Ghosts On Every Street Corner

Tonight was the night of meeting people from my past.

It was just a quiet night in town with Gary and Toby, but I kept running into people I knew years ago. There was Rachel, the girl from secondary school that everyone was in love with. She did english and drama and bohemian-cool. Sometimes people look completely different when you see them after several years, but she looked just the same. Conversation was strictly limited to banal pleasantries; it's not like we'd been friends, or anything, but you feel obliged to say something when you just bump into someone like that.

Then there was Sarah. I didn't recognise her, she recognised me: We were at primary school together. I had only the vaguest recollections, but she reeled off teachers and anecdotes that rang bells in my head, and we ended up having a long, involved conversation. She's moving to Spain to be a beautician, apparently, and has been going out with a guy who looks astoundingly like Bill and Ted-era Keanu Reeves for the past seven years. I liked her. She was fun.

Then there was the guy in the kebab shop. I don't know his name, but I recognised his face: I know he used to bowl in the same league I did. Every saturday morning for three years, you'd think I'd remember his name, but apparently not. It was a slightly awkward exchange.

All of which made for a quite interesting night. The final surrealist touch was the two guys playing big tribal-type drums (drums, drums in the street...) on the high street at 11pm, studiously ignored by the drunks ambling about (although there are older and fouler things than drunks in the dark places of Maidenhead...)

Sometime in the past few years, I started thinking of Oxford as home; Maidenhead was just somewhere I came back to visit now and then. Well, I've been back here for about eight months, now, and when I have an evening like this, it reminds me - this town may not be my home any more, but I still have a lot of history here, lying around in the corners.
  • Current Music
    'Mermaid Song' - Tom McRae

(no subject)

Today I have been updating a big list of psychiatric societies, and gaining a significant amout of respect for Google's translation capabilities. I just wish it could do Japanese...


For those who may not have seen it:
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For those who may not have seen it: <a href = " target="external">There will be posting limits from now on.</a>

I can't get that upset about it, though. Partly because I'm already a paid user and therefore still get more posts than I could need, but mostly just because even with the limits, the free service is pretty good.


Well, that was fun, and deliciously cynical. It's hard to beat a couple hours of showtunes for entertainment value.

One thing, though - Nick and I were talking on the way out, and it struck me that it doesn't really take advantage of the fact that it's a film. Indeed, for all the musical numbers they put a fair bit of effort into what I assume is a reasonable recreation of the stage show. It's very different to the outrageously fantastic Moulin Rouge, which could only ever have existed as a film; Chicago is deliberately showing off its roots. There's no denying that it's effective, and impressive, but as much as anything else I was left wanting to go and see the original, if only for comparative purposes.

Not that that's a bad thing, you understand...
  • Current Music
    'Karaoke Soul' - Tom McRae


So I've discovered that [ctrl]-[up arrow] and [ctrl]-[down-arrow] are the equivalents of 'home' and 'end', respectively. That makes life so much easier.

On the downside, the man who came to install the company database discovered that I've ended up with the most poweful computer in the company. Not sure how this happened, but they're going to take it away and use it for production design instead. I'm just praying they leave this lovely huge monitor...


I'm going to have to start being organised. I made a mental list of all the things I needed to get done this evening, and I don't think I've done half of them.

So instead of doing more things on the list, I'm going to write a long and rambling post about what I got up to at the weekend. What to say? It was a good weekend. SF films, SF books, SF fans in the form of greengolux and snowking (not forgetting the special guest appearance by Tom): It helped to fill the OUSFG-shaped hole in my life. Plus, it's always nice when representatives of two of my friend-groups meet and seem to get on with each other.

First up on friday evening was Cube 2: Hypercube. The first hour or so is great, drawing on the strengths of the original but promising a new perspective. Unfortunately, things gradually fall apart over the course of the second hour. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the most significant is the excess of explanation. One of the best things about Cube was the sense of mystery, that you were never quite given any definitive answers. That's not the case with the sequel, and although on balance I enjoyed the film (on reflection, for instance, I think there's a case to be made that several of the more out-there plot developments are a deliberate reflection of the chaotic state of the system), I can't deny that it was a disappointment.

Next was a late-night screening of Plan 9 From Outer Space. If you've seen it, then you know. If you haven't...well, it's an experience. Truly, famously, ludicrously bad, it lurches from plot point to plot point with little rhyme or reason. But at least I can say I've seen it, now.

One pit-stop at snowking's trendy abode later and it was saturday morning, time for the Douglas Adams memorial debate: "Does Sci-Fi Predict the Future?" The panel was composed of not-even-a-little-bit-famous and not-terribly-articulate author Steve Aylett, some guy described by Richard Dawkins as 'in need of psychiatric help', an american who recommended electrifying your bloodstream to cure HIV, and Dave Green of NTK fame. The latter was easily the most interesting of the four, although it was a little disappointing to discover that he'd never read True Names.

That afternoon we managed to resist the charms of Incubus (Kirk in black and white, speaking Esperanto) and instead trawled the bookshops of Charing Cross road and elsewhere. I came away with a cheap hardback of Cordwainer Smith's The Rediscovery of Man, John Barnes' short story/essay collection Apostrophes and Apocalypses, two John Wyndham novels I'd not come across before (Web and The Outward Urge), a copy of Cory Doctorow's internet-published novella Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom, and two Ian McDonald books - Chaga, and Speaking In Tongues, a short story collection.

Yes, those were all justifiable purchases.

I'm not even half-way through the weekend, and I already think this post is too long. It would certainly be too long if I discussed all twelve of saturday evening's short films extravaganza (undoubted highlight being the somewhere-between-Lynch-and-Gaiman 'The Cat With Hands'), or the trip snowking and I made to the British Museum on sunday. And yesterday evening saw me in a different part of London altogether, catching up with Marie and our mutual friend Sam, over from the states to attend a conference at UCL.

You know it's been a good weekend when you have too much to write about.

On the way home, I finished off Philip Reeve's Smarties Gold Prize-award-winning Mortal Engines. I thought it was fun - not the most demanding read in the world, but pacy and interesting and not afraid of facing the consequences of the plot points it introduces. That said, the central hook - great travelling steampunk-esque cities wandering the globe, preying on each other to survive - is so arresting, so vivid, that I think I'd have enjoyed the book even if that had been all there was to it.
  • Current Music
    'Karaoke Soul' - Tom McRae

Angel 4x10

Oh, man. That was a thing of beauty, it really was. I would write a review, but I'd only be echoing every single word of thebratqueen's review. So you should go and read that, instead.

Copies will be posted, um, when I go somewhere near a post office. I'm not sure if there's one anywhere in the vicinity of the office.
  • Current Music
    'Overthrown' - Tom McRae

Niall Gets Political

Not very political, admittedly. As a general rule, I don't tend to have strong feelings about political matters - certainly not compared to some people I know. I can go for three or four days without really reading or watching or listening to a significant amount of news.

I do make an effort to read the sunday papers, though; it's like my token attempt to be informed. In particular, I like the column John Humphrys writes for the Sunday Times; I think he speaks a lot of sense. This week he says:

Consider the consequences of the United States backing down now.

The most obvious is that the prestige of Saddam Hussein would be enormously enhanced. He would be the man who had defied the mightiest superpower the world had ever seen. [...] Beyond his own borders Saddam would claim the leadership of the Arab world. And who would deny him? [...] On the other side of the world George Bush would sit in the Oval Office for the next 18 months and wait for the teeth of his political opponents to sink into his neck and drag him down at the election in 2004. I have spoken to several senior politicians on Capitol Hill in the past few days. Not one of them thinks Bush could contemplate going into that election with Saddam Hussein still in power.


Both sides know they are right. The hawks know that Saddam cannot be trusted. If he is left in power he will continue to develop his weapons of mass destruction until he is in a position not only to dominate the Middle East but to threaten the West. He has had twelve years to abide by UN resolutions and he has laughed in their face. If we do not deal with him, then ultimately he will deal with us - either directly or through his terrorist buddies.

The doves know that war would be a grossly immoral act. They point to a report by a UN taskforce leaked a few days ago which estimates that an attack on Iraq could kill up to 80,000 tropps and even more civilians. Half a million people would be injured or sick from diseases caused by the destruction of water and sewage services and the disruption of food supplies. There would be 2m displaced people inside Iraq and another 900,000 refugees would flee aross the borders.


The arguments will continue - and so they should. But increasingly it looks as though they are being conducted for the benefit of the historians. President Bush knows that returning is not an option.

Now to me, that seems pretty much unarguable. We have passed the point of no return: the political consequences of backing down, both on a personal and a global scale, are too great for any of the parties involved to seriously consider it. And whilst the idea of war is terrible and wrong, I am deeply uncomfortable with the thought of leaving Saddam where he is. It's an impossible decision, an irresistable force versus immovable object situation: You just have to roll a die and see which one is more compelling today.
  • Current Music
    'La Cienga' - Ryan Adams

Mac Frustration

They use Macs here. They're a pain. What kind of crazy keyboard is designed without 'home' and 'end' keys? Or without an obvious '#' key? And why is there no keyboard shortcut for opening, say, the File menu?

On the other hand, the lack of a right mouse button isn't annoying me as much as I thought it would. Be thankful for small mercies, I guess...

(no subject)

So I was at Panic with Dave and Tom and Pilly, and this song comes on. The riff sounds like something we should recognise, but it doesn't quite click for any of us. We're standing there on the dancefloor, a little nonplussed, wondering whether to give it a go anyway, when into our midst bounds Hot Indie Chick. "It's Queens Of The Stone Age!" she screams, waving her arms in the air. "I love Queens Of The Stone Age!"

It was a beautiful thing, really it was.

(First day? Not quite information overload, but getting there. There are a lot of procedures and databases and piles of client information to learn...)
  • Current Mood
    tired tired