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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, February 03, 2006
Open Mike #3.
I've got some time on my hands, so please fire away in the comments box. Any question, any topic. Trained operators are standing by to take your call.
1. Girl asks: Any nice plans for the weekend Sir Mike?
Why, indeed we have. We're travelling to Cambridge tomorrow morning, to visit my mother, to exchange belated Christmas presents (both of us having being abroad on the day itself), and for me to receive an early birthday present (it's a fortnight today).
I have two presents for her:
2. Lynne asks, with spooky synchronicity, just as I was adding a few extra sentences to my previous answer: Aren't you a bit buggered if your mum reads this, Mike?!
Indeed I might be. But only if she pops round to a friend's house between now and tomorrow lunchtime, asks to use their computer, works out how to use one, discovers Google, types in my name, finds this site, and reads it. I walk such a narrow tightrope.
3. Dymbel asks: How's the f**s* ***e* coming on?
T***i***. P***r***i***i** *n* **a* **i** *o** *e ** *h*** d***l* **b***e, *** g***t ***n* ** n** *n***h ** *r** *y***f ***m **. *h* **s***, o* **u***, i* ** J*** D* **. B** *h** *h**'* t** *n***r ** *o ***y ***n**, *n* ** a***e* **i** * h*** s***t ***h ** *y ***e ***e***d** *a***n* ** h***. H***e *** t***a**. *e**, *o* **d ***.
Update: Major respect to Clare for decoding the above, and only getting four words wrong.
4. Making his first visit to my comments box since April of last year, A Reader asks (with a certain degree of thematic consistency): What's your favourite Take That song?
First of all: welcome back to Troubled Diva, A Reader! You have been anonymously with us almost from the start, haven't you? Loyalty: we like that in our readers.
It's an easy and obvious one. My favourite Take That song is Back For Good, followed by Pray, followed by Could It Be Magic, followed by Relight My Fire. ("Cue Lulu!") Roll on April 26th at the NEC...
5. The newly relocated Jack of Pandemian (née Green Fairy) asks: Interesting ways to die: would you rather be smothered in plum jam and buried up to the eyebrows in a termite nest or stretched flat and squeezed very slowly between two ginormous weights?
Strewth, do I have to choose? Is this a case of: you choose or you die?
I'd opt for the quickest method, but I can't decide which it is. Do termites eat flesh? There's nothing on Wikipedia which suggests that they do, so maybe I'd just be tickled while I suffocated.
Yes, rapid suffocation trumps slow squashing. I choose the jam and termites.
Also, I'll make a better corpse: either fully intact (if a trifle sticky, but that would wash off), or else neatly bio-degraded, depending on dietary habits of said termites. I wouldn't wish my weight-squished carcass upon any funeral director. Far too undignified.
At least I'd die with a nice taste in my mouth. Mmm, plums.
6. MissMish asks: What will you be wearing on your birthday m'dear?
Oh, do you mean my birthday that takes place exactly two weeks from today? That birthday? The one I mentioned earlier? Lovely!
My daytime wear will depend upon the dress code of my new clients, down in London's vibrant Canary Wharf district, where I shall have been working all week. It has not yet been confirmed whether this dress code is "smart casual" or "business casual" - and yes, Virginia, there is a difference. Mainly in the trouser department. However, we can safely assume that a nice smart shirt will be a given.
As for my evening wear: what does a self-respecting middle-aged homo wear to a gay/bi/trans gothic/industrial night, without risking cries of "Mouton!" from the pierced-and-tatted throng? Last time, I stuck my glow-in-the-dark Camembert Electrique T-shirt over my vintage 1991 Paul Smith leather kecks, mainly to hide the fact that I could no longer fasten the top button of the kecks. This is not a look which I am prepared to risk a second time.
Probably the same T-shirt (as it's my one remaining sartorial concession to "rock and roll"), teamed up with some dark jeans and my nice Prada shoes. (Five and a half years old, and they still look box-fresh. Best swanky designer buy EVER.)
7. Apropos the previous question, Siobhan asks: Ooh, and have you any fashion advice for a young-girl-about-town who wants to tag along?
Goodness. How do you dress an almost award-winning Lancastrian transvesite for an alt.gay.goth-slash-industrial "nite" in the upstairs function room of a real ale pub down the bottom of Hockley? I am quite out of my depth.
In lieu of a useful answer, can I give you a Fun Fact about the night in question? Last time I went, the organisers had laid out little Occasional Bowls on each table (white plastic, nothing fancy), each bowl containing a lollipop and a sachet of lube. Now, that's what I call thoughtful.
8. Martin R asks: Far be it from me to question your divine status. But why "troubled"? You seem to be a pretty happy man these days!
Yes, but would Self Satisfied Diva work so well on a coffee mug? No, no, brand consistency is all.
9. Waitrose David asks: How have the fellow bloggers whom you have met in person differed from your expectations ? You don't need to name names of course. I suppose water will be muddied if you have exchanged e-mails with them separately as well.
I've just been trying to locate my favourite observation on this subject, which I think was left by Gert in an old comments box, circa February 2003. (But I might be wrong.)
Anyhow, the observation went something like this. When you meet a fellow blogger for the first time, they're never exactly as you imagined - but on the other hand, they're only slightly different. It only takes a few moments to re-align your expectation with the reality, after which you can continue as normal.
I'd also say that, in general, you can sidestep a few of the usual tentative getting-to-know-you stages and checking points which occur on first meetings. You will often (but admittedly not always) end up feeling as if you have known each other for ages. It's a weird but pleasant sensation - and the more often you experience it, the less weird it gets.
Have I ever met a blogger who has been nothing like I imagined they would be? I'm concentrating very hard here. Yes, I can certainly think of one. No, two.
(That's not different-in-a-bad-way. Just different.)
As of now, there are no more outstanding questions to answer - so that's it for this week.
(Oh dear, did we only make it to nine questions again? I guess those Shanghai stories will have to wait a while longer.)
A lovely trick photo involving horses and snow.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
An analogy has just occurred to me.
Troubled Diva Proper is like the front room at a party, with everyone making polite - if rather strained - conversation on the couches.
Troubled Diva Xtra is like the kitchen at the same party, where all the juicy trash-talk is going on, and no-one gives a damn because they know the host so well.
(Except that there aren't any comment boxes on Troubled Diva Xtra. At which point the analogy collapses, and I become more tempted than ever to add comment boxes to Troubled Diva Xtra, just to save the analogy. God, you think this stuff is planned?)
That's an awfully pretty sidebar, isn't it?
Yes, isn't it.
Have you visited the archives recently?
Excuse me, I'll be right back.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Pro versus Am.
I've left a comment at Gordon's place, attached to this post, where he talks of wanting to make a clear distinction between "pro" blogs and "hobbyist" blogs. The comment makes more sense in context, but I found that while writing it, my own thoughts on the subject of pro-vs-am blogging finally clarified. So here it is:
My take on it is this: we would do better to think of a "blog" as merely a description of how a website is formatted. If a website is built around reverse-chronological dated entries, it's a blog. End of.Yeah, it's an off-the-cuff ramble, which could use a little editing, structuring and expanding. But then what am I, some sort of professional blogger?
The problems occur when people try to load this neutral descriptive term with their own subjective interpretations of what blogging should be "all about". There is no such thing as "the true spirit of blogging". A blog is the end result of a number of content management systems, and that's all.
Pro-blogs represent one subset of blogs. Personal blogs represent another. Very occasionally (eg. Dooce), the categories might overlap. But in any case, as with genres of music or literature, the category boundaries will always be blurred around the edges. Therefore, while thinking in terms of categories can be a useful shorthand at times, it's dangerous to let that sort of thinking take over.
The problems occur when ANY group of bloggers start thinking and acting as if their own particular paradigm is "what blogging is all about". Personal bloggers do this; pro-bloggers do this; political bloggers do this possibly most of all.
It's a neutral descriptive term for websites with reverse-chronological dated posts. The rest is up to the blogger. Live and let live. Peace and love.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
If ever there was a justification for doing Post Of The Week, then this is it.
Bloody Hell, have you read the rest of forksplit? It's phenomenally good. So good, that I just want to spend the rest of the day reading through her archives. Would that were possible...
(I'd point you towards a specific post, but they're all show-stoppers. Yes, I'm over-selling again.)
Monday, January 30, 2006
Stylus Singles Jukebox: Fingerpaint the Entire Classroom
This blog on a Monday is getting a little predictable, nicht wahr? Post Of The Week results, followed by a link to the new singles reviews on Stylus... well, maybe I could use a little predictability from time to time.
In this week's column, I turn the sharp glare of my critical eye upon new releases from Tokio Hotel (German teen metallers), Chris Brown (drippy, lisping R&B), Elena Paparizou (her what won last year's Eurovision), West End Girls (Swedish Pet Shop Boys covers act), and The Go! Team (still flogging that 2004 album).
These blurbs are mercifully shorter and snappier than last week's rather over-laboured bunch (and in the case of Tokio Hotel, which has been edited to remove factual duplication, even shorter and snapper than was originally intended).
Nottingham blogs: who's out there?
Just under a year ago, I compiled a small list of Nottingham-based blogs of note. For reasons which may or may not become apparent, I'd like to conduct the same exercise again. So if you either write or know of a decent local blog which should be included in this list, then please let me know in the comments box.
Post of the Week: Week 9 results, Week 10 nominations.
OH MY GOD THERE ARE WINDOW CLEANERS OUTSIDE SITTING ON PRECARIOUS LITTLE HARNESSES AND WE ARE 11 FLOORS UP AND THEY WILL SURELY DIE AND MY PALMS ARE SWEATING AND MY BOLLOCKS ARE TURNING TO WATER JUST THINKING ABOUT IT.
Oh, are we on-air? Right then. Not much time, so let's crack on with this week's results.
Some weeks, there's a clear consensus amongst the judges; other weeks, votes go flying all over the place. This week was firmly in the latter category; so much so, that - for the first time ever - only one post picked up votes from all three of us (myself, Ms Boob Pencil and Ms Stressqueen). Happily, this post also scored the most points numerically. And the name of that post is...
forksplit: F**k You, Barbie.
"Engaging", said one judge. "A tale many of us can identify with; it is
delightfully written and contains a sting in the tail", said another. Quite so, quite so.
Please place your nominations for Week 10 in the comments box below. This week's judges are Martin R and Looby.
1. Open Book: Stories.
(nominated by Sarsparilla)
They held each other tight, seeking, one from the other, refuge from the storm. And in their tangled limbs, their slowing breaths, their resting hearts beating in rhythmic sync, they took, one from the other, shelter, comfort, and peace.
2. little.red.boat.: Stupidity hurts
(nominated by Rob and asta)
Pootle about, wash, make-up, some vague form of breakfast, some vague form of tidying, check everything is in bag, check again, check again, run around in circles, leave the house.
3. Blogadoon: Say what you like about Simon Hughes...
(nominated by asta)
Say what you like about Simon Hughes' dramatic retraction of his claims to heterosexuality, but it's certainly kept the homophobes in column inches.
4. Stephanie Sparer: "I'm spreading my eggs too thin."
(nominated by Looby)
And then the real reason we were actually there with full face make up and styled hair at 10:30 AM on the dot walked in. Our professor. Names aren’t important. Played by George Clooney.
5. this too: Pop.
(nominated by Zinnia Cyclamen)
After thirty years in London, they still seemed country people, he and my plump rosy Gran, as short as him but twice as wide, her eternal respectable hats firmly anchored with a huge pin. Over their broad voices lay a soft measured primness quite unlike their city neighbours, learned, I suppose, from the land-owning family with whom they’d been ‘in service’.
6. Bonanza Jellybean: Boys Will Be Boys.
(nominated by Hana)
Men like to look at naked women. A lot. Asses, boobs, legs, all parts combined, you name it. They like it. IT MEANS NOTHING. And yet their women freak the f**k out about it. All the time.
7. GUYANA: the enemy.
(nominated by Zinnia Cyclamen)
I hear a crick crack snapping sound...and the rope bruk in two...and the second half o' the rope turn into a snake, a two foot snake with a small, small face and thin, thin tail. Was a pale snake, sort o' light grey-brown, pale, pale with really light markings. The snake wriggle past me and disappear under the old house.
8. diamond geezer: I'm up for a Bloggie!!!
(nominated by martin)
But it's not the prizes which matter, it's the acclaim of being voted for by thousands of random Americans who've never read my page before. Hello Wyoming!!!
9. The Religious Policeman: A Memo.
(nominated by mike, via Gert)
From: Royal Press Secretary
To: His Majesty
Date: 1st February 2006
As Your Majesty requested recently, in order to divert public attention from the regrettable demise of a small number of pilgrims in Makkah during the last Hajj, Saudi newspapers were instructed to revive the four-month-old story of cartoons about the Prophet (PBUH) in a Danish newspaper, and turn it into an attack on Denmark, together with a "spontaneous demand by the people" for a boycott of Danish goods.
10. Latigo Flint, Quickest Quickdraw in the World: Alternative Energy Sources
(nominated by Rob)
Benefits: Makes millions of hippies giddy with joy.
Downside: Sure, today it's corn oil, but tomorrow it'll be baby oil (the oil of smushed up babies) and soon it'll be the oil from the eyeballs of endangered birds--we all know how these things go.
11. Rachel from north London: Clean skins.
(nominated by mike)
The change looks innocuous enough. Wives, parents, friends may even be pleased that the young man seems to be getting so deeply interested in matters of faith and spirituality. What can be more harmless and praiseworthy? Thus the fact that the young man is becoming interested in an extremist, violent ideaology slips under the radar. 'At least he is not taking drugs, getting into trouble'.