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l'enfer du North Island

  bookkeeping Saturday, 28 August 2010 link

I seem - and I don't think I'm alone in this - to have a stack of "items I'd like to own." There's always three or four things that I'd quite like to buy, sitting in the back of my mind. They're not things I actually need; if I did have a real, serious need for the item (new glasses, say) I'd just go out and get the damn thing. No, these are things that I'd just quite like. At any one time, there's about three or four. They may be useful items. They may be practical items. Or they may not. But I don't really need them - they're just something I'd quite like. These are the things that I occasionaly browse in internet shops. These are the things that I mentally picture myself with. These are not the things that I actually need for my day to day life. It's the mental list of "if a guilt-free grand drops in my lap, I'd buy this stuff".

So what? Aren't I just being a bit fucking protestant about this? If I want something, and we can afford it, why not just buy it? Treat yourself, you annoying puritan.

But experience has taught me that there isn't much point in actually buying items from this list. Yes, when I get one of these things it makes me happy. But the list doesn't go down for long. Within a month, I've seen something else that I quite fancy, and the whole cycle begins again. Items can easily stay on the list for years without any particular fuss. Since we're talking about idle wants, rather than needs, there's no particular problem keeping myself in a holding pattern on it. So I practice some basic self-discipline; I know there's no huge point into succumbing to the urge, so I don't.


Sometimes, there's a point where "want" becomes "need". And I hit one of those points the other day. For the past three or so years, I've had "pair of cherry red DMs" on my idle wants list. And then a month or two ago, we hit a sweet spot between actually needing a pair of new shoes and having someone fly out from the UK for a course I was helping teach. This meant that I could get a pair of original pattern cherry red DMs for somewhat under half the price in NZ, thus making it not merely sensible but positively frugal to buy the damn things.

So for the last month and a half, I've been breaking them in. I am amazed by how happy simply owning red footwear makes me. It is awesome; I have red boots, and the world is a cheerful place. Turns out having red footwear gets you respect both from people who remember the 90s fondly, and people born during them.

Of course, something else has bubbled up onto my idle wants list. But that's just the way it works.

When I were a lad, all this were fields. And I were a bit adventurous. And the consequence of that was that I broke my left arm repeatedly (either two or three times, depending on whether you count the time I rebroke it and had to have it reset a fortnight into the second break). It helped make me the balanced individual you see before you. And so it is with extreme sympathy, mixed with a certain amount of "good to see the younger generation getting out from in front of the TV" that I heard that my 8-year old brother has broken both his arms at the same time. Ouch.

For injury fans, I should also point out that I spent a fair bit of my youth in and out of hospitals with various injuries: I did something age 4 that put me in traction (no idea what), I broke my arm a fair bit as mentioned, I got hit by a car aged 16, and so on. This, coupled with the fact that my mother is a doctor and used to take me into work if I was off school sick, means that I find hospitals quite comforting places. The combination of harsh lighting, institutional decor, and pained monotony soothes me.

Work's been very busy recently. But a happy theme has been my old favourite, "it's astonishing what people will give you if you just ask them straight out for it."

Amusing stoush recently on Eye of the Fish about the greater Johnsonville area - confirming my suspicions that the Johnsonville Progressive Association need to calm the fuck down. Seriously: what are these people on? Followups: one, two.

  revisiting adolesence, with more stripes Monday, 2 August 2010 link

I was turned on to William Gibson in the late 80s, when I was about fourteen or fifteen. I lived in Tokyo at the time. Myself and a friend were sitting on a train - I think it was on the Hibiya-sen - and a group older gaijin got on. Looking back, they were probably only in their mid 20s, but at the time they seemed mature and knowledgeable. One of them saw that my mate was reading some weak-ass fantasy bullshit and enthusiastically recommended that we should give Gibson a go. Given Gibson's work, this random connection in a Tokyo subway always struck me as an extremely appropriate way to find out about him.

Which is a way of saying that I've been re-reading Gibson's early work. It's amazing how well it stands up; it's much less a creature of its time than many of the derivative works it inspired. I've just re-read both Neuromancer and Count Zero, and they're both still beautifully hallucinatory. It's easy to get lost in all the cyberdreck that Gibson inspired; too many authors concentrated on the badass badgirl cybernetic ninja aspects of the books, while forgetting that the work has a beautiful wide scope - one subplot in Count Zero is based entirely on art history, for instance. I hadn't re-read the books for ages, and revisiting them now, I'm picking up a lot more. Definitely worth revisiting.

That raises the question of re-reading favourite books. How often do you? I recall hearing that Alan Lee re-read the entire Lord of the Rings each year, and thinking this was an astonishing thing to do. I mean, who likes something that much? Many of my favourite books I don't really re-read that much simply because I know them so well. Yes, it's wonderful stuff, but jesus people: I've read it five times, it ain't getting any better. I'm going to wait a bit, let myself forget how good they are, then get all obsessed again in a couple of years when I pass them onto my kids, OK?

That said, about every three years I do re-read the entire works of H P Lovecraft. Because he's awesome. In fact, spurred by the word that GDT's next project is actually going to be the film version of At the Mountains of Madness he's been muttering about for ages, I actually picked up a copy of the only Lovecraft I hadn't already owned - At the Mountains of Madness, natch. It's the annotated Penguin Classics edition. I'd felt a bit guilty about paying money simply to own a physical copy of something that's arguably out of copyright and available in its entirety online, but S T Joshi's scholarly additions (including notes on the history and context of each story, and extensive endnotes within the text) really add value to the text. God help me, I've reached the point where I've started reading the endnotes in a work of fiction.

I've also become slightly obsessive recently about dazzle camoflage. If you've not heard of dazzle camoflage, here's a good backgrounder. For one thing, look at the photos of the HMS Argus and USS Leviathan on this page, then compare those to the outside and inside of my right arm. Now I'm tempted to use some of this stuff as inspiration for my left arm...

More examples of dazzle patterns, including prints available to order (personal favourite, from the Rhode Island School of Design.

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unspoilt by progress

calm, peaceful, sweary

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