31 May 2009

The funniest thing I've seen in a while

May 18, 2009 (Julian calendar)

For the last day of May, an hilarious video 'remix' of Sir Alan Sugar on The Apprentice by Cassetteboy. If you haven't heard of Cassetteboy, check out his site. I was laughing so hard at one point, I thought I was going to literally collapse. NSFW, though, and probably not a good idea to listen with little critters about.

Thanks to Speak You're Branes for the link.

21 May 2009

May Holiday/Acers High! (Mayan Long Count)

Pixie and I had our spring holiday last week and it was decided that we head to the Peak District this year. I could ramble on about the holiday in my usual way, but I think it may be better to quote Pixie's succinct style (taken from a thread at The Bear Pit). My comments are in italics.

"Here's a run down on all the places we visited:

Haddon Hall - interesting (especially the Elizabethan musicians playing authentic replica instruments in the main hall). Expensive though to get in. The band were called Piva, they even dressed in the medieval gear. The chapel had bats nesting in it and you could hear them chattering. Definitely a worthwhile visit.

Bakewell - a charming little place with massive fish in the river. Nice village - the river promenade is a groovy chill-out spot. Cool indie book/music shop called 'Bakewell Books' in the centre of town. Fairly pricey, but some excellent finds there.

Ashford in the Water - pretty little village. Very small, but you can gawp at the expensive country houses and have a walk up above the village on a steep hill path.

Eyam - the "plague" village. Interesting but creepy. It sorta looks like any number of small English villages, 'till you notice the plaques outside some of the cottages letting you know how many members of a particular family died there. There's a very old stone Saxon cross in the church graveyard. We had lunch at a tiny roadside cafe, I can't recall the name of it now--decent sarnies there.

Hathersage - where we stayed. Not much there but a good base for our holiday. We meant to go see Little John's grave, which is supposedly there. I recommend the Little John pub--it's a bit tourist-y, but cozy and the Bosley Cloud beer is quite nice.

Sheffield - by accident when we were looking for a supermarket. We passed through a few funky neighborhoods with lots of mom-n-pop/indie shops, but didn't have time to stop, as we were on a mission for grub. We shopped at the Waitrose by a few massive tower blocks--there's a newer glass-facade one that's being finished at the moment. I will say that Sheffield didn't look as bad as I expected it to.

Blue John Cavern - very interesting but expensive shop (the jewellery in the shop was beautiful but way out of my price range). The cavern tour was pretty amazing. You end up around 300 feet below the surface. Gigantic 'rooms' carved out of the rock by water and the stone walls looking ribbed by the same effect seemed incredible to me. Our guide was coughing throughout most of the journey and joked about having swine flu. He's an older bloke and I was relieved when he completed the tour--really, he's fitter than we are. Well, he is in traversing the cavern, anyway.

Glossop - looking for Hadfield but couldn't spot any League of Gentlemen places. Portions of the show were allegedly filmed in the small town of Hadfield, but we couldn't find a high street (the most likely place for filming), or even anywhere to park. We stopped in Glossop and had a little wander around. I found some great LPs in the Oxfam shop there, including a near-mint copy of Tangerine Dream's 'Rubycon' and a decent copy of Yes' 'Relayer', at good prices. Nice!

Longshaw Estate (national trust) - went for a walk around the grounds and then by a pretty stream. The weather was lovely that day, I think we even got a bit of a sunburn. Longshaw is recommended for a good walk. The day we visited, the crowds were at a minimum and it was quite serene. Very enjoyable.

Buxton - nice little place with a Subway. I liked Buxton, even though it was an overcast day. There's some interesting architecture and a huge green area to walk around. The high street is packed with charity shops, which may contain vinyl goodies. I found a couple of Sky LPs and a Wurzels album too. The find of the day was a copy of Camel's 'Mirage', including the photo insert. Lunch was at Subway - you just can't go wrong with a tasty sammich from there.

Monsal Head - we went for a walk on the old railway. Beautiful views. We attempted a 10-mile circular walk, but couldn't find a landmark (stated in the guidebook we were using) about halfway through and decided to turn back. It was a prescient choice, because we were knackered by the time we were back at the car. Another great place to explore.

Ilam & Dovedale - my favourite place I think. We went for a 4.5 hour walk there. Pretty spectacular scenery, especially on the walk we took. There's one bit where you venture through a small 'valley' between two steep hills...it seems almost prehistoric. Until a plane flies over, that is. There's another part of the walk beside the Dove River that's quite beautiful. We crossed the famous "Stepping Stones" as well. I tried to feed a few pieces of ice cream cone to a lamb, but I don't think he was having it.

Hardwick Hall - another National trust place. Interesting (but it poured with rain and we got soaked going round the Herb garden). This was a 'stop-on-the-way-home' visit. The house has some fascinating artifacts...old carved-wood tables and faded silk tapestries. The grounds are probably well-kept and worth a walkabout - we didn't bother due to the rain."

That's your lot - there are photos, but I haven't down-loaded them off of the camera yet. Maybe I'll show some off in a later post.

Our old Compaq Presario was starting to drag a bit. It is 6 years old and had to be re-booted a couple of times, due to viruses. Pixie and I have been talking about buying a new system for about a year now. We bit the bullet and purchased an Acer M464 a few weeks ago off of a local computer dealer. On the few sites I looked at - it received decent reviews. The bloke stopped by yesterday and installed it, plus copied all of mine and the goodwyf's files off of the Compaq. It was up and running in a couple of hours...and man, it is fast! I tested out the CD/DVD burner and it zapped a disc out in 1 minute (using Magix's Audio Cleaning Lab program) and the copy was good (it was Rotary Connection's self-titled debut, for those who may be interested). I found out the computer bloke likes Tangerine Dream, becuase I was spinning Ricochet and my newly-acquired "Rubycon" LP while he was setting the system up and he told me he used to listen to them back in the 70s. He remarked that he was an apprentice at the BBC's Radio and Television workshop, so I turned him on to The White Noise...he kinda dug it. It's nice to have a computer that doesn't take ages to load up more than one intrawebnet page or finish a virus scan. I have to admit I like having a new toy every so often.

06 May 2009

Cyber-meetings with Unremarkable Critters

11 Jumada I-Ula - Year 1430

I'm at my Facebook account some time ago...say around six months or so. I was going through various bands, writers, etc. and 'becoming a fan' of them (basically pressing a button which adds your avatar onto the page created for the writer, musician, etc.). I searched for G.I. Gurdjieff and found a page dedicated to him. I thought "Yeah, all right - I like what I've read of his philosophy, mostly through Robert Anton Wilson and I'm reading Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson at the moment.." (I'm still reading it - but it's a large book and not the easist to get through--'cos of G.I.'s 'patterned language'). So I clicked the 'become a fan' button.

A few days later, I get a friend request from a critter who sent a message saying "Hello Gurdjieff fan". Cool, this guy seems alright...I accepted. He then sent an invitation to a group called "Views From The Fourth Way", for Gurdjieffians involved in The Work (those involved in it tend to capitalise it, because it's considered very important to do so). I joined up, even though I'm not doing "The Work" at the moment. I may start sometime, just as a cursory exploration - but after I've read a few more books. I didn't post anything at the group board for that reason...I didn't think I had anything substantial to add. The group was 'invite-only', unlike a lot of groups on FB. He had to personally invite you - you couldn't just find the group and join up. Hmmmm..

I started to notice other things about this critter--he seemed a bit grumpy. He would exhort his FB 'friends' to not send him any quizzes or cartoons or anything, really. It seemed weird to me, because FB 'is' a 'social network' site, by it's own definition. To my observation, his behaviour seemed sort-of elitist, as if he were above all of that. Still, I thought, that's his right to request his friends not to send him stuff. He didn't post much of anything, except news stories about the financial collapse, global warming, articles with a vague anti-science bias...topics that were important to him, I suppose. I should point out that he's probably in his 50s or 60s, going by his profile photo anyway. Old enough to fit into a curmudgeon's shoes. Again....fair enough, he can do what he wants with his FB account.

Occasionally, I would comment on one of the news stories he would post. He sent me an invite for another group, something about "Fighting the New World Order". I didn't join that one, because I'm not convinced there "is" a New World Order organisation to fight. That seems like the 'one over-arching conspiracy' stuff, which is a hoot to read about...but not something I believe in. He then started sending out messages saying he was going to kick people out of his "Fourth Way" group if they didn't start participating. I told him if he wanted to boot me, in favour of someone else, that I was O.K. with it, as I hadn't participated at all. He told me not "to be silly" - erm..I didn't think it was a silly statement, but a practical, thoughtful one.

Last week, he posted a column from Stanley Fish, though I can't remember if it was this one. It was basically lambasting atheists, especially scientific ones (Dawkins, et al.), though in a gentle manner. I posted (or made the mistake of posting) a comment to the effect of "Sombunall atheists seem as blinkered as fundie religionists to me." He replied "I believe in levels of religion". I had no clue what he meant by that - but I also didn't realise it was a reference to Gurdjieffian philosophy. I then posted a response, thinking he meant sects within major religions, stating that I like Sufis, Hasidic Jews & Quakers, etc. Uh oh....

He immediately sent a message to me, saying "I thought you were a Gurdjieff fan, but you don't seem to know about the levels of religion" Yep--I was in the principal's office. I wrote back stating "I am a Gurdjieff fan, but I'm still learning. I'm reading "Beelzebub's Tales.." and I like what I've read about him, various quotes and things. What are the levels of religion?" I was told that I had to read Ouspensky's (a student of G.I.'s) Psychology Of Man's Possible Evolution now and that life's too short not to start 'The Work'. I said, "O.K. thanks for the tip. I'll read the book. I'll talk with you later." Meaning, "Thanks, I'm done with this conversation now." Nope--he came back with some smug statement about how I 'just might learn something because he's been doing the Work for forty years and he knows'...he knows. Uh huh. So I looked up these 'levels' - and I found things similar to this. Now, as anyone who's checked out any RAW, Timothy Leary or Antero Alli can tell you - that seems very similar to the 8-circuit brain model, or at least, partially similar. I pointed that out to this critter and he said "No. There is nothing like the levels." That's how would type as well - just these near mono-syllabic one-or-two sentence ripostes. I'd wager that Wilson and Leary's model was partially inspired by Gurdjieff, but I strongly suspect he wouldn't be having any of that.

I began to feel a tiny bit insulted, as if he were trying to lord it over me with his superior knowledge of Gurdjieff's philosophy. The thing is, while I appreciate the man's writings and ideas--he's not the be-all-and-end-all to me. To this critter, though, he seems to be everything. So I asked him how he discovered Gurdjieff and how he came to decide that G.I.'s philosophy seemed better than any other system. I told him how I discovered Gurdjieff through RAW and a Kate Bush (sorry for the pop-ups) song, Them Heavy People. He answered with "I am in The Work. When you know what that means, I may answer your questions." What a pompous, over-serious, frickin', rackin'...*Mumbly muttering* That answer made me laugh, it seemed so self-important and cliched, that I responded with "Ha Ha Ha Ha - you crack me up, ____". I think I touched a nerve. He replied with a mini-rant about how he 'takes the Work very seriously and would never laugh at it' and how there's plenty of resources at the Gurdjieff fan page but how I never seemed to have made an effort to look at them. He asked if I even knew what The Work meant and told me that it had not diminished his 'sense of humor' (bearing in mind that I had never seen any evidence of this alleged sense of humor). He then wound down with "Why do I make you laugh? What on Earth do you mean?"

Now, the temptation to send him that 'restaurant scene' from Goodfellas was almost too great, but in the end, I settled for "I am a Discordian Pope. When you find out what that means, I may answer your questions." Then I told him I'd see him around, sent it off and promptly removed him from my friends list. I guess these critters are everywhere, in every sect of esoteric knowledge...Thelemites, UFO-logists, even Discordians. Ultra-serious and keen to demonstrate how much they're in the know and you're not. C'mon, how can you not take the piss out of them? I try to show most critters tolerance and some respect. I don't like being hectored and preached at, though..and asked to prove my allegiance to a philosophy or idea. I guess, to this critter, being a "fan" of G.I. Gurdjieff means devoting most of your time to the study and practice of his ideas. To me, 'fandom' is a lot less rigourous. I really like RAW, but I'm not about to go around and harangue everyone who even has a casual interest in his ideas and ask them why they haven't read all of his books and why they don't watch the "Maybe Logic" DVD every day.

The whole situation reminds me of an old Dennis Miller routine, back when he was still funny and not a Bush family crony and apologist. He said something like "I don't mind doing drugs. It's not the drugs that mess you up, it's usually the people you have to do them with." Then he went on to talk about how he had smoked some powerful weed and is spaced out when some berk asks him "Waitaminute, waitaminute....how do I know the color blue is the same to you as it is to me?" "I don't know", Miller answers, "Go look at the crayon box - what do I look like, fuckin' "Nova"*?" Sometimes, it's not the philosophy that does your head in, but those who espouse it far too seriously.

*Nova is a show on PBS in the States, which I thought had been cancelled, but looks like it's still going strong. It was (or is) a sort-of science/investigative program.