Friday, November 30, 2007

To the shops!

The following statement will either enrage you, or amaze you:

I have finished my Christmas shopping!

I almost emboldened that, but I don't want to rub it in too much.

Yes, it's not even December, and I've whupped Christmas into a, um, Christmas-shaped hat, wrapped it up, tied a pretty little bow on top, put my hands on my hips, and proudly declared "That's THAT!" I'm so organised that I'm thinking about bringing the whole thing forward a bit - how does mid-December sound? We could do Easter in February.

Anyway, Christmas is done and dusted thanks to another of my notorious shopping expeditions with Sparky Ma. We used to do one a year; apparently we've done eight this year. Something to do with one of my spare days off work though, hmmm? 

So we set course for Kingston once again, and once again I was quickly reminded how dangerous Sparky Ma can be when shopping. I was perving over iPhones in the Apple store AGAIN, y'see, and she did that thing she does where she innocently asks if I'm going to buy one. I say "eventually, but no, not today," and she picks one up and says "Ooo, aren't they nice. Won't it be lovely when you've got one?" I then look at the iPhone again, nervously glance at the price, and then she says something along the lines of "It's really nice…" and then I have to slam said iPhone back into its dock and scurry away as quickly as possible before her convincing skills break down my willpower like photon torpedoes through failing deflector shields.

Thank god the person on the door didn't ask if I "needed any help." I'd probably have shouted "NO!" and laid them out.

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Potential  impromptu iPhone purchase successfully avoided we subsequently whirled around the shops like two tornados through a Kansas cornfield, eventually ending up in Marks and Spencers and the department that deals with:

video

Is it slightly disturbing that I actually like the sound of my voice when I talk like a pervert? Anyway, yes, we ended up, don't ask me why, in the M&S bra department (Simon, if you're reading this - don't worry, it wasn't for you).

F**k me, I'm glad I'm a boy. There's such a bewildering array of lady-bits to choose from. As a boy, the biggest decision I have to make is whether I go for the Superman ones or the glow in the dark* ones. I mean, in bra-land there's pretty ones, perky ones, saucy ones, big ones, massively padded ones that look like they could deflect bullets, and WTF is a racer back?! All I need to know is will the strap at the back withstand a quick flick of my stanley knife? (whupp-ah, smooth!)

Eventually, though, even Sparky Ma got pissed off with the choice. Sometimes too much is too much. And that's saying something when you're a hardened shopper like Sparky Ma.

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Anyway, after a solid six hours of shopping - during which time I also successfully managed not to buy a cool shirt because I'm being good with money - all my shopping was done and dusted, and we piled into my car and sped off for home. I'm not afraid to say that I'm officially smug at the moment; heck, even the woman who served me in Borders when I bought wrapping paper was amazed that I'd finished - especially so because I'm a guy (I didn't even have to show her any ID to prove it. Or my penis). She said I should totally get an award; I'm thinking something in the Queen's New Year Honours List. Nothing fancy, just a CBE or something.

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Another reason to be pleased with myself? This, my friends, is my 500th post.


*Seriously - glow in the dark pants? Won't they be ever so slightly radioactive?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Into the wild (of West London)

It's official: I'm in a good place, people. It's not like I've won the lottery or anything, it's just that I'm feeling calm, contemplative, and content. I think it has something to do with the short week I've had at work courtesy of booking Thursday and Friday off, the sense of accomplishment that comes from having wrapped some Christmas presents (seriously, I only did it because I need to gauge how much more paper I need to buy!), and a film I saw last night that has stuck in my mind in a good way.

Yaz and I met up in Shepherds Bush to see Into the Wild, y'see. Now, I didn't really know too much about this film; I'd seen a snippet of the trailer which I though looked OK, and we got in on an Orange Wednesday buy-one-get-one-free thingy, so even if it was a load of old poopy we'd not wasted too much cash on it. What I didn't appreciate, though, was that it was based on a true story, which was both massively good-times inspiring, and heartbreakingly emotional; unsubstantiated reports suggest that *someone* in the cinema, who may have been sitting next to me, might've been welling up a little*. And that's not happened since we saw the re-release of ET a few years back.

Anyway, the gist of the film is that this guy graduates from college, then drops completely off the map - burns all his I.D., abandons his car, doesn't tell his family where he's going, renames himself Alexander Supertramp, and just hits the road with the ultimate goal of spending time in the wilderness of Alaska. I'll be honest, I didn't enjoy the first 20 minutes or so because I really didn't like the way it was filmed; there were too many wobbly close-up shots. In hindsight, though, this served to highlight how claustrophobic and overwhelming modern life is - by the time Alex got out on the road the close-ups were replaced by beautiful wide vistas stretching into forever. I think the only other two bits I didn't like were a brief snippet of two hippies having sex, and an unnecessary bit where Emile Hirsch sang.

So this film totally went from a "huh" to a "ohmygod this is amaaaaazing" pretty quickly. And as good as it was, there were two things that really stood out for me. The first thing was Hal Holbrook, an 82 year-old actor who played the roll of Ron Franz; he was brilliant, and totally deserves an Oscar for his performance. The second thing was the soundtrack, which is basically a solo album by Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam. My bro had been harping on at me for ages about the fact that Eddie Vedder had done a film soundtrack, but it's only when his name appeared in the opening credits that I put two-and-two together and a light bulb flashed on above my head. The songs - all acoustic tracks - are *utterly* beautiful, so much so that I've just been over to see the family, stole the album off Simon, and am listening to it as I write this.

All in all, then, I'm highly recommending this movie (and soundtrack). You can read about the guy whose life the film was based on HERE, but I'd really recommend you go see the film rather than read some dry old Wikipedia page.


* It didn't stop this person making a wry comment about how he should've taken a box of Tracker bars into the wilderness with him, though.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jumping on the technomalogical bandwagon

video

video

Three things worth noting:

• I hate the sound of my voice.
• The still of me on the first clip makes me look semi-retarded.
• It takes fookin' ages to upload videos to blogger.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Things change (or how Love and Rockets made me go off comics)

Last weekend I did something that has been a long time coming, but nevertheless still surprised me - I cancelled my comics standing order.

Well, I say 'cancelled'; there's still a few last men standing, but basically they'll be so few and far between that my weekly jaunt to the comics shop won't be so weekly anymore. And why did I do this? Simple reason - it's all Love and Rockets' fault.

I've been buying comics now for, ooo, the best part of a decade. In that time I've bought well over 2000 individual issues, and hundreds of graphic novels. The vast majority of them have been DC titles - Superman , Batman, Green Lantern, with a few Marvel books, and a handful of independent titles here and there. And to be honest, I toddled along just fine for many years. But I can tell you exactly when the beginning of the end took place - it was late 2004, when I popped into my local comics shop and was shown a copy of Jaime Hernandez's Locas: The Complete Maggie and Hopey Stories. I remember the comic shop head honcho saying to me "it's books like this that are the reason I opened this shop." I smiled, looked at the admittedly gorgeous artwork as he flicked though the gigantic tome, and didn't buy it.

But a recommendation like that has an effect, and a few weeks later I did buy it, and over Christmas 2004 I sat and I read it from cover-to-cover. And when I was finished, I shook my head and rubbed my eyes like a character from an old Warner Bro. cartoon, because that book had an effect on me unlike anything I'd read in years. 

Now, I read a lot of books, and there's pretty much just a handful of titles that I want to re-read as the years go by. I wanted to read Locas again the moment I finished it. The artwork was incredible, the stories and characters utterly unforgettable. I remember an immediate sense of loss as I contemplated the prospect of not having any more Maggie and Hopey stories to read - of not knowing what these two incredible characters would be getting up to next. Fortunately, I then discovered there were other books to collect featuring Jaime's cast of characters.

I came to Gilbert Hernandez's stories shockingly late - mainly, I'm sad to say, because a friend who read comics and loved Jaime's Locas stories told me that she didn't like Palomar, and I wouldn't either (which subsequently reinforces in my mind why you should always form your own opinions rather than rely on those of others). My first exposure to Palomar, then, came at the beginning of 2006. I was in town for a meeting, and had some time to kill, so I went to Foyles bookshop on the Charing Cross Road. They had a copy of Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories, and I bought it because by that time I'd completely exhausted Jaime's books and I figured his brother's work would be the next best thing.

Palomar, however, is not the next best thing: it is completely different to Locas, but every bit as compelling. And I subsequently bought up everything that Gilbert had produced.

Which brings us back to the here and now. In hindsight, I've been feeling a little disillusioned with comics for a while now. I think one of the other comic shop guys summed it up best when he mentioned in conversation one day that the Superman and Batman books were the comics equivalent of a soap opera - it's reasonably entering, but utterly unmemorable. I probably said something along the lines of "Hmmm…", bought my books, and went home to read them - but I can't remember what they were like. They probably followed the formulaic path of hero uncovers problem, hero gets involved in huge ruck, hero saves the day - hurrah!

Anyway, the final nail in the coffin of my standing order is two-pronged: firstly, it's basically the fault of the Hernandez brothers. I've been reading the new compact editions of Love and Rockets, both Jaime's and Gilbert's, and they're even more rewarding on subsequent reads; don't believe me? Go read Human Diastrophism then come back and we'll talk about it. When comic stories are this compelling, I simply don't feel the need to buy shedloads of other books each week.

The second part of the prong is purely and simply down to the fact that I'm just bored with the current direction being taken by the superhero genre. I love Batman and Superman as characters - hell, Dark Knight Returns, The Long Halloween, and Superman for all Seasons are some of my favourite stories ever - but when the stories don't grab me, I ain't gonna read 'em. What's really done it, though, is DC's current fascination with universe-destroying crises; I've never been a fan of blockbuster events in comics, and the recent revival of the Multiverse - and the imminent beginning of yet another crisis - is just losing me. I've been reading a lot of comics, but I don't want to have to read every title in order to understand what the hell is going on in the DCU. And don't get me started on the weekly Countdown book; I've read 28 issues of it, and that's enough. I've given up. I don't know what's going on, and I don't care.

Perhaps it's most telling that I can describe to you in incredible detail the very last panel in Maggie the Mechanic, can tell you word-for-word what the dialogue says, but I couldn't for the life of me give you the vaguest idea of what happened in the last issue of Action Comics that I read.

And so, I've dropped all the DCU titles I was reading from my standing order; from 20-odd titles per month, I'm now down to the following books:

• Love and Rockets (including anything by the Hernandez brothers)
DMZ (because it's a fascinatingly grim story with moments of hope)
Groo (Sergio Aragones' Groo was one of the first American comics I ever read, and I retain a fondness for it to this day)
• IDW's Star Trek titles (how could I not - and they are actually quite entertaining)
The Spirit (because I love Darwyn Cooke's art, and Sergio Aragones is taking over writing duties in 2008)
Astonishing X-Men (which I buy for Yaz)
The Complete Peanuts (because Charles Schultz was a genius, and these are beautiful books)

Bearing in mind that only four of those titles are regular monthly books, I think you'll agree I've trimmed quite a lot away. And truth be told, if push came to shove I could pretty much cut it down to just two or three. 

Probably the biggest compliment I can give Love and Rockets, though, is if I compare it to my obsessive love of Star Trek. I've got a bookcase in which I keep all my Star Trek DVDs - all the boxsets, all the movies. On that bookcase, however, I've made room for one other collection: every single Love and Rockets book I own. There is no higher compliment I can give.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Winding down

One of the few benefits of working like a nutter throughout the year is that you end up with a crazy amount of holiday (or 'leave,' as it's now called, apparently) at the end of the year. In years gone by this hasn't necessarily been a good thing, because I've always been busy-busy in the lead-up to Christmas - but this year is a different matter entirely, because we've just pretty much finished the last issue of our UK magazine. That being the case, I've got some bits to tidy up for our lovely Japanese colleagues, then it's Christmas good times, baby!

*Braces self for Christmas good times*

So with all this holiday that simply has to be taken, I find myself looking forward to a three-day week next week, a four-day week the following week, then - gasp, however will I cope - a full week, before finishing on the 14th and not having to go back until January 2nd. Pysche! I've even decided not to crack open my Smallville Season Six boxset just so I've got something to do while rattling around Sparky Towers while enjoying my copious amount of days off. Exciting, huh? I might even become a recluse. A sexy recluse.

Anyway, the result of all this is that I'm sorta beginning to feel a little bit Christmassy already, which totally goes against my self-imposed December 1st Christmas embargo. I even ordered one of these. You should definitely watch the little video of it - I thought it would be quite sedate, but it totally kicks off - it'll look like I'm holding a rave! I'm also considering popping up town one night in the next couple of weeks to wander around and stare at the Christmas lights in awe, despite the fact that the last time I did that it was raining heavily and I thought they were shit. Actually, it's probably best I don't go up town, because 'looking at the Christmas lights' would quickly and inevitably turn into 'going into the Apple Store and buying an iPhone,' which I will do at some point, just not yet (at least that's what I keep telling myself - be strong!).

Oh, on the subject of Apple-based goodness, have I said how much I love my new iMac? Every time I use it something new and exciting becomes apparent. Dedicated iTunes buttons on the slimline keyboard? Awesome. In fact, the keyboard on its own is a work of art, and I'm beginning to find the clunky old one at work a bit difficult to use; those raised up buttons that go clickety-clackety when I type? Very irritating!

Anyway, back to Christmas. I'm actually planning to do another big Christmas jaunt to Kingston next week to finish off my festive shopping. Part of that means I need to gauge how many cards and rolls of paper I need to buy, which means, I suppose, that I should probably start wrapping. Good grief. On the plus side, though, at least when my brother pops over I won't have to keep screaming "NO - WAIT!" every time he tries to go upstairs…

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One hilarious result of having it a bit easier at work is the fact that I have a little time to scour the internet; don't judge me - I regard web-surfing as my version of taking a cigarette break. I just disengage brain for a short while. Anyway, today I took to clicking on random links for clothing, and I eventually ended up at the website for American Apparel, which is the company that made my lovely free Apple OSX t-shirt. I've been meaning to check out some of their other clothes for a while now because I'm always interested in reasonably-priced hoodies and plain t-shirts, and I've been on the lookout for a top like this for a while now. Whatever the clothes are like, though, the best part of this store are the reviews, which almost had me choking on a fun-size Mars bar; among my favourite comments were "it's alright if you wear something underneath, or if you don't care that your nips are visible," and "HI NIPPLES!"

My all-time favourite, however, was the sole review for the recycled cotton-acrylic blend pom-pom beanie.

I totally want to be friends with whoever wrote that.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dilemma time

OK, ever get an offer that sounds too good to be true? I have this week. Admittedly it's not quite too good to be true, but the cynic in me immediately notched it up as something to be immediately suspicious of. Like a stranger talking to you in public. Beware of stranger danger.

Anyway, so the offer comes from my electrickery company - y'know, the ones that effectively stranded me in the dark ages a few Saturdays ago when one of their rickety old cables ripped itself a new one. I received a letter from them this week basically saying that they were 'giving something back' to all their loyal customers; enclosed was a flower-shaped coupon with the following four petal options:

• They will donate 20 quid to a charity of their choice.
• They will give you (or rather me) a 20 quid voucher to spend in the carbon-neutral online store.
• They will give you (or rather… oh, you get the idea) a 2o quid Argos voucher.
• They will lop 20 squids off my bill.

And they also enclose a sticker of a bee to place over the petal option of your choice. It's a 'free-bee,' y'see. Do you see?

In reviewing those options I immediately dismissed the carbon-neutral store voucher. I mean, what exactly would they sell - some hemp pants woven by Woody Harrelson? Hmmm… And I'm shocked to say that I initially junked the charity offer - as much as I approve of donating to charity, I like to choose which charity I donate to. So that leaves the Argos voucher and the discounted bill. I'm plumping for the bill discount because ultimately I have no desire to buy chunky chav-man jewelry from Elizabeth Duke.

But…

I've somehow convinced myself that there's more to this offer than actually meets the eye - like maybe those who choose the charity option will ultimately get some awesome super-gift, because undoubtedly the take-up on that option will be tiny tiny, and the electrickery company is testing me. Do I go for the short-term gain of a discount, or the spiritually-uplifting charity option? It's an interesting dilemma that I've pondered over for the last week.

Anyway, long story short, I'm totally going for the discount because I'm nothing if not a self-centred Scrooge McDuck wannabe.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Duvet days

It's suddenly turned cold recently; not in the "ooo, it's a bit chilly - I think I'll zip my jacket up" cold, rather "it's so cold I could probably have someone's eye out with my nipples" cold.

I'd say "so much for global warming," but then I'd look silly if we were all back to vests and shorts tomorrow.

Anyway, despite trying to hold out as long as I could, I've finally taken two steps this week to combat the cold: I've fired up my little radiator, and I've put on my Michael Buble (which is rhyming slang for double duvet). I *love* my double duvet; the first night after I put it on always make me feel like an elephant's sat on me in the night - it's that heavy. But it's super snuggily, and by the second night I'm embracing the weight and extra warmth. 

So yes, I'm giving in and admitting that winter has struck. Which is OK, because I like winter; I like wrapping up warm and walking about. I like the grey skies, and I like the fact that I can get home and huddle up on the sofa. I like bowls of porridge and mugs of warm milk. Ooo, Horlicks…

The only downside is the fact that once I get in I'm much less inclined to go out again. I haven't been for a run in two weeks, and I think the birthday excuse is running a bit thin (which reminds me, I should probably take my cards down). Oh, who cares; I've been busy in the last week, anyway. One thing that's definitely going to keep me in the house is that I bought a sexy new iMac! I made a snap decision on Friday, rocked up to the Apple Store and bought one on the spot. It's groovy, and the hand-over period between old and new has been pretty seamless. They're sitting next to each other as I type, although the old one best not get too comfortable because it's off to pastures new when I can find a buyer.

I'm determined with this new one to use it to the fullest of its immense capabilities, which is going to be a bit of a challenge to a techno-retard like me, but there should be interesting times ahead. At the very least it has the sexiest keyboard I've ever seen in my life, so my fingers will have some fun. And a little remote, which is cool. Hell, I could even video-blog. Um, on second thoughts, maybe the world's not ready to see me all disheveled on a Saturday morning sitting here drinking a cup of tea and scratching myself? OK, I'll use some of its abilities…

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chicken lover

So I was in KFC in Hammersmith the other night - and let's get this straight, I have nothing against junk food; I love a KFC or a Maccy-D's every now and then. And anyone who tells you any different is lying. It's like devil food - soooooooo good, even though you know it's either a) melting you from the inside out, or b) not really chicken. Anyway, I was in KFC, chowing down on a five-piece crispy strips meal, when I started glancing around the restau- OK, wait, I know I just said I love KFC, but I really don't think they should call themselves 'restaurants' - not unless they've got a waiter in a bow-tie serving me; venue? Service station? Outpost?

I was glancing around the KFC outpost, mainly because some chav-wench was shouting at the counter staff about her coleslaw and I wanted to act all nonchalant in case her boyfriend started happy-slapping the teenage dude putting Vienetta's in the fridge, when I noticed the photographs on the walls. Now, I've been in this KFC many times over the last few years, and while I've seen the pictures on the wall, I've not actually looked at them. On this occasion I did.

And they are VERY WEIRD.

Basically, they're a series of studio photographs in artsy black-and-white of young kids who have evidently fallen into a temporal vortex that has transported them back to the 1980s; they're all bouffant hair and dungarees. What's really strange, though, is that they're all clutching pieces of chicken like their lives depended on it. One little girl was clasping a drumstick to her chest, and I just wanted to shout out "oh Stephanie*, do put the drumstick down - you'll get chicken grease on your little gingham dress!"

Fortunately I chose not to say that, mainly because I didn't want to distract the chavs from their coleslaw-enraged discussion. Instead I finished my meal, emptied my rubbish in the bin, shook my head wearily at the site of what looked like a young Will Smith circa 1991 leading a group of pre-teens in a chicken-based adventure, and left.


*Stephanie is my favourite stereotypical name from the 80s due in part to its outstanding use in the classic Steve Guttenberg/Ally Sheedy movie Short Circuit. Incidentally, good grief - I just looked at her imdb page - how the mighty have fallen! 'Unnamed NY Ticket Agent' in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York? The Red Shoe Diaries 4: Auto Erotica?! Disassemble Stephanie!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who said old people sit around doing nothing?

Gosh! Four days into my thirties and everything's gone chicken oriental - I've been such a busy little bee!! So let me tell you all about it - not just for your benefit, but because now I'm officially old I might start forgetting things so it'll probably help to write them down. Dementia - LOL!

Saturday
I woke up disgustingly early on Saturday morning despite only heaving myself into bed at half two in the morning after the events of my crazy-sexy good-times party. That being the case, I totally forced myself to stay in bed until at *least* 11 o'clock. Of course, the afternoon was all about the new Mini Clubman for me; Marcosy was fit to bursting yesterday and emailed me to ask all about it. Seeing as he's the only one I figure is massively interested in it and I've already told him about it, I won't harp on too much - suffice to say: IT'S AWESOME. I drove a hot chocolate (metallic brown, not sure how it tastes - didn't lick it) one with a silver roof, and loved it. The funny doors are super-cool, and it's got a cool fuel efficiency thing that cuts the engine out when you stop at traffic lights. The first time it happened I thought I'd stalled it and felt like a right doofus, but then the salesman told me to dip the clutch and it burst into life again. That made me feel less doofus-y. Hurrah!

To sum it up - I definitely want one more than ever, but I'm going to hold off for a few months because I don't want to get one of the first ones - you never know if something's going to drop off.

On a side note - best piece of marketing EVAH: to promote the quirky nature of the Clubman, Mini today sent me a ping-pong bat in the post. How very random!

In other matters, Saturday, for the fact that it was my actual birthday, was a lovely day.

Monday
Monday was, of course, the first day back at work after my week off, and it was OK. It was made easier, to be honest, by the fact that Yaz and I were off to a gig in the evening. Who were we seeing? The Cold War Kids! Now, I'll be honest - I didn't know too much about this band. I think I was familiar with a couple of their tracks, but that was about it. Yaz on the other hand is positively crazy-bonkers about them, and was clearly hoping that I would go nuts too.

Fortunately, they were very good. Particularly the drummer, whose arms twirl around at high-speed in a crazy, almost hypnotic fashion.

Unfortunately for them, I preferred their support act, a band called Patrick Watson, which is a bit of a funny name for a band. I mean, even Dave Matthews called his band The Dave Matthews Band. Anyway, I was well impressed by Patrick Watson. They're from Montreal in far away Canadinialand, and they reminded me a bit of Jeff Buckley (which is always a good thing). They play folky, piano-y, somewhat melancholy music using loops they record on the spot, and they bash cymbols with marracas until they break. You can download two of their tracks for free from their website just by entering your email address, and I recommend you do it.

Here's some pics:

This is Patrick Watson. Look at the pretty colours!

This is Cold War Kids. They were not cold, showed no evidence of being at war, and are not kids!

Tuesday
Tuesday evening was delightfully nerdish. My colleague in all things Star Trek and I had tickets to go see the one-night only event of the newly remastered version of the two-part Star Trek episode 'The Menagerie' at the Odeon in Covent Garden, a cinema that Odeon list on their website as not actually being in Covent Garden. Curious!

Anyway, this was my first exposure to the rejigged original series with spiffy new visual effects, and I was not disappointed. Probably the biggest compliment I can give it is that the picture quality is incredible, and while the new effects are gorgeous, I didn't find that they stood out too much, and instead fit unobtrusively into the episodes, serving their purpose without attracting undue attention to themselves - which is a good thing. And, of course, the story was just great.

All in all, then, a delightful evening which was worth the price of admission alone for the middle-aged woman in the row in front of us who gasped audibly when a brief clip of a topless Captain Kirk was shown.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A small dog stole my balloons

I know I said it would be a fair few days till I post next, but I'm sitting here - on my birthday - with an hour or so until I pop off to drive the Mini Clubman, and the debauched experiences of last night fresh in my mind. And Willowc had a bit of a go at me about the fact I was taking a few days off.

So last night was my birthday party.

WHAT. FUN.

Now, I was supposed to get to the pub at six o'clock (in the evening, mind), but the damn traffic over Kew Bridge meant that didn't happen. I finally parked up at six-thirty, and hurried along the Goldhawk Road. And who did I bump into? Little Yaz! Now, remember I was a little concerned about whether she had something planned for my party after seizing control of organizing it, and immediately after we entered she sat me on a sofa, dumped her handbag next to me, and scurried off with a barman. So I just sat there looking like a loner with a manbag at a large table with a reserved sign on it.

After a couple of minutes she returned - with balloons! And then hijinks ensued as a long procession of amazing people arrived with presents and cards (you'd think it was someone's birthday…), and I sat in the corner blushing like a special in a studly fashion. There were many moments of hilarity - not too many that I can repeat though, especially not Marcosy's misheard title for Willowc's new magazine - and the Lovely Lorna and I posed for a series of photos in a 1970s catalogue-pose fashion. There was also a fascinating debate between Rob and Jo in which Rob was trying to suggest that it's difficult being a man; his argument centred around the statement "it's like being chained to an idiot." I thought it was a bit harsh calling your wife an idiot, but it turns out that he actually meant the idiot to be a penis reference.

As the evening drew to a close, however, my attentions were drawn toward a small white terrier that scurried round to us, his little claws scrabbling for traction on the wooden floor. This was Stevie.

"I've been warned about Stevie," said Yaz, arching an eyebrow in a school ma'am fashion. "He likes balloons."

And true to form, Stevie went nuts for the balloons; he delicately held one in his mouth then ran around with it; he jumped up in the air while bouncing one off his head; he jumped up on a table, slid across the top, and fell off the other side while trying to get to me while I held one. Stevie. Likes. Balloons.

Anyway, from a total of about 10, Yaz saved one from Stevie and insisted that I take it home. It's actually in the boot of my car now.

We were ultimately chucked out of the pub at closing time (12:30), at which point we managed to direct poor drunken Blanca toward a bus that she just got on without even finding out where it was going, and then laughed as the bus moved forward while she walked toward the back so she effectively stood still as we waved her off.

I think I got home at about half two, put my cards up, then collapsed into bed. Good times. Many thanks to everyone who came (*ahem* to the party) - it was lovely seeing you all.

Right - I really am off to drive a slightly longer, quirky-doored, new, new Mini now.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

When heads explode!

Yesterday was weird, in a good way, because it had the strangely bizarre recurring theme of exploding heads.

Not literally, I hasten to add.

I've been spending the last couple of days sitting around watching DVDs I haven't seen in a while; first was Se7en, which was, is, and shall forever remain one of my most favouritist movies EVAH. I followed that with Team America: World Police, which I used to *heart* big-stylee, but I actually didn't find it as funny this time around. Maybe it's one of those movies that you need to watch with a bunch of mates? It nevertheless gave me the urge to quote "suck my cock, Gary," so it's probably best I spent the day on my own.

Coming back on track to the events of yesterday and its recurring theme of exploding heads (in no way related to any Team America quotes) I watched the Dawn of the Dead remake, which was another film that I once loved, but which strangely didn't do too much for me on this repeat viewing. Yes, it's very entertaining, but once you've seen one zombie head explode, you've pretty much seen all zombie heads explode. Once those writers stop striking in L.A. they really need to focus their energies on coming up with new and creative ways of making zombie heads explode.

Anyway, in the evening, Jo and I toddled off to the cinema to see 30 Days of Night. I had high hopes for this film, because I luuuuurved the graphic novel (the sequel sucked a little, but the third book was also great), and I'm glad to say it didn't really disappoint; there were plenty of quality exploding head moments, and it did a rather splendid job of matching the stylized look of the graphic novel without being too overly stylized. on the downside, Melissa George had a weird accent that veered between Australian, American, and Terrence and Phillip-style Canadian; I had planned on slamming Josh Hartnett's acting too, but seeing as his role pretty much just required him to look panicked, confused, deep in thought, and squinty (not at the same time, mind), whoever cast him probably picked the right guy.

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Despite the fact that I actually started Christmas shopping on Monday, today officially marked the countdown to Christmas, because today was the annual Sparky Tim/Sparky Ma Christmas shopping expedition. How many times can I write Christmas in one sentence? Anyway, for the first time in living memory, it was an unqualified success - and by that I mean that I actually bought some presents, rather than stand in front of a mirror holding a nice top against my chest, twirling, and saying "THIS looks AMAAAAZING!"

Of course, I can't tell you what I bought because *certain* people read this, but I will say that I've totally done at least half my Christmas shopping, so *snaps*.

Also, totally check THIS OUT. I literally cried with laughter in a shop while looking at these.

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Right, now I'm going to be brutally honest now: lord knows when I'm going to get the time to post in the next week or so. Tomorrow is, of course, my birthday party, so it's quite possible I might wake up in a gutter at some point on Saturday, or be found tied to a lamp post in Shepherds Bush; after that I've got a busy birthday Saturday of Mini Clubman-ing and a family do, then Mr. Decorator coming back to finish off my, um, decorating on Sunday. After that I'm off to see Cold War Kids play the Shepherds Bush Empire on Monday, and then onto a big screen showing of the Star Trek: The Original Series two-part episode 'The Menagerie' on Tuesday.

*phew!*

As Arnie once said - "I'll be back!"

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The past is a foreign country

Over the last few years I've noticed that I've not been one to dwell on the past too much; I suppose that's what buying a house does for you - you tend to focus more on the uncertainty of tomorrow than the rose-tinted memories of yesterday. And I think that's a good thing, because if you spend all day reminiscing you'll simply miss out on life as the world changes around you. And I don't want to do that, because the future brings iPhones.

Every now and then, though, something will happen to remind you of the past. Last week some old schoolmates of mine got together on Facebook and organised a reunion, an idea which, to be brutally honest, horrifies me.

Let me be even more honest: I didn't exactly have the easiest time of things at secondary school, mainly because I was one of what seemed like a small percentage of kids who actually wanted to learn something. It probably also didn't help that I went from being one of the most popular kids in junior school to a secondary school that lumped me in class with no one I knew. And I was a little on the chunky side. Can't children be cruel?

On the plus side, though, those days helped make me the person I am today - the person who is independent, fitter and stronger (both emotionally and physically - rawr!), and, if I may say so, successful. I quite like who I've become, so in that respect I suppose I'm actually (perversely?) quite grateful to those difficult school days. I was nothing if not a determined little bugger, and I stayed true to the course I set, weathered all storms, with the ultimate reward of being where I am today; a life I enjoy.

And I just don't feel the need to revisit the people, places, and events of almost two decades ago.

The thing is, you know that a reunion would ultimately, and inevitably, just turn into a forum for people vying for top-spot in the 'look-what-I've-done-with-my-life' league. It would be easier and more honest if everyone just lined up at the urinals and measured schlong. I'm comfortable with where I stand, and I have no need to boast about what I've been doing since I left school. I don't feel the need to be judged by anyone, least of all people whose names only appear in the periphery of my mind with the vaguest hint of recognition. And bearing in mind I'm pretty much unrecognizable from the person I was back then, I have no desire to spend an evening with a bunch of strangers reminding everyone that I was "the tubby one who studied hard."

Even more curiously, though, Facebook's presented me with some fascinating blasts from the past; some have been rather lovely, others surprising, to say the least; most notably today, I was 'friended' by a guy who, no word of a lie, I probably only ever had one civil conversation with in seven years of school. And he wants me to friend him? Why? Are we going to become good mates? Will we pop down the pub together? I don't think so.

So no, I won't be going to the reunion, nor will I be going to any future reunion; those few people who I wanted to remain in contact with from school, I'm still in contact with, and although we may not see each other that often I'm more than happy to meet up and catch up when we can.

Everyone else who wonders what the hell happened to the tubby kid who studied hard can just look at the picture of me on Facebook and wonder.

Rawr!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sailing

As you might expect, I'm *loving* my time off. Not that I've really done anything, mind you - I just enjoy doing mundane things when I'm not at work. Every now and then I think I should take a day to go up town and explore museums and galleries and stuff like that, but then the mere thought of it just tires me out, which kind of defeats the idea of taking time off, and I think I'll do it next time I have a weeks holiday.

So, major bonus - my car, in the words of the guy at the garage, "sailed through" it's MOT - *thank-the-mighty-lord-Shatner* because I was braced and ready for a stupidly expensive bill for something I would never have expected could've been wrong with it; seriously, I had visions of me sprawled across the bonnet of a new 3-Series in the dealership (not in a sexy way) while bawling my eyes out. Anyway, I got it into the garage by about 9am, then headed to the Mini dealer to book my Clubman test drive for Saturday (must remember to hint to them that it's my birthday just on the off chance they throw some Mini freebies my way). After that, and bearing in mind that they said the MOT would take about three hours, I decided to walk to Uxbridge, which is about three miles away, to have a look around the shoppies.

Now, I haven't been shopping to Uxbridge in *ages* and using this visit as an example of what to expect I probably won't be back for fair ol' while. I used to love going here, but it now has a general feel of "meh" to it - like the entire town has just taken a really deep, weary sigh. I think part of the problem is that they opened a shiny new shopping centre a few years back directly opposite the old one. All that happened, though, was that the existing shops in the old centre just upped and went to the new one - because it's shinier - leaving the old one looking like some chav-tastic breeding ground for pound shops. Feeling a tad depressed by that I went for a coffee, where despite having my iPod turned up to the max, I could still hear a bunch of scrummies* in sweat pants and velour hoodies squealing about their aerobics session while chowing down on double-chocolate muffins.

I promptly began walking back to the garage, where I spent an hour reading both the Daily Mail and The Times, which gave me a good opportunity to catch up in a reasonably balanced way on the state of the country (still messy), and come to the conclusion that, in my opinion, whatever way scientists claim they're preserving Tutankhamun's body for the better, I still think, at the end of the day, that that was once a living, breathing person, and I don't think he should be put out on display; his treasures - fascinating, yes; him? No - have some respect.

Anyway, probably the most upsetting part of the day occurred while I was walking back to the garage and I stopped off at a petrol station to buy a choccy bar. Upon leaving the shop and opening the wrapper I discovered that the bar was actually broken in two, and half of it promptly fell on the ground. I know the 10 second rule should apply in such circumstances, but it was a grimy forecourt and I didn't want to appear trampy, so I tutted and walked off. That kind of sucked. I wonder, in hindsight, if I could've taken it back and claimed faulty goods?

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Despite saying in my last post that I was having a haircut on Wednesday, it was actually today, so I'm kind of glad I remembered that before rocking up there tomorrow. I'm now in possession of an awesome scruffy-dude haircut which I would gladly show you, but seeing as I haven't had a shower yet I've still got bits of hair on my face and I wouldn't want to give you the impression that I have an excessively-hairy forehead. Oh, and I also started my Christmas shopping (organised - yay, LOL!); I even flirted a little with a middle-aged lady in a card shop, and joked with her that the Easter stuff would be out soon. Turns out that my joke wasn't actually that funny - she assured me that all the Easter cards were in the back of the shop ready to be put out on shelves just after Christmas.

*sigh*


*Scrummies = school-run mummies

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Clumsy

I'm beginning to see a pattern forming that whenever I hire people to do some work on my house they inevitably balls something up.

Case in point numero uno: Last year when I had a super-powerful new telly aerial put up. While attempting to get a connecting sockety-thing* into my bedroom, the engineer managed to drill a massive hole in the wrong place in the wall. I subsequently popped down to Homebase to buy some filler, and spent the evening filling the hole, sanding down the bump, and painting over it, rather than watching telly via the super-powerful new telly aerial. I'm very precious about my little house.

And now let's move forward to…

Case in point numero deux: Mr. Decorator was back to continue his good work yesterday, and I must say Sparky Towers is looking much more asthetically-pleasing than it did. Unfortunately, upon opening my bedroom window he managed to knock his power-sander (which he'd left on the sill) onto the roof of my porch. Which is made of glass.

I think we can all see where this is going, hmmm…?

On the plus side, the glass is that reinforced hard core stuff, so it held. But it does have a rather large spidery-web crack in it. *Not* aesthetically-pleasing. Anyway, upon his return next weekend, I shall stand under said glass and just point up. Methinks a discount might be in order. Another thing to put on my to-do list…

It has just gone through my tiny brain, though, that I could have it replaced with the stuff they use in bifocal glasses - it'll be like my own porch-based solar observatory!

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I've got this week off work. This is my week off to-do list:

• Monday: MOT for my car. Longterm readers might recall that last year during a combined service and MOT I ended up turning a rather sickly shade of white and had to breath deeply into a paper bag after finding out that pretty much everything that needed to be replaced on my car needed to be replaced on my car. Rather like Michael Jackson's face, I'm pretty sure there's a double of my motor somewhere made up of the bits they took off. That being the case, I'm bracing myself for the fact that I could have a massive bill that destroys all hopes of me buying a new iMac and an iPhone. It *shouldn't* be the case, as far as I'm concerned, but I'm bracing nonetheless. It's always wise to put your seat in the upright position and brace.

BRACE GODDAMN YOU, BRACE!

• Tuesday: I have no plans. That being the case, I'll probably wander around the house all day in my pants. With the curtains closed!

• Wednesday: Haircut. I'm unsure what to do this time - any suggestions?

• Thursday: Christmas shopping with Sparky Ma. And by 'Christmas shopping' I mean we'll end up buying tons of stuff for ourselves, and nothing for anyone else.

• Friday: Party pants on - check! Friday is the day of my birthday party. Which I was looking forward to, but now I'm a little bit fearful, because when we went to book a space in the pub, Yaz decided that she would assume organizational control of the event. I recently asked her if she knew whereabouts in the pub we'd be sitting, so I could tell everyone and they wouldn't have to wander around the bar like meerkats looking for us. She just smiled knowingly, and replied "oh, don't worry, they won't be able to miss us…"

• Saturday: My birthday – and I'll get to test drive a Mini Clubman on it! Yay!!

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Now, if you'll excuse me, The Empire Strikes Back is on the telly, and I have an overwhelming desire to drape a blanket around my shoulders and stride around the house while the Imperial March is playing in the background.


*I don't know what these things are - if I did I would've done it myself!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It's Christmas, bitch!

And as if to confirm it, the very next song that played on my iPod after I bought this was Pearl Jam's cover of the Jackson Five song 'Someday at Christmas.'

Ding dong merrily on high.