Monday, November 12, 2007

I was all right for a while... I could smile for a while...

Before I get going: a really interesting conversation has been unfolding out of my previous post. I've probably jinxed it now just by saying so. Nonetheless, if you're interested, have a look and feel free to subjoin a piece of your mind. 'kay? ...Now, to business of a different order.

The e-postman having today favoured me with a link to a YouTube clip of Danny and Dougie *sigh* from McFly setting fire to their pubic hair -- I don't know why those obsessively self-exposing young whippersnappers don't just put a circle-jerk video on their MySpace page and be done with it (not that I've given the topic any thought) -- I feel the need to celebrate in this post the enigmatic, the veiled and the unknown.


About ten days ago I got a package in the mail: a white bubble envelope containing an unmarked cd, an unwritten postcard, and a little bag of cola bottle sweets. No indication as to the identity of the sender. It had been posted in central London on October 8th, and obviously sat in a sorting office somewhere for about three weeks while the postal strikes were going on. Well, better late than never, I suppose... Anyway I listened to the cd, I scrutinised the postcard, I ate the sweets, it was all very good, but I was half-expecting a clue somewhere, a hidden track on the cd maybe, or some invisible ink salutation on the postcard, or a tiny little gummy message stuck in the neck of a cola bottle... Nuh-uh. No clue.

A few days back, when I really should have been taking care of the countless transcendentally important items on my 'to do' list, I instead spent the afternoon in Google City, trying to figure out the tracklisting of the cd: and it was that exercise that really caused my interest and intriguedness to start bubbling almost uncontainably. About eighteen months ago I made someone a mix cd with a hidden message concealed acrostically in the names of the artists, which she (quite understandably) didn't pick up on, so I naturally wondered if the secret sender had done the same here. When the first two song titles turned out to begin with the letters C and H, I started having a bit of a Malvolio moment... but I couldn't trace the third (some Japanese pop-rock which I guess is possibly Shonen Knife but I've no idea about the song), and then the fourth started with W, at which point I determined that either there was no message after all, or that it began with the word 'CHEW', which made further examination appear unlikely to yield much of import.

Nonetheless I persevered with the tracklisting and as I did so, I began to feel rather impressed with the mystery mixmaster. It's a really, really cool cd, some great songs and some pretty obscure bands. Sure, I know plenty of folks who listen to Olivia Tremor Control and The Mountain Goats, but who in my acquaintance could possibly be a fan of the self-styled "positive hardcore dance-rap band from Toronto" Ninja High School (who turn out to be, pardon me, fucking brilliant)? Who apart from me listens to the scintillating Anticon luminary Sole? Who on earth wants me to hear not one but two tracks from the same album by the all-but-forgotten 90s rock band Seam? And so on, et cetera ad blah.

And so in my head I realised I was starting to form a sort of Venn diagram. Here was a set of people I know who possibly had the right sort of musical tastes to fit the profile. But how many of them could resist signing their name to such a barnstormingly cool compilation? Which of them would want to do it anonymously, and why? I tried to think of all the people who might treat me to a bag of cola sweets. None of them would make me a mix cd and not put either (a) Arcade Fire or (b) the Indigo Girls on it. Or (c) put a load of confetti in the envelope as well. And then this postcard... OK, there might be a couple of people who I don't know terribly well who would do such a thing, the supercool songs, the sweeties, the unmarked card: but neither of them live in London. Crikey. I've stared lavishly at the handwriting on the envelope; I've checked inside it countless times for inserts that I might have missed. I've pored over the song lyrics. I cannot see the message. I'm starting to feel a tiny bit paranoid. I'm wondering how well this person knows me. I mean the sweets, sure, you only have to look at the description of the blog (or, indeed, at any photograph of me from the last ten years) to know that I have a sweet tooth. But why choose the Mountain Goats song "Going to Reykjavik" unless you know that I harbour a half-secret longing to, er, go to Reykjavik (which I do...)? There's one close-ish person I can't quite eliminate from my enquiries, though the handwriting on the envelope isn't quite right; and I really don't think she'd buy WH Smith own-brand blank CD-Rs...

Well, I give up. And therefore:

Dear Mystery Parcel-Sender,

Are you here? I wonder. Thank you so much for the fantastic parcel! I'm sorry it took so long to get from you to me. I wonder if you were looking for some sign of my having received it, like weeks ago, and now it's all forgotten... Wow. That would be sad. I hope it all still counts.

I have mislaid the postcard (though I'm sure it's around here somewhere), and I ate the cola bottles within about six seconds of opening the envelope, but I still have the cd and I have to tell you it's the best mix cd anybody's ever made me, and that's saying something, because I have some very highly talented mixological friends, all of whom I think you're almost certainly not.

Perhaps it's important to you that I should never know who you are, which would be a shame because I'd really like to make you something in return. Perhaps this is some cunning-fox altruistic plot to get me to spend the next five years making nice things for people just in case they... er, just in case they're you. See, that sounds like a neat plan but I suspect it would make me psychotically insane within about a fortnight.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks, very humbly and sincerely, for this beautiful gift. And, if you want to tell me who you are, I'm sure you'll find a way. I think we could be great friends. If we're not already.

fondest wishes to you


I am almost diuretically indebted to a well-wisher (whose name in this case I do know, but shan't reveal for reasons of confidentiality), for drawing my attention to the life and career -- astonishingly, shamefully, I was previously ignorant of both -- of Desiré Dubounet. Hardly an unknown, but certainly an enigma, Ms Dubounet is perhaps best encapsulated in this thumbnail sketch from her own demurely understated web site:

Desiré is easily by far the most colorful, interesting, intelligent, and courageous person in the world today. Spend one hour with her and you will agree. Nobody has changed the world as much as Desiré. Desiré as a super intelligent child was the first to max several intelligent tests, she was able to save the Apollo 13 astronauts, and has developed several patents that have revolutionized life.

It's not a bad opening paragraph for your online bio, all things considered. What might perhaps surprise you is that this account of Desiré's compelling personality and global significance is, if anything, a trifle understated. Methinks Ms Dubounet's modesty forbids... But don't take my word for it. Let's cut straight to the chase. Here is Desiré's emphatic account of Roy Orbison's classic song "Crying". I think it's no exaggeration to say that her version obliterates all memory of the original, and indeed all memory of many of the high points of western civilisation. (It may also possibly depolarise your medulla oblongata so be sure not to watch this video while eating or operating machinery.)


If you feel, as I do, that the above performance merely opens up in you a gaping emotional chasm that can only be satisfied by further unprotected exposure to Desiré's unique combination of iron fist and velvet glove, there are a few other videos over at YouTube, including a pulverising version of "I Am What I Am" for which the phrase 'extraordinary rendition' could well have been minted. In case it isn't apparent from the clip (and it obviously bloody is) -- to quote from Desiré's own resumé: "Desiré loves to sing and she has a fantastic range (10+ octaves, a world record from having both sexes expressed)." Ten octaves is comfortably in excess of the span of a full-size piano. Those who counter by insisting that in actual fact she clearly has the vocal range of an emergency alarm buzzer at a nuclear power plant will have to talk to my hand, I'm afraid.

But all this is, of course, barely to scratch the tremulous surface of "by far the most interesting person in the world today". Where has this internationally renowned singing sensation been all your life? Well, for the full answer you need either to visit her web site -- though do set aside some quality time, this diva isn't to be rushed -- or watch the documentary "Who's Afraid Of Desiré Dubounet?" (Hey, that was a rhetorical question and you know it.) To set you on the right track, however, you might find it helpful to know that Desiré was previously known as Prof. Bill Nelson, and that, after his early life as a child prodigy and saviour of the Apollo 13 astronauts, he became a globally venerated naturopath -- no, no, you at the back, I said naturopath -- with a particular interest in the body's intolerance of synthetic foods and medicines. (Not this body, sweet cheeks. But this isn't about me.)

Prof. Bill Nelson in less, or less obviously, glamorous times

Eventually, Prof. Nelson's research interest in the awesomely reputable field of Quantum Electro Dynamics (or QED, handily) led him to develop a healing system called the Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface SCIO, which helps to "Unblock Blockages of Flow", inter alia. (I'm sure Flo is very grateful. ...Hmm, that's not such a great print joke, is it.)

Discussion around the SCIO on various bulletin boards has been pretty vigorous over the years, but if you only have time to follow one thread, I'd suggest this robust conversation, which admittedly takes place at the web site of that entertainingly-named curmudgeonly old sceptic James Randi, but nonetheless seems pretty reliable in its conclusions, i.e. that the device in question is a heap of electronic crap from the bargain bin at Maplins, apparently glued together by a small maladjusted child, and retailing at $13000. (That figure, by the way, is, unlike Ms Dubounet's own, not exaggerated for comic effect.)

The full marvellous story of Prof. Nelson's pre-Desiré exploits (should you wish for a slightly more rigorous account than is offered at her homepage) is thoroughly narrated here at Quackwatch. Again the site's basic outlook is somewhat adumbrated in its name: but the devil is certainly in the detail. This testimony from a member of the Texas State Medical Board is particularly heartening:

The device fires low levels of current into the patient and then in a method similar to radar, reads the bounced signals and transfers them to a database. The data base consists of several thousand diagnostic categories from several different medical disciplines including homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, traditional medical, as well as astrology, prayer wells, and other mystical data. Upon studying the software I also found pornographic images embedded in it, for what reason I was unable to determine.

Based on that database, the patient is given a diagnosis. I ran several tests on myself and was diagnosed as having elevated mercury levels, high blood pressure, asthma, and early stage pancreatic cancer, and allergies to milk, cows, and sunlight. I was amused, as I have none of those conditions or allergies.

I tested other members of my staff and discovered similar misdiagnosis including one of the male doctors who was diagnosed as being both pregnant and suffering from testicular cancer.

If by any chance this testimony -- or the slightly daunting price ticket -- should put you off, you might prefer to ask Santa for one of Prof. Nelson's Quantum Prayer Wheels, a computer application that "generates and broadcasts 92,000 prayer frequencies per minute". Which is an arresting thought, given that my PC takes anything up to four minutes just to open an Acrobat document.

Under his new, considerably blonder identity, Prof. Nelson continues to make these devices available from his current home in Budapest, whither he moved some years ago, due either to: (a) the bully-boy machinations of Big Pharma (according to Nelson); (b) Nelson's involvement in smashing an international paedophile ring (according to Dubounet); or (c) Nelson's 1996 indictment for mail fraud and subsequent listing as a fugitive (according to everyone else). Expansively ensconced in Hungary s/he is devoting quite a bit of time to movie production -- some engrossing clips grace this video interview -- while also touring the world sharing her literally unassimilable talents with those who have the requisite generosity in their hearts. Those who feel that Desiré Delicious Dubounet -- really, such a pity she didn't check the spelling of Tootsie's favourite tipple -- touches them more in some other internal organ are referred, as a matter of some urgency, to the paragraph on her web site entitled: "Desiré as an Angel of God", which mentions in passing that the existence of Prof. Nelson was predicted by Nostradamus. That should settle it.

For other people named William Nelson, see William Nelson (disambiguation).


More than a little inspired by the example of Prof. Nelson, and desolated as ever by my continuing failure to sustain a career in my chosen field, I thought I might cast about for some new occupation to keep the bairns in adequate shoon etc. And so, not having taken a career aptitude test since I was seventeen (when I was strongly advised by the implacable output of a BBC 'B' microcomputer to consider setting my sights on road haulage management -- true story), I Googled up an online freebie and told it all about myself.

Hell's teeth it was boring. Normally these free profiling tests are three-minute quizzes that have nothing in particular to recommend other than that you pay thirty bucks for a proper assessment; but this one -- O, saints alive, nearly 500 questions -- or, to be more precise, about twelve questions, mostly regarding your behaviour at parties and your propensity to daydream, endlessly rephrased and bogglingly permuted. You really do need to be quite poorly in the head and spirit to sit through it all. Check.

Well, so here are the results of the Swedish jury. My top three recommended careers are as follows (with Career Area Predicted Preference scores, out of a maximum of, er, 1):

1. Conservation or environmental scientist. (CAPP score: 0.84)
2. Forester. (CAPP score: 0.77)
3. Medical scientist or epidemiologist. (CAPP score: 0.7)

This is, obviously, food for thought. Particularly in the light of some of my other CAPP scores which relate to things I've actually been doing of late: Creative writer (0.47); College teacher (0.44); Actor (0.35). This last -- and please bear in mind I was acting on stage at Sydney Opera House less than a year ago -- is slightly lower than my aptitude as a Paving, surfacing or tamping equipment operator (0.36).

Lest I allow myself to become overwhelmed with the range of possibilities open to me even at this late stage in life, here finally is a list of occupations for which I have zero aptitude. Nil. Christoph Willibald Diddlysquat.

Funeral director; librarian; bill and account collector; billing and posting clerk and machine operator; bookkeeping, accounting or auditing clerk; new account clerk; dispatcher (non-emergency goods and services); postal service mail carrier; desktop publisher.

I think if anybody had asked me whether I would be more likely to succeed in a position as a librarian or as a forester, I very likely would have plumped for the former. How little I know myself. Still. I guess it's all trees, innit.


Peter said...

My highest scores were moderate for Funeral Director, Personal Care and Service Occupations and Commercial Airline Pilot, Co-pilot or Flight Engineer.

I may have to go freelance.


Ian Shuttleworth said...

I scored high on pregnancy and testicular cancer.

Jeez, that test has 20%+ more questions than the Scientology personality test! Unless it is...

Anonymous said...

chris -

you're going to get me in trouble.

f x

ps - she only agreed not to do her own re-writes in a scene last thursday because i told her that doing the script as the director had written it "gave him more options". she agreed, adding that she would do it as intended because she "liked me". keep praying for me ... you and your computer ...