Marx’ missive anniversary

I’ll admit that I have not fact-checked the title, but there must be a fighting chance that Karl penned some sort of letter on June 28th.  However (and there’s one in the eye for Michael Gove), there can be no doubt that tomorrow is a red letter day for GofaDM.  One (of the many) alternative titles for this post was “When blogs collide!” for, in little more than twenty-four of your earth hours, my blog soul brother and yours truly will finally meet “in the flesh” at a location rich in historic resonance.

The most eagerly anticipated encounter since the Rumble in the Jungle, though hopefully with less bloodshed (I certainly don’t plan on going down in the eighth) and probably with a smaller live audience.  Every lifeform within the light cone of central London must surely be holding its breath (or local equivalent) for the first truly great event of the third millennium of the Current Era (and those beyond must be desperately seeking the tachyon).  A day that will go down in (and possibly on) history.

In my forty-nine (and a bit) years on this unfashionably damp lump of rock, this rendezvous is without precedent.  Given the extraordinarily wide-ranging interactions we have enjoyed via WordPress, in some ways I know my brother better than people I’ve known for decades – where more traditional conversation rarely takes such Byzantine pathways through language and the human experience.  There is definitely something to be said for each participant in a conversation being allowed a thousand words or so before their interlocutor is required to participate (and perhaps some preparation time and access to a small Reference Library): I, at least, can achieve a much higher level of superficiality and/or foolishness under such circumstances.

Heretofore, our passionate, literary affair has been pursued entirely in text (and some judicious application of his legendary Paint skills on the part of my brother), like some modern day, blog-based Abelard and Eloise.  Like them, our interaction has scandalised a community – and almost spawned a new Widget for WordPress (I believe A+E spawned more traditional issue).  I trust that unlike them we will both be left physically intact and free from constraining convent walls – one can take historic parallels too far.

Given the hype, today I find myself in a frenzy of preparations for the main event.  Is it too late for plastic surgery?  What should I wear?  At my age, I generally only meet new people when suited and booted – but this seems overly formal.  Following this week’s Thinking Allowed, should I affect the black roll-necked sweater with a Gitane(s) perched insouciantly between my lips (a plan which will be fine unless I light it, at which point my pretence at left-bank, intellectual sang-froid will be cruelly exposed by a coughing fit).  Alternatively, having massively enjoyed Victoria Coren-Mitchell’s recent series on How to be a Bohemian (if you missed it, you should really seek it out on iPlayer) should my dress embrace the avant-garde?  Should I go with the round glasses or the square?  (For the Playschool massive, I will admit that I have no arched glasses – yet).  Traditional advice would suggest that I should “be myself” (or avoid that altogether), but who am I?

On reflection, the ship of first impressions sailed long ago and Vlogging a Dead Horse does rather reveal my lack of sartorial depth.  That is the problem with so extensively blogging my existence, there is little that the determined reader cannot deduce about the author by this stage (though I continue to remain an enigma to e-marketers – and myself).  So, I think I shall dress for comfort (rather than style – as if this latter were ever an option) in a manner compatible with the forecast weather conditions.

Unusually, readers may be offered two different points-of-view on the epochal events of tomorrow.  Or I suppose we could live-blogging the whole day?  (If that is even possible with WordPress). This could mean that I have a little less licence than usual when preparing the narrative for the GofaDM audience.  Alternatively, we might just both agree to lie outrageously about what happens in the desire to build the legend.

Eternity, here we come!

Idiosyncratic additions

As you will discover, I am not all that enamoured of personalisation – but before we can all make that discovery together, I think we need to tackle the mastodon in the chamber (and no, I did not call upon M. Roget for aid).  I refer, of course, to GofaDM itself.

Some might suggest that this blog is the ultimate act of personalisation: claiming as I am a small strand of the web hanging, as it must, between a couple of its less travelled interstices.  I will own that there is some element of truth in this viewpoint, which could no doubt be winkled out using an epistemological mass spectrometer, but I would view GofaDM as a work of ex nihilo creation rather than being representative of the lesser vision needed for personalisation.  Hopefully, having confused the readers with that polymer of polysyllables I can now move on.

I am not a chap who goes in for much personalisation of my stuff.  This may be because, as a lone wolf, I already organise, plan and (whisper it softly) personalise enormous amounts of my time on this earth – and so like to leave some of my existence to the whims of others.  This doesn’t always work out perfectly: my new gaff has black granite worktops and my kitchen scissors are also black, so I spend an annoyingly large part of my life looking for them.  Despite their silvery blades, their camouflage is surprisingly effective.

It may also be that I exercise (or, indeed, exorcise) my ego via other routes than the making of transitory changes to the appearance of my desktop.  I suspect that The Library – or rather its real world instantiation – is one of these thoroughfares of the ego.  This may itself merely be but a single lane of the far wider boulevard, laid on by my superego, whereby I attempt to stuff my head with as much data as is feasible (and try not to worry about any surplus being forced dripping from my every cranial orifice).

I have owned laptops for years and yet the desktop is still as chosen at the factory and the icons are in whatever default order is provided.  I am, as noted before, quite unable to write in books – and am even somewhat averse to the authors doing so (I am generally willing to take on trust their ability to write their own name).  The walls of my garret are plain white (to match the ceiling and woodwork), though I will admit they are adorned with some rather fine art (largely produced by friends) which takes the edge off my apparent asceticism.

It is only after nearly 5 years (and 620 posts) that I did anything to personalise this blog – and so over-riding the decision made in summer 2010 to pick the first theme on the list provided by WordPress.  Some of that latest customisation only occurred after my blog soul brother led the way, bringing to my wayward attention whole swathes of functionality of which I’d never dreamt.  I am still very much the Padawan to his Master in this field (though, controversially, remain unbraided), but my age should spare me from some of the opprobrium which would be heaped on a younger blogger with such a basic presentation.

As I was marshalling the thoughts that would be shunted together for this post, it struck me that I have no idea how (or why for that matter) anyone should stumble across this blog.  I rarely encounter the blogs of other – unless they come knocking at my electronic door – and GofaDM makes few concessions to the casual reader or seeker of either enlightenment or entertainment.  The post titles are (if I’m honest) wilfully obscure and my attempts at tagging are little better.  Even should a fellow human be washed up, like driftwood, on these shores he may find his new island home a somewhat hostile environment.  The posts are packed with the nichest of allusions, baroque vocabulary and needless excursions into foreign tongues.  As an example of the hostile local wildlife: in a relatively recent post I parenthetically stated that “wry can lead to egotism” – a phrase which I still think is genius, but does require the reader to know that the consumption of rye bread can lead to ergotism (caused by a fungus) and to find a weak pun (weak, but there probably aren’t many more out there in this field) about this worthy of their time.  So, I am mystified as to how folk arrive here and, even more baffling, why a few (and evidence is growing that at least some of these are conscious entities) choose to stay (other than their excellent, if inexplicable, good taste – obvs).

Why has he chosen today, or all days, to write on this topic you might wonder (if you haven’t been drained of the will to live by this stage).  Well, I saw a car with the licence plate MR 61 AND this morning.  This strikes me as probably having been personalised in the hope of being read as Mr Gland (or Mr Bland – but even, if this were your name, would you pay to advertise the fact?  Unless it was personalised by an enemy…).  As a result, I decided the driver must be an endocrinologist and (more relevantly) began thinking about the topic of this diatribe.

Aha!  Revelation has just taken me forcibly from behind: I have no time for customisation of my stuff because all my free mental and physical resources are engaged in personalising my mind!  Given that it worked for the Bible (which I think can still boast more readers than GofaDM), I shall finish with my Revelations.


GofaDM has been inflicted on the universe for almost five years now.  Throughout its entire existence, the décor has been an unchanging feature – a rock of unwanted stability in these troubled times.  The TARDIS (and indeed its driver) has been through at least three changes of desktop in the same period and were it a leasehold property I would probably have been legally required to repaint by now.  Added to which, the use of a theme called Twenty Ten in 2015 is starting to look artfully retro.

So, as you will see I have had some men in – but now the paint is dry, the masking tape peeled off and I am ready to unveil the mildly exciting new look to the world.

Ta da!

OK, I’ll admit that the only man involved was me and I merely(!) had to select a new theme from those offered by the folk at WordPress.  Much as I love you dear readers, I was not willing to pay for a theme or for the ability to customise my own – so this is very much an off-the-peg item (rather than made-to-measure), so you may find it a little tight in places at first (I’m sure it will ride up with wear).  Nonetheless, I still had to labour for many, weary hours to make a suitable choice which would be sufficient to bear the burden of this blog.  It needed to combine a not unattractive font, large enough to be intelligible to our older readers (and the author), with an acceptable colour scheme and layout.

As well as the new desktop, a whole new “page”, to use the approved parlance, has been added: The Library.

I trust the new look meets with some small measure of your approbation.  You can, of course, comment in the usual way.  I may, likewise, continue to ignore you.  I have never claimed GofaDM was a democracy and its somewhat autarkic tendencies are likely to continue.

Meta B2.198

The title may make more sense if I note that the (natural) log of 9 is 2.198 (to four significant figures).

I decided it was time for a metablog as I have just discovered that GofaDM has sailed past its 600th post without even noticing.  This is not entirely my fault: the not noticing that is (WordPress no longer places this information on quite such a regularly viewed screen is in yesteryear), responsibility for the 605 posts can really only be laid at my door, unless you would prefer to blame society, my genes or my parents.  Given my daily (and still losing) struggle with brevity, this suggests there must be approaching half-a-million words of nonsense that I have now broadcast into the void.  OK, not wholly into the void: WordPress reports well north of 8000 page views, and this excludes the 104 poor unfortunates who receive an email whenever I give birth to a new cry for help (and they can’t all be bots – or is this how SkyNet begins, bots driven insane by the gibberings of an idiot?).

I can’t be sure as to the exact number of words used in GofaDM as WordPress does not offer a facility to count them (and I’m not pasting 605 posts plus comments into Word).  However, I have discovered it does offer Omnisearch – which promises (I kid you not) to “search everything” (though it gives no clue as to how long this might take).  I have mislaid a bunch of keys so I shall try it out on finding those later, if this succeeds I may finally be able to settle the uncertainty about what happened to Lord Lucan and Shergar.  Watch this space!

Given the sheer volume of stuff written about me (sometimes indirectly, but always by me) and the uniqueness of my name, I would have hoped for extraordinarily well focused advertising messages to bombard my web life.  This hope had been cherished in vain (in at least two senses of that word) – the ads that hit my screen seem woefully poorly targetted, and as a result are very easy to ignore.

I suspect if I could analyse the words used in this blog there would be some used with abnormally high frequencies.  I would imagine that the continued use of these causes a groan in the regular reader – or possibly the downing of liquour, for those indulging in a GofaDM drinking game (which if no-one else has devised, I should perhaps start work on) – whenso’er they recur.  I suppose this reliance on stale formulations could be considered part of my signature style, or more likely an indication of my twin failures of imagination and originality (which would make great names if anyone does have unnamed twins to hand), and may help later literary historians separate authentic GofaDM posts from the myriad fakes I like to anticipate.  Nevertheless, I shall try and avoid becoming a living cliché (to the extent I am so capable).

I rather fear that my tendency to obscure-up (one possible converse of dumbing down) and overuse of unexplained allusions mean that I should probably upgrade the Glossary.  In the absence of this update (which readers should expect to continue for the foreseeable future), readers may wish to revise UK radio comedy since 1950, cladistics, the game of Contract Bridge and the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, Flanders and Swann, PG Wodehouse and Douglas Adams (among others).

Ultimately, I have come to realise that the audience for this blog is myself – should it happen to make its way to a clone or a parallel-universe version of me (probably with a goatee), through some unexpected topologically feature of the spacetime continuum, all to the good – and so remain oddly touched (an alternative name for the blog, perhaps?) that others take the trouble to read the thing.  I rather fear I will continue to write it in the hope of some form of catharsis or a lucrative publishing deal presenting itself – until then, it’s just us.

Recent reflections

No mirror required…

Over the long weekend, as I attempted unsuccessfully to remain dry, I saw several things that gave me pause.

As I walked down Piccadilly, I passed a branch of the sandwich shop chain that wishes to suggest, to any Francophone customers, that its wares are ready to eat (another similar chain dispenses with the foreign tongue and indeed the “ready to” leaving only the bald imperative).  This chain is also justly famed for its attempt to eliminate the EU mayonnaise lake single-handed.  Anyway, as I passed I noticed a sign on the pavement outside asking us to “Keep it clean for the Queen”. Now I know this country’s finances are not the Mae West, but surely Her Majesty has not been reduced to crossing Green Park in her slippers and purchasing a mayo-heavy sandwich when she’s feeling a little peckish? I’m all for cost cutting, but she is 86 – surely she must qualify for meals on wheels (or its modern equivalent)?

Walking through John Lewis on my way to the flicks (of which perhaps more in another post) to avoid the rain, I passed through the kitchenware department. There I spotted a range of saucepans which were copper on the outside, stainless steel on the inside and aluminium in the middle. The pans did not appear to be particularly thick sided, so each layer must have been quite thin. I suspect that this was very much a range to be seen, not hidden away in a cupboard – and one which I presume would need frequent polishing. However, my worry – or perhaps my interest – was how this trinity of metals, with different rates of expansion under heat, would stay together in the rough-and-tumble of life on the range (I’m assuming they were for the Aga-using public). I could easily see a very messy divorce on the horizon, with each pan slowly becoming three pans of very similar sizes. How would you stick three metals together in this way and keep them together? Perhaps my next OU course needs to be on metallurgy or materials science?

Wandering round the fruit and veg section of Waitrose, I added another item to the list of tasks to be performed when my merits are finally recognised and I rise to power in this land (don’t worry, I will be a benevolent ruler).  Buy-one-get-one-free offers will be banned on any item where the ‘best before’ (or ‘use by’ or similar) date is less than twelve months from today (I might be willing to negotiate the twelve down a little).  This is just encouraging people to buy more perishable goods than they require, leading to wastage.  I refuse to buy such offers, but as a result feel that I am being forced to subsidise other people’s waste. Of such little things is resentment built…

Finally, I should perhaps warn you that WordPress has changed the GUI (Graphical User Interface: yes I admit it, I am a graphical user) it presents me with as I craft these posts, hewing them from the raw stuff of language.  No longer does it offer a word count, so posts may start growing longer without the constraining effect of constant feedback on my text-based verbosity.

Conquering Antarctica

For the avoidance of doubt, I am not intending to tackle my mid-life crisis by trekking solo to the South Pole.  Strikes me as way too much like hard work (and rather chilly for a chap who dislikes wearing jumpers) and I’m not a big fan of sliding, I prefer a certain minimum value of friction between myself and the deck.

For the last two or three weeks, WordPress has been reporting the home location (or, at least current location) of visitors to GofaDM.  To my considerable surprise, I have already covered six of the earth’s seven continents: I only lack a visitor from Antarctica.  I will admit that some of the continents have been infrequent visitors – and may well have arrived in my clutches by mistake, but a page view is a page view (as you see, I have no fear of tautology).

So, I now found myself wondering what I can do to appeal to an Antarctic audience.  Suspecting that your average penguin or seal is not terribly web-savvy, I feel my best chance is to target the itinerant human population.  I’m not entirely sure what might bring in the most southerly audience on earth: memories of the north, perhaps?

I can remember a joke from childhood which might strike a chord with the residents of McMurdo station.

Q: What animal would you most like to be if you were stationed at the South Pole?

A: A little otter!

I never said it was good: just mildly relevant…

Vision On

Each time I complete a post, WordPress makes a series of automated suggestions for the subject matter for my next post.  Previously, I have ignored this advice and ploughed my own lonely furrow – but it’s not easy to come up with entertaining subjects for a post (as I’m sure has become obvious to any regular reader) so I have decided to use one of the proffered suggestions.  Today, these included “Who has most influenced your view of the world?” – or something similar, I may be paraphrasing – among others, and so I have decided to build a post using this question (and the fecund possibilities contained therein) as my source material.  Perhaps we will all come away from this experience a little wiser…

So, who is it?  How has influenced my unique vision?  Could they be tried for crimes against humanity?  Calm down, dear!  If you’re all sitting comfortably, I’ll tell you:

My optician.

Yes, let’s have a shout-out (I could have been a DJ, you know) for Vision Express in the Grand Arcade in Cambridge and their friendly and helpful staff.  With their assistance, the world has been brought into sharp focus and parallel lines are truly parallel – well, these things are true when I’m wearing my glasses, otherwise, we are in a soft-focus world of non-Euclidean geometry.

Now, I think we have all learned a valuable lesson – let’s never mention it again.

Metablog Goes Forth

The title retains the brief Blackadder theme for metablogs one last time, but it’s mining a seam which is now exhausted.  Given the theme, at the end of this post we should all go over the top to our certain doom – not sure about certain doom, but some may feel that this blog has been going OTT for some time.

As I write this today (as opposed to as I will crochet it a week on Wednesday), the blog has recently passed its three-thousandth page view.  It has also passed 150 posts and if we assume an average of 500 words (say) per post then the blog is up to 75,000 words (excluding comments) – which is around the length of a first novel.  Each post is, natürlich, a classic of its kind – as long as ‘its kind’ is defined with a suitably restricted scope (a common ‘weapon’ in the armoury of the marketing industry – I think you will find 77% of 17 women agreed when offered a free sample and the question was suitably phrased).

The blog is also approaching its first anniversary: well, obviously, it has been approaching its anniversary since its inception – but now it is actually getting quite close.  GofaDM was birthed back in August 2010 (to the sound of whale song and without an epidural), though it lacked any content whatsoever until October.   Even once content arrived, back in those halcyon days, a new post was a rare and precious thing.  It wasn’t until the end of the year that the production rate was ramped up with a concomitant decline in quality.

So, congratulations are due to any of you who have stuck with it, wading through a novel’s worth of my ‘wit’ and observations – interspersed with the odd (rather desultory) review and a few rants.  I would promise something special for the first birthday of the blog – but I’m aware that readers are still awaiting the video promised way back in post 99A, so perhaps I shouldn’t create false expectations.  Instead, I will just suggest that the blog will continue very much like a de-oxygenated red blood cell – or, for those who are not students of the work of William Harvey, in the same vein.

Finally, I have recently noticed a new feature in WordPress – well, I admit that it may not be new but my awareness of it certainly is.  When accessing the public view of my blog (as opposed to the usual engine-room perspective given to the author) I am given the option to “Report as mature”.  I fear I shall never need to use this particular function…

The one with the flake in it

Despite the powers-that-be at Channel 4 ensuring for the last decade (and more) that at any time you can be guaranteed that one of its myriad channels will be showing an episode of Friends (it’s analogous to never being more than 8 feet from a rat), I am strangely (perhaps, inappropriately) proud never to have seen one in its entirety.  It hasn’t been easy, let me tell you, but despite my total abstinence some knowledge of the sitcom has wormed its way into my brain – and the title of this post could easily have belonged to an episode from that much repeated series.

But I digress, the allusion is obviously to ice cream as this post is number 99 (and if mere mention of a flake causes you to imagine the author lying languid and naked in an over-flowing bath, then you should probably see a trained psychiatric professional).  It was either ice cream, or a reference to Maxwell Smart’s significantly more competent partner – and even I’m not old enough to remember her, so I eighty-sixed that idea (there will be a prize for understanding that gag).  This post represents a nervous number for a batsman given our decimal counting system: can this blog make it to its first century?  Or will it find itself the electronic equivalent of lbw?  Of course, had cricket been played in ancient Babylon a score of 100 would be meaningless – batsman would be aiming for 60 runs as the key milestone of an innings and 59 would be the time for nerves.  But advanced as the peoples of ancient Mesopotamia were, they never developed cricket – probably as well, not sure their maths could have handled the Duckworth-Lewis method.

I wonder if I will receive some sort of telegram from the Queen of WordPress when I reach 100 posts?  Is WordPress even a constitutional monarchy?

As you can read, excitement is mounting here in Fish Towers but I am starting to feel some pressure to pull something special “out of the bag” for post 100.  Get your suggestions in now if you want to be a part of blog history!  You should be thinking Henry V and St Crispin’s Day here – you’d hate to think yourselves accursed and counting your manhoods cheap (heaven forfend) when this blog breaks into 3 figures!

Metablog Two

This is the fiftieth post to this blog, so I now have quite a body of work on-line, and WordPress tells me the blog has received more than 600 page views.  This does suggest that it can only be a matter of time before the men in white coats come and take me away (ha ha).

As a result, it is time once again for me to peer out beyond the electronic proscenium arch, over the virtual footlights and directly address the darkened (and quite possibly empty) auditorium which forms the inevitable conclusion to this (probably ill-advised) extended metaphor.

Teaching has been described as casting imitation pearls before all to real swine (by me, just then, for one, but also, I believe, by those that came before me), and the careful crafting of a post can feel surprisingly similar.  I cannot help but wonder if anyone understands the many layers of meaning and humour painstakingly built into each entry – but then I think, I’m lucky anyone looks at my depraved ramblings at all!

WordPress does provide tantalising snippets of information on my readership – it shows which pages are viewed and any searches that deliver the unwary surfer into my clutches.  This information is, at best, confusing: for example, for some strange reason, “Windows” and “A Classical Education?” are the most viewed pages.  I can only assume these are being accessed by some sort of bot or a reader with severe phalangeal ataxia.  As for the incoming searches, I can only speculate as to the disappointment experienced by a reader seeking enlightenment but instead being delivered to my electronic demesne.

Several of you, dear readers, have been good enough to rate or comment on some of the posts and one has even managed to “Like” a post – a possibility of whose existence I had been unaware.  From this feedback, I have attempted to draw conclusions as to the content which receives the highest level of approbation.  I can’t, in all honesty, say that I have succeeded – though perhaps the more autobiographical and/or satirical posts might be mildly more positively received.

So, I’m afraid that all I can promise you is more of the same, by which of course I mean: promulgation of the work of Carl von Linné, classical allusions and weak jokes, references to particle physics and, when I can find a peg to hang them on, tales from my mis-spent youth and earlier middle-age.  There will also be more long words shoe-horned in wheresoe’er they might fit, more alliteration and further “reviews” (OK, passing mentions) of classical music.

By the way, I wouldn’t want you to think that I only listen to classical music – in 2010 alone, I went to two concerts of young people’s music (i.e. music made for, rather than necessarily by, young people).  The major downside I found with these occasions was not the music, but the fact that (a) no seating was provided so I had to stand-up through the whole concert and (b) there was no upmarket ice-cream to be had at half-time (vital for the maintenance of safe blood sugar levels – doubly so when standing).  I had assumed this desire to sit-down for music was a sign of my age and the fact that I am no longer (OK, let’s face facts, never was) down wiv da kidz.  However, I have just heard an interview with Fyfe Dangerfield (a man of only 30, and founder member of indie band Guillemots – order Charadriiformes – and so who would probably count as one of the “cool kids”) who also revealed the desire for a seat during concerts – so I am in vaguely respectable company.  As many will know, I live my life by the simple maxim “Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down”.

At this point, a rousing call to arms would be in order – go back to your constituencies and prepare to be mildly stimulated and/or amused, perhaps.  But instead, I will just say that you should know what you are letting yourselves in for by now, so you have only yourselves to blame if you continue reading.