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Hello, Hello?

Apr. 10th, 2010 | 01:14 pm

What is this?

It's the now-defunct Livejournal blog of Robert Wringham.

Are you still blogging?

Yes! I'm still posting infrequent schtick at wringham.co.uk and almost daily postings at newescapologist.co.uk. I'd be honoured if you would take a look.

Can we follow these new blogs?

Yessingtons! In fact, I'd actively encourage you to subscribe in Google Reader. Click here to add New Escapologist to your feeds.

Keep in touch, Livejournalistas!

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New Escapologist #3 now available

Feb. 26th, 2010 | 05:23 pm

Issue Three of New Escapologist is now available to for your delectation.

This issue features a conversation with Tom Hodgkinson, David Gross on tax resistance, Leo Babauta on shopping, Brian Dean on anxiety culture, Reggie C. King on the works of Moondog, Dickon Edwards on pseudonyms and truly loads more. Discover what to embrace and what to reject in this bumper "How To" issue.

My personal contributions, as well as overseeing the enterprise, include some words about autonomy, trifles, Montreal, sea-turtles and escape-route plotting.

In my grotesquely biased opinion, it's our finest issue to date.

For intellectual consumption only.

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The froth of his Ruddles

Jan. 7th, 2010 | 12:44 am

Originally posted at Wringham.co.uk. Add to Google

From the very periphery of my vision, I saw someone sit down at the table next to mine.

Reading a book, I was only dimly aware of his presence at first, but it soon occurred to me that the man was staring into the side of my head, like an off-duty phrenologist who doesn’t believe in a work/life balance.

Too bashful (okay, frightened) to challenge his gaze immediately but too distracted to return to my book, I instead looked straight ahead for a second as if exchanging glances with the studio audience.

As I did so, I realised that the pub was relatively empty. He had selected the table next to mine above all the other tables to choose from. My one free moment in an otherwise hectic week was being tarnished by a staring nutter.

I decided to risk a glance in his direction. I did so with trepidation in case his eyes were mad, whirling pinwheels or ghoulish empty sockets in his head.

But no. Normal human eyes. And as I met his gaze, the man immediately stopped his staring and looked down into his pint instead. At least he wasn’t bonkers enough to think that staring at other people in such close proximity is normal behaviour. In fact, he didn’t look mad at all. He was a youngish man, conservatively dressed and drinking a pint of Ruddles County Ale.

A mad person wouldn’t drink Ruddles would he? Yet he had sat down next to me in an otherwise quiet pub and he had definitely been staring. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and return to my book.

But I couldn’t. I soon felt the tractor-beam tug of his horrible eyes.

Reading Dostoevsky while suspecting being stared at is like trying to urinate in the presence of an expectantly blinking kitten. Despite conscious efforts, it is impossible to relax the correct muscles.

I looked up at him again and he quickly returned his attention to the froth of his Ruddles. It was becoming a fairly silly game.

As if God in his Heaven was tiring of this silly game and had decided to throw in a plot device, I suddenly needed the toilet. I didn’t want to take my coat and bag with me and I had half a pint of my own Ruddles left to enjoy.

I decided to put the man’s staring powers to good use.

“Would you watch my pint while I go to the bathroom, mate?”

He responded with a cordial and perfectly un-insane affirmative gesture. Excellent. A good leader recognises the special skills of his followers and this man was good at staring. He could look at my things and prevent them from being captured by crows while I was micturating.

Upon returning, I was dismayed to find that my pint had gone. The staring man had watched my pint very well. He had watched it disappear into the hands of the glass collector.

I shot the man a “WTF” expression but he seemed too distracted to notice.

“Yes!” he said suddenly. I followed his gaze to a television screen mounted on the wall above my table, upon which a phosphurdot footballer was celebrating his goal.

The mad staring-eyes man had not been looking at me at all. He’d been looking at the screen above my head.

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Oppression by technology?

Jan. 5th, 2010 | 01:03 am

Originally posted at New Escapologist. Add to Google

Laptops and the Internet provide unparalleled opportunities for mobility. A beautifully designed cloud computing arrangement can be the Escapologist's friend.

There is the concern, however, that most people don't use technology in a way that ensures the greatest benefit. Gadgetophilia and over-dependency come at a high cost and the world could so easily become a bleeping, malfunctioning, information-heavy technomess.

There's a page in this week's New Scientist written by Yair Amichai-Hamburger that offers a rather brilliant articulation of the problem and some simple solutions. Allow me to point you at it.

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The quite brilliant Mr. John Lloyd

Jan. 4th, 2010 | 01:12 am

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Wringham & Godsil's Alphabites: Episode 11.

Jan. 3rd, 2010 | 05:53 pm


Download Episode 11: "S is for Science"
In which we crack the Neanderthal genome, chat about Neutralinos as if we know what they are, Dan tells of his snowboarding adventures and how he came to be "in great agony", our listeners travel in time and Rob explains his religious epiphany.

You can also subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.

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[Repeat to Fade]

Dec. 30th, 2009 | 08:25 pm

A-well-a everybody's heard about the bird
B-b-b-bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word
A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word
A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a don't you know about the bird?
Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word!
A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird's the word

A-well-a everybody's heard about the bird
Bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a don't you know about the bird?
Well, everybody's talking about the bird!
A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a bird...

Surfin' bird
Bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb... [retching noises]... aaah!


Papa-ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow
Papa-ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow
Ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow
Papa-ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow
Papa-ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow
Papa-ooma-mow-mow, papa-oom-oom-oom
Oom-ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow
Ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow
Papa-a-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow
Papa-ooma-mow-mow, ooma-mow-mow
Papa-ooma-mow-mow, ooma-mow-mow
Ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow
Papa-ooma-mow-mow, ooma-mow-mow
Well don't you know about the bird?
Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word!
A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird's the word

Papa-ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow
[repeat to fade]

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Robert Wringham 1982-2074. "He liked the whores".

Dec. 27th, 2009 | 06:44 pm

Reading a brilliant book about economics called Filthy Lucre. Right now, the writer is talking about life annuity and mortality rates. Boom! I am reminded of Death Clock.

Apparently I will die on 16 October 2074. That's not so bad!

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"Failing, haunted grandfather clock of a prime minister"

Dec. 27th, 2009 | 04:10 pm


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Wringham & Godsil's Alphabites: Episode 10.

Dec. 26th, 2009 | 01:36 am


Download Episode 10: "X is for Ten"
In which we deliver an appropriately mediocre podcast for our tenth anniversary episode; wonder how Jesus would fare as a standup comedian; accuse God of being a terrible absentee father; Dan offends the whole of Ireland; and Rob works as a vegetarian butcher.

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Two websites of note

Dec. 13th, 2009 | 06:59 pm

reggie_c_king has collated his some of his fine works of literature, journalism and musiphilosophistry at The Stuffed Owl.

Meanwhile inside the mind of a turtle, little_dinosaur has opened a gorgeous weekly web comic called Astronaut.

May both sites live long and prosper.

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Wringham & Godsil's Alphabites: Episode 9.

Dec. 13th, 2009 | 12:59 pm

UntitledDownload Episode 9: "H is for Halfords"
In which Rob won't let Dan finish his story about a trip to the Halfords car accessory store and instead interjects with discussion of Debbie McGee, Mayan Prophecies, Laughing Policemen, Wasp Nests, impressions of Austrian babies, Time Travel sex crimes and classic Meatloaf numbers.

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Not simply reusable but resealable

Dec. 8th, 2009 | 07:34 pm

Originally posted at Wringham.co.uk. Add to Google

I had deduced from their behaviour that adults desired two things: money and small reusable bags.

One type of small reusable bag was the sort of airtight plastic bag in which you might store an uneaten sandwich in the refrigerator. This type of bag was not simply reusable but resealable, potentially making it the ultimate in small reusable bag technology.

Another sort of small reusable bag was the type of bag the bank might give you if you were to withdraw some money in the form of coins. The bag could hold £20 worth of pound coins, £40 worth of 50p coins and so on.

The sharp-minded among you will notice that this item combines the two main adult desires: small reusable bags and money. For this reason, these small reusable bags must be handled very carefully. If you were to use one to carry a mixture of pound coins and fifty-pence coins instead of the correct denomination/value, the bank would have to call the police and mummy and daddy would spend a night in the cells. Needless to say, this type of small reusable bag must always be taken very, very seriously.

The importance of small reusable bags is demonstrated in the following adventure:

At my primary school, there was a strange fad for collecting the springs from ballpoint pens. It seems curious now, but no more curious than the adult currency of small reusable bags. If there is enough room in the world for both the Sterling Pound and the American Dollar, there is surely also enough for small reusable bags and the springs from ballpoint pens.

I don’t want to blow my own trumpet too hard but my collection of springs from ballpoint pens was of a championship level. It was the second best in the whole class, second only to the collection of Christopher Quigley whose access to his father’s Parker Pen cabinet was quite an advantage.

I kept my springs from ballpoint pens inside my lifting lid desk but one day I decided to take them home, perhaps to show to my family in a springs-from-ballpoint-pens cabaret show. Since I had no container in which to transport them, I borrowed a small reusable bag from none other than spring connoisseur Christopher Quigley. He generously emptied 75p (a combination of twenty, ten and five-pence pieces: something I would eventually learn was highly inappropriate use of such a bag) into his desk and allowed me to borrow the bag for the evening.

The next day, perhaps drunk on the success of my springs from ballpoint pens orchestra, I returned to school without Christopher’s small reusable bag. It had completely slipped my childish mind.

When Christopher’s 75p went missing from his desk, an enquiry was launched.

The 75p had been prey to an unscrupulous classmate who had recognised the opportunity to strike. Without the small reusable bag to protect it, the 75p was ripe for the picking.

“You mustn’t take other people’s money bags,” the teacher told me firmly. I was beginning to think he had misunderstood the situation and that he was of the opinion that I had stolen the money. It soon became evident, however, that he was fully informed of the situation and it was the theft of the bag which irked him more than anything.

The shame I felt was immense. “You mustn’t take other people’s money bags” sounded as though I had conducted a proper robbery. Only now did I fully appreciate the importance invested by adults upon small reusable bags.

Now I’m adult myself, I don’t know what the fuss was about. I have a whole box of small reusable food bags in my kitchen and it cost me approximately 40p from the Supermarket. I’ve also discovered that small reusable money bags are available for free from the bank. You only have to ask.

Originally posted at Wringham.co.uk. Add to Google

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Not Local?

Dec. 8th, 2009 | 08:59 am

Originally posted at New Escapologist. Add to Google

Because New Escapologist has a political dimension, people will make not-unfair assumptions about the issues we're "for". For example, I sometimes receive article submissions about the importance of buying locally-produced food. Given that we're associated with the Idler, this is perhaps understandable but culinary issues are somewhat tangential to Escapology and there's a lot about the "Buy Local" movement that makes me uncomfortable.

There are sound arguments for such loyalty to local produce: a smaller total workload and a smaller cost to the environment. Moreover, New Escapologist is in favour of simplicity, and the direct field-to-consumer nature of the Farmers' Market is certainly simple compared to lugging frozen goods around the planet.

In the UK, the sort of people who are most passionate about buying local tend to talk about "English apples" when the correct expression would be "British apples", a paralinguistic betrayal of their real agenda. Buying Local to these people is nothing to do with carbon footprints. It's creepy Patriotism.

If one is genuinely worried about the carbon footprint of importing, it is worth remembering that "abroad" may well be geographically closer than other parts of your country. Apples grown in Normandy are closer to London than anything grown in the North of Britain.

"It's mad!" they say when they hear about Spanish asparagus being sold by a greengrocer in Solihull. "Mad!" Yet they overlook the logic that if there were no economic incentive, the greengrocer wouldn't stock such goods. Who knows what other benefits are involved in importing? A single import initiative might be the lifeblood of an entire equatorial village for all we know. Even from a right-wing perspective, isn't it better to let other nations do the dirty work while we concentrate on being world leaders?

Yes, there are advantages to Buying Local and New Escapologist is all in favour of certain types of autonomy. But we're not in favour of bumpkinism.

Originally posted at New Escapologist. Add to Google

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An Escapologist's Diary. Part 8.

Dec. 6th, 2009 | 03:48 pm

Originally posted at New Escapologist. Add to Google

In the first part of this blog series, I wrote about how I'd quit my office job of two years and intended to escape to Montreal on a 'mini-retirement' with my girlfriend. Since then, we've enjoyed Montreal as planned but have also spent additional time in England, Scotland and Holland, hatching various schemes, some of which are already underway.

Five months later, I've taken a day job again. I'm working part-time as a contract librarian in Newcastle, England. Don't squint so suspiciously though: this isn't a tail-between-the-legs return to employment after a wild period of faux-rebellion. If you must know, it's a hobby.

A part-time endeavor, my new day job takes place in a pleasant building and provides access to all the books I can eat. At £10 an hour, the paydirt is miniscule but money isn't exactly a problem thanks to the frugality, mobility and small-entrepreneurship ethics I've served over the last couple of years. I don't know how long the hobby job will hold my interests. A month? Three months? We shall see.

A day job is far more bearable if its thought of as a hobby. It's also fun to let your bosses know about this outlook: they have little hold over you as long as you consider their employment a trifle and this effect is multiplied considerably if you and the managers are on the same page.

I used to make the mistake of telling my office-based self that "this isn't the real me" and "you can shine when the whistle blows" but this line of thinking is a trap. It's far better to acknowledge that the job is a very real part of the person you are, whether you're in favour of that or not. If you're not in favour of it: escape to a better job or escape full stop.

Treat your job as you would treat cross-stitch or stamp collecting: an enthusiastically-pursued folly that you only do in your spare time.

Newcastle-under-Lyme bears little resemblence to any of my 'home towns' (my actual home town of Dudley, my adopted home town of Glasgow and the site of my mini retirement, Montreal) so its a good opportunity to learn about another town. To be honest, it's pretty shitty. Conifer trees, pampas grass, wholly unpedestrianised streets and white dogger compose the background of this sprawling English suburbia. A crumbling twentieth-century world and certainly not a place I'd want to spend too much time but there is still some anthropology to enjoy here.

Mobility is the most important thing in the world. To this end, I've not taken a permanent residence in Newcastle and instead stay in a guesthouse. Financially, the guesthouse option is approximately the same as renting an apartment (the per-night rent is higher than it would be in your own apartment but you don't have to pay council tax or utility bills and a lot of your food is catered for) but there are untold conveniences. There's no paperwork to start with: I've not had to dice with a letting agent or a landlord or the council. I simply show up and sleep. My bedroom is serviced by a cleaner, my breakfast is made for me, there's digital television should I want to watch it (though I tend to eschew this) and the wireless Internet connection is fast and free. Best of all, if I want to leave - if I take a mind to go gallivanting around the Hebrides or the States - I could do so tomorrow: mobility is the most important thing of all. It is freedom.

The only thing I had been dreading about the guesthouse arrangement was the necessity of making smalltalk with strangers over breakfast. Breakfast takes place in a communal dining room and I have never been a lark. It transpires, however, that breakfast with strangers is highly illuminating: not only do I meet people from all over the planet (a lady from Vancouver Island yesterday and a girl from Germany the day before, the exotic accents alone adding something to my day) but I have met genuinely interesting people and have learned things.

Today I met a former librarian from the north of England who has reinvented himself as musician and YouTube sensation, Will Fly. A fellow Escapologist in a way. A few days ago, I met a woman who told me to mix my Marmite with strawberry jam. An horrific suggestion, I thought, but on trying it I was pleasantly surprised. I'd only been out of bed for twenty minutes and I had discovered a new delicacy.

Speaking of which, the guesthouse breakfast menu has also introduced me to the magic of the Staffordshire Oatcake, a crepe-like thing and regional breakfast marvel.

I don't know what the allegory is to this breakfasty anecdote. Start your own breakfast club, perhaps? Don't shrink away from living communally? I think what really makes these breakfasts excellent is the high turnover of guests: it wouldn't be as enlightening if I met the same people each morning. If there's an allegory, I suppose it's to stay in a guesthouse from time to time and if you're enjoying a temporary hobby job like I am, you might want to consider a long-stay in a guesthouse. This is more specific and less metaphorical than the advice I'd normally impart but I'd recommend giving this a shot.

So that's the world around my hobby job. At the forefront, however, there are books to write and to commission for a New Escapologist spin-off books imprint, not to mention Issue Three of New Escapologist itself. As ever, get in touch, if you would like to be involved in these capers.

I hope others can take comfort in reading about my unusual worklife. As I mentioned in Part 1 of 'An Escapologist's Diary', the worst case scenario of giving it all up is that you'll fail to escape permanently and have to pick up where you left off. But even if you do that, you'll have enjoyed some freedom and will have stories to tell in the pub.

Originally posted at New Escapologist. Add to Google

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Loser-Generated Content

Dec. 5th, 2009 | 06:53 pm

"Piss off, T-Mobile ... You're embarrassing yourselves. Scram."

Charlie Brooker's angry and brilliant words about user-generated content cannot be missed.

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Jumping for joy

Dec. 3rd, 2009 | 11:07 pm

My photograph has been on the front page of the Idler website since October. This is not news to me, so why wasn't I jumping for joy when I originally saw this? I must have been trying to feign nonchalance.

The Idler is my probably favourite periodical of all time and to be involved - even tangentially - is tantamount to a guest appearance on Doctor Who.

Here I am, sitting right next to the blinkin' editor.

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For God and for Valour

Nov. 13th, 2009 | 05:18 pm

I attended a fairly Secular primary school in Middle-England but we always had to sing Christian hymns in school assemblies. I remember asking a Muslim kid why he tolerated it. He replied wisely with, "the same reason you do".

Hymn-singing for the non-Christian schoolkid is shocking bollocks. Any idea if it still happens?

Anyway, there was one hymn I really liked: when a knight won his spurs. It's lovely:

When a knight won his spurs, in the stories of old,
He was gentle and brave, he was gallant and bold;
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand,
For God and for valour he rode through the land.

No charger have I, and no sword by my side,
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride,
Though back into storyland giants have fled,
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead.

Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
'Gainst the dragons of anger, the ogres of greed;
And let me set free with the sword of my youth,
From the castle of darkness, the power of the truth.

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Meet Umami

Nov. 12th, 2009 | 07:15 pm

We're all familiar with sweetness, bitterness, sourness and saltiness. But umami?

Among other things, it is apparently the taste of Marmite.

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30 Rock

Nov. 9th, 2009 | 07:12 pm

Alone in an infinite, meaningless universe. The enemy is Nature and it will get you in the end. All that lies between you and it is the fragile hull of a ship made from string and ambition.

Get a life? Once every ten-thousand points! Narf.

Asteroids made by Neave Games

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