It’s not complicated, it’s over.

So. Jill split up with me. Here’s how it went.

My friend Chiarina, who I’ve not seen for too many years, had mailed me months ago with a life update, demanding I send one packed with revelations back to her. Being an open sort of person, I was open about nearly all the crap that’s been happening in my life (you need to hold some juice back for the biopic, mhmm?) She recommended, on the basis of what I said about only seeing my girlfriend three times this year and hardly talking, that I leave Jill immediately (and drop out and sleep in a car, but, y’know, I’m working on it.)
Perturbed by this, I wandered over to Facebook and was fiddling around, when I noticed the relationship status options included “it’s complicated”. Feeling that was apropos, I changed it to that from “in a relationship with Jill O’Reilly”. At which point it said “this status update has been sent to Jill O’Reilly for confirmation.” Which scared the shit out of me, but I had other, bigger, things to worry about, so forgot about it.
Until, that is, I was sitting in the BFI on the South Bank and I noticed it has free wireless access. So I dug out my PDA and checked my emails and found, lo and behold, my Facebook message has prompted Jill to end it, albeit in a very sweet way.
So, after a year of bollocksing about, I’m single again. After a month’s hiatus, any offers to set me up with your smelly sister (by which I mean “nun”) will be wholeheartedly considered.

Respect & Imprecision

Normally, I let things slide. I don’t mind minor errors, I don’t try to argue with the fanatics and I look upon friend’s idiocies as endearing foibles. When I do argue, it doesn’t bother me, it’s just a laugh. Yet in the last few weeks, my prissiness has got the better of me and I’ve started correcting people, complaining when I felt complaints needed to be made. Price is right (no pun intended) that our society no longer prizes accuracy.

11/11/2013. It’s worth noting here – this is the piece that almost got me fired from Future for insubordination. As I remember it, the day after I wrote this, I was called into an office by my editor, Steve Brown, and given a written warning for undermining him. In a later meeting, my publisher, James Binns, offered me lots of freelance work if I’d leave the company. I don’t necessarily hold the views I wrote, probably drunk and angry, in the piece at the time, but I defend my right to write them.

Alta L. Price on quibbles.

See, it’s a slippery slope. It could be argued that these aren’t matters of right and wrong, and are instead a question of imprecision. But they’re imprecisions I can’t deal with because, as I see it, these people approach their professions with imprecision, which implies that they neither respect nor love what they’re doing enough to care about getting it right.

Normally, I let things slide. I don’t mind minor errors, I don’t try to argue with the fanatics and I look upon friend’s idiocies as endearing foibles. When I do argue, it doesn’t bother me, it’s just a laugh. Yet in the last few weeks, my prissiness has got the better of me and I’ve started correcting people, complaining when I felt complaints needed to be made. Price is right (no pun intended) that our society no longer prizes accuracy. There’s almost a link between the lack of deference for linguistic standards and our society’s emphasis that everything is acceptable, a link even to *gasp* multiculturalism. Sounds like I’m being a bad liberal here, going against freedom doesn’t it? The claim is there is no standard, no norm but each individual has the right to do anything they want to; it lets people be sloppy, lets them claim that they’re ‘not wrong but just different.’ In terms of language, I’m afraid there is right and wrong and it’s a necessary moral system. Language is the essential tool for communicating ideas. If I mean something by a word and you mean something different by the same word, we find ourselves with an obstacle to communication.

Regarding his comments on “approaching professions with imprecision” I normally don’t love my profession; the standards for entry are far too low and set too low by our employers and it has fundamentally discouraged me over the years, making me not work as hard at my job as I could have and not respect myself or others for doing it. Eurogamer, notably, is one site that sets its standards relatively high and I have more respect for the people it employs. Edge magazine, despite my concerns over its increasingly populist focus, also has a care for correct, clear and useful language. However, Future’s magazines, particularly on the console side, seem to care little for talented writing and more for speed of copy production. If a job is advertised (which it often isn’t) we tend to employ the best of the limited selection of passable candidates who apply, rather than looking actively for an ideal candidate. I look at the sub-editors I admire, the ones who can turn lacklustre and poorly written copy into sparkling reams of perfectly fitted prose (their names reveal them to be uniformly women: Katharine Davies, Liz Raderecht, Vanessa Hards and Clare Lydon), and I find their numbers in decline and the respect for them sadly lacking. Those who are good are often discouraged by the mediocrity around them; our art staff, for example, are all immensely qualified and talented but it’s very rare that I see any of them doing original design or varying from templates. Notably our company pays its marketing and advertising personnel very well and promotes them to its top positions, seeing them as the key to larger profits. However, their profit is grounded in the editorial staff and if they’re no good or dissatisfied, and hence imprecise, then the magazine is no good.

Edit: So let’s trace that thought more clearly. I don’t like imprecisions in language because (wide reason) clear communication is necessary for the maintenance of society (assertion to be justified elsewhere) and because (narrow reason) words are my life. Imprecisions in language are on the rise because laxity is in general on the rise. Laxity is on the rise because our society made a choice in the 1960s to be more permissive and that choice accorded with the needs of the economy; that people’s history, knowledge and skills don’t matter so long as they can do the job that is available. Ah, balls, I’ve lost the thread again.

There’s Something Floral Here


websiteasgraphs
Originally uploaded by Hot Grill.

I really like the images produced by this little gizmo (link deleted for safe browsing after it was compromised.)

In case you can’t be arsed following the link, it turns websites into geometric representations, in a most charming manner.

Here’s the legend, if you care.

blue: for links (the A tag)
red: for tables (TABLE, TR and TD tags)
green: for the DIV tag
violet: for images (the IMG tag)
yellow: for forms (FORM, INPUT, TEXTAREA, SELECT and OPTION tags)
orange: for linebreaks and blockquotes (BR, P, and BLOCKQUOTE tags)
black: the HTML tag, the root node
grey: all other tags

L:fe Update

Something seems to have happened. Either I’m going through a extreme-pheromone phase, the female population of the world has gone mad in the run-up to Valentine’s day, or my waking dreams have become more vivid. I seem to have become popular with the extra-geners for a period of two weeks (I even pulled/was pulled using the Aeneid at the weekend). Of course, some of this is due to the intervention of friends supplying me with much-wanted opportunities to meet said ladies, but there’s a statistically significant change I’m sure…

Also, weirdness: when I’m out with people, loads seem to assume I’m some sort of sexual beast who has sown his wild oats repeatedly into the quilt of mankind; everyone assumes I have tremendous sexual experience, like some roving-handed Grendelian beast. Do they not know me very well? I’m a computer games journalist for christ’s sake…

The Carbonised Man

Three things I remember; the bridge, the warnings and the bomb.

The bridge was located in the city-centre over Deansgate; in fact it’’s still there, polygonal and filthy, scrabby bushes sheltering tin cans from the cleaning machines crammed up against it. I remember we used to walk past it every time we went to my Dad’s favourite city-centre restaurant, the Chicago Pizza Pie company. My dad was living on top of the Arndale Centre, one of the few city-centre dwellers left in urban Manchester back then. Course, now it’’s full of the posh and wealthy and the suburbs are fast becoming the horror of the trend-setters, the suburbs that were the ideal of the ’50s and ’70s.

The bridge was pretty futile, even then, as it was easier to cross the empty road underneath than walk up all those steps. I guess on the plans in the ’60s it had looked like a space-flyover, and heralded an upwardly-mobile, year-2000 city of soaring steel and glass (if only those architects had realised that steel and glass age like ballet toes.) Anyway, me and my little bro, gambolling up there to waste irrepressible energy, noticed that the side of the bridge behind the bushes was all burnt up, so we asked Dad. ““That was where the IRA planted the bomb””, he said. “”Someone found it and got killed.””

Now, this was way before the proper bomb, and I’’ve never heard of that explosion before or since. If I did my research I’’m sure I’’d dig it up, but I didn’’t so I haven’’t. It didn’’t scare me back then, and it doesn’’t now; I just spent my time trying to spot a Bugs Bunny style charred silhouette on the wall and found it perverse that the council didn’t clean up the carbonised man.

Well, the months went by, and Chicago became Henry J Bean’s and the clientele dropped off until it was just us going there; pretty soon it was remodelled as a sports bar. The Mancunian conception of a sports bar back then was pretty young girls serving low cut drinks, which seemed to be okay by my dad, so we kept going there as the regulars shifted from red-faced men in business suits to red-faced men in tracksuits and jeans.

Meanwhile, the warnings increased in frequency. The Arndale flats were leafy and green, but they were located in the city centre, right near Strangeways (and the Cathedral, and the magnificent Brunelian train station of Victoria but this is a murder mystery, kids), so we were used to helicopters flying over, screams, shouts, and sirens going off; yet our weaning on movies meant we were more scared of night horror, of Jaws and American Werewolves, than of prisoners or of the daft thugs that roamed the streets. I never got mugged while I lived in Manchester and I think it was down to adopting an aggressive posture and wearing the biggest scabbiest coats I had, just in the hope of scaring off those werewolves and bears that I knew were living in the alleys behind Marks and Sparks, lurking in Shambles Square disguised as tramps.

The warnings came in the form of yellowjackets and policemen, early in the morning, late at night, banging on the door to tell us of bomb calls. It happened a good few times, and it always meant we’’d pull on our dressing gowns and wander down the concrete spiral stairs to Withy Grove, where we waited for the all-clear. Well, we were meant to. A lot of the time we just got dressed, or popped across the road to the Book Exchange, or just stayed in bed, cos, hey, we hadn’t been blown up yet, so it wasn’t going to happen.

I wasn’’t there the day the bomb went off. I must have been at school, or staying with my mum in the leafy suburbs of Didsbury, but we sure heard about it. It was a busy shopping weekend I think, and by all accounts the shopping precincts were packed, people fulfilling the modern categorical imperative; if you live, then you must shop. Our cunning friends from across the sea thought the best way to liberate their homeland was to interfere with the life-urge to shop, so had bought themselves large quantities of fertiliser and glucose, and stirred them (not shook ‘em) in a big white transit van. They parked it on the busiest corner in town, the intersection of Cross street and Market street, pretty near to the old Irish quarter of Manchester;

I’’ll emphasise that again, you have to remember that Manchester is an Irish town, formed by immigrants shipped over to work in the dark, satanic mills. Where the BBC headquarters are now, on Oxford Road, was an unrivalled slum where 300 families lived in about the area of a large detached house nowadays. The IRA were targeting that day relatives, fellow catholics and probably a lot of traditional Manchester liberals sympathetic to their cause, having been sympathetic since Parnell’’s day. But then you have to be dumb, desperate and vicious to even consider bombing civilians a good way of getting your message across.

A warning was put out to the police and to their eternal credit they quickly spotted the van; there’’s footage of the policemen moving people away in great running packs, shepherding the screaming shoppers away from the blast area. There’’s also quiet footage of the van, sitting silently surrounded by the abandoned detritus of the living just before it blasted off, a terrified traffic light feeling abandoned next to it; then the blast tearing the van to pieces and then the smoking hole with that lucky traffic light still standing, astonished.

Everything I’’d known in that area, a substantial portion of my childhood, was wiped out by garden products, sugar and twisted chunks of a motor vehicle. The wide streets eventually helped the blast dissipate but initially the urban canyons channelled it, ripping the glass off the new buildings and sending a storm of shards down the street. Thanks to the police, most people were a long way away when the blast went off, but several were still shredded by the flying blades. Thankfully, no lives were lost.

The Corn Exchange was gutted, its homely shops evicted while it was repaired and a dull mall dropped into the hole. The Royal Exchange building suffered severe structural damage, and the Hallé Orchestra was forced beyond the police lines where the city was shut off (fortuitously they ended up in Castlefield, right next to my dad’s restaurant, which made him wealthy for a short time.)

My dad, Dimitri, the Welsh-Greek, was so incensed at this, at the basic stupidity of it, that he made up a terrible joke and told it to everyone he met. Including Sinn Fein No. 2 Martin McGuiness (A.K.A. The IRA’’s Butcher of Belfast). He was on Question Time, and Dimitri actually travelled all the way down to London to tell him the joke. It went ““Why did the potato famine happen? Cos the IRA nicked all the fucking fertiliser.”” (The swearing was necessary to get it anywhere near working.) After he told Mr McGuiness, Martin smiled easily and moved on with his four burly bouncers surrounding him. My dad, suddenly terrified and probably drunk, fled; he spent the rest of the night changing trains and buses, and trying to shake off imagined shadows.

(I think my dad was actually as angry at himself as at the IRA; he knew about the easy availability of the detonation ingredients because at school he’’d used his chemistry knowledge to make himself bombs out of ‘common household ingredients, and set them off on Welsh bridges for kicks. Dark horse doesn’’t approach it.)

Of course, patriotic Americans kept funding the IRA, and supporting it, donating millions at St Patrick Day fundraisers and keeping it in brand spanking new weapons supplied by various international arms suppliers. And we kept selling weapons to Tamils and Afghans and and anybody else who wanted to buy our special pacifying water cannons and pacifying rubber bullets and pacifying tanks. And then 9/11 came along and it all became just more history.

You are talking to Russian Theatregoer

I promised a mate I’d put this in, despite its mediocrity…

You are talking to Russian Theatregoer

Russian Theatregoer says:

update your blog you bastard!

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

doh. will do when I get a mo’

Russian Theatregoer says:

you’re severely inconveniencing me. I’ve got no-one to live my life through…

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

agh, I remember now – the last one I wrote got lost on monday when it crashed..

Russian Theatregoer says:

talking of life just saw someone getting mown down on St Giles

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

really. shit. dead? (Living your life through another’s death – very Cronenberg)

you are joking aren’t you?

Russian Theatregoer says:

probably not. she was whimpering ‘I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die’ which suggests that she was gonna live. seriously!

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

shit. Did you help?!? Or did you piss on her twitching body…. to sterilise the wounds, y’know…

Russian Theatregoer says:

no

the paramedics had just got there before me. I would have given her mouth to mouth

Russian Theatregoer says:

but she was a minger [not that it’s ever stopped me in the past]

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

but the paras held you back did they, until they’d finished…

Russian Theatregoer says:

yeah, then I fucked her as rigor mortis set in

Russian Theatregoer says:

how are you anyway?

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

‘I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die’

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

No my back’s completely fucked, and I’ve got a fuckload of freelance for tomorrow, and my mum’s coming to stay tonight… bad mix.

Russian Theatregoer says:

my back is always fukced!

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

really? that would be to do with the brown bags oddbins sells, right?

Russian Theatregoer says:

wha?!

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

erm… brown bags tend to contain whiskey.

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

Whiskey means tramping

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

Tramping means lying on sleeping rough

Russian Theatregoer says:

oh#

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

Sleeping rough = park bench

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

Park bench = modern stylish living

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

modern stylish living = hypochondria

Russian Theatregoer says:

hypochondria=terminal illness

Chalk on Glass =_= says:

‘I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die’