Saturday, 31 January 2009

Reduction

So I've reached the end of a full month of writing and posting a new blog every day as, in December, I kind of cheated and pre-posted some entries a few times* and, I must admit, I have struggled with it. There really are just days when the mojo doesn't flow - case in point being today as I've started and re-started this sentence at least three times (and will leave it there, I think - does the job).

I think from today onwards that I'm not going to try and force myself to post every day. While, on one hand, it has spurred my brain into unexpected activity to produce some good results, for the most part, I end sat in front of the screen thinking, "Come on, Baldy, come up with something mildly diverting in a conversational style". And, let's face it, nobody wants to read the small drizzle of uninspired, for-the-sake-of-it words that are reluctantly squeezed from my non-functional brain, do they? No, and quite right too.

All of which is to say that you'll see blogs when you see them. That may still be daily or it may not. I'll surprise you - it's good to keep you on your toes...

Plus, there's hardly any bugger round these parts at the weekend. Hello? Hello? Anyone? Oh well...


*relaxes, undoes belt, puts feet up on coffee table and opens bag of pork scratchings*




*Admittedly, I failed very slightly in that the 27th Jan entry just says "No blog" but, technically, I've still written a month's worth as I wrote one every day from 26th December to 26th January. So there.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Inaction

Evening time. A winter's day and the light had long since departed. In a warm indoor glow, he stood and surveyed the bounty in front of him. Truly, it was a wondrous sight. There they sat, almost regimental in their ordering. Here and there, patterns emerged amongst the cornucopia of colours and writings, shapes and images. It was oh-so-familiar and yet, every now and then as he stood in uffish thought, head tilted at the optimum browsing angle, something forgotten would jump out and clamour for his attention.

And what a clamouring it was. So many things to see and hear. Wondrous sights and sounds as yet undiscovered and familiar or comforting scenes to wrap around you like an old blanket. Strange new worlds and old familiar places, all contained there on shelf after shelf after shelf.

He shifted slightly to the other foot and inclined his head at an alternate angle. So many things and yet no one thing was leaping out at him, saying, "I'm the one you've been looking for. It's me, it's me". Occasionally, he trailed a hand along their spines but, as expected, this provoked no reaction.

Time passed and he was no nearer a final destination to his browsing odyssey. He began to grow restless - as time passed while he stood here looking, the amount of time he had left to spend transported to their other places was dwindling. This led to an increased burst of activity; a pacing back and forth with faster glances, trying to catch that elusive something that would complement his mood. Still nothing. Still nothing.

"Oh, sod it," he thought. "I'll just watch The Muppet Movie again."

Thursday, 29 January 2009

You Decide - The Winner: Mwuhahahahaha!

The final votes have been tallied and verified by our independent adjudicator and, by a whopping landslide result of five to one, Option 2 wins! In a choice between good and evil, the ladies all cast their vote with the evil which just goes to prove categorically, once and for all, that all women love a bastard (it's true, that's how statistics work, you know). So, ladies, this one's for you...


At last! At last, the time has come. They mocked, oh yes, they mocked; some even dared to scoff. But they are all laughing on the other sides of their faces now (those that still have faces to laugh with). My plan was sheer elegance in its simplicity and now, and now, it's mine, all mine. The world shall bow and tremble in fear under the glossily evil boot-heel of the High-Exalted, Great And Feared, Shiny-Pated Emperor Of the Cowed Peoples Of The World And The Known Universe, That Baldy Fella The First.

The world is my lobster,* my plaything, my gewgaw and my doodad so there are gonna be some changes round these parts and here is how it's going to work:-
  • Do what I wilt shall be the whole of the law (but, you know, there'll be some specific stuff in there that you really shouldn't transgress otherwise you'll be in for some smiting, I reckon).
  • All men shall have their heads ritualistically shaved but none shall be permitted to wear the Ceremonial (and now Imperial) Beard of Splendour save myself.
  • Imperial wives - Angelina Jolie, Billie Piper, Natalie Portman, Kate off of Lost.
  • Heads on pikes - P*ris H*lton**, Jeremy Kyle, all celebrity chefs, all reality TV show judges***, any anti-Baldist sympathisers.
  • The Imperial flag will be a bald eagle and a coot with Patrick Stewart and Telly Savalas stood in front of them holding a can of scalp wax.
  • The Imperial dish shall be some sort of cheese-based curry. Anyone offended by Imperial flatulence will sentenced to death by it.
  • The Imperial sport will be dinosaur racing (having conquered the world as an evil genius, I'm bound to have high-tech genetics labs, freeze rays, time machines and all that kind of stuff just sort of lying about so this should be easy). Wembley Stadium shall become Jurassic Stadium - let's face it, it's not going to be used for football anymore...
  • The Ministry Of Fluffy Happiness will have reasonable limits placed on the amount of secret arrests and savage beatings they can administer (this isn't much of a variation on the current system, I'll admit; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Leaden satire, there).
  • The following countries will be renamed:- France shall be known as Great Britain Jr. (they'll love that); America shall be known as Work Camp No. 1 (seriously, you'll all love toiling in the mines; apparently, it's great fun if a little wheezy and shortening to life expectancy); and Great Britain shall be known as Greater Baldonia (I know, it's catchy).
  • The following shall be outlawed:- speakers on mobile phones; mime-based experimental theatre; handbag-sized dogs; exercise (come on, no one really enjoys it); imaginary scientific terms used to describe skin or haircare products; being hairy in a baldy-only zone.
  • The following words shall be encouraged to be used more often:- jackanape; hullaballoo; snifter; impecunious; ne'er-do-well; plinth; as you wish, Oh High Exalted Shinyness

Oh, what bald new world, that has such hairlessness in it. People of the world, rejoice! Say it loud - I'm bald and I'm proud! (Failure to declare proudness in baldness could result in summary execution or worse.)



* Far superior to oysters

** There's some foul language that even I can't bring myself to type

*** Cheryl Cole will escape with a stint in the Imperial Harem


Wednesday, 28 January 2009

You Decide...

Right then. To make up for a bloody poor show on my part yesterday, I'm offering you the chance to shape the course of this very blog. Yes, inspired by indecision and possibly infected by work, I'm going all interactive, what with this being the future and us all having silver foil outfits, food in pill form and flying cars and suchlike. Today, I, the writery bloke, shall present you with two possible options for a blog along with the opening few lines and you, the lovely readery types, shall decide which one I will write in full. The winner will blossom into a full blog and the loser will wither and die, never to see the light of day.

I haven't written anything more on these than the lines you see presented before you - the rest will be filled in once you have voted for a winner (he says optimistically, hoping that inspiration doesn't fade completely between now and tomorrow). The loser will cease to be - I shall not complete it at a later date (as that would make a mockery of your voting in the first place and nobody likes a voting scandal).

So, without any further ado (I'll save the further ado for later), here are the choices:-


Option 1
Title:- Everybody's Gonna Be Happy
It begins:- "Music. If music be the food of love, play on; give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken and so die. Or "I likes a good tune, me" as Billy may have put it if he didn't ponce about with all that flowery language all the time. We all know that music can both reflect your current mood or can alter it for better or for worse; it soothes the savage breast and fires up the dogs of war..."


Option 2
Title:- Mwuhahahahaha!
It begins:- "At last! At last, the time has come. They mocked, oh yes, they mocked; some even dared to scoff. But they are all laughing on the other sides of their faces now (those that still have faces to laugh with). My plan was sheer elegance in it's simplicity and now, and now, it's mine , all mine..."


So, either of those intrigue you or float your bloat? Want to know where they're going? Then here's the further ado:-

1. Leave a comment voting for your preferred option - Option 1 or Option 2
2. One vote per comment and one vote per person
3. The winning blogs lives, the losing blog dies
4. Voting closes at 07:00 GMT on Thursday, 29th January. Votes cast after that time will not be counted but may still be charged. Comments are free from a BT landline but costs from mobiles and other networks may be considerably higher.
5. In the event of tie, That Baldy Fella will flip a coin. The coin's decision will be final.


So get voting and remember you're voting for the blog you want to save from tonight's blog off...


Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Nick Nack Blog Lack

Today's blog is cancelled (due to baldyfeelingcrapitis). We apologise for this interruption in transmission. Normal service will resume shortly.

(N.B. Please note that the Squire's blog is unaffected by this and any other such outages as entries are scheduled to publish.)

Monday, 26 January 2009

That Rug Really Tied The Room Together*

I am not a sporting person. By that, I don't mean that I don't possess a sense of decency or fair play. No, I'm just not cut out for sport. For some reason, it's just never tickled my interest. I tried as a young lad, gangly of frame and mop-topped of hair**, to like football as the entire family was very much football-oriented. I even got a sticker book and everything but just couldn't see the appeal of sitting down to watch it. There were no robots, no spaceships, no aliens, nothing. Just a load of blokes kicking a ball up and down. Yawn. Pass me the Lego.

At secondary school, due to being larger of frame (i.e. built like a brick shithouse), I was drafted into the rugby team***. Fortunately, my innate crapitude at sporting stuff in general shone through (mainly through my tendency to run away from the ball and try and lurk at the back hoping no one would notice) and this only lasted a few excruciating months. So, Sport and I said our farewells and agreed to leave one another to it as, in general, we'd both just be much happier that way.

With one exception.

There is one sport that I've always been fond of ever since I was a wee lad. It's a sport that requires no special training, no particular physique and can be done whilst drinking - all big ticks as far as your baldy narrator is concerned. No, it's not darts although I am partial to a bit of arrows. I can't quite do the maths quick enough, though, so it's a bit like hard work. No, it's not snooker or pool because I'm atrociously bad at both of those (well, unless you alter the objective to "keeping the balls on the table and knocking them about all night" ****. No, I refer to that sport of sports where real men are probably a bit overweight and the shoes are shared.

Bowling.

You probably guessed that if you worked out the title quote, though. Yes, bowling. In truth, I'm not particularly good at it either but I can have moments of brilliance (amongst the average to awful playing) which keep me hopeful. I get it, I understand the appeal and I can do it. Plus I get to have a pint while I'm playing so it's spot on. I don't go particularly regularly but I always remember how much I enjoy it when I'm there. So, having been last night and had a laugh, I think I'm going to resolve to go for a bit of a bowl more often. And maybe one day, I'll have myself one of those monogrammed shirts what people wear to bowl (along with the special wrist support-y thing that they wear too). The name on the shirt? Cueball, of course.





* Bonus points for quote identifying

** Mum was a massive fan of the Beatles and insisted that my brother and I sport a bowl-ish, Beatles-y moptop during the 80s. When absolutely no one had that hairstyle. I'm surprised we didn't get beaten up on a daily basis (unless we did and I've got some repressed memories waiting to surprise me). It all came to an end, fortunately, on the day of what I like to call The Great Experiment, when I introduced a pair of nail scissors to my fringe and ushered in the era of the Crew Cut.

*** Yes, actually drafted. The exact words were "You can be in the rugby team or you can come to detention every Saturday morning". In hindsight, I should have gone with detention - it would have been warm and I wouldn't have had people rummaging about between my legs in an unpleasant way.

**** Which is also a very expensive practice in some parts of Soho. Allegedly. Ahem.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Habitual Offender

When writing about yourself (which is pretty much all this blogging lark is, really), the tendency is to paint yourself in a more flattering light. It's a natural thing to do and something that everyone does. So, in the interest of fairness and balance, here are a selection of my standard habits that range from irritating to unpleasant...

1. Compulsive Stroker - Alright, get that mind out of the gutter right this instant. I'm referring, of course, to my lustrous goatee beard. I have almost a nervous tic to causes me, whilst thinking, to be constantly stroking and twiddling with my beard, much in the manner of a maliciously Machiavellian mastermind. Not only is it deeply irritating to many of work colleagues, it's also unpleasant when sat at my desk as, the more I mess about with the chin covering, the more hairs drift off onto the desk. Mmm, lovely image, isn't it? The cleaners must love it round by my desk.

2. Pick it, Roll It, Flick it - Yes, despite having a compulsion to stuff napkins from pretty much any fast food-y type eating establishment into my jacket pockets, I still manage to sometimes go mining for nose goblins. Now, I'm probably beginning to create the impression that I never leave my face alone, hands always probing around in face crevices or beard recesses. Well, that's probably not too far from the truth.

3. Ah'll Fuggen Fight Ya, Ya Basserd - I like a drink (who doesn't?*) and, fortunately, I'm a happy drunk (particularly if I've partaking of any of those happiest of happy juices, namely tequila or sambuca). Gin does make me maudlin (and tastes awful) so I tend to avoid that one. There is a family of drinks, however, which do upset me mightily and cause narkiness, ill temper and occasionally violence. I cannot touch whiskeys, bourbons, Scotches, anything like that or a fearful ire is raised within me. I started one fight in my life outside a petrol station under the influence of copious Wild Turkey. I don't remember this but do know that my friend had to finish said fight while I sat and ate the cheeseburger he'd just bought (this was around 12 years ago and he still reminds me about it so I'm paying my penance). So, no whiskey for Nick then, ta. (Oddly, even when absolutely trashed siince then, I still just won't touch it.)

4. If It's Over, It's Over - I have a lot of friends who keep in touch with their ex-girlfriends/boyfriends and fair play to them. For the most part, though, that's not for me. If we're done, we're done. If I've got to the point where I don't want to spend time with you anymore then don't expect me to be keeping regular contact. I have friends that don't understand that mentality but it's my mentality and I'm unlikely to massively change it now. I like to go forwards, not back,. As catching with an old flame proved recently, the past is often best left where it is. Still, it seems a little harsh to others that I completely cut that person out. That's just my way of dealing with things, I guess.

There are probably plenty more annoying habits - the little phrases that I use incessantly day in and day out, snoring like a passing herd of elephants** - but I think that's enough psyche picking for today.

How about you? Any corkers?



* OK, recovering alcoholics and people who are teetotal probably don't but you get the idea

** I was going to say that I have only other people's comments to base this one on but, seeing as I sometimes wake myself up snoring (and it must be me as I'm the only one in the bed), they might be well be on to something.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Things What Are Great #3 - The Walking Dead

Recent years have seen the return of the zombie in a big way. In the film world, we've had the good (Shaun Of The Dead, please stand up), the bad (Dawn Of The Dead, please tell your zombies to slow down) and the ugly (Resident Evil: Apocalypse, please leave the building and don't let the door hit you in the arse on the way out). There has, however, also been a bit of a zombie renaissance in the comic book world. Marvel Zombies was a good fun romp featuring all your favourite superheroes chomping on each others spicy brains and turned into a surprise hit (it's subsequently turned into a bit of a dull franchise but the first mini-series was good entertainment value especially the zombie versions of iconic comic book covers). The standout title, though, and currently one of the best comics around for my money is today's topic of conversation...

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

In a nutshell:- A standard set-up - the dead arise and target the living; the survivors must try to live in a zombified world. But it's all in the telling...

The Basics:- The series begins in a manner reminiscent of 28 Days Later. Police Officer Rick Grimes awakes in hospital, recovering from a gunshot wound, to discover that the zombie apocalypse has occurred. That's where the similarities end, however. The series takes a different approach to your standard zombie film in that it's in there for the long haul and intends to show how our cast of characters struggle to keep on surviving in a world that's not safe for the living. Not that all of them make it through that struggle...

Why's It So Great Then?:- It's a character-based apocalyptic zombie-fest. Because Kirkman's in it for the long haul, you get to know and care about the characters he's crafting. However, no one is safe and nothing is sacred and this unpredictability leads the series a real sense of "Where the fuck is he going with this now?!?" that's definitely propelled it to the top of my reading pile every month (no mean feat considering I read an unhealthy amount of comics).

Surely Some Of It Must Rubbish:- Not rubbish, no, but it is unremittingly grim a lot of the time. In fact, a friend of mine stopped reading at one particularly harrowing issue as he just couldn't take it anymore. I see why he stopped (it was one of the most heart-breaking moments in a comic) but I'm sticking with it, purely because I couldn't see where the writer was going to go after that point and, having stuck with it, it looks like he's going somewhere interesting yet again.

So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak?:- If you like zombies and you like good comics then this is a must-have for you. If you're a fan of good storytelling and aren't really sure about the whole comics thing, then give this a try. The first 54 issues have been collected in paperback editions (around 6 issues a time) and should be pretty easy to get hold of. I will warn you though, it's pretty addictive and those collected versions can often end on quite a cliffhanger. You might find yourself in it for the long haul too...


Friday, 23 January 2009

Double The Pleasure

Back to the fripperies and frivolities today and it's with a brief announcement - from today onwards, you will have a second dose of random crap to plough through courtesy of my second blog. Yes, presenting:-

The Tales Of Squire Kirk The Elder


in which I shall be providing you with the serialised writings of my ancestor, the notorious Squire Kirk (womaniser, dipsomaniac, Satanist, occasional player of the pink oboe). Never fear, you'll still be getting your regular dose of inanity over here but, if you fancy a little something extra each day, trot on over there. As these have already been published before on a previous blog, I've kept it seperate for anyone who may well have already read them.

(A Brief History:- I initially started these stories as a joke on the message board for my brother's band at the time and it kind of grew from there (all of the story titles are partly based on song titles for the band). They then became a sort of challenge to myself - I'd write the first part and publish it with sometimes very little idea of where I was going to go with it. Having published it, I was then forced to see it through to the conclusion and generally surprised myself by managing to come up with one (most of the time). Hope you like 'em - if not, well, you can still just hang around over here. I won't hold it against you. Much...)


Thursday, 22 January 2009

The Past Is A Foreign Country

Personal though this blog may be, I've always been slightly wary about baring my soul too freely on a public site for the consumption of complete strangers. My friends know me well and know that I'm pretty much an open book but, more often than not, in conversation with people who aren't as close, I'll be more guarded about discussing feelings and, you know, crap like that. I'm more than happy to go into detail about my likes and dislikes, my obsessions and endeavours and the events of the day, but I have generally shied away from talking too much about personal relationships on here....

And today is no exception.

No, not really, just a little standard example of my "humour as defence mechanism" schtick which will (maybe) be a bit lighter on the ground today. Spurred on by recent events and nudged towards it by a coincidentally similarly themed post from Mr Irish Gumbo, your humble narrator is going to break one his own blogging rules today.

A few weeks back, I got back in touch with an old flame from the days when I was a young and reasonably be-haired lad of around twenty years of age. Actually, I'm already going to pick myself up there on terminology - "old flame" isn't perhaps the best of descriptions. It would be closer to the truth to say that we were a mutual infatuation, one that burned brightly for a long time but never amounted to anything more than an impassioned kiss under the mistletoe once cold December. This comes as a surprise to several people who knew me at the time and assumed that we were a couple. Alas, at the time, it never came to be. A large part of that was the age difference between us - I was an awkward 19/20 year old and S* was a gorgeous 29/30 year old (also the mother of girl only ten years younger than me - another reason, I suspect, which may have given her pause).

She was this wild whirlwind, all mad laugh and infectious smiles. She was the sort of person who people were naturally drawn to; this was both a good and a bad thing as the crazy tended to follow S around as much as the fun did. Eventually, as with anything that burns brightly, we began to fade. I embarked on a long-term relationship that would see me through most of my twenties and she had another child and married someone else.

We spoke sporadically over the first couple of years but I think the fact that there was always something lingering between us that had never fully been realised caused me to consciously pull away. I was with someone else and S. was the past.

I thought of her from time to time over the years, occasionally wondering in an idle way what might have been. S kept in touch with a mutual friend from time to time but I seemed to lose her number whenever I got it or my friend would forget to give it to me after she called. Maybe part of me just wanted to keep the rose-tinted memories and not have the reality change them. I don't know.

This all changed at the beginning of the year. I finally did get back in touch and arranged to go round and see her. I was nervous. It had been ten years since we'd last seen each other. Back then, I'd been hairier atop the head, nuder on the chin and a damn sight skinnier than I am now. A decade of beer and curries has definitely wrought it's work upon my physique. But I went.

And she was unchanged. It was like I'd stepped through a door into 1996 and here it all was again. She still looked amazing, this beautiful person who through some miracle actually seemed to be interested in me. That spark between us was still there. All those old, long-forgotten feelings came flooding right back. We spent the day catching up, drinking heavily and entertaining her youngest (now eight years old). We fell easily into old patterns, laughing and joking as we used to. When time came to leave, she wanted me to stay but that didn't feel right. I left with a promise that I'd come back and we exchanged a more-than-platonic goodbye.

Four days later, I went back round, arriving at lunchtime. But this time, for me, it was different. The longer I sat there, the more I began to see that, while she was the same gorgeous yet mad person, I really wasn't that besotted young boy anymore. The past ten years had changed and molded and shaped me into the man I am today; a boy no longer. I realised that, while there will always be a part of me that still loves her, the rest of me wasn't prepared to deal with the mad and the crazy that goes along with that.

I left fairly early and we spoke a few times afterwards but I haven't spoken to her in the last couple of weeks. A part of me feels bad for not speaking to her more often - due to circumstances, she doesn't really get out much and I think I was one of the few normal people in her life - but, for the most part, I know that it's the best thing for both our sakes.

The past is a foreign country and I did things differently there.



* Obviously, not her full name but that will suffice for this blog

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Nothing To See Here, Move Along

I'm suddenly having one of those days. You know the ones. You sit down in front of a lovely enticing blank screen, all ready to be filled with wordy goodness. The knuckles are cracked, the fingers are poised aaaaaaaand.... nothing. The mind empties, words draining away and failing you. All around are people posting witty, interesting and entertaining blog posts and suddenly, in the middle, there is this; a tiny oasis of nothing in particular.

~flicks through mental Rolodex~ *

I could write about that. Nah, I don't really feel like it. I'll save that one for another time.

~resumes flicking~

Well, I could always do something about that. But I am probably the only person that would want to read it so that may be self-defeating.

~flick, flick, flickety, flick~

Nope, not ready for that yet. Back in the box with that one.

~reaches end, moths fly out~

Hmm, guess I just don't have anything today. I know, I'll cheat and just write something about how I don't have anything to write today. I haven't done that for at least 19 days.** Yes, I do realise that if I wasn't an infuriating combination of stubborn and slightly obsessive compulsive, I'd skip a day and have something interesting to say.

But I am that stubborn. And compulsive.

So here's something about nothing. Let's hope I've got something about something tomorrow.



* Yes, I know the Rolodex has gone the way of the 8-track, the Sinclair C5 and the dodo but it's a pleasing image, isn't it?

** Yes, if you check back 19 days, you will see something of that nature.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Rogue Interview

On my merry bloggy travels around this here blog-fashioned site, I discovered a travelling interview courtesy of the wordeating Anna Russell (who also has another blog over here too). This seemed like an ideal opportunity to get her to help me create a blog post as inspiration was lacking today. Feel like joining in the game? Here are the rules:-

1) Leave me a comment saying "interview me"
2) I will respond by emailing you 5 questions (I get to pick the questions)
3) You will update your blog with answers to the questions.
4) You will include the explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5) When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them 5 questions.

See? Easy as pie.* If anyone else wants me to play interviewer, just follow the rules above and I'll add links to your answers on this post.

Right, on with Anna's questions then and an impressive selection it is...

1) Who would win in a fight between Batman and a tyrannosaurus rex, and why?

Ah, we're off to an easy start. Batman - because he actually has a replica tyrannosaurus rex in his Batcave to practice on for just such an eventually (see picture over there on the left hand side for those of you who think I'm just making it up). I tell you, the man thinks of absolutely everything. Well, he did. Before he went and got all killed recently. (Don't worry, in comics, death isn't always the handicap it used to be. He'll be back.)


2) You're a proud Londoner: what does the city mean to you, outside of the regular touristy stuff the rest of us know about?

I have something of a love/hate relationship with this wonderful yet infuriating city. It has the casual expensiveness and haughty disdain that only a capital city seems to get away with; a sweaty, rushing, impatient, crowded feeling that you're always late for something and need to be there faster; it's dirty, it's smelly and, for the most part, it's rude. And yet...and yet... All around is a sense of history, a sense of a place that has grown and changed and evolved over time as the inhabitants have grown and changed with it. It has old, dusty, familiar, comfortable places and bright, new, shiny, exciting places. It has wide open spaces and tiny little nooks. Sometimes it's always open, one of those cities that never sleeps and just sweeps you along in the whirlwind. Sometimes you'll struggle to find somewhere selling a loaf of bread at 9 o'clock on a Monday night. It's timetabled and regimented yet flowing and random. It's home and it's work and it's friends and it's family. To paraphrase Woody Allen, London was his town, and it always would be...

3) As an independent film maker, how do you feel about big Hollywood studios and the money they spend on blockbusters?

I'm actually very fond of a good solid blockbuster. In fact, some of my favourite films are blockbusters (I'm not gonna go for listing here - have a squint at the profile for a tip of the iceberg type list). Some of my other favourite are also small independent films. I think that there's more than enough room for film as both big, mass culture spectacle and more intimate, small scale art. From a purely personal point of view, I would have no problem working within the system (of course, I'm saying that as an outsider with no real experience - I imagine once the system had ground me up and spat me out, I'd have an entirely different perspective). I see the things that I make as entertainment first and foremost - it's about telling the story or generally getting the laugh if it's quick little short. If a studio can offer me the money to realise that story in a way that wouldn't be possible otherwise then I'd definitely consider it. That said, I am a control freak so I'd need to retain the rights to Time-Travelling Ninja Dinosaurs In Space...

4)Can you name a film based on a book that was better than the book?

My general rule of thumb (to which there are naturally exceptions) is watch the film first then read the book - that way I tend to enjoy both. off the top of my head, I'd have to say Fight Club. Love the film an obscene amount (really wish I'd made it) but got about five pages into the book before I had to put it down because it was (in my opinion) unreadable.

5) You are on the tube. The doors are sealed. In your carriage is a bomb which is about to go off. In the carriage to your left there are an army of ninjas, in the one to your right there are an army of samurais. Which carriage do you choose to get away from the bomb?

The bomb, the ninjas and the samurai are all part of needlessly convoluted and easily thwarted plan for total world domination. Unfortunately, my arch nemesis Captain Spiffing has trapped us all on the train as I hurtle towards certain doom. And yet, a state of zen-like calm engulfs me. I will escape this fiery death-trap. How? Oh, that would be telling. But rest assured, I shall return. Oh yes, I shall return. Mark my words, you will all rue this day. And on that other day, the one when you do the ruing of this day, you will all tremble and quake in fear at my feet. For the world has not heard the last of-

*BOOM!*

(Thanks, Anna, I enjoyed the challenge!)

EDIT: - TrodoMcCracken has taken up the interview challenge - read it here. Anyone else fancy a go?

* Apparently, pies are the sluttiest of all desserts. You learn something new every day, don't you?

Monday, 19 January 2009

Love / Hate

Oh, small tiny black thing
Made of chrome and plastic
To my ears, you do sing
A device fantastic

Taking many a song
Through to many a place
If the journey be long
You do quicken the pace

Like a film, life becomes,
With a pounding soundtrack
A quick spin of the thumbs
Now another new track

Morning, noon and the night
You deliver such joy
But soon flees my delight
When you break, thou vile toy

To be working once more
Will not take all that long
Soon a fact'ry restore
Will bring back ev'ry song

Now my ears again sing
With the sound of music
Thanks to the tiny thing
Made of chrome and plastic

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Grrrrr, Raaarr, Grrrrr

It is a truth universally acknowledged that dinosaurs are absolutely bloody brilliant*. This is one of the basic tenets of the Baldy Fella Fan Club** and is very much a simple fact to all boys under the age of 10 and most girls as well (but definitely for boys). So, with that in mind, the day was spent visiting the Natural History Museum in South Kensington.

This has always been my favourite museum ever*** so I need very little prompting to go there. As a small child, I was always captivated by it and, while it's been updated and upgraded over the years to make it more modern, it's essentially remained unchanged in terms of structure and basic layout since I was young; there's something immensely comforting about that. Also, because it's such a large building, it still seems huge when I walk inside and hasn't been subject to the strange shrinking effect that seems to have taken place since I was little.

As you go through the front doors, you're greeted by the first iconic image of the museum - a 32 metre long Diplodocus**** skeleton - and it's a fine way to start your experience. You can't help but feel a little bit awed by the ancient remains of this huge land lizard. The 2-year old accompanying us has that look of amazement that I must have had back in the day (the 8 year old had seen it a few times before but still thought it was cool). As is tradition, the trip takes in the dinosaur hall first to stare at more giant skeletons and imagine how cool it would be if they were tramping around, roaring and trying to kill each other (you just don't grow out of this so all of us could discuss this common fantasy). One of the more recent additions is the full scale animatronic T-Rex at the end of the dinosaur section; something which has built that anticipation for this which is quite possibly the coolest thing ever to have been devised ever (no, really, ever) and for which I have a ticket so will be reporting back on later in the year (in about 7 months time - that's got to be the longest teaser for a blog post).

The second iconic image is that of the life-size model of the blue whale suspended from the ceiling in the Mammals gallery alongside the skeletons of further prehistoric beasts. There was something about that used to scare me ever so slightly when I was little. I think I always had that the impression that it was an actual whale and that it might start moving if I took my eyes off it. Looking at it now, it's obviously a model (and looking like it's in need of dusting, as my friend pointed out) and it's hard to see how it once made me slightly fearful. Maybe it was the sheer size of the model that was intimidating - it is 28.3 metres long, after all. To a small lad, that was pretty intimidating, I guess.

The museum also currently has an exhibition about Darwin which was unattended by our party - not really for the attention spans of little ones and so pointless to pay for it. I compromised by buying "On The Origin Of The Species" in the shop which I've already started reading (part of the whole "broadening my knowledge base" thing). I'm already finding it interesting - seeing how he's putting down theories which we take for granted as part of our basic scientific knowledge but are only around 150 years old. I may become daunted the further I get into it but I'm going to give it a good old try.

In conclusion, then, the Natural History Museum is tops and people should go to it and look at the skeletons and learn about all the stuff and also the things too. That is all.



* If I had my way, this is exactly how Austen's yawnfest (sorry, extremely funny social satire) would start. And then move on to exploding robot pirates.

** Admittedly, the membership of this club currently consists of an 8 year old and a 2 year old but the membership is extremely fervent and has been known to get tearful when forced to go to dad's house instead of spending time with Uncle Nick.

*** I try not to say this in front of my brother's girlfriend who works at the British Museum and is very loyal to her place of employment. I wouldn't want to start some sort of museum fight.+

**** I always used to pronounce this Di-plo-doh-kus but the pronunciation seems to be Dip-lod-a-kus these days. I'm just gonna start calling it the Long-Neckedy One.

+ And, yes, I've noticed that I'm very tangential today but sometimes the brain is like that. Is a footnote on a footnote going too far? Well, I'm afraid it's too late as I've just done it. Now head on back up the page...

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Things What Are Great #2 - Transformers: The Movie (80s Style)

In A Nutshell:- Forget Michael "Noisy" Bay, this is the real deal. It's the ultimate battle between good and evil. But, you know, in animated robot form.

The Basics:- It's 1985. I'm 9 years old. And the most exciting film in the history of ever is about to come out. It's called Transformers: The Movie, it's set 20 years in the future and it looks great. In cynical terms, it's a reboot of the toy franchise designed to introduce more exciting action figures designed to tax the wallets of many a parent. It's actually a pretty entertaining film, though.

Why's It So Great Then?:- Firstly, for what is ostensibly a children's film, it's pretty grim fare to start with. The opening twenty minutes of the film features pretty much kills off every character that we've grown to love in the series so far being killed off in fairly brutal ways. This is a pretty bold move for a big screen feature - to replace your established cast at the start of the film - and was fairly traumatising to most of the child-based audience ("Mummy, is Optimus Prime really dead?")! Secondly, it has a bizarre selection of voice talent. From Leonard Nimoy and Eric Idle through to (in one his last screen roles) Orson Welles*, it's a really odd roster for a toy-based cartoon spin-off. Thirdly, it has a blisteringly cheesy cock-rock and metal soundtrack featuring such classics as The Touch and Instruments Of Destruction that opened up a whole new world of music to previously Disney-based cinema going kids..

Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish:- There's an irritating child-like character called Wheelie who's got a weirdly pitched voice that really grates. Also, it's not really a standalone spin-off as it expects you to know who all the main characters are in order for you to care about them being killed off. Other than that, for a cartoon film based on some robot toys, it's good fun.

So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak? :- Want to watch a film with giant transforming robots fighting yet don't want to have to watch Shia LeBoeuf for a couple of hours? Then this is the one for you, my friend. The only drawback to this one is that it doesn't have Megan "Ridiculously Attractive" Fox in it. You can always pretend.


* Citizen Kane to Transformers: The movie - quite a career slide...

Friday, 16 January 2009

Stubborn Streak

Don't let the title fool you, it's not about an insistence on public nudity. No, it's the fact that there is a peculiar streak of stubbornness when it comes to the English and public transport. We are not a people given to acts of revolt - if something does not meet with our approval, we will not take this up as a call to arms; the response is more likely to be a resigned roll of the eyes heavenwards accompanied by a tutting of the tongue and a muttered "Typical." *

All of which was borne out by my journey home last night.** As I arrive at the station, an announcement is playing out over the PA system to the effect that "services are at a standstill due to a trespasser on the tracks between Waterloo and London Bridge" (that's pretty much word for word what they said - they're just a small step away these days from just saying, "Yeah, it's all just buggered, really"). They then go on to tell everyone that their tickets are valid on any other reasonable route to London bridge from whence train-style conveyances will carry you onwards to your desired destination (not their wording at all).

Does everyone start moving for the tube and bus? Do they buggery. Nope, they stand there in that stubbornly English way, arms metaphorically folded if not literally folded, as if to say, "Well, if I move, they'll only start running again." This despite the fact that no trains have left for 20 minutes so the backlog is getting pretty high.

So we may not be revolutionary but there is still a refusal to believe The Person In Authority.

Person In Authority:- "The trains aren't running."
British Public:- "We'll be the judge of that."

Gotta admire the sheer bloody-mindedness of it. However, the important question still remains - who was the trespasser, what was he doing on the tracks and why was it taking them over half an hour to catch him?



* The only exception to this being if anyone does anything to harm animals; woe betide that person for the full ire of the English will be turned upon them. We're a curious breed like that.

** I realise that this week is somewhat transport-heavy in blogging terms. Well, this is what happens when you resolve to post a blog a day and spend a fair chunk of your week in transit.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Story So Far

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blogging service to bring you a brief recap:-

As it appears that people are actually reading this little braindump of mine (if I don't get this stuff out, it just whirrs around in there), maybe I should stop assuming that everyone knows everything about me (as not everyone followed the previous blog) and give you some of the basics. Some of these facts may be true, particularly the ones that cast me in a nerdy yet geekish light...

  • Hello. I'm Nick.*
  • I'm a man. With no hair. And a beard. (OK, that one's a given, especially as that picture on the right tells you that).
  • Film is very much my thing (see here, here, here, here and here).
  • I'm rarely to be found without a book about my person somewhere.
  • Oh, and those things with the pictures of super-powered people smacking each other are pretty spiffing, too.
  • I have a reasonable obsession** with watching Cockney songsmiths Chas 'n' Dave play live.
  • If curry was a person, I'd probably marry it.
  • Same goes for cheese.***
  • I'm an easygoing kind of a chap. However, if I did rule the world, it would soon be crushed within an iron grip of fear. Mwuhahahahaha (and so on and so forth).
  • A man in a rubber monster suit smashing a cardboard facsimile of Tokyo is an acceptable form of filmic entertainment as far as I'm concerned.
  • The following people are great (no discussion on this one):- Douglas Adams, Jim Henson, Spike Milligan, Groucho Marx.
  • I'm not quite sure how I used to walk so many places without the music of my portable listening device filling my ears.
  • I cannot ride a bike.
  • But I can wiggle my ears a little bit.
  • Philosophically speaking, I'm of the here and the now. Family and friends are here and now and are what make it worthwhile. I'll worry about the Unproveable After if there's an Unproveable After.
  • I like things. But I also like stuff, too.

Actually, you probably could have worked most of that out from just reading my witterings so this may well have been a superfluous diversion****. Still everyone likes a bit of a diversion now and again, don't they? I thought so.


* Definitely true.

** No restraining orders yet

*** Mind you, I'm not a polygamist so maybe I'd have to marry curry with unresolved yearnings for cheese. Or maybe marry a saag paneer to have the best of both worlds. Mmmm, saag paneer...

**** Superfluous Diversion being the popular German electronic-based synth-style band from the 80s who were the precursor to Kraftwerk

P.S. This post is post number 69. Pfft, snicker, snigger. 69...

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Mini-Blog - Credit Where Credit's Due Dept.

Just a quick one to say thanks to Belle and J-Diggety for pointing people my way and to Foxxy and Irish Gumbo for pointing me at other people. Fine lad and lasses, all, and I salute you! (Plus big thanks to everyone who's actually decided to follow and anyone kind enough to comment - strap in, I'm hoping it'll be a long ride).

OK, that's enough Winsletting, normal service will resume later.

Nick

Things What Are Great #1 - Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds

Editor's Note:- Here's the first in a (probably occasional) series of blogs about things that I've liked for so long that I kind of take them granted - so much so that I assume everyone else has this as a reference point until they look at me funny and I realise it's just me. Don't expect them to be unbiased...

In A Nutshell:- It's orchestral yet synthy 20th century prog rock meets the grandaddy of 19th century science fiction. How could it not be great?

The Basics:- Recorded in 1976-77 and released in 1978, the double LP of Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds is that rare thing - a concept album that actually really works. For those of you who haven't heard it, it's a faithful retelling of the novel combining narration from Richard Burton as the unnamed narrator form the book alongside instrumental tracks and songs featuring artists such as Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues and David Essex.

Why's It So Great, Then?:- It's always hard to pinpoint why something works but, somehow, the mixture of Burton, the musicians and Wayne's music itself all come together to create something that's such a ridiculous idea that it really shouldn't work but somehow manages to be brilliant. I first heard it when I was about six or seven and had to be bought the LP which was then played incessantly (along with a taped version for the car so that I could imitate the Martian war machines in the back of the car to my little heart's delight - "Ulla!"). The LP itself came with a massive fold-out booklet containing the narration and lyrics and some gorgeous painted artwork - my favourite being the picture of ravens picking the dead flesh of the Martians from their crashed machines at the end (I was always a morbid child). Plus Lynott and Essex put in some great powerhouse performances as Nathaniel the priest and the Artilleryman respectively.

Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish... :- Well, if I have to pinpoint something, I'd have to say I'm not overly fond of the music for The Red Weed - it's sounds a bit like a cross between comedy drunkard music and something a Mogwai would sing. I get what's trying to do but, for me, it just doesn't work. Other than that, though, it's all good.

So We Should Seek Out This thing Of Which You Speak? :- If you like H.G.Wells' work and you like a bit of operatic-tinged prog rock then definitely, yes. If you don't, well, give it a try anyway. It might just surprise you. Wayne is currently touring with a full live show based on the album. I've missed it a couple of times so I may have to go this time. It would be rude not to. Altogether now:-


"The chances of anything coming from Mars
Are a million to one
But still they come...."

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

It's A Small World After All

Working together as a team, the forces of random chance and unusual coincidence are conspiring to make me go "Wha-?". On Sunday, also on the way to work after viewing the kite flying (for those of you who are compiling a comprehensive timeline of my movements - don't be ashamed, stalking's what the intarwebs was invented for), I was sitting at a bus stop at London Bridge station, waiting for a traditional red London omnibus to transport me to work, when the woman with the buggy who was sat next to me at the stop starts chatting to me.

Now this is the part where I come across as something of a misanthrope. I'm a London lad, born and bred; a city boy and a decade-long commuter*. As far as I'm concerned, when I'm in transit, that's "me" time. Time for me to listen to my iPod or read a book, magazine or comic. I'm not one for starting conversations with a random stranger. Being an office worker, I can spend enough time in my week talking to people that I'd rather not really speak to**. I realise that this is the sort of attitude that adds to the general air of misery that regular and prolonged commuting creates but, honestly, I don't actually care.

I'm also not fond of the art of small talky type chitter-chatter. I don't particularly enjoy casting around for something to talk about with people I don't know. It inevitably leads to a prolonged discussion about matters meteorological when in fact I couldn't give two figs if it's a bit colder/warmer/more cyclonic today than it was yesterday.


Despite all that, however, I end up drawn into a conversation this time, mainly because I'm the only person at the stop with her and she's seems too cheerful to be deterred by my initial unresponsive responses. Of course, once we board the bus (being the only people on there) and she sits nearby, the inevitable awkward silence descends in which we mostly stare out the window and occasionally make eye contact and smile awkwardly. Eventually, my stop rolls around, a last few pleasantries are exchanged and I wend my way into the office. "End of story", thinks I. "Wrong, matey," thinks the universe.

Yesterday being my day off and dinner provisions being low on the ground, I was forced to venture to the nearest supermarket which is, sadly, a Marks and Spencers Simply Food***. I'm just about to walk through the door when who should I spot stood just outside? Yes, of course, it's the woman from the bus. We both look at each other in a slightly startled sort of a way, she says something about not stalking me and I mutter something unintelligible before ducking into the shop. Typical. I get drawn into small talk and now, in all likelihood, I'm going to keep bumping into this person and having to make some small degree of chit chat (which will in all likelihood be weather-based).

Well, I did tell you that this one would make me seem a bit misanthropic. I am actually people person at heart. I just think that the people I'm a person for should be chosen by me.



* Meaning that I've been commuting back and forth for around a decade. I haven't been on one long commute for ten years. That would just be foolish.

** If anyone from the office is reading this, I'm not talking about you, obviously, I'm talking about someone else. Probably.

*** Having waxed lyrical about Blackheath yesterday, this is one of the drawbacks - it thinks it's a bit posher than it actually is.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Mood Confounder

I was fully prepared to be in a real stinker of a mood yesterday morning. I had a late shift at work on a Sunday, I woke up later than intended and discovered upon waking that I would have to leave the house earlier than intended as London Transport was doing it's very level best to prevent anyone in the Charlton and Greenwich area from using either train or tube due to the ever-present Sunday engineering works*. Add to this the fact that I now didn't have time for lunch before I left and I was fully armed for a suitably pissy and irritable mood.

All of which was dispelled by the bus ride to the nearest station with a functioning train service. As the bus swung around across Blackheath, there came into view a large selection of fully wrapped-up people taking advantage of the blustery day to unpack their kites and go for a bit of a fly. I'd completely forgotten this about Blackheath. When we were young, we often used to come up to the 'Heath on a Sunday, generally combined with a visit to Nana (whose flat the Bro, Mrs Bro and I now live in), and watch the model boaters on the pond and the amateur kiters on the grass. As a warm wave of nostalgia washed over, it was impossible to truly maintain any semblance of a foul mood.

Particularly impressive amongst the kiters** was the group of around six guys who all were clustered together with matching kites and were treating any onlookers to some some superb formation kite flying. They were making shapes, swooping out at once and turning back in again together - all very impressive stuff. A little further along, there were four other guys also with matching kites attempting the same thing but, quite frankly, the original six shat all over them.***

I've always said that Blackheath was a nice place to live but mainly in summer. It's nice to be reminded that home can offer up unexpected delights in the depths of a particularly cold winter, too.



* Alright, I know the rationale for them doing essential maintenance work at the weekend when the network is far less congested but... I have to go to work, dammit!

** Is that how they refer to themselves? It is now.

*** Not literally, obviously. That would have spoiled the nostalgia wave somewhat.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Review - Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

Warning - contains spoilers


In A Nutshell:- I so wanted this to be good. Disappointment was looming...

Opening Remarks:- Yes, I'm a bit late in watching this one. I got it on DVD for Christmas and have only just got round to watching it. I somehow managed to miss it at the cinema. I think, much as half of my brain did want to see a new Indiana Jones film on the big screen, the other half of my brain was telling me, "But remember the lesson of The Phantom Menace". So it got put off and now finally, six months down the line, I have watched it in the comfort of my own home with luxury of a pause button. Before the slaughter begins, let's try and find something positive, shall we?

The Good:- There are the occasional flashes here and there of old school Indy breaking through - the Paramount logo being mirrored by the opening shot, the banter between Indy and Marion when they're trapped in dry sand, the car chase with sword fight - but there are sadly only occasional flashes. Also sadly, this is where the "Good" section stumbles to a halt as I really can't find much more that's decent to say about the film.

The Bad:- Well, where to begin? The main thing that first struck me is how creaky and lifeless Harrison Ford. He's not always been the most sparklingly charismatic of actors but he's always had a bit of life in his performances as Indy and Han Solo. Well, not so in this film. His demeanour overall was that of a tried old bloke who really resented being there all the way through. The second thing that struck me is the inexplicable popularity of Shia LeBeouf. If we're talking about charisma, the lad has all the charm of a slab of beef (which may well be how I refer to him from now on). So right there, you're already struggling with two leads who are boring me. And then come the aliens. Now, obviously, I don't have any problems with a bit of sci-fi but it seems jarring in an Indiana Jones film when they've always been about sacred and mystical objects. It just feels like Spielberg has to crowbar in his favourite black-eyed, grey aliens whenever he can these days. Somehow, as well, the ending feels strangely anti-climactic; I guess because it's trying to be a standard Indy ending (bad guy gets vaporised and place/artifact they've searched for gets destroyed) and, as such, doesn't really convey a lot of danger. In fact, a lot of direction for the action sequences seems curiously flat and unengaging throughout the whole film - not a good sign for an old-fashioned adventure yarn.

The Ugly:- And now we come to some of the truly appalling moments of the film. The rubber snake they use to pull Indy out of the dry sand is pretty bad. As is the nonthreatening threat of a swarm of ants ("Oh no! Look out! They'll steal your picnic food!"). The wedding scene at the end is pretty cringe-inducing complete with potential passing-of-the-mantle-to-the-son shots. But the real kicker for me has to be Indy riding out a nuclear explosion inside a fridge and that, by making the point that the fridge is lead-lined, that somehow explains it all. utter, utter drivel and I just felt like the whole thing was too preposterous from that point on. I know he does perform a lot of preposterous stunts throughout the series but riding out a nuclear explosion is asking me to willingly suspend my disbelief a little too far.

Closing Remarks:- So, in conclusion, then, it's not a good film. I'd go so far as to stick my neck out and say that it's a bad film and they really shouldn't have bothered to make it all. If Indy comes back for a fifth installment, I shan't be watching it. He's had his day and I'd prefer to remember the films that I enjoy than have those memories slightly tarnished by each successive sub-standard sequel. Mr Spielberg, Mr Lucas, just let the old fella be.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Forger (Part 2)

I forgot about these ones yesterday for my mural-based posting. These were designed and painted along with a friend of mine, Liz, so I can only take half the credit on these ones. It was for a friend of a friend's play that they were putting on in a theatre above a pub. As part of putting on the show, the pub let you decorate the stairway leading up to the theatre rooms in whatever style you wanted so we were asked to design a mural for them (having seen our Gotham City living room!) and below are the designs we came up with. Rather shamefully, I can't remember the name of the play anymore but it was a rather bleak affair about a recently released accomplice to a serial killer (I think). Hence our grim industrial designs...













Friday, 9 January 2009

Forger

I always envy people with genuine artistic talents and, by artisitic talents, I mean people who can draw and paint. Partly because I read a shedload of comics and would like to be able to illustrate my own ideas and partly because I'm an artsy-fartsy creative type with a bit of a knack for writing who like to be more multi-faceted in an artsy-fartsy way.

I'm not totally without drawing ability but it's more the ability to forge someone else's drawings than anything else. I'm a reasonably good copyist but coming up with my own original drawings has always somehow been beyond me. I guess it's because copying and freeform drawing are extremely different things. When I'm copying a drawing, I'm almost looking at it in a mathematical way - the relation and distances between one line and another. My spacial awareness is second to none. Ask me to sketch something original and I don't know where to begin.
Back in the teenage years and into the twenties, I channelled this into painting murals. I was somehow able to take these picture and blow them up into something larger. Below are some examples...

Bedroom Wall - circa 1994:-




Gotham City mural for friend's 40th birthday party (completed with help from friends):-


There's some minor ability there but I'd like to be able to come up with original creations rather than just copying other people's. At the moment, though, my main focus should be to finish off my feature film but maybe once that's done I'll start seeing if I can develop a bit of artistic skill...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Muggle-Wumps, Snozzcumbers And Oompa-Loompas

As a young child who was always read to and needed no encouragement to go off and read on his own, my tastes always tended towards the fantastic. We had plenty of Famous Five and Secret Seven books but they never really appealed. No, give me one of L. Frank Baum's Oz books and I'd be happier. There was always one writer that I was obsessed with over all others at a young age. His name was Roald Dahl and I'm just as obsessed by his books now as I was then. His style was very much aimed at children but was never patronising; it was instead full of the kind of disgusting and dark imagery that children love. No fluffy and cute fairy tales from Mr Dahl - there was always a sense of the macabre and the revolting lurking around.

There are many great Dahl books like the obvious ones such as Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, James And The Giant Peach and The BFG - in fact, they all have something to recommend about them - but here are my favourites:-

The Twits - In terms of revolting characters, Mr and Mrs Twit have to be amongst the most repellent he ever created. Not only are they foul, unwashed and ugly characters, they're an utterly repellent couple who spend all their time being particularly nasty towards each other. Kids love practical jokes so I always loved this one with it's escalating series of tricks. Also, the Quentrin Crisp illustrations made this one more memorable - particularly the image of all the bits of food that Mr Twit saves in his beard for later (which I've discovered is true - all us bearded men save food in there for later; it's why we grow them).

George's Marvellous Medicine - Again, as is common in many of Dahl's books, there's a comeuppance to be had for a despicable person. It's the sort of book that just wouldn't get published today for fear that it was encouraging children to feed paint-based potions to their grandparents (which is highly unlikely - I never once wanted to poison either of my grandmothers but then they were great, not "selfish, grumpy old women" with "small puckered up mouths like a dog's bottom")

The Witches - I'm not entirely sure why but this was always my favourite. There was something about it that struck me more than the others but I'm not sure why. Possibly the fact that this one was slightly scarier than some of the others - from the fairly haunting descriptions what happens to all the missing children to the thought of witches hiding their hideous nature behind wigs and gloves through to the not-quite-happy ending (which was disappointingly altered for the film). I don't know for certain but there's something about this one that struck a chord with me slightly more so than the others (it's only my favourite by a small degree; they're all great to some extent).

Those are some of my preferred ones. How about you?

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Review - Bill Bailey: Tinselworm

Courtesy of The Bro and Mrs Bro for Chrimble, last night I got to go and see Bill Bailey's latest live show, Tinselworm, which is currently playing at the Gielgud Theatre in London. I've been a Bill Bailey fan for many a year now - a fandom which was cemented when I first saw him live at the Broadway Theatre in beautiful, sunny, downtown Catford* and laughed so hard at his two-hour set that I was in actual physical pain at the end of it. His act combines surrealist tangents, intelligent ramblings, woodland-based whimsy and comedy songs and his musical prowess is impressive (he played around five different musical instruments in last night's show). But having seen him live twice before and having seen him re-use material the second time around, would last night's show live up to expectations?

The show got off to it's traditional shaky start as he uses the technique of not really knowing how to start a gig to ramble his way into the act. Having seen him a few times, I was a little disappointed to see him still using the same gig opening system and it took me a little while get into it. Also, the audience seemed a little bit more subdued than maybe he was used to. However, once he discovered that the audience became weirdly excited while cheering for various roads, the show started to properly come alive. By the time of interval, the laugh count was high - I particularly enjoyed the following (not being a fan of said artist):-

The mawkish piffle that is James Blunt came mewling out of the car stereo. My five year old son chimed in from the back of the car. "Turn it off, Daddy." "Why's that?", I asked. "Because it's spoiling my brain," he replied.

One noticeable difference in the act this time around was the increased amount of vitriol from Bill. Partly, I think, as a result of having spent a lot of time on a BBC comedy panel show which he didn't particularly enjoy (quote:- "There were only so many times I could hum Toxic by Britney Spears to some gormless indie pillock"), partly as he says himself in the show due his becoming less tolerant as he's got older. Regardless of the cause, it lead to some inspired rants and kept the act feeling a bit fresher.

The second half really knocked it out of the park, ending with a selection of musical encores which included Hillbilly and Kraftwerk versions of "Hallelujah", a German version of "Last Christmas" and a singalong to "La Bamba" designed to piss off everyone in the theatre next door watching Les Miserables, culminating in a short film which tied together a lot of the routines from the show.

Overall, then, Bailey's still got it and I recommend this show to anyone who's a fan of Bill Bailey or music-tinged, animal-focused, stream-of-consciousness comedy in general.


* Note for non-Londoners - heavy use of sarcasm there....

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Renewed Vow

Some of you may have noticed (or you may not - those are the two main choices, really) that since I finished my "Post A Blog A Day For A Month" thing, I've still been posting a blog every day. Well, seeing as I did cheat slightly on a couple of occasions by writing and setting blogs to publish on days that I knew I'd be too busy, I've decided to actually try and make it a whole month of properly writing a blog every day. No drafting them in advance, no setting them to publish, just new stuff every day. The only concession I will make (in the interests of full disclosure and complete transparency) is that I have a list of stuff in my notebook of things what I think might be interesting to write about and may use that for inspiration from time to time*.

I realise that's a lot of drivel to churn out but you, dear reader, are the one with the luxury of choice. Don't like the look of it? Can't be bothered to keep up? Well, give it a miss. The beauty is that there'll be another one along tomorrow and maybe that one'll float your boat.



* This disclaimer included to fully comply with Ofcom's new interactive blogging guidelines.