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Deep thoughts

Apologies for the rant in advance, but I felt like I needed to share it.

I was really excited when I heard about Gaiman’s book coming to the small screen. It’s definitely not a movie material (although it could be adopted in a LOTR-like three part epic), but the TV looks like a better medium. So I thought.

Upon seeing the first part I realized I forgot most of the book, so I’ve read it before the next episode came up.

The second episode… well, I watched it with my fiancee who did not read the book, and knew nothing of the plot. A couple of observations.

First, the adaptation is needlessly obscene (do we really need the dick-picks and the rant about spitting semen on the unfaithful husband’s grave?) and violent. I know, Gaiman’s work is full of sex and violence, but they are not just there to be there. Here a lot of it seems to be pushed upon the viewer just for the shock value.

Second, the plot is absolutely missing. If you don’t know the book, you have no idea what is going on, even after the end of the second episode. And this is deal breaking. Why would you watch something that’s obscene, violent, and nothing much happens in it, if you don’t know what the main plot is? If you’re a Gaiman fan, you know the story; if you’re not a hard-core Gaiman follower, why would you waste your time on the third episode? I know for sure my fiancee is not going to- and she so furious about how little these first two episodes actually gave her, she lost all interest in the book itself. Not sure how general this sentiment is, but you just lost a potential reader there.

 

Third: nothing happens. There are some characters coming and going, some dialog going on, but unless you’re familiar with the book you don’t know who the characters are (they are, generally, old, forgotten gods, and it’s kind of cool reading up on them, by the way), and why these characters matter. You don’t understand who the guy with the hammer is, and why he likes his hammer so much; you also don’t get why it’s important that he joins with Mr Wednesday and Shadow, so it makes absolutely no sense for Shadow to risk his life for his support. I understand they wanted to stick to the book as much as possible, but the book made a much better job at implying what’s going on -at least-, and the TV series format kind of makes it necessary to cut up the plot, and create tight episodes with proper beginnings and endings. A seven episode cliffhanger is just not going to cut it.

 

Fourth: for the trickster spider god, Anansi, we get a pimp-Malcom X mixture who delivers an angry ham-fisted tirade about how screwed black people are, and then proceeds to get the slaves in the cargo hold of a slaver ship murder everyone, and commit suicide by burning down their ship out in the open sea. This is definitely not insolent, cheeky god who tricked the Tiger to give him his big, hairy Tiger-balls and then shifted the blame to the Monkeys.

 

Anyhow, I’m really disappointed. The camera work is fine, the cast is nice, but the whole thing just falls flat on the major issue: unless you know the book you will have no idea what is going on (something to do with gods, going by the title), and will not be interested to find out.

 

A shame, really.

 

I tried to get rid of everything that was left over from my relationship long gone. I did throw and give away most of the reminders (except for the regrets and bitter memories which are not so easy to discard), but there’s one thing I just can’t part with. Not because of any emotional value it might have -it was never used by her-, but because of how it looks.

Just take a look at this crazy Chinese kitchen tool. Does it look like something you would use in a kitchen, or does it look like something the elite Chinese special forces would use behind enemy lines?

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I think the answer is clear. I kind of want to mount this thing in a frame and put it on the wall.

Moringa (or drumstick) tree is supposed to be this miracle tree that cures everything, makes you look younger, and quite possibly grants you everlasting life.

(Seriously, though, it does seem like good plant.)

Anyhow, my dearest got about twenty seeds from somewhere, and the plant enthusiasts we are, I tried to germinate them. Three actually grew into plants which we potted, and now they are sitting in our window, growing happily.

We also drink all sorts of tea, and one of them is -surprisingly or not- moringa tea. Usually I empty the previous night’s teapot into the plant’s pots when I take it out for cleaning the next morning; why waste water, right? This had the side-effect of having a couple lemon seedlings growing, but more importantly it made me ask a very prudent question: does watering the moringa tree with moringa tea make it a cannibal?

Well, after two years in the Civil Service I have come to an unwelcome realization about my choices.

When I joined up I expected I would be involved in decision making- setting the course on the fight against antibiotic resistance, being part of an advisory team, you know, being part of something that has an impact on the future.

Little did I realize that I would essentially be writing briefs and lists, doing finances and managing ongoing projects. Greasing the wheels so to speak. I know, I was naive.

So now I see that what I wanted was to be able to make decisions.

I realize now my error. I did not want to be a civil servant. I wanted to be a king.

Well, this is about a literal present to myself. I turned forty (Jesus on a bicycle!), and I decided to finally treat myself with an automatic watch.

My grandfather had an old, 1949 Omega Seamaster, and that was the watch for me for as long as I’m aware. Well, my uncle had laid claims to it, so that one is out. (It might be better this way; it’s really a delicate item. What I do feel sorry about is, however, that it’ll be eventually sold – if it wasn’t already.)

So that leaves me buying a new watch. Why do I like automatic watches? After all they are not as robust as the quartz watches, they are more expensive, and you actually have to maintain them. In other words: they are regressive. They represent a technology that has been surpassed long ago. There were no breakthroughs since the beginning of the 20th century in how mechanical watches operate. Mass production has been introduced- even Rolex uses robots now- but that’s about it. So essentially I have bought a steam engine in the era of jet propulsion.

Yet… they are more than just an item that tells you the time. They are incredibly complex mechanical contractions that have been around for about three hundred years; this in itself makes me want to own one. It’s a piece of history, after all.

Now, if I could have chosen any, and I mean any watch,  I would have gone with the simple Rolex Submariner. I say simple, because it only costs £6000 -as opposed to certain watches that cost up to 200k. (By the way I would totally buy that watch, even though I still cannot figure out how to read the time on it.)

But as I said I turned 40, not turned into an idiot- I’m not spending a sizeable portion of my salary on a watch.

This leaves me with an alternative: a Seiko Sdx007. Great pedigree, very sturdy design, waterproof and cheap.

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It is automatic, so it winds itself up as you move about, which has also a hidden benefit… If I’m not active enough it will stop at night. I now essentially have an activity meter as well as a watch. It’s digital (yes or no answer), but it works. Just saved a hundred quids right there.

I often wonder how much effect things really have on us, and how much is determined by our brain. The placebo effect is a very well known phenomenon: it is clear that taking sugar pills (even if the person knows they are just sugar pills) does help alleviating pain, or even curing certain conditions.

That in mind I would like to share a little amusing story from my Florida days, when I was working in the hell that was called the Chemistry Department of that tiny little university north of Miami.

I was responsible for the running of the coffee club in our little lab of horrors, and that meant I took the money from the collection box, and transmuted it into coffee in the supermarket, to make sure the laboratory kept running smoothly.

If you ever have been around academics, you know that we are practically coffee-based life forms. If you listened to the postdocs and fellow PhD students in the lab you had an impression that nobody was able to function without a good dose of daily caffeine, moreover even the slightest decrease in the daily dose would cause immediate withdrawal symptoms, the inability to function as a human being, migraines, shakes, and in general, transform a relatively functional adult into something that resembles a zombie more than anything.

Well, I got to test this hypothesis over two weeks.

Now, I know, ethics committees are pretty strict on human experiments, but please keep in mind that it was not premeditated, and the people in questions were horrible human beings, anyhow. (Seriously. The place was the definition of how not to run a lab.)

Anyhow, one day the money stopped coming into the box. And despite my repeated warnings, nobody felt it was important to replenish it. Since I bought the last batch of coffee on my own money, I thought I’d just substitute the next batch to the decaf that was on sale -hence cheaper than the regular coffee, since it was I who paid for it anyhow.

 

For two weeks everyone had coffee with absolutely no caffeine in it.

 

Nobody noticed.

 

And this is why I am happy to have decaf at any time; it makes absolutely no difference. You get the same hit out of it, even if you know it’s decaf – and this is the miracle of placebo.

 

This has been long in my mind, but it really only crystallized during Christmas dinner with my family. My cousin and her husband (who I did not think were so conservative) were completely taken aback by my admission that I had no problem with tattoos, and I would not be averse of having one done. I never thought anyone at their age (40s) had any problems with tattoos any more; I thought it was only old ladies nowadays. I was wrong. Regardless I told them that most likely I’ll never have a tattoo done.

It’s not that I’m against the ink. In fact I find tattoos -if done well- really good. (Let’s forget about the names of your “one true love”, silly dragons, facial tattoos and the horrible photo-tattoos for a moment here.) It’s just my culture is conspiring against me. I think a tattoo should be more than just a pretty pattern on your skin. It should mean something since you are marking yourself for good. So it should tell something about your past (personal or cultural), or make a statement about your person. To get a tattoo because it “looks cool” is just silly in my opinion (which, admittedly, does not amount much). I hastily add: this is only a personal opinion- these are the reasons I feel I can/should get inked. What others do is their own decision, and I don’t think my opinion is valid for their case.

Anyhow. Cultural ties. This is where I’m shot by the place of my birth.

Let’s face it: if you’re, let’s say, of Celtic descent, you can have some awesome Celtic motifs. (Let’s not even talk about Maoris, shall we?)

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Seriously, they are wicked. If your ancestry has Celtic blood in it you can wear these proudly and with a meaning. A tattoo, for me, should always be more than just a pretty design as I said. It should mean something; and for this reason I cannot possibly put Celtic stuff on my skin and be still have street cred. I might as well put a Chinese symbol on without know what that symbol actually means. (As many people apparently do.) I feel like I should be putting something on that connects me with my roots.

Unfortunately that something looks like this.

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Don’t get me wrong; it’s pretty, it has a lot of history, and can look really good on modern pieces of clothing. For women. In this respect, the rest of them are not much better, either

Let’s face it: it’s not very masculine; hardly something for which the guys in the gym would look at me in awe.