Sunday, May 27, 2012

The TV Dump (v)

(This entire thing will probably contain spoilers)

Homebland?

For my nerd friends, Morena Baccarin gets her kit off. I figured this was a big revelation until I Googled her and found that she's a) Brazilian and b) has got her kit off in just about everything she's ever been in except Stargate SG1 and Firefly. So this wasn't really much of a selling point.

Clare Danes doesn't get her baps out and provides a performance that is grisly, believable and utterly riveting. David (Due South) Marciano is good and Mandy (Dead Like Me) Patinkin deserves an Emmy or a Grammy or a Bafta or something, because he is quite brilliant. Homeland was quite excellent; it twisted and turned, led you down some paths and dragged you down others and just when it set you up for a potentially bonkers finale, it chickened out and opted for a second season which could end up being a story arc too far.

Had Damian Lewis actually blown the shit out of the VP and just about every high ranking Department of Defence official, it would have solved a lot of problems and also been really shocking TV, because the set up was quite brilliant in its labyrinthine beauty. Instead, I felt like I'd yet again been let down by US TV. Hell, if Danes, Patinkin and co are that good, that watchable, couldn't they just conclude the story and start another one next time round? Same characters, different case? Instead we have, I suppose the producers hope, a development that promises to string it out for at least another season and makes the likelihood of simple resolution highly unlikely.

The thing is if Lewis had blown everything to shit, then Danes' character would have been vindicated, got her job back and been heralded as a genius (with bi-polar disorder) and possibly kept on as a consultant or something, allowing her to come to the fore again. Instead we had a kind of CIA version of The Killing, but really played OTT. They could even have carried on the story within the story as the family deal with the aftermath and come under immense scrutiny themselves - it would, could, have been a fantastic examination into how Americans can become when they have what they think is a legitimate target to abuse.

Still, it was good TV, even if it felt a little hollow at the end.

Archimedes Says...

Eureka is back for it's final season. I've speculated umpteen times as to why this gem of a TV show in a catalogue of shit is being canned, but it doesn't excuse the fact that regardless of its general formulaic stories, it is a bit bonkers.

The last season ended on one of the best finales I've seen in recent years and that story arc concluded with an unexpected death and, oddly enough, very little else. The show is still pretty damn lovable and the ensemble has developed to such a stage that when we do lose them for good, it will be a big loss.

Avid viewers will still believe that many of the weird twists and subplots will be resolved by the end and others feel that events at the end of season 3 are still to be truly resolved; even if that turns out to just be one of the shows trademark jumping the shark events. Others think Nathan's death in season 2 might still come back again to haunt them (I'd like to think that they actually set it up to be a fantastic final finale, because I'm still not convinced he's really dead, even if everything points to the fact he is). I can't help but think that 'time', a medium that has allowed the writers to really shake things up at times, must have a say in how this series will eventually end; even if it means some people lose more than they had and others gain back what they lost.

If there is going to be a 'big bad' in this series, he, she or it hasn't been identified. I doubt it will be Linda Fiorentino's character, purely because she is not inherently evil, just greedy and power hungry and also has a good heart. I think they have to go out with an almighty bang and they haven't got that many episodes to set it up. Unless, of course, SyFy is going to wimp out on us again.

I'm glad it's back. The first five shows have been quite excellent. that familiar mix of corny story mixed with emotive subplots. Doug's story in ep5 is one of the best. I'm looking forward to its sister show Warehouse 13 to return and keep hold of the torch of relative goodness, because when that goes, this network will have nothing to commend them for.

Dead End

So, Awake, Alcatraz, Harry's Law have been cancelled, along with Ringer, Breaking Bad, Secret Circle, Terra Nova, Pam Am and a few other shows that strayed near the radar. Shite like Once Upon a Time appears to be going strong and the actually pretty crappy Grimm is also coming back. The future also looks pretty dire as there are very few things on the horizon that look interesting or likely to last more than 13 episodes. Part of me thinks that we could have a couple of very barren years and a lot of major changes.

Being Human suffered from major changes and by the sounds of things, when Misfits returns in the autumn, that is going to be radically different, with only one member of the original cast remaining. I think some of those classic TV series I've never got around to watching might be ready to be dug out.

Good Eggs and Rotten Ones

John Carter is too long, badly acted and struggles to deliver a coherent story. It was justifiably slated by critics and boycotted by film goers. Chronicle turned out to be surprisingly good; one of the better of that particular genre of 'found footage' films.

DVD choice is poor at the moment; I seem to remember films coming out in the last 6 months I wanted to watch, but obviously that was a dream. I am, however, considering going to the cinema to see Prometheus, mainly because it looks so very good. That said, I sort of wanted to go and see The Avengers on the big screen, but I wimped out at the cost.

2012 - 33

Eurovision

A lot of people still watch the Eurovision Song Contest, despite it not receiving a positive review since 1976. Martin Kellner of the Guardian suggested the BBC dispense with the show and allow a minority channel, like Eurosport 3 to handle it, therefore only the really die hard fans would go out of their way to watch it and killing it off once and for all. But that's us (and maybe the Irish), everyone else loves it even if hosting the events can be as expensive as hosting an Olympic Games.

When I read that Englebert was our representative this year, my first thought was, "Ah, we're doing an Ireland and putting up a contestant who doesn't stand a hope in hell" and you know something? I was right.

What the UK ought to do in future is make it a year-long search; conduct a kind of battle of the pop bands, starting in pubs and clubs and progressing to regional finals and a big finale and the only rule is the person or band must not have a recording deal or be an existing artiste. Make it a Britain's Got Talent crossed with a Fly-on-the-Wall documentary style programme with one of those ubiquitous idiots who appear on our screens too often travelling round the regional heats and reporting back. If the winning song wins Eurovision then get someone like Cowell or Fuller to give them a one-year, one album, deal and see where that takes them.

Funny Things with Phil in Them

Following on from yesterday's replaced consonants bit of fun, I wondered how many words I could think of, without cheating, that include the word 'Phil' in them - at the beginning. Sadly, my brain is slightly fried at the moment and the only three words I could come up with would have given a psychological profiler weeks of work...

Amazon Recommends

Things you have already purchased from them!

New & Improved

Are two words (technically three) that you should treat with caution and suspicion. I have never, ever, had something that was 'new & improved' that actually was improved, and to be pedantic, it's never new; it's the same product changed and that obviously doesn't sound as enticing.

If I see the dread words, I know that my time for eating or using that product has come to a close and you would be amazed at the amount of vegetarian products that have had this radical disaster applied to them. I won't list them, I've had enough of lists.

Stuff
  • I am a bit red.
  • I was up early cleaning the ducks out and hanging washing; one would almost think I would survive if anything ever happened to the wife.
  • I didn't realise it was the annual Delapre Beer festival this weekend. I've not missed one of these for about five years, apart from this year... Shame really as the person I usually go with sounded like he had a great time.
  • I feel the need to do some gardening.
  • Verbally abusive scones.

Friday, May 25, 2012

2012 - 32

Silly

Sam Wollaston is a TV critic for the Guardian. Last week, as is his way, he had a slightly surreal preamble about what would have happened to Robson Green's Extreme Fishing had one of the consonants been accidentally changed - namely the h for a t.

This led me to a week of wondering what other bizarre TV shows and films I could make by changing just one letter. Here's what I came up with:
Pilates of the Caribbean
Mock the Weak
Gash in the Attic
Bargain Cunt
Top Bear
Bongs of Praise
Homes Under the Hummer
DIY SOB
Heatherview
Crimewitch
Question Mime
The Mews at Ten
The Blue Limp
Bone With the Wind
White Meat
Star Wars - A New Pope
The Moonies
Top Gum
Apocalypse Sow
The Cowering Inferno
Jams
The Evil Read
The Golfman
Witless
The Man with a Thousand Maces
Silence of the Limbs
The Fantastic Foul
True Brood
Texter
Dip Hard
Death Wisp
Honkey Punch
Sicker Punch
A Fight at the Opera
A Day at the Rapes
The Trench Connection

There might be more...

Commentary in Real Time

Wahey! This is why I wanted a laptop. I am doing something that many of you have taken for granted for years – I’m sitting in the sunshine, writing this in the garden! To be honest, I’m not sure the current position I’m typing in will be conducive to all the plans I have of writing another magnum opus. So let’s try this in another position, shall we?

This is actually a better position for me – I’m just sitting on a chair, with my feet on an old beer crate with the netbook on my lap at about 45 degrees. I could write for England in this position, but I get my gurning face staring back at me and despite the sun being behind the screen, I can’t see what I’m writing for shit. Therefore, I need to find a new position.

I’m now sitting in the shade under the umbrella and I can see the screen and I can write quite well. It isn’t getting much of my body golden brown, but my legs are in the sun. It might have to be a compromise during whatever hot days we get during the summer, An hour goading skin cancer and then into the shade to write.

Cricket Tale

I have very few real memories of my time living in Canada, but I remember getting hit in the face with a Frisbee and subsequently having my two big brothers prevent me from getting involved in any other activity that would lead me to injure myself; plus I was only very young and therefore too young to participate in things like ice hockey (couldn’t skate then, can’t now) and Baseball, which I found quite fascinating. For a nipper, I could hit a baseball quite well; I just didn’t understand the rest of the game and instead of being the last person picked by the kids my brothers hung around with, I was the kid who sat at the edge, feeling like holding a grudge against the bigger boys.

When we returned to England, cricket was a game that I followed in the paper, but had no real understanding of and therefore rarely played it until I got to secondary school. I honed my cricket skills in matches on playing fields in the summer holidays and my mates soon realised that I could belt a ball like billy-o, so remarkably, I often got picked first for long summer day matches.

The spring term that decided the 18 kids who would basically play in the top sports group – ie: that cricket season’s players – was decided and I wasn’t among them and the cricket coach, one Ray Swann, father of Graeme, lately of England, didn’t think I was good enough, despite the protestations of my peers. He told me, via a third party, that my ability was overshadowed by my inability to truly understand the game. What galled me more than anything was the fact that I’d spent the previous summer getting my medium pace bowling up to scratch and I had been relegated to playing cricket with the kids who thought a wicket was speech impediment.

I continued to thump the ball all over the rubbish cricket pitch reserved for the no-hopers, while some of the cricket team floundered. I began to suspect that Swann had something against me – something that would be confirmed a few years later, but that’s a story for my autobiography.

My cricketing wilderness ended in the summer I was a fifth former. Swann was off after having a knee operation (or something) and my form teacher was placed in charge of the cricket team. He’d transformed the rugby team into a team of county beaters and the first thing he did was listen to his captain and he picked me for the first game, against Duston school. A 20 over a side match, played in Duston, after school on May day. I was put in at #11 and didn’t get a bowl.

Duston, with a couple of county apprentices, ripped us to pieces, but I managed 16 not out before my partner was run out – amazingly by himself. I got elevated to #7 in the batting for the second match, but never got into bat as the team easily beat a school from Kettering by 9 wickets. The next game I was also at #7 and got in to bat, but had scored 0 when the other batsman hit the winning runs. News that Swann was returning to work was greeted, by me, with a groan. I might not have done anything much, but I was in the team and probably deserved to be. My final chance to impress to shine was against a school in Bugbrooke and I went in at #5 and hit 32 runs off of four overs and was feeling good; when I looked up and saw Ray Swann at the match, standing with the interim coach. I attempted to hit a 6 and was clean bowled. I trudged off and went to the changing rooms to get my pads off.

The next game I wasn’t even in the 12 and Swann was back. Ironically this had happened already in another sport. I had always really been a goalkeeper, but as there were always better goalies, my footballing career moved around from left wing, to midfield to striker with little or no real success. I was always someone who would get in school teams, but normally if someone was off sick. I got a run in the school team, which was run by an amalgam of Swann, Bob Taylor (ex Saints and England rugby player) and the coach who had given me a chance in the cricket team. I rarely got games when Swann was in charge, despite having a great record as a striker. The football season often blurred into the cricket one, even in those days, and as the football season was coming to a close, Swann was off with this dodgy knee. About six weeks before being left out of a cricket side, I felt I’d earned the right to be in; my school beat Weston Favell (for the first time ever), on their pitches, 3-1 and I scored two of the goals, one with my head! Swann had turned up at the last knockings, on his crutches, just as I was about to score a hat-trick and make the score 4-1. I saw him and instead of scoring into an open goal, I panicked and fired the ball over the bar. No one cared, we’d won the game and were through to the final of the school under 16s final, to be played at the Cobblers ground (which is now the cricket ground). Swann didn’t even pick me as a substitute, despite having scored 9 goals in 6 matches since he had been off. I think people started to think he really didn’t like me.

I never played for the cricket team again either.

My chances of playing the summer game again were few and far between, but when I was living down in Shenley with my folks in 1981, there was a social club cricket team that was really rather good. So good, in fact, they had a Sri Lankan cricketer playing for them (this was before the country became a recognised cricketing nation). I doubted I was ever going to be good enough to play for them, but I tried out during the spring, figuring I might get a few games with the 2nd XI. Amazingly, the coach picked me in the 18 man squad and more for my accurate, good length medium pace bowling. I was the kind of bowler who didn’t get that many wickets, but kept runs down to a minimum because I always bowled a good length.

I played seven times, always at #11, and scored a total of 4 runs from just two batting chances. I scored 2 off the final ball of a game we’d lost and another two in a game a few weeks later, a game that my tactical knowledge shone through like a beacon. I’d scored two from an edge passed the slips and the second ball I swiped to my left for another two runs. But thinking the ball was now dead, I wandered up the pitch to batter down a scuff mark and got run out! This was greeted by howls of laughter from the opposing team and my cricket career stuttered to an almost halt.

I say almost because I have played about half a dozen games in the last 30 years, but have never showed the spark to get me included in any teams. I just never played long enough to establish myself.

Job's Worth

The thing I couldn't talk about was that I went for an interview for a new job on Tuesday. It was for an environmental warden's position with the Borough Council. The wife had reservations about me working for a council again, but she didn't have to worry, I didn't get it. Have to say it's quite weird having time off one job to go for an interview for another, especially when my boss needs to know about it to authorise the time off.

Kind of makes my future at my current position look a bit tenuous, don't it? The thing is, they want to extend my probation period (possibly to a point where the school year ends and they can get rid of me and have six weeks to find a replacement) and I can't afford to have uncertainty in my work life - not at the moment.

Ironically, things have improved over the last couple of weeks, but that might be down to the fact that I feel my days there are numbered, so I'm relaxing a little more and not trying so hard. There's another job in the paper this week; one that I have to apply for.

Stuff
  • This week's playlist has been a lot of Sugar; the new Sigur Ros album (lots of wailing and echoey pianos; Yage (an Amorphous Androgynous spin-off); and I listened to a lot of Radios 5 and 6.
  • Catch-up TV this week has been The Bridge, which I think is better than The Killing and is quite funny, despite the grimness of it all.
  • Eureka had one of those moments this week; the moments that make you realise that it is a really good show, despite the cheese.
  • I burnt my feet sitting in the garden.
  • My bathroom was like a sauna at 4:00pm today; a mixture of direct sunlight on the window and four pondy dogs having baths. The sweat was pouring off of me like something from a Monty Python sketch.
  • Has been rather incredulous of the number of people who have been saying it's too hot. Jesus Harry fucking Christ people - we've shivered for 8 months!
  • Donkeys that live in swamps.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

2012 - 31

Potentially Erroneous

The main thing I wanted to talk about is something I don't want to talk about. To quote my dad, I don't want to put the mockers on it.

There was something else, but I forgot to write it down and as I can't think what it is at the moment...

I considered talking about something that I said I would refrain from talking about, then I changed my mind.

I will say that I have found that surreality has saved my sanity this week; but only in something I'm not going to talk about.

I'm not suggesting I've had a boring week with nothing to write about, but I'm struggling to finish this sentence. To be fair, the week has been very much like other weeks - it came and went. I popped over to Duston on Monday; went quizzing on Tuesday; stayed in on Wednesday, had a takeaway and a beer on Thursday and last night we watched a film that neither of us were particularly bothered about and thoroughly enjoyed. Funny how that happens.

The film was called Chronicle and was one of those 'lost footage' movies; you know the kind that has to get you to suspend belief because the arsehole holding the camera would rather get a shot of the monster's dental work than run for his bleedin' life. I appreciate we live in a world now where everyone thinks they're Alfred Spielcas and are filming their boring lives, on their boring phones, and then You Tubing it so everyone else can see how facile and boring their lives are; but these surveillance camera; video footage, The Blair Cloverfield Activity type movies are all much of a muchness and I always feel the films would have made better movies had they been done, you know, conventionally. I still believe the best film of this kind was Cannibal Holocaust, not because it was a good film, but because when it came out (1981, I think), there had been nothing quite like it before and I've always believed the best bit of that film was the actual lost footage, because it is very unsettling.

Chronicle could be the best of all the recent films and that might be because you almost forget you're watching a 'lost footage' film; especially during the finale, which, because it takes place in front of millions of potential cameramen, looks extremely cinematic. It has a number of genuinely laugh out loud moments; has a pretty plausible idea and tackles teenagers very well, even if the teenagers again all look like people in their 20s. The special effects are quite excellent and while the film does set up a sequel, I hope they don't.

It is a film that reminded me, in a little way, of one of the comic series I feel would make a good film. The Griffin touches on similar themes as Chronicle, albeit in a slightly different way. My rating is it really is worth watching, plus the closing music is by M83.

While writing the above, I was reminded that these 'footage' films remind me a little of Stephen King's first novel, Carrie. Instead of a normal narrative, Carrie is put together with excerpts from books, diaries, newspaper clippings and in between all of this is a third person narrative filling in the gaps. For some strange reason, Hollywood has decided that Brian De Palma's classic film adaptation of King's novel (and one of the few that are actually any good) is being remade. I still struggle to understand why, but I hope they follow the novel even closer than De Palma. The Sissy Spacek film actually toned down the carnage (something that also happened in the film version of Misery), so I hope the new film conveys that feeling you get from reading the book that this event was something considerably more important than just a freak accident.

I just finished King's best Dark Tower novel. Best in this case is a pejorative word, because, frankly, King could have taken a vindaloo dump on a ream of paper and it would have been more coherent and interesting than the last three DT books. The Shit Through Your Letterbox or whatever it's called is nominally to be regarded as The Dark Tower 4.5; taking place between books 4 and, I'm thinking, 5? It is a tale within a tale within a bookend. It's another Roland as a teenager adventure with a Gilead fairy story told in middle. It's pretty disposable stuff and doesn't actually do anything to the DT legend than make you wish King had waited before rushing into finishing his opus. It's written with a warmth and enthusiasm which has crept back into King's writing of late; perhaps his 4 months a year in Florida is rejuvenating him? Who knows, had he just let it run its course it might have been quite good.

King's next book is a sequel to The Shining, which, according to a few King places I pop into from time to time, has divided opinions. Doctor Sleep drops back in on Danny Torrance, 30 odd years after his father went ape shit in the Overlook Hotel. How does a kid with a profound mental ability survive in the world, especially after the trauma he suffered as a child? I read the blurb about it on King's own website and I have to say it looks really good. I think I'm allowed to take that as a pinch of salt, but if he follows a recent trend then it might be a treat.

Apparently, either in 2013 or 2014, we can expect the third and final part of the Jack Sawyer Trilogy (the books he's written with Peter Straub - another author who needs to rediscover his mojo).

Some wanky fan site recently did their top 52 King novels (or something like that) and had the audacity to put Insomnia almost last and yet had Cell in the top 20. Some people should have their fingers chopped off.

Undoubtedly Superfluous

Tonight, we witnessed the death of a great football team. No, not the final flourish of a Chelsea team that just seemed destined to win a trophy they never looked like deserving for most of the season and now face a summer of transition as the old guard depart. Nor was it the demise of Bayern, on their home turf to a bunch of lucky old bastards.

No the death tonight was of Spurs. Who earned a Champions League spot and have had it snatched away from them. Because tonight players like Luca Modric, Gareth Bale, Raphael Van Der Vaart will be sold, Emmanuel Adebayor will not be tempted to join and my football team will no longer be a burgeoning force in English football.

I'm glad the season is over. Part of me hopes it never starts again...

Stuff
  • I've had an eclectic listening week: Sugar, M83, Brahms, Liszt, Mike Oldfield, Salt Tank and assorted Cafe Del Mar ambiance.
  • I have mainly been writing as opposed to reading; roughing out an old idea.
  • I am finding the cost of fuel is becoming increasingly a concern.
  • Apparently summer is going to make a brief appearance next week. I had gloves and a hat on today - it's the 19th May.
  • John Carter was okay; the guy playing John Carter couldn't act and neither could the woman who played the princess; but that aside it was a bit like some other films and was far too long.
  • Glow in the dark beards.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

2012 - 30

Tempting Fate

So, friend Roger took the plunge last week and 'upgraded' to Facebook Timeshite, because of the inevitability of it and the fact it appeared it was becoming compulsory on May 12. Well, May 12 has come and gone and I still have the old interface, but I'm not kidding myself; I expect to see an announcement at some point at the top of my page telling me I have 7 days to conform or it will just convert it without any input from me.

I have to agree with some person who posted on a website about the impending changes, when he said that we don't pay for Facebook, so we really have to put up with whatever they throw at us. However, you could argue that if you prefer using Word95 and don't like the version in Office2010, then you'd carry on using the original, even if it wasn't as... interactive.

I decided that if you can't beat them, then don't give them anything. So this morning I have unliked just about anything that can be construed as a potential advertising opportunity. I have removed all of my photos, all of my personal details, in fact, I've removed just about everything from my account and have untagged myself from a number of photos. Come the day I am switched over, I shall go through my account with painstaking annoyance and remove everything else I no longer want Facebook to have access to. And, I'm all too aware that they will still have all the original information, because that's what they are, just a massive market research tool.

You could argue that I've cut off my nose to spite my face as many of the bands, writers and things I like are no longer available to me and that eventually I'll have to succumb to the pressures of Facebook unless I want to be alienated from what's going on. I think I can manage. I managed well enough before Facebook. Actually, before I joined Facebook I had far less spam and targeted advertising popping up in my inbox or just popping up; so you never know, I might actually see less of a vomit flow of shit I am not interested in.

My Facebook account is likely to be used for what it was originally designed for - an announcement page. My blog postings will continue; any interesting bits of music I want to share with people and the very occasional status update; I will also still play Scrabble, but my interest in the other two games I play has waned to the stage where I'd rather sit and read than waste my time blowing up things to get top of a leaderboard that means nothing in the grand scheme of things.

I might be reneging on my promise to quit Facebook (I still might), but I'll be buggered if I let Zuckerberg and his bunch of faceless cunts rule my life.

Insure Me

Last year I dropped the Co-op as my car insurer, because they didn't offer me, a loyal customer, a decent deal. I ended up at Swinton - an agent - and they found me a good deal, but they also attempted to infiltrate my life in the same way as Facebook wants to. It ended up with me writing to their head office and telling them if they continued to bombard me with calls, emails and letters, I would take my business somewhere else, regardless of the cost. They stopped. For a while.

Mt insurance is due for renewal at the end of this month, but since about the 20th of April, I've had a renewed bombardment; including calls at work - despite telling them never to ring me during school hours - and calls when I have been at Sainsbury's, getting in the shower or taking a shit. Once, they caught me and a rather exasperated me said to them, "Why are you contacting me?"
"Oh, we need to confirm details your last insurer didn't give us."
"Hang on, we've done this already. Last June, I spent almost a month chasing up the Co-op and I eventually gave you everything you wanted. What's changed?"
"Oh we just need to ask you a few questions." So I said he could ask away.

All his questions were things that I couldn't or wouldn't expect my previous insurer to have known any how: is it still parked on the street; have I had any convictions; is it the same car, same people, etc. Once he'd concluded, he started to talk about something else and I stopped him. "Surely, as you have all the details, why do you need to discuss 'deals' with me? Surely, you just look for the best deal for me and tell me about that; if I want it I'll buy it."
"Oh, but you might want extra cover or breakdown or..." I cut him short.
"I just want the best and cheapest deal, monthly payments and that's it. I have breakdown cover independently; I have no need for anything else but car insurance."
"But, I have to inform you of the offers we have."
"No you don't. I don't want to hear them and besides, I have to go. You have my details, work for me." And put the phone down.

I've had five answer machine messages left since then; all asking me to call them to discuss my insurance. I think I know how this conversation is going to go...

But here's an interesting one for you. You know Direct Line and their wacky adverts and the line about them not being on comparison websites? Do you know why? I got my Sedici insured with Churchill, about 5 minutes ago - Swinton can go and do things with the willies - because it was £140 cheaper than Direct Line and offered a courtesy car, which the other didn't. I also got breakdown cover which was £40 cheaper than Direct Line.

"We're not on comparison websites" because you'd all realise they're more expensive than many equally as competent insurers.

Squeaky Bum Time

Today signals the (almost) end of the football season for another few months - it'll all be starting again in August, but don't forget we have wall-to-wall football to 'enjoy' throughout the summer. The Euros, the Olympic Games and because Sky (and Channel 5) scrape the bottom of the barrel, we'll also have inconsequential preliminary qualifying rounds for the Champions League and Europa League. This might see someone like Fulham or Everton starting their season at the end of June with a trip to the Faroe Islands or Moldova.

Makes you wish for years that end in odd numbers, doesn't it? I mean, FIFA holds the Confederations Cup on odd years, but as they are usually contested by winning nations, we have no fear of ever playing in that, eh?

This has been an exciting year for football, but it could have been so much better - really. But I would say that after my team spectacularly plummeted downwards after Amiable 'Arry was linked to the England job. The minute Woy got the job, Spurs started playing good again. The FA owes us big time and should petition UEFA if we finish 4th and miss out on a Champions League spot if a ricochet off of Fernando Torres arse improbably wins Chelsea the title in Bayern Munich's back garden next Saturday.

Don't get me wrong; part of me would like to see football played 12 months a year, because for the first few weeks after the season finishes I'm at a loose end most weekends and the sports section of the paper becomes as important as the Family section. But once I get into the summer vibe (good weather is always a help), I enjoy the weeks without having to bite my nails, get pissed off or suffer the glee of Arsenal fans; in fact I still think the season should start in September, which would require an extra 4 games to be played over the next 8 months; or they could just reduce the number of teams in each division and make an extra one to make up for the excess.

Actually, these players get paid more than enough money; playing twice a week most of the time should be a prerequisite.

Is it really right to be watching the cricket or tennis and have 'latest scores' appearing at the bottom of the screen? Or did that stop with Grandstand?

Stuff
  • I have been listening to Classic Chillout 2, which the wife was going to throw away. I can understand why.
  • I am nearing the end of The Wind Through Your Bumhole and it is rated as good.
  • I am nearing the end of Homeland, which is rated as good.
  • I am in the doghouse. The reason for this, I find quite ironic and almost amusing.
  • Orchard and Harry Crawford.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

2012 - 29

Bright Lights

There's this odd yellow thing sitting in the sky. I was eyeing it with suspicion, but was surprised and delighted that this strange phenomena was making me feel warm and putting a smile on my face. I have no idea what it means; it could be the beginning of the end of the world for all I know, but apart from hurting my eyes when I look at it, I'm thinking it's a bonus. I think I will christen it 'The Sun'.

It's arrival has prompted Fishwife to declare the ascendancy of summer. I was in the garden, looking slightly puzzled at the strange light that was bathing the garden, when I heard him say to one of his boys that 'today is good day for a barbecue'. Of course it is; any day when this shiny orb appears is a good day for a barbecue. It doesn't matter that you need this pile of burning embers to warm you up against the gale force northerly winds; if you can char meat then go for it.

A couple of Easters ago, the one where it fell at the end of March, it was horrid. The temperature on Easter Sunday was about 4 degrees, but it was sunny. We got back from walking the dogs and as I got out of the car, I turned to the wife and said, "Can you smell that?" She could indeed; someone was having a barbecue.

About an hour later, there's a knock at the door and my mate Tony, who was passing, was there. The first words out of his mouth were "Some c*nt is having a barbecue. Are people mad?"

20 years ago barbecues were the kind of thing you had once, maybe twice a year, it was like a treat and, of course, if you're a carnivore the range of burnable meat products far outweighs those of a vegetarian variety. Now days, it only has to stop raining and some twat is out there soaking coals in paraffin and incinerating lumps of poorly processed fat.

Don't get me wrong; I actually like the things, always have; but that might be because I spent most of my first 7 years in Canada, where barbecues are almost as popular as they are in Australia, and most every country park in Canada has built in grills in just about every picnic area, or they did in 1968...

Actually, that gives me an interesting project to look into. My nieces have got my suitcase full of old family photos, many of which are from Canada. I have to retrieve them from the pit that is Daventry at some point in the next couple of months, so I'll scan an entire swathe of Canada pics to illustrate what our life was like over 40 years ago. Seems like a better plan than playing Spider Solitaire for the entire summer, because I can't take the netbook outside (or have a barbecue).

This is How Exciting My Week Has Been

I might have to take up hang gliding or pot holing, maybe train for the Iron Man challenge or take up mountain climbing. Power walking perhaps, a little more sedate, but still an activity. The reason I say this is because the highlight of my week was having two pints of Oakham Citra - a beer that is both dry, bitter and is reminiscent of alcoholic grapefruit juice. It is also one of the best beers I have ever had, but that still doesn't excuse it from being a piss poor high point.

It had a few low points - as previously mentioned (blogs passim) - none of which did much to lift my mood. Yes, I have been happier this week than last, but I'm beginning to feel like a poorly paid whore and a conversation with someone who got a job that I had applied for in the summer made me realise that there is a good chance that all major employers are essentially a shower of shit.

Further developments when the inevitable happens.

Stuff
  • I'm still listening to the same thing.
  • I'm still reading the same thing.
  • I'm still watching the same things.
  • Today is like Sunday; tomorrow will be like Saturday but with no day of rest following to drown my sorrows.
  • Spent all of the week moaning about Amazon and then realised I should read emails more closely.
  • A bingo caller's nightmare.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

2012 - 28

Black, black, black...

I wrote a blog entry on Monday. The gist of it was how I was feeling; not physically and the precipice I found myself on; that state of mind that could go one of two ways; into the blackest of pits or magically bounce back into even keel. At about 7pm on Bank Holiday Monday, I made coal look bright. I had had a weekend of abject misery and silence and the entire house was stressed out to the max. I sat down and wrote a kind of Nostalgia Factory entry, which I might use one day, and geared myself up for hell's worst nightmare.

Yet here I am, three days later and remarkably buoyant. Perhaps sitting and writing it down acted as a kind of catharsis; who knows. All I knew was the blackest of moods on Tuesday began to lift and Wednesday I had a smile on my face. Today I had actually laughed twice - one spontaneously - and started to feel like my normal self again. I'm still feeling the after effects of having one of my 'stress monster' moments; but that's what I think it was. On Sunday, I thought I was heading for a period of depression almost bi-polar in nature and then some dormant memories in my head reawakened.

In my book about comics, I talk about the pressure, bullying and stress I was under when I worked at the magazine; but I don't think I talked about the periods of time when I became the Stress Monster - a phrase coined by my old doctor in Wellingborough, "Mr Hall, you are a stress monster," he might have called me Phillip, but I tend to block out that name; it isn't mine, not any more. I had periods where I suppose you could say I was depressed, but in reality I just had some form of stress attack, where I got knotted up mentally and physically. The constant reminder of this was the dull ache I had at the base of the right side of my neck, like I had a constantly pulled muscle. The day after I left it disappeared - no shit.

Before I used to work out tension, I'd do the thing I became quite infamous for - kneejerking. But I learned and sometimes the hard way. I have had a couple of proper bouts of depression in the last ten years and they are different, yet similar, but also identifiable; you just need to be able to make the connection before you slip down the slope. I might have done that, however...

... The dull ache is back...

Winter Fell

So there I was, reading a review in the Guardian a few weeks ago and I discovered one of my favourite bands of the 1990s had reformed and John Harris (I think) was extolling its virtues, calling it one of the best albums of the century so far - high praise indeed.
The last time I saw this band was at the Roadmender one cold March evening back in 199something. I was off my tits on ecstasy and sweating like a pig. Then they disappeared.
I completely forgot about this review and the band - when you get to 50 stuff like that happens (so watch out) and then yesterday I saw an advert for one of the festivals this year, saw they were appearing and decided to go and see if I could find this band's new album. I was going to do what I usually do with albums now, download it - illegally - if I like it, buy it.

The problem was I didn't know what the album was called, so I looked on Wikipedia, got the name of the album, downloaded it and then, for some reason, I thought I'd read the wiki entry to find out whatever happened to the band during their hiatus. I'm reading the entry and at one point it says when the band moved to London they met the man who would become their manager, a guy called Andy Winter...
"Nah," I thought. "Can't be the same Andy Winter I know", but there was a link to Andy Winter's wiki page and as sure as sheep shit, the guy called Andy Winter was 'my' Andy Winter and he was the manager of Dodgy!!!

Except, he isn't. My Andy is familiar with the band and that's about it. He has never been the manager of Dodgy, so it must be another Andy Winter and some bright spark must have put 2 and 2 together and come up with 31.

Damn and there was me thinking 'free tickets'...

Anchovy Spangles

Today, I am Bruce Willis in Die Hard. I have my white singlet on and hopefully by the time I take it off it will be green.

Oh... That last sentence makes all manner of suggestions about my personal hygiene...

Stuff
  • Would it surprise you if I said I had been listening to North Atlantic Oscillation? I am also boinging along to Amorphous Androgynous; breezing to Philip Glass's Metamorphosis piano thing; a bit of Engineers and I got the Storm Corrosion CD so will now listen to it as it was intended rather than a bootleg.
  • I ordered the Crunchy Gusset books by Martin Tolkcraft or whatever his name is; they were sent on Friday, they haven't arrived and there has been no sign of a failed postal attempt.
  • I am still reading Piss Through the Golf Hole or whatever the new King Dork Tower book is called. It seems quite apt considering the weather we've been having.
  • Remind me to tell you about the slugs.
  • Spinach.
  • Watching Homeland; thought I'd figured it out and then episode 7 came along and now I really am confused and I suppose that's what makes it good.
  • Hello Annie!
  • A mango for president.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

2012 - 27

Prepared to Say Goodbye

According to Roger, Timeline will be forced upon the naysayers on 12th May; that's next Saturday, and that will be the day that I think I shall bite the bullet and say goodbye to Facebook. I know I've said it before, but I've lost a lot of things off the Internet over the years; places that I spent just as much time as I have on Facebook and I've survived without them.

It will have consequences; I won't be as in touch with my close friends and family as I have been - the one really good thing about Facebook - and, of course, my blog will take a MASSIVE drop in hits, because 80% of them originate through links posted through Facebook. I doubt I'll embrace Google+ or one of the others suggested by various friends, because I really can't be arsed. I think I'm of an age now where if I want to be in contact with people then I'll email, phone or visit them - with one or two I might even use that antiquated postal system that still exists out there in the real world.

I still look at this Timeline shit as the recent big 'fuck you' from Mark Zuckerberg, who I'm, sure wanders around all day with a trouser-busting erection at the belief he is the most powerful twat on earth. It looks like it was designed by a blind fish with learning difficulties and as I'm pretty vague and ambiguous about wanting to display much about myself, then I can't see the relevance or purpose of it. It's just a insidious way to use people and target them with all the potential advertisers.

Besides, all that my news feed has become is a stream of You Tube clips, cute pictures and banal status updates (one of the reasons why I've only updated my status about 6 times in the last year) and to think some of my friends have been baffled as to why I've not joined or embraced Twitter.

It will mean that I will end up taking a hiatus from Scrabble; I won't be fixated by Bejewelled Blitz and um... Well, I shall miss playing Scrabble. I might become a little more isolated than I am already, but I can't see that being too bad. Yes, I'll miss out on some stuff, but I expect some of my friends will keep me abreast of any interesting situations, developments or links.

I will, of course, look into the information about Google Chrome users being able to activate something that allows the old interface to remain, but I used Social Fixer the last time Facebook changed against my wishes and all that did was slow up my PC and that isn't a good thing even when you have a lot of RAM and a fast processor.

Bad Week Gets Worse

Despite being immersed in my own woes and with depression lurking at my seams; I'm all too aware that everyone else has shit in their lives and that will ultimately affect me.

One of my best friends discovered that his girlfriend of 10 years has been cheating on him, destroying all of the plans they had made and leaving him feeling dejected, rejected and justifiably unhappy. This good friend and I share a mutual friend - someone who had been a constant in the wife's and my life for many years. He pretty much disappeared off the radar about ten years ago, opting to swap his then life of alcoholism, drug abuse and generally not looking after himself for a career living out of a trailer, working on narrow boats and keeping as far away from Northamptonshire as he possibly could.

To discover this morning that he has terminal lung cancer - at 45 - and the doctors are talking about how long he has rather than what chances he has is quite upsetting. This is a guy who was the wife's 'unofficial little brother' and someone we took in when his family - a notoriously rubbish shower of shit - didn't so much as disown him as just airbrush him out of their lives.

2012 is rapidly turning into yet another utterly crap year and it's not even half over yet.

Seasonal Enigma

Yes, it's like winter out there. We probably deserve it. I mean, picking fully-formed and tasty raspberries on Christmas Day is pretty unique and sitting in the garden with my shirt off during the middle of March is pretty unusual. But, the weirdest quirk of our enigmatic and thoroughly undependable weather arrived on Thursday night and then again on Friday.

The wife had taken the dogs down the garden for their 10pm piss break and when she came in, she wandered upstairs and said to me, "There's a present for you by the toaster." I looked at her slightly puzzled and she just smiled.

I went down and into the kitchen and was faced with a fully formed parasol mushroom, about the size of a cricket ball. It was free of insects (wrong time of the year for them) and quite possibly the best example of one of my all time favourite mushrooms I've seen in a long time. It was growing in one of the borders! It is either about 7 or 8 months late or 4 months early; but it's obviously been fooled into thinking it is now the autumn again.

The next day, I got home from work and decided to have a little look-see; you never know there might be more. And there was. Except it wasn't another parasol mushroom, but a big fat juicy agaricus silvaticus or scaly wood mushroom - basically a wild and tasty version of the shop bought chestnut mushroom. It is also at least three months ahead of its usual schedule.

The last time something freaky happened with mushrooms was back in June 1997. Me, the wife and the bloke I mentioned earlier who's split with his girlfriend, were down the Mill Road fields on the outskirts of Wellingborough. For those not familiar with it, if you drive out of Wellingborough and head towards Finedon, there are a bunch of fields backing onto the river that are just pasture land and therefore a pretty good field mushroom home.

That year the summer had not even got to the stage where it looked like it was going to arrive. It rained, it was unseasonably cold and I was wearing wellies at midsummer because the ground was so wet.

We spotted the mushrooms from about 200 yards away. You couldn't miss them, there were hundreds and hundreds of them - field and horse mushrooms the size of dinner plates. We ended up filling 3 carrier bags and a wicker basket with them and when we got home we had picked over 10lbs of fresh wild mushrooms and had left probably another 30lbs because they were either not perfect specimens or had started to go over.

I have no allusions that if I went mushrooming this weekend I'd find much, if anything, but, you know, I might keep half an eye on some of the usual places I find them!

Hunting

There were THREE jobs I could go for in the paper this week. That's three more than there has been for a long time. None of them are a perfect fit, but all of them pay more than I'm currently getting and offer me the chance to use my abilities, rather than not, as is the case at the moment.

As it will be a stormy and horrid day on Monday, I shall spend a few hours filling out application forms and hoping that I get the chance to get away from my current job which I feel has turned into a living nightmare...

Stuff
  • NAO has been on constant rotation, but I was listening to some Bach at work.
  • I have largely been underwhelmed by just about everything this week.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

2012 - 26

The Frog Eclectic

S'funny; sometimes you look forward to something so much it ultimately lets you down a little or after a while it just isn't as good as you thought or expected and, of course, sometimes it's just a vast anticlimax or just not very good.

I am talking albums here and there have been many that arrive get played to death and then don't find their way to a player again for, oh, years. And some just are so indelible that you know you are listening to something that you will be listening to in 30 years (or in my case, probably less than 30).

Less than two weeks ago I heard there was a new North Atlantic Oscillation album coming out and I really thought Grappling Hooks, their first album was something pretty wonderful - not perfect, but as debut albums go, it was pretty fucking marvellous. Roger liked it, but wasn't totally overwhelmed. We both sat and drank a beer in Wolverhampton with the band playing 100 feet away and we were oblivious. I hope I don't live to regret that.

The Fog Electric landed yesterday. I played it for the first time at about 6.30 and again straight away. I'd heard two new tracks on You Tube on Monday (and posted links to them up on FB) and suddenly felt that frisson I used to get when a Talk Talk, House of Love, Verve or even Floyd album was released. This new NAO stuff sounds exceptionally good.

This album might possibly be my first recommendation for best album of the century. It is just quite simply remarkable. It sounds like the Beach Boys versus Phil Spector meets the Flaming Lips mixed by Bob Mould and Terry Bickers and then given to Steven Wilson to fuck about with before channelling Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Verve and Mercury Rev. It's 60s, 70s, 80s all rolled into a 21st century package with a really unusual prog/post rock feel. I just can't get over how good it is.

I picked track 4 out as the weakest, but even that lulls you into a false sense of security and veers off into some bonkers brilliance - everything else is beautiful. The stand out tracks are the Beach Boys inspired Chirality; the dreamy brilliance of Mirador and the atmospheric shoe-gazy orgasm that is Savage With Barometer (Expert with Altimeter is also a carbon copy of a canine's testicle, too); but all the tracks just ooze texture and depth. It even has a track that starts off sounding like Noggin the bleeding Nog! I also think it's a concept album.

Kscope are the best indie label going and I have to see this band live. Parts of this album make me want to weep with joy, it's that fucking good!

Bring me the Head of Jesus Christ so I can Poke his Eyes Out with a Stick

My life has been dominated by work recently and sadly not in a good way. I'm currently looking for another job because I no longer believe that I have the support of my management team. I'm just a little too nice for their needs, it seems.

Without putting too fine a point on it, I've not turned out to be the cross between the Terminator and Scrooge that they hoped I would be; instead I'm a cross between Tom Good and the Green Cross Code Man and while I think it's working; my superiors want me to dispense with the velvet glove and don the iron fist. Hence, my searching for a new job.

Success can be achieved in many ways, but these ways are only obvious to the people doing the job and not the arseholes that observe snapshots of a day. At times this week I have felt as though I've been herded towards telling my employer to shove their job up their arses and frankly because of the economic climate that isn't something I'm contemplating too readily; unless, of course, something comes along to release me from this hell I've found myself in...

Still, it's a long weekend (albeit cold and unseasonal) and I intend to eat, drink and probably get as stoned as I can on a limited budget. This might involve freebasing Ventolin; snorting aspirin and mainlining a couple of bottles of red wine and if it is that combination I'll be hangover free and able to breathe more easily...

Stuff
  • I have been listening to North Atlantic Oscillation and only North Atlantic Oscillation, because it is a truly wondrous piece of artistry. It's called Fog Electric, don't forget.
  • I have been reading Wind Through the Keyhole and hating myself for liking it.
  • I have been borderline depressed; I can feel that bi-polar essence creeping into my psyche and fucking me over.
  • I'm not sleeping well.
  • I have discovered that I can become vehemently ambivalent.
  • This is what passes as silence.