Sunday, 26 August 2007

In Beano Veritas

It was a night of firsts. It was a night of contacts made, things discussed, blog entries edited, big words being used and good music being played.

On the bill at the Coffee Bean was Matthew Gair to open, with Verismo "Lite" to follow.

Despite having met Matthew some months ago, I have not had the pleasure of hearing him play before, and liked his music a lot. Catchy tunes, good guitar work, and deep lyrics combined into a very listenable package with tons of promise. Will catch one of his gigs again soon, and form further opinions.

Verismo followed. The full band was, unfortunately, not in attendance; the Bean's stage is a bit small for all six Verismo members and a drum kit. Frankly, the Bean is a bit small for the full Verismo sound too... but it has the advantage of being cozy. On backup vocals and guitar was Mark and on keyboard was Antonio. Vaughan, on lead vocals, seemed to be missing his trademark saxophone. It seems that he didn't feel up to both playing and singing, due to illness.

The sound was pleasantly minimal, due in part to illness and in part to the incompleteness of the band. It was quite interesting. Usually, the Verismo sound is an overwhelming buffet of sound and spectacle; a rich meal with many courses and interesting tidbits to consentrate on and mull over. The sound the other night was relatively sparse and spartan, but still very professional. If it were a meal, it would be the salad a master chef would toss together at home for himself and a special visitor... it was improvised, honest, and intimate.
Even though the sound was not as rich as their usual, it was still highly enjoyable. Very impressive indeed was the substitution of the regular drum solo in "Love to Love You" with some vocal beatboxing by Vaughan. The word does not do justice to what he did, and I seriously need to borrow a video camera for the next time they play the Bean so I can catch that on video.

It is a part of this band's appeal that they are a highly polished band of technically accomplished musicians, and also charismatic performers one and all. The beatboxing, Mark's ad-libbed lyrics, and some impressive falsetto singing from Vaughan (to fill in for Robin's operatic female vocal bits) make Verismo at the Coffee Bean a totally unique experience which you will not get to see at other, larger venues. It underscores why I have loved this band since the moment I first saw them in the Bean and why I immediately became a total Verismo groupie.

On the subject of firsts, Jonathan Hitchcock had his first Verismo experience on Thursday. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say about them. He was quite obviously entranced by them and made public a desire to attend their next performance, which will be on 28 September at the Good Hope Centre for some charity event.

Fans of Verismo, take heart! Even though their next gig is some time from now, their album should also come out within a month. I shall publish news as and when it becomes available... and might break some news items to the world if there are any news to be broken.

Watch this spot. Links to the performers below.

Mat's Pages:

Verismo's Pages:

PS. My peanut gallery (aka, "the wife") said the title of this post is a bit obscure. If you don't get the pun, you're not in the intended audience for this blog.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Virginal Service

Just a quick post about Virgin Mobile's people at Cavendish mall in Claremont, Cape Town.

I needed a solution. I had a broken phone and no way to keep in touch with the world. The broken phone will be repaired under my insurance cover, but it will take weeks.

What to do?

I have a contract from Virgin Mobile. A previous SIM card swop was handled quickly and efficiently by the good people at the Virgin Mobile counter in the Musica store in Cavendish. Finding their landline number wasn't exactly straightforward. I had to use the store locator and call them up, which got me the Virgin counter's number. A phone call or two later, they had checked my credit rating as it was originally assessed and approved me for a V0 Post-Pay account. R49 a month gets me R50 airtime and a handset, in this case a Motorola V360.

Arriving at the store, I merely had to walk in, buy a Virgin starter pack at R55, sign a contract form, and walk out with the phone and my in-store activated SIM card. They were extremely helpful and friendly.

The only thing they could not do, was to take my wife's prepaid Virgin number and use it for the new contract. It would be a different matter if she were only porting to Virgin now, but the port had happened months ago. There must be a reason for this restriction (the Virgin lady described it as a network policy across all networks), but the logic for it escapes me.

I will recount the tale of the Outsurance insurance claim soon. More so if something interesting happens.

Coining a word or two.

I wonder whether I'm the only one disappointed by Facebook. (Statistically I cannot be the only one, but it is more dramatic to seem to suffer alone.) Facebook was supposed to solve all our social problems, help us make new friends, and cure that embarassing rash too. Or maybe that's just me. The rash is clearing up too, I got a cream for it.

It's not that it's a let-down in any big way. Maybe I just expected it to make a bigger difference in my life than it did. Maybe it was a bit over-hyped by the people who wanted me to sign up. (Whoever that was, own up!) I guess it's just a case of "wherever you go, you take yourself along". In other words, if you're a social butterfly who knows everyone, you probably have friends in amounts described by imaginary numbers (those numbers invented to describe how much disk space Google has) and your gigantic store of photos depict you: (a) always with a group of smiling people; (b) probably holding an alcoholic beverage; and (c) in some state of undress and/or embarassment.

If, on the other hand, you were not a very social person to begin with, the picture is a little different. At least 50 percent of your contacts are either (a) people you have never met and that live in a different city; (b) even worse, people you have never met and live in the same city; or (c) people you have lost contact with and now live, you guessed it, in a different city. Also, you probably feel like you are a passive observer in the lives of the people that you actually have contact with.

Both types take refuge in Applications, connecting with their friends through "Asking Questions" and "Biting Chumps". This is a strange mode of interaction, and is often mistaken for real human interaction and communication.

I need to get a few things off my chest.

(1) A clip-art picture of a present is not a replacement for a real present.

(2) An application invitation is not a replacement for a quicl note asking after my health and wellbeing.


(4) Thou Shalt Always Tag The Redhead In Thy Photos.

(5a) I can see which applications you've added. If it looks interesting, I'll add it. Don't invite me.

(5b) MOREOVER, to the developers of said Applications: Don't force me to invite anyone else.

(6a) If you already have 100 pictures of you drinking, socialising, and smiling at the camera... THAT IS ENOUGH.

(6b) The same goes for any pet pictures. You should be allowed a maximum of three photos per pet (reclining, running, and doing something cute). More than one picture of an animal which is not your pet, is pointless.

(6c) Doubly so for lolcats.

That concludes my rant for the day.

We need new words. A word needs to serve as a reasonably universal label for a thought, activity, or concept... and I feel that there are a few things happening that are not spoken of, because we don't have words for them. I'm open to suggestions here, please feel free to comment.

Firstly, the activity of addictedly clicking through the photo albums of people you have never met. Is it the voyeur in us? Is it an urge to vicariously experience others' lives? I can't quite tell what the motivation is. Does anyone else do this? Either I'm all alone in the world and I'm a sick sick person for doing it, or it's like masturbation... Everyone does it but nobody will own up to doing it.

Secondly, the resultant recognition of people in public places, with NO idea who they are or what their names are. We need a word for that. "Face-a vu"? Trite. Help me out here.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Write what you know.

Isn't that what they always tell you? 'Write what you know.' Some writer said that. I must look it up one of these days; it's something I've been perversely resisting the urge to do... Like putting off a good bottle of dry red wine for that one day when you cut the foil, pull the cork, let is breathe, and serve at room temperature. Once I get around to looking it up, I will be ready to know. My world will make sense in some small way.

Someone else who wasn't as famous said: 'Letting it all hang out is exactly as appetising as it sounds.' I agree with the sentiment, which was intimated in reaction to all those weird Americans 'sharing themselves' on Oprah and Ricky Lake. I must say that there is a certain difference, however, between an inbred Redneck achieving self-expression and enlightenment by hitting someone with a chair on Jerry Springer, and Van Gogh achieving transcendence by sharing his feelings as he did.

Whether by violence or art, you need to just let out all the pain and rage at all the crap that's been bothering you. Everything that's been messing you up, messing you around. Sooner or later all of us have to find an outlet for all the disappointment and frustration at eveything that's gone in our lives since that great time when we looked at a world full of opportunity and believed we could make something of this life.

Yes, dear reader, once I was an idealist.

I once believed that there was a deeper meaning to life, that the world makes sense, that I could Make A Difference. I felt that the world needed me, and my hook or by crook it had better be ready for Arno Breedt because here he comes. Meh. What still gets me from time to time is the total arbitrarity (is there such a word? Must look it up) of the world around us. When you're 18 and horny as hell (but I repeat myself) you aren't ready to stare into the void which is the world. You have Expectations. Dreams. Good Intentions. Condoms.

Then life happened. Which is what brings me to a point in this blog post.

My blog will be a glimpse on the life of two lovely, friendly, sometimes weird people. They both have mental disorders. Deal with it.

After a great saga and many quests to and from the offices and domains of the denizens of Psychiatry and the various iterations of that great Profession, my wife was diagnosed with Type II Bipolar disorder. The news, when I heard it, was a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, there's a sense of unreality... like that type of disorder is something you'd only read about in the Medical section of the Reader's Digest.

On the other hand, there is also an element of relief that there is finally a handle on a problem here. Some way to explain the sudden mood swings, weird irrational episodes, extreme depression, why I get thrown with stuff sometimes, and so on. Some reason to believe that it isn't my fault, that I'm not causing this person to become angry with me and throwing stuff at me. Or through some inattention or inaction on my part causing her to become depressed and feel unloved and hopeless enough to want to kill herself.

There is a reason why I might feel like it's my fault. It's because I am very often thoughtless, rude, and insensitive. It's because I'm autistic.

I will now pause for gasps of shock, not that I expect many.

I will not insult the reader by repeating a whole litany of 'symptoms' leading to my diagnosis. Read up about it. Get to know me. That's the only way to know someone. My average reader is intelligent enough to use Google and do further research if they are interested. I will, however, be providing some links as a way to get started.

That is what you could expect from my blog. A sometimes funny, sometimes angry, mostly cathartic and always brutally honest look at life in a house with two mental people and four well-adjusted cats. I won't aspire to telling the Truth, as that is a slippery fish and a very subjective thing. It might not be Art or Literature, but it will definitely range somewhere between Prose and Poetry.

As some other famous and probably dead person said: 'Prose can be defined as "words in the best order". Poetry can be defined as "the best words in the best order".' So there.

Oh, and some technical content may slip in from time to time. We're both geeks, so we tend to giggle over quotes and lame puns, drool over technology and discuss IRC as if it somehow has a meaning in the real world.

Some links for further reading:

Asperger Syndrome:

Bipolar Disorder: