Thursday, July 31, 2008

A most unusual question!

So Yazzle Dazzle and I were having coffee outside Secret Starbucks today and there's this van parked up opposite us. I pretty much ignored it at first, but after about 20 minutes I got bored of listening to Yaz waffle on, so I read what was on the side of the van.

So my question to you is, based on this company's most unusual service, if you were going to insert a nipple anywhere, where on Earth would you insert it and why?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Running club III

I'd promised myself that I wasn't going to write anything about running club this week, but then I decided I would, because something wonderfully unexpected happened there, and a trilogy worked for Tolkien with Lord of the Rings.

Oh, and there might be a treat for putting up with all my running nonsense - of which there's been plenty recently, I know. More on that when you've ploughed through this.

Right, so tonight was my third time going to running club and I was totally flying solo because Sweatband wasn't there, and all the other people I've gotten to know over the last couple of weeks were either absent, injured, or only turned up to go to the pub after. That being the case, it was quite nice that there was another newbie there, and we ended up chatting - mainly because one of the other guys said "hang around Tim - he knows what's going on."

My reaction to that was kind of like "me!?" because I didn't have a clue what was going on and was just going to latch on to anyone I recognised and then follow them around until we started running. Turns out though, that I just needed to latch onto the woman who led the interval training last week, because she was leading another torturous session and I'm nothing if not a glutton for punishment. So I latched onto her, newbie latched onto me, and all was well with the world.

Tonight's session consisted of running through Richmond Park to the polo field where we separated into pairs. Each member of the pair then had to run half a lap of the field, before tagging their team member who would then run the other half - kind of like an ongoing relay. We did this – I am not kidding you – for 25 minutes. Initially me and newbie were hanging around the middle of the field, but then that wonderful thing I mentioned took place - we started moving up the field. OK, it wasn't a race or anything, but we were a good, consistent team. I was certain that it was my teammate who was doing all the work, but then I realised that I was definitely holding my own. Before I knew it, we were in third. Then second. Then in the very last segment I found myself pacing the leader, mere footsteps behind him. And as we rounded the last corner onto the straight I realised it was now or never - so I mustered every last ounce of strength and really went for it. I pulled one of my now almost-legendary sprint finishes out of the bag, and overtook him. I heard him laugh in a "I-can't-quite-believe-it" way as I headed toward the line and - yeah, I know I said it wasn't a race, but y'know… - took the victory!

Two relative newbies taking victory over established club runners - hurrah for us!

Unfortunately, as this was just a training session there were no medals or anything, but in my head this goes down as one of my finest running moments so far. Ruined only by the fact that I've just realised I've been wearing my vest inside out all evening. 

*sigh*

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Right, I promised you a treat, didn't I? Come back here tomorrow and I might just show you the cover of my book…

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"I don't like it": Sparky and Big Bro hit the motor show

I'd not actually intended on going to the British International Motor Show this year. Not because I've turned into a raving environmentalist and gone off cars, but because I know what I want for my next motor, and I don't see that changing at any point in the near future. Still, Big Bro got some cheapo tickets and asked me if I wanted to go, so I thought 'it's something to do' and said yes.

The day did not start well.

Let me pause here to say that Big Bro is in the market for a new car, but is dithering. Rather a lot. He's actually been in the market for a new car since the last motor show in 2006, and depending on which day you ask him, he wants a new VW Scirocco, a VW Golf GTI, a Renaultsport Clio 197, a Renaultsport Megane R26, a Mazda MX-5, a new Seat Ibiza Sportcoupe, a Seat Leon Cupra, a Ford Focus ST, or maybe a new Fiesta when they do an ST version. There's probably a few others that I've forgotten about, mainly because there's only so many things I can hold in my brain. He definitely does not want a new Alfa Romeo Mito, though.

With this in mind, we set off for the Excel Centre in the East End of London.

Where were we? Oh yes - things did not begin well. 

The first port of call was the Ford stand because, well, it was massive and both the new Fiesta and the Focus ST where there. I don't know if Big Bro was suffering from some motor show tension at first, but he seemed a little reluctant to get in a new Fiesta. So I did instead. It's interesting… quite sexy looking on the outside, but the dashboard is based on the design of a mobile phone. A mobile phone from about eight years ago, apparently. It's certainly nothing like my iPhone. After a bit of cajoling I managed to get Big Bro to sit in the driver's seat. His expression pretty much suggested that someone had farted in it, and as he got out he very loudly said "I don't like it" - straight at a nice Ford lady who'd come to ask if we wanted any information.

I am not kidding when I say that the look on her face made it seem like he'd called her mother a prostitute then punched her in the boob. I thought she was going to cry. Fortunately she recovered rather quickly and professionally, and set about trying to convince Big Bro of the Fiesta's charms. He wasn't having any of it, though - even when she said that he should go sit in the Titanium model because that has "all the goodies." Slowly coming to the conclusion that she was flogging a dead horse (admittedly one with a 1.6 litre engine in Zetec S trim), she tried to convince him to go sit in the new Ford Kuga, but Big Bro likes sporty cars, not four-wheel-drives, so he just smiled at her and eventually she just gesticulated towards the back of the stand and told us they were handing out free ice lollies there.

I was having much better luck, however. Now, in years gone by I'd go to motor shows just to perve over Porsches and Ferraris and the like, but since I actually started driving I've realised that I really like small cars - hence my infatuation with Minis. Small cars are cool; there's some really nicely designed small cars around with great little design touches. And in this day-and-age of high petrol prices, exorbitant running costs, and crowded roads, I'm more impressed by cars that can get 50 miles to the gallon than cars that can hit 200 mph and look like they were designed by someone armed only with a pencil and ruler. 

And so it was that I arrived at the Citroen stand and ended up sitting in a little C1 hidden away at the back behind all the bigger shinier, newer models. This little city car has been around for a couple of years now (I actually sat in one at the last motor show), but for a six grand motor I think they're pretty cool. I know someone who owns one and she loves it (even if the gearbox did just fall out of it); I think it's a characterful little car with the sort of cheeky personality that's missing from a lot of modern motors. 

Just I was about to get out, though, one of the Citroen ladies came up to me. Uh-oh, I thought, she's going to try and collar me with brochures and stuff!

"Do you want to drive it?" she asked.

And so five minutes later I was out the back of the Excel Centre about to get into a little black five-door Citroen C1, with my six-foot-something tall brother squeezed in the back (although he claimed there was more room back there than in my Mini) and some guy named Adrian sitting in the passenger seat to make sure I didn't try to steal it. I started it up, and headed off around the test track that was set up in the grounds of Excel. I expected Adrian to spend all the time trying to sell me on the virtues of the C1, but instead he just said "it's built in the same factory as the Peugout 107 and Toyota Aygo…" then started telling us how he'd been getting into all the concerts that had been taking place at the show in the evening, and that the Alice Cooper gig had been awesome with lots of fake blood and vampires sacrificing a baby or something. "Does he actually do any singing?" Big Bro asked. "Oh yes," replied Adrian. "He was singing while he was sacrificing the baby." He then proceeded to stick his head out of the window, claiming that he'd barely seen daylight since the show started five days ago. Then he let me do another lap, which might've been a mistake because by that time I was revving that little three-cylinder engine quite happily and crying with laughter. And when we finished he gave both me and Big Bro free road atlases worth £6.99. Bonus - but admittedly a bit of a pain that we had to carry them around for the rest of the day. On the other hand, they did give us the opportunity to map-slap any annoying people who got in our way.

Returning to the show we started talking to some Vauxhall dude who told us about the Platinum Lounge hidden away somewhere which contained lots of exotic supercars like a Mercedes SLR and a Bugatti Veyron. It all sounded rather wonderful until he told us that to get in you needed to show a key from a car that cost over 100k, which admittedly made it sound like a swingers club for the super rich. The Vauxhall dude nevertheless suggested that we should try to sneak in, but always one to walk on the right side of the law we asked if we could borrow the keys to enough Corsas and Astras to add up to the required 100k figure. He said no, so we headed off. 

After spending half an hour outside in the sunshine watching a number of awesome classic supercars be pelted round a small test track, we reached the Mini stand where I spent plenty of time hugging various Minis, but failed in my attempt to convince Big Bro to let me go into the Mini owners lounge where they were offering free drinks. I think he was worried that he'd be left outside while I chillaxed in a Mini-branded oasis. Then we headed over to the Alfa Romeo stand, where Big Bro was fully prepared to diss the new Alfa Mito, but curiously ended up thinking it was pretty awesome; I'm not sure, but it may have had something to do with Letitia, the lovely Alfa lady in the low-cut dress who stopped to talk shop with us while we queued to sit in it.

All-in-all then, it was a pretty cool day. And a successful one for Big Bro, whose list of desired motors now consists of … well, pretty much all the cars he'd been interested in before, but with the Mito taking the place of the Fiesta. And me? I'm still gunning for that Mini Clubman.

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Some photos? Some photos!

Apparently Ford's engineers were told to bear in mind the environmental angle of the mental new Focus RS - so they painted it green.

Just about to head out for a drive in the Citroen C1. Skinny tyres, a tiny three-cylinder engine … it was actually a quality, characterful little car!

It looked like there'd been a hit and run on the Vauxhall stand.

The Mazda Furei is a definite contender for the next Batmobile.

I'm not sure if Big Bro is down with appearing on my blog, so I've pixelated his face to protect his identity.

I tried taking a picture of a Ferrari F40 at the outside classic supercar track - and missed.

Vrooooom! He was going even quicker on the second lap…

Big Bro was a bit quicker off the mark with his camera - James Bond's motor, anyone?

Big Bro made me pose by a Renault Megane R26R like a cheap piece of motor show totty.

Just look at the dopey expression on my face as I check out the new John Cooper Works Mini.

For some reason I've developed a fascination with cubby holes and glove boxes. Most new cars have tiny gloveboxes - what's that all about!?

Checkin' out the concealed boot floor in the Mini Clubman for reasons that are neither interesting nor immediately apparent.

OK, even I'll admit it's a little bit weird to just stand there stroking a Mini.

D'ya see how cumbersome my free atlas was? Still, it was free so I shouldn't complain too much.

I look like Han Solo about to boot the Millennium Falcon into light speed here. In reality I was fiddling with the new ceiling-mounted toggle switches in a Clubman.

Alfa's done a damn fine job of carrying design touches over from the 100k+ 8C Competizione supercar to the new 13k Mito. Let's just hope they've worked out how to put a car together so that bits don't fall off, eh?

The Toyota IQ was one of my stars of the show - it's an unbelievably tiny, chunky-looking urban runabout that can carry three adults, but is barely bigger than a Smart ForTwo. I'm not kidding - this is the car of the future.

This is my 'do hurry up' face.

The Dark Knight

Saturday was quite possibly one of my most eagerly anticipated days in living memory - because it was time to see The Dark Knight. 

Now this was quite a big deal to me. Tim Burton's first Batman film was probably the first movie that really grabbed me and sucked me in. In the summer of '89 I went from being a kid who hated Batman (to this day I still *loathe* the Adam West series), to being someone who totally got the dark, gothic look of the film. One of my strongest memories of that time is buying the novelization in Richmond and reading it all the way through - all 220 pages of it - in the same day. The next week I pestered Sparky Ma into taking me back so that I could buy the official making of book. And the comic book adaptation. In fact, I still have all three.

On the day we finally got to see the movie I wore a Batmobile t-shirt and a Batsign baseball cap. There was little doubt what film I was there to see. I was paranoid, though, that I wouldn't actually get into the cinema because the film was rated 12, and I was actually three months off that birthday. Still, I slipped in under the radar and I loved it.

The Joker was a big deal for me. I totally got Jack Nicholson's take on the character, and I think his absence from the subsequent movies was one of the main reasons they paled in comparison - Batman Forever and *ugh* Batman and Robin in particular. Nipples on the Batsuit? I ask you…

Then, in 2005 Batman Begins came out. I was excited about this movie, but not overly so. I saw it and thought it was a great film, but it didn't rock my world like Batman '89 did. I put it down to being older and less likely to succumb to the blockbuster movie hype machine. One of my main criticisms was that while I thought the level of believability was great, and they did a fantastic job of making Batman fit into the real world, I didn't necessarily need to know how he got his suit and all his equipment together. The first half, with the flashbacks to Bruce Wayne's childhood and his training, though brilliantly told, kind of bored me; for me, it dragged a little until the second half.

In preparation for The Dark Knight, however, I set myself a bit of Batman revision, and revisited both Batman '89, Batman Begins, and for the first time, Batman: Gotham Knight, an animated special made up of six short films that bridge the gap between Begins and DK.

Curiously I actually found myself a little bored during the '89 movie. Maybe it was my utter familiarity with it; maybe it was because beneath all the grime and darkness it actually is just a little bit campy. On the other hand, I completely reappraised Begins and thoroughly enjoyed it; it's a superbly crafted movie. Letting the side down a little, however, was Gotham Knight which was a bit hit-and-miss, and seemed to have little in common with the two movies it was supposed to share a commonality with.

And then… The Dark Knight.

I'd actually stopped into Shepherds Bush cinema on Friday afternoon to pick up tickets for this, having spontaneously decided to take the afternoon off work. This was actually a bit of a foolish move because I was very tempted to head into the half-two showing that was just about to start. I was good, though, and just bought the tickets and walked off. 

Twenty-four hours later I was back, and ready to see the film that I'd been looking forward to since the first trailer appeared towards the end of last year. My excitement level for this was unexpectedly high, the only reason being, I think, because The Joker, one of my very favourite villains, was back, and Heath Ledger seemed to have put an interesting new spin on it.

And I was not disappointed. This is no word of a lie, one of the THE best movies I've seen in a long time. There's so many storylines in play, genuine twists and turns, fantastic acting throughtout… it's simply stunning. And with all the origin story done and dusted in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight could truly focus on telling a wonderful tale unhindered by any backage that comes with the character. In fact, I don't think Bruce's parents even got a mention.

There were so many fantastic moments in this film, and I really urge anyone who's wavering to absolutely go see it at the cinema, on the big screen where it deserves to be. And the highlight of the whole thing? I'm going to join the crowds of admirers and say that it has to have been Heath Ledger. He completely dominated the film as The Joker - so much so that he appears to become lost in the character. When he's not onscreen the other characters are talking about him - The Joker casts a loooooong shadow over the whole thing, and Ledger deserves every bit of praise directed at his wonderful performance.

At two and a half hours it's a long film, but it never feels it; and it is gruesome and disturbing in places - not gratuitously so, but definitely not one for the kids. The best Batman movie ever made? I really think so. I have to see it again.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A tale of two Tims: The Wedding Day 7k

Of all the days and times to do a club run, Friday night at 19:30 might seem like a bit of an odd one. But to be honest it wasn't, and actually turned into a rather lovely evening. In fact it's been a rather lovely day full stop because knowing that I'd need to sort myself out for the run I decided to take a half day at work so was home nice and early.

So, by about half past six I'd parked up in Hampton and at Sweatband's instruction met her outside the United Reform Church – which is tragically the best offer I've had since the last run we did when she said "see you under Twickenham Bridge at 8:20." I do lead an exciting life, don't I?

We then strutted into Bushy Park where, after learning it at Tuesday's running club warm-up, I gave Sweatband a crash-course in how to do the plank, as I'm now an expert in it. Obviously. Abs of steel. Soon after that we started bumping into other members of running club - including a lovely lady who's got a dog. Called Tim. 

I am not kidding when I tell you that every time someone called that dog I instinctively turned round. One of us seriously has to change their name. I've always been partial to Wolfgang.

Anyway, shortly after that we all lined up at the start line. There were loads of people - waaaaaay more than at the Dysart Dash 10k, and our times were being recorded by snazzy computer chips that we had to attach to our shoes. And this is where I'm going to digress for a moment, because the chips were pretty freakin' large, and looked a bit like a cream cracker.

WTF…?!

And just how did this miraculous piece of technology attach to my shoe? With two good ol' fashioned wire-twist pipe-cleaners, of course. That's the future right there. How advanced. Anyway, between this chip and my Nike+ running sensor, my feet are seriously beginning to look like they're getting bogged down by technomalogical gubbins. I wonder if this has any bearing on my time? 

Compliments on my legs should be sent to the usual address.

Let's get back to the run, eh? Where were we? Oh yes - so we were at the start line, and some dude was shouting out some important information but wasn't using a megaphone so we couldn't hear him. What we did hear moments later, though, was a klaxon signaling that we were off. My intention was to stick pretty close to Sweatband, but there were just so many people that this quickly proved impossible. That and the fact I'm running faster than her these days*.

I was really glad to be off, to be honest, because although it's been a lovely warm sunny day, Bushy Park is quite open and there was a bit of a chill; within moments of starting my hand grazed across my chest and I felt something cold and pointy. I'm still not sure if it one of the safety pins holding my number on, or my right nipple.

Anyway, it was a really good run - the course was awesome (and thankfully virtually flat), and although I think I probably started a little too quickly and grew a little fatigued around the halfway point, I persevered and just. Kept. Going. And as the finish line came into view I pulled one of my notorious sprint finishes out of the bag; I actually felt a little bit bad about this at first because I zoomed straight between two people I'd been pacing behind over the last third of the course, but then I figured you snooze, you lose *snaps*. 

I'd guestimated (and hoped) that I'd probably finish around the 40 minute mark, but *drum roll please* I actually did it in 36:24, which I'm really pleased with. Here's my sexy graph because my Nike+ widget is still all FUBAR'd, apparently:

I think you can see where I grew fatigued, but checkout the sprint finish!

After that it was just a matter of cashing in my timing chip for my official Wedding Day 7k t-shirt!

I'd model it but it'd get all sweaty.

It kind of looks like the runners on the t-shirt are naked. I'll have to check that out more closely. 

So with the run bit out of the way it was just a matter of chillaxing in the summer sun. There was a whole picnic thing going on, and I got chatting to a few people I've gotten to know at running club, and bizarrely enough a lady I know who goes to running club, but who works at the company where I park my car at work. Small world, huh? Sweatband spent a bit of time trying to cajol Tim the dog's owner into being my new running trainer seeing as I've outgrown her, and I have a horrible feeling that I might end up a broken man if all these ladies have their way *grins*.

As the sun set and the evening drew to a close, however, things looked like they might've taken a rather unfortunate turn; "Oi!" I heard from a group of people just a little way away from us. "Tim's just pissed on my bag!" I immediately put my hands up and shouted back "No I didn't!"

Turns out it was the dog.

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So, what else am I doing this weekend?

THE DARK KNIGHT OF COURSE!!!!!!!!

I've already bought my ticket!

And yes, that photo was taken post-run. You may send compliments on my chest to the usual address.



*My how the tables have turned!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Exercising my trunk: running club part deux and other nonsense

It's been a busy week so far, and it's only Tuesday. Holy crap - why do I put myself through all this nonsense? What happened to just going home and sitting on the sofa in my pants watching One Tree Hill? On the other hand, I should really stop complaining because I'm doing some really cool things at the moment.

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Monday evening I met up with the lovely Jo for a movie and dinner. And what special effects-laden blockbuster did we catch? Erm, none - we saw the 1955 film East of Eden starring James Dean. Now, I bought the book on which this movie was based only a few weeks ago, but I haven't actually started reading it. I wanted to catch the film, though, because it was a one-off screening as part of a 'movies that matter' season, it only cost a fiver, and I figured it would be cool to see such a big epic film in the way it was supposed to be seen. 

And what did I think? I loved it. It was definitely one of those films that I thought was good while watching it, but I can tell it had real depth to it because I've thought about it pretty constantly since. I can't wait to see how it compares to the book - particularly as the film apparently only covers the final third or so of Steinbeck's novel. And, as a bonus the cinema was not full of old ladies smelling of cabbage and having flashbacks to their teenage lust over James Dean.

Post film I had the fattest Nandos known to man. Jo's eyes almost shot out on stalks when she saw how much food I'd ordered, and she bet I couldn't eat it all. I totally did though. What? Don't judge me - I was so hungry I could've eaten the arse off a donkey!

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I bought a copy of The Times today - not because I wanted to look more dapper than usual while strolling down the street with it under my arm, but because it had a free copy of Freakonomics in it, which I've been meaning to buy for ages, and simply couldn't turn down for the price of 70 of the Queen's pence. The Times is actually doing a free book every day this week; yesterday was Everything is Illuminated, but that didn't really appeal to me. I don't know what's coming tomorrow, Thursday, or Friday, but if they look good I'm definitely going to pick them up. Damn – my book stack is increasing once again!

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I think I've found something to spend some money on: a freakin' huge canvas! I found these on Amazon, and there's loads that I like. Because they're so big, though, I'm going to limit myself to just one. I like this one, but I think I'm going to go for this one. And I think T-Bird should totally get this one.

I still want those jeans though.

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I went to running club again tonight accompanied by - and regular readers might want to sit down for this - Sweatband! After skipping out last week and then saying she couldn't make it this week she actually did turn up. On the other hand, though, she lumped me in with a speedy group before deciding to align herself with what I'll delicately call the 'older ladies' group. So while she headed out for a gentle jog and a bit of a gossip with the ladies, I found myself running into Richmond Park with some proper good runners. 

We started off with some warm-up exercises that consisted of jogging on the spot, skipping with fictional ropes, and sashaying from side-to-side while wiggling our hips. One of the ladies smiled at me as I did this and shouted out "you've done that before, haven't you Tim?"

F**k. Was it that evident that I paid such close attention to the last series of Strictly Come Dancing?

After the sashaying we were then instructed to lie on the ground in order to exercise our 'trunks.' My first thoughts were that I was either a) unaware that we should've come prepared to do some swimming, or b) a bit concerned that I was being recruited into Puppetry of the Penis. Fortunately it turned out that our trunks are basically our abs, and I'm all for working those bad boys, so I laid face down, careful not to rest myself on any deer poo (of which there is much in Richmond Park).

The exercise, which is called 'the plank,' basically consisted of supporting yourself on your forearms and tip-toes for about a minute. It sounds easy, but it's not. On the plus side, if you do this once a day you'll eventually end up with awesome abs. I'm going to try it, and if it works I'm totally going to scan them in and stick them up on here.

After that we hit the track for some interval training. This consisted of four sections, each lasting six minutes and featuring a jogging/sprint combo like this:

1. 5:30 mins jogging/30 sec sprint
2. 5:00 mins jogging/1 minute sprint
3. 4:30 mins jogging/1:30 sprint
4. 4 mis jogging/2 mins sprint

And let me tell you: it freakin' hurt. To add insult to injury, it's been a hot day, there was no breeze, and literally thousands of big flying ants were zipping around and bashing into my head. If they persist in doing that, I might have to go for a full body wax so they're just deflected right off me.

But I'm really glad I did it, and I feel totally awesome now. I think I might be on some kind of endorphin high or something, because I just want to keep writing 'awesome' (even more than usual). Rather than do that, though, I really think I should just have another drink then go shower. Awesome.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Spending a penny

I've got a bit of an unusual problem. I can't say I've suffered from it before. And I don't think I can get a cream that will help clear it up.

It's rather embarrassing, but … I just can't seem to spend any money at the moment.

OK, by that I don't mean essential things like food, petrol, bills, the mortgage, trips to the cinema, and sexy haircuts (of which I had a rather lovely one today, thank you very much), but rather things that I want because I'm a) usually a bit of a shopping whore, and b) love shiny new things.

Recently, for example, I've had a few things that I've wanted to pick-up, such as a new pair of jeans. I actually already have a few pairs of jeans, but they're generally quite baggy and I thought I might get a slimmer, slightly posher pair - y'know, something that would go nicely with my posh new shoes. Ooo, you might say. Ooo indeed. And in fact I've actually seen a couple of pairs I like on a clothes website - and unusually for me they're actually reasonably priced. Unfortunately for me, though, the first pair I liked mysteriously disappeared from the website, while the second pair isn't available in my size. Bugger.

Case in point numero deux: in anticipation of The Dark Knight, I've been doing some Batman-prep. Last weekend I watched Tim Burton's Batman, and just moments before writing this I finished watching Batman Begins. It's all good Bat-based fun, but it doesn't - or rather shouldn't - end there. Because next in my Bat-to-watch list is Batman: Gotham Knight, the animated DVD that bridges the gap between Begins and Dark Knight. On Monday lunchtime I actually had a copy in my grubby little paws in HMV, but I put it back because I thought Amazon would be cheaper. And they are. But then I forgot to order it. Cue today, where despite trips to both Kingston and Staines, during which I visited two branches of HMV, two WHSmiths, a Borders, and (*shudder*) two Woolworths, I could not for love nor money buy a Gotham Knights DVD. I could've, if I wanted to, buy it in a boxset with Batman Begins, but I don't need a second copy of Batman Begins; or I could've bought the Blu-ray version, but I neither have nor want a Blu-ray player. I s'pose I could've rented it or bought it from iTunes, but there's still a few things that I like to buy where I have something tangible that I can hold in my hands and rub on my face. Anyway, I've now ordered it from Amazon, but there's a distinct possibility that it won't turn up by next weekend when I'm planning to go see The Dark Knight, and that kinda ruins the whole Bat-planning thing I've had going on.

*sigh*

What else? Oh yeah, I'd seen a couple of tops I'd liked the look of online, but when I saw them in the shops today I really wasn't terribly impressed, so I didn't even bother to try them on. I just looked at them disdainfully then wandered off. The extent of my spending today, aside from the snappy new haircut, was a double espresso and two car park tickets.

Hopefully I'll get the chance to rectify this terrible situation at some point, because I know from experience that if I don't the shivers will kick in, swiftly followed by a cold sweat. 

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Am I the only one to find this funny? I saw this on iTunes and it made me laugh.

It looks like Wall•E's head has been attached to a sexy lady body! Tee-hee!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Running club

The first rule of running club is that we don't talk about running club.

Actually that's a lie, because if we didn't talk about running club no one would go to running club, and if no one went to running club running club would probably go into receivership, and no one wants that, especially the runners. So we do, in fact, talk about running club. It just makes it sound more sexy and dramatic if we say we don't.

So, two years after my first aborted attempt to go to running club, and after intense pressure from Sweatband (and some sweet-talking by the club ladies immediately after the Dysart Dash a few weeks back) I finally went to running club - on my own, I hasten to add, because Sweatband was off working somewhere. Typical. Slacker.

Anyway, I'd actually gotten myself into the frame of mind to go, and would've gone last week if it hadn't have been for a little thing called, um, Panic at the Disco. Tonight being the night, though, I strolled along, eager to see what we'd be doing. Sweatband had told me that sometimes they do a nice run, other times they do some gentle training. It all sounded very pleasant.

"Ah, a good first night to come along," said one of the guys I'd got talking to after the Dysart Dash. "We're doing a five-mile run around Richmond Park tonight."

F**k.

I was quietly cursing Sweatband by the time I'd been signed in as a guest, and had been given a number to pin to my top. Then I was asked what my best 10k time was so that they could work out a handicap for me; the run was being done on a staggered start basis so the faster people go last, and everyone generally finishes reasonably close together. Despite my continued cursing of Sweatband, I was quite pleased to see that I was given a handicap of 17 minutes and 30 seconds, which is pretty good - although I wasn't eligible for the first place cup because I'm not a club member. Oh well, not like I was going to be troubling that, anyway…

A couple of minutes later I was walking into Richmond Park along with a group of nice people to which I'd firmly attached myself because they seemed to know what was going on. About 1o minutes after that I watched the first runner head off into the depths of the park, and a short while after that - well, 17 minutes and 30 seconds to be precise - I lined up along with two other dudes before being sent on my merry way.

Now, what was a tad disconcerting was that there were no real markers to direct us where the route went exactly, except for some red plastic tape tied to the occasional tree (which could've been covert markers left by filthy doggers for all I knew), and several small mounds of sawdust on the ground (which I initially mistook for desiccated deer poo). That being the case, I relied more on the runners ahead of me, of which there were a fair few; obviously one of the chaps who'd stood alongside me at the start line had the same thought, and lagged behind me a bit so as to a) know where to go by following me, and b) to pace off me, which as anyone who's seen my crazy Nike+ graphs will attest to is a ludicrous idea at the best of times*.

Anyway, it all went swimmingly for the most part, except just past what I can only assume was the halfway point where the people in front of me evidently took a bit of a wrong turn and about six of us added what must've amounted to another 500 metres in distance and a couple of minutes to our time.

For anyone who's never been to Richmond Park, let me tell you this: it's a really rather wonderful place, teeming with wildlife and wonderful plants (many of which I probably stood on), and with amazing views over the whole of central London (a REAL city, I might add). There was one bit where I came running out of a wooded area into an open field, and the sun was shining brightly right in front of me. OK, it was a bit off-putting to have the sun shining right in my face, but it was a rather stunning sight. Unfortunately, Richmond Park is also rather hilly, and we were made to run up several of them. There were several times where I rounded a corner and thought the finish line would be in sight, but no, it was just another frickin' hill.

Eventually, though, after an epic 45 minutes and 29 seconds, I did reach the finish line, and it felt pretty awesome. Must of us hung around until pretty much everyone had finished before saying "sod it" and heading back to the club house to leave any stragglers to finish up in the last rays of sunlight on their own, and from there I headed home.

All in all, then, although my first time at running club was a bit of a trial by fire, it was well worth it, and I think I'll undoubtedly make the effort to go again. Who knows - maybe I'll even become a member? But just remember the first rule of running club: run like buggery because there's always someone faster behind you.


*Although seeing as the widget is broken no one's seen my graphs recently, have they…?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Shat hits the fan

Right, Tara's tagged me for this book thingy everyone's doing, so here we go…

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the 5th sentence
4. Post the next three sentences
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

1. OK, so the nearest book to me at the moment is actually my unpublished novella in scruffy proof form, but that actually doesn't have 123 pages so I can't use that (if anyone wants a glimpse of what's going on in it feel free to nominate a page number below 100 and I'll happily do the meme based on that in the comments section).

Right, the next book that's closest to me is … Dreamweaver CS3 for Dummies. Hmmm… Now, this is a very good, very easy to follow book, but I think it's a bit dry for this meme.

So I'm going to reach for the third closest book, which is the one I'm currently reading:


Ah, Shatty, what would I do without you?

2. Page 123. Right, done that. It's a beauty!

3. Sentence number five … there you are!

4. "Actors are ambitious people. And every moment center stage can lead to the next job. The day I reported to work on the first episode of Star Trek I was already wondering what would come next."

OK, so compared to what I've read of this book so far, that's a pretty dull few lines. Nothing compared to the time he stalked a brown bear armed only with a bow and arrow, or paddled to New York from Canada in an old-fashioned canoe. And that's one of the first mentions of Star Trek - it's a bit light on Star Trek, I think because he's covered that part of his life fairly comprehensively in his previous two autobiographies, Star Trek Memories and Star Trek Movie Memories. That's by no means a complaint, though; it's fascinating to read about his time on the stage and the parts of his life that have been overshadowed by the role of Captain Kirk. It's a great, very enjoyable, and very funny book. 

5. Oh, I'm not going to bother tagging anyone - if you haven't done it and want to do it, do it!

Friday, July 11, 2008

(Super Monkey) Balls to you

video

video

Oh, and I didn't forget to put 50p in the meter - I just thought everything would show up better in the dark. How wrong I was…

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Jazz hands at the dee-eye-ess-see-oh

Last night I truly stepped into the unknown and did something I've never done before: I went to a gig - on my own. 

Yes: On. My. Own.

As you know, I'm quite happy to toddle off to the cinema on my own, but a gig is something a bit different, and I've never really considered going to one without a sidekick in tow. But seeing as my usual trusty sidekick Yaz and been kidnapped by a certain other lovely person to go see Bunch of Hippies Band of Horses at the Shepherds Bush Empire, I decided to fly solo.

And who was special enough to warrant breaking the habit of a lifetime to go see? Why, Panic at the Disco of course!

Now, let's be honest straight off the bat: they were amaaaaaaazing. But that's not to say that there weren't some bumps along the way.

Things started to go just a little bit unnecessarily pear-shaped during a brief stop at HMV on Oxford Street. After becoming absolutely obsessed with Flight of the Conchords, I've been wanting to get my grubby little paws on a copy of their first EP release, The Distant Future, but was unprepared to pay the unexpectedly exorbitant price that Amazon were charging for it. Problem solved in HMV, however, where it was priced up at the princely sum of just eight of your English pounds (I don't know what it is in Quatloos, the exchange rate has been fluctuating a bit recently). Well, three of the four copies were priced up at eight quid; guess which one doofus here picked up? Yes, the only copy that had been priced up as costing a tenner. 

Cue startled look at till, and furious pointing at the three eight-pound versions.

Having eventually managed to purchase the CD at the lower price point, I wandered up to the Astoria where the gig was being held. I've never been to the Astoria before, but have wanted to see what it's like as a venue before they bulldoze it to make way for more pointless flats and characterless chain stores. Arriving there, however, I realised that the queue stretched from the front of the venue, down a side road, and halfway around Soho Square, which for those unfamiliar with this part of London, is a rather annoyingly long distance. After a five minute walk I managed to jump on the end of the queue, behind three teenage emo-girls and their mums.  To be honest, when the queue did start moving it actually moved quite quickly, which was a bit of a blessing because the emo girls decided that they wanted to take lots of close-up photographs of each other while holding the camera above their heads at a 30 degree angle. On the plus side, it was refreshing to see that the queue wasn't entirely comprised of teenage emos wearing stripy socks on their hands and displaying overly-sullen expressions. Seems like Panic's new musical direction really has opened them up to a slightly broader audience; there was even some dude their in a suit.

As the queue continued to wind its way around Soho Square the emo girls decided to write PATD on their faces, which they found absolutely hilarious, unlike everyone else in the vicinity. I decided to hold my tongue by not telling them they'd probably regret it in about 20 years, or at the point when they discovered they'd used a permanent Sharpie, because their mothers were there and really it's a parent's job to tell their kids these sort of things. And anyway, I was busy glaring at the Hare Krishna dude who was banging his tiny thumb-cymbols, handing out some kind of karmic propaganda and trying to impart his wisdom on the people queuing, knowing full well that they were a captive audience. Fortunately he decided to leave me well alone, based, I think on the aforementioned glaring and the fact that I had my headphones on. Anyway, I would only have drawn attention to the smudge of paint on his brow and made reference to the fact that it looked like a bird had shat on his face.

A few minutes later and I was in the lobby of the Astoria being patted down by some security guy, despite the fact that I'd made a bee-line for the attractive young security girl. After an unnecessarily thorough rub-down (awkward note to self: this is actually where they host G-A-Y on a Saturday night…), the security guard asked me what the hard thing in my pocket was. I was very tempted to say [insert your own joke here], but decided that honesty was the best policy and told him it was my car key. Apparently my word was good enough, because he just sighed and waved me through without making me prove it. 

All the queuing meant that I missed about half of the first support act, which was some dude called Cosmo Jarvis who I thought was actually rather good, especially his song about Jessica Alba. He did say there was some dude walking round with a clipboard where you could sign up to a mailing list and get a free download, but amid the crowd of thousands I was buggered if I could find him, so no free download for me.

Next up was a band called The Golden Silvers; note the 'The' in their name - while trying to check them out on Myspace earlier in the day I made the schoolboy error of missing it off and ended up wasting 10 minutes listening to some bizarre and rather shite Japanese band. On the other hand, though, I actually wasn't terribly interested in them anyway, although they did get a song played on 6Music this morning, so maybe I'm missing something.

Anyway, what you need to know here is that, seeing as I was on my own and the Astoria is a pretty small venue, I decided to secret myself toward the back by the bar, figuring that I wouldn't get caught up in a heaving mosh pit of teenage angst and massively unkempt haircuts in desperate need of gallons of Frizz Ease, and would be ideally positioned to make a quick getaway when the lights came up at the end. Unfortunately, it seems I wasn't the only one who thought that, and about 20 minutes before Panic came on a teenage couple and their third wheel decided to stand, well, rather close to me. As it was there was plenty of space for the two guys, but the girl had nowhere really to go. So she decided to stand RIGHT. IN. FRONT. OF. ME. 

She was actually rather short and I could see clearly over her head, but for some reason she decided that she really wanted to be standing where I was standing, so she began subtly moving back to the point that I was basically beschnuffling the back of her head. The thing is, if her boyfriend had moved along a bit she could've easily squeezed in; and to be honest, if she'd actually said something along the lines of "do you mind moving along a bit" I probably would've. Because I'm polite. But she was rude, and by the time she began ramming her handbag into my gut I decided that I was going to have none of it.

So I sniffed really loudly like I was hawking back a massive loogie.

And then I did it again.

And again.

*it rubs the lotion on its skin…*

I was just about to kick off with a massive fake-coughing fit when she clearly decided she'd had enough and dragged her boyfriend off to the bar where they glared at me every now and then. Moments before Panic came on they walked past me again and the boyfriend actually stopped in front of me, but I quickly dispatched him with my best crazed Grant Mitchell-style stare. Wuss.


All that aside, Panic at the Disco came on stage at about 21:30, and played for the best part of an hour and a half - and they were absolutely stunning. The lead singer, Brendan, has a really unique and beguiling voice that can hit some truly astounding notes. The new songs from their latest album Pretty. Odd sounded fantastic, and it seems like they were trying to retro-fit their older tracks from A Fever You Can't Sweat Out into their newer, more guitar-led sound, which worked surprisingly well. There were even a couple of acoustic tracks, and lots of interaction with the audience which led to a mass jazz-hands session. Which sadly I did not capture in the picture below.


Perhaps the only real failing of the evening was an attempt by Yaz and I to share our respective gig experiences with one another by leaving a voicemail message featuring certain songs from each gig. I left her 'Nine in the Afternoon,' while she left me 'No One's Gonna Love You'. Sadly, she could barely hear my message over the adulation of the Panic crowd, while having just listened to hers I can only assume that the song was played on an old-fashioned gramophone in an entirely different room…

Still, good times were had by all!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Spending spree

Since I moved out and took on all the responsibilities of a homeowner with bills (ugh) and a mortgage (yeeeugh!) I've been remarkably well behaved when it comes to spending money. I used to be very impulsive, y'see, but I'm generally very good these days. How grown up and boring!

That said, I've been a naughty boy this week. And I put it down to the fact that I've been a bit miserable and a little pissed off. So what did I do? I turned into a girl and bought loads of shoes.

OK, does two pairs of shoes constitute loads? I don't know, but seeing as I usually only buy one pair of trainers per year I'm gonna say I bought loads.

So what did I get? Well, first up, for a couple of years now I've lusted after a pair of Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 trainers. And when I found I could get them off Amazon I thought bugger it and bought them. This is what they look like on my feet. Well, foot.

Sexy huh? And about two minutes after ordering those I bought these.

I've wanted a pair of proper posh shoes for ages now, and I finally found *exactly* what I wanted during a shopping trip to Kingston the other week. Sadly, Office only had them in tan, and I wanted black - but yay for me, I could get them in black by buying them from Office via Amazon. Lord knows how that works, but I ain't complaining.

It's weird wearing proper shoes after spending the vast majority of my life in trainers. I'm wearing them around the house to try and get used to them and break 'em in a bit; they're awfully slippery because they're that posh that they have flat soles which obviously need to be scuffed a bit on a surface other than wood flooring or carpet. Apologies also for wearing them with scruffy jeans in the pic above - I know they don't really go and I don't intend to wear them with scruffy jeans and a t-shirt in the outside world.

But they do make me feel *really* posh, which is cool, even though I do currently feel a bit like a little kid who's stolen his dad's shoes (I haven't, Dad, honest). Once I've mastered walking in them I'm going to have to try driving in them. Now that will be interesting…

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OUT TAKE! So taking pictures of a shoe on your foot using a webcam is actually more complicated than it looks, as I discovered in this uncomfortable and somewhat unflattering pose:

Definitely sticking with the camera phone from now on…

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I did a pub quiz with Yaz and Willowc on Tuesday. We came fourth, or thereabouts, thanks to iPhone googling, copious text-messaging, and Yaz sweet-talking the quizmaster into slipping us a couple of answers. Not quite as helpful were my answers to the following questions:

• What is the most popular pastime in the UK?
• What does the T-Rex eat first in Jurassic Park?
• How many legs does a scorpion have?

My exact answers?

Dogging Fishing (oops on both counts - it was actually ironing).
• A goat - and several unwitting people (I actually got this right!).
• Six terrifying legs (they've actually got eight, but I stand by my comment that a six-legged scorpion would be massively pissed off and thus VERY dangerous).

The fun didn't stop there, though; upon getting back to my car I had a terrifying stand-off with a fearsome-looking badger which was only resolved when we both mutually decided to back down and go our separate ways. Hardcore.