Friday, 31 July 2009

A Vengeful Deity

If there is a god, and I don't believe there is, that person must be really a vengeful one! I'll even leave aside all the unnecessary suffering of demonstrably innocent people. Instead I'll concentrate on a small thing. The devil, as they say, is in the detail after all.

Take umbrellas for example. If you make sure you have one with you it's pretty much guaranteed it won't rain. At least not while you're outdoors. But, forget the umbrella, especially if you otherwise tend to carry it, and it will rain. Out of the clear blue sky, if it has to. And if you remember you forgot it, and start thinking about it, tropical downpour are likely to occur as soon as you step outside. You may say it's a coincidence, and I am happy to believe it. But if you tend to think there is a god, and that he/she/it is omnipresent, omnipotent, and so on, then it surely must follow that they are quite mean. Not so?

And I should know. I am the sad type who carries an umbrella most of the time, and guess what? I rarely ever happen to be out of doors when it rains. But on the odd day that I leave my trusty umbrella behind I can pretty much count on getting at least a little bit wet. If it doesn't quite rain, I get splashed by a passing car. Or something.

You may think it only happens to irreverent aggressive atheist like myself. But no! if you look around, and listen to people, you'll see this is something of a universal malady. Therefore, the only conclusion can be: either unlucky people are the greatest whinges in the whole wide world, or the god is a mean, vengeful bastard.

I know which option I believe in! Or not, as the case may be.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Why Have Ads?

Ads? What ads?

Oh! The ones you were not bothered enough about to make an effort in removing from your browser? Well, that serves you right. Let me give you a hint or three how to get rid of them.

Install Firefox, and then the AdBlock Plus add-on. They're both free, safe, and work like a charm. If you use a different browser I'm sure there's a solution for you too. For example, Flock. It's based on Firefox and can use same extensions. It is also quite well equipped for you Web 2.0 buffs out there, even out of the box. If you're browser is not easily or freely extensible, consider installing an ad blocking firewall/proxy like Privoxy ( There is really no reason, in this day and age, for your Internet experience not to be ad free.

So why then I make it more difficult for you? My answer: why not?

There'll be much more, and much more intrusive ads on most web sites you'll visit anyway. And, I have just gave you solid advice how to remove those, too. Also, if you're happy with the ads, especially if you click on them, too, I see no reason that I shouldn't make a penny. It's free for you. You may even consider it a service, if you do click and find it useful. Who am I to judge? And who am I to let just the big companies make a buck out of suckers. Sorry, I meant "you".

Finally, I have just seen a news item, a horrible one: as much as 12% of people have actually clicked on a link in a spam e-mail! Why? Because they were apparently interested in the product. Next thing we know, spammers will start claiming they're providing a service, and blocking their missives should be stopped. But have I not just, with this consternation, contradicted myself from the paragraph before? I think not. You did not choose to receive spam. At least I didn't. Presumably, you are reading this because you came of your own free will, and action. If you don't like it (or the ads, if you even see them) you can just not come back. No such choice with spam.

So, expect to see ads here for the foreseeable future. I promise to let you know when I make my first million.

Blogging For The Guy Next Door

Here's your litmus test to see if you're cut out for blogging under your real name:

How would you feel knowing that the guy next door (or the one sitting next to you at work) was reading your musings last night. What would he think of them? Will he let you know he did? If yes, will he confront you if he disagrees? Will he give you a pat on the back if he does agree? Or will he just keep quiet and snigger?

How do you feel now, having imagined answers to these questions?

If you still feel comfortable about yourself and what you're doing, great! You have what it takes. Go and write that blog you always wanted.

Otherwise, just make up a pen name, create a fake profile, and write that blog anyway! It's easy, and free to boot. Nobody will know.

Lastly, a message to the guy next door:

If you have read this, please at least don't snigger quietly to yourself. One day it may be you (un)wittingly embarrassing yourself in public!

Monday, 27 July 2009

I Told You So!

Only a few days after I wrote a (admittedly somewhat late) piece about gamete donor anonymity, or rather unfair loss of it in Britain, a new report comes in, guns blazing, about 25% decline in donors, attributed mostly to loss of anonymity, and in contrast of early, obviously optimistic reports (or a low start baseline, as I suggested). The solution now being considered, apparently, is paying donors. They already can receive "reasonable" compensation of up to £250, so this new one will have to be considerably higher. But why not just restore anonymity? It's fairer, not to mention cheaper. Especially when you add in the costs of changing the legislation.

This is what happens when the "human rights" campaigners get the wrong end of the stick and mess it up for all the rest of us. Will someone turn and apologise to those who are now fully deserving of their "we told you so" moment? Of course not!

So, "politically correct" Britain, dither on! At everybody's expense.

Friday, 24 July 2009

The Right To Know

Here, I intend to discuss some dilemmas surrounding adoption and sperm/egg donation.

Don't worry. I do not have the least inclination to argue that either is somehow wrong. On the contrary, both rate extremely high on my scale of "good things"™. People who adopt and/or donate their gametes rank equally high on my top list of "people to admire"™.

So, what are these dilemmas then?

Let me first address the one relating to adoption. I will assume we're only talking about adopting a really small child, one that is guaranteed not to have any knowledge or memories of its biological parents. As you'll see this is, in fact, a prerequisite for having this dilemma in the first place.

Let's now turn to the dilemma itself: should the adoptee ever learn who the biological parents are? If they ask, should they be told? Also, should they even be told they have been adopted, in the first place.

Not having been adopted myself I cannot speak from personal experience about the need to know one's biological parents. I believe I know who mine are, and thus cannot even simulate the wish to know properly. The best I can do is close my eyes and imagine I have, in fact, been adopted, but was never told. The first question would be: if I have such doubts, do I confront my parents? In the normal course of events parents shouldn't ever have the need to reassure their children that they are not adopted, so there may be a need to ask if you're in any doubt. My gut feeling here is: if you are in doubt, ask. Simple as that.

This leads us to the next part of the dillema: supposing you're told you're adopted. It doesn't really matter if you asked, or your parents volunteered the information. What do you do with this information now? Do you go asking and/or investigating who your biological parents are? If yes, why? If not, why not? I can again only go by my gut feeling, having closed my eyes and tried to imagine the situation. Having done all that, and opened my eyes again so I can type this, here is what I think:

If I was in this situation, and my parents have been as good to me as I can imagine (as for example my real ones have been) then I think I may not be very interested in the biological ones. If I also learned I was given up for adoption then I think I'd probably actively refuse to know. Why would I have a need for those who didn't need me? If I was adopted because my original parents perished when I was only little, then I would probably want to learn about them, but them not being around any more, that intereset, just like the knowledge would only ever be theoretical, so to speak. So, on balance, and having had a happy childhood I think I'd feel little need to burden myself with this sort of knowledge. Thinking about it, even if I had a terrible childhood I doubt knowing who my biological parents were would help in any way. It's unlikely that they'd take me back even I found them, and they were still alive. Why would they, having given up on me once already?

So, in conclusion, while if the question is asked it certainly has to be answered, and truthfully, I do not think knowing the answer benefits the adopted child in any signinficant way. Of course, if you're an adopted child, and feel I'm talking bull here, I'll happily admit I'm wrong. In your case. I'm talking probabilities here. Have a look here.

But this was really just an overture, covering the bases, if you want, before my main piece. And that is the right to know in cases of donated eggs/sperm. Not only is this something I can more easily relate to, but it's also something that has been a more contentious issue in public, too.

While I have not donated sperm, I think it is very easy for me to imagine that I had, and look for possible consequences. For the child produced from a donated gamete the dillema of an adoptee is applicable almost in its entirety. The difference is that parents giving up a child that has already been born are doing something completely different to someone charitably helping someone unable to have one. Do note, I equate egg/sperm donation and surrogat motherhood, and I also do not distinguish between possible ways of using donated sperm (think in vitro, and by traditional sexual intercourse). For the purposes of this discussion, and in my mind, too, they are all one and the same. Even if money changes hands.

So, assuming the child is told they've been created using donated gamete, and assuming it expresses the wish to know who the biological parent(s) were, does it have the right to know? My argument above was that an adoptee does. But I am not so sure about the child who has been conceived using donated gamete(s). Why is that?

Well, for one, the biological parents in these two cases are not really doign the same thing, are they. The ones who are giving a child up for adoption are presumably doing it after having a change of heart (unless they're dead, but that's a different matter altogether), while the donors are doing a good deed, presumably wishing to remain anonymous. After all, you do not really want to have every single child in Africa know that they're benefiting from your charitable donation. If you do, I'd say you're giving to charity for all the wrong reasons.

So the question really becomes: does a childs right to know trumps donor's right, and wish for, anonymity. Of course, if the donor is happy for their identity to be revealed then there is no issue here at all. And I also think the donor in this case cannot demand to be revealed to a child that hasn't asked for the knowledge of its biological parents in the first place. Which leaves us with the child who did ask, faced with the donor who wants to be anonymous.

Here, I must say, I will have to side with the donor. His, or hers, right to anonymity trumps the childs right to know every time. Even if the donor dies. It is a bit difficult, if not impossible, to clearly explain why, but all my being is telling me this is the right way around. You could say that the child owes it's existence to the magnanimity of the donor, and should not ask fro things the donor may deem ungrateful. It is true the child didn't ask to be born in the first place, but then that doesn't prevent it from having all sorts of other obligations it will not think of avoding. Not having asked to be born has never stood in court as any sort of defence, after all.

Another argument is that, if they have requested anonymity, it can be presumed that donors would not have donated at all had anonymity not been an option. And without donors there wouldn't be any chance for some people to have kids, so donors surely are a good thing, and something to try and not lose?

Unfortunately, this is something British law recently got wrong. Strangely, donor numbers have been reported as rising since, leading me to question donors' motives (it could also be that the numbers picked up from a dismal low becasue of increased publicity). The new law does not leave any choice to donors, as far as I see. You donate, you will be outed should the child so desire. Pity. The least that should have been done, rather than deny any anonymity, was to make anonymity an opt-in choice. If you ask for it, you get it. If you don't care to ask for it, you're fair game. And then also allow recipients to choose if they want to use a donor that requires anonymity. My preferred option would be opt-out anonymity, i.e. you're anonymous by default, but can ask for it to be waived.

Now, I am too old to donate sperm myself, but trust me, without guaranteed anonymity I wouldn't be interested anyway. At least in this there is no dilemma for me!

Everything Is Relative, My Dear Albert!

The above is an oft used (and abused) faux quote from back when home was just a single place. Who knows, maybe Mileva really did say that to her husband. It may have even been a, not so subtle, prompt for the great discovery (no, E equals m times c squared was not as great). And it is true as well, especially when we start dabbling in all the fuzziness of human nature and its shenanigans.

Yet, here, you will see me boldly speak in absolutes! How come?

Well, I really need a T&C section in this blog. If only I could keep it visible to my dear readers (all two of them) at all times. I can't. So every now and then I'll insert a little missive like this one, and hope it gets noticed. And remembered. I'm also toying with the idea of arranging for some to have a rerun or three. We shall see...

Now, back to the absolutes, or lack thereof, as it were.

I would very much appreciate if, unless stated otherwise, explicitly, or obvious, all statements I make here that may sound like an absolute are understood in probabilistic terms. This means that if I say that everybody does this, that, or the other, I mean a sufficient majority as not to matter. Otherwise, I'll do my best to let you know when "every" really means "every single last one." OK?

I'm sure even Einstein would be proud!


Thursday, 23 July 2009

So It Goes

In one of his masterpieces Kurt Vonnegut says, to paraphrase, that people read books so they can find that they're not the only ones who think or feel in a particular way. He also suggests this should be reason enough for writers to write even if their points of view seem singular. And so on.

Or so I have interpreted it.

What I have to add to this is that once a writer as described above is identified, his or her writings also become an invaluable source of ideas about how to further ourselves along the lines of our, now shared, beliefs. So, not only do we find in others' writings a blueprint to our own minds as we find them at the time, but also a blueprint to a possible extension. Or even a nice gazebo. And so on.

Or so I have always felt myself.

Hi ho.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

What Is Your Goal In Life?

Do you even have one? Do you need one at all?

I will do my very best to muddle up the answers to these questions for you here until you decide to make avoiding this place one of yours. You have been warned!

In this instalment I will forgo the discussion about what sort of goal your selfish genes have for you, and your life. I have touched on that before, and I may do it again in the future. But here, I will concentrate solely on what is usually meant by having a "goal in life." I may even concentrate on why this may be a silly view of life, universe, and everything. We'll see...

Let us, for the moment at least, also ignore the question of whether one needs to have goal(s) in life at all. Let us, instead, see what some of the most popular common goals are, and what their impact may be. In the process we may even get the answer to the question whether we need one (or more) at all.

First, and most obviously, come the "big" or "point" goals:

Probably very near the top of the list is to "get rich." Even ignoring the possibility that being "rich" may mean different things to different people this one seems simple enough. Also, while it is possible for a person to move the goalposts so they're never happy with how rich they are, I propose to ignore this variant, too. I'll argue that there is a reasonable common understanding of what being "rich" means, and that it is achievable, at least in theory, and at least for some people. If that is indeed so, then at least some people will sooner or later achieve this goal. If they are of the type needing to have a goal, they'll then find themselves in the situation to have to find another goal for themselves. If they never needed any specific goals then we can assume they got rich almost by accident, and not being goal-needy we'll leave them to their happy selves. The ones needing a goal will, however, face a task of defining a new one for themselves. Obvious solution for them is to decide they're not really rich enough so they just carry on trying to get richer. This is the road to not achieving your goal, ever. Not a happy proposition, really. Depending on how early a person got rich, they may run the risk of either not having enough time left for any serious goal (remember: nobody lives forever). Alternatively, if they got rich very young, they may have too much time on their hands, and feel a bit disoriented having struck the biggie of the list. At least for them there remain various "challenges", most of which ultimately seem to involve some kind of danger. Fun, if not too often fairly pointless. There are, of course, all sorts of noble goals that can be pursued when one is rich. Sadly, they seem not too be too popular. Kudos to all who do find them worthwhile pursuing, though.

Yet another popular singular goal in life is to "have children." While certainly commendable, necessary, and most definitely aligned with what your selfish genes have planned for you, this too has the potential to leave you a bit disoriented once achieved. Of course, hardly anyone will consider this "achieved" as soon as the last baby they planned for (if they had a number in mind) pops out. There is always the process of raising the offspring to the point where they can (and/or want!) to look after themselves. But, eventually, they can and/or do, and that's it then. You're not really needed any more. This does not mean your kids will forget all about you. Just that as far as your goal of getting them on their way is done, and there's precious little left for you to do. And you can't have kids all the time, either. Sooner or later your body will just plain refuse to let you create any more. Unless, of course, you've frozen your gametes in sufficient quantities and are able to find willing subject to make them happen, as it were. But let's not go there. Not right now, at least. In any case, sooner or later you'll find yourself searching for a new goal, if you're that way inclined. Not unlike the previous example, really.

What's more, I think you'll find that the end result is the same for any singular, big, goal in life you may have set for yourself. In the end, you find yourself pretty much where you started, searching for a new goal. Not necessarily a bad thing, but something to keep in mind. A singular goal in life sets you up for the task of having to come up with a brand new one!

An obvious solution to avoiding the danger of aimlessness is to come up with a number of goals and pursue them either in parallel or sequentially. At this point I'll consider only the case of sequential goals. It will be brief. If you set yourself a number of goals to pursue sequentially, you run a risk of not being able to achieve all of them in one lifetime, and you only have one. With the best will in the world, you can never guarantee you'll achieve any non-trivial goal. The cases where you switch between the sequential goals depending on the likelihood of success degenerates to the case of parallel goals so is irrelevant here. In summary, if you want to be able to achieve your goals, it may be a bad idea to plan to do it sequentially.

This conveniently brings us to the question of needing a goal at all. Why would you need one, after all. Can we not just, well, live? We certainly can, but if you start looking into this question with any seriousness, you'll realise that it is in fact impossible to not have a goal at all! How is that? Well, lacking a major goal like "get rich," you certainly have a goal to get to your next meal, shelter, and so on. Unless you just want to sit there quietly and die of thirst, hunger, and exposure. But then, that sounds like a goal, too. Even more active forms of suicide are goals in themselves, and probably the only ones that, executed properly, can be considered complete, and final. But then, this is not about suicide, either.

So, you may ask, what is this all about then?

Well, the main assumption behind all this gibberish is that we set the goals because attaining them gives us some sort of pleasure. Whether we get this pleasure from the journey or its destination is irrelevant, at least for this discussion. We have goals in order to feel good. I hope you can agree with that. If not, then I have some serious doubts about you. Remember, even pain is pleasure for some.

OK. If you agree it's really about the pleasure, I hope you also agree it's about getting as much of it as possible. I can hardly see anyone arguing against maximising one's own pleasure being a good thing. You may want to minimise pleasure in others, if that's your thing, or maximise your own pain if that gives you pleasure, but we are all after as much pleasure as we can fit in our short lives. Regardless of how each and every one of us defines pleasure.

Let us postulate next that there is some, not necessarily known, total amount of pleasure we can achieve in our lifetime. What is certain is that once we're dead we can't achieve any more (you may have noticed before that I do not believe in life after death), so we will end up with a fixed amount over our lifetime, however big or small that may be.

The next question is, if the lifetime amount of pleasure really is limited, how do we want it distributed, provided we have a choice (and I think we do)? Remember, we get to feel that pleasure by achieving our goals, whatever they may be: a lunch, some raunchy sex, wining a race, or even getting ridiculously rich. The "size" of the goal generally determines the amount of pleasure we get from achieving it. This always includes the pleasure we may be getting from the process of "getting there", however small or large that amount may be.

So, once the quantity has been determined (even if not strictly known) the question becomes: how do we want it delivered?

If you've set yourself a single goal, then you may end up with a great big bang of reward once you achieve it, and possibly a constant stream of pleasure along the way. As with single, large, goals it is always possible to fail to achieve them. This failure may not be your fault at all. Accidents, even fatal ones, do happen. So, if aiming for a large single item is your thing, I would advise you also enjoy the journey. Otherwise, you may easily (even if only accidentally, and through no fault of your own) end up with a life of misery and nothing to show for it. Not a nice prospect, I hope you agree.

The situation is rather similar in the case you have a small number of medium sized goals, too, especially if you opted for achieving them sequentially. For one, your efforts may always be cut short by an accident outside your control. And if you don't particularly enjoy the journey(s) you may again be in for quite a lot of time spent in misery, and only a few widely spaced bangs of pleasure. So, pretty much the same advice applies here: if you do decide for this option, make sure the journeys are pleasurable in themselves!

The remaining option, and what I dare to propose as the best one, too, is then to have lots and lots of small goals throughout life. This does not preclude having one or more "biggies," either. Feel free to have as many or as little as you want. The key is to also have small ones that have the potential to provide a constant stream of pleasure, and also ward of any feeling of despair for not appearing to be getting any closer to the "big one." In all likelihood, when all is tallied up, this approach may give you the largest sum total of lifetime pleasure, too. And remember, opting for myriad small goals and pleasures does not mean you cannot set yourself a few big ones for those all important big bangs.

So, in summary, I believe that a happy, fulfilled, and pleasurable life is ultimately made of lots and lots of small things that make us happy. Yes, it's nice to win the lottery, and it surely rocks to win that gold medal, but should we be blinded by those into not seeing, and feeling, the small things? While we wait for that "big one," why not let ourselves enjoy other things? Not to mention that we can make the road to the "biggies" that much easier by carving into it small steps. Then we can stop at each one, catch our breath, turn around and enjoy the view.

In other words, and it pains me for not being able to remember where I have read this first:

Life by yard is hard.
Life by inch is a cinch!

You're Too Old For That!

Regardless of how old you are you must have heard it, too. Almost as soon as we can walk and talk we start hearing this horrible admonition:

"You are too old for that!"

And, in a few select cases this may even be true. For example, you may really be too old to hope to be able to run 100 metres in less than 10 seconds, or a mile under 4 minutes (for some, under 30 minutes). You may even be too old to father (or bear) a child. Even if all the systems are still go, it may be unfair to orphan your own child too soon. Nobody lives forever after all.

Some other things we are being told not to do because it "does not become your age" are, if I may put it very mildly, silly. Who is it decides you're too old for that t-shirt? That hat? You can look silly in either or both, true, but that has nothing to do with age, does it? In most cases you'd have looked silly in them at any age anyway. Then there's "acceptable" art forms to enjoy, and pastimes to indulge in. The list of examples is, well, endless. I'm sure I'm too old for this blog, too!

So, is there anything that should be done about this? There is no doubt something must.

My suggestion, and personal approach, is to just shrug it off without looking back. Do you enjoy shooting monsters while on the train even if you're well past forty? Go and buy that Sony PSP and knock yourself out (or better yet, some Nazis). Just make sure you use headphones or a SWAT team may board at the next stop! Did that t-shirt with a silly slogan, and even sillier colours catch your eye? Buy it, and wear it proudly, even if you're sixty (or even sixty-four)!

Finally, what to say to all those who keep telling you're too old?

Well, you can either just shrug them off, too, or tell them they're way too young to be so serious about things! And for their next birthday buy them something to make them cringe!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Don't Forget The "Thin End" People!

Everything is a bell curve!

One of the things good to keep in mind. Always.

Yes, most of us hide somewhere around the fat middle, but never, ever, forget that the "thin ends" which extend to infinity, or at least to the extent of your sample. And yes, not every bell curve is as nicely symmetrical as the one shown here, but it will be a bell curve nonetheless.

How tall you are, how fat you are, how rich or how poor. What's your sexual preference, how religious you are. How good are your eyes, how far you can throw a mobile phone. When you plot a trait against how many have it, you get a bell curve. Always.

Why is this important to keep in mind?

Because it is all too easy to cut short the "thin ends." And that is bad. That makes people drop off the edge of (your) world. A lot of people. Because the "thin ends" may be thin, but often they are long, much longer than most people think. And this means a lot of people cower underneath.

Let's not forget about the "thin end" people.

Friday, 10 July 2009

All People Are (Not) The Same

Certain recent (and not so recent) experiences made me stop and think about how some people end up believing they, or their nations/races/religions, are so much better than any other.

In case of religion, this is more or less natural state of mind. After all, I'd struggle to think of a religion that didn't claim to be the one and only answer to life, universe, and everything (hint: we already know, it's 42). So, I won't discuss religion as a cause here. I may do it some other time, though. We, religion and I have an axe to grind.

In fact, what I think I noticed as pretty much a rule, is the same rule tends to drive the "choice" of religion, too. Quotes around the "choice" are there for quite the same reason, too. It seems to me that early upbringing is key here. And by "early upbringing" I mean the one imposed on us by our immediate family at a very early age, probably no later than the end of primary school, in fat. In my experience, regardless of the type of society, or the schooling system, most people tend to at least strongly lean towards what their parents believe(d). If you look closely enough it can also be seen in the people who have ostensibly broken away from their familial traditions. Even in their new value systems they tend to lean towards what they learned at home. And, of course, that includes how they see other people.

For an average person, I would estimate that upbringing is responsible for at least two thirds of their world view, another quarter being the result of the system/schooling. This leaves just less than one tenth to be modified by whatever other influences there may be, persons own free will included. I know this sounds like a horrible exaggeration, and for a prominent few it probably is. However, I am here talking about masses and averages. Of course there are people able to drag themselves away from the mold. If there weren't, we'd still be hunter-gatherers most likely!

And to think that, all prejudice removed, we're all pretty much exactly the same!

So, how do we change this? I think we already are, but the process is painfully slow. There are places in the world now where the beachhead of "equality" (for want of a better word) has grown so much as to become a seaside fortress. I am deliberately not naming any names. There is no need. Even the ones who still think they're better than some others know where these places are, and they hate them with a passion. Also, there is a danger of these places starting to think too much of themselves, and turn into the other kind through seeing their less "advanced" brethren as somehow less worthy. What a terrible crime that would be!

Therefore, we need to tread very carefully. Here, speed is indeed the device of Satan!

But before we move on, may I offer a quick starter lesson here? Yes? Thanks!

Look at the photo above. Now tell me what do you see.

If you said "dice!" you're on the right track (I would also accept "dominoes!").

I Have Created A Monster!

No, it's not this blog. Although it may easily qualify, too...

Recently, I have spent more time than I care (or dare) to admit sifting through my (also monstrous) music collection. Almost half of that consists of music of ex-Yugoslavia, and also countries it spawned. This smaller half looms very, very large in my mind. Heck, it makes up a large part of who I am. I grew up with, and sometimes because, of it.

So, I spent a lot of time at first just pruning the stuff I never really expected to want to listen to. No, I didn't throw anything away. I am a prolific hoarder of all sorts of stuff. I just created a subset that felt good enough to be put on a personal music player (currently, Apple iPod Shuffle 3rd Generation). I ended up with something that was still monstrous, however. But let me bore you not with silly or scary numbers.

Then, I started going through the list again, this time assigning "star ratings":
  • Two stars for "can listen to sometimes"
  • Three stars for "can listen to most of the time"
  • Four stars for "like to listen to"
  • Five stars "means something special; sends shivers down the spine; ..."
When I finished, I realised that now I had just about enough of "five stars" to fill up my little iPod. Perfect! Or so it seemed at the time. Anyway, I went and dragged the selection over, and went home.

Now, going home involved around an hour's worth of commute. Same going the other way the next day. And you know what I realised: I have created a monster! I usually read on the train. I couldn't really these two hours. Pretty much every single song that got a chance to play evoked so much memories, feelings, and other stuff of that kind, that it was impossible, pointless to even try to concentrate on anything else.

I'm not sure what to do now! Do I go back to a selection of less important and loaded music? But I don't want to! I want to hear what comes next! After all it's close enough to a thousand songs to not matter. I never realised there'd be so many! And I want to hear them all, even if I can't even say which ones are there.

And to think there's almost the same number of similarly rated non-ex-Yugoslav songs! It's good I don't have a bigger music player! But I'm lying. All my mobile phones can take memory cards easily large enough.

But let's not go there -- yet. I have another 46 hours or so before the current playlist repeats! Let's hope I live to hear the end of it. It may prove to be just a tad too much for the poor, old, middle-aged heart.

Watch this space for a link to the list I wax lyrical about above.

The Most Convenient Place

This one is inspired by the following "song": Najpogodnije mesto (The most convenient place), by the Slovenian (then Yugoslav) band Buldo┼żer (Bulldozer).

The quotes around the "song" should be self explanatory if you bother to listen to it. For those who can't (be bothered) it is actually a very short monologue in the form of a question, with some faint and eerie blues-like music in the background.

The "lyrics" go roughly like this (in English):

'Scuse me, please... I'm not from this town...
And, I'd like to know... where, erm, somewhere close, like...
I can find the most convenient place for a suicide?

For those who can appreciate them also in Serbo-Croatian (or rather, that cute way Slovenians make it sound) here they are in their original glory:

Izvin'te, molim vas... ja nisam iz tog grada...
Pa, bih htjeo znati... gdje, ovako tu, negdje u blizini, ovako...
Najpogodnije mjesto za samoubistvo?

I consider this to be one of the masterpieces of ex-Yugoslav music (albeit a miniature one)!

Is There A System To (T)his Madness?


DOK, propellers, and white noise (re-post)

(This post has appeared on my, now defunct, blog Images, Sounds, Memories. I thought it worthy of re-publication here.)

Image: Propeller in wonderland.

Sound: ZX Spectrum tapes on FM radio.

Memory: Ventilator 202 and Zoran Modli.

Elsewhere, I lamented the fact I can never remember the name of the club with all those fine concerts in the 80s. And then I stumbled upon the short history of Ventilator 202, the radio show at least as famous as its author Zoran Modli. If you find another radio voice of such colour and character, you've hit gold!

So, the name is DOK, and the street is of course Skender-Begova. I couldn't find any current information about the club, though. It must have ceased to exist a long time ago, at least as something that might matter.

I'd now very much love to talk about Ventilator, a lot, but trust me you could do much worse than its father, Zoran Modli already did.

Go there, then, and enjoy!