Let Me Tell You A Story by Katie Miller: A Brief History Of Flings

Katie Miller is a half Polish, half Caribbean writer from the UK. A hilariously funny potted history of some of her dates and relationships is found in Let Me Tell You A Story, available on Amazon. The slim tome is egocentric by default; Miller, however, gets away with it, clearly willing to take the bullets for her fellow females in her confessionals, while offering advice (devoting an entire concise chapter to same) for those on the dating scene about what and what not to do. One nugget of wisdom is simply to do what you feel. Holding out, she says, does not necessarily lead to a long term relationship any more, and the reverse is not necessarily just a hook-up.
...Story, Me, and matching tee.
Accurately describing men as “basic” in certain respects, Katie Miller indeed has enough understanding of the male psyche to get the guys she wants in the short term, but, beyond a poor Long Term boyfriend with whom she entered the world of proper relationships, she fails in the conversion. 
This is – she says – sometimes a self-sabotaging tendency to have The Talk about exclusivity. 
Clearly however, these men are not the best if they flee after such a discussion, or are simply too immature to realise what they have in this fine and funny scribe.

This book is the non-fiction female equivalent of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Miller is adept in navigating relationships, and in assessing what they are, both in the moment, and sometimes –with somewhat heartbreaking results – in hindsight. 
She provides broader insights into how women become more cynical as they realise The One might be more elusive, how immature men can be, and indeed, when to exploit them somewhat to hilarious effect.

One might hope Miller finds a Mr Right of some calibre, rather than descend into a life of utter and abject cynicism over relationships. A writer as funny and as eloquent as this deserves a supportive non-a$$hole of a guy, if she wants to find one. But if it never happens, she has the wherewithal and writing skills to mine her future relationship ventures for a sequel.
Katie Miller's Let Me Tell You A Story... is available on Amazon and elsewhere.

Apples for goalposts

When I was a kid, probably no older than eight, I was in my cousins' house, for a sleepover, and my cousin ate an entire apple, core and all, in our shared bedroom. I ate most of mine but I Ieft the butt.

My uncle came in - I believe he was sober at the time - and my cousin pointed out that I hadn't eaten all of my apple. My uncle looked at the apple core and told me to eat it.

The order at the time would almost have been as ludicrous as if he had asked me to eat a banana skin, take a shot of whiskey or light up his cigarette.
Apple cores don't taste nice. Even today they're not eaten by most people.
And broadly speaking, people didn't eat butts in bed back in the 80s.
So I just said No, making clear that his request was ridiculously unfair, that it was not part of any apple-eating compact I had made at any point in my life, and I wasn't going to be held to ransom over how to consume apples.

Book Review: The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne

First published a decade ago, John Boyne's The House of Special Purpose (here at his site) features the Romanov dynasty's final years at the Winter Palace in St Petersburg and their subsequent detention after the 1917 revolutions in Russia.

Told via flashbacks, its narrator is Georgy, a peasant teenager who takes a bullet for the commander of the armed forces as he passes through the young man's village, and is subsequently employed as an attendant to the crown prince.

Roddy Doyle covers a concurrent period of social upheaval in Dublin via Henry Smart.
If both books have a failing, it's the creative flair employed in changing historical details to suit the narrative. Doyle's A Star Called Henry extends the Volunteers' takeover of Dublin's General Post Office by a day during 1916's Easter Rising, as Doyle had too much going on - or so he claimed at the time. But there's very little in the novel that he couldn't have worked around in terms of the historical details - even calling the shenanigans.
For Boyne, Rasputin's death (as just one example) could have been mined for far more sh1ts and giggles. The crazy libertine attitude of the starets lunatic monk man and his cabal of princes and prostitutes could also have been hyped up.

Anyone even remotely familiar with the historical details before they start into the book might be disappointed with certain elements due to expectations - although the storyline itself entertains through the life of the protagonist and his wife.
Although it has its moments, the writing is surprisingly simple much of the time too.
There's a thread or two left hanging a little too loosely, involving espionage, and a lack of closure related to bereavement - in fact plenty that doesn't seem to round out as it could.
But so, too, is the life, with the threads that be a-hangin'.

Would I recommend it? Da. Nine thumbs-up here.
Here it is on Goodreads.

The Wire: A brief note

The Wire is a very rich series.
Terrific characters with numerous arcs.
Spoiler alert for the fifth and final season
One thing I will note is that the fabulist who manufactures stories for local paper The Baltimore Sun had previous experience at two other news outlets. One of them is the Kansas City Star.
The reporter goes around the spots in the city where the homeless hang out, in his tee-shirt, seeking information on a serial killer who's been picking off vagrants. The killer is himself a fabrication of Det McNulty's, who is keen to divert funds so that the police can get overtime money to catch the drug dealers.

The Kansas City Star logo is printed on this reporter's shirt. Perhaps reading too much into things, or perhaps it's part of the show's beautiful poetry, but Kansas is famed for numerous things, one being The Wizard of Oz.
The fantastical embellishments of Scott Templeton go a long way to forcing City Hall and others to grant the police the funds to ultimately crack their case. One tiny element of a series that's well worth catching if you haven't already.

Poison for Dogs

Chocolate is poison for dogs. But if a dog eats one selection box worth of chocolate over a whole Christmas period, he might only have mild symptoms of poisoning. 

By the age of four, when a dog eats chocolate, he is at "third-level". 
If the dog eats chocolate at this university stage, it's the equivalent of an elephant giving live birth to a mini-van.
The only human equivalent would be if there was someone hiding behind the bushes and jumped out to give you a fright.
Would you feed your dog slices of processed ham, that is 20% water and lots of preservatives, and salt? Would you feed your child? 
Would you feed your child to your god, as was asked of Abraham?
Never, ever -
feed your dog.

Myk Pilgrim's Write Tip: Tracked Changes while editing YOUR OWN STUFF

So Myk Pilgrim (whose books are available at Amazon) has shown off his self-editing chops from his Instagram account.
Tracking changes is not something I had considered while editing my own stuff but I took to it after seeing Myk post his own material and his hilariously self-critical comments. I added a few to my own edits below.

One thing that I hadn't considered was how important this tool can be for making changes that work - often, if switching around or adding a clause, for example, you think it's "fixed" when in fact it's been potentially worsened by a clarification (or whatever else).
Maintaining tracked changes allows you to return to that same section and see how it reads later with a cold eye, once you've left the editing alone and/or moved onto another section.
If you're not doing this at the editing stage, perhaps you oughta!
Great stuff altogether.

Formatting typos on this blog

Okay. I would like to put this on the record.
I did not put the bulleted point in that format. Okay?

It does look good though. I think I will leave it like that. It’s not that I am a big fan of bullets or want one for myself. It just looks good.
There’s a prominent Irish journalist whose interview I parodied a couple of years ago in this dump. He was discussing the adoption rights of same-sex couples at the time, expressing conservative views. 
For some reason unbeknownst to myself, the word “Yehkunchya” (again, parodying his own writing – a terrifically creative workaround to avoid scatology in mainstream media, and highlighted in the image) went into bold on my blog. I didn’t put it into bold.
I don’t know for how long it was in bold, and it may well have been more than a year, but the standalone word seemed far more severe in bold than it would have been if it was normal, like the surrounding text. I wouldn’t want this journalist to see that and think “In bold and everything. Harsh!”
Bad enough slightly misrepresenting his opinions through parody, I feel it also misrepresents my own opinion of the journalist if it's in bold.
I don’t know what to say beyond making these points. I don’t know if the blog is being hacked occasionally. 
Very odd that these very specific changes occur. And it only gets a few visits a day. If any other bloggers notice weird stuff with their blogs, maybe we can discuss it. I just don’t know.

I do know, however, that I have the sudden urge to become a carrot now more than anything in the whole wide world. I am fearful that this entire abandonment of binary options might further undermine my status as a top influenza virus. So it’s back to business as usual! My next blogpost might just have a picture of a poo.

I did not write that last paragraph. See? WTF, like. (Ah, no. I did.)

What Rhymes with Bastard by Linda Robertson

First published in 2008, What Rhymes with Bastard by Linda Robertson (on Goodreads here) is an amusing account of the author's life with her boyfriend, first in the UK and then in San Francisco around the turn of the millennium.

Her fella is a junkie who tends to disappear only to re-appear days or weeks later, a little worse for wear, requiring stays in psych wards having lost the run of himself.
Think typically English Hugh Grant type dialogue in this context and you get the idea. She, meanwhile, has been an assiduous student, painfully shy and academic and body conscious.
She ultimately blossoms into what could be described as a reasonably competent copywriter at what appears to be a ludicrous advertising firm. (Or something.)
Details on some of her job spec, and her work colleagues, highlight the crazy working life she led in SF. Meanwhile, she and her guy are crammed into an apartment with a bunch of other people. 
She's musically creative too. Navigating this life while dealing with her guy's newfound peccadilloes (found from where, we wonder?) the heroine is also writing music with whimsical lyrics.
Although the importance of family is a theme, she pokes fun at her parents' foibles as well as everyone else's. 
Funny stuff throughout, the work reads like fiction, and gives an idea of what went on during the first dotcom bubble.
Get it at Amazon and elsewhere.

Americans I HATE YOU!

You! Idiots!

What are you doing with this stuff? Look!
Look at what you return to us, in leprachaun form: LUCKY CHARMS?

This is no accident of nature!

It's got marshmallows in it FOR! BREAKFAST!

There are generic versions here too - competing with marshmallow-breakfast rivals. There should be no marshmallow breakfast competitors.

There should be no marshmallow breakfasts.

Why is it so very important?
Isn't there ENOUGH sugar?

Why? Do you think for ONE SECOND that you can be both as beautiful as you are AND provide marshmallows for breakfast? It defies logic. It is appalling.

AND MCDONALD'S? Slow down everybody!
We're eating the beef and the Japanese is getting too tall to WORK THE MACHINERY!

And this one:

She has keys for eyes all the better to unlock your common sense! And a capo on the other eye to change the key whenever she wants! Except even SHE couldn't manage it.
My life was going brilliantly until SHE came along.
Let me ask you, America: Why?
Why, America?

The chance of God's existence

An agnostic argument against the "Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God"

The recent arguments for God's existence suggest that the probability of life is infinitesimal. The thrust of these arguments is made through the prisms of DNA and astronomy, inter alia. Feel free to comment or correct in the comments below.

On the formation of life and our presence in the universe, even scientists say it’s very very very very very very very very very very very very very very unlikely, and there might be an intelligence behind it.

There was a Big Bang. What caused it? 
We’re not entirely sure, but there are scientific explanations.

The universe has been cooling down, decaying, and expanding into a weaker state, diluting, or whatever else, ever since this Big Bang. 
Brownian motion can operate in a quantum vacuum. (I just checked.) The early universe was filled with matter which was being blasted out. 
The matter slows down, and these tiny particles gather together. It congregates in the same way dust gathers on a window sill. Particles coalesce – a natural phenomenon that doesn’t necessarily require divine intervention – and they form larger bodies, stars, and the planets surrounding them. 
Over billions of years.
Billions of years.
So if at first a meteor doesn’t succeed in becoming a planet because it's too small, it collides with another meteor to form a planet, or it floats off on its meteoric way.

There’s a stickiness to it all, with ions and charged particles, and the gravity of these particles as they come together become a stronger force, locally, than the expanding universe’s force universally. So they slow down, settle into these stars, which settle into galaxies of stars, which settle into galactic clusters (or whatever they’re called). We could think of it like the balls dispersing across a pool table when you break. They hit each other, changing each other's trajectory, slowing down. But all the while the table (or universe) is still expanding.

All very unlikely. Why gravity as a powerful force? Gravity works for me! Does it work for you? If not, stay in the clouds. So it’s very unlikely, for example, that the Big Bang happened at all, and very unlikely that it blasted out matter at a rate that enabled the celestial bodies, the galaxies and stars, to form with such random perfection.
But that happened.
It’s very unlikely that the Earth collided with another planet early on in its formation, perhaps contributing to the formation of its iron core which gives us our poles and our magnetic field to keep out the carcinogenic ultraviolet rays, and perhaps causing the very unlikely formation of the moon through the throwing up of debris in this huge collision, and very unlikely again that this lunar influence enabled the formation of the tides of the seas and oceans, to further encourage life, and to assist with life cycles.
But that all happened before life was ever formed at all. 
So the building blocks for aspects of life, such as photosynthesis, and respiration, were already in place, at least in part, with this collision that made Earth bigger, and formed the moon to orbit it.
To recap: It happened because in this small pocket of the universe, dust and gas molecules gathered in a flawed vacuum to form a sun, and dust circling that sun or star formed the planets, and one of these planets was the Earth.
Very unlikely too, that the Earth happens to be in this Goldilocks zone, situated near enough to, and far enough away from, the sun to be “just right” for life. But that happened. Why?
We know how it happened. But why?

Perhaps it happened in part because there was a collision with another planetary body early on in Earth’s formation, to knock it into that Just Right for Life zone (see above).
It happened because dust coalesces, and the more massive a body, the bigger its gravitational pull. (See above again.)
Because atoms and molecules were scooting around the universe as it cooled down, and these got stuck to each other. (See above again, for the implied cause-and-effect).

So the formation of life is very very very very very very very very very very very very very very unlikely.
See how the verys get crossed off because things happen? I’m not counting, by the way. 

But these things happen because the previous things happened
It’s still very unlikely that these things happen the way they do. And sometimes things can't happen any other way in this universe.
But these things happen the way they do, one after the other or sometimes more randomly, like it or not, and all of them so far have a rational or scientific explanation. 
We don't know why matter was blasted out at the rate it was blasted out just after the Big Bang - or maybe some in the scientific community do have those answers. 
But it only happened once in this universe, and it happened the way it did.
A lot of the stuff that happened doesn’t have to happen once.
This isn’t some magical clock being created out of debris by a blind horologist, to just fall into perfectly functioning existence within the space of six days. It nearly is. 
But it's not quite like that. Things may happen thousands of times before something “clicks”. 
Because how long? Aeons of time. 13, or 17 billion years. Or whatever.

As for DNA: They say that crystals can self-replicate under certain conditions. So it’s rare but it happens, this replication, in a natural world devoid of life.
So let’s say we were already in the Goldilocks zone (because of planetary collisions early in Earth’s formation, and the formation of the moon, and whatever else).
There’s a flash of lightning into the gloop, and life is somehow created from the electric spark and the gloop. 
Or let’s say a comet struck the earth containing the first bacteria – and this life had formed elsewhere in the universe, in a similar fashion, with thunderbolts and lightning very very frightening ME!
What’s the likelihood of that happening?A gabillion to one, says you.
(Obviously lightning was probably not involved. But we've been galvanising dead frogs for centuries and re-starting hearts with electricity for decades. So this is just an example, okayyy?)

So let’s say the lightning strikes happened a thousand times rather than once.  How many lightning strikes hit the oceans today, every day?
Let’s say there was a lot of static charge in the air back then, let’s say thousands of bolts of lightning struck lots of primordial ooze, every single day for years, either here or elsewhere in the universe, or up in the sky, and the first bacteria or amino acids somehow sprang into being.

I say "somehow" but I stress we could probably discern how it happens if we watched on macro, micro and quantum levels.
Let's say instead of thousands of times, it happened once. (It only has to happen once.)

One of these bacteria or molecules of acid, or the only bacterium that flared into existence in the second scenario, has to survive and reproduce by mitosis, or meiosis, or by whatever method it did, or come together with another strip of molecules, and then do it again, and so on, and so forth. 
We still have this glueyness in things. Similar principles to dust gathering. For example, water might attract things, like trapping dirt, and it repels things through capillary action, in various ways. Makes things acidic or alkaline. Erodes. It does all sorts of stuff.

The probability of these random events happening is infinitesimal. But somehow, it happened. Things got stuck to each other because things stick to each other, from negatively and positively charged atomic particles up.
Maybe it happened more than once. But why did it happen? 
It happened because hydrogen fits with oxygen in a neat way to make water, and there happened to be some carbon around, and light and heat from the sun, and because Earth was in the Goldilocks zone, because it had collided with another planet to knock it off its original axis and orbit in the solar system, because yaddah yaddah.
Maybe that's the miracle.
And basic evolutionary theory shows how natural selection plays on random mutations to allow successful species to evolve and flourish. 
The dodos were successful in Mauritius after they stopped bothering to fly anywhere. They had food sources, they could raise their families, and they couldn’t give a rat’s ass about flying. So they evolved their wings-of-flight away.

But they died out because they suddenly stopped flourishing when Man arrived, on his post-Renaissance era boats, and they came up like fools to greet him on the beach, after he’d had tens of millions and millions of years of evolution and struggle, and more than a little experience in killing fowl.
Darwinian Evolution is questioned today by biologists who have evidence that species can do things we had no idea they could do previously, in terms of mid-life mutations, or sending genetic instructions on to future progeny, even skipping a generation. 

But these attacks on basic Darwinism from today’s biologists are generally not to suggest the existence of a God.

It’s very unlikely that aAn asteroid struck the Earth 65 million years ago to cause the mass extinction of dinosaurs, and to give mankind the chance to flourish, if we're to phrase things teleologically. 

Was that fate? The Earth and its sun are situated on an arm of the Milky Way spiral galaxy. As the solar system (with the Earth) bobs into and out of its point on this arm, it sometimes moves into clusters of busier-than-usual celestial traffic.

Most of the four or five mass extinction-level events experienced by Earth’s life forms have occurred during what astronomers and geologists and the scientific community believe to be periods of busy celestial traffic. Every few hundred million years, the Earth floats into a zone where there are a lot of bullets flying around, and is struck by an asteroid or comet, and 70 percent of all life is wiped out.

So that’s why extinction-level events happen. Half a billion years of dinosaurs, or dinosaur-like creatures, plodding along (or whatever length of time it was that they were around), and they were wiped out. 
We haven’t been around for as long. 
Did God gift us this opportunity, after creating the first RNA and DNA molecules hundreds of millions of years earlier? 
Or did our solar system go into some busy zone where there were lots more comets and asteroids shooting around the place, and one of them hit Earth, and that's why we're here? 
We have had four or five chances already to become sentient, to give God his due for our existence. Four or five mass extinction events over three billion and more years. The supermassive snails (or whatever) didn't thank Him for their beautiful shell designs or the Fibonnacci sequence. The T-Rex (or whatever) spent all her time hunting the young of sauropods.

Let’s say He gifted us this opportunity, after wiping out worlds of molluscs and lizards and triffids and ferns (or whatever) in a number of antediluvian and prelapsarian hellfires.  He did that so we could all speculate like this, or worship Him for creating this world. Because in a universe that’s in a state of decay, when as organised and destructive and smart a bunch as homo sapiens comes along, it might just have happened by chance is miraculous.

So it’s about as likely as unlikely that God exists. Because He hasn’t “happened” the way all the other stuff happened the way it did. None of what’s happened above proves His existence. 
Evidence of Biblical events can be questioned far more readily than the physics and geology above. Why is that? Because there's a massive crater off the isthmus of the Americas. That's there
But there was no census at the time of Jesus' birth, for example. That's from a time of recorded history and even that does not tally up with the facts. We were framing stories back then. More interested in truth than fact. "Love thy neighbour" is fair enough. But also let him ride into town on this donkey and cause a storm of controversy so that they kill him? That makes a good story too.
We're talking about a region where farming and writing first took off millennia earlier, a region where state-backed currency became a thing, where they had lists of pharaohs and annals of kings and they kept proper records (in North Africa and the Middle East), dominated at this point by an efficient empire from the continent (Europe) that most successfully exported its beliefs by hook or by crook across the whole planet over the next two thousand years, and annihilated the records of other civilizations.

Let's say God did send his son two thousand years ago. And He left us with four (and more) shoddy journalists who needed to spin their narratives so that the Lord descended from the House of David. Why are the Gospels so very different, from account to account?

It is speculative to suggest that there is a personal God who will send His Messiah, or who sent His Son, or spoke through his Prophet, or will send his son again with the Mahdi, or is a pantheon of gods, or we’re all reincarnated, and that He, or the adherents to some life force, or Britcham R. Hubbard, passed down books full of war and righteous anger and punishment, and eating instructions, and slavery, 
as well as Love. 
Yet you say the book, whichever book it is - and it may as well be the myths of Ancient Greece or Scandinavia - is there. Teleologically, again, maybe it was God's will that one of the last Roman emperors had a vision that converted him to Christianity. 
God's will was involved in sparing enough European civilization in the form of monastic life when the Roman empire died out in a manner that prevented the spread of Christianity via the legions. 

What are the chances that, when Rome was pushed back into Italy, a network of Catholic-run universities and monasteries would remain open for business? 
Is it as likely that the Goths or Mongols or Huns or Vikings could have pushed their mythologies onto the locals across Europe? It didn't happen. What did?
Tell me how God was involved in pogroms before the Crusades, that wiped out pockets of Judaism in England and across Europe, or how the genocide and influenza of the conquistadores inspired the Americans to convert.

Maybe we made all that stuff up is what’s as likely to have happened, when we got bored colouring in our bull murals on the cave walls, and started snorting the paint instead of drawing with it. And we added to it when a carpenter came on the scene preaching love and claiming divinity.
This is not to say that Jesus didn’t believe himself the son of God, for example. 
It’s not to say that he didn’t exist. 
It’s not to even say that God doesn’t exist, or that Jesus is not the Son of God, nor that He didn't rise from the dead.

  • It's not to suggest that we should dismiss Islam, for instance, as a source of civilisation. When it comes to Enlightenment, Islamic philosophers were debating elements of rationalism and empiricism five hundred years before Descartes and Locke. 

It's not to say we can't look to Buddha or Hinduism for inspiration.
If you do a raindance and it rains, then dance, MFs!

It’s just to suggest that maybe Jesus isn't the son of God, and we can as readily dismiss Abrahamic religions as any that have gone before or come since. 
It's to suggest that maybe Jesus wasn't descended from David and Abraham.

Perhaps the scientists who speculate on a divine explanation for our existence - due to the laws of probability - are simply doing their job.
And that is to say that to rule out the existence of God entirely is unscientific, because absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and because the hum of the background radiation in this universe endows us with an environment to beg questions about the lunacy of its perfection, and all of the things that had to happen to bring us to this point.