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No vibration, no interruption

I read a comment today by a Christian author about how media can disrupt community. One of the most basic examples was when a mobile phone interrupts a conversation. I can't help but fiddle with my phone if it rings, even in the middle of chatting with someone. So today I turned off the vibrate function, so that if I put it on silent, I'll have no idea someone's ringing me. I like little ideas like that. London puts up enough barriers to interacting with people already.

Richard Herring: a bit disappointed

I went to see Richard Herring last night. I was disappointed. He gave me the biggest single laugh of the night but overall he wasn't as funny as the lesser-known comedians that preceded him.

I think I've come to the conclusion that I like the idea of Richard Herring's comedy more than the actual experience. I loved the idea behind his tour Hitler's Moustache, and enjoyed reading his defence of the show in the Guardian earlier this year. But if the execution of the idea is similar to last night's, it would be a shame.

He started well, talking about how he believes "the enemy of my enemy is my friend", but it causes problems - because his enemy is his own worst enemy. He went on to talk about how schoolkids think about sex, which started funny but went on far too long.

About half of his set was about whether people pronounce potato to rhyme with tomato, and why the French are ridiculous for calling a potato an "apple of the ground". This is what I mean when I say I like the idea of Herring's comedy - I am actually smiling now just thinking about it, and people I have told about it today find the idea funny as well. A comedy set all about potatoes! But it didn't really work last night. It felt like he was attacking constructs contrived for the set, rather than something intrinsically ridiculous. If anything, all the ideas were great, but when he dedicated too much time to them they dissolved into less than the sum of their parts.

It didn't end well. He described a paedophilic fantasy, and then had a go at the audience for reacting with disgust: "It's not like I've actually mutilated a child!" But again, it just didn't work to satirise our reaction. Satire works when it shows up the truth, but in this case Herring should have directed the satire against himself.

It wasn't a wasted night by any means. The other comedians, especially Jo Selby and Henning Wehn, were good, and Herring wasn't boring. But having spotted the gig months ago because of Herring's involvement, I was disappointed. I am going to see his old partner Stewart Lee next week - hopefully he'll do better.

A real grasshopper

Quick pointer to the blog of my friend Lauri. Good post on comedy je pense...


Sign of the times

I am getting a lot of spam at the moment about acai berries and colonic irrigation. I don't know why.

Diabetes Schmiabetes

I am going to take a week off work next year to take a course for diabetics, which shows us systematically how to eat what we like, and then take whatever dose of insulin we need to. It means diabetics can be much more flexible, rather than governed by whatever dose of insulin we happened to take that morning.

If you know an insulin-dependent diabetic, mention it to them. I haven't done it yet, but the results are supposed to be amazing. It's being presented as the Second Coming for diabetic treatment. The old methods are dead: this will give new life to diabetics everywhere. I went to an open evening and they had two "graduates" talking about how brilliant it was. I was sceptical beforehand, but after the open evening I'm a whole-hearted convert to the idea.

For some diabetics, it will help to solve serious health issues, like continually having too low blood sugars and fainting, or having too high blood sugars which results in all sorts of terrible things. But I find my diabetes strongly affects how I think and react emotionally to things. Whenever I feel upbeat, or downcast, my first thought is what my blood sugars are doing. I'm curious to see how I will feel when I get things under tight control.

I wonder if it will affect my personality somehow. Probably not. But you know, it makes everything simpler if I can blame diabetes: "Sorry for falling asleep/getting angry/moaning, I have a low/high blood sugar." The frustrating thing is that it does have an impact, I just can't tell how much. I feel like it undermines the responsibility I can take for my actions.

(My blood sugar right now is 7.2. That is just about ideal, and surprising. I ate a Twirl and some cheese and onion McCoy's half an hour ago.)

Giggery: Loney Dear

I went to a gig at Union Chapel last week. What an amazing venue! It's a working church - there was a stage set up around the pulpit, everyone sits in pews, and the acoustics are amazing. When there weren't any instruments playing, the singers didn't need microphones.

Anyway: the bands were Wildbirds & Peacedrums, who supported Loney Dear.

W&P were bonkers, and generally amazing, going nuts on a million drums with smoky bluesy lyrics. Loney Dear were also excellent: melodic and rhythmic and ethereal...they have some good songs on their myspace page, I recommend them!

The night started with another group from California. I can't remember their name, but they were pretty cool, punky and punchy. And the bassist looked like Mario.

How to be a bad PR

Hints and tips on how to be a bad spokesperson for a company:

*React aggressively when a journalist calls to say they are going to write a story. That way they will know it's important and probably worth writing. They will also realise that other journalists probably haven't got in touch about that particular story, meaning it's all the better if they can write it as soon as possible.
*Assume that a journalist knows sensitive inside information, and refer to it when you speak to them, so they can put together a story that will probably be far more insightful than it would have been otherwise.
*Try to appeal to their "better side" to get them not to write a story, and imply they're immoral for deciding to write it after all. This will get their hackles up and make doubly sure they will write it to spite you, or to prove that journalism really is all about speaking Truth to Power.
*If all else fails, ask them flat out not to write a story, so they know it really is a good story that they should write. Journalists are always suspicious if someone actually wants them to write a story.

I experienced all the above in a single phone call this morning. I burst out laughing at stage three - I kid you not, he said I would basically be taking money from old grannies if I wrote it (it was about a pension fund trying to sell a building, and there's a glitch in the deal).

What a monkey.

Random thoughts on health care

News story of the month: Americans are dissing the NHS!

Ok, I'm late to this. But anyway. Predictably, a whole raft of articles have been written about the glorious NHS. Today, two Facebook friends had this as their status:

...no one should die because they cannot afford health care, no one should go broke because they get sick, and no one's child should miss a doctor's appointment because it costs too much. If you agree, join us in posting this as your status.

Which makes me say: what? Will anyone actually not believe that? Of course, it's a rhetorical statement, probably supposed to say "Go NHS! Death to private healthcare!"

To which I say, read these things for some offbeat perspectives:

The National Food Service
How American Health Care Killed My Father


Bring raised on Japanese kids' folk stories, I have some weird things in my head. For example, there seem to be quite a lot of yams in Japanese folk tales. I always pictured them as orange aubergines that you dig up from the ground, so it was a revelation to come across a rock-hard yam the other day. It looked like it was a section of tree trunk, with dark brown bark, and solid white flesh. How strange.

Eight things and a footnote

I am a direct descendant of William Wallace and Oliver Cromwell, according to my mum.

I did a free trial on a dating web site, and learned several things. Most women think The Time Traveller's Wife is one of the best books ever; I can't honestly say I go out of my way to take part in any regular outdoor activities; not having a photo on a profile makes the whole endeavour almost entirely pointless (unless you just want to look at other people on there); you have to be pretty ruthless about who you communicate with and how. And if you're curious to know how I got on, you can ask me in person. I have already been far more open about it than I meant to be, so I don't mind talking more!

I am going on a road trip up from Cape Town to Durban in South Africa next year.

I am going on a long weekend to somewhere in Europe - or possibly Morocco - in a couple of months. I wanted to go to Kiev and visit Chernobyl, but it apparently costs a fair bit of money because the budget airlines don't fly there.

I have pretty much decided to do a masters course in philosophy from September 2010. I am interested in most areas of philosophy, but concepts in my head at the moment are focused on the nature of personhood and justice: I think those might fit into the realm of political philosophy, though the former would overlap with the philosophy of mind. I will need to put some thought into where to study, what my focus will be, and whether or not doing it part-time is feasible. There is still time for me to be convinced that it would all be a waste of time and money.

I am planning to move to a new place in December, when one of my housemates gets married. The plan is to live with two others in a similar area, but I would like to live somewhere nice (i.e. not studenty). Negotiations ongoing as to whether we would get a cleaner. I say yes. Standard response has been: "But it's so middle class!" To which I say I'm not going to pretend I'm not middle class, as if middle-class-ness is somehow an inherently negative thing to be. Of course having a cleaner is a luxury, and I will treat it as such. A cleaner a week means two fewer pints. Or perhaps getting my hair cut at a place where they don't wash my hair and give me a head massage. (Yes, you read that right. I am a special kind of middle class.)

Stewart Lee and Richard Herring will be performing in London in December. I want to see them both! Let me know asap if you want to come, I need at least one person - I don't want to go by myself to a comedy gig! Lee is about £15, Herring about half that because he's at a local venue in south London.

I watched Yes Man on Saturday. It's a good film and pretty funny. I am ashamed to admit that I found it quite inspiring. It made me think of things I would like to do: learn the piano, speak French (after doing it for six years to GCSE it seems a waste not to), resurrect my Japanese, and go on the Trans-Siberian Express. Not in that order, necessarily.

(All but one of the above begin with "I". Oh well. I suppose this blog is essentially a narcissistic enterprise. Why else would you be here unless you want to read all about me?)