Saturday, May 30, 2009

Caught up catch up

Sitting here at my computer I kind of feel like this is the first time I've been at home and actually sat down in days. That's not quite true, but it really feels like it. The last time I properly sat down at home and chilled out was, I think, Monday (which was a public holiday) when I got in from a bike ride - my first in eight months! - and watched a couple of episodes of the remastered Star Trek: The Original Series which is, quite frankly, awesome. If you're in a bit of a Star Trek mood after seeing the new movie, I highly recommend the rejigged TOS on DVD; pretty much all the dust and scratches have been removed from the picture, the colours are brighter and more vibrant, the new visual effects are stunning and fit in perfectly, and the stories themselves are every bit as good as they've always been.

Another DVD boxset that I've watched recently was Season Five of Boston Legal. The fifth season was Boston Legal's last, and there were only 13 episodes; as Judge Clark Brown might say: OUTRAGEOUS! Still, despite the truncated run, Boston Legal still managed to tell a number of thought-provoking stories, give us plenty more memorable Denny-Alan moments, make time for the return of Betty White as Catherine Piper, launch a thinly-veiled attack on the network that axed it, and brilliantly tie-up most of the ongoing plot lines. OK, the show was still afflicted by its habit of simply dropping some of its recurring/regular characters without explaining where they went or what happened to them, but so long as the Denny Crane, Alan Shore, and Shirley Schmidt trio were present I wasn't too worried.

Also back in my tellybox viewing schedule recently was Flight of the Conchords, which I became utterly obsessed with last year. As such, I was very much looking forward to the second season … and then a little bit disappointed with its opening episodes. Still, my faith was rewarded with the second episode, which saw Jermaine becoming a male prostitute as a result of Brett buying a new teacup, and featured two absolutely stunning songs, Sugar Lumps and this:


And this week they did an homage/mickey-take of Westside Story. Genius.

What else have I been up to? Oh, I went to the cinema last night to see the new Sam Raimi horror movie Drag Me To Hell, which was, um… well, I guess being a Sam Raimi film it's supposed to be a little bit tongue in cheek, right? I hope so, because I laughed all the way through it - especially the bit where the main character got into a fight with an old lady and started whacking her in the face with a stapler.

Anyway, if I'm truthful, I felt a bit bad about going to see this movie. Why, you might ask? Well, because … because I knew that somewhere else in the building Star Trek was showing, and I kind of felt like I was cheating on Star Trek. Like Star Trek was my gorgeous girlfriend, and I made an excuse to go spend an evening with … well, as Best Mate Jo put it, a dirty old prostitute. A dirty, filthy, one-eyed old prostitute. And the worst thing is that I sort of enjoyed it. I have plans to see Star Trek for a third time next week - I hope it'll take me back!

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An aside:

And … GO CRAZY!



I seriously want a box of kittens now. Although at a push, I'd just take the one in the bottom right-hand corner - look at that adorable face!

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OK, so we've covered TV, film, and kittens … what else do I like? Ah yes - shopping! After work on Thursday I hopped on a tube and headed up to Central Londinium to catch up with Marcosy and do a spot of shopping in the West End. As is often the case with these sort of jaunts up town, I had an ulterior motive - here it was to track down a pair of jeans I'd seen online, but wanted to try on before I bought. Usually I'm a bit impulsive when it comes to buying things, but in this instance I held off because while I liked the jeans, I wanted to be 100% certain about them before I committed. Why? Because they're a bit of a slimmer fit than I usually go for and I wanted to be certain they looked OK before handing over any cash.

So, the first shop we go into I find the jeans. Good. Then it takes a few minutes, and the searching of three entire shelves to find the only pair in my size. Done. And as I walk up to the changing rooms I'm thinking, awesome, this is like karmic or something - the last pair in my size! And then I get in the changing room and try them on and it all falls apart. Ohmygod. OK, so here's the original picture I saw of the jeans; slim-fitting, yes, but still with a bit of give. I am not lying when I say the pair I tried on were freakin' skin-tight. And by skin-tight I mean it would've looked slightly less troubling if I'd just painted my legs grey and be done with it. I instantly decided that they weren't the jeans for me and took them off. Which, of course, took a couple of minutes because they were so goddamned tight. Any longer and I'm pretty sure they would've cut off the blood supply to my legs. On the plus side, though, I'm not afraid to admit that I've got a cracking pair of pins.

Anyway, having abandoned the idea of buying the jeans, I then went and spent £38 on books instead - good times!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mini United: let's motor!

Ages back - I can't remember how long, although it was quite possibly sometime around the end of last year - I heard about a three-day event being held at Silverstone race track to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Mini. Being a big fan of Minis, I was immediately interested … but did nothing about it. Over the months that followed, I kept hearing about it, and Big Bro even said we should go, but I convinced myself that I really didn't need to haul myself all the way to Silverstone to an event that I was convinced would be a bit, well, dull; I mean, why pay £35 (if bought in advance, £40 on the door) to perve over other people's Minis when you can perve over your own for free?

A couple of weeks back, though, the ever-wonderful iPandah sent me a link to a website that had a competition offering tickets to Mini United, and I figured if I could win some that would be a bit different and I'd probably be up for making the drive. In fact, I entered more than one competition in an attempt to win tickets - but to no avail. I actually got a letter from Mini the other day that I thought might be to tell me that I'd won tickets … but no. And that, I thought, was that.

On Friday, though, I was checking out some of the Mini websites that I regularly look at, and as I read about the first day of the event I experienced a sudden pang of disappointment - like I was completely missing out on something, and as a three-time Mini owner I *should* be there. I texted Big Bro to ask if he wanted to go on Sunday - the third day of the event - figuring that if he said no I wouldn't bother. He texted back yes.

And so today I rocked up to Sparky Ma and Pa's to pick up Big Bro at around 9:30 - well, Big Bro would argue that point and say more like 9:45, but in my defense I needed to get some go-juice because I didn't want Clubbie running out halfway down the M1. Knowing that I've not exactly been the most comfortable driver since the accident, Big Bro asked me if I wanted him to drive. While he's recently bought a lovely new car, though, the idea of turning up at Mini United in anything other than a Mini was, well, just wrong. And anyway, his car might've been lynched. And no one but me drives Clubbie - so we set off for Silverstone with Big Bro holding onto his sat-nav like his life depended on it.

The journey there was pretty uneventful until we hit the M1 when we noticed another couple of Minis that we guessed might be on their way to Mini United. And then another couple of Minis. And some more. And the next thing we knew we were in a convoy of about 20 or 30 Minis driving northbound. I was filled with a bizarre sense of pride and belonging.

Just over an hour later we filtered into one of Silverstone's car parks to find a sea of Minis. It was a sight to behold. They were everywhere - old and new, all different colours, but all clearly the pride and joy of their owners.

Here I am just after we arrived, doing what is quite possibly the most half-hearted thumbs-up in living memory.

So, after arriving and faffing about for a few minutes we headed over to the registration tent to buy our tickets. By this time it was about 11:45. I walked to the counter and asked the girl there for two tickets. She looked around a bit conspiratorially for a second, then said "it's £80 for the two of you now - but if you come back at 12 it's free."

I looked at Big Bro, and in unison the pair of us said "we'll come back at 12."

After hanging around for 15 minutes or so, during which time Big Bro took lots of photos of the car park, we wandered back over to the registration tent where we were given £40 tickets, a lanyard with an iPod sock, Mini 50 medallion-type thingy, and what looked like the severed tail of a raccoon, and a map for free. That's nada. Zip. Nothing. BONUS.

It's about here that I should say that I was wearing a Mini t-shirt that Big Bro bought for me a couple of weeks back as a way of cheering me up after the accident. You can see it in the picture above - it's got a picture of a classic Mini from the Haynes manual on it, and it's tops. Anyway, as we're walking in a security guard looked at me and said that I wasn't the only one wearing such a t-shirt - and he wasn't wrong. There were so many people wearing the same t-shirt that Big Bro and I seriously considered starting a competition to find as many as we could and get them to pose for a photo with me. In the end, though, we couldn't be bothered, because quite frankly if we'd done that we wouldn't have had time for anything else - and in contrast to my earlier belief, there was plenty to do.

Mini United was, in all honesty, one of the best days out I've had in a long time. We saw classic Minis race (the Miglia and Se7en classes), watched the new Mini Challenge Cup cars race from the pit wall no less (Big Bro was well impressed by this), saw Minis designed by famous people, saw Mini concept cars from the last 10 years or so, chilled out in a big tent (where I decided I need to buy one of these), perved over lots of Minis, took lots of photos, watched an amazing stunt show by Russ Swift, and got awesome suntans. It was utterly fantastic.

Best day out in a long time.

Some pics, yes?

The classic Minis take to the track. They sounded awesome and went like stink.

I kid you not - this Mini was covered in fake fur.

The Paul Smith Mini. It's stripy!

A David Bowie designed Mini. This was awesome - it looked like something out of Terminator.

Big Bro made me pose with the David Bowie Mini so that its reflective properties made it look like I was inside it - do you see?!

Some sort of mad-bonkers, Mad Max-style Mini.

The ACV 30 Mini concept from 1997. It still looks good over 12 years after it was first unveiled.

The Mini Crossover concept. This is a lightly-disguised version of a bigger Mini due to go on sale next year. I'd been a bit unsure about this car, but after seeing it in the metal I'm sold; it's chunky, and a lot smaller than you'd think it is.

Me doing my cheap motor show totty routine with the original Italian Job Minis.

Yeah baby! Me hanging with the Mini from the Austin Powers movie Goldmember.

Hanging out in the Mini XXL limo. How utterly distinguished and gentlemanly do I look in the back of a limo? The answer: very. Pass me my top hat and monocle immediately.

Yes, it has two fronts.

Someone had fun with their Dremel…

Me gurning like a special as I watch the Mini Challenge Cup cars race.

The Mini Challenge Cup cars come into the pit lane. Big Bro took this pic from the pit wall, between the pit lane and the track, where we'd watched the race. These little cars make a wicked noise.

Scooby-Doo's Mystery Machine, in Mini form. The guys that owned this were doing a poll to decide what colour seats to have in it - orange, green, or blue. I voted green.

Funny story - when I was thinking about buying Clubbie I searched for 'Pepper white Mini Clubmans' on the Mini2 website and I found this very distinctive example, which ended up being one of the things that sold me on the black 'n white combo. This Clubman was in the 'flaunt your Mini' paddock, and I really wanted to find the owner and have a chat with him. Unfortunately he wasn't lurking by his car, so I may have to drop him a line at his website.

Big Bro makes me pose in front of the stage where Paul Weller and Calvin Harris performed for the Mini fans the previous night.

Where it all began - a Cooper Garages Mini van.

The extremely limited edition *takes a deep breath* Mini John Cooper Works World Championship 50! They're only going to make 250 of these!!

Yes, *that* Steve McQueen.

The Mini Challenge Cup park ferme. I like this shot - Big Bro had to take it through a polythene sheet window, and I think it gives it a bit of a seventies vibe.

And now, how about some videos?

This is Mini stunt driver Russ Swift parallel parking. What you can't see is some random dude who he plucked out of the crowd and put in the boot of the blue one he parks behind.


Russ Swift does a side wheelie here - with three ladies from the crowd sitting in with him, and some random dude crammed in the boot. There's a point in this video - around the 42 second mark - where I seriously thought the car was going to roll onto its roof.

And finally, just for you, my trusty blog pals (and for making it all the way through this Mini-tastic post), here's an exclusive clip of the witty banter me and Big bro shared on the way home.

video
In my defense, that Hyundai was really shifting.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Golf club

I mentioned in my previous post - under the heading 'Tuesday,' no less - that I planned to write about the hire car I had while Clubbie was … otherwise unavailable. Well, strap yourselves in, because as Nero says in the Star Trek trailer: THE WAIT IS OVER!

So, a few hours after Clubbie received an unexpected and rather unwanted surprise from behind, I found myself wandering into a hire car office to collect a, well, hire car that would be mine, all mine, for the duration of time that Clubbie was off the mean streets of West London being patched up. I fully intended my first words to the people in the office to be a tirade of naughty swears, because not only was I pissed off at the earlier events of the day, but the hire car people had given me a totally incorrect location for where their office was. I had asked on the phone if they were the hire car place near Hatton Cross tube station, to which they had replied "yes"; it was only after Sparky Ma had dropped me off by the tube station - and the hire car place I'd been led to believe was the correct one - and driven off that I found myself asking if I'd been led astray. A quick Google later and I discovered that, yes, the doofus had given me the the completely wrong location.

I subsequently set off on a two-mile hike to the correct location.

So, as you can imagine, I was fully prepared to spout a long list of words that, if written out in an Asterix book, would be represented by exclamation marks, skull and crossbones, and inexplicable swirly things. Fortunately for them, by the time I actually got there the whiplash had begun to settle in and I was properly knacked.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, they redeemed themselves when, upon finding out that I was the victim of the accident rather than the perpetrator, they told me that rather than have a shitty little Chevrolet Matiz (which I'd already massively complained about because quite frankly I would've felt safer driving a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe), I would be upgraded to something a little more becoming of someone of my distinguished status.

And so I got a brand new VW Golf.

And I mean, like, a *really* brand new Golf.

It was a Mark VI Golf GT TDi, which for those of you who don't have a clue what that means, means it's the sixth generation Golf with a powerful diesel engine and a fair few bells and whistles.

Unfortunately, my slightly more favourable impression of the hire car staff took a bit of a knock as I was just about to drive away when one of the guys said to me "I really love this car - try not to crash it, yeah?"

Yes, that's a very intelligent thing to say to someone who'd just been in a car accident.

As it turns out, as I was driving home some wench in an aged Fiat Punto did try to slam into the Golf by cutting me up at a roundabout. Not being terribly familiar with its controls at that point in time, and being unable to locate the horn in a hurry, I made do with pulling alongside her at some traffic lights and extending my middle finger towards her in the time honoured gesture. All in all I found that rather satisfying.

So, the Golf. It was a quality car. It felt very safe, which was just what I needed after the accident. It was gutsy. It was easy to drive. It was … utterly characterless. I think I've been spoilt by driving Minis for so long; as I said when I looked back over all the cars I've owned in March, Minis are by no means perfect, but they've got personality. This kind of makes it sound like I hated the Golf, but I didn't; I was very grateful for the fact that I had a good car to stand in temporarily for Clubbie, but it was so grown-up - so sensible. If I was 40 with a couple of kids and a wife who resented me, it would've been perfect.

More to the point, I admitted to Sparky Ma that I thought I couldn't get enthusiastic about the Golf because its presence merely signified the fact that I didn't have MY car. I honestly believe that if I'd had it as a loan car while mine was in for a service or something, I probably would've enjoyed it a lot more. It also didn't help that a fair few other people were wildly excited by the prospect of me having a new Golf. One in particular wanted to know all about it the day after the accident, and it was only after asking me endless boring questions about how big the wheels were that I was asked how my car was, and if I was OK.

Reasonably unjust prejudice aside, there were actually a few things about the Golf that I genuinely didn't like. The indicator stalks were, to me at least, utterly confusing (although both Sparky Pa and Big Bro, both fans of VWs, have since tried to convince me that I was just being stupid in this respect), it rolled around a bit and the steering was a tad woolly (compared to Minis, at least), the boot lid sounded like it was made from cheap tin when you slammed it shut, and there was a sharp ridge of plastic around the base of the dashboard where it met the transmission tunnel. The leather that was wrapped around the steering wheel and handbrake did a passable impression of styrofoam. Worst of all, though, was the fact that the seat bolsters were made of a coarse, hardwearing material, and every time I released the handbrake I grazed my knuckles on the passenger seat. If I'd had it for more than two weeks I probably would've ended up looking more like an underground bare-knuckle street fighter than usual.

Finally, I'd always been led to believe that diesels were super economical. When I picked the Golf up it was on the red line, so I immediately had to go buy some fuel (annoyingly). Not knowing how long I was going to have it for, I only put half a tank's worth in. In the two weeks I had the car I had to fill it up three times. On the last occasion, the trip computer told me it had a range of 220 miles; three days later, when I returned it, it was back on the red line and at one point I actually thought I'd have to fill it up just to make sure it would reach the hire car place. This was really surprising, because I was only driving to work and back (a round journey of about 25 miles), and I wasn't flooring it or anything; in fact, since the accident I've been driving like an aged nun. If this is how diesels perform in the real world I'm doubly glad I bought a petrol Mini!

On the whole, though, of all the cars I could've had while mine was off the road, the Golf was (without the option of another Mini) definitely one of the better choices. And while I wasn't too sorry to see it go, the hire car guys were definitely happy to have it back.

"Didn't dink it, did ya?" I was asked as I handed the keys over.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Busy times

So this is going to be one of those posts where I start with an excuse as to why I haven't posted anything for a while, then I take you through the last few days to highlight how busy I've been as justification for the excuse, liberally scattering a few amusing anecdotes throughout each day to a) keep you interested and b) make my life sound more exciting.

*sigh*

Here we go!

The Excuse:
So, sorry I haven't posted anything in a while but blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda, blah. Boobies. Tee hee. Yadda yadda yadda, this is what I've been up to this week!

Monday:
During a lull in the working day, I experimented with some cross-franchise pollenization by making the Yoda action figure on my desk at work pose with the bat'leth that snapped off a Worf figurine that also lives on my desk at work. Sadly the inherent lameness of the camera in the iPhone means that the picture isn't quite as good as it could be, but the inherent awesomeness of the flappy-eared, bat'leth-wielding Jedi dwarf still shines through, I think you'll agree.

Hmmm! Die, a good day it is to, yes…?!

In other news, my overwhelmingly positive, possibly wildly incoherent fanboy-esque write-up of the new Star Trek movie (I wouldn't dare call it a review) somehow got picked up and republished by the Chicago Sun Times website. This made me feel inexplicably special, although for all I know it could've simply been part of a series exposing the mental health deficiencies of certain London-based bloggers.

Tuesday:
An exciting day all round. First of all, a mysterious stranger who took pity on me after recent events deployed what was dubbed Project: CTU (Cheer Tim Up), and it duly arrived in the post on Tuesday morning. Within I found a veritable wealth of delights, the main one being a CD entitled Spaced Out: The Very Best of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. One of the reviews on Amazon describes this album as "truly terrifying," although I'd argue that point. I don't know whether it's symptomatic of my brain being slammed against the inside of my skull in the car accident, but I actually really like this album. Yes, Shatner's songs are batshit crazy, but Nimoy's actually got rather a good voice, and The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins not only condenses The Hobbit down to two minutes 22 seconds (which saves me from ever having to read the book), but it also gives me a fair idea of what it would be like to try LSD.



I also like the songs where he sings in character as Spock.

Anyway, the day went from great to awesome at 15:21 in the afternoon, when I received a phone call to say that the repairs to Clubbie were complete and I could go pick 'er up! That led to a quick departure from the office, a hurried return of the hire car (which I'm going to come back to in another post), and a lightning-fast trip to the Mini dealer to be reunited with my pride and joy.

You would not believe what an amazing job they've done in repairing Clubbie. It's been restored completely to its original factory-fresh condition, and quite frankly feels like a brand new car. OK, it felt like a brand new car when I took delivery of it seven weeks ago, but now it feels even newer. And I'm convinced they have new car smell in an aerosol, because the interior reeks of it. I totally need to get my hands on a can of new car smell - I'd be spraying it in my face big time. I wonder if you can get it as a Glade Plugin?

Clubbie back in action on the wild streets of West London. Now, can no one plough into it again, please? Thanks.

The only disappointment of the day occurred when I did my first run in five weeks. After a week off, followed by flu (oink oink), followed by the accident, followed by painful whiplash, my running schedule has crashed and burned like something crashing and, um, burning. Rather than a mighty Elvis style comeback, this run was a rather inauspicious start, mainly because I kept having to slow to a walking pace, wheeze a bit, then spend a few minutes summoning up the energy and the will power to stagger onwards like a middle-aged drunk trying to catch the last bus. I did a total of five shitty kilometres before giving up and going home.

With a bit of luck things will improve from here on in - mainly because the Dysart Dash takes place in just over a month, and after smack-talking Sweatband for what seems like ages, it's going to be really embarrassing if she actually beats me…

Wednesday:
Wednesday was notable for the sole reason that I went to see Star Trek again, and this time I took Big Bro. This was exciting because the last Star Trek movie Big Bro saw at the cinema was Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (AKA, 'the God one'), and I don't think he's even bothered with the last two, even though I've offered to lend them to him on DVD, and helpfully told him when they've been on telly. Because of my paranoid fear that the film would sell out, I insisted that we arrive at least an hour before it started, which gave us plenty of time to walk aimlessly around Staines then hang out in the foyer of the cinema like a couple of tramps.

Despite all this, I'm happy to report that Big Bro really enjoyed Star Trek (and believe me, if he hadn't, I would've known), and for me it was every bit as enjoyable second time round. I'm well-up for seeing it a third time.

Amusingly, though, Big Bro did make something of a school boy error as we left by asking me the question "didn't they go to that ice planet in one of the other films?" I then entered into a 10 minute monologue about how he was thinking of the Klingon prison planet Rura Penthe from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, whereas the ice planet in the new film was called Delta Vega, which appeared in the second pilot episode of Star Trek, 'Where No Man Has Gone Before,' although of course then it was located out towards the Galactic rim, not in close proximity to the planet Vulcan.

*pauses for breath*

The result of this was that I genuinely feared that Big Bro might just drop me in the middle of nowhere miles from my house in the dead of night. Fortunately, though, he didn't.

Thursday:
As a direct result of the new Star Trek movie, my inner-nerd has come to the fore a bit more than it has in recent years, and quite frankly this means that I just can't get enough Star Trek at the moment. A couple of weeks back I ordered the novelization of the new film off Amazon; I haven't read a Star Trek novel in years, mainly because they're now all tied together with their own continuity and I don't want to have to read seven books to understand one story, but I'm a sucker for novelizations of films I love, and the sheer fact it is a film tie-in means it stands alone, so I had to have it. Unfortunately last week Amazon emailed me to say they couldn't get it until June, so I decided I'd just buy it in a regular bookshop.

I went to Kingston and Uxbridge last weekend on a mission to track it down, but failed on both occasions, so this week I decided to pull out the big guns. No, that is not a euphemism - it means that I decided to go to Westfield (or West-wizzle, as I have inexplicably begun to call it). What made this expedition unique, though, was that unlike previous jaunts to West-wizzle which I've done after work, I decided to go AT LUNCHTIME.

This was dangerous because I'm convinced time slows down in Westfield, and although I might think I'd only been there for 20 minutes, three hours might've elapsed in the real world.

Anyway, I got there and headed straight for Foyles. Foyles did not have the Star Trek novelization, nor did they have anything by an author named Joe Meno whose books I like the sound of; nor did they have a copy of a book I already own, but I thought I'd look for just as a test. I'm beginning to think that Foyles in Westfield is a poor substitute for the real thing on Charing Cross Road…

Disappointed, I headed over to HMV because they've been stocking books recently and I figured the novelization of the new Star Trek movie was the kind of book they'd stock. I was mistaken. They did, however, have a replica of the new Enterprise that I was very tempted by because it's been a while since I bought a new noisy toy for my desk. I ultimately decided against it, though, because I knew I'd be playing with it all afternoon when I should've been working it was 30 quid that quite frankly I didn't need to spend.

After that, in sheer desperation, I decided to go to WHSmiths. Now, I haven't bought a book in WHSmiths in years, mainly because they only really stock bestsellers, which I tend not to read, but on this occasion I was *holy shit!* amazed to find that they had the Star Trek novelization! Huzzah! So, anyway, I bought a copy, then popped up to Starbucks to get some lunch; I'd just like to say that their new savoury cheese pastry (cheesy croissant really) goes really well with a Grande Misto for a quick and easy lunch.

Friday:
It truly does pay to get to know the staff at your local Starbucks, because on Friday I decided to buy some VIA coffee, and ended up getting a bag of freshly ground Estima blend and a whole wodge of VIA samples thrown in for free. BONUS. I'm going to be awake and off my tits for the foreseeable future.

On the recommendation of a friend, on Thursday evening I'd downloaded the trial version of a game called Peggle on Xbox Live. It's a very addictive little game, but I couldn't be bothered to buy the complete version because I rarely play my Xbox these days. What I did do, though, was buy it from the iTunes App store for my iPhone on Friday afternoon.


This proved to be a timely purchase, because I was meeting Yazzle Dazzle in the evening, but she got delayed at work so I just went to Starbucks in Shepherds Bush and played Peggle for half an hour. I continued playing even when she did turn up because I was a) doing so well at it, and b) massively addicted to it.

I also had a vanilla latte for a change, which was surprisingly nice.

Anyway, the meet-up with Yazzle Dazzle was part of a larger plan to catch up with a load of old work pals. As it turned out, only six of us went in the end, but it was great catching up with everyone regardless. One of the hot topics of shouty conversation (they were playing loud music in the former Edwardian toilet that was our venue of choice) was how good the new Star Trek movie is, and this then led to one of my former colleagues saying how he thought the new Captain Kirk looked a bit like me.

YES! I just need to work out how to capitalize on it now.

OK, Chris Pine - what can I do to capitalize on the fact that I apparently bear a reasonably poor similarity to you? And by 'reasonably poor similarity' I mean if I was standing about 20 metres away from someone who had poor eyesight, and it was a dark night, and they were squinting, they might totally think I was you. Do you think it's possible I could get seated at a nice restaurant McDonalds easily? Do you think I could get some freebies - y'know, like clothes or something? I'm in dire need of some new undercrackers but keep forgetting to buy some.

Don't think this is all me me me though, Chris, this is a two-way street dude! Think of it as a Freaky Friday-style thing, though neither of us needs to be Jamie Lee Curtis. You're more than welcome to experience the awesome lifestyle of a West London-based writer-editor! The bins need to go out on Wednesday night, the house could probably do with hoovering, and there's some washing up that needs doing, OK? Good times.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Star Trek

And so, after two years of waiting, two years in which my hopes about how good it might be were raised, and my dreams of being cast as the new Kirk were dashed, I have finally seen the new Star Trek movie.

And I bloody loved it.

OK, OK, so you could argue the point, as it was mentioned to me by a friend on Facebook, when haven't I liked something with Star Trek in the title? And I would admit that's a fair point before saying that I really disliked the sixth season Deep Space Nine episode 'Resurrection.'

But this Star Trek was different - because, to quote Admiral Kirk at the end of The Wrath of Khan, this Star Trek "made me feel young" again by bringing the original series, my favourite Star Trek, back to life in a brave new way.

As anyone who's read the last couple of posts I've written, I've been a bit subdued these last couple of weeks, but from the moment it started until the moment the end credits played out to the sound of Alexander Courage's classic TOS theme tune, I forgot everything that had been troubling me outside of that cinema screen. For 127 minutes I was quite literally mesmerised by the most enjoyable slice of Star Trek I've had the pleasure of seeing since, quite probably, the DS9 episode 'Trials and Tribble-ations' 13 years ago.

It was that good.

I was hooked from the word go. In a way that mirrors the bank job that takes place at the beginning of The Dark Knight, Star Trek opens with a dramatic pre-credits sequence that introduces the movie's villain and could quite literally stand apart as a short film in its own right. It was a stunning way of reintroducing us to the universe of the 23rd century, and those few short minutes were, quite frankly, far more enjoyable than any of the last four Star Trek films. And I actually enjoyed the last four Star Trek films.

From there the story moved on to introduce us to Kirk and Spock, first as children and then as adults - played by new actors, yes, but still recognisably the Kirk and Spock I admired when I first started watching Star Trek all those years ago - before shifting the action away from the origins of our heroes and on to the Enterprise (and that's the NCC-1701 - no bloody, A, B, C, D, E, or NX) where their confrontations with the Romulan Nero could begin in earnest.

But while the characters, the ship, and the uniforms were all gloriously familiar, this film made no bones (if you'll pardon the pun) of the fact that this is a new kind of Star Trek unbound by 43 years (or 45 if you count 'The Cage') of continuity. Events take place in this movie that left me aghast - not because I was outraged at what I'd seen, but because I couldn't believe the filmmakers actually had the guts to go through with them. For example, when Data was killed in Star Trek Nemesis I kind of just shrugged my shoulders and thought "yeah, whatever, there's another one on the Enterprise," but here I was watching the familiar Star Trek universe being rocked to its foundations and forever changed. It was a bold statement that literally amounted to JJ Abrams and his team saying "yeah, look - nothing's sacred, if it serves the plot, we'll do it," and I couldn't help but think bravo to that.

But while the Star Trek universe was changing before our very eyes, some things were staying comfortably the same. Well, ish. The Enterprise itself, though recognisable, was definitely different from Matt Jefferies' iconic original. To be honest, I'd not been too sure about the design of this newest version of the Enterprise when I saw the first pictures, but on the big screen it looked just about perfect - a stunning blend of the old and the new, both inside and out. Also perfect were the Starfleet uniforms that successfully revived the style and vibrant colours of the original series, while at the same time making them appear modern and practical for a crew living and working aboard a starship; it was a delight to once more see a Star Trek vessel full of colour.

The casting could not have been more perfect; Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto ARE Kirk and Spock - I cannot give them any higher praise than that. Other stand out performances for me included Karl Urban, who admittedly was a little underused as Dr McCoy, but he was utterly perfect for the role and I can only hope he gets more screen time in the next film, the beautiful Zoe Saldana, who showed that Uhura can do more than just say "hailing frequencies open," and Anton Yelchin, who greatly surprised me with his wonderfully humourous performance as Chekov. And of course, it was a sheer delight to see Leonard Nimoy reprise his role as Spock again.

So for my money at least, JJ Abrams' Star Trek was a great success and everything I hoped it would be. It was fun, action-packed, and dramatic; it charted a brave new course for a franchise that has, in the last few years, become moribund and over-familiar. It reignited Star Trek and my passion for the universe that Gene Roddenberry created all those years ago.

May it well and truly live long and prosper.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Trek prep

And I am … done! What do you mean 'what am I done with?' My Star Trek prep!

Of course.

*Tut*

OK, so a few weeks back I decided I was going to do some prep work in anticipation of the new Star Trek movie. My original idea was to watch the previous 10 movies in order, but I kind of stumbled straight out of the starting gate with that one; I have to be in a particular frame of mind to watch Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which peculiarly tends to manifest only around Christmas), so I decided to skip it and begin with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

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An aside:

Now, strictly speaking, I should've started my prep work 736 days ago. WTF?! Let me explain: there are 726 episodes of Star Trek, and 10 movies. If I'd watched one episode or film per day (in chronological order if I was being super-precise) it would've segued nicely into tomorrow's screening of the new movie and I could've legitimately called myself the uber-fan. On the flip-reverse, it's likely I would've had no life in that period. Either way, I was clearly too busy doing other things in May 2007 to think about that. Such as dressing up as Superman, for example.

Call myself a Star Trek fan? *Tut*

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So yes, I began with The Wrath of Khan - or TWOK to those in the know. Now, I love this movie; Khan is the perfect villain (even if he is prone to displays of "two-dimensional thinking," he has a torso the envy of men half his age), there are some superb action sequences, and it's eminently quotable. It's my favourite of all the Star Trek movies to date.

I followed this up with, of course, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, which does exactly what it says on the tin, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, also known as the one with the whales/the one with the flying poo. Each of those films is enjoyable in their own right, but together they make what I would be so bold as to say is one of the most enjoyable sci-fi trilogies in Hollywood history.

I subsequently skipped Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, not because I don't like it (in contrast to many fans, I actually do think it has some redeeming qualities), but because I was running out of available time to continue my prep work. I thus went straight to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the last film to feature the entire original cast, and a sterling effort to boot.

It was at this point that you could say I got caught in some kind of temporal anomaly because the next film I watched was … Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Eh!? Yes, I went back to TWOK again. Why? Well, long ago I'd given Yazzle Dazzle a copy of the film on DVD and in the intervening years she'd not bothered gotten around to watching it, and I told her she'd be unable to judge the new Star Trek movie without having first seen the best Star Trek movie. And so, last weekend, she popped round to watch it - and I'm happy to report that she thoroughly enjoyed it. Rather than paint fake eyeballs on her eyelids and snooze through it, she paid proper attention to it - laughing in the right places, "ooo-ing" and "aah-ing" appropriately, and even going so far as to engage me in further discussion about the Genesis Device.

Amusingly though, she didn't think that Spock actually died at the end, even going so far as to say "I'd probably be getting a bit choked up if I thought he was going to die" when he was doing the whole "you have been … and always shall be … my friend" bit after saving the Enterprise. It was only when they shot him into space in a photon torpedo that she went "oh…" and then proceeded to quiz me about how he'd come back to life. Although I technically couldn't hide the fact that the next film in the series is called The Search for Spock, as far as she's concerned he's dead; I mean they could find him, poke his body with a stick a bit, then go off and do something else, right?

I'll probably have her round to watch it at some point so she can get properly up to speed.

Anyway, after that I watched the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes 'Unification Parts I and II,' because it's the last time we see Spock prior to the new movie, and Star Trek Nemesis because it's the most recent film, and it deals with Romulans like the new one does. I must admit, I remember actually quite liking Nemesis, but on this viewing there were some bits that really stood out as being quite … well, bad. I've decided, after seven years, that Shinzon is quite an ineffectual villain, but on the other hand the battle between the Scimitar and the Enterprise is quite exciting (except for the bit where the Scimitar deploys its thalaron weapon, which requires seven woefully undramatic minutes and the deployment of lots of ridiculous prongy bits). I also hated the fact that Picard gets all gung-ho and has to take Shinzon out himself; hell, why not just beam some cannon fodder red shirts over there - that's what they're employed for!

That done, the last part of Star Trek prep took place tonight when I dug out the four issues of Star Trek Countdown, the official comic book prequel to the new movie, which takes place in the TNG era. I'd only read it one issue per month as they came out (January-April), so it was nice to read it again in one sitting so its fresh in my mind ready for tomorrow. The thing is, there's so much backstory in Countdown that I kind of can't see how you'll be able to fully get Nero's motivations in the movie without a) having read it first, or b) there being some mad-bonkers, long-winded piece of exposition. That being the case, I spent some time today emailing several buddies who are coming along tomorrow with links to Memory Alpha synopses for the comic books (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV - don't say I never did anything for you).

So, the upshot of this is that I'm all fired up and ready for the new movie; I have my ticket and I'm counting down the hours … although I could've seen it today. Best Mate Jo wangled a couple of tickets to a preview at Paramount's London office, but I turned her down because I'd already arranged a big group outing for Friday, and would've felt bad if I turned up tomorrow and said "oh, yeah, I saw it yesterday," and because I really want to see it on a massive screen, not in some little screening room.

That being the case, Best Mate Jo dragged her Best Mate Caz along to see it. Neither are Star Trek fans - in fact Caz *hates* it, and Jo's always rolled her eyes and tutted whenever I've mentioned it over the duration of our friendship. But moments after it finished, they called me and literally screamed down the phone at me for about a minute; I just about made out the word "AWESOME" being shouted multiple times and "OHMYGOD I FANCY CAPTAIN KIRK!" before I got bored and hung up.

The gist of it was that I think they liked it.

After finally catching her breath, Jo called me back and said "I can't believe you didn't come!"

"Don't worry," I replied with a knowing wink as I engaged my smut subroutines. "I expect I will tomorrow."

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Retail therapy

The thing about having a shitty couple of weeks is that they give you carte blanche to do something crazy like, ooo, impulsive retail therapy, which to be honest, is my favourite kind of therapy. Especially if someone else is paying.

Unfortunately, no one else is paying in this instance, but I've given it a good bash nonetheless. I heard something on the radio a while back that said retail therapy is a short-term high, whereas eating chocolate gives you more of a long-term high. Well, I'm sorry, but I knocked back two easter eggs, a mini Flake, and a full-size Yorkie bar, and they didn't make me feel half as good as I did surfing the internet for things I don't need but really, really want. Which leads me to the concept of buying drugs. I wouldn't buy drugs, but for people that do, do you find you get the high of buying the drug itself (i.e. the retail therapy), followed by the high of actually taking the drug? It's a theory that just occurred to me. Answers on a postcard, filthy drug-takers.

Anyhoo, the upshot of this is that I've bought some lovely stuff and don't feel at all guilty about it because I can just write it off as an attempt to make myself feel better. A bit like fiddling your taxes, I s'pose. And what have I bought, you ask? Well…

• The soundtrack to the new Star Trek movie. I do love a good soundtrack, and apparently this one is tops. I'm just waiting on it to be delivered - Amazon say it's en route!
• The novelization of the new Star Trek movie. I've got all the others, so I might as well have this one.
• A Junk Food Star Trek t-shirt, because I've always liked their t-shirts and while I've shied away from wearing anything with Star Trek emblazoned across the chest in the last 10 years or so, I love the retro design on the front of this one and decided I had to have it. And I've just noticed that eight quid's been knocked off the price since I bought it, but I actually don't really care because I just wanted to spend money.
• Some Dr Denim jeans. I did make a saving here, because as part of a Bank Holiday deal 10 quid was knocked off the asking price, and although I don't *need* anymore jeans that kinda swung it in favour of splurging.

So the jeans were delivered today, and after trying them on I'm happy that they're every bit as awesome as I hoped they'd be. There's nothing really radical about them, but I like the stitched line across the front that makes them look like they're riding lower than you think they actually are. It's a bit like that craze of wearing your trousers down so low that your bum cheeks hang out, without the bum cheeks actually hanging out. I couldn't do that look for fear my trousers would suddenly descend of their own volition. Also I don't feel the need to flash my pants to all and sundry.

Anyway, so the jeans are lovely, and they go with my new Junk Food Star Trek t-shirt just fine. But one thing did take me aback just a little. There's a card attached to the jeans that says, and I quote:
"These jeans have never been washed, which means that they will dry bleed in the beginning and may shrink 1-5%."
Dry bleed? is that like a dry-slap?
"Dye stuff may rub off on light coloured clothing and furniture."
So, ladies, I wouldn't recommend trying to dry-hump me on the dancefloor if you're wearing that nice new white dress.
"To achieve a beautiful vintage patina, you should wear these jeans for six months before washing them. But you don't have to if you don't want to."
Yes, so don't wash them for six mon- hang on a sec?! WTF?! Let me read that again!
"To achieve a beautiful vintage patina, you should wear these jeans for six months before washing them. But you don't have to if you don't want to."
Gadzooks, it does say that! Don't wash them for six months?! Outrageous! Now, I've checked the Dr Denim website and that says bugger all about the whole not washing your jeans for six months thing. But I did find a blog by some dude who's done the no washing-your-jeans-for-six-months-thing and written all about it, which is interesting. One of the things he says is that you should 'rest' your jeans in the freezer every now and then.

Now, I like to follow instructions properly in all walks of life (such as, say, stopping my car at an appropriate distance behind the car in front), and I must say I'm intrigued by the idea of following Dr Denim's advice and not washing my jeans until November, if only for the fact that I'll technically always have a pair of jeans ready to wear. But on the flip-reverse, I'm not sure I want to be known as the eccentric young gentleman who stashes his jeans between a box of two Birdseye chicken kievs and a bag of Aunt Bessie's frozen mashed potato.

Thoughts?

Monday, May 04, 2009

*Sigh*

It feels like ages since I last posted anything (although in reality it was just last Thursday), and to be honest I've not really felt like it. The accident last week really knocked me for six; first of all there was the utter shock of it actually happening, then there was a period where my brain just kind of shut down and went into some kind of safe mode where I could only deal with specific things I needed to do, such as 'get home,' 'call the insurance company,' and 'fall to pieces.'

Actually 'call the insurance company' was a good one. In contrast to many others, I've actually always been really pleased with the company I insure my car with; unfortunately, they lost points this time round when, having gone through all the details of the accident and really needing to go sit down and have a cup of tea so sugary that the spoon would literally stand upright in it, the lady on the other end of the line said "ooo, before you go, could you just hang on for a sec so I can put you through to someone who'll conduct a customer satisfaction survey?"

I literally went: "WHAT?!"

And she said: "A customer satisfaction survey."

And I said: "Um, no."

And she said: "Oh go on - it only takes two minutes."

To which I replied: "Um, no - I've just been in a car accident and I'd really like to go and sit down."

And she said: "*Tut* Oh, OK. Well, have a nice day."

And if I could've reached down the phone line and throttled her I really would have.

Another person who looses points is a friend of mine who DROVE PAST THE SCENE OF THE ACCIDENT and didn't stop to see if I was alright. What he did do, though, was text me about half an hour later to tell me that I was doing a good job of clearing debris off the road and could consider a new career as a road sweeper if push came to shove. Nice. And he wasn't the only one; upon hearing what happened, another friend sent me a text with a sarcastic comment. My response to both was something along the lines of 'you can f**k right off'; I'd like to see how they'd like it if the same thing had happened to them, although it's certainly a novel way of gauging who your real friends are.

Anyway, over the course of the last week I genuinely feel like I've gone through something like the five stages of grief; I flew through denial on the first day, anger … well, I'm still feeling that a bit, bargaining … no, I think I skipped that one, depression, yes, still hitting that one rather a lot, and finally acceptance - I accept it happened and there's nothing I can do it about it now.

On the plus side, Clubbie's in the best possible place and will be repaired to absolute factory freshness (I cannot thank the people at my Mini dealer enough - they are utter stars). As for me, well, I have a loan car that I cannot get at all enthusiastic about despite the fact it is a decent car, and waaaaay better than the shitty little toy I was going to get given originally. I think my lack of enthusiasm comes down to the fact that people keep asking me how I like it, and how they 'bet it makes a nice change to what I normally drive.' Um, no, not really; in an ideal world I'd never set foot in the loan car, and if I'd wanted a car like it I would've bought one in the first place.

As for me, well I'm not going to beat around the bush: I hurt. Sometimes I get up and I hurt straight away, other times I get up feeling normal, then the pain gradually hits around midday and gets worse as the day goes on. Either way, by the evening I just want to lie down, which I inevitably do. It's been a long weekend in the UK, and I've spent the vast majority of it horizontally, either laid out on the sofa, laid out on the bed, or, if I'm round Sparky Ma and Pa's, laid out on the floor. Unfortunately, laying oneself out anywhere doesn't really help the pain go away, but on the plus side it does give you a different perspective on the world.

What I'm really annoyed about, though, is the fact that I can't go running. I'd taken a break because of the muscle strain a few weeks back, then I got flu (not pig flu, thankfully), then I got whiplash. All that good training I've done this year has been for nothing; my Nike+ dude is taunting me, my Nike+ 2009 resolutions have been shot to hell, and the Dysart Dash is less than two months away! This was supposed to be the year in which I ran it like a cheetah, but now I'm looking at the prospect of playing catch-up big time. I'm not happy.

I saw the doctor last week and he told me to buy some Tiger Balm to rub on my back and neck. Tiger Balm is an ointment that comes in a tiny tiny pot, costs rather a lot for the amount you get, and makes your skin feel like it's on fire. I was immediately disappointed to find that, while it's packaged to look like it's some mysterious ointment from the Far East, it's actually made in Manchester. Anyway, I'm not convinced it's actually doing anything, but I must say I'm getting rather addicted to the sensation it gives, although I do live in fear that I might at some point forget to wash my hands after applying it and accidently get some on my penis.

So, the result of this, dear reader, is that I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the lack of posts, I'm sorry for the lack of enthusiasm. But don't fear! With a bit of luck my enthusiasm levels will be boosted in the next week or so. Why? Well, a) I'm hoping the pain will get better, b) there's a chance that Clubbie may make a triumphant return, and c) there's a little thing called the new Star Trek movie…