Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I cried myself to sleep last night

OK, before I start this isn't an attempt to get everyone to feel sorry for me. It's not that kind of post - it's just a 'this is where my mind's at' sorta thing.

So I feel like I'm in a bit of a rut. There's not necessarily one particular reason for this - more the cumulative effect of several things. My cold is probably one; where I'd normally be out at running club tonight feeling fit and energetic, I'm instead at holed up in Sparky Towers where the only thing running is my nose. What else? I think I'm a bit bored at work (which, admittedly, happens now and again), and I think I'm in one of those sort of moods where I'm inclined to make excuses not to do things whereas I'd normally shout "yay!" and scamper off ready for excitement and adventure. Well, not adventure in the grandest sense of the word, but you get the gist of it. I think there's a general sense of melancholy hanging around me at the moment.

I'm fed up arguing with people over the slightest little things. I'm fed up with people trying to put things on me, or get me involved in things I don't particularly want to do. Have I perfected the art of feigned interest? Perhaps. Maybe a little too well, in fact. I'm fed up with people who act selfishly towards others, and by the fact that I've come to the conclusion that a significant proportion of people I deal with on any given day are self-serving morons whose only way of making themselves look good is to step on everyone around them. And somehow they always seem to get away with it. Should I do that? Is that genuinely the way to be noticed - to make an impression? Be a total arse? I can't believe that – I won't.

Don't start prescribing the prozac just yet - this happens to me every now and then. It's not depression, nowhere near that, in fact (to call it that would be offensive to the people who really do suffer from it), and for all I know I might be perfectly cool tomorrow. At the moment, though, I just want to curl up on the sofa and ignore the outside world. 

I had dinner with Sparky Nan tonight and afterwards I sat down to watch the telly with her for a while. On one of the chairs was a photo album, and I started glancing through it. It was full of pictures from many years ago - a lot of me as a baby and a toddler. And there were a lot of pictures of us together as a family - all of us, I mean; me, Big Bro, Sparky Ma and Pa, and my grandparents on both sides. There were eight of us then, and there's just five of us now, and that kind of gets to me a bit. I don't think I've seen a photo of Dad's parents in a long while now, but seeing them there in those tiny faded images - they were exactly as I remember them in my mind's eye. My grandad in particular - he did not change one bit from when those photos were taken in the late 70s to when I saw him that last time at the very end of '99. 

I often wonder what they'd make of me now - my Nan and Grandad on Dad's side. I hope they'd like the sort of person I've become. I hope they'd approve of the choices I've made in my life. I'm pretty sure my Nan would let me know if she didn't, because she was a cheeky bugger. 

Around this time last year we were getting ready to celebrate one of the happiest occasions I can remember in a long time - Sparky Nan and Grandad's 60th Wedding Anniversary. Sixty years! I can barely deal in 60 minutes let alone 60 years. But everything's changed this year, and I'm not afraid to say that it's been tough. I think of my Grandad every day.

Maybe it's the looming winter that's affecting my mood? I usually like the colder months, but this year just seems a bit darker than previous ones, and I can't say I shall be terribly sorry to see it pass.

*sigh*


(Oh, and by the way, I didn't actually cry myself to sleep last night - it's a line from a Sufjan Stevens song I was listening to while driving home and it just sort of seemed appropriate)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Abort - ABORT!

In my last post I wrote about how I'd bought some honey to have with warm milk in the event that I got a sore throat as the winter months approach - and then promptly got a sore throat the very next day.

Well, thanks throat - you screwed my weekend up big time!

Bah!

I had a quietly awesome weekend planned, y'see, and it all went to pot because I woke up on Saturday morning - well, I say morning; it was probably closer to afternoon - feeling ridiculously gross and clammy. Within a couple of minutes of waking up I'd cancelled my plans for the evening (bah!), and was well on the way to feeling incredibly sorry for myself. The only ray of light I could foresee was the fact that the birthday present Big Bro and I ordered for Sparky Ma had finally turned up, and I was looking forward to seeing her open it. I texted her to let her know I'd be popping over later.

She then called me to let me know that she really didn't want me to come over if I was all gross and clammy and sore-throated-up which, to be fair, I couldn't really argue with.

And so I began my day of just watching The OC. 

About an hour later Sparky Ma called me and told me to come over; she'd been feeling really guilty about basically calling me "unclean" and "diseased" and said that I should pop over. Little did she know I came bearing her much-anticipated birthday present (which she loved).

After heading home it was more OC and a bit of reading. Oh, and learning that there is a prime milk-to-honey ratio and it all turns a bit bleugh if you exceed it.

Sunday's basically been OC overload as well, which is a bit different to the day of writing I'd originally planned; that fell by the wayside because I don't think I'm at my most creative when I'm gross and clammy. On the plus side, the sore throat seems to be on it's way out, to be replaced by its good friends coughing, spluttering, and snotty nose; bending over to get dinner out of the oven I was sure I'd stand up to find myself looking like I was in the process of inhaling a pair of shoe laces.

And so, with my usual routine of a Sunday night run obviously out of the question, I'm going to retreat into two more episodes of The OC, have a long, relaxing bath, then hit the sack early.

I'm such an old man.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wallpapering

As regular readers (you can try denying it, but I know there's at least one of you) may remember, a while back I pimped my iPhone out with a wicked new wallpaper.

But I'm a bit of a fickle bugger, y'see, and I tend to get bored with things like this quite quickly. Which also explains why I've never had a tattoo; there's a bit of a difference between changing your iPhone wallpaper and spending the weekend trying to rub your skin off with sandpaper.

Anyway, yes, as lovely as the picture of the Enterprise blowing up is, I decided that I wanted something a bit different. And lo and behold, I found the answer in the form of a panel of artwork from Love and Rockets. Not just any panel, though; no, this, ladies and germs, is what I consider to be my very favourite single panel of comics artwork EVAH:

Good god I love feisty Hopey. 

There's something really … human about her expression, her stance, the bluntness of the words she's uttering. I love the way she looks like she's been caught and really doesn't give a damn. She looks angry and defiant. And after my well-documented falling-out-of-love with superhero comics, I love the message she's spray-painting on the wall. It makes me smirk.

OK, so it wasn't a simple 'get picture, slam onto iPhone' jobby - the original panel is a slightly different shape to the iPhone screen, which meant that if I put it on as it was most of the image was obscured; I could literally see her head from the chin up to the top of the speech bubble (what the picture above doesn't show is the date, time, and unlock slider that appear at the top and bottom of the iPhone screen, cropping the available space down to more of a square shape).

I started by loping off the caption along the top, which gave me more of a square shape, then realised that rather than filling the start screen with the panel I should isolate it in the available space. After playing around with different variations for a while I realised that having the entire thing on a white background (as it originally was) didn't really work for me (I didn't like the start screen being all white - see: fickle; I told ya), so I isolated the cropped panel against black, and voila! New iPhone wallpaper!!

I think I'll be keeping this one for a while. Man, I wish I was as keewl as Hopey.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Alarming

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided that after several weeks of getting up waaaaay later than I should do for work, action needed to be taken by changing the alarm ringtone on my iPhone to the one that makes it sound like I'm under attack.

So I did, and by god it worked. 

No word of a lie, Monday morning when that thing went off at 6:00 AM I leapt several feet into the air, arms and legs waving around like mad things. And by 6:15 I was washed, dressed, and ready for the day ahead. Of course, 6:15 is a ridiculously early time to actually be going to work, so I chilled out with a cup of tea and spent 40 minutes or so on my computer. When I did leave for work at about 7:00 AM the traffic was so light that I was sitting in the office with another cup of tea by eight, and wondering why our new, middle-aged cleaner was blowing me kisses as she left.

Hmmm…

Anyway, I've realised that the time between the alarm going off and me actually having to leave for the day is quite a useful bit of time. This morning, for example, I watched an episode of The OC, which put me in a sterling mood for the day ahead. I'm thinking that next week I could even try - prepare yourself for this revolutionary idea - going for an early morning run. Although to be honest I doubt that'll actually happen as I'd probably have to pass on my cuppa. 

All-in-all, then, it's been a cracking experiment so far. I'm thinking I might have to consider changing the alarm tone again at some point in the future, though; I don't want it to become so familiar that I adapt to it, y'see. For the meantime, though, 'Alarm' works perfectly, and is staying.

video
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I went to Sainsburys on the way home last night. Didn't have too much to get, but somehow ended up spending £75 on a variety of cakes, biscuits, puddings, and - get this! - limited edition snowflake-shaped Ritz crackers! Yay - Christmas is here!!

No, seriously, Christmas IS here - I also bought some mini chocolate marshmallows in a tub which has a big picture of Rudolph the Reindeer on.

*sigh*

Anyway, as I was walking out and wondering how exactly I'd spent £75 on a variety of cakes, biscuits, puddings, and limited edition snowflake-shaped Ritz crackers, I caught a glimpse of a magazine cover with a massive headline that read:

INSIDE: TWIGGY'S BEAUTY SECRETS REVEALED!

Now, I do actually quite like Twiggy, despite her being a bit patronising and shouty when she presented This Morning a few years back, but there's only one secret that I can imagine helps out with her beauty regime, and I'm going to reveal it here: PhotoShop.

Seriously, I know she's looking very good for her age, but you don't look as smooth and new as this without a little bit of digital manipulation. Unless you've been chowing down on foetuses. And just to prove it, I'm going to demonstrate for you how digital manipulation can make any picture look wonderful.

Let's start with a random, untouched image of yours truly.

Oh crumbs, looking a little bit frowny there, eh? Not going to make it into the latest copy of the Littlewoods catalogue with that expression, are we?

OK, let's start by cropping in a bit and lightening things up a tad.

That's a bit better. Now let's use the wonders of technology to take off a few years and make me look younger.

Ta-daaaa! See how easy that was? With just a few clicks of a computer mouse I've made some subtle changes to the image. An untrained eye wouldn't even be able to tell that the picture's been manipulated - but the end result is well worth it.

If anyone would like me to digitally enhance their assets (snigger) send me a picture and I'll see what I can do. That includes you, Twiggy.

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When I had a sore throat earlier this year, Barista dude in Secret Starbucks made me a honey and milk concoction that he promised would make it better. I'm not entirely certain it did anything, but it tasted nice. So, while I was in Sainsburys last night (spending £75 on a variety of cakes, biscuits, puddings, and limited edition snowflake-shaped Ritz crackers), I decided that as it's getting colder, I should pick up some honey just in case I get a sore throat at some point. So I did. And lo and behold, I woke up this morning with a sore throat.

What's that all about?

So, annoyingly, while I had planned to go swimming tonight I'm now staying home with a gnarly throat. On the plus side… 

Honey and milk + Gilmore Girls + The OC on DVD = awesome night in.

Rock on.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Viewing pleasure

During an argument discussion with Big Bro the other day, I suggested that I didn't actually watch that much TV. Based on the events of this weekend, for which I am laying blame predominantly on Best Mate Jo, it could be said that I outright lied during that argument discussion.

This weekend, beginning from the moment I got home on Friday evening, to the time of writing, I have watched:

• Two episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
• Twenty minutes worth of iTunes bonus features for Season One of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
• Five episodes of Gilmore Girls.
• Seven episodes of Season One of The OC.
• One episode each of Strictly Come Dancing and The X-Factor.

This is made all the more remarkable by the fact that I slept in until midday on both Saturday and Sunday, so all this viewing took place with the confines of approximately 24-hours.

Hmmm…

OK, so the two episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia were the last two of Season One, and they were just sitting there asking to be watched on Friday night - and it would've been rude not to watch the bonus material around the same time, right? As for Gilmore Girls, well, I had to watch them (not that it was a chore, mind) because there'll be five more episodes next week and I can't have them backing up. And The OC? Why, might you ask, am I watching The OC from the beginning again?

Well, it's my own silly fault, really. Last Christmas I bought Best Mate Jo the first season on DVD because I'd constantly harped on at her about how much I enjoyed it, and how I thought she'd enjoy it too. That and the fact I didn't have a clue what else to get her. This was around the time she was getting ready to move into her marvelous new flat, and she immediately came up with the sterling idea of having a housewarming/OC-fest. I loved the idea, and we made plans to do it sometime in January.

Soon after moving in, however, and for reasons too complex to explain here, she had to move out again, so OC-fest was postponed. And then it kind of slipped by the wayside. 

Last month, though, after I dragged a very tired and hung-over Best Mate Jo to IKEA with me to watch me purchase my LACK, she brought the idea up again. I loved it so much I almost crashed my car, and we settled on a date. In fact, we even settled on what we were going to eat - Old El Paso fajitas, based on the fact that I'd seen an advert on telly for them and they looked, well, YUM.

And so yesterday afternoon I headed over to Jo's flat, picked her up, and we headed to Sainsburys. That was all part of the plan, y'see - go buy the food spontaneously on the day, make kind of a thing about it. Anyway, we rocked up to Sainsburys (although 'lurched' might be a better word - I'm finally breaking in my posh new shoes, and they're a little bit … weird to drive in. Look and feel awesome though), got the food, queued for ages (seriously, who knew THAT many people did their weekly shop at 17:30 on a Saturday?), then headed home.

We watched Strictly Come Dancing first, which both surprised and delighted Jo because she thought I'd hate it and demand that we watch something more manly. I argued with the fact that I love the show (so much so that it makes me want to go dancing), and the first week is always great because you get to laugh at the contestants while they're still rubbish. She also loved my Bruno Tonioli impression.

After that it was over to ITV1 for The X-Factor, the last time that I'll be watching it this year because it's the last week of auditions, meaning all the crappy (i.e. hilarious) people have been sent packing. We sorted out the food at the same time (well, Jo did), and I was delighted to find that, true to expectations, it was indeed YUM.

With dinner, and chocolate cheesecake, out of the way, we said and watched The OC until half 12 at night. And after I buggered off Jo apparently watched another episode. Once again hooked on the life and times of Orange County's finest, I've once again cracked open my DVD boxset and today carried on where we left off, well, very early this morning.

It's like an addiction. 

Oh look, I've got time to squeeze another episode in before bed… (the quicker I get to Season Three the better – that's when Autumn arrives…). And talking of bed, I must remember to change the alarm tone on my iPhone - I've been getting up progressively later the last couple of weeks which means I'm hitting more traffic on the way into work. I think I'm getting too used to the 'Marimba' alarm, so I'm planning on shaking it up with a new one - probably 'Alarm,' if only because it'll jolt me awake thinking that I'm aboard the Enterprise under attack by the Klingons…

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There's more viewing pleasures in the week ahead - aside from the aforementioned five episodes of Gilmore Girls and another new One Tree Hill, I've just hit-up iTunes for some more shows to watch at lunchtime on my iPhone. So what've I got? Well, I'm meeting Willowc on Monday, and it would probably be rude to watch something while she's there, so that leaves me with four days. That being the case, I thought I'd save Season Two of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia for another week, and download a few other treats. First up is an episode of Batman: The Animated Series called 'Legends of the Dark Knight' that I've wanted to see for years, then - and at Marcosy's insistence - I've downloaded the 'Imaginationland' trilogy from South Park's 11th season - if only to better understand why, during a shopping trip to Kingston a few months back, he flung his arms wide while coming down the escalator in John Lewis and belted out "IMAGINAAAAAAAATION!" like he was starring in a Broadway musical.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Just some stuff

I'm becoming aware of the fact that occasionally little things can really piss me off, to the point that sometimes I feel like I mentally shut down so I can rerun events in my head in order to better understand them. Seriously, I just have to down tools and replay a conversation or an action in my head - like I'm trying to understand events from a different perspective. Did I misunderstand something? Was this person who just did something incredibly annoying or selfish acting in a way I can't comprehend, or are they genuinely incredibly annoying and selfish?

Unfortunately, while doing this I must look like a dribbling loon with glazed over eyes; I only reboot when I've worked everything out. That being the case, I genuinely feel like I've spent a good proportion of this last week looking for all intents and purposes like I'm broken while somewhere inside my head things are whirring around and around like a broken film clip. I don't know if that means I have some kind of disorder, but eventually I snap out of it and can get back to what I'm doing. 

Until the next little thing that annoys me sends my brain cells once again into a proverbial huddle. Damn the odd behaviour of other people!

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I have a sign on my front door that says no 'junk mail please,' but I consistently come home to find piles of the stuff on my doormat. Some clever person (who will get a slap if they try it again) even circumvented this request the other day by not actually putting his junk mail through my letter box, but instead wedging it against the letterbox on the outside of the door. Bastard. When I've been at home and someone's shoved something through I've often thought about jumping up, opening the door, and having a go at them about ignoring the sign. Unfortunately, by the time I actually get up and unlock the door they've either scooted off, or I find that they don't speak-a-dee-English, which just leaves me looking like a mentalist shouting at some poor unsuspecting immigrant.

I get really angry with junk mail, particularly now that our postmen delivers it too. I don't want a walk-in bath, or new car insurance, nor do I want my boiler inspected, new carpets installed, or to be told that I can get great deals on reading glasses if I'm over 60. For crying out loud, aren't we being told that we should be going green? Why are people still allowed to distribute unsolicited post in this way? Admittedly all my junk mail does go straight in my recycling bin, but what about the people who aren't so conscientious? What then!? I'll tell you what then - landfills! We're unnecessarily bunging up our landfills with flyers for Chinese restaurants, and offers insurance for the over-50s! 

OK, so junk mail, being paper-based, is a recyclable commodity, but when you think about it, what about all the energy that's expended printing and distributing it! Why isn't the government addressing this!?

ARRGGGH!!

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It's not all been bad this week, though: lunchtimes, in Secret Starbucks (where twice this week I got free coffee), watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on my iPhone.



This show is lewd, rude, and crude; one of the trailers for the fourth season in the States calls it 'an STD for your television.' At least once this week I laughed out loud in Secret Starbucks, which must made me look like a nutter. To be honest, I do think it's probably something of an acquired taste, but I've acquired it, and I want to see more. I think I'll be downloading season two very soon (bless you, iTunes!).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Analyze this

I had a dream last night. Don't worry, nothing fruity. No, it was a bit of a weird one, to be honest, and a bit disconcerting. It was the sort of dream where you wake up just a little bit freaked out.

It kind of went like this:

War had broken out, and so I'd rushed over from Sparky Towers to Sparky Ma and Pa's house. All my family were there, and we could hear explosions in the distance. Despite the fact that it was a bright sunny day we knew that we weren't safe, so we decided we needed to make a break for it - abandoning everything we knew. That included leaving Earth, I should add. And how did we make this grand escape? By hover-car, or course. Fortunately, Sparky Pa had one (in a deep metallic red if I recall correctly). So we all piled in and powered the thing up. Unfortunately, dream-generated hover-cars aren't exactly that good, it seems, and we had to skim along just above the ground for a while before we had enough oomph to gain altitude. 

At the same time, explosions were detonating in the blue sky around us and it was all a bit worrying as to whether we were going to get blown to smithereens before we could leave the atmosphere. Fortunately, Sparky Pa is quite adept at handling a hover-car, and deftly piloted around any missiles that headed in our direction. 

After a little while, though, the explosions stopped. We looked out the windows and couldn't see a soul on the ground below us. Everything looked deserted. So for some reason, we decided to abandon our plan to leave Earth and set down in the middle of a residential road. As I mentioned, it was a lovely day; bright sunshine, blue sky, and comfortably warm. We all decided we'd have a quick look down some of the side roads, and we were at least two roads away from the hover-car when we heard a low murmuring.

And it was as the hordes of zombies lurched into view, and I wondered how the hell we were going to get back to the hover-car, that I woke up.

Now, what the hell that all symbolises I don't know, but if anyone would like to hazard a guess please let me know in the comments. I should also add that at the moment I woke up, when it was still a bit dark outside, someone was walking slowly past Sparky Towers, and hearing their footsteps on the pavement I really did have to consider the possibility that the zombie apocalypse had finally struck.

Of course the burning question on everyone's lips has to be - why the hell hasn't anyone published this shit yet?

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To top the day off with an equally freaky conclusion, I've just been to running club, and as the nights are drawing in we're finding that we're running a substantial amount of the session in the dark. In Richmond Park. 

And for those that don't know, there are no lights in Richmond Park.

It was all quite exciting at first, but as the group spread out many of us effectively found ourselves running alone in the dark. I was OK with this at first, until I glanced over and saw a shape standing in silhouette in the bracken staring at me.

It was a massive deer. With huge antlers.

I'm not ashamed to say I totally legged it from there onwards. Usian Bolt had nothing on me - *nothing*.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A new obsession

This makes me feel a little bit like I'm in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or something, but I feel like I have no other option but to stand up, put my hand on my heart, and share with you all that I've come to the conclusion that I'm a little bit obsessed with Gilmore Girls.

Since discovering it was being shown daily during my week off a few weeks back, I've had no other option but to record every episode that's been on while I'm at work. I sometimes hate the fact that work gets in the way of my tellybox habits. Anyway, that meant that all these episodes were stacking up pretty quickly, especially if I didn't watch one every evening.

Which is why I had a five-hour Gilmore Girls marathon yesterday.

So I've come into the series, I think, towards the end of season three/beginning of season four, because E4 are just running straight on through 'em, which makes me think I'll be having weekend Gilmore marathons until at least November, by which time I reckon they'll have reached the last season. But knowing E4, that means they'll just start over again at the first season so I'll have to continue watching up until the point at which I first jumped on, meaning I'm pretty much tied-up until Christmas. Anyway, I don't usually like starting to watch something halfway through a series, but it's an easy show to get onboard with, and I know all about the Friday night dinner stuff thanks to Wikipedia and some badly-written episode guides. The only thing that isn't really obvious is why Luke is always so angry. Does he have some sort of weird medical issue? I bet he has high-blood pressure.

Anyway, it's a good show. And I really mean that. OK, it's a little bit more … soap-operish than my usual fare, and there's never any conflict in it like you'd find on The OC or One Tree Hill, but that's fine because it just gives me a weird warm fuzzy feeling (I must be going soft in my old age). It's like a cup of hot chocolate beamed into my telly on a cold winter's night (not that it's particularly cold or winterish yet). On the downside, I absolutely hate the drippy song that plays over the opening credits, and some of the characters – Taylor and Kirk, for example - are so annoying it's untrue. I watched one the other day where Lorelai and Sookie were having problems getting their renovations to the Dragonfly Inn past the Stars Hollow Historical Society, and I thought (hoped) Lorelai was going to throttle Taylor.

But what I really like about Gilmore Girls is the infamous, pop-culture infused machine-gun style dialogue between Lorelai and Rory. I'm actually glad I have to record it because it gives me a chance to rewind anything I've missed, which happens quite a lot, to be honest. Seriously, how do they speak that quickly? It also helps that both Lorelai and Rory are incredibly easy on the eye, and I'm really not too sure which one I'd go for given the chance. 

Bizarrely, I also quite like Emily Gilmore too, which is just leading me into one almightily messy family get-together, if you catch my drift.

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Today is a momentous day people! I've just bought my first TV series off iTunes! OK, so it's not actually *my* TV series - I haven't made one yet - but what I mean is that I just bought an entire TV series off iTunes for the first time. This is notable for several reasons. The first is that I'm of the opinion that DVD is actually the last, real physical format that we'll end up having for buying films and TV, and that within the next few years we'll all be downloading this sort of stuff (through legitimate channels, I hasten to add), and laughing at our younger selves and all those silly shiny disc-things we'd buy. 

HD-DVD and Blu-ray I hear you shout? Well HD-DVD has already gone the way of the dinosaurs, and I seriously believe that history will look back on Blu-ray as being something like laser discs - a format beloved by a minority, but never really able to break out into the mainstream - certainly not like DVDs did. I think it's a last gasp attempt by electronics giants and the studios to sell us players that sit under our tellys and shiny discs to put in them. I could be wrong, but that's what I think.

I've already decided to try to cut back on the number of DVDs I buy. Admittedly there are certain films like The Dark Knight that I know I'll want on DVD, and most TV shows I think I'll want to buy I'd probably want on disc, but other movies - the kind of ones you buy, watch once, then leave on a shelf until the end of time - I've decided I'll be better off renting. And how am I going to do that? 

I think I'm going to buy an Apple TV at some point. 

When I think about it, an Apple TV is kind of the ideal solution for me (or if not ideal than at least 90% ideal). I can rent or buy movies and TV shows from the iTunes store, either on the Apple TV or stream them to it via my computer, or even dump them onto my iPhone to watch while I'm away from home. My shelves will be less cluttered with discs I might only buy once, and I'll be saving money on not buying DVDs for 15 quid a pop (or thereabouts). OK, so the initial outlay for the Apple TV itself is a tad step, but after a while I'll break even on the whole thing.

Plus I haven't bought anything by Apple in a while.

So what was the first TV show I bought? It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I caught a few episodes of this on TV a few months back and really liked it - and apparently Autumn Reeser is in one of the episodes. And seeing as you can't get it on DVD over here I decided I'd get it from iTunes for the very reasonable sum of £10.99. The other reason for buying it is that Yazzle Dazzle won't be joining me for lunchtime coffee from Tuesday onwards, so a 2o minute long TV episode on my iPhone will fill the conversational gap rather well while I sit in Starbucks sipping my grande misto.

And once I've finished that series, I'll either buy a few other shows … or get back to my lunchtime writing sessions!

Hurrah!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Getting creative on a Tuesday night

I broke out of my much-loved routine last night, meaning that instead of going to running club I went to the opposite end of Richmond to the adult community college. Why? Because they're doing a series of two-hour taster courses allowing you to get a feel for some of their new and upcoming courses - luring you in, for want of a better term - and one of them, Creative Writing: Unlocking your Creativity, caught my eye. 

And it was free: BONUS.

So, dragging along both Willowc and Yazzle Dazzle (neither of whom had had the forethought to bring along anything to write on, I hasten to add, meaning I had to give them both sheets of paper from my notepad!) we hit the classroom, snagged some chairs (I snagged more than them because I outright stole Yazzle's preferred chair by stating "I'M SITTING HERE" then just sitting down while she stared blankly at me), and looked intelligent. We were ready to learn.

The class was actually very full, which was nice, especially for the teacher I expect, who was a rather lovely lady eager to help us unleash our creativity. Before beginning she wanted to get to know us all a little. She started with me.

"What's your name?" 

"Tim," I replied.

Then we just stared at each other for a while.

After a few seconds she asked "anything else?"

I smiled coyly and squinted Josh Hartnett-style back at her. "What do you want to know?" I let the question dangle in the air for a minute or so while the rest of the class laughed along with me and basked in my aura, before giving her a sensible bit of blurb about something something something, prose, something something something. She then proceeded to ask the rest of the class about them, none of which were as entertaining as me, although Willowc and Yazzle did do a bit of a comedy routine about the fact that we all used to work together which was nice and reminded me a bit of something out of The Muppet Show. A lot of people claimed that they thought they had "a book in them," which made me very tempted to say that they should probably go see their doctor to get it removed.

Anyway, I think we pretty quickly established ourselves as the cool kids that all the other freaks and geeks would idolise and imagine hanging out with during playtime breaktime the coffee break.

After that the teacher explained to us that she was going to hand out some activity sheets which contained a number of 'leaping-off' points that were designed to spur our imaginations into action, at which point we would spend the next 40 minutes or so writing a short piece of prose. Oh shit, I thought; it never actually occurred to me that we'd actually have to write something!

My first thought was to scramble through my bag and dig out a page or two of my book, but Willowc told me that would be cheating, and plus I'd be sitting around for the next 40 minutes or so with nothing to do. On the otherhand, if I had've done that, I would've been able to fit running club in as well, which I think you'll agree would've been a masterful feat of multitasking.

Anyway, the sheets were handed out, and suitably chastised I glanced down the lists in front of me looking for inspiration. Two leaping-off points immediately grabbed my attention: 

• Write your own obituary (set either now or in the future)
• A new ice age

My first thought was that I'd like to think I'll live a long, happy, and heroic life rather than drop dead tomorrow, so the first line of my obituary might read something like "he died as he lived…" or "killed in a tragic hover-car accident…" Sadly, Willowc misheard/misunderstood/generally ballsed-up my thinking here, and started laughing hysterically at the line "he lived as he died: in a hover-car…"

I decided instead to focus on the ice age one.

At about quarter past eight the teacher reassembled the group and said that she'd like some of us to read our pieces out to the class. For a little while we all did that thing where we looked down at the desk or fiddled with our hair, but eventually a few people started volunteering. After about three people had agreed, I poked Willowc and told her to do it. She tutted and raised her hand. Then some bloke did. By this time I was thinking that I'd really like to do it, but, ooo, I'll be all embarrassed and, ooo, I don't want people criticising me, and, ooo, I might cry. But then I realised that if I didn't do it I'd kick myself later and regret it for a long time. So I stuck my hand in the air and manfully said "yeah, go on then, I'll do it."

Like a dude.

The first reader was… well, if I said Willowc wrote on her piece of paper 'I think I might die,' I reckon you'd get an idea what his piece was like. When he finished and we all woke up the teacher made a few comments, then asked if anyone else wanted to add anything. There were a few hesitant comments like "I liked that bit…" and "that sounded nice…" at first, but then the floodgates opened and all of a sudden it seemed like everyone was ripping him to shit and back. 

We soon moved onto reader number two, who had written a conversation piece between two old ladies which was very well received, and reminded me of Beryl Cook paintings, which I thought was good because she'd made me imagine her characters without really thinking about it. This was followed by Willowc's nonsense, which went down very well and got some good laughs, and which she's posted in its entirety here, then some bloke who'd written something about trees.

Now, Tree-man's piece was very highly acclaimed by the group, but to be honest I wasn't really paying much attention to it because I was quite literally shatting my Big-Bang pants at the prospect of reading my piece aloud. Anyway, it came to my turn, so I took a deep breath, looked at the page in my newly-emaciated writing pad, and began trying to make sense of my handwriting.

After the first two sentences the teacher leaned in close to me and told me to slow down a bit. Evidently I was reading too quickly. I think this was a result of having watched too many episodes of Gilmore Girls in a short period of time. Anyway, I started the next sentence imagining that I was on the bridge of the Enterprise during that bit in Star Trek: The Motion Picture when they get caught in the wormhole and time slows down.



To be honest, the reading could've gone a bit better, but I'm putting that down to the fact that I was actually trying to make sense of what I'd written due to my writing being all messy and smudged (I'm a filthy lefty), and several additional lines being added in the margin. When all's said and done, though, I was proud of my work, proud of the fact that I'd had the balls to read it to a bunch of strangers, and proud of the fact that they genuinely seemed to like it. Oh, except for one odd bloke behind me who complained about my grammer in one instance (and who liked to think he was the best writer among us, as shown by the utter contempt he displayed when his own work was critiqued), but I don't care about his opinion. Someone even went so far as to call it 'topical'!

That being the case, I thought you might like to read my hastily-written, post-apocalyptic story of Earth under a new ice age. Unfortunately for fans of The Day After Tomorrow there's no sign of Jake Gyllenhaal (or Jake Jiggly-balls as a certain unnamed friend of mine calls him), nor does it have an actual title. For the time being, I like to refer to it simply as Untitled Apocalyptic Piece Number 1.

OK - so this is copied out exactly as I wrote it last night. There's actually quite a lot I was tempted to change or rewrite while I transcribed it, but that kind of defeats the spontaneity of it all, eh? So here it is, warts 'n all: Untitled Apocalyptic Piece Number 1. Enjoy…

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Shafts of sunlight tore through the grey clouds, revealing for an instant the grim skyline of a world long-dead. I raised one gloved hand to my eyes, marveling in that moment at the city revealed before me, imagining it as it once was, before the clouds rolled in and once more shut off the light. As darkness descended around me again I felt the cold return, and turned back to the task at hand.

It had been almost 20 years since the new ice age had hit with force, and many more before that since we'd first felt the effects of its impending arrival. We had all dismissed it at first, of course; nothing could rock civilization to its knees, could it? No, we were too strong, too advanced for that. We were, unfortunately, too proud.

The first signs had been the unusually harsh winters, followed by the cold, hard frosts long after winter should have given way to spring. Snow flurries in May; unusual, yes, but nothing to be worried about, we were assured. But year after year things just kept getting worse. We'd hear stories on the news about towns and cities in Northern Russia being abandoned, their populations leaving en masse for warmer climes; snow falling in Africa. But we paid little attention because that was over there, not here. We only noticed when things started effecting our own lives. Transport links breaking down due to extreme cold; lack of food and fuel; hospitals beginning to see cases of frostbite.

The government didn't act, at least at first, dismissing it once more as anomalous – an "unusually harsh" season that would eventually pass. But it only got worse. Pipes froze solid. Lakes and rivers began to freeze over. The largest refugee crisis in history began as humanity surged towards the Equator. Civilization as we knew it began to grind to a halt. And we finally excepted that the human race was facing an unprecedented disaster on a global scale.

There were no television fund-raisers to help us, no spectacular rock concerts to bring awareness to our plight. We were dying and there was nothing we could do to prevent it.

Eighteen long years since the human race officially surrendered to nature, only small pockets of us remain in existence. Here in London there's about 200 of us. Maybe less. Africa is the most densely populated continent now, with approximately 15,000 people living there. Well, you could hardly call it living, could you? We survive as best we can in an environment that does its utmost to defeat us every single day. And unfortunately for us, for the human race, everything we've lived, dreamed, and accomplished, it's winning.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Theoretical situation

Imagine, if you will, that you are walking back to the office from lunch and you come across a cat. Awwww, you think, a little kitty. Then you notice that its fur is matted, and in some places missing. It’s painfully thin, so much so that you could probably wrap just one hand around it. It's moving slowly and awkwardly. It’s in a bad way, in other words. So you decide to do the decent thing and call someone who might be able to help it – say, for example, the RSPCA (that would be the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty toward Animals).

You stand just along the road from the cat, thinking that you’ll keep an eye on it until help can arrive. Just far enough away that you don’t cause it to panic or think that you're going to harm it. It’s now lying on the pavement looking exhausted.

After navigating several phone menus you eventually get through to someone in the emergency department who first asks for your full name, then your phone number, then your address, despite the fact that you’re over 12 miles away from home and it’s really not relevant. The woman insists, and because the cat isn’t really looking too good you give it because you just want to get the poor thing some help and unnecessary faffing about just means it'll have to wait longer.

The woman finally asks what the problem is, although she really doesn’t sound terribly interested. As you tell her, the cat gets up and walks unsteadily around the corner into someone’s front garden. The woman asks if you have hold of the cat. You say “no, but…” and then she cuts you off and says they aren’t going to send someone round just on the off-chance they might find an injured cat. She says you should call back if you see the cat again and can confine it. You start to argue but she just interrupts you again and asks if it’s OK for them to keep your details on record so they can get in touch about appeals and fundraising events.

You say “no,” when all you really want to do is shout “get someone the f**k out here to help this cat.”

She says no worries and hangs up.

The cat is gone.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Dark days

I've come to the conclusion that any last semblance of summer I thought we might get is now nothing more than a pipe dream. The weather's been craptacular since last weekend when I got drenched on the bike ride (I think my shoes may have just about dried out by now), and I've noticed that in the course of the week I've segued from wearing just t-shirts to t-shirts with a long-sleeved top underneath - a staple autumnal fashion for me.

If we were playing Jeopardy and the answer was "my summer clothes," the question would undoubtedly be "things that won't be seen until next year."

As if that weren't evidence enough, I bought Milo and porridge during a shopping trip to Sainsbury's last week. I only buy Milo and porridge when it starts dropping down cold. A few weeks ago I was sleeping on top of my duvet with the window wide open. Last night I had the window open a smidgeon and I woke up this morning with the duvet up to my shoulders. I didn't want to get up because it was chilly. 

I'm looking at boxsets of DVDs because I'm mentally preparing to spend nights in curled up on the sofa. If I want to go running in Richmond Park now I have to think about going mid-afternoon because it's closing at about 19:00. And instead of having a shower when I get home I'm thinking 'bath.' Did I mention I bought some new bubble bath?

 I saw some nice winter boots in a shop the other day. I'm thinking about getting a thermal top to layer under my lumberjack shirt. I need to dig my oversized beanie out of retirement. I mentally said "brrrrrr" to myself when I left the house on Friday morning.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not moaning about the fact that winter's looming - I love winter; it makes my lunchtime coffee seem absolutely vital (or more vital than it already is). It just seems like summer passed us by again for the most part this year. OK, yeah, we had a couple of nice warm days, but c'mon - a couple?! Is that it? Shouldn't global warming guarantee me at least a full month of warm sunshine each year? I have embarrassing tan-lines that need correcting and a nearly-full bottle of suntan lotion that'll expire before I get to use it all up. That's just a waste.

Oh god. They'll be playing Christmas songs in Starbucks next.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Costume party

So I'm watching Season Three of Boston Legal at the moment, and there's an interesting bit in the episode 'Dumping Bella' where Paul Lewiston, one of the partners at Crane, Poole and Schmidt, organises a costume party in an attempt to improve staff morale. The idea has a bit of a twist, though, in that the staff have to attend the party in the guise of someone they admire.

Paul goes to the party as Albert Einstein. Two of the other lawyers, Brad Chase and Jeffrey Coho, both go as Buzz Lightyear (which leads to them having a punch-up), while Denny Crane goes as Dick Cheney, and Alan Shore goes as Shirley Schmidt.

James Spader as you've never seen him before - as Candice Bergen.

This got me thinking: if I was going to go to a costume party as someone I admired, who would it be? The answer came to me pretty quickly, to be honest, and I'm sure you won't be surprised when I say that I'd go as Captain Kirk.

Failing that, I think my second choice would be Denny Crane himself.

After all, he basically is Captain Kirk, but with the added benefit of being able to say the most ludicrous and offensive things and getting away with it by blaming it on the … mad cow.

Anyway, my question to you is this: you've been invited to my costume party - but which person who you admire would you dress as? 

(And this is one for any lurkers out there too - jump in, even if you post anonymously, say "hi," and join the party!)

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Oh, and anyone interested in a day in the life of William Shatner