Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Self-Indulgent Year End Bollocks (part 1)

Homes Under the Hammer is so successful in other dimensions and timelines it exists in slightly different guises... Looking through my interdimensional mobile device, this is what you get:

Kelly Holmes Under the Hammer
Homes Under the MC Hammer
Sherlock Holmes Under the Hammer
Homes Under the Hamner
Crush Skulls Under the Hammer
Wombats Under the Hammer
Homes Under the Hummer
Remmah eht rednu Semoh
Ollie Eggboo and Vorgaltron

It is also an as-yet-well-known fact that at some point in the future someone will travel back in time and convince two young chaps called Arthur and Paul that Ollie Eggboo & Vorgaltron is the name they should use as a stage name because it will catapult them into a sun of success. At that point, everyone on the planet will believe Simon & Garfunkle is a firm of New York lawyers for the Yiddish community...

If you died in 2017 then you probably weren't as famous as you could have been. Obviously people who died in 2016 were like the top of the Christmas tree; by 2050 celebrities will be dying and no one will give a flying fuck. You can see the headlines in your mind because I can't be arsed to imagine them for you.

Brexit threatens to make the UK the laughing stock of the world.
What even more than we already are? Just to name a few things that we often get ridiculed about for this year alone:
Believing 6 inches of snow is actually an apocalypse.
The England football team.
The Ashes.
The current government.
52 as a solid and absolutely massive percentage.
Minister for Porn.
Wayne Rooney going bald for a second time.
The X-Factor.
Obsessing over the wife of a dead magician.
Eurovision success.
The Daily Mail.
The real purpose of David Davis.
Our tolerance and understanding of the poor and disabled...

Musically, I'm struggling to come up with a definitive Best Album of the Year. It is as difficult as learning the balalaika at 55 (I'm not).
Best film of the year? Probably the one that settled on a pool of sea water near Monreith in August.
Twat of the year? I'd be hard pressed to look no further than the mirror. I mean, just how reckless is selling up, moving to the arse end of nowhere and leaving all of your friends 330 plus miles away? But, mentally I've had about four bad days in the last five months, as opposed to four good days in the previous five months. You win some and you win some. Gonads to the losers.

I picked up a jellyfish. She was really boring and didn't put out.

Someone I know is a complete fraud. A pure fantasist with attachment issues. If this description applies to you then you need to get rid of all the baggage, chill the fuck out and start becoming a nice person again.

I think I murdered some limpets in the autumn - purely out of interest.

What do I miss?
Oakham beer.
Tony, Phil, Roger, Luan and the Lamplighter (in no specific order)
Availability.
Oddly enough... Not having Bradlaugh Fields for the dogs. It's weird, we have big hills, forests, beaches, wide open spaces, but lots of livestock and four 'Towny' dogs. Plus, in a short space of time Doug has been in more wars (because of deer) than he had in the previous 2 years. However, if it was a choice between 'The Seaside' or 'Bradlaugh' - there would be no competition.
Nene Valley Brewery.
Newby Wyke - I am literally scraping the bottom of the barrel already. Can you believe that? I mean, I miss Newby Wyke, but I could easily live the rest of my life without it (and probably will); the same with all the beer I miss, so you can probably knock three things off that list straight away.
The Luvvie - I need a new place that inspires me as much as the old cut through between Bective and Moulton Park did. Or alternatively, I could do something with all the neat ideas I've had walking through it for five years.

Ollie Eggboo & Vorgaltron.

Fat people - how do you put up with all that touching flesh?

Miriam Margolyes.

Advice for 2018:
It's just a TV programme
It's just fantasy
Double check first so as not to make yourself look like an utter cunt
Educate yourself, especially if people are abusing you for or accusing you of being a [insert pejorative here]
Culture, especially someone else's, should be very very low on your personal agenda especially if it bothers you. Stop it and worry about your kids/mortgage/football team/wife/mistress or dog
If you find waking up in the morning is an event that makes you want to commit murder or scream continuously at something then you need to change your life or you will die/go to prison
Don't breed your pet you fucking cockwomble
Don't drop litter and respect your environment and kick someone hard in the shins if you see them doing the opposite (you'll be fine, their shins will hurt so much they won't be able to run after you)
This is the final year you will be able to use the name Ollie Eggboo & Vorgaltron, cos, you know, 2019 and the invention of time travel, monster stars; clackers; New York; Fanny; jumpers for goalposts, Rolf Harris before he was a paedo - all this and more to look forward to.

More soon (or not. Depends.)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Pop Culture is Dead To Me 2: The Flying Killer

So here's the irony. You start a blog by pointing out how this kind of blog is the least viewed kind of blog I do and two weeks later it's the 3rd single most viewed blog I've ever written on Farky Nell (this blog). I don't know if the timing was good or if the TV I talked about just happened to be topical enough to be largely patronised, but I decided to do it again, to prove to myself the last one was a fluke.

In this month's thrilling instalment I'll be wittering on about The Walking Dead, Lucifer, The Gifted (and a quick return to the Inhumans), Mr Robot, Star Trek: Discovery among others and having a bit of speculation involving things I haven't seen yet or have yet to be released. This is a spoiler warning. There will be talk about things you might not have seen yet (but in most cases you're probably ahead of me).

[SPOILER WARNING]

Four weeks into the new season of The Walking Dead and I'm quite pleased to see they've revisited a 'style' that worked for me. Back at the start of season five or six (I lose track), the producers spent about six episodes played out in real time about how they funnelled an army of walkers away from their settlement. It was tense, dangerous and illustrated how scary the dead could still be. I have no idea of knowing, but I get the impression that this new season might be played out entirely as one real time 'war' between Rick's gang of altruists and Negan and his Negans. And honestly, how good would that be if the entire 16 episode season was centred around one or two days and the consequences of it?

I expect what we'll get is eight episodes of this, ending in some kind of massive defeat for Rick's team - my guess would be the death of Judith and the majority of the Alexandrians - it seems to be the least defended in case of a retaliation and some of the characters there don't exist in the comics. I also think Enid will off Hilltop's self-appointed ruler and that Gabriel will be the one who does Negan more damage than we could ever imagine. But this is all speculation and the fact there's speculation again suggests to me that TWD might be rediscovering its mojo by keeping it simple.

Possibly the biggest shock on TV in 2017 will be the one 'shit' and two 'fucking's in Star Trek: Discovery. I know I've been about the only person who has been surprised by it and while it felt unnatural and forced, it also felt right... Last time out I was less than complimentary of ST:D and because I was wrong I got two packets of Galaxy Cake Bars as a present!

At the end of the two-part pilot, I felt a little underwhelmed; slightly peeved and the ST fan boy inside me I never knew existed was seething about how everything was far too... advanced. I said to the wife that we'd give it a couple more goes and if it was rubbish it would go the way of every ST series since the Next Generation, it would be ignored. By the end of episode three I was absolutely blown away. It's like some dark and slightly sinister half-sister to ST:NG and half the characters are greyer than a school kid's trousers. There are some moments worthy of the best ST cringeworthy scenes, but there are also Machiavellian plots, psychotic captains, and Klingon tits. It's not Star Trek for your kids, that's for sure. It might turn out to be just style over substance, but it's quickly moved up my list of must view stuff.

The TV series that has vied for top spot for the last couple of years has been Lucifer (always challenging Shameless but never quite beating it) and the last time we did this the new series hadn't started and I was expressing concerns about Tom Welling being added to the cast. For those of you not familiar with Welling, he was the last TV Clark Kent/Superman and Animal from the Muppets is a better, more emotive, actor.

The last series saw the final four episodes dropped and added to this one; whatever the reason it hasn't made this series feel any less Scooby Doo like. There was a point when I seriously considered Lucifer to be the best fun 'fantasy' TV show out there because it was so rubbish. Every week you would tune in for 'lame crime of the week' but you'd really be there to see how the real story progressed; even if the real story only got two out of the 42 minutes. Most people work out the killer before he or she speaks (it's usually the first person Lucifer and Chloe talk to) and that usually takes a back seat while Tom Ellis pontificates around the set like some extremely camp music hall thespian and us clued in viewers wait for whatever new revelation is going to be uncovered. Those four held-back episodes have been distributed among the opening seven (notable by the absence of Tom Wooden, I mean, Welling).

Don't get me wrong, I still think it's a great series, but something needs to happen to advance the story a little. It is not popular because of its crap procedural dramas, equally it might not be because of the actual Lucifer/angel/God business, it might be purely down to the way Ellis chews the set up every time he's there; but I can see it losing its way if it doesn't find one.

Speaking of something needing to happen... I'm just about at the end of my patience with the majority of Marvel's TV output. I'm looking forward to the new series of SHIELD because I think Phil Coulson is a great character, but there have been times when I've felt the series needed something more than just an association to the Marvel Universe. Agents of SHIELD is like a John Le Carre novel compared to The Inhumans' small press comic strip. It is not that often when something you want to like gets dropped after just one episode, but the pilot of The Inhumans was so bad you would have struggled to believe it wasn't produced by some cosplayers with a $500 budget.

Agents of SHIELD introduced the Inhumans as a 'new' conceptual menace, because Marvel doesn't own the film rights to the X-Men and nothing has worked quite as well for Marvel than mutants versus humans, so instead of trying to sort something out with the mercenary 20th Century Fox, Marvel tried to create a new 'mutant' menace by bigging up the characters that were first introduced back in the mid 1960s (who were, originally, of Kree origin, which should tie in with the Marvel films but doesn't). The entire story arc involving the Inhumans in SHIELD was pretty awful and what was originally being touted as a major feature film, soon became a major TV series, which eventually became an eight-part mini-series, which eventually got cancelled before it was launched because, as a friend of mine in Hollywood told me, 'It had already become the laughing stock of Hollywood'.

We gave up on the Inhumans after the pilot because, quite frankly, I've seen more interesting things growing on old dog shit.

We didn't give up on The Gifted quite so fast. We gave it seven episodes before finally deciding that despite having an interesting cast and being a Mutant Underground X-Men tie-in it was actually a load of dull, boring and thoroughly uninspiring shite. It's probably me, but how do some of the scriptwriters on these shows get work? The Gifted's problem is nothing happens, everyone in it suffers from melodrama, the two main actors are essentially redundant and it just feels half-arsed. Perhaps this is the way superhero TV is going, if it is then it belongs to another me.

The fact there's 13 episodes in the new Punisher series fills me with dread... I might give it a miss.

We finally caught up on all of Mr Robot season two just as season three was starting. I dunno if it was suffering from second album syndrome but ... WTF? The first series had a madness; a crazy feel to it; season two was very much after the parade; a bit like Moonlighting after Willis & Shepherd finally copped off with each other. I got through the entire season thinking 'something is going to happen' and nothing did and then it ended on a cliffhanger that could easily have taken place ten seconds after the cliffhanger at the end of season one...

I still haven't gotten around to watching the new Twin Peaks.

Stranger Things 2 was considerably better than season 1 or was it? It certainly had more money thrown at it and it moved along at a pace unlike the first series; but ultimately did it achieve anything; did it further the story; was it any good?

On hindsight it kind of reminded me of a lukewarm bland wank, which, to my knowledge, is something I've never knowingly experienced, but imagine being simply perfunctory and could have been so much better with a bit of passion, vinegar strokes and some obligatory 1980s unnecessary nudity. I expect I will enjoy series 3 when it's on and then retrospectively tear it to pieces like I've done with the first two.

I'm saving the current series of Shameless for when the rest of TV has a winter break; looking at William H Macy's naked arse once a year is all I need to confirm it's the best thing on TV.

Yet again I'm struggling to think of a film we've watched since the last one of these that I'd recommend to anyone I like. I'm sure there has been, but for the last few Saturdays we've been doing something a bit retro and watching old classics. A few weeks back we watched The Thing, followed the next week by Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and then Harryhausen's Mysterious Island (which was so much worse than I remembered) and we have Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Old Dark House, Network, Trafic (The Tati classic), a bunch of other Carpenter films from the 80s and 90s and if I can persuade the wife to watch a Mexican film about a tentacled alien sex monster living in someone's house, then The Untamed is on my list. Obviously I'm looking forward to Thor 3 with almost zero expectation, now that I'm losing the will to live with comics films/TV. Oh and we watched The Limehouse Golem the other day and that's two fucking hours I'm never going to get back (even if Bill Nighy was excellent).

Meanwhile in the UK... I thoroughly love Only Connect. From the Barda-esque (Jack Kirby joke there for my comics friends) VC-M to wanting the twats who say 'Hor-Ned' to die from horrible itching diseases. The problem with Only Connect is it's a quiz show...

Most people I know who have discerning taste in TV have constantly recommended Peaky Blinders and I'm sure it's the best thing since multiple orgasms but I know a lot of people from Birmingham and I struggle to take any of them seriously and a cowing nutritious pot noodle.

Big fan of Simon Reeve. We play the "How many times will he say 'Bloody Hell' in a series?" all the time and I won with 6 for his three-part journey across Russia.

Sue Perkins's trip down the Ganges wasn't a patch on her Dan-Dare-tastic trip to see the Mekon.

Struggling to think of anything else we watch that is good or bad enough to mention; so it's probably time to end this nonsense.

Next Time: It'll soon be Christmas and that means falling asleep during Dr Who, wondering why the BBC even bothers now and probably NOT me taking the time to discuss ITV's new format. you know the one... based on the USA's idea of having FIVE advert breaks in an hour instead of four, the last one being just before the last fucking 30 seconds and credits. Honestly, TV executives are just complete cunts.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Block

For the benefit of those not privy to my social network face thing, here's a recap:

I spent over a year (not continuously) writing a novel essentially aimed at the 14 to 21 age range. It's called The Imagination Station and was something I must like because I've spent an inordinate amount of time on it; far more than I usually do with fanciful creative writing projects.

I reached a point about a year ago where I wasn't prepared to do anything else to it until I'd had an appraisal from someone I trusted. I opted to ask my wife to edit it. A bold move considering she had never done anything like that before; she was close to the author and she might have been inclined to pull her punches. I, personally, opted for her to write it because I trusted her to tell me quite candidly if she hated it. I am confident my wife will never give me a snow job or blow smoke up my arse.

It was almost a year to the day from printing it out to her sitting down with a pencil, rubber and constructive critique's hat on and that was the day the block arrived...

It wasn't there, then it was. Like some insane barrier appearing out of nowhere, I crashed. Along with my usual syntax errors, I discovered my input keys were fried. Except, they weren't. Metaphorically, if I looked in a specific direction and I could not see the barrier I could write. From the point when I finally decided I could write no more on the novel, I outlined Station's sequel, wrote a short story that fits into an idea I was working on before Station popped into my head and nothing else. In the same amount of time, I have written 43 blogs, an article for a comics fanzine and more shite on social media than you can shake a dirty stick at...

Whatever the block is, it's transparent to certain things.

The wife really liked Station. She's appalled at some of my syntax; she thinks it needs some intensive polishing in places, but she didn't see things coming; she had no idea I was going to do certain things and she was bitterly disappointed that parts of it weren't expanded on - "You have to make the HG Wells thing a stand alone chapter!" was something she actually got quite enthused about (I tease you with enigmatically). It's a good job really; at 55 I was seriously considering calling it a day at creative writing and just farting about with blogs. I don't really expect to become a famous writer now; that ship has sailed and even if I got a break my health would probably limit my longevity. I've spent far too much time not spending enough time on the things I write.

As someone with a vivid imagination, I often used to think if I'd lived in Hollywood I would have pitched hundreds of ideas for different kinds of TV shows or films; as I got older I've treated my own creative writing as nothing more than my own little worlds where if I'm the only person who knows about them then that's fine by me. One of the beautiful things about Station for me was knowing how it ended, but not knowing quite how it was going to get there. I mean, I knew all along but as my conscious mind uncovered the subconscious story it was a bit like reading a good book or watching a good film, for the first time. That's a joy and one money (or filmmakers) can't match.

Since we've lived in Scotland my imagination has kind of dried up. There are still ideas, but apart from one isolated thing, I've not started any new ideas since three weeks prior to leaving Northampton. Don't get me wrong; my brain is attuned okay. It's working overtime until I sit down in front of the computer. Actually, that's a lie; I don't open Word or do anything remotely like I'm going to do something constructive and usually end up doing something trivial or pointless - a card game or blowing something up on Facebook games. The need for either a job or a constructive hobby is probably essential for my health. I have put on weight, which is a bad thing for me and the catch-22 is I don't get the exercise I used to despite it being wonderful here.

The change in our lives has changed me.

I have a manuscript to edit and I should be approaching it with gusto; after all, my wife has given me a little bit of optimism and ambition back and I've been itching to get back to the story since I finished it. But... you know... It's like both of us have switched off from the rest of the world and we simply can't get back on the wagon.

We do the new pub quiz over in Newton Stewart every Thursday, with our team of fellow English people. I expect now that we've completely destroyed the opposition, having won by insulting margins for 4 consecutive weeks we'll start to be treated like deep-fried dog shit by the regulars and ... do you know, despite really enjoying the company of our new friends, I miss winning money and drinking something that resembles beer when I do pub quizzes. I'd be lying if I said living in Scotland has been all brilliant; but the material things I miss I can live without quite easily. The way I look at it, if and when I get to have the things I don't get very often I'll enjoy them more.

I don't know if the slight ennui I have about the quiz is also what is bothering my creative writing process. Honestly, grammatical laziness aside, writing this stuff is clown's shoes and really easy; writing something you care what others think about is fooking hard. So when one is in a kind of existential fugue state like I seem to be at the moment, getting my shiny groove on is pretty much the same as being depressed but without the black shadow of despondency hanging over you. And like depression, it isn't a case of just pulling yourself together or working through it, it's about being in a mental position to do yourself and what you work on justice. Having a block isn't like not wanting to do something, ending up doing it and having a better than expected time. It's literally about not being able to do what I'm doing here.

My fantastic ability is to be able to write like cows shit, and on demand. I was trained for years to regurgitate press releases and hash out a news story from some sticks and bits of gravel, but if I had to write a fictional story in this current state... I have more chance of using my own farts to propel me to the moon. Actually, while I have written a fair bit since 'finishing' Station, in comparison to previous times, even my 'factual' output has dropped off this year - not surprising given the traumatic year of upheaval we've just experienced, but at the moment it concerns me that my surroundings have rather enchanted me the way a vampire transfixes its victim. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Pop Culture Is Dead to Me

It's time for a lot of words that will mean very little to most people who stumble onto this...

It's not through boredom, neither is it through a sense of a need to share; it's more about other things such as prevention and/or time saving exercises. At least that's how I condone it. Plus, sometimes I need to do this kind of shit to keep myself fully insane.

TV and Film.

Let's start with film. I've kind of given up on films. Blockbusters are slowly failing to do it for me, probably due to being all style and no substance. I pretty much approached the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel with zero expectations and was still disappointed by it and I'm sitting here struggling to think of a film I can remember watching that I've enjoyed...  actually, with the exception of Wonder Woman, I'm struggling to think of anything I've seen in the last couple of months that I can remember watching (I had to go check in case I missed anything glaring).

Even critically-acclaimed films are leaving me feeling as though the genre needs to go on hiatus for a while.

As for TV... Well, I'm watching less than I did and I'm struggling to love much of what I have.

[Spoiler Alerts]

The Marvel TV stuff, principally Iron Fist and Defenders were largely meh. I didn't think Iron Fist was as bad as a lot of people, but the guy playing Danny Rand acts as well as I can run to the moon (the star of that was the character Ward Meachum, who essentially went from being an arsehole to a man you just had the utmost sympathy for) and it essentially didn't do anything but set up the next show - which has been the complaint of all of the series since the first Daredevil; nothing concludes, ever. Unlike the comics, this is something casual viewers of TV sometimes want - resolution.

The Defenders was quite lame and the Hand has become as convoluted and dull as the Inhumans did in the SHIELD series. Marvel's TV wing is in dire need of something positive to happen because it's not going anywhere slowly. Seemingly proven by the imminent cancellation of the as-yet-unseen Inhumans.

The Walking Dead had me floundering in 2016. At the end of Season 6, I knew, like many of the readers of the comic knew, how Season 7 would start and I'd grown quite fond of some of the characters, specifically Glenn's almost comedic ability to 'almost' die every series. I wanted the showrunners to do what they'd done occasionally in the past and throw the 'Series Rulebook' out of the window and deceive 'us in the know' - but they didn't, so it took me 10 months to get around to watching the season opener and meeting Negan and his baseball bat and then I fast forwarded through the intensely gross moments and concluded it was just torture porn.

The rest of the series was essentially the antithesis of that first episode. There are actual LOL moments - a real rarity - and unfortunately there was also a shark riding a unicycle about to be jumped by a tiger, hiding in the background. I presume they've all seen Mad Max, because it seems like TWD has turned into a kind of Undead Max World. Illiterate rubbish tip dwellers; isolated communities, mad psychos with polystyrene filler in between to enable all of the bonkers things to have some meaning or validity.

It was quite enjoyable in a slightly surreal kind of way, but with the 'walkers' now decaying very fast and the survivors dealing with most deaths before they reanimate, the main threat is now less dangerous than living in Australia and one of the worst things about the dead now is akin to putting your fingers into a rotting potato by accident. Surely, as we may discover, if there was an apocalypse, some normal people would survive and not just all the psychopathic rednecks?

Which brings us nicely to the current run of TWD's sister show Fear TWD, or as I like to call it - Fear The Moronic Living. Whereas TWD has that dystopian post-apocalyptic nightmare misery deeply ingrained in it, FTWD is like a comedy parody played earnestly without the cast being in on the joke. It is everything TWD isn't`. It is populated with utterly dislikable characters who appear to be immune to death and they must be saving a fortune on make up because the dead only appear when they need to fill the void between one ludicrous scene and the next. The main character is Madison Clark and there has never been a lead character in a series that you will want killed off more than her. However, she seems capable of walking into places with warlords who make Negan seem like Frasier Crane and walk away with the impossible. Perhaps she just puts out a lot off camera?

I remember last year, my mate Kelvin was slightly surprised to discover The Strain was still going. It finally ended with a 10-part series, last week. What a load of old wank it was too. I really don't know why I persevered with such a dreadfully self-indulgent original-V-standard series, but I did and it ended in a totally meh way. Corey Stoll, the main star was loathsome; his son in the series possibly the most horrid young person since the last one and most of the other characters were just there to help the plot plod along. It was hammy, seemed to borrow loads from others despite having a fairly unique premise for a vampire series and should never have made it past series 1. Don't be tempted if you see a box set or it's shown on some obscure cable channel.

Preacher's first series was fun. I could pick many holes in it, but it was great comic book nonsense with some funny lines, ultra violent scenes and lots of Europeans pretending to be from Texas. The second series was as dull as beige. It was too long, didn't do enough with Starr as it should and missed all of the characters so skillfully introduced in the first series. It's following the comic to a certain degree but it seems to be following all the bits in the comic that didn't make it brilliant. The second series was so meh I'm struggling to remember what the cliffhanger at the end was...

As Odin Quincannon in Preacher, Jackie Earle Haley was a serious nemesis for Jesse Custer, but he presumably died when Preacher's town was wiped off the planet. Haley reappears as The Terror in possibly the most enjoyable load of nonsense you'll see this year. The Tick is pretty bloody excellent; a surrealist comedy with swearing, violence and a serious undertone. the brilliant Peter Serafinowicz is The Tick, who may or may not be a physical manifestation of his sidekick Arthur's mental health issues.  The first 6 episodes are well worth watching and there is a brilliant bit of continuity dismissal in episode 2 (obviously filmed much later than the pilot) the Tick's costume has noticeably changed since said pilot, but only minutes between the Tick and Arthur's scenes. This was dealt with the following exchange:
Arthur: Has your costume changed?
The Tick: Yes!
And they just carried on.

Game of Thrones dropped the nudity for more dragons, zombies, backstabbing and a faster pace. We're heading for the final season - eventually - and if you've stuck with it this far, however it ends will probably be some form of anticlimax. Plus, it was obviously too dangerous the film in the arctic, but in the books when winter finally came everywhere had 50 foot snowdrifts; in TV's Westeros, winter coming is a hard frost and some shallow lying snow. Plus, let's not discuss how the Wights got their massive chains or how small GoT world really is when you're flying a dragon or you're Gondry.

I haven't watched Twin Peaks yet. I'm just not sure about it any more.

Other stuff? There must be other stuff. I mean, what else do I do with my time? A lot of the things I have watched (like S7 of TWD) have grown hairs and gone bald. I watched Better Call Saul when I moved up here and that felt like it had been sitting on my hard drive for months. The wife has the last two seasons of Supernatural to watch and the new one starts in about three weeks (unless it's been cancelled and I missed the news, I mean, I've never watched it).

The Expanse is the closest thing I've seen on telly to Babylon 5 in years; passable SF and SFX married with bad acting and dodgy accents; it just needs a Vorlon (and there might be one just round the corner...). There hasn't been a Shameless US since I last did this to rave about and Lucifer starts again in October - with the four standalone episodes that were supposed to have concluded the last series. Can't say I was too happy about Superman joining the cast, but the show often deceives you that way with weird casting that works.
The last series (maybe final, please) of Sleepy Hollow ended up being quite shit, but frankly it had been shit since season 2. Agents of SHIELD lost the plot and improved its ratings enough to be renewed and I don't watch the DC shows.

Meanwhile in space... Star Trek: Discovery debuted this week. I have loads of continuity problems with it, mainly to do with Klingons; and I feel that maybe they should have simply rebooted it rather than try and retell the past in a different more expensive way. Not sure about the former TWD alumni in the #2 chair or the Harry Potter one in the #1 chair, but that story hasn't started yet and I worry I'm going to be looking out for episodes that DON'T have Klingons in them.

On the flipside is... The Orville, which is not a show about a space-faring green and yellow bird operated by a wanker called Keith, but is a ST parody by the Family Guy people, best known for their Simpsons parody. It's poor. Very, very poor. It will last 6 episodes. It should have been good and Adrianne Palicki (or however she spells her name) is wasted on it, so no one wins. It spends too much time trying to be Brian the dog meets ST:NG; which I really don't think would be as bad as this.

Yes, everything here is from the USA and a few of them are veering into stories involving a totalitarian state run by a twat, so even some of the bad stuff has had moments. British TV of the serial variety..? I might need reminding that there is any worth mentioning, especially as I really couldn't give a seriously runny shit about Doctor effing Foster, the life of a dead monarch who appears to have been reinvented as pretty or any of the other things that appeal to me about as much as having a case of the seriously runny shits. So there.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Quiet

I've not really written anything for weeks.

It's not even through a lack of inspiration; I'm bristling with ideas.

Actually... I've written a lot in recent weeks. I just haven't written anything like a blog or a story. I've been channelling my blogs, my creativity, plus my anxiety and my unhinged madness via social media - the medium I love and loathe in equal measure. I've written more on Facebook in the last three months than the previous nine years.

It's because while I steadfastly refuse to get remotely excited about the last great adventure (until we're in Scotland), I can feel the mixture of elation, fear and trepidation rising inside me and it's completely out of my control. I am a big bag of sentimentality.

I expect things will change once we've gone. I will have much to tell people about escaping the rat race while not being wealthy... at least that's the plan.

Life, at the moment, is a wee bit like a delirious fever dream without the fever and a lot more anger.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Art of Staying Sane

Let me quantify something. What I'm about to write might be considered the moment when many people who read this might consider I've finally sailed over the edge of sanity and into loony land. The fact that I am rational enough to make this distinction, sadly, means I'm probably still sane...

Is it me or does the world now seem like some scripted soap opera where you literally only have to wait a week before there's some new plot twist that makes you go 'WTF?' not only because now days it's easier to type than 'What The Fuck?' but also because we pretty much ignore normal now unless it has a high body count or sounds like an episode of The Simpsons leaking into reality... Honestly, I'm growing increasingly convinced this is just a big fuck off simulation billions of the years in the future which aliens plug into and relive the hell that mankind was. My mate Roger would say it is now malfunctioning, but I'm wondering if it's deliberate: a warning to future sentient beings that if you go the path of humans it ends up in madness... Orange and blue madness with random death wishes and intolerance thrown in.

I really do wonder if the drugs worked too well when I took them because now I know that 7 of the 8 main symptoms of Alzheimer's are the same as being stoned, I'm surprised the government simply don't accuse dementia sufferers of being potheads and have done with them...

In April 1989, a thoroughly nasty piece of work (I do have a habit of attracting them like flies to shit) who I worked briefly for told me to fuck off and do my own thing because I clearly wasn't suited to his kind of work. My shop didn't open until the October, because what should have taken 6 weeks to get into place ended up taking nearly 6 months and in 1989 I smoked so much pot the simple fact I managed to start a business (and kept it running for so long) suggests I might have been mega-successful had I been straight. The thing was between May (the month), when we got the loan to start Squonk and by the time I opened it, we frittered away half of the money just in living expenses and interest rates. I'm not suggesting that was anyone's fault but mine and with hindsight I should have got a part time job to ensure we didn't spend my business start up cash.

I'm feeling the same way about the move to Wigtown. It is now fuck knows how long since we 'sold' our house, got fucked over and then sold it again and yesterday, May 24, we were supposed to have moved and in reality we're no closer to that move than we were the day we drove back from Scotland having decided what house we were going to buy. Maybe between them and now I should have done something with my time, because while my overall mental health has been fine, boredom mixed with extreme frustration has thrown my usual rational self into a slightly 'couldn't give a fuck' mode. It doesn't help we have another election looming; the UK has just suffered its latest 'terrorist' atrocity and Chelsea and Arsenal are playing in the FA Cup final, so whoever wins it's lose-lose for a Spurs fan...

I have been (half) joking recently about thinking that this is hell and we can't leave. Couple that radiant optimism with Alan Moore's theory that we exist in a perpetual groundhog day that we are unaware of so therefore it plays out the same for eternity. So, in other words, when you think 'what if I'd done that differently?' that is what you think every time. Surely they're both the same concept? Variations of the hell theme...

The boredom is the worst thing. Since I packed up smoking I seem to be unable to fill the voids with anything constructive; although to be fair I weigh the same now as I did in July 2012, so I don't fill the voids with the eating of junk (although I do have binges occasionally, just last week I bought and ate - shared with the dogs - an entire white cabbage; raw and crunchy and probably burned more calories eating it than were in it).

It's the limbo I can't stand. I barely write anything. I flounce about listlessly, take the dogs for long walks. It's like depression without feeling that bad. I have essentially become a bored housewife...

I find it frustrating that my inner bastard won't do any gardening because it won't be my garden for much longer and because we blitzed the house pre-sale, there's nowt to do on the DIY homefront. I look at my heavily-laden gooseberry, red and blackcurrant bushes, my rejuvenated plum trees, my raspberries and the sea of white flowers in my strawberry beds and wonder if I'll actually get any benefit from them and then it reminds me of the two children who used to live next door. They moved into a house with a wonderfully stocked veg and fruit patch, lovingly maintained by Fishwife and his noisy children. They just dug it all up and dumped it in a skip - it would have made Percy Thrower cry. He worked for Sainsbury's at the time; he said anything he wanted he could buy at a discount. Within two months their garden looked like a patch of the Somme.

These people will inherit the country.

So, if anyone knows the art of staying sane I'd be dead keen on knowing the secret...

As some people are aware, I've grown a beard. I did it for a joke, of sorts. When the first house sale fell through, when the new ones came along I was so... dispirited I said, "I'm not shaving until we move." It was a kind of self-reverse psychology, figuring if I did something stupid it would speed things along. Hah. Where's your rational thought now, Hall? Huh?

I look a bit like a crap Captain Birdseye impersonator but for the first time in 55 years, you can actually see a beard, because it's white and wiry, not blonde and wispy. It is horrendous. I hate it and it's hot in hot weather. I was going to get rid of it last week, after almost ripping my face off because of the constant itching and then the worst thing ever happened... The wife said, "I really like it. It suits you. It balances your face."

What on earth does that even mean? 'Balances your face' ... Was it lopsided? Did it just wander off on it's own like a dazed and confused old man? Did I look, I dunno, a bit like a late Picasso?

I tell you what it actually means. It means, 'I like it, don't shave it off.' I hate her sometimes...

So I think I'm going mad in some kind of bizarre computer simulation and to add to the hell I have a beard during the hottest days of the year so far. I'm not mad, I'm simply stupid.

Bim.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

First Impressions

I wrote in some notes for another, unrelated, blog entry, Marmite Man. It wasn't a new brown sludge-like superhero, it was a self-effacing comment about the effect I have on people. It's always pretty much been the case that people either like me or really dislike me. It is something I have grown to live with over the years and is only ever a problem when I meet someone I like and they think I'm a wanker.

Probably the most 'famous' incident of this was in the late 1980s. One of the groups of friends the wife and I hung around with were very divided about me. It got to the stage around 1987 when several people would literally turn on their heels and go somewhere else if they saw my car parked outside the usual house we gathered in. One of my best friends at the time was a guy called Derrick, he had a really good friend called Roger and the latter hated me with a passion. He thought I was a gobshite (my words, not his) and he really couldn't stand to be in the same room as me. It looked grim and Roger admits being one of those people who would rather go home and do bugger all than share his evening with that loud and opinionated fool (me).

The fact that I generated so much (almost) hostility with a certain faction of Derrick's friends didn't appear to cause any lasting problems; we were, at the time, all pot-smoking pseudo-hippies, but it was obvious that my presence, at times, was probably about as desired as pants full of poo.

As this was the '80s and most of us were still in our 20s, there was a lot of parties and at one such party, one group of my friends kind of collided with another... It wasn't at all confrontational, they just didn't really talk with each other, so at this party there were groups of people in the lounge, in the kitchen and in the garden. Roger was with his side of 'our' friends, I was sitting in the lounge and our paths hadn't crossed. His little party gravitated to the lounge, split up and Roger was left looking like some people do at parties, I had a spliff on the go and thinking it should at least make an effort I offered it to him.

At roughly the same time as this was happening, one of my other friends, Vince, had quite quickly realised he was extremely pissed and started roaming round the party looking, for some strange reason, for me. I wasn't a big drinker even then, preferring to do irreparable damage to my lungs instead, therefore I tended to be the designated driver, although this particular night that wasn't on the cards. Vince, however, knowing he was headed down that alcohol hole of whirling ceilings and huge quantities of projectile vomiting, wanted to me to drop everything and take him home. This wasn't happening for a number of reasons, so as I was handing the spliff to Roger, I said, "We'd better get out of here, this is going to get ugly, messy and sick." And it did, in a most unpleasant way...

Being as adverse to drunks puking everywhere Roger joined me in the garden and that was where we stayed for best part of the rest of the evening. It appeared that Roger's first impression of me was slightly tinged with the 'Phil Stereotype' rather than me as a rational adult human being. We bonded over a hate of Thatcher, similar politics, football and a surprisingly similar musical taste and to cut a long story short, the following Friday while we were round Derrick's, Roger didn't turn on his heels and go home, he turned up and we spent most of the evening engrossed in friendly conversation. A friendship was born.

In 1991, Roger came on holiday with us - a bunch of people went to the Lake District and he came along and it was there, I think, we started to become very good friends. Over the following 15 years, we went on holiday with Roger and his new partner Barbara six times. One of those holidays is quite important in the grand scheme of things, because like Roger's first impression of me, our first impression of the south-west of Scotland was 'we'll never go there again!'.

It was September 1998 and my mum had died six months earlier; my life had been in a massive turmoil because of that and work [just to remind people Dez Skinn sacked me because I had to go to my mum's funeral rather than deadline day at the magazine] and we all thought a nice week in Scotland would be just what the doctor ordered. We booked a cottage in Ballantrae, thinking it would be as picturesque and romantic as Robert Louis Stevenson's book.

It was a shit hole.

The cottage was damp, cold and cramped. The 'village' of Ballantrae was dull, uninspiring and got christened Corby-by-the-Sea - which, thinking about it was an insult to Corby - and the pub was like the Slaughtered Lamb transposed to Scotland and with no werewolves. To add insult to injury, we often went on holiday in late September as the weather usually proved to be excellent and true to form we had over a half a week of lovely warm days coupled with everywhere being shut.

With hindsight, which is an odd thing at times, we discovered that we pretty much went to all the places you should avoid and the few bright spots were overwhelmed by the general crappiness of the holiday. However, one of the 'wrong' places we went to would come back and haunt us...

Ballantrae is in south Ayrshire and that is, even today, a relatively deprived area, so as four of our days out were in and around there it was always going to be difficult to find something better than run down. One of the other days took us to Stranraer - an awful place in '98 with 'no hope' slung round its neck and it was on the Rinns (the peninsular Stranraer sits at the top of) we found the first lovely places - Port Patrick and Port Logan - this was more like what we expected. On the recommendation of the landlord of the pub in Port Patrick, we spent the next day driving around Wigtownshire.

After a nice morning at the botanical gardens in Castle Kennedy, we took a drive round the coast road. First we hit Port William, which was another quiet coastal village, which also seemed shut, we travelled further along and amazingly drove past beaches we would eventually fall in love with. We found ourselves in the Isle of Whithorn, which really did tick all the boxes - picturesque, pub with real ale and, as xenophobic as this might seem, some English people who made us feel more at home than at any point in the week. The plan after we'd had lunch was to drive back up the coast, visit Whithorn with its theological history and then head to Newton Stewart.

Whithorn was shut. It was also a strangely ethereal place that was more akin to a ghost town than a village almost classed as a small town. It was like the village of the damned... The girls now needed the loo and according to the OS map there was one in a place called Wigtown, which would be a short detour off the main route. We found the public loos easy enough and while the girls' did what they needed Roger and I decided to check out the main drag.

All I can say for sure is I wasn't the only person in our group of two who felt like we were being watched. The uneasy feeling spread all over all four of us; this place seemed dead and inhospitable. In fact, it could have been twinned with Whithorn! The entire place felt decidedly creepy and we spent less than half an hour there and high tailed it out. We got our shopping in the lovely town of Newton Stewart, stopped for a pint in a local hotel and discovered that Wigtown had been decimated by the closure of its principle two business in the previous year - the distillery and the dairy - and that a lot of that part of the country was extremely sectarian, with many links to Northern Ireland (no peace agreement at this time). We reasoned that our unsettling experience might have been down to that and the fact it didn't look like a tourist village, so we must have looked like happy black people in 1950s Alabama with beach balls and swimming cossies.

On the way home we all agreed that that 'experiment' was not something we planned to repeat again, ever. South-west Scotland became the last place we'd place on our list of potential holidays.

Fast forward 14 years and the UK is celebrating having both the Olympics and the Queen's 500th birthday, or something like that. I was working at a school and out of the blue, the wife's brother's then girlfriend (now wife) asked us if we fancied a week's free holiday staying at her dad's place... in Wigtown...

It was free. We hadn't had a holiday for two years and if nothing else we could use the place as a base and head inland and look for places we missed 14 years earlier. When we arrived there we found a completely different 'town' than we remembered. It was full of book shops, small antique places, a newspaper museum and the place was buzzing with anticipation at the forthcoming book festival the following month. We were made to feel extremely welcome and by the end of the week, having discovered loads of fantastic places, beautiful beaches, wondrous woods and at least three pubs that sold good real ale, we had changed our opinion of it.

So, when the offer came again two years later, when both of us were at a low ebb, it seemed like a godsend. It was very much a repeat of the previous holiday, but we discovered more places and the first tentative noises were made about the possibility of us retiring there.

In 2016, we received a bad prognosis for the mother-in-law; she didn't have long to live and this was seen as a blessing by all her children because she had been suffering enough. The distasteful part was that the wife ended up with more inheritance than she expected and suddenly, after some figures and numbers were crunched, we realised that we could move there - now.

So, in February, we headed off to Newton Stewart to see half a dozen potential homes. The one that I felt was least likely was also the only realistic purchase available in Wigtown and as you can guess, it was like a home and we fell for it immediately.

Now, we're on the cusp of May and the move is likely to happen in the next six weeks; after some setbacks we're back on course.

In 1999, after over a decade of living in Wellingborough, we'd decided to become slumlords and rented our house out and bought a dump in one of the worst parts of Northampton, despite vehemently discounting the purchase as a 'fucking stupid idea'. I had 13 months of unequalled hell there, but we sold the place to a young family from South Ayrshire (!), who gifted us £23,000 profit. This enabled us to buy the house we've now sold. Our first impressions of that 13 month holiday in purgatory was bad and it still is bad, but we made money from it, so really it ended up being good, although I'll always look back on that year as a means to an end and nothing more.

We might have made a bad mistake. Camelot tells lottery winners not to move away from family and friends, but we ain't won the lottery and we do know people up there - none of them are 'friends' as yet and the Marmite factor might kick in - but I've been reliably informed I'm nowhere near as 'salty' as I once was.

I'm hoping that Wigtown proves to be as good a friend as Roger turned out to be and that first impressions prove bugger all in the grand scheme of things, or maybe it's because, sometimes, you have to give something another go before you commit to anything long term.