Sunday, 31 January 2010
'We've had this plate in the family for 700 years'...
'It's from Habitat, early 80s, worth about seventy-five pence.'
I know it's an institution, but so was Terry Wogan and they managed to boot him out of the back door. It's full of people who say things like 'crikey' when they find out their grandmother's armoir is worth fourteen grand. It's the most middle-class programme in the world. It's a throwback to an era in which people savoured their furniture, shelled out for it and nurtured it for life. My grandma has plates that are literally as old as my dad, pointedly referring to the Great Smash of '71 when he broke one of them.
These days people pick a new shade of Dulux and dump the entire living room in next door's skip every couple of years. We are a disposable generation, us modern kids. Antiques Roadshow's only virtue is having somewhere to go to find out how much we might get on Ebay for some crap a dead relative has saddled us with.
No, I'm wrong - its only virtue is that it's the only middle-class programme that David Cameron hasn't been on yet.
My parents went to the Belgrade (our theatre in Coventry) last year to see fat ballet. It was fat women, doing ballet. This, however, was a great play - the Miser, by Moliere. He's the French version of Richard Curtis, albeit 400 years ago. A bit of rom, lots of com.
The lead guy was really good. Funny, characterful, commanding the stage. I thought he was Basil Fawlty meets Rab C Nesbitt. Then I realised it was Rab C Nesbitt. Thought he looked familiar.
And sorry to Moliere, but my favourite part was when the guy's wig fell off during a particularly dramatic scene of sobbery. He fell to the ground and shuffled along the stage on his side, fitting himself back into his hair. What a professional.
It had, of course, been translated from French. I believe several people have read it, but yesterday evening it had been translated into a wonderfully accessible English, filled with knowing winks in the direction of the current financial crisis. A good time was had by all, I dare say.
I've often thought theatre to be a good film's dull and slightly poncey little brother. And, well, it still is.
Saturday, 30 January 2010
I watched Tony Blair on the news in the morning, having his nice chat with those lovely folks from the Iraq Inquiry. It still irritates me when I tune in and see the backdrop they've got up behind the panel members, as if that was the first and most important order of business, sorting out the logo.
It was ultimately just a wee chat, though - Blair was having none of it, as if he was suddenly going to turn round and say 'you know what? You got me chaps, I was having everyone on the whole time. Slap on the cuffs, boys.' I don't get inquiries - what's the point? It's more political bluster - Gordon Brown started an inquiry into Iraq so that he could go into the election saying that he has started an inquiry into Iraq. Nothing will come of it - if it was illegal, then there should be a trial. If it wasn't illegal, then it should just pass solemnly into the history books. We all make morally queasy choices, but surely it's better to learn from them and move on? Nobody gains anything from monkey theatre.
But what do I know? I spend my days taping things and watching things. And pondering such weighty matters as whether we need to find a new word for taping - since tapes went well out of fashion with the millennium bug and all...
Friday, 29 January 2010
I did have something I wanted to blog about this evening, but there's something good on the telly, so I'm afraid it'll have to wait dear reader. Schönen guten Abend and all that.
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
It's mildly culturally interesting what Apple are up to with their gizmos and gadgets, but not at the expense of all the dead people from World War 2.
I think, in light of the massive interest and prolonged coverage, that it is now my duty to rename January 27th Apple Day, with what minuscule microscopic authority I have over the air around me. A populist and vote-winning strategy for any government.
Perhaps Steve Jobs is doing the world a favour by allowing us to move on from history's upsetting and divisive events by uniting the planet in singular joy at the battery life of the iPad. Sorry, what? The iPad? Oh gosh. MEMO TO STEVE: That i got wanky years ago. Especially when everyone else started using it. But pad? It's a bit literal. The mac clearly wasn't a coat for flashers, the pod wasn't really a pod, but I suppose the touch was something you touched. It's like Lotus, and their predilection for calling every car something beginning with E. It could be that the staff used to get distracted in the factory by playing Eye Spy all day long.
That showed them.
So sorry, holocaust people. Not only were you prematurely slaughtered by a vicious and brutal dictatorship that the world allowed to flourish until they got itchy to knock into the next room and go open plan, but you also don't get to use the next thing in web browsing and reading magazines. Because reading magazines was already really difficult.
And sorry President Obama. But I don't think anyone would have cared anyway.
But yeah - 60 posts. That's a lot. I feel like a hamster with one of those little rusky rocks to chew on. You'd think that I wouldn't need to trim my fingernails with all that typing. But obviously I do, or else I'd end up looking like Struwwelpeter. And before you say it, dear reader - I know what you're thinking. Is there no end to the bountiful supply of cultural references I am able to liberally spray across my blog posts? Of course there isn't. But I have kindly supplied a Wikipedia link in order for you to peruse, absorb and wow your own friends and acquaintances with your knowledge of old German children's stories.
But anyway. Let's focus here. 60 posts. I am marvellous. This is in fact the visitorest month ALBOWIEB has ever had - so clap yourselves on the back, regular viewers and strangers who have stumbled in from the cold searching for something odd on Google. Stay a while, make yourself at home. Let's have some fun.
But don't touch the...oh, never mind.
This has never yet happened.
It nearly happened the other day when I put a Cadbury's Caramel on the bed, sat down and it reappeared behind me, but it was in fact gravity and not a future version of myself travelling across time and space in order to furnish me with confectionery that will likely not exist by the time that such an endeavour proves possible.
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
I can't quite fathom whether it's owned by some wallah called Sid Munchy, which would make the name a logical and rather amusing touch. On the other hand, it could be that it's supposed to be Munchies. Perhaps they're trying to coin a new phrase a la Argos - 'when I smoke cannabis, I always get Munchy's!' - which only twats will use.
There are these obnoxious brightly-coloured semi-circular blobs on the side of the van that tantalise you with their burger van wares - 'Tea Coffee' is a highlight - clearly some sort of hybrid along the lines of the half and half milk they sell in the US. I can see the packet - 'full caff, with subtle Indian flavours'.
There's another blob that says 'Steak Batch' - I'm as yet unsure whether this is a number of steaks bound with twine, or a steak within a roll. Batch is a Coventry word. A stupid Coventry word. I'm also unsure of the difference between a steak batch and a beefburger. I'm guessing the minced beef is a subtle difference, and the steak mocks you with its unorthodox oblong ways. I like burgers because they're round and they fit in a roll. Steaks don't.
By far the most irritating blob - and the one that makes me want to scurry over the road and kick Munchy's in the gas tank - is 'Cans Pop'. I've never seen them do it, but I guess if you shook them hard enough they would.
Indeed, as you read this I will be chugging coffee downstairs, with as many sugars as I can fit in the cup and it still remain liquid. If I could have something intravenous that wouldn't entail looking like my Grandma's pin cushion (it's very nicely decorated) or being smacked up and turning to a life of crime I would consider it.
The best method I have found for getting up in the morning is to clear all of your appointments to the afternoon and make like you're relaxed. Who on earth decided that 9 unto 5 should be the standard template for a day? Was it an EU thing? Because, you know, I'm going to go over to Brussels and have a word with them. Except I'd have to get up early to go there. No use me getting an afternoon Eurostar and banging on Europe's door at 7pm, because they'll all be in bed. Them's the regulations in Brussels, you've got to stick to them - and besides, they have to be up early.
Maggie Thatcher famously got by on 4 hours of sleep a night - I think all the evidence points to her not having managed that well. She was off her rocker by the time the cabinet poodles turned on her. A lie-in on the odd Saturday would have done her the world of good. If she'd had 9 hours a night like I need she'd probably still be Prime Minister now.
Monday, 25 January 2010
OK, it was my friend Carolyn and she's not going to be a real lawyer for ages (coming soon: who you are - what you are, or what you do?), but I didn't even see her post until just now, honest guv'nor.
Like training a dog to guard your house until it turns and bites you in the face, I slightly regret all the efforts I have made to persuade young Carolyn to engage in the art of verbal dysentery - but she's so good at the spoken kind and I thought it might keep her off the streets. It's not much, but she's fixing it up - a lick of paint, a carpentery montage and perhaps a visit from Kevin McCloud - and she'll be part of the blogerati, that great firmament of writers who don't yet have book deals and so are stuck writing blogs in the vain hope of being noticed.
I jest, of course - her blog is lovely, and she doesn't need a book deal because she wants some worthy career helping others, or something equally ridiculous. She is hands down the person I know most likely to get into some sort of trouble every time she leaves the house. It's got me thinking whether she does things that lead to complications or whether she's just more able to admit to and laugh about embarrassing moments.
My sister is vaguely similar but with darker undertones - bad things always happen to my sister. She got punched in Asda the other week. I mean, who gets punched in Asda? She was just walking down an aisle and got punched in the chest by the supermarket criminal element. They were off their tits on something, but they chose her. I could give you many such stories, but I really shouldn't.
Carolyn, on the other hand, is deeply comic and her thinking is mildly warped - like leaving tupperware next to the radiator. And I don't need to share any of her stories, because they'll all be here.
Sunday, 24 January 2010
I fast-forwarded through the documentary about this guy that I recorded the other day - it was mildly informative and that was the only interesting thing he said in the whole programme. In the early 70s he took all of his photographic back catalogue and torched it. 'Was this a very significant moment in your life?' 'No, not really.' I assume that the hour-long programme was quite far down the road by the time that interview took place.
But is a plug a work of art? I have always tried to avoid going to the Tate Modern, it makes me angry. I went that one time and there was a glass of water on a shelf.
'This is not a glass of water', said a sign.
'Clearly it is,' I thought, 'and it's sitting on that shelf there.'
I read the sign in greater detail - this is not a glass of water, this is an oak tree. Interesting.
Apparently the term 'glass of water' is a meaningless construct within an equally meaningless reality. A glass of water can be anything you want it to be. Thing is, I kind of like my meaningless reality - if I happened to be eating out at a restaurant and I was brought an oak tree to the table to quench my thirst and told that they were freeing me from the Matrix, I would probably throw my chair through the meaninglessly constructed window. Artists are frequently idiots.
A glass of water is only called a glass of water because we have agreed in community to label it so - if we all decide to call it an oak tree then so be it, that doesn't detract from the significance of a nice glass of water. I appreciate the artist's role in wanting to provoke people into thought, but perhaps they could do it in a more constructive way that doesn't require a government grant. We don't, for example, need any kind of linguistic audit that will find better ways of expressing things that we all understand each other to mean when we use them anyway.
Perhaps we should be celebrating and glorying in life and reality rather than seeking to make it meaningless. These are the two kinds of artist - the dead and the happy.
Saturday, 23 January 2010
My friend Mel came round today and we set her car on fire.
It wasn't deliberate - she'd come round for lunch, had bought a canoe this morning (as you do) so we decided to take my car to IKEA for something to eat.
The battery was flat.
We tried jump-starting it - Mel is very organised, she has a hacksaw and jump-leads in her van.
There were sparks. Smoke. The horn blared on my car, the washers spewed out water, the wipers wiped and the windows went up and down. The horn blared.
I pointed out the smoke and made ready to run in case Mel's van blew up. She grabbed the jump leads from the fizzling battery. There was a hole melted in the top.
I have mentioned before that I know nothing about cars. It makes my latest career move all the more interesting. It seems we had created a nifty short circuit. It seems there's a way to do these things, a special clamp in the engine bay for the black jump-lead. I know that now - but I'm haunted by the smell, the fizzling, the blaring of the horn, the screaming of the lambs.
Friday, 22 January 2010
In the absence of other things to worry about this evening - and I like to have something to worry about - this leaves me wonderind, what exactly am I supposed to do? I am aware that the earth is still moving, because I haven't been flung into near space at 30,000 miles an hour. That would make it difficult to type. Seeing as it's dark I can't confirm that the sun is still switched on until exactly 7.51am tomorrow morning.
So do I have to go out and buy a door, or tinned goods? Should I get lots of water? I have a few bottles of sparkling water, but I don't think that will be suitable for doing my teeth and rudimentary bathing. Why on earth even have a threat level system?
I believe that Government thinking runs along the lines of confusing the hell out of the enemy with an intricate web of meaningless acronyms. The terror threat level (TTL, but I just made that up) is decided by JTAC (Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which I didn't), which I can only imagine is 3 civil servants sat round a table watching BBC News 24 waiting for a phone to ring. One of them is very impatient to do something but the others are a bit cooler, they hang back a little, reserved. "Can I upgrade the terror threat? Can I? Can I? Can I?" "No...no...no...no...no...no...no...ooh, now you can."
When I worked in Parliament we got the most magnificent crap arriving in the post bags many times a day - I used to enjoy reading the security magazines - special features on truck-proof flower planters and that sort of thing. Did you know that the giant Arsenal letters outside the Emirates stadium are built to withstand a speeding truck? It's not just Superman what can do it. Companies who are a bit paranoid and full of themselves (and who probably pay avid attention to the terrorist threat level assessment number level) hire special people to come along and put in terrorist-strength flower pots and windy driveways so that lorries can't get up too much speed.
What's interesting in the terrorism sector is the pace of innovation - they've tried bombs, they come back with liquid stuff, then they come back with semtex in their pants. Whilst they seem fixated at the moment with trucks and planes and that, they will no doubt come back soon enough from their research and development facilities (a lock-up in
I find it somehow reassuring that there is a group of unknown people at an undisclosed location using unspecific criteria to make decisions on a terrorism threat scale of indeterminate usefulness with as-yet unclear significance. It's a strange world we live in.
Thursday, 21 January 2010
I read that my sofa could give me thyroid problems, or that Vivienne Westwood has launched a Guantanamo-chic boiler suit collection at a fashion show somewhere in the world, that burglars are staying in because of the recession and that terrorists are being allowed to flourish halfway around the world because the pound is weak. Even reading the comments on articles like this was not enough to get a rise out of me. These things aren't even slightly nutty, they're bowls of pecans slathered in Sunpat crunchy spread and sprinkled with crushed almonds. And nothing but emotional impotence from me.
Either today is a mellowfluous day or I've been drinking and haven't realised. It could be tiredness. I had a shave this morning, it could be some sort of Samson-effect. I was facially hirsute this morning, now I am not. I thought I had cancer in my earlobe for a minute or two as well. It's not like grumpiness has given way to excitement and joie de vivre. Having said that, one of the great joies of our time is the Angry and Cliff show. I was trying to think of some way to describe it - it's like getting a half hour answerphone message from a party you were invited to but couldn't make.
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
That was three weeks ago, I've just thought of something.
Do you know what really cheers me up? That bit on BBC News 24 where they tell you that you can also visit their website (for the 17 people left in the country who a) don't know what a website is and b) haven't heard of the BBC News one - of those 17 people, precisely none of them would be technically capable of reaching channel 80 on their Freeview box without a carer or granddaughter to help them) - you see the presenters sitting there, and then it cuts to the website, which has a live feed of the News 24 channel, slightly delayed.
As they go through the standard bumf about the website the delayed feed slowly catches up, and then you see the shot cut to the website. Another second or two and the second delayed feed cuts to the website. Another second or two and the third delayed feed cuts to the, etc, etc. It makes me chuckle. Is it an electronic reflection within a reflection, or are we unwittingly peering over the precipice into a whole 'nother existence? It's like a portal into another dimension, a separate world. For all we know, we might not be on the first delayed-feed-cuts-to-the-website-shot, it could've been happening for literally minutes and we're the 17th dimension in line.
The interesting thing is that the view they show on the news isn't the standard website - it doesn't automatically come with that News 24 thing on the go, some wag is just as equally thrilled by me at the sight of a site being eaten by the television that it has been decided somewhere that when the website is talked about, that should be what people see.
Despite appearances, dear reader, I am extraordinarily easily pleased.
I think the idea of buying a company and just going through sacking people is a weird concept in itself. Do you have to make your mark as a new owner? "I don't like people who have shoes with laces. Do you need help keeping your shoes on? You're an idiot. You're fired. Next! Is that the faint outline of a pierced nipple I can see? I hate unnecessarily metalwork. Sack off, Roboboob." It's like going to McDonald's and trimming the edge of your bun. Are you trying to save money, Kraft? Here's a tip: don't just spent £11.5bn on a chocolate company! That would have bought them 62,126,363,636 Crunchies, or four for every person on the planet. I hear that Kraft wrote to Peter Mandelson to assure him of their respect for Cadbury's heritage - which basically means they'll be keeping the curtains.
So what the hell can the Prime Minister actually do? Warning Kraft about jobs is ineffectual political bluster of the most electioneering and irritatingest order. He's hardly got enough time to pass the stuff the Queen told him to before he gets sacked, let alone pass a law that says "Be it enacted by her Britannic Majestie, Elizabeth II, KRAFT ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SACK ANYONE". His options are limited to buying everyone in the cabinet a Twirl or a Wispa. They're two of my favourites, it would be a difficult choice, but that's what you have advisors for. He'd probably be hoping that some ministers choke on theirs, but they've all had enough practice at taking one for the team in the past twelve years.
God help the country if Labour get back in - there are about 4 people left who haven't been Secretaries of State and there's no chance they'll get back in. They'd have to make Prescott a Lord and get him to do a Mandelson. On the plus side, with Lord Chompers on the case they would probably have to hire more people at Cadbury's, not sack anyone.
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
There was thing going on in Afghanistan - buildings on fire, streets looking ransacked (although I couldn't tell if that was insurgent activity or a lack of civic pride)...I was trying to figure out what it is about Afghanistan that disturbs me. I find it terribly unendearing, hard to like. And then it hit me, like a zealot's suicide car bomb. No grass. There's simply no grass in Kabul. It could be the moon to me without any grass - how could anyone live without grass? It's nature's dressing, an accent. A bit of grass just sets a place off nicely. No wonder they're all miserable over there and can't get democracy to work.
Suddenly a message flashes up with 'BREAKING NEWS' - I'll say it's broken, that's the 3rd time I've seen it and I haven't even finished my coffee yet. 'Taliban say up to 20 fighters involved'. This gets me thinking - how on earth do the Taliban get a message like that out? I picture a press office - several phones, a couple of laptops, an ISDN line for radio interviews, a snug cave. A number of hirsute young men work the press. Or perhaps they use a PR agency - something in Birmingham, maybe? No Al-Jazeera jokes at the back there either.
Is there banter in this caveoffice? 'A priest, a vicar and a rabbi walk into a bar. So we blew it up! HAHAHA!' 'Keep the noise down, Frost is in make-up down the way.' 'Mo, the BBC want to know if we caused the explosions?' 'That's what she said...' 'That doesn't even make sense.' 'I'll get a press release out now.'
I didn't say they'd be particularly witty. I finish my coffee.
Monday, 18 January 2010
Derek Kreindler writes at Rich Corinthian Leather - I know him through Carchat (which I write at) - I love this post that he wrote the other week about being a car writer. "Writing is strange in that requires no tools or equipment, but it's the hardest form of art to share. You can easily show someone a photograph or play them a song. Try getting them to read your blog or short story."
Cliff gives us an introduction to Wire-bonics. This is another show that passed me by but I absolutely have to get into sometime soon. (Warning: contains scenes of extended, but funny and plot-crucial swearing.) "This time I’m really late to the party. In fact, being as I am, the hosts can’t remember if I was there at the party in the first place so they think I’ve forgotten some trinket or whatnot that someone else left behind."
Anna at Little Red Boat has done a guide to the 'Late Night Wars' that are going on over in the US at the moment - not only fascinating, but clear your schedule for hours of searching-through-You-Tube-fun! "It might seem from afar like a bunch of divas having tantrums, or egotistical famous gentlemen having some kind of loud contest about who has the thickest schlong, but actually it’s more interesting than that."
I was introduced to the Steakhouse Blues by Cliff and have been reading avidly ever since, even if the guy only posts as often as Vesuvius blows her top. He's an incredible writer and has written poignantly this week about the closure of the restaurant he's been running forever. Read through the archives, it's compelling stuff. "My fugue is briefly interrupted by the sound of breaking glass. A water glass has been knocked from the edge of a table by the worst server on my staff--an imbecile of the first order."
Another blog I dip into occasionally is David Crystal's DCBlog - he's the king of linguistics - I read a load of his books when I was doing English Language A-level, and even better, he's a professor at Bangor University. This week he writes about claims that were widely reported in the news that teenagers have daily vocabularies of only around 800 words and smashes them about a bit. "It's totally fallacious to think that the words you elicit from someone on a particular day or from a particular sample is an accurate index of all the words they know or use."
Sunday, 17 January 2010
Incidentally Walker's crisps and Chinese food have globby fistfuls of monosodium glutamate in common, a dreadful chemical that both tricks your brain into thinking something tastes good and tries to kill you whilst you sleep. It's the MSG in Pringles that makes you pop so much you just can't stop. Or something like that, anyway. It's the chemical that the word 'moreish' was invented for, and I try and avoid it as much as I can.
There's something about sweet and sour chicken that brings out the animal in me - I get massive cravings for it, but only every year or so. I'll get the sweet'n'sour chicken balls, a little tub of luminescent, shimmering orange MSG juice, some egg fried rice and a bag of chips and cram it all in my mouth until I think I'm going to die. I can pace myself at Christmas dinner, I know when to stop even when I'm at an all-you-can-eat buffet, but when this stuff is in front of me I eat until I explode. I find myself loosening phantom clothing long after my trousers have sprung open, driven by a fulgid mist of gluttony.
I'm telling you, I would be the world's most useless junkie - far from going into a seamy life of crime to sustain a long-term habit that drives me to desperation, I'd have some almighty binge and be dead in 2 days flat.
Saturday, 16 January 2010
Only I don't think it was a joke - I think ITV expected Popstar to Operastar to be taken seriously as a show.
Now wait a minute - this show, presented by the woman who models knickers for M&S, assisted by a gardener, with an 80s rock legend, interior designer and two opera singers you may or may not have heard of sitting on the panel...this is a real show? Why, all you'd need is two former reality TV pop show contestants in need of a career boost to appear on it and you'd have the full set of top trump telly disaster cards.
It was shocking - they wheeled out some pop music disaster areas to warble arias badly for a few minutes and then demanded you call a premium rate phone line at the end. They should be giving me money. It was like hasbeen to wasbeen; flopstar to embarrassing yourself on live Friday night television.
What is it with our society? Have we drank the reality TV well so dry of bona fide nutters that we're plugging into celebdom for a fix, or is that we've become so weary and cynical of supposed celebrities that we're actually enjoying watching themselves lemm along to the edge of a cliff and walk off for our supposed pleasure and their supposed career edification?
I don't know what the x factor is in these shows - Celebrity Big Brother, Poperastar = stinky shit; Celebrity Masterchef, Celebrity Mastermind = quite enjoyable. I think it's simply a matter of the latter shows leaving everyone with their dignity intact.
Friday, 15 January 2010
But Christmas - that distant memory, the far-off echo, a sort of angsty calendar tinnitus. It just sort of kicks you in the face and runs off with your wallet. And I should know, that happened to me last May. But it wasn't Christmas what did it.
Do you know how important planning is? The cruciality of taking notes when a thought comes into your head. I did have a point for this post, something I was going to say - but I've plum forgotten it. I think this is what's known as stream-of-consciousness, a little tour through the puddly depths of my mind. And now I suppose I've run out of space. Same time tomorrow?
Their flight was delayed by ninety minutes. Isn't it annoying when things like this happen? Travelling is a stressful thing at the best and most trouble-free of times, when you throw cold weather and delays and airlines into the mix it all just starts to bubble and stew. I was waiting at the airport when they arrived, we filled the car up with bags and people and started out on the 25-mile journey back home.
Now, I must admit that I am no automotive expert. I like driving the things and I am training to be a car journalist, but this does not carry with it any latent knowledge about the technicalities of voitures or indeed any extra common sense about such things as regular servicing, roadworthy tyres or whether there's enough fuel in the car.
I ran out of petrol.
Power was draining, shuddering, I could feel the life being sapped out of the car, 'she cannae take it any more, captain', lurching, dropping down through the gears, more shuddering and slowing, hazards on and pull to the side of the road, through the roadworks and cones. No petrol.
There is no gauge, it relies on the onboard fancy computer information centre thing that never works on Volvo 480s. This is a fulfilled prophecy so obvious it never needed to be made, a bet with miserable odds not worth putting the cash down on.
Me and my dad made a 45-minute round trip to the petrol station back up the highway. A freezing night, compounded by my incalculably useless ability to wear the impossibly worst outfit at the worst possible time. A light jacket, cheap fabric deck shoes. I was not dressed for an hour's hiking along a major A-road. There were foxes and lorries and rabbits and foot-long rats and far off houses. The strange feeling of being alone on a busy arterial route, walking along something that was not designed to be walked on. Seeing a world that was mean to be seen at sixty miles an hour.
The flight was due in at half past nine. We get home at quarter past one.
I shall metaphorically self-flagellate for at least several hours, draw attention to the tidy house to which my parents returned. I shall reflect, take stock - ponder, mull and stew. I shall emerge from my cocoon of shame and self-recrimination a stronger person. I shall go to the petrol station.
Thursday, 14 January 2010
1) Why don’t the Terminators all get sent to the same point in 1984?
2) Michael Biehn says in the first film that the humans discovered the time travel portal machine thing after Arnie was sent back the first time, sent Biehn and destroyed the machine. If the humans were about the win the big war as Biehn said, how were more advanced robots developed and sent back in time again? How did the humans send more robots back in time? Twice.
3) Humans must have won the war because the machines made a last-ditch effort to defeat them by killing John Connor before he was conceived. This unwittingly led to his father being sent back in time – the future was not changed by this, in fact the future was made by these actions being carried out. If humans won the war how were the events of Terminators 2 and 3 able to take place?
4) Linda Hamilton was seen driving about and free at the end of T1 – clearly she wasn’t arrested or charged for the events of the film. See next point.
5) How did Linda Hamilton end up in a psychiatric hospital? In T2 wotsisface junior talks about his childhood spent playing with guns and that. How did she end up being crazy and him in care?
6) Why does Arnie look different in every single film? Is he a different model? Is he supposed to be a different type of the same model?
7) Michael Biehn says in the first film that you can only travel through time if you’re covered in a fleshy outer material – that is, flesh. The Evil Terminators in the second two films don’t really have a fleshy outer covering; they’re a fancy metal alloy thingamajig. How are they able to travel through time?
8) Michael Biehn says the last bit of the war is in 2029, which is when he gets sent back. When is the 4th film set? In Terminator 3, Arnie says that John Connor has been killed by him.
a) Why are they still using obsolete machinery? (See point 2.)
b) How can John Connor have been killed after the war had been won in the first film?
These are a few questions that I have.
I still love watching the films, though.
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
I’ve always been a daydreamer, a male Tracy Beaker, but not in care. I used to sit in assembly at school and dream that I had to run out to go to an incident that required the services of a 12-year-old police officer with a snazzy Range Rover. I can’t remember how I justified being a member of the constabulary, but they needed a kid like me to do all kinds of crazy shit the oldies couldn’t manage. In my first primary school, I must have been about seven or eight, I used to spend break times pretending to drive my car around, or I’d go about the playground picking up passengers in my bus.
Before I go off to sleep is my best time these days, although if I’ve got a spare moment I’ll drift off because I have the concentration span of a hyperactive spaniel – I like to be able to imagine myself in the future, whatever I might be doing next. I get quite anxious when it gets to the point that I can’t imagine what I might be up to next – it’s a healthy planning process for someone as disorganised as me. What do I do to get to sleep when it gets to the stage that I’m a matter of months away from doing nothing or worse, I’m stuck indefinitely in the now? I like change, I relish change, I pride myself on my ability to get bored after the shortest time and need something new.
I realise that much of the above paragraph is full of contradictions – there’s unpredictability I really don’t like, and that is a close friend of change. What can I say; I’m a chap of contradiction. I’ve just started a year that’s going to run out after 5 months. Just peter right out. I don’t know what I’ll be doing by June. Granted, I have my dissertation, but doing fancy essays doesn’t put food on the table. I don’t even have my own table.
Maybe that’s the fun of it – life, I mean. On the one hand I don’t like not knowing, on the other hand I relish the change. I can’t even get my head round me.
Tuesday, 12 January 2010
I killed it.
Every time I kill a spider I have this lurking fear that round a corner there’s going to be a twelve-foot monster waiting to twist my head off after a brief bout of torture. I worry that I’m going to be the guy that finds the black widow in the grape punnet you read about in the Daily Express. (Obviously reading the Daily Express is a hypothetical here) I worry that a funnelweb has somehow made its implausible way over from Australia and is sitting there waiting to bite me on the arse cheek.
I don’t know whether they can communicate with each other or not – they could be talking with each other in plain English but they’re so teensy you’d strain to hear them. That little fellow under the door? He was a flare, a decoy, a test. He was sent over the parapet as a lure, provoking me into an act of war.
But I’m still here, dear reader. I beat the rap.
Monday, 11 January 2010
I’m not one for staring up at the sky – I sort of notice once a year, probably in August when I’m on holiday. That’s a good month for noticing the sky. It used to freak me out at night when we lived in Clara Street and I used to listen to James Whale on Talk Radio until 2am and he used to go on about aliens and conspiracy theories and other wacky nonsense and we had no blind on the window. The whole bedroom was exposed to a huge amount of sky. Who might have been looking in?
All I really got from the meteor shower was a sore neck. I did see mars, thanks to a fancy space app thing I downloaded for my phone. I did catch a faint pencil line across the sky at one point or two – a whisp, a trace. But I would rather space fireworks were a bit more Independence Day. Now THAT would be cool...
Sunday, 10 January 2010
I’m lucky, I suppose – the first wave of a new generation that has grown up on the internet. Luckily I don’t have to deal with too many dodgy photos on Facebook or salubrious scandalous angsty blogs that I’ve written as a teenager. Those problems are still to come for the kids a few years younger than me. I will say that politics will get interesting in twenty years.
I’ve always been quite me online – I’ve mostly gone by my name, it makes me more accountable to myself. No chance of me being an idiot and then getting found it for it. I’d like to think that ALBOWIEB and Twitter and Flickr and whatever else it is that I do are a fair reflection of what and who I am. Sometimes I lament the fact that I’m turning myself into a persona, but I’ve got real life and different situations to mix it up a bit. I don’t think you’re getting anything else than many people who know me.
It’s been a rocky ride, though, blogging. There are people I’ve fallen out with, relationships that have become strained because of a momentary indiscretion. Suddenly what you would have said to someone in passing but confided on your website is a thing. You have to be careful, bear these things in mind. The tone has shifted over the years – in 2005 when I started ALBOWIEB I was a slip of a final year student, doing things that final students do – messing up my essays and deciding to run to be students’ union president. The internet felt like a small place back then, but it bites you on the arse and suddenly it feels bigger.
Google happens and suddenly anyone who has ever heard your name has access to your thoughts and your pictures and life. In the back of my head I try and write posts for my Grandma – there are things I post that I would probably try and slip by her, but it’s good that I sit and think for 15 minutes whether I really want to do a poxy little post with the word ‘tits’ in it that probably isn’t even that funny in the grand scheme of things. Too often I look back at old posts and think that I’m a bit of a twat and I can’t write. The trick is not to look at old posts.
Thankfully I’ve made a conscious decision that I want to go into the lines of work where I’ll be allowed to be myself. I would literally just die if I wasn’t allowed to be me. I enjoy being me, I enjoy sharing being me. My head is a fun place on the whole – and if I can brighten one person’s day by being here, or give another something to think about for a few seconds...then I’ve done my job, I’m happy.
That’s Brand Me, and every little helps, no?
The only problem is that I get a text message, receive an email – and then I forget about it. Because I’m in Ikea having a coffee, or I’m walking to lectures, or I’m at the supermarket. I don’t have time to think up and send a reply when I walking round Asda. Used to be you’d have to sit down, dial up and concentratedly focus on what you were doing – time was money, you had to be quick and reply to all of your emails as swiftly as you could manage.
Nowadays I’m plugged into the whole universe, but I’m the world’s worst correspondent. For that I can only apologise.
Saturday, 9 January 2010
You put the bins out, you fill the dishwasher, you load the washing machine, you unload the washing machine, you fill the tumble dryer, you empty the tumble dryer and fold and put away, you sweep the laminate floors, you wipe the work surfaces, you remember to unload the dishwasher, you bring the bins back in but they haven't been taken so you leave them out, you watch some television but all the while there's a nagging thought at the back of your mind that there's something you need to do.
How on earth do people manage this and actually having a life? I could spend 8 hours a day worrying about whether my coffee cups are going to leave a stain on the leather, let alone doing a job. I spent almost two hours yesterday moving the furniture around in the living room trying to find a better combination of sofas and telly. I had to lie down afterwards and I still ended up putting everything back the way it was before.
I think there's a reason that life eases into suburban ennui, as Cliff calls it. Our younger selves (that's me, fogies, just for the record) just couldn't take it. Our heads would explode. At least I know where the medicine drawer is.
Friday, 8 January 2010
I can't remember the figures, but there's something like a £5m shortfall in the budget this year and goodness only knows what that's going to look like next year. There's also been a spot of trouble with the pensions - there isn't as much in the pot as everyone thought there should be and the support staff are going to get their pensions cut by 40%. Of course you can't really blame the university for that last one - everyone's doing it and it's Maggie Thatcher's fault anyway.
The finances at Bangor have been in a state for years - but people thought they had turned a corner when I was president of the Students' Union there, that things were on the up. Clearly the measures that were taken and the people that were employed to turn things round weren't quite as on top of things as they thought they were. The Vice-Chancellor intends to retire this October - but at least his whopping salary will contribute to the savings.
The departments the senior management team want to close are Theology and Religious Studies, Linguistics, Social Studies, Modern Languages and the School of the Environment and Natural Resources. Admittedly I'm sat here watching the telly in my modern languages dept. hoodie, but it would be absolutely tragic were the university to close these departments. I can't understand what the thinking must be, other than panic. The place went through hell a number of years back when a few librarians were sacked - and all these cuts just as millions have been spent on new halls of residence and a huge new £35m building is planned where the students' union currently is.
I'd hate to see those departments closed - Linguistics is where the incredible David Crystal works; Environment and Natural Resources do work that is renowned worldwide and frankly quite fascinating; Modern Languages is a wonderful department and one of the best to study at. It's not just the expertise that marks the university out, but the overall experience and the dedication of staff to their students. It's awful that the university executive wants to decimate all that, especially as they celebrate 125 years of the place. I'd certainly feel no connection with the place anymore.
(Also, yay! I'm still alive.)
I put the bins out last night.
These are the minutiae of suburbia that I tend not to focus on. My life is simple - go to my lectures, do some stuff that goes wrong or makes me angry and then I blog about it. That's pretty much it - the bins don't come into it. Until now.
It was a difficult call - do I get up early and put the bins out? No chance. The regulations stipulate that bins must be out by 7am. The bin men are never out by 7am, but they might surprise you. If the bin men are out by 11am you're having a good day. I notice these things, I'm a writer, a blogger, an observer. They're probably out enjoying a breakfast at IKEA (block capitals, who knew? Not sure why.) or some greasy spoon down the block.
I put the bins out last night. That's foresight, preparation. If there's one thing I would have learned had I joined the army and been sent into battle, it's foresight and preparation. But not if I was Jewish - it seems they don't like foresight. Or pork. Strange.
I had to drag the bins through the ice and snow. Man, that was a tough three feet to the kerb. I had to inspect the bins - two collections in the morning. The green-lidded bins full of crap and the blue-lidded bins full of recyclable crap. I had to scrap the ice and snow off the top so as not to confuse the bin men. They're either up really early or they're tired from a large English breakfast. They don't like to have to do too much, you have to make it easy. Not too icy, not too far away from the kerb.
There's a new thing this week though. Not too full. The bin men, they don't like no full bins. They haven't been for two weeks what with the holidays, but it seems their new year's resolution is to act like twats. They won't collect a bin if the lid is more than two centimetres open. HEALTH AND SAFETY. "'I thought he was joking but then he got his measuring tape out and showed me" would be a classic quote in any other situation. A helpful (Tory pshht) councillor offers some consoling advice to fellow residents: "We accept that residents have more waste and we are asking them to assist us by taking extra bags to the [dump]." There is a problem, terribly sorry, but you sort it. Shysters.
And then, as I google the above news story to find a suitable link for this post I find another news story. My efforts, they are in vain. Why the shitting hell do I bother?
Originally uploaded by ALBOWIEB
Another worry whilst I have the house to myself is the cuckoo clock. This is basically my dad's favourite thing in the house, maybe after his cameras, but he loves that cuckoo like a son. Like his firstborn. I'm supposed to be the firstborn.
I can't complain, though, I've got a reasonable deal here - living in the house, doing a master. The cuckoo can have my old man. It's quite a pressure though, having to look after him. The cuckoo, not my dad, although he does require eyes in the back of your head. Last holiday (last month) the cuckoo stopped working.
I thought at first he was refusing to come out because my dad wasn't there, but then I released that I was getting intensely paranoid about a mechanical device from a country that is clearly frustrated about not building weapons of war and has invested that pent-up energy in over-fancy clocks and over-engineered household goods.
I sent the clock down to the lab, and the report showed that the cuckoo was implicated in a murder in Los Angeles in 2007. And also that I had pulled the weight up too high. There were tense scenes as I tried to get the weight to come down a bit and work properly, but it did and everything was alright.
Not a classic anecdote, but the subtle embellishments helped it along a bit, I felt. Anyway - the cuckoo. All going well so far.
Thursday, 7 January 2010
I had to move my mum's monolithic slab of a pilates machine upstairs earlier and it got me thinking - what if the hulking mass of metal and ropes and fallen on my and I died? My mangled body would be found at the bottom of the stairs in a week, DVD player still on, heating run amok and my bedroom, frankly, a mess. My hair's a bit greasy and I'm currently wearing my dodgy but comfortable pyjamas with an unsightly hole in the crotch (you can't see it unless you really look, it doesn't give any of the storyline away).
I spoke to my Grandma earlier - 'I only spoke to him last night' - how freaky, to be the person who has that last conversation? The neighbour I waved to earlier, the woman across the street who saw me scraping the windscreen this morning, the woman in Lidl who put my gateau on its side after scanning it through the till and got a scowl as well as the exact change. You, reading my ominous last words, which will haunt people forever (or at least until the renewal comes through for the web address) because no-one knows my passwords.
I quite often give my room a once over before I leave the house in case I die whilst I'm out - I don't want people to think ill of me as they pile through my room, sticking shit in boxes for the charity shop. But how depressing - a slip in the hall on the laminate floor, electrocuted in the kitchen, a fall down the stairs - a myriad ways in which I could meet my end, which could come at any time, not just when I'm in the house on my own.
In some ways I'm lucky enough - I've got people who will notice, it wouldn't be six years or a pile of post, it'd be my parents stuck at the airport next week. You'll spot them, the slightly-tanned people who look like they've had two holidays in the space of a month. And time off over Christmas. I guess it's just the way I'm wired that these things come into my head.
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
There's so much going on - yesterday it was murmured that the plotters are out for Brown again. Gary Gibbon didn't give a lot of detail, but the drip-drip of plotting talk started in earnest again. Now Pat and Geoff have thrown the gloves off and the Guardian have even given it the honour of a liveblog. Will it be a serious challenge? He's brushed them all off before now, but I'd love to see him go - now because I have anything particular against the melty-faced bugger, but for the sheer theatre of it. A new Labour leader - the right Labour leader - could throw the election on its head. The Lib Dems could feasibly do a deal with either party if the parliament was all hung up. It wouldn't be a shoo-in for the Tories if the Labour party had the right man [sic] on board. Who would that be? Well it would have to be someone with the mass appeal of David Miliband.
Except that his own party aren't that keen on him. Johnson wants a pop, the other Miliband wants a pop, Purnell would stick his nose in, Charles Clarke might feel he ought to step up as a caretaker figure, there's that left-wing bloke who always stands - John Cruddas, then you've got your Harriet Harmans. Civil war.
More fun times.
And whilst we're on the subject, I've been sipping an ice-cool glass of Coke (it's always the real thing for me) and I feel I ought to mention in passing my openness to product placement now that it's legal on the tellybox. I have no discernible morals despite being an apparently moral person. I would be quite happy to be given shit in return for mentioning it an extremely subtle way. I don't know whether you noticed how I just dropped in in passing that I was drinking a glass of Coke. See what I did there?
Get in touch, book publishers and major international (but also minor domestic) manufacturers.
I’m an instinctive, feelsome writer – I write because I love words, I pick them because I’m fastidious about meaning what I say and saying what I mean, I don’t like imprecision and hate being misunderstood. Although sometimes I like to be imprecise and misunderstood – a hideous melange of obsessive compulsiveness and a deep need to wind people up. I like to communicate and I like to entertain. But being instinctive I’m not so good at analysing my own writing and other people’s. Is that why you should read lots? Do you just inherently soak up the goodness or do you have to grammarise it all? It’s like watching seventeen different people bake a cake and seeing how they hold the spoon.
I love to read, don’t get me wrong, but it spoils it if I have to.
Tuesday, 5 January 2010
This last series of X Factor was one of the first times I’ve sat and watched a programme with a palpable sense that there were so many other people watching it with me who weren’t with me. Water cooler chat is one thing (has anyone ever actually had a water cooler chat? What a stupid expression. Like the only time you would talk to someone at work is if you happen to bump into them whilst fetching glasses of water at the same time), but real-time dissection is another. It was fun. It was suddenly cool to be in on a Saturday night. Then suddenly it wasn’t.
Twitterising about Casualty or the Lottery Draw just isn’t the same – I feel the need these days to lie about where I am on the world’s premier social networking micro-blogging messianic saviour of the world but the Daily Mail still doesn’t like it dot com website. Should I post things like ‘At the #pub. Having a popular overpriced alcoholic beverage.’ or ‘In a nightclub. Look at the tits on that. www.twitpic.com/ahfbr568’ ? It’s not often the case that I actually do go out, I’m mostly sat doing nothing. Perhaps I should go dark (as in not post anything, I’m not being racist like), or just tell the truth in a post-modern ironic sort of way. ‘Not in a nightclub. Playing Globs on Facebook FTW.’
More of the unanswered-and-probably-unasked questions of modern social etiquette that plague me daily.
Monday, 4 January 2010
The Impressionists are my favourite painters, as it goes. Along with the Fauves, but that doesn't suit my current point so I shall ignore those chaps. The Impressionists never painted a picture that you could go and visit yourself, something you could have bought on a postcard. There was something of their soul within the paintings, the way they captured the light and the movement and an impression of what that scene was like at that moment.
When I take a picture with my camera I hate taking a picture that thousands of others have taken, I have to get something unique, something that no-one else will have. I like the knowing that I have documented a singular moment in time that will never be seen again, whether it’s a person or a cloud or series of fortunate events.
I like to see writing as impressionism – it’s why I don’t post pictures and text on the same thing very often, I don’t necessarily want either to be coloured by the other. Pictures and text should be taken and designed and composed to stir something within the person that receives, something self-made, not prescriptive. I like that when I write an impression of something that you're imagining it in your own head and my thoughts and words mix with your thoughts and words to create something new. It's a connection, some sort of intellectual reproduction.
If you laugh at something I've written or appreciate some point that I've made or an analogy I've drawn, it's not because I've written that, it's because our lives and our experiences and our nurtured natures have come momentarily into alignment and we've shared a little something. Isn't that a nice thought? It's why I don't get on with writing news articles on my course - I just don't want to give a stock account of what's happened somewhere, you could stick a camera on the scene and it speaks for itself. The thing about writing is that I'm there, not anyone else and I get to communicate what has happened through my senses, things I've seen and smelled and touched, filtered through my brain, sent through my fingers and onto the page or the screen.
A camera does all that factually, inertly, dispassionately - but it's what sets us apart, being able to see and feel and translate. It's the ultimate difference between a picture and an impression.
Sunday, 3 January 2010
Friday, 1 January 2010
How many people today must be lounging around in their dressing gowns waiting for the demise of David Tennant on Doctor Who, or a James Bond film that’s never going to arrive? It’s nice to have these occasional days of nothingness, but then that is on the provision that you have somethingness to compare it with.
Two or three weeks of holiday is a bit too much for me, I do feel like I want be back at university for the two days a week of lectures that I have. I like my doing nothing to have purpose – is it truly doing nothing if you have nothing to avoid doing? It’s like yin and yang, an equal and opposite reaction. Doing nothing is all the more sweet when there’s so much you should be doing. If you generally have nothing to do then doing nothing is more of a vocation than an escape.
Oh well, another week of nothing.
I wrote to your brother last year and I'm writing to you. I'm writing this on New Year's Eve - a day away, but so far away. It's strange sending these things into the future. A matter of hours later than the evening as I type, but already a different world. Context is everything, I find. The world will be in 2010, another year, another decade. Firmly into the 21st century, a century that began not that long ago. Writing to 2009 I tried to be funny - a few jokes that mere months later I struggle to understand even having written them. Context is everything and all that.
Now is not a time to be funny - at least it doesn't feel it. That's something you develop as you get older, isn't it? A sense of discernment, of place and rightness, knowing when things are as they should be. It's a funny thing in itself though, time. It's the fuel of our lives, a steady burn that propels us along. An eternal flame - at least until it goes out.
Time seems to speed as you get older - one of the many things I've learned over ten years. I'm in my 26th year and the third decade is going by faster than the second than the first. With the medical and palliative advances over even the most recent of times the average of my life is moving ever further away from me. I feel like I've yet to begin - so much to experience, to do, to learn. I guess that it's a blessing that I can live longer and start a little later.
Ten years ago I was with my extended family in Worcester, seeing in the new millennium, on the cusp of realising that there's actually not a great deal to a new year, it's just a mark, a change in numbers. It's an accountant's moment, not a poet's. The poet revels in life, marks time as it passes, not the milestones as they go by. I remember watching the Queen, a strange sullen sort of look on her face as a young-looking Blair pumped her arm away during Auld Lang Syne. Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? I can never tell whether that's a question, a command or a simple recognition of the truth.
I remember watching a barge rammed full of fireworks on the Thames - a promised river of fire that never went off. Big Ben was so packed with explosives I thought it was going to take off, but that boat was a damp squib, a fizzle. What a portent for the coming decade. The Bug that never happened, the peace that we didn't know but soon felt when we were without. Our problems were a world away - the world's and mine. I was a few months past my GCSEs, halfway through my A-levels. I had big decisions to make about university, about the future, about what I wanted become and who I thought I could be.
What's funny is that all those decisions later I sort of don't know, and I sort of do.
Godspeed, 2010 - I wish you all the luck in the world.