Wednesday, August 31, 2005
I went to see the latest Jet Li film called "unleashed". It was a strange mix of a film. One part of the film was martial arts fighting. The other part was Jet Li being adopted by a piano tuner and his daughter. Jet Li was treated as a dog by a Glasgow gangster, played ny Bob Hoskins (a famous Londener). It was a mismash of different films. There was a standard cage fighting scene, where the tofs pay money to see fights. The middle bit of the film was about the power of music to heal someone with emotional problems. All a bit boring really.
Monday, August 29, 2005
I went out to the Mathew Street festival in Liverpool on Sunday. This is a free music festival close to the Mersey. I wanted to see the stranglers play. Like many people, I liked the early punk stuff produced by the stranglers better than the later more mellow (ok bland stuff). When I was about 17, we actually liked the first mellow album, perhaps called "the men in black". At that time, everyone was getting into using synths. The set was OK, I did get to here "No more heroes". I saw a bit of Tony Christie, but it wasn't lound enough for my taste. I know the guy is not heavy metal and I was right at the back. The place was packed. Nexy year I am tacking cans of beer, after about 2pm, there was a huge queue at the beer tent. Later on that day I dragged my sorry drunken ass down to the Zanzibar to see the Mighty Wah play. This was an excellent set and I enjoyed it much more than the bands at the festival. The Mighty Wah have a very rich creamy full sound. In the 80s, Pete Wylie had a couple of hits witn this band. The last album, which was out a couple of years ago was really fantastic. There was a lot of banter between the singer and the audience.
I hope that NEW ORLEANS survies the terrible weather that is hitting it. I have always fancied the idea of spending some rest and relaxation time in New Orleans. The trouble is I can see myself starting a cocktail fueled evening out on the town, ending with me getting arrested for shouting "I want vampire sex" while clutching a big jug of gin. Perhaps, it would be better if the town was cleansed. They could put a nice concrete hotel and I could watch inoccent cable TV.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
A group of us went out to see a band called "speakeasy" at the Zanzibar club in Liverpool. We hurried our dinner (no pudding) to get to the venue by 8:15 when the band were going to start playing. They were the opening act for a number of established local Liverpool bands. When we go to the club we found we had to wait in a qeueue. The club was packed full. Local bands bring in their friends, family, and various hangerons. I don't usually get to a venue so early. When the doors open at 7:30, I get there at 9:30 to hear the first band play. The band souned excellent. The singer was pleasantly anguished. The singer was a lot better than the one in the earlier incarnation of this band. They got appreciative applause. The audience did the traditional thing of talking very loudly during one slow part of a song. The singer tried to sell three song CD for a pound. Being a cheap person, I thought that it would have been better to give out free CDs for promotional reasons. Perhaps, I am just following in the grand tradition of the music business of ripping off the band. I saw 3 other bands play, but to my shame I can't remember their names. It is always fun listening to a band and try to work out what music theyr grew up with. As I wasn't living in the UK during the britpop years, so I am not very good at guessing. The instruments were all played very well. The singers may have let down some of the bands. Perhaps, I should sing out my code as I hacl. I too want to be a rock and roll star!
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
I have just finished reading the book "Al Qaeda and what it means to be modern" by John Gray. The book didn't contains that much about Al Qaeda, but was full of a lot of criticism of being modern. Gray claims that being modern involves that being modern involves believing in progress driven by technology. Also progress is moving towards a single unique fixed point. Now that all the commies are now more gainfully exployed in the Russian mafia, the fixed point is American style market economy. I do believe that technology does mostly improve things, but I doubt that we are approaching some unique single state. Society is pretty complicated, but you have to try to understand it. What else can we do? Even with modern inventions such as cheap easy jet flights to Rome, I don't see myself popping over to talk to the Pope about the future of the western world.
Wow Hunter S. Thompson went out in style. The picture of that huge gun that shot his ashes over a local forest was an inspiration to all of us who worry about death. It looked fanatastic. I am almost happy to live in a world, where people like Johnny Depp fund huge cannons to fire someone's ashes into the air. Thompson commited sucide, but it is up to the people left here to celibrate his life as they feel fit. I don't see that anyone is going to pay for a cannon to shoot my ashes anyhwere. I would like my ashes molded into bullets. Then the bullets could be used for acts of justice. Perhaps, I shouldn't have said that in this age of MI5 screen watchers. It would make a godd angle for a book. The hard man hero could revenge his girl friends death by firing bullets with her ashes into the people who killed her. It is all a bit cheesy and unbelievable of course, so it is much more appropriate for a hollywood blockbuster. Now all I need is Steve Segal's phone number and I will get enough money for my own cannon.
Monday, August 22, 2005
I have just been watching a program on TV about supermodels. This was a countdown of the top supermodels. I spent most of the program hoping that Jerry Hall wuld not win. I am not sure why I felt so mean to her. I had to turn over after I saw one particulary attractive skelton.
I have just finished reading the book "No Logo" by Naomi Klein. This book explained "the brand idea" very well. I now understand why the Beckhams wanted to become a global brand. This is the triumph of marketing over manafacturing. I am not sure that I needed to understand what the Beckham thing was about, but now things are cleraer now. The trouble with this type of book is that it can be used for both good and evil. A younger version of myself would be appalled by the brand idea. I am still depressed by the whol.e thing. But the evil part of me thinks "umm, maybe I can use this too". Perhaps a physics collaboration could be viewed as a "brand". The senior people could just market the results. The computing and research could be outsourced to other counteries and people on temporary contracts. On reflection, some senior people already treat a collaboratiion as a brand, so as usually my good (but evil) idea has been scooped already. During my holiday I read William Gibson's book called "pattern recognition". This is now my favourite Gibson book. It has a heroine who is allergic to brands. On amaazon, it would make a natural partner to "No logo". (Poor old Naomi, I can see start to write the email now: dear craig, I think there are a couple of things you didn't understand about my book, let us start on page 1..) I think I have some of the same allergies. Certainly, I my evild black heart starts to beat to the tune of physical horror, when I get close to a Laura Ashly shop. I believe the closest shop is in Chester -- this is just about tolerable. Anyway the book is all about modern marketing techniques. They even have people who job it is to tell strangers about new products, such as a recent film, in bars or cafes. I do this for free. What a rip off.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
I am back in Liverpool again. No more days of riding around pyramids or starting at the blackened faces of mummies. I think I will study more about pyramids. Although a quick look on Amazon tells me that there are a number of new age books about pyramids. I don't think I need to know about Egyptian pyramids and death stars. Bloody hippies!
Friday, August 19, 2005
I am leaving the hotel at 12:00 to get a 3:30 flight to Amsterdam. I have enyoyed my stay in Cairo. Has this holiday made me grow as an individual? I would say no. I now realise that I don't know enough about pyramids. This is strange as I usually try to incorporate them into chat up lines. "Did you know there is a pyramid buried beneath the Wirral?" I have one last taxi drive to take. Will I be able to break the driver will and pay what I want? Ummmmm. We shall see.
I waited for the guide and driver to take me to Alexandra to show up at the hotel for over an hour yesterday. The guide has given me a lecture about how expensive it was for him to rent a car, and for people not to show up. (Later on I got a phone message to say that he had been in an accident). So I decided to get the train to Alexandra instead. The hotel is very close to the main railway station so this was easy. I bourght my ticket from a window. A policeman then checked the ticket to make sure I was not going anywhere dangerous. Then of course he helpfully told me the wrong platform number for the train. I always thought that the Arabs had invented 0, but I didn't realise they had their own symbols for numbers. By some miracle, I got to the correct platform. A porter put me in the correct carrage. The train took 2 and 1/2 hours. A the end of the line, I didn't see Alexandra written anywhere, but everyone else got off the train so I did too. I was epecting a bigger station with perhaps, some tourist information. THe curse of the lack-of-rough-guide had struck again, because I had no idea what I should be visiting. There were helpful taxi drivers sround, but experience has told me that I needed to have some idea of where I wanted to go. Eventually, I found a big map. I told a taxi driver, to take me to the Alexandra library, partly because of my deep love of literature, but mostly because it was near the sea. This library is a modern version of the ancient library that was burnt down by a christian mob around 600 AD. It is a very cool modern building. After the late start and longer journey I only has about 3 hours in Alexandra. So I just walked up by the cost. Needless to say there was a manic 6 lane road right at the sea front. I stopped off at a cafe for some cofee before getting a taxi back to the railway station. I could have a drunk a beer at the cafe as well, but the extrimists do occasionally sttack places where this goes on. I felt it better to drink some portest beers back in my hotel, where there are three armed policemen outside. There are no metal shields though. I bet the 4* Hilton has lead shielding for gun battles. So that was my trip to Alexndra. It was my dream to visit Alexandra, after reading the Alexandra quartet. As I didn't get to see any cool ancient stuff, perhaps I have been cheated. As I can't rememeber what I liked about the books anyway, I don't see how I can complain. Tourism after all is about ticking the box for some experience or another
After getting fairly frustrtade with getting ripped off my taxi drivers, I decided that I would try my luck with the metro. The guide book said there is a very good underground subway system in Cairo. I wanted to go to Medivial Cairo. The start of the area is called the citadel (it is a castle). The guide book told me what station to get off at. The station that the guide book mentions was not eactly the same name as any of the names on the subway map in the same book. I decided to risk going somewhere close. Subways are the same whereever you go. So I got my ticket to the Seyada Zeinab station. Everything went well, until I got to the station where I found it was not close to the citadel (or anything interesting at all). After looking around it looked like another area of Cairo stress. After 5 minutes I got back on the train again and want back to the central station. I think that the gods of tourism were mad at me for not studying the holy bibles of the rough guide or lonely planet guide. What was I thinking when I studied another unknow guide? That seemed like enough tourism for me for one day. So I went back to my hotel room to do some more readng.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
I keep getting hassled by people for not taking photographs. There is a very good reason for not taking photographs. In a old TV series called "Sapphir and Steel", a monster moved into photographs. So I try not to get caight on film. This was in the era of negatives and film. Now that digital photography is an option, I should get one of those. I would like to say that my blog postings are like vivid word pictures of my experiences on holiday, but ......
Today I went to old Cairo by taxi. I could have gone there by metro, but I was weak. Orginally I wanted to go to the Coptic musuesm, but this was closed when I went there. I did get a quick tour of some churches in old Cairo. One of the churches was built over the place where Jeseus, Mary, and Joseph hid for a while. I was told this was where holy water started. Although I can walk around in the sun, I am always a bit nervous about holy water. I don't want to start burning. Another church was to celibrate St. George. I know that technically, I am English, and so should have some idea about our patrion saint, but .... One time I was in Macdonalds, where one of the servers said "so if this St Georges day, why don't we get the day off". THe guide told me that the dragon that he slew was actually Rome. My recollection of dates is a bit confused, but I think he meant the Rome before the Catholic church improved it. I have read an abridged version of "the decline and fall of the roman empire" by Gibbon. In the book St George was a crook and a swindler, although he held some position of power in the church. He provided bad meats to the troops. This so enraged the local people that he was lynched. The church being the church instigated a cover up and made him a saint. Both the churchs are hardly used now. One was just used for funerals and American tourists(if they could pluck up the courage to visit Cairo).
I hoping to go to Alexandra tomorrow. THis is going to be via a private car, so no doubt I could have done it more cheaply by rail. It takes about two hours to get to Alexandra by car. Before I left home many of my friens werevery imprressed with the Alexandra quartet by Lawrence Durrel. There are 4 books telling the same story from different perspectives. I was trying to explain why these books were so important to me, but since I last read them nearly twenty years ago, I didn't explain myself so well. Various affairs happened and maybe soneone comitted suicide. Someone's sister was blind. I thonk the copies at my mum's house were lost after they were borrowed by family memebers. Just in case anything goes wrong. The person who is arranging this is Yasser Magdi, a guide in St George's church in Old Cairo.
Outside on streets of Cairo it is hot and packed with people. Inside this hotel is almost empty. I just ate dinner in the hotel restaurant. There is seating for 100, but I was the only one there. I ate traditional Egyptian food of shish kebabs! (No chilli source, but you can't have everything). I feel like a colonial. Outside are the masses. Inside the prviledged few. The waiters are now ready at 4pm for my bottle of stella. This may be one of the few things they do all afternoon. I did try to find somewhere outside the hotel to eat. I am not so fussy as to what I eat, but some of the places close to the hotel did look as though they would produce major bowel movement afterwards. The hotel food is not so special. THe Egyptian tea and coffee I have had has been excellent, but I am too much of coward to sit down in one of the local coffee houses. I didn't bing a good guide book with me, such as a rough guide. These are good for telling about where to eat and drink. I like the idea of tryig to smoke through one of the big water pipes. The person who drove me around the pyamids smoked one of these while we reasted. This seems like a cool bad habit to pick up from the middle east. There is an Egyptian cafe close to campus at Liverpool, so smoking one of these there would be a good way to improress seminar speakers.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
The power cut has destroyed any hope of a linear naritive for this trip. Yesterday I went to the Egyptian museum. This houses many important treasures from ancient times. Some tourists weregunned down there a few years ago, so the security is very intense. Guns, guns, and metal shields. I payed the extra money to go into the Royal Mummies room. Thie room contains a number of mummies of Pharoes taken from pyramids. These were leaders of huge acient empires. Now their blackened distorted faces are gawked at by 8 year old children. Part of me things these people are dead and should be given some kind of respect. The other half of me thinks that these people were leaders and slave owners who deserve what ever humilation that fate throws their way (come the revolution). Another part of me thinks of hammer horror movies and how I can raise them from the dead for some kind of personal advantage (suchas world domination).
The most important part of a holidayis trying to out smart the locals who are trying to rip you off. Before we can get to the pyramids we first stop off at the "papyrus museum". I though I was being really smart is agreeing to this. A taxi driver yesterday had offered to take me to this museum. I thought, well why not combine the trips. The museum was very spacious and clean. For 5 minutes the guy explained the basics of using papyrus into writing paper. There was even a test about how long you need to soak the papyrus in water. I got the answer right by saying five days. He had told me that 5 minutes before, but at least he could tell I was paying attention. Then I was asked to look around the room and decide what papyrus pictures I was interested in. Note I was also told that genuine hand painted papyrus paintings were good, but nasty people would try to sell me pictues on banana leaf parchment. Anyway I did end up buying two pieces. In my defence, I did get a free cup of coffee (that was real Egyptian coffee, rather than the sachet of nescafe I get at breakfast). Look these pictures are guaranteed for a thousand years! I did tell the owner (sorry curator) that I would see him in the after life tocomplain if there was a problem before 3005. After the camel trip around the pyramids, I did slightly better. As I got down from the camel, it was suggested that I should was my hands in a shop. After washing my hands and getting a free coke, I spent a pleasant 15 minutes telling the shop owner that I didn't need any egyptian oil. Anyway I didn't buy anything, so I was a bottle of coke ahead. At the end of my trip around the pyramids, the guide asked (very politely) for his tip. ON my list of things to do day, I had not planned to take a camel ride, but this is apparently the only way to see the pyramids. Camels are pretty tall beats, and I didn't feel so stable. Getting on and off the camel was a bit stressfull. Since I was actually on the camel when the guide asked for his tip, I might have been more generous than I would have been if my feet had been stuck firmly on the ground. In my guide book it was noted that these pyramids are some of glories of the ancient world, but a lot of trivial stuff goes on at their feet, such as the selling of postcards and trinkets by toothless hawkers. Perhaps, I too am focussing on the trivial and missing the power of these ancient symbols. I was vey impressed to see one of the huge pyramids suddenly appear, as we were driving down some street.
Today I did the pyramid thing. There is "taxi" driver outside the hotel who offered to take me to the pyramids and sphinx. In fact every taxi driver who has driven anywhere has offered to do this for me (as well as take me on a tour of Egypt). The car I actually chose was totally knackered. The sea belt didn't have a metal thing, to slot in. A seatbelt in Cairo is a pretty important thing given that the cars weave in and out of each other. It is sometimes not very clear how many lanes there are on a road. There are very few traffic lights. Cars just barge in from either side. Some cars ring their horm once every minute to warn other driver of some "mistake". People jump out of buses in the middle of the road. Vans stop for no reason. Driving in cairo is totally crazy. On the way back from the trip, the front wheel blew out. We were out of town then it was not sucha big deal. Luckily the guy had a spare. Some of the other taxis I was offired trips in were a lot nicer, with air conditioning (and seat belts). The starting point of a good tourist day trip is safety.
While I was writing my second post last night there was a power cut. Half my sun fueled prose was lost. It was not a proper power cut as the lights came back up in about 15 minutes. In a proper country like England, the power cuts would have lasted fora day. The tabloid press would have been on the war path. When I was in Cuba last year, there was also a power cut, but candles came out and you could still order beer.
Monday, August 15, 2005
Here I am in Egypt. The magic of online travel agents and work burn out have led me to spend some time in Cairo. I am staying in the Victoria Hotel in Cairo. The hotel is essentially empty. There are a few guests but not many. This hotel is amimed at Westner and it is too hot for many of them. It is too hot for me, but I didn't think about this when I booked the holiday. I woul describe this as a hotel much like the Liverpool Adelphi, but not as big. The people here are very friendly. THis is not the same a cuba where everyone was essentially trying to get dollar bills. I was helped out a couple of times today, bypeople just being friendly. It is very hot. For some tourist reason, I was trying to getto the Cairo tower. THis involved walking across a huge long bridge full of cars. I could see grass and stuff at the end of the bridge, but it was impossible to get to the nie little park. Mad dogs and englishmen go out in the noon day sun. I was armed with a sun hat, a liter of water, and was covered with sun protection stuff. I think I need to sweat some toxins off anyway.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Is it really true that I have not posted for two months. This is the busist time of the year for me. I am just exhausted and can barely get through the day. I don't think that the alien abductions are helping much. My dreams are fairly twisted, witb figures with hidden faces and white robes standing over me with swirling knifes. If people want to perform experiments on me while I am asleep that is fine, but I would like to feel refreshed in the morning. It would aslo be OK, if the experiemnets gave me special poweres. I like the idea of being able to detach one of hands and for it to have a life of its own. This would be really useful for sneaking things through airport security (my nails grow very quikly, I do need them cut on long airline trips). A more mundane application would be for my hand to go and get a beer from the fridge while I am watching DVDs. Then I just need to find a way to go to the toilet as well, and I would neever need to leave the flickering screen. I would be fully compotosed.
Last Saturday I went to see the film "the devil rejects". Why I am not sure. The reviews said it was an unpleasant film. It did just seem to be pointless violence and torture. The actors were committed to the evil insanity of it all. Perhaps, I am just not such a hard core horror fan as I thought.