Friday, April 30, 2004

China Miéville: one of the new weird?
Like I said yesterday, the postal service is not all it's cracked up to be.
Britain's domestic intelligence service MI5 has launched a new website on Friday with actual security advice.

Here it is. And here's the top ten security guidelines.
Like everyone on the internet is going to blog this. Google announces its IPO.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Just discovered Arabesque: Modern Middle Eastern Food by Greg Malouf. I suspect I won't be able to sleep till I have this book.
Dennis Severs' house - 18 Folgate Street, London: I'm really getting into that whole East End/old house thang. Any more for any more?
On the first Tuesday evening of each month, from 6-9pm parts of the Sir John Soane's Museum are lit with candles. Anyone for next Tuesday?
Keep Starbucks out of downtown Manhattan. You have coffee? Give it to them.
So, I like to be last to the party, in a Sasha-come-lately somewhat disorganised way.

I have just listened to the Scissor Sisters album for the first time.

I am blown away. I am at a barmitzvah disco in the early eighties. I am Elton John and Billy Joel and all sorts of other uncool people, really. It's all a bit of a blur. I may or may not be wearing velvet pantaloons (which frankly never suited me). I may or may not be into Adam and Ants, too. I am either cool or uncool, it's so hard to tell when you're young. It's dark. People are trying to smoke, but they're not good at it, yet. Jonnie C is wearing makeup, and we all think he's got something to tell us. He turns out to be the MD of an investment bank. The one bloke who's a mod, G, wandering round in a daze, runs a box at Lloyds now. That girl who snogged everyone? She's married with two kids and runs an international advertising agency. There's a fazy, hazy eighties feel about the whole thing. I think I am wearing black platform shoes.
iWire: Reflections on the Emerging Technology Conference.
So when people (clients) tell me the "cheque's in the post", it really is. Truly scary story about how practically nothing ever arrives any more.

I got paid, you know that (other) client I was chasing? Today. Thank the lord.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

You in Manchester? Then get yourself down to the Contact Theatre, to see The Bloggers:

"Eight people have been living virtually within For 4 months they have been communicating with the world via the creation of blog sites, a web diary of ideas, of hopes and dreams exploring what matters by mapping journeys that have evolved from the shores of Bangkok to the depths od Devon, to the bedroom of a woman who is 104 years old. The exhibition translates the virtual material and invites you to enter their world and make these ideas happen, by working with us to interpret these ideas into a performance event created for the foyers of Contact Theatre in the Autumn of 2004."

Sounds interesting, although I can't help wondering what "blog sites" are, as opposed to weblogs. Call me a cynic.

[thanks to M, my ever intrepid theatre correspondent]
The Culture Jammer's Encyclopedia.
Today's self-employed (aka own kitchen) lunch: steamed broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, pumpkins seeds, with a sweet soy sauce and sesame oil (tiny amount) dressing. Yours?

In other, tangential, news, the Slow Food Movement started in Italy, and seems to be about green tree-hugginess, cooking good food well, and enjoying a slower quality of life. A little Timeless Simplicity, then? They also started the Slow Cities movement, also mostly in Italy. The website seems mostly about the organisational structure of the "movement" and less about

Y'know, I'm gonna start a "movement" or a cult, and get a website and everything.

Oh, just remembered, I already did.
Because I so rarely have anything good to say about any call centre, CSR, or other such modern endevours, I feel I should say a wonderful word about the Alliance & Leicester. I had to make a business call to them, and the person I want to reach, as well as their secretary, are at lunch. The switchboard takes my name, and then I get through to someone who says:

"Hi, is that Sasha? X and Y are at lunch right now (although presumably not together. she didn't say that), but we're taking calls for them. Can I take a message?"

So turns out that A&L have secretarial services, AKA real people who take calls when you're at lunch. How cool is that? And they're friendly, and nice. When I tried to clarify is she was X's assistant, she said "Oh, I'm nobody." I said I'm sure she isn't, and we had a little, momentary, connection.

We were on the phone, and we were human. So rare, in modernity.
I am slowly getting used to the idea that I may never get a chance to visit Angkor Wat. I suspect that I will be tied to my desk, calling IT Directors for the rest of my working life.
New York street art. I love the downtown adaptation... Although of course it should be an iPod.
All Change

I could have sworn that at 7am this morning, this Guardian news story was spelling Gadafy Gadaffi.

At first glance, I thought it said gadfly. Now, there's a thing: "a persistent irritating critic; a nuisance."

And there's only 3,300 people (on google of course) who spell it with a Y. The other 26,000 spell it Gadaffi. Probably a transliteration thing. But at what point does someone on a newsdesk say "from now on, folks, we spell World Leader A like this?"

It reminds me of the time when I lived at home, and a friend of mine came over for Friday night dinner (chicken, obviously), and when he said to my Mum he was a vegetarian, she said "but you weren't when you came for dinner last week." And he said, "you've got to start somewhere."

So, if you want to respell your name, now's your chance.
Local boy Stephen Moran has written the London Silence.
The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida, of the Richard Florida Creativity Group. There's a sub page on Europe - how topical/timely - and even a newsletter. The Memphis Manifesto.

Aside: personally, I've never seen Richard Florida and Captain James T Kirk in the same room.

I love this: at 09:18 this morning, I had no idea about any of these. Now I've looked all over the webnetdoodar, skim read, and have top-line-only on how the creative class are taking over the world. Although the City Index doesn't have any European cities.

It's a veritable cult.
New York? Ish? You want NewYorkish.
It's a little know fact that I have a degree in Comparative Religion. Useful, you're thinking.

In the second and third years, I took courses on Islam and Contemporary Islam - this was a while ago, before this information was considered particularly useful. A family friend had done my degree about fifteen years earlier, and very kindly gave me two pieces of information: (a) lots of past exam papers, and (b) the knowledge that the professor had a limited exam-setting imagination, and alternated questions on Macolm X/The Black Muslims and ... another topic, I forget. He'd been doing this for nigh on two decades, and I was confident in realising that my year was a Malcolm X year.

I read every book and article I could on him. I was a veritable Malcolm X information machine - it was one of those papers with one long essay, to show off yer booklearnin' - and none of my coursemates would believe me when I pointed this out to them. Too big a risk. The reason I don't know anything about contemporary Islamic issues is that I only learned Malcolm X, and I was right. That's the value of a broad-based tertiary education, right? Although now, I can't help thinking it would have been better to, y'know, know more, more widely.
Can't sleep - and boy, I want to. So I'm watching Shariah TV.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Front Cover: Great Book Jacket and Cover Design
Thoughtcrime Exhibition and Tramshed photos. From those fold at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. [thanks, D].
Orange Prize for Fiction announced today.
Gah. A mate has spare tickets for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind at Clapham, with a chat with Charlie later. But I have three Limmud meetings.
What's your BATNA? and Getting To Yes.
The QCs are revolting.
Things I've done recently, and never got round to writing here:
  • Walked out of Starksy and Hutch because neither of us could bear the post-ironic script and preferred to remember the real thing
  • Told an eleven year old kid that he's like a thirty-five year old trapped in the body of a thirty-five year old. His parents aren't happy with me
  • Went to shul, a few times. It was nice. Nicer than nice.
  • Lunch Saturday at G&C - impromptu chick pea, palm heart and fennel salad
  • A Very Naughty Boy at the Soho Theatre, good, but not as great as real Python, although I did learn a lot about Graham Chapman
  • Discovered a new, as yet untried, recipe for baked figs with honey and... some alcohol, can't remember
  • Discovered frangelico, the "original hazelnut liqueur" (I'm a sucker for those sweet, girly, drinks)
  • Running low on Lanique Rose Petal vodka.
  • Dinner at the Union Café, on Marylebone Lane. It's like New York, but here, bistro-stylee.
  • Spent a lot of time on Limmud stuff
  • Hung out in the Blue Posts, albeit briefly, in Fitzrovia, I tell ya
  • Storm Damage is on at the Tricycle on Sunday afternoon, with a discussion with writer Lennie James afterwards.
    ID cards - £2,500 civil financial penalty. Great. So much for human rights, privacy et al.

    Monday, April 26, 2004

    I am replete with destructive feelings towards all customer service operatives, customer centres, helpdesks and anyone else who professes to give assistance, but is actually obstructive.

    So I'm phoning my 175th IT Director of the month - don't even ask, OK - and there's a couple of big companies, where if you ask for the IT Director, even by name, they put you through to some poxy "customer centre" where they'll take a message, and he - invariably male - will call you back.

    Just now, someone said to me "and would you like to offer your services to [large multinational corporation] today?"

    Er, no, I just want to invite him to give a keynote address at a conference.

    "So, what is the nature of your service, ma'am?"

    I don't have a service, I just want to speak to him. Can I have the switchboard number (unavailable all over the internet, hence stupid customer call)?

    "No, we don't make the switchboard number available. We're happy to help you through the customer centre, here today. What is the nature of your call?"

    Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeez. Sheeesh. In the future, we'll probably all talk like this: sellotaped together snippits of sentences that once meant something, but now are the meaningless white noise of doing business in the twenty-first century.

    Actually, not even doing business. You just want to get a new phone line, and you have to jump through seventeen hoops of calls.

    I want to be like that bloke who doesn't have a phone, and if you want to reach him, you have to fax his mother.
    Lawrence Lessig is in town, but I will be eating cheesecake. Sadly.
    Call me old fashioned, but I think canal phones are bad for you. I wear a headset all day when I'm on heavy phone work, and at the end of the day, my ears hurt.
    I think I'm a victim of mobile phone data-scam.

    I get a call from Debbie at Communicate, asking me if I want to upgrade my [telecomms supplier] phone. I say where did she get my number. She says it's randomly generated by The Computer. I ask her where the computer gets it from. She can't tell me, she's new. (I can't help betting she's new every time she gets a customer like me). I ask her if [telecomms supplier] have sold Communicate my data. She says no. I ask for the switchboard number for Communicate, and she doesn't have it to hand.

    I ask her to remove me from their database, and she asks me for my postcode. I say that I don't want to give them any more data than they're already got.

    She eventually agrees to remove my data, and gives me the phone number - it's a Stoke number. When I call it back, it's got a generic BT Callminder message. The number she called me on (flashed up on my mobile screen) is permanently engaged.

    If I was less busy, I'd be more angry.
    Oh; I really want. Cool Retro Purple Big Ben Repeater Clock.
    Self-employed lunch: Israeli couscous with za'atar and chick peas.

    Which, considering I was supposed to be going easy on the carbs this week, is bad. Otherwise, delicious.
    Just what you've always wanted: celebrity mailing addresses and Contact Any Celebrity.

    I'm sick of sleb culture. Did I mention that I saw Helena Bonham Carter in Hampstead on Sunday afternoon? I'm sick of how if you're famous for like wearing a lipstick or something, then you go to lots of parties with other people who may also have not done anything. Did I mention my East Enders connection? I'm sick of how you can even be a celebrity trainer or celebrity manicurist, which means you double your prices, and that I, the recipient of your services, am supposed to feel one step closer to sleb nirvana merely by paying you money. Did I mention that I once sat next to Marie Helvin in the theatre?

    See how confusing this all is?
    19 Princelet Street, Spitalfields - a museum of immigration, is open every Sunday in May. It's not open very often, because they don't have much money, I think, so go.
    IMAP Update: I have just discovered the edit - purge deleted messages command in Outlook 2000. It's fab. Because the worst thing about IMAP is you can see greyed out versions of all your deleted/moved messages, and it's confusing. Also, there's something very cleansing about purging.

    My technical support is excellent.
    Synchronicity, or just a coincidence?

    So yesterday M called me to ask whether I wanted to share 2.5 kilos of organic alfalfa (unsprouted). I said that (a) sounded like a lifetime's supply, and (b) I hadn't sprouted since last summer, when I was very into it.

    I put down the phone, got out my seeds, rinsed them twice, and left them on the windowsill to sprout. Three days.

    This morning, I collect my organic box from my doorstep (poetic licence: I live in Kilburn. The one time they did leave it on my doorstep, it got nicked. Now we have a hiding place) and top of the box? A punnet of sprouted alfalfa.

    Estée Lauder, Last Independent Titan of Cosmetics, Dies at 97. Least her sons are worth a fortune.
    I think the new biometric ID cards are sounding a little too Philip K Dick, for my liking.
    Tuesday night, went to dinner at some new friends who live in a fab apartment on the site of the old Globe Theatre. They are so urban, so zone one. If I had a job at the FT, I'd definitely want to live there.

    A and R (and no, they're not in the music business) made me a low carb feast, which was an exact replica of a meal they had at the North London Tavern. This is what I think is a seedy pub down the road from me, but they say is now an inexpensive gastropub. Creamed cauliflower is exactly like mashed potatoes. They also introduced me to some no-carb American chocolate, I've forgotten the name of, and we made a little spreadsheet of a business they might get into, and surfed the web, drank great wine, talked and talked.

    I love how this happens: A's mum was on old boss of mine, and ultimately my career mentor, who went back to the US a few years ago. We stayed in touch. She emailed me and said her son and his wife were coming to London for a couple of years, and we should hang out, because we'd get on really well.

    I think, sometimes people say that kind of thing, but it was completely true. They came round for dinner a couple of months ago, with some other friends of mine, and it felt like we'd all known each other for years.

    I like meeting cool new people. Especially if they live outside of the hallowed N* and NW* postcodes.

    Sunday, April 25, 2004

    South Devon Chilli Farm online shop for mail order fresh chiles, dried chillies, chilli sauces and chilli jelly. That's what the internet's for: niche businesses.
    I gather that Muslim women are exempt from ID card photos. Do you think I can get an exception on the basis that I'm just not photogenic? I'd love to have a "constructive discussion" with David Blunkett on the basis of (a) bad lighting in photobooths, (b) body dysmorphia, and (c) er, privacy.
    Just the links: veggie restaurants. Woodlands. Terre a terre in Brighton.
    We are the google generation. We are the people who can find things out. Anything. Watch us discover where you live and work and what you thought about Outlook 98 in a long forgotten newsgroup. More scarily, watch us find out your "fun and pleasure" MSN ID and see what chatrooms you go to. Watch us deconstruct the headers in your email, watch us see if you're registered on the electoral roll. Watch us see who you're linked to, and who you hang out with, and what you think.

    Watch us and weep. You can't hide. And you can't even run, now.

    Friday, April 23, 2004 have withdrawn their Film Finder service. Any suggestions?
    Does anyone have the Momo recipe book? I'm not sure I want to buy it, because it's full of meat things I don't eat, but I want to make the dried fruit salad that I kinda recreated a few weeks ago, and don't entirely remember it.
    A friend of a friend is rambling with the Anarchists Ramblers Club. Who I presume don't use compasses.

    I'm here all night. Well, more accurately Z is, as it's her joke.
    Look! There are currently 61 references online to Howard son "Romanian immigrants".

    See what I mean?
    While the question always at the back of my mind is "would they hide you from the Nazis?" Richard Desmond's question is "are you looking forward to being owned by Nazis?" although racism is racism, whatever its hue.

    But check this in the Guardian piece on the same subject (it's in the media guardian. so you have to sign in, sorry):

    "Mr Howard, the son of Romanian immigrants and whose grandmother died in a Nazi concentration camp, needs no reminding of the sensitivity of mockery involving the Third Reich."

    Putting aside the issue of Howard constantly being referred to as a Jew (albeit in a sideswipeish way, as above), I think there's a one sentence summary of everyone, out there. "Ali G, Cambridge graduate Sasha Baron Cohen, whose parents live in a prosperous North London suburb". There are non-Jewish ones as well, of course, but I'm wired-sensitive to notice these first.

    Has Richard Desmond lost his marbles? Very probably. Does the Guardian constantly need to refer to Michael Howard's Jewish/immigrant past? Probably not. Michael Portillo's the son of Spanish immigrants, I think, and you hardly ever see him described thus.

    OK, me and my anti-semite-dar are going to work now.
    It's TV TURNOFF 2004.
    It took me three goes (over three days) of clicking on the "try Gmail" button in blogger, before I could get the Java to work. Then it took me to a generic screen that wouldn't let me login, so I did it again. Anyway, now I'm a Gmail betatester. Big brother, look out.

    Thursday, April 22, 2004

    I have just discovered Carson McCullers. And that's what the internet's for: I give you the Carson McCullers Project.
    While I frankly hate people who email me jokes, and want to take all their cows away and make them go into joke-aversion therapy, Stephen Pollard has posted a fabulously entertaining cow thang which had me laughing out loud during what is - quite honestly - a truly crap day.
    The question you always ask: where did they film that?
    Just the links: Saint Pancras Hotel, gothic links, architects, Swish Cottage's stuff, St Pancras Chambers and its tours, Arup's project. Midland Grand Hotel on Urban75 and on
    Oh, Those Modern People

    A conversation D and I had last night, over mobile phone, of course:

    him: you know that old hotel at King's Cross? There's tours of the inside. Do you want to [do this hip, architecturally obscure thing] on Sunday?
    me: like yeah. I so want to do that. They filmed Harry Potter there. I love Gothic.
    him: Wanna go? They have two tours on Sundays
    me: yeah. How do you find out about it?
    him: I get my weekly cultural stimuli from flavour pill, haven't you heard of them?
    me: No, I get my daily fix of London's insider informational gems from Urban Junkies. Haven't you heard of them?

    We titter at our finger-on-the-pulse contemporary webnettyness.

    me: I wonder which one of us will be writing this conversation up on our weblog?
    him: I don't have a weblog.
    me: Yeah. How did you know I would want to go?
    him: we both like weird old architecture things. That's why we're friends.

    Meanwhile, I've gone through the flavourpill archives with speed and alacrity, but still can't find the name of the hotel. Anyone?
    In today's Guardian: Our parents were right after all - how women are leaving it too late to have children. Just like an Observer article from almost exactly two years ago, proving there's nothing new or even sub-new under the sun. It's albout Baby Hunger, apparently.
    Boy, am I glad I wasn't in Reading yesterday afternoon - commuter chaos as station cleared.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2004

    About two years ago, I heard a home truths programme on Radio 4 about family whistles. Through the wonder of the internet, here it is.

    (Side issue: my college years were spent listening to John Peel discover new bands. He has a mesmeric voice.)

    Monday, I'm walking on the heath with a woman from my writing class, and she walks past a house where she says her son is having dinner. She does an unusual whistle. I enquire whether it is her family's whistle, and a conversation ensued about the hows, whys and wherefores of same.

    Not something my family ever did. We would have like: a family food. A family phone call. A family ringtone? We were never walking up mountains and needing to find each other. Anyway, people have mobiles for that, nowadays, don't they? If you have reception.
    So What Do You Do, Josh Neuman?. Heeb magazine editor, interviewed by mediabistro. Heeb? "the inadvertently Jewish, the tangentially Jewish, the Jewish by side glance."

    That's me then.

    I met Josh when I was in New York. He has an ironic seventies apartment that looks rather like my parents house in 1976, but more so. He's smart. The magazine? I like it. It has something of the Modern Review about it, only less so.
    Spring Cleaning

    I've just cut my inbox down to a third of its former size, in an effort to get my head round IMAP's crapness. I feel sprung-cleansed. Hope it works.
    It's Survey Time...

    You know it must be a bad news days when the papers are full of surveys: so this from the Guardian on privacy (quel surprise, most people think Beckham shoult be able to have text sex in the privacy of his own mobile phone handset glow), and this from the BBC - 79% of us would give away our PC/system passwords either by mistake or for chocolate. So the country's safe, then?

    Yesterday, I had to call the DG of information at the MOD. I am TLA-enabled, I know. His assistant's voicemail asked me to leave "an unclassified message." Yep.
    A Very Naughty Boy opens tonight at the Soho Theatre in London.
    Next time I'm sick, I'm gonna find me a doctor who practices narrative medicine. [from the NY Times - login/password = sashablog, and read it quick, they archive after a week or so, and then they make you pay].

    Rita Charon is the doctor who dreamed it up, and she asks the question: "how do you distinguish a modern illness from a post-modern illness?" At least, I think she does.
    Oh, bugger. IMAP has been nice to me for oh.... weeks. And, knowing how busy I am, it's now weird again. Updating headers and then hanging. Not letting me read mail. I thought I had it sorted, but now I realise that it was just a dreaded intermittent fault all along.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2004

    Mobile phones aren't always good. This story makes me sick.
    So Jyoti is guilty, but C4 News need to proof read their website.
    I am on hold for a Chief Information Officer, and the switchboard operator sound like a recording: she's come back to me four times and said "sorry to keep you way-ting" like she's a machine. A machine.
    The games people play. Don't even get me started on this. Just call.
    Oh. If I lived in New York, I'd be here - the Kehilat Hadar Shavuot retreat. On Shavuot, obviously, not now.

    Instead, I've signed up to do the kiddush in (one of my many) shuls here in London. Because it's a shul where the only way women can do anything is in a servile/food preparation way.

    What's more important: a sense of community or spiritual fulfilment?
    Calmer? Karmaa? martial arts, yoga, holistic centre and london gym. And it's in Camden.
    I love statistics and details. Not. But this is coolthe moon phase calendar. We are 11.2% of full, a waxing crescent.
    Mike has been wallpapering.
    Oi Va Voi (great music, lousy name) are playing the Jazz Café on Thursday May 13th. Fancy coming?
    Give The Love, Give The Google-Juice

    Sunday night, friends came over for dinner, and I cooked chilli, because that is currently my custom. If you would like my world-beating chilli recipe, which is actually my friend X's, and has proven aphrodisiac properties, then mail me. Anyway, talk turned to the internet, and I gave a brief seminar on the google algorithm, and why blogs come up higher on searches than real corporate pages (links and update frequency, is the short answer, as you know).

    So I'm still higher than British Gas for most versions of a search on their Three Star Contract, and I'm doing good on Dove/Firming/advert and also, now, Jonny Freedland.

    My friend just said to me, "that's the power of pagerank" and then through the power of google, I found out 27 people had said that before.

    That's the power of living in a post-modern word, where google records the meta conversation, not the conversation itself.

    Derrida moment over. Must go back to phoning every IT director in the known universe.

    Whoops, it's lunchtime. Perhaps I'll see if they've updated the front page of the internet, yet.
    Things Writerly

    I think this may be slightly self-indulgent, but hey, it's my blog, so whatthehell.

    Last night, my writing group did this experimental thing going out to Hampstead Heath, and walking around, observing, and writing. It was amazing. Not least because, I'm never entirely convinced I like nature. I'm an urban zone-two girly, and up until the last couple of years, I've only done nature under suffrance.

    So here are some random thoughts/phrases/fragments that came out of last night...

    ... a sparse, gothic tree, like two gnarled lovers hanging on for dear life

    ... a glassy puddle like a mirrored rorschach inkblot

    ...summer debris abandoned in the long grass

    ...the dangling fronds of the silver birch, drooping down like a thousand disappointed spinsters

    ...the christmas-red of the quince flower, trailing along the ground

    ... do you think that Joan Walsh's life's dream was to be a bench overlooking the barren playground on the heath?

    ... the building: a sixities monstrosity overseeing affairs like an angry headmaster, or a concerned grandmother

    ...I wish I knew more words for nature

    ...the spent kite billowing on the ground like a beached sperm whale indeterminably young woman, with thick ankles, sporting American Tan tights, sensible shoes and a coat that hides a hundred secrets, strides past, purposefully

    ...the city hides the secrets of all those who choose to conceal themselves within her

    ...we looked like a cult: six women on Parliament Hill, clutching, scribbling, writing. A cult with notebooks

    ...a dream about a gnarled, gothic, victoriana below a sheltering sky. The meaning: never trust the darkness, it knows your secrets
    There's an irony to the fact that if you put Jonny Freedland into google, I'm well above the fold, even without quote marks. And waddya get? My musings over a friday night dinner table nearly two years ago. There's no hiding, any more.
    I sorta kinda used to work for John Battelle. Here's his searchblog. He laid me off (by proxy, I was in a UK subsidiary) while I was at an event in Tuscon Arizona. It was... interesting. I'm not bitter.

    It's strange that I've been blogging nearly two years more than him, and he's a famous tech journalist. Maybe he had another blog before. Of course, when I started, I had a lot of time on my hands: I'd just been laid off.
    There's an inaugaral conference for trend magazines. CMYK. I'm thinking of doing an inaugaural conference for people with curly hair and an NW6 postcode. We could have it in the hairdressers on the Kilburn High Road. You read it here first.
    Bus Shelter - Thot Unplickens

    Without wishing to tempt fate, it's been 21 days since my bus shelter disappeared. We have an adjacent temporary bus stop, the original bus stop - now rather lonesome in its bus-shelterless state - and I heard from a friend of a friend in Camden council that two years to get a shelter removed is pretty damned fast.

    I, however, am reasonably sure it's a cock-up, and like two bus shelters (one outside my house, one outside my neighbours) will appear in the fullness of a public sector timescale. As everyone I ever knew at London buses has now allegedly been (a) promoted on the Peter Principle, (b) gone on long term sick leave because some resident kept calling, writing and emailing and asking them to do something, or (c) just plain disappeared, I have no one to ask. I could ask my friendly local councillor - Flick Rea - whose been pretty helpful, or I could start all over again. But life is short, as well as beautiful, and maybe I just have to live with it.

    (I Freudianly wrote "love with it" in that last paragraph. See how far I've come.)

    Maybe the universe has a message for me, and that message is that you have to live with the imperfections of the world. Maybe those crystals have been getting to me, I must take them down. Did I tell you about this? A friend was staying for a while, and the house apparently spoke to her and said I needed a crystal, and she hung it in the window of my dining room. I am not sure I am a crystal person. It casts nice light if you get up at stupid o-clock. The house hasn't been in touch with me, so I don't know how it's thinking.
    BAFTA: Winners & Nominees.
    I love it that there are people in the world prepared to document the differentiated snack food market. We need that. Snackspot: the premier snack information portal for the UK

    Monday, April 19, 2004

    Murals and signs from Derelict London.
    Wondrous Oblivion is out this Friday. Here's what the Standard had to say about it on Thursday.

    I was almost an extra, so I saw the cast and crew screening. It's fab. Really worth seeing, honest.
    Turns out my parents were on the edge of the Manchester art scene in the seventies. Their house is a like the permanent collection of Malcolm Young, a fabulous artist who rose to fame doing the set for Shabby Tiger (the writer of Shabby Tiger was Howard Spring, also a Manchester/Didsbury boy).
    I have invented a new word: flatsharedom.
    Do you think there's a difference between being inefficient and coefficient?
    The changing face of Melanie Phillips. In the Guardian, where else?
    Capturing the Friedmans - I may or may not be disturbed

    Without wishing to give the game away, this is a disturbing/fascinating movie/documentary. Saturday night at the Curzon Soho, late movie. With butterscotch malts at Ed's Easy Diner thrown in.

    "I don't know. I can't say too much about it. We were a family." That's what the mother says.

    It's really a movie about what the truth is, or isn't. It's disturbing. The family is barking. And Jewish. The men are arrogant, and balding. The story's: scary. Serious googling when I got home turned up this: IMDB's user comments, which are way more lucid and thoughtful than usual. Debbie Nathan (freelance journalist - don't read this if you haven't seen the film yet) talk about interesting stuff. And also some stuff I've lost now about how the director himself edited the story, and that other people were involved, but it's not in the movie.

    Food for thought.

    Adam Street - a club (potentially with no windows, if it's in "amazing vaults" beneath the Strand). Cool?
    Sunday morning, crack-o-dawn, heard Richard Rampton QC, Deborah Lipstadt and James Libson talk about the Irving case.
    So there's a new referers script. Waddya think?

    Sunday, April 18, 2004

    It's Yom Hashoah.
    Life update: let's face it, I've been busy.

    So I never got a chance to write up my fabulous end-of-Yom Tov back in London, and now it's faded into the mists of all the other crap in my head. Here's a mini-update of the last coupla weeks, starting with this.

    Got a cab back from the station a week last Thursday. Feels like last year. There was a little post-modern-mobile-phone-play in trying to find each other (I'd sensibly ordered a local cab while I was still on the train). When I found him he was young, Asian, with long swept back hair and sunglasses of the Telly-Savalas-seventies style. It was dark, even without the glasses.

    We get chatting, you know how it is, and he's playing some kinda bhangra compilation on his CD, and I ask him about bhangra clubs, and he says the best one is in Hanger Lane, near the roundabout. He gives me the address. We talk more...

    Him: I like cabbing, you meet interesting people
    Me: Yeah. Do you do it full time?
    Him: No, I run my own car-hire business in the East End (I can't help wondering how sucessful the business can be if he's cabbing on the side). If you ever need a car...

    As we drive through Harlesden, conversation turns to the inevitable:

    Him: Yeah, I'm a muslim. My ex-girlfriend, she wasn't, but she is now.
    Me: Why's she your ex?
    Him: These religious girls, they're not for me
    Me: Oh, are you religious?

    Turns out (a) once his girlfriend got religion she wouldn't sleep with him and he dumped her, and (b)he eats halal and doesn't drink alcohol, which in my book seems pretty frum. I ask him if he prays five times a day.

    Him: Well, three or four, yeah. But I'm a playboy, see - he runs his hands through his hair, past his sunglasses - I like the girls.

    Then he tells me he used to have a job at St John's Wood Cars, but he had to leave.

    Him: I used to spend a lot of money; drinks, hotel rooms. For the girls, you know. I worked Saturday night, cabbing, but if I met a girl, I'd call in sick.
    Me: But weren't you sick every weekend? Didn't they rumble you?
    Him: No, sometimes my brother came from Afghanistan, sometimes my Auntie needed me.

    We talked a little more about music, and I skirted the are-you-single question by implying that I had so many tall, well-built, don'tmess-with'em boyfriends he shouldn't even consider me. He told me more about being a playboy, and not ironically. I told him about Passover. I wasn't convinced it was a fair swap, but hey.

    As we drew up to my house, he got out of the car, ran round to the passenger side and held the door open for me in an old-fashioned gentlemanly way, carried my bags to the door, and then ran back to the car.

    Him: This is for you, Sasha - he handed me the Heavy CD from that we'd been lislistening to - it's been great to talk to you.

    I wasn't sure if this was generous-spirited or a come-one.

    Me: That's very sweet of you, thank you, but I can't accept it - I implied that no trade-off was available, although I did this subtley.
    Him: No, no, it's my pleasure. I am a playboy. I have many, many CDs, at least two hundred and fifty. Please, take it.

    So that's why I'm listening to "a huge floor-banger of an album" while I'm writing this.
    Synchronicity or What?

    In the Costbucks in Hampstead this afternoon, I run into an old friend, L, who's just been to see The Timekeepers at the New End Theatre. Which was exactly the play I was discussing with my cousin about an hour earlier. Apparently, you shouldn't, er, rush there.
    Just heard Matthew Kalman on Radio 4 - he was brilliant. And don't even ask why I'm up and dressed (smart casually, since you ask) at 7.15am on a Sunday.

    Friday, April 16, 2004

    Some people are just bean-spillers of distinction.
    Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
    -Albert Einstein, physicist, Nobel laureate (1879-1955)

    Thursday, April 15, 2004

    No, I don't read the Mirror, but this on bad-aaaass language is great.

    Of course, most of it's all been said before, but better, I like to think.
    My meeting in a far flung corner of Greater London has been cancelled tomorrow morning. I am happy.
    Do you think menschy is a word?

    Because I don't. Menschleikeit (forgive spelling, unsure), menschlich, even mensch-like. But menschy? Naah.
    Post-paschal, but better late than never: Searching for Lou Reed's Afikomen. Only in New York, as they say. [via Katy]
    So Madonna won't perform Friday night gigs anymore, because she's so frum. Like in that Coen brothers movie (forget which one) where the guy keeps saying he's shomer shabbes?

    Update: it's the Big Lebowski. Of course.
    "80% of life is just showing up"
    --Woody Allen

    ... which is why I just stay home.
    Really, for completeness sake. There's a debate raging, allegedly, about the top search for "Jew" in google.:: Jewschool have the story.

    There's even a google explanation about the difference between the word Jew and Jewish. Synchronisitously ties in with a conversation I had over Yom Tov lunch about the word goy/goyim. Literally translates as "nations", but I felt it had an implied/inferred nastiness to it, which not everyone else felt. How would I feel if I read in the Guardian "Jewish people feel that the goyim are...." Not good for the Jews, I say.

    Ramble over. I'm quite busy, can't think straight, and haven't really had time to write anything meaningful here for a while. Sorry.
    The Jews of Cuba - because one day you'll be planning a trip, and this you'll need to know.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2004

    Billy's Log - is Bridget Jones for girls, apparently.
    For a little while, in one job, on the side, I was a project manager, and I came up against this stuff all the time.
    I hate Dove Firming Lotion and its associated advertising campaign (press, TV, billboards) with a ferocious bile that I generally reserve for ... things I really hate.

    I mean, who do they think they are? Who decides whose curves are "real" and whose are fake, what makes a "supermodel" and why it wouldn't be worth firming their six-stone frame.

    Tested on real curves, my arse. If I see Joanna, Coralie, Syleste and Stella cavorting in their whiter-than-whites one more time, I'll put them on an anorexics-only diet. Don't get me wrong, I like it when women look real, I just don't like that realness being exploited for marketing gain. Look! We have real women! They're fat! And you can win £5,000! Firm friends, my foot, it's market-share through and through. You have to enter as a team. To make the marketing department's life easier: you're a bona fide group of friends, they don't even have to match you up like a Benetton advert.

    Remember when M&S made a big fuss about having a size sixteen model? And look how the girlies have bought into it being "the best day of their life, they'd never felt so confident."

    I think I may be a little incoherent about this. It's marketing, it's exploitation, it isn't nice and you should stop now.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2004

    Because there are times you want to talk jargon.

    Sunday, April 11, 2004

    Tremble: in effect, ineffectually - Todd Levin's blog. I like.
    Ever wondered how much other people earn? Check out the wage slaves.

    Friday, April 09, 2004

    Thursday, April 08, 2004

    Only in New York A blacklist for renters. Soon, all the credit referencing people, and psychological profiling people and angry landlords'll get together. You won't even be able to get McDonalds without a check. If you wanted to.
    Bluejake: Passover in Park Slope... better pictures than I could ever take.
    And I want the SushiLover Jersey.
    Oh, I want the Happy Lucky Me - the MakeLove skirt.
    Something about the 24-hour society: hospital patients forced to watch TV you can't turn off.

    A Patientline spokesman said: "These complaints have taken us by surprise. We've been operating the system since 1995 and I've not known of this criticism before."

    What, no one's wanted to turn the TV off for nearly ten years? Pull the other one, it's got a radio on it.
    How's my finger? Good of you to ask. It's bruised, but OK. A doctor friend said on Saturday over lunch that I should "neighbour wrap" it (obvious, but bandage it to the next finger, like a splint.) D said "but you live in a block, and you've got three neighbours and they probably don't want to go to Manchester for Pesach."
    This is just for completeness sake: I saw The Shape of Things a while ago, and never said anything about it. Then, last night, someone asked me if I'd seen it, and I thought not. I looked on my weblog: no. Then I googled, and realised I had.

    Based on a stage play, and the cracks show slightly, but Rachel Weisz was truly scary as the machiavellian art student, but you couldn't help feeling that Neil Labute didn't get the relationships quite right.

    Wednesday, April 07, 2004

    Promarta Limited conference organisers
    My Mum on the Beckhams:

    "She's not a clever girl, that Posh. I mean, he does nothing for me, Becks, but if he's the most attractive man in the world, would you leave him alone in a hotel in Madrid? For your career? He makes a living."
    Steven Levy on Lawrence Lessig.
    Richard Susskind has an interesting piece in this morning's Times legal section (I'm having to read my Dad's newspaper), about copyright for every occasion. Sadly, The Times doesn't quite get online-ness - or doesn't want to - so I can't even find the article to link to.

    Short form: the Creative Commons movement has come to the UK, in partnership with a team at Oxford, and you can read the draft licences here. Or you can read Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig.
    The second seder last night reminded me of another story, when i was about fourteen.

    You know what it's like at that age: all grown ups look the same. So one day. my Mum asked me what I thought of M, a recently divorced male friend of my parents, probably at that time in his early forties. I thought nothing; he was someone's Dad. My mum and her neighbour were obviously thinking of "setting him up" with someone, now he was single, and they wanted to know what I thought. I racked my brains.

    Eventually, I came up with something. "Both his arms are the same length." I thought this specifically because my best friend A was obsessed with a guy whose arms weren't the same length, and people often remarked on it. My Mum laughed. She told her neighbour, and she laughed. I thought nothing of it. I realised it was a little: cutting (early practice), and asked them not to say anything to anyone.

    Cut to the seder. Maybe three, four months later. Uncle M is sitting two seats away from me, my sister is sitting between us. After all the ritual part is over, and we're starting the meal, uncle M asks me to pass the salt. I'm just reaching for it when I feel a hand tapping my shoulder. I look round - M has leaned back on his chair like he's fourteen, and stretched his arm round my sister, to tap me.

    He mouths/whispers, extrememly clearly, "at least both my arms are the same length." I am so freaked out I think I have imagined it, but he smiles at me, wryly, knowingly. I grab my Mum and run into the kitchen. We concur there's nothing we can do.

    Uncle M's remarried now, has been for years - so my remarks didn't affect his market value, clearly - but I always feel slightly uncomfortable whenever I run into him.

    The lesson? Never gossip, people. Although, not sure what the modern weblog equivalent of that is... Never write anything you don't want the people you write about - if you do - to read. Although, personally, I always struggle with who the stories belong to... Open source, moi?

    Tuesday, April 06, 2004

    My finger still hurts. It's not broken - I'm told by the legion of doctors I saw at a party Saturday night who ripped the piss out of me something royal - but it's bruised, and it's still tricky with the caps key. Worse things have happened, right?

    Also, on Saturday night, I walked out of a film for the first time in: as long as I can remember. Starsky and Hutch, if you ask. Because you can take the self-referential, post-modern, deconstructed crap too far. Because you can kill the characters I remember from being a kid. Because you can write truly truly terrible scripts that have eight year old kids talking like grandfatherly hustlers. Because you can remake the best bits (opening car chase) exactly the same as the original, and then what's the point. Because... well, just because. Another childhood icon shot down in the name of seventies irony. Although I do still confuse them, a little, with the Dukes of Hazzard, but then, I am a girl.

    Someone had already said to me "it's strictly straight to video, wait" and I should have listened.
    This morning, in Synagogue, I was holding one of my many nieces/nephews, O, who's five months, and an old friend of mine, M, who I've not seen for a few years came up to me. That's what's nice about Yom Tov; M lives in Bounds Green, which is not that far from me - the Art Deco hinterland - but we only see each other in Cheadle. Lots of people come home, and you catch up with them, fleetingly - with a twenty second update on their life. He had mine down pat.

    - Hi Sasha, looks like your life changed since I last saw you
    - Er, no, he's not mine

    M's a photographer now, and he and his friend J (now editor on a big northern paper) were the only people who ever took good photos of me. Well, any photos, really: I don't really like having my picture taken. From the age of fourteen to about nineteen, they couldn't get anyone else to model for them, and I did all manner of strange things: half light (aka early Beatles pics), field of flowers (aka early any seventies photos), twenties stuff (I had all the clothes). We talked briefly about the little picture for my forthcoming print column, and he said they're always twenty years old, why don't I use one of his?
    Oh, What A Night

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again (and so have a trillion other people): all Jewish festivals follow the age-old rubric "they tried to kill us, we won, let's eat," and Passover/Pesach is no different. This time it was the Egyptians, but who are we to bear a grudge?

    Lovelyseder, last night. Same again tonight (ETA 90 minutes and counting). Some say one shouldn't update one's weblog on Yom Tov, but I regard myself as my own halachic authority in this regard.

    I'm staying in this great little boutique hotel, in Cheadle. I can't give you the address because they only have two rooms, so are constantly booked, but they do a fabulous bespoke breakfast, and cater well for a vegetarian diet.

    The food: I'm trying to keep off the matzah, in the same way that I mostly keep of bread/pasta: because in the last year I feel that I've woken up from a deep sleep, that may or may not be some kind of carbohydrate addiction (I can't believe I said that. Ignore it).

    So, the food. Really. Auntie F made fantastic-fantastic-fantastic ingber - a carrot and ginger fudge, traditionally made at passover time. Auntie F regaled us with how to make her version "you take two pounds of carrots, grated, and two pounds of sugar... If you want it less sweet, you use less sugar... you test with your eyes to see if it's sweet... cut it with a pesachdicky knife..." Well worth it - it's one of those things that's a real labour of love, but boy do we appreciate it.

    The eingimach - betroot jam, googled all over the shop, can't find a reference, sorry - was also pretty good. And someone made us a plum version, which we weren't so sure about (this was breakfast, of course, not part of the seder). Last night we also had a lengthy discussion about chremsel, matzabrei and all manner of unhealthy fodder. I'm kinda imagining that some of these recipes will just fade. You've got to have a lot of time/energy/commitment for most of them, and who has that, nowadays?

    Also, I did the seder plate, and made the charoset, with which people were mightily impressed.

    Monday, April 05, 2004

    For your delectation: more pics. Top left hand corner - I know it looks very New York, but it's outside my house. And, if you look really carefully, you can see the bus stop of which I so often talk. Proves I've not made it up/not a complete nutter.
    Oh, come on. I'm really excited about my photos... say something, please.

    Sunday, April 04, 2004

    Editorial feedback: my Mum feels that the weblog has been much improved since I took on board her comment that I, like, say 'like' too much. I'm not sure I have, but she's happy, and that's, like, what counts. Right?
    So. Back in Cheadle (the Holy Land of my forefathers), and just about to do bedikat chametz with my Dad. Although I came home this morning to help, my Mum is so super-efficient that there's hardly anything left for me to do. She has let an outsourced contract to me for the seder plate and the fruit platter, which I will fulfill tomorrow afternoon.

    There's supposed to be a ... spiritual holiness about Pesach. The clearing-out-your-leavened stuff is just as much about clearing out the cobwebby bits of your soul (hear my inner Chassidische rebbe rock, people), dealing with your personal exile. Wherever it's from.

    Cheadle. Frankly, it's a lot of gold slippers, big hair and clothes somewhere on the matching tracksuits to semi-sparkly suits continuum. But it's home.

    Update: My Mum's very upset about the last comment. She's says that's not Cheadle, it's Bowdon.

    Now I can do this: phonecam dump. Gothic wonder in Manchester, and New York subway typography. A heady mix, no?
    From Boing Boing: free speech chickenshits in San Francisco. So there's even a policy about what is "acceptable" subject matter? In an art school? Where people are exploring themselves and the human condition? Call me an old fashioned libertine, if you will, but this sucks.
    It's happening all over the shop: Simon Garfield in today's Observer, on how weblogs are online diaries. Remember when I was on the radio, last summer?

    It's the same: here's what I think happens. You (one) don't know from weblogs. Then you read about a famous one, look into it, it's a new phenomenon, in some way, so what do you do? You compare it, as much as you can, to something that already exists - voila. "It's a diary on the interwebnetdoodar." See, no hassle.

    Old converstion, but let's cover the ground again. I think there are different kinds of weblogs. To me, weblogs are as much about linking and interconnectivity, as they are about writing. Like, I use mine as a writing site, sure - that's why I got into it, an audience, almost - but it's not a diary. A diary is where I share my innermost secrets, and why would I do that on the internet? I'd be mad? And, I also use mine as a link repository: stuff I found, stuff I want to remember. I use the search facility in blogger like my personal "outboard brain" (thanks, Cory, your words).

    But I cheat. If I'm at a dinner party/at my parents house and the subject comes up, I do the same.
    - What's a weblog, Sasha?
    - Oh, it's a kind of online diary.

    See, it's shorthand. It's cheating. It's easier than telling people about iterative conversations, meme buggery, connectivity, online commentary, a "community of writers" (which I think about my more writing-stylee fellow bloggers), because then I'll have to explain everything like I just got off the boat from the future or a foreign country, and I can't be arsed, frankly.

    I feel like I'm part of some kind of community - and I use that word advisedly - online. And when I read what people write about us, I get frustrated. Like when I watch TV programmes about Jewish people and think "you've got it so wrong. In fact, you've not got it at all."

    So Boing Boing didn't post "the following request" an advert for a girlfriend because his parents were coming to visit. It posted a link to a Craigslist ad that people were talking about that day/moment because... they were. But it's no more than a small ad: the difference is, in twenty seconds, people all over the world can be reading it.

    A weblog is not a diary. Although it may be to some people. A weblog is not a homepage. Although it might be to some people. A weblog is (in the inimitable words of Anna Friel in the Three advert) whatever you want it to be. And I know I should feel flattered that print media is all over us now, but it feels strange. I've been doing this for nearly two and a half years - and a bunch of people have been doing it for way longer. I've thought about all the arguments and conversations, I worked out what I will and won't write. I know where the line is, and I have views about what others post. My thoughts have a... depth to them, I guess is what I'm saying (and I've been doing a lot of guessing recently). So, while I know this is how newspapers work - there's a hook - I hate it when you see through something straight to the hook, and there's no meat on the bone. Is what I'm saying. I think. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind because I'm a work in progress, and on the internet, nothing's ever finished-

    Saturday, April 03, 2004

    Sometimes, when I see those little plaques people have in the back window of their car that say "baby on board" and imply CAREFUL, I have a desire to make ones that say "I'm barren: drive into me."

    Friday, April 02, 2004

    I have defrosted my freezer (it is now about twice the size it was). I have cleaned my oven. And my hob. And my microwave. Done out the fridge. And the larder. Cleaned the carpets. Even tidied my study. It is sprung-cleaned, my whole house. Although, I should admit, I outsourced most of the process. Festival of freedom? Do me a favour.

    My strongest childhood memory is my Mum sitting down on the first seder night, exhausted, although everything was perfect, of course. Freedom? Slavery, more like. It's the festival of let's get the women to clean up, if you ask me.
    Sometimes, I can't help thinking that I'm in the wrong job.

    Finally, finally - with help from D - got my photos off my phone. For your delectation: super-edited highlights of my New York trip.

    Thursday, April 01, 2004

    Lucky it's not an information emergency - the NHS Information Authority have a voicemail message saying office hours are till 5pm, but leave a message, they can't get to the phone. Duh?
    "What is the nature of your call?" I hate that. I'm a woman of words, they're few, and I never know what to say. Sometimes, if I really want to get through, I say it's personal. I mean, it is to me.
    mike over at Troubled Diva is having us on. in a good way. when i lived in amsterdam, the custom was to try and cut off men's ties on april fool's day. don't ask me why: i mentioned it to a dutch woman in my writing class on tuesday and she had no idea what i was talking about. could just be the office i worked in, then.
    Someone just mentioned Joan Armour Plating to me.
    ok, we are in a no-caps era for a while, because i appear to have done something to the little finger of my left hand - bruised, numb, slightly painful - and i can't type a or s (i can with another finger) or hit the caps key without being sl-o-w.
    Now, this is annnoying. After lenghty discussion with my buddies on my colo, we decided that I shouldn't leave Outlook open all night, that could be why I get the folder lock thing. So I get up early to do the emails I got up early to so yesterday, but my technology conspired against me, and I open Outlook, and it says it's fetching headers for a really long time, and then it times out. And, of course, I can't read the email Yoz sent me about what to do next, because I can't f***ing get to my email now, can I?