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Infinite Variety ~ Dai's Diary

Well, it happened ~ I think.

Nobody got in touch to say it happened to them, nobody sent in any photos ~ but I took some.

And I've joined the Scottish Arts Club, where I've met some interesting people with lots of contacts and who seem dead interested, so, who knows, we might get a bigger version of it going later this year.

So thanks to everyone who did take part, especially Beth, Declan and Tomy here. And watch this space, as they say...
Aftermath, 2010
13 November 2009
Only a day to go. This is it, folks.

In fact, for 11 Australians it's already Saturday but it's only 4am, so I don't suppose many shops are open ~ and it's Saturday so they may not even be in bed, sleeping off the beers yet.

Me, I've just been drinking coffee and getting sorted for tomorrow. It's been a fine, sunny day here but tomorrow sounds a bit more typical for Edinbuggle. Don't worry: we're used to rain. I hope the skies are clear in Brazil, Greece and Texas, anyway.

I have prepared twelve Limited Edition badges, signed on the back and ready to give out to anybody daft enough to ask what's going on. Look out for them on ebay in years to come!

And I got my old friend, Billy Shakespeare, who supplied the title for this event, to write me an inspiring little speech to send you all on your way. To be honest, I think he just took an old speech and mucked it around a bit, but it'll have to do.

Once more unto the shops, dear friends, once more;
The working week is done, 'tis time to spend.
At home, there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when at last the weekend comes around,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage.
Now grit the teeth and fill the wallet full
With credit cards: On, on, you noblest shoppers,
With genes inherit from sale-harden'd mums!
Mothers that, like so many sport-star's wives,
Have in these parts from morn to ev'ning bought,
And sheathed their cash for lack of more to buy.
Be copy now to those of slobbish blood,
And teach them how to shop. And you, good woman,
Whose clothes were made in sweat-shops, show us here
The colour of your money; let us swear
That you are worth your credit; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean or skint
That hath not need of one more pair of shoes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining to make a start. The game's afoot:
Put on your badges and upon this charge-card
Cry, "God for Harrods, Macy's and Dior"!

Get out there and have fun in the name of art (or something). Post photos!



With just two days to go and the flood of new recruits having gone down beyond 'trickle' to 'stagnant puddle', I thought I'd bore myself and anyone who's reading this with some statistics.

Bear in mind (he said, desperately trying to big things up), that these are only the facebook people. Of the 630+ people who have signed up a few have taken their names off but many more people who don't waste their whole lives on networking sites have taken badges off me in coffee shops or bars ~ or visited the site and grabbed some.

And a lot of folk might feel a bit shy about doing it alone. So for everyone who's signed up as a 'yes' or 'maybe' but doesn't go through with it, I'm sure there'll be some others who drag friends or family or even kidnap victims along with them. I apologise to any of those people who find the whole day a strain. For most of us, it should be fun, fun, fun!

So what do we have? With ten per cent of the facebookers being hard to place, I've guessed a bit, but something like this:

45 countries are represented.

The Americas have 265 signed up. Of those 165 are in North America, the same number as the UK. OK, 157 in the US, 7 in Canada, and one lonely soul in Bermuda.

The Western Seabord and the Midwest have about 25 who might be giving it a go. The North and East, 35: 10 of them in Noo Yoick. But let's hear it for the South, people! I wish, I say, Suh, I wish I was in Dixie this weekend! 90 folks, mostly in Texas, but everywhere from the Blue Grass to the Big Easy is represented.

We obviously do quite well here in Britland. My neck of the woods (Edinburgh) has over 50 lovely people, while our big rival Glasgow has fewer than ten (shame on you, nyaah, nyaah, nyaah).

There are up to 50 badgers signed up in That London, but they'll be harder to spot among ten million souls than the same number up here.

The other 80 English folk are in a few different locations, but special mention goes to my old home of Nottingham (see previous entry) and another former home ~ Warwick and the West Midlands. Forty badged-up people on the streets of Warwick or Royal Leamington Spa could be quite noticeable.

The most pleasant surprise has been the popularity in countries where my web pages make even less sense than they do to native speakers of English. Attacks of flu and other problems prevented me having the whole site available in Foreign, to my lasting shame. But still they came. I love you all.

Even in Eastern Asia we have 20 people signed up and I hope the guys in Bangkok appreciate the effort I put into making a badge that might even make sense. Google translate insisted it said enjoy selling him a stone jar until I changed one letter, pronounced 'eye', for another one pronounced ~ as far as I can tell ~ exactly the same way. Maybe I will buy a stone jar anyway.

Only five people on the north and south coasts of the mighty continent of Africa? I'm pleasantly surprised we have any. I'm especially sorry I haven't provided an Arabic badge (Please enjoy bartering with him. How much? Are you trying to ruin me?). I think it would have looked really great in cursive script. I promise to get one if we do it again.

By the way did anybody notice that the font on my badges was based on that used in cult Sixties TV show, The Prisoner? That's not to add some deep meaning about our captivity to the great god called money. I just thought it looked cool.

In the rest of Europe, from Macedonia and Poland to Ireland and Norway, we have a healthy mix of people and I hope you are all out there at the weekend. I suspect most of the 35 Greeks will be in Athens though the 40 Italians appear to be anywhere but Rome. Let me know where you do it, OK? France and the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) are each fielding about 20, so I hope the Spanish and Portuguese badges are about right.

So I have to ask. If all these guys who aren't natural-born English speakers can sign up, what happened on the other side of the planet? Eleven Australians ~ and no Kiwis at all. Tut tut. And I was hoping it would be a 24-hour bash, the artwork on which the sun never sets. Well, eleven Aussies can probably out-party 160 Europeans any day (yes, that is a challenge).
12 November 2009
9 November 2009
Five days to go! Over 600 people (may be) taking part worldwide. Yay!

For Halloween I went to my old home of Nottingham, home of Robin Hood, Goose Fair and England's gun crime capital.

But don't worry, I won't be shooting anybody who doesn't get their badge on at the weekend.

But I might turn you into a toad (that's not a costume: I always look like that).

Don't knock it ~ it can be a very effective threat. When confronted with the Wicked Witch of the East (Midlands), many new people signed up to take part, so we now have a large group of fans in that fair city (hi, guys!).

Back in Edinburgh, I was just talking to the super-cool Felicity from Melbourne and she said maybe we should do this every year. 600 people this time round could be 6,000 in a year's time and six million the next (a guy can dream, can't he?).

But, in the immortal words of Quentin Crisp, Quantity is not style. Ten people with badges is as much the activity as six million. But six million would be pretty impressive.

As it is, I hope to be out and about with my camera on Saturday and I hope a few of you will too. It'd be great to have a few pics on the facebook wall or to post up on here. And I've written to the press from Scotland to Texas ~ who knows what they might do? (Probably nothing)

So this may not be the last blog before IV-Day but it is the last time I shall appeal to anyone who hasn't done so yet to invite all their friends via the facebook page ~ and you can now even join the facebook group (oh, what thrills!). No pressure ~ but you wouldn't want the witch's curse on you, would you, dearie?

This should be my 'One month to go!' blog. Dated 14th October 2009.

But on the 10th, Mr H1N1 came to visit. When I turned my back to pour him a cup of tea, he hit me over the head with his flu stick and tried to kill me.

He failed.
But, as Mr Nietzsche said, what doesn't kill me makes me feel lousy.

So this is my 'Happy Birthday to me ~ 24 days to go!' blog. Welcome.

While I lay groaning in a darkened room, many folks responded to invites and facebook adverts. Some invited their friends in turn. So when I staggered back into the light, there was a lot more interest. Over 400 'yes' or 'maybe' and 1,000 awaiting reply. Hooray!

I should get sick more often.

Facebook is, I hope, only the thin end of the iceberg. I have given badges to many victims in the streets of Edinburgh who seem keen to join in. I hope many people will be forcing their families and colleagues to join in. I'm not suggesting the use of violence or blackmail ~ but if that helps ...

We now have people in more than 40 countries. This is wonderful. I hope all those badges in foreign are helping ~ do let me know if they're wrong. I don't trust google translate much. ;o)

As well as the UK and USA, we have a lot of interest in Greece, Argentina, Brazil …

It's not always possible to know where people are, but I must make a special mention of the lovely state of Texas ~ especially around Austin ~ who have overtaken Lancaster, Pa (see last blog). In fact there are now more Texans signed up than people from any single country on mainland Europe. Way to go, y'all!

I know it's a big place and would take a few hours to walk across, but I hope this means there'll be a real party atmosphere in the Lone Star State ~ and especially its state capital. I think I should write to the local papers and radio stations.

In fact the gentlemen of the press and the arts shows need to be told soon.

Who do I write to first?
20 October 2009
22 September 2009
After the last entry I sent out a message to all those who've said yes or maybe and asked them to invite their friends lists. A few lovely people did (Thanks guys!) and we do now have nearly 900 people invited but it seems to dry up again and most don't feel that way inclined (hey, no reason why they should). A few of my chums have said they simply refuse all facebook invites on principle. Boy will they look silly if the Queen uses it to invite them round for a quick knighthood!

It'll be sad if it grinds to a halt so soon but we do have 140 people all over the world who might be daft enough to go ahead anyway. In the words of the old advert, "We'll have out own party" ~ but preferably not with tinned spaghetti.

One good thing about a low response is that I can keep some sort of statistics. If this had spread like wildfire, a thousand people a day signing up, I couldn't have kept up with little details like where people are from. Well ~ it would have been 'everywhere' I suppose.

So at the moment (approximately)~ 90 Brits are on board (or 'maybe' so), just under half of those from North of the Border, up Edinburgh way. A dozen from mainland Europe, a handful in Australia and even a few in China and Japan. Around thirty in the good ol' USofA ~ including, for some reason, a good handful of folks in and around Lancaster, Pa. So that's one small city that could be partying on the day!

So what next? Do I give up (I must admit to feeling a bit dispirited just now) and let it creep to a few more over the next month or do I try another strategy for spreading the word? I don't want to hassle folks again for passing it on. I know a lot let their friends know but don't use the events invite system, so they never show up.

I'm looking into launching a brief facebook ad campaign but I wonder if that will really get much attention. I don't understand the system but I have to 'bid' for space. I don't want to commit too little cash and have nobody see it. But who the heck looks at facebook ads? I know I don't. But I can make it so I only pay per click, that will keep the cost down.

A lot of people who seem really interested when I accost them in the street, ask how I expect to make money out of this. What a sad and cynical world! Not all artists do all art for money, some of us just want to see a big worldwide party and a day when we are more aware of and engaged with our fellow citizens. In fact I am prepared to invest some money in getting the thing going. If other entrepreneurial types want to jump on the bandwagon, market badges or badge kits, arrange parties and lucrative book deals, that's fine by me I just want to see a fun day happen. I'm odd that way.

Of course if it doesn't really take off this time ~ or even if it does, there's no reason why we can't do it again one day, maybe learn a few lessons and be better prepared and able to spread the word. Even (gasp, horror!) set up an application that automatically invites all your friends.

Nah; I wouldn't do that. Would I?
The list of people coming seems to have stopped growing much. The yesses and maybes add up to about 60 souls, the same number as those who've said no.

Fifty percent uptake is very good. Except that half the 230 people invited have simply not clicked anything. I'm not complaining. Before this, I didn't use facebook much and rarely responded to invites either way. Some are keen facebookers, others not.

But it confuses me why some people have said no, rather than just deleting the event. I chased up one friend, and she said she simply assumed it would be in Edinburgh, hadn't read it, and clicked not attending. Fair enough. At least nobody has written anything on the wall like, This is stupid: I hate talking to people and don't want this type of pressure while I'm shopping for agricultural implements!

But it does mean I have to get this site spruced up and get nudging people.

It's going well. I have a nice layout, breaking it up into rectangles round a central panel, some with waffle, some with simple text and links. It's probably more confusing than ever! ;o)

And now there's the 'resources' page.

I have set up a number of files for people to download and print, to make their own badges. I've even tried to adapt for American and European paper sizes but if I try to do that for the whole world I shall go completely mad.

I'm not a great linguist, me. I get the basics of many languages but laziness prevents me improving much beyond, one beer please and, may I have the bill?. But I do have at least one participant in Berlin and I hope this will be a worldwide phenomenon.

So I have started to add a page for other tongues. No doubt I've got them all wrong, so I keep bothering people in Edinburgh coffee bars and asking them for translations.

If I get arrested, I hope I can maintain this site from my prison cell. Please write and let me know of any language I made a mess of or have not yet tried.
1 September 2009
22 August 2009
Early response seems good. A few people write and say they love the idea and quite a few have already accepted the invite.

Two slight snags.

My nephew (12), my highly talented nephew (12), my film-maker nephew (12), my Children's BAFTA nominated, far-too-talented, should-be-drowned nephew (12), has sent a facebook message to ask what the hell the invite and website are going on about. As ever, I've been too wordy and not punchy or clear enough ~ but I was planning to spruce it up anyway, so that's a useful nudge. Bloody nephews!

And only one or two people seem to have invited any of their friends to the event.

I think some sort of nudge is needed, or it won't go 'viral' and invite the whole world and his dog in the space of a month.

I so hate applications that invite your whole address book automatically and all these pages that say Can we find one million people who hate the smell of cheese?, that I don't want to go down that road. Maybe I'll have to resort to paying for an advertisement.

But first, I really must make that website a bit prettier. No point spreading the word, while that word is still 'confusion'! I have a background picture taken in Jenners' very lovely Edinburgh store. It's a start.

I've invited Antony Gormley. But I think he's in Mexico and probably doesn't check his facebook page personally.
OK I've set up a very basic website and knocked together something to write on facebook. That Shakespeare quote has provided a great title, better than I ever expected. Infinite Variety, never to be staled by (being) custom(ers). Well, I think it works.

Time for the launch.

I've decided to try and get the event going on 14th November, just when people are starting to wonder about Christmas shopping but not too busy with it to have fun. And it's the fifth birthday of my imaginary daughter, Angharad Especially.

Don't ask*.

So I invite everybody on my facebook fiends list as well as emailing a few real people too. This way I put myself under pressure to get on with the thing! We're off!

*All I'll say is, when I was discussing children's names with la ninfa celestial, she asked if I'd have any preferences for a girl.
——Not especially, I replied.
——And what's wrong with 'Especially'?!
18 August 2009
14 August 2009
So, I'm sitting in Artisan Roast, drinking a cappuccino and chatting with Megan and some of the regulars.

I'm wearing my little badge that says your customer today is Dai and someone asks me what it's about.

——It's a kind of performance piece, I say … OK, it's just me being silly.

I explain how one day I felt that all those shop assistants have to wear their names, and it seemed a bit unfair that they don't get to know ours. It just amused me, basically. I'm a gregarious kind of guy and it's a fun way to make a bit of trivial, fleeting but pleasant contact with a fellow human.

Then I got carried away and made badges for all occasions. You are chatting to Dai, Your hot date tonight is Dai, You are mugging Dai, You have found the body of Dai, etc etc

It says a lot about the times we live in that the next question is always how I expect to make money from this idea or whether I'm selling the wee badges anywhere. It probably says a lot about my economic naïvety that I just thought it was a bit of fun with undertones of social comment.

But there was the germ of an idea there. Wouldn't it be great, we mused, if we could get lots of people to do it, at least for one day? Might it celebrate the diversity of people, rather than letting them remain a stressed-out, bored, shopping-till-dropping 'mass'? After all, if Antony Gormley can stand people on a plinth in the name of art …

——I'm sure there's some Shakespeare quote I could use for this, I mused. Something to do with 'custom' ...