Tuesday, 30 September 2008

a brief fiction

A 25 pulls off from outside the James’ Centre too late for a boy in a flattering sporty black jacket. The type that takes its inspiration from Japanese motorcycles without the merciless insulation, wholly unsuited to the exertions of the cheek by jowl bus commuter. Thinking quickly he breaks into a sprint, down the hill and the entrance to the Caledonian Thistle Hotel car park, he has to beat the bus over 100 yards, down to the stop outside John Lewis. Get there he’s thinking, go on, just get there. He’s too keen, hasn’t noticed the electronic sign telling him there’s only 2 minutes to the next 25. Picking up speed, funneled down the banked speedway under the pedestrian overpass, he relaxes seeing the bus lurch to a stop halfway along the stretch to let in a Transit. Upstairs, onboard, a slow moving suit with a trench & briefcase is sent stumbling up the aisle, his specs fly off and clatter around the bar on the front window that he also grasps to break his fall. The glasses hang there for a second before he settles himself. Back to the boy, he’s slowing, blinking, strides easing down to arrive just as the blonde girl at the stop steps on. Made it. A joyful moment. All’s right with the world. Off the bus clanks again, into the oppositetheOmni maelstrom, two rows of cars vying for two rows on the far side with another two rows entering from the left. A theatre of false politeness and naked ambition. The bus slows, on the street, a pair sozzled drinkers embrace another. Their faces a mask of drink and grime, one’s rolling a cigarette, the other swigs from a litre of strong cider, the white type. All three seem upset but it’s not clear whether this is for a specific reason or just the general miasmic despair that’s shrouded the city today with the rain battering down and no-one able to get anywhere. All three have slight cuts on their noses, caused by something striking it very hard (L-R, a bottle? a forehead? a pavement?).

On down into the valley of nightmares, the two lane mini-roundabout with an inverse camber and three queues marshalled by temporary traffic lights. Wait. Lurch. Wait. Go! The suspension attacks the camber with gusto, the top deck treated to the now familiar lurch to the right that accompanies any northward transit of this new and already infamous boundary before passing buses edging the single lane of oncoming traffic into the 25’s path on Elm Row. A barely perceptible moan wafts through the top deck as from here you can see forever, down the endless tail-lit serpent, flanked by bandit screens and bollards. Leith Walk. The sensible disembark at the corner of Brunswick Road deciding just to walk it. They’ll be wet but won’t have to breathe the simmering, impatient resentment fogging the windows of the bus.

Passing the Krakow CafĂ© and the blonde meticulously painting the incongruous medieval cladding to the wee shopfront, a tiny glimmer of artistry, beauty peeking up and out from the upheaval and chaos all around. Down, down, down the walk the traffic inches. The stop by the KFC just at the entrance to the counterflow, a train of 4 buses all buffalo out into the single lane of exasperated private cars, two make it through. A man gesticulates to get on the stop, the bus driver is ignoring him, his impassive 1000 yard stare silently screaming “I’m away fae the kerb and sitting in traffic pal, cannae let you oan”. Things are getting heated, the man is shouting, angry, there’s a screaming baby, the bottom deck is packed with folk breathing on each other, trying to keep calm. They’re stuck here now, can’t get off, stuck waiting for this light. Light changes and along it goes. Towards the Foot the road narrows, two bare lines of traffic sandwiched between two cages of bandit screens. Nothings' moving the other side, a workie with his high-vis jacket isn’t directing traffic. There’s folk leaving their cars in the oncoming traffic and running into the lane to see what’s going on. There’s quite a bit of exasperated gesticulation. Some guy nearly gets sideswiped by a little digger coming the wrong way up the road. He refuses to move, some of the workies get a bit shirty. The 25 still inching through the tight lane, then stranded as a purple Astra moves out of the oncoming lane and directly into its path trying to get past. The 25 moves forward, the driver not taking this provocation lying down. Out the window, in the corridor along the pavement a beautiful woman wearing a cap is walking up the road with her husband. A passer by grabs her hat, she turns around and runs him down, snatching the cap from his hand. She’s roaring “give us that back you, fuck sake”, her man turns around bewildered and starts walking back. Here’s one of the other guys pals now, roaring “Dinnae touch ma fuckin’ pal or ahl fucking kill ye” at her man. The guy is shitting it, not knowing what to do, way out of his depth. Before he knows it the Head the Ball is on him, the guy doesn’t say anything just tries to get clear, he gets a few boots on his way. Then his missus gets in the way and the Head the Ball pushes her. Her man goes “fuckin’ steady man”, not seeing the bottle in this Rocket’s hand. Smack. Blood everywhere. The 25 hasn’t moved in a while now, the polis on their way. The top deck riveted. The sign beside the road says “Taking you to work in 2011”; in the meantime, you’re going nowhere.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Droids, Slugs, Riddims.

The wearie-curated Blogariddims series is coming to an end, the second last installment is just up.

Droid and Slug joining the dots between todays fractured dubby electronic output and a previous pulse of fractured dubby electronic output.

Just get along and get listening.

"Krib" off Autechre's Cichlisuite EP retains to power to alter my reality.


(Similar starting point from last time, let's see if I get to say what I initially intended to say this time eh?)

Life is infuriating.

There are ways of dealing with it.

One is by portraying yourself as the only sane person on the planet raging against the petty injustices of the world and the cretins who are responsible.

Unfortunately this path is fraught with danger. It frequently leads of ill conceived screeds of muddleheaded bile whereby a hasty rush up the staircase of metaphor leads to a stumble on the first flight, a knock on the head and the remainder of your time spent clinging desperately to the bannister, blood pouring down your face, incoherently ranting about women's bottoms.

The other is to take a deep breath, try to remember that it's probably not that important anyway and there's probably something at home that will remind you that life isn't all that bad
. Or at least distract you until bedtime.


Can't spell "Who Cares" without "H", "R"

Life is infuriating. Generally when anyone asks me "how's it going" my automatically respond "surviving". This is rooted largely in my linguistic heritage, it's the kind of thing an auld fella might say to a passer-by when he's on his way to the pub, existence being a struggle until you manage to get the first pint down your gullet.

But I'm starting to think that "surviving" is an accurate, if unfashionable, statement that existence itself is an ordeal. The notion that someone might find the whole process of life exhausting is something that makes a lot of people very uncomfortable. Frequently in work people will remark that I'm "looking stressed". Sometimes I suppose I do, sometimes I just look annoyed because I would rather be anywhere than there, sometimes I've just read about another sequel to Legally Blonde and wish that the insects would just get on with it, rise up and enslave us all.

The mask that we project to the world is now, bizarrely, crucial to others perceptions of us as professionals. It's not good enough any more to merely be good (or even great) at your job anymore, no, you must be able to create an illusion of serenity while you're doing it. I was recently called up by a co-worker for arriving at a meeting looking exhausted and pissed off. This was related to a difficult aspect of my work, a problem that's frustrating and one to which there is no apparent solution. The meeting was productive and we managed to make a little bit of progress in terms of discussing the matter at hand. I was asked by this co-worker whether everything was alright and whether I thought I needed to take a few days off. I found this disturbing, for a variety of reasons. For me, the entire process of being "off sick" is a depressing and stress-inducing situation which formally isolates the subject from the activity which they're nominally taking a temporary break from.

More disturbing is the notion that my co-worker had taken it upon himself to pathologise my bad mood. Managers frequently take it upon themselves to assume the role of diagnostician in the execution of their management function. One way they do this is by interpreting unhappiness, either professional or personal, as a potential risk to the organisation, co-workers and the employee in question. Once you start looking at unhappy employees as "risks" you are required to begin thinking about elminating that risk as it may, in future, result in damage to the organisation. This is where things start to get sinister to someone of a paranoiac disposition. The primary objective of the "Human" aspect of management is to protect organisations from entirely "human" behaviours exhibited by the organisations "resources". So where does that leave us? In most organisations the "procedures" for absence/disiplinary/stress management exist in order to depersonalise the experience for everyone concerned. This is a neat trick. It creates a control mechanism which generates an illusion that no individual is actually responsible, it is only the "procedure" which decides for dismissal, re-deployment or disciplinary procedures. Sure, it "protects" the manager and the employee from personalising any dispute, something that can be profoundly unpleasant. But I wonder whether it creates a dangerous antipersonality and fosters an environment in which any conflict is seen as "negative" (contemporary shorthand for "evil") and something to be avoided at all costs.

This creates a charter for cowardice to operate at the heart of an organisation. A place where nothing is said or even suggested without being absolutely certain of the answer, an enveloping thicket of predictability; devoid of leadership, vision or humanity.

Hmm. That started in one place and ended up somewhere else.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Which begs the question...

Is it really worthwhile charging 12 quid into Optimo's bi-monthly do in Edinburgh if you know it's going to have an effect on the crowd? Especially given that it's usually half the price in Glasgow?

Is it time to introduce club etiquette lessons to the secondary curriculum? Lots of shoving. And couples mauling each other.

If someone you'd never met before accidentally gave you 20 quid instead of a fiver to add a pint to your order would you correct the mistake?

What kind of a bawbag thinks it's funny to deploy stink bombs in an underground club on one of the muggiest nights of the summer? Twice? Seriously dude, you're a gowl.

Aren't Joakim like a really neat amalgam of Sonic Youth, Franz Ferdinand and Scion?
Ok, that's not really a question. More an observation.

Matthew Bourne loves the sex doesn't he?

Why have all the good techno records gone so expensive?