Dental Health Act

Posted August 23, 2007 by Doug
Categories: Goings on

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This week, I had the dubious pleasure of attending the dentist. This appointment had been made on the back of a quick check-up a couple of weeks back, at which it was decided that certain repairs were necessary in order to maintain my hitherto unsullied state of dental excellence.

I don’t dislike the dentist as much as most people, I would imagine. In some ways, I rather like it. I enjoy the (usually metaphorical) pat on the head for my dental successes. I also relish the playful telling-off for the inordinate delays between checkups and my persistent refusal to use flossing tape between the front incisors.

There’s also quite a pleasant smell in the dentist’s, I feel. You notice it as soon as you step in the front door. It’s an evocative blend of rubber gloves and anxiety-induced sweat. If they bottled it, I would probably buy it.

Anyway, I was shortly ushered into the room to commence my business. I sat while the dentist did a preliminary poke about, and wondered whether she enjoyed staring into people’s gobs all day (some of whom would undoubtedly lack my own indisputable grasp of dental hygiene).

She summarised the restorative steps she intended to take, namely that she would drill a hole in the appropriate tooth (for reasons that were never fully explained) before smearing some synthetic goop over it. It seemed reasonable enough. I got a quick injection in the requisite spot, and we were all set. Just before starting with the oral DIY in earnest, she said ‘just raise your hand if there are any problems’.

What sort of thing did she have in mind? Had she not done everything necessary to forestall any potential mishap? As she bored into my upper-left molar, I kept my attention poised for the first signs of searing, indescribable pain. Which, thankfully, never occurred. I did, however, find myself pondering the fact that actual drilling was taking place in my mouth. That activity which one carries out prior to erecting shelves was currently being carried out within the boundaries of my own body. It’s quite a thought. And a first time, for me.

When she’d done the necessary preparation to apply the sealant, a further thought struck me: that I was being given the very first synthetic addition to the biological equipment I’d been born with. For all intents and purposes, I was now a cyborg. Up until now, I’d usually shunned the idea of having synthetic materials in my mouth. Except perhaps Irn-Bru.

So, I’ve been given a clean bill of health, dentally speaking, and have to wait another year to have another stint in the chair. Perhaps I will, in the intervening period, finally make good on my resolution to take care of my teeth properly. I suspect that future visits to the dentist would be rendered decidedly cheaper, but also less eventful.

Swings and roundabouts…

Look Into My Eyes… (2)

Posted August 18, 2007 by Doug
Categories: Books, Goings on, Psychology

I hope that all you Edinburgh folk are enjoying the festival. And for you non-Edinburgh folk who have made the trip, but felt the urge to check the ‘Logues from a convenient internet cafe, welcome. And for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, my commiserations.

The Edinburgh festival is simply splendid. Although, having said that, it doesn’t really feel like a festival. It’s really just a three-week period when there is a more-than-average amount on at the theatre. But we love it, and so does everyone else, so there.

I availed myself of some particular delights last night. The first of which was the Robin Ince show Robin Ince Knew This Would Happen. A characteristically bizarre title for a comedy show, I thought. Of course, Robin Ince will be a familiar name to you, after his star turn in the first series of The Office. He played the (some would say pivotal) role of an unsuccessful job applicant. Last night, I thought he was regrettably so-so, but on the up-side, while standing in the queue to get in, I think I spotted Nicholas Parsons.

After the show, we stumbled across the road to the half-price ticket tent at the Princes Mall, and scooped a couple of tickets for Stef’s Sidesplitting Hypnosis.

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 I should explain that I’ve never been to a live hypnosis show before, and that some of the circles in which I move would frown on this sort of thing. In fact, when I was a student at St Andrews university, there was an act at the student union which involved the world’s only dog hypnotist. Which is to say that the dog did the hypnotising, not that some bloke thought it would be fun to hypnotise dogs rather than people. I’m not even sure that a dog could be hypnotised. It wouldn’t make for a good show, in my opinion. I doubt, for example, that a hypnotised canine could be persuaded to speak Chinese or do Michael Jackson moves, although I would pay good money to see it.

Incidently, I came across the Hypnodog again recently, as he was somehow implicated in Danny Wallace‘s rather enjoyable Yes Man

Where was I? Oh yes. This hypnotic dog show came to the student union, and I was interested in attending, but there was a little old lady outside wearing a sandwich board emblazoned with some message to the effect that hypnotism was the work of the devil, and should therefore be avoided at all costs. As it turned out, the same little old lady was possessed of dozens of similar sandwich boards (one for every conceivable occasion) and would always display herself prominently in each and every situation where people looked to be in danger of enjoying themselves. Still, she had our eternal destiny at heart, bless her.

In fear of being branded a minion of dark forces, I gave it a miss. But since then, I’ve realised that there is nothing sinister about hypnosis per se, and was keen to go and see it in action.

A moment’s hesitation denied me the chance of being hynotised personally, as the stage was quickly stormed by eager volunteers. However, the chap in charge held a little impromptu competition amongst audience members, where he gave away a copy of his hypnosis CD for weight loss to the person who could name his website address. In retrospect, it was pretty shameless of him, and I’m embarrassed to have won it. Not to say I won’t try it out though. I’ve got a bit of a paunch on the go at the moment.

I haven’t even got to the show itself yet, so do forgive me. There is more to say, but it will have to be said another day.

The Inconstant Gardener

Posted August 17, 2007 by Doug
Categories: Blogging, Gardening, Weird

In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him (Genesis 41:8)

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I had a strange dream last night.

Before we go much further with it, I should probably point out that I do not usually attach significant import to the feverish nocturnal activities of my brain. This one, however, was a spur to action.

I was in the dining room, with the curtains closed. Evidently, I had been there for some time. I was keeping the curtains shut for a reason, namely that I didn’t want to see what was outside in the garden. But part of me knew that, eventually, I would have to look.

Very gingerly, I nudged a small chink in the curtains, and saw that the garden had become rather overgrown. And not the sort of overgrown that arises from omitting the weekly once-over with the lawnmower. There was a mythical, grotesque abundance of greenery. Now, I usually adore greenery, and have often been known to deliberately cultivate weeds if I find them aesthetically agreeable. There was nothing pleasant about these, though. They were mouldy and fetid, and had grown to the height of the house.

Plant dreams are not a usual component of my somnial repertoire (usually they’re about fish) and as I made my way to work this morning, there could be no doubt of what the dream portended. It made me realise, like a bolt out of the blue, that I had left the Monologues untended for weeks, and that they were in danger of developing into some horrid spammy armpit in my absence. This, I realised, would not do.

Fret not. Your gardener is returned. Think of this post as a necessary lap with a Flymo and a pair of secateurs, and then we’ll be back in business. There is some catching up to do.

It’s Vanished!

Posted July 27, 2007 by Doug
Categories: Goings on, Magic, Psychology, Special Occasions

Wednesday was a momentous day for me. ‘Twas the day, against all odds, that I submitted my thesis. So, those of you who have always wondered ‘just what is the role of self-efficacy, locus of control and intellectual ability in guided self-help for depression, anxiety and stress’ need only make your way to this 96-page tome.

The final print took place on Tuesday. Inevitably, having printed the required three copies, I found a mistake on page 6 which, when rectified, threw the entire document out of kilter. But we got there in the end, at the sad expense of a few good-sized trees.

Wednesday took me, stumbling and deranged, into the bindery of the Edinburgh University library. The route to the bindery takes one through the basement, where every piece of electrical equipment that has ever been under the auspices of the university is discarded at the end of its tenure. There are mountains of monitors, computers, and all sorts of gubbins lying about. There are probably one or two moldering academics in there as well, somewhere. When you get a few layers down.

Those who have been following my hapless course into the world of magic would be most impressed, in that I managed to pull off an impressive trick without being aware of it. Let me tell you about it in the style of a instructional magic book:

The effect: the performer prints three copies of a 96 page thesis, and places each in an A4 envelope. These he places in his bag and takes home. The following day, he selects a spectator from the university bindery. The envelopes are then removed from the bag, and the three copies of the thesis placed on a flat surface in full view of the spectator. The front page of one of the copies is seen to be missing. The bag is shown to be empty. The performer should direct the spectator to make an extra photocopy of the missing page through the use of some finely judged-patter. The performer then leaves to submit two copies of the thesis, which are chosen at random by a further spectator in the clinical psychology administration office. The performer later discovers the missing front page at the back of the copy he has retained in his possession.
The method: I have absolutely no idea.

Anyway, despite a few hiccups, it’s in. I have decided not to look at it again until the deadline in a week’s time. I don’t want to notice some mistake I could have changed if I’d had the time.

Let the good times commence.

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Going Blind

Posted July 23, 2007 by Doug
Categories: Books, Goings on, Magic

Hello, cherubs.

Not much to report today. I’m approaching crunch time re. the thesis, but then you know all about that. Let’s move past that, if we can.

I was having a very industrious day yesterday. Some of this industry was directed at four key texts in the art of magic, all of which are now within my sweaty grasp. Things are not progressing at the frenetic pace we were all expecting, but they are progressing nonetheless. The past week has been spent trying out a few bits and bobs, but also trying to plan a trajectory. I have even downloaded (I kid ye not) some study guides. Whenever did play appear so much like work?

Anyway, when I wasn’t fumbling around with that, I was putting up a blind in the one-time-study-now-room-designated-for-baby. I’m told that babies don’t confine their sleep/wake patterns into two conveniently compartmentalised segments like the rest of us, so steps had to be taken in order that they might be fooled into a nocturnal mood simply by the lowering of a blind, when the occasion called for it. 

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Anyway, it was all installed after some assorted hacking and banging. Afterwards, I thought I’d unfurl the instructions to see how well I’d done. Quite well, as it turned out. But not so well that a bright child might utterly mistake day for night. There’s still a bit of light coming in the sides, you see. Not to worry, though.

To finish on a light note, I was tickled by the instructions for this blind. They were written with an ebullience you don’t often associate with rather mundane window coverings. It’s opening words were:

‘Congratulations! You have purchased a fine window covering.’

I was momentarily regretful that we do not have a household policy of keeping a bottle of champagne on ice at all times, in the event of an unforeseen cause of celebration such as this. But I did feel rather proud of my noteworthy purchasing achievement.

The follow-up remark was almost as good:

‘It should provide years of enjoyment’.

Now, enjoyment is something I never expected to get from a window-blind. Pure, unexceptional, light-occluding functionality, perhaps, but not enjoyment. How does one enjoy a blind? Am I using it in entirely the wrong way? Is is really the manufacturer’s expectation that I should wake up every morning for the foreseeable future and wonder what blind-related delights might be in store for me? There I was expecting to more-or-less forget about it once it was up. Wrongly, it turns out.

I’d better dash for now, but I’ll keep you updated. Particularly with regard to my enjoyable adventures with a blackout blind.

All Change

Posted July 21, 2007 by Doug
Categories: Films

trans2.jpgNow, if I could just rally my senses, I might be able to fire off a quick opinion about Transformers. Mrs H and I are about to embark on a (possibly apocalyptic) visit to the Mamas and Papas shop in Craigleith, so time is of the essence.

It’s a bit weird going to the cinema in the middle of the night. For one thing, you tend to rub shoulders with those who look like they don’t usually see the light of day. And as would be expected for a movie such as the above, there was a delightful masculine skew in the audience demographic. There was, of course, the odd girlfriend / wife in evidence, but few looked as if they really wanted to be there. They were out of their depth, the poor things.

An amusing preface to the film, for me, was that my viewing companion was ejected at the very beginning. Apparently, when cinemas display posters of long-anticipated upcoming attractions, this is not to be interpreted as an invitation to help yourself to said posters. This my friend learned, to his cost. ‘Look but don’t touch’ would be my tip for any potentially light-fingered cinema-goers. 

So. The film. Truth be told, it fell just ever-so-slightly shy of what I was expecting, which is to say I found it a little disappointing. Of course, there were plenty of visual treats, but a lot of them felt a little bit familiar. Maybe I’m getting too old, but I find myself quite unable to make sense of overblown, hyperkinetic action scenes. Picture the scenario: you’ve got a gaggle of robots, each very large, ripping chunks out of each other within a small urban space. It sounds good on paper. But filmakers have this habit of filming such sequences in such a way that they’ll zoom right into the thick of the action, so that you feel like you’re right there. This is all very well, but it becomes hard to appreciate what’s actually happening. All you have is a vague impression of lots of metal flying in all directions, making lots of noise. Have you ever had to watch a video of a relative’s holiday? You know the sort of thing: camera all over the place, zoomed in up to the hilt and flitting from person to person in a manner more likely to induce nausea than a sense of coherent narrative? Well, Transformers was a bit like that in parts, and sometimes about as much fun.

I won’t spoil the plot for you, mostly because I am slightly hazy about it myself. I might have slept through a little bit in the middle. For example, I’d be grateful to know what became of John Turturro’s character. Did he just disappear, or did he meet some variety of grisly end while I was getting some shut-eye? The perils of late-night cinema, people. Suffice it to say that it involved robots (some good, some bad), a handful of humans, um, a box that did something or other, a pair of glasses. I think eBay was involved somehow. Probably best you see it for yourself really.

For me, it was no more than a notch above average. But perhaps repeated viewing would reveal more than (initially) meets the eye.

Hallows Be Its Name

Posted July 20, 2007 by Doug
Categories: Books, Culture, Films, Goings on, Internet, Magic, News

Greetings, brethren.

For a nigh-unimaginable number of people, it’s a very special day today. This day, the 20th of July 2007 AD has been dubbed ‘the last golden day of ignorance’. Everyone get ready. We are about to turn a page.

The page in question, of course, is the front cover of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh instalment in J. K. Rowling’s record-breaking series. I assume it’s a record-breaking series, although I am at a loss to cite the latest Guiness tome chapter and verse. Let’s take it as a given.

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You’ll have noticed that a degree of fuss has been made over these books. None of it by me, I might add. I’ve not read any of them myself. Which, some might argue, makes me a trifle underqualified to hold forth about them. I did see films one and two, though, which is something. The first one I loathed. But I thought I’d give the second one a go. The second one I loathed.

I found it difficult to get excited about the world’s favourite boy wizard. I am all but alone, it seems. In Britain, one in every forty households has pre-ordered a copy of Hallows. In Morningside, home of J. K. Rowling and veritable hotbed of Pottermania, it is one in every nineteen. Remember, of course, that these figures represent only those would-be readers who have chosen to receive their book in the post. It tells us nothing of the scores who will this evening be crowding into Waterstones to get their greedy little hands on a copy, nor of those more sensible folk who intend to pick up a copy over the next couple of weeks, just whenever they get the chance.

Everyone’s waxing lyrical about Harry Potter at the moment. Our new PM thinks that J. K. Rowling has ‘done more for literacy around the world than any single human being’. Even those responsible for medical audit at the John Radcliffe have entered into the spirit of things. They’ve published the finding that, on average, accidents involving children are far fewer on Harry Potter release dates than on other weekend dates. So they’re all for it, obviously.

I’ve been having a little sniff around all the conspiratorial Potter waffle on the internet. I’ve been particularly enjoying all the leak-anxiety that seems to be floating about. You see, when you’ve got all these books lying about waiting to be delivered, it’s all too tempting for people to take a quick peak. There are all sorts of stories about plot secrets from previous books being leaked prior to the release dates. But the message from the true fans is clear: ‘seriously, we’re almost there guys’. At least Potter fans have got each other to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Anyway, enough of this tosh. Suffice it to say I won’t be attending any Potter launch parties tonight. Largely because I’ll be enjoying the Transformers premiere down at the Ocean Terminal (which, coincidently, starts at the exact moment Hallows is officially released). Stick that in your cauldron and boil it.

Don’t worry. There’ll be a spoiler-laden review to follow shortly.