Saturday 31 January 2009

Sixteenth Sunday Memusetica

Courtesy of Professor Judd Corizan PHD, Emeritus Professor of Memology at the University of The Potteries (Formerly East Burselem Polytechnic), Best Selling Author of 'Memes in the First Decade of the Twenty-First Century: A Typological Study in the Transfer of Trivial Information Amongst Geographically Separated Communities' (Published by Three Toed Sloth Publications, 2009)

1) What was your dream growing up? I wanted to be James Bond. Or a priest.

2) What talent do you wish you had? I'd like to be able to shapeshift.

3) If I bought you a drink what would it be? Pint of Bitter.

4) What was the last book you read? Genesis Machines by Martin Amos.

5) Worst Habit? Smoking, I guess.

6) If you saw me walking down the street would you offer me a ride? Of course :)

7) What is your favorite sport? I only know of one sport. Football. The rest are a complete waste of time.

8) What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with me? Depends on your gender. And your willingness.

9) Worst thing to ever happen to you? Dear me. This question or variants of it come up every week. It was blogging related and you either know or you don't.

10) Tell me one weird fact about you. I always carry Kinder Egg toys with me.

11) What if I showed up at your house unexpectedly? No point. I don't answer the doorbell. Unless you've rung in advance and I know that ring is you. I won't go to the door unless I know in advance who it is and I want to open the door to them.

12) If you could change one thing about how you look, what would it be? I don't like my nose.

13) Would you be my crime partner or my conscience? Both.

14) Ever been arrested? Yes.

15) If you won $10,000 today, what would you do with it? That would be quite useful. I could pay off my debts and then devote six months to writing.

16) Favorite thing to do in your spare time? Blogging, quite obviously.

17) Biggest pet peeve? How when you call any institution or corporation they make you listen to information you didn't ask for before giving you a list of options- which you are paying to listen to.

18) In one word, how would you describe yourself? Extreme.

19) Do you believe in/appreciate romance? It has its place. Yes I believe in it and yes I appreciate it, but I'm not going to lie and say it's my number one priority in life.

20) Who wins today: Arizona or Pittsburgh? Haven't a clue. But I'll say Pittsburgh.

Should I Be Worried?

I'm a little bit worried by my finger.

I think it may have a fair bit to do with the fact it's been an exceptionally cold winter here.
But also, I've always had quite poor circulation. I'm pretty anaemic, basically.

Smoking doesn't help. But this winter, I've noticed odd things happening with my fingers.
The little finger on my left hand has been the worst. The blood seems to be stopping flowing before the joint and welling up and the whole finger basically going numb. It's clearly that the blood is not flowing through the joints properly, because when I look underneath, the creases are pretty much purple.

But the one that's really causing concern, is my right hand ring finger, pictured above.
I can move it still, but I can't really feel it. And that particular joint is highly distended. I can feel the fluid in there. If you look closely, you'll see the crown of the ring is actually pressing into the flesh. You'll also see how much wider the finger above the ring looks than the ring itself. It's not usually like that. I usually have very fine, quite ladylike fingers. The diameter of the ring is under two centimetres.

It really is clasping the finger tightly like a vice, whereas normally it slips on and slips off with no real difficulty. Right now, it won't shift, in either direction. It's firmly wedged on. My finger seems literally about twice it's normal thickness.

To be honest, I'm not really sure what to do. I don't think it's particularly threatening, but then again, I don't particularly want to lose a finger.

But I don't want to damage the ring either. It's important to me.

Believe it or not, I don't actually have a doctor. I haven't been to a doctor in years, because I'm actually never ill. To be honest, I'm hoping they can do something to remove the swelling without damaging the ring. It's one of those things that actually feels like it's part of me, like my crucifix. I never remove them, except when I'm playing with them. To lose it, would feel like an amputation.

I sincerely hope the swelling goes down and I don't have to go to the Health Centre on Monday and see if I can see a GP.

Am I worrying over nothing?

Friday 30 January 2009

The Road to War

Wars seemingly happen for a variety of reasons.
Or so it would seem.
Looking back on some of the wars of history, we are often bemused as to what on earth they were really about.

But there are wars and there are wars. Wars only last as long as both sides can actually be bothered to fight them. As long as they have soldiers to fight and a civilian population prepared to support it. There has to be a war effort of some kind. And many wars are really just military operations. They are extensions of foreign policy. The state has an army, so it uses it. Nothing much changes back home. Once it starts to affect life at home, peace tends to be made.

But some wars are different. History hasn't seen many such wars, wars which were fought in which society itself was at stake. Wars that couldn't be solved by coming to terms, because there were no terms to come to. They were violent phasal shifts in human society, chemical reactions almost, wars which came to pass because human society itself had erupted.

A typical war would be the Falklands war. Or even Korea. And one could even say Vietnam. And further back in history, the Boer war. And the war of the Spanish Succession.
Politician's wars. King's wars. The ordinary citizen didn't mind paying for them, because it didn't make that much difference. The armies were already paid for and they didn't affect civilian life. And the reasons, if not always sounding good, at least weren't so bad that the civilian felt bad about thinking 'My country right or wrong'. As long as the civilian felt that, the state could carry on what essentially was a war between STATES.

But then there are wars like the Thirty Year's war. Or the Two World Wars. Wars which weren't just wars of states in conflict. They were societies in conflict. The civilians of the countries concerned felt the conflict and felt that their own lives depended on the outcome. These weren't wars created merely as an extension of foreign policy. These were wars fought because human society had become a powder keg waiting to explode.

An interesting point about the Second World War I often think is that we actually blame Germany with far more conviction than we blame Germany for the First World War. I suppose it's worth referring to this post for the reasons why blaming Germany for the First world War is actually pretty sound. Though what we should really bear in mind, is that war would have happened at some point, if not in 1914, than a year or two after. For the reasons outlined in that post.

In much the same way, we say the Second World War was 'started by Hitler', but it's not the whole picture. It depends what you consider as having started the war. Britain didn't declare war on Germany because Germany invaded Poland. That was the gloss put on it. And in fact, subsequent events meant an even bigger gloss needed to be put on it. Britain declared war on Germany because Germany invaded Poland by prior agreement with the Soviet Union after having signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, without having consulted Britain. And Britain was now worried about the potential of that alliance. It couldn't take them both on, so it declared war on the nearest threat.

Curiously, the person you can actually most say was behind this was- Guy Burgess.
Burgess informed his paymasters in July 1939 what the state of play in Britain was. That the British government was more than happy to come to terms with Hitler over Poland, seeing Hitler as a lesser evil than Stalin. Long term, Britain wanted to play Germany and Russia off against eachother, but for the time being felt it was better to build up Germany.

Stalin outmaneouvered them both by making overtures to Hitler. So in a sense, Hitler's biggest mistake, was the Nazi-Soviet pact.
Of course, had he not signed it, we'd still have probably had World War Two. Only it would have been Stalin who was the evil bad guy with the death camps where horrified allied tropps discovered skeletal corpses at the end of the war. And Hitler who stood side by side with Churchill and Roosevelt at- could very well still have been Yalta. Uncle Adolf, our ally against evil Stalin.

And at the end of it all? An Iron Curtain, no doubt.

The war was going to happen. It was going to happen the day the Wall Street stock market crashed.
The war happened, because the problem that had led to the First World War had resurfaced. The glitch in the economic mode of production and distribution. And it affected everybody. It even affected the Soviet Union. Because the Soviet Union was still part of the global Capitalist economy. It still operated a Capitalist system. The only difference was the state was the only Capitalist.

It was no longer possible for the amount of money accruing from goods being sold to exceed the amount of money the people producing those goods were paid. And it always has to, in a Capitalist economy. Because there has to be sufficient funds left over to pay the interest.
The situation generally results in a slowing down in the movement of resources. This leads to general unrest. And it causes groups to seek explanations for the apparent deterioration in circumstances. Things that once were scarcely relevant now seem highly significant.
The future becomes uncertain.

The mass psychology of an economic depression is different to that of prosperous times. Both politicians and their people are viewing things more hysterically and with greater anxiety than they might in normal circumstances.

For one thing, Hitler would not have come to power if Germany hadn't been on it's knees. But let's say he had. Let's say he had come to power in prosperous times. Would he have re-armed to such a degree? I guess he would still have re-armed, still have built concentration camps, still have done much of what he did. But before war broke out, was world domination actually his objective?

I'm not entirely sure it was. I think it became that, once war had started, because of the relative ease with which he conquered most of Europe. But if Britain and France hadn't declared war in the first place? He was a megalomaniac in some ways, who came to believe in his own myth. I think he himself was surprised how easy it was to march into Paris. I'm not saying he was a peaceful chap. He certainly saw war as a kind of invigorating force, something to forge his brave New Germany out of. And he had whipped the German people up into almost wanting war, seeing war as the only way they could break the deadlock of a world political order skewed against Germany. People in Germany had come to believe that war was necessary for a better future.

But- we ignore the fact that the mass psychology was the same elsewhere. To be sure, we didn't see our politicians over in Britain whipping up the populace and glorifying war but- how did people FEEL about war?

The Oxford Union debate which famously voted that 'That this House would in no circumstances fight for King and Country' is often held up as proof that the British public were pacifists.
False logic. The people taking part in this debate were largely public school boys, with a future guaranteed. No, they don't want a return of 1914. They want to go off and work in Daddy's bank.

But when clouds of war start to loom, the real question that matters for most of the male population is 'How do I feel about going off to fight?' and for the women 'How do I feel about my man going off to fight?'

In 1928, you could have shown the British public actual evidence of the gas chambers and people still wouldn't have wanted to go to war. Not if it looked too serious. A little war, maybe, one that involved the armed forces, but conscription? No. Let paid soldiers deal with it, but if it involves taking Joe Public away from his job and his family, forget it.

But in 1939, there are enough people looking at the newsreels and thinking 'Oh well. Looks like war. Well, it might not be so bad. Our family might be better off. Because the army will be paying for my keep, I'll be sending pay home, and of course there will be factory work for the missus too. True, I might get killed, but at least I fed the kids. More dignity in a Tommy uniform than standing in the dole queue'.

And Industry? How does Industry and Commerce feel? Once a war would be bad for them, when times were good. It would prevent growth. So they would use their influence on government to urge for peace. Not now. They don't need employees, and there are millions of potential employees out there to replace any taken away by a war. What they really need is consumption to go up. And a war will certainly increase consumption.

So people aren't any longer actually looking at the newsreels and hoping that it doesn't come to war. They're weighing up the pros and cons of how it might affect their lives and it doesn't seem such a bad thing as once it might have done.

It has become far easier to convince people that war is the right answer. But really, the point is that what everyone wants is for something to happen that means everyone has something to do, productivity is heightened, goods are consumed and people aren't starving. And fortunately, the climate of anxiety has meant that people have other people to blame. They have taken their worries about their own future and projected them elsewhere. Hitler got the Germans to focus on the Jews. Stalin got his people to focus on Trotsky and so-called revanchists. And we focused on Hitler and Stalin.

But the real reason the war happened and became the conflagration it was, was because enough people in the world believed that their lives during a war wouldn't be that much worse and that maybe at the end of at all, their lives might be considerably better. Because whatever it was that had brought human life to this state, would be gone.

Maybe we shouldn't be too worried right now. Because if they're trying to sell us the concept of the Axis of Evil, they're not entirely succeeding. But we still should be concerned.

What really matters is if the political situation in the Middle East comes to the point where a major Arab nation declares war on Israel. Let's just say, the Arab League as a whole, declares war on Israel and commits itself to removing Israel from the face of the Earth.
A Pearl Harbour moment. Would the West risk a full scale war to save Israel? I'm not talking about an Iraq type war, because that's not what it would be.

It would be this; the West could respond by mobilising, or it could abandon Israel to its fate, let it sink or swim. Now at one time, the second option is the one that would have been followed. Think Yom Kippur. But now? Look at how subtly the landscape has changed. Not to support Israel would be a climbdown. It would be allowing the 'rogue states' Syria and Iran to 'get away with it'.

So the West would certainly respond by sending in troops. But the difference is, this problem doesn't need to be solved in a matter of weeks, like with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Because it actually doesn't matter that much who the chattering classes think is right or wrong.
From an economic point of view, war solves a lot of problems. It speeds up consumption and it provides employment. There are many more people out there now thinking 'Well, if it comes to war, it may not be so bad'.

If the government started putting out recruitment posters, they'd get more interest than they once would have done.
And the psychological mindset is almost ready. People would say 'It's a chance to deal with these Muslims once and for all. We got to beat them and beat them properly. No more of these little wars, we got to end it'.

The mindset is there. That an apocalyptic battle between West and East is coming, Freedom versus the Imams. People are ready to believe it, they do believe it and whilst life was good, they hoped that if it kicked off, the army would be enough. Now they are thinking that they might as well be part of the 'solution' rather than collecting a giro. Because they can't even afford to go for a pint.

There are getting on for four million unemployed in the UK now. And this means that most of them aren't habitual unemployed, they're people whose sense of self worth has been affected and going off 'To fight for freedom against the Muslims' would give them self esteem. So they'd do it.

And Finance and Industry? Well, it would certainly suit them. Increased productivity with reduced costs. Because in a war everybody 'pulls together'. Guaranteed sale. It's a seller's market.

So psychologically, humanity is conditioned to be ready for war. We're probably as close as we've been since 1939 to really being in a state of war hysteria, though we don't realise it. As in, enough people being in the frame of mind where they feel 'War? Why not?'

But the thing is, once it starts no one is really in control.

And this war will have one characteristic no war has ever had before. And this fact will escape ordinary people.
There will be nuclear weapons on both sides.

So once this war has started, the world as we know it really is over.

It will end in global revolution and these buttons will be taken away for good.

Or it will end in global totalitarianism.

Or it will end in a lot of mushroom clouds.

Thursday 29 January 2009

The X-Files- It's Place in Cultural History

I think there's no doubt that the X-Files had a major cultural impact.

It was epoch making TV. You either loved it, or hated it.
And those who loved it didn't love it for the same reasons. And it has affected a generation, in terms of how we think. And perhaps brought to the forefront a lot of demons lurking on our collective psyche.

I was a teenager when it first came out. And I admit, I never missed an episode. If I had to miss one because I was at work, my Gran would tape it for me.

Why was I so devoted? Well, one obvious selling point was Gillian Anderson. Or let's be more precise, here; Dana Scully. I mean, Gillian is still hot now and back then she was as pretty as God makes them, but the character she played, pretty much everything a man really wants from a woman I guess. Intelligent and collected, yet somehow vulnerable and fragile too.
I'll admit I had posters of Gillian in PVC adorning my walls back then.

But Mulder, too. If Gillian Anderson was 'The thinking man's crumpet', David Duchovny was the thinking man's hero. Like most men, I like a good action hero, but only if he's a bit cool as well. Think Bruce Willis, or Mel Gibson in the Lethal weapon films. Arnie too. James Bond of course, tops the list. But John Claude Van Damme and Stephen Seagal? Bah!

But if you're the sort of teen who recycled the same sick note for three years to avoid PE, a hero who is a kind of rebel, but in a sort of suited, kicking against the system in a fairly non-violent, flippant, independent way but still has some good jokes and always manages to look quite cool, Fox Mulder was your man.

He's you as you'd like to be. Whereas Stephen Seagal is so NOT you as you'd like to be. And I think at that age, certainly speaking for myself, if I'd watched a film where there was a love interest between Seagal and Gillian Anderson, I'd have lost respect for my beloved Gillian. But hey, she was entitled to fall for Fox. Fox was cool.

(Just out of interest, is there anyone out there who doesn't refuse to watch films if Seagal is in them? I make an exception for that one on a plane with Liz Hurley in for one reason; Liz Hurley.)

Anyway, I digress.
I think most people know the basic premise of the X-Files, so I won't bother going into that. What I think, was revolutionary for the time was just how far they were prepared to go- at the time. We've now become used to it, used to programmes pushing those boundaries, but when I first saw it, I was actually quite amazed that here was a programme- made in the USA- basically suggesting that all the most extreme conspiracies regarding the US government were true. At the time, I had never seen a programme made in the UK that went that far about our government and actually, I'm not sure at that time it could have been made. It would actually have had difficulty getting aired.
Of course, we only had four terrestial channels back then, so mainstream TV was fairly tame by comparison with what it is today. You didn't really get TV dramas going quite that far, not in the UK.
Certainly no TV drama over here had EVER gone so far as to suggest that the ACTUAL government (as opposed to governments in a hypothetical 'near future') were actually involved in full scale mass deception, conspiracy and covert atrocities.

There were always, of course two distinct types of X-File episodes. It was cleverly done. About a third or so were dedicated to the ongoing coverup story, the grand conspiracy, linking in UFOs, Roswell, the Kennedy Assassination, Operation Paperclip, Majestic 12, pretty much everything in conspiracy theory lore, all of it of personal importance to Mulder, due to the mystery of what happened to his sister.

And then there were the others, the one offs, though sometimes these one offs spawned sequels. These could be anything from creatures from other dimensions, to alien plants, to mutant killers, to telekinesis, pretty much every area of paranormal investigation was looked at and most of the myths and urban myths of the modern world.

Of course, this was it's great success. Because some enjoyed the conspiracy theory aspect, others liked these one off stories. Myself, I was actually in the second camp, on the whole. But obviously, one got interested in the conspiracy aspect to the story.
The series had a wide enough remit to retain a wide fan base. And sometimes it offered explanations that made you think. You would go and read up on it and see if it was credible, in your opinion.

I think they worked because they only lasted an hour. You had time enough to get a sense of the creepiness of the concept before the novelty wore off, as it does with most horror films. You were left with the theme music playing contemplating 'What if?'
Eugene Tooms, of course, stands out to me as the greatest X-Files creation. Fascinating. Not sure why, but he was.
Others of these one offs stand out as well. The episode with the Chicken place that seemed eerily like Kentucky Fried Chicken and where the inhabitants all turned out to be cannibals. Ok, none of this is really plausible, but it kept you watching.

And I think perhaps, this was kind of its secret. Because it kept us involved in the main story, one that probably, we wouldn't otherwise have got into. The Conspiracy aspects. The whole 'Truth is out there' idea.
Because it kind of tacitly admitted that at the time, questioning anything was kind of something people who spent too much time in their bedrooms did. The 'Lone Gunmen' set are deliberately meant to be stereotypes, I think. That was the cleverness of it all. It acknowledged that the central premise was a bit geeky, if you like, yet the show drew in people who wouldn't have seen themselves as such.

And whether one realised that at the time, it certainly created an impact in the psyche of those who were in their formative years then. Because it brought the whole conspiracy theory ethos in front of us.

Did we buy it? Well, I think it certainly heightened general interest in those topics. And on the whole I think that has been a good thing, actually. Even though I don't believe that there are actually any aliens. But it has made people look into these things and come to the conclusion that yes, governments lie and mislead, and whilst the conspiracy theorists are often way off course, they do tap into a general sense that something isn't right with the picture we are being shown.

Ultimately, of course, the Conspiracy theory episodes were what eventually ruined the X-Files. The Conspiracy got too far fetched. I think I got turned off when they had that episode that told you the life history of the Cigarette Smoking Man. Not only had he seemingly assassinated Kennedy and Martin Luther King, but it was totally at odds with a much earlier flashback which had been much more tantalising, suggesting he had been an FBI colleague of Mulder Senior in the fifties. To me, that one episode spoilt it for me.

I guess from my point of view, I didn't take any of the alien stuff seriously, or the conspiracy theory stuff generally, but it did make me read up on what it was and why people believed it. And what one DID discover made interesting reading. Aliens, no. But plenty of real life stuff that was pretty sinister. The sheer number of German and Japanese scientists who had had their very real warcrimes absolved because they knew the right things, whilst others far less involved in the atrocities had died on the end of a rope at Nuremberg, for a start. And a lot of fairly nefarious things the US- and UK- government have done and tried to cover up. You realise that they most certainly wouldn't tell you if they had found an alien spaceship. Of course, that doesn't mean that they have found one. Knowing that they wouldn't tell you doesn't mean they haven't told you but it happened. I wouldn't publish it on my blog if I had just discovered my father was Hitler's love child, but it doesn't increase the likelihood of my father being Hitler's love child.
Nevertheless, one does realise that a lot of things which are very likely, they'd lie about and probably get away with it.

For example, I think David Kelly was murdered. And I think someone with a very big false grin might know something about it. But that's because I come from a post X-Files generation.

House of Cards I suppose was another major factor in seeing things this way, at least for many more politically minded Brits? That was out over here at a similar time. Basically, it's about a Chief Whip who blackmails and murders his way to become Prime Minister. One might think it far fetched...
Except the author, Michael Dobbs was a Downing Street insider. One can't help but wonder if some of the things he wrote about had some basis in facts.

So in this sense, for me, it didn't encourage me to believe any of the Conspiracy Theory stuff in that sense, but it did encourage me to analyse every bit of news from a point of view of 'This is a lie. What's their real objective?'
To see them as basically people, ordinary people who had got hold of power and wouldn't have much more of a clue what to do with it than anyone else, but need to convince the rest of us they do. And who are motivated entirely by greed, vanity and the desire for more power. To see them as no different to any other Dictators, except they rule with the TV screen, not the secret police.

And I think that is the basic legacy the X-Files gave to culture at large. It changed our cultural psyche from assuming that what our TVs told us was true, until proven otherwise, to treating it as no more impartial than any other source. I think it made those who saw it far more questioning than they might have been. And whilst we may look back on much of it and think it was far fetched and silly, a cult TV series of the nineties which gave us gems such as Eugene Tooms, I think it's real legacy will be it's central message;

'The Truth Is Out There'.

PS- For those interested, I've posted a bit more of my novel. Constructive criticism welcome- Most of that chapter needs rewriting. :)

Love & Endings

Some time ago, Crushed asked me to contribute the occasional post for his blog: I hesitated, mainly because I don’t have the faculty for writing openly about love or emotion that he has. If I do write about it, I couch it in metaphor, hide it in a subtext, or slosh it around the bottom of a pint glass.

But I thought I would give it a try now. Incidentally the timing of this post is neat, given Crushed’s positive romantic post below. He outlines how love can be real and temporary, whereas I suppose I write from a more pessimistic outlook – that it’s everything or nothing.

Being in love for me has been (was) a slow, deepening process, where language – words – has been more important than bodies. I don’t feel I understand body language as such: its claims and counter-claims, its rhetoric. Perhaps it was more a process of social adjustment than it was love, at first: tying in words, spoken and written, to what I saw. There were more words than anything else, which brought me closer - brought us closer.

And the interaction of bodies. But the effect of time, difference and knowledge, was that, eventually, the movement of bodies, and sweep of eyes, became the only form of communication. Was it truer? Not necessarily. Bodies, like words, lie. They become wrapped in their own experience, taking themselves away from where you thought you were starting. Slowly I began to understand then the rhetoric of the body. But I was shocked at how the words I had begun to search in vain for, and had been waiting for, were spoken in touch.

I thought, for a while, that this touch, knowing so much about me, was the sublimated language: the resurrected flow of words which had been the soul of the process of love. Only this time we spoke without equivocation: there seemed to be no sub-clauses to touch (though there are to kisses...).

In fact it was something else, which I still don’t understand. Love, as I understood it, perhaps. I’m not sure what else. Crushed, with his characteristic clarity, could describe it as a need to satiate lust: positive in itself, but nothing more than that. It might be a testament to my repression that I don’t share that view, or that I hope it is wrong. It might also be a sign that I just do not understand, and that I am still standing here, alone in the crowd, unsure how to make eye contact. But still - there was a kind of connection, a set or library of experiences and shared feelings and unshared feelings, and the knowledge of the other person, the actual physical and emotional map of them you carry with you. Something like that, which was strong, which felt like love, but which might only have been its echo or its redshift.

And so by the time that it had begun to leave its permanent mark, it had gone.

Reading this post, it’s full of exactly the slow-building burying of sense that I had wanted to avoid and the naivety of the perpetual adolescent. That’s the effect of one, long relationship, I suppose. I am probably one of these bloggers for whom it’s ranting or nowt. But, adapting Winston Smith (for pathetically bourgeois reasons), I can say that of pain I would only ever wish for less of it. And thought, and language, go further to creating the edifice of hurt than the act of losing the love you had thought was the great meaning of your life.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Love Between Adults- Memories for Life

I think it is probably clear that I'm not a big fan of the idea of Monogamy.
But it does kind of go deeper than that.

I think the whole expectation surrounding all of it, the whole mating for life thing, it's just something that we don't need. People generally take the whole thing far too seriously.
And having an institution such as marriage, a bond with legal connotations that needs an authority other than the people involved to dissolve, really doesn't help matters in my book.

It places a burden on people- and yes, it's going to put people off.
It's going to put people off falling in Love naturally. Which is, of course, exactly what it does.

Ok, most of us now accept that marriage isn't for life, or needn't be. But we still make it very hard for people to get out of. And why should we? The defenders of marriage would say, to make people take marriage seriously. It SHOULD be hard to get out of.
That's just crazy. If people don't want to be together, why make it any harder for them to walk away than it has to be? Or if one wants it over, but the other doesn't, why should the one who wants it over have to justify that?

But I guess why I really object to it, is that the expectations created by the existence of the institution, seep downwards contaminating the general view of romantic love generally.
The idea that it is, by definition long lasting, ideally for life.

Myself, I often see this myth as kind of a trap, used to lure the unwary into marriage, or that's what it was originally. When people fell in love and were powerfully consumed with the urge to make babies with eachother, the marital bond was there to keep them together even when they'd fallen out of love. Trapped.

People clearly fall in love. Society is comfortable with that, glorifies it. It's normal. Most people fall in love.

What society hasn't quite come to terms with, though we're getting better at it, is that falling out of love is just as normal. Sure, people do stay in love for life. But it's not the norm. The norm is that people fall in love and they also fall out of love.

We fudge the fact. Because we're looking for 'The One'. The one that will be for life. We feed ourselves lines like 'At the time I thought I loved her. But I didn't. I'm still looking'.

You're lieing to yourself. Because you're trying to convince yourself that love you fall out of isn't valid. The only valid love, will last forever.

Truth is, you probably did love her. And then you fell out of love with her. What you have to do is move away from the idea that you're looking.

Love, in the sense we mean it here- Romantic love- is an emotion. It is therefore, not necessarily going to last forever. It is entirely down to chemicals. You might be overwhelmed by this woman today and spend every waking hour thinking about her.

Next week could well be different.
You really can't predict how you are going to feel. The point is that the validity of how you feel today is not affirmed or negated by how you MIGHT feel in the future.

I'm not convinced that the Greatest Love Story of all time has to end with both parties ending up together for life. The Greatest Love ever could well last only a matter of months. The fact that both sides fall OUT of love again, doesn't mean that what they were in while it lasted was significantly more powerful than the love many people who are together for a lifetime feel.

And I think this is a major problem when people meet and have strong feelings about eachother. We're still trapped in this mindset that runs as follows;

Strong emotional, physical and intellectual connection of extreme intensity (Love)= The One= Being together forever= Lifelong commitment.

It's false logic. It doesn't necessarily mean that at all. No particular reason it should. By following that false logic, a dynamic is introduced which doesn't need to be introduced.
On the one hand, a lot of people are, I think, actually quite scared of genuinely falling in love or being open to it, because they see that equation as being part of it. It worries them. They are worried that if they admit to themselves that they are actually in love, then if the other person also loves them, then by rights they SHOULD be planning for a long term future. And therefore they wall themselves off from allowing themselves to love.

On the other hand, a lot of people don't respond well to the love dieing. Because they don't accept that as the normal result. A Romantic love that NEVER dies is in fact, the oddity. That's not to say a Romantic love can't turn into a genuine lasting friendship, but the passionate romantic phase, it's unusual if it lasts forever.

I think we are false in our assumption that it has to last forever for it be genuine. The more I think about it, the more I think that a number of the transient, fleeting sensations I've had in my life are just as deserving of being considered love as any definition of love. Because in the moment, they were.

This idea that you are going to find one person who you are going to love for the rest of your life and be with for the rest of your life, what need have we for such a stultifying ideal?
Personally, I think that expectation can ruin it. I look at a lot of my romances in my life and if I'm honest, one of the main things that ruined them was that there were expectations on them.

I think the best way to view these things is this 'It feels good now. Right now, you're my world. You might not be in a few months. Someone else might be. But let's just enjoy it for now, and when it's over, it's over'.

Myself, I'm still not convinced that actually having in your head as an ideal of love the idea that one day you'll find someone who you'll love for the rest of your life is particularly inspiring or even that healthy.
Is it such a bad thing to love many people over the course of a lifetime?

Sometimes I look at some of the more intense flings I've had. I can think of one where I met her on the Friday night, we went back to mine and must have had sex about four or five times and talked for hours in between. Then we went to the pub, it now being Saturday afternoon and then went back for more, before finally parting company on the Sunday evening. I did see her one more time after that, we sat and talked but we both knew that it was impractical. There was no way we could fit into eachothers lives at all. But was it love? Well, it was only a forty eight hour thing, but during those hours, it was exceedingly passionate.

I'll certainly never forget her.

And this kind of leads me to my general conclusion. The love itself, the Romantic love bit might last for years, it might last for months, it might last for just a few days.
But what makes it love?

That you'll never forget them as long as you live.

I think for me, that's kind of when you know something has pretty much run its course. The love bit is the exuberation of excitement, the basking in the beauty of a soul that fascinates, it's not physical, it's a connection of mind, body and soul. And the love bit is kind of like an absorbing of their aura, and your aura seeping in to them.
I think once that has happened, it doesn't matter if it lasts forever, or ends the following week. A part of you will always feel them etched in your soul.

We shouldn't cling on here. This is the problem, the expectation it should last. If it lasts, it lasts. But if you force it, you'll spoil it, as divorces so often prove.People who once loved eachother hating eachother. When if they'd walked away from eachother a long time ago, their love would still exist as a memory.

I guess my view is this. When we fall in love with someone, we shouldn't fill our heads with thoughts of 'This is the One', or start considering long term futures. We should take it as here and now emotion, enjoy the bubbling flood of feeling another soul dance with our own, the probing of another mind and body. It should be all about standing hand in hand in art galleries, transcendental conversations over meals, dancing with eachother in the centre of dancefloors, wild passionate love making, it should be an affirmation of life and the unique ability of the human mind to become at one with another.

And what will be left over at the end of it all? Not bitterness, because these things are meant to end and we should accept that the falling out of love is as fundamental a part of the process as falling in it. We should learn to fall out of love with the same joy we fell in to it, and be ready to move on to new loves.

Because if we do it properly, there can still be a joy in the completion of a beautiful love, the final moment we stroke their cheek and know that though it is the end, it's good to know that;

'You won't forget about me, as long as you live, as long as you live,
you won't forget about me, I promise you this, as long as you live'.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

For the Benefit of the Ascended Beings

This post is for the benefit of any visitors from more advanced cultures in the galaxy who may be unfamiliar with some of our ancient customs here on Earth.

You may well be wondering what this major crisis is in the human way of life that has taken place.
You will be wondering, no doubt, why a few years ago the planet was full of the buzz of factories producing vast amounts of goods. We produced lots of things then seemingly destroyed them very quickly.

Now a lot of these factories are empty and the people who worked in them do so no longer. A lot of people indeed, are now sitting at home doing nothing. Lots of people are now not able to get hold of lots of material goods any more. We've stopped producing them and no one is getting them. Humanity generally seems to be producing a lot less and consuming a lot less.
But those still doing things are doing a lot MORE work, to get LESS.

And you are maybe wondering why. Have we run out of raw materials? Have our transport systems failed? Have we run out of energy to power our infrastructure and now have to ration it? And if the failure is in one of these things, why are people sitting around doing nothing, as opposed to fixing it?

Well, it is complicated, I'll admit. But the thing is, there's nothing wrong with the infrastructure. Or the transport systems. Or our supply of energy. We could all of us just get up and go press the buttons, drive the lorries, work the infrastructure and just like before, fuel and raw materials would go in one end, and goods would come out.

However, we humans have a thing called money. We use it as a way of working out resource allocation and who gets what when the goods come out the other end, basically.
Only, over the years this system has kind of lost all touch with reality. This is because we have these temples who monitor transactions overall. And every year they take a kind of tribute from the rest of us to carry out this function. So every year they own more and more of the world. We call these temples 'banks'.
In recent years, the system of allocating goods to people after they've put in their bit has posed a problem. Because we are able to create so much and build so much, as you can see. But people don't actually get enough tokens to buy all the stuff that is produced. So the temples have given them more tokens, but then we pay more back to the temples. But it got to a point when we couldn't keep paying the temples and buy more stuff. The temples weren't going to let us have it for free. So now we just don't make the stuff because not enough people have tokens to buy it with. Of course this then means that far less people get tokens to buy stuff with, so that's even less stuff being produced.

The long and the short of it is, there really is nothing at all to stop us producing everything we were doing before and consuming the way we were before, because as you aliens point out, there are just as many of us, and we have the same raw materials and energy sources as before. And I agree with you wise beings from wherever you are, it wouldn't take much of our energy and resources to make the infrastructure a whole lot better and make it equally good across the whole of our little planet.

You're right, the only problem is, that we aren't allowed to touch the production and distribution process without the say so of these temples. The temples hold the power. They won't let anyone else go in there and allocate tasks. We have to follow their finance system.
Long term, the only solution is to get rid of the temples and have the system administered without temples taxing the rest of the planet. That way there will never be these bizarre stoppages. As long as the raw materials go in and the energy goes in and everybody pitches in to do a share of the tasks, goods will come out the other end and everyone will go home at the end of the day prosperous. Productivity would be entirely dependant on putting the raw materials in and nothing more. You're right. There's no reason at all why the whole lot of us shouldn't live like kings. It is entirely this peculiar system of tokens.

The problem is, we can't do anything about these temples. The reason is, because we have these people called politicians. We kind of vote FOR them, but what we can't do is vote not to have them at all. They tell us what to do. And they have a complicated selection process which basically means we only get to choose from the ones a little clique offers to us. Basically, out of a country of fifty six million, they run a highly complex selection process which lasts for years to give us a choice between Mr Red and Mr Blue. So we think we have a choice. But of course, we have no choice in who gets to BE Mr Red and Mr Blue in the first place.

And whichever of these puppets we vote for, gets to make a whole lot of choices. They and the temples work together. The temples give them resources and they also take tokens from us too, just like the temples. With those tokens they pay for lots of men with riot shields and weapons and they tell the rest of us what we can and can't do, basically. There's not much point in arguing with these people sensibly, because if you start pointing out that due to the agreements between Mr Red (or Mr Blue) and the temples, people are getting raped and murdered in Darfur, they'll divert attention by banning smoking or something.

Nothing can be changed unless these politicians say so. But since ultimately, they rely on the temples for their power, not us, since the temples provide them with truncheons to hit us with and prisons to lock us up in and since the temples can threaten to close down factories and make people have less tokens if we don't vote for Mr Red or Mr Blue, between them, they have it sewn up so abolishing the temples isn't something that can possibly happen.

And yes, you're right, one has to get rid of them all at the same time. But people are frightened of standing up to them as individuals. Because they might get hurt. Or they might put big markers on computer screens to make it so that person could never get tokens again. Everyone is thinking the same thing and thinks it's just them.
Of course, they're worried now that people might start talking and might just say 'enough is enough' and refuse en masse to play ball.
And they know that they couldn't just machine gun everyone down.

What are the temples going to do?

Well, they don't really know what to do. But human society has a blind way of dealing with these situations, a solution that kind of sorts things out. It's a bit of a crazy one from the point of view of advanced beings like yourself, but fortunately events cropped up a few years back which mean the solution is kind of unfolding as we speak.

It won't be long before everybody is busy doing things, materials are being consumed at a huge rate, though not in a way that people actually get goods out of this vast increase in production, and no one has time to blame the temples or the politicians. We'll trust them all blindly. Or so they hope. It's the only throw they've got.

You see it's the ET paradox, isn't it my Ascended Being friends?

The paradox being that statistically you should exist, but all the evidence is that you don't. Because if civilisations vastly in advance of ours existed anywhere remotely near this rock, or had ever existed remotely near this rock, we'd have spotted it.
And some of our more pessimistic philosophers say it's because intelligence may well be an evolutionary blind alley. That an intelligent species can only go so far before it outsmarts itself.
Because an intelligent species can only evolve intelligence and make itself master of its world by carving out an unassailable niche at the top of the food chain. By definition, such a species has in it the instincts of a nasty, brutal, selfish predator.
And when it learns to split the atom, it is walking on its own grave.

So Ascended Beings, if you exist, you passed this point, though some variant of it must have come to you too. The point where you were on the brink of extincting yourselves. Because that's where we the genus Homo are now. Within a matter of years we'll either be no more, or it will be a very fine new life we are leading.

Shall I tell you what our fault has become, Ascended Beings? We walk on by. We've got so used to turning and looking away rather than risk our own necks. And that's the danger. A gang of youths can mug a teenage girl on the bus whilst four times their number sit in silence pretending not to see. But if only one had taken the lead and stood up?

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength

Monday 26 January 2009

The Channel Islands- Do They Belong to France?

This has kind of been bothering me since..
Well, since last night when it randomly occurred to me.

So I've decided to make it this week's poll topic.

Oh, the Intelligent Design poll?
Well, thankfully most of you seem to agree it shouldn't be taught in schools as a theory equal in value to evolution. But the size of the minority surprised me. So much so that if I was feeling jadedly cynical, I might think that some ID supporters had 'voted early and voted often'.


What this issue is, is about which country actually owns a place, by right. In this case, the Channel islands.

Because it seems to me that in terms of international law, the actual truth MAY have become obfuscated. I'm not sure. But I think it has been. It's just kind of tacitly ignored, which is interesting.

As a bit of background to non UK readers (and perhaps to UK readers too), it may be necessary to say that there are a number of places around the globe NOT part of the UK, but which are under British rule. They legally belong to the UK in international law. Most of them are a long way from Britain. A post on these obscure places at some point might be interesting, but suffice to say, in international law the status of none of these in dispute. Whatever the rights and wrongs of it, the authority of the UK over these places is legally indisputable.

But there are two curiosities far close to home which don't fit on the list of crown colonies and don't come under the jurisdiction of the foreign office.

One is the Isle of Man. Trying to work exactly what the Isle of Man IS, isn't that easy. It is internally self governing, has its own laws and is not represented at Westminster. But the UK government is responsible for its foreign affairs. But it's not in the EU. Confused?
To be honest, I can't see much to distinguish the Isle of Man from Bermuda or any other self-governing overseas colony. Is it a sovereign state? Clearly not. It's a dependency of the British crown and complicated as the history of that relationship is, the lawful sovereign of the place in international law is clearly the British crown. Technically, if you want to be precise, it is a sovereign lordship owing feudal allegiance to the British crown, but it's sovereign lord also happens to be the British crown since the Earls of Derby sold it to the crown in the eighteenth century.

Strange anomaly that no one much minds, because it means that the Manx people don't have to pay very much tax.

The Channel Islands pose a more interesting question.
The name is confusing. One might think they're stuck in the middle of the channel and therefore part of the British Isles. They're not. They're right by the coast of Normandy. And indeed, in a geographical sense, they belong to Normandy.

And that's where their history starts. As part of the Duchy of Normandy.

So when did that stop then? When did they become British?

Er- well never, actually. The Queen doesn't rule the Channel Islands as Queen. In the Channel islands, she is a Duke. The Duke of Normandy. Yes, you heard right. She is not the Duchess of Normandy, she is the Duke. I could explain why she isn't the Duchess, and if you want to ask me in comments I'll tell you, but we'll be here for ever if we get sidetracked on that right now.

Time was when the English Kings owned much of France. Owned being the important word. They were Dukes of Aquitaine, Gascony and various places. And they ruled these places. France was a feudal state, to a degree England wasn't. The King was a kind of overlord, the ultimate sovereign authority, Dukes and Counts ruled in their own lands as little kings. But they had to do homage to the king as their SOVEREIGN. It just so happened that much of France was owned by another king. The English king.

And yes, it was a curious situation. Two Kings, traditional enemies. One actually has more subjects and more wealth and in practical terms rules more land, but in much of it, he is the feudal vassal of the other who is SOVEREIGN over more people and more territory.

And as you can imagine, neither king was ever really happy. It wasn't a situation either of them liked. The one who had to kneel before the other, or the one who knew that the kneeling one was kneeling to him for land that he, the one being kneeled to could not take away from him.

The situation in the Channel Islands up to 1337 was easy enough. It was all that the English king possessed of the Duchy of Normandy. The French king had regained the rest. And in it, as in Aquitaine and Poitiers and other places, the English king was not a King, but a ruling Duke, owing vassal allegiance to the French king.

In 1337, that changed.

One easy solution to the problem of owing allegiance to the French crown, was if the English king could get the French crown. And in 1337, on the basis of a claim which, for reasons similar to the reason the Queen is Duke and not Duchess of Normandy, meant the claim was poor, Edward III claimed to be King of France.

And thus begun the Hundred Years War.
In fact, it didn't actually last a hundred years, it was a number of wars basically fought over this same issue. The claim of the English kings to be kings of France.

And in fact, Edward got peace in about 1360 (or thereabouts) on terms which in fact suited him. Many historians- and I'd agree- suggest he didn't really want to be King of France.
What the peace said was that the King of France could be King of France in any bit of France the English king didn't own. And Edward could be King of France in HIS bit.

So Edward no longer had to do allegiance for his bits of France. He wasn't merely Duke of Aquitaine, he was King of France- well, he was for the purposes of being the King of France in any bits of France where he had to do homage to a French king.

Perfect solution. Kind of.

One could consider this a bit like the two Germanies after 1973. Both kind of thinking they were the real government, but recognising that the other existed. There was the English Kingdom of France, and the French Kingdom of France.

So the status of the Channel Islands in international law, such as it was, was actually quite clear. The King of England held the Channel Islands as Duke of Normandy but they remained subject to the French King, who for the purposes of the Channel Islands, was himself.

This stopped with Henry V. I'm not sure why he decided to gamble the lot and go for all France. But he won. Short term.

His son was crowned King of France. But Joan of Arc of course, led the way for the French to rise up and drive the English out.
The French King of France ended up ruling all France.

Except Calais and the Channel Islands.
In these bits, and only these bits, the English king remained king. But he wasn't King of Emgland there. He was king of France.
A bit like Taiwan still claims to be the Republic of China.

From that time on, all English kings still claimed to be Kings of France. Except after even Calais was lost, the France they were Kings of, was quite small. A few islands off the coast of Normandy.

Now as time progressed, the English kings recognised the French kings for all practical purposes- Charles I even married the sister of one of them- but they still retained the title for political reasons. Charles I still called himself King of Great Britain, France and Ireland. And in the Channel Islands, the King remained Duke of Normandy- but ultimately subject to the King of France. Except here, and only here, the King of France was himself.

Now here comes the bit where- unless I'm very much wrong- it gets confusing.

When James II was deposed, he fled to France. And Louis XIV continued to recognise him as King of Great Britain. As he did his son, up until the treaty of Utrecht. Part of the provisions of that treaty involved a recognition swap. Louis recognised Queen Anne, who in turn dropped the historic claim of the English monarchs to the French throne.

Now as I say, this is where it gets confusing. Because although Queen Anne remained Duke of Normandy- all her successors still used that title officially in the Channel Islands- surely at this point the English crown now owed allegiance to the French Crown for the Duchy of Normandy again?

Though of course, Feudal fiefs of that nature had disappeared in France. It was now a highly centralised monarchy. But technically, one can't help thinking, the Channel Islands had now returned to the French Crown. It was merely they remained the last vestige of a feudal fief. So no one noticed. I'm not aware that the Peace of Utrecht contained any special clause stating that the Channel islands DIDN'T revert to France as a result of Queen Anne dropping her to claim to France, and if it didn't, then sovereignty over the Channel Islands reverted to France and technically, Queen Anne reverted to being the vassal of Louis in them.

What happened then, when the French monarchy was abolished? Does the abolition of a monarchy affect a feudal vassal? Is the relationship between a vassal and a sovereign only applicable to a monarchical situation? Or does the French Republic inherit the rights of the crown in this respect? I don't know, because the situation is unique. Assuming that in 1792 it was correct to say King George III was technically the vassal of Louis XVI in the Channel Islands, it would be the only example of a vassal relationship in existence when a place became a Republic, a situation without precedent. Did the beheading of Louis end the vassalage and make the Channel islands completely sovereign in their own right?

In that case, a parallel would be the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire. They were practically independent rulers, but not sovereign. Ultimate sovereignty was possessed by the Emperor. But on the abolition of that Empire in 1806, the various Dukes and Princes BECAME sovereign. Nothing much actually changed, because each of them had run their own territories as absolute rulers previously. It was just that up till then, they were vassals of an increasingly meaningless Empire. It could be argued that the French Republic inherited everything from the French Monarchy except vassal relationships, because they were purely personal.

I suppose basically, the question I'm asking is this. The Channel Islands are ruled by the Queen, because she is their Duke. What I'm asking is whether the English kings ever became SOVEREIGN Dukes in the Channel Islands.

Because if not, then the Queen is a vassal of Jacques Chirac in those islands and technically, France is within their rights under international law to just walk into the Channel Islands and say the Duchy is abolished.

Anyway, what do you think?
Are the Channel Islands part of France or not?

Poll's in the sidebar.

Have your say!

Sunday 25 January 2009

I'm Two Today!

Today, or todayabouts is kind of a special day.

Today this blog is two years old.
Two years old.

That may not seem a lot, in terms of the span of a human lifetime, but it is in terms of most things IN a lifetime.

I can't think of that many things that last that long. To be sure, I have friends who are still a regular feature of my life after twelve years, I have possessions I've had for many years indeed, but otherwise life is change.

I've lived at this address now for getting on for two years and that will make it the longest I've ever lived anywhere. This is actually the first place I've ever lived I've really felt was home. Ever.

But this blog has already exceeded the time I've ever spent working for the same company, to date. I work in a precarious sector where staff do not tend to stay for long. People traditionally burn themselves out and need to move on in a matter of months. It's a boom and bust sector, essentially. No real stability. You're a hired mercenary in many ways. The majority of companies I've worked for literally no longer exist.

And of course, it's lasted longer than any romantic relationship I've ever had. And I suspect longer than any romantic relationship I ever WILL have. Such things are purely transient features of my existence and will likely always be so.

There aren't many things in my life that one realistically thinks will last all the way through it. I've never moved into a property and thought I'd stay there forever, never taken on a job and seen it as a job for life, more as something to serve my needs in the present. And I don't ever expect romantic relationships to last for more than a few months, realistically. They are things I fully expect to come and go. If people ask me where I see myself in five years time my thought generally is 'Haven't a clue, but one thing can be said for sure. I will live somewhere different to where I do now, work somewhere different and if I'm seeing anyone, it won't be anyone I even know at this point'.

And now I'm thirty I've started to think that maybe I might actually stay put homewise in future if I can, but the rest, the rest will keep changing with the seasons.

So I guess this blog has become a stable feature in my life. Something I hope will always be part of it. Where some people do DIY on a Sunday afternoon, I do some blogging. It has that role in my life. It's the thing you work on, the thing you build up.

It's a very new medium in many ways and it's continually changing. When you first start a blog, it's not like it's an established concept. There aren't people out there who've blogged for twenty years and can tell you their life story as a blogger. There aren't people who can tell you how it has changed their lives, how it has fit into their lives, how their blog developed and what there was to get out of it. In many ways that's what you're discovering yourself.

Because it does take on a life of its own. And it involves tough decisions. Ultimately, some pretty life changing ones, potentially.

Because it depends what you want out of it. Many people do indeed just write an odd post of a few short paragraphs every few days or so and really just use it as a social tool. Just to let something out and get a few comments. And that's fine.

But you don't have to do it very long to realise that there are far greater prizes at stake, if you know what you want.

What does blogging potentially have to offer you?

Well, I don't actually want to be famous as me. I don't want my actual name in the headlines. Because then it means my life history makes the headlines. And the lives of my friends and family get drawn into it. I don't want that. My perfect life is a life where I'm relatively prosperous but can go for a drink in peace.

I'd certainly like to make an impact on the world.

What blogging can potentially offer you is an amazing reward. Like a lot of things, you get out of it what you put in. And the more you put in, the more rewards you get exponentially. But if you really want those rewards, then you have to view blogging in a certain way. Ever been to one of those job interviews where they tell you 'It's not a nine to five job'?
Blogging has a similar dynamic. It offers a choice. Just like with jobs, you can just go for a nine to five job. You can work to live. Or you can work every hour God sends at a vocation.

Now early in the life of this blog, I made mistakes, we all do. Because you're just getting your head round it all. You don't necessarily appreciate the choices you'll have to make.
And one of those is- and there's no two ways about it- blogging is time consuming. Or can be.
How much time you put into it is up to you. But if you really want to make it effective, really you need to be thinking about fifteen hours a week. That's about as much as I tend to put in.
Now that might seem a lot, but if you think about it, it isn't. It's about a quarter of the time you spend at work earning money. The week has one hundred and sixty eight hours. Deduct sixty for the time in the week between getting up in the morning to getting home from work, deduct another forty eight for being in bed asleep or otherwise, deduct another five for cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc, you still have forty five hours you time left.

Allocating fifteen hours of those to blogging still leaves you another thirty or so in which to have a life.

But you need to be realistic about this. The point here is 'have a life'. What do you want to be doing in those other thirty hours?
Go out with mates, go to the pub, visit your family, go to parties, go to football games, maybe watch the TV.
And whilst you say thirty hours, you need to face the fact you may not always have that. You need to face the fact that if you take your job seriously, your job may erode time from those thirty hours.
But so may blogging. You have to face that. Success will create work for you. The more your blog does what you want it to do, the more time it will take up. Because you will have more comments to answer, you will have more blogs you need to visit. In taking on blogging as part of your life, you need to ask yourself whether you are prepared to take on whatever workload it dishes up.

Effectively, you have to treat it as you would a career. And try adopt a professional ethos towards it.

You need to consider what is important to you. And one thing you need to be aware of right from the start- because I didn't think about it, it was only subsequently I became aware of it- serious blogging is pretty much incompatible with serious romantic relationships.
You don't have time for both.
Unless it's with someone very understanding.

And let's face it, most people won't be. Most people can understand if they never see their 'partner' because their partner works all hours, or has a career keeps them away from home for the overwhelming majority of the time.

But this is different. Most people are not going to accept that you are going to come home, then be on the computer till half nine and then you're going to want to go out for a drink, so really they'll never get to exchange a word with you at all during the week. And they won't have you entirely at weekends either. Some weekends they may never see you at all. Because you do still have a social life.

And of course, one sees this with bloggers who do it more to pass the time. They find a serious relationship and the blogging tails off.

Now I'm going to be honest here. This really is your main make or break choice. Everything else in your life can be fitted in. If you are single, then you can still work a full time and demanding job, devote several hours a week to blogging and still have a full and active social life.
What you may well not be able to do, is sustain a romantic relationship long term. Not and blog effectively.
If you can find one that's compatible long term with blogging, all well and good. But you need to accept, that it may not be practical.

What I'm basically saying is that the chances are high that situations will arise where you have to make choices, making one choice will negatively effect your blog, the other will effectively end the romantic relationship. I'm serious. The chances of you not having to make that decision at some point are unlikely.

Hard choices. And it's about thinking long term. Delayed gratification.
What you have to remember is this.

If you choose the romantic relationship, chances are still ninety five percent so that in a years time that romantic relationship will be over. And then you'll go back to your blog and try pump life back into it, but it's a year of your life wasted.
Even if the romantic relationship does turn out to be something special and it does last, you'll still look back at what your blog could have been and sometimes you'll resent him/her for what they made you give up.

But if you choose the blog, you don't lose. You can't. Ok, some days you may wonder why you threw away romance because it conflicted with your blog, but if one day you find that every post you do has fifty comments and you're averaging a thousand readers a day, do you really think you'll care if you never have a romantic relationship ever again?
Probably not.

Because your blog will give you so much more than a romantic relationship ever could.
So yes, you're potentially working towards a situation where romantic relationships really will be totally irrelevant. Something you can just take or leave. If you can find one that doesn't conflict with blogging, all well and good, but if you can't, you won't much care.

And now let's look at WHY.

It's certainly changed my life. It has rendered the need for many things obsolete. Time was when I used to worry about when D eventually moved out. The idea of coming home to an empty flat. I don't need to worry about that now. There is no dynamic in my life, except when I'm feeling depressed and unattractive makes me want to share my life with anyone. No need. I have a good social life, I'm still young and pretty enough to be able to get sex and intimacy for the short term without having to shell out much more than the cost of a double Bacardi and Coke. The only reason I might want to consider wanting to get tied down is loneliness. But blogging means I never need be lonely, even in my own home.
And otherwise, I have all the practical advantages of living alone.

I can wander into the living room at any time and switch the TV on and watch what I want. I can go to bed at whatever time I choose and not worry about anyone else. I don't need to follow mealtimes or indeed, fit in with anybody else's patterns aside from me. I can come back at one AM, get myself a snack and lie on the couch semi-comatose channel surfing. I can bring back who I want, when I want. I don't have to consider anyone else at all from the moment I cross the threshold of my home.

But time was when I'd feel lonely at home alone. I don't any more. No need to.

Someone asked me a while back 'But don't you want to love and be loved?'
Do you know what?
Not really. Not any more.
As things stand, I can't see how it would add to my life in any way, shape or form. Hey, I can't stop myself falling in love, but I'm not sure being in love would add much to my life. Potentially detract from it, just as likely. I'm actually in a position where I would potentially turn down the love of someone I was in love with, because it might well not fit in with my life as it stands and where I want it to go.

So yes, the blog has become my home life. I have a good three dimensional social life and I have an online home life. And frankly, I prefer it that way. My blog is kind of like my living room and I have guests round every night who comment, so feel like they have literally come to visit. Lovely talking to you, seriously.
And whilst I have this sort of home life, I can't say any other type sounds particularly appealing.

But of course, that's really only a fraction of it. The rest of it is kind of two steps forward one step back. We have our supporters and we also have our critics.
Our critics do do us a certain degree of damage it's true, not just to me actually, but to friends and family- I've had family members harrassed by telephone and I've had my blog mentioned at a family member's place of work, I've had some fairly unpleasant things written about me online, none of them true and if you even knew the half of it, you'd be appalled.

But I think their online antics fail. Largely because they direct traffic this way and any sane person once they've read this blog can see the wood for the trees and can see what REALLY motivates these people.
To be honest, if people want to direct traffic this way, let them. There's no such thing as bad publicity.

This is, of course, the dark and unpleasant side of blogging.

But the positives.
Those of you who come and comment, yes.

But time was when I only thought of how many comments a post might get. Now, I don't so much. It's a bonus. And I write different posts now for different reasons.

For example, the post below. I do one every Sunday. Purpose? Well, that's social blogging. It potentially draws in ordinary everyday bloggers who aren't interested in this blog as such, but might return and might get interested over time.

And I write more personal posts sometimes, just to give a bit of real life perspective on things. The personal is political after all. And a lot of the time, those posts are written more for the regular readers than wider readership.

But they aren't the ones I get a thrill writing.

Some posts I write, I really am filled with electricity when I press publish. Because I know they have it in them.
They are the posts I really blog to write. Sometimes they get comments, sometimes they don't. I don't expect them to get comments particularly. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised when they achieve the added bonus of being successful commentwise.

By successful I mean this. This blog has actually earned itself a nice little niche in Google. I guess the more hits a blog gets from Google, the more Google pushes the URL up the list for fresh searches.
So nowadays, I've got used to the fact that a strong post will get read and will get linked to from surprising places.

And that's how I judge a post these days. Whether it gets linked from elsewhere and how many links it gets. A post that gets linked, is a successful post. One that doesn't, isn't.
And I suppose that's a slightly different way of looking at it to the way I once did. But yes, that's how I judge posts these days. By going through sitemeter and seeing the origins of visitors. If it's not a link I was aware linked here, I go through to see what the link is.

And the numbers here are going up, perpetually. This is the joy of blogging. This bit, the bit that matters long term, can only get better.
Two post I wrote recently I knew when I pressed publish 'You'll get links off these. Within the week'.
Occam's Razor and The Submissive Male.

I knew they'd do well. I knew when I pressed publish they'd hit Google and would get linked from comments sections, or get linked on blogs and sites discussing those issue. I didn't hope. I knew they would.
And they did.

And sometimes one can just be- flabbergasted. One wants to cry with euphoria. I think I've already mentioned one of my posts got linked from the letters page in the Financial Times (odd, because it wasn't a financial post), but only this morning I received an e-mail telling me a post of mine had been reviewed on a site dedicated to that exact topic. And that certainly wasn't a post I had high hopes from at all.

And during the last week I got my first link from Wikipedia. Even if not from an actual article, but from the users discussion forum. It's progress. It gets you thinking, could you one day actually have links to posts you've done in actual articles?
Maybe. I really don't see why it's impossible.

And yes, when I got voted 174th UK political blogger, truly amazing moment. I can't explain to you how I felt then. Money can't buy that type of feeling, it can't.

Do I think I can do it again? Do I think I can pull a higher ranking than that? Well, of course I do! I'd have pretty much given up on myself if I didn't think I could.
Though maybe it would help if Iain Dale didn't list me as a Labour Party blog...

Yes, blogging can be a heartache. And no, it's not always an easy life.

But the sky's the limit.
It's worth it. It's worth all the sacrifices you make for it.

I know what I want from life and I know that blogging and only blogging can give me that.

The only way is up.