“Maybe tomorrow, maybe some day…”

During the past few weeks, I have been struggling to complete what must be the most boring work assignment that I have ever been given. It’s a massive documentation exercise, which involves picking my way through over ten thousand lines of COBOL code, and it requires copious and sustained usage of the search, copy and paste functions. The level of creative thought involved is minimal, and is generally confined to finding the most efficient ways of crunching the data, with the minimum keystrokes. And yet, for all the dumbness inherent in the exercise, it has also proved to be a huge personal challenge.

The biggest difficulty for me is sustaining concentration. The work is so brain-numbing that I find myself unable to stick at it for much longer than twenty minutes at a time without being driven to distraction (and you can probably guess the nature of the distractions). Music helps, of course – particularly uptempo, optimistic and strongly rhythmic music, and particularly when I can get the tempo of the music to match the tempo of my copy-pasting. The cupboards have been duly raided for “banging” DJ-mixed CDs from the 1990s, most of which have been languishing unplayed for the best part of a decade: Pete Tong’s Essential Selection, Danny Rampling’s Lovegroove Dance Party, Fantazia’s Restrospective Of House, and the occasional Orbital CD for relaxation. If you lay music down for long enough, it’s remarkable how it refreshes itself.

Nevertheless, this exercise is in danger of killing off more brain cells than my 1990s hardcore clubbing phase ever did. Which is another reason for the paucity of updates on this blog, and another reason for the continued delay of The Great Troubled Diva Meditation On Class.

I have paced around the perimeters of this vast subject for days now, staring up at it and looking for a convenient way in. Since no suitable entrance point has been forthcoming, I am left with no option other than to charge blindly in, and to let the words steer their own course. F**k it. It’s a blog. Directionless busking is what we do.

*pause*

*writes a couple of sentences*

*deletes them*

*stares into space*

*checks Bloglines for updates*

*cleans the kitchen*

*returns to laptop*

*re-opens MS Word*

*stares at screen*

*sighs*

*says yes to a sandwich*

*decides to do what he’s best at: copying and pasting*

Don’t worry, I’m not going all Eurovision on you just yet…

…partly because, oh dearie me, this is far from a vintage year. Far too many post-Lordi macho rock guitars for starters, and what good are those to any self-respecting Eurovision fan? And also, cramming a record twenty-eight songs into the Thursday night qualifier is un peu de trop, even by my near-fanatical standards.

However, I am taken by the Bulgarian chorus of “More pee!”, and by the swishy young mister from Belarus:

bru_koldun“This blue-eyed brunet was born on 11th June 1985 in Minsk, Belarus. His mother, the founder of Princess Diana’s Belarusian fan-club, had always dreamed of having a daughter who would look like Diana. Amazingly, her dream partly came true. She had a handsome little boy with a striking resemblance to the Princess, who from early childhood exhibited phenomenal abilities in music, literature and even science.”

Mister Belarus’s chorus runs thusly:

“You set my beating heart in motion, when you cast your loving potion over me.”

I wonder if he’s been to Bulgaria recently?

Sorry.

Posts that I will probably, oh come on let’s face it, never get round to writing.

1. A detailed appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of last.fm, which I have spent the past few days grappling with, in a concerted attempt to Get The Point Of The Blessed Thing.

Instead of all that, I offer you My last.fm “Loved Tracks” Radio Station. Please note that, in order to get the thing working, I have had to stretch the definition of the word “Loved”. (But they’re all dead good, I promise.) Please also note that tracks play at random, so the sequencing may be a little strange. Please also note that selections are limited to tracks that are available for full-length streaming via last.fm, which narrows the scope dramatically. (But they’re still all dead good tracks, honest.)

2. An in-depth examination of class-consciousness, middle class guilt, chips on shoulders versus silver spoons, my extended family’s unusually complex relationship with existing class structures, and my own crashing snobbery as regards Deep Suburbia and the passive-aggressive competitiveness of the Organic Vegetable Delivery set. (“Number 23 only got carrots this week. We got kohlrabi!”)

3. Advice that, with the wisdom of hindsight, I would give to my deeply unhappy 16 year-old self – with references to the recent Virginia shootings, which have stirred up some uncomfortable memories of my own adolescent revenge fantasies.

4. Our Big Day Out in London Town on Friday, featuring a learned dissertation on the Hogarth exhibition at Tate Britain, followed by an amusing series of vignettes centred around shopping for outfits in Savile Row, and culminating in K’s Grand Theory that the juxtaposition of High Society and Low Life in Hogarth’s work is mirrored by the contrast between Gieves & Hawkes and Abercrombie & Fitch. But then, he was more than a little drunk by then.

5. More amusing vignettes centered around last week’s Nuru Kane concert at the Djanogly Theatre. The line “We could be teachers, just for one day” would cause particular amusement, as would K’s crashing snobbery re. the predominantly academic audience (Little Miss Anthropy had definitely come out to play). We were also much taken by the Health and Safety sign at the edge of the Univeristy lake, which said DANGER: WATER.

Yeah, like I’d ever have got round to any of those…

Update (1): OK, I’ll do ONE of them. Namely, the one that gets the most votes in the comments box by the end of today. In certain blogging circles, this is known as “doing a Scaryduck“. Nowt new under t’sun, etc etc.

Update (2): The matter is settled. By an overwhelming consensus, the Number Twos have it. A meditation on Class Issues will therefore be along in a wee while.

Sunshine, balance, lurrve.

Sunday night, Derbyshire.

K, getting into bed: I don’t think I like the tone of your latest Twitter.

Mike: What, because you were away for most of it? But darling, your return was the shattering climax to the whole weekend! The cherry on top of the cake!

K: God, you’re good at thinking on your feet…

Mike: That’s not fair! I thought it up five minutes ago, doing my teeth. I knew you’d sneak a peek on your way up…

K: Hahahaha!

M: Hahahaha!


Friday evening, Nottingham.

With K away at a Vet Fest in Brum, the city’s nightlife is mine for the plucking. Why, I could go anywhere.

So, the Lord Roberts then.

I’m trying out my new(ish) vari-focal contact lenses again, for the first time in several weeks, because I’ll be damned if anyone’s going to see me in a gay pub on a Friday night with specs on. I don’t like this slow drift towards becoming a full time specs wearer, even though these are the best pair of specs I’ve ever owned. Not that I have any aesthetic objection towards full-time specs wearers per se – reader, I married one – but unlike my fragrant Civil Partner, my specs are not a fundamental part of who I am. Quite the reverse, in fact. And in any case, I’d quite like to be in with a theoretical chance of being cruised. Even if only for a split second: ooh he’s nice, whoops, bit older than I thought. Yes, that would do me for the evening. Simple needs. Unchained from that particular lunatic a good few years ago. (*)

Trouble is, these lenses have half-blinded me. The gas lamps in The Park were the trippiest; great whooshing coronas flickering all around, like rushing on a pill, sans the anxiety attacks. In the pub, I can barely see JP’s mouth across the table. He’s a fast talker, and I’m struggling with ambient noise, and my ears must be due a sluicing anyway. I didn’t realise how much I’d been relying on lip-reading. Half-blind, half-deaf, and for all I know I could be the Hottest Stud in the pub, except how would I know a thing like that in my condition?

I settle for being the Enigmatic Stud in the corner who never returns glances.

Not that I’m in the right place for that kind of caper. As a gay venue, the Lord Roberts has possibly the most de-sexualised atmosphere of any bar I’ve ever visited, in over 25 years of Outness and Proudness (excepting maybe the Retro Bar in London). That’s a large part of why I like it here. You can come down with your mates, get a decent pint of bitter (I know!), grab a table and settle down for an extended natter, and all without any of that ghastly business whereby everyone keeps glancing distractedly over your shoulder while you’re talking to them. Soft lighting, comfy chairs, traditional theatre-pub decor, no belting club music, no selfish superficial arseholes… how many other British cities are blessed with a gay venue like this one? We take it for granted, but we’re lucky to have it.


Friday night/Saturday morning, Nottingham.

(*) Believe that, and you’ll believe anything. Dot. Dot. Dot.


Saturday afternoon, Derbyshire.

This is the first time I’ve ever taken a taxi from Derby station to the cottage, and on this hot, sunny, glorious day, I’m enjoying the raised view that the Hackney carriage seating affords, adding extra detail to the familiar journey. As the bulky vehicle pushes further into the countryside, leaving its familiar city-suburb-city routes ever further behind, and looking ever more incongruous with its surroundings, so my awareness of jumping between two worlds is similarly heightened.

Past Kedleston: hotel, golf club, National Trust hall, and that fine old red brick wall which even now refuses to yield what lies inside. Through the bland commuter village of Weston Underwood; through Mugginton – Lane End, with its perplexing, mildly irksome free-floating hyphen and its closed-for-refurb pub with the Oo-er Missus name; left at Hulland Ward, gateway to the Peak park; right towards the ersatz Countryside Leisure Experience that is the Carsington Water reservoir (a useful trap for the Derby day-trippers, plodding dutifully in their hundreds along its featureless banks); a wiggle and a twist, and aah, here’s where we start, on the approach to Bradbourne, as the landscape closes in around us on the narrowing lane with its treacherous bends, and the green becomes greener, and the hills steeper, and the valleys deeper, and the blossom whiter, and the lambs friskier (mmm, locally sourced shanks from the White Peak butcher!), and here’s the church where Alan Bates is buried, and it’s not far to go now as the road descends and the home valley opens up ahead, offering the first faint glimpses of the village, and is the cab driver enjoying this as much as I am, thirty minutes outside the city, not a clue where he is, but what a perfect afternoon for a mystery tour, and here we are at last, thirty quid and five for your trouble, you’re best off heading back towards the A515 and straight through Ashbourne, ah you know it from there do you, good stuff…

…and the garden looks a picture. Best year yet. We’re beginning to know what we’re doing at last, we started preparing in good time, and as it enters its fourth year, the planting is coming to maturity. The mulch is down; the roses are pruned, trained and sprayed; the bare patches on the corners of the lawns are filling in; the hardy geraniums are creeping through the circular grid supports; the smaller daffs are still in full bloom; the first of the tulips are popping out; the hot reds, dusty purples and dusky pinks dotted down one side are melding together and making sense; and for now, there’s nothing to do except pull out a chair and relax, letting it all get on with the simple process of growing.

So glad I came. Even as recently as a year ago, I wouldn’t have bothered, seizing my chance for two nights on the razz in preference to all of this wonder and delight. Our pride and our joy, truly.

Tune out, switch off, settle down.

I don’t even bother rigging up the laptop.

Post-jadedness ensues.

Chig’s UK50 Eurovision Vote-a-thon.

uk50f-worldofchigCliff, Lulu, or Belle and the Devotions?
Kathy Kirby, Kenneth McKellar, or Katrina and the Waves?
Rikki, Ryder, or Live Report?
Patricia Bredin, Pearl and Teddy, or Bryan Johnson?

Over at World of Chig, your votes are requested for the splendid UK50 Project, in which all fifty of the United Kingdom’s Eurovision entries are presented for your examination, in a vote-driven knockout competition. Each day, three songs are presented as an MP3 medley, with Youtube clips to match. Your task is to rank each selection in order of preference, and to cast your votes accordingly.

Apologies for not linking this sooner. However, there’s still time to start at the beginning and work your way through.

Who wins? Who goes? You decide!

(NB: Chig’s lovely logo was designed by my blogdaddy David – formerly of Swish Cottage, and now to be found on various Web 2.0 sites such as this one and this one.)

A little experiment with Johari windows.

To what extent do other people see us as we see ourselves? Here’s a way of finding out. Bearing in mind some of the topics which I cover in the post below this one, this feels like a particularly appropriate moment…

Whether you “know” me offline or not, please follow this link and select five or six words which you think describe me the best. I’ve already picked my own. Be as complimentary or as critical as you like; the experiment works best if you’re as honest as possible.

You will then be taken to a page which compares my perceptions of my personality with yours, by dividing the words that been chosen into four categories:

“Arena” – known to self, known to others.
“Facade” – known to self, not known to others.
“Blind Spot” – known to others, not known to self.
“Unknown” – words that haven’t been picked by anybody.

(Thanks to Meg for the heads-up.)

Update: For the more critically minded, and for those who felt that the available choices were overly complimentary, I dare you to try the Nohari window. Come on, I can take it! Remember that “Anonymous” feature!

Statement of Jadedness.

Apologies for the hastily written and somewhat confusing post below this one, my dear dear friends. I’ve had concerned e-mails and everything! Bless your hearts!

My recent extended blog silence can mostly be attributed to the usual, fairly routine reasons. Firstly, I did feel somewhat out of sorts for most of last week. If I were the sort of person who was given to talking about mis-aligned energies, then I’d say that my energies were decidedly mis-aligned – not to say severely depleted by the rigours of being stuck with an exceptionally repetitive and mind-sapping work task. (Still ongoing, and in danger of wearing out my CTRL, C and V keys.)

I then proceeded to spend the Easter weekend focusing on matters which took me far away from the laptop – and indeed, as far away as possible from the deafening hum of the accursed de-humidifers. (The affected walls in the morning room are still only down to 80% humidity, so there’s a way to go yet.) Thus did a brief bout of Blogger’s Block morph into a recuperative spell of Blogger’s Holiday.

Added to this, a right old tangle of distinctly jaded thoughts have been swirling round inside my head. These have arisen from various sources, but none of them have been of a particularly personal nature. Ordering them into some sort of coherent Statement of Jadedness Think Piece may well turn out to be a futile task – but let’s have a bash, and see where it takes us.


If you’ve been out and about in Blogland over the past week or so, then you may well have stumbled across the news of a recent court case, in which a UK blogger was found guilty of conducting an eleven-month campaign of harassment against another UK blogger. (I’m deliberately not linking directly, but the whole gob-smacking story can be accessed through the shortlist for last week’s Post of the Week.) The harasser’s weapons included a deluge of abusive and threatening e-mails, accompanied by a similar deluge of malicious and defamatory blog posts and blog comments. The allegations levelled by the harasser against her victim (and indeed against many other people over the past few years) are highly detailed and deeply wounding, clearly intended to cause severe damage to both personal and professional reputations. Since they have been repeated over a network of interlinking blogs, calculated to raise their visibility in search engines, these allegations now show up on the first page of Google searches for several of the victims in question. As such, they are clearly visible not just to the victims’ friends, relatives and colleagues, but also to any potential employers or clients who might be conducting some elementary research. Meanwhile, having failed to show up for her court case, and despite bail conditions which expressly forbade her from using the Internet, the convicted harasser continues to repeat her charges on her main blog, continuously and obsessively, whilst on the run from the authorities.

Two aspects of the case have been particularly troubling me. Firstly, the harasser has never actually met her victim in person, but instead has built up her impression of the victim’s character almost entirely by reading her blog posts and making her own subjective interpretations. The harasser now claims that her own blog forms her legal defence. Not her testimony, but her actual defence. It is as if, by committing her wild and unfounded allegations to a publicly available blog, her words are somehow granted some sort of additional legitimacy. The whole mindset is manifestly delusional, but one of its chief delusions is to substitute online relationships – which can only ever be partial – for fully fleshed relationships in the real world.

Secondly, there would appear to be no mechanism for removing the offending blogs, now that their author has been found guilty of harassment. The allegations live on, and nothing can be done to get rid of them. As the blogs are hosted on the free Blogspot service by Google/Blogger – a US company – Google/Blogger are bound only by US law, and not by British law. This is the standard reply which complainants can expect to receive:

Hi there,

Thank you for writing in regarding content posted on BlogSpot.com. We would like to confirm that we have received and reviewed your inquiry.

Blogger.com and Blogspot.com are US sites regulated by US law. Blogger is a provider of content creation tools, not a mediator of that content. We allow our users to create blogs, but we don’t make any claims about the content of these pages. Given these facts, and pursuant with section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act, Blogger does not remove allegedly defamatory, libelous, or slanderous material from Blogger.com or BlogSpot.com. If a contact email address is listed on the blog, we recommend you working directly with the author to have the content in question removed or changed.

Sincerely,
The Blogger Team

The only example that springs to mind of Blogger actually taking action over “objectionable content” concerns an extreme homophobic hate blog called Kill Batty Man, which attempted to incite its readers to murder gay men. Even then, the blog ran for a year before such action was taken, and it took a major outcry from major league A-listers before anything was done. (More details here.)

Meanwhile, a prominent US tech-blogger has recently gone public over a series of abusive and threatening comments which have caused her to fear for her own personal safety, and to cancel her public speaking engagements. In the fall-out from all of this – which has been immense – some people have accused her of hysterical publicity seeking, while others have set about drafting a high-minded “Code of Conduct” for bloggers. (It is this latter initiative which Unreliable Witness skewers so deliciously, thus saving me the effort of constructing a skewering of my own.)

Once again, most of these people have never actually met each other. All the abuse, all the second-guessing, all the amateur psychological profiling – it has all been constructed from reading blog posts, forming assumptions based on subjective interpretations, and gathering so much popular support for those assumptions that they begin to look as if they have real substance behind them.

It’s precisely the same mindset that fuels the various bands of conspiracy theorists for whom the “social web” provides such a fertile breeding ground. Cherry-pick your material, garnish it with prejudice, spin it into the juicy narrative of your choice, and defend your position ruthlessly, without need for further question.


OK, time to scale things down a good few notches, in order to illustrate a wider point.

A couple of weeks ago, I began to worry about the apparent disappearance of a normally prolific UK blogger: not someone whom I read regularly, but someone whom I “know” from my various excursions within Blogland, and who is quite a well-known figure within her own particular sphere. I needed to speak to her about something – but she wasn’t returning e-mails, and her blog had fallen silent. I decided to Google around for clues.

Almost immediately, I discovered that this blogger had signed up for various “social networking” and “community building” sites, of the sort that are generally identified with the whole “Web 2.0” phenomenon. (Here’s the Wikipedia entry for Web 2.0.) Many of these sites are based around the concept of registering for the service in question, selecting a name and a small identifying graphic (or “avatar”), filling in a simple descriptive profile (gender/location/interests), and building up a social network of “friends”, who have also registered for the service.

This particular blogger certainly wasn’t short of “friends”, and yet none of them seemed to be remarking upon her disappearance. Well, why would they? After all – and I don’t mean to castigate these people in any way, but this goes to the heart of the matter – they’re not her friends.

Nevertheless, there was something both poignant and troubling about scrolling through all these public declarations of “friendship”, which didn’t seem to amount to much more than a hill of beans. For me, it gave the lie to the whole concept of Web 2.0 and “social software”. Because friendship – true friendship – is based around a good deal more than assembling a reassuring little cluster of avatars on a web page – as if they were stamps, or realistic indicators of popularity.

True friendship is when your real life neighbours interrupt their Friday night dinner party to spend two hours helping you shift piles of soaking wet plaster from your collapsed ceiling, in their best clothes, with smiles on their faces. It’s not saying “Check out this link!”, or “Nice avatar!”, or “Ooh, I like Coldplay too!”

(She was fine, by the way. An actual friend of hers e-mailed me, and put my mind at rest.)

OK, so you and I are sentient, emotionally intelligent human beings who can easily distinguish the virtual world from the real world. But when you’re taking a quick break in the office, are you more likely to hook up with your online “friends”, or to turn round and talk to the flesh-and-blood people at the row of desks behind you? Which is the default option? Who knows you best? With whom do you have the most in common? In such instances, would you rather be your real life self, or the idealised avatar-based approximation of yourself? And on those occasions when you do meet up with your fellow bloggers in real life, do you ever find yourself “acting out” your online personality, staying true to that avatar? How do you address each other, if one or the other of you writes under a pseudonym? Does it feel more appropriate to continue using the pseudonym, because switching to real names seems a little too forward? And what of those Myspace types, eagerly amassing hundreds of “friends”, some of whom genuinely do seem to be confusing virtual and real life notions of social interaction?

With our shiny Web 2.0 “friendships”, we can eradicate the awkwardness, the mess, the sweat, the lumps, the bumps and the peculiar dark corners, in favour of edited and idealised representations of ourselves. If we’re not careful, these ersatz relationships can start to feel more appealing than the real thing. And if we’re prone to certain ways of thinking, then these illusions can easily convert into delusions.

Reality check: over the course of the past five and a half years, many of the people whom I have met through blogging have graduated into Proper Real Life Version 1.0 Friends. And that’s great. Seriously great. But couldn’t we come up with more fitting words than “friend”, “neighbour” and “community” to describe our Web 2.0 interactions? Or would such a shift fatally undermine the business models that are springing up in the wake of this latest attempt at a paradigm shift?

(Ooh, I think I feel a conspiracy theory coming on! Who’s with me?)

I am temporarily breaking my blogging silence,,,

to link to this post, which brought me quite near to actual, physical, whooping. Were I of the Northern American persuasion, it might even have pushed me over the brink.

One of the reasons (but by no means the only reason) why I have been maintaining a blogging silence is that, were I to break it, I would find myself having to write an over-long, over-wrought and highly jaundiced piece about The State Of The Blogging Nation, and my disenchantment with certain aspects of the whole Web 2.0 mindset – particularly its largely illusory re-appropriation of the concept of “friendship”. Consider this as a substitute.

That “Woman’s Hour” April Fool post: were you had?

Judging by some of the earliest comments I received, a fair number of you were taken in, if only temporarily, by yesterday’s seasonally appropriate drollery. I’d apologise, but K and I are still pissing ourselves laughing about it (it was a joint conspiracy, conceived over supper on Friday night).

The clues were there all along, though. “Ria Poloff”, a woman about whom Google knows nothing, is an anagram of… well, I don’t propose to insult your intelligence (MWA HA HA!) by spelling it out. And check out the final sentence of the post: “If I merely sound foolish, then please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Mind you, that last one did rather rebound on me.

Mike, you’ve chosen something really complicated here as it involves trying to modify your own voice, putting on an accent, and the most important part which is conveying the humour of the piece. I think that you’d be more successful if you just work with the third aspect because, for me, the first two parts, are getting in the way of the third.

What, like I’m NOT FUNNY OR SOMETHING? You wanna STEP OUTSIDE AND SAY THAT?

Ahem. Well, anyway. As you will have spotted, I didn’t exactly go to great lengths to Femme Up my little recitation. This is mainly because, when I experimented with a full-on falsetto treatment, the results were so painfully jarring that it just wouldn’t have been fair to inflict them upon you for the full four and a half minutes. So I went for a sort of Home Counties Lesbian In Sensible Shoes approach instead, concentrating mainly on eradicating all traces of Northern from my speaking voice. (K thought I sounded like the transsexual travel writer Jan Morris. I can live with that.)

Having said that, the recording did bear some of the hallmarks of a Rush Job; indeed, I ended up using the first full take. This was because I was using the only room in the cottage with a) a decent acoustic and b) an absence of those f**king de-humidifiers (or Dementors as I now call them, as they SUCK THE JOY out of everything around them). This meant banishing K to the upstairs bedroom for the duration, as I am a complete Prima Donna who Cannot Possibly Be Expected To Rehearse In Front Of An Audience. However, as I am also a Prima Donna With A Guilty Conscience About Banishing My Lover To A Cold And Lonely Place, I ended up spending less time on the recording than perhaps I should have done.

(Also, those “Hungarian” comedy accents were sheer bloody murder on the throat. How I suffer for your entertainment.)

My thanks to those of you who played along, and especially to Lionel for coming up with Ria Pollof’s reply.

Extra special thanks to Abby “One Track” Lee, for agreeing to let me desecrate her oeuvre in the first place, and for being such a jolly good sport about it all.


 

However. All of this knockabout japery has given me another Medium Sized Idea. (OK, it gave Lucy a Medium Sized Idea, which converted to a Medium Sized Suggestion, for which I now propose to take all the credit.) Why don’t we do a Shaggy Blog Podcast?

So. If you’re a) featured in The Book and b) are tolerably OK at Reading Things Out Loud, then please e-mail me with a digitised reading of your contribution, and I’ll stitch together a podcasty thing.

Yes. That could be a nice little Easter Project for us all. Well, it beats drawing faces on boiled eggs…

Is this the beginning of the end for yucky DRM copy protection on legal downloads?

And is this the beginning of the beginning for decent sound quality on paid-for MP3s?

In both cases, and despite significant reservations regarding using this as an excuse to bump up the purchase price, I hope that the answer is Yes.

But for now, as always, I’ll be sticking to CDs for the music I care about, as opposed to the music about which I might display a fleeting curiosity.

Charity screening of An Inconvenient Truth, London, Sunday April 29.

Here at Troubled Diva, we only Do Adverts if they’re a) for friends and b) for worthy causes. This is one such rare occasion.

My good friend Sasha is embarking on a humanitarian aid mission to Moldova in May, and she needs to raise £5500 before she leaves. With over £2500 already raised in donations, she has decided to generate additional funds by arranging a one-off Sunday lunchtime screening of Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

As the film isn’t currently on general release, this might be an ideal time to catch it, and to sprinkle a little bit of philanthropic love-dust along the way.

The screening takes place at the Tricycle Cinema in Kilburn, London, at 12:30pm on Sunday April 29th. Tickets cost £12.50 (including nibbles), and can be booked by calling 020 7328 1000.

Full information can be found at www.sashinka.com/tricycle.

I’m fully aware that, y’know, linking to things is, like, soooo 2002. (Weblogs that link to things? Whoever heard of such an idea?) But nevertheless, it would be very cool (retro-cool, even) if you could spread the word.

Here, have an image for your sidebar.

inctruth29thbox

Here, have some HTML code to go with that.

<p><a href=”http://sashinka.com/tricycle/”><img src=”http://www.sashinka.com/tricycle/inctruth29thbox.jpg&#8221; width=”250″ border=”0″></a>

Image too big for your sidebar? If so, then take that width=”250″ down a few sizes.

Thank you. We now return you to your regular scheduled programming.

When Twitter is your only friend: a txt-based essay in desolation and despair.

Messages texted to Twitter between 1900 and 2120 last night:


Back in nottingham for tonight’s sugababes show.


Walking past beverley knight’s performance in the new market square. Damn, that girl can sing…


My plus one appears to be a no show. His loss!


Having a moment of existential alienation in the half empty cheap seats. How dare they? Sharpening my blackest pencil. Also, cold.


Have just discovered that there’s another support act to endure after this one. Kill. Me. Now. I could still be in derbyshire, dammit…


They’ve locked the outside smoking area, and aren’t allowing pass outs. Bastards! Bang goes my one chance of fleeting pleasure…


Existential alienation swiftly converting to a generalised misanthropic loathing. I had more fun running for the train at derby station.


Anyway, where are the gays? I see no gays. They’re probably half a mile away, down the front, in the good seats.


I have seen a gay! He is wearing a sparkly silver cowboy hat and is waving glow sticks. I feel a warm surge of kinship.


Oh. The “gay” is actually a glow stick seller, working the pre teen market. I feel a cold twist of betrayal.


Woo! It’s sugababes time at long bloody last! I shall shut up now. Thank you for “being there” for me during this time of trial.


…and here’s my decidedly sour review, which originally appeared in the Nottingham Evening Post.

The Sugababes – Nottingham Arena, Sunday April 1.

With sixteen Top 20 hits under their belts over the past seven years, including five Number Ones, The Sugababes can lay claim to being Britain’s most successful girl group since the Spice Girls. To mark this, their first arena tour has been billed as a Greatest Hits show, and thus a celebration of their achievements to date.

After a long wait, and just as the audience’s patience was wearing thin, the girls finally took to the stage at 9.20, and proceeded to rattle off nineteen numbers in just over an hour and twenty minutes – a bare minimum of performance time for a show of this scale. Backed by a simple four piece band, and surrounded by a barrage of wonderfully stylish computer-generated light patterns, they quickly proved themselves as confident, powerful live singers.

That said, there was little of interest in the vocal arrangements, which stuck fairly rigidly to the melodies, leaving little scope for creative flair. Although the three voices meshed together well, the three personalities behind the voices seemed oddly detached throughout. For a girl group to succeed on stage, there needs to be some sense of a team spirit – that this is a gang of best friends, who stick together and support each other. Bananarama and The Spice Girls had it; Girls Aloud have it in spades; but The Sugababes seemed all but strangers to each other, occupying their own separate spaces, and barely acknowledging each others’ presence.

As the sole remaining original member, Keisha seemed very much the leader of the group, with the strongest vocal presence. Balancing her aloof attitude, Heidi was all smiles throughout, while “new girl” Amelle stayed mostly in the background, never stealing the limelight, knowing her place.

Only during a stripped-down Ugly did anything resembling true passion bubble to the surface. The rest was competent, professional, but disappointingly sterile.

Shaggy Blog Stories raises over £2000 in 17 days for Comic Relief.

A few minutes ago, my esteemed colleague JP made the 451st purchase of Shaggy Blog Stories, thus nudging the total money raised over the £2000 mark. Considering that the book has only been on sale for 17 days, and considering that it has received only minimal publicity in broadcast and print media, this is a remarkable achievement.

A brief moment of self-congratulation may now be countenanced.

(Incidentally, I hope you’re all still keeping an eye on that eye-popping Flickr pool. Cleavage! Nudity! Prosthetics! Banjoes!)

Shaggy Blog Stories on BBC Radio 4?

Update: The following story is 100% untrue. Were YOU April Fooled? Oh, I do hope so…

Well, this is all very exciting. On Friday afternoon, I received the following e-mail from the BBC:

Dear Troubled Diva,

My name is Ria Pollof, and I work for the “Woman’s Hour” programme on Radio Four. I have recently heard about your “Shaggy Blog Stories” book, and would very much like to feature it on our show. As I expect you will already know, several leading media analysts have already dubbed 2007 as “The Year of the Blog”, and we here at “Woman’s Hour” are most keen to reflect this growing phenomenon.

I have been told that you already have radio experience, and so I would like you to consider the following proposal. Would you be prepared to record a series of spoken extracts from the book, that we could serialise as part of our “Book of the Week” feature? Obviously, we would prefer it if you could restrict your choices to work from other women bloggers such as yourself.

Sadly, we would be unable to pay you for your contribution. However, this could be great publicity for the book!

Please call me on [contact details removed] to discuss this idea further.

Kind regards,
Ria Pollof
Woman’s Hour

As I say, all very exciting – but perhaps you might have spotted a slight flaw in Ria’s proposal.

She thinks I’m a woman.

Deal breaker? Originally, I thought so. Now, I’m not so sure. After all, this would indeed be “great publicity for the book”. All I have to do is convince Ria and her team that I Am A Lady.

This is where you come in. Seeing as it’s a Sunday, and that no-one from “Woman’s Hour” will be at work today, we’ve got just enough time to run a little experiment. As I’ll almost certainly be removing this post before Monday morning, you’d better be quick.

Take a listen to this reading from The Book, which I recorded in the cottage yesterday afternoon. Does it sound sufficiently female? Could I “pass”? Please let me know in the comments. And if I merely sound foolish, then please don’t hesitate to let me know.