Friday, July 27, 2007

Pinnawala - Profiteering or Progress?

In the last few years I have developed a feeling of resentment every time I have visited this world renowned elephant orphanage. I've discussed this with people and encountered many different reactions, many differing opinions and a plethora of charged emotions.

I remember when I was a kid. We used to go there on the way to Kandy from Colombo. It was a routine, one of those nice ones, not an unpleasant one like having to pick grey hairs from my Dad's head for 1/2 p per hair. We'd stop there, watch the elephants having their bath, have some lunch and a drink, then continue on to Kandy, to be greeted by a gaggle of Aunts and cousins, all good and fun stuff. This would have been in the late seventies and during the early eighties. The orphanage had moved to its present site and the volume of people that passed through it wasn't anywhere near its current level.

In those days most of my thoughts were centred around Debbie Harry and breasts. There would be occasional outbursts of other ruminations. In fact my life has changed little over the years. Debbie Harry has indeed got older and ropier. It's more likely that she'll be fantasising over me than me thinking of her. We went our separate ways at some point during the nineties, as she started to sag and I started to rise. But, my fondness for a breast or two has remained, as has my occasional ponder on something like those elephants and the orphanage, whether it's good, bad or both.

In many ways it represents one of the much bigger dichotomies about Sri Lanka. We all know about the intense beauty of Sri Lanka, about the way it captures people of any race or nationality, the way chaps like me who are born and bred in other countries can fall in love with its charms and get addicted to its lure. Many say that Sri Lanka is a massive opportunity waiting to happen, that all it needs is peace and it will become one of the economically booming Asian countries, with a queue of potential investors as long as, well the queue at Parliament for the toilet marked "Cabinet members only", two hours after that lager tasting event last year.

One of the most physically attractive aspects of Sri Lanka is its "unspoiltness", the way that it has managed to retain so much of its charm and personality. Herein lies the dilemna, the crux of the problem. Countries, towns and places can retain their charm and character and they'll attract a finite number of visitors, but it's only when they start to invest in facilities, infrastructure and East European prostitutes that they really start to attract many more visitors and the proper filthy lucre starts to roll in. If the foreign currency is required then this investment must be done. If the investment is done then the tourists will increase. If the tourists increase then the amount of trash and rubbish increases too, in every way.

When I was leaving Colombo in February this year I sat at the airport after checking in and was momentarily filled with a sense of sadness. This isn't unusual for me on leaving Sri Lanka, but this particular strain of sadness was. It was the first time I had left BIA since its refurbishment and extension and massive "improvements" and the feel of it has changed. For the last thirty years I had got used to it feeling like one of those airports that James Bond lands at, on a Carribean island. There was a quaintness to it and the James Bond analogy is completed on the trip from the airport into Colombo. The cab driver always tries to kill 007 on the journey, and every Sri Lankan taxi driver is highly trained to make a tourist experience that very same adrenalin rush.

One of my cruel yet enjoyable pastimes is to watch the expressions of horror on the white faces of the tourists as my car overtakes them on the way into town from the airport. They've had a long flight, they're tired and smelly and all they want to do is check into their hotel and relax. Instead they have to endure a drive in a Sri Lankan taxi, or worse, a mini bus. I laugh at their looks of panic and terror, at their wide staring eyes and their open mouths as they try to admire the scenery but struggle because of the car in front that actually overtook on the left, and tooted its horn at the same time.

But the airport had changed. Instead of that seventies feel and the Felix Leiter types hanging around it now has the atmosphere, a term I use loosely, of just about any international airport. I could have been at Gatwick, although Gatwick has far more Sri Lankans working there. BIA is big, it's efficient (well, you know what I mean!), it's impersonal and it smells of planes, air conditioning and over made up women selling duty free perfume. The strain of sadness I felt was for the old airport, the one that served its purpose, had some character and a definite Sri Lankanness to it. The one that wasn't big enough, efficient enough or "International" enough to satisfy needs of the plane loads of yellow wristband wearing tourists who land there. The tourists whose dole money, or whatever it's called these days, is needed to pay for the improvements at the airport.

It's just like Pinnawala. I must apologise here as I know that Pinnawala is a place in its own right, not just the elephant orphanage, but I use the P word to mean the orphanage in this post.

It used to be quaint, it used to have a feel of genuine care for the welfare of its elephants, as if money didn't matter and was only needed to care for the inhabitants. Although it's always been well known it was as if it was a well kept secret. But now it's permanently swarming with people. There's an air of commercialism and a cynical smell of profiteering about it. There's probably a witty "jumbo" joke in there somewhere but I can't quite get it out.

As a child I remember watching the mahouts and admiring the bond that they had with their charges, the way that they'd communicate with the great pachyderms and all else would be a distraction. Now I watch these mahouts and it's like watching a busker in Covent Garden. They let tourists pose with the elephants, splash about with them and video their frolics to show their friends back home. Then, when all that is done, the mahout holds his hand out and asks for a couple of hundred rupees. The average tourist, thinking that 200 SLR is only about a quid, gives much more. The cycle continues.

My discomfort is mostly in the fact that the mahouts look more concerned with lining their pockets than looking after their charges. It's becoming like one of those scrawny donkey rides on Galle Face Green. How long before they start doing those awful weddings at Pinnawala? Maybe for a hundred dollars extra you can ride on the elephant with one leg missing. Then, after the wedding, you can have a table set up in the middle of the river and watch the elephants bathe as you are served dinner, surrounded by floating pachyderm dung. All for a mere $1000 US. Bargain!!

The crowds of people at Pinnawala are too much for me. Last year I went with the girls. Every single time we have been to Sri Lanka we've done this, and we've gone more times than I can count. We would make a day of it, going from Kandy, having some lunch while watching the bathing and absorbing the ambience. But last year it was too crass, too poor quality and simply too crowded. The restaurant was only interested in serving the four hundred coachloads of tourists that were there, the mahouts were busily making more money than even the waiters in the restaurant and the elephants were as happy as the mahouts.

We did our watching and, on the way home, the girls decided that they didn't want to go there next time. It just "wasn't the same anymore". The saddest thing is that we probably aren't wanted there anymore either. We don't come in a coach with "Kuoni" written on the side of it and we don't strut around as if we're God's gift to Sri Lanka because we have some foreign currency on our pockets.

When I was a kid I thought that the elephants there were wild and that it was so much better than seeing them in the "cruel" environment of a zoo, where these majestic beasts always look as if they just shouldn't be. Then, as I got a bit older and started to go to Yala, Minneriya and the like I realised what it really is like to see animals in their natural habitat. I'm not saying that Pinnawala is cruel to its charges at all, just that I think it's closer on the scale to being a zoo than it is to the "wild" end.

I also see that it does an invaluable job. It, and its people, cares for elephants that would almost certainly die were it not for the help given. There is a definite view that these people should be able to make some money out of it too. It's not as if the mahouts are exactly rolling in the green stuff either. It's not as if they finish their day's work, take off their sarong and jump into a pair of Levis, some Nike trainers and drive home in a Merc. That's what the tourists do, except they don't wear sarongs and probably don't look after elephants.

Sri Lanka and Pinnawala needs these tourists though no? Their cash is required and their friends and family's cash is needed next year and the year after. But at what price? Is Pinnawala going to become the Disneyland of Sri Lanka? Or should all this "development" be encouraged, to attract even more tourists and foreign currency? Does it really matter if those bees at Sigiriya get disturbed by Germans? After all they're only Germans and bees. Mind you, many people are fond of bees.

If you live in Sri Lanka what do you think? I'd love to know, is it natural development of a beautiful country with beautiful people, is it prostitution in its most cynical form?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Shyness Can Be Cured

I was driving somewhere yesterday and had the car radio on with a phone in talk show thing going on that caught my ear so to speak. Apparently one of the big multinational drug companies, as opposed to one of the small multinational ones, has made a drug which it plans to bring to market that can "cure" shyness.

I can't verify the accuracy of the statement that a drug company is planning to do this, but it's not relevant really. What's relevant is that the radio show had a lively and stimulating debate going on about shyness and whether it's something that need to be "cured" or an intrinsic quality in some people that just exists, like being hung like a horse or a mosquito.

The presenter of the show, Vanessa Feltz, was making the point that shyness used to be looked at as just a quality in some people. She mentioned that it was also looked at as a peculiarly English characteristic, the whole shy and reserved girl persona, which made me think of Princess Diana when she was Lady Diana. The days when she was 19 and shy and coy, prior to being married and everyone thought she was the typical English rose.

These days it seems that shyness is a bit like a birth mark in a mildly embarrassing place, like Wales. You can have it taken care of and get on with your life. People were ringing in to the show with all sorts of differing opinions. One chap said that shyness is a definite negative in commerce and business, that one needs to be more outgoing and brash for a work environment.

I agree, I can't imagine there are many who would disagree, unless you're the president of the shyness council and you have a strict policy of promoting from within. Most successful business people appear outgoing and confident rather than shy and demure. Does shyness in itself denote a lack of confidence or is there more to it than that?

But success in business isn't the be all and end all, it's not the ultimate goal for many, me included. One of the things I feel very lucky about is that I have exposure to a variety of business people through my work but I also mix with many musicians and arty types through music. I've met business coves who frown and look down on academics and arty folk, I've met arty folk who mock business types and I've met others who are far more accepting of all. There are many musicians who are aggressive and confident looking whilst playing on stage yet shy as a little sparrow the second they come off stage.

A musician friend of mine is an outgoing, successful and confident fellow in his everyday existence yet painfully lacking in confidence as soon as he gets on stage. He's a great musician too, just a bag of nerves on stage.

This shyness question is opaque, there's no definitive answer, there's not even a definitive question. But, surely shyness is merely a characteristic of a person. If a shy person feels that it's a problem then perhaps they should have the opportunity to change that. I wouldn't want to live in a society full of clones. The big shoes, the shiny red noses, orange hair, I find them all a touch too scary. No wait, that's clowns.

Clones, that's what they have in the US. Brash and arrogant and exuding a false sense of confidence everywhere they go. All back slapping and hand shaking and calling people buddy. That's what happens. Somewhere in between the shy, demure and timid person and the brash, arrogant, loud and lewd person is the ideal individual, the person with true character and a sense of identity.

If only we could clone them we'd be laughing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Rhythmic Jones Arsewiping Device

I've never started a trend before and I'm not even sure if this is a trend but my post on arsewiping and my wetwipe discovery has led to a couple of other ones.

First there was Java with his take on the situation. It's written with his usual poise, elegance big words and wealth of experience. Then there's A Janusis' nice post on the messy crevice business too. A Janusis says that my post was "mildly disgusting in a gay sort of way" leaving me unsure whether to feel complimented or insulted.

It's clear to me that Sri Lankan arse wiping is a very different game to British arse wiping. At my ripe old age I had never known that these fundamental differences exist and I've a new ream of knowledge and information to call upon.

Reading A Janusis' post and the bit in which he wonders what left handers do reminded me (in a vaguely tangential way) of a bloke I used to work with in a rather large shop when I was about 20. Every morning this chap would go into the toilet. You'll think I'm making this up but I'm not. He'd go in carrying the Sun, a cup of coffee and his cigarettes. I, even with my low standards, found this disgusting. How anyone could read the Sun I'll never know.

I left a comment on Java's post about the weather having an impact on the chosen method of clingon removal and I failed to offer much of an explanation but I'll attempt to remedy that now. My theory is that, in hot countries, some soap, water and elbow grease is quite practical and easily workable. You can do the washing and cleaning and then hang your arse out of the window and it will be dry in a couple of seconds. The warm air, the tropical climate and humidity takes care of everything, just exercise some caution about exactly which window and which establishment you choose.

In less warm, positively cold, European climes things are very different. In bleak midwinter, which currently lasts until about August here in London, the last thing a fellow wants to do is to splash cold water on the old nether regions and face the world with brown icicles dangling from the backside. So we don't do it, we use paper and go for the whole dry method. It's not as effective, particularly in the event of an aggressive clingon or one of those ones that always leaves a tiny bit to be wiped. But it does take the climate into account.

I used to think it was a fallacy made up by white people about Asians wiping with their left and eating with their right hands but clearly I was wrong. I just assumed that everyone wiped with paper or only used water if they were unable to get or use paper. But from comments and other posts as well as conversation with people I have discovered that most Sri Lankans prefer the wash and go method.

Two of Sri Lanka's sexiest women even told me of their chosen method. I faced a dilemna in choosing whether to be turned on or slightly disgusted by their revelations but I made the right decision. I'm a man first and a sensitive new metrosexual type of chap second.

The question needs to be asked; what do you Sri Lankans, those who go for water and soap, do when you're overseas. Do you do as the Romans do and feel unclean or do you go for the Sri Lankan way and risk flooding your host's bathroom? These things need to be found out in the name of science and stuff.

Java mentions that Dutch people often use lesbians for wiping duties

"Some of the ‘tins’ leaked, so you would have to either act like the Dutch boy and the leaking dyke..."

I think this is a fundamental breach of Human rights and will sign any petition against it.

But, in the meantime Java and myself continue to work on our latest invention, the Rhythmic Jones Arsewiping Device. It's a built in arse washer that shoots a spurt of carefully heated water to the precise location. It's currently being trialled in Barefoot but not quite ready to market.

We have had some problems with overweight people. They can sit on the toilet and create a vacuum, resulting in the high pressure needed for proper cleaning to back up. Essentially this causes an explosion but somewhere further down the drainage system. Remember that big hole in the Galle Road? That was actually the result of trial toilet number 15 in Barefoot and a person with a bit too much of those lovely King Prawns. So, a word of advice. If your Body Mass Index is over 28 don't have a poo in Barefoot. If it's between 20 and 28 you'll be fine and clean too. Under 20 and you're likely to get blown away by the jet of lukewarm water.

Don't say you haven't been warned. We've just got a bit of fine tuning to do and it'll be fine.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Life In An Evening.

My name is Rhythmic and I like airports.

There, I've said it.

I've always liked them, maybe influenced by the fact I've lived most of my life so near to Heathrow, a flightpath is something that houses are built under as far as I'm concerned. There's something about airports, Heathrow in particular, that excites me.

There's something about most things that excites me. Just the thought of Colombo can make me feel like one of those dogs with its head out of a car window. Eyes wide open, tongue hanging out, heavy breathing, head turning in all directions looking at everything. That's me, far too frequently for my own good.

On Saturday night, such is my glamorous lifestyle, I was asked by my Dad to go to Heathrow to collect my cousin, who was flying in from Denmark. I checked my diary, there were no gigs, no rehearsals and no dates with Fergie (either the Man United one or the Black Eyed Peas one). I didn't mind much and headed off for Heathrow. At about this time most of you lot were probably partying at the Galle Face Hotel. I bet there were more Sri Lankans at Terminal 4 though.

I turned up at the terminal, one of my personal favourites. It's clean, modern and never too crowded. I wandered over to the arrivals area and went to the Costa Coffee or Starbucks or whatever it is there. The board indicated that the flight was roughly on time so I got my latte in and grabbed a seat. Costa Coffee is ok with me, but why they have that strange sizing system that no one understands I don't know. All the "skinny" and "grande" and the other one is a tad confusing. I long for the simple days, when we had small, medium and large, when Big Macs were good for us and KFC was called Kentucky Fried Chicken because that's what it sold.

There was a pleasant period of people watching to look forward to.

Do people become better looking at airports? This always amazes me, the ratio of good looking to uglies goes up considerably compared with the normal street ratio. Maybe it's because so many are in holiday outfits, maybe it's the mood they're in, relaxed, happy and smiling, whether arriving or departing. But there are definitely more sexy people per square foot at an airport than at the local shopping centre.

There I was, sipping my latte through the little hole on the lid of the cup, another confusing idea. If you don't get it lined up perfectly with your mouth the whole thing goes a bit messy and dribbly, so continual visual monitoring is a prerequisite.

I glanced up at the arrivals board and noticed that a Sri Lankan Airlines flight had just come in from Colombo, this set off a whole new wave of excitement in me and I looked around and settled in for a session of one of mine and my siblings' favourite games; spot the Sri Lankan. It's quite self explanatory, not quite as much fun when you're on your own but still good stuff.

There are always interesting people at airports and I went through so many different emotions as I watched them. I felt like you do when you wake up after a deliciously sexy dream, only to remember that this is the object of said dream, full of highs, lows and confusing thoughts.

As I watched young children waiting impatiently with one parent for the other to arrive I shared their excitement. Then, when the children caught just the tiniest glimpse of the parent and ran at full pelt towards them, to envelope them in hugs and kisses, I could share the joy of all of them. It's a good few years since my girls were that age but I can remember it vividly. These days they're far too cool for public displays of affection towards their old man, even if I am the coolest Dad in town!

I felt abundant happiness as I watched couples embrace and greet each other after being separated. There were those who wrapped each other in their arms and didn't want to let go, there were some who kissed on the cheeks and were clearly too self conscious for anything else and there were a few who were oblivious to anyone else around and acted out their favourite slightly soft porn film.

I saw grown up sons meeting their parents. There was one set that displayed an interesting battle of the stags between the father and the son. The son wanted to take control and steer his parents in the right direction, the father was having none of it and insisted on leading the way while pushing his own trolley. It was all done with smiles and laughter but still fascinating to observe.

The obligatory pack of boy scouts and girl guides returned from some place, coming back home so much closer than when they left, to be met by parents and siblings. There were twenty something types coming back from wherever with unusual and massive cases, containing who knows what, probably sporty things. Most of us waiting were peering at these oversized cases and guessing what they contained. I still haven't got a clue.

The cab drivers are an interesting bunch. Often they know each other, but only vaguely, so overheard conversations are slightly warmer than introductory ones but slightly colder than those between friends. Talk of the weather, the traffic, the last fare, that kind of stuff.

The funniest thing was the gay bloke from Miami. I don't know he was gay, nor do I know if he was from Miami. He might have been from San Francisco, maybe he was a raving heterosexual. Maybe Dominic will close the Barefoot garden because of lack of ambience, maybe I'll manage to get some half decent service at the Galle Face Hotel and maybe I'll suddenly start to hate rice and curry.

But, this bloke, the one who might not be gay, strolled out of the arrivals place. He was wearing a tank top with a T shirt underneath. His arms, chest and everything were built up like only a dedicated gym user could manage, that's a gym that does a big sideline in steroids too. Frankly his whole physique was that of a brick shithouse, one that had decided to do some training in order to win the brick shithouse olympics.

He was wearing jeans, the light blue, slightly faded type. He wore white loafers, with big gold buckles and he walked like, well like he had a vibrator stuck up his arse. There's just no other way to describe that whole "mincing" walk. Remember Dave Grohl as the air steward in the video for Learn to Fly. That was him. If he had walked normally and hadn't worn the white shoes I would have been scared of him. As it was I was close to laughing aloud at his campness. I wanted to go up to him and tell him that it's probably ok to dress like that in Miami but here in London it's not such a good idea.

He minced out, all attitude, hairspray and muscles and, on failing to find the person who was meeting him, minced off towards the exit, presumably to get a cab. I looked around, expecting to see a "meeter" running off into the distance hoping that he hadn't been spotted.

Then came the Sri Lankans. But, I'm going to tempt you, it warrants a whole separate post. The subject of watching Sri Lankans entering the country is a funny and poignant one and I'll cover it another time. Let's just say for now, that I've split them into four distinct categories.

The Danish cousin strolled out, after the Lankans, we did the manly greeting thing, went to the car park to pay the extortionate fee and I drove off, to drop at my parents' place, into the lion's den as it were.

I drove home, feeling like I'd experienced life in an evening.

In a way I had.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Arranged Marriage Anyone?

I read this post by T with a lot of interest. It's about arranged marriages, something I have changed my opinion on over the years. I like T's writing, I don't know her but I like the things she writes, she uses all the correct tools like commas. full stops, and verbs. Nice.

In fact, when she got to the bit about her ideal man I was tempted to send in my application until I saw this

"His popularity isn't as important as how he treats you, and nice hair isn't as important as the presence of hair".

I guess that rules me out then.

I digress though. The post is an interesting one as I used to share very similar opinions on arranged marriages. Being Asian and brought up in England means we see a variety of cultures and I was no exception. As a young adult I'd often see cousins having arranged marriages, some arranged more loosely than others. I observed friends and relatives in England and Sri Lanka having love marriages, arranged marriages and all other sorts. Not that there are any other sorts.

Then, over the years, I've watched these relationships develop and grow, I've seen many crumble too, the diversity has been interesting and unpredictable. I've seen some of the most strictly arranged marriages ever grow into strong and powerful relationships. From a pre marriage situation in which the couple have hardly met to a strong force to be reckoned with as a couple. On the other side I've seen "perfect" couples, seemingly madly in love, get married after living together for years and collapse in a heap of hatred and court battles.

Yet I used to pour scorn on arranged marriages. I used to think that there was no way they were right, that they were fundamentally wrong. As age has mellowed me acceptance of things I don't necessarily agree with has become a big thing in my life and my beliefs. It's the powerful thought that I don't have to either agree with everything or try to persuade everyone that my views are correct. It's ok for me to like Coke and you to like Pepsi, that sort of thing. Even if Pepsi does taste likes crap.

Now I marvel at many arranged marriages. Sure there are some who are unhappy and who are never going to be happy, but there are also many who are very happy, couples who grow into each other and become a couple, even though they weren't one when they actually got married. Where I think arranged marriages are fundamentally wrong is when they are imposed upon kids, against their will. When I hear stories of young girls forced to have marriages and to live a different life to that which they desire I can't see the sense, I can't understand why a parent would do that to a child.

I work just near Southall and have done for the last god knows many years. Many of the people I've worked with and for have been Indian and I've seen plenty of young people have arranged marriages. The modern way (here at least) is a half arranged and half love marriage. Often the couple know each other and have been dating for a while but the marriage is still technically arranged by their parents.

I've also witnessed people who have totally arranged marriages, in which they don't do much in the way of courting (I'm not sure I've ever used that word before!), yet they get to meet and sound each other out before they decide on the viability of a match. Then, if they get on they choose to pursue things a bit, commonly ending in marriage. It's all rather decent and rosy.

I wouldn't want either of my girls to have an arranged marriage though, no way. I still believe in choice and love and all that stuff, but I can accept arranged marriages as a concept that often works. The differences between Eastern and Western attitudes towards marriage intrigue me immensely. People in Asia often think of marriage more seriously than their European buddies do. Many Westerners approach marriage with a far more blase attitude, of "I can get divorced if it fails", whereas for many Easterners it really is a lifelong commitment.

Perhaps this means that the average arranged marriage can last longer than a love marriage. If the couple don't know each other then they'll have to spend a few years getting familiar, learning how to deal with each other's habits. If, as is the case with many westerners, the couple have lived together for some years, then there's less discovering to do after marriage. This can be both good and bad, it's good to know that your partner likes to listen to Slipknot every morning before she gets out of bed, but it's bad if you prefer a touch of Bryan Adams singing "summer of '69" every morning.

I'm far from naive about this whole thing too. There are so many potential pitfalls in arranged marriages, cases of intimidation and victimisation, of young women being forced to do things against their will. But there are also lots of successful and happy arranged marriages, there are lots of happy and blissful love marriages.

What's my conclusion?

Oh, I don't know, each to their own I guess.

If everyone's happy then everyone's happy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Blogging, Writing, Journalisiming and the like...

The virtual world is a rapid moving one isn't it? It's embraced by kids who are young enough to be my kids. It's full of incredibly fast moving concepts and constantly evolving ideas, rather brilliant in many ways, slightly crap in a few others.

So as a chap who's now been blogging for the eternity that is, yes, over a whole year, I feel like an old hand. I also feel like a young woman but that's a side issue.

I've noticed that there are all sorts, there's a liberal splattering of every type of person that blogs. There are blogs one every subject one can think of. There are probably blogs centred around people who don't blog. Ones like this, listed on Kottu and Achcharu are primarily Sri Lankan in origin or content, but you'd probably sussed that out yourself.

I started it as something to do, I'd read many of the Sri Lankan blogs for a few months and just had a desire to give it a go. I know you'll be amazed, surprised and startled at this but I had no previous writing experience. I hadn't written anything since English "O" level. Letters and stuff maybe but nothing that required a degree of imagination or creativity. I had particularly admired blogs that were written by journos like Sach, Theena and Lady Luck. I know the good Lady Luck isn't technically a journalist but she writes like one, a medical one who can diagnose stuff and do operations and things too.

I'm not a writer, it's simple for me. There are the proper journalists, as I've mentioned and then there are the amateurs, those of us who just play around, chucking a few words and a few sentences out every now and then and hoping someone reads them. I've got total admiration and respect for professional writers, as I have for professional musicians, photographers and such. These are people who make a living from their field, that means that they have to meet deadlines and they have to make enough money to put food on the table. That's if they've made the money to buy the table.

I've also observed many bloggers who think that they're "proper" writers because they get a big readership or a lot of comments. I reckon this is a delusion, one which feeds egos but doesn't do any favours to the real writers. It's like being a prostitute, just without the sex or the money. We write crap, our thoughts on any random subject we want to. We don't rely on readership or potential readership to have to get it published, we just hit the "publish post" icon and it's that simple. Then people read it.

Up until a couple of weeks ago the whole blogging versus proper writing scenario was that clear in my mind. Then the whole Lakbimagate thing happened. All my nice thick black lines went fuzzy and blurred as the boundaries between professional and amateur went a bit mad. Something I had written in this blog got published in a magazine and I read it with disbelief. I read things written on their blogs by real writers like Pradeep Jeganathan and my head went all funny as I started to question the foundations of my principles.

I'm not a writer, I blog to fill some time when I'm at my desk. I find it interesting and I've made a lot of friends through it, but it's just a minor part of me. Coves like Pradeep Jeganathan and Sach are professional writers and they earn money from it. Now I read people saying that blogging might be changing the shape of the mass media, that it's a new way of publishing.

Wow. Journalists have blogs, bloggers write for newspapers, editors use blog posts in their newspapers and folks like us read them all. If I want to know about a recent event in Sri Lanka my second port of call is now the Sri Lankan blogosphere. My first is personal contact; phone, text, email or whatever with friends. But then I'll check on Achcharu or Kottu or look at my regularly read blogs to see who's saying what. The next day I might have a brief look at the Sri lankan papers online to see what they're saying. Only eighteen months ago the online papers would have been my number two. Now they're barely in the chart.

There are positives and negatives in this for me. A touch of discomfort when I read some blogs and realise that the writer actually thinks of themselves as a writer, but in fact they can hardly construct a sentence. Maybe I'm a snob like that, JK Rowling doesn't need to know the intricacies of grammar to be called a writer after all. But I think of the rules as building blocks and I know that proper writers have those blocks in place.

The positives loom large for me. Any idiot can have an idea or a story to tell and someone somewhere might read it. It doesn't matter if you don't know the difference between a colon and a vagina or if you talk in txtspk, someone will find it and read it. There's a whole wealth of good information that can be gleaned from blogs, there's some great writing too. Witty stuff and shitty stuff, it's all out there if you want it.

How good is that?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Arse Wipe

Sometimes a good headline is important. This is one of those times, because this post is exactly about the title. I know you thought this post was going to be about him again, but it's not. Yes, this really is about arse wiping, or more specifically how you wipe your bum, or even how I wipe mine.

This sort of subject is probably not going to get much in the way of comments, nor is it likely to be used in a Sunday newspaper as light reading matter, to be perused over crab curry at Sunday lunch, but it's still important and relevant. I have a feeling that there's a few Sunday newspapers that may be used for arse wiping this weekend, but that's another matter.

Poo is a subject we all find fascinating, of that there is little doubt, we just don't often talk about it except with close friends. Well we're all pretty close around here so that's ok then, let's talk.

My best friend P, popped in the other day. When he left he mentioned that he had left some "wipes" up in the toilet, or by the toilet. He then went off on a diatribe on the benefits of bum wiping with a wet wipe after a poo. Frankly I thought this was a bit gay, possibly effective but still a bit gay and a bit metrosexual. But P is a convert to the whole process, he raved about how fresh and clean one feels after the experience and how generally marvellous it is.

I remained as cynical as Sach would be about this whole thing and the next day I went to work, as is common in my life. I trawled through my emails in the morning, filtering out the usual batch of stuff trying to sell me viagra and overseas property and the ones giving me tips on dodgy looking shares. Among the emails left was one from academic bro. He asked me the usual brotherly stuff that little brothers always do and then asked if I had got the "arse wiping pads" he had mentioned a few weeks ago.

This freaked me out, academic bro and P aren't in contact and there was no conspiracy going on, just pure coincidence. Alanis would have considered it ironic, but may well have struggled to fit the whole "two people talking about arse wiping with baby wipes in twelve hours" line into the song. But I know it wasn't ironic, just weird.

All of a sudden, after forty years of conventional bum wiping, I was faced with the possibility of a new way, a new path of cleanliness and freshness that actually excited me a bit. P and academic bro, both raving about this discovery was too much for me. I had to "cough, cough" experiment.

So evening came and I ventured home. Like many men I'm one who is keen on dropping a log in my home ground. A bit like Manchester City last season I always feel that I won't score when playing away, whereas at home I can hit the back of the net quite easily. I have heard stories of chaps who travel home at lunchtime everyday just so that they can poo. I'm not that bad but I can understand these fellows.

I sat on the throne and did my stuff. Then, when the paperwork needed to be done, I gazed at the pack of wet wipes that P had left there. In my head I could hear his voice as he uttered words of praise about the wet wipe system, I remembered what academic bro had said about it. The fact is that I hadn't done a ghost.

You know what ghost is don't you? I'll just explain the terminology; a ghost is one of those poos that rushes out of your bum in one clean piece. There's no breaking involved, no mess and no discomfort. It's the perfect poo, made just a bit more perfect because, when you go to wipe your bum, there's no trace of the poo at all. Nothing at all on the toilet paper. Usually you know that there'll be no trace but you do one wipe just to make sure.

There have been studies done by poologists and I understand that statistics show men do a ghost every 63.7 days, roughly. Women, as we all know, just don't poo.

But this time I knew a ghost hadn't been present. I knew that this was going to be a bit of a clingon, a term that no one needs an explanation about. P had given me some good instructions on the use of the wipes. He told me that it was important to use normal paper and the wet wipes, not to just use the wet ones on their own. This would leave you clean but wet. Obvious to many, not to me. He also told me that it wasn't good to start the first stroke with a wet wipe as this can cause smearing, particularly in the case of a slightly aggressive clingon.

I got to work. First there was some dry work, then a couple of wet wipes hit the scene. What can I say? Fanfuckingtastic is the only accurate word. I finished off with another dry wipe, just to remove the excess moisture, and carried on with my evening, of course not forgetting to wash my hands. The whole wet wipe experience was a total revelation. A sparkling feeling of cleanliness enveloped my entire pantsical region. If there was a film crew around filming an advert I know that there would have been a ring of confidence, probably a minty one, around my ring.

And I'm left with a feeling of frustration, one of puzzlement. Currently there is an almost full pack of these wipes in my toilet, I'm free to use them whenever I want, I'm sure that no one will ever find out, unless I told a load of people by way of a blog or something. But, when the pack runs out the million dollar question, the burning issue so to speak, is whether I go out and buy some more or if I go back to my previous work method.

I feel as though I've discovered a brilliant new way of living, a marvellous way to do my paperwork and a message I want to pass on. I'm just not fully sure yet. Will I continue on this journey or will I go back to the old dry wiping? Time will tell, maybe I will too.

Next week we'll talk more about ghosts, clingons and Sri Lankan arse wiping methods versus English procedures. There's a whole world out there!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Monday, Monday, all is exciting.

This week I am mostly excited about:

1. Practicing drums - I've got my practice kit back. I've got ideas coming out of my little ideas hole and more creativity than a real musician, one what writes songs and things. With no gigs for either band until September this means I can get some good quality practice done, I can work on some new fills and generally practice stuff that I've let slip for the last few months. Cool.

2. Lakbimagate stuff - Their site has been down. Has he done it again? Did he get permission from the writers or is it a false alarm anyway? Was I wrong to give Rajpal the benefit of the doubt. By then end of the week I have a feeling I'll know.

3. Summertime - We're not big on it here in England but it looks like it might be here. I swear I saw the sun yesterday, it was hiding behind a cloud but it looks like it may just come out to play.

4. Colombo - There's just something about her.

5. New ways of thinking - I've learnt some very powerful tips in recent months, about thinking and attitude, feelings and the mind. Generally very deep things that I never really thought would interest me. They have and I've been applying and using many of them. Some are crap, some are great. The great ones are lifechangingly great.

That's about it. There's a lot to be going on with.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Music and Sri Lankans

The older I get, the more reflective I get. I spend time thinking about things and analysing the various aspects in my life, in my head and in those of the people who I love.

And one of the things I've come to accept, with a great deal of pleasure, is that music, with an emphasis on drum and drumming, is a thread that is about the width of an Autobahn, that runs constantly through my life.


Is music more important to the average Sri Lankan than to others?

I ask this because I've observed that I was brought up in an environment brimming with music. My musical cup overfloweth as it were, there were notes, chords and grooves dropping all over the floor. Occasionally I picked one up.

My parents have music as a thread in their lives. They're constantly listening to the stuff. If you were to pop round to their house now you would be sure to walk in, after you'd successfully explained that I had sent you, that I have a blog which they don't know about and that you're not a criminal, and you'd hear music blasting out. It could be anything from Chaka Demus and Pliers with that "Tease me" song, which they love, to the Ray Brown Trio playing its totally sublime version of Summertime with Jeff Hamilton on drums. Java, Theena if you haven't heard it please check it out, it's rather beautiful.

One of the many things I love about Sri Lanka is the street noise. You know the way you can be in the hills up country and you'll still hear that buzz, that constant blur of sound. One of my favourite places to stay in Kandy is the Hilltop Hotel. It's not a 5 star place, I'm not sure how many stars it has but it certainly has an atmosphere. I usually get a good night's sleep there, but get woken at some god awful early hour by the sound of the trains coming into the station, just opposite the hotel. Why they built that station so close to the hotel I'll never know.

From that point of waking I'll often lie in bed listening to the general hubbub of Kandy; the trains, the announcements at the station, the car horns horning incessantly, the rumble of traffic and all the various animal sounds from further up hill too. It's as if they are all combined to make some sort of symphony. Silence may be golden but this is frankincense, or maybe even Jean Paul Gaultier, it's that good.

Here in England we're used to silence. No horns, no diesel rumble, no animals and definitely no tannoy announcements in Sinhalese. Unless you're in Wembley of course. Or Tooting or Southall. We've got things you know, mad things like legislation about noise. Vehicles have to have silencers, there are laws about music at night and monkeys and certain other animals are banned in many areas.

There's hardly ever an occasion when I would prefer the option of silence to one of music. As a teenager I remember that I used to do my homework with music on, or rather not do my homework. But I could never concentrate with silence blasting out in the background. Even on days when I get a migraine, something that happens very infrequently as I've got older, I drive home heading to my bed with music on, just turned down a bit.

And I've noticed that music looks like a thread that not only runs through my life but also through many a Sri Lankan's life. There are so many Sri Lankans I know who share the attitude and feelings about sound. It's a constant soundtrack to their life too, they always have a CD on at home, a radio on in the car or a tune in their head.

What do you reckon? Is it a Sri Lankan characteristic or is it just the type of people I know?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More on Lakbimagate

Prior to last weekend I hadn't even heard of Lakbima. As I live in London that may not surprise you, perhaps you folks that live in Sri Lanka were much more aware of it than I was.

However,this Sunday I'll be reading it online with interest, to see whether there's going to be any reference to the recent events, the bad mouthing, the threats of legal action, the alleged plagiarism and the lack of courtesy. I've even heard a rumour that this Rajpal chap is being blamed for roughly 79% of the energy wasted on Planet Earth.

You know what?

I think many have overreacted to the fiasco, but I understand why. Even though we all have blogs and they, by definition, are out in the public domain and available to all, we all feel protective and possessive over our little pieces of us that we chuck out into cyberspace.

We've made friends through our blogs, we've had arguments with people, we've learned things and had new experiences as a direct result of blogging. Some people look at blogs and bloggers with a bit of scorn, I prefer to take the view that there are all kinds who blog, including geeky twats.

So, even though some blogs get huge readerships and are freely accessible to all, I can understand why people get very angry if they feel that someone has used their blog for their own benefit without first asking permission. I can particularly understand this when the "victim" is a journalist or someone involved in communications, like Theena It would be like someone deciding to busk outside a venue where I was playing a gig.

I received a response from Mr Lakbima after I published my first post on the matter. We communicated via email on the issue for a while and I have been happy to give hiom the benefit of the doubt. I still feel that his actions were wrong, I have told him that but also accepted most of his reasoning. Many will disagree with my actions but that is their right.

For me blogging is something I do for some fun. The fact that someone liked something I had written enough to put it in a magazine is a genuine thrill, it would have been more thrilling if I had got the credit for it, or a link or something. The sure thing for me is that it's not about money, just a bit of kudos. I believe that, should I write anything that the paper wants to publish in the future, any mistakes that were made last week won't be repeated. I remain open minded on this, but I'm prepared to wait and see.

While pondering on the whole thing last night something did occur to me, something I'm surprised hasn't already been mentioned. This whole fiasco has been plastered all over the Sri Lankan blogosphere. From this eloquent and objective looking post on Groundviews to Cerno's posts to Voice in Colombo's well written post here everyone's at it. I've had, and continue to have, my say on it too.

Here's my pondering; if I was the owner / publisher of a new newspaper and I wanted to generate some hot publicity, to get a bit of a buzz going and to create some awareness of my new venture, what better way would there be?

Ask my editor to do something a bit risque. Engage most of the Sri Lankan bloggers, who between them all reach a fairly large readership, anger a few of them, get a few on side, create a huge load of awareness, all by doing something that merely pushes some boundaries without being strictly illegal.

Then, if I were really smart I'd print a big public apology in my next issue. I'd acknowledge my errors, I'd grovel and I'd do everything properly in the future.

And I'd have a load of potentially good writers to use and a load more readers and awareness.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Teenagers scare the living shit out of me!

According to my thirteen year old her eleven year old sister is going through an emo phase. I'm not entirely sure what an emo is. I understand that it's something to do with being emotional, hence the "emo" bit, I know that there is a cartoon up at one of the studios I rehearse at and it says

"I wish my lawn was an emo, then it would cut itself"

So I figure that there's gardening involved and I know that there's some black in there too.

The other night I took the eleven year old to a school concert in which she was playing violin. I am blessed in that both of my girls have a level of musical ability; the eleven year old plays piano and violin and her sister plays the drums. The journey involved taking the eldest to a friend's house and then taking her sibling to the concert and sitting through two hours of pain.

As we headed to the car the youngest said

"Baggsie I have the front seat" and ran towards the car, promptly jumping into the seat and claiming ownership rights. Her sister scowled in that teenager's way. Groans of dismay came from her general direction, she's not quite old enough to not be bothered and was evidently a bit narked that she had the back seat.

Recently it's dawned on me that the reason they fight and run and baggsie to get the front seat is not actually for the pleasure of sitting next to their Dad. It's not because they want to share fun and laughter and bonding moments with me. It's not that they want to see my face as I smile at their company. No, it's because the one in the front can control the music we listen to. We get in the car, I start the engine, put on my sunglasses and before I've even had time to check my hair in the mirror and put the car in gear one of the kids has started to play with the stereo.

Back to the other night though. We jumped aboard and the 11 year old had the pilot's seat. A small fight broke out between the sisters, one that I felt quite good about; would we listen to Muse's CD or My Chemical Romance's? All good stuff, even though I know many will be dismayed and disappointed at my liking of MCR's CD. I'm slightly unsure whether the album is a mini masterpiece or a piece of commercialised manufactured radio friendly pop rock. But, at the moment I like it, just with a few reservations. The 11 year old however, is totally into it, so much so that it has been blasting out of any speaker anywhere near her for the last week or so.

They fought a bit, 13 year old complaining that all she had heard that week was MCR and therefore could we listen to Muse. I pulled rank, it happens, just infrequently, and said that we shoud listen to MCR.

Off we went, listening to "Teenagers". It's a kind of tacky yet anthemic song with a singalong chorus that goes

"teenagers scare the living shit out of me.."

And, as we drove along the road with the three of us singing along at full volume to the chorus and music blasting out, I knew exactly why the chap in MCR feels so scared about teenagers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Some Musical Weeks

The last five weeks have been the most gig intensive weeks I've had.

There's been two gigs with the new covers band, the first two ever, and also three Mimosa gigs, one of which was recorded, not to forget Muse at Wembley stadium. As my daughters would say; cool.

Last Tuesday night was the last one for a little while as the summer season approaches and there isn't anything in either of the band diaries until September. I mean the last gig, not the last Tuesday. There'll be normal practices so hopefully some new things to learn and there may be a new sax player in Mimosa so plenty of work to be done there too.

If you haven't picked this up already then I'll let you into a secret; I love knowledge. I love to learn and try to gain new knowledge from most things I experience. Sometimes knowledge can be garnered from seeing people do things wrongly. There are so many things I've picked up from watching a situation and realising that I could improve upon it by doing things differently. Often they are situations in which I have looked at my own behaviour and decided to improve it for next time.

So, the last five weeks has been great fun and also a massive musical learning experience.

Here are just some of the things I learned:

1. Music is my thing. It turns me on and it fires me up.

2. There are hardly any things I can imagine that would be more enjoyable than playing your own songs to an enthusiastic audience.

3. I'm missing my practice kit.

4. Mistakes in a gig are normal and good as long as you befriend them, embrace them and smile.

5. Playing covers is so different to playing originals. A good covers gig can feel a bit like coming back from Thailand and boasting about the number of attractive women that chatted you up. A bad originals gig can give the satisfaction that I would get if I had been turned down by Jennifer Aniston and Britney on the same night. Sort of.

6. Having big ears is one of the most important qualities in a great musician. Like Noddy. Although I can't quite understand why there aren't more elephant bands, particularly African elephant bands.

7. I really don't like those Franz Ferdinand songs.

8. When I grow up I want to be famous.

9. I don't think I'll grow up.

Latest Lakbima News

I've published the following comment on the appropriate post anyway but I feel that is also warrants a post in its own right. It's one that I received this morning and, if you're at all affected or bothered by recent events, then worth a read:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Am I Bothered?":

Hi Mr Rhythmic etc., (others)
First thing, we tried to contact you, but it’s not possible in most of the blogs. We did contact some of the others though, who left contact e mails.
You bloggers know that you are anonymous.
We'd like to publish the stuff you write, of course, more of it! Profuse apologies, but the reason was that we here were unable to contact you guys was your anonymity.
Maybe a post would have helped; but didn't think about the exact efficacy of that. because we did post at some sites, with our contactsw, and nobody bothered to reply!
But then, it would have been difficult to give our contacts to you that way..
Anyway we like the comment that this is a tribute to Sri Lankan bloggers. If your stuff is good we’d like to publish -- it’s in the public domain too. So I think you should have a positive take on it.
It’s not as if any stuff was published without credits.
Anyway, we’d like to publish more of your stuff; and as you may have noticed, 90 per cent of our still is NOT from blogsites, so its just that we'd like to use SOME good stuff that comes from blogs that are of relevance to Sri Lanka..
We'd also like to pay you -- for anything published in the future, as well as what was published. We don't pay enormously, but we pay reasonable rates.
So please write to us at, and we would like to get the payment across to you, if you furnish an address.
In the meanwhile, we'd like to use some more of the blogs -- and we hope you can send some of your other material on the e mail so that we can publish it..
Many of the boggers we published -- including some such as Mr Fazli Sameer have got on board, and we hope you do that too. They write EXCELLENT stuff, and were not so harried. We don’t expect the same reaction from everyone, but then we are trying to set the record straight here.
We would have liked to get you on board at the very outset, except that your contacts were not available. At least, they were not available at our scrutiny; maybe they were available somewhere.

Thanks then, and so here is to the blogosphre -- and here is to the mainstream!! We'd publish more, I hope you can write to us at our e mail and we'll use more of yours, and pay you as well.
Thanks and no offence,

‘Mr Lakbima’
those at Lakbimanews.

PS: And to that other person who said we may publish without the credit sometime, we don’t want to dignify that with a comment.

My thoughts on it are quite straightforward. I did send an email and I did get a reply and I think it's genuine. Regardless of what may have occurred with other blogs and posts in the past I am happy to accept the words and explanation in good faith.

As Cerno mentioned and suggested it does look as if they are trying to get Sri Lankan bloggers on board and I'm going to venture on board and have a look around. I shan't be giving up the day job just yet though!

That may well be the end of the matter.

Oh, please don't tell my Mum about this either.

Monday, July 9, 2007

So Is This Irony Then??

Ever since Alanis Morissette did "Ironic" and comedians did sketches and people laughed at her incorrect use of the word I've had problems with the whole concept of irony. I just don't really understand what it is. I've looked it up in dictionaries, I've had writers try to explain it to me and they've got me more confused.

I know what it isn't. It's not getting stuck in traffic on your wedding day. Unless you're a town planner. It's not when you get jammed in a door because you're too fat, unless you're rushing to a weightwatchers meeting and it's not when it rains on a summer's day. They're all just bad luck.

Our Alanis sings about getting a black fly in your Chardonnay. Well even I know that's not ironic, particularly if you live in Sri Lanka where it would be normal. Maybe if you were a pest controller who specialised in wines and spirits it might rank fairly high up in Achcharu's most ironic situations for the week.

In general I'm clueless about this whole irony concept. If I was a bloke who wrote dictionaries then I think that might be ironic, but frankly I'm not sure. Well I'm sure I don't write dictionaries.

One thing I'm totally certain about though is that the following is ironic:

I've never had a single thing published in my life. I did win first prize in the Petersham Flower show's art and craft section once, but you know me, I don't like to brag. Like Cerno, Java and a couple of others I was the "victim" of a bit of journalistic stretching. My post on Sri Lankan Mothers was copied and pasted and put into that Lakbima magazine. I'm a bit chuffed that it was used even though I wasn't asked.

The irony?

I'd quite like to tell my parents that I've had something published. When I hit my forties they pretty much gave up any hope they had of me achieving any sort of success. Academic bro has things published left, right and centre, just google "academic bro" and you'll see what I mean. But me, well writing's never really been my thing. So now I've written something that someone likes, all about Sri Lankan mothers and I dare not tell my parents because my Sri Lankan Mother will quite probably kill me.

That's got to be irony no?

Am I Bothered?

I don't know about this one. It seems both Cerno and myself have experienced some form of something. What exactly it is I don't know.

Cerno has bunged a post out about it here.

I also must thank the anonymous tipster who let me know what had happened. It appears that Lakbima, has published a blog post I wrote about Sri Lankan mothers in its magazine section here. I haven't studied it in detail but it looks like it's a total copy and paste. It also decided to take one of Cerno's post and do the same here.

Neither of us were asked or even informed about it beforehand.

On one hand I'm quite chuffed about the whole "being published" thing. When I was about 10 I won first prize in the Petersham Flower show's art and craft section for my balsa wood model of a ship. There were only two entries in the category, mine and my best friend Greg Walker's. He did a balsa wood model of a ship too. But he tried to paint his and I left mine plain untreated. I cunningly observed him attempt the paint job and realised that, by not painting mine, I'd do less work and it would look neater.

The plan was good. I won first prize, he won second prize.

But, since then my level of success in terms of competitive creativity has been zero. Greg Walker has probably won Oscars and stuff, we lost touch so I don't know, but nothing haas happened to me until this Lakbima published my post. So it's quite nice.

But I'd never heard of Lakbima and must confess that I first thought it was a Sri Lankan BMW fanzine. It's not, as you may be aware. And it's only "quite" nice that they nicked my little piece of writing.

In a flash of brilliance that only a publication that would stoop so low would exhibit they've called me "Ryythmic Diaspora" but then continue to print the whole post with the name "Rhythmic Diaspora" in palce where they've merely copied my own text. I find this amazing and pathetic. Whoever is responsible put in so little effort that they couldn't even be bothered to check such a simple detail.

There is a reference later in my post to "Cinimod", which is only relevant to a few people, yet the paper, or magazine, still went ahead abd published that. Poor performance.

I've never bothered to get involved in copyrighting and all that creative commons business that I see other bloggers getting involved with. Instead I took the attitude that if anyone wanted to publish anything I'd written, well firstly they'd be desperate and secondly that all they had to do was ask and I'd be delighted. Naively I did think that they'd ask.

Oh well.

Mr Lakbima, thanks for liking what I wrote, thanks for publishing it. Please ask me next time. It seems from the comments on Cerno's post that it's not the first time you have done this. You obviously read many of the Sri Lankan blogs and I'd love to know what you have to say about it.

Addition - It appears that it's not just myself and Cerno, there's a post by Java on Bevis Bawa that's been used too!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Dave Grohl and The Food Writers

I spent a lot of yesterday watching the Live Earth concert, particularly the coverage from Wembley Stadium. I reckon many of us Londoners are suffering from overexposure to big Wembley "occasion" gigs, what with the Diana one last week and this one this week.

The thing with the one yesterday was that it failed to deliver a message. I say that and I assume that there was a message that was meant to be delivered, possibly a big and incorrect assumption. I hope it has helped in increasing awareness about global warming and that it does do some good, my feeling is that it's too wishy washy, too general and should have been more focussed on a specific point, one like "try to walk to work one day a week" or something. Of course that may only be a good idea for people who don't do that already, not people who currently do it for five days a week.

Dave and the Foo Fighters were as stonking as ever. But they are definitely a hard band to watch live when sitting with parents, unless you're one of my daughters.

"Who are these Rhythmic?" said my Mum as the opening chords to "All my Life" blasted out, the whole of Wembley stadium started to go wild and I got seriously excited at seeing two of my favourite drummers in the world playing for the same band.

"The Foo Fighters Mum" I said. I knew I was in for some adventure now.

"Who?" she said. I repeated the answer, as it was still them.

"Who, the Food Writers?" she asked.

"No Mum, the Foo Fighters" I said, as I chuckled at the thought of Delia Smith, Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver forming a band.

"The Food Fighters?" she said.

"No, THE FOO FIGHTERS" I was on the verge of shouting, just on that cusp where you can go either way and I often do.

She heard me, made some motherly noises about the stupidity of that band's name, then we carried on watching. My Dad made continual remarks along the lines of "What happened to music?" along with lots of scornful sniffs and sarcastic laughs at Dave's voice. I didn't get involved, it wasn't worth it. Besides I was also too engrossed in the great Mr Hawkins' drumming. Theena, if Led Zep do reform I think he's the man for the job, either him or the singer chap in the Foos.

But, there was one important aspect to the day, an important debate and one which I'll keep thinking on.

The battle of the arses.

There was Shakira. Very tight, with some fine muscular defintion. She's got some movement in her too. I think it's important to acknowledge that Shakira is more than just breasts and bum though. Yes, that stomach is a bit special too. Like many men I was at first dissapointed to see that there was no revealing costume, no flesh on show. But, within seconds of appearing on stage looking like some kind of Sunday school teacher, Shak had hoisted up her T shirt to show a tummy that many a 14 year old will be fantasising about for a good few years.

Also we had a fine show from the Pussycat Dolls. There were high heels, busts thrust everywhere and tight lycra all over the show as they danced their way on stage to deliver their serious message about global warming. They were interviewed by Jonathan Ross later and he asked them if they were helping global warming by cutting back on hairspray. They thought he was serious, I laughed, then felt a bit of sympathy when I remembered that they don't have sarcasm in the US. Sting doing politics and eco stuff is one thing, we can look at him with a serious face. The Pussycat Dolls is a different matter.

Then came Madge. Watching her these days is like being called into the office for a bollocking from the female boss that you fancy like mad. Kind of weird.

Legendary? Yes. Sexy? Definitely. Would I let her sleep with me? Mmmm.. I'm not sure at all. In her black dress and slightly dressy shoes she looked like someone's Mum, not that woman who did all that stuff with breasts and stuff. When she did "Ray of Light" and played guitar throughout it she looked like a cleaning lady dressed up to go to a dance and caught playing air guitar on the way out of the house. Just not right, just uncomfortable. But, when she did that La Isla Bonita, with the fake gypsies, it was more like the old Madonna. Of course we all knew they weren't real gypsies. They didn't crap in the corner of the car park.

By the time she finished that song and went into that next one, "Hung up" things were better. She can call me into the office for a strict telling off in that state anyday.

The easy winner for me was Fergie.

I didn't see the performance much but I did see Fergie, she was great. There's a dirty sexiness to her that will do nicely. The sort of woman that oozes sexuality and demands looks. She gets those looks too. Easily number one for me.

And she can sing.

PS - Don't leave your TV on standby tonight.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Smoking Related Stuff

I went on an Allen Carr course to stop smoking some weeks ago. I knew it would work and it did. It may sound strange to you but I knew it would work because it had worked for me nearly three years ago when I went on the same course. That day I sat in a room with about fifteen other people. We spent five hours listening to a very nice lady talk to us about smoking. There was no mumbo jumbo, no strange stuff, no scare tactics, just what seemed like a normal presentation about smoking, and we smoked throughout it.

Then, at the end I had my last cigarette. I walked out of there and didn't smoke for over two years, not a drag, not a puff. In a weak moment a few months ago I succumbed and, within a matter of weeks, I was back on twenty a day. I decided almost immediately that I didn't want to be a smoker again and that I'd go back on another Allen Carr clinic to stop.

This post is not to persuade you to stop smoking, particularly if you don't smoke. It's not to advertise my chosen method of stopping either. It's merely to pass on a thing that I got from it, a powerful thing, one that I know I'll keep with me.

It goes like this. One of the key points to this method is about time frames. Often when people "give up" smoking, a term I use loosely, they count the minutes, the days, the weeks and, well you know the rest. I've done it before and I know of so many people who have taken the same approach. It the one where we set ourselves a target. We say "If I can last a week then I'll be almost there".

Then, after the week, we try to "last" a month, then a year and on we go. So ultimately we never feel as if we've stopped smoking. We just keep waiting for a magical moment at which we can declare ourselves to be a non smoker. And that moment only arrives when we die, which may be a bit too long to wait for many of us. When we're lying there on our death bed the last thing we're going to be thinking of is getting a pat on the back from someone for not smoking all that time.

We were told that we should avoid this trap by changing our mindset. We should leave the course and have the mentality of a non smoker. Think and believe that we don't smoke, rather than fretting about lasting a day or an hour without a fag.

It's such a powerful way to think that I have applied it to other things in my life too. Target and objective setting are important aspects of my life, I rarely have a day in which I'm not aiming for something. But I also must enjoy the now, the moment. To do that I still work at achieving targets but I try to enjoy that work. If it's drum practice then I treat it as a pleasure, which is pretty easy for me. I don't have band practices that I don't want to go to anymore. I make sure that I enjoy them.

For the record the stopping smoking clinic was on May 17th. There were no patches, no gum or no nicotine substitutes involved whatsoever. I had a couple of days in which I experienced some mild pangs of withdrawal symptoms. That was it. I left there as a non smoker.

I'm happy about that.

Sexy Apple Love

It's about two months since I got me an Apple MacBook thing, in black. Before I got it I had heard stories, urban myths I thought, about how folks can fall in love with their Apple computers, how they often feel as if they're emotionally attached to them and become irrational and often illogical.

Rubbish and piffle, I thought. A computer is a computer, nothing more and nothing less, a machine for doing work with. Like a clock or a video recorder.

And here I am. Playing on the iPod in the background is Neil Diamond's greatest hits. It's not relevant but I just wanted to set the scene for you. I'm lying in bed, enjoying a bit of "song sung blue" and feeling myself fall even more for this MacBook. Weird stuff.

I'm converted and I don't know how it happened or at what point my feelings took over my logic.. At work I've got a desktop PC. It's merely a machine. Several people at work have got PC laptops and they're portable machines, good at their jobs but just machines. I bought the MacBook because I needed a laptop and it was trendy. Sadly there wasn't a vast amount of research that went into my buying decision. I hung around my local Apple Store for a few Saturdays and asked some questions to the nice chaps there. Their helpfulness and good service were definitely big inflencers in my decision.

But it was purely a combination of looks and perception that made me buy it. I hadn't done all the geeky stuff, it was just that I got seduced by the people that love their own Macs. I was talking to some friends the other day. We discussed our Apples and there was a shared attitude. It was the belief that we didn't analyse our laptops throuhg objective measurements. We don't make lists of features and benefits and weigh one list up against the other. That's what PC users do, they look at things objectively and they make balanced decisions.

Pah! is all I've got to say to that. We've got our sexy MacBooks based on stuff that goes on in our heart, not our brain. So I got an extra litre of RAM or something put in, that was only because I had a hunch that it might be helpful, not because I had the faintest idea that it would help me process spreadsheets at 450 mph instead of the usual 425 mph that most people would have to make do with.

As the weeks have passed and I've messed around with it I just find it even more sexy and even more lovely. I catch myself staring at its form and cleaning the beauty every week with the special, vastly overpriced cloth and spray that I bought for it. I pull the mains lead out of its socket every now and again to stare with wonder at the simplistic genius of the magnetic design.

I marvel at its slimness and compactness, yet know that I could have bought a Sony Vaio (how the hell is that pronounced?) which would still have been smaller.

I looked at my brother's PC laptop the other day and thought it looked cumbersome and clumsy. There were lights and unnecessary buttons all over it. It's a huge big thing that probably functions very well, in the way a bus can still get a fellow from A to B, but I'd prefer to drive a Ferrari.

The Apple software is intuitive in a way that most windows stuff can only dream about but, as a fellow coming from years of windows useage, it's still easy to use. There are touches like the Dock, so simple and so obvious I'm flabbergasted no one has thought of them before. That's great design for you. I like good design. I don't know what it is, I'm not one of these people who can do it, but I know it when I come across it.

I've realised that, for me at least, great design hits me in the heart and touches my feelings. It makes me feel good without having to think about it. It also has to work, there's no point in a thing that looks good but is as useful as a one legged man at an arse kicking party.

Looks, functionality, great service and other people's feelings.

Easy and simple.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

You've Got To Laugh

Last night was a Mimosa gig night, the third one in a few weeks. What a night, and I mean that in an unusual way.

The gig was in a bar in Bracknell, one of our regular venues, in fact the first one we ever played. But we only knew about the gig last week and so had little chance to generate a crowd. The originals band scene here is all about bringing your own audience. We're usually paid according to how many people come to watch us and passing trade isn't usually much for a band that doesn't play well known songs (Summer of '69, Have you ever seen the rain? etc). So what little money we get is almost always from the amount that our friends and family spend anyway.

The gig last night was one that we shared with a blues band called EWB. They're friends of ours now, we've done two gigs in the last weeks with them and this was one that we asked them to play as support. They're a great set of blokes and their drummer is one of the best players I've seen for a while. Their music is nothing likes ours, we're smooth sounding and funky (in theory) and they're quite raw and bluesey.

We'd all turned up, soundchecked and done our messing around when the time came for EWB to play. There was something missing that became apparent to all of us, even to myself and Jim, the other drummer. The missing element was an audience. The crowd consisted of Mimosa and two other blokes. I calculated that this was slightly less than normal but it was a Tuesday night and it was pouring with rain and we were in Bracknell.

Oh well, the guys played, us musos often just love to play, whether it's to ourselves or to a massive audience. They really are an enjoyable band to watch if you like some blues, which I do. I had an inspirational time watching Jim play the drums. I often find that I can watch someone like that and be motivated to improve my own playing and this was no exception. His groove was nice but it was his fills that really caught my attention. Mostly triplet and shuffle based but very musical and each one felt good for the song. There was no overplaying and he complemented the songs brilliantly.

He's also a very nice and humble bloke. Very abundant about his playing, happy to share knowledge and tips and he even paid me a compliment or two. Drummers are usually like that, we're more of a brotherhood than many other musicians are, but I've still met a few who are great players but very far up their own arses. He's a chap I'd like to become friends with and also learn from. Cool.

They finished their set and we got up to play; the headline act, the main event. We had had some fairly heated discussions about the set list earlier, a bit of disagreement about which songs to play, healthy debate but debate nonetheless. It was all pointless though. We are a seven piece band, a highly tuned machine in many ways except in tuning.

There were six people in the audience. And that included Debby's (the singer) Dad and three of the blokes from the other band. It wasn't quite Muse at Wembley stadium. There we were, seven of us on a cramped and squashed up stage and our "crowd" was sitting there in this relatively huge area with all the space in the world.

We cracked on and treated it as a fun and good band practice. i.e we all made a shitload of mistakes. I found it a big test of concentration to play a gig to what was not actually an audience as such. I've honestly had band practices where we have had more people watching and this was something new. I had no fear, no worries about making mistakes and no apprehension about being perfect. I'm not sure that was a good thing either. I don't want to play any gigs in which I'm too nervous or too fearful, but a bit of the stuff is good. Just enough to keep the adrenalin going and to concentrate on my performance.

We soldiered on. The set got shortened as we all began to think of going home. By the time we got to the last song there were ten people watching, four more had turned up after hearing us from outside. Each of them bought one of our cds too. Before the last song Debby introduced the band to the audience. With my usual quick wit and cheeky smile I suggested that the audience introduce themselves to us. They did. Each of the ten stood up and said their names!

Brilliant. I bet that's never happened to Muse.

We dismantled, we loaded up and we went home.

Not the best gig by far, but certainly one that I got some very positive stuff from.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Sri Lankan Mothers - Have you got one?

I was talking to a couple of people recently about our Mothers. It's got me thinking. We all love our Mothers dearly but they drive us up the wall too don't they? Whether you're fourteen or forty one you're always the child.

Do Sri Lankan Mothers have some special characteristics, are these features common to Asian Mothers or to all Mothers or is it just my particular one.

You know the characteristics.

My own example will insist on throwing things back at me, things that did when I was a child. Like

"I remember that time Rhythmic when you wrote a cheque out to me and it bounced, I'll never trust you with a cheque again."

" But Mum, I was sixteen, and had no money."

"There was that time when you got drunk and were found in a doorway by a girlfriend and we had to come and collect you."

"Yes, I was seventeen then, that's what seventeen year olds do."

These days I'd get a cab or a girlfriend who lives nearby.

"And how about that time when you went to Sri Lanka with Dad and cried because you were missing me. "

"Errmm I was ten Mum."

Does your one say "but how are you really?", but touch your arm and ask the question in a slightly deeper than normal voice? At this point I can only assume that previous generations of men in my family would have broken down in tears and poured their manly but heartbroken heart out to their Mother.

I don't. Nor do my brothers, nor does anyone I know or have ever known. But someone must have.

The topic of fridge contents could go on and on. My parents' fridge is like a food hospice, where morsels that used to be meals go to die.

Tiny scraps of food are wrapped in foil, cling film or placed on a small plate. Scraps that younger generations will throw away happily, but for parents these scraps are the building blocks of a meal. A bit of onion, some garlic, mustard seeds and chillie and that single prawn in batter from the previous night's chinese can become a gourmet meal.

This does sit uncomfortably with me in a way. Are we too spoilt as a generation to not appreciate food in the way we might? I have no qualms about throwing away a single prawn but, to my parents it's a cardinal sin. But "sell by" and "use by" dates actually mean something to me. I don't take the view that they're something printed on a packet just to read while you're eating.

Most people take what I'd consider to be a reasonable viewpoint on these dates; a day here or there won't make much difference. My Mum figures that a year here or there will be ok.

And another thing, I'm on a bit of a roll here actually. Whenever I go to Sri Lanka, which is quite often, my Mum says to me:

"Even if you can't visit Aunty (insert name of old Aunt here) can you at least call her to say hello?"

This is something I don't understand. Why do they ask us to do this? International phone calls these days are cheap, old Aunties are scary, we all know that. They invariably know when we're in town anyway.

I was in my hotel room in Colombo last February and my phone rang at some kind of unbelievably early hour, something like 11 or perhaps even 10. I answered it in that daze that is a mixture of tiredness, some alcohol, drawn curtains and unfamiliar surroundings.

"Is that Rhythmic?" the female sergeant major voice said. I contemplated a firm denial, but fear got the better of me.

"Yes" I squeeked.

"Rhythmic Diaspora?"

"Yes" I replied.

"Son of S..... Diaspora?"

"Yes, that's me" I was started to get a little bit concerned by this point.

"Grandson of LC?"

"Yes, yes, ermm who's calling please?" I was genuinely getting worried, thinking it might be the Police or something. Maybe they were reforming and needed a new drummer as Mr Copeland couldn't do it. One never knows.

"This is Aunty S...."

She went on to explain in friendly yet scary tones that she had heard I was in town and would love to meet up. I was alone in my hotel room but something about her tone made me immediately ensure my sarong was tied properly and I was standing up straight. Slouching wouldn't do, I knew she'd detect it.

She also said that she has read my blog so, as I am typing this I feel a bit as if I've narrowly avoided death by Aunt and am now popping back to try my luck again. Cinimod, you know the story here I believe.

These Aunts are things to be scared of, yet our Mothers want us to voluntarily contact them when it would be just as easy and cheap for our Mothers to call from wherever.

Have they no concern for our welfare?

Sri Lankan Mothers. Can't live with them and can't live with them!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Not Too Bad!

Well, I survived and all the kids did too. I hate that phrase "not too bad", you may be aware of my feelings on it if you've read any of my posts before. It conjures up negativity and thoughts of doom, gloom and another bad word ending in "oom".

It seems a useful phrase to use to describe my feelings on returning home after taking the 11 year old her party of dangerous friends to a swimming and ice skating birthday party thing. Not only did I survive but I managed to return with the same number of kids that I left with. This was a bonus, something I hadn't expected.

I had left with eleven kids and set myself a target of returning with at least nine, two of whom would be my own daughters. I thought that was reasonable and that other parents would wholly understand if one or two fell by the wayside. So, to return with the full quota was a big stroke of luck. I probably should have checked at some point whether it was the same kids that I left with but I didn't care, some of them looked familiar anyway.

I had instructed the thirteen year old and her friend that I needed their help in keeping control of her younger sister and the group. The good thing about thirteen year olds is that they respond to this sort of stuff, so they gave me as much help as possible. I drove this minibus thing to get us there and that was something that was fun. I like driving, I'd class it as a hobby so chucking myself in a minibus and tootling around in it is actually something I enjoy, particularly when there's a nice car to get into at the end of it all.

What wasn't nice was the weather. A friend had told me that it was warm and sunny with a light breeze in Sri Lanka and I was pining for the charms of Colombo, for its uniqueness and its beauty, for the way it makes me feel and the things it makes me want to do. But, here in West London we had pissing rain, grey sky and wind. In fact we did have severe weather warnings for the weekend for the whole country. The rain was that type that you don't feel, you always go out in it and walk as if it's not raining, then discover that you're soaked to the bone five minutes later. It only exists in the UK, I think it must be made just for here and imported especially.

We set off. Somewhere in the back of the bus were the eleven year olds and sharing the front with me were the two thirteen year olds. The hour's journey consisted mostly of the eleven year olds singing songs and the thirteen year olds listening to iPods with me driving and observing. I started to wonder at what age in Sri Lanka kids would start to have a good old baila session under the same circumstances. I've been involved in a few over the years but only as an adult, I don't have a clue if eleven year old girls in a van would be singing a baila or some Muse mixed in with some Simon and Garfunkel, as was the case with my delegates.

When we got there, a big leisure centre in Guildford (not Yorkshire Confab!) I led the group towards the sign that said "entrance", I had it all thought out. Proper entrance involved lots of paying, puzzled looks, shouting and trying to make myself understood. The girl on the desk was one of these East European types that we have over here and didn't speak great English. With age comes experience and with experience comes knowledge. The knowledge that I have acquired over the years includes a tip for dealing with foreigners if they don't understand you; shout. It works.

I led them towards pool, bunged them in the changing rooms and gave them some change for the lockers. They could all swim, I'd checked that out already, so I left them to get on with things, arranging to meet up in a couple of hours. I went up to a viewing area, where I could sit, have a drink and have an eye on the group. This bit was actually very nice. I sat around and read a book, listened to some music on my iPod and watched the people float past me, all of whom were in varying degrees of tiredness and undress. Interesting stuff indeed.

Then, at the alloted time, I headed back to the changing area to assemble the throng once again. We were supposed to meet at 1.30, it had been both instructed and agreed. They all managed to get out of the water in time, they got dressed and came out, all except my own terror, the birthday girl, and a couple of friends. It took them all of about twenty minutes to casually walk out and wonder what was wrong.

"Oh did you say 1.30 Dad?" she said to me as I gave her that look, the one that is supposed to strike terror into all children but actually makes them laugh and shift ever so slightly uncomfortably.

I couldn't really tell her off, being her bithday party and all, so we then headed off to Burger King to get them some food.
I had thought that a Burger King, in a leisure centre on a rainy English Saturday, would be geared up to selling and serving things like burgers, chips and drinks to its customers. I was wrong. I had cleverly minimised the potential complications by telling my gang that they would all have burger, chips and water. There were no vegetarians amongst us and I had cleverly planned that I could sneak back in later, while they were skating, and get myself a double whopper with cheese.

It was never going to be that easy though. The fuckwit that served me sighed as I asked for "eleven kid's meals".
He actually gave me a look as if I had just told him that his bollocks would be dropping next year rather than sometime later this year as he had hoped. It was an example of Great British customer service at its best. The idiot then did all he could to ensure that his bollocks actually would have dropped by the time I took delivery of the meals, it was a close call indeed.

The throng ate, eleven year olds can eat at blistering fast speeds even when they're not hungry, so this performance was a bit special. Then we headed towards the skating bit. I managed to organised skates, lockers and attitudes and chucked them out onto the ice. Wobblyness was present in all its variants, from zero to total. Total wobblyness, which had manifested itself in both my lovely daughters' performances, reminded me distinctly of Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous in one of her finer moments. I can picture my eleven year old walking just like that in a few years' time, only without skates, ice or sobriety, with a cigarette in hand too.

I left them to skate as I piroutted in the direction of the dodgy Burger King to feed my face. I found a spot that overlooked the rink and watched armies of teenagers as they showed off all their ice moves and tried to be cool without looking as if they were trying. It's nice to know some things don't change. It seemed like only last week when it was me, trying to act cool without looking like I was trying too hard, attempting to carry off the whole nonchalent yet I'm a bit special because I'm part of this crowd thing. Then I remembered the gig on Wednesday with the covers band and realised that it was only last week. I still can't figure out where my kids get it from though.

At the designated time we met up at the designated place, or nearly and nearly. I counted the kids, the figure tallied with one that I had in my head from before, so we marched our way towards the minibus, piled in and headed off. The back of the minibus was packed with children, but on this leg of the journey they were far more subdued, a demeanour I shared and could relate to. After struggling through some London rain and traffic we arrived, the kids piled out and I continued on to exchange the minibus for my car.

All in all the day was rather fine. I think the kids enjoyed it, there were no injuries, there was no loss of life and my car had never felt as good to drive as when I got back in it.

Not too bad inded!

Lazy Sunday Afternoon.

I had a lie in!

The first for bloody ages, I slept until almost midday. The last couple of hours' sleep were of the semi conscious variety, lots of opening eyes, looking at clocks, then falling back to sleep because I had no deadline to wake up for. It was nice and pleasant, only marred by a strange dream I had involving a car crash with a woman who later turned out to be Ricky from Eastenders.

Then I got up, mooched around, started to write a blog post about the birthday party thing for the eleven year old yesterday, then abandoned it. I sometimes wonder whether these posts will be of interest to anyone, then figure that it doesn't bother me anyway, then go through all sorts of mental turmoil. I've got at least twenty posts virtually written and completed that I haven't published yet, maybe I will, maybe I won't.

Why do I pine for Sri Lanka and Colombo sometimes. I had a quick glance through my favourite blogs and saw Ravana's post on living in his own place noe and how he may nip round to his parents' place for a crab curry lunch. Sorry Ravana, I would normally have chucked a link in here but I'm typing this on my MacBook and it doesn't make linking easy, or Safari and blogger don't anyway. Either way I was hoping you'd let me join you for crab curry if you're going. Or if anyone can tell me how to easily add links in while using safari and blogger I'd be most grateful.

Then I listened to some Mimosa. We've got a gig on Tuesday so I had a quick listen to the set. It's a nice thing to finally be able to listen to our own songs in their entirety. After two years' of being together it was only after the recent gig when we got hold of a decent live recording, which was of all our songs. It's fascinating for me as I can listen to my drum parts with a critical ear. I'm finally going to be able to come up with some improvements to the parts I have been playing for so long. It's almost impossible to use a rehearsal, when there are six or seven others there, as a platform to come up with a new fill or a new sounding groove for a certain element of a song. As we don't have the chance to rehearse more than once a week time is quite a scarce resource for us. Now I've got the songs on CD and can sit at home on my electronic kit and invent away to my heart's content.

I learned a valuable little lesson at last week's gig too. I had already been doing some listening and had changed one fill in one song ever so slightly. When we came to play it and I used my new fill the effect on the guitarist was as if I had smacked him over the head with my willy. Not that I know how he would react to that, but I can guess. It's only a one beat fill, to lead into a verse, but he was very startled by a tiny change in the feel of something I have been playing the same way for a couple of years. So much so that he gave me the stare he reserves for drummers who make a dreadful mistake, a stare I have become quite fond of.

Afterwards I told him about my plan of listening to the stuff and making a few subtle changes and he was all for it, just had been shocked when he heard one of these for the first time in a gig.

That's it for now. I'll continue to enjoy my mooching Sunday, wishing I was going to the Galle Face to watch the sunset in a while.