Friday, July 27, 2007
Tomorrow that's going to be me, that is.
In the meantime a warm farewell to all my blog buddies - I shall return to blog world in a week or so and catch up on all your opinions and events (unless I'm sad enough to find a cyber cafe in Penzance before then)...
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
I really need to know. It’s something I’ve never done myself or even, for that matter, ever had the urge to do and yet frequently in the course of my day-job I come face-to-face with bizarrely blocked toilets on a frighteningly regular occurrence.
It’s like there’s some sort of club or secret society that I’m patently not a member of.
Most of the time the troublesome blockage is caused by a beer can or a rolled up copy of Heat magazine. You’d think that top shelf magazines would be the obstruction of choice but, no, these rarely make an appearance in my experience. Miles and miles of scrunched up loo paper feature quite a lot too but this is plainly the work of amateurs or bored school children – so much so it’s barely worth commenting on. It takes a dedicated expert to do the job (pardon the pun) properly. Because let’s face it: a beer can or a rolled up copy of Hello Magazine requires a fair bit of planning and effort to see it securely installed. Such blockages are the by-products of finesse and a certain amount of personal refinement. They’re out of the ordinary and the items chosen to perform the snarl-up usually have the flavour of social or political comment about them. It’s sculptural graffiti. 3-D satire.
The most bizarre blockage that I can recall (and I recall it only because it was so bizarre – I don’t particularly catalogue these lavatorial events) was a loo that I encountered at the end of Dover pier. Somebody had shoved a whole, unused loo roll down the toilet. Then, not content with this ironic swipe at the Andrex ideal, they had then dropped a “log” of nuclear-submarine-like proportions straight down the central tube of the loo roll thus spearing it not unlike a big blue fish in a barrel. Hoop-la indeed.
I have to say that I was both incredibly impressed and disgusted with this singular feat of precision bombing.
But the same question still remains: what type of person chooses to do this? Who in their right mind decides that today is the day they are going to block a public convenience?
Am I failing society by not blocking a toilet myself? Am I missing an essential life skill? Or am I just lacking in ambition?
Oh well. Bombs away!
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
On Saturday the River Leam burst its banks and, at ground level at least, came within 3 foot of the Art Gallery where I work in dear old Leamington Spa. Hence Saturday lunchtime I was called in to work to help install flood barriers, put out sandbags and remove every valuable painting from the walls so that they could all be stored somewhere safe.
Unfortunately, despite all these precautions, the water managed to get in through the foundations of the building and our under floor store – directly beneath the main Gallery – filled up with over 5ft of smelly, river water.
Hence, yesterday – which was actually my wedding anniversary – I had to go in again as most other staff are away on holiday this time of year to help with the clean up operation. I had originally booked the day off so Karen and I could go out for a meal but it seems the restaurant we’d planned to patronize had also been flooded! As it was Karen was very understanding and we decided to postpone our day out together until today.
So yesterday saw me (begrudgingly) slaving away at work instead of stuffing myself silly with top nosh and gazing adoringly into my wife’s eyes. Not the celebration of 2 years of marriage that we’d planned.
Still, the clean up operation is now underway. Pumps are in place to empty the flooded store and engineers are primed to strip down the boilers as our boiler room also ended up under 4 ft of water.
At the end of the day, compared to other areas of the country, we got off very lightly which is a very sobering thought indeed.
As for me. Top nosh beckons today. And Karen and I are concentrating on getting ourselves through to the weekend – Saturday will see us heading off the Marazion for a week’s well deserved holiday!
I can't wait.
Friday, July 20, 2007
It seems that the new up-and-coming sport of choice for those with more money than brain cells is Cage Fighting.
Basically two muscle pimped meatheads are locked into a caged circular arena where, using whatever martial arts techniques they have at their disposal – boxing, kick boxing, karate, judo, finger-painting – they attempt to knock seven shades of custard out of each other. The last man standing (not necessarily with both legs attached) is proclaimed the winner.
It’s brutal. It’s blood thirsty. It’s barbaric.
And tickets for a recent bout of this event at Wembley went for £500 a go.
From what I can see it’s basically no-rules-barred fist fighting. One tiny step away from a fully fledged gladiatorial contest.
The audience were grotesque. Rich men in Saville Row suits and women in catwalk originals baying for blood and a good maiming. If these are the “in people” I’m happy to be counted out.
A spokesman for the sport attempted to justify it by painting it in a much nobler light.
It’s not just about the violence, he said. It’s about the various disciplines involved and the positive mental attitude.
Oh well. That makes it all alright then.
As soon as I have tracked this man down I’m going to break into his house, terrorize his family and steal all of his possessions.
I know it sounds like a callous and violent criminal act but please respect the immense discipline involved in carrying out this endeavour and the tremendous positive mental attitude I’m having to adopt in order to get myself through it.
Last of the noble savages, me.
I’ll be selling tickets to this event on eBay. £500 a shot if anybody’s interested?
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Quite why more people are not watching this show is frankly beyond me. It is definitely the best thing on TV at the moment and Karen and I are already in mourning that the BBC and HBO have no plans to fund a third series. They must be mad, though – as with Life On Mars – I can respect their integrity in quitting while they’re ahead.
Last night was a huge, sumptuously cooked steak of a show.
Mark Anthony enthralled with Cleopatra knowingly commits political suicide by refusing to admit his Roman wife sent to see him by Octavian Caesar. It is of course precisely what Octavian wants: an unmistakable premise for war. In one ingenious move Anthony has been forced to betray both Rome and the goodwill of the Roman people. The end is nigh.
Lucius Vorenus knows that war is coming but declines the chance to escape it. He knows he no longer has anything left to lose and is too stiff-necked to do anything to change it anyway. He knows this also and accepts it. The end, again, is nigh.
Well, for me, Titus Pullo stole the entire show. A breath taking performance by Ray Stevenson clearly illustrates that beyond the beefcake thuggery and gory sword work, Stevenson is clearly an actor of the highest calibre.
As his second wife Gaia lies bleeding to death after saving his life she makes a deathbed confession: it was she that poisoned his first wife, Eirene, killing both her and their unborn baby. What could Pullo do but blankly strangle the last remaining drops of life out of her and then dump her body in what appeared to be a cesspool. It sounds callous and over the top but you had to see it. It was handled so well I’m still full of admiration the morning after. The wash of emotions that swept over Pullo’s face was amazing.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I seem to have landed myself and my web design business with a couple of real a-hole clients. I won’t go into detail other than to say they are some of the most ignorant, feckless, arrogant, down-right rude people I have ever had to deal with.
I’m now at the stage where I’ve decided that the extra money their work generates just isn’t worth the hassle and trauma that inevitably comes with it. The whole idea of working for myself was to get away from working for idiots.
Anyway, though I could potentially be committing financial suicide (well, not quite – I still have my day job) I’ve decided to give these troublesome clients 2 month’s notice before I withdraw my services. I need and want to spend more time with my family – especially Karen who’s undergoing a very exhausting pregnancy.
The loss of earnings will be painful. But already I feel so much happier in myself, it’s unbelievable.
I’m counting down the days already.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Although I can applaud the apparent sense of largesse behind the move – “giving music back to the fans” – I nevertheless agree with those who think that the strategy is ill conceived and ill thought out.
I’m sure much of Prince’s real motivation is a huge desire to cheese-off all those music industry bigwigs and fat cats who have leeched off him and other artists over the years, hampered his creativity and degraded the art form by dunging it about with the cursed accoutrements of business and commerce. I can well sympathise.
Except that it’s not the fat cats who’ll suffer from the eventual disappearance of the high street music store that this move seems to herald. It’s the shop workers, the stock buyers and all those ordinary people who work in the industry who’ll suffer the most. And these people have usually got into this line of work precisely because they are music fans. The very fans in fact that Prince wishes to lavish his generosity upon.
It’s fine for Prince. He evidently doesn’t need the money. He’s also big-egoed enough to cold-shoulder the inevitable “his album was so bad he had to give it away” jibes that will inevitably follow his recent bout of munificence.
But speaking as someone who’s brother-in-law has recently lost their job – without any kind of payment or compensation whatsoever – due to the collapse of the Fopp record store chain I agree with those who think that Prince’s album give-away is just a mighty kick in the teeth for those who have contributed to Prince’s material success over the past 4 decades.
If Prince wanted to show off his benevolence then why not give all the proceeds of the album sales to charity? Doesn’t it make better sense to make money for a good cause than to make no money whatsoever?
Preventing some company bigwig from buying yet another timeshare in the Algarve is one thing. Taking food of the table of an ordinary bloke in the high street is something else entirely.
Sigh, you’re damn right it is.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Karen and I took the boy to see Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix last night. Well. That’s not strictly accurate. We took the boy along with us to cover the fact that it was we who both wanted to go.
I absolutely love the Harry Potter films though I’m probably one of the few people in the UK not to have read any of the books and I don’t, in truth, intend to until the film franchise is fully completed.
That might sound odd coming from a confirmed bibliophile but I actually have a deep reverence for the cinema. You’re never going to hear me complaining that a movie adaptation of a book is inaccurate or has “left out the best bits”. I don’t expect or want to see a movie that is just a slavish rendition of a novel. Both are entirely separate art forms and should function according to the rules and demands of their own separate disciplines.
Put plainly, a movie is never going to be a novel and a novel is never going to be a movie. And neither should they be. I’m quite happy for directors to run a bit with an idea and change it, reshape it, prune it, mould it… sculpt it into something new. For those that want the novel… well, there you go. It’s there. But the film must be accepted as a thing entire and integral to itself.
For that reason I was one of the few people among my friends who loved V For Vendetta. I also loved the last Harry Potter film, The Goblet Of Fire and found people’s comments about “this has been left out” and “there was so much more in the novel” really tiresome. To enjoy a film adaptation properly you almost have to forget the novel. Give the film a fresh start and a fair go. Hence, I have chosen not to read the novels. There’s too much hype around them. I’m sure they’re excellent and I shall enjoy reading them a few years down the line. In the meantime I’m enjoying the films immensely.
Talking of which, The Order Of The Phoenix, continues the gradual darkening and greying up of the main character’s moral outlook started with The Prisoner of Azkaban. This is a good thing. The world is not a simple black and white place and the politicising of the Harry Potter world is a good thing. It adds more depth to both the characters and the plot.
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Emma Watson (Hermione) and particularly Rupert Grint (Ron) have very much upped their game in the acting stakes and their performances are a joy to watch. They work well together and their (obviously) real life camaraderie spills over onto the screen in abundance and adds a good deal of warmth to the macabre goings-on. My only complaint is that Hermione’s dancing eyebrows – much controlled in the previous film – are now wildly river dancing in every scene and are very, very distracting! Other than that her performance as Hermione is superlative and the slow burning attraction between her and Ron is just charming.
Ron for me is the real star: though Daniel’s Harry has now beefed up both physically as well as emotionally and has developed a very real, very strong screen presence, Ron’s comic timing is absolutely flawless and his delivery so natural that you are utterly convinced by him. He does however look like he’s just stepped out of the 1960’s music scene. I could easily see him in the Rolling Stones or The Small Faces. Lazy Sunday afternoon’s anyone?
It was also good to see Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Richard Griffiths, Gary Oldman and Ralph Fiennes reprising their roles although a fair few of them are looking decidedly creakier than in previous outings. I just hope the older ones are still alive when they to get to the seventh and final film. They’re totally free to cark it after that point obviously. Richard Griffiths as always looked particularly grotesque as Harry’s guardian, Vernon Dursley, but Karen and I were alarmed at how ill he looked. I suspect it was not all make-up and gloy which is rather worrying. Gary Oldman is superb as Sirius Black and there’s a very real warmth between him and Daniel’s Harry that benefits the film immensely.
Some of the new characters are notably excellent too – Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood was fantastic and, as expected, Imelda Staunton was untouchable as the torturing Dolores Umbridge. She was like an unhinged version of Her Maj The Queen.
My favourite though is still John Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy. His tightly controlled cruelty and superiority is always delicious to watch. His sneers drip acid and his voice is like a serrated knife coated in honey.
I could go on for hours but I will spare you all that. Suffice to say the film is excellent. Unlike The Goblet Of Fire though there’s not such a sense of crescendo towards the end. Instead the pace and tension are wound tighter and tighter as the film proceeds to its conclusion and there is no true sense of release. It feels like it’s part one of a two-part story almost. There’s unfinished business. Threats are left hanging. Promises are left to keep. None of this is a criticism. Real life isn’t about tidy, happy endings and I like the fact that the Harry Potter story doesn’t always take the safe kiddie option of nice, neatly packaged conclusions where all the loose ends are tied up. This is a dangerously adult world; not a kid’s world and there is a surprising amount of gravitas and food for thought in that one, single realization.
The Order Of The Phoenix is immensely satisfying and leaves you thirsting for more. That should be a thumbs up in anybody’s book. Roll on number 6 I say.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Hey. A nasty spleen is a happy spleen after all.
But watching “How Clean Is Your House?” last night I had to wonder to myself what kind of person actually chooses to willingly debase themselves on national television by appearing on such a show?
Now I realize that there are people out there – damaged, inept and socially inexpert – who through no fault of their own are unable to live conventional lives and carve out a small pocket of existence for themselves which resembles that of a New York bag-lady. There are even people who just choose not to clean their homes regularly and feel perfectly happy mired up to their hips in their own filth and detritus and develop immune systems that can snuff out the after effects of a neutron bomb.
But generally – either through immense shyness bordering on psychological shutdown or a perfectly normal sized sense of shame – these people would rather run a mile through Irish bog than let a strange person into their homes... let alone a film crew fronted by Scottish frost-pot Aggie MacKenzie and blonde beehived behemoth Kim Woodburn.
Which leads me to conclude that the people who apply to participate on this show are, perhaps, a little bit conniving... a little bit scheming... a little bit manipulative and self publicizing.
I have visions of them scrunching up yet another rejection letter from The Weakest Link or Deal Or No Deal and deciding that, "right, that’s it, I’m off to my local landfill site to collect as much dross, crap and bio-muck as I can; I’ll chuck it around my living room and dining room kitchenette and then give those obsessive compulsive cleaners from How Clean Is Your House? a call... it’s a sure-fire way to get on the telly!"
And bingo – it works. Cos every week there’s yet another sad-sack on my TV screen looking theatrically abashed at the sheer volume of killer ecoli spores that are lurking on their welsh dresser and the amount of faecal contaminates that have been liberally scattered around their DFS sofa suite and within the air tight confines of their tupperware lunch boxes by the malfunctions of a scabby toilet bowl that resembles the north face of the Eiger.
Effing hell. Do these people want to get on the telly that badly?
To the point where they’ll risk their own health and well-being as well as that of their family and friends? Do they even have friends? I mean it’s not something you’d boast about in the pub is it?
"Oh yeah, my mate Kev has been on How Clean Is Your House? - yeah, they had to slash and burn his entire living room apparently, it’s been diagnosed a global biohazard... there’s a five-mile exclusion zone around the whole site... but hey at least he gave Kim Woodburn one.... now she really was mucky..."
For God’s sale just buy a mop and some Mister Sheen! I mean how difficult can it be? Isn’t there enough crap on the TV these days without encouraging more...?
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
So to catch up and round down:
The pregnancy continues well in itself though it’s triggering Karen’s latent IBS. This means she’s in pain when she eats, in pain if she doesn’t and can’t ever guarantee a good night’s sleep... hence she’s permanently exhausted. Thankfully her bosses have agreed to let her reduce her hours: she no longer has to work Friday’s. This has made the working week a lot more manageable for her.
The novel continues apace: I shall post another excerpt soon. I’m sure you can all contain yourselves in the meantime.
And lastly, I was sent a link to the Simpson’s movie site (http://www.simpsonsmovie.com/main.html). It’s great – you can make your own Simpson’s cartoon character/avatar. Mine is above. Apart from a few minor discrepancies it looks a lot like me. On a bad day. Or even a good one. He’ll be the one miserably reading a poetry book and sipping a double whisky at the back of Moe’s Bar.
Hey dudes, eat my short.
Monday, July 09, 2007
A perfect Sunday night-in, in fact.
The whole episode was great fun.
In one fabulous scene weaselly politician Cicero felt the sharp point of a blade expertly wielded by Titus Pullo. Straight in through the shoulder blade, all the way down to the heart. Cue much fountaining of blood. However, I doubt anybody was ever bumped off in such a polite and deferential fashion. “Do you mind if I take some of these peaches? Be nice for the wife...” What could Cicero do but be magnanimous. It’s not like he’d be having much of an appetite later.
There was more gore towards the end. Poor Brutus got turned into a human colander after the allied forces of Mark Anthony and Octavian Caesar wiped the Greek desert with him during the battle of Philippi. I had to feel sorry for Brutus. He was like a public school boy who just couldn’t quite live up to his mother’s or indeed anybody’s expectations. Bloody awful name too. What was his mother thinking? Like Butch or He-Man, it doesn’t leave much room for poetry or origami. Susan would have been far more fitting.
The best bit of last night’s episode for me though was Agrippa finally getting to grips with Octavia, Octavian Caesar’s tasty little sister. Although I think it was more a case of she got to grips with him.
I had to smile at Agrippa’s sense of style. What do you do if you want to impressively woo and romance a daughter of one of the most powerful houses in Rome?
Answer: you rent a room in a gaudy whorehouse and shag her senseless for three hours solid before donning leather armour and going off to battle. I guess in those days the use of such places for this kind of “romantic” activity was the norm. Kind of the equivalent to a cheap hotel off the M5. A convenient passion pad inside which one may plough the odd wild oat in whatever passing furrow pleases you... and Agrippa seemed intent on planting a whole vineyard.
The choice of location was not a great compliment to Octavia though. But then again she’s not averse to a bit of rough. Having got blatted on dope and attending an orgy last week (though Agrippa hoiked her away before things got properly started) she’s hardly a shrinking violet.
She’s more like a Venus Fly-trap.
No wonder Agrippa had such a big smile on his face.
Anybody care for a grape?
Thursday, July 05, 2007
News that Catherine Tate is to be the next “permanent” Doctor Who companion has been causing a fair bit of furore in both the UK national press and the Bloggosphere.
The general response has been a resounding, “Oi, Russell T. Davis – NO!” though whether Russell, Doctor Who’s head writer/writer in charge (or whatever he wants to call himself), will actually listen is a matter of some debate.
I suspect he won’t which leaves us with the worrying prospect of Catherine Tate appearing in all 13 episodes of season 4.
A number of Doctor Who stalwarts have already voiced their concerns most eloquently – TimeWarden being once of them – and it’s not my intention to repeat what has already been said but nevertheless I feel the need to cast my hat into the ring.
I don’t hate Catherine Tate in the slightest. I love her comedy shows and think her a competent actress. I’ll even admit to finding something very attractive about her though she always seems intent on taking a bad photograph. (Karen and I are convinced she has issues regarding her looks but that’s a subject for another post...)
What I didn’t like was the character that Catherine played in last year’s Christmas special, The Runaway Bride. “Donna Noble” was just too shrewish and too fish-wifey to be an effective long-term companion. She grated. She jarred. She was a one-trick pony. Does the Doctor really need a stereotypical, constantly nagging female companion on his travels?
What next? Bernard Manning style mother-in-law jokes?
The trouble with Donna Noble is that her creator has confused volume with depth. The character is irritatingly two-tone and two-dimensional to say the least. And that’s hardly fair on Catherine Tate’s abilities.
But maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe a fantastic back story is even now being composed? Maybe scintillating scripts are even now being prepared and salivated over by Russell T and his crew?
The trouble is I suspect that Russell T has utterly no sense of quality control. He was swooning over the season 3 finale last Saturday for example and, to be frank, “Last Of The Timelords” was complete and utter cack. Ineffably risible.
It doesn’t bode well for the fourth season at all.
The problem is I can see Catherine Tate being turned into a convenient scapegoat and I think – if all does go belly up (though hopefully it’ll remain paws down) – the real blame will actually lie elsewhere...
But is Russell T Davis bovered?
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Imagine the scene.
The lush and verdant river bank that borders one side of the building where I work stretches indolently in the early July monsoon. Within its frond rich confines all manner of river animals frolic and play.
But one is missing.
Where is Ratty? Ratty is missing. Can he be found?
Oh yes. Look, there he is! Lying dead and bloated right outside the area of my workplace that is used to host high-powered dinner parties and corporate events.
That’s not very good. That’s not very good at all.
And thus I enter the story armed with a cheap shovel and scoop up his suppurating little corpse and toss it unceremoniously into the river. Squish-whoosh-splash. Goodbye Ratty.
Given the juiciness of Ratty’s cadaver and the fact that various components were wont to separate as I manoeuvred him onto the shovel I’d say he’d met his end quite some time ago. So quite how he found his way onto such a prominent part of the building’s footprint is beyond me because he certainly wasn’t there the day before.
I can only assume that Mole and Badger had been disturbed whilst in the process of dragging him elsewhere – perhaps to offer his remains to the river themselves or to inter him somewhere appropriate like the hallowed grounds of Toad Hall – and had dumped his carcass rashly on the forecourt of my workplace.
Or, more darkly, perhaps they were attempting to disguise a heinous crime by getting me to dispose of the body for them? Perhaps Mole and Badger had done Ratty over to get their hands on his boat? Was there some sort of sick love triangle taking place, the ins-and-outs of which really don’t bear thinking about?
Or had the weasels taken Ratty out in a drive-by shooting?
Or had Toad himself finally lost the plot and wiped out the residents of the river bank with a uranium rich dirty bomb?
I guess we’ll just never know.
Oh well. All is peaceful on the river bank once again now.
Sleep well, children. Sleep well.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Hence Karen, the boy and I spent the entire day treading gingerly and bracing ourselves for explosions of irrational belligerence and unjustified antagonism. We all survived but the upshot is we all ended up feeling totally exhausted and wiped out. And it takes us all several days to recover. It’s like having your life momentarily taken over by a bad vibe.
Which is a shame because “visiting granny” should never be like that and Karen and I both feel that the boy misses out by not having a traditional, warm, ever-patient granny to indulge him.
Ho hum. But what can we do? Sigh.
Onto other things. The weekend was redeemed a little for Karen and I by an excellent episode of Jekyll. Nesbitt’s portrayal of both Dr. Jackman/Jekyll and Billy/Mr Hyde gets better and better. The pacing of the episode was first class and beautifully plotted to keep the build up of tension at excruciating levels. Expectations were constantly created, played around with and undercut. It created a relentless pressure-cooker effect and gave me stomach cramps. But hey – maybe I’d just overeaten?
Best of all Benjamin (alias Paterson Joseph) got gorily dispatched about three quarters of the way through. A quick flick of a knife and he’s spewing claret from the second mouth that Mr Hyde has opened up halfway down his throat. Nice. Anything that permanently halts that fake American grin is fine by me.
Nesbitt’s Hyde teeters just on the right side of comic, i.e. blackly humorous but not ridiculous. His grin reminds me of the shark from Finding Nemo which is probably an odd reference point to make but what the hell. There is something likable about Hyde. You want him to win. But you also want Dr Jackman to survive too. With the two being mutually exclusive it’s going to be an interesting final three episodes.
Talking of which... the BBC programming schedule throws a spanner into the works yet again. Jekyll has built itself up to fever pitch, the momentum has been primed and teased to perfection by Steven Moffat’s writing... and the BBC pull the episode of Jekyll next week in favour of the Live Earth music concert. And everything deflates... pzzzzzzzsssst!
Yeah yeah. I’m sure it’s for a good cause. Saving planet earth and all that.
But I hate having my expectations hijacked. It makes me very angry, daddy. Very angry indeed...