Face In A Crowd

wheres-waldo-StoreI remember that, even from an early age, I thought that astrology was a steaming pile of bullshit. I mean while I appreciated reading fantasy novels and the concept of the arcane art of reading stars, and by applying mythology and a dash of magic, one could distil some image of your character, or divine your future fate; the idea that this could be translated into real life never really sat with me. Perhaps I’ve always had a scientific side that somehow manages to couple brilliantly with my fantastical imagination, but I’ve eventually come to realise that if it’s not explained to me exactly how a thing works, then it probably doesn’t actually  work. 

However this worldview proves a little problematic when trying online dating. Apart from the initial panic of having to create one tiny page that has to perfectly encapsulate your life, who you are, and what you are not; the entire idea of selling yourself in a limited number of characters seems far too much like prostitution. Or a CV. Not to mention the very concept of going onto an invisible web of people and attempting to find a person is quite bizarre. There is an element of bullet biting, a dash of pride swallowing, and a handful of getting the fuck on with it, but eventually there you are – all ready for the wide world (or whatever distance parameters you’ve managed to set) to find you and poke at you until you roll over and realise you’ve had enough.

But this isn’t some agony aunt blog about “how do I find Mr Right in a sea of Weird?”. We all know the earth is populated by strange and unusual creatures who seep into every group and club you might think to join. I could go on for years about avoiding the crazies, deflecting the sleaze, and turning down the overly eager; but what really thrills me – what makes me sit up and take more than my usual ginned up notice of the planet is the fact that so many of us are so very, very alike.

My margins are small. Please be someone who: loves (or can tolerate) geekery, vaguely appreciates my face (and vice versa), and frowns not upon my drinking like a fish. Few needs, but they weed out much of the competition. What has astonished me to the max is that the slew of people who slide into this slot are so varied, but also how similar I feel with so many assorted and different souls. The variety of people I am able to co-exist with is so monumentally vast, despite my rather acute dislikes and severe personality parameters, that I feel a) a thrill at my eventual choice of life mate b) hope for general happiness and – ok let’s just pretend that this last one is the most important and that the last two haven’t already blown my mind – c) my kinship with humanity.

And while I can already hear you anti-hippies vomiting in the background, I invite all of you who remain yet unrepulsed to share in my joy that we are indeed all, vaguely, one. Or kind of, at least. While star signs and palm reading may light the way to some, I find the idea that we’re all essentially similar and searching for the same, to be one of the most comforting constants to cling to. Strangers adrift a floating rock who manage to find happiness (lasting or not) with each other and spur each other on to further heights of euphoria.

Perhaps that’s the case. Perhaps its all a waste. But hey, at least I’m having fun crafting the perfect opening sentence for my grindr profile.



ReverseI remember the time in life I realised that I didn’t have to pretend to actually like football. As a 14 year old in an all boys school (and desperately trying to pass as a straight person) this was a great relief. Having not grown up in a household where football was of any importance whatsoever – a grace for which I am yet to thank my genius parents – being dropped into a world where the lingua franca was whatever player performed well that week, and whether Liverpool or Everton would do well that season*, was all a big culture shock. Coming from a city where you were either a Red or a Blue, I seemed to confound comprehension of my peers by choosing neither. But as I dipped my toes into the waters of Not-Giving-A-Hot-Shit (a place I would soon dive into body and soul) I became more and more myself.

I guess my ten year journey has led me to here then. An almost completely different person in many respects but still me at heart. So it is with tentative trepidation that I find myself secretly googling the results of world cup matches. My eyes are glued to any screen showing a game and I honestly have favourite teams and have mapped out a strategy of who’s going to win. Or at least – who I want to win.

It’s not that I’m suddenly actually interested in football, it’s more that I’ve unexpectedly found that I can appreciate the beautiful game. I see patterns and formations, I can anticipate goals and game developments quite intuitively. I think I need to be deeply involved in the game in some other life, my brain appears to be hard-wired for it in a way most other peoples aren’t. It’s disconcerting to find that one of my inbuilt aptitudes is for a thing I have such disdain for. I think I have much self-examining to do when the tournament is over.

And so this sudden life epiphany has me all pre-disposed to think about change and how suddenly it can occur even when the tide seems to be against it. And forgive me for this rather jagged segue into a different topic, but on this Pride weekend we’re marking 45 years since the Stonewall Riots.

In less than half a century, my people (that’s right, I’m the Moses to society’s anit-gay Pharaoh) have gone from an imprisoned minority to being plastered annoyingly across every channel you could hope to watch. Louis Spence prances round like a knob, Alan Carr flaps and cackles live on our screens, and Graham Norton slathers us with bitchy sass while we watch Eurovision. And we FUCKING LOVE IT. I think that we need to take a moment to realise just how massive this is.

While other political groups are still campaigning or fighting for their cause, often with violence, all we did was stand up and shout loudly and gayly and people listened. After all, it’s hard to ignore such an immaculately dressed interest group.

Perhaps this feeds into my new love for non-violence and leanings towards Jainism (please don’t be alarmed when you wikipedia that and see all the Swastikas – they invented the symbol and the Nazis just stole it)  but I think that even if you disagree with us – you can’t deny we have a killer PR team.

Yay for equal rights, yay for non-violence, yay for football, and yay for The Netherlands – YOU CAN DO IT!

*I’ve yet to actually take the time to actually work out how long a football season is and why this matters. The season always seems to be starting and ending.

Quit Your Jibber Jabber

language-learningThere’s a weird fight going on in my brain. In the blue corner we have my love for languages, linguistics, the life-like way they evolve and merge and adapt, grammar and its complexities, and the depth and colour that words can add to simple ideas, not to mention learning the different pallets of other languages and cultures. And in the red corner I kinda want endangered languages to die out, and quickly please. In fact, if we could go ahead and execute the severely endangered and other imperilled forms of speech that would be just grand.

For those of you who love languages and linguistics, I’m picturing a look of revolted horror on your faces right now. And yes, I do feel that I am somehow betraying some ancient oath taken by all linguophiles to preserve all speech and do no harm, but I also can’t drum up enough will to actually care.

Some of you may be unfamiliar with the concept of language endangerment so let me explain to you. Out of the earth’s 7000 languages (you never knew there were that many did you?) it is believed that half of them will be extinct by the end of the 21st century. By the year 2100 we as a species will have flying cars* but only 3500 languages. A language dies when all of its speakers, but not necessarily all of the ethnic group who traditionally speak it, kick the bucket. Some of the more common examples are many of the Native American languages. Lots of the young Native Americans have English as their first language and may not speak Sioux, or Apache, or whatever language their tribe uses at all. If they do speak it, it is often only to older people in their family groups and they sometimes resent using the language as it makes them feel like outsiders in their own social groups (high-school is an awful place to be different). Thus, the mechanics of sociolinguistics slowly drive a language into the grave and there are none alive left to use it. They are as dead as latin doornails.

So why am I so keen that these languages, and therefore much of the cultures attached to them, die out? Well… I love globalisation. The idea that in the future we will be one planet and one nation (so to speak). The higher goal of attaining peace (or at least prickly tolerance) the world over is such a fantastic idea. Now, don’t worry I’m not going to lie in bed, let my hair grow, and stay there until all wars end. I’m not naive enough to actually believe that world peace is remotely achievable anywhere in the near future. Call me pessimistic but place a bet and I’ll win. Yet the concept of uniting as many people as possible into a peaceful community is essentially what I dream of. Jeez this got very hippy-ish all of a sudden didn’t it?

Not that people can’t be peaceful and cooperative if they speak different languages. Look at us and the French. We hate their collective guts (and they ours) but we get along just fine and haven’t bombed each other in quite a while. But to me, there is so much conflict that boils down to simple cultural differences or beliefs. In my mind it makes sense that eliminating as much potential cause for struggle and strife is a good thing.

Yet the more I think about it, the more I think that this makes me more than a little racist (but hey – everyone’s a little bit racist). Get rid of those funny foreign languages! My language is one of if not the least endangered in the world and I don’t have to worry about anything. I’m advocating the elimination of hundreds (if not thousands) of years of the slow growth and evolution of a speech system. Not to mention the culture that inevitably gets folded into the mix along the way.

Then again, this is how languages work. They are much like living things in this respect. They evolve, change, adapt, and grow. And when met with insurmountable evolutionary obstacles (meteors, colonisation, western expansionism into rainforests etc) they die. Now as much as I adore pandas, I do have to admit that the arguments for spending as much money as we do on protecting a species that has clearly not been paying attention to the basic tenets of Darwinism are weak at best. (If you choose to eat nutritionally devoid food, don’t want to screw, and live solitary lives – YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!) Surely some of the same arguments can be applied to languages? If a culture is so marginal in the face of expanding civilisation (think tribal bush languages in Papua New Guinea) then it is literally inevitable that they will gradually fade. While this is undeniably sad for many reasons, is it worth expending effort in protecting something that will eventually die out? These languages are so minute, their practitioners often elderly, that simply keeping them for the sake of keeping them is meaningless.

Oh I don’t know. Truth is: my opinion matters not at all. Things will take their course and languages will die over time. Perhaps this will add to the gradual creeping towards world… togetherness (peace is too fanciful an idea) and bring us together more as a species. Perhaps you just have to be fat, cute, black and white, and addicted to bamboo to warrant a full scale preservation effort.

*I actually think that flying cars are a stupid idea that will never actually come into common use. While we may invent the technology in the near future, actually equipping as many people who drive cars with flying machines just seems stupid. Will there be air roads? What’s to stop the occasional car falling from the sky and smashing into a house? Any accidents wont just kill the drivers but the people down below. Judging by the fact that there are, on average, 6.5 MILLION car collisions each year in the US alone, having that amount of death raining down is simply batshit crazy. I think the dream of flying cars will be seen much like the past dream of turning lead to gold. Sure, we now have the technology to do it, but it’s expensive and pointless.

Zen And The Art Of Mythological Maintenance

ZenPerhaps it’s my hesitant dabblings in yoga and that one time I managed to properly meditate*, or maybe it’s just I finally stopped caring about making sure everyone knows I’m right all the time, but I’ve slipped into an incredibly Zen way of life and thinking these days. Ok so I’m using Zen in the sense that I’m a placid lake of happy-go-luckiness who just rolls with the punches rather than a student of the 6th Century strain of Buddhism. But I’m sure you get the picture. Things just seem not to matter as much any more. Not that I’m becoming deadened to emotion or anything, I mean more that I’ve chosen not to care as much about things that I can’t change or things that get me nowhere in life.

Now I still geek out excessively. If you want to see me animated then just mention the upcoming Star Wars films in my presence. Words cannot hope to faithfully describe just how gosh-darned PUMPED I am for those things. Same with most geekery across the board if I’m honest. I enjoy being slightly manic when I feel like it. I still get worked up when the moment calls for it. Truth is though, I’ve realised that very few moments do call for it.

I guess it was a side-effect of being 18 and intelligent that I felt the need to hammer home just how correct I was and how wrong you all are at every available opportunity. It’s fun being right – I still believe that (ask any of my exes – I am an irritable correction freak) and I enjoy knowing stuff and churning out interesting facts to people – it’s just not a driving force of my life any more.

Some of you may remember my tempestuous departure from Christianity that went down a couple of years ago. I was an arrogant cynic who felt so intensely angry at so much about my previous life and I felt that I should be angry at someone but I had virtually no individuals to pin my butt-hurt intellect on. As a friend of mine commented “It’s just so hard because for twenty two years I’ve had this utterly amazing imaginary friend and now I have to come to terms that he’s just not there listening any more”.

I spent far too long reading as much as I could about how silly the very notion of God was. What fools! Hahahaha – look at those religious LOSERS! Tell you what, while it may be wrong to pick on a group of people for what they believe, it is undeniably fun. But yes, I was an insufferable prick.

And then came along the realisation that none of it actually mattered. Yes, I’d stopped believing in God, and yes, it was a big woop. Yet after the cosmic dust settles on the theological headstone I’d fashioned for good old Yahweh, I realised that nobody cared. Perhaps it came from my evangelistic days where I was used to going out and shoving my opinion in other people’s faces, or it could be that I just felt proud of my achievements in besting what I had believed to be the ultimate power in the universe, but just how people are awkward around the shouty men in the street who talk about how I’m going to Hell, people get annoyed at people who feel it their mission in life to pounce on any vague theological argument. People want to be able to think what they think without jarring flap-mouthed loons weighing in with their two-cents.

It’s funny actually. The times when I was most spoiling for a fight, I was sending out all the signals that I was singularly the worst person to engage in any sort of meaningful debate about higher things. Simply from an intellectual point of view I wanted to have a debate about atheism and Christianity – I still do in fact – but being a furry little ball of self-righteous rage, all my Christian friends exercised the wisdom of Solomon and stayed away, far far away. I honestly think that was the best call. Thank you all for not allowing me to embarrass myself. I’ve enough moronic moments in my life to deal with already without adding more.

But the worst part is that I never got to have a sensible conversation about things I truly wanted to talk about. I honestly don’t think that anyone of my Christian friends has any idea why I now don’t believe that God exists, and that’s weird considering the fact that I can rattle off the reasons and life events that led many of them to believing in God, and then sort more of them according to denomination and how many points of Calvinism they adhere to.

Perhaps I’d like that debate now. Over a drink somewhere – not on the internet. Internet arguments are without question the worst forum in which to try and talk to someone about anything serious. But then again, I’ve realised that it honestly doesn’t matter. This whole Zen thing has mellowed me out to the point where I know exactly what I believe and I’m comfortable with it. So comfortable in fact, I can listen to people talking about things that fly brazenly in the face of my godless sensibilities, and decide that none of it is worth a fight. You’re my friends and family and I don’t want to push any more of you away because of which books we like to read.

Zen truly is the way to live. Everything is better, everyone is lovely – if you just give them a chance, and the world seems brighter. Though that may just be the new light bulbs we bought for the kitchen – those things are brighter than the sun.

*It was out of this world. I felt like Yoda, Gandalf, and Professor X all rolled into one.

My Name Is Andy, And I’m An Addict

addictionFebruary is finally over. While for most of you it may have breezed by and you’re left in a bit of a whirl as the shortest month of the year popped its rather damp and windy head up and then disappeared, I  had my gaze firmly fixed on March 1st and it was a long time in coming. Who knew 28 days could be so tedious?

At the beginning of the month, I outlined my plan to detox for four weeks. No alcohol, no cigarettes, no red meat, remain hydrated, drink more tea, abstain from junk food, and exercise. I am now here, as a mere husk of a human being to warn you: do not, under any circumstances, do this for yourselves. It is shit.

It all starts off pretty easy. Don’t drink? Ah, I’ll save myself tons of money. Oh look! A wild salad appears! My lungs are singing with joy at the lack of tar, my GI tract is bubbling with health and yakult, and I feel like I’m somehow making a grand moral gesture to the world when while somehow still remaining a moral relativist. Then after a while, I realised just how much bacon featured in my diet. I can’t help myself to a handy BLT for lunch, and most of Subway’s better options are now verboten to me. I began to feel stressed and agitated from nicotine withdrawal. This was something I expected and actually only lasted a few days, but then the rest of the month just got stressy too. When I feel tightly wound on a normal day, I’ll pick up a bottle of wine on my way home and order in a pizza. I feel better in no time at all. These two options being barred to me, I was left twiddling my thumbs and wishing for March.

A work colleague heard about my puritanical fast and promptly plonked an entire bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label whisky on my desk. The tit. It sat there on my kitchen shelf, staring at me all month. Sheer torture I tell you. Yet the second midight struck, I poured myself a finger or four and had a mouthgasm of alcoholic paradise.

Did I feel any better for my lack of toxin imbibing? Nope. I felt that I was eternally missing out on life’s little joys. I just wanted to drink and smoke. And I didn’t even smoke that much in the first place! Sure, from a medical perspective I’m probably a touch fitter, my liver has regrown a bit, and my general inside health is definitely a little better. But I don’t feel any great effects from that.

Detoxing is awful. 0/10 would not recommend. This is mainly because it’s a scam. You know how you can detox normally? Just live like a normal person. Your body is hardwired to detoxify your system – that’s what liver and kidneys are for. Now perhaps you don’t want to smoke and that’s your choice – it will almost certainly mess me up later in life but hey, I’ve got to die of something and I choose alcohol poisoning and/or lung cancer.

Hello, my name is Andy and I’m addicted to eating, drinking, and smoking things that make me feel good. And let’s face it, we’re all hooked on the little joys of life. Yours may differ from mine but you love them just as much. The real problem came when I realised (about half an hour in) that this was entirely arbitrary and a mere fabrication of my brain. That’s the problem with rules – one day you realise that they’re made up and so you then know that you can just un-make them up. Haunting parallels to my previous religious journeys aside, it’s just not worth it. I was doing this “for science” and this experiment has shown me (negating the essentially negligible sample size and lack of control) that if I don’t drink then I get angsty and stressed.

Perhaps I’ll cut down later in life. Perhaps my doctor will order me to. Perhaps you’re Judgy McJudgerson the diet judge but you can just go sit in a corner and enjoy your lettuce. I’ll be having fun.

A Short Month Of Health and High Water

Now it’s February  I can let you all in on this month’s resolution. (For those wondering, January’s resolve to touch my toes is progressing millimetre by painful millimetre). You always hear tell of how people went on detoxes and cleanses and how it made them feel so good and new and practically bionic with vitality. I think these claims are, to put it bluntly, bullshit. Yet for the sake of science (and perhaps certain internal organs) I have decided to refrain from drinking, smoking, red meat, and junk food for the month of February. Instead I will be dedicating myself to a month of exercise, green leafy things, fancy teas, remaining hydrated with bucketfuls of water and juice. It’s going to be exactly as much fun as it sounds.

While some of you may think me hasty, I remind you that February is the shortest month and that my suffering will last a mere 28 days. Part of me really wants to give this all a go so I can tumble out the back end of the month no different than when I came in, but now equipped with scientific data (paltry though the sample size is) to reinforce my long held belief that alcohol et al. have few longer term effects on me shy of liver damage in my 50s. Granted, I entered February with my body pumping nicotine, gin, and vodka round my system but I did need a bit of a last hurrah before swear off such pleasures.

Perhaps I will begin to feel somewhat better. There is a myth amongst men my age that whatever we put into our bodies will do no harm. While that might have been true back when I was 18 and never got hangovers despite knocking back two bottles of wine in a night (sweet youth where hast thou gone?), there comes a time – perhaps around graduation* – where your body begins to behave like everyone else’s. Not to mention the study that concluded that smoking makes your hangover worse. No shit guys. Why waste money researching that when you can just ask me on a Sunday morning? And contrary to popular belief, I can put on weight – I’ve just become a master at losing it (which I know y’all hate me for but the trade off is that I’m a human radiator and I feel like a nuclear reactor as my body burns off all unwanted saturates within a day). So in some ways, deciding to skip life’s little pleasures for February might have a couple of upsides.

Oh come on I’m not all that bad. Worse than some of you perhaps, but that’s your sad life choice, not mine. I honestly don’t understand why people don’t drink all the time (now there’s a sentence that’s going to bite me in the ass) It’s fun, it tastes yummy, and life gets a little cuddlier when you’re sauced. Not to mention that it comes in all sorts of pretty colours and shapes. I know why some people don’t smoke but when people ask me why I do the answer is simple: “I enjoy it”. And none of you can tell me that stuffing your greedy little faces with a late night meat feast pizza isn’t fun. Pizza is a pure circle of joy.

Farewell sweet, sweet vices. I shall miss you all terribly. Perhaps it is fitting that February 1st is also the Satanic New Year. It’s going to be a hellish month at any rate.

*Some part of me believes that stepping onto the stage to collect your degree binds you in a secret magical curse that makes you get fat and have trouble specifying realistic life goals.

Year Of The Sloth

SlotPretty sure this year’s going to be a slow year. Sure, some crazy stuff will happen around the world, old diseases might be cured, new ones panicked about, some people will get married, others won’t, and blah blah blah. But for me, it’s going to be a slow burn, perhaps even a slog, to December. Not that  waiting for things is necessarily bad, I’m patiently holding out for baby Prince George’s emo phase that I hope is due in about 15 years.

Now I’m not wanting to make this a negative year, I’ve come to detest negativity for negativity’s sake, but rather due to the fact that impatience runs strong in my family, I (perhaps along with my siblings) will find that 2014’s developments come at a slower pace than I’d like.

Maybe it’s the 24 hour news cycle and the fact that I am all but surgically attached to what’s happening in the world (this is different to what’s happening on the streets (streetz?) – I usually catch up to that four years too late) and who’s shooting whom, and why tax X is wrong but tax Y is a vital social necessity and all that boring politicobabble, that I just want my life milestones to arrive within 2014’s first quarter so that I’m settled down by the fire with a husband, two kids, four novels written, a sinfully large paycheque, and a rock solid pension fund by mid-July.

As it happens, precisely 0% of these goals are currently on the horizon, or even in the works. Sure there are plans in my head, but there are also plans for the first habitable spacecraft with synthesised gravity floating about* up there somewhere and I’m not quite sure how to move things from the cranial ether to the real world. As one person put it “I think I have too many tabs open in my brain, and I can’t find the one that’s playing that awful song”.

2013 moved rather quickly as luck had it. I was whisked off my feet then I zoomed round the world and had a marvellous time. Shenanigans left right and centre, firsts at every turn (first time in drag, first time cooking a roast dinner (complete with giant bird), first time being paid for things I wrote online, first sibling in law… the list goes on). I hardly had time to check my bags on arrival 12 months ago but I seem to have meandered into a more thoughtful year and have been randomly selected for the slower queue at the airport of life… this metaphor got away from me somewhat.

I’ve made a number of resolutions already but I intend to share them slowly and not announce them with great fanfare lest I fail so quickly. While I’m still of the opinion that new year’s resolutions should only be things that you enjoy (eat more cake, never refuse bacon, learn about wine etc) I have grown as a human being – and who saw that coming? – to enjoy things that make me better either in my body or my person. For example, one of my first resolutions is to be able to touch my toes by the end of the year.

While some of you may gasp at my apparent inflexitude, May I remind you that there is literally no obligatory activity experienced by the majority of human-kind that actually requires you to touch your toes without bending your knees. Yet on I must plod with such a pointless goal as I’m now yoga-ing on a semi-regular basis and blending it with snippets of Tai-Chi I’ve managed to glean from the shed-load of martial arts films I’ve binge watched. My plan is to be a bit of a Miyagi-lite by December and see if my new and elongated muscles have done me any good. If they have, then I may take continue in my vague attempt at health. Then again, wine calls.

*I totally missed this pun (or is it simply irony) on first typing but liked it so much I let it stay