Jonesey's Blog

Jonesey's Blog

The ubiquitous Jonesey

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I sometimes do a comedy skit about how great it would be if my brain could concentrate on something useful rather than distracting me with a catalogue of useless nonsense which it happens to find interesting.

Here's the current nonsense. 

There's been a certain amount of fuss recently about some rap artist who honestly believes he world is flat. The fuss is dying down now and will soon be forgotten.If you read this in a year's time you'd be hard put to remember anything about it.

Nor do I  feel any need to go through the guy's "proof" and dismantle it bit by bit, any more than I feel moved to doubt that there are more than four elements, or need to seriously examine the notion that people are made of of four (or was it five?) 'humours'.

Back when I was in Grammar School, our French teacher amused us mightily by telling us that there was still a ''Flat Earth Society". We assumed it was a joke, that even its members didn't take it seriously. (oh, and if you're still with us Mr Etter, bless you. Most of the teachers in that hellhole were psychos who hated children. I always felt you wanted us to actually learn and to enjoy doing it. My French is getting very rusty now, nobody in the US uses it, but there was a while there when I was pretty good. I even had some of my stuff on a French language website.you'd have been proud.) 

I remember some author in an article in, perhaps, "Galaxy" magazine suggesting that all the Flat Earthers should be taken to the eddge and thrown off.

But that busy little brain of mine will not leave alone thenotion of how things are supposed to function on a flat earth.

What's on the other side of the 'coin"?

How does gravity work?

Why is there day and night? is the "coin" spinning?

Is it just us? or is the moon flat too?

What about the other planets?

Whyare there time zones? Why is it day in some parts of the world and night in others?

What about seasons? And why is it summer here and winter somwhere else? 

Why are days longer in summer?

Why does the moon have phases?

What keeps satellites up?

Draw me a map. Where's the South Pole?

 

Oh, shut up, brain....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE TIME TELEPHONE

No, it's not a story, and (spoiler alert) there really isn't such a thing as a time telephone (despite various Dr. Who episodes).

It's a notion which occurred to me a long time ago, and which still holds true for me. It is, I guess, a metaphor.

You see, there are people whose life seems to be planned out - my best friend when I was little was a guy who always wanted to be a pastry-chef. I don't  know where he got the idea from, his wasn't a culinary family. He always knew what would  be for dinner if he knew what day it was - If  it's Tuesday it's sausage mash and beans, if its Friday it's FIsh and Chips., and so forth. But somehow he got the idea that he wanted to be a pastry-chef, and when he left school he got an apprenticeship in a bakery, and the last time I saw him (long ago now) he was still doing what he'd always wanted to do.

Many people have a vocation - cop, nurse, astronaut, whatever. They pursue that dream, achieve it, and go on until they retire.

Not me. I've been banker, computer programmer, training manager, shopkeeper, palm reader, barman, plain old office worker, and so on and so on. If it doesn't involve hitting people or driving a car (or, indeed, hitting people with a car), then I've probably done it at some point.

Some people almost or never move house. I have at least one aunt who lived with her parents until she got married, (and for a while after probably) then got a house with her husband. She's still living at the same address half a century or more later. Another relative has lived in three houses his entire life -his parents' apartment , then granddad's house when granddad passed away, then the other granddad's house later. Three addresses, all of which he was familiar with his entire life.

Not me. From birth to today, I've averaged less than three years at each address. Currently, and for a while, I'm living about two miles from a house where I spent the years 2006-2014. When I stroll over to the old town, I'm glad to see old friends , but as I walk around it feels like I'm wading through a lukewarm memory soup. Here's the place where I definitively proved to my boy that I can't throw a ball to save my life, there's the bar where we ran that murder mystery, that shop used to be a paint-your-own-plates business which the kids loved when they were the right age for it, and on and on. It's odd, but while you're living in a place it doesn't seem like that. Once you go, it's an odd and not entirely pleasant feeling to return. I don't mean that the memories are unpleasant (though of course there are a few that still smart) but that a sort of cloying nostalgia seems to overlay what you're actually seeing today.

On a side note I remember the first time I went past the site of my old grammar school, and saw that it had indeed been demolished and replaced by a housing estate. There was a tremendous feeling of freedom in that moment, a sudden and unanticipated uplifting of the spirits as a piece of the past was obliterated.

So what's a Time Telephone? Remember, that's where we started. It's a conceit which occurred to me one day after some tremendous life-upheaval or another (I forget which one, there are many to choose from). I said to myself "If I could phone my self of five years ago he'd never believe where I am now, and what I'm doing". And then it struck me that this had been true my entire life.

Oh, I guess up to age 10 the most astonishing thing would be that I'd moved house again, (which happened four times by then). After leaving London, the next ten or so addresses were all within about a six-mile radius so that aspect of things didn't begin to be unexpected until I l moved out of my parents place.

But if you'd told me at age 11 what subjects I'd specialize in for the last two years of school, if you'd told me what my social life was going to be like, if you'd informed me I was no longer a pious little church-goer, that I smoked and drank, that... well you get the point.

The phone call to the me that was leaving school would get this response: "Married WHO?" "Working at WHAT?" "Commuting to WHERE?" and "Are you mad?"

The me that was getting married (the first time) "HOW long did it last/" "Teaching computer programmers? How did I get to THAT?"...

and so on, throughout my life.

There was just one island of stability, back in Surrey, in the south of England, where the Time Telephone conversation would have been "Same house. Kids at obvious school. still selling mail-order games." But that lasted only from one September to the following   until the New Year. Then I got a phone call from Mrs Me, who was off working on a project in Manhattan for a few weeks. "They've offered me a job. Would you like to move to the US?"

And the Time Telephone was back in business. It's still going strong today. 

Language!

So here's what's circulating in my head now - the hoary old subject of English vs American English.

I've lived in the US since 2006, but still trip over differences from time to time. Most recently, my remark that the phrase "Donald Trump is a gift to democracy" had been mistyped fell flat when it turns out that "git" isn't an insult here. My spell-checker can't even recognize it as a word.

I've been exposed to a whole area of language which I hadn't needed for a long while, with the addition of a granddaughter to the Jones family. I had long been delighted by the fact that instead of buying a nappy rash cream you could get Butt Paste...but the sentence "I think the pacifier is in the bassinette" had to be translated for me. (for fellow-Brits, it means "I think the dummy is in the crib").

Last time I moved house I discovered that Americans have no idea what a clothes horse is. And that a cooker is called a "range".  Well, when my Range stopped working, I'm afraid  I disproved the old lyric "seldom is heard a discouraging word".

I'm still not quite sure what a "maven" is.

The differences are simplest when the US uses an entirely different word to the UK. So you learn that a cafetiere is a French press, that a cooker is a range, coriander leaf is cilantro, spring onions are scallions, and so forth. Also that kids don't progress from year one to year two etc - they are freshmen, then sophomores, then juniors then seniors... I thought it was easier just to count. ("I love to count...that's freshmen, sophomore..." doesn't work really)

Then there's the other thing - where the US and the UK use the same words, but they mean different things.

I remember as a kid reading in a novel that somebody ("sopped up their gravy with a biscuit". I thought this was some strange colonial habit (and indeed it is) but had no idea that neither "biscuit" nor "gravy" meant what I thought they did. 

In the UK we walk on the pavement. I'm fine with renaming this "sidewalk", but then (sometimes but not always) the road  surface is renamed "pavement" . This could be fatal...

Then there's the pint. An American pint is sixteen fluid ounces. To remember this they have the mnemonic, "A pint's a pound the world around.". Unfortunately for the veracity of that phrase, for everybody else that has  a pint as a measurement, it's 20 fluid ounces, giving us the mnemonic "A pint of water ways a pound and a quarter".

In my first winter here, I went into a local bar and made to sit on an empty bar-stool.Now, it was absolutely freezing outside, so when I was informed that the stool was occupied, but that the bloke had just stepped outside for a cigarette, I said something like "Wow, he must really love his fags". You could have heard a pin drop.

But my favourite bit of cross-Atlantic double meaning comes from the 90's Superman Adventures cartoon. Now, Lois Lane is always falling off buildings, being blown up, etc. only to be rescued in the nick of time by Our Hero. As she wears a short skirt, it's obvious that much of Metropolis is treated to the sight of her underwear from time to time (although the angle from which the action is drawn always preserves her dignity as far as the viewer is concerned}. In one particular episode, there's an explosion behind her, and her skirt blows up, obviously treating Jimmy and Perry to an eyeful. She says "I shoulda worn pants!" US viewers obviously take this to mean "If I'd worn a pair of jeans people wouldn't have seen my underwear". To us Brits however, for whom "Pants" are underwear, it means "My skirt blew up and I'm not wearing anything underneath."  

More Stuff.

So it looks as if this is going to be about whatever is floating around in my head at the time. I don't mean private things, or at least not at the moment - on account of how they're, you know, private. I mean the stuff I keep rehearsing to myself when there's nobody there.

I'm not a person who watches a lot of TV. There are very few programs which I absolutely have to watch, and if I'm just watching to fill time then it's about  75% likely that the program is going to be about food. Strictly speaking I don't actually have a TV at the moment - I watch via the "on demand" facility from Xfinfity, which is annoyingly unreliable, and on a cracked screen too.

Then again, from the age of 15 (when I stopped sitting in the front room with my parents of an evening, and was more likely to be out with friends or listening to musicand/orpainting in another room), to the age of 33 when I moved in with Liz, I didn't watch TV at all.

Last year, I attempted to emter the US Masterchef competition. There is no initial sceening of applicants at all,which    meant that I stood in a line for six hours with my food, despite having or so I thought, booked a timeslot for judgeing.  No, I didn't get to the next stage, they felt that the two components of my offering did not go together. I beg to differ, but then I'm not the one offering the prize money.

People who've known me for a while will know that I entered the original British version of Masterchef back in the 90's and got into the pre-TV heat three times. There was no huge money prize back then, but just about every year's winner leveraged the fame to set themselves up in the food industry.

There were several differences from the modern whoop-de-do, and it made a lot more sense. Remember, this is a competition for home cooks and you can't enter at all if you're a professional. So back then, the cooks would each decide what they would cook, and obviously they would play to their own strengths.

So, someone who always cooked Italian would cook Italian, a veggie would cook veggie etc. These were home cooks, that was the whole point - they were displaying the strengths which they used at home, and the judges decided which meal was best.

I remember saying that they should make it a little harder, that they should throw at the contestants the sort of challenge which home cooks might encounter - "You have to cook for eight people. One's a veggie, one doesn't like garlic", etc

But now, they go out of their way to set silly challenges and expect the home cooks to be able to prepare unfamiliar ingredients in peculiar ways. I've been catching up on the latest series, and they don't even make any concessions for the veggie, Hetal. The poor girl can't even taste most of the dishes she's preparing.

This is just silly. The challenges they set are sometimes things I wouldn't expect a professional to attempt, if it weren't the style of cooking they're used to.

Try going into a top-class Italian restaurant and saying, for example "You've got 30 minutes to make me poppadums and chutney", or a Thai and asking for roast beef and yorkshire pudding. I don't think you'd get a good answer.

And I detest the obsessive timing. There has to be some discipline, sure, but cooking, whether at home or in a restaurant is never subject to "5-4-3-2-1-stop cooking, hands in the air!".

If the food takes 30 seconds longer than planned, nobody is bothered. Ever.

And that's about it for today. trivial, I know, but that's what's floating around in my head right now.

 

Yes, I'm blogging.

I've decided to start a blog. There are several reasons: the first is that I want to be able to point people to stuff I've written that isn't a play, a sketch, or some ancient piece of roleplay. The second is that, separated for the moment from the Mrs, I find myself (as I'm sure most people do) arranging my thoughts as if I were talking to someone, and I thought it would make sense to actually write it down rather than keep repeating it to myself in my head . Lastly, I just thought it might be kinda fun.

There's no particular theme to the blog, or at least I don't think there is - it'll be about whatever's on my mind at the moment. Sometimes personal, sometimes about books or movies or food or numinous teakettles. I add that last because when I was asked to come up with random words the other day, those were the first two that occurred to me, and I'm sure it must mean something. When I find out what, I'll be sure to say so right here.

Oh, and I should state upfront that , to paraphrase Douglas Afams slightly, if you don't want me to digress you're reading the wrong blog. 

What's on my mind right now is a book I've just read - "HYDE" by Daniel Levine, and it tells the classic Jekyll and Hyde story from Hyde's point of view. Just the sort of thing I like - a new take on a classic story. Not a sequel (incidentally, I have nothing against a good sequel), but a new point of view or something which reveals parts of the story that the original author didn't quite tell us about. Other examples are Jan Needle's "Wildwood", in which we get the working-class viewpoint of the "Wind in the WIllows" story, or Adrian Mitchell's "Man Friday". Or the wonderfully absurd "Other Log of Phileas Fogg" by Philip Farmer, which led to the invention of the Wold Newton universe.. I'd also recommend Christopher Priest's "The Space Machine" which blends the plots of Wells' two classics, "War of the Worlds" and "The Time Machine".

So, would I recommend "Hyde"? I'm not entirely sure. It left me feeling vaguely nauseated, which one might consider a bad thing, but then it is meant to be a disturbing story, and to leave you feeling uneasy. Levine is a pretty good writer, and he comes up with some interesting twists on the story, but at the end of the day I'm not entirely sure I'm glad I read it. I will certainly be looking out for other stuff by the same guy (this is his first novel). The edition I have (Mariner, paperback, US edition) also has the entire original Stevenson story at the back. I'm not sure this was a good idea - surely anyone who is intrigued by the idea of Hyde's POV will already own a copy? I certainly do, in fact I have two, one being a part of my miniature book collection.

However, as I may have mentioned I'm not in the same house as my books right now and I'm a little light on reading matter, so I went on to reread the original at the back of the book. Levine has done a great job of filling the holes in the original plot (I'm not going to go into detail, in case you want to read it for yourself), and indeed digging his own holes in the plot, where he usually disposed of a body or two. But sadly for Levine, it is also immediately obvious how much better Stevenson is as a writer.No surprise, I guess, he was one of the greatest storytellers of all time (he spent the last few years of his life in Samoa, where he was known as "Tusitala", the tale-teller) - but it makes you reevaluate Levine's version, and he loses in that transaction.

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