Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Buggeration and Automation

August is going out with quite a belly flop. It's actually chilly out there. The seasons are all over the place and I expect we'll see snow by November.

I'm sort of exasperated today; I can't access one of my two gmail accounts. It claims that I'm trying to access the account from somewhere I've never accessed it from before; which is rubbish; but doesn't take you any further in the process unless you want to go through a complex set of mazes and hurdles, which, I have to be honest about, I couldn't if I wanted to because I literally cannot answer some of the questions. The account was essentially used so I could access Google Docs and do some stuff while I was at work, during my last couple of months there when I had nothing to do.

As I've been in a creative mood recently, I thought I'd go and look at the things I'd done and saved on there. I can't. I can't because I can't give them 5 email addresses I regularly send to on that account. I also can't give them examples of four tags I've used. Because I don't use it as an email account - there's no need. I have my Yahoo account and my other gmail account and that's it. I don't even have a working POP3 account now. Outlook Express is now 'so yesterday'.

So, because I can't give them this information, I can't contact them. There is a feedback form and I've filled this out and been told I can't give them enough information to allow them to give me access to it. So, it looks like I've lost some stuff to the ether (either that or someone has hacked into it, which is unlikely given the password I set).

I don't mind losing stuff. In 1998, I started writing a book. It was, probably, the best thing I'd ever written at that point in my life. It was called Succubus and I'd written well over 50,000 words. While it was probably suffering from being rough around the edges, I was really into it.

In a nutshell, it told of a man who had everything he ever wanted; nice house, good career, beautiful wife; until his wife disappears. Within a week of her disappearance people started to forget who she was; the police seemed to lose all the relevant paperwork. His wife started to disappear from photos. His friends started to talk about him like he had been on his own for years and eventually no one remembered his wife, except him and he started to go a little loopy. However, an old friend of his does remember her; very well and the two of them try and find out what happened. The friend introduces the man to someone who has suffered the same experience and the three of them go in search of his wife - who they believed to be a succubus.

I was having problems with my old PC and a friend offered to fix it for me. He claimed it was a small registry problem and easily fixable; so I dropped the PC round and stupidly I hadn't done a back up for about three months. The next day, my friend called and said I could pick the PC up. As I was carrying it back to car, he casually dropped, "I hope you did a back up?"
"No," I said. "You said it was a simple fix."
"Yeah, I just wiped your hard drive and reinstalled Windows again. You're going to have to re-install all your software."
"What? You never said you were going to format it?"
"That was the simple fix," he said sounding as bothered as a pig at a bar mitzvah.
"But, you could have told me, I would have backed everything up."
"I figured you knew what I was going to do."
"I could have fucking reformatted it. I've lost three months work. Magazine stuff, my own personal stuff. How do we get it back?"
"We don't. It's gone. Nothing I can do about it."

Suffice it to say, my friend became a 'friend' and I had virtually nothing to do with him ever again. I sat down and tried to write Succubus again, but it just didn't flow the same way as it had first time around and after about 6,000 words I shelved it. It was incredibly frustrating, but, there was literally nothing I could do. An actual friend suggested trying to see if any fragments had been left, but that came to nothing and I resigned myself to the fact that a) you have to back up all the time and b) you have to be prepared to suffer the consequences if you don't.

The problem is if you store stuff on line and forget something it might as well be your hard drive going tits up for the chances you have of recovering it. It's not even like it was a blog and I could just cut and paste stuff into a new document.

***

Coupled with the above, the net's been up and down like the Assyrian empire all day. I don't know if it was me farting about or some Virgin problem; but all in all, I've spent far too much time here. I need to do things, even if they are housework and job searches!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gabrielle Stanton Should be Ashamed of Herself

After last week's episode, where bad editing was the only real low point, this week's Haven came along and obliterated our (well my) beliefs that this is a show that can only get better.

There have been some stinkers in this TV series and, absurdly, they are the episodes that make Haven such a cult classic. This one exceeded some of the worst story telling a television series has ever seen and left me laughing and wondering whether or not the cast are just collecting their pay cheques, because they obviously are either stupid or couldn't care less.

This latest stinker was about a group of amphibious men, an apparent suicide and two sides of Haven PD - the completely incompetent side of it and also it's ability to deduce a complicated crime with no explanation at all.

Essentially it all boiled down to this:
Audrey and Nathan have discovered the identity of the dead body washed up on one of Haven's beaches. Nathan says, "He's from this group of people who live out on a compound in a really isolated place. There are no roads out there."
[15 seconds later]
Nathan says, "My dad and I used to drive out there sometimes."
[10 seconds later, in the next scene]
Nathan and Audrey are driving to the compound...

All of this took place inside one of the 42 minutes...

Surely the actors playing the leads must have said something to the director or the show runner or even each other? Is Lucas Bryant as stupid in real life as he looks?

The other totally laughable element of the show, as I said earlier, is the complete and utter impotency of Haven PD. Two armed officers try to achieve something at the compound and are threatened off with guns; a namby-pamby threat of a warrant is made and Audrey and Nathan are driven off with intimidation. Now, this is supposed to be America; the supposed antagonists are behaving like David Koresh is their best friend. You'd think that the full force, plus state troopers would be descending on the place like flies round shit; but instead, less than a minute later, our heroes are chatting to the lead antagonist like he's the cousin of Jesus.

Later, Nathan and Audrey attempt to arrest the local reverend, believing him to be responsible for a crime. Two of the local vicar's henchmen attack the two Haven PD officers and only stop because the Rev tells them to. When the antagonist comes along to kill the Rev, he protests his innocence and every one accepts it. For all the power they wield, they might as well be the local ice cream salesmen.

Later when Nathan confronts the antagonist and tells him that he killed the person who washed up on the beach, he's told that he can't arrest him, so he doesn't. (I almost wanted to watch it again to find out just how the forensics lab came up with this deduction; it was a kind of deus ex machina explanation...)

The big problem with this episode is that while Haven is complete and utter poo; it's fun poo. This was simply badly plotted, badly scripted, badly acted and badly thought out. In other words - bad stinky poo.

The show just reached its nadir, surely?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

14,964

I have a really awful confession to make. At least, I think it's awful.

I realised that I wanted to be a writer when I was about 12. Just around the time I realised that I had as much artistic talent as a mollusc with a club foot. School teachers seemed to think I had a future as an artist, because I drew all the time; but they were either stupid or being nice to me, because I knew that drawing wasn't going to get me anything. I was pretty much crap at it.

At 15, I discovered the likes of Stephen King and Peter Straub and I decided that I would be a novelist. It was a fait accompli; I had ideas and imagination, what could go wrong?

Well, not writing much between the ages of 20 and 30 for a start; mainly shopping lists and mixtape track lists. But a lot of it might have had to do with the fact that from the moment I left school I never attempted to write anything fictional in the short form. I have never started and finished a short story. The format has never appealed to me and because I've always had huge, expansive ideas, I've rarely come up with a decent idea that didn't want to turn into a trilogy.

On Wednesday, I walked the dogs in the usual place and had an idea. I could tell you how I come up with my ideas, but it's actually pretty much the way my sometimes abstract mind works. just because I see something inspirational doesn't necessarily mean it will even remotely resemble the idea I end up with.

By the time I got back to the car, I had a fully formed story in my head; a beginning, a middle and an end.

Yesterday morning I opened up a new document in Word and started writing; by the end of the day I had written a little over 7,500 words. Just before midnight on Friday, I put down the final sentence. It weighed in at just less than 15,000 words and while it's nowhere near finished (it needs editing, rewriting in places and probably 500 words taking out); it's finished! The first ever short story wot I wrote with a beginning, middle and end.

How awful is that for someone who has always fancied his chances of writing best sellers?

It's a sort of dog walking ghost cum disaster story. It tips the hat to MR James and at the moment I quite like it. It gave me chills writing it.

I'm going to do something else I've never done before next week. To go along with baking my first loaf of bread and writing my first short story, I'm going to give it to the wife to read. We've been together 28½ years and I can't recall ever giving her any prose to read.

Before that happens, I will of course give the story its first edit; check for bad grammar and make sure it flows and makes sense; but I'm going to rely on her to sub it for me. Then, after I've made any corrections, I'm going to publish it on here. But first I'm going to ignore it until next Tuesday; allow myself to grow a little unfamiliar with it.

Next Wednesday, if this post has suddenly disappeared, you'll have a pretty good idea why.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Do Insomniacs Think of Sleeping Sheep?

Over the last 20 odd years, I have been prone to bouts of insomnia. It's one of those weird things that triggers all the worst things in your subconscious. Sunday night, I went to bed exhausted. It was late (actually Monday morning) and it never crossed my mind that when I got into bed I would suddenly become wide awake.

I think in many cases insomnia is psychosomatic; often triggered by a stray, almost unintentional thought. When I was younger, it was set off by a simple thing; allowing my mind to contemplate how we fall asleep. What happens in that moment as you drift away; does your mind just switch off? Can you monitor it? I'd analyse how we get to sleep and it would make me not sleep. Psychologists would probably tell you that it is manifest by some other subconscious worry or concern and I was just using the sleep mystery as an excuse. They'd probably be right, but what goes on in my subconscious is not something I can access at will.

During my late 30s, at the most stressful period of working for the magazine, I'd come home exhausted from 40 hour long shifts and find it difficult to sleep; my mum would have called it being overtired, but whatever the reason it created an odd mixture of feeling like I'd been on amphetamines (something I was never into) and coming down with the flu. My mind would still be racing even though my body would be screaming for me to just switch off and let nature work its magic.

So, on Sunday, I slipped into bed about 1.15am; I expected (probably subconsciously) to be asleep within a few minutes, but as I got comfortable, I realised that I no longer felt tired; in fact, my mind was racing. By 3.15, I was growing more and more anxious; I know my mind and as soon as I started to think I couldn't get to sleep, I knew that getting to sleep was going to become even more difficult. I shifted around, trying to find a new sleeping position and I figure I drifted off to sleep around 4am. When I got up, a little before 10 (the wife had booked the day off) I felt perfectly fine; like my body just didn't need as much sleep as I figured it did.

So, at about 10.30 last night, I opted to complete an outstanding application form for a job I don't really think I have much chance of getting, but if you don't try you don't get. It took me longer than I thought; I wanted to make a fist of it even if my expectations were nought. I finished it about midnight; decided that I needed to check and edit it, but needed to be away from it for a while. So I played patience for half an hour and then went back to the application. It needed nothing much doing to it, but what was changed was important. I opened up an email on Yahoo and started writing the covering letter. Switched to Word, where I saved the document with a new name and when I returned to Yahoo mail, it said that I had been disconnected.

After a couple of seconds of confusion, I saw that the little warning ! was showing where my Internet connection was and I decided that it must have crashed, so I rebooted the computer and tried again with no luck. I couldn't understand why I'd suddenly lost connection, so I ran a diagnostic; rebooted again, tried everything you have to to reset the modem and by 1.30, I was tired, pissed off and angry. The application needed to be in the company's hands by 9am today, which meant I had two options; get up early and see if the net was back up and/or print a copy out and drive the thing down town and hand deliver it. With these alternatives in place, I shut the computer down and went to bed.

As I lay in bed, I realised that my black ink cartridge had run out and that I'd have to print it out in dark blue, which, I believed, didn't look good. So I resolved to get up in the morning, check the net and if it was down, call Roger, give him a lift to work and take the file with me, print it out and drop it down or as an alternative, get access from his work computer and send it from there. A lot of farting about for a job I don't have a lot of hope with, but you have to go the extra yard and by 2am I was thinking that this was the kind of hurdle you faced when fate determines you're going to get something, but have to work for it. I turned over and tried to go to sleep.

At 4am, the wife got up to use the lady's room and I was still awake. I'd allowed myself to remember that I couldn't sleep the night before and subsequently my mind offered up the question, 'what if?' and the cycle began again.

I finally drifted off about 5am, I think I just gave out, but at 6am the alarm went off. I had by this time, feeling shit and with a stinking headache decided the application form can go to hell; but had forgotten that I'd left an note by the alarm to reset it for 8am. I managed to get to sleep again quickly, but almost as soon as I slept, it seemed the alarm went off again. I was awake again, I might as well sort out this poxy job application, then perhaps I could have a bath and a kip on the sofa. but if I have a kip on the sofa, I'll not be able to sleep tonight, even with a few pints inside me (it's quiz night). So, I'm sitting here on a cold miserable August day, the rain is falling and it's blowing a gale through my office window and I feel like several lumps of shit, forced together with burning matchsticks stuck in it to brighten the mood...

***

I did something yesterday that I haven't done for 49½ years. I baked some bread! it was a success. It's a real loaf that tastes like bread and is nice. There's a long story behind it's arrival, but even I'm not going to subject you to it, it's pretty much the most dull bread story ever...

***

Sport is now reserved for Sportsdiscuss over on Live Journal, which I write with Roger, but I can't help but mention it briefly because of something I read in the paper yesterday.

Celtic had lost to St Johnstone at home on Sunday and it was something of a shock. The write up in the paper the next day had a quote from Celtic manager Neil Lennon which, I think, goes a long way to explaining the defeat. He said, "The front six just didn't click today".

The front six? What was he playing, a revolutionary new 4-0-6 formation? Someone needs to take him to one side and mention the word 'midfield' to him as it's obviously been lost from his mind.

***

I can't be arsed to write a full blown review of it, but can I thoroughly recommend the Norwegian film Troll Hunter to anyone who fancies 100 minutes of utterly bonkers comedy played absolutely straight. It's brilliant. And it could only be done in a Scandinavian country; it just wouldn't work in the USA, although you could possibly get away with setting it in the North of Scotland or some of the wilderness around Connemara in west Ireland.

It is also possibly the best 'lost footage' movie I have seen since Cannibal Holocaust and puts films like Paranormal Activity, Rec, Catfish or Cloverfield to shame. It is quite an extraordinary film from a region that is quickly growing into one of best film making places in the world.

***

Nothing much to report re: Haven. This weeks episode had a Groundhog Day theme and would have worked quite well had the acting been any good and the weather conditions on the repeated day been the same, but one moment it was foggy and the next it was blazing sunshine. Does anyone actually edit this thing?

I have all but given up on True Blood. it's just plain boring. Every week I just feel like it's becoming what I call it a Carry On film. You would think that for such a successful show they'd spend some money on special effects! Or maybe on a plot that's good. I really can't see this lasting much more than one more season unless it jumps the shark and does something interesting.

I can't recommend Monty Hall's Great Irish Escape enough. It's cracking natural history TV, with a man you can't fail to like, with an enthusiasm that is totally infectious. I'm playing catch up with it and have been enthralled by the utter beauty of the west of Ireland and the impression that it could be one of the most idyllic places to live on the planet, even if it is probably quite cold and a bit isolated.

***

Any errors are attributed to me feeling like crap.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

I know a really well adjusted human that thinks Aqua's Barbie Girl is a great pop song. I have a friend who cannot resist singing along to I Will Survive whenever it is on, wherever she is. We all have ephemeral guilty pleasures, but the real ones are the kind that we can revisit time and again and really feel a way we miss.

Asking people what their favourite songs or films are is one of those things where rarely can you think of one thing; a favourite something tends to change with whatever mood we're in. Ask someone to list their five favourite somethings and two of them will invariably change over time.

I love films; I've seen shitloads. It's pretty much my specialist subject in quizzes (unless there's a James Bond question, then it tends to be an educated guess - as I said to an old friend recently, most James Bond films could be called Fred Smith 007 for the relevance they have to Fleming's books). Throughout my life there have been loads of movies that I've loved and a good percentage of those have slightly lost their impact with time; they're still great, but, you know, maybe not in my top 5, 10, 50 or whatever, any longer.

There have been three films that have been constants in my favourite films list ever since I first saw them. Others still poke around and drop in and out of the other two places, but these three have remained constant. The first (but not necessarily FIRST) is Close Encounters of the Third Kind (original version, which I own on VHS tape). I think the Special Edition is great, but the first version still has me completely enthralled and I've now seen it so many times I can virtually speak everyone's lines - even bits of the Spanish at the beginning. CE3K isn't a masterpiece; it has flaws and over 30 years since it came out some of the ideas are a wee bit... silly. But I think Richard Dreyfuss is brilliant; I think for its time it is pretty much Spielberg's best film and it makes me blub at the end, every time, without fail.

The second film in the trio is Harvey starring Jimmy Stewart and an invisible 6 foot tall rabbit. As screwball comedies go, there's very little to compare. It is just surreal enough to make you wonder just what is really going on and it's just a very subversive film for its age. this has more sentimental value for me than I can fully explain.

The final film in that trio is one that has matured with age and has taken on a different resonance in this century. It is a film about which I have little understanding; it makes no sense at all, but like the other two films it is a fantasy - possibly the purest fantasy of them all. It wreaks of Americanism; it has a wooden actor in the lead; a turn by a legend that is spellbinding and a supporting actor who just spends the entire film looking like he's having the most fun he's ever had. It also makes me cry and not just at the simply brilliant ending, but throughout the entire film. There are moments when I speak the next lines of certain characters and I just well up!

It is a film that is both very sad and capable of making me feel elated, reinvigorated, capable of facing the challenges of life and not because they will be solved by a fantastically bizarre idea, because we all have the ability to beat the things that hold us back. It's allegory dressed up as the American Dream and it is probably my biggest guilty pleasure. It's not a film that movie buffs will recognise as a piece of film making history or even a worthy entry into lists of favourite films, but I know heaps of people who just love it all the same.

I watched it again tonight, for probably the sixth or seventh time. I think it might be the first time I've watched it since my dad died; that episode in my life has added a totally new dimension to this film. I got upset, but in a good way and I don't care what people think, at this moment in time, this 1989 film is probably my favourite film of all time.

Can you guess what it is yet?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Worst Fears and All That

I might not have proper arthritis, but Jesus Harry Christ, do my bones tell me when it's damp and rainy, or what? Those of you who are always eager to read about my ails and woes will be disappointed to hear that since about April my general aches and pains have abated to the point where I even think of myself as being almost as fit as a man fast approaching 50 can be. I suppose the dry year has had a lot to do with it and that thing we talked about a couple of months ago - the special medicine.

However, I appear to have developed 'Tennis Elbow', despite not playing tennis. I know what it is, it's the same thing as is affecting all of my joints; the gradual degeneration because of wear and tear. it seems like a pathetic diagnosis really; but if you ask me, or my mate Wendy who also suffers from this debilitating problem, we'd tell you that GPs are as useful as using a jellyfish to clean your windows. What we really want is a miracle drug to stop the pain, or at least one that doesn't fuck us up in a not very nice way. No wonder people prefer illegal drugs to prescription ones - the fun ratio is disparate.

My elbow shows absolutely no visible signs that it feels as though I have bones grinding together like two Russians in a porn movie, but bone problems will always be viewed by people with massive scars or missing limbs as 'out of sight and not that bad'.

Ironically, I think the problem I'm having with my right elbow is directly linked to my problems with my left shoulder. Sounds unlikely I know, but if you consider the fact that I was using my right arm twice as much as normal during an 18 month period, then this not so sudden problem becomes easier to understand. Damp days like today only exacerbate it.

***

Walking the dogs down my usual haunt - Bradlaugh Fields - I normally, when I'm on my own, go round the perimeter of the south side of this sprawling wilderness. this involves skirting with the Morrisons' garage and walking along the security fence of the local allotments. For the last few days there has been a really horrid smell emanating from a copse of wild plum trees, surrounded by brambles and knowing that at least two of my dogs have a real thing about rolling on rotting carcasses, I've been walking passed this part of the fields at double pace, especially as the smell has been getting worse.

For the first few times, I just took it for granted that it was some dead animal, but yesterday I must have been in a wildly imaginative mood, because I suddenly thought that this part of Bradlaugh Fields was perfect for hiding a dead body. Parts of it are virtually impenetrable, unless you have heavy duty overalls and padded gloves. What if someone had dumped a body there? What would I do? How would I react? Do you know how you can sometimes convince yourself that your worst fears are going to be realised? Well, the closer I got to the pungent odour, the more I thought I was going to find a dead body. The smell of rotting flesh was unlike any I'd ever smelled before - it had a sweet tinge to it and this just heightened my fears.

I also don't know if my fear of this or my urgency to avoid the place on previous trips had some effect on the dogs, but they seemed to be uninterested in the smell and avoided this patch almost visibly; this further enhanced my belief that I was going to uncover a murder. The truth turns out to be almost a bizarre...

I decided that it was almost a civic duty to investigate; so I stopped at the point where the smell was worst and tried to peer through the brambles. I didn't see anything. the dogs were not interested in what I was doing, so I moved along a bit and used the dog lead I was carrying to help pull back the wild growth. Did I see something? I think I did and my stomach turned over. I looked again and saw something pink.

Deciding that I was right; I moved along and found a spot that allows you to move into the copse of plum trees without encountering the brambles; only Murray was interested in what I was doing and he was stuck to my heel like a wad of chewing gum. Was he as nervous as me? Then I saw it and at first it was the mutilated body of a small child. I almost screamed out. Then I looked more closely and my brain started to play tricks on me; it must have been. Lying about ten feet in front of me was the carcass of a pig. A pig? I shook my head. How the fuck does a pig get there? It was barely fully grown from my guess, possibly six months old and it had obviously been had by either foxes or badgers (my mind was not entertaining any thing else at that time); but how the hell did it get to Bradlaugh Fields?

All I could think of was that the allotments have some livestock; someone must have been keeping pigs and this one must have been captured and killed and then somehow dragged back to a safe place to chow down on. But the allotments are like Colditz; they have touch fences and razor wire running along the top. the only way for this pig to have got where it was was by being dragged through a tunnel. But it fucking freaked me out for a second!

***

It's cold and wet and while days like this spoil summers; I'm the first to realise that a) the gardens need it and b) it propagates the return of mushrooms. From the weekend on, keep your eyes open, you'll start to see an abundance of potentially gourmet offerings popping up in the unlikeliest of places.

I've already found my first wild mushroom of the year; it was in my garden, growing amongst the old lilac tree that has turned into a weed. it was a parasol and it had been eaten to buggery by insects. They grew there last year and were just another of the many things I ate for free. So, I've been keeping an eye on this patch of the garden and giving it some extra water, despite not really needing it now as the strawberries have all died back.

Then the day before yesterday I saw a little nub poking out of the ground. It looked like the start of another parasol and it also gave me the opportunity to see if a theory of mine is correct - that parasol mushrooms stop growing once they've been seen (because my experience suggests exactly that). Yesterday, I checked on it again and true enough it hadn't changed. I moved the leaves to one side and touched the cap; then had an awful case of stupid realisation. It was a stone. It wasn't going to get any bigger and it certainly wouldn't be an added bonus to a culinary dish. I chuckled at myself over that one!

***

I've been pleasantly surprised by two albums over the last couple of weeks. The first is The Horrors new CD, Skying, which is just remarkable. It sounds like an album from the 1980s with 21st century production. I can now understand why the press were so amazed by this album, because the little bit of The Horrors I'd heard before this made me want to put drills in my ears!

The other album is the new one from Bon Iver, which is pretty much indescribable - it's a mixture of prog, folk, chill and dream like melodies that are not like the boring stuff the band did in the past that have made them firmly no where near my music radar. There are a few moments in it that make you think you're listening to some MOR US Rock band from the 1980s, but I'm forgetting that bands now a days are all influenced by everything, even the shit we used to avoid when we were their age.

***

I have irons in the fire again. Keep your fingers crossed that something positive comes from this round of applications!

Monday, August 15, 2011

stubble bum

Learnt much I have, over the last few days. Not all of it was understood.

Humility, avarice, desperation and despondency have all featured. Roger calls my current mental condition the 'Slough of Despond' and to be honest if I don't get something (a job) soon enough I might as well do a Reggie Perrin, become a beachcomber in Newquay and live in a yurt. At least I'll have a sun tan and be surrounded by unobtainable but pretty young things...

For the second summer in three, I have found myself with more time on my hands than I know what to do with. the first time I was stymied by my shoulder op; this time it's a financial impediment that is preventing me from spending this summer doing something exciting, different or even energetic. With our big party looming closer still, I'm having to make sure that I spend as little as possible; after all, none of the money I might be spending was earned. Last week, I went an entire 7 days with 11p in the my pocket. I spent no money (apart from £6.30 of Roger's money on two pints of Bishop's Farewell). Our shopping bill this week came to less than £30 - that's the smallest amount paid by us since the 1980s!

But, to be fair, I have runner beans, French beans, apples, plums, rhubarb, raspberries (still), beetroot, hazelnuts, potatoes, peppers and herbs in abundance - if I were to invent new dishes like apple curry, runner bean stew or French bean, rhubarb and coriander souffle, then I could probably eat for almost nothing until the end of September, when I will either have a job or will be planning a bank heist. (Apparently Blogger's spell checker doesn't know what 'heist' is!)

In true penny-pinching, making ends meet culinary assertiveness; Fishwife's son gave us a bunch of freshly pulled carrots from their modest veg patch and gave them to us for the rabbit. I looked at this bunch of baby 'orange sticks of joy' (© 1992-2007 Gifford Hall) and thought, 'bollocks to the bunny, there's a dozen edible roots there". So we had them sautéed in a little butter and sugared water with our Sunday lunch.

Talking to my delightfully eccentric and slightly insane brother Ronnie last week, it was his 58th birthday, he said that he was having problems with his courgettes. I asked him what the problem was.
"I've got hundreds of the bloody things!" He says.
"How many plants have you grown?"
"About a dozen."
Last year, the wife grew one courgette plant (that's zucchini to our American friends) and we had more baby marrows than you could shake the proverbial stick at. We were giving them away; composting them and I even tried to kill the plant off towards the middle of September, but we still managed some weirdly deformed ones before the frosts came. Having a dozen courgette plants is a little like deciding to go into the courgette business. He could sell his fruits to Tesco's for the next month and still have enough to solve the famine in East Africa, invent zucchini ice cream and enter the gnarliest specimens into a 'Look my courgette looks like Ron Jeremy's penis' competition!

I believe there is a kind of strange brotherhood that springs up; the Squash Heads. A group of people that basically exchange different types of Curcurbita pepo with each other like people re-wrap unwanted Christmas presents and dump them on someone they feel obligated to buy something for, but don't really want to.

I was never a huge fan of The Young Ones, I think my aversion to that Mayall twat soured it for me; but sometimes when I'm standing in my garden, I think of Neil the hippy and his 'you sow the seed...' mantra and share his wonder at how we can actually grow all kinds of stuff that we have to pay good sheckles for in a supermarket. How much better it tastes and how a scar or a touch of blight on an apple doesn't make us bat an eyelid. Everybody should be made to grow something; even if they only have a window box. Perhaps that would make supermarkets understand that uniform might suit them, but it doesn't suit everybody.

***

I've been slightly overwhelmed by the 20 odd copies of my Kindle book that I've sold. I think I said before that I would have been happy selling just one, but in recent days it's sold twice what it did in its first week; I'm getting requests for different formats and I even got offered a proper publishing deal from some bunch of cowboys who offered me a whopping 22% of net profit. That's 'net' profit - a little under a ¼ of anything it makes above break even. I thought that was a bit of a rip off, regardless of the risk the publisher was taking. it might be standard practice; but part of me thinks that if a publisher will approach someone, without going through an agent first (which I haven't got and don't think I deserve), is a trifle dodgy.

Technology seems to be moving so fast now, I feel as though I'm being left behind. I seem to have an inherent stubbornness for understanding current technology trends. I still struggle with RSS feeds and they've been around for donkeys. Subsequently, I'll try to find out something new and I'm faced with pages of explanations, FAQs and mindless waffle from technoheads and I yearn for Windows 3.1 and a 286 PC...

***

And then something weird happened...

Phill on Film

I've watched a few odd films this year, many of them have been made around 2005; films I either missed or fell under my radar. The most recently released film seen in recent weeks was Duncan Jones's Source Code, which for all of it's faults was still not half as good as it thought it was.

Then, a couple of weeks later, I watched a film recorded off the TV. Called The Jacket, made in 2005, it starred Adrien Brody and was essentially an existential version of Source Code. There seemed to be an underlying theme in many of the films I watched - time and travel and sometimes the two together. Tideland was a disturbing film which under normal circumstances would have taken the title for most weird and fucked up movie, that was also made in 2005, had it not been for the film I watched tonight, which in its own way is all about time.

Cashback was made in 2004 and 2006. It started as a short and was developed into a feature. Its average is 2005. Here's the pitch as I see it: It's the story of an art student who gets dumped by his girlfriend for suggesting they split up because he's resigned to the fact that he'll never totally please her. As a result, he succumbs to a severe case of insomnia that allows him to eventually stop time, in between seconds - he can do this for as long as he likes until he cracks his fingers when it all starts again. Now, because our hero Ben is awake 24/7, he decides to take a job at his local Sainsbury's working nights.

His nocturnal world is shared by a menagerie of idiots and buffoons he works with and Sharon, the till girl he's slowly falling in love with. Also sharing his life is his best friend Shaun, who is pretty much guaranteed a laugh every time he is on screen, his ex-girlfriend, who looms large in the background throughout, especially through her coincidental links to Ben's new night life. The general story line follows a well worn path - the path to true love and all its hurdles and unintentional little things that try to get in its way. The thing, apart from the stopping of time, that makes it stand above lots of films with the same kind of love story going on is the lead character's fascination with naked women.

If you watch parts of this film with the sound off you would think you were watching a perverts wildest dream - it has more nudity in it and exposed female rude bits on display than a year's worth of Men Only - yet even with all this flesh on display, it's sort of essential to the plot and Ben's development and realisation. There is a scene, shortly after his discovery of his power that echoes Nicholas Baker's The Fermata, when Ben puts all the female customers in the store in states of varying undress and yet for all of this it doesn't feel like you're being deliberately titillated; it's like it's being used as an allegory for how desensitised we become about almost everything. Eventually, all the plot threads fall into place; there's a feel good element and a satisfying ending - pretty much want you want from a film like this.

The special effects are also quite excellent, considering the film was made on such a small budget and Sean Biggerstaff and Emilia Fox are both exceptional. I sort of think people would like it and I think as long as you warn people that there is gratuitous nakedness throughout the film, which somehow belongs there, then they'd get as much enjoyment out of it as I did. I think it's a really excellent unknown film.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Falling Expectations

Another of my periodic examinations (with umpteen spoilers, so be warned) of the other shit TV I've been watching...

If I've expressed amazement in the past at the renewal of Haven, I was bemused beyond belief that Falling Skies has been picked up for a second season. Perhaps executive producer Steven Spielberg is going to pay for it with his loose change?

Falling Skies (FS) is pretty much the second worst SF/drama on the schedules, but unlike that personal guilty pleasure of mine often talked about here, this is just plain awful. I reviewed the first episodes about 8 weeks ago and concluded that it was a mix of V, The Walking Dead and a no-budget straight to DVD movie. Noah Wylie's presence just makes you wonder if he was doing someone a favour (but we'll come back to this).

It is six months after an alien invasion that has decimated the population, made mincemeat of the armies of the world and presumably shrugged off all the weapons we possessed. Once the aliens occupied the planet, they set about enslaving all the adolescents by attaching some Tingler-like harness to their backbones. These slaves then go about collecting scrap metal and generally being the alien workforce. The resistance - consisting of a rag tag bunch of reservists and civilians with gun training - is eking out an existence in the wastelands of USA, in broad daylight and as load as they like, while trying to win some battles for the beleaguered human race.

Even the premise is a bit pants, especially when you see the aliens, or who you think are the aliens. The 'Skitters' are six legged creatures capable of tearing a man apart; the Mechs are bipedal armoured robots that fire bullets that made a Colt 45 seem like a tickle from a feather. You can kill both with high calibre bullets or explosives; the general impression is that they are not that difficult to kill, it's just hard work.

The story follows the Massachusetts' 2nd; a ragtag bunch of fighters and civilians led by a commanding officer played by Will Patton, who is about as believable as Peter Pan and does nothing to endear himself to the viewer. He is the first character you don't care what happens to.

Instead of following a potentially weak idea up with a good story seemed to escape the writers and instead of exploring the raison detre of the aliens and inconsistencies of the invasion, the cast spend about 6 episodes looking at the human interaction and poor loosely threaded vignettes designed, I should think, to give you more empathy with the main characters. Where dystopia brings out the worst in people in the best way in The Walking Dead, all that it does with FS is make you constantly wonder how these people are alive when there are trained soldiers out there who can just about survive on the surface of the sun because they're that 'ard who are all apparently very dead.

The subplots meander; the main plot almost doesn't exist - it's a kind of static road movie with guns and it sort of offers up teasers and clues to what is going on, but there is an overwhelming feeling of 'who cares?' Then, in the age old tradition of this kind of treading water serial, it tries to do more in the penultimate episode than it has before and still fails to deliver even an interested noise from me. There are now proper aliens, because it is suspected that the Skitters are actually mutated adolescents, a cause of them being harnessed. One of the mildly interesting characters, who is essentially just a bit of a stereotypical redneck crook with a heart, develops a bullet that can do as much damage to the Mechs as they do and they come up with a device to jam the alien communications. But again, there's a 'so what' attitude; there are so many inconsistencies and ridiculously obvious unanswered questions and prepositions that you seriously have to question the intelligence of the US viewers who have made it worthy of a second season.

The grand finale has to be one of the weakest action scenes and cliffhanger I have ever witnessed. Noah Wylie's character takes out an alien construct with just a rocket launcher; the aliens' Achilles heel is a bog standard weapon with some Mech plating on the shell? How did they conquer Earth so easily if all you need is a few grenades to blow them up? Then, in what I presume was meant to be the real event, the aliens, who never seem to know where Noah and his band of stragglers are, just land in front of the departing fighters and explain that they didn't expect to get this resistance from the survivors and they wish for Wylie to go with them, to talk. So he gets onto the alien craft and the series ends. It could be that by the time the final episode was shot, Wylie decided that he needed out and this at least gives him a way out.

FS is shit. It is badly acted; the scripts seem phoned in; people do improbably stupid things and the producers' intentions of building a community that the viewer believes in is a pipe dream and it's just a little heavy handed with the schmaltz. If you're watching it on FX, it gets no better and if anything gets exasperatingly worse. If you intend to watch it on terrestrial TV when it arrives, don't. It really isn't worth the effort and to make things much much worse, despite Spielberg's name attached, it looks like it has been made for about $50 an episode. The special FX are hopeless; the acting is wooden and the sets are obviously staged. It's a bad idea done worse.

***

The turgidly named SyFy Channel has become synonymous with producing utter shit, yet they have two good shows that on the surface should never, ever, be. Eureka is a mixture of Einstein A-Go-Go and Die Hard. It's essentially a comedy in a 'aren't nerds funny' kind of way, yet it has story lines that are very dark. It is both superficial and complex, has a bunch of relatively likeable characters, who are all different, and despite it's irregular scheduling, over-dependence on cheap SFX and some lame stories, there is something reassuring and comfortable about having it back on.

It is also a show that, I believe, has turned jumping the shark into an art form. I think the show does it for fun rather than to boost ratings. It's very much a series where things get changed or change pretty quickly, but the core characters remain the same. It is therefore full of its own kinds of inconsistencies, but its quirky nature seems to allow it to get away with things other shows wouldn't. It also has probably one of the best 'death' scenes ever in modern TV, one that really shocks in an astounding way.

SyFy's other genuine hit is Warehouse 13. It is one of the most bonkers TV shows out there and like most other SyFy shows it staggers around in a drunken haze of stories and subplots that don't always work. Yet, it is quite brilliant. It is the one TV show I can guarantee a laugh out loud moment - normally provided by agent Pete Latimer, but not exclusively.

W13 is the X Files crossed with Moonlighting with soupçon of The Brady Bunch. It started as just a kind of comical X Files but soon developed into a truly bizarre series displaying an eccentricity and surreal feel that no other show in the USA has ever managed.

W13 also is all about the concept of the final scene of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. It is the place where the Ark of the Covenant might have gone; it is the place where all supernatural imbued artefacts are kept safe. It is also a law unto itself.

It is one of the rare TV shows where the plot takes a back seat to the interaction and development of the characters and their relationships. The writers know that the stars of the show are the characters not the stories they get involved in and unlike a lot of TV, you even start to feel sorry for some of the villains in this. It is a great way to spend 42½ minutes and it has Allison Scaglioti in it - the sexiest geek you will ever see.

***

Halfway through an entertaining but essentially quite stupid season of True Blood - the one currently showing on HBO at the moment - I came to the conclusion that it isn't actually that good. It's enjoyable and I enjoy watching it, but I no longer know why - perhaps it's familiarity. Oddly enough the show is becoming more and more like a cross between 1984 and A Midsummer Night's Dream. I christened it Carry on Vamping several weeks ago and I still feel it's just an excuse to get the tits out.

It's trying to do too much and not spending enough time on anything much. There is an element of confusion beginning to creep into the series and like so many other TV shows, it just isn't giving enough away any more.

***

Finally, Torchwood.

Hmm. It's a bit schizophrenic. Very few of the characters are believable and Eve Myles really can't act to save her life. I'm sure there's an explanation in the offing.

I got more of a kick out of the guy who played Ianto appearing in W13 than I have from anything in this Miracle Day. Even the once delectable Lauren Ambrose is looking a bit ropey...

Thou Dost Protest Too Much

My mate Billy is a Tory. I don't hold it against him; he's a good lad and no different from any other 21 year old I know. When I say, 'he's a Tory', I mean, he's a Conservative, he dislikes being called a Tory; but he is a prospective future MP for a party that I have despised since I drew my first political breath.

In the 1980s, when I felt for long periods that I was already on the waste heap, I often questioned why Thatcher's government had no desire to invest in the youth - the people who would ultimately inherit their jobs. Obviously, Thatcher and her crones didn't actually care about the youth of Britain unless their parents were dyed in the wool blue and then they didn't really care about them because they were all right. Their futures were already cast.

I asked Billy this question a couple of months ago. As someone who believes in the ethos of conservatism, I felt it would be interesting to hear from one of the youth involved in their party why they never seemed interested in investing in the future. The best answer he could give was the fact that cutting budgets for the young - the adolescent - was far easier and less impacting than cutting it from other front line services. People kick up a stink about NHS cuts, but close a youth club and people barely batter and eyelid.

He was also quick to point out that Labour governments have not fared much better with yoofs. Taking money away from our future has always been easy for whoever is in power. throw money at the young from different directions and it'll all work out in the end...

Zoe Williams in the Guardian today, said, "This is what happens when people don't have anything, when they have their noses constantly rubbed in stuff they can't afford." Which I think is essentially why we have developed a Chav or Underclass of society. The commercial world is geared up for people to spend more money than they have to own the things that advertisers tell you everyone else has.

You can't live without an iPhone, a flat screen TV, a top of the range PC, a Sky Sports subscription, a pimped up ride... Your life isn't complete if you haven't got what all the haves have got.

The young, especially the disenfranchised, don't know how else to be. Their parents, most of them casualties of the Thatcher era, couldn't give a shit what their kids are getting up to and they're not going to complain if little Johnny comes home with a 50 inch plasma TV. He might not even get a good hiding for being a cheeky little shit because of his ingenuity.

When I was at the YOT, the common misconception for car thieves is that everybody had fully comprehensive insurance and can easily replace the car they stole and then torched. The reality is somewhat different and sometimes reality was all the car thieves needed to stop stealing cars. that reality was, the only people's cars they could steal were people whose lives were worse than their own. "What does your mum/dad do for a living?"
"He drives a taxi."
"How would you feel if someone stole his taxi - his way of earning - and then torched it?"
"I'd fucking kill/maim/hurt them!"
"Wouldn't get your car back though would it?"

Every single car thief I worked with never stole another car, or if they did they'd be stealing cars from middle class areas of their towns and often being caught quicker because newer cars are considerably harder to steal than something some poor council estate dweller can afford with his cleaning job and five kids.

I occasionally met kids who would resist this approach by claiming they only ever stole cars such as BMWs, Mercedes and sporty cars. This was easily dealt with by reminding them they were now serving a court enforced order, because as good as they reckon they are at stealing cars; they're even better at being caught.

To say that 99% of the clients I worked with in the 6 years I was at the Youth Offending Service were from struggling families would not be a generalisation. The more money your parents earn the less chance you have of committing certain types of crime. In fact, of all the clients we had, the ones who came from good backgrounds were most likely prosecuted for violence towards another or car crimes involving Mummy's car (not one that had been hot wired). There were exceptions, but that's exactly what they were, exceptions to the rule.

In a lot of cases, young people's crimes tend to be survival crimes - stealing food or things to make their lives better than really crap. The first case I ever worked with was a lad who got done for stealing out of date food from a skip, which just happened to be inside Tesco's compound. He was homeless and he had no money. His parents were beasts who kicked him out of home at 16 because he didn't have a job. The poor lad also didn't have a high IQ or much chance of getting a job that would be able to support him. You don't hear about kids like this because it doesn't reflect very well on us as a nation. He gets lumped in with all the scum of the earth, when in reality people like this lad are scared shitless of each new dawn. They are also the kind of people who will get swept up in a passionate group of individuals intent on causing as much grief as they possibly can.

The people committing these acts are a mixture of crooks and ignorant young people who are fed up with having nothing and looking forward to having even more nothing.

I'm not condoning the riots at all, but the troubles were brewing for decades and they spill out when the have nots get fed up with it. Towns like Corby which have been decimated in the past by cuts implemented by whatever government is in charge just start to regain a little of its self esteem when someone else comes along and stops everything. The town's only youth centre is in danger of being closed because of cuts. It is a massive loss because it has taken the town years to clean the streets up and now the youth of Corby have nowhere to go again, except hang around the shops, getting bored and quietly belligerent about the people who are better off than them.

You could argue that all they have to do is get a job; get some independence and purpose in their lives. But if they take a minimum wage job, they can't afford their own place, because the rent alone would take 70% of their income. So they have to take supported housing, which costs them almost as much and they have to suffer the ignominy of being 'counselled' or 'supported'. Which feels like being at home again but with an enforced nagging session rather than sporadic ones.

The youth of today - the ones who haven't got parents who sacrifice everything for their children - have a God-awful task to just survive. They haven't got the decision making and reasoning faculties we have, so they make bad decisions or go down routes that ultimately screw them even further. Without sounding like a fascist, these are the people who eventually have a number of children by different partners, who bring their children up with the same disdain towards the world, authority and the law as they have.

In 1978, people of all ages were genuinely intimidated by policemen - not in an Orwellian way, but, perversely, in a 'they make me feel safe' kind of way. We respected them because they were our protectors; we were nervous about them because we either had something to hide or the massive amount of influence they had in the community made us passive in their presence. In 2011, kids as young as 6 openly taunt the police. Everyone is a cod lawyer who knows their rights and in general, unless you kill someone, the law isn't going to punish you too much.

Why did that happen?

Thatcher was why. Not just her, but every politician that has followed her into power. By eroding the poor and widening the gap between the haves and have nots, people grow up in micro-environments, where the black market is far more important than the actual ones.

We are fed the belief that wealth is happiness and having more than others is good; but humans are not perfect and like rats, when they feel cornered they fight back.

I lost my job working with young people who are the most likely to have been involved in this recent spate of riots. Four of us were axed in the name of cost cutting; the same has happened in numerous boroughs throughout the country. The police budgets have been slashed and the Home Secretary tells us that in no way will these cuts affect the safety of communities. The cuts haven't even begun and we're hovering around the edges of total anarchy.

Add to this fewer street lights; less places for kids to go and rising prices.

Do you feel safe?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Chavtastic Four

I'm sitting here, in my office, farting about. The window is open and I could hear people talking, so I peers out and there is a fat man wearing a tracksuit, two women, also in tracksuits, one with a pushchair. All three of the adults were using their mobile phones - two talking and one texting - and the little kid in the pushchair? She was playing with a toy mobile phone!

***

Yeah, there's riots everywhere. It's lawlessness gone crazy and there's no excuses for it at all.

Whenever the Tories get a sniff of power you can always guarantee the three Rs - Royal weddings, Recession and Riots.

However, despite people not having as much, I never expected mass looting.

I did hear a joke though that Tottenham have a new striker because of the riots; his name is Grabatelli...

***

I have signed up with an agency and am quite hopeful of some work in about 3 weeks or so, once my CRB has been done (again). It couldn't come at a better time as we have run out of money...

***

The book is available from Amazon now. It hit an all-time high of #4 in its category. Will know just how many I've sold soon enough. It might buy me a tin of beans or a loaf of value bread if I'm lucky!

Monday, August 08, 2011

43 minutes 37 seconds

It's time for another occasional foray into the world of the greatest television show ever made. It's time for your Haven round up!

I'm now a third of the way through season two and for a second there I actually believed this show was improving; which, paradoxically would have led me to dropping it from my watching list.

Let's recap, because I'm sure a lot of you haven't been paying attention. Haven is a fictional seaside town in Maine (although the series is filmed on Nova Scotia in Canada) which is plagued by ancient 'troubles' of the supernatural kind - not just ghosts, but all manner of X Files-esque weirdness. FBI agent Audrey Parker comes to the town to solve a case involving something that has long since escaped me and ends up asking to stay because a) the place is a bit weird and she's into weird and b) 20 years ago something happened in the town, which for some reason involves Audrey, because the woman in a photograph from the era looks just like her - her mother perhaps?

In the opening series, Audrey is allowed to second to the local Haven PD to aid them in solving the mystery of the growing number of 'troubles' related phenomena and you learn that there is a link between her FBI boss and the town sheriff. Audrey is teamed up with Nathan Wournos, the son of said sheriff, who just happens to suffer from a disease that means he can't feel anything - physically. The two hit it off as a double act and are soon uncovering mysteries faster than Scooby Doo. We meet a shadowy character called Duke Crocker, who is attracted to Audrey, is an old friend of Nathan's but the two dislike each other now because they sit on either side of the law. There are also other supporting characters with reoccurring roles; the local pathologist who seems to know the secret of Audrey, but dies just before she can tell her and an assortment of women that pop up, have a fling with Nathan and then disappear with flimsy excuses.

As I've said many times before, if you looked at the bare facts behind the series you'd think it was pretty good, especially the first season finale which had a second Audrey Parker turn up, with exactly the same memories as Audrey (1) and is an FBI agent, but, it isn't. It really isn't.

As previously mentioned; the scripts are as tight as a prolapsed arse; each episode sets up one character as the main threat and then either kills them off or incapacitates them so they cannot possibly them. Each episode hints and teases suggestions that we're going to find out some of the countless mysteries that have been built up; yet whenever Audrey confronts someone with information about her 'mother' or The Colorado Kid something stops her and that's it, she never bothers to go back and ask again. Not a lot makes sense; Audrey and Nathan behave like policemen written by a 12-year-old; whatever procedure they have there obviously isn't the same as anywhere else in the world. You get the impression by the disdain expressed by a lot of residents that the police are just an annoyance and if you protest enough they will go away and leave you alone. Amazingly, this appears to be what happens.

The plots are always pretty odd, but not in a good way and often stuff happens that you get no explanation for and everyone seems to forget about it within a few minutes. Much of the continuity is out of whack; some scenes are filmed in the spring and are cut into others filmed in the winter and whenever something is introduced into the series you are left wondering after several episodes why; especially when they peter out into another red herring. the thing is the show is a huge red herring, so even if something seemingly important happens, you know that it's going to end up being just another open-ended subplot, one which the writer doesn't appear to know where he's going. If, however, the show was well made and had a budget and actors, you might be prepared to put up with this cod-Lost like bollocks; but largely none of the subplots are interesting enough and are soon forgotten by the next dead end walking onto the set.

The acting is quite extraordinary. Only Eric Balfour is known to me and while he is probably the best actor in the show, he hams it up like a camp old thesp. Emily Rose is apparently known for her work on US daytime TV and she is a quirky character and would make the perfect Buffy as a 30 year old. She can't emote for toffee. Lucas Bryant would be perfect if he was cast as Roland in the Dark Tower, however, he acts like he's taking a crap all the time and has as much screen presence as soap.

The Colorado Kid, the Stephen King novella set in Haven about a mysterious body that washes up in the estuary is the 'inspiration' for this series. The only similarity between King's story and the series is that the words 'The Colorado Kid' are bandied around without much explanation and the two brothers who run the newspaper are the same guys from the show. Yeah, there's the sheriff and the FBI, but everywhere has them in the USA.

Right... I won't do that again.

When we last came here, Audrey 1 and Audrey 2 had decided not to tell Audrey 2's real FBI boss about everything that had been going on. Neither women seemed that freaked out that they had virtually all of each other's memories. Duke Crocker had to suffer the arrival of the latest bit of dead end, when his ex-wife reappears acting like a kind of Raffles crossed with Beyonce - a con woman who seems to think she's in a comedy rather than a drama series. Every time this woman walks on screen you just want her inevitable end to happen sooner rather than later; you know she's nothing more than a diversion. Nathan is now chief of police now that his father has exploded into a thousand pieces of rock and is being kept in a cooler box and again, if you were reading this cold you'd think 'there's a new Twin Peaks on the block'.

Twin Peaks appeared to be the template for episodes 2 and 3, with the plot still going round in circles, but now at a blistering pace, leaving you feeling that something was going to be uncovered - just a teaser maybe, but you felt that something was going to happen. It did.

Audrey 2 was packed off with amnesia suffered looking for something the girls' were warned about. The end of episode 3 really invested you with the feeling that things were getting very dark and weird and that's where the problem lay; if it started to make some sense it would just be a badly made TV series rather than this fantastic example of crap cult TV.

Then episode four aired and guess what? No mention of Audrey 2; no following up of all the strange teasers dropped in the opening 3 episodes; we were back with a formulaic tale of the troubles and one that I think was designed to be the 'humour' episode that many of these SF shows like to do. The trouble revolved around a man whose curse was to be loved by anyone who looked at him and another resident of Haven who had an electrifying personality - it was always going to end badly; yet sticking out in the story was the fact that Audrey was immune to the affects of the love charm and it was even mentioned in the script and yet she brushed over it like it wasn't important. just another prime example why this Audrey Parker learnt her FBI skills off the back of a cornflake packet.

The second story in the fourth episode involved Duke trying to uncover the secret of the prophesy that stated he would die at the hands of a tattooed man. This, in itself, is a load of hokum because in the first season when he learned of his death, all the prophecies given were mooted by the death of the key player in said story. Duke goes through an elaborate sub-sub Indiana Jones series of puzzles to uncover a box (which shows his name when exposed to UV light - spooky!) which he believes has nothing to do with solving his mystery; so he shags his ex-wife instead - which, since she's been in the series, appeared to be the one thing he was never going to do again.

The laugh-out-loud count was three; the jaw-droppingly ridiculous count was one. How low has Jason Priestley's career fallen? He's sort of introduced as a potential love interest for Audrey, but it was like the scriptwriter got bored with him by the end of the episode, so I doubt we'll see his character again and his existence and memory will be forever wiped from Nathan and Audrey's memories.

It's wonderful stuff and the good news is you don't have to watch it. I'll do that for you. I'll suffer the 43 minutes and 37 second average length every week for 13 weeks and irregularly keep you updated on events.

My belief is that Audrey is the cause of the troubles. It's been revealed that she might be the woman in the picture from 20 years before and normally I'd want a suitably feasible explanation if this was the case, but with Haven, I want it to be something unbelievably ridiculous and implausible. I want to bellow my amazement at the TV or I'll feel cheated.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Ottoman Umpire

I can't quite work out why the European Athletics championships are being held in a small rodent.

***

The house has been like May. Football was back on telly today and come 3pm, the wife had that feeling of deja vu again, watching her beloved Hammers lose, at home, to Cardiff, in the last minute of their first game in the minor leagues. In May, West Ham got relegated poorly and in August things haven't, it seemed, got any happier.

I know a lot of Hammers fans and unlike most Spurs fans, I do not hate them. I think they belong in the Premier League; they are a big club, with huge traditions and even if my wife wasn't a fan, I'd still feel the same way. The positive thing for me is that we won't throw away 4pts to them this season.

***

I'm wondering if Saturday 6th August has some special meaning in the Eastern European calendar? Last night, we had several parties going on, all around us, with trashy disco music, shouty foreigners and far far too many fireworks for a mild August evening. I finally crashed about 2am and it was still going on all around.

I hope they all had really bad hangovers this morning, we're sick a lot and their partners refuse them blow jobs, for months...

***

I don't consider publishing an Amazon Kindle book as being properly published, therefore I don't think the availability of my book about comics is really a published book; but today has been a weird old day.

My Monthly Curse (which I have to admit I'm not remotely happy with the title, never have been) went live in the Kindle Store on Saturday. I managed to upload the right version (I think) and my good, dear friend Will was, I believe, the first person to buy it. Thanks Will! The wife was dreaming of paying the mortgage off, I was hoping that it might bring in £100 (and trust me when I say that was me at my most optimistic).

One El alerted me to its meteoric rise in the category it's listed in; rising up to a high of #13 by the end of Sunday. I charted! Maybe huge rises in minority categories are measured in single digits and it might have been a slow day for everything else, but even though it had dropped to #18 by the time I wrote this, I couldn't help but feel a lot happier than I have for a long time.

***

What do you do for an encore?

The thing is, with the 'publication' of a kind(le) of book, I've shut the door on it. It's finished. I can no longer add forgotten anecdotes and extra information; it isn't fair for those buying it, for starters. Yet, unsurprisingly, there are always things I can remember or stuff I should have said, that aren't in there.

Obviously, I could just put them all down and start a follow up, but that would be a little like Tolkien following the Lord of the Rings with the Penguin Book of Corduroy. Lots has happened in the last few weeks alone and in light of events in Plaistow recently, people left out of the original manuscript, now could almost have starring roles.

I have toyed with the self-indulgent notion of writing the other bit. All the other interesting, funny and stupid things I've done that were happening concurrently with my adventures in comics. However, there are some things I don't want to talk about for obvious reasons. So if I stripped out all the sex and drugs, it would leave little of any consequence...

There's this comic novel I have. It's a novel about a man who is a comics creator. I have lots of notes and 75% of a story, I just don't know if I have it in me to write.

I could do nothing. But that seems like a bit of a cop out.

***

I applied for three jobs in the last week. I received the first failed response today. On a Sunday. Via email. Nice.

***

I'm sure there's more...

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Ritual Idiocy

A large percentage of humans are selfish, ignorant, arrogant twats. This may seem like a generalisation, but, trust me, it's not.

Fuckwit is the root of this upcoming rant, but it extends further.

Fuckwit and Lard Girl have come into possession of a Ford Mondeo. They recently (partially) solved the road's parking problems by getting rid of one of their cars and 90% of the time parking their other one either on their drive or in front of the house. There was a palpable sense of relief from the high number of two car homes along this stretch of the road. We could all go back to not having to play musical cars.

In one fell swoop he has created havoc in the street that has been compounded by the summer holidays rather than eased it. We are one of only a handful of houses on the entire street that don't have a car pad/drive; we prefer to have a garden, even if ours looks like an afterthought on a building site. This means that because we have two cars, one of them has to go in front of someone's house and that house is the one that is two doors down from us. The Incest Twins don't drive, so the space in front of their house has always been fair game to parkers. I have parked there for best part of the last five years, ever since the Religious Freaks at #50 moved and took their single motor vehicle with them. They were, of course, replaced by the Sexually Explicit family from Eastern Europe, who brought the contents of a small working garage with them - there are three adults and two children and they have FOUR cars, including a fuck off Mercedes that takes up more room than God.

Fuckwit, as I've mentioned countless times has 1¾ car spaces - when he had his tin can Diahatsu it allowed two cars, but now he owns a big Rover and this Mondeo, he can only fit one car on his drive (am I boring you yet?) and the other, which should just sit in front of his house causing no offence at all, is parked where I normally park. It also appears to have become obsolete, as it hasn't moved for nearly a week. You can imagine the problems this caused (or maybe you wouldn't want to), but the upshot is that the Zafira sits out the front of our house and my Sedici, which the wife is using for work, ends up wherever there's a space. It has become a royal free-for-all again, made worse by the fact that there appears to be a full road at the moment - most people with kids are on holiday or splitting their holidays. The road, which usually looks like the Atacama desert on a bank holiday, now looks like it should have a congestion charge.

It's come to a head over the last 24 hours. The wife had to park 'somewhere else' on Monday night, which had a knock-on effect that impacted on the Sexually Explicit family. I've never seen the road look so packed as it did on Monday night - it was like everyone was having friends over. She went off to work yesterday morning and the space she was parked in had been swallowed up in the tsunami of motor vehicles. All day it was like a merry go round. I had to take the dogs out in the afternoon and when I got back the space in front of the house had been swallowed up by Sexually Explicit man's taxi. I had a car full of dogs and nowhere close to park. I should point out here that I am irresponsible with my dogs. I normally park in front of the house, open the front door and then open the tail gate and the dogs jump straight out and run into the house. It's something we've trained them to do and if you stop somewhere else in the road they get disoriented. I didn't have all their leads and had to park on the other side of the road. It was stinking hot and I shuttled the dogs back and forth getting more and more wound up.

On seeing matey boy emerge from his house, I went outside and spoke to him. "I know it's a bitch to park at the moment, but can you not park in front of my house, especially when I've just taken the dogs out?"
"You park there." he said pointing at the space in front of his garden, adjacent to his drive.
"Yes, because there was nowhere else to park."
"Nowhere else to park here."
"Yeah, but you've got a drive, mate. You have an off road parking space. I don't."
"I have four cars."
"Yeah. Why is that?"
"You don't park there, I won't park here."

Realising that while I had the moral high ground, it was only by virtue of having less cars than him. No one has any right to wherever they want to park if it is a main road with no restrictions. If we played it by the rules then we'd have a lot of anarchy in the street. I've always liked to think we have this agreement with each other - unwritten or spoken - where by we park in our usual spaces unless a stranger parks there, in which case we normally move our cars as soon as they leave. But Fuckwit, by sticking his now 'other' car on the road has thrown everything out and he has further proved that he is either a complete and utter wanker or he's got this petty pernicious streak in him. I mean, the hopeless wankstain hasn't worked for about 25 years, due to his debilitating disability of burping inappropriately; he is obviously so bored he likes playing little games with the rest of the street. It has to be that; I cannot believe he is that fucking stupid.

But, perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps there has never been an unwritten parking agreement; perhaps it's just that Fishwife hears me ranting about Fuckwit so often that he's realised that it's safer for him and his own to not park anywhere near my allotted area. Perhaps the others in my street are just a bunch of selfish arseholes...

...

This is my life at the moment. Fretting about parking in the road. God, I need a job...

***

Sticking with the banality theme. Make the most of today, it could be the last hot day before September. It might even be the last hot day of the summer. My long range forecast has been about 80% accurate so far.

***

Thanks to RnB for giving me the idea of publishing My Monthly Curse on Amazon's Kindle thingy. I'm in the process of jumping through hoops and filling in forms, but hopefully those of you with a Kindle and a few quid to spare can read the entire book in one go rather than wait for the next 8 months worth of instalments.

More news when I have it, but if I can sell ten I can afford to eat next week!