Newman

I love Seinfeld and I thought that Newman was one of the best characters. He enhanced every episode he was in and made a great double act with Kramer.

In tribute to Newman here is my attempt to post a YouTube video onto my blog.

The Golden Treasury

The Golden Treasury Bookshop After just 5 hours sleep it was always going to be a struggle to get up and drag myself to visit London’s largest Independent Children’s bookshop, The Golden Treasury, on a cold, grey Saturday Morning. It helped that, being the father of a walking, talking near 2 year old toddler, I have a very effective and persuasive natural alarm clock to force me out of the comfort zone of my warm, cosy bed. I don’t get out of bed for just anybody, and my daughter know’s what strings to pull.

After witnessing her demolish the carefully constructed Mega Bloks plane I had so lovingly made for her, after she “requested” (more like demanded) that I play with her and the myriad of large, multi coloured blocks she had thrown all over our lounge floor, I thought very seriously about going back to bed. However my wife had somehow transferred herself to said daughter’s bed in her nursery and this allowed my energetic young child to jump all over our bed pointing furiously at the bookshelf asking me to read her “Toad Makes  a Road“. I gave in and as I lay down next to my now calm and non jumping daughter reading about the Toad who lacked the foresight to build his house on a sensible, easily accessable place, I saw the look of enchantment, focus and joy on her cute, little chubby face and I was overcome with a sense of extreme fulfilment and satisfaction (a rare feeling for me).

Sharing my love of reading with my daughter, and being able to combine 2 loves of my life (reading and my daughter) are powerfully positive experiences that I must nurture and encourage as much as I can.

With that in mind I managed to drink my regular dosage of double coffee, add a can of Diet Pepsi, take 10ml of Metatone, 1 multivitamin with multi minerals and my Hydrocortisone and Thyroxine tablets and forced myself to wake up enough to join my wife and daughter in their first trip to London’s largest Independent bookshop.

The Golden Treasury is a great find. My wife’s colleague at work actually told her about it and although I had fantastical dreams of a wondrous, magical kingdom with cute, furry talking animals and fake snow amongst the hundreds of cherished children’s books, I was not actually disappointed when I stepped into the shop and discovered it was far more attractive on the inside than out. It was also larger than it looked, not Narnia sized larger, but large enough to be able to split the books by age group and then by topics such as Animals, Geography, Science, Baby Books etc. They also had specific sections for various popular children’s characters like Peppa Pig, The Cat in The Hat and Thomas the Tank Engine. There were sections dedicated to signed copies of Children’s classics such as The Gruffalo. Even Axel Scheffler himself (the illustrator of The Gruffalo) has visited the shop, as this link shows: http://twitpic.com/t99cb

So there may not have been snow , large bewitching Christmas tress, Elves or Fauns but I was transported back in time to a more innocent and joyous part of my life and a world full of stimulating characters and ideas. There is something special about a small independent shop where the loving care for the subject being sold oozes out from every corner, not in a crude, manipulative way but in a subtle, sublime manner. I hope that this store never gets taken over by a large chain or is forced to sell up and go online. I may virtual worlds and the places that cyber space can take your imagination but sometimes there is nothing like the real thing.

Thankfully my daughter was as enchanted by The Golden Treasury as I was and we ended up buying 2 books, one with rockets going to the moon (she loves the moon more than anythign else at the moment with exception of homous) and another about a girl who misses her mummy when the mummy goes to work but gets over it, as one needs to in these economically challenging times. The best part of it for here was being able to spin the Dr. Seuss rotating bookshelf and pick up as many books on tractors as she could. They also had a bean bag with one of her new favourite characters, Maisy, plastered all over it.

When it came time to leave (she was havign her haircut with Mama and the stimulating effects of my caffeine and pill popping were fading fast) she refused to stop chanting “Bookshop, bookshop” for the entire jounery back home.

I was glad that I found the energy to visit The Golden Treasury and go there with my little one as it brought back a piece of my childhood that I rarely get in touch with, which is something I must do more often, especially If I am to stay positive in these increasingly bleak times.

Why the sudden feelings of satisfaction you ask? I love reading and even though I struggle to find the time and energy to read as much as I would like to I still think that reading, both fiction dn non fiction, has a very important place in human society. Stimulating the imagination and chasms deep within our minds like no other form of media, reading books, with their magical descriptions of characters, places, events and emotions, and their imaginative illustrations, is a part of life that I really want my daughter to cherish. the pervasive intrusion of modern forms of edutainment, such as TV, Video Games and the Internet, may have made absorbing creative entertainment and culture easier, but it has also made it too passive, and these forms of education/ entertainment are not a substitute for reading a good book.

I love TV, Gadgets, modern technology, the internet, my iPhone and any advances in media distribution but there is nothign that quite replaces the feelings of suspense and excitement I get from reading a good book. This maybe why I love bookshops so much. Like the beautifully illustrated, carefully bound hardback classics, a bookshop owned and run by book loving enthusiasts is a place like no other. It is like entering through a portal into another world. A world with much more colour, magic and excitement than the Traffic ridden Southfields High Street outside The Golden Treasury.

XX Alone

I am sitting here in my dusty, claustrophobic study with web design books, magazines and course material strewn chaotically all around me imitating the disorganised mess that is my current existence. The dreamy, haunting sounds of English indie rock band XX are floating out of my tinny monitor speakers via the add filled yet free and therefore viable music service Spotify. I say viable as I am currently broke, in the financial as well as psychological state.

One could look back at my life and report that I am usually broke. It depends on how you define broke. However you choose to define it (in terms of more debt than savings or higher expenses than income or high income and high expenditure, take your pick) no one can deny the financial challenge that should be staring me in the face from a multi coloured array of spreadsheet cells in my Family budget file. As it is I am taking a leaf out of my wife’s book and resorting to denial. I should be downloading our bank account and credit card balances to these complex self made spreadsheets but as I know they will only paint an even scarier picture than the one they painted last Saturday, I choose to ignore our impending financial doom and instead surf the net joining various social networking sites such as Plurk and Moolta with my Second life avatar as I am feeling particularly lonely tonight.

The psychological breaking down and current loneliness has much to do with coming back from an insightful yet intensive therapy session to an empty, eerily silent house. The children’s toys are there, littered across the well worn lounge floor, but there are no children playing with them. The wok and saucepans are piled up on top of our ancient electric hobs and various utensils and ingredients are lying about but no one is cooking. The only sound in the whole 3 bed suburban semi is of my stress out pent up mind, swelling with conflicts, anxiety and confusion, overheating and getting ready to blow a gasket. I feel like a faulty Toyota in desperate need of repair just waiting to be recalled before my broken accelerator pedal drives me into a self destructive brick wall.

The loneliness can be attributed to my wife and daughter staying with my mother-in-law to comfort and support her, in deepest rural Woking. My father-in-law is still in hospital and still in a bad state following his major stroke last October. The air of empty silence and haunting alienation of this house is much better than the thick fog of depression permanently hanging over my in laws home as life gets harder and more emotionally and psychically challenging day by day. The financial costs of supporting a stroke victim are not low.

The financial burdens of a South west London suburban family with a mortgage, growing child, constant 70 mile round trips to Milford Hospital in an age of ever rising petrol prices are also becoming less and less compatible with my continuing unemployment. I got a job that would have plugged the outflow of cash for a little while, giving us breathing space, only to have the job offer callously ripped from me due to miscommunication between HR departments and the business managers who desperately needed me.

The spiral of increasing problems and stress has resulted in a sudden relapse of my Irritable Bowel Syndrome and I need to get some acid to pump through our lime scale ridden blocked up toilet discharge pipes before they overflow again (don’t try and visualise it, not a pretty sight, i can promise you.) My bouts of sudden inexplicable fatigue are also increasing. I am back to job hunting, but in this market it is even more depressing than it usually would be. I can’t tell my wife how broke we are. She doesn’t have the time, energy or motivation to read this blog so she will never know, unless the bailiffs arrive early. She will probably be in the hospital anyway so I will find a way to blag it.

It would be nice to hug her after a long, dreary day of depressing chores and job hunting and to snuggle up to a movie or Episode 1, Series 4 of Northern Exposure. As it is I am left to find some friendly conversation online with random geeks who like to create digital art and funny freakish animals in Photoshop and play Star Trek online. That would be one way of escaping my enforced isolation but unfortunately it seems that tonight even the geeks aren’t talking to me. So I have resorted to talking to myself by throwing a few thoughts onto electronic ink and composing this blog.

4 Diet Pepsi’s and many happy pills on from my fatigue relapse this afternoon and I feel myself drifting off into a surreal computer generated world where no one has cancer or strokes and being unemployed and geeky is a virtue not a mark of failure and anxiety.

On a lighter note, at least all my web surfing in the name of my web design course has lead me to discover this great website dedicated to the early 1990’s TV Comedy Drama Northern Exposure:

http://www.moosechick.com/

Second Life Home

Even Virtual Worlds have loneliness

Quote on Religion

Just heard a great quote about religion in an interview with Theatre Director Peter Brook on BBC2’s The Culture Show.

“All the world’s great Religions start with a prophet and end with a policeman.”

Peter Brook is directing a play called 11 and 12 about the violence between 2 groups of people who share the same religion but differ on one doctrinal point, should a prayer be said 11 time or 12. From this little insignificant point they split into different sects, with the ensuing violence tearing communities and families apart. Sounds fascinating.

As soon as our diverse ideas and thoughts on the unknown and our random irrational faith is turned into strict rules of dogma and doctrine Religion becomes what it really is, Institutionalised Faith and as Peter Brook notes it becomes a very dangerous thing.

Here is a link to The Culture Show website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cultureshow/

Immortal Presence

I promised a list of the topics I would be blogging about concerning the emotional rollercoaster that my life has become but instead I have some random thoughts.

I have just watched episode 1 of a new BBC Documentary “The Virtual Revolution” (I can’t get enough of documentaries. My wife thinks I have finally lost the plot and our 250GB DVD Recorder hard drive is full with random documentaries on everything from the history of Chemistry to the Battle of Stalingrad 1942-43). Although the programme was generally about the history and development of the world wide web and its impact on society it made me think about my online presence. This is something that I was already thinking about since I read an article about a new TV Series called “Caprica” by the creators of the great TV show Battlestar Galactica (the Ron D Moore re-imagined one not the 1970’s disco pop original with that silly robot dog and Face from the A-Team).

Here is a link to the article from The Guide: http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2010/jan/30/battlestar-galactica-caprica-guide

Not to reveal any spoilers (although I just about to do that) but one of the main character’s daughter dies in a terrorist attack but before she dies she apparently downloads information about herself that essentially represents a virtual version of herself, into an online world that her father ends up visiting. I haven’t seen the show yet as episode 1 only aired on Sky 1 in the UK tonight, but that is my summary of events. The show sounds fascinating as it will bring up complex issues such as what is the soul? Merely a collection neural impulses or character traits embedded chemically into our physical bodies? Or is the soul inextricably linked to our physical being? A log is nto the place to discuss such philosophical matters, but thinking about the show and the programme about the internet, which talked a lot about blogging, made me think about my own online presence.

There are very few people who know what truly goes on inside my head, least of all myself, but the few people close to me do know and relate to different aspects of my personality and thoughts. My opinions on books, literature, culture, art, religion, politics, justice, law and order, music, films, scientific theories and mythology amongst other things are shared and discussed with various different people. yet no one single person knows how all of these complex and fluid thoughts fit into my psyche. My wife would be the closest person but there are many things I don’t get the chance to discuss with her and other feelings and conflicts which i purposefully keep from her. I live different sets of lies with different people and the person I am in the workplace or at a job interview is very different to the person I am with my close friends who I can discuss satire or literature with, and I am a different person with other friends who have never read a book outside of school in their life. Sometimes I put on a façade, to try and please others and make them feel comfortable, at other times to stop myself from offending them with my constant curiosity and inquisitiveness. Behind the many lies, façades and different faces for different audiences, new ideas and thoughts are always brewing. I rarely get the chance to put these fragments of thought onto a permanent record, such as paper or a blog.

On the rare occasions I do manage to find a piece of toilet paper, post stick note, note pad, iPhone Notes app or log onto this blog I am able to transfer my often incoherent stream of conciousness onto a platform that will hopefully be preserved long after I have lost my train of thought and even after my body has ceased to have blood pumped around it and is devoured by worms as I transfer the essence of my being into fertiliser for oak trees in deepest Surrey.

Paper can get lost and burnt and all my archaic sets of story ideas and views on various subjects will probably be lost forever in some refuse and recycling dump and turned into Starbucks Coffee cups. There is a glimmer of hope. however, in the thought that some of my personality, character and insights might outlive me in cyber space. If I am honest enough about what I am thinking and my reaction to the events and experiences of my life and I manage to not enough of it down in this blog then maybe, just maybe, in generations to come, my descendants could search a vast database, that they would probably control through telepathy, and find my blog. They would then be able to read posts such as this one and get an insight into what their often baffled and chaotic ancestor was really like. Add this to my many Twitter and Facebook status updates, all the pictures on Flickr and other websites, and all the other data about me held in various databases around cyberspace, then they would be able to create a picture of what I might have actually been like.

This online presence, which will surely outlive me, may or may not bear any real resemblance to the person that I really am, or think I am, but at least they will get the chance to see different aspects of my life, experience,s and thoughts frozen in time forever, as long as the servers and binary files holding all this data survive all the apocalyptic events that Hollywood movies would have us believe the 21st century is destined for.

Whatever the effects of climate change or nuclear wars and viral epidemics I hope that some fragments of my personality will remain intact for future generations of Latif’s to be able to study. I would love to be able to log onto to a web site and read extracts from the diaries of my grandparents. All of my grandparents died before I was born and a certain part of me feels empty at having never met them. Even if I had I would have only got a small glimpse into their lives and what they were thinking and feeling as the world transformed before their eyes.

When my father was born in Lahore in 1934 India was still part of the British Empire. World war 2, partition, the cold war, the fall of communism, the moon landings, the personal computer, smartphones and the world wide web were all to come. His father, my paternal grandfather, grew up and live din a world where a few Western European powers ruled with an iron fist and nobody had a car, phones or credit cards. I have been told a few stories about his life before he got married and it sounds fascinating. His own father (my paternal great grandfather – this is getting complicated) died before he was born. His elder brothers all moved to Bengal, which was to become East Pakistan then Bangladesh. he remained in Punjab and apparently joined the army and fought in the rugged mountainous terrain of North Western India, where war and fighting is going on to this day. I woudl love to be able to travel in his mind as he recount his experiences of being a soldier and fighting in the mountains on some imaginary blog somewhere.

At some point his fighting days were over and he somehow become a bank manager and successful businessman in Lahore. He was too nice for his own good and had a strong moral conscious, which in a society as ruthless as India is not an asset. He lost a lot of money and power due to being exploited by those he helped and cared for, not least his iron fisted tyrannical wife, my paternal grandmother, but apparently he never worried about people walking all over him. He left people’s fates to God and continued to be kind, generous, loving and gentle. He sounded like a great man and I can see many of his traits in my own father and also in myself. However he witnessed many life changing events. He lost a young son, who died when he was only 5. He saw the British Empire fall and lived in through the bloody events of partition, which tore Punjab in 2. Many years later his eldest son and best friend, my father, left to study in the UK. My father was only supposed to stay in the UK for 4 years then go back home to his family. Instead he remained in the UK, never to return to Punjab, save once in 1973 just a few months before my grandfather died.

My grandfather suffered a major stroke but apparently overcame his fragile health and through determination kept walking. I would dearly love to get an insight into his mindset at that time, especially considering my own father-in-law’s tragic recent stroke, from which he is struggling to recover.

I feel that I could learn a lot about myself, my heritage my character, and what makes me tick (or not as is often the case) if my grandfather had left an online presence, no matter how fragmented or small.

Maybe a little bit of me and the struggles I am grappling with in my own little life might survive me in the form of an immortal avatar who some confused, conflicted, geeky descendant of mine may find it heartening to engage with.

Lahore

Back to Blogging

As you may have noticed I have not been blogging for a while. This is not due to a lack of experiences or subjects that I am formulating comments on but because I have actually become overwhelmed by the magnitude of events entering my once simple, ordinary life on a daily basis.

If I actually described how I felt right now or everything that has happened to me since the beginning of 2008 then this blog would never end and would become longer than War and Peace combined with Ulysses and Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (all books which I am dying to read but need to create a clone of myself to be able to ever achieve this goal).

So I will try to be succinct. I have a lot to say as I have experience a lot in a small amount of time. However, we live in a quick fix instant gratification age where people have short attention spans (myself more than others) and so no one, not even I would bother reading through all my diverse and over complicated thoughts in just one blog  post. So I propose to commit some of my current thought to digital cyber code in a series of blog posts on specific subjects.

Compartmentalising the different aspects of our lives, thoughts, characters and experiences may be anathema to me, as I feel one loses a great deal of meaning by disconnecting various interwoven threads, but at least it will be easier to read and compose. Hopefully you will find something in there that you relate to, a conflict I am facing that you may have faced before, or are currently facing and maybe we can conjure up some useful insights by the process of transferring my thoughts and your feedback using the power of modern technology (i.e. this blog.)

To Keep this blog post short I will just list some of the various topics that I will write about as they have been a big part of my life since January 2008. That may seem an arbitrary year to begin my cyber “memoirs” but it has some significance. 2008 was the year in which my first child was born and was the year in which I was made redundant from a job I would have never left and then went to work in a modern day professional office “sweat shop” and fell ill having contracted a serious of viruses and developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, to add to my already debilitating Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diarrhoea.

2008 Was also the year I started CBT – Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, sessions, in order to combat my worsening IBS-D, and that forced me to start dissecting my thought processes and lifestyle to uncover the root causes of my various physical and pyscholigical illnesses.

In 2009 I continued with the CBT, took up Yoga, joined Weight Watchers, lost 2 stone in weight in 5 months, put back on most of that 2 stone since November 2009, honed my skills as a multi-tasking househusband, babysitter cum live at home father, dogsbody son and son-in-law (carrying out various time consuming duties for my family), was put on various trials of medication to try and combat my CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), such as Vitamin B12 injections on a weekly basis and a variety of polypharmacy solutions.

I also developed asthma and Hay fever just to add to the myriad of medical conditions attack me. I quit smoking (not because of a less stressful life – life was ever more stressful, but due to the asthma), supported my beloved wife as she completed her Doctoral thesis, whilst working and being a mother and stressed out wife and daughter all at the same time.

My father-in-law had a sudden major stroke in late October 2009, 2 days after I had booked non refundable tickets to a wedding in Houston that I couldn’t afford to go to but was a reward for my wife’s year of constant stress, struggling and no sleep. We didn’t go to Houston over Christmas but instead shuttled between hospitals and funerals through the sudden snow storms of 2009/2010 as I began to start job hunting seriously, having realised we were on a financial precipice.

I got a job interview and job offer after 30 job applications, for one of my favourite Consumer electronics companies, only to be told that they had messed up and in fact the company had a recruitment freeze so the job I had been given was taken away from me bringing back into the same frustrating, anxious, stressful place of being broke, jobless, overweight, confused, conflicted and struggling to re-train as a web designer whilst finding a temporary finance job and supporting my wife as she cares for her bed-ridden father and physically drained mother (whilst she herself is still working and raising our daughter with me).

On the plus side I got to spend a lot of time with my daughter, which taught me a lot about myself, about fatherhood, the trials and joys of parenthood and has made me re-learn many subjects and pieces of knowledge that I have forgotten over the years (such as astronomy and geography, not to mention grammar and basic maths).

I have also been forced to grow and challenge myself and my preconceptions due to marriage and my never ending crisis situations, and I have discovered that adaptability is a very under rated skill that is vital to success in life.

I have also had the good fortune to discover the artistic genius of TV shows such as The Wire, The Sopranos and Battlestar Galactica (re-imagined) whilst getting more involved in social media experiences like Twitter and blogging.

I also managed to buy a Nintendo Wii, using vouchers from my credit card provider, so if things get too much and I am in need of some techno salvation i can always fire off some stress with my Wii Zapper gun (so long as the wife is away, she is not a toy gun fane).

I also completed a Career Change programme with a Career coach that was a real eye opener into the way I live my life and how I can take back control and start living more of my “truth”, rather than the crowd pleasing facade I have become so accustomed to wearing almost permanently.

I managed to read some Chekhov Short Stories and finish reading Dune by Frank Hebert, which was an immensely enjoyable read, and A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway, the first Hemingway book I have ever read, which was also a revelation.

And finally, most important of all, I managed to get in game of Scrabble, which I haven’t played in years, although the joy was short lived as I was beaten by my wife. So much for my aspirations to become a short story writer and novelist!

P.S. See the next post for the promised list of topics I will blog about and put links for.

Super Fast

Google is introducing Real Time data in search results, such as Twitter updates.

See the BBC Tech article.http://tinyurl.com/yj4jh7v

It sounds great but makes me shiver at the notion of things in the world moving even faster and faster. I struggle to keep up with the pace of the modern world as it is. With Google changing every second it may just be too much information overload and I may never leave my PC desk! Maybe I need a few weeks away from technology in the middle of a forest where I can appreciate the serene beauty of nature unadulterated by techno gadgetery.

Or I could just go to the local park instead, even if it does sit next to a couple of huge Gas Storage tanks. At least it has a Lido.