One-line autobiography

On the train back to Brighton and I’ve just received an email asking to publish my story riddled.  Which is lovely, apart from the request for a one-line bio.  It shouldn’t be a big deal.  Whenever writers give one line biographies they sound nonchalant and clever rather than something they’ve thought about (Neil Gaiman being the master of this).  The problem is it’s hard to sound that nonchalant and flip.  I’ve never provided a self-description I liked.

They used to tell me in CCE to think of my audience.  But I doubt anyone cares all that much about this, which actually makes it a little harder.

Thing is, I don’t really want to talk about myself.  I’d rather make up a story, otherwise I’d be writing autobiography instead of short stories.   Maybe I’ll steal another writer’s life and sum that up in a sentence.

A sad dream

Last night I dreamt I cooked a meal for my sister and Fraser Lewry, who I worked with many years back.  After pudding my cat, Sooty, entered the room.  I said hello and explained to him Fraser was the inventor of cats in sinks and kittenwars, with which I think he was suitably impressed.  Liz and I both noticed Sooty had grey hairs on his neck, probably a  sign of growing old.

Since selling the house my Mum and Dad have been living in a caravan on my sister’s in-law’s yard.  The house in Blackpool was sold a few months back.  As I woke up I panicked, wondering where they were keeping Sooty, since they didn’t have a house right now.  It took me a while to remember my cat died some years back.  It’s set me in a weird mood – how did something like that slip my mind while I was half awake?

We need a montage

Following a suggestion from Mr Spratt, I went to a BritMilFit class in Coventry tonight.  I didn’t have much idea what to expect, but I figured it had to be better than my time in the Cadet Corps.  These days I can do press-ups, run a little and, you know, I’m not Josie Grossie any more.

It was a very good evening – hard work, but a friendly atmosphere, and worked me a lot harder than the running.  I’ve decided to sign up and will be going back on Thursday. 

What books are for

Via boingboing, an article from the Telegraph’s property section entitled Rooms that lose none of their shelf life‘.  Apparently more people want libraries in their homes than home cinemas, gyms or music studios.   Prompted by a survey frm Legal and General, we learn from the article that "as well as furnishing a room, books confer a certain elegant ambience on a property".  And, according to a spokesperson from the Bookseller, "Books are the original insulator. A shelf of books along an outside
wall works well to prevent heat escaping.  If all
the books were removed from the homes in Britain, our energy bills
would rocket.
"

All those workshops learning how to write prose when what I should have been doing was focussing on what books are really for: interior design and energy conservation. 

Beat: the movie

On Saturday I watched a very curious movie, 2000’s Beat. The film tells the story of Joan Vollmer (played by Courtney Love) and William Burroughs (played by Kiefer Sutherland). The film collides two obsessions of mine, Burrough and Cobain (the two actually met once – Burroughs apparently said of Cobain “There‚Äôs something wrong with that boy; he frowns for no good reason“) and it’s strange to watch Love playing Vollmer.

The back of the box doesn’t raise your hopes, promising “As the story unfolds we see that behind every great man or woman there (sic) lives are far from simple“. The film suffers from a poor budget, the New York scenes filmed on very simple sets, all far cleaner than I imagine Vollmer’s real life appartment would have been. The film also features the worst flashback ever (violins! a knife! slow motion!). On the other hand, Sutherland does a fantastic Burroughs impression and the final sequences are heart-wrenching. I’m not sure how much the film relies on knowing the details of the story, though.

All-in-all, it’s one of the better films I’ve bought for a pound, and far superior to Urban Menace.

The big blue slaughterhouse

I’ve spent a quiet weekend in Coventry, sorting out the flat and doing a little writing.  While making soup on Friday I listened to a recording of Matt Webb‘s talk at dConstruct 2007 (MP3, slides and transcript).  Despite Matt Webb’s misgivings about how well the talk worked, I found it fascinating.  The presentation was alphabetical, a different point for each letter, the idea being that the ‘point’ of the talk would emerge for the listener – one of the points referenced was Grice’s conversational maxims and the idea of conversational implicature.  The structure was impressive and a significant departure from the rule of ‘Say what you’re going to say, say it, then say what you’ve said‘.  One of the things I’ve been thinking about this weekend is how the issues and structure of this presentation might apply to a work of fiction.

I found myself thinking of the talk yesterday afternoon on a trip round Ikea Coventry.  The store is in a massive six-storey building in the city center.  You start your shopping on the sixth floor and work your way down to the ground, which reminded me of a description of a modern slaughterhouse I read recently, where the animals enter at the top and are processed floor by floor.

Matt Webb’s talk referred to different types of game, including photoshop and soap operas.  So much of Ikea seemed like a game: the arrows on the floor, the maps of each level (with ‘short cuts’ for experienced players), the elevators between levels, the signs showing you when you’d entered a new sub-level.  We took almost 3 hours to play, although we did spend a long time on the cafe minigame at the end of the first level.

The overall experience was strange.  Everything felt so neat and disposable, some goods so cheap you felt compelled to buy.  Some of the shoppers we saw seemed lost and disorientated and the whole time I felt like a character in a Ballard novel, as if I was doing the most modern thing I could possibly do.

Still, the day had a happy ending as I bought my new desk.  Now all I need in space in the study to erect it.

Mobile broadband

After a little more noodling I’ve finally got the Vodafone Mobile Internet working properly on Ubuntu.  It’s actually easily than I realised at the weekend – all I needed to do was install and run the software, then set the apn field on the configuration as ‘internet’.  You also need to enter something in the username and password field, although this isn’t actually used to connect.

The only other thing you need to do is ask Vodafone to remove the adult content blocker.  Then you can access raunchy sites like The Onion or Flickr. 

All of which means I’m finally back online.  Excellent.

A new home…

I’m now settling into my new flat in Coventry.  It’s wonderful to be living somewhere clean, modern and big.  I’ve got almost all my things here and it doesn’t feel cramped.  The flat has two bedrooms (one of which will be a study/library) and two bathrooms.  Still not figured out how one person makes use of two bathrooms.  Maybe one for morning and one for evening?  Or one for weekends?

I did the move yesterday with the help of Liz, Dave and Hannah.  It took a couple of hours to carry the boxes up the three flights of stairs and I was covered with bruises afterwards.  I’m going to have another cull of my books to make moving out a much simpler affair.

My plan for tomorrow: buy a tin opener.

Vodafone mobile internet working on Ubuntu

After some fussing I’ve finally got Vodafone’s USB Mobile Connect working on Ubuntu!  The first stage was easy, installing Vodafone’s experimental Linux drivers, but after that I ran into problems.  Checking the debug logs showed me the modem was working OK (and the SIM was working as it could receive and send SMS through the GUI) but wvdial was failing.  I’ve now managed to get wvdial configured correctly, so it’s now a case of working out where Vodafone’s GUI is getting its config from.  I’ll try to remember to post a full summary of the solution when I have the GUI up and running.