Thursday, 29 January 2009

Life, The Universe, And Everything

Since most of the people who read this (or at least, most of the people I know read this - who knows, there could be more) know me in the real world anyway, it's no news to say that it was my birthday recently, and I'm now in my 25th year on this Earth (unless the Buddhists are right, in which case I've been around forever). To be honest, birthdays have kind of lost their significance for me now that I've passed the major milestone of 21. I can already buy beer and porn, drive a car, get married (I just typed that as "marred" - Freudian slip?), and generally am a full grown adult (in age at least). It has to be said though, that it was fantastic to be able to gather my friends together from around the UK and have a big night out. Not to brag, because I wasn't expecting it, but there was a huge turnout and it was heartening to see how many people think my birthday is something worth celebrating.

I find as I've settled into my mid-twenties, my priorities in life have become a lot simpler. I don't ask for much - I'm not one for buying fancy things, living extravagantly, or asking much from life. Generally all I ask for is a stress-free life with no complications. Alas, that's not always possible - indeed, it may be completely impossible. Having been out of a relationship now for six months helps a lot. I'm very much a believer in not forcing relationships, and I'm quite happy to be a single guy, in an age where there is so much pressure on people to find "the One" and settle down. It took me a while to work that one out, mainly because of the absolute state my last foray into the world of couples left me in, but it's really heartening to know that I have complete freedom to live my life as I please.

Lately a few situations have gotten a bit much, and sacking everything off seems like a good idea sometimes, but I'm a firm believer in the idea that you only get one shot at this life, and so you might as well make the most of it. As Bill Bailey put it: "Of course, the universe is gradually slowing down isn't it? And will eventually collapse inwardly on itself according to the laws of entropy, when all thermal and mechanical functions fail. Thus rendering all human endeavour ultimately pointless... Just to get the gig into some kind of context". Many people would see this as a very bleak outlook. If all human endeavour is ultimately pointless, if we are mere specks in the universe - insignificant in the grand scheme of things - then why even bother? Personally, I've never found the need to find deeper meaning in anything. I'm perfectly happy with the idea that we as people are just animals with fancy shoes. To me, there doesn't need to be a point to anything. If I can enjoy my life, experience love, make friends, see interesting things and places, then I will have considered mine a life worth living - even if it was only worth living from a Dan-centric point of view. As Douglas Adams once said: "Is it not enough to see that the garden is beautiful, without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it?" Of course, Doug was referring specifically to religious belief, but I prefer to take that point of view on life as a whole, not any particular belief system. Again, if something makes people happy and doesn't hurt anyone else, then what right does anyone else have to criticise it? It's just that personally, I don't need to be destined for a higher purpose - as far as I'm concerned, enjoying myself is enough of a purpose for me.

Wow, that got a bit deep, reading back over it. I guess the point I'm making, in my overly verbose way, is that aside from a few issues that need resolving fairly soon (such as getting a new job, sorting out accomodation for next year, and so on) I'm genuinely content with my life. On New Year's Eve, I had a good smile to myself about the state of my life for the first time in two years. Admittedly I was absolutely skulled on MDMA at the time, but the feeling was genuine, and it remains. Contentment is a difficult thing to attain, but when it does happen (however briefly), it's worth the wait.

Since the theme of this post seems to have become simple pleasures, I thought I'd end with a few things that lately have made me realise that life is a great thing. They may seem trivial to you - you may even not like some of them - but that's your prerogative. I'd recommend giving them all a try:
  • The new series of Lost. I mean, seriously, how good can this program get? I'm not going to give anything away here, but if you aren't watching this program you're missing out on the greatest piece of televisual entertainment ever created.
  • These Are The Breaks, by Krafty Kuts. I hadn't heard this album in years, but a friend got me it for my birthday, and dear Lord is it a great album. If you ever jig about in your room on your own (which I believe everyone should do), then you can't get a much better soundtrack than this.
  • Football. I know, I know, I'm a Manchester United fan who lives in Cardiff. Oh, what a plastic I am. But fuck that, watching United is the closest I've ever come to a religious experience, and at the moment they are an absolute joy. It's also great to see Ryan Giggs in full flow in the centre of our midfield - to me he's one of the most inspiring men ever, and I would give anything to be able to shake his hand. Maybe one day.
  • Writing. Recently I started writing a comic book called Ye Gods. It was coming along nicely, until I read American Gods, by Neil Gaiman - which was essentially the same idea that I'd had but done in a much better way. That was slightly disheartening, and required a return to the drawing board, but I've recently starting to put together the bare bones of a new story. Hopefully it'll come together well, but whether it does or not, it's nice to get the creative juices flowing once in a while.
  • Dave McKean. Best. Comic. Book. Artist. Ever. Read Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth, or Black Orchid. Marvel at his talent. If I thought someone had designed eyes, Dave McKean would be why.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Playground Fight

I don't know about you, but I've always wondered how many children I could take in a fight. I mean, obviously one on one it would be a mismatch, but what if there were ten of them? Twenty? More? This is the kind of problem which keeps me awake at night - this and my worrying addiction to Pokemon.

Finally now though, I can rest easy. A friend sent a link to me on the Stalkapedia that is Facebook that solved this particular worry. That's right, a test can now be taken to determine, with an astonishing degree of accuracy, how many five year olds a specific person could beat in a fight. My results have finally come through, and I proudly report them back to you.


Thirty-one! Brilliant, eh? That means I could happily teach an average class of five year olds with no fear of insurrection. Now if anyone could tell me how many golf balls you'd have to hit at a cow to topple it, I can finally get some shut-eye..

Friday, 26 December 2008

Jingle Bells, Batman smells...

So, Christmas has come and gone once more. Frankly, I'm glad. Now before I sound like a humbug, I don't really object to Christmas as such. I'm just glad when it's out of the way. I've spent most of the festive season drinking Caucasians and watching films. All three Jurassic Parks, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Scorpion King, E.T., Home Alone, and Supertroopers, to name a few. I've also eaten a lot of turkey, of course.

Other than that it's been pretty quiet. Went to my sister's house on Christmas Day for dinner, and spent most of my time there playing with my nephew's radio control helicopter. It actually flies! You can't control it at all, and it's clearly going to end up taking someone's eye out - but it's a lot of fun.

Present-wise I did pretty well. Got the Dark Knight and Batman Begins on DVD, a live album from Joe Bonamassa, who I mentioned on here recently, a slow cooker for my kitchen, and a new hoody, to keep me nice and warm. My favourite present though has to go to my new t-shirt, which looks very much like this:

Ain't it a beauty?

In other news, I tried to trim my beard the other day, had a little accident, and ended up having to get rid of the whole thing. Never mind, hair grows, as Sabrina the Teenage Witch's annoying mate once kept repeating.

Anyway, hope all of you had a lovely Christmas, and enjoy your New Year celebrations. Until 2009 (unless I think of something else to say), I'm out.

Friday, 19 December 2008

On God, Sin, and Morality

Yeah, I know, I haven't posted here in ages. Whatever, I do what I want!

Anyway, I was stirred out of my non-blogging funk the other day, when someone presented me with the pressing need to have a good old-fashioned rant. So here it is:

I was accosted by a person the other day, who completely unprovoked and with no knowledge of my life, thoughts, or deeds, declared me to be a sinner, an immoral person, and told me I was bound for Hell.

Normally, this kind of thing washes over my head. If someone thinks I'm going to Hell, fine. Personally, I don't believe in Hell, and in fact, archaeologists (and my old priest, Father David) say that when the Bible says that after you die you go to a place full of fire and brimstone, it means it literally - there was a place outside Jerusalem where "unclean" bodies were burned, to prevent the spread of disease. Personally, I'm fully behind the idea that so long as it doesn't harm anyone else, people should be able to believe and do whatever they like. I have friends who are Christian, Hindu, Sikh, and Jehovah's Witnesses; and I've never had a problem with any of them or their beliefs.

What got me on this occasion however, was the assertion that if I don't follow the Bible and its teachings, I am therefore an "immoral" person. Immoral, as in not in conformity with accepted principles of right and wrong behaviour. Excuse my language here, but what the fuck does that have to do with believing in God? The implication here is that even if I live a life of complete morality, because I don't believe in the Christian God, I get an eternity of torture?! That seems a bit much, and I'm pretty sure that's not really the view that most Christians have.

I thought about suggesting that maybe being moral because you were afraid of the consequences in the afterlife is in fact not so much morality as selfishness. I thought about pointing out that arriving at your own set of morals and sticking to them, not because you believe a higher power told you to, but because you believe that people deserve (on the whole) to be treated fairly and with respect, makes you more moral, if anything. I even, for a moment, thought about pointing out that judging me as immoral based on what I do or don't believe rather than how I act is downright prejudiced and goes against (again) what most Christians believe.

But I didn't, I bit my tongue. I understand that Christians are told to "spread the word of God". My mother is a Christian, and I'm confirmed, not because I believe in God, but because when I was baptised my mother promised God that she would ensure that I got confirmed. While to me that's a promise to nobody, to my mother it means a lot, and I respect that, and went through with the process. I still occasionally attend church with my mother, at Christmas time usually. I don't do the proclamation of faith ("I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, who for us men and for our salvation, came down.." - see, I paid attention in Sunday School), because that would be disrespectful and patronising, but I'm there. So I understand why this person felt the need to try to convince me that the Christian life is the way forward. However, I don't see why he would feel the need to be so fucking rude about it.

I've read a lot of the Bible, I've read some of the Koran, and a bit of the Talmud. I've flicked through copies of the Watchtower, read Richard Dawkins, and studied Taoism and Buddhism. I don't believe that there is a God, but I would describe myself as a non-theist, rather than an atheist - someone with the convictions of an atheist, but the evidence-based approach of an agnostic. None of this makes me a good or bad person. I'd like to think I do alright. I hold the door open for people, buy drinks for girls even if I don't want to sleep with them, smile at old people on the streets, and rarely kill babies.

This guy however, judges someone as worthy of an eternity of torture based on one single question: "Are you a Christian?" Try replacing the word Christian with "white person", or "heterosexual", and see how far you get with that argument. I'm a decent person, as I'm sure you'll agree. That guy, however, was a prick.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

In A Word..

Apparently I've been "tagged with a meme". This caused much panic initially, as I'm not really down with this fancy Interslice lingo, and imagined that I may have contracted some kind of illness. Fortunately, it just means that I have to answer some questions using only one word. Sounds easy. But then, so did Blockbusters. And no, I don't know where question 10 went either.

Here goes..

1. Where is your cell phone? Pocket
2. Where is your significant other? Non-existent
3. Your hair color? Dark
4. Your mother? Short
5. Your father? Hero
6. Your favorite thing? Rude
7. Your dream last night? Harrowing
8. Your dream/goal? Batman
9. The room you’re in? Office
11. Your fear? Spiders
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Throne
13. Where were you last night? Bed
14. What you’re not? Serious
15. One of your wish-list items? Watchmen
16. Where you grew up? Llanrumney
17. The last thing you did? Answer
18. What are you wearing? Shirt
19. Your TV? Unwieldy
20. Your pet? Gary
21. Your computer? Rebellious
22. Your mood? Empty
23. Missing someone? Iolo
24. Your car? Small
25. Something you’re not wearing? Pink
26. Favorite store? Comics
27. Your summer? Cold
28. Love someone? Unrequitedly
29. Your favorite color? Colour
30. When is the last time you laughed? Today
31. Last time you cried? July

There you go. And yes, "non-existent" is one word. Now I have to pass it on to five other people apparently. Only trouble is, only three people read this blog, and two of them are already infected. That leaves only Gav. I shall hasten to inform him.

Oh yeah, I've got photos of Gary coming up. Actually I've had them for a week, but I'm a lazy man. Anyway, I'll stick 'em on tonight, I promise.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

The I Wish I Could Play Guitar Like That Blues

Saw Joe Bonamassa live last night in Bristol. Fair play, the man can play. I'm about as jealous as a man can be. He started playing guitar at age 4 (he's 32 in May 2009) and opened for B.B. King aged 12, after being mentored by Danny Gatton. That's a hell of a pedigree. Anyway, don't just take my word for it, have a look at this:

He also sang this song, which I hadn't heard before. It's called Asking Around For You, and is one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. Makes me wish I believed in an afterlife:

He was supported by a lady called Imelda May, who I'd not heard of before. She's got a fantastic voice, and is well worth checking out, rockabilly fans.

I think I'm getting a chest infection. No need.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Gary "The Nipper" McSlitherson

Gary has arrived! And he's beautiful.

Went to Newport last night to pick him up, and got to choose from six snakes. The father has a beautiful pattern of blotches on him, and the mother is orange, so Gary has the best of both worlds - the same pattern as Daddy, but with orange patches rather than brown. Pictures will be along shortly.

He's a feisty little blighter, hence his nickname (the breeder I got him from was calling him Nipper). He's still a little shell-shocked from the move, but he fed last night and seemed pretty satisfied with his new surroundings. He had a bit of a strike at me this morning, but as he gets used to being handled he'll be better able to differentiate my hands from food. At the moment he's about a foot long, and really skinny, but apparently they can grow up to an inch every week! Eventually he'll be between four and six foot, and might even live into his early twenties. A snake, it would seem, is for life, and not just for Christmas.

Watching him feed is amazing. At the moment he'll eat twice a week, but a fully grown corn snake only needs to eat once every two weeks. Imagine eating two weeks worth of food in one go, and swallowing it whole to boot! That's a lot of Wispas. No wonder they need to chill out for a couple of days after that!