Friday, 23 March 2018

Diary Of A Supervillain - Part The Third

Glaxnor has to go. Yesterday, he went out marauding, took my favourite axe and then he broke it on Mr Indestructible's skull. I mean, come on! His name's Mr Indestructible, there's a clue right there! And then ,when he came back, he left gore and entrails all over the Bathroom of Ineffable Futility. I'd just bloody well cleaned it. Plus he deleted that box set I'd been saving for the last six months and filled the Sky box with wrestling. I don't care how much of a tough time he's had, he has to go!

My post arrived dead on time today. True, it was delivered by a man wearing three-inch thick amour plating and it took him twenty minutes to walk up the drive but at least he was on time. And is that really so much to ask?

Had a very snotty phone call from The Mighty Man. Asking me if I was fighting other heroes behind his back. I told him that I'd never been his exclusive nemesis anyway and I could thwart other heroic types if I wanted to. He said fine, he was thinking of stopping Countess Nefaria's vicious scheme for total world domination anyway and hung up. Felt a bit bad about it but, really, a villain can't be tied down to just one hero. There's a whole world out there.

Weekend tomorrow. Might go out shopping for some new evil animals (the evil axolotl was a no-go), see if there are any bulk malevolent discounts going. Plus some of the minions want to go to the cinema. There's a James Bond marathon playing. Might give everyone a few pointers as well as being a bit of fun. Sometimes a villain and his henchmen just need to unwind....

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Diary Of A Supervillain - Part The Second

Just had Glaxnor round - he's absolutely devastated. Someone called his mother to tell her that he's really a supervillain. That's really uncalled for. Now his dad's thrown him out of the house and said that if he ever comes round again, they'll call the police. I've told him he can crash in the Spare Room Of Terror for a few days until he gets himself sorted out and back on his feet. It'll be fun to have someone else round the lair for a bit (aside from the minions, of course).

No post at all this morning. Think the depot may have got in a bit of a huff after me killing all their postmen then calling them rude names yesterday. I had to break out the orbiting death platform and reduce their puny depot to tiny little smithereens. Now how am I going to get my post?

Had a call from Admiral Amazing this afternoon. He's on the lookout for a new villain of extreme evil and despicableness to match wits against. I said it might be fun. Feel a bit bad fighting another hero behind Mighty Man's back but sometimes you just have to move on. We're going to meet up for a few initial clashes and see how it goes from there.

Got a quote from Apparently, evil chinchillas are quite hard to find and quite tricky to mutate. May have to have a bit of a rethink. I'm thinking evil axolotl but suspect they may be even trickier than the chinchillas.

Some sad news today – one of the oldest minions, Minion Number 3, has decided it's time to call it a day on the old minioning front and strike out on his own. I shall be sad to see him go as we've had some good times together as evil master and henchman – the Evil Flying Robot Monkey-Children Caper, the Floating Doom, Fear In The Alps - happy times, one and all. I gave him the traditional send-off that all my minions get. I disintegrated him into a small pile of powdery ashes with my extra-big ray gun (the one I save for special occasions).

May have to have a word with Glaxnor. He left the butter out with the lid off and the dirty knife just lying next to it on the counter this morning after he'd had his toast. He also keeps taunting the piranhas with bits of cheese. I know he's going through a bit of a rough patch but, if he's going to live under my evil roof, he has to abide by my evil rules.

Had my first clash with Admiral Amazing today. We traded a few threats and insults and I promised to return and wreak terrible vengeance on him and a world which just didn't understand me. I think this could be the beginning of a very destructive relationship.


Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Diary Of A Supervillain - Part The First

Postman was late again this morning. Had to have the minions feed him his own entrails while fire ants devoured his terrified eyeballs. You'd think the depot would learn – that's the third one this month.

Fed the mutant piranhas. I don't think they appreciate the dog food, it's been making them look a bit peaky (the unexpected treat of fresh postman did perk them up a bit, though). Plus it's getting a bit expensive to keep feeding them so much - one of the drawbacks of their hideously mutated voracious appetite, I guess. May have to go for a different class of mutant. Maybe chinchillas. As long as they're really, really evil chinchillas.

My Impenetrable Lair of Ultimate Deptravity is a right state this morning. Glaxnor the Impervious came round last night. He'd been thwarted by Captain Pizazz and in record time too - he'd barely started his diabolical monologue before it was all over. He was feeling pretty down so we cracked open a few beers and, before we knew it, me, him and the minions were air-guitaring and air-drumming to Foo Fighters. Now there's double-handed axes, experimental ray guns and empty beer cans everywhere and someone seems to have melted my autographed Kings Of Leon poster. I may have to have one of the minions flayed alive as an example. That's sort of thing just isn't on – you should have more respect for other people's property.

Supposed to be meeting The Mighty Man for an apocalyptic showdown atop the bubbling lava of my secondary volcano lair but, to be honest, I'm not really in the mood. I'm still a bit hungover from last night. Might get one of the minions to rearrange – tomorrow would be better. Or Wednesday.

One of the minions keeps taking off his shoes and socks in the Sitting Room Of Despair and just leaving them lying around. Eurgh! May have to cut off all his toes and fashion them into a necklace to wear around my neck at all times. Maybe then he'll pick after himself a bit more.

Another phone call from the Royal Mail depot about their missing postman. I told them that they would rue the day they crossed me, laughed maniacally and hung up. Then I realised that they called me so presumably know who I am and where I live (well, they should know where I live otherwise I'm never going to get any packages). Hope this doesn't mean tomorrow's post will be late…

Met up with The Mighty Man for our climactic volcano-top battle. It was OK as climactic battles go – we traded a few insults, struggled precariously on the precipice and then he hurled me towards the bubbling lava whilst I performed one of my miracle death-defying escapes (which, as per usual, he failed to see thus believing me dead until the next time our paths cross). But it just felt to me like out hearts weren't really in it. My dread-filled speeches felt a little pat and his trademark roundhouse kick was half-hearted at best. Maybe it's time for us both to spend some time thwarting some other nemeses…


Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Maximum Three Videos Per Rental

When The Brother and I were but younglings, there was a place of great allure and almost mystical power to which we would repeatedly entreat The Father for a visit. I am, of course, talking of that place that was known only to those two children of the 80s as The Video Shop. It didn’t sell videos, though - oh no. You didn't get to keep them*. It was basically a library where you rented VHS tapes of the latest films and TV series (sometimes as many as two episodes per tape) for a fixed period of time - failure to adhere to said agreed period of time incurring a financial penalty against the renter.

To be found within were all of the major Hollywood releases from anything up to twelve to eighteen months after their theatrical debut and we devoured those, naturally. Also contained within were many other weird and wonderful films which were not major Hollywood release - some of which may not have even graced a large screen in the UK. To our tiny and less than discerning minds, these fantastical items, often with lurid and grossly misleading covers, were just as appealing as any of the big blockbusters, if not more so. Our local video shop (in the days before the chains such as Blockbusters became predominant) had a set of shelves in the middle with just the VHS covers in plastic laminates for you to flick through once a video had passed from its position of prominence as a new item on the walls and it was often here that the real goodies were to be unearthed.

Invariably, we found ourselves drawn to the cheesy and over the top horror films of the Eighties contained within this celluloid wonderland. Here are some of the “classics” that we were fond of back in the day:-

Basically, like a cheap rip off of Gremlins except gorier and much more toilet-based. I expect we also watched the subsequent and inevitable sequels (including Ghoulies 3: Ghoulies Go To College) but my memory seems to have ditched them in favour of far more important things.

Bizarre horror comedy about a blob-style alien criminal who is accidentally beamed to Earth into a family’s TV. Watched this recently and, in one of the many strange elements of this film, the parents of the family are preparing for an evening of swinging, something that completely passed me by as a youngster

Killer Klowns From Outer Space
Clown-shaped aliens arrive in their big top-shaped spaceship and start bumping off the inhabitants of a local town in various clown-themed ways. I have to admit, the grotesque clown designs for the aliens are suitably horrible and still look creepy even today (not IT-creepy but close).

Another Gremlins-style film in which furry little aliens from outer space go on a toothy feeding frenzy. Like a lot of these films, it makes up for its lack of real quality with a sort of goofy and silly charm. Interesting Fact:- The director of Critters went on to direct Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

These are just a few of the delights currently available in your local video shop sometime in the eighties. And remember, if you do rent any of these, be kind and rewind before you take it back.

* Unless they were getting rid of knackered old copies of something that nobody wanted anymore.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Middle (Age) Of The Road

Something has happened. There was a shift at some point in the last few years. A gradual change in my own personal aural landscape. I’ve always had a pretty varied taste in music - definitely not a taste in music you could describe as “cool” as the 90s Gloria Estefan phase will attest - but, aside from my love of 60s soul, 70s funk and a healthy dose of disco, I’ve generally veered more towards the rock / indie side as the default music of choice. Sure, I’ve kind of drifted away from the music side of things over the last few years, given that I don’t spend any way near as much time hanging around with musician-style mates as I used to but I thought I was probably still mainly in the rock / indie side.

So, I was somewhat surprised when not only did Spotify start playing Jesus He Knows Me by Genesis on my daily mix but I also found myself enjoying it. I like to think of this as the Partridgisation of my musical in honour of North Norfolk Digital’s finest DJ. Oh, I used to enjoy certain types of middle-of-the-road songs with a sense of ironic detachment which is pretty much the default setting from the 20s into the 30s but, as I gallop down Forty Something Highway, I’m finding that the irony is dropping away and the enjoyment is becoming fairly genuine.

It was highlighted recently when, during my viewing of the second season of Stranger Things, it came to a scene in which Chief Hopper rifles through his record collection. After flicking past Supertramp (which prompted a bit of, “ooh, I should listen to them”), he settles on You Don’t Mess Around With Jim by Jim Croce and, after the brief segment of it, I definitely found myself thinking, “Ah, I could’ve listened to the rest of that.”

The real clincher, though, was the point where Spotify suggested me a playlist composed of 10cc, ELO, Chicago, Doobie Brothers, America, Deep Purple, Blood, Sweat & Tears and Clapton. I was, as we’ve established above, pretty much enjoying the whole selection with no trace of any irony. It then hit me - this was an almost exact recreation of The Father’s record collection*. I had at some point, musically speaking, become my father.

Is there some sort of genetic switch? Does a certain amount of time pass until the body reaches a certain point where it releases some sort of enzyme that engages a more comfortable musical taste? Whatever it is, I have two choices:- fight it tooth and claw or lean into with pipe and slippers.

Somebody pass me a copy of No Jacket Required...

* I was going to explain what records were but hipsters love their vinyl these days.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Stats, Facts & Figures

Love a good stat. Or a fact. Anything like that really. The ability to boil something down to a “did you know?” Here are some statistical figures and stuff about this blog.

Number of posts (including this one):- 427
Number of posts if you include the previous MySpace blog*:- 644

Total number of words:- 170,249
Total number of words including previous blog:- 264,970
Number of words written per active year**:- 37,853
Overall total is the approximate same length as:- Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susannah Clarke

On This Day
Date of first MySpace blog:- December 7, 2005
Things that happened on this day in history:- Nothing else of import really

Date of this blog starting:- August 25, 2008
Things that happened on this day in history:- Not a lot then either (turns out most of history is just a bit boring)

Frequently used words
Time - 920
Film - 702
Good - 507

Least used words
Scarce (very apt)

Number of blog posts composed of thin ideas stretched out probably beyond their natural breaking point:- 100%

*Hey, anyone remember MySpace? No? No? It was all the rage a decade and a half ago, I tell you. Apparently it’s still there like some sort of creepy internet graveyard. Where social media goes to die.

** Well, there was a six year gap with nothing, I'm not including that, drags the average right down.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Fulla Oscar Filmy Goodness

I’ve already talked about a few of this year’s Oscar nominations (somewhere over here) so here’s my thoughts on a few more as valid as any criticism of another person’s hard work (i.e. probably not much).

Phantom Thread
In A Nutshell:- The difficulties of living with an artist
Any Good? I’m often in two minds about Paul Thomas Anderson’s work. I enjoyed Boogie Nights and Magnolia but felt that both were too long while I struggled to get into The Master and Inherent Vice. There was something about Phantom Thread that drew me in and held my attention though. It’s a combination of the performances, with Daniel Day-Lewis’ oddly compelling and strangely inflected Reynolds Woodcock as the standout, the look and feel, the pacing and ultimately the compex shifting relationship between Woodcock and Alma, the woman who loves him. It’s one of those films that I found myself thinking about afterwards - always a good sign. And I’ve decided that i will now order every breakfast like Reynolds Woodcock.*

I, Tonya
In A Nutshell:- Equal parts comic and tragic retelling of knee-smashing, ice-skating incident
Any Good? I, Tonya occupies a similar sort of territory to The Big Short - giving a comedic spin to a story based on factual events. Margot Robbie is great as Tonya Harding but the most compelling performance is from Allison Janney as Tonya’s frankly monstrous mother (with a special mention for Paul Waller Hauser as the delusional “bodyguard”/friend of the husband). It’s a mixture of mock documentary with more straightforward scenes but with occasional breaking of the fourth wall to comment on the action. The only slight oddity is the almost complete lack of Nancy Kerrigan from the film - it feels like she should have been more of a character.

Lady Bird
In A Nutshell:- Quirky young girl struggles with relationship with mother and desire to move away to college
Any Good? It’s got a strong cast and Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf give believable performances to create a realistically antagonistic mother-daughter relationship. There was something about this film that I just couldn’t get into though - I found myself clock-watching after a while, never a good sign. It’s a well made film but it just didn’t fully engage me for some reason.

There you go. That may be of some help. Or it may not. Those are the two main options here, really. 

*A great name for a cat.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Inside Out / Outside In

I’m not really a “people person”. I realise that makes me sound like quite the misanthrope but that’s not really what I mean. Naturally, I love spending time with my friends and I’ll laugh, joke and join in at a social situation but, given the choice, I’d rather not talk to people that I don’t know (and very, very occasionally, I’d rather not talk to people I do know). If you were to bump into me on the street (without knowing me) and attempt to engage me in conversation, chances are that my response would be brief, closed off and not invite further conversation. Taxi drivers will most definitely always get a perfunctory response designed to dissuade further discourse. I’m aware that this can make me seem rude or stand-off-ish. I’m not being rude - what I am is an introvert.

There are some pretty common misconceptions about introverts and extroverts. Introversion is generally seen to equate to being quiet and shy (and often with slightly negative connotations - “not fun”) where extraversion equates to loud (with the connotation being that they’re fun). I can be fairly lively in a group - I can even get the urge to get up and show off in front of a group of people sometimes. No one is ever entirely one thing or another but these extrovert behaviours don’t make me any less of an introvert.

It’s all about how I process the world. I like to internalise. I’m more often than not deep inside in my own head rather than fully engaged in the world around me. Sometimes I chose to spend that time inside and sometimes I struggle to break free from the pattern of retreating within. 

As I said above, I love spending time with my friends. I am, however, equally happy spending time on my own, doing things that amuse me and me alone*. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I need that time by myself to help keep me sane. I guess that can come across as selfish and self-absorbed and maybe it is to an extent. I have a friend who is very similar to me in a number of ways and he put it very well the other day:- “extroverts gain energy from being in the presence of others, introverts expend energy while in the presence of others”. I like that. Again, it’s not to say that one is negative and one is positive but, for me anyway, if I spend a lot of time with other people, I need time by myself to recharge.

So if there are times where I don’t seem particularly engaged, it just means that, much like an Apple product, I’ve reached my limit and need to be left plugged into the mains for a while. I’m not ignoring you.

Oh, except for you. I think you’re a bit of a prick.**

* Now, now, mind out of the gutter, please. Filthbag.

** Hey, come on, that was relatively sincere for once. I’ve got to deflate it a bit at the end somehow. We can talk about my “humour as defence mechanism” another time, OK?

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The Real Fake News

The term “fake news” has become a phrase bandied about by the current President of the United States and used to mean “a news article which is critical of me and I don’t like”. This usage is both infuriating and damaging but that’s not really what I writing about today. No, there are a couple of other types of “fake news” out there these days which I happen to find almost as infuriating.

The first type is what seems to have become accepted as a valid journalistic practice - clickbait as news. The headlines all have a similar pattern to them and it runs something like this:- “Person (x) did (y) and the internet can't cope / has gone crazy / loves it”. Oftentimes that thing that the person has done doesn’t necessarily reflect the title but that’s not always the problem. My main issue with this type of story is the definition of “the internet”. 

The article in question will back up the main assertion with a selection of quotes from Twitter and this is the part that I object to. What this basically boils down to is that the article’s author has seen something in their Twitter feed and turned it into an article. That does not equate to “the internet” - what it equates to is an attempt by the author to generate something from the subsection of the internet that the author looks at. It’s shameless hyperbole designed to draw you in. It’s not news.

The second example is more insidious. I saw an item on a couple of genuine news sites about the launch of new type of burger at an internationally recognised fast food franchise. A menu change at a multinational company isn’t news - it’s advertising and we’re getting more and more of these ads designed as news every day. Top ten programmes on a streaming service? Advert. Item about a new feature being rolled out a social media network? Advert. Story about a fast food chain closing restaurants due to shortages with a link to list of restaurants that are still open? Advert. And that’s not including the actual adverts which are interspersed with a site’s “news” stories in the same design and typeface as the “real” stories.

I’m not looking to trivialise the presidential bandying around of “fake news” as a means to disrupt any dissenting voices. That Is a problem and we should all be conscious of it. However, the main proponent of this method is such an outlandish cartoon villain that it’s fairly obvious what he’s doing*. I'm also conscious that all news is essentially manufactured anyway as the editors and journalists responsible decide what’s new and what isn’t (and I’m a pretentious git what did a media studies degree a lifetime ago). All I’m saying is that we should be aware of what we’re reading. Don’t just accept a story at face value, even when it’s on a reputedly respectable news site. There is real news out there somewhere.

*Yes, I haven’t named him. His name turns up enough on the internet and any publicity, good or bad, feeds him. Any small thing to deny him that food.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Look, Up In The Sky

I’m a fairly oblivious commuter. When I’m walking around, my ears are budded and fill of the sounds of podcasts, audio plays or music. I could have (and almost have) walked past family members once I’m locked inside. Similarly, when I’m on the train, my eyes are engaged in either reading or attempting to stay open to read*. I have on some rare occasions even failed to notice that we’re at the last stop if I’m fully engrossed. So I did something that I never normally do - I looked out of the window.

As I looked out of the window, I noticed for the first time in many years of travelling that the station we were stopped is directly under a flight path and that planes were coming in pretty close overhead. As I watched the plane coming in on its approach for landing, the train started to move and I had the odd sensation that the plane was frozen overhead, just suspended and hovering in mid-air. It gave me the slightly disconcerting feeling that it could just drop straight down out of the sky at any moment. The strangeness of the scene was compounded by a criss-crossing pattern of contrails from other planes forming a sort of latticework in the sky behind it. And then we passed under something and the moment was broken.

Am I going with the possibly slightly trite message that sometimes we should look and see what’s going on in the world around us a bit more? It’s certainly not something I’m above closing with, in a sort of Jerry Springer, “be good to yourselves and each other” kind of a way. It’s far more likely that this was just an excuse for some rambly footnotes. though.

* Yep, I’m one of those commuters who does the head constantly nodding forward and back accompanied by the occasional start and possible snorting noise. It is suave, sophisticated and sexy (what do you mean, “snotty, snorty and sickening”?)**

** On a separate note, this only happens on the shorter commuting journeys. Stick me on an intercity train and I can't drift off even if I try. I don’t what it is about these - the noise, the speed, the jolting around - but I just can’t sleep on them. Shame really as that would be a good couple of hours kip.***

*** I was tempted to add another footnote here but that’s just getting a bit silly, don’t you think?****

**** Or is it? Could I write a whole post that’s entirely composed of diversions?+ Let’s face it, that’s how my mind works most of the time. It’ll start off on one track and then, before I know it, it’s gone down three different tracks and ended up somewhere completely different. Anyway, I think I’ve digressed slightly...

+ I mean, I could but who’s going to read that? Well, aside from you obviously. Look, this is probably getting a little bit out of hand. I’ll let you get back to the previous diversion before getting back to the main thread, whatever the hell that was anyway.