Chi-leih

While there’s a (small) part of me that wants to be a little postmodern and not make huge sweeping generalisations, I’m generally very happy to take a structural, sociological point of view: people are complex and individual, but not as much as they’d like to think; we’re simplifiable. I take a pretty misanthropic view of the world’s inhabitants: people can be nice and do good things, but we’re all a bunch of rotters on the inside (as a Christian, I’m more than happy to temper this with a very nice redemptive alternative – but we’re still generally blackguards).

I can get grumpy about most anything, from the large – fanatical capitalists of the American right at the moment, swingeing ideological cuts here – to the small – why do a company (British Gas) that espouse ecological credentials send me so many letters? What makes people you work with petty, small-minded jobsworths? It was such a relief then to read and see and hear over the last day or so the story in Chile which has pretty much no bad news about it. Journalists are really scrabbling to find the villains of the piece: is it the government who’ve worked tirelessly to get these miners out, or the mining company who’ve apologised humbly and made massive safety improvements? Not really. It’s just a really lovely story of the happy side of the human spirit – the miners who’ve organised themselves, had faith and were vindicated, the right-wing government who’ve shown compassion and humanity, and my new favourite, Laurence Golborne, who’s cheered everybody up mostly by playing Radiohead songs by the campfire. Nobody’s perfect, the story says, but good news is a rare commodity.

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Reminiscence

Every so often I have the craving to go and excavate my past. Today I was looking for some remembrance of the Brazilian electronica sampler I used to have, as it doesn’t appear on Spotify, as yet, and I remembered I’d written about it for a blog I used to have, You Can Call Me Betty. I was quite proud of this blog: I averaged a post per weekday for most of it, and all about the music I loved. It got to be too much like a chore to keep up, as it’s pretty hard-going keeping up that consistency, but there was some good times: as well as the series on Brazilian electro I did a month-long run of music from World Cup countries, and a special on old school hip hop.

But it’s funny to read, because my blogs have always been – while avoiding obvious personal, private stuff, pretty much based on what I was thinking and feeling at the time, so I can sense myself, 4 years ago. And goodness, but what has changed.

First, and most importantly, The Boss actually is a genius and I tell myself off for thinking otherwise.

Up there with that, I’ve moved house four times (to Wood Green, to elsewhere in Wood Green, to Walthamstow, to Enfield), stopped that blog and started several others, taken up allotmenteering, the mandolin, occasional baking and hearty, many-portioned cookery, Birkenstocks, dance music and Tom Waits, geography and Ian Rankin. Most excitingly of course, I’ve managed to con a beautiful woman into marrying me and making me happy. That’s the big one.

Apparently I was totally emo then as well, who’d have thought. I leave you with a poem about chocolate digestives.

Normal service

I’m married now, a brave new world which so far has been predominantly honeymoon. Reality is catching up as the days go by though, and soon the deadline extension for my dissertation will loom murkily and I’ll have to knuckle down. For now though, I’m making the most of some wedded bliss, tidying the flat that is newly ours, and eating a heart-shaped lollipop. The flat was in a bit of a state, to be honest, but I think it’s to be expected: over the last week before the wedding we put together a buffet meal for over 100 people featuring homemade delights like pork pie, chicken liver pate and home-cooked cold meats. It was, if I say so myself, awesome. Add this to apple bobbing, guess the weight of the cakes, a tiny bouncy castle and a 100% genuine coconut shy, and you have a party and a half.

I feel way too immature to get married, but figure that if Ryan North can do it, I can. So here I are with a ring on my finger, with a beautiful wife on my arm, setting up a home. It’s pretty exciting. I know have to settle down and do some work as herself starts her new job, but hopefully by next week I’ll be powering through some historico-geographical social analysis. Heck yes.

Avoision

My shoulder’s still not particularly 100% for some reason, but it’s good enough that I can head in to my class with a very Gallic political waffler today. I’ll continue with David Harvey on the way in, no doubt, but at the moment I’m juggling all sorts of philosophies and arguments in my head for a very busy March. 1) Prepare post-Marxist analytical framework to critique the World Bank in Croatia. 2) Sublimate Slavoj Zizek, Chantal Mouffe and Erik Swyngedouw into a coherent assessment of post-politicism. 3) Research the use of home energy assessments in meeting carbon reduction targets. All by yesterday pretty much.

So predictably I went looking for Street View instead, and found that 96% of the country is now covered. So, you can see where I grew up, and some of my favourite holiday destinations (we have here the west of Scotland, the Yorkshire Dales, the West Cornwall moors, the green lanes of the South Hams, and my ultimate childhood destination, Caswell Bay on the Gower, which still looks exactly as I remember it, twenty years ago.

Can I copy your notes?

I have a difficult time being a grown-up sometimes. I’m used to being the teachers pet kind of student (I managed to acquire the nickname ‘boff’ in secondary school which, if nothing else, attests to the lack of imagination in 12 year old boys), and have actually never bunked a lesson, of any sort. Mostly this just adds to the guilt when I do take a day off for sick. Sometimes, as with last summer’s broken hip, it’s justified; today, I have a stiff neck (since yesterday morning) which would be desperately uncomfortable to sit through a lecture with. It still takes someone sensible just to tell me to stay home though.

Hence I’m home, squished into bed amidst a tower of pillow upon which my tiny computer is propped, and I have no idea how I’ll be spending the rest of the day. Ah well. At the moment I’m listening to Radio 4 which has been firstly about Henry Ford’s modernist, high industrial utopianism in the Amazon jungle, then about Creswell model village, now the literary habits of Molotov (he and Stalin both loved Chekhov best). Good old Radio 4 – cutting 6Music starts a Facebook frenzy, cutting Radio 4 would cause national riots.

Punctuation

I was always taught that an ‘and’ should never, never be preceded by a comma. It’s bad form, on a par with various types of apostrophe abuse. But over and over recently, in the highly wordy academic papers I’ve been reading, I see “, and”. It looks wrong to me.

It turns out that this is a serial comma or even better, an  Oxford comma, with its own rules and debates and everything. It seems that the journalistic approach is to discourage the serial comma, whereas academic use makes it OK – after all, anything to avoid ambiguity, or so you would hope. This explains why it’s coming up a lot recently, but I still have trouble approving of it. So there you go, punctuation fact of the day.

Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma

Frugality

This morning, I found myself looking up recipes for using leftover porridge. This is not something I would have envisioned myself doing just months ago, but the new year has seen a resurgence in interest (sparked by some sums and financial puzzling) in doing things on the cheap, and for me, this means using as much as possible to its maximum benefit, to avoid having to buy more stuff. Very in keeping with the times, I’m sure you’ll agree, and just as in keeping with the various studies/work into sustainability I’ll be doing this term (and some Bible).

So far, this has meant some browsing of Martin Lewis, at least a head-nod (although little more) towards using the car less, theoretical resistance to lunches out and second hand books (although a haul at the weekend in Saffron Walden was more than a little exciting). Best of all though is the food front, and that’s where the real work has gone in. We’ve a new freezer: just a little one, a compact chest business, but it’s plenty to fit our now copious collection of tubs filled with delicious, mass-cooked dinners, evensofar as preparing ready meals, pretty much: chilli and rice, that sort of thing. Bung in the microwave. The freezer is filled by large-scale meat purchases, bought at discount (£22 of goat is possibly the most exciting thing I’ve ever bought) and these meals, cooked with plenty of vegetables from Fresh’n’Fruity – so  we’re getting five a day as well.

There’s also a new bread maker, which not only saves on loaves, but will facilitate the consumption of cheap, delicious soup as a main meal. Also it makes jam, which is both surprising and awesome. I’ve also been getting somewhat excited about making stocks, to the point that we’ve bought so much meat that the trip to the butcher (where I can ask for some bones) is frustratingly far away. The freezer is literally teeming with stocks, which are excitingly gelatinous and also feature first and second pressings, as though the stock has delusions of being olive oil.

It’s all pretty much good fun, which is probably key, and should enable us to pay the way through my lounging around all year study (I’m actually working harder than I ever did in the office, I think).