I used to love going on peaceful demos when I was a kid. Aged about 14, I’d be on a coach once a month to London, or Greenham Common or some US military base to march in support of CND, Troops Out or against the National Front.
When today’s anti-austerity marches were announced, my wife and I thought it would be great to march as a family, to show the government how we feel.
But I’m ashamed to say that I got cold feet. Recently, the Metropolitan Police have taken to “kettling” demonstrators. Wikipedia defines kettling as “a police tactic for controlling large crowds during demonstrations or protests. It involves the formation of large cordons of police officers who then move to contain a crowd within a limited area. Protesters are left only one choice of exit, determined by the police, or are completely prevented from leaving. The tactic has proved controversial, not least because it has resulted in the detention of ordinary bystanders as well as protestors.”
There have been reports of people being kettled for hours with no access to food, or to toilets. As a chap with Multiple Sclerosis, being contained with no access to the loo is unlikely to end well. More importantly, it’s likely to traumatise my kids, particularly my son who has learning difficulties.
So, we decided not to go. And I hate it that fear of the police has prevented four people expressing their opinion.
(It’s too late to help us now, but there’s an app called Sukey “designed to keep people safe, mobile and informed during demonstrations. We crowdsource updates from twitter and other online and offline sources in order to provide our users with a timely overview of what is going on at a demonstration”.)
“Cambodia’s great”, enthuses the twenty-something gap-year Italian woman in the air-conditioned internet cafe where they bake great croissants. “It’s just that there are too many tourists.”
That’s the trouble with being a tourist: all the other tourists. Whereas *I* am a sensitive seeker after knowledge, a traveller, everyone else is a mere tourist. A particularly twisted manifestation of “I am a traveller NOT a tourist”-itis is to be found by the resentment that many Western tourists feel towards Asian tourists in places like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, or Wat Pho in Thailand. There’s a particular type of Western tourist I call the “I’m not religious but I’m really spiritual” genus (that is, I like joss sticks and New Age music but am too lazy for philosophy or reading). They resent the bus loads of Taiwanese/ Vietnamese/ Korean/ Japanese tourists who come to the temples by the aircon busload and walk around talking excitedly and taking photos of each other in Asian poses. How dare they come by bus instead of tuk-tuk? How dare they obviously enjoy themselves instead of walking around reverently?
We rode off when the tour groups started to come with busloads of loud Japanese and Chinese tourists, most of whom didn’t even bother to look at the temples, preferring to carry on their noisy conversations instead. Where we had spent almost four hours most of the tours were in and out in 15 minutes.
Disgraceful! Asian Buddhists walk around enjoying Asian Buddhist sites, and in a manner not exactly the same as how I do? They should be instantly banned, as only white people have feelings delicate and sensitive enough to enjoy Angkor.
This can lead to a syndrome I’ve noticed in Nepal and Thailand I call “My Personal Yellow People Theme Park”, in which unimaginably wealthy young white people travel thousands of miles to get drunk at full moon parties with other unimaginably wealthy young white people, or go white water rafting, or trekking, or to gawp at long-necked hill tribe people, while their only interaction with the locals is to order food from them, be driven to the next theme park ride by them, or to fuck them (depending on the type of tourist they are).
Of course, I have no high horse to ride. I bargained people down by 30 cents, perhaps depriving them of some food to save me less money than the price of a watery draft beer on Pub Street.
And I had an attack of “I’m not religious but I’m really spiritual”-itis. It’s easy to do in temples as vast as Angkor where it’s possible to find quiet places – or whole temples that are empty – and to sit and reflect. The gigantic temples being overtaken by the jungle can’t help but put you in mind of Shelley’s poem Ozymandias, and the fact that we were there as a family to scatter my grandmother’s ashes leads to inevitable introspection about mortality.
It’s been suggested that I’m a boorish idiot without a spiritual bone in my body. I’m not given to flights of fancy or purple prose, but from my vantage point on a ledge at the twelfth century Angkor Wat, I was thinking of how time destroys all and the only constant is change – just as Buddha said – and was moved to write this rap song. Hopefully it communicates something of the beauty and the mystery of Angkor Wat.
One in five (21%) British adults surveyed think disabled people need to accept they can’t have the same opportunities in life
one in four (26%) Britons think bars and nightclubs are not places for people with wheelchairs
42% of people with MS admit to being concerned about telling their employer about their condition in the current economic climate
Over half (56%) of people with MS find it harder to socialise since their diagnosis, with around two-thirds (67%) saying their MS has hampered their ability to enjoy everyday social activities like drinking, eating out or shopping
The report concludes
MS is unpredictable and, perhaps largely because of this, widely misunderstood. It is different for everyone, and everyone responds to it differently.
But what most with MS have in common is a desire to live as full and active a life as possible before the condition strips more and more choices away from them.
I’m lucky; I travel a lot, do karate, and live a normal life. There’s a lot of ignorance about what MS is. The problem is that it’s different for every person. I was diagnosed in 1999 after I lost my vision in my left eye and the use of my left leg and arm. This is why my dancing is so crap.
Nowadays symptoms are
Tiredness. That’s why, if you invite me to speak and ask me to take a long haul Economy flight, I’ll need 2 nights e.g. a full day before the gig to recover
Clumsiness when tired, and slipping over on Oslo pavements in winter
Dry mouth and swallowing difficulties, which is why I drink gallons of water at conferences and then have to rush to the loo. (Apologies if I rush past you if you’re waiting to ask a question – I’m not being a diva, just seeking a pissoir)
Trigeminal neuralgia, random sensations like electric shocks, when touched unexpectedly, particularly on the face
It was my privilege to present at Dibi Conference in Gateshead this week, where I performed as the Web Devil against Chris Mills’ Web Angel. This photo by @fuselagetown shows that I looked menacing and rather dashing:
This was the second time I’ve dressed as the devil. The first time was as a young man, and I used to do volunteer work at my local theatre. In order to raise money, we would offer a singing telegram service by volunteering our time for free and using the theatre’s extensive costume store.
That’s how I found myself in a car, fully-costumed as Satan with red makeup on my face and a false goatee beard, driving to a pub in the Worcestershire countryside to sing Happy Birthday to a woman in a pub.
I stopped to ask a somewhat puzzled local where the pub was – a mile down there, on the right – and raced into the pub, desperate for a pee.
As I was wrestling with my costume (you try standing at a urinal in a one-piece jumpsuit with a zip up the front) the man at the next pot asked me, “Are you with the church?”. Of course I am, I replied, to help his joke along. “They’re in that door across the corridor” he told me.
Naturally assuming he was part of the party who had booked a singing devil for their friend Lisa’s birthday, I flung open the door, roared and waved my pitchfork – to find about 20 vicars in dog collars sitting behind remains of a meal and listening to a speech by one of their number, with facial expressions ranging from amused, to shocked, to angry.
I was unsure quite what had happened – but it was evident that the room was Lisa-less, so I apologised repeatedly and obsequiously and backed out of the room with considerably less gusto that I had entered it.
In the public bar, the barman (who was the helpful man in the toilet) told me that the pub I was supposed to be at was a quarter of a mile further down the road. I quickly got back in the car and completed my journey.
An early 90s live (and unusually mellow) version of a song I wrote about someone who wasn’t called Jacqueline. In fact, while writing the song its working title was “Marigold Says” until I settled on “Jacqueline” because (a) it scans and (b) the only Jacqueline I knew was Jackie Foster at school, and I quite fancied her. (“Caroline” was another possibility, as it also scanned and I fancied Caroline Fowles, but that bastard Lou Reed had already recorded “Caroline Says”.)
Jaqueline wants, so Jacqueline gets.
How long she’ll keep it for is anyone’s guess.
Mary gets drunk, Mary gets to her knees
She never wants the things that you know she needs.
I am sick and tired of you coming round
And falling down and going home.
I’m sick of getting no response.
Won’t you tell me what Jacqueline wants.
Mary should know but it’s been a long time
And you soon forget those once-intimate signs.
Jacqueline wrote, and Jacqueline said
“I drown as the world comes round and fucks up my head”.
She said “You are you and I am me;
what other way could it be?”
I might have thought differently once”
Won’t you tell me what Jacqueline wants.
I recall the boys in the band taking the piss out of me for “going all prog rock” on account of a D diminished chord in the chorus.
Here’s the normal, rawer (and worse recorded) rehearsal version.
Brand-new presentations to be written in web technologies, eg with Vadim’s cross-browser Shower
Become a better scripter
After last year’s heroic lost cause of attempting to prevent people using the term “HTML5″ for everything, this year I shall be putting my finger in the dyke of everyone shouting for joy when a vendor uses first-mover advantage or market dominance to attempt vendor lockin
Learn to love Git. This one may prove tricky.
Diet – lose 10 kilos. This is closely related to…
Get my next karate belt, and train at least once a week.
Read more classic literature (I have 200 unread books on my shelves)
Take a photo every day
Play rhythm guitar in a band
Learn to play the bass guitar part to The Beatles “Rain” as well as this bloke does.
Regular readers will be familiar with my unique blend of misanthropy and parsimony, and will no doubt blame that for the fact that no festive card from me has dropped through their letterbox, especially if you’ve sent me one (thank you for that).
But they’d be wrong. It just seems to me a little wasteful to transport bits of paper to faraway towns or distant countries (half of our family is overseas) just to send you pre-printed religiously-based greetings which then go in a landfill.
So I don’t send cards. Instead, I donate what I’d usually spend on paper and postage to a charidee where it does good instead of polluting the place.
So, your Xmas card this year is a small part of a donation to Medecins Sans Frontieres which is “an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters.”
For Father’s Day, my daughter painted a picture of me riding a unicorn, with Turkish dancing girl attendant. I’m killing two goose-stepping Nazis with a “lazor gun” below a caption reading “with the power of HTML5″.
It’s going on the door of my newly-decorated office.
My second SxSW is over, and all I have are some photos, fewer memories than I have photos, and an aircon throat.
I have mixed feeling about South By Southwest. There’s the torrent of emails they send you for months leading up to the event, requiring you to register to their different systems. Once there, I get little time to meet new people and little time to spend with old friends because the conference is too big.
I get pretty nervy for my talk, which this year went well (slides). I usually include a lot of humour but our American friends have a very different sense of humour than Brits, so I play safe and also add liberal quantities of what I call useful information, as SxSW has more than its fair share of circle-jerking panels heavy in “inspiration” but devoid of content. The trick seems to have paid off; I had a full house in Ballroom C and a hundred people lined up outside in case other people left.
The best thing about SxSW is meeting our users. Our PR folks kitted us out with a huge giant rotating Opera O, so it was easy to find our booth and, once there, developers and consumers asked us everything from how to edit a speed dial on a BlackBerry to how to do remote debugging with Opera Dragonfly, We had comfy chairs at the booth, too, leading to a steady stream of visitors from Our New Best Friends, such as chums from Adobe, Microsoft and Google.
I met a penguin
two Slappas (for those who don’t know, a Slapper is a woman of easy virtue, so making two booth babes wander around with t-shirts marked “Slappa” is unfortunate)
Down at my Dad’s house, I found some old cassettes of demos I made in the early 90s. So bad luck, blog watchers; expect to find the tech content of this blog spoiled with hissy wow-and-fluttery vanity posts.
Anyway, here’s one of the favourite songs I wrote during that period. I was obsessed with TS Eliot’s poem Marina, a monologue inspired by Shakespeare’s Pericles. So I ripped that off, nicked a line or two from The Waste Land, pinched a bit of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and, while the literary store detective was looking the other way, ran off with a bit of Dylan Thomas too.
It’s a 4-track demo, hastily recorded in order to test out the harmonies swirling in my head, and the cassette suffers from being in a cupboard for 20 years, but maybe you’ll like it.
I’m a ship becalmed after stormy seas.
You’ve been silver and green;
I love you best now for your clarity.
You sing to me in sharpened keys.
You bring me emeralds and harmonies.
I will be here for you if you’ll be here for me
Sometimes, the tide turns
and everything becomes monochrome.
Your wet hair dries in the warm sea breeze.
Lie still and dream
Of the mountains – there you feel free.
Sail across still memories
Under sleep where all the waters meet.
This music crept upon the water to me
I’m a machine
Powered by your electricity.
You ebb and flow with melody;
You bring me emeralds and energy.
What seas, what shores,
what great rocks?
Sieze what’s yours;
What grey rocks?
What islands? What water laps at the bow?
The sea’s daughter, you ebb and you flow;
The sea’s daughter, in emerald green;
The sea’s daughter, my Aquamarine.
Lie still, be calm, and dream.
O my daughter.
A decade later, my wife had a dream of a baby girl swimming to her through water so took a pregnancy testing kit the same day. 8 months later, our daughter was born. We named her Marina.