What does your desktop image say about you?

shark

A recent study conducted by nobody has suggested that the images selected by computer users as their desktop background can reveal intimate psychological details about the individual. By analyzing your desktop image it may be possible to reveal your emotional state, prowess in the bedroom and the likelihood that you will one day become rich and famous. Beirut Beat has decided to put this to the test by scrutinizing four recent desktop background images.

1) The Shark

This is my current desktop image, the smiling face that greets me every afternoon when I get up. The photo itself I find absolutely beautiful; the rays of light breaking the water, the geometric perfection of the great fish, the shadow it casts on the sand. But my feelings about this photograph run much deeper than its aesthetics.

As a self-employed writer, this image presents a direct threat to me when I open my laptop. It is a warning not to simply paddle around on the internet or write silly blog posts about what image I have on my desktop screen. If I allow myself to just drift along I will be eaten alive.

Despite this, the shark does not actually scare me as it might if I were to encounter it in real life. To me, he is a grunting drag racer, ready to accelerate towards me. The cold dead look in his eyes – that of a brutish, moronic bully – makes me want to stand up for myself and rise to the confrontation. He, like all of life’s challenges, is much bigger and stronger than I am. Yet since they plan to come at me with their sharp teeth anyway, I have nothing to lose by taking them on at full speed.

beirut kitten

2) The Kitten

I took this photo. Everything that makes it aesthetically pleasing – the paw in dead center, the mimicking shadow, the hints of brown on the concrete that remind of his fur – all total accidents. This was the image on my office computer when I was writing copy for an agency in Beirut. Previously, I had decorated my computer screen with tasteful black and white photographs of beautiful women. You know the sort; a moody looking chick in her twenties, smoking a cigarette as she stares from her balcony at trendy Parisian neighborhood.

These photos were not simply a hipster version of hanging a nudey calendar on the wall. There was a distinct attitude of aspiration. It was an allusion to the old days, when US soldiers in Vietnam would be treated to some light entertainment followed by the parading of an attractive female model. The compere would tell them ‘This is what you are fighting for boys!’ I suppose I was trying to remind myself ‘This is what I am writing for.’

The problem with this is that it left me with a vague sense of longing for something that didn’t really exist. Then the kitten came along.

I found him under a bin by Spinney’s supermarket when I was wandering round one Sunday, more hungover than your granddad on Boxing Day. It was underweight and in desperate need of care. Rather than being frightened of me, the kitten literally jumped into my arms. I took him back to the flat and within about 10 minutes he owned the place. The picture above captures perfectly the way he would prowl around and guard his territory.

I became a parent to that little beast; he would follow me around the flat crying for attention whenever I wasn’t holding him like a baby. I couldn’t even make him sleep in his basket, only hiding under the covers of my bed would do. When I put his picture on my desktop background something changed in me. I didn’t have time to chase fictional women anymore; I had someone to look after. This, I thought, is what I am writing for.

NB: The kitten was called Jean Paul Catre. When I left Beirut I gave him to my neighbors. I hope he is doing OK.

lake balaton

3) The Lake

That’s me in the center of the picture. Look at those big strong arms, those broad shoulders. What a hunk.

This photo was taken by a dear friend of mine, using an old-fashioned film camera. The depth and perspective, the colors, the grainy texture – they aren’t from some filter you can just wack on with your iphone. That is proper photographic technique.

I had spent most of the afternoon sitting on that shaded patch of grass in the foreground, drinking cold beers and reading. After taking a swim in that lake we went and made some simple home-cooked food. That evening we broke into a music festival by sneaking under the fence. The security guards chased us but we got away into the crowd. I looked up on the stage and Pet Shop Boys were playing. But I wasn’t on holiday. I was actually homeless and nearly broke.

When I first used this as my desktop image I thought it was just a classic case of remembering the good times. But I later realized it meant much more to me. Hippies and Buddhists tell us that we should live in the moment and always appreciate what is going on around us. Unfortunately, if real people actually lived like this then nothing would ever get done. I am constantly planning ahead, worrying about money, trying to predict the future. It’s what you have to do to prevent yourself getting eaten by the sharks of this world.

In retrospect, looking at this photo reminds me that this was a rare occasion where I wasn’t thinking about what tomorrow would bring. I wasn’t thinking about anything at all. I was just doing. And if I never get to live another day of my life in that mindset, I will be eternally thankful for that memory.

fish7

4) The Goldfish

Another fish, albeit a slightly less threatening one. I love the colors in this picture, the deep snooty blues. To those of you who have never had the pleasure of visiting God’s chosen Isle, this is what a British summer day look like. Cloudy and dark. I like the swell on the sea too. It reminds of surfing in the rain in Cornwall, an experience I would wholeheartedly recommend.

This was my laptop background in the latter stages of my time in Beirut. Those British hues connected with my homesickness (which didn’t last for long when I got back!) and gave me something to aim at. But, as you may have guessed, there was something greater going on with this picture too.

This fish appears to be utterly mortified, and my instinctual feeling is that he has just taken a look at what is behind him. The great sea is very much like his own little environment, only much vaster, terrifyingly so for such a tiny guy. Wherever I am in the world and whatever I am doing, I manage to get stuck in my own little habitat. Perhaps you do too. Occasionally this little bubble will pop, and you are forced to confront the enormous reality of life. This can be shocking for an individual, as expressed on the lips of my little orange friend.

Jean Paul Satre wrote of the nauseating effect of contemplating the infinite possibilities of existence and I agree with him. However I regard this kind of reality check in the same manner as taking physical exercise; it maybe be painful at the time, but it is something you should do occasionally to keep yourself healthy.

Analysis

-Three of the four pictures have animals. One representing my fear of life (shark), one representing my parental instinct (kitten) one representing me and my relative ignorance of the world (goldfish).

-Two of the animals are fish and three of the pictures feature water. I am a Pisces and I certainly drink like a fish.

-Jean Paul Satre is name-dropped twice, indicating that I am a bit pretentious.

-Major themes include: fear of failure, confrontation, responsibility, challenge of life, living with consequence, acting without thinking.

-The whole article represents how my desire to be creative is at odds with my indulgence in procrastination, as I promised myself I would spend the day working on the book I am writing yet have managed to get no further than my desktop photo.

So, what does your desktop photo say about you?

Blinded by the Lights (a short story)

ImageTommy stared around his dressing room. After so many years on the circuit the routine had all but lost its magic. Everything was there as normal. The rider of bottled water and chilled melon, the fresh flowers, his sequin cape. But something was missing.

He stared into the large mirror and began to reminisce.

He thought of the glory days, when he first made the big time. Back then, he remembered, the cheer of the crowd was all he needed. There were the parties, the drugs, the sex, friends and acquaintances. But the cries of excitement from his fans, screaming for the encore, calling out his name? Nothing, really nothing could rival that feeling.

All the loneliness in his heart would dissolve as he stepped out onto the stage, blinded by the lights and the attention. So what had changed?

A single tear rolled down his face, guided by the deep scar which ran from his left ear across his cheek, and disappeared as it dropped onto the nest of chest hair poking from his purple waist coat. He closed his eyes and thought of Gloria.

When they were still young, Tommy and Gloria had performed as a double act. ‘Tommy Twinkle and Gloria de Glorious’ posters plastered the toilet walls of gay clubs and sea side resorts. They had it all. Two young starlets, enchanting performers, crowd pleasers, passionate lovers. It had to end of course. Even then, Tommy knew it could never last.

 ‘Beauty blooms when there’s no more to lose, and wilts like a sculptor who longs for his muse…’

Gloria could never have known at the time, but every song he had ever written was about her. He would shrug off her questions about his lyrics, pretending the lines were inspired by the silent movies she never cared for. Gloria was too young to remember the old classics, and although he was desperate to tell her, he feared his true feelings would corrupt their union. How could he announce to the one he loved that every night, as she slept in his arms, he shuddered with the thought that their love would one day wither and die. 

Image

There was a knock on the door.

Startled from his daydream, Tommy opened his eyes and looked round. ‘Tommy?’ It was Pistol Paul, Tommy’s new manager.

‘Just a minute Paul ..’ said Tommy, drying his cheeks and wiping away the smudged mascara. Pistol Paul opened the dressing room door, and realising what was happening walked over and threw an arm around Tommy.

‘Tommy boy, come on..’ he said warmly, ‘not again eh? I know it’s hard Tommy, but you need to forget her. Lousy transvestite never loved anyone but herself. And you’re the star, listen…’ he raised a theatrical arm in the direction of the open door. The crowd were chanting from the ballroom.

‘Tomm-ee! Tomm-ee! Tomm-ee!’

Tommy was silent for a moment, then jumped to his feet, straightened himself and inhaled deeply though his nostrils. ‘Thanks Paul,’ he said throwing on his sequin cape. ‘From now on, it’s for me!’ He smiled bravely and marched out of the dressing room as Pistol Paul held his arms high and beamed with encouragement.

As soon as Tommy left the room Pistol Paul’s arms dropped down to his side and the expression of great enthusiasm disappeared from his face. He sat down in front of the mirror, picked up a cigarette and tapped it on the dressing table, as if deep in thought. As the opening lines of the first song could be heard from the ballroom he lit the cigarette and hummed along to the tune.

For a few minutes he sat silently in front of the mirror and mulled away to himself. The crowd continued to cheer from the ballroom. Pistol Paul put down his cigarette and reached into his back pocket for his wallet. He counted the notes inside, looked up at the mirror and smiled across at his own reflection.    

 

The Party: A North Wales Horror Story

The party

Image

Easter weekend in Wetherspoons is not a particularly fastidious occasion. The flashing gambling machines still flirt their usual neon jackpots. The pints of lager still taste like cold piss. The local funboys are still boasting about their latest fad. Steroids or whippets or Nintendo Wii.

It was nearing closing time that night, although nobody would have known from the spirit of the customers, supping away and talking in consolatory tones. (Probably about a lack of steroids, whippets or Nintendo Wiis.)

X leaned over with his mobile phone in his hand. ‘There’s a party after this at some girl’s house.’ There seemed no reason not to attend. I had less than 24 hours left in this old town before that train was to whisk me somewhere else. My mum’s gin would still be sitting where she had hidden it when I returned. We poured the last of our pints down our necks.     

I know now, and even knew then, that had I been sober I would have left the party immediately upon arriving, pretended to make a phone call then walked straight home. 

The kitchen was full of local funboys. Some of them I recognized as people who in the past had robbed or assaulted friends of mine, my brother, even X who had brought us here. He didn’t seem to mind, so I followed suit. The etiquette was to behave as though you were disappointed but cheerfully realistic. Everyone in the kitchen was taking cheap speed or base.

I was ushered into the living room by the 19 year old hostess, who was really quite pleasant and friendly. I noticed a tiny baby trying to sleep in a car seat positioned next to a speaker playing very loud electronic music. It was the hostess’ son, 9 months old. She was very proud.

I suppose the effects of earlier consumption had begun to kick in and I started to notice things about the party in a very dramatic way. Above my head on the ceiling was a smoke alarm that had been covered by a plastic shower cap. ‘It’s so the cig smoke dunt set off the alarms’ informed the hostess. I suggested that we should probably remove the shower cap and even offered to do it myself after the hostess said she was too short to reach. But apparently this would be pointless as the batteries had been removed to power the DVD player remote control.

I went back into the kitchen and listened to autobiographic stories with violent punch lines.

Then suddenly everyone left.

The last person out of the door was the hostess. They were all going to get some more cheap speed or base. Back in a minute. Would we mind keeping an eye on the baby?

I don’t really know how to explain how odd the next 20 minutes were, sat in a living room in a seedy flat with a nine month old baby, head spinning, crap techno blaring. The little thing was quite cute too, without the usual snot pipes or puke stained blanket. It kept reaching out and opening its hands wanting to grasp something, probably a bit pleased that someone else was still up at 3am.

‘Shall we take it,’ said X, ‘Shall we take it somewhere safe, away from here?’ I thought about this for a while but decided that abducting an infant and wandering the streets in a less than sober state looking for an orphanage, with a rabid pack of local jailbirds in hot pursuit was not advisable. Not on Easter weekend. But it was OK. The unlocked door swung open and the party recommenced. 

There was now an esteemed guest at the party, a local TV star. Our man had been on The Jeremy Kyle Show, a national chat programme that specialised in ridiculing people from disadvantaged backgrounds. He had perhaps inseminated a woman whilst being involved with many other women, or been involved with a woman who had been inseminated by many other men. Or both. 

My head was really starting to spin as X explained to me, for what felt like hours, that the guest of honour was a father himself, but for various reasons was not allowed to see his child. His paternal instincts, however, were rather strong and at this point being directed at the infant in the car seat. After taking a large swig of whiskey he picked up the baby and started swinging it round by the arms. Even I know you are not supposed to do that with a 9 month old.

The hostess started screaming at the TV star, trying to claw the baby away from him. I snuck away to the kitchen and X followed.  

The kitchen felt much smaller than before. The walls were bulging and the surfaces dripping with alcohol spillages speckled with cigarette ash. Every conversation I entered with a funboy felt like a downhill slalom at 80mph, desperately avoiding the little red flags that could easily cause a brawl. I looked at my fists and they seemed tiny.

X had apparently brushed against one of these flags on his own downhill run and was making excuses with a particularly notorious funboy, a stout and muscular beast with tribal tattoos on his neck. I rescued him by announcing that his presence was required in the living room.

The baby argument had apparently worked itself out. The infant was back in its car seat and the celebrity was charming the pants of some girl from the comfort of an armchair dotted with cigarette burns. The hostess was showing off the DVD player. X and I looked at each other. We needed to leave the party but we didn’t know how. Then the floor started shaking.

Smiling politely and excusing herself from a conversation the hostess stood in the middle of the room and started stomping on the floor with her slippered foot. ‘SHUT THE FUCK UUUUP’. But person in the flat below kept thumping his ceiling with a blunt object.

‘That bastard downstairs,’ explained the hostess. ‘E was in Iraq and e’s got that Gulf War Syndrome’. The thumping continued and she ran out to the front door and began screaming down the staircase. The clock on the DVD player told me it was 4am.

The police would obviously be on their way and there was no way I was going to be here when they arrived. I threw a theatrical yawn, out-stretched arms and all, and announced it was past my bedtime. The hostess gave me a hug and told me I was ‘a really nice lad, like’ and that she was glad I had come round.     

In the street outside there was a car waiting by the house with its headlights off. I thought perhaps it was the police. The car crawled up the street after us, picking up pace as we got to the corner. We jumped over a garden fence and ran up an alley to the main road.   

 

Takeaway seating areas make me sad

This is what London looks like by the way.

There are usually two. Small tables, made of cheap metal, chairs made of the same material.

I cannot be certain, but I believe that takeaway owners provide this dining facility for those busy city slicker types who are always on the go and don’t have time to take their spine meat wrap back to the office because they are late for the big meeting.

But when I look at the seating areas in takeaways I don’t see design catering to a fast paced urban lifestyle. I see something else.

I imagine a drastic misinterpretation of the purpose of these window seats. Much like the scene in Taxi Driver where Travis takes that woman to a porno theatre, I imagine a tragic character who believes that this is what people mean when they say ‘going for a meal’.

I can see him picking up a woman he has met on one of those websites, her face full of hope that he might be the one. He is smiling to himself, excited at the great time they are going to have. Then they pull up at Kennedy Fried Chicken and she thinks there has been some mistake.

They sit down. Maybe this is some kind of joke. Should she walk out? Pretend to get a phone call from a sick relative?

He has  no idea how awkward this is for her. He doesn’t understand. He tries to make a joke ‘I’ll ask for the menus shall I?’. But they don’t need menus! They can see the different chicken and chips combinations on the illuminated sign above the counter!

Out of sheer stress she breaks down into tears, sobbing painfully onto the freshly mopped floor.

Then the man frying the chicken comes from behind the counter and gives her a napkin to dry her eyes with and a free Pepsi to help cheer her up.

International Penis Art Week

To celebrate and honour International Penis Art Week, the global festival of willy drawings that occurs once a year in my mind, Beirut Beat has prepared a short guide to introduce you to the culture of scrote scribbling. Here are a few designs to help you get to grips with this rising phenomenon.

The Classic 

Just a few strokes and it is finished

To break you in gently we start this guide with a time honoured favourite, The Classic, also known as the Park Bench Willy. The beauty of this piece is its sheer simplicity, a minimal design of maximum visual thrust. A true artist can bash one of these little beauties out in one elegant stroke, never needing to look up and check if a policeman / teacher / your Mum is about to interrupt your handiwork.

Auction Price: £14,000

The Snow Cock

Chilly willy

All great works of beauty are destined to fade. The finite character of natural aesthetics could be the defining element that inspires in people such awe and intrigue. The desperation to maintain transient charm is perhaps a futile attempt to defeat fate and a symbolic rebellion against our own inevitable demise. The soft petals of every pouting rose will one day wilt and fall, just as the glans of every snow penis will melt and be lost into a stratosphere that never fully acknowledged its presence.

Auction Price: Erm, you can’t buy snow.

The Cock Head

‘ET bone home…’

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, believed that the majority of human emotions and behaviour was driven by underlying sexual desires. Society, he said, had civilised man, yet beneath this veneer of altruism lay a dangerous beast desperate to be unsheathed. Freud also believed that women were essentially biologically castrated men, with anxieties relating to their absence of a flesh wand, although this was later proved to be bollocks.

Auction Price: Andy Carroll on loan for a season with the option to buy.

The Posh Cock

If I did this to my parents’ house…

I found this on the BBC News site. The text deserves to be reproduced in full.

‘An 18-year-old has secretly painted a 60ft drawing of a phallus on the roof of his parents’ £1million mansion in Berkshire. It was there for a year before his parents found out. They say he’ll have to scrub it off when he gets back from travelling.’

Safe Sex 

Just imagine how that thing would walk!

This piece superbly conveys the change in modern attitudes to sex, a reversal of roles in the pursuit of physicality played out in a satirical bathroom wall drama. The male is prepared, yet timid, threatened by the liberated female whose crab-like stance projects an air of authority and intent to take without needing to ask . In terms of leading the way in the modern world of penis art, this drawing is truly seminal.

Auction Price: £12 worth of Tesco Clubcard Vouchers

The Penis Morgan 

Urggh

Auction Price: $20 million.

Really. 

My response to UNPAID writer adverts

There are literally thousands of ‘job offers’ like this online. My response to this one is posted below. I will let you know what they say. Fingers crossed!

The original ad can be found here

Dear ZI

I am a writer with a diverse background and a solid track record producing copy, content and communications for a wide range of industries and agencies. I have a portfolio featuring global brands and have published stories and articles in a variety of international media.

I am looking for a company to pay me a regular wage as a member of their team. Being a good employer is a tough skill to learn, with the demands of sourcing the right staff who can be relied upon to deliver material which generates profit for the management team.

Please be aware that this is a voluntary position, I won’t actually be doing any work for you. However it will be an invaluable experience for you to learn how to pay the people who keep your business afloat.

I am looking for people who don’t really consider themselves as ‘chancers who think writers just fart content out of special gills’ but people who see themselves as ‘professionals running a company’.

If you are still unsure then ask yourself these questions!

Q: If you were ill would you:

a) hire a qualified doctor or b) try to get someone to treat you for free?

Q: If your car breaks down do you:

a) pay a mechanic to fix it or b) try to convince a mechanic you are doing them a favour by giving them the task unpaid?

To apply simply send a month’s pay check and a covering letter to this address.

Please note that only successful applicants will be replied to…

Yours sincerely

Every writer in the world xx

Beirut is more than boobs and Botox (a response to David J Constable)

D J Constable: Is he wearing any trousers?

So summer is here again and with it comes the annual influx of derogatory, poorly researched articles by western ‘journalists’ doing their best to pick out the worst parts of Beirut culture after a quick holiday visiting a couple of nightclubs.

Last year CNN made a brave expedition through the jungle of Beirut’s rooftop bars, encouraging the world to think that the city was populated entirely by sparkling idiots who couldn’t care about tomorrow as long as the champagne was flowing and the iPhone still had enough battery to film the dead look in everyone’s eyes.

This year the Huffington Post have gone one step further, with a piece by David J Constable claiming that

Beirut has now overtaken both LA and Miami as the plastic surgery capital of the world.’ 

Unfortunately, David neglects to inform us exactly where he sourced this data from, and if he did manage to bump into a medical statistician armed with a verifiable set of figures in either of the two shit clubs he visited he must have forgotten to add it to the article.

And that was not the only piece of data he forgot to reference. With such gems as

Muslim, Christian and Druze women in Beirut dress surprisingly skimpy’

and

the women look like Cleopatra, with a dark natural beauty’

it seems that it was not a guidebook but his own penis that led him around the city.

Well if the Huffington Post can employ a pervert to make wild unsubstantiated claims Beirut Beat can go one better. If Beirut is the plastic surgery capital of the world it is also a few other things too.

 

Beirut is design capital of the world

Beirut Design Week 2012

As last month’s Design Week showed, Beirut has more talented designers, artists and creative thinkers than any other city in the world, possibly the universe.

From workshops and talks with renowned fashion designers…

Johnny Farah workshop by Ghannouj

non-profit fashion houses

Creative Space Beirut Workshop

Arabic type-inspired furniture designers

Kashida: Product design inspired by Arabic typography

independent graphic designers

Maajoun: Independent graphic designers

renowned design educators and award winning film makers, the city embraced its design heritage and celebrated the rich culture of a very Middle Eastern art.

NB: Boob design does not qualify as design.

Beirut is the electronic music capital of the world

Per capita, there is more ground breaking electronic musicians in Beirut than any other city in the history mankind.

With musical outfits such as Beirut Groove Collective and Acousmatik system

Acousmatiksystem: They love owls…

and song-writing performers including Munma

Munma aka Jawad Nawfal

Tarek Attoui and Jad Atoui

Jad Atoui

not to mention Dj’s Lethal Skillz and DJ Spindle

or hip hoppers Fareeq El Atrash

Edd Abbas of FareeQ el Atrash

and Toufaar (who are from Bekaa but they deserve a mention for being amazing), there is enough new music coming from Beirut to give your ipod a heart attack.

NB: You may see many people with unusually large smiles at concerts and parties but trust me, it is not Botox.

Beirut is the western journalist capital of the world.

The journalists spot a mini skirt

At the last estimate there were approximately 17 million western journalists in Beirut. Building nests in 5 star hotels wearing their best Jesus sandals and tattered baseball caps, they crawl around every conceivable public space, interviewing people about ‘issues’ and trying to twist your every word into a political dialogue about refugees or Iran.

I once sneezed when walking down the street and the next day found out it had been translated into a double page article about Gaza. The only way to avoid them is to stay away from rooftop bars. You heard it here first people.

(ps Sorry Bobby Fisk I wasn’t talking about you).

(pps There are loads of other great bands I didn’t mention, this article pretty much covers them all)