Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wandering in the Hall of Mirrors

I left a comment on Punk in Writing's blog a few days ago regarding the band Curve and how much I liked them. If you haven't heard of them, they were a kind of industrial wall-of-sound affair who peaked during the early 1990s - in my opinion - with their first album Doppelganger (Read more about them here) and who set the scene for bands like Garbage to popularise the sound. Anyhow, Punky left a comment after mine that said, 'I wouldn't have thought they were your kind of music. I guess the whole concept of industry music just clashes with my image of you as a tweed-wearing, tea drinking, Cornish book lover.' All of which was very interesting. Is that the way that others see me?

Then, last night, I watched a programme called Stephen Fry: Guilty in which this truly tweed-wearing, tea drinking book lover discussed his guilty pleasures. To my utter surprise, they included ABBA, swearing, Delia Smith, the music of Wagner, watching darts championships on TV, Countdown, Georgette Heyer novels and Farley's Rusks mashed with ice cold milk. Darts? Countdown? Wagner? These things simply didn't fit with the image I have of the man - and I've met him in a social context several times. Surely he watches cricket and crown green bowls and listens to Elgar or Vaughan Williams and drinks Pimms with his Blue Stilton Ploughman's lunch? I mean to say ... Farley's Rusks?

This is what I really look like

It's curious how different we can all be from the image that others have of us. It's like wandering in a Hall of Mirrors where you catch occasional glimpses of yourself and they're strangely distorted or wildly at odds with reality. The truth is that I've never owned anything tweedy. I do have a lot of books, it's true. Thousands of them. And I do drink far too much tea. But my musical tastes are broad and eclectic taking in everything from J S Bach to the Sex Pistols, and including along the way such diverse acts as St Vincent, Bloc Party, Jim Moray, The Pogues, Bjork, Neil Sedaka, Bill Bruford, Karine Polwart, Burt Bacharach, Yes, Arcade Fire, Dave Brubeck, Echobelly, Arctic Monkeys and the aforementioned Curve. I read extensively (my current reads are usually shown at right on this blog) and the books can range from the deliciously sublime to the scandalously ridiculous. On the shelf behind me, Fran Beauman's The Pineapple rubs jackets with Harry Hill's Tim the Tiny Horse, while a biography of Dame Barbara Hepworth nuzzles into Tony Hawks' Around Ireland with a fridge.

My study is peppered with odd little art toys - monsters, comic icons, a set of Jamie Hewlett's Gorillaz vinyl figures and a whole village of James Jarvis's potato-headed In-Crowd. There are posters on the wall for Mike Mignola's Hellboy comics. There are easels boasting half-finished paintings and a drawing desk covered in mugs and glasses full of pens and pencils. My faithful Yamaha APX4A semi-acoustic guitar stands in a corner, begging for a good thrashing; I was in a succession of bands in my youth and I still play and write songs, while harbouring deep, never-to-be-fulfilled dreams of rock stardom. There's a cat on my desk as I type this rubbing against my arm for attention. I'm not particularly fond of cats. I see them as the welfare scroungers of the animal kingdom. But I do like dogs and there are two of them asleep in the lounge nearby.

I tend to watch TV shows that are informative or escapist - and not much in between - so I avidly watch series like Doctor Who, Batman (the original series), Dexter, Family Guy, Prison Break, 24, Mock the Week, Peep Show, The Mighty Boosh and Samurai Jack, while balancing that against QI, The Sculpture Diaries, and any documentary that feeds my interests in art and the sciences or is presented by the holy quadrinity of David Attenborough, Michael Palin, Robert Hughes or Adam Hart-Davis. I hate soap operas and I loathe reality TV shows. Consequently, my TV viewing is now down to about two hours per day maximum. Favourite films? Brazil, Animal House, This is Spinal Tap, Plan 9 from Outer Space, and anything featuring the Monty Python crew or Laurel and Hardy.

So that's me, in a nutshell. And it's now got me wondering ... what are you all like? A few of you I know as well as I know my own feet, but the rest of you are a complete mystery to me. You reveal only tiny glimpses of yourselves from behind your bloggernyms ... Willow, Me, Persephone, Punk in Writing, Princess G, Brit Gal Sarah ... curious that it seems to be the ladies rather than the chaps (although the mysterious Anonymous is still entirely androgynous - hey, that rhymes!). Even when the names are (presumably) real, Debby, Katie, Janet, Rob, Jon et al are curiously coy with surnames. I guess it avoids stalkers and assorted weirdos turning up at your houses to lick your windows. But it does make me realise that the images I've formed of you all are probably nothing like you in reality. You're all walking in that Hall of Mirrors with me.

Bloggernyms. I may have coined one there.


Debby said...

Well. My last name is the same as the safe place in the mountains in the Lord of the Rings. How's THAT?!

And furthermore, my dog does not shed, and my house never needs vacuumed, and I never have bad breath when I wake up in the morning. My hair is not gray underneath the Miss Clairol, and I do not sweat when I work hard. I do not have fall allergies and my nose is not running while I write this.

There. Happy? Now you have a glimpse of the real me.

chris hale said...

They say great minds think alike.

I watched "Guilty" a couple of weeks back and did mention Mr. Fry's love of Farley's rusks and swearing in my blog. It's true to say that others have a very different impression of us from the one we have of ourselves. When I got myself promoted I noticed very strongly that others suddenly became very wary of me. I longed to shout out, "Look, it's me, plain old Chris! I listen to Led Zeppelin and the Third Ear Band! I've co-written a spoof history and loads of other tosh! I drink beer and eat curry!" But I couldn't because, as you know, The Firm doesn't work like that.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Debby - Very interesting! However, as I have less than a passing interest in fantasy novels I'm afraid that I have no idea what your surname is. And I shan't pry. Part of me, however, now calls you Debby Cave-Fullofspiders. Oh, and I think I detected a fib or two there ...

Chris - And village idiots seldom argue! You are completely right; you did mention Mr Fry's predilection for Farley's on your blog and I should have referenced it. Curiously, I've frequently suffered the reverse of your rank-based pseudo-apartheid. I have all too often been excluded or not taken seriously because of rank - even though the topic for discussion is my area of expertise. I won't whinge in public here but it's something I shall write more fully about in years to come, I'm sure!

I must also add that J-UT, as I shall henceforward refer to it, got a nice review in the new issue of 'Maxim' magazine where they described Stephen Fry as my 'most fascinated smart-arse fan'! Very kind to me ... not sure how Stephen will feel when his new copy of 'Maxim' arrives. Well, he watches darts for goodness' sake ...

chris hale said...

He'll probably wipe his nose on his sleeve, lift one cheek to break wind and tell the lads down at the Dog and Duck that "Those geezers at Maxim are taking the p**s!"

Janet said...


You probably wouldn't like us NEARLY as much if you knew what we're all REALLY like!

As for me, with the surname, I am probably a bit more cautious being female (than I would be if I were male, I mean) and just use my first name. I don't want to hide behind a nickname, though, so I really am Janet. (And my husband really is John, too...but that's another story...)

I often end up sharing my full name with blogger friends with whom I connect on LinkedIn or via email. But I'm selective about that, just to be a bit cautious.

My surname is a bit of an issue these days anyway, to steer the topic slightly. I got married only about 2-1/2 years ago. I'm "of a certain age", and I'm well-known in the oil industry by my original unmarried name. Also, my UK work permit was issued in 2002 in that name, leading to the issuance of UK residency in my original name as well. So I just have never changed my name officially after getting married. My lovely husband really doesn't care one way or the other...although it's an absolutely NO-NO to him to even think about a hyphenation of our surnames. So I'm really "Mrs. Nolan", but that's not the name I still use officially or on a day-to-day basis.

Have I teased you enough there?


willow said...

Okay, you lured me over here with your dreamy picture of Rossano Brazzi! You sly thing. Did you know that in the movie South Pacific, his voice was dubbed by Georgio Tozzi? I had the good fortune of meeting Tozzi at Indiana University, where he teaches voice, when my daughter was there. He is such a handsome man, himself, I don't know why they didn't cast him in the role instead of just his voice!

I know this has nothing to do with the theme of your post. Don't you think we all enjoy the aura of mystic?

Stevyn Colgan said...

Janet (and John)- Oh, it's just too perfect. Do you have a dog called Spot perchance? I once knew a couple called Wayne and Jane and my friends and I reckoned that if they ever had kids and we could apply enough peer pressure, they'd call them Duane, Shane, Elaine, Zane, Dane, Blaine, Marlene, Elaine, Shane, Germaine, Rayne, Helene or, at very long odds, Ygraine.

I'm genuinely not fishing for people's details here as that would be freaky and stalkerish. I was just genuinely fascinated by the idea of an imago; a kind of idealised picture of ourselves that we maybe project unconsciously when using media like Blogger. Certainly, I was surprised at how at least one person saw me. Very interesting!

Willow - Damn! My imago is shattered! Great piece of trivia though so thanks for that. I'l find somewhere to use it no doubt! Oh, and nice new photo BTW.

Janet said...

Oh, I knew you weren't fishing for anything. But it's a fun topic. - very intriguing!

Regarding "Spot" - actually, we're planning to get a Westie next year. I've always thought that Spot would be a fabulous name - or Blackie - or Freckles - etc. Alternatively, I've thought about sticking black spots on a Westie at Halloween time and saying he/she was dressed up as a dalmation.

Back to work now...

Stevyn Colgan said...

I aways wanted to buy the cutest, smallest, fluffiest dog and call it Fang. Or Satan. Or Dave.

Persephone said...

Well, most of us have blogs, so you have some idea of what we're like, don't you? You can't really blog without giving yourself away, can you? Only one very close friend knows that I have a blog (my elder daughter suspects I have one); she's known me for years and I'd trust her to the ends of the earth. She says the blog is exactly like me --- only less inhibited. Which is why I blog under a "bloggernym": partly to protect the privacy of my family and friends (although a determined and sadly deluded detective could easily find me out), but mostly for the freedom of not being myself, yet being myself more than I can be when I am myself. Does this make any sense?

Stevyn Colgan said...

It makes perfect sense Persephone. In fact, when I first started blogging I did the same thing and wrote under the bloggernym (see how it's catching on?) of Stig Goblin. Things changed when this new career as writer/ artist/ international playboy and studmuffin/ professional liar came about and I decided to 'come out of the blogging closet' as t'were.

I suspect (and have been warned) that once the book is launched, things will get busier on the blog and there will be more traffic. If it does go that way, I'll start a new secret blog to chat to my chums like you lot. I'll just need to decide on a new bloggernym.

Oh, it gets better every time I write it. x

John Soanes said...

Probably your most outrageous post yet, Steve - "do drink far too much tea" indeed, we all know that's impossible!

Katie said...

I imagine you to be an extremely sophisticated fellow and in person can spout off Shakespeare or you like to kick it down in Edinburgh’s drug scene with the dudes from Trainspotting. I am guessing all the images I have of other bloggers is completely wrong. =)

Yes, Katie is my real name and in fact, I could not think of anything better to use! Well, the nickname Lump would have worked but only a select few call me that ridiculous word. As for my surname, I could be related to a crazy outspoken pro-hunting, pro-conservation rocker/guitarist.

Uncle said...

Dear Stevyn,

I have bestowed an award upon your blog.

Kind Regards


Stevyn Colgan said...

John - Yes ... I didn'tthink I'd get that one past your eagle eyes. Too much tea. Fie! The very idea!

Katie - Sophisticated? Watashi?

I have visited Edinburgh but only for the Festival which is, it must be said, as far from the world of 'Trainspotting' as you can be while remaining on this planet. Lump seems a strangely inappropriate nickname. I've seen your holiday snaps. x

Stevyn Colgan said...

Wooohooo! Thanks Uncle! I always said you were innocent of that bicyce theft!

Debby said...

Never in my life thought I'd hear the phrase 'international playboy/studmuffin' in the same sentence as a reference to coming out of the closet.

Speaking of playboy, a few years back in my small town, an unconscious naked man was discovered lying beside his bike. It was a big mystery, until he came to a couple days later. He was a playboy too. His playgirl's husband came home to his apartment, discovered them in bed, pitched him out the bedroom window of their second story apartment. Pitched his bike out the window after him.

So, have a care with that playboy thing. It can end badly.

Michele said...

The Kooks album on your sidebar several months back gave you away... I knew then you had an eclectic taste in music. ;-)

What's Farley's Rusks?

Stevyn Colgan said...

Debby - That's a strong, angry lady who can chuck a bike out of a window ... but why was the bike in the bedroom?!

Michele - Farley's Rusks are easily digestible biscuit things that we Brits feed our babies when they're weaning. They're made by Heinz and taste gorgeous! Sadly, most of us only get to eat them when we have baby children.

Anonymous said...

I'm not entirely sure why, but I like the anonymity of my bloggernym (it's a good word!) which affords me the ability to say stuff I wouldn't normally. Perhaps it's the equivalent of the mask that allows the performer to shed the constraints of their own identity.

I think in my case it was more to save my Fabulous Other Half should someone from his work world come across my ramblings, some of which in the early posts were not particularly nice.

My blog has moved on from the rantings of frustration, but those posts are "out there" so for now, on this blog my full identity will be kept slightly secret. There are clues enough in the posts for a mildly competent detective however. It must also be said that my initial idea of starting the blog was simply to have a platform where I could speak freely and share thoughts with friends around the world. Since then I've discovered Facebook and learned so much more about the bloggosphere and so it has evolved. It certainly is something I'm going to have to think about a bit more.

Debby said...

No. It was the lady's husband. He was pissed. It was an apartment building. His bike was in the apartment, as opposed to being in the hall (where do apartment dwellers store their bikes in your neck of the woods?). Don't know if his bike was in the bedroom, but at some point, it ended up out the bedroom window, after the man was tossed out. Unconscious naked bicyclist headline one day, leading everyone to wonder if we had some sort of pervert running amok. It could not be ascertained if the bicyclist was the pervert, or the victim of one, until the man came to. His identity was not even immediately known, since he didn't have a back pocket with a wallet in it. Talk of the town. The police blotter reported the rest of the story later. Talk of the town all over again.

Janet said...

Hope you don't forget all of us - the "little people" - who have been your blogger friends and fans BEFORE you become a world-famous author and celeb!



Stevyn Colgan said...

Debby - Sounds like a hilarious place to live! The most exciting thing to get thrown out of windows in my little viage are used teabags.

Rob - I quite understand that. Blogging anonymously can be hugely cathartic. I also understand when anonymity is needed for other, more personal reasons. There are a great many petty-minded and ignorant people out there who feel the need to be always on the attack - usually because of their own insecurities, it must be said. One friend of mine had to move the address of their blog several times and even close it to the public for a while due to continued harrassment from one individual. I have no desire to pry. I just like chatting to my visitors. Thanks for the email. Interesting stuff.

Janet - Not a chance. Although 'the rich and famous' is a quantum leap! Slightly better off and published will do me fine!

joelmead said...

You know what I'm like since we've known each other for about ten years now (which is really scary)…

Blog Princess G said...

As much as I slaver over Rossano Brazzi, I think you're lovely just as you are.

The Not-really Mysterious BPG

Stevyn Colgan said...

Awwwwwwwww. x