Saturday, January 31, 2004
The animator is hard at work already - trying to perfect a walk cycle. I'm killing time before I can do chores - vacuuming is too noisy to do now and I don't think Holland & Barrett is open until 10am.
I find the rain reassuring. My walk to and from work has been pretty hairy with the pavements coated in ice, but at least - after Wednesday's walk to the cinema in heeled boots - I've been wearing sensible footwear. On Thursday morning I walked past a girl clinging for dear life to the railings outside Regents Park tube exit and, no wonder, she was wearing boots with stilletto heels!
In other news... I've got an interview with these people next week, this will be my third interview so far. Keep your fingers crossed for me as next week is also my last week of gainful employment - eeeeek. Actually, although it's very scary, I'm really, really looking forward to finally leaving that place. No more walking through Europe's biggest building site - otherwise known as Paddington Basin - every day; no more seeing the same old faces; no more having the same old arguments with senior managers; no more working with the same old titles: New World X, Y Development International, World Z Frontiers, blah, blah, blah. No more I tell you!
Thursday, January 29, 2004
In some languages, including Tariana, you always have to put a little suffix onto your verb saying how you know something - we call it "evidentiality". I would have to say: "I talked to Adrian, non-visual," if we had talked on the phone. And if my son told someone else, he would say: "She talked to Adrian, visual, reported." In that language, if you don't say how you know things, they think you are a liar.
This is a very nice and useful tool. Imagine if, in the argument about weapons of mass destruction, people had had to say how they knew about whatever they said. That would have saved us quite a lot of breath.
Check out the whole interview, she’s wonderful.
Finally got to see ‘Lost in Translation’ last night, braving a blizzard to get to Shaftsbury Avenue. Normally the walk from work would take me 50 minutes, last night it took an hour and 20 minutes – I was bloody cold by the time I got there and looked like a yeti. Film was good, if not quite capable of living up to the hype. Scarlett Johansson looked creamy, ripe and lush throughout; Bill Murray was excellent. We went with our housemate C, a Canadian-American who spent two years living in Japan. As we were walking home he said: ‘That film tells you everything you need to know about Japan.’ A ringing endorsement!
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
I spent most of Saturday and Sunday avoiding job applications – does that sound familiar? – but managed to buckle down and send a couple off last night.
Still hoping to see either Lost in Translation or American Splendor soon.
Friday, January 23, 2004
I write these meditations on my desires from time to time. They are a way for me to focus my energies on a next stage of life. The last one I wrote was imagining what my life partner might be like, at a time when I was desperately looking but not very good at finding. It turned out later that what I’d written was a portrait of the animator. Buoyed up by this success, I’ve come to believe that, if I spend enough time and put enough thought into expressing where I want my life to go, I have the power to create my own reality with a collection of well-chosen words.
I want to work in a supportive, happy, ethical environment where what I do is recognised and worthwhile. I want to bring my whole self to work, not need to leave parts of my identity at the door. I want to find a balance between arts and sciences, social benefit and financial worth. I want to be stretched, so that I am surprised by what I achieve. I want to meet people as well as work on my own at times. I want to be able to walk to work and for my hours to be flexible. I want to find friends at my workplace that I’ll value for years to come.
I want the animator to be happy. I want him to work somewhere where creativity isn’t subjugated to the production line. I want him to continue to improve and learn so that his work becomes something he is proud of. I want him to earn more than he used to when his nose was pressed against the corporate grindstone.
A few of my friends are married, but most aren't - one is divorced already, but that's the isle of wight for you - a couple have had long-term serious relationships that ended and the rest are single or single-ish. Along the way the animator and I somehow became the poster kids for matrimony amongst my friends (his friends are on the other side of the world and are married and suburban, we're married and urbane - hopefully). I get quizzed on what it's like this marriage thing and chaps, I'm sorry to disappoint, but its much the same as cohabiting really. I guess there is an extra level of commitment, but really if we wanted to split we would. And, actually, that's a decision made daily. I try to explain that to friends but they never seem to understand. Yes I love being married, however, it is not what I thought it would be - there's no guarantees. That makes it more meaningful, of course, and more fragile.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Now, K’s back into the London rat race and doing really well for herself: lovely boyfriend, good job that she enjoys, new clothes, lots of holidays – the young urban thing. And, frankly, it made me really sad for the animator and for myself.
We had that life for a little while. He was working for an Austrian merchant bank, I was working here – but so wrapped up in new romance that I didn’t care. We went to the theatre, we ate out at great restaurants, the animator introduced me to the joys of shopping and fine wine. It was such a whirlwind. And I miss it.
After seeing K I got a major attack of the ‘what ifs’ . What if I hadn’t met the animator and had gone travelling with K (as we’d planned)? What if the animator hadn’t lost his job – would we have got married, would we still be together? What if we’d moved to Australia with his redundancy payout? Essentially, I was trying to work out if I had made the wrong choices and – as tough as things are right now and as scary as that is – I don’t think I made the wrong choices, just that sometimes my choices were made for me.
I tried to discuss this with the animator, but didn't express myself too well. I just wish things could be a bit easier. I miss the freedom of knowing I can pack my bags and leave anytime I want to, this period of our lives really sucks.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Growing permaculture in the city
A complete newcomer to permaculture reports on how an introductory weekend course has changed how she approaches urban living.
When thinking about permaculture in action, like most people I had imagined an idyllic smallholding, an ecovillage or, at the very least, a suburban semi with an abundant garden, a turf roof and perhaps – let’s be really adventurous – a composting toilet. But where does that leave the average city-dwelling apartment renter with no garden, who has never even picked up a trowel, someone like me? How can I integrate permaculture into my life?
Alpay Torgut, who has been involved in permaculture for many years, has rather different ideas about what permaculture in action means. His vision embraces urban living and provides solutions for those not ready, unable or unwilling to move to the country. Alpay has been running permaculture classes several times a year since 1990. I spent a weekend in North London at Alpay’s course ‘An Introduction to Permaculture’ learning more.
The weekend started in a children’s nursery classroom – the perfect setting to forget old ingrained ideas and take our first steps towards sustainable living. The walls were brightly decorated with children’s paintings and I had the sense that we were entering a world where everything is new and the possibilities for change endless.
When everyone had arrived, we moved outside to shake the working week out of our muscles and enjoy the wonderful late-summer sunshine. After doing some ‘mind gym’ exercises to ensure that our brains were ready to absorb new information, we moved back inside, introduced ourselves to the group – a wonderful mix of all ages and backgrounds – and got our first lesson.
More to beans than meets the eye
To begin with we were taught about the concept of spirals of destruction and encouraged to recognise the negative environmental side effects of our actions. Alpay identified some common spirals of destruction and the group discussed these and others. Then, to bring the idea closer to home, Alpay introduced us to the well-travelled bean. In a shrink-wrapped pack bought at the supermarket nestled a clean, uniform, innocent-looking green bean. The label told us that the bean had been picked in Zimbabwe to be washed, trimmed, packed and shipped to the supermarket. With just a little time spent thinking we could all guess an approximate biography for the bean. Alpay encouraged us to ask the questions: who, why, what, where and, lastly, how? Who picks the bean; profits from the bean; buys the bean? Why are beans grown in Zimbabwe packed for Britain; shipped to Britain; eaten in Britain? What happens when food is grown vast distances from where it is eaten? What happens to the packaging the bean comes in? What affect does this trade have on the country of origin? What happens to local growers in Britain when we buy beans from Zimbabwe in the supermarket? Finally, how can we as individuals become more connected to the food we eat? We were now ready to learn more about permaculture.
Up until this point I had been labouring under a delusion, despite reading up on the work of Bill Mollison and others, I still thought that permaculture was about gardening or, if I was being really ambitious, agriculture. Alpay told us straight: permaculture is a method for creating sustainable systems, gardening is only one of many applications of the principles of permaculture.
However, before you learn about the principles, you have to understand the ethics that underpin the principles of permaculture. The ethics were straightforward and easy to understand – simply put, take care of the earth and each other – so simple, in fact, that it was difficult to understand how any other approach to human activities could be considered. The principles were also straightforward, and provided a framework to understand what we were going to see in the afternoon’s fieldtrip.
After sharing a delicious lunch of locally bought organic food, supplemented with some of the most intensely flavoured pears and grapes I have ever tasted, we were ready to leave the nursery classroom and explore a nearby food forest.
The fruit we had all enjoyed at lunch had been grown in a local kindergarten’s garden, designed in line with permaculture principles and the work of Robert Hart, so that fruit trees, grape vines and herbs flourished. The garden was idyllic in the warm afternoon sunshine and Alpay encouraged us to explore.
Even my uneducated eye could discern the unusual wealth of plants and insects, the pear tree laden down with fruit, two different varieties of grapes thriving, comfrey, thyme, mint and rosemary. There was so much to appreciate. Rarely heard in central London, here birdsong was louder than the sound of traffic. With all my senses awake and attuned to the environment around me, it was as if London was very far away.
We had stumbled into Eden – and it sure did look, sound, smell and taste good! What if in every city square the same straightforward principles were applied? It was as if fireworks were going off in my head: the possibilities for converting the cities we live in are endless. I had the feeling that we were engaged in a revolution, this feeling has not left me since.
The first day of the course ended with two videos, both inspirational. First we saw Bill Mollison exploring what had been achieved around the world. A housing development in the USA built by permaculturalists showed us what was possible. Forget ‘The Good Life’ this was utopia, with families benefiting from easy access to fresh food, clean water and a non-polluting source of energy, the sun. The second video was of a project closer to home, a composting toilet built in a weekend by volunteers at Dial House in Essex. That night I went home looking at my surroundings with new eyes.
Welcoming a new dawn
Sunday began with the same mind gym exercises, but this time I was really breathing deeply, conscious of preparing my brain to absorb every bit of knowledge. In fact, all of Saturday had been something of a mind gym for me. I had begun to make the connections between my actions and the negative effects that we would normally blame on others: companies, local councils, the government, the world trade organisation – the list goes on and on. Far from being oppressive, understanding that I am, in part, responsible for the way the world is was incredibly empowering. That well-travelled bean proved that my actions, no matter how small, make an appreciable difference.
The morning’s lesson was how to apply permaculture principles when designing systems. Again, Alpay stressed that these principles can be applied to any system, thankfully for me, permaculture is not just about gardening. During the morning’s lesson, I was thinking of applications suitable for my own situation at home and work. This is one of the great strengths of Alpay’s approach – no one is excluded and everyone is encouraged to be creative in how they integrate permaculture principles into their lives.
In the afternoon we returned to the nearby food forest to plant seeds in preparation for the spring. The day had special significance because it coincided with the winter solstice. One of the students suggested that we visualise what we wanted to grow in our own lives when planting the seeds. Luckily, there were lots of seeds to plant: broad beans, mustard seed and more. After spending two days learning from Alpay’s example, I had so many ideas of what I wanted to grow that one seed just would not have been enough!
Harvesting seeds of change
In the weeks that have followed the course, I have made small changes in the way I live my life, certain in the knowledge that all these small changes add up and make a big difference. However, the most important change to come about from the course has been in the way I think about my choices. I feel as though I have been given a toolset of skills and resources, as well as the confidence, to repair systems and build new solutions. Finally, my actions – from recycling, to ethical shopping and even the way I interact with my family and co-workers – have been given new value.
Much of what Alpay teaches can be read in books, but the course gives students more than knowledge – even the best books are no substitute for being shown permaculture in action. Seeing permaculture come off the page and grow, tasting the fruits of what you have learnt – these are benefits that you cannot get from the printed word. Alpay shows his students that you should not be overwhelmed by how much needs to be changed and that the city is the perfect place for permaculture to flourish. I can wholeheartedly recommend this permaculture weekend ‘taster’ course.
Was making tea for my team today and got acquainted with a mad woman in the kitchen. Never seen her before in my life so I'm guessing she works in ad sales. This woman was probably in her late thirties, petite, perma tan and unnaturally taut skin. I watched bemused as she emptied the kettle only to fill it with evian (must be sales, no one in production could afford to boil evian). She then filled her thermos with the, now boiled, evian. Too curious to hold back I quizzed her on this. Turns out she's on a three-day fast; nothing religous, just wants to lose a few pounds. Tried to join in on the discussion between her and another girl about the relative benefits of only eating pineapple, but soon gave it up as too ridiculous for words.
Post was to be about the evils of the pharma industry - here's the link - I edit loads of stuff from PhRMA and similar industry lobbying bodies; this is the tip of the iceberg to quote Father Jack: 'they're all a shower of bastards' make up your own sharp and cynical observations.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Unfortunately, I can no longer handle alcohol as well as I used to and too much woo-woo meant a night of insomnia, luckily surfing kept me amused while his nibs slept.
Most of Saturday was spent asleep, by me at least, the animator went and bagged some sale bargains. On Sunday I defrosted the fridge – oh yes my life really is that exciting – as a way of avoiding job application forms. And now I’m back at work. I need to clear my desk and send two titles to press before leaving, but I’m sadly lacking in anything approaching dedication to the cause.
The animator is also struggling to meet his goals. He spent Sunday trying to ‘weight’ his latest model correctly. Much gnashing of teeth has ensued. That’s the trouble with trying to extend yourself when you are under pressure to achieve results quickly, if something goes wrong it seems like the end of the world. Of course, if neither of us find jobs it will be the end of the world…
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Saturday, January 17, 2004
I promise, no more posts on this subject for at least a week.
It worries me that suddenly I've started, no matter how light-heartedly, to buy into this culture of remodelling. I'd been thinking about posting on this topic for a while when along came a really thoughtful summation from Joanna Briscoe in The Guardian. However, I think she misses one extra layer of cultural cloning: The digital sexualization of women. And just for those of you who aren't familiar with what Photoshop can do for you, here's one chap's portfolio of 'improvements' (via Rebecca's Pocket archives).
Finally, and this is pretty close to home, the seemingly unstoppable rise of the realistic 3D model - see also this article - really has worrying implications for all of us real-life, old-school realistic 3D models. It doesn't take a PhD in gender studies to work out how these digital beauties might earn their keep. If the cover of Feb 2004's 3D World, didn't give it away, the pics used inside sure did. It won't be long before these ladies will be appearing in porn, mark my words, where Japanese anime leads (check out the post on 'Customers I have driven out of the store' - thanks Belle) digital models can only follow. 3D animators - and include the animator in this too - are modern-day Pygmalions. The only answer, and I know it's an inadequate one, is for more women to get into 3D. I sense a thesis coming on...
Earlier this week a man walked into a department store in Kaiserslautern, Germany, carrying a computer he'd bought there that very day.
The man was very angry.
The sales staff asked him why he was angry.
The reason he was angry, explained the man, was that his new computer didn't work.
Oh dear, the sales staff said, that is a shame.
The helpful technical staff offered to examine the computer to determine the problem.
The man agreed.
The technical experts opened the PC, took a good look inside, ran a few diagnostic programs, analysed the results and after a quick debate identified the problem.
The reason the computer was not working, they concluded, was because someone had removed the circuitry and mechanical parts and replaced them with little potatoes.
How strange. Under the circumstances the shop's bemused staff did the only thing they could - they offered him a replacement machine, free of charge.
The man agreed, took the computer and with a brief "Danke" and "Auf Wiedersehen" went on his way, another satisfied customer.
But there's more...
Later the same day the same man returned to the shop carrying the replacement computer.
He was very angry.
The sales staff asked him why he was angry.
The man told them the replacement computer didn't work either and demanded a cash refund.
Once again the store's technical experts offered to take a look.
They opened the PC, ran a few more diagnostics, analysed the results and offered a conclusion.
The reason the replacement computer was not working was because someone had removed the circuitry and mechanical parts and replaced them with little potatoes.
At this point the pfennig (or cent) dropped and the quick-thinking sales staff decided something strange was afoot and called the Polizei.
The man was arrested.
Friday, January 16, 2004
My bad posture
The prospect of being asked one of those ridiculous quick-fire ‘make the candidate think on her feet’ questions – examples: ‘Jaffa Cakes – cake or biscuit?’ and ‘tell me about a banana’
Psychological tests – the ones where you have to tick lots of boxes and the results then get fed into a computer to reveal what your aptitudes really are. I imagine mine comes back with: skiving, surfing the net, daydreaming, reading novels… you get the picture
Being asked about my hobbies, see above
And while I was skulking around in the undergrowth of memory lane I kinda gave my toe an almighty stub on something hard and painful - my teenaged expectations of what I'd be and what my life would be when I was finally free of all the things that hold teens back (parents, predominantly).
Once upon a time, and we are in the land of make believe, I had such visions of myself as a fearless firebrand, an author perhaps, an icon (!). Loads of futures selves were trying to establish themselves. Perhaps this is the plurality of the bisexual - I really don't know, but whatever it is/was I certainly have betrayed it. Here I am living in one of the most exciting cities in the world and for all my involvement with it I may as well be back on the Isle.
Then there was another strand to my thinking about Leticia's blog. The fantasies about being devoured, consumed, reduced to meat. In recent posts it's sounded as though she's taken fright at just how powerfully people have responded to her. Well, I've no idea what lands in her mailbox, but I do know how they made me respond.
Where to start? First there's the tension between being disembodied and at the same time the opposite, reduced to only body, only meat. I guess we all want to be so consumed by sex, that nothing of conscious thought remains, ultimately that does mean being reduced to our physical sensations and literally eaten up. There's the losing control aspect - being at the mercy of not only someone else, but also of our own physicality. Somehow visualising that sex can free us from the straightjackets (spot the freudian slip! I know the correct spelling is straitjacket!!!) of our everyday lives, our socialisation. It's heady stuff, this being fed into a meat grinder business. At least that's how I identify with her fantasies.
I may return to this subject as it's stayed with me all this week. On a somewhat lighter note, the internet is the place for meat/sex fantasists, just watch who you talk to Leticia - there's people out there who would love to eat you alive and make your dreams come true.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
Blair's reputation is now entangled with Bush's. If a dissident ex-secretary says Bush was determined on regime change in Iraq from day one, and adds that he saw no evidence that Saddam ever had weapons of mass destruction, those are two bricks through No 10's windows. If Dean, or Clark, attacks Bush for an ill-thought-out and dishonest war, those are criticisms of Blair as well.
It breaks my heart to think that our so-called ‘ethical foreign policy’ could lead us to this: a government and leader that ignores all social justice and environmental policy divergence, not to mention the prospect of discord with other EU nations, merely to help justify a war. Whatever our feelings about the whys and wherefores about the war, and I was firmly in the ‘anti’ camp, the pre-war misleading justification and post-war posturing cheapens and demeans us all.
A year and a bit ago I got married. Like all women I know, in the run up to the big day something primeval kicked in and I was determined to look as much like a radiant princess as possible. For some reason, for me, this means thin. I went on my own specially adapted version of Atkins and, since I’m vegetarian, this was a bit like living on bread and water, but without the bread. Luckily, the animator and I got married in a hurry – another story for another time - and I only dieted for six weeks. I’m guessing here, as we don’t own a set of scales, but I think I was down to around 9st 7lbs on the big day (certainly I was still well under 10st a month later after eating normally). Exactly, a whole stone underweight. Believe me it showed, when the photos came back the animator and I were both shocked at just how thin I’d got – spindly arms and a pigeon chest were not my idea of the radiant princess look.
But here’s the rub, up until the photos came back neither of us thought I was looking ‘too thin’. Indeed, I was still moaning about the largesse of my thighs the morning of our wedding. My body dysmorphia I can understand, but why wasn’t the animator able to see that things had got out of hand? He wasn’t the only one either, in the run up to the wedding everyone congratulated me on my new svelte figure. I’ve identified some contributing factors:
1. The animator is a skinny chap and finds skinniness attractive. He says to me, ‘you’re happier when you’re thinner,’ which is true, but not exactly healthy.
2. Our society prizes thinness as a virtue.
3. If I’m charitable, my natural, healthy dimensions look ‘large’ to other, shorter people – did I mention I have hips that could accommodate triplets with room to spare?
So my question is: who has the problem here and what’s the solution?
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Saturday, January 10, 2004
No links for you today, no nothing really. Life has been in meltdown recently - I handed in my resignation with no new job lined up and now I'm scared! Don't get the wrong end of the stick, I've wanted to quit for ages. But then I always made excuses - things like I can't quit until the animator has found a job. Anyway, loads of bad management stuff happened with the new-launch title I was editing, resulting in an almighty row... that was just before Christmas. Talk about a catalyst, my reaction was swift and fully encouraged by the animator: I decided I'd quit on the first day back of the New Year and quit I did. All that remains now is for the animator and I to both find jobs, either that or we'll be sleeping under Waterloo bridge by the end of February - you heard it here first.
Actually, I have got a couple of links. Two blogs I've been checking out regularly: Belle, winner of The Guardian's best written blog award (she always makes me blush with shame, her prose is so perfect) and badger boy, a kind of blog/rant space/photoshoppery haven.
One blog not reading too much of due to low-tech makeover is Rebecca's Pocket - shame, it just hurts my eyes now :-(
Finally, short of going into competition with Belle - and sadly, I doubt I'm pretty or flexible enough, not to mention the animator would divorce me - does anyone have a job for me? I'm a life sciences sub editor and project manager (I bet you didn't guess).