two whited-out windows at the back of the van. In a cross. Like. An. English. Flag.
It's like the Weimar Republic or something. I'm going out.
'Blogs' has moved into the big time (web logging or 'blogging' is described as the latest outgrowth of the personal publishing revolution, ushered in by email and internet discussion groups).
I would link, but they have monetized their content.
Speaking of Little Books, I have in mind The Little Book of Jewish Mother's Wisdom - and believe me, I've heard pleny - and I think I'll call it Does My Mum Look Big In This?
It's an everday tale of a "high flying" British journalist trying to make it in New York, and getting fired from every place he works. Or even freelances for. Or is it?
There's no denying this is a very readable, gossipy book, perfect for the tube, but it won't change your life.There are some fatal flaws in his book, though.
Toby regularly refers to his "bedsit" in Shepherds Bush. Now, I've been to Toby's three bedroom - I think - maisonette at the cheap end of Shepherd's Bush, and it's not a bedsit. It's actually a nice flat in a shit location. Why does Toby want to imply that he's some kind of down and out when he's patently not?
There's an insistence throughout the book on using ridicuous names for drugs. I don't know anyone, outside of a Jay McInerney novel who talks about Bolivian Marching Powder, and it has an inference that he's not exactly experienced. Though I suspect he is.
It reminds me of when I was travelling in Laos with M who was desperate to get hold of some common-or-garden hash. In Van Vieng, he went down to the market everyday, looking clean-cute and off-duty policeman-like. No-one would sell him drugs. On the fourth day, I took pity on him, and as soon as I got into the market people were falling over themselves to sell me stuff. The lady doth protest too much. Or Toby does.
The book reads not unlike a contemporaneous record of cock-ups. "It was around noon on 16 February 1998 that I discovered.." Seems to me, that one sure way to piss people off is to keep accurate notes of everything they say, coupled with copies of all correspondence. Toby comes across not so much as global-journalist-type but wide-eyed kid open mouthed at the excess of the Conde Nasties. And they say it's a global village.
Without wishing to give away the denoument, the redeeming feature of How to Lose Friends is that it's basically a love story. And that Toby sees the world as his parents knew it was all along. It's Catcher in the Rye for the Gap-clothed generation.
Oh, and the best bit? The insights into uptown New Yorker's phrases and fables. I think there's a Little Book in that, somewhere.
Thursday, June 20, 2002
Anyway, the thought in my mind is: how do birds know not to fly into your house? They get close, but they never come in.
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
It's not often I'm jealous - I'm mostly grateful for the blessings I have (loving family, remnants of a career, talent when I acknowledge it) - but I couldn't help staring. How would my life be if I had her figure?
When she'd gone, the guy on the checkout started ringing up my purchases. He smiled at me, and said:
"She's gone to buy a T-shirt."
I obviously looked surprised.
"Just kidding. But she's skinny, though."
And we got into a conversation where I discovered that he thought she was too skinny, even though I maintained that she was very attractive. He looked appreciatively at me, in all my fresh-faced (I'd just come from the gym) womanly, ample-cleavage-ness and said:
"Naaah. too skinny. I prefer a real woman."
So that's a lesson for me, then.
Can't chat, got a bunch of women I was at college with coming round for low calorie dips and wine. I know, I live on the edge.
In a mini-moment, it identified the radio ben hammersley track of the day as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Party performing "Allah Hoo Allah Hoo". Of course, this sounds in the right ball-park, but I have no idea if it's actually right.
But I need to have a word with the guys behind it. It's all about branding, right? Shazam, as a name, makes me think of a strange hybrid: a couple of white-stillettoed Shazzers in a Croydon club conjoined with an Israeli telecoms company. Is that the look you're looking for? It's so last year.
Oh, and I can't help imagining rooms of people flipping through directories at a rate of knots, like back-room quizmasters on a seventies TV show. I know, I know. It's the new technology dawn. We don't need people any more.
My brother told me - as I suspected - that he too was scared shitless. Which is hard to imagine because he's a strapping six-footer running a sucessful northern legal practice. There's not much that scares him. In the end, my sister-in-law made an appointment for him, and told him to stop being so pathetic. That didn't stop him from hyperventilating in the chair, though.
My friend Rick told me about a practice in the North, that lead me to this website. Do I think I have dental phobia? Naaah. Am I irrationally, riduclously frightened? Sure - of pain, a "telling off" and whatever other form of contemporary torture dentists offer in these oh-so-comfortable times.
And the strange thing is; I'm prepared to say this to the x number of visitors I get here. Somehow, this is both real and unreal at the same time. It's intensely personal yet I'm prepared to make it public. In a small way it's ordering my thoughts, cathartis, and other New-Age-shit that I don't really buy. Do I think commiting my fear to the digital drama that's the web is going to make me feel better? Might. Might not.
Back to the plot. My brother may have a wife to sort this stuff for him, but they were fresh out of wives when I was last at Tescos. I realise that what's missing in my life is a wife; someone to cook, shop, book holidays, pay bills and maintain household equilibrium in a post-Friedan way.
But I digress. So I called up the north London practice listed on dentalphobia.co.uk. The receptionist sounded nice. Normal. I was shaking slightly (I know, it's mad. The rational me can't believe it). I asked about appointments and prices. (Apparently you still have to pay, even on the NHS. Clearly, I've not been to the dentist for some time). Then I tell her I got their number of the dental phobia site. Her demeanour changes instantly. Her voice morphs to that helpful-counselling voice that badly trained therapists think is empathetic.
"We can go at your pace. The dentist'll just have a chat with you, if you want. He doesn't have to do anything." I'm thinking; but I need him to do something - that's why I'm going.
"Y'know, and if it's too much, we can do either gas-and-air or a total anaesthetic. Obviously, you'll need someone to take you home." I'm thinking; I just want a check-up, first. And I'm scared, but not that scared.
She sounds kinda annoying now, but at least they have a dentist with a psychology degree, who'll understand where I'm coming from (Kilburn). I am so fucking ambivalent about touchy-feeliness in all its myriad incarnations. Part of me wants hand-holding, hugs and other stuff that starts with H. The other part thinks I should just pull myself together.
So, I've made an appointment for a check up tomorrow - Thursday - at 2pm. I'm still shaking whilst I write this. But you have to conquer your fears blah blah blah. The first step is the blah blah.
The real reason I'm writing? If there's anyone out there, who's touchy-feely inclined and is around Chalk Farm/Belsize Park tomorrow and fancies holding my hand...
Or, if you're at Glastonbury, or in New York in July, you can catch him there. No idea what his current material is like. You may hate him. Your mileage may differ. Y'know.
Industry Watch - More Utter Crap:
After a year of endless mocking, Consignia has finally noticed that they had paid millions for a frankly ludicrous name that no-one recognises or understands, and that bears no relationship at all to its core activities. Hell, lets not pretend here, no relationship to any of its activities. It is to rebrand to Royal Mail Group. Duh.
Not to be outdone, PWC Consulting is to rebrand after its split from PriceWaterhouseCooper. The new name? Well, visit their fancy new website and see for yourself. I can barely bring myself to type it.
I can just imagine the flip chart presentations now at the spendy branding agency office... "We need something quirky, we need something accessible, open. We need a brand that speaks to everyone. We need white space, and a sans serif typeface. We need lifestyle photography". They need shooting.
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
This wasn't a question I was particularly asking, but here it is:
Q: Why do I sometimes cry after having an orgasm?
A: blah blah therapy-shit, some other horse-shit, then this gem:
"Be sure that you have thoroughly checked inside to make sure that these tears are of joy, not sadness or something else that may stem from a past wound around relationships, sex or your body image. Then go forth in delight that you can enjoy so much emotional juice. It's terrific that you can feel, express and know that you are truly alive."
My questions: how do you check inside, exactly? How can I be sure that I've done it? How thorough is thorough? Is a wound around a relationship like a ... OK, I'll stop now. Cynic, me.
This, all because I was thinking about crying. Not crying, you understand, just thinking about it. Don't you always google before you...
Now, as you know, football is not my thang - even though my cousin has written the definitive book on the business of football - and I've managed to get this far through the world cup with a certain sense of welcome oblivion, but it struck me that, if, say, you were particularly interested in Italian/Nigerian/whatever men, you could just go watch the appropriate match in a bar dressed in a suitably revealing outfit.
H recommended that I think of myself as a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer. Just trying it on for style. Don't know if it fits.
He was resplendent in the their new, corporate purple, and had a lovely, shiny van. And fiddled with my levels - it wasn't at all painful - to perfection. That's my signal levels, btw. Making conversation, I said to him, "there've been a few problems at Telewest recently, haven't there?"
"Dunno, love. There haven't been any layoffs. Not in my group."
Seems that Telewest has a fabulous employee communications programme, anyhow.
Monday, June 17, 2002
It was a press night, and the audience was half preening fashionistas and half pushy Jewish people (and of course, some people fell into both categories). In fact, for the first tweny minutes the audience was slightly more interesting than the movie: luckily D was sitting between me and The Most Annoying Woman I've Ever Met - some journo had brought her Mother, ferchrissakes - so I could not strangle her when she commented in loud stage whispers, asked me if I'd lost my jacket three fucking times and practically force-fed me chicken soup. But I digress.
It's a low budget - $1m - movie, and it ocassionally shows. But the script is oh-so-sweet and really very funny. A certain sense of zeitgeist, as the opening act does a quick compilation of dates-from-hell, which I felt I might have been able to write better, but was, essentially, hackneyed.
After the movie, Mel & Sue interviewed Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen. They co-wrote, co-star and co-produced the whole thing independently, and Jennifer even talked about her parents liquidating their pensions to help finance the film. Luckily, all the investors have made their money back, so you can sleep nights.
Originally an off-Broadway play entitled Lipstick, the pair spent almost five years making the movie, are totally dedicated to it, and can discuss it indefinitely. Heather says it's about "the disconnect that can happen between men and women" but I don't speak West-Coast-ese. Jennifer says it explores the complexity of sexuality, and I guess it does, in a lipstick-not-butch-lesbian way. And of course, the nice straight guy is there all along, and you never quite know what happens at the end.
All in all, a great mates-movie. A great date-movie. It won't change your life, but you'll have a giggle, and there is some fantastic dialogue. Just don't sit next to anyone who brings their Mother.
Sunday afternoon, I watched the tribute to 21 years of That's Life! with Esther Rantzen. It was lots of ageing talking heads, mostly, though I have to admit to tears in my eyes when they talked about Ben Hardwick and Nicholas Winton.
As I was watching, I was half-thinking to myself, my first serious boyfriend went out to direct That's Life! (he always felt that light entertainment was his dream, and I guess that's where we differed), and as I was thinking that, up he popped. Looking damn well preserved, I have to say.
Here are the things I forgot to say. At the end of our conversation, Jonny said to me "Well, we must meet up for a soft drink, sometime," and before I knew it, I had made a date to go out with him next Monday (a week from today).
Now I've been on a lot of shidduchim (tr: plural word for arranged meetings with a view to marriage) in my life, and not all of my own volition. And around twenty percent of them have ended one of two ways. (a) The guy says to me, "Sasha, I've had a wonderful evening, but I feel I should tell you that I've been living with my non-Jewish girfriend for the last one hundred and twenty-five years". Or, (b), they say, "I've had a fabulous evening, darling, and I'm sure it'll come as no surprise to you, given our shared love of interior design, typography and designer clothes, to know that I'm gay and just haven't told my parents yet."
I'm sure Jonny is in neither the (a) or (b) category, but I don't especially want to find out. My question to you is: should I cancel, or no?
Sunday, June 16, 2002
One of the more extreme powers the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) handed out two years ago let government agencies obtain "traffic data" without a judicial warrant.
Traffic data is best described as the writing on the envelope of a message, instead of its contents. It can be the list of phone numbers you have called in the last six months. Or a full list of Websites you have visited. Or the times you log on, and from where. Or who you e-mail, or what programs you've downloaded, or what newsgroups you read. Or the position of your cellphone last Tuesday at five.
Because the risk of abuse of this power (there's no judicial oversight - all that's needed is the permission of a suitably high-powered boss), those who could wield it were strictly limited. Only the police, Customs and Excise and the secret services were allowed access to traffic data in the original act.
Not any more.
On Friday, the Home Office petitioned parliament to add a vast array of organisations to that list. If their passes, everyone from the DTI, any local authority, the Food Standards Agency, the Home Office themselves (of course), and staggeringly enough, Consignia. The final entry in the list says that "A Universal Service Provider within the meaning of the Postal Services Act 2000" has the same power as the secret services to read your traffic data. There's only one USP in Britain right now, and that's the provider previously known as the Royal Mail.
If the idea that the fricking Post Office has access to your web logs (access which would cost a competitive company millions, and would probably get them investigated by the Data Protection people), let alone every minor apparatchik on the block, you might want to kick up a fuss about this. It's due to appear before MPs on June 18th, and the Lords a little after.
How do I find out more?
Read the Order before Parliament. It's very short (although the list of allowed organisations is very long - two minutes should do it).
Flick through our quick notes on the original RIPA law. (The notes are based on an earlier draft, so the section numbers are a bit off. But you get the idea.)
What can I do?
Fax your MP now. The Order is to be debated next Tuesday, and these things are usually rubber-stamped. Tell your MP which groups you don't want to be spied on by (list them all), and tell him why. Explain what traffic data means (your MP might not now how wide-ranging it is). Explain it in terms he or she can understand - if they're a Conservative, explain how it's government prying into people's lives. If they're Labour, talk about civil rights. If they're Liberal, say what you like - the LibDems are usually down with this sort of nonsense. Ask for a reply.
It'll take twenty minutes of your time. It'll make a difference. Members of Parliament hate having this sort of wide-ranging power sneaked past them as much as you do. If you're feeling a bit lazy today, you could forward this message to one of your more overactive friends. And then write your letter tomorrow.
If you're a journalist, or want to write a detailed piece for others, you can contact Ian Brown (+44 7970 164526) at The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR). As ever, they were the ones to spot this piece of nastiness first. And if you're feeling flush, for £25 you can join the Friends of FIPR which will get you advance alerts and a warm feeling about these issues.
Thursday, June 13, 2002
I think I said already that I'm Jewish. And I'm not married. This is anathema to my extended family.
Aside: at my sister's wedding a few years ago, during the reception I was talking to a couple of people, and an old Aunt-by-association, Great Auntie Essie, came up to me, clutched my left cheek in a vice-like-grip, and exclaimed in an extremely loud voice "A shame! A shame! Such a shayna maydel (tr: pretty girl)." More people gathered round, drawn by the commotion. Now there were maybe twenty people. "A shame!" She reverted to the no neck position, let go of my cheek, raised her arms in the traditional questioning stance, and carried on. "Such a shame! You'd think there'd be somebody.(inference: anybody) A shayna maydel like this. A balobuster (tr: homemaker-type, but it's a compliment), her Mother says. You'd think there'd be somebody." Now there were around fifty people. Older people nodded in agreement. I wanted to crawl under a table but I had my best dress on and didn't want to ruin my shoes.
So you get the picture.
My Mother deems it her life's work to find me someone, and there is a relatively constant stream of accountant-types who run a mile when they meet me and find I'm loud, and have personality and cleavage and left-of-centre views. I'm trying to get her to stop, but no is not a word in her vocabulary.
Monday, I get a phone call. He’s called Jonny. They’re all fucking called Jonny. He got my number from his mother. She, in turn, got my number from my mother. The bush telegraph has never made so much money; telecomms deregulation has no effect on volume business. Because I'm basically polite, I talk to him for a while, turns out he was my leader in the Jewish Youth Movement we both belonged to. Trying to change the subject, I say "well, I'm sure we've both changed a lot since then." He replies: "Not really. Apart from putting on a huge amount of weight." Now I have childbearing hips to beat the best of them, but it doesn't sound good.
We talk some more. He's an accountant. Obviously. Lives in North London. Obviously. And, er, he's seen Status Quo one hundred and twenty-six times in his life, and has tickets to see them six times more this year. "That's what the internet's great for," he tells me, "I've met Quo fans everywhere I go, and we meet up after all the gigs."
Now I too have some addicitive patterns of behaviour, and fandom is fine in moderation - anything is fine in moderation - but rocking all over the world is not where I'm at.
This has to stop. Maybe I can get into a twelve-step programme for this. Or get my Mother into one. She's got the marriage version of Munchausen by Proxy. I'm not a piece of meat and I can't be bought and sold.
It was great catching up with S (we used to work together) and she parlayed fabulous gossip about a former colleague. We used to work in a very English, corporate environment, where all the top people had Stepford Wives and Ferraris and at least two houses. One guy's marriage was breaking up, so he went to the MD and asked if it would affect his career prospects. Like, if it would, what would he do?
I hadn't seen R for a year or so (although I do have his picture in my bedroom, because he looks better than Samuel L Jackson) and we had lots to talk about, and very quickly got to the bottom of a bottle of Merlot. Truth drug. I think he's the only person I know who's deeply, deeply unwired. He asked me what google was. I showed him the web, and some blogs and he was shocked. When we googled his boyfriend, he was even more shocked."Nothing's sacred anymore. Nothing's secret anymore." Ain't that the truth.
Of course, once the UK's new legislation comes in, you won't be able to fence online, either.
Love how the article ends:
``Every day, there's $36 million in sales on eBay, and the great majority of purchases are legitimate,'' said company spokesman Kevin Pursglove. ``If anything makes the user suspect, do not hesitate to e-mail the seller and ask for background information.''
Yeah, right. "Dear laptop seller, I wonder if you could send me the serial number of the PC so I can check if it's stolen. Or perhaps, you could tell me if you are, in fact, part of a fencing consortiom. Thanks."
Wednesday, June 12, 2002
And just discovered this Guardian summary on internet privacy.
The FT reviewed it this morning, rather unfavourably. And, er, three days late, I reckon. But I take issue with:
"the core drama is no less banal, and no more daring, than that of an average episode of thirtysomething."
Thirtysomething was agenda-setting television; it reflected the real lives we might have aspired to for the first time. Banal, it's not.
Anyway, Six Feet Under struck me as a little formulaic, but vastly better than any current UK drama, with the exception of Spooks. Did you catch Fields of Gold? Anna Friel may be breathtakingly beautiful, but it's been all downhill frankly since she had that lesbian kiss on Brookside; she can't act for toffee. And the story doesn't work; I mean, if you were bundled into a van by four masked men and dumped miles away, wouldn't you be just a teensie bit frightened? Anna bounced back with perfect make-up and even remembered to take the disc out of her camera whilst being abducted. She's brighter than she looks, then.
And I've got tickets to see Julie Burchill Is Away next week, which the FT reviewed this morning. All I can say is, thank God the actress doesn't use Julie's voice the whole time.
Actually, I've just looked again, and I think it's a one-dimensional, crude word-play one-gag site. And not all the gags are in good taste. But then, that could just be my Jewdar playing up.
I know, I can be a little sensitive; a month or so ago, I was in a meeting and the membership secretary said "You must all pay your Jews", and me and Danny, the only other Jewish person in the room, caught each other's eye and knew. See, there's only one thing you need to ask yourself about non-Jews; would they hide you from the Nazis?
I've spent a lot of time considering my identity, my breasts, and how they interrelate. I'd probably say that my best assets are my voice, cleavage and hair, but I get the sense walking down the street that it's my breasts that people notice. There's nothing more disconcerting than a man talking to your cleavage - well, there's a man not noticing you have one, I guess - well, apart from your family suggesting that you have a breast reduction operation. But that's another, already told, story.
There are things I have to consider; I like to run, but I have a cast-iron sports bra, otherwise it's agony. When I was in school, we had to wear a regulation belt-purse, and I could never get my money out because they got in the way. I always say that I haven't seen my waist for years - I can't, from my perspective.
I was mightilly impressed last week at D's to meet a gorgeously curvaceous woman letting it all hang out in a daringly decollete slip of a dress. And she was not exactly a slip-of-a-thing. I mean, she wasn't fat, but she had boobs, big-time. And I could even see her bra (Agent Provocateur, if you must know). I complimented her, and she responded with a school of if-you've-got-it-flaunt-it response. We concurred that you have to wear something at the very least v-necked, otherwise you look like one huge breast as you walk towards people.
How I suffer for my art.
This whole stream of consciousness thing brought to you via this article on bras.
And it's true. There's too much information out there, and my blog is my reference of (almost everything) I'm interested in/thinking about, and I use like a notepad. This morning, A asked me what movie I was seeing tomorrow with E & J, and I had to refer to my blog to find out. My brain might be hungry, but for real knowledge, not raw data.
[via black belt jones]
This Psychology of Cyberspace talks about The Online Disinhibtion Effect. I love how if you put Effect or Syndrome on the end of something, you get to write a paper on it. But it does systemetise the anonymity-invisibility-asynchronicity continuum.
Oh, and if you pay $10 you can get continuing education credit just for reading it. Talk about home schooling. I'm thinking of invoicing all authors I read in the next month.
[via Mike, via Vaughn]
Looking at my stats, I get a significant handful of people in here googling on Portobello Van Hire. Now, my neighbour definitely saw a van with those sacred words on the side. Other people must have seen them, otherwise why would they be googling? They're not listed at Yell, which theoretically means they're not listed in the Yellow Pages. There is a company called Portobello Car and Van Rental , but when you google on them, you get nothing. Nada.
So this is a tale of brand confusion and extremely poor marketing. There are potential van-hirers out there, desperate - desperate, I say - to do business with you, and all they're getting is me. And of course now, they'll get me twice. I will become the number one UK portal for Portobell Van Hire on the web. I will give up my job - or any pretension of getting one - buy a fleet of vans, and have them liveried in appropriately Portobello-ish Van-Hire like colours with the phone number writ large from every angle. It's all about marketing, these days, and your customers are coming straight to me. I will take over the West London van hire market. Watch me.
Sunday I met lots of people who had been formerly collections of prose till I pressed the flesh, so to speak. Like, I've never met Ben Hammersley before in my life, but I've seen his wedding photos, know that Anna wore wonderful snakeskin boots and that they got the cake from Patisserie Valerie. Does that mean we're more intimate? Or more prepared to share information? Or more interested in the minutiae of other people's lives? Do you have to meet someone to know them? What if you only know the "them" that they show to the "you" that "they" see?
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
1. Pretty much any LiveJournal. I just need to see what mood someone is in and what music they're listening to as they post to know that I don't want to know. You can just work on the basis that my default mood is bad.
2. People who say "must do lunch" like they're Gordon Gecko and it's 1987. Although, as we all know, he said "lunch is for wimps." But, you know what I mean.
3. Security-conscious types who have Manhattan-style cast-iron front doors and then call their bank on their mobile phone and share all their personal data with the 189 bus. Ever heard someone on a bus saying: "Martindale. 32 Westbere Road. Simmonds. Fluffy. 1973"? If you did, you just heard enough to get into their bank account.
4. When my (former) neighbours used to order cabs at three am and not say what flat they lived in. I got very friendly with the cab company. And not in a good way.
5. That under the RIP Act, They - whoever They are - can read my email, listen to my phone calls, get mobile phone triangulation data, and all without a court order. Interestingly enough, one of the organisations who can do this is the Information Commissioner, formerly known as the Data Protection Registrar. Mmm
Sunday, I went out for F's birthday in Southgate. I didn't know anyone apart from F, but had a fabulous evening talking with a former work colleague of his, N, her boyfriend J and best-friend Z. Turns out J lives one block from me, on the C11 bus-route.
Now, when I walk the sunny streets of Kilburn, I'll feel like I live in a real place where I know people. How cool is that. And how, er, un-zone two.
Monday, June 10, 2002
Just finished The Vagina Monologues; truly powerful prose, slightly overwritten in a come-the-revolution way, and probably designed to engender debate as much as anything else. Reminds me of the poster on my Aunty Vera's fridge when I was a kid: "There will be no revolution without women's liberation. There will be no women's liberation without revolution." Oh, and she says that the Monologues are about "attraction, not promotion"; hard-wired for a recovery programme, I'd say. So it's just one day at a fucking time, then.
Also reading Satan in Goray , at the suggestion of Jez, which fulfils all my Shabbatean desires, and reminds me of Nathan Englander, though I'm sure it should be the other way around.
Bus-reading Trick Baby, by Iceberg Slim/Robert Beck - I love his work, and it's a real insight into a new world for me.
And dipping into Faking It - The Sentimentalism of Modern Society, mainly because of an ongoing conversation I have with J about victim culture and Frank Furedi. The Diana essay is quite something.
Other news: I have neither regular employment not a completed manuscript. But I did have a huge (for me) number of Linux-user visitors today who were doubtless a little surprised about the environment here at sashinka. oh well.