Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Art appreciation

A few weeks before my birthday last year, Yazzle Dazzle rather bluntly asked me over coffee what I wanted for a present because she was totally devoid of ideas and didn't want to buy me something crappy that I'd feign delight at then bin as soon as she turned her head. I subsequently gave her a list of items (seriously, I hadn't been waiting to be asked at all), and on that list was a book called The Three Paradoxes by a chap called Paul Hornschemeier. To cut a long story short, she bought it for me, and I then read it in one sitting. It was wonderful. I've since read another of Paul's books, Mother, Come Home, which struck such a chord with me that it actually elicited an emotional response - thus putting it in the same category as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (the scene where Spock dies just … y'know, gets me … right *there*) and A Confederacy of Dunces, which is the first book that ever made me cry with laughter.

Anyway, shortly after reading The Three Paradoxes, I discovered (via the Fantagraphics Books Flog, I believe) that Paul wrote a blog of his own, and it's subsequently become a must-read on my daily travels around the tinternets. And it was while I was reading his blog a few weeks back, that I discovered that Paul was accepting commissions for a limited time and at an exceedingly reasonable price ($50 for black 'n white, $100 for colour).

I had to have one.

And so, me being, well, me, I asked Paul if he'd draw me his interpretation of Star Trek.

Then I sat back and waited (not literally sat back and waited for the last few weeks or so, I mean; I do have some semblance of a life you know).

So this morning I'm faffing about at work making a cup of tea and having a water cooler moment for one when our delightful production manager, AKA Queen of the office and the lady I once appointed minister for partying, strolls in carrying a load of post. Somehow I knew today was the day, and I tore into the stack of letters sending bills and unwanted stationary catalogues flying in all directions.

And there it was: a large cardboard envelope addressed to moi. I returned to my desk in a state of giddy anticipation, and carefully opened the package.

I knew it would be great, but the drawing I found inside exceeded even my hopes and expectations.

I think you'll agree that Paul totally nailed Kirk and Spock here (sorry, the 'prime universe' Kirk and Spock for any new-to-the-franchise fans who might only be familiar with this year's movie), and if anyone from IDW Publishing sees this can I suggest you ask him to do at the very least a variant cover, if not an entire Star Trek comic book of his own? Just my two-pence worth…

Anyway, as the first piece of original artwork I've ever bought, this is setting the bar waaaaaaay high and I'm chuffed to bits with it. I now intend to spend some quality time perusing some art shops in search of the perfect frame…

Sunday, June 28, 2009

An incredible turn of speed/events

So today was the day of the Dysart Dash 10k run, and after my last post where I was a little unsure about how I'd do, I can exclusively reveal here that…


I'm utterly amazed, and very, very happy, because I genuinely felt that I wasn't on as good a form as I was last year. Matters were probably helped by the fact that it's a gloriously sunny day (although on the downside my already ridiculous tan lines will look even more ridiculous now - especially in yoga). I'm also, of course, attributing some of my unexpected physical prowess to yoga.

Not only was the run awesome, but I also met up with Sweatband for the first time since Christmas. She's also not been running that much recently either, and guestimated that she'd complete the course around about the one hour mark, which we think she hit pretty much spot-on. I thrashed beat her, though: the student has truly become the master - muwahahahaha!

Anyway, all kidding aside, here's my Nike+ graph:

No pendulous boobies in this graph, unlike last year's.

And here's my stats for any stat-fact fans in the audience:

• 10.08k
• 53:36
• Average pace 5:18 min per km
• 695 calories

Glancing back to last year's stats, I can tell you that I was 48 seconds faster this time round, four seconds faster per kilometer, and sweated out an extra 16 calories (which doesn't quite compensate for the Cadbury's Boost I was given - and swiftly devoured - at the finish line). I might've been even quicker still if it hadn't been for some woman I was following on the last lap who kept veering into my path every time I tried to overtake her; got her eventually, though.

The official times don't come out until tomorrow, and they usually add another 10 seconds or so onto the end, but even so I'm pretty chuffed with the result. Here's the obligatory photo of me in my victory vest with my medal.

Next up: the Wedding Day 7k at the end of July. But in the meantime - should I go to the five o'clock yoga class this afternoon?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Built for speed

Well this has sort of crept up on me this year: tomorrow is the day of the Dysart Dash 10k!

This'll be my fourth year running it, and to be brutally honest I really don't have a clue how it's going to go. I've just taken a misty-eyed glimpse through the Sparky Malarkey archives (Sparky Malarchives, perhaps?) to discover that the first time I did it I was apprehensive but ultimately proud of the fact I got a medal, while the second time I powered through a knee injury that inexplicably rectified itself mid-run, and subsequently got an almost identical time to my first attempt, while last year I got a new PB (that's personal best - just some running lingo for you there) and beat my erstwhile running companion Sweatband for the first time.

This year's been a bit of a weird one so far, though, because I was training like a (please excuse my turn of phrase here) bitch in heat earlier in the year and was doing some utterly mad-bonkers runs - quite often logging two 10k runs and a 6-7k each week. And then I was involved in a car accident and everything went a bit to pot.

Any-hoo, on the plus side I have, of course, been properly yoga-ing up recently, albeit at the expense of running. That being the case, while I've only been averaging about 7-8k once a week rather than the 25+k I was doing pre-accident, when I have been running the benefits of the yoga (most noticeably the breathing) have been shining through. So, while my lack of run training would appear to work against me, the yoga might work for me - so maybe something somewhere will balance out and I can get a decent (i.e. a Sweatband-beating) time. I don't think I'll beat last year, but maybe I can fall somewhere in the middle ground between 2008 and 2007?

Curiously, though, I've just noticed that my race number this year is 83 - exactly the same as it was last year. Could this be some sort of serendipitous good omen? I hope so. Anyway, my iPod is loaded with tunes, my kit is washed and ready, and I shaved earlier to make my face more aerodynamic - all that remains for me to do is pin that potentially-lucky number on my vest, chillax and hydrate myself this evening, and pray it doesn't rain tomorrow (it has been today, and the towpath along the side of the Thames will be a nightmare if it's all muddy) - fingers crossed and wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Someone's out to get us

Today, for the first time in a long while I got to utter those six words that every busy office worker delights in yelling as they rush out the door hours before the end of play: "tell 'em I'll call 'em back!"

Which was a shame because I was actually looking forward to talking to the person on the other end of the line.

Anyway, the reason for me heading out of work so early in the day was that I was off for my second physio appointment. The first, which took place a couple of weeks back, wasn't so much a proper physio appointment as it was the physiotherapist wobbling my head around a bit before telling me that yes, there was indeed a bit of a problem as a result of the accident I was in a couple of months back. That being the case, I wasn't entirely sure about what I was letting myself in for as I hopped onto a bed this afternoon in West London ready to be manipulated.

We started with the physio taking me through the same sort of motions that we did last time round to see if there was any improvement in my movement (I'm smiling because that rhymes…). This involved him standing behind me and twisting my head. Now, I don't know about you, but I've seen enough Hollywood movies that it's pretty much hardwired into my brain now that if anyone tries to grab you on either side of the head chances are they're going to try to snap your neck. As such, my knee-jerk reaction would normally be to elbow them in the gut. Fortunately for both of us, I managed to restrain myself on this occasion (I sat on my hands just to be on the safe side).

As a result of actually bothering to do the five-minute daily exercise routine the physio told me to do last time I went - something that I surprised myself by doing - and my newfound addiction to sweaty half-naked yoga, I do seem to have regained rather a lot of flexibility. My lateral twists, for example, were nigh on perfect, even if my back did make a rather astounding cracking noise on both the left and right turn.

Less perfect, however, is my inability to do a full head-turn to the right, and it's this area on which my physio decided to concentrate (which was probably for the best because while I would've really appreciated a nice foot-rub, it's my neck that needs the attention). So, I lay on a bed in the recovery position, and allowed the physio to start jabbing me in the neck.

OK, so it wasn't quite 'jabbing,' but it was a bit painful at first. After a while though I kind of got used to it. At one point I imagined it was a bit like a cat massage.

So while my physio is prodding away we start talking about my job. He seems quite interested in the world of Star Trek publishing, although I suppose it could actually have more to do with making sure I was still conscious - a bit like those brain surgeries where the doctors have to keep their patients talking so that they know they haven't obliterated their power of speech or accidently killed them. Anyway, from there we segued into talking about science-fiction films in general. And it was while we were chatting about films that a voice from the other side of the curtain piped up: turns out that I wasn't the only science-fiction fan in the building, and receiving a bit of physio in the agony booth to my right was a columnist from SFX magazine.

Now, I haven't so much as glanced through a copy of SFX in years. I think the last time I looked at one was when we found out they'd produced a parody of my first editing gig, The Official Star Trek Fact Files, which I would've been spectacularly miffed at had it not been for the fact that it was so well-observed and, well, funny.

Anyway, we introduced ourselves while our respective physios went about their business; my initial embarrassment at not being familiar with her work quickly subsided when I told her where I currently worked, and where I'd previously worked, and she didn't have a clue who I was either, which was only fair. Then, of course, we started nerding out, because that's what we do.

So, physio turned out to be a far more pleasant experience that I'd initially thought. And while my recovery is coming along, I can't help but be troubled by the fact that I, a Star Trek editor, and my comrade in physio, an SFX columnist, have both recently been involved in car accidents.

Coinky-dink…? Methinks not.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A man named … What?!

I went to the bank on Thursday to put a cheque in, and the guy serving me was called Mo. He had, however, put his name tag on upside down, so it instead said 'Ow.' I found this inexplicably hilarious, which is just as well because he took a freakin' age to actually deposit the money for me.


In other, non-financial related matters, I've had a rather good, if ridiculously busy week. Throughout it all, though, I've managed to maintain my yoga schedule three times a week, and I think it's fair to say I'm pretty much addicted. I can feel the effect it's having on me every time I leave class - at least I think it's the yoga that makes me feel euphoric and awesome; I suppose they could be burning some funny incense or something. Anyway, the last three classes I've done have been particularly brilliant, because I've pushed myself in different ways in each class.

On Thursday I managed to do Tree pose (or tadasana if you want to use the correct lingo) with both hands in prayer for the first time, which made me feel very smug pleased because it's incredibly difficult in Bikram yoga as you're all sweaty so your leg tends to slide away from your thigh.

At the weekend I do the early morning classes at 9:00 AM, and on Saturday I thought I might take it just a little bit easier than I normally do (subconsciously, I might add). Someone else had other ideas, however. When I was in the Balancing Stick pose (Tulandandasana), I noticed that the teacher was wandering around down the end of the studio where I was positioned. Next thing I know he's standing right behind me saying "C'mon Tim - hold that arm up and stretch that leg further, further, further, FURTHER!!" And he was, of course, wearing a radio mike so this was broadcast to the entire class. My embarrassment soon subsided, though, because I did exactly what I was told to (I was maybe just a little bit frightened), and felt all the better for it when he finally said "relax."

And today, good times, I finally managed to do a complete Camel pose (Ustrasan) - and before you ask, no that's not the pose where you get the hump (ha - geddit?) and storm out of class; it's the one where you kneel down, lean back, and grab your angles. Basically it looks a bit like your body is doing something it really shouldn't be doing. Anyway, usually I just kneel there and lean back a bit because I'm understandably a bit nervous about my back at the mo'. Today, though, I felt a bit reckless and just decided to go for it - so I did, and it was amazing.

I'm hearting yoga so much at the moment.


I'm pretty sure yoga's having a positive effect outside of making me super-flexible and awesomely buff. After Thursday's class, y'see, I got home and had a shower. As I turned the shower off I heard a pinging noise, then the knob went loose. Um, that's the shower knob, not anything else. Anyway, I tried to turn the shower back on, but it didn't work - at which point I'd normally let loose a tirade of naughty words. This time, though, I just thought 'oh, that'll need fixing.' And then I noticed that some paintwork in the bathroom had come away, and I thought 'oh, that'll need touching-up' (oo-er!).

Anyway, the gist of it is, is that I appear to be supremely chillaxed. I bought some paint on the way home from class on Saturday and did the first coat of paint. Then today I did the second coat of paint after getting home from class again. And both times after that I had a bath, all the while being careful not to flash my gentlemanly parts to the outside world as the window was a few inches open to help the paint dry. I believe I was successful on both occasions.

To top it off, on Father's Day of all days, Sparky Pa just popped over and miraculously fixed my shower. In all honesty, it just needed a little bit of plastic clipped back in place, but unlike Sparky Pa and Big Bro my brain isn't wired particularly well for engineering. On the other hand, I'm guessing I'm the only member of the family that can do Eagle pose (Garurasana) without falling over.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Crazy Spanish women

So Yazzle Dazzle and I were sitting in the sun outside Secret Starbucks today wittering away as we do most lunchtimes while we await the daily appearance of the looky-likey Michael J. Fox and Harold Shipman that stroll past us each day (no Harold today though), when I piped up with a new topic of conversation, reminding Yazzle Dazzle that it's the birthday of a mutual friend of ours, a delightful Spanish lady, in a couple of days.

Yazzle Dazzle responded to this news with … well, with a pretty vacant expression, actually. So I repeated it - again to a decidedly blank look.

Unable to believe that Yazzle Dazzle had erased our mutual friend from memory, I raised my voice and loudly exclaimed "y'know - dark hair, thick accent, moon-walks on London buses … crazy Spanish lady!" This finally jogged my esteemed friend's brain into action - but it also piqued the interest of a woman at the table behind us, who let out a short gasp of surprise.

My first thought was that this tanned, buxom, and somewhat diminutive woman had unwittingly flashed me a glimpse of her cock-pocket as she stood up from the table (she was wearing an awfully short dress) - but the truth was a just a little bit more embarrassing than that. As she walked away from her table she rested a hand on my shoulder, and with a smile on her face said - in a thick Spanish accent - "we're not all crazy, honey!"

Monday, June 08, 2009


You'd think that with all this Bikram yoga I've been doing I would've attained some sort of transcendental state where I don't lust over worldly possessions.

You would … think, anyway, right?

New iPhone 3GS? WANT!

A life-size replica of the captain's chair?! A snip at £1499.99! WANT!!

And I think we all know where I stand on this front. Look - she's dressed perfectly for Bikram yoga! WANT!!!


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Tim does a downward-facing dog

Not in that way, you pervert; get your mind out of the gutter. No, what I mean is that today I did a yoga class. But not any old yoga class, I'll have you know…

Earlier in the week I was faffing about on iTunes where I discovered that Mini have released a new application in the App Store. It's called Openness, and ties in with the new Mini Convertible, and the basic gist of it is that it encourages you to try something new that you might not have considered doing before. Effectively, to be more open. Do you like what they did there? Anyway, while I was messing around with it, I found this (and this is where the iPhone's screen-grab facility comes in handy):

Yes, you're reading that right. Bikram yoga is yoga done in a room that's heated to ludicrous temperatures.

So I read that and, rather than think 'that's mad-bonkers crazy,' I thought 'that sounds interesting!' On the downside, the studio listed in the app is a bit out of my way. So I Googled Bikram yoga and found a class that is closer. Much closer. And so, while seeing my physio yesterday (yep, I'm seeing a physiotherapist to help me work out the kinks in my back post-accident) I asked if he thought it was a good idea to go along, and he said yes.

I've only done yoga once before, but I remember thoroughly enjoying it. The only reason I didn't do it again was that the class took place stupidly early on a Saturday morning, and I don't do stupidly early on a Saturday morning unless you're offering me cash. Since the accident, though, I was thinking that I should give some sort of stretchy-class-thing a whirl. Up until the day I downloaded the Openness app I was all ready to go to a Pilates class near Sparky Towers, but the yoga won out because it worked out as being more bang for my buck; I can do as many classes in the next 30 days as I want, all for just 30 quid. That's a bit of a bargain if you ask me, particularly as it's on my way home from work so I can swing by in the evening.

So Pilates be damned, and this morning I rocked up to the class at about half 10, filled out some forms (that probably amounts to them not taking any responsibility if you get stuck in a camel pose), and told them about my injury. The instructor then came over to me and asked if we'd met before; apparently I reminded her of someone off the telly. I assured her I wasn't off the telly (although I wouldn't be adverse to the idea if someone wants a hot, young, whiplash-afflicted chap on their show), and she then talked me through some of the things we'd be doing and how they would help me. All in all, a cracking start.

A few minutes later, I was in the studio waiting for it all to kick off. The studio was warm, but not uncomfortably so. This is nice, I thought.

And then the class starts and they crank the heating up big-time.

Let's digress here to dress code. The website for the class said 'men wear shorts. T-shirt optional.' I decided to go with the optional t-shirt, because when I go running I wear lycra shorts underneath regular baggy shorts, with either a wicking t-shirt or a vest on top. I get pretty hot and sweaty when I'm running, so I figured that if it's good enough for running, it's good enough for yoga and I'd go with the lycra, baggy shorts, and vest combo; they're all lightweight, and wick the sweat away from your body remarkably well. About 20 minutes into the class sweat was pouring out of me like I was a leaky water-filled balloon. Seriously. My vest's wicking properties had utterly deserted it, and every time I did a pose that resulted in my head pointing down towards the floor loads of sweat would slosh off my head and leave a puddle on the mat. Next time, and this will please some of my more lascivious readers no end, I'm totally going all Fight Club and ditching the shirt.

The lycra shorts are staying under the baggies, though; despite the fact they were sopping wet by the end, no one needs to see my gentlemanly parts mid-standing bow pose.

So anyway, the class lasted 90 minutes, and I'm happy to report that I held my own, for the most part. My balance is pretty good - I could hold some one-legged poses where some people who'd gone before wobbled a bit, and the instructor complimented me a couple of times (I do like a compliment - they make me smile). Towards the end, though, I did get a little bit overwhelmed and had to sit down for a bit - but that's OK; the instructor had told me that the aim of your first session is just to stay in the room, and I totally did that! In fact, I stayed in there for about 10 minutes after the class ended, although it was more to do with the fact that I was feeling a bit dizzy.

Overall, then, while I will concede that it sounds a little bit batshit crazy to be doing yoga in a room that feels like it's in close proximity to the surface of the sun, I'm glad I went and I really enjoyed it. And while I wouldn't quite say that I feel at one with the universe or anything like that, I do feel like I've had a quality workout, and I will be going back tomorrow - and as many times as I can until my 30 day pass expires. Just, y'know, with less clothes on.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Understandably, given the circumstances, my running has taken a bit of a hammering since the accident the other month, and I've gone from being a sweaty yet heroic looking runner to a tragic, messy mouth breather with bad posture. Still, I'm trying to get back into it, and because the weather has been absolutely outstanding the last couple of days I thought: what better time to go for a run than tonight? And so I did. Along the towpath beside the Thames.


That's the alert that comes into play when I make a schoolboy error.

Why? Because as a result of the glorious weather, the towpath is dominated by swarms of little bugs that get everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean *everywhere*; in your eyes, up your nose, in your mouth, and in your chest hair (if you're lucky/masculine enough to possess any).

And so it was that as I neared the end of tonight's epic, body-aching jaunt, sexily wiping bugs from my face and shaking them out of my vest, that I decided like the Starship Enterprise, I too am in desperate need of a navigational deflector dish to clear obstacles out of my path. And by obstacles I don't just mean flies - I mean old people, small children, other runners, and dogs. Maybe cyclists and motorbikes if I can boost its power sufficiently.

We've got our sophisticated lightweight trainers, sweat-wicking microfibre tops, Nike+ iPod kits, and scientifically-balanced hydrating fluids - surely the deflector dish is the next logical advance in a runner's arsenal?