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My freelance writing can now be found at mikeatkinson.wordpress.com.
Recently: VV Brown, Alabama 3, Just Jack, Phantom Band, Frankmusik, Twilight Sad, Slaid Cleaves, Alesha Dixon, Bellowhead, The Unthanks, Dizzee Rascal.
On Thursday September 17th, I danced on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.
Click here to watch, and here to listen.
Friday, March 12, 2004
More displacement activity.
Noticing something of a revival in this time-honoured piece of displacement activity, I ran another Google Image Search on "mike [surname]".
Scarily enough, I can see something of myself in all these images - if not always in outward appearance, then at least in spiritual essence. Although, needless to say, I am particularly drawn to the fourth one.
Mind you, I think that the final image (on page 4 of 4) might be trying to tell me something.
Thursday, March 11, 2004
Flush of shame.
There's always a good two-second gap between the dunk-dunk-dunk of the access code buttons and the ker-thunk of the toilet door, giving me just enough time to pause my game of Snake. My greatest fear: the toilet door creaking open just as I've achieved a High Score, with its attendant, tell-tale, fatal, dann da-da daaaa! victory stab.
(Incidentally: is it just advanced paranoia on my part, or do I detect something of a mocking undercurrent there? Doesn't the tinny hollowness of the victory stab subvert - and indeed extinguish - the glow of triumph which you've just earnt, dammit? Doesn't it serve as a cruel reminder of the utter, shameful futility of your so-called achievement? And this from the same people who inflicted the horrors of the "classic" Nokia ring tone upon the world. There are some twisted minds at work in their development labs, I'm telling you.)
Frankly, I would rather be caught in the guttural throes of an auto-erotic denouement than in the faux-victory of a Nokia Snake High Score. Because at least I would been caught surrendering to a natural urge. There's still a shred of dignity to be salvaged there, I think.
Oh, the terrors of the modern workplace!
Flash of realisation.
These days, it's all displacement activity. In order to complete even the most menial task, I first have to engineer a situation which turns it into displacement activity for something else. Thus, to get through the day, I'm constantly having to pretend to myself that I'm about to do one thing, in order to do the other thing. It's an Alice Through The Looking Glass complex.
(Example: in the office, I'm generally at my quickest and most efficient when I'm actually in dire need of a pee. Because work becomes the displacement activity for walking upstairs and having a pee. That's serious, right?)
Maybe I'll eventually develop the ability to weave a seamless network of mutually dependent displacement activities - a displacement circle jerk, if you like. Yes, I think that's the way forward. That would make things much simpler, wouldn't it?
I should have been at lunch ten minutes ago.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Things which I had forgotten over the last three months.
1. Just how bloody difficult it is to write smoothly flowing, effortless-looking prose. Writing ability is a muscle in the brain; it needs regular exercise. Unfortunately, my writing muscle has grown as flabby as my waistline. (See #4 below.).
...and simile! simile! simile!...
...and metaphor! metaphor! metaphor!...
...and wit! and wit! and-depth-and-depth-and-wit!
2. Don't feed the Googlers. Temporarily adding the strapline "real name Katie Price" seemed like such a witty idea at the time, if about three weeks too late to be truly cutting-edge-media-savvy-satirical. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. You'd be surprised at how many people want to see pictures of her DOING THE IRONING, as well. Tsk, men! Says it all!
3. The complete and utter fabulousness of the comment boxes on this site. You guys! [Mugs coquettishly to camera.]
It's all slowly coming back to me. Why, give it a few more days and I might actually stop meta-blogging and produce some brand new original content. You never know.
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Ten things which have happened in the last three months (1-5).
1. Total and utter obsession with the Scissor Sisters.
If I had been blogging in December/January/February, then Troubled Diva would probably have morphed into nothing more (or less) than a Scissor Sisters fan site. Just when you think you're too old to have a "favourite band" (*) any more (the last was Chicks On Speed, in late 1999/early 2000), then what should come along but the brightest, spangliest, sexiest, most fully realised pop group in ooh, yonks, turning you into a dribbling, gibbering, evangelising ("I know I don't normally try and force my taste on you, but..."), name-dropping ("Buni & I met them at the Social in December, and they were all really nice people..."), MP3-grabbing ("Oh wow, an unreleased demo album from 18 months ago..."), texting-your-mates ("SS on cduk sat am!") fanboy of the first degree. Why, even K likes them, and he doesn't do Pop. (This may or may not have something to do with the fact that diminuitive-but-perfectly-formed lead singer Jake Shears has "K's Type" written all over him.) I'll be seeing them for the fourth (fourth!) time next month, at Nottingham Rock City. Tickets are still available. What's your excuse?
(*) Of course, the trouble with being an evangelical Early Adopter is that, sooner or later, the object(s) of your affection will no longer be your seemingly exclusive property. With every round of new live dates, the Scissor Sisters are playing steadily larger venues; they're even supporting Duran Duran on the second leg of their arena tour next month. They've had a #10 single and a #11 album. It's wonderful to see, of course - they deserve the success - but there's still just the tiniest little hint of regret as they slip from being "my" band to everybody else's band. Sometimes when this happens, bands rapidly go off the boil, losing the drive and invention which got you into them in the first place. However, the Scissor Sisters are meant to be a broad-appeal pop act. It's their logical destination. I reckon they'll be just fine.
2. Taking the house off the market.
It's a long story, but we've finally decided to stay put for a while longer in our existing Nottingham pad. It's all cool; no-one's pissed off, and everyone's happy. So, instead of moving out of The Park Estate into palatial contemporary-architect-designed coffee-table-book splendour, we're going to concentrate on showing a little overdue love and affection to the place we've been living in for the last twelve years. (Besides: just because you can move to somewhere bigger, it doesn't mean that you have to.) Various pieces of furniture and gadgetry have been ordered; some has already arrived; some arrived this morning (after years of holding out against Evil Tyrant Billionaire Murdoch, I'll be returning home tonight to avail myself of the myriad wonders of Sky Plus; perdition surely awaits). Basically: downstairs has been All Wrong, ever since we splashed out on some ill-advised (and over-priced) imported Italian designer crap about three years ago. It's time to put it All Right again. We're Coming Home.
3. Midweek boozing.
At the start of 2003, I spent a month without alcohol, and emerged feeling all the better for it. In stark contrast, 2004 has seen me become quite the midweek beer-guzzler. Just as Buni (my long-standing partner in crime) decides to lie low for a while, in preparation for a move down to London, so a brand new drinking companion emerges from the smoke-filled fleshpots of the city's demi-monde: step forward Alan, newly arrived Cape Town ex-pat and toast of the town (in just three months, he already knows more people on the current Nottingham gay scene than I have spoken to in the past year). Almost every Wednesday or Thursday evening, you'll find us ensconced in the Lord Roberts, or propping up the bar past midnight in The Central, or swaying in the fug on the edge of the dancefloor at NG1, chugging away on too much cooking lager, chuffing away on too many fags, and chatting each other's ears off. And I ask you, what could be more pleasant than that?
4. Unsightly bulges above the waistline.
See #3 above. In 1980, my waistline was 28 inches. In 1990, it was 30 inches. In 2000, it was 32 inches. In 2004, my belt has started to dip down at the front, in the manner of jolly old Friar Tuck. This Will Not Do. The Daddy Bear look has its place for some, but it's a look which I steadfastly refuse to rock. If David Bowie can be Skinny and Interesting in his late fifties, then so can I in my early forties.
5. Springtime in the PDMG.
Over in the cottage garden (Mike's urban gay readership groans and skips to the end of the paragraph; Mike's rural readership sits up straight, with renewed attention), the final part of the first year's cycle is almost upon us. The bulbs which were planted last autumn represent our first truly independent creative act in the PDMG, filling us with impatient anticipation as we park up on Friday evenings. While the crocuses by the back door have been in bloom for about three weeks, everything else is sprouting with tortuous slowness. ("Grow, you f***ers! Grow, damn you!")
Meanwhile, suspended from the infant malus tree, K's feeder has brought all the birds to the yard (and they're like, it's better than yours). Tits (great and blue), finches (green, bull and chaff), a couple of blackbirds the other week (comically patrolling the flower beds like officious park keepers), and even a lone squirrel (a common sight in Nottingham, but we've never seen one before in the village). K's Snow White Trip is being well and truly tapped into; images of Lily Tomlin in the "fantasy sequence" of Nine To Five spring inexorably to mind. We'll be mulching soon. What horny-handed sons of the soil we are becoming!
Monday, March 08, 2004
Yeah right, fat chance of THAT happening...
You know what? I think it's better if I just dive straight back in again, as if the last three months had never happened.
But then again, what is Troubled Diva without all the tortuously drawn out self-examination which you have come to know and, um, skim-read? So, perhaps a brief (hah!) word about the recent blogging hiatus is in order.
(Actually, this might be a tad long-winded. Plus ca change, eh readers?)
In my "farewell" posting of last December, I said that I would be back "if circumstances change and priorities re-arrange". This is precisely what has happened. Back in early December, I was suffering from the accumulated stresses of weekly business trips to mainland Europe; indeed, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I was abroad for nine weeks out of eleven. At the time, it seemed as if this level of travelling would continue for the next six months or so. Something had to give; and as I was feeling burned out with blogging in any case, Troubled Diva was the obvious candidate.
However, I had made one significant miscalculation: namely, that the project which I am working on is, in essence, repetitive. I am working my way around various European countries, and performing the same tasks over and over again, albeit with certain local variations. With each new country, the routine becomes ever more familiar; I find myself zipping through the tasks ever more quickly, with less need of direct human contact. These days, a single site visit tends to suffice. I'll jet in for a day, run through my check-list, make a note of all the local variations, prepare and agree a timetable, and jet straight out again. All further contact can then be handled by phone or by e-mail.
Consequently, I have been travelling much less frequently than expected, with just three foreign trips so far this year (to Barcelona, Rome and Amsterdam), and none whatsoever planned for at least the next couple of months (the next country on my list being the UK). With travelling reduced to a manageable (and much more enjoyable) level, stress levels have decreased, and headspace has been restored.
Ah, the luxury of headspace. The sheer, sweet relief that came with not having to maintain this site was almost palpable. Withdrawal symptoms? Not on your nelly. As another recently returned blogger observed: "Sometimes you just want to sit back contentedly and listen to everyone else chatting for a while."
Somewhere around the end of January, or maybe the beginning of February, I started experiencing my first major twinges. Not, as I would have expected, twinges of wanting to write again; instead, I was itching to link. Reading an exceptionally fine blog posting, and not being able to rave about it on my own site, was becoming a nagging frustration.
For a while, this frustration was allayed by the happy discovery of Blorgy: a constantly shifting index of recent blog postings, ranked according to quality. Yet another meaningless popularity contest? Arguably; and yet somehow, it does seem to work. Unmitigated trash ends up at the bottom of the heap, while the good stuff nearly always ends up somwhere near the top, for a couple of days or so at least. If you can bear the occupational hazard of clicking on a certain proportion of utter drivel, then Blorgy can become quite addictive - both as a means of reading interesting new stuff, and as a means of promoting your own favourite posts. Perfect displacement activity for an ex-blogger, in other words. For the last month or so, I've been submitting roughly one posting per day to Blorgy, and watching them bob up and down the rankings like a proud parent.
My next displacement activity came in the shape of the I Love Music message board, where all the serious music fanatics hang out. And I do mean serious. Amongst my friends, I am known as a walking encyclopedia of Pop Triv. Amongst the almost terrifyingly well-informed I Love Music regulars, I am exposed as nothing more than a Fifty Quid Bloke. In terms of accumulated "I know more than you do" points, it has a been humbling experience. On the other hand, it has also set my perceived music fanaticism in perspective; there are many people out there who have it far, far worse than me. As such, hanging out on I Love Music has also been a rather reassuring experience. It's also a great place for picking up
Finally, and not much more than a couple of weeks ago, I felt ready to resume blogging. So how did I go about it? By embarking upon the mother of all overblown, vainglorious stunts, that's how. And ooh, I could just see the noses wrinkling and the brows furrowing. Why does he feel the need to do this? He doesn't need our permission to start blogging again. It's pure attention-seeking. He's really playing the Diva now, isn't he? All of which rather missed the essential playfulness of the stunt, I thought.
In this respect, my favourite comment came from opie: "Where no bandwagon runs, the Troubled Diva shackles a team." Well, indeed. I was also delighted by the way that Anna of Little Red Boat skittishly bent the concept towards her own ends.
But now - decks cleared, barrel replenished, bandwagon shackled and rolling, mixed metaphors stacked up and ready to tumble - I think it's time to dive straight back in again. As if the last three months had never happened.
(Eww! Posts which begin and end with the exact same words! I swore I'd never do that!)