Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Coup New Year

I've been thinking more about how I've not written any of those poems yet. I think I should write an amateur's guide to starting a coup. I've been looking further into rubbish Navy forces we could overtake, my followers. Something about the indendence of sovereign nation is to be respected. The civic pride presumably felt by the smaller and pluckier countries around the globe that get on with their business is something to admire and, clearly, be condescending about.

However, the Navy of Belize comprises of 13 boats and 152 servicemen. I don't know if each boat can seat 11.69 people, or if they are just rowboats seating 2 people each. Were they row boats, you'd need 26 people at any one time. No, let's say 39 and the spare 3rd person is firing a 1914 German made Luger at a Mexican warship. That means you have 3.897 sets of crewmen for each boat. Or a set for every row boat and 2.897 reserve crews.

I have no doubt that the average Belizian citizen does not worry too much on a daily basis about the provisions held by their armed forces. I have recently read a rather amusing article on the BBC News website about the head of the Somalian Navy: it has no boats, nor any servicemen to serve in any boats he might find. He's not been to sea in over 20 years. But still, head of the Navy he remains. I like looking this sort of thing up for two reasons. Firstly, I relish the obscure and lesser known little details. Purely for trivia's sake, I like knowing that the Ivory Coast's entire air force was once accidentally destroyed (all 3 helicopters of it) by the French in a military accident. And secondly I find the comparison, the differences amusing. I don't know how many boats the British Navy has. Probably more than 13. Let's say definitely more. And it is not with jingoistic fervour I trumpet how much better prepared we are for some horrible war we hopefully will never have to fight. I consider it more just amusing to see the underdogs on the other end of the scale. The Swazilands of this world. It's a bit like watching Accrington Stanley in the FA Cup.

Monday, 28 December 2009

The End of a Decade

I had too look it up. On Wikipedia of all things. I had to look up what happened in the last ten years. I am not trying to sound facetious, I'm just very bad at associating memories or events I know have happened with actual time. I have my own little space-time continuum and it is broken. I have a series of memories about my life which I can only say happened sometime between the ages of 8-11, 13-15 etc.

But I was trying to think of definitive stuff. Stuff that wasn't just the things that are preordained to happen: Olympics, political summits, America electing someone thick (GUFFAW!)

FYI, I thought of the following: 9/11, 7/7, The sensation that was and continues to be Barack Obama, the...phenomenon that was and perhaps continues to be Gordon Brown, the Asian Tsunami of about 2005, Iraq, global warming being a thing.

That's quite depressing isn't it? Two terrorist attacks, a natural disaster or two, a war and a couple of politicians? That said, try it yourself for another decade that came without resorting to cliché. The 1990s: The rise of sushi, Geri Halliwell and New Labour. Done, in three bits. Then again that sort of cutting social commentary is perhaps better made retrospectively. So I shall share some of the nicer things I found on the Wikipedia for 2000s (decade) to brighten the end of our ten years. Or if not nicer, just things I had forgotten.

Windows ME and Vista and XP, CERN in Switzerland, Soulja Boy, the huge expansion in computer gaming, mad cow disease.

Which list is more depressing?

Saturday, 19 December 2009

People keep asking me what I want to do for a living. They're not offering me jobs, or interrogating me. But inquiring minds seem to want to know. Being back in Birmingham now means there will be Christmas drinks. I had some last night. About ten of us, in the local. Nice. Still seeing friends that you went to school with a few years after probably doesn't sound like a gargantuan effort to older readers, but it's nice to affirm that when you say you'll stay in touch, you do. Well, at least sometimes, with some people. The sort of friends you can settle straight back into natural conversation with, even after half a year.

A few of my current friends went to my primary school. And my experience of parents is that after they lose touch with some of their old friends after having children, they make new ones by befriending other parents. Thus there are the Christmas gatherings with the "young people" and "older people". And whilst I am more than happy to make annual small-talk with the "older people" (calling them old, just those three letters, without making it comparative seems unkind) as to what I am up to. Except now, more than ever, with the certainty of the sun rising or the tides turning, umpteen people will ask me what I want to do with my life.

I can't decide if I find this irritating because the conversation gets monotonous or because my uncertainty about "my career" unsettles me. But when we arrive at the assumption all Humanities graduates seem to become teachers, it all starts to feel rather Brave New World. I start feeling a sort of guilt about my dual honours, especially when speaking to people whose children do Speech and Language Therapy, or something else that sounds more employable than Philosophy and English Lit. I may start up a sort of clinic: for intellectual people to come along and chew the fat about their favourite Renaissance Drama. At least that way I will have a niche to chase in the jobs market.

I will almost certainly run to be the Student Union's Welfare Officer. It is a paid position and would be a good year's work. I will almost certainly not be elected, but if I am I would probably just realise the giddy power thrill of politics and end up like Mark Thatcher. Only, the thing is, you want to go to Swaziland. I've looked into this, their military is bobbins. They don't even have an airforce. I'm a bit afraid that some reincarnation of myself is going to turn up on Newsnight as an MP, defending their moat and duck pond.

But anyway, I know what I want. I want an office, a secretary, occasional meetings and to be able to walk around with a cup of tea talking slightly louder than necessary. No company car, but a suit to work. Hard, a little stressful but work you can leave at the office. I don't know what I do all day but it's quite important and people look impressed and I earn a lot of money. Not obscene or anything, but I get to use office jargon and talk about thinking outside the box.

Fuck it, actually, I want to be the ambassador to Barbados. I wonder if you have to apply or you get picked by patronage? Either way, I reckon having: "staged successful coup of Swaziland" on the CV can only help.

Friday, 18 December 2009

I Feel I Should Warn You

The poetry is not going well.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Pulitzer On Its Way

Can you get a Pulitzer if you're British? I shall find this out.

But I care not. I am channelling my creative aura. Crafting my whirlwhind of awesomeness into a finely honed laser of phantasmagoric joy. That's right boys and girls, I am applying to be the editor of Route 57. That's right, Route 57.

Many of you will not know what Route 57 is. It's a University of Sheffield thing. Being honest now, most University of Sheffield students will still be none the wiser. It is an online collection of poetry, fiction, nonfiction and drama published by the University of Sheffield English department. And I am going to put my money where my mouth is and try to, y'know, write anything. They generally ask for 4 or 5 of your own pieces that aren't crap before considering your application for editor.

The trouble being I don't really write poetry. Well, I have done in the past. I won a poetry prize in Sixth Form. And I've written a poem to my boyfriend once. I think he liked it; let's be honest, in these situations you've not really got a choice. You're definitely not allowed to call it shit. But after nearly 10 years of English Literature schooling, now in 3rd university year, I don't know how to write poetry. Not really. I know what's in it. I know about form, rhyme schemes, enjambement and caesura. That doesn't mean I know how to use them in a way that makes them not shit. I can read poetry quite competently, but I'm fast discovering that's another kettle of stanzas.

I'm having a play with a few forms. I say that, I've written a dirty limerick. I've also discovered that doing that free-running form thing where you give little heed to formal punctuation is quite easy. Congratulations Max, you're now a modern poet they teach at GCSE. If I was writing about missing my homeland, potatos and unusual relations with my father I can be Seamus Heaney. If I write about my lesbianism, cats and social issues I will be Carol Ann Duffy. And repressed childhood memories ( a cupboard...with my July) I will be Simon Armitage.

This is good though. It is cathartic. I can spend an evening burning manuscripts, a model of a frustrated genius: I'm thinking Toby Ziegler from the West Wing. Or Bernard Manning writing his children's book in Black Books. Maybe I'll write a sonnet about a possum.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Schools and University

Bobby: Look at their canteen.

Me: Ooh, it's like Columbine.

That place was pretty damn wrong. The school I went to yesterday I mean. Not that Columbine wasn't quite wrong.

Never trust thin chefs. (That Gary Rhodes has a lot to answer for.) And never trust new schools. Something about sticking 5000 cinderblocks in a shape and painting them mauve just doesn't ring true when you're trying to capture any other mood other than hopeless artificially-created despair. Regardless of how many receptionists you have. Also they were twinned with Sheffield Hallam University. Talk about reaching for the stars, kids ;-)

I don't usually indulge in the worse kind of intellectual snobbery against Sheffield Hallam, but there are many obvious jokes. Like twinning a school with Sheffield Hallam is like starting a football academy and twinning it with the Renford Rejects. Or creating a new town and twinning it with Fallujah. OK, I'm done. (I don't really have a snobby side about Hallam, I'm sure everyone there is perfectly nice, it's just an easy joke and forms a bit of camaraderie at my Uni.)

I quite miss school sometimes. Occasionally I remark upon this and a lot of people look at me a bit funny. But I liked my school. It was old, it had character. Also, nostalgia sort of filters out the shitness of something. Sometimes I sort of miss my first year halls, and pretend I don't remember the shit bits. Like my ten stone flatmate sitting on a sofa and breaking it. But we left our mark on it, just about. Through ceaseless destruction, throwing vegetables at the wall and drunken antics I'd like to think there was something a bit "us" about that first year hall.

And my old school. It was tatty, and dusty and the playground was quite literally a large concrete block with grit on. But it had personality. This school yesterday was the most insanely bland place in existance. The only mark the students making would be inflicted with the help of a Mac-11 and a partner in crime wielding a sawn-off.

Suffice it to say that their questions weren't the most original bunch we had ever encountered. But then again had a trio of homos come into my Year 10 class, I think our disinterest would have been just as perceptible. I don't blame them in the least, I just felt the persasive horrible atmosphere amongst each other. The sort of school where everyone bands into such a tight clique that no one will say anything for the fear of having the piss ripped out of them. There was such a pantomime theatre about any stutter of speech, and hesitation, I felt sorry for the kids that weren't, yknow, arseholes. Which is why I defend my school to the hilt, and should probably go to the Old Edwardians when I'm back in Birmingham. Our arseholes were at least a bit original.

The refreshing thing was that the answer to most questions seemed to be, though was not said as such: When you leave this school and see a wider range of people than inside these four walls you'll realise no one gives two shits about your possible prejudices or ideas. And that's very healthy. School's a pretty unhealthy place for people to grow up. Every behavioural trait, every affectation, every admission of deviation from the norm is scrutinised and mocked. When you're in Year 10, anyway. It's a marvel any of us make it out alive.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Going Into The Schools

Like about 10% of the population, supposedly, I'm LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transexual). Well, specifically G...perhaps a little bit B. I'm definitely not L. I don't think. That'd be unusual. And I'm going to indoctrinate your kids. OK, OK, Harvey Milk's "here to recuit you" probably had a bit more ironic sting, but this still works.

Last academic year I went and talked to surprisingly polite and open-minded kids in a school in Sheffield about being LGBT. I didn't just redirect a pride parade through Geography, we were invited. I've never considered being gay to be a big deal, and I think I was a bit nervous about the whole thing. The main reason being I didn't want to seem like a screaming queen with an agenda, and wanted not to make a fuss. Fortunately it all went pretty well and was low key.

And so off I am to do it again, albeit at a school located 6 miles more inconveniently further away. But I'm still rather looking forward to it. I remember last time there were some pretty far ranging questions, from: Do you read gay magazines? and What sort of music do you like?. And of couse the more metaphysically curious: What's it like to be gay? Which is my favourite question, as it is both perfectly spot on about the slight differentness about sexuality that makes an identity, and also blindingly dim; as it seems to imply we have another liver producing gay juice or something. What's it like being gay? Naturally darling I'm more fabulous, and get 20 miles more to the gallon.

At the moment my main worry is depositing this increasingly annoying cold onto innocent school children. Not confirming myths about our poor state of health would be a win:

Yeah, he was alright that gay guy, but I wonder if they've all got tuberculosis?

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Be a white blood cell and nobody will get hurt

There used to be an advert for a credit card about balance in the universe. It claimed that every time something intelligent happened something stupid happened somewhere else to even it out. So next time you bemoan reading something stupid in the paper...or y'know, having to see the Daily Express, remember that they are inadvertantly doing the world some good by keeping up one end of the cosmic balance. I'm sure Nobel winners the world over are grateful to likes of Richard Littlejohn.

Anyway, I think the same law might apply to me being a bit ill. Most people have illnesses that last 2-3 days. I'm now on day 6. Count it. 6. I had to stop typing to count that out on my fingers. Which shows a) that's a long illness; b) I am poor at counting. Although at some point in a lecture yesterday I did start to count the numbers since I've had an alcoholic beverage. At the time of writing we're up to 156. I think for the first time in about 5 years my liver is getting suspiscious. Perhaps it will soon get Stockholm Syndrome - although I don't know how that would manifest itself. Maybe I'd...fuck it, continue to not have jaundice? I am thinking up a semantic field of metaphors to better describe my temporary alcoholic abstinence as a hostage situation.

This sort of boredom is very stressful. Not in any seriously affecting way. More in the sort of way I am ensured budgerigars without enough perches to hop on and pieces of cuttlefish to gnaw at get stressed. If I had any artistic talent this would've given me a really neat idea for a painting: a budgerigar sipping a glass of creme de menthe.

Anyway, I should probably get out of bed and start the day properly. The weather report said we can expect a tropical high of 9 degrees here in South Yorkshire, which is pretty remarkable considering I normally can't feel my toes.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

X Factor and Foie Gras

He says, sitting in bed at half twelve in the afternoon.

Right, not too disappointed with the final three. (If you were expecting postings of substance and philosophical intrigue, you may be slightly disappointed.)

I would want Stacey to come third because I think while she has a lovely voice she is quite a dull performer. And cruel as it is to say, her personality is so irritating I can't stand to listen to her in interview. Which I know isn't really the point, but fuck it, it is about being likeable.

However, Olly's smug self-congratulatory "YEAYEYAHEHA" displays when he gets through every week make me want him to fail. Shadenfreude or whatever, which I am usually trying SO hard to be above. This programme brings out the worst in me. But his hip-waggling retro tight shiny trousered bollocks wore off about Week 6 for me and he's not so fantastic. He's not the new Robbie, he's nothing near that interesting. So fuck it.

The McElderflowerCordial boy can win it. He can sing (they all can to be fair, but he's got a good voice compared to Olly I think), and his performance of up-beat numbers (Circle of Life, that famous Journey track) I really liked. Yeah, he's stage school, and he does loads of wallowing, boring admittedly pitch-perfect shit like the semi-final, but he's still my favourite. Also, he's about as cute as a bag of puppies. I know that shouldn't count, but Olly's infeasible jaw and brow make me feel like discriminating against people from Essex is fair game. You get the feeling if Olly and Stacey had a child it would be a Supermutant known only as The Jaw, that was too stupid to put its pants on.

3rd: Olly
2nd: Stacey
1st: Joe

That said if Jedward can win by write-in, I'm for that, clearly. They now appear too famous to appear anywhere, for fear of being bottled to death. My housemates are still angling to get them over for dinner. As if there is any cuisine fine enough.

Which brings me neatly on to Foie Gras. Those who don't know, it is a luxury foodstuff made from the livers of force-fed geese. It's cruel, and apparently darn good eating. Someone from inside the Student Union has suggested banning it, admitting it is at the moment "a hypothetical" since nowhere in the Union serves foie gras.

No shit.

I plan to table a motion to prohibit the Pharoh from beating us with reeds while we fan him on his chaise longue, decadently popping grapes into his mouth and cackling.

Anyway, that'll do for a first post. I should probably have a shower, and a chat with my immune system, that seems to hate me. At least if I don't shave people will expect me to behave like a homeless man, and that way I can disappoint as few people as possible.

Toodle pip