Sunday, November 21, 2010

April

The tale of the fucking useless cripple continues unabated. As many of you will know, if I do something to myself, it's usually in spades. Yesterday, when I accidentally buggered my back up again, doing of all things, walking down the bleedin' stairs. It took me by such a surprise that I managed to bite my bottom lip so hard I drew blood... The wife (you remember her) looked at me. I shook my head and asked her to suffocate me while I slept; that way I wouldn't continue to be a burden, a sad bastard and a seemingly constant drain on the poor steadily going broke NHS...

However, I woke up this morning and was still alive. Well, I think I am as the dogs are acknowledging my presence.

***

Did I mention that I'm turning into a fat bloater? During the first month of stopping smoking I lost 3lbs. Admittedly, a lot of that had to do with the morphine-based drugs I was on and my prolapsed disc giving me hell. It also had something to do with nothing tasting of anything but wallpaper paste.

In the last month, I have put on 17lbs. I looked at myself in the mirror last night as I got out of the bath and realised that, for the first time in my life, I have to go on something of a diet...

***

I told Roger about this on Thursday and then forgot. I remembered again this evening...

When the doctor told me that a prolapsed disc is essentially a modern term for a slipped disc it reminded me of something from my dim and distant past...

I once got a job as a Nursing Assistant. I was 18 and my folks, who I had gone to live with, insisted that I really needed to get a job. They were running the social club at Shenley Hospital in Hertfordshire. It was, for want of a better term, a nut house. It was packed to the rafters with people who would become victims of the terminology - Care in the Community; one of those Thatcherite ideas that saved money and was unbelievably ill thought out.

I didn't want the job; but there were plenty of them in this new Conservative dawn. I went to the interview, barely uttered a word and got offered the job. My first morning proved to be my last.

I turned up at Villa 18a - renowned for being one of the places where the oldest and nuttiest of the fruitcakes lived - and was introduced to the staff, who I knew anyhow from getting very drunk with on a daily basis. I was then told what a Nursing Assistant's job entailed - it was helping the qualified nurses to do their jobs and rather nastily, to do all the jobs that the qualified nurses didn't have to do because of people like me. This included cleaning up shitty beds, wiping shit encrusted bottoms and other bits and essentially bathing and treating these poor unfortunate people like babies. I could feel my stomach turning over.

Then one of my 'friends' said, "Of course, that isn't the worst thing. because a lot of these poor fuckers actually have no control over their bowels, they just go whenever they feel something coming on and sometimes there's nothing there to push out. So, a lot of the women end up with prolapsed vaginas."
"What's a prolapsed vagina?" I asked, knowing what a vagina was, obviously, but having no idea what a prolapse was.
"It's a bit like when you turn you coat inside out." I looked puzzled. The person in question, a staff nurse called Pat O'Connor (whose motorbike I used to service) took off his white coat and pulled his sleeve inside out. "Imagine this is a vagina. They push so hard it just turns itself inside out and literally falls out of their own cunt." He said in his soft southern Irish accent. I looked horrified.
"What do you do?" I asked, feeling decidedly queasy.
"You get some Vaseline, smear it on your hand and push the fucker back up." While turning his lab coat arm back to where it was supposed to be. All the colour must have drained out of my face because he said, "You feeling all right, fella?" I shook my head, turned on my heels and walked out of villa 18a and never went in there again. my career as a Nursing Assistant lasted 45 minutes...

When I told Roger the abbreviated version of this story on Thursday, I added that I thought, after all these years, that it might have been a wind up. I have since checked on Google Images and have discovered it wasn't a wind up at all. I have been posting more pictures on the blog than ever before. I won't be posting one of this!

***

I was busy searching for a decent Sambar Masalla recipe on the net and couldn't find what i was looking for. Indian recipes are notoriously contrary - there doesn't appear to be one specific recipe for anything and I didn't need to know how to make the spice mix, I needed some guidance as to how to make the soup. Every bloody recipe I found either seemed as dull as dishwater or didn't actually have the soup/dal recipe. So I made my own up. It's really nice. It isn't really a sambar, it's more like a spicy mixed lentil soup and I shall write it up and include it in my next Glass Onion thingy.

***

Winter's coming back and with a vengeance it would seem. Forecasts indicate that we'll be shivering in 0 degrees by the weekend and many places will see their first snows of the season. Autumn, it seems is really over and the UK is about to return to the weather we all got so accustomed to last winter.

Why can't I be incapacitated during the height of summer? Oh, yeah, I was, in 2009. It was a lousy summer and I got webbed feet from sitting in the garden. Being off of work is not really much fun, especially when I can't really do much and if the temperatures are about to plummet, that means I'm going to have to put the heating on, costing me more bloody money and because it'll be cold, my back will continue to scream at me.

Fuck this. I have to convince the wife (the one I mention quite a lot) that moving to a country where it's warm every day is really the best way forward; even if I have to buy her a refrigeration unit and big bags of fake snow!

***

Normally, when I have a review to write, I do it independently. You know the thing - Glass Onion for recipes; Us Versus Them for football, Gig Guides for, um, gigs and reviews tend to be under whatever heading I fancy, but they have their own unique format. However, I have a review to write and I can't be asked to post this and then another in an hour or so. There's overkill and there's too much Phil and they both probably equate to the same thing...

The Walking Dead 1-78
Image Comics; Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard, w/Tony Moore (issues 1-6)

Nearly a decade ago, I wrote what would be my second completed novel. It was only the first draft and very few people were unfortunate enough to read it. It was called Gentle By Name and it was, as one of its readers said, totally unrelenting and grim. it had so little levity in it that by the end you felt totally browbeaten. The comic book which became the hit AMC TV drama makes my novel seem positively light hearted.

Robert Kirkman, the writer and creator of this series, was almost an unknown in the comics industry when I was scrambling away from it. I read a few things he did, including Tech Jacket and Invincible and came to the conclusion that the boy had potential. In one of the last ever Movers & Shakers columns I wrote, I forecast big things for him, despite thinking he was emulating one of comics greatest plagiarists - namely Alan Moore. Now before anyone sends a hit man out to get me, let me explain. Alan Moore was great at taking other peoples ideas and transforming them into great comics product. If you look at some of his hits you'll notice that virtually all of them were other peoples' creations, which he put his own distinct (and verbose) mark on - Swamp Thing, Watchmen, Batman, Top Ten, Miracleman and all of these were other peoples ideas, characters or concepts. Kirkman made Invincible a really excellent read, yet it was nothing more than a revamp of Dan Vado's The Griffin and The Walking Dead is basically a comicbook version of George Romero's Dead films. Arguably, Romero could have done with someone like Kirkman to write the last three of the Dead films, because the comic is considerably better than any of them.

In the TV series, the wholly capable Frank Darabont has thankfully taken elements of the comic and added his own unique twists; because, frankly, if he adapted the TV series straight from Kirkman's scripts, you would be reaching for the sleeping tablets and razorblades before the end of season 1. Yet the amazing thing is that for the first 6 issues (with the best artwork) it doesn't really give you the impression that it would get so horrible.

If you take the E and the S off the end of Rick Grimes surname you get the word GRIM and that is an understatement as far as this comic is concerned. It is an immensely successful series for Image Comics, yet I know a lot of people who have actually stopped reading this comic because it is so relentlessly nasty. It taps into every single loathsome trait of humanity and polarises it; amplifies it beyond belief. There are very few people/characters in this book that have any redeeming qualities whatsoever - perhaps Glenn; the Asian kid in the TV series; he seems to be the only character in the entire story that you don't, at some point, feel contempt for and he's still alive after 78 issues!

After issue 7, the British artist Charlie Adlard comes on board. He was obviously recruited because unlike original artist Tony Moore, he could produce an issue in the allotted time frame. Unfortunately, not only is Adlard a poor artist, he makes the experience of reading this comic even more grimmer. For people who are watching the TV show, don't be put off by this review; already 4 episodes in, it seems that only the themes are the same and even if the show runs and runs, I don't expect it to stay true to the comic. I really don't think the viewer would have the stomach for it and I'm not talking about the zombies.

In short, as stated earlier, there are few humans that walk out of this story with any shred of decency and Rick Grimes isn't one of them. Over the space of the comic's life he transforms from the good ol' boy likeable police officer into a fascistic, nasty piece of crap with very little mitigating circumstances for his at times psychopathic behaviour. He is actually an anti-hero. But, that's possibly the entire reason for the comic; you see it isn't about the walking dead, it's about the depths humanity will go to survive in a world where there are no longer any rules.

I read all 78 issues over the space of 3 days and even in parts where you're supposed to be happy for the characters, you just wait for the inevitable hell to come crashing in. No one, even Grimes, is safe. Just about everyone in the series either gets killed, mutilated, shot or fucked up and over. It makes you wonder what goes on in Kirkman's head - does he really think humanity would be like this when the chips are down? The problem is, you kind of think he does and that he's not wrong, especially in the USA, where guns and bigotry are rife.

It is not a pleasant read. It doesn't look pretty (but this is down to Adlard being a crap but really quick artist) and its a bit like rubbernecking a car crash; you want to look away, but you also want to keep looking to see if it really can get any worse. Even when you think it has reached genuine low points, it manages to sink even lower. It's like Kirkman has this bet that he can't gross people out further than ever before and again, I'm not talking about what the zombies do, I'm talking about what the humans do.

One thing is obvious to me, comics are no longer escapist entertainment; a chance to enter a make believe world for 15 minutes of fun; with The Walking Dead you get transported to a world where humanity is nestling in a big bucket of rancid shit and is enjoying, even wallowing in, the stench.

There are a slew of trade paperbacks available on Amazon. Once upon a time, people would joke to aspiring suicidal types that they should invest in a Leonard Cohen album, or maybe The Cure's Pornography album. This is the best investment you could make if you want to kill yourself. Yet, for all of that, it's still got me hooked and I want to read #79 and #80 and so on and so forth; because like rubberneckers, I want to see how low humanity can go.

***

One final Facebook game mention. There's this game called Bejewelled Blitz. I resisted it for months; but finally decided to try out the game that over 40 of my actual friends play. I now know why I don't like computer games. I'm crap at it. It doesn't matter what help I get, I'm just no fast enough to get a high score and the only reason I have got some of the scores I have is because of the way the game has been benevolent to me.

2 comments:

  1. To really appreciate Alan Moore's Swamp Thing you need to read along with the annotations at http://www.tinyurl.com/readswampthing

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  2. I read Moore's Swamp Thing way back when he first wrote it; mainly because Swamp Thing by Wein and Wrightson was the first US comic I ever bought. I hated Moore's version, but I was still young (in my early 20s) and didn't give it enough time. I returned to it many years later with fresh eyes, having spent a couple of hours talking to Alan in the pub about it. In many ways I hated it even more because he should have just created his own elementals idea and discarded Swamp Thing; instead he not only de and reconstructed the reason I read American comics in the first place, but he filled it with his own pretentious, drug-fuelled personality, in what I regard as him doing what he did just to be seen as different.
    I don't feel a comicbook should need annotations to fully understand or appreciate it, it is essentially there as 15 minutes of escapism and fun. Moore didn't do what he did to try and make comics more serious; he did what he did to Swamp Thing because it was dead on its feet - he would have done exactly the same with any comic that was to be cancelled; because he believed that he could save anything by changing it beyond belief. But the point was, it was someone else's idea and character; he just came along and did something no one else had done before with it. He did the same with the Charlton heroes in Watchmen; he did a superhero NYPD Blue or Hill Street Blues with Top Ten and he took a 50s idea and updated it with MM and someone else's groundwork with Captain Britain. It doesn't matter how good a writer he is, he rarely comes up with his own original concepts; he needs others' to do the conceptualisation for him.

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