Sunday, August 14, 2005

Bark: Of moustiques and men

I'm afraid I've got some bad news. I'm giving up Code Monkeying and semi-professional videogames journalism, and instead I'm going to devote the rest of my working life to my new calling. Namely, exterminating every lasting fucking mosquito from the face of the Earth.

Whilst I love holidaying in France, if there's one thing I'd like to change, it's the mysterious attraction I seem to hold for the local "moustiques". I'm averaging four bites per night, and I'm pretty sure that the couple of kilos I've lost since arriving here can be accounted for by blood loss alone. And that's after factoring in the weight of the box and a half of plasters I currently have adhered to my itching wounds.

I noticed in the news recently that our beloved Dubya has weighed into the evolution debate by siding with the "Intelligent Design" fundamentalists and supporting its teaching alongside Darwin's Theory of Evolution as "Science". Educating them back to The Stone Age, eh, George? Well, I suppose it's cheaper than using bombs... Sorry, Georgie, but the very existence of the mosquito puts a nail into the coffin of "Intelligent Design". I don't think making a creature that lives directly off another's blood is particularly intelligent design; do you? Especially when the bites bloody HURT so much. Any moderately intelligent deity would have designed the mosquito to bite painlessly (in both execution and after effect) and suck FAT, not blood. Not only is fat a better bodily medium for storing energy than blood, but you could end the obesity crisis and put the majority of cosmetic surgeons (as evil a group of bloodsuckers than mosquitos) out of business in one fell swoop.

Think of it: Millions of tiny little liposuction agents flying around the most popular holiday spots of the world. Not only could you work on your tan, but improve your figure at the same time! That's intelligent design, not having a malaria-spreading hypodermic needle on wings. The mosquito; definative proof of the non-existance of God. So maybe I shouldn't exterminate them after all. I'd just be throwing away valuable evidence in my class action against religious fundamentalism.

Which reminds me. You know how Karl Marx once said "Relgion is the opiate of the masses"? If the masses need opiate, then we should forget religion, and just give people heroine. I suggest we find out the addresses of all the weak-minded people unable to cope with the fact that there's no God, no afterlife and no such thing as an immortal soul and put it in their water supply. Then all the "Believers" will be too fucking stoned to mess up the world and leave people capable of rational, scientific thought in charge. Then we might use the Earth's resources to globally improve the standard of life and colonise other worlds, rather than systematically try and fuck this one and everyone in it into a cocked hat. Heh. I love being a sociopath. If only more people were like me...

Anyway, I was *meant* to be giving you an update about my holiday, which is now into its final week. Other than being systematically drained dry by mosquitos, I've had a fine time.

My girlfriend and I spent the first week with our Canadian friends, Chris and Tanya, showing them around the region, taking them to Strasbourg, Basel and Mulhouse, as well as spending an entire afternoon sampling the delights of the local E. Leclerc (the Alsacian version of Sainsbury's, if you will). Much fine wine and great continental beer was consumed, and a good time had by all. I already have a bottle of 1997 Sauternes (a wonderfully sweet white dessert wine from Bordeaux - cost: around 20 Euros), a bottle of 2001 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (15 Euros), a bottle of 2001 St. Emillion Grand Cru (13 Euros) and a bottle of 2000 Hautes Cotes du Nuit (a gift - estimated value: around 20 Euros) packed in my bag for the trip home. For the uninitiated, when it comes to French supermarkets, when you want to find an equivalent price for a bottle of fine wine, you don't use the exchange rate. Typically, to get the price in Sterling, you take the price in Euros and multiply by two... So I've got some fine drinking waiting for me when I get home.

The last week Fleur and I spent in Paris. Despite (or perhaps because of) being a Brit, I have to say that Paris is an astonishingly beautiful city. Unlike London, it didn't have all of its character bombed out of it by the Nazis (See? There are advantages of being cheese-eating surrender monkeys). We went on a Grand Tour (by foot) down the Seine from the Gare de Lyon all the way down to the Eiffel Tower and back, taking detours down the Champs Elysees, la Place de la Concorde and the Latin Quarter. I took literally dozens of photos ("Photo opportunity!"), which I can't wait to look at full screen at home (most of the detail is lost on my painfully small LCD on the digital camera). My favourites will undoubtedly be of the Eiffel Tower (I took some beauties from directly underneath the tower itself). It's a magnificent piece of engineering - such lovely symmetry - it's hard to believe it was just meant to be a temporary addition to the Paris skyline. The best photo I took, however, was probably of the Notre Dame, whilst the contrails from two planes formed a symbolic cross in the sky overhead. Whilst the concept of relgion is anathema to me, and I detest everything the Church (and religion in general) stand for, I couldn't let such a perfect "Kodak moment" pass by; to have the grandness and symbolism of the cathedral below mocked by the pollution left by two constructs of science and knowledge flying free of the ignorance perpetuated in such buildings - it was too delicious an irony to be left unrecorded. A "believer" would have an entirely different interpretation, naturally, but that's their prerogative, I suppose. I'll post the picture when I get the chance.

Other than our "Grand Tour" (looking at the map afterwards, I estimated our route had taken us about 20 kilometres - we'd walked the entire day, and I have the sunburn to prove it!), we kept ourselves busy: We visited the National Natural History Museum's "Grand Hall of Evolution"; the Louvre (which is simply stunning: we only had time to see the Greek, Roman and Egyptian sections - it would take days to see it all); the City of Science (which included a tour around a 1950's diesel submarine); the Pompidou Centre of Modern Art and a tour around Amelie country (Montmartre). The weather was fabulous too. It was a wonderful week. It was a shame that we weren't able to do the Eiffel Tower itself (it was far too busy - though my vertigo is secretly grateful), but I still got some nice shots of the city in Montmartre and from the top of the Pompidou Centre. I expect we'll come back to Paris some time out of tourist season and do "la Tour Eiffel". Despite my terrible head for heights, I'd love to go right to the top of it - though not necessarily taking the stairs all the way... good exercise though that may be.

The final week of my holiday is tentatively scheduled to be spent seeing friends and relaxing from our hitherto hectic schedule. I fly back on Saturday evening (when this will inevitably be typed up), giving me just a day before I have to return to work. I'm *almost* looking forward to it (given the lack of mosquitos in Lightwater, and the new work I'll be doing setting up a Management Information database). I'm felling fully recharged and ready to stretch my grey matter again.

I've even started writing a sci-fi short (to take my mind off that aching gap in my brain left by World Of Warcraft withdrawl) - though whether this one will languish as unfinished as all my other short stories remains to be seen. I've gotten through four books (two Heinlein, one Robert Rankin and one Phillip K. Dick) since I've been on holiday, and I've got that urge to write again. Which makes this an ideal point to conclude this blogged missive. Just for the sheer ironic juxaposition value...
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