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  2011.12.12  21.59
Find and replace my boyfriend

When I read this article, it wasn't the content that made me shiver as though I'd ice-cubed my dorsal ridge, but the amendment note:

This article was amended on Sunday 4 December. In the original, "danger" was misspelt as "benger" on two occasions. This has been corrected

By coincidence, I'd been find-and-replacing the names of half the characters in my current fiction project that day. So I realised the derivation of 'benger' sooner than I might otherwise have.
The line above that amendment announcement was also a hint: 'Names have been changed'.
The boyfriend in the article was called 'Ben'. The boyfriend was, presumably, previously called Dan. The author find-and-replaced Dan into pseudonymity, but didn't select 'whole words only'. 'Benger' was born (but thankfully not Benish bacon, Bente's Inferno, and bendling the children on one's knee).

I've done it myself. Matted hair becomes timed hair, understanding becomes underdenisding. It's a tricky problem, which could easily become a treggie psamlem.


  2011.01.05  12.35
Writing about writing 1

I'm about to print off the first 2/3 of the novel I've been working on. I'm excited! So excited that the urge to CUT CORNERS comes over me.
E.g. one scene needs a change of location, before I print it. It'll only take twenty lines so and some proofreading but I'm so tempted to take a lesson from fanfiction preambles and just put 'OK RIGHT THIS BIT IS SET ON TEH EIFFEL TOWER RITE'.


Posted on Dreamwidth also (http://slightlycanted.dreamwidth.org/2455.html, with comment count unavailable comments so far). Comment wherever you'd like to.


  2011.01.02  19.39
Loaded phrases

There was a joke on The Adam and Jo Show about the film The English Patient. From shonky memory:

Chap A: Look at these ancient cave paintings - these people lived amazingly communally, sharing everything, with no property...
Chap B: What does that mean?
Chap A: It means I'm going to have sex with your wife.

I thought of this while watching the updated Upstairs, Downstairs, set in the late 1930s, on the telly on Monday. I'd feared that the episode would be all about the sauce, because people tend to make things new and updated and 21st C by adding sauce. 'Dickens... with the sex!' say the cover blurbs, as though what was really missing from Chas. D. was the word 'moist'.
Upstairs, Downstairs was much more restrained than I'd expected, but every line felt to me like the Adam and Jo parody:

Posh girl: You know, Fascism is going to break down class barriers. I'm glad.
Chauffeur: What does that mean, Milady?
Posh girl: It means I'm going to have sex with you.

Refugee maid: Marriage makes a woman holy to her husband. But with the distance, I feel - less holy.
Art Malik, playing a secretary: What does that mean?
Refugee maid: That eventually I will accept your offer of tea, and we will have sex.

That was just a drop in the ocean of loaded lines compared to the episode of The Archers I've just heard. It was the show's 60th anniversary, and every other line seemed to stamp doom on some much-loved characters' head. I think my favourite was 'I'll get us to the hospital, if I have to run a few red lights to do it!' but hyper-vigilance started to colour even lines like 'What is Kenton doing with the children?' (THRESHING MACHINE). I feel toyed with.

Posted on Dreamwidth also (http://slightlycanted.dreamwidth.org/2289.html, with comment count unavailable comments so far). Comment wherever you'd like to.


  2010.12.22  15.22
Creative writing courses/groups?

In the New Year I'd like to add some formality to my creative writing. Has anyone had good experiences with:

- courses in London - I don't think I want to go as big as an MA but anything up to Cert level including non-HE stuff.
- writer's groups (in London, or any that you've been to elsewhere that helped, and how to spot which ones might)

I know about Arvon courses but am not sure I can (or want to) shell out for them.

I would like something that involves criticism and discussion and a minimal amount of artsy mumbling - I'm not really finding my voice and freeing my imagination, more rigorously editing my voice and working out the key flaws of my imagination so I can stamp on them.

I understand that structured creative writing sessions can be very useful, and have only been put off by previous experience of:
- an undergraduate course with a Marxist playwright tutor ceaselessly complaining about the right-wing conspiracy which kept his work from being published and performed.
Originator of a very bad in-class writing exercise: 'Have twenty minutes, you're going to write about... HOLOCAUST.' [Stunned incredulous looks.] 'I mean, it doesn't have to be THE Holocaust. Remember at the end of The Great Gatsby when it says 'The holocaust was over?''
I am annoyed that I had not the nerve (or maybe didn't want to throw the man a rope) to point out that Gatsby was written before THE Holocaust, and that since the article became definite, people have been less cavalier about chucking the term around.

- a creative writing group which would nod thoughtfully and send up a sonorous Hmmm if you read a shopping list out with sufficient gravitas.

Any recommendations gratefully received.

Posted on Dreamwidth also (http://slightlycanted.dreamwidth.org/1956.html, with comment count unavailable comments so far). Comment wherever you'd like to.


  2010.11.25  13.56
Tarting up the seasonal home

I have no wintersparkle decorations and I want to make some. I favour biodegradable and/or scrap materials. I'm reasonably handy. Any ideas?

Also, any ideas of nice shapes, signs, motifs or symbols? I don't have a faith; this impoverishes my symbolic landscape a bit, when I'm staring at some felt and wondering in what pattern to glue the glitter. I like stars and labyrinths and ampersands. I wouldn't say no to runes. Any other ideas?

So far, things to hang off a tree/branch:

Star twiglets (small twigs tied together with nice yarn)
Pompoms from scrap wool
Stars made from twisted paper, and other origami-style adventures
Jazzed up pinecones, if there are any still lying around in parks, which I doubt
Fabric bows with beads
Conkers on strings? Painted gold? I have a large jar of conkers
Felt shapes and figures (owls, penguins, stars)
Clay or salt dough shapes, figures, radical slogans
Painted blown eggs

And also paper chains and paper snowflake strings.

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  2010.10.26  21.13
Giving the Bones to Someone Who Appreciate Bones

Edited to correct: I NO LONGER have two books by Natalie Goldman (author of Writing Down the Bones) which I don't want: Wild Mind and Thunder and Lightening, both on creative writing. SORRY!

Posted on Dreamwidth also (http://slightlycanted.dreamwidth.org/1481.html, with comment count unavailable comments so far). Comment wherever you'd like to.


  2010.09.28  11.36
Making bisexuality boring since 1992

It was Bisexual Visibility Day last week, and I posted this, then took it dow, fearing it was a bit rainbow-coloured-wholemeal-snowflake. But people said it wasn't as bad as that, so I'm putting it back up.

I'm interested in the way bisexuality gets used a lot as a complicating factor to show when Things are too rigid. It crops up in discussions of change, fluidity, indeterminacy (very much in books I read when I was about 21 - I recall one in particular with aquatic blotches on the cover).
It's a worthy cause: I do think that sexuality is culturally oversimplified, and that it often changes enormously along the life course. Also, that life is complex: that people's proclaimed identities have to be more clear-cut than their lived experiences. If you can point at a bisexual to make all this visible, maybe that's good, if you've asked nicely.

I find it amusing, though, because I am pretty un-fluid and immobile. I am a scorchingly monotonous bisexual. I realised I was bi at 16, and I still am, and the way I experience it hasn't changed much. I've mapped my context much further, which must have changed me, but not (that I've noticed) in striking ways.

So for me, bisexuality has never been the elusive, nebulous, shifting thing that slips out of systems and proves them too rigid. For me, it's been a fixed point.
It still proves Things are too rigid, though. I am, in minor ways, regularly wrongfooted, divided, squeezed, or not quite heard. However, I experience myself as steady, whole, solid, coherent. Like a fixed pebble that has been here for ages, which the stream seems permenantly surprised to encounter.

Posted on Dreamwidth also (http://slightlycanted.dreamwidth.org/1209.html, with comment count unavailable comments so far). Comment wherever you'd like to.


  2010.09.14  21.13
Lots of bands with 'wolf' in the name.

I went to my first festival at the weekend, in a garden built by a Victorian atheist to entice people away from church on a Sunday. He ran free coach trips from nearby towns. They'd deck the woods with Vauxhall lamps, and the writer Thomas Hardy declared it 'Quite the prettiest site I ever saw in my life' (there was a young lady involved, there usually is with Hardy). There are woods and small enclosures, bats and follies, and peacocks apparently not fussed by large crowds or basslines, including tiny baby peacocks with proud fuzzy brown crests.

Read more...Collapse )

Posted on Dreamwidth also (http://slightlycanted.dreamwidth.org/733.html, with comment count unavailable comments so far). Comment wherever you'd like to.


  2010.09.08  08.59
Tooled up on Baker Street

On Dr Watson's first adventure with Sherlock Holmes, the laconic consulting detective asks him:

"Have you any arms?"
"I have my old service revolver and a few cartridges."
"You had better clean it and load it..."

A few years later, in The Sign of Four Holmes asks him:

"Have you a pistol, Watson?"
"I have my old service-revolver in my desk."
"You had best take it, then..."

Suggested reasons for Holmes' amnesia and this near-repetition:
- Conan Doyle is notorious for his continuity errors (possibly only because he has been so diligently scrutinised by his fans).
- it's been a long while since H & W needed to pack a piece: all their adventures in between the two tales have involved firm but polite negotiation and a lot of goodwill on both sides.
- whether Watson has come correct is one of the things that Holmes has forgotten in order to store more important information in his elegant noggin.
- Holmes was really hoping Watson would have bought more, and better, guns by now. "Have you a pistol, Watson?" "A pistol, Holmes? Why, I have a pocket-sized Smith and Wesson and a sawn-off Winchester! Take your pick!" Had I been Watson, always following Holmes into scrapes, I suspect I would have upgraded by the time of The Sign of Four; 'trusty' is the preferred adjective for service-revolvers, but he might have been better off with 'sneaky', 'shiny' or 'totally lethal'.

I like repetitions in fiction. I spotted one in The Well of Loneliness - a whole identical sentence on the 'terrible nerves of the invert' - and Neil Bartlett's pointed out that large chunks of Dorian Gray are repeated. They could be traces of the editing process. They could be the author returning without realising, because a phrase seemed really important, or satisfying. Either interests me.

Posted on Dreamwidth also (http://slightlycanted.dreamwidth.org/274.html, with comment count unavailable comments so far). Comment wherever you'd like to.


  2010.09.01  10.50

I was having a very pleasant time at BiCon but I was, I think, unusually vague, over-stylised and lapsing into verbal shorthand. Exacerbating that, everyone else looked pretty sleep-deprived.
So I thought I'd put up this post, with filtered comments - I'm not fishing for filth, but you can say hello, and clear up minor misunderstandings by asking me questions such as:

- did your hair change colour half way through the weekend, or did something go wrong with my eyes?
- do you always carry that much cheese around with you? Does it give an air of bad faith to your conversations about 'totally trying veganism maybe this Winter yeah'?
- you said something inexplicable. Please explic.
- it's slowly dawning on me that I have persistently confused you with three other people. Can I clarify which one of the quartet is you?
- how was the goats' cheese pizza with rosemary on Thursday? It looked yummy!
- you walked off with my pen/book/raison d'etre.
- what are you for? (Politically and/or functionally.)


  2010.07.02  09.43
London Pride tomorrow - come as you are.

Pride is fun, and Pride is about community getting information about politics and activism and meeting new people. And waving flags and wearing a stupid outfit and prancing down the main street as though you are some kind of Summer King. And smiling at people on public transport.
It's one of the things that transforms tiny rainbow lapel pins into hyperlinks - you see this? It's about all this.

(And a bi group are meeting on the Dorset Street/Baker Street corner at 12.30 for the parade - feel free to join us, whatever your sexuality.)

So I don't want to be all 'Come to London Pride tomorrow because straight people in a pub garden loudly insulted me last night on the basis of my perceived sexuality'.

But hey! Come to London Pride tomorrow (in part) because, dude, straight people in a pub garden loudly insulted me last night on the basis of my perceived sexuality!

But mainly, come to see my stupid outfit.

Edited to add: I assume they were straight, of course, but could be completely wrong.


  2010.05.26  09.41
Free radio comedy this evening

I've got two spare tickets for a radio comedy pilot on Wednesday: Will Smith (floppy-haired posh Bergerac fan) in a sit-com set-up (rocky marital relationship).

The tickets are free, so I am neither expecting cash or losing out if they're unused, but Radio 4 have been good to me so I'd like to find users.

Let me know if you'd like to come and pass on the message if you know someone else who would like it. Comments are screened.

Venue: BBC Radio Theatre, Broadcasting House, Portland Place London W1A 1AA
Admission on site from: 6:15pm
Admission to studio from: 7:15pm
Recording starts: 7:30pm



  2010.04.28  15.04
Wood skip wood skip wood skip

I have mentioned the art skip, in which art is placed around this time of year. Nothing awesome so far (can we beat the glittering heraldic shields or the space rocket from last year?).

Now campus has instigated a wood skip, just for wood. I was pleased. I need wood.

I wandered that way at lunch, and my complaints are:
- locals have become so urbanised no blighter knows what wood is. The skip's full of melamine-covered chipboard, which might count as wood in a pinch, but the metal beams and cigarette packets are inexplicable.
- what wood there is is not the size of wood I need (20cm by 110cm). I'm not fussy, I'll settle for pine, oak, precious hardwoods, ancient ships' timber, ballroom floorboards seasoned by years on a pier, mellow ecclesiastical pew-backs smelling of incense and beeswax. Anything you can stick a metre of books on top of with minimal sag. I'm even prepared to trim it down to size.

What's the point of living smugly and parasitically in the cracks of this shamefully wasteful society unless someone's shamefully wasting the exact thing I need when I need it?


  2010.03.25  15.12
Tickets for BBC comedy, this Friday

I've got four tickets for BBC comedy pilot, Wood Green, tomorrow night!
I *never* get BBC tickets! So had forgotten I'd applied for this show, and am unable to take them up on it.
Would anyone like them? It's at Wood Green, studio admissions from 7pm.

Happy to let them go in pairs. Please only ask if you're sure you'll go, or I'll get blacklisted and I'll never get to see The News Quiz. If nobody wants them I'll email them and send my apologies this evening. Comments screened.

It is for a pilot of new(ish) female comedy double-act Watson and Oliver.

(Caveats: It's still first-come, first served because many people [the cads] book tickets and don't turn up so they have to issue more than they have seats. They may quibble as to whether you're me, but I've never had to produce ID for the Radio Theatre.)


  2010.03.15  09.59
Solitary vices

Making the young people's music is accepted as often-collaborative (even though one member of a band sometimes carries the others). Creative writing is often assumed to be solitary (even though writing often takes editorial conversations, mutual inspirations, sounding boards etc.).

I think that's sad, because many an excellent creative partnership or group doesn't happen. Reading up on the Beats, one critic suggested that they only cam about because the young Allan Ginsberg was determined that his friends would be Genius writers. As the saying goes, I couldn't find the books I wanted to read, so I [put the screws on a friend until they] wrote them.

In brief, I really wish there were posters all over my campus inviting people to form artistic or intellectual movements. 'WE NEED A RENEGADE IMAGIST POET! Join our nascent hothouse. Influences include Bloomsbury, Beat, Violet Quill Club. NO DRUG-INFLUENCED AUTOETHNOGRAPHIC PSYCHOGEOGRAPHERS NEED APPLY.'


  2010.02.22  15.32
Photographers' and twitchers' event

Photography Workshop on urban wildlife. 10 quid unwaged, 30 quid waged, Saturday April 3rd. Breeding black redstarts in Deptford!

(Just because I don't comment on your pictures of flora and fauna doesn't mean I don't appreciate them. Bring on the unfurling ferns, guys, and don't skimp on the ducklings.)


  2010.02.22  11.41
Anything with a pulse

I'm trying to eat a bit less dairy. I've started a spreadsheet listing some of my favourite foods and my reasons for liking them to see what change I can easily achieve:

I like PIZZA because it is CONVENIENT AND COMFORTING so I might try freezing more non-cheesy but cosy meals for ease
I like YOGHURT because it is CREAMY so I might try using coconut cream when it's not going to mess up the flavours
I like CHEESE because it is CHEESE so I might try having some cheese for lunch oh lovely cheese

Not an unqualified success.
I'm approaching it as 'learning some more interesting recipes' rather than 'giving up X', as my ego is flattered by the idea of creative and studious enhancement, and my mammalbrain prefers MORE FUD rather than LESS FUD.

I say 'recipes' but what I'd really like are some dairy-free magic combinations - tastes, textures or methods that are just marvellous and which I may not already know. I wouldn't ever have thought of cumin and sprouts, for example, and they're fantastic. Or turmeric, green lentils and green peppers (individually, not my favourite lentil, vegetable or spice). Or methods - mashing celeriac with spuds (doesn't require butter, in my experience).

So - got any nice combinations of food, or techniques?

I understand it's pretty much compulsory, when discussing veg(etari)anism, to say 'Oh I could never give up [most beasts]' - and that's pretty much what I'm doing above - but I've listened to that conversation five times in the last month (mere presence of vegan colleague somehow forces other colleagues to reminisce about eating unspeakable parts of pigs). I'm not that squeamish, but if you get grim on purpose I will throw tofu at you.


  2010.02.19  16.57

Does anyone know somewhere, or someone through who, I could meet a ferret?

(Happy to go to a fete or a farm, donate to a charity, or chuck someone money for the experience.)

There are professional children's party 'animal experience' organisations, but I don't feel comfortable that most of the animals like it. And really? I admire mara and degu but I mainly just want to nuzzle a ferret.


  2010.02.12  11.10
Victorian filth

Had a seminar last night, teaching The Picture of Dorian Gray. The text, and the Wilde trials, prompted the question: what models of same-sex passion were available in the late Victorian era? What was happening, and who knew about it?

To answer, in part, I took the students three minutes up the road, to the site of a 19th Century male brothel. The older buildings were still intact on the even-numbered side of the Road, a stylish little mansion block and a dull brick terrace, but the odd side had been demolished, and the brothel had been number 19. Telecom Tower was looming and luminous above us; highly appropriate, as the brothel was initially brought the eyes of the law by a theft at the Telegraph Office. At 19 Cleveland Street, delivery boys were paid for sex with aristocrats, and possibly with Queen Victoria's grandson, the heir presumptive to the throne (Albert Victor, known as Eddy). Lenient sentences for the lads (two were wonderfully named Newlove and Thickbroom). Lord Somerset paid their defense and fled overseas.

Liberated from my natural surroundings (whiteboard and desks) I grew gossipy. It's tangentially relevant that Labouchere, author of the amendment that criminalised sex between men in 1885, was convinced there had been a cover-up. He was expelled from the House of Commons in 1990 for calling another MP a liar on the issue. I think I told them that.
It wasn't strictly relevant, however, that the investigating officer went on to lead the Jack the Ripper murders, another case which (definitely) involved sex work and (possibly) involved Prince Eddy and a big cover-up. I definitely told them that. I may as well have swished a big cape and adopted low melodramatic tones.

It revived in me old longings to be a tour guide - all the fun of showing off, none of the responsibility of ensuring one's group has met their Learning Outcomes.


  2010.02.10  17.23

Without sufficient comment, and mainly for my own record, an edition of Antennae (the Journal of Nature in Visual Culture) on botched taxidermy. Humans attempting to capture and replicate and do tribute to nature but only producing what Baker calls 'a moment of perplexity and non-recognition', a squiffy squirrel. There's my bedtime reading sorted.


  2010.02.08  15.29
Dr Who = gateway drug to queerness WHO KNEW.

There's an auction of Dr Who gear at Bonhams, stirring up childhood recollections.

ME: 'They've got Nyssa's plum velvet outfit. I wanted to be Nyssa when I grew up.
WORKMATE: I wanted to marry Nyssa. She was my perfect woman.
ME: [sidestepping issue of how I have failed to turn into his perfect woman] My ex used to fancy Adric.
WORKMATE: Well, there weren't many men to choose from, were there?

I nod a bit, even though my ex was a bloke, who has been subsequently mainly straight, and who at the time might have fancied one of the female companions instead (which only added to my sense of confusion that he liked Adric - sorry, Adric).

I only later remember that 'my ex', however gendered, might be assumed to have the quality 'attracted to women'. (Although I have - I think - two male gay sort-of-exes.) My workmate is as easily confused as I am on this front. Sometimes I definitionally discard the idea of a person fancying me because they're attracted to women, if I'm feeling particularly non-identical to women that week, and it takes a while to unpick and unpack it.

Which may be why I've had the Magnetic Field's 'Come Back from San Francisco' in my head. A female voice suggests to her lover: 'Should pretty boys in discos distract you from your novel, remember I'm awful in love with you.' I can't think of many songs which acknowledge that the person who desires you may also desire people not the same gender as you. Also, the chorus is lovely to sing out loud.


  2010.01.11  10.12
Berks do furnish a room

I've decorated/unpacked and I'm really happy with my room. I go into small ecstasies at every minor amendment, and send links and pics to friends and relatives:
'I have a nice lamp.' '
'You know all that random stuff which I used to have in plastic bags? I have stuck it to the wall with blu-tack.'
'I am wondering about a rug.'
This is both too much (waffling), and not enough (it fails to convey the emotional content, no matter how many '!!!'s I put after each statement).

So I have boiled down what I want to communicate to the essentials, and will share it, once and (probably not) finally, with you all.

I own objects which I find pleasing.
I have arranged them in ways that I think it has made them more than the sum of their parts. This shows that I am Awesome.

I think some of the objects are High Quality.
I believe this reflects well on me as their owner, despite it being a Total Coincidence that I ended up with most of them.

Most of them I paid less than the going rate for. High five!
Some of them I assembled myself using tools. Way butch!

I have a lot of books. Most of them are now visible. This fills me with smug contentment.
Things that are not books have been Artfully Concealed.

The furniture that is not holding up books is very snuggly.
That sofa alone has four textures on it. They are Super Nice. Go on, give them a try.

If you like, you can offer completely generic congratulations.


  2010.01.06  14.02
Neither beautiful nor useful

A friend has recently built himself a woodshed. Every good woodshed needs Something Nasty in it, so I'm going to make him one. I'm not sure how best to do it. It needs to survive rain and ideally frost, although it's fine if it looks worse as the years wear on. Ideas so far:

- carved or pyrographed wood
- painted enamel on a metal plaque
- sheet metal (copper?) hammered into a shape, or just dented into a pattern
- something tentacular made out of old inner tubes?

Any ideas? I'm open as to the variety of the nasty, but a sinister face or obviously monstrous creature would do nicely. It's only a little lean-to of a shed, so it can't be too big.


  2010.01.02  11.24
Feeling Constructive

I've an unexpected enthusiasm for minor DIY! I've installed blinds, raised the bed by 30cm to store the comics archive, and put fitted storage into an alcove. I like sawing, drilling, standing back from things and going 'yep', and laying hands on a structure I have created and giving it a good shake to demonstrate its solidity.

I particularly like the balance between precision and botching - that I have to do it properly or it won't work, and it's hard and tedious but gives me a sense of Pride in my conscientiousness. Then sometimes it still doesn't work, and I have to cover it with No More Nails*, hit it with a hammer and not tell anyone. Hammers! The ability to concentrate the force of muscle and momentum into a single spot! Awesome.

Today I will be getting even more low-tech than hammers. I've put up a set of the antique bookcases I bought on eBay. Without bracing, bookcases tend to go like this: /_/ or like this: \_\ Mine are so slightly, subtly out of true that it is invisible to the naked eye. However, when I try to stick on the doors (which are, predictably, like this: |_| ) they reveal the skew and don't fit. The top half of the bookcase is screwed to the wall already, to prevent toppling and crushing, so I need to shift the base of the bookcase over by about three centimetres.

How will I do it? I will put on my steelcapped boots, wait until everyone in the building is awake and hope they're not hung over, and I will stand to one side of the bookcase and kick it. The craft! The artistry!

*There are several generic brands of No More Nails called things like Forget Nails and Who Needs Nails and Don't Mention Nails In My Presence, They Are Dead To Me and What Did We Call Those Pointy Things We Used To Use To Secure Stuff? Oh, Who Gives A Toss, Pass The Lethally Powerful Glue.


  2009.12.10  17.10

I'm just posting to say that I'm not posting. It would be a reasonable assumption that, having created a nascent friendslist, I was now scribbling like fury through a series of carefully delineated filters ('Sex' 'Politics' 'Real Life Friends' 'Unreal Unliving Friends' 'Actually interesting stuff'). But I haven't. Making a (slightly arbitrary) list was an experiment to see if it would encourage me to post more, but it didn't.

I am generally hale and happy, and still reading other people's journals, and wish you well at this thrillingly dark (in the Northern Hemisphere) time.


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