Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cosmic Ray Gun Etiquette

As I have stated before, I have a serious problem with charity.

Now, that sounds really hypocritical considering I have been more than happy to accept all manner of beer and gig gifts over the last six months; but in reality it isn't, because I believe that Charity Begins at Home.

But, for some strange reason I was reminded of something that happened in 1980; before I became Mr Anti-Charity or for that matter a vegetarian. I was living in squalor in Boothville with some mates and discovering the world has more sordid underbellies than you could possibly imagine. Children in Need started and like any up-for-a-laugh 18 year old, I got involved in it. I even got to the planning stage for a CiN extravaganza.

I was friends with the landlord of my then local pub - The Lumbertubs. Mark Gilbert was a young guy, with a pretty but lethal wife and because I came from a pub family, was honest and he liked me, I ended up helping him out on an ad hoc basis. If they got too busy and I was there, I'd be drafted in to ease the pressure - it was a role I really enjoyed (and I got free beer as a result).

I've always been a big eater; the kind of bloke that can put away amounts of food normally classed as excessive by obese people and The 'Tubs wanted to do something big for this new-fangled charity telethon thing. Mark's brother-in-law was a butcher who had in the past supplied meat for some of Peter Dowdeswell's gluttony world records. This got me thinking and in those pre-Internet days, I ventured to the library, looked at the Guinness Book of Records (when they accepted this kind of record) and saw a world record that I actually thought I could beat.

I approached Mark, who thought it was a great idea, but looked at me with some scepticism. "Do you really believe you can eat a whole cow?" I did.

The record was to consume an entire cow, not including, skin, bone, and all the bits that don't get used for human consumption. I can't remember exactly the details, but I had a number of days to eat about 500lb of beef. Now I look at it in black and white I realise that it was a stupid idea it was and why there was so much doubt; but Mark was up for it if I was and we started planning and I started seeing if people would sponsor me. Then I sat down and worked out how much beef I had to eat; the fact that the only way I could do it was to take 2 weeks annual leave and spend lunchtimes and evenings in the pub, armed with a knife, fork and probably a saw.

Dowdeswell lived in Earl's Barton and through my contact at the local paper, I gave him a call and he blew my mind away. The upshot was the amount of meat I had to eat on a daily basis and all of the unpleasant other things I had to eat. Plus there was the rotting factor: when he had broken the record himself several years earlier, he had been ill (it was like being on a mega-Atkins diet for a short period of time) and because of the rules of the record attempt each day became harder and harder to achieve, because once it was cooked, you couldn't reheat it or do anything else with it. I remember him saying, "Imagine a mini made out of beef; when it turns up it's hot and juicy and enjoyable, but after three days it's cold, congealed and dry and after a week it smells and tastes like shit." I felt a huge boulder metaphorically sitting in my stomach. Yes, you could argue that the man holding the record would do everything he could to dissuade a challenger; but, on hindsight, I'd like to think he was just looking out for me, especially when you get your head around the idea of an old style mini made entirely out of meat.

Imagine that Skoda advert with the car made out of cake, but with sirloins and kidneys...

***

So... This is a weekend then? I'd forgotten what they were like.

***

Ah... TV... I haven't burbled about it for a while.

With no current rubbish US TV to fill the voids after the wife goes to bed, I've decided to hit the archives and dig out a series that failed and my other half is unlikely to be very interested in. I chose Dollhouse.

I went into the show with almost zero expectations. I'd been warned that it was as bad as it sounded and only the series 1 finale and the last couple of episodes of season 2 were really any good. With this in mind, I started to watch and soon found that it was actually a little more enjoyable than I had imagined.

The series by Buffy the TV series 'creator' Joss Whedon is, at times, an excuse for nubile young women to be seen wearing an array of saucy outfits and the premise that the people in the Dollhouse were as much unwitting prostitutes as possible secret agents, left me with a slight moral ambiguity; but as I approach the finale of its first season I've been pleasantly surprised by the series. Yes, I have watched a couple of episodes on x2 speed, stopping the DVD whenever Topher, Ms De Witt or Tahmoh Penikett are on screen - because this is where the story really is.

The series is essentially a vehicle for Eliza Dushku (who at times during this series has looked like a young Victoria Principal), but like Whedon's Buffy, it isn't so much the lead character that is the reason for watching, but the supporting cast and the machinations taking place unbeknown to the chief protagonist.

However, I can totally understand why the series was cancelled. Apart from the moral ambiguity I mentioned earlier (which the Yanks probably had a great problem with), it doesn't appear to have a a back story that is particularly interesting. The Dollhouse(s) just isn't that believable and neither is the way it conducts its business. The maverick FBI agent is a familiar idea, but this series portrays the rest of the FBI like a bunch of aggressive simpletons who don't actually investigate anything. There is the need to stretch believability beyond that of something such as Buffy or Firefly - both total fantasy rather than what Dollhouse was trying to be.

I think the biggest thing that got in its way was the attempt to slow build the subplots beyond that of the lead character. It almost feels like afterthought than planning and like so many US TV shows it focused on the things the viewers didn't want to know. I'm at the 12th episode and while I'm now familiar with all the characters, they all seem a bit like ciphers channelling nothing.

At least watching Dollhouse has meant I haven't been tempted to watch another Terra Nova.

Several of my favourite shows have returned in the last six weeks and I hate to say this, but with mixed emotions. Fringe seems to have jumped the shark and has rebooted the entire series with the exception of one character. It's an interesting idea, but so far it's failed to deliver anything like the bonkers TV it did for the previous 2½ series. I just can't help feeling the producers are copping out and trying to build its Friday night slot by making it 90% easier to jump onto an established series. Either that or something completely unexpected and off the wall is about to happen.

Misfits is back without the brilliant Robert Sheehan's Nathan. Arguably, the amiable Irish lad was the major reason for watching the show; he had all the best lines; best stories and had a great line in dying. But he's now fast emerging as a new star in feature films, so like Aidan Turner from Being Human, he's departed the show that made him to concentrate with hob knobbing it with Nick Cage and the stage. [I don't know what the future holds for Being Human with Russell Tovey stating he now wants to leave the show after the next series]

Misfits has replaced him well with new guy Rudy, who makes Nathan seem a little innocent, but like Fringe this new series feels like a reboot rather than a continuation. The gang all have new powers, so that allows for at least 5 more episodes focusing on said new powers and any lingering subplots from the last series seem to have disappeared. I also thought the first episode was a little contrived. There is also the feeling of stagnation; like the series needs to spread its wings a a lot more, because the same old setting is now beginning to feel like a post-modern slightly perverted version of Mr Ben.

However, as sad as it might seem, the viewing highlight of our week is most definitely The Vampire Diaries, which continues to piss over the usual rules. The latest episode alone had three things happen in it that I was just not seeing, even if one of them I spotted and sort of allowed a slight suspension of belief to allow for it. Every week I see more and more things in it that make me believe the creators have decided to use the Buffy model, because it works. I'm pretty sure that 3 of the characters are always going to be spared from an untimely demise (unless they leave for a new TV series), but that doesn't mean that the rest of the cast are safe.

***

All week they were saying that this Saturday might possibly break some more weather records. A 'warm' southerly airflow was going to bring temperatures in the high teens and some nice autumn sunshine. It would be t-shirt weather again!

Oh yeah? Is that this Saturday in an alternate reality?

Still, it's not horrendous out there. I didn't need a coat to walk to the newsagent and as I said the other day, picking soft fruit in the middle of November is pretty much a win. It also could mean that whatever winter shoves at us, it'll be just that little bit shorter this year!

***

That brings me nicely to this. Got up, looking for the Guardian to read on the loo - a weekend must - and found there was nothing on the doormat. Horrors! There's nothing like The Guide to help in bodily functions. So, with my morning disrupted, I ventured down to the shops to get something to read (not on the loo, btw).

The paperboy has had his round mixed up by someone moving out of one house into another on a parallel street, but has now rented out his old house, which is a similar number to ours. This is the second time it has happened this week and the newsagent was very apologetic and promised he would remind the paperboy to be more careful.

I'm sitting eating my cornflakes, drinking my mug of Red Bush and watching and agreeing with one of Breakfast's weekend presenters, when she said that she couldn't give a hoot about X Factor and didn't know why it was so popular, when the doorbell goes. I hate soggy cornflakes and I was only half the way through the bowl.

Standing at the door was this youngish looking man, with a straggly nu metal styled beard, combats and my newspaper in his hand. He thrust it into my hand and mumble something incomprehensible and made to walk off. I stopped him, related the fact that the newsagent had told me what had happened and just asked for him to be a little more watchful in the mornings and I gave him the paper back and went to shut the door.

"No." He said looking worried. "I live at 42; my landlord told me I needed to bring this to you."

Oops. He looked so young! I told him to keep the paper and managed to finish my cornflakes before they all went soggy.

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