There will never be another

The world has lost one of its best.

It was almost as if I was in some strange parallel universe, when I saw a shot of Steve Jobs appear on my TV this morning. I was just about to leave for work, but I stayed. I saw the caption and I could not believe it. It was almost as if the news was trying to dupe us; it was having us on.

I froze on the spot, and watched the short report that followed. It just all seemed so unreal.

Steve Jobs will be sorely missed. As I walked in to work, I passed the office manager, and we made small talk while the news droned on from a TV in the background. I looked at the TV, then asked him, “Have you heard?” I was mildly offended when he seemed nonplussed. Why? Because Steve Jobs changed the world, I told him.

Aside from the revolutionary technology that Mr Jobs and Apple created, he was a character. He was a self-confessed square peg in a round hole, and watching him every year, defying convention and normality with every product launch, he gave courage to those of us who have ever felt alienated for believing in something new; something real. Steve Jobs was a role model for all of us who have ever stood up and said, or wanted to say, “This is the world, and this is how I see it.”

In his iPad review, Stephen Fry concluded that its best feature is that it is a joy to use. It’s a product that despite all of the complex techno-wizardry contained within, still manages to bring joy to its users for just using it. Of course, there were many criticisms of the iPad when it launched. There were those who said there was no place in the market for it, and there were those who complained it was flimsy and underpowered for what it presented itself as. Still, the iPad seems to have done quite well for itself, and carved out its own niche in the market, inspiring a slew of other tablets from a number of manufacturers. What remains, is that Steve was there first. He was the one who said, “Hey, let’s try it this way,” and while we were hesitant at first, we got it. We understood, and it was beautiful.

Steve Jobs represented to us what it means to think outside of the box. It’s difficult to think that he’ll no longer be around, pushing boundaries, kicking ass, and taking names. He was the first great who made the technology world sit up and listen. While he will not be the last, there will never be another Steve Jobs, and he will be missed greatly.

To end on a somewhat saccharine note (or not), it’s our responsibility now to make sure the spirit of Steve lives on. That no matter how many people tell us we’re crazy, or just plain wrong, or full of bad, unworkable ideas, we will not take no for an answer. We’ll keep kicking at boundaries, and changing things for the better. That’s on us.

Thank you so much, Steve. You will be missed.

In Memoriam - Steve Jobs (by @gapingvoid)
via gapingvoidgallery.com

Stay hungry, stay foolish.
Steve Jobs -1955-2011
R.I.P.

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A terrible month for blogging

I never did write that story.

I returned this morning from a brief trip to Swindon, to see a good friend of mine who I studied English with last year. The trip itself was lovely. Swindon seems very quaint, from what I saw of it. It was lovely and wintery, as is the general case with things around this time of year. We passed the time mostly by drinking coffee, talking, watching magic DVDs and brainstorming business ideas, and magical concepts. We also made the most amazing vegan sushi. My friend doesn’t have a TV, or the internet, which was refreshing in a lovely way. I love my internet breaks, and being disconnected from everything, every once in a while. Indeed, we talked and bonded much more than we would have done if he did have either of those aforementioned bits. My friend himself has moved on, and grown up in a big way. He’s now living in his own flat, and working towards a PGCE in secondary teaching. I’m proud of him. He’s contributing back to the society that helped him become the person he is today. I don’t deny that I’m envious.

While I was there, I couldn’t help but ask about his job every couple of minutes. What was it like? Were the children nice? Did he think he would teach for the rest of his life? I suppose this curiosity was borne from the fact that I’m very unsure of where I’m going with my life at the moment. A few months ago, if you asked me where I was going, I could tell you exactly what I wanted to do with my life, and where I want to go. However, the closer I got to this goal (not really that much closer at all), I realised very quickly that I didn’t have a clue about what I was getting myself into. It’s funny, almost. A year ago, people commended me for having such a sense of direction. These people are now much further along the line than I am. For the first time in a long time, I am not happy with my life, and this is no one’s fault but my own. I am in a very fragile mental state.

I’ve gotten where I am today mostly through a series of hurried decisions, which I haven’t really pondered on. Perhaps I’m paying the price for it, now. I don’t know. I don’t really know anything at the moment. I think this is illustrated by the fact that my blogs have become horribly self-indulgent as of late. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been updating as much. Whatever the case, I apologise.

I’d like to end this with a positive spin, because I’m that kind of a person. I think. So, what can we learn from this? Swindon is good, and Swindon with good friends is excellent. I think this has already been established. What moral can we derive from this, however? I think it’s important to recognise the importance of work, no matter how rudimentary. I feel like a Chekhov character. It’s great to have some kind of purpose, and to know where you’re going with things, and to actually be contributing to something, whether a child’s education, or something different entirely. I think that while employment is important, it’s also important to remember how we, as friends, can affect one another. It’s very hard to lose track of things when you feel alone, which is something I believe I’m guilty of. Perhaps it’s that we all have a purpose, bestowed upon us all by those we love, and those we care for. A reciprocal purpose of dependence. Yes, I think that’s it, and I say that with a smile.


A GONZO IS BORN!

Omegle conversation log
2009-09-08
Connecting to server…
Looking for someone you can chat with. Hang on.
You’re now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!
Omegle is not a dating site. Please try to have interesting conversations here!
Stranger: hi
You: What am I doing with my life?
Stranger: i accidentally my cat
Stranger: i don’t know?
Stranger: you are the third in a row that talks about life, string theory etc.
You: Haha, I wrote the book on string theory.
Stranger: oh really?
You: Omegle must be full of the lamenting types tonight.
You: It’s in the air.
Stranger: although fullmoon passed already
Stranger: but what are you doing with your life?
You: I’ve just graduated with a BA in English.
You: And I’m just about to embark on an MSc in Marketing Management.
You: Me? A business major? Who’da thunket?
Stranger: ok
You: I’m definitely the most famous Gonzo journalist there is.
Stranger: perez hilton?
You: Oh no.
You: Perez Hilton does not know Gonzo journalism.
You: I wrote the book on Gonzo journalism, I’ll have you know!
Stranger: ok
You: But what good are books?
You: Books are only pages.
You: Pages and words.
Stranger: yes
You: Do you read books?
Stranger: yes a lot
You: What kind of books?
You: Gonzo books?
Stranger: no
Stranger: science, computer science, fiction
You: Science fiction?
Stranger: no
Stranger: i strictly separate those both
You: Science fiction is what a boy needs to prepare him for the world, though.
You: Before you know it, we’re all going to be dancing on the moon.
You: People look at me like I’m some kind of hack, but people just don’t understand that we are VISIONARIES.
You: We’ve seen the future, man.
You: We’re preparing the human race for what will surely be our greatest endeavour.
Stranger: what did you smoke?
You: I think the question is, what did I not smoke.
Stranger: omg my neighbours are fucking the hell out of each other
Stranger: lots of noise
You: To understand what I have smoked, you must really start to question the true nature of smoke.
Stranger: don’t be that philosophical please
You: What is smoke? What is it composed of?
Stranger: you are not the dalai lama
You: My boy, you cannot sit down with the world’s greatest doctor of Gonzo journalism, and refuse to talk philosophy.
You: I thought you knew what Gonzo was.
Stranger: i know
You: So you lie?
You: You lie to me, the world’s greatest Gonzo journalist?
Stranger: oh well
Stranger: whatever
Stranger: good bye
You: Heck, I’ll have you know, I wrote the book on Gonzo journalism!
Stranger: yes
Stranger: you told that three times before
Stranger: i do not suffer from memory loss
You: And I’ll tell you plenty more, in time!
Stranger: i have no time
Stranger: sorry
Stranger: good by
Stranger: see ya later
Stranger: next time
Stranger: cheerio
Stranger: have fun
Stranger: whatever you do
Stranger: chatting
You: Enjoy the soothing sounds of the hippos fornicating!
Your conversational partner has disconnected.


A Funeral Day

Today was an odd day for me, certainly. Not because I just think I’ve seen a ghost, or experienced the presence of some kind of spiritual body, but because funerals are still rather ‘new’ to me.

Today, I attended my second funeral, and gave my second eulogy. This funeral was unlike the first, which was in February. No. That was a far more lavish affair, if I can call it that, taking place at the prestigious ‘Forest Lawn’ funeral home, in the Los Angeles hills, where apparently Michael Jackson now rests, at least temporarily.

It was a funeral for Manuel Castro Jesue, my father’s lifelong friend, and father of my father’s Godson. Some of you may remember a blog that I posted, a while back, about this poor gentleman who was dying at home of throat cancer. We knew it was coming, and he sadly passed away last week. Since Castro became ill, and made the decision to die at home, a year ago, my family and I have become increasingly close to his son, and today was an unbelievably hard day for him, but he coped very well, and read his own, beautiful eulogy.

I had never taken part, or even seen a funeral procession before. We met at Castro’s house, early on in the afternoon, where the funeral hearse, and a limousine were waiting. We greeted the other attendees, before climbing into the limousine, which sat behind the hearse, carrying Castro’s coffin, which was covered with many different collections of flowers.

Slowly, the procession began. The hearse rolled forward, and we soon followed, in the limousine. At the end of the road, the passenger of the hearse, a man in a black top hat and overcoat got out of the hearse, closing the door, and bowing to the coffin as the hearse rolled past him, before getting back in. The procession slowly proceeded to our destination; a crematorium not too far away. We couldn’t have been breaking 20 MPH, but we were in no rush, despite being late for our ‘slot’ at the crematorium. People drove alongside us, eager to get ahead. When we were stationary, at traffic lights, people would gaze, and stare at the hearse, and the coffin contained within it. My half-brother, Andrew, who came especially from Sweden for the funeral, tried to joke about the buttons on the limousine doors that operated the windows. I nodded once, keeping my eyes fixed on the hearse, and the coffin.

The driver assured us that we’d be on time, and I believe we were. As we exited the limousine, we greeted the other attendees, again. I met a woman whose son, a deacon, knew Castro well, and was participating in the funeral, as well as giving his own eulogy.

We were ushered inside to Eva Cassidy’s ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, which I had burned to a CD the night before. Before entering, we each took a rose out of a box of roses that Castro’s relatives had sent, or ordered, from Portugal. I chose a white one. We then took our seats. I sat with my family, and with Richard, Castro’s son, at the first row of pews. The music faded, and the service began. The priest opened with a prayer, and the deacon, Tito, read some Bible passages and gave his eulogy. It was very fitting, and he even likened Castro to Jesus. He talked of how Castro dedicated his life to the hotel and catering business, which in a way, was a dedication to helping people, like Jesus. He talked about how he was an amateur carpenter, like Jesus was. Deacon Tito finished what he had to say, and Richard was then called up to read what he had written to his father. Richard had asked me to step in, if he couldn’t finish reading his eulogy himself. He held himself together, although his last few sentences were very tearful, both for him, and those watching. It was a beautiful eulogy. He told me later on that he wished to say more about his father’s life, but I said that the way he said what he did showed better than any words how much he loved his father.

My own father then tapped me on the knee, and told me to go up and read my eulogy. My father was very close to Castro, working with Castro, a cocktail barman, for many years, when he was still a hotel manager. I had asked him if he wanted to say something instead of me. I didn’t feel that qualified to say anything, really. My dad shrugged this off, saying that he was no good at talking in front of people. I knew how much it meant to my dad, so I had prepared a short speech. Right then, however, I told my dad that I would read my eulogy later, at the wake, as when I had mentioned that I had something to read, earlier on, Richard had told me there might not be time. Prayers were made, and Bible verses were read. Just as the priest conducting the funeral was going to draw an end to it, Richard stopped him, and leant over and asked me if I wanted to read what I had prepared.

I climbed up, and introduced myself to the onlookers. This was my second time, standing on the pulpit, and I don’t think I shall ever get used to it, if I am ever called there again, under such circumstances. The best fitting description of it would be to imagine being punched, hard, in the stomach, by the combined grief of everyone in the room. I am glad I had written the eulogy down, as I fear I wouldn’t have been able to recall it from memory. I did my very best to read the printed words in front of me accurately, although I tripped on my words a couple of times. When I was done, I returned to my seat from the dizzying heights of the pulpit. More prayers were said, and we were called to say our last goodbyes to the coffin, before it was delivered into the oven behind it. I placed my white rose on the coffin, and passed a kiss to the large golden crucifix nailed to the top of it.

We exited, and said our condolences to Richard. My dad said he was very proud of me.

After collecting flowers, including the box of roses sent from Portugal, we returned to the limousine, where we were taken to Castro’s house; all the while, I cradled the box of roses in the empty seat next to me.

When we returned to Castro’s house, we went inside and Richard placed a wreath he had taken, decorated with Portuguese colours, behind a picture of his father, in a table in the corner. He asked me to put the box of roses in the bedroom, next to the bed where Castro had lay for a year. It was very strange, returning to this bedroom where I had seen him slowly debilitate, and mutate, over time, into a skeletal figure. A shadow. The windows were wide open, and the usual musty smell was gone. The bedclothes were made, but the pillows were creased, with an indent. Were these made by Castro? I didn’t know, and didn’t ask, but I couldn’t shake the strange feeling of seeing the room without him in it. It didn’t seem like the same room, almost.

I returned to the lounge. Richard was showing some tables that Castro had crafted, by hand, and varnished himself. He showed us a collection of boxes, one which Castro had varnished shut, and had then cut his hand open, trying to open it with a knife. My mum had to drive him to the hospital. It was nice to admire his craftsmanship. The tables were extremely well made. It’s amazing how someone can create something – anything, from nothing.

After this, we left the house, returning to our respective cars, and driving to a nearby bar/restaurant, owned by a good friend of my dad’s, who had closed the premises for a wake. The general mood seemed happier, as we started to celebrate Castro’s life, and recall fond memories of him. We sat outside, on their patio, and had a collection of barbecued foods. They made me a vegan bean burger especially. They made me two, but Andrew ate my second. I wasn’t that hungry, anyway.

After we had eaten, and drank, we left, but not before my dad insisted on taking care of the bill. Richard tried, but my dad’s pride prevailed, like it has many, many times in the past. That’s one of the many good things I think I’ve inherited from him. We then took some pictures outside the restaurant, and we returned to my house, along with Richard. There, we talked, made plans for the following day, today, drank Armenian brandy, as well as tea and coffee, and ate fruit. After the sun had set, Andrew, Richard and myself decided to go for a walk along the Thames. I didn’t talk a great deal. I mostly listened, until the very end of the walk, when the subject of Michael Jackson, another recently deceased ‘M.J.’, who I talked about quite passionately. When we got back, everyone else had gone to sleep. My sister was in a mood with me, as I had promised her we could go for a drive when we got back from the wake. I hope she’ll be ok, and forgive me, when she wakes up.

Andrew went to bed, and I gave Richard a lift home. We sat outside his house, in my car, for many hours, chatting about the day’s events, about Andrew, about my family, about his family. We talked about many things, and we both got emotional. When he clock struck three, he said he should probably go, but the conversation just kept flowing. All of a sudden, the door to his block of flats swung open a little. We debated whether it was the wind, a spirit, or a ghost, or Castro, calling Richard inside, to go to sleep. He went and checked the door, which he suspected might be on the latch. He returned, and confirmed that it wasn’t. We both sat in the car, a little unnerved, peering inside the building, looking for any signs of any thing that could have opened the door. Why, if it was wind, had the wind waited over an hour to open the door? If it was the wind, how could it then open a locked door? My father is a very religious man, and believes, without doubt, that spirits walk the earth for forty days, after their mortal bodies die, before ascending to heaven. He still recounts, vividly, his experiences and dreams after his own father, my grandfather, died. I’m not certain where my beliefs lie, with regards to supernatural phenomena, but I believe, at that point, that Castro was watching us.

Richard and I embraced, he stepped out of my car, shutting the door, lightly, and then waved me off as I backed out of his estate, and drove off.


What’s your #MichaelMemory?

I watched the Michael Jackson memorial on TV a few hours ago, and was surprised at how emotional, and how intimate an event it was, despite the thousands of people present. Truly, Michael Jackson was greater than an entertainer, and I think that showed today. He was a real humanitarian; he really cared, and more than that, I think he has touched all of our lives, directly or indirectly in some way. Whether you were a fan or not, no one can deny that Michael Jackson has been a part of their lives in some way.

I think, as a sort of tribute to Michael, it’d be nice if everyone posts, on their blog, or on their Twitter, one memory of how Michael Jackson has touched their life.

Here’s mine. It’s not much, but it’s what sticks in my mind most prominently: I remember, many years ago, I visited my family in Los Angeles. I couldn’t have been older than six or seven, but I still remember a family gathering at my aunt’s house. While I was there, my cousin Vacheh gave me an audio cassette: a collection of Michael Jackson hits, recorded off the radio. It was my first ever audio cassette.

So, again, whoever you are, if you read this, please post your Michael memory, as a tribute to this legend. I’m trying to get the hashtag #MichaelMemory into circulation on Twitter, but whatever medium you use, or however you blog, take a minute out of your day to pay tribute to this legend.

Peace, and love to all of you.


R.I.P. Michael Jackson

I was sitting in a pub last night, waiting for my friend to go up on stage and perform for their open mic night, when I heard the news. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was just a rumour. My friend got a text from his mother saying that his girlfriend had heard from somewhere that Michael Jackson had died. I wasn’t sure whether or not this was a frenzied rumour, but for the most part, I shrugged it off. The ‘King of Pop’ had been through a lot. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, regarding his personal life, you can’t deny that. Despite all of the negative media attention, through harbouring a persona that people loved to hate, and despite all the controversy (without mentioning his piles of debt) he still managed to survive, and sell a ridiculous 40,000 tickets an hour for what was going to be his farewell tour. To me, at least, Michael Jackson was ‘Invincible’.

I whipped out my iPod Touch and started scowering the internet. The LA Times were the first news outlet to officially declare him dead, but finally, the BBC News website published the news, although all references to him being ‘dead’ remained in inverted commas for some hours. There was a small glimmer of hope, that I was refusing to let go of, but it soon dawned on me that he was actually gone.

I have always been a fan of Michael Jackson and his work. Contrary to his somewhat dubious court appearances, I did not think that he was a paedophile; instead just a very troubled and lonely man who was deprived of a proper childhood. In fact, I remember my first ever audio cassette was a collection of his songs recorded off the radio by one of my American cousins. Like many children growing up in the late ninties, Michael Jackson provided much of the soundtrack to my upbringing. While I was not an enormous fan, I was certainly aware of his material, and his presence on the social consciousness of the time. I still know all the words to ‘Billie Jean’, even though never actually having owned the track, and I can still do the ‘Thriller’ dance. Love him or hate him, Michael Jackson was undeniably one of the most seminal artists of the 20th century.

Facebook was awash with messages of condolence last night, and not much changed into the morning. Of course, as with every celebrity death, there are a group of sour individuals who feel it necessary to lambast Michael Jackson’s name, and spread horrible jokes about him, as they feel there are far more pressing issues at hand, than the death of one popstar. That might be true. The atrocities in Iran are nothing short of attrocious, but I think the public should be allowed to mourn one of their biggest icons. Love him or hate him, the death of Michael Jackson has affected us all profoundly. Whether we cry, mourn, laugh or shout, we’ve all been affected in some way, which will take some time for us all to digest. For such a big star to just disappear is shocking, to say the least. Although, certainly, I am sure that there will never be another ‘King of Pop’, certainly not in my lifetime, maybe not ever. Rest in peace, Michael. You shall be missed, dearly.


Life/Death

It’s funny how life and death intermingle so utterly ironically, at the worst times. Today I went to a Christening. Before that, I went to see an old friend of my father, who turned 62 today. He’s dying of throat cancer. I’m not sure how many days, let alone birthdays, he’s going to see again.

I’ve never seen my dad cry so much before. I’ve only seen him cry a few times. He’s got a heart of gold, but he’s not one of those men you can catch crying very often. I’ve never seen him cry like this, though.

We knew this was coming. My father’s friend has had throat cancer for a while. They managed to stop it for a while, but when it reared its putrid head again, he refused to go into hospital again. He said he wanted to die at home.

The cancer has eaten away at his entire mouth, starting from the back of his throat. He can’t open his mouth anymore. He even finds it hard to drink. Over my last few visits to see him, I’ve watched him slowly turn into a skeleton. A few visits ago, he showed me his arms and legs, the muscle and fat gone from malnutrition. When we were with him today, all my dad could say was, “I can’t bear to see him like this. He’s a skeleton.”

I went out this morning to buy him a bunch of flowers. My parents weren’t sure what to get him for his birthday, as he’s no longer mobile, and no longer able to support himself. He likes flowers, though, so they decided upon that. He can’t see that well anymore, so I insisted on buying him the strongesst flowers I could find, so that he could at least smell them. The thing is, I’m not sure that he ever will.

My dad wrote him a card too. I don’t know what he wrote in it. I’m not sure if it was even my place to know. We went into his room today, and approached him two-by-two. First, my mum and my dad went up and held his hands. He’s not even fully conscious, but they managed to stir him. Next, I approached him with my sister and did the same. We gave him the card, which he held against his chest. He touched his heart, and then drew a circle in the air. He loves us, and we love him. I’m not sure if he saw the flowers.

Life is so cruel, sometimes. This is a man who was one of my father’s first good friends in this country, when he came here, 40 years ago. He worked alongside him, and followed my dad from hotel to hotel. He was always so full of life, even when he had the cancer. He’s had cancer as long as I’ve known him. One of mybest memories of him is from a few years back, when he gave me a lift in his car.  He started honking his horn at women, winding down his window and shouting at them. He told me it had been too long since he last engaged in any activity with a woman. That made me laugh. He still had that youthful spark about him. I take it that’s something he never lost. He was always a jolly guy, and he always joked around. He’d always go to thrift stores and buy things for me and my sister. I’ve got a couple of bottles of cologne behind me which he’s bought me. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see the pack of Frosties playing cards that he got me for Christmas, since he knew I was into magic, and into card tricks. Even today, when we saw him, he still gave us a thumbs up. He gave us a thumbs up, touched his heart, and drew a circle in the air with his hand.

It’s funny how life sets things up, and how certain events are arranged. I don’t know whether you believe in fate, or what not. I do, to a certain degree. When we left, we got in the car and drove to the Christening party. We’d gone to the church for the actual ceremony beforehand, and then left to see my dad’s friend. It was the first birthday of the child being Christened, so the party sort of doubled-up as a birthday party. He’s a bubbly one year old with a head of thick, curly black hair. I didn’t get to hold him, but I got to play with his brother, who’s almost six, and his friends. Children are so delightful, and so innocent. Their heads aren’t troubled with worries of politics, government, climate change, or anything of the sort. We are a nation of worriers. Their only worries are about running around and having fun. The kids I was playing with were showing me their karate moves, as the young fellow I’ve mentioned, who’s nearly six, is quite the master, as I found out today. They took turns showing me their moves, before deciding to ‘attack’ me in unison, all in jest. We played on a see-saw for a little while. Some of the kids climbed on one end, with a girl sitting alone, in the air, on the other. She complained that the other children were too heavy, so I helped her out.

I’ve always been able to get on well with children. I think it’s because deep down, I’m a child myself. I don’t want to be burdened by the rubbish we have to face daily. I just want to be happy. I don’t want to face losing people. I just want to sit on my see-saw and bounce up and down and up and down.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. It’s a damn shame, but I’ve got responsibilities to myself, and to others. I have responsibilities for my friends and family, for the environment, for my university, for everything, really. I’ve got to accept the fact that we always need to say goodbye to the people we love. What have we learned, though? I’ve never encountered such a surreal intermingling of life and death. I guess, all that we can learn is to make the most of each and every day that’s given to us. That’s granted to us. To thank God, or Jesus, or Allah, or Buddha, or Science, or whatever you believe in, that we’re still alive today. That we can still move our legs, and have the strength to speak, and use our voices to shout, and sing. We are so lucky to be here today. All of us. We’re all constantly teetering on the edge of oblivion. Life is so fragile; who knows how long we have left here. All we can do, I guess, is make the most of it.