Monday, August 30, 2010

The Planets

When I was a lad, I used to spell my name PHILL, the main reason for this was because I have 2 Ls in my name. This stuck for many years, but around the start of my working life I noticed that most people just spelt it the conventional way. So, in an act of defiance, I started spelling my name FIL (there's a few people I know who read this will remember that very well) and that eventually, for a while, became Fil Fil Fil (So good they named me three times?). One of my mates kids called me FOO, because she couldn't say Phil (or even Fil).

I sort of started to get a bit fed up saying to people, "It's Phill with two ells," because 99% of the time they'd spell it with one. When my name started to appear in print on a regular basis, I shrugged my shoulders and accepted that I was going to be a Phil for the rest of my life. Then about 6 months ago, one of the lovely admin girls at work, started to spell my name with 2 ells. her logic was that if my name was Phillip, then Phil should be Phill. It was easier for her to understand as she's married to a Philip...

I suddenly, and it was a suddenly rather than a gradually, decided that it's my name gods dammit, so I'll spell it how I want it to be spelt. So, slowly, but surely, the transformation of Phil back into Phill has begun. Besides, Phil Hall is a number of things - an artist, another writer (a film critic), a former editor of the News of the Screws and once upon a time he was even an okapi at the Bronx Zoo! There's not that many Phill Halls out there.

***

Remember the neighbour who can't park? Well, I'm having a crisis of conscience about him. This is a man who I've lived next door to for 10 years and what I do know about him could be written large on the back of a postage stamp. What I do know about him is that he does a lot of strangely bizarre things or just downright stupid. He's the kind of bloke that will have a big bonfire in his garden on a Sunday afternoon when everyone in the street is hanging their washing out; or he'll place the fire near something combustible or damageable - on my side!
His missus has displayed all kinds of control freakery over the years. The day we moved in, we were welcomed very well by the other surrounding neighbours, but the first words out of her mouth were to tell us not to park in front of their house because they needed access 24/7.

Her control freakery reached new heights in the subsequent years. The wife's brother was dying of a brain tumour in the hospital and this meant that we were travelling back and forth from the hospital at all hours - especially during his last 48 hours. Megan and Gifford were still alive, but had gone well past the stage where they barked at anything, so she couldn't even complain about them. But she did manage to complain about 'all the comings and goings at all hours of the night as it was upsetting her mother', who, to be fair was very ill, but also about 90. The wife's brother was 26 and the rest of his life was being measured in minutes.

"I'm really sorry," I said, "But [the wife's] brother is dying in the hospital at the moment and we don't really have any control over these things." I was being wholly sarcastic and tinged with annoyance. She waddled back into her house with her tail between her legs.

I don't think she liked that. About a month later, I was working nights at the YMCA and got home about 8.20 in the morning, wanting my bed. I was driving the Punto at the time and as you probably know, they're not big cars. My neighbour's drive is wide enough for two cars and the back end of the Punto was sticking about 6 inches into their space. It was no more than 6 inches because I checked it when I got out of the car and declared myself happy that you could get a Chieftain Tank through the gap, so their little Suzuki would have no trouble.

I had been asleep about 40 minutes when the doorbell went. I dragged my exhausted arse out of bed, threw my dressing gown on and went to the door. I was not happy. Standing there in like a walrus in a jump suit, she whined something about not being able to get her car through the gap. I was half asleep and half crazy. I looked at the gap again, blinked, looked at the Suzuki and then at her. I turned around grabbed my car keys, shoved them into her hand and said, "Look, I've just done a 10 hour night shift, if you can't get your car through that gap, then you move my car. I'm going back to bed." And slammed the door and went back to bed fuming. Later in the day I found the keys on the doormat and the Punto hadn't been moved an inch. Her car was gone.

There have been several attempts over the years for this woman to try and manipulate things. They soon realised that we weren't meek and mild neighbours who would put up with their fuckwittedness but they've never really given up on their 'campaign'. The last major thing was complaining to the council about our new dogs when we got them. I think they were perfectly right to do it; it must have been hell for both sides for almost a year. The ironic thing now, 3 years down the line, is that our 4 dogs make a noise, but normally when one of us gets home from work. None of them bark all day and out of desperation. There are, however, a number of dogs in the vicinity that do continue to make a noise.
Bad neighbours attempted to get good neighbours on their side when they made the complaint, but were quickly rebuffed. Our good neighbours put up with our dogs, the way we put up with their kids!

Anyhow; I gets home from work yesterday and I'm standing in my back garden staring at the sunshine on the last day of August, when I hear something that sounds like a dog barking, except, I know immediately it isn't because I recognised the voice. It's my next door neighbour, standing in his garden barking. Except, it wasn't barking as such, more like a loud grunting noise. I was intrigued and so I sneaked upstairs for a better look. What greeted my eyes was extremely odd...

He was standing in the middle of his bark and wood chip lawn, with his arms aloft, and he was doing this barky grunt type thing. Now, the thing is, we hear him all the time, swearing, shouting and loud belching, through the walls. We came to the conclusion that he was either barking (in the metaphoric sense) or had Tourette's syndrome. I was almost going to forgive them both for being such pains, until I remembered something else about him that happened this week.

I was in the office at about 10.30 one night when I heard loud music from his car. I sat here amazed to be listening to a song by the Bay City Rollers. I dismissed this as him obviously listening to some Classic Gold type station. The following day, the car pulls up much earlier and blaring out of the speakers is Shang-a-Lang by those tartan clad prototype chavs of the 1970s. And there he was, sitting in the driver's seat, singing along to it at the top of his voice.

As an aside, coincidentally, every time we have some kind of run in with these neighbours - one of the tyres on one of our cars mysteriously finds a screw in the side within a few days...

The advert for a hitman is going in the local free paper this week... He no longer deserves to live.

***

Back in May, Roger and I went to the Northampton Beer Festival at Delapre Abbey. If any of you read the report here, you might remember that the most startling thing about the event was the two young guys with the most unbelievable mullets. Well, on Monday afternoon, we saw someone who made these two youngsters look like rank amateurs.

Pushing a pram and accompanied by a girl with more Quink tattoos than you could shake a stick at, was this man, about 30 ish. he had jet black hair, cut very short - shaved in fact - with just this curtain like veil of black hair hanging down his back. He wasn't dressed as a goth, he didn't look any different from any bloke you'd see in them pub, except for the world's funniest joke hair. I almost crashed into a stationary car!

I was getting into the car this morning to go off to work and there he was again, walking down the road. I think I drew blood biting my lip. I want to take him to one side and tell him about the humiliation he's causing himself, but the wife said, quite rightly, he probably wouldn't understand.

***

I'm sure we've all had odd and bizarre conversations with our friends or other halves. The wife and I were commenting about how the four dogs don't pump out as much foul smelling gas as the old two did. We've had over 3 years of relatively stink free dog arses.

In the last week, at least one of them has heard this said and decided to start pumping far more noxious odours into the air. I've had dogs for years and I like to think of them as stupid...

***

Apparently, vampires are fast becoming old news. There has been a spate of blood suckers of varying incarnations for the last few years, on both film and TV and while some of them have been good, none of them hold a candle to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It seems that the new trend about to make it big is going to be Science Fiction. Apparently the developments of Avatar and the success of Inception, the growing in popularity Fringe, along with the cult rise of quirky dramedies such as Eureka and Warehouse 13, has meant that TV execs are looking to the future for the next big thing.

If someone has the guts to do something as intelligent as Babylon 5 then it might be a good thing; but if the reincarnation of V is anything to go by we'll all be praying for a vampire resurgence.

***

I'm getting old; that much is obvious. But just how old am I?

There has been a lot of hype about Scott Pilgrim Versus the World over the last few weeks. you see, it's directed by Edgar Wright, who some of my friends think is a God and it's based on a hip comicbook from... Canada.

I've heard two kinds of reviews about this film. There are those that think it is quite unique and brilliant and others who think it's the biggest piece of shit to ever grace cinema screens. It isn't a film I'd go to the cinema to see; I don't do movie theatres that show comics adaptations.

So I figured I'd read the comicbook series that it's based on.

To quote all those teen-aimed TV shows on MTV: Oh. My. God!

I am so glad I got out of comics when I did, otherwise I would have had to kill myself just so I could turn in my grave! Scott Pilgrim is complete and utter shit! It is drawn in a dopey manga style that is neither pleasing on the eye or aesthetic.

You can't really call Bryan Lee O'Malley a dialogue writer; too much emphasis is on whacky facial expressions (customary in manga) and 'hip one-liners' and a lack of real cohesion. It made me wonder if he either knows where the publisher has buried the bodies or he has been offering sexual favours to said publisher. Scott Pilgrim is dreadful. Okay, it's 'modern' and its written and drawn in a style that MTV and video game addicts will appreciate (one hopes); but that doesn't actually make it any good. There's a hundred pieces of shit hanging in modern art galleries that some people adore and admire.

If the new breed of comic writers and artists are this superfluous and without substance I'm amazed there still is a comics industry.

Saying that, I also downloaded and read the first 3 'graphic novels' of Stephen King's The Stand and it left with with one nagging question. Why? And more importantly, why was Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa credited as 'the writer'? He's done an interesting job at editing large chunks of the book out of the story, while adding his own linking dialogue boxes that encapsulate entire chapters of the original tale. Mike Perkins's artwork is reasonable, even if his depictions of some characters is just plain wrong: Harold Lauder looks like a 40-year-old businessman, not a 16 year-old spotty oik and Larry Underwood doesn't look anything like the denim clad blues singer he was described by King as. He looks more like a relative of Grizzly Adams.

It was this comic that finally made me realise that greed is the over riding emotion when you become famous. Since Stephen King almost died there seems to be more product coming out related to the man than ever before. There are even books on sale that analyse King's other books. Compendiums, biographies and of course a host of comicbook adaptations of some of his finest and at times more unknown works. He must be raking it in.

I suppose its the socialist in me, but I can't help thinking that King probably was a multi-millionaire by the early 1990s; he could, if he had wanted, bought a small island and done nothing for the last 20 years - and part of me would have been happier had he done that.

It's like these Premiership football managers and the amazing contracts they have. If you're no good at your job, the club will pay you literally millions of pounds to leave! Fuck, I wish someone would offer me millions - heck, thousands would do - to leave my job! Yet if a manager leaves of his own volition - regardless of the club's success or failure, he gets nothing. I reckon, I'm that bad as a football manager I could be in charge of at least three clubs and get 7 figure pay offs from each, because I'm that bad! I'd really only need the one job; a 7 figure pay off at my age would pay the mortgage off, buy a nice flat by the sea and mean that I could retire. So why don't these football managers? Or are they like Stephen King and have decided if they can make money out of their crapness, then why not?

***

Two quick words about last night's football.

Calm down.

England beat a team that are plummeting in the world rankings faster than the Scots. The only class player they had saw the Euro 2012 draw and retired from international football. The performance was nothing to write home about and against a good team we would have been exposed. Gutted for Michael Dawson - he's definitely out of the next match on Tuesday and it bodes ill for Spurs Champion league aspirations. My team have great centrebacks, but they're all made of porcelain... However, I'm chuffed for the lad Defoe - the first Spurs striker to score a hat-trick for England since probably Gary Lineker or even Jimmy Greaves!

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