Tuesday, 23 January 2007

A tale of two technologies

Well, I’m going against what I originally penned in for this blog, again. I have been desperately trying to edit together a video that I recorded on my Nokia Nseries N93, but instead I’ve decided to write, as I have no patience for editing software these days.

Now, throughout this blog and its exploration of how hedonism and 21st century technology meet, I’m going to set myself tasks every now and again. I don’t profess to be the most hedonistic guy in the world, far from it, I’ll often settle for second best or whatever suits. Though occasionally I will impress upon myself the need for some decadence, such an impression took place the weekend just gone, when I decided it was time for a selection of nice cigars.

Now, being relatively new to the area I had no idea where the local tobacconist was, fortunately for me we live in an age where such information is but a click away, as apposed to the more traditional flicking of pages. Anyway, one Google search later and I had my destination, seven button presses later and I had my directions, having put the postcode into my Tomtom satellite navigation system. So I shoe horned on my Vans and meandered down the street. I had approximately a mile and half to travel and thus decided to make it by foot alone. The Tomtom quietly gave me voice guided directions where needed and I followed its onscreen map without fault, although in all honesty I basically had to walk in a straight line.

However, I arrived at my destination without fail, chapped and cold, but with plenty of daylight to spare. I was welcomed inside by an elderly gentleman smoking a hand-made clay pipe and wearing a Motorhead t-shirt, quite the juxtaposition but a gamely one I thought. After exchanging pleasantries I went about explaining how I wished to buy some fine cigars, whilst remaining within the price bracket of a sane man. He directed me to the controlled atmosphere of a closed room, where the finer goods were kept.

“Nicaraguan” he said, “hand rolled.”

“Outstanding” I replied “I’ll take six.”

So we exchanged currency for goods in the usual manner and I went on my way, satisfied that technology had helped me acquire some decent cigars. This felt too easy though, like I was the racing hare yet this time I’d actually one, with little effort, and with time to spare. So I decided further treats were in-order. Not one to quibble about a decision I fancied I was in the mood for something with a Latino flavour, after-all, my cigars were of South American origin. Without delay I pulled out my mobile and began searching for somewhere I could drink a half decent sangria, and once again I was meandering down the road, following my friend Tomtom in his tutored English tone to a venue called Kazbar.

I have to admit; even the outside of this place had a distinct Latino feel to it, largely comprising of browned concrete and cheap wood, the door was medieval in fashion yet retained an air of authenticity to it that drew me in and begged me to put at its old iron hinges. We are drifting from the point in hand however; I had been suggested this place by a search engine after using 3G mobile technology on the 2.4", 320x240 pixel resolution, 262144 colour screen of my N93. I’d used my Tomtom to bring me here, and now all I needed was some Sangria to enjoy with my cigars and perhaps the company of a good woman with a Latino bloodline.

Now thus far the technology had worked, it had allowed easy sailing through out the day, I’d woken up, decided I wanted something a little removed from my daily in take and set about acquiring it in the way I know best, through utilising technology, and probably making a long-winded effort out of the whole thing. It had worked however, as I sat at the bar with my £15 jug of Spanish made sangria – they employed Spaniards at the saloon – I puffed tentatively to start on my Nicaraguan hand-rolled cigar. I say tentatively because I was still unawares of how I’d find a Spanish, or indeed Mexican, girl to top the night off. The technology I had with me could probably help in some way but I’d decided enough was enough and to run with my instincts for the rest of the night.

This is where the story becomes even more interesting. See, as I was sat there with slightly squinted eyes, observing and tasting, a young gentleman came and sat next to me. I was on the verge of giving up, three cigars and two jugs of sangria down I’d almost decided to call it a night, and then he piped up.

“Do you mind telling me where you got those cigars?” he started.

“No problem, it was actually just down the road, there is a small yet highly specialised tobacconist on High Street, excellent service, I’ll be going back soon.” I replied.

And he thanked me and turned away. I chose this juncture to excuse myself briefly, but didn’t want to lose my seat and so I decided to leave my jacket on top of the stool and ask the young sir to look after it, which he did. When I returned he asked the same of me and before coming back to the bar I noticed he shot outside, I thought the swine had ran off leaving me with some piece of incriminating evidence, I could see it there plain as sight… ‘NO NOT MINE SIR, SOME PRICK COCKSUCKER LEFT IT HERE FOR ME TO TAKE THE HEAT’ but no sooner had I thought, than he came back in and with a lady in tow. Now, at this point I was ready to leave, hearing this couple, who were quite obviously on a first date, was just a little too much; I had just about finished my last bit of sangria when the young chap ordered another jug, no harm in that, but then he proceeded to fill my glass.

“There you go, enjoy” he said.

“The fucker” I thought.

I don’t need his sympathy, but free drink is free drink, so fuck it. No sooner had he finally come around to pouring his own glass than the girl stood-up and left for the bathroom. I thought I’d break the silence and ask the question.

“How’s it going then?” I chirped up.

“Pretty well actually” he replied.

And we both sank back into our positions and sipped on our sangria. Then he turned to me with a smile and made an exhalation of laughter that obviously warrants attention, so politely I turned to him and raised my eyebrows.

“You know…” he began, “It’s the funniest thing, we actually met on the internet, though a site called Faceparty, I’m not usually up for that sort of thing but I thought it’d be worth a go, weird how technology is creeping into our lives isn’t it?”

“Fuck…” I replied, “Weirder than you can even begin to think”

“Quickly like, before she comes back, I know we’ve just met ‘n all, but she said she’s got a mate coming down in a bit, save her being a third wheel and getting in the way, you fancy sharing a few more drinks with us then seeing if you get along with her mate when she comes?”

“Yeah, fuck it, why not?”

“Great, I’m Gary, she’s Lisa, I’ll introduce you when she gets back…”

So it seemed inadvertently, technology had indeed provided me with everything that I wanted that day. From fine cigars, good sangria and now a date which, judging by the girl sat next to Gary, probably wouldn’t be of Latino origin but a good looking girl none-the-less.

My hopes were soon dashed when I saw what appeared to be a sasquatch waving through the dimly lit, smoke filled bar area. Her marauding walk made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, and as I heard Gary let out a nervous cough I decided it was time to make a quiet and dignified exit, before any blood was spilled.

“Sorry Gary… Lucy… something’s just come up, you know how it is, working within the social media, web2.0, fucking search engine optimization and all that, bastards never leave me alone, just called me in, overtime yeah, but I need the money, erm, call me, we’ll do lunch.

And that was that, well almost, as I was quickly making my way to the medieval styled door, I spotted a graceful looking creature sat in a booth at the other end of the venue in the restaurant area. I thought I’d hide, give it a second and see if she has company…and then I tried my luck, which as it happened seemed to be in. She was petite, had an olive complexion and spoke in soft broken English which had the adorable trait of being pronounced from the roof of her mouth rather than the front of her teeth. We talked and ordered some more sangria, ate ‘on the house’ pistachio nuts and nattered briefly about Europe and her time in Oxford. Athalia was her name, as close as I can come to spelling how it was pronounced anyway, and she was wonderful company for the time we had.

Now, I had everything that evening, good drink, good cigars and finally good company, and through one way or another, it was brought about through technology and its use. Always bear in mind though, that it’s more often wise than not to go with gut feeling.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

The Mobile device and hedonism.

I wasn't planning on making this subject my first port of call, however, with the announcement of the Apple iPhone and other well designed and implemented pieces of mobile technology, such as the Nokia N76 at CES, I've decided to go ahead with it.

The nature of aestheticism, its pursuit and application in someone's life, is pivotal to hedonism. Tracking the beautiful and exquisite, hunting the spectacular and stunning are pre-requisites for people who wish to devote themselves to a hedonistic lifestyle, leading an intense life in the pursuit of beauty. Now, although aestheticism is perhaps a dated concept and has since died a death, I believe its key lines of philosophy are still relevant today. With the philistine hunt for celebrity and other such dullard pastimes, the search for beauty in something with no need for any didactic meaning or prevalence is perhaps more relevant than ever.

Although, perhaps I’m mistaken. The technology I’m calling into question here is, in many cases, aesthetically attractive, following precise lines and an evolution of design, but it does have meaning; it has purpose and conceivably without the ability to fulfil this purpose the object will lose its beauty.

The Apple Iphone for instance.  Following from Apple’s previous design technique it follows a simplistic curve that balances practicality with an ergonomic sense of place. Its smooth exterior and rounded shape will, I believe, feel natural in the hand and carry the ability to fit easily on the body. It glistens like a ruby or diamond, and catches onto that innate human susceptibility for all things shiny. It retains a beauty in itself, as an object it is refined, doubtless it would fool an asethetist of old into making them think it was a precious stone or some such. For arguments sake, it is an eye catching and pleasing piece, and hedonistically sound, from a traditional standpoint at least.


However, the debate questions whether the exterior alone carries the hedonistic attributes of such an item. Would a hedonist, in the true sense of the word – defined simply as a person in the pursuit of pleasure – encase the product in a glass sphere of some kind simply to look at and, like the traditional aestheticism forerunners, reject its meaning and purpose simply to behold its beauty? Or would they use it, believing the pleasure that can derived from the object is in fact a combination of its aesthetic beauty and its technological prowess, its functionality and practicality. I believe they would opt for the second, at least in this day and age. As pleasant as the device is to the eye, its real power for the creation of pleasure lies within. Technical specs are dull, but sound in the knowledge that it has an extensive practical use, I believe it is a great example of how in the 21st century, technology and hedonism are combined, are one with each other.

Which one carries the most weight though? Functionality and technological dexterity or design and aesthetic beauty? Indeed, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yet using averages in order to make some progression, I believe most would side with functionality, purpose and utility over aesthetic looks when it came down to which one would allow more pleasure to be derived from the device. The iPhone treads a fine line between the two, with possibly the greatest amount of skill seen in recent times.

An amateur, when asked, would probably tell how companies such as Vertu produce the most hedonistic mobile devices. With their gold trimmings, titanium cases, diamond encrusted pieces of flash; they certainly are extravagant on one level. However, hedonism is not derived entirely from a large price tag alone; perhaps a costly item will often deliver large amounts of pleasure, but not always. The practical functionality of a device, which can be priced as high as £20,000 in this instance, is paramount to its hedonistic qualities. When on a specification list the company has to mention that the device has a calculator, it immediately becomes apparent that once purchased, there is little pleasure to be derived from your diamond encrusted Signature Verto Phone, other than its sparkly nature.


And there are devices that take the other step, away from elegant, exotic and often eccentric design, further into the realm of functionality. The newly announced Nokia N76 for instance takes this step, whilst maintaining a decorum and aesthetic presence on its flip-side that the Vertu devices fail to do with itself. Treading lightly between refined design and polished practicality it meets somewhere in the middle, alongside the iPhone, which is truly the better, or in the realm of this discussion, is the most hedonistic, is a question for another time.

Aestheticism originally grew out of symbolism and decadence; art for arts sake with no moral meaning or use. A pure quest for beauty, for pleasure from art and nothing else. Technology cannot fall into this category, it cannot be art for arts sake, or technology for technologies sake; correct there are masses of gadgets and gizmos that look splendid but have day-to-day practical use, but they do have a use none-the-less. This however, does not by any means bring technologies hedonistic values into question. Where beauty and functionality combine perfectly in the 21st century to bring pleasure through whatever it may be, highlights its importance in a hedonistic lifestyle.

So I say fuck the ones with their stupidly expensive devices that have all the pizzazz but none of the practicality. And fuck the dullards who fail to realise just how important technology is to hedonism in the 21st century, the blockheaded fucks who are stuck in the past chasing cheap drugs when it has been seen and done, to great extent so many times before. Embrace the poly, take hold of the silicon, and chase the dream of attaining hedonism through the perfect combination of function and design.

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Sunday, 7 January 2007

Let us dare to be powerful

Howdy everyone,

The tales that follow below will, in an albiet vauge fashion, help clarify the subject that I want to tackle with this blog. It’s to do with hedonism and technology, and I’m currently trying to define exactly what I’m looking for… Basically throughout the situations that you may or may not chose to read about, I was carrying my gadgets, my gizmos that kept me connected, in the loop and linked-in whilst on the run. I love that notion, going fucking insane in Acapulco on mescal and cheap beer, but all the while having the ability to connect-up, log in, blog, download, listen, watch and read. But that’s just the tip of the ice-berg, I travelled with my laptop, my 2gb memory stick, my usb memory card converter, and portable GPS, digital camera, mp3 / mp4 player, XDA portable PC and don’t forget my personalised wax seal. Does this combination of liquor, women, madness and technology put me on the brink, at the very forefront of hedonism in the 21st century?

Who knows? Perhaps it does, and this is what I want to explore. What is hedonism in this very special time? I personally don’t believe it’s about being the rock star, the Coke fiend, the aristocrat or the ‘it’ girl. The concept takes much more now, are geeks the biggest hedonists of this day and age?

The leaps and bounds people take to secure an image of a hedonist, a life overflowing with the pleasure of the senses, know no limits. We all know fine Couture clothing, exquisite perfumes or mouth watering meats and wines are all traditionally thought of as hedonistic. Then in recent times came the drugs, the LSD, the MDMA and Cocaine. But they’re for has-beens and wanna-be’s, who the fuck cares if you do Coke anymore? I want to know the sort of mobile computer you’re packing, what widgets you have on your blog or who your favourite podcaster is. Perhaps this makes me a geek and not hedonistic at all, but the question of which arena it puts me in is not one easily answered, and it is what I am going to explore, in the only way I know how – through empiricism – and try my best to keep you entertained at the same time. Read on for some background to myself, and how I got to where I am at this present time.

Alas, I’ll give a brief update on were I am; right now. No longer roaming the ether of unemployment with booze acting as some sort of erroneous floatation device, I’m in fulltime employment and as a Copywriter no less. Getting to this stage was no easy task, let me remind you that I only listen to the Mess around; I very rarely take part in it.

Truth be told I’m currently sat on the Oxford tube (a trumped up bus service) heading into London at moderate speed for New Year’s eve, a night of drinking to be spent with the one known as Bevski. Ultimately it will be a silly, over expensive night out to end an all together overly expensive year, too much booze, too much money, not enough fun. The two aren’t always side by side – booze and money – holding hands and smiling, often they’re coupled against each others will in a disgusting arranged marriage that causes little joy and a whole lot of trouble. 2006 started with a bright spark which quickly turned into a damp squib. Prolonged months of dull work – a means to an end – that bore little fruit for the time and effort put in.

Never one to be dismayed by an unfulfilled Plan A however, I reverted to Plan B and quickly shot off to Acapulco. Chasing the dream of tequila fuelled nights, and days filled with sex and writing, I almost got what I wanted. From settling in over the first few days and discovering that, like most Anglo-Celts, my ability to consume Mescal tequila is only inhibited by my inability to control my basic motor-functions; the mind goes on but the body is unwilling, as the saying goes, I continued to solider on in the fashion that I have become accustomed to. Getting chased down the beach by angry locals, after a brief encounter with a man who appeared to have swallowed numerous basketballs, was a definite highlight; along with almost getting mauled and thrown 100ft to off a balcony by a giant Persian, who was protecting a group of naive Canadian girls.

All of this is documented here. My further travels through Los Angeles and Las Vegas did little but provide me with a vague insight into the American dream, I clawed at it myself ever-so-briefly whilst in Las Vegas, but came away a loser. I guess it’s just not in my blood, I’ll have another stab at it again someday, in a more prolonged and targeted fashion, this time around was rather sporadic in nature, which only resulted in heavy loses and a few fatalities along the way.

Then there as San Francisco, White Russians, beautiful ladies, calm days and lots of writing and one fateful answer from one very special person. In the situation that the world is in at the moment, San Fran can almost be seen as a haven in the daft empire that is America, it’s a place like none other I’ve visited and I will – without a doubt – go back there some day to try and recapture my youth and the three weeks I spent there in the summer of good ol’ ’06. My time in San Fran was so very special, I believe, because of my lack of booze, the turbulent emotional bullride that I had and then the final settling of scores, and of the thick black sediment that had shrouded my heart for such a long time.

The dream always ends though folks, life manifests a monster that will drag you away kicking and screaming. Mine was a 40 hour trip which took me about 8000 miles and involved little sleep, lots of sweat and plenty of greasy food. A brief respite in the home counties saw me recuperate slightly and head straight down to London in search of a place to live and work. A week on a couch later and I’d found the spot, West Hampstead was the area, and it was nice. I say it was nice, not because I destroyed it or caused some sort of terrible plague on the area, but because after almost two months, far too much money spent and a clash of head and concrete here and there, I have had to move, to Oxford.

My time spent in London was a mysterious one. I’ve never really been one for squalor, people write in-depth about the shit-filled existences they choose to lead for a short period of time in order to gain some ‘perspective’. It’s not something I would ever do, as I’d be shit at it. I spend too much money all the time, I couldn’t live as a tramp; I simply couldn’t. Not because I’m some sort of flaky, inter-bread aristocrat, but because I believe my sharp cunning and strong willed nature wouldn’t let me. As soon as, for instance, my 30 day experiment started, I’d automatically think, ‘how can I get myself out of this situation, what do I need to do, where can I clean, where can I get housing, how can I go about returning to society and becoming a productive citizen?’ And after two days I’d be back where I was. Anyway, I’ve lost my point. Basically I spent far too much money doing all the average things I’ve always done. My excuse was that I didn’t have enough money to do anything else, but looking back on the amounts I spent, I quite easily could have been more productive, gained more insight and taken a step closer to finding that perfect aesthetic moment only urban modernity can bring.

The highlights of London however were genuine highlights, rather than just shit bleached a different colour. Speed dating was an interesting night out, after quelling the bully inside me and concluding that the activity was not just for numb-skulls and fuck-o’s I took part and had a great night. New people, new faces, drink and the prospect of sex, it doesn’t get much better as far as I’m concerned. After finding a romantic connection with a lady, who turned out to be a decade older than me, we emailed and talked briefly but I guess I didn’t push hard enough, or I pushed too hard, who the fuck knows? Fucking women. Hah! Anyway, another highlight was a night I spent with the French, living with two of the fuckers I had a reasonable chance of making friends with one, which I did, and in turn going out with them for drinks and banter, which I also did. The night started off well, a curry in the south eastern quarter of the city and then to a shit club where I was engulfed by a shit-avalanche from which I struggled to get free. Then to a pub, at around 4am I questioned the bar tender what time the pub shut, ‘6am’ he replied in a thick brummy accent, the stupidest of accents. I was reluctant to believe him but I took his word for truth and ordered in some more booze. As the sun rose my French flatmate, Lionel, decided he needed to leave, I guess the man playing jazz flute, dressed as a wizard, I was discussing the American Patriot act with was just too much.

I decided a race was in order, styled around Phileas Fog’s around the world in 80 days. He would leave 30 minutes before me and take the bus, I would take the tube when it opened – around 6am – and the winner would be the first to arrive at the flat. At 6:30am I was leaving the pub and received a txt that he had won. ‘Fuck it then’, I though, I could do what I wanted with the rest of the day. I decided a trip to Buckingham palace would be nice, even though there was a reasonably high risk of getting shot and fatally wounded. When I arrived I had a brief chat with some San Franciscans, had a staring competition with a guard who definitely wasn’t staring back, and soaked up the atmosphere before I shot over to the Houses of Parliament. After a brief argument with some hippy swine who were protesting against depleted uranium shells I decided not a lot was happening, and I needed something to do. Not that I’m for depleted uranium, it’s just the fuckers were using a picture of a Harlequin babies (google image search those exact two words if you doubt me), which as horrific as it is, is just a natural birth defect and actually has nothing to do with Uranium. The hippy didn’t seem to realise this, and having just crawled out from his deflated tent and drinking his morning coffee probably wasn’t up to much of an argument with a man who had been drinking hard for about 16 hours previously, and was also now hardened by the bitter morning air. Anyway, after kicking up a fuss and not really getting anywhere, I finally decided to go to Sunday mass at West Minster Cathedral.

It was a pleasant experience on the whole, I couldn’t help but feel how it was all quite hocus-pocus, magic, flying with the faries bullshit. The hour and a half mass failed to move me, not because, I don’t think, I was terribly hungover and briefly fell asleep, but because as magnificent as the building was, and as glorious as the choir sang, it was all very creepy, it had a film of shit coating the whole thing that just failed to move. I did however, decide that a confessional was in order. After queuing for about 15 minutes I had had enough time to decide just what main sins I was going to confess for, that I had committed over the 12 year period that I hadn’t been to confessional. I entered, knelt down and spoke the words, ‘bless me father for I have sinned, it has been 12 years since my last confession’ the priest replied and said ‘welcome back to the church my son, what would you like to confess’ or something along those lines.

Now, what happened next killed any belief in the church I had left, or wanted to regain. I said that I had lost my faith in God and was wondering how I would regain that faith, the priest simply answered ‘would you no like to talk about the relationships you’ve had with people over the last 12 years?’ I recoiled in shock, I thought ‘fuck you slimeball’, he just entered a shitticane of epic proportions. But I was in a confessional booth so I kept my nerve and said ‘no I’d just like to figure out how to find God again’ to which he replied ‘say an act of contrition and 3 our fathers’.

What a crock of fuck. I was deeply angered by this fucker, like someone had shit in my cereal or dipped my toast in piss. No interest in helping me find God, just wanting to hear my tails of romping throughout the years. Fucking clown shoes I tell you. Fuck the church.

Anyway, again moving off the point. London was a great 2 months and although I got little writing done, in terms of my book, I did get published a few times and built up a good base of contacts that will hopefully bear fruit in the New Year. The obvious other highlight was getting to spend an increased amount of time with my best friends, Jen, Bevski and Lane… you’re alright guys.

If you’ve got this far you’re very patient, I look forward to adding more all over the Internet very soon. Updates will follow.

Your friend,