Posts Tagged ‘blog’

Well, hello again…

Posted: 30 March 2020 in housekeeping
Tags: , ,

Yes, yes, it’s been three months, more or less, and I’ve taken a much needed – seriously, you have no idea how much it was needed – break from the daily blogging, but I’m, and it’s, back in a couple of days’ time.

There’ve been few times in my life when I could look at current events and say a) ‘the world has changed‘ and/or b) ‘whatever happens next, when it’s over, the world will no longer be the same‘.

The one that jumps to mind, of course, is 9/11. For a period of time, there was Before-9/11 and After 9/11, and no one, not really, would pretend that the before and after were the same thing.

Dan Hodges asked a couple of weeks ago what news stories there’d been where the whole world was talking about One Story. 9/11? Of course. JFK assassination? Quite possibly.

And now we have Coronavirus, Covid 19. Or Covid-19. Or #Covid19. Whichever you prefer.

But whatever you call it, it definitely qualifies as ‘the world has changed‘ and ‘whatever happens next, the world will no longer be the same when it’s over.’

As I write this, it’s a couple of days before the end of March, and it’s not unfair to say that pretty much every sphere of human activity, every function of government, everything that makes us – wherever you are, wherever you’re reading this – a society… has changed.

Or at least the things that haven’t changed? Well, we’re all doing them very differently than how we did them even a month ago.

I mentioned on Twitter that a phrase I think we’re all going to have to get used to, pretty damn quickly, is “Well, last week, I never thought that…

Everything from the major to the trivial, from the global to the local, from the governmental to the entire personal… has changed.

And since I have fuck all influence on, or authority in, the major, the global and the governmental, I better concentrate on the trivial, the local and the personal.

Well, maybe not the latter, maybe. Not quite yet.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve always been a bit wary and careful about how personal I am in these things.

When I am very personal, it almost always comes as a surprise to me, and it’s rarely intended. Not consciously at least. It’s at least arguable, I suppose, that I’ve been more personal than I’ve consciously intended and exactly as personal as I subconsciously intended. I dunno.

Anyway.

The blog is back. I’ll write some more tomorrow on how I see the blog progressing for the next few months.

But I don’t think I’m spoiling anything if I say that there will be at least some personal stuff, a lot of minor stuff and an awful lot of trivial stuff involved.

(And yes, there’ll be the return of the ‘fast fictions from the archives’, possibly tyhe return of the Saturday Smile in some form (though I’m going back and forth on that one), possibly some new fiction, and some thoughts. Many thoughts.
 
 
See you tomorrow…

Interregnum: Thinking allowed

Posted: 17 October 2019 in 2020 minus, blogging
Tags: ,

This entire post is housekeeping, so if you want to skip it, go right ahead.

It’s mainly just me thinking aloud here today, while I try to justify to myself why another countdown blog would be a smart idea.

Plans for 55 minus
When I started the 55 minus… countdown, I was pretty open about why I was doing it, and what I wanted from it. After over two years away from blogging, I wanted to see if I could once again post a daily blog, write some interesting stuff, hopefully amuse some people, and just get back to writing something every day for people to read.

And I think, in the main, I achieved it.

What I learned from 55 minus
Well, for a start, I learned – re-learned, maybe? – that the countdown format works for me. It gives me a structure to the blog that I wouldn’t otherwise have, and it helps having a self-imposed deadline. I also learned that not having a full blown plan in advance of the countdown starting costs me; maybe not i the short term but definitely in the medium and long term.

The last time I did a countdown blog, I was pretty much burned out from blogging, so took a break. And the break lasted over two years. And that was with a plan.

This plan, as it happens:

Some of the abbreviations are immediately obvious, some of them not quite so obvious but understandable with a key.

“E/W” was code for me sticking up some stories I’d written for Elephant Words, a fiction site I participated in for a couple of years way back. “S/Smile”, obviously, the Saturday Smile.“D’Club” refers to Distraction Club. “HASC” was the Home Affairs Select Committee, which was – at the time – investigating antisemitism in British politics. “Election Day” was the 2016 Presidential Election.

This time I set out to do it without a plan as such. Oh, I had some vague ideas, and knew I’d put some fiction up. And I’d probably restart the Saturday Smiles Oh, and I wanted to write something on antisemitic tropes. And some stuff on London, where I live. Oh, and I was pretty sure that if I went to Edinburgh, I’d probably write some posts on that. But not really much more of a plan than that.

And it cost me. I quickly realised that I needed a structure or I’d end up taking a day off the first time I had a brain fart when nothing sprang to mind that day. And that genuinely panicked me, for a brief time. So a structure evolved.

And so the ‘stories from the vaults’ arrived.

And the one-offs/Ten Things thing arrived.

And I made it through the 55 days of 55 minus.

Planned for 55 plus
There wasn’t a plan for 55 plus. After I finished 55 minus, I thought I’d do what I’d previously down with countdown blogs (birthday, election, years), change the minus to a plus, carry on for ten days or so, then take a break.

But I didn’t. I carried on blogging.

What I learned from 55 plus
That it’s ok to take a day off now and then. And that if you’ve got a structure, unplanned or not, that works for you, carry on with it.

And that I like symmetry. I ended up running the 55 plus until I hit 55, well, 56 if you’re being pedantic. And it wasn’t until I came towards the end of it that I began to wonder, what next?

Ok, so what now?
Well, rereading the above, I’m hoenstly not sure if I’m smart or daft, if I’m being sensible or silly. But I’m going to try another countdown to the New Year of 2020, but this time with a plan, similar to the earlier one I did three years ago.

In some ways, it’ll be earlier. I have some plans already its’ mty late brother’s birthday during the run so I’ll write something about him. It’s my son’s birthday during the run, so I get to embarrass him. Which is always fun.

And there’s Christmas Day, of course.

The fictions from the vaults will continue, with some stories I recently discovered, which even I had completely forgotten about, and some of them have art attached.

The Saturday Smiles will continue but there might be a small change in the format there.

I’ll try and put up some new fiction. And I’ll write some more about ‘war stories’ from my past career, and some thoughts on comedy and writing and accountancy and… stuff.

There’ll be some personal stuff and some stuff on politics. And even some stuff on genres of fiction.

The Top Tens will be back, because I enjoyed them.

And, towards the end, a mea culpa about predictions I’ve made that have proved that I really shouldn’t make predictions.

And I may start off with a re-introduction, but since I did one only four months ago, I’ll try and make it a little different. Maybe.

So, join me tomorrow, for 2020 minus 75, and let’s see what happens, eh?

(Oh, just for the record, yes, there’ll be an update to A Life In Pictures including some new ones I’ve found from way back, but it won’t form part of the 2020 minus run. It’ll be a separate entry entirely.)
 
 
See you tomorrow…

Blog post titles are an odd thing. I mean, I ask ‘how are you?’ up there but, let’s be fair, there’s no way for you to respond before I continue, so it’s entirely self-serving and unnecessary.

Welcome to my blog.

As mentioned the other day, I’ve done a few of these countdowns and usually I just leap straight into them, but it’s been over two years since I’ve regularly blogged, so, a reintroduction probably isn’t the worst idea.

OK, so who the hell are you, anyway?
I’m budgie. Hello.

All right, my parents didn’t name me ‘budgie’; they may have been odd in some ways, but they weren’t that odd.

My given name, the name on my passport, is “Lee Barnett”, but I much prefer ‘budgie‘ – you’ll learn why in a moment.

I live in London, very near Abbey Road Studios. Yes, that Abbey Road Studios; Beatles, that album cover, that zebra crossing.

How near? Well, as I tell friends – whenever anything notable happens in London – if the news story doesn’t start with the words ‘Less than half a mile from the world famous…’ it happened nowhere near me.

After growing up in Luton – a great place to come from, but a lousy place to go back to – I’ve spent most of my life living in various parts of London: Ilford, Finchley, a couple of decades in Barnet, four years in Richmond… and now, since early 2017, a couple of miles’ north of Oxford Street, Central London.


I’m divorced, from a very nice lady named Laura, and together we have a son, Phil, who’s now twenty-three. That’s us over there, on the right.

He’s a lovely lad, and I’m incredibly lucky that he’s my son. Of course like any father and son, we share some interests, (comics, comedy, a sense of humour – most of the time), but most decidedly do not share others. I remain entirely puzzled as to his fascination with video games, professional wrestling, and various bands. And he remains utterly mystified by me, on a daily basis.

I’m a writer; there’s more about the writing in a moment, but yeah, that’s how I spend most of my days.

But I used to be an accountant, and in that profession, went from junior auditor, to senior auditor, to audit manager – there were a lot of audits – then grabbed the commercial shilling and ended up as a financial director of a tv channel, one of those you scroll past on your tv’s programme guide. While I rarely discuss specifics, my old profession may come up occasionally over the next few weeks, so… fair to put it out there.

I haven’t been an accountant/financial director for the best part of a decade, though.

A writer friend of mine once introduced me as “This is budgie; he used to be a very good accountant; now he’s a very good writer. The world has enough very good accountants and not enough very good writers’. As compliments go, that’s one I’ll take.

budgie’s perch?
Yeah, suppose I’d better deal with this fairly early on. The blog’s called ‘budgie’s perch’ because it seemed an appropriate title for a blog run by a fella whose nickname is ‘budgie’.

Which doesn’t exactly explain anything, does it?

‘Budgie’ is a nickname I’ve had for – blimey – over thirty-five years, now. Over thirty-five years. I’d ask ‘how the hell did that happen?’ But I can already hear Phil responding ‘that’s the way the calendar works, dad’.

But why ‘budgie‘? Well, the full story’s here, but if you want the ‘long-story-short’ version? What now, sigh, would be called the ‘tl;dr’ version?

I acquired the nickname when I was studying at Manchester Poly, and the name stuck. And though I stopped using it when I left Manchester, it recommenced when I got online in 1995…

And now? Well, far more people know me as – and think of me as – budgie than as Lee. And I much prefer that, to be honest; never particularly liked my ‘first name’, and ‘budgie’ feels more like me these days.

The full detailed story involves – in no particular order – copious amounts of alcohol, freshers, a hypnotist’s evening, and an accountancy lecture.

Yeah.

It’s worth reading.

OK, but budgiehypoth?
For twelve years, over ten British comic book conventions, comics legend Dave Gibbons and I ran a panel entitled hypotheticals. It was fairly popular, and when I was looking for a new URL for this blog, seemed a good concatenation to use.

You can see the logo we used for the panel (over there, to the side) bears a strong resemblance to the icon I use for myself online, and for this blog; Dave designed the original, and he did a ‘budgie’ version as a parting gift when we wound up the panel in 2011.

But, hey, for twelve years, I got to say I wrote scripts for Dave Gibbons. You can’t beat that.

But still… budgie’s perch?
Be grateful; the braindump I use to kickstart the writing muscles every day is named Going Cheep.

writings
Everything from being commissioned comedy for BBC Radio 4, the occasional bit for TV, a few comics stories (including writing an X-Men story) a novel entitled You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly and publishing two collections of very, very short stories in The Fast Fiction Challenge:

Both books are also available via Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. e-Versions (for Kindle, Sony reader, iBooks, etc.) can be obtained – email me and I’ll supply the ebook(s) in either .epub or .mobi version on request… Volume 1 (180 stories) is £4.00, or equivalent in local currency; volume 2 (200 stories) is £5.00

I also wrote three radio shows with Mitch Benn for Radio 4, and helped out with his past few Edinburgh shows.

What else?

  • erm… My alcohol of choice is single malt whiskey, neat: Jura or The Balvenie, or occasionally Glenfiddich. I can’t really afford that regularly, so a decent blended will do; never really got a taste for beer.
  • Oh, I’m Jewish; it’ll probably come up over the next few weeks at some point. I’ve never quite sorted out my relationship with my religion; I’m still figuring that one out, and have been for, oh, 40 years or so. That caveat aired, on most things, I at least try to be rational, I try to be a sceptic, to withhold belief in something until there’s evidence. I don’t always succeed.
  • That said, when it comes to my being Jewish, and given that this blog will comment upon current UK politics, it’s more than possible that Israel might come up in discussion. Just a heads up: if you’re looking to have some fun telling me that Israel has no right to even exist, you might as well quit reading now, and go off and do something we’ll both enjoy a lot more.
  • I’m in my mid-50s, so under the laws of blogging, my physical health will probably come up at some point. Other than my fucked up foot (about more of which here), it’ll likely just the usual health comments, scares and moaning.
  • Hmmm. Health. OK, I’ve had some mental health… ‘issues’, I believe they’re sometimes called. I have no intention right now to go into detail, publicly. That may change as the next eight weeks goes by. Let’s see how scared I am by the prospect.
  • Oh, and since I mentioned fear… I’ve a few phobias. Or do I? Phobias are irrational fears and I happen to think my fear of being stung by wasps or bees is entirely rational. But spiders bigger than teeny tiny in size? Yeah, ok that might be one of the tad irrational ones.

Finally in this list of stuff you didn’t need to know about me: there are things I genuinely regret not doing. Rarely, however, are they The Big Things that people are supposed to regret: lost loves, lost opportunities in life, that one person you passed in the street, never spoke to, but have thought about every day for years…

Mine are less grand. I wish I’d learned to use a slide rule; somehow never got around to it. I wish I’d paid attention during history classes at school, but then I’d have missed the joy in later life of discovering how much fun history can be. I have a mouth organ, purchased by friends of mine after I said I’d like to learn to play. I never have learned to play it, and I really should do something about that.

I think that’s about it for now. Anything else, ask away…

Oh, and see you tomorrow when there’ll be something much less about me and more about… something else.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

I know most people reading this already know who I am, and all, so you can skip the rest of this post if you’d like. But what with the re-emergence of this blog for the seventy-five day countdown to 1st January 2017, I seem to have attracted a few recent new visitors to this blog and to Twitter.

Been a while since I’ve done this, so why not update it?

Why not indeed…

Something specifically for Twitter followers… It’s been a while since I’ve done this, so it’s probably worth doing if only for future reference.

So, a quick non-Frequently Asked Questions.


So you’ve decided to follow me on Twitter or read the blog. Thank you! I’ll try to make the experience an enjoyable one.

So, don’t take this the wrong way, but who are you? I just added you because [other Twitter user] suggested it
I’m Lee “Budgie” Barnett; I’m British; I live in Ham, near Richmond. I used to be involved in the most peripheral of ways in comics, and ran a successful panel at UK comics conventions with Dave Gibbons entitled hypotheticals. Ask your parents about it; they may distantly remember it.

I write. I’ve written for radio, tv, the occasional comic book, an online novella, and several hundred 200 word slices of fiction as part of The Fast Fiction Challenge, including 150 stories written in 150 days during one stint. For a few years, I did The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction, you can read them in the link you just skipped past. Similarly, in 2013, I wrote twenty-four of them in twenty-four hours for Comic Relief. You can read all about them here.

Many of these stories have been collected, and several collections have been published so far; you’ll see me promote t hem every so often when I want some cash to expose new relders to them. Volume 1 of The Fast Fiction Challenge, containing 180 tales, was published in 2009. Volume 2 of The Fast Fiction Challenge, containing another 200 stories, was published in late 2010.

There’s also the ebook of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, available at all good email addresses, i.e. mine

“Budgie”? Why “Budgie”?
It’s a story you used to have to get me very drunk to tell… but after too many tellings, I stuck up the story here.

You use your name as your icon. That’s a bit weird.
I know. It is, isn’t it? David Gibbons designed the icon when we wrapped up hypotheticals. I started using it then and never really had a reason to change.

You’re hiding what you look like! Are you one of these anonymous trolls I’ve heard about?
Naah, not really. But it’s a perfectly understandable assumption. Here, this is what I look like: A Life In Pictures – December 2015 update. I update it at the close of the year.  

Anything else?
Yes, I have a son; he’s 21. (I know, I don’t look old enough, you’re too kind.) His name’s Phil, but for some reason his mother insists on calling him ‘Philip’. He gets mentioned every so often, usually complete with some indication of the pride and love I feel for him. He’s studying at Aberystwyth University right now, and probably in lectures. Or shooting music and gig videos with his fiancée, Rheannon. 

His mum’s name’s Laura; she’s one of my favourite people on the planet. We got divorced last year though we’d been apart since 2005.

What kinds of things do you blog about?
A mixture of fiction, my thoughts on various matters important and unimportant, occasional links to other people’s blogs or news reports, photos, videos… oh the usual. There are some standards, however; a Saturday Smile post, occasionally some politics, very occasionally a rant about something that’s pissed me off. And I’ll post something on 9th January every year in memorial for my late brother who died at 38.

You lost your brother? Shit, man, I’m so sorry.
That’s ok; you didn’t know. Here’s what I wrote about him this year.

You said you write about silly things as well though, yes?
Oh yeah. Here’s something about The History of the World. You’ll like it.

What kinds of things do you tweet about?
A mixture of utter nonsense, references to interesting posts – either on Twitter or their blogs – that other people have made, replies to questions, and occasional bursts of frustration.

You’re not going to overload me with your tweets, are you?
Oh, I hope not. Many of my tweets are replies to other people, so if you don’t follow them as well, you’re fine.

That’s not all of them, though, right?
Well, no.

So you’re going to follow me back, right?
Not always, no. I tend to follow people that I know for the most part. But engage me in conversation, comment on the blog, and it’s quite probable that I’ll add you. I’ll usually take a look at your recent tweets though, and may not… If so, sorry in advance, no offence intended.

You’re not going to get pissed off if I unfollow you, are you?
I’ll be furious and… no, of course not. Plenty of reasons why people unfollow me: I tweet on stuff they’re not interested in, or they followed me out of curiosity and that curiosity has been well and truly assuaged. Mostly, though, people unfollow me because they’re bored by my feed. That’s ok. Welcome to Twitter. 

I’m new to this Twitter thing. What do you use to tweet from? Come to that, how do you blog?
 Come to that, Almost without exception, I’m tweeting from either my iPhone or my iPad. If so, it’s usually from the Tweetbot app. I prefer it for all sorts of reasons to Twitter’s own app, but on the rare occasions I tweet a poll, it’ll be from the Twitter app. For blogging, I use the WordPress app.

Are you anywhere else online?
Other than here? Yes, I do a daily braindump – a couple of hundred words or so on whatever strikes me – on a tumblr entitled going cheep. NoI’m not on Facebook.

So what’s your Twitter account again?
I’m on @budgie

Not a lot to say, to be honest – just didn’t think that people were enjoying the daily blogs… and when I took a break, I didn’t get any negative responses to doing so.

So… while there may be a blog entry or five coming up before the year-end (I’ve half a dozen half-written quite important ones), and they may even have the “2014 minus…” header, they’ll be the exception.

However, there will new content, for more of which check the next entry on this blog, which should be up shortly.

Reading Amanda Palmer’s latest blog entry set my brain a-running in various directions, always a dangerous consequence, but not necessarily an unpleasant one.

In the entry, Amanda makes the point that

often blogging is just mind-shitting. sometimes tweeting is just soul-puking.

but when it’s not?

art-making, writing and music-making have never been so DEMOCRATIC.

I can’t disagree, with either statement.

And that started me thinking about the plethora of instructions handed out or made available to users of that new-fangled invention: the telephone.

A good summary of phone etiquette through the years is here, courtesy of ars technica.

Included within the above link is the glorious image you can see to your right, an advert from 1910.

Now I started blogging in 2002, long after some people reading this, and long before many others. Nine years. And I joined Twitter in January 2007, although I didn’t start regularly tweeting for about eighteen months.

Thing is – no-one told me there were any rules.

Because, to a large extent, there aren’t. If any instruction manual was given to me, showing what the etiquette was for online communication, I threw it away years ago, relying upon my own common sense to judge what was (I felt) appropriate and inappropriate.

Now if only everyone agreed with me as to what was appropriate and inappropriate, there wouldn’t be any problems. But people will insist on having their own ideas, morals and ethics.

And immediately after they threw their own instruction manuals away, they started showing those differences.

There are consequences to posting either on a blog, or on Twitter, sure. And they’re the same rules, by and large, that apply to any form of communication. You’re still liable to defamation of character law-suits if you do, indeed defame someone. You’re still open to attacks in response to your words if you offend, as Ricky Gervais is discovering this week.

I’m not about to debate the rights and wrongs of his position here, just to reassure you, although feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll answer direct questions.

However, on the subject of offence, Jerry Sadowitz’s line

Being offended is a tax you pay so you can laugh at jokes that offend other people

is being bandied around as if that’s the be-all and end-all of discussion. Leaving aside that Sadowitz was specifically discussing humour, taking his position to its logical conclusion would imply that it’s quite ok to use, say, the ‘n’ word any time you want to, as if you offend someone, so what? They get the right to offend you in return. No further consequences should follow.

Life doesn’t work that way, and nor should it. You don’t make gags about child murder to the parents of murdered children; you don’t don’t (factually correctly though it might be) call me “Jew-boy”, and you don’t use words that are generally acknowledged to be offensive words deliberately to inflame those who find it offensive.

This isn’t legislation-requiring. This is common courtesy and decent humanity.

But then, of course, we come to offence, and the taking of it, itself.

Is there a meaningful difference between when it’s intended, and when it’s not?

Does offence occur only when offence is intended? Suppose offence is intended, but then that intention is denied?

A says something. B is offended. A denies any intention to offend. C – It’s always that bastard C that causes problems, you note – C says that he can’t see how anyone could take offence at A’s comment.

Who’s right?

And, if your answer is, “it depends”, then who makes that judgement as to whether an item has ‘crossed the line’?

This entire subject does have a history for me, going back some years. On an online message board, someone asked whether the Blood Libel could actually have happened? The person concerned had a history of posting anti-Israel, rather than anti-Jewish messages. (Note, not anti-Israeli Government, but anti-Israel, suggesting that the country had no right to exist, and should be destroyed.)

I, along with other Jewish members of the message board took offence at the question (“Can we even be sure that these supposed murders didn’t occur, in some bizarre sectlet of Judaism”) since, as far as we were concerned, it gave credence to a base canard. However, the person who asked the question defended it as merely asking a question and ostensibly, at least, believed that the question itself was neutral, since all that was required was a “no” in reply.

So where does the middle path lay? Or should a middle path ever exist?

And that’s ignoring (we’re back here again, folks) the whole area of humour: if A cracks a gag that I find offensive, does that mean the gag’s not inherently funny? Of course not, any more that it means that a gag I find funny is inherently funny. After all, you might not find it humorous. Indeed, you might find it offensive.

Does it all come down to courtesy? I don’t tell gags that you find offensive in your hearing, and you don’t tell gags that I find offensive in mine? What if you find the very notion of the joke offensive (say you consider it racist). Do you try to stop me telling the joke, even if you’re not around to hear it?

But even leaving aside the humour element, in a democracy isn’t it everyone’s right to be offended? Does that give people the right to offend? And if so, shouldn’t the work be criticised rather than the person producing the work? (A bit like the difference between me doing or saying something stupid… and me being stupid?)

And if so… is there a point where what I do or say denotes a trend (personal or wider ranging) and if so, who gets the right to decide when that occurs?

Damn, this could get complicated…

I need an instruction manual, I think.

If only I hadn’t thrown it away.