Friday, December 31, 2004
Helluva year for me. I finally crawled out from under the soul-crushing rock of my previous job to claw back a sliver of dignity with a new job. Hugely tedious, but at least the stench of self-loathing no longer sticks to me.
I passed my driving test, after almost fifteen years of intermittent, half-arsed attempts to get round to it.
I gained a phenomenal little girl. (Surely THE highlight of my year).
This blog started. (Surely THE highlight of your year).
After a 2003 where not a single word of mine was published out there in the world, 2004 gave me a handful of magazine articles, a new role as the Film Editor for a widely read music website, and, my professional highlight to date, a really very excellent book was published with lots of wise and whirling words straight from my keyboard. Particularly proud of that one. Kudos to me.
On top of that, my healthily-polluted ideaspace kept spitting out ideas for comic books and movie scripts that I have diligently scrawled out with an eye on completion in 2005. The long-mooted Film Deal may well come off next year.
Personally, 2004 has been happy and successful.
Professionally, after a remarkably fallow 2003 when I lost all the momentum I had built up in the preceding years, 2004 reignited my writing career. Now I just need to keep building on that for 2005. I need more paid writing commissions for next year, I need to consolidate the contacts I’ve made this year, and I just have to keep on becoming a better writer. And I need to write a proper treatment for the Big Movie to get the wheels greased on that project at last. Amongst many, many other things that I can’t think of right now.
Ze clock, she is ticking.
Monday, December 27, 2004
Anyway, enough of my yakking. Nothing can stop the AKA Year in Review, and the time has come to shoot a dirty look at my heaving bookshelves and eulogise the words of wisdom causing the wood to creak. Onwards!
Percival Everett – Erasure – A well-respected black author, who writes worthy but virtually unread academic tracts, is incensed at the soaring popularity of ghetto fiction. With a desire to put a gun to the genre’s head, he assumes the nom de guerre Stagg R. Leigh and pens My Pafology (later retitled Fuck), and then looks on in horror as the book becomes a massive success, as his life unravels out of his control. A great book where the storytelling is more important than the story told. Outstanding.
Newton Thornburg – Dreamland – Another well-deserved re-release from the long-forgotten crime writer behind the undisputed genre classic Cutter and Bone. First published in 1983, Dreamland is another tragic, elegiac knife in the guts of modern America, as money, drugs, porn, booze and corruption cause seeping lesions on the overfed white meat of Los Angeles, destroying lives indiscriminately. Strangely beautiful and sadly still relevant.
Mikhail Bulgakov – The Master and Margarita – The fabulist masterpiece about the appearance of the Devil and his minions in Moscow, as they turn the city into a heaving lunatic asylum. I read this under duress, thinking I would hate it. I was wrong. One of the finest books I’ve ever read.
Susannah Breslin – You’re a Bad Man, Aren’t You? – Breslin’s reports from behind the open sets and sticky lenses of Porn Valley were astonishing, so I was really looking forward to this first collection of short stories. I wasn’t disappointed. Harsh, terse, sharp little stabs of fiction to disturb and unsettle, peeling back the flesh on the modern American psyche. Go grab an insight into her first novel here, and see what one of the freshest voices in fiction sounds like.
Hunter S. Thompson – Kingdom of Fear (Loathsome Secrets of A Star-Crossed Child In the Final Days of the American Century) – Conclusive proof (not that we needed it) that those who believe that the Good Doctor is past his prime are wrong, wrong, wrong. His power to take unerring aim with well-chosen words is undimished, as he slices away at the short-sighted evil fucks dismantling the world piece by piece. Still the Daddy.
George P. Pelecanos – Hard Revolution – The Greatest Living American Crime Writer. Fact. Another piece of history clicks into place as Pelecanos looks back to Washington D.C. in the days surrounding the assassination of Martin Luther King. Pelecanos has yet to write a book that wasn’t stone brilliant, and this is no exception.
Don Siegel – A Siegel Film – I forgot I even had this book until I dug it out of a box that had been sitting in the corner of my office for the last year and a half. The man behind Invasions of the Body Snatchers and Dirty Harry writes his memoirs in a disarmingly honest, funny and entertaining way, slapping down all the fools he was forced to tolerate over the length of his impressive career.
Friday, December 24, 2004
Some of you will know me as Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, or Kris Kringle. You know, the portly fellow with the large sack that he unloads on you with a hearty laugh. Like Ron Jeremy.
AKA has kindly invited me to contribute to his blog for the day. I was unfamiliar with this Sucker Punch before now. What a potty mouth he has on him! I might have to put him on the “naughty” list this year.
Anyway, I was just chilling in my crib, listening to some Kurtis Blow, and AKA wanted me to say a few brief words on the eve of Christmas.
Firstly, those fraudulent impostors who pretend to be me in those built-up Shopping Areas of Rampant Commerce in cities all over the world. They are rubbish! They are besmirching my good name in order to sell you more tawdry cheap baubles! Let me clarify something for you:
I don’t smell of wee and Special Brew like those scallywags. I can smell those rancid stinkers from the North Pole!
Also, I fail to understand this excessive consumerism. You should be spending Christmas loving your families and laughing with your friends, not working yourselves into a sweaty, destitute frenzy by suckling on Mammon’s teat with your unnecessary spending!
Anyway, I must go. Rudolph has messed on the rug. And reindeer poop stains, don’t you know.
Don’t get broke, don’t get sick, and don’t get angry. To all the readers of Sucker Punch, have yourselves a very Merry Christmas.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Yes, there were fine, fine albums this year from the Beastie Boys, De La Soul, Jill Scott and Prince. But they all have back catalogues full of fine albums, so no surprises there.
The closest we’re going to get to a musical retrospective is going to come from a glance at the stack getting the most play currently on the AKA Wheels of Steel. To wit:
Masters at Work Mastercuts – Kenny Dope – Disco Heat (2004) – OK, granted, this came out this year, but this is all predominantly late 70s stuff. Discs 2 and 3 are unexpurgated full tracks, but the real treat here is Disc 1, a DJ mix tape. Taking all the chunkiest slabs of funk and cutting the shit out of them, MAW man Dope strips the disco cheese out and only leaves the full phat.
Tom Waits – Foreign Affairs (1977) – Towards the tail end of his lounge lizard lothario era, and just before he embarked on the found sound alchemy of hitting dustbin lids, screaming down tubes and creating sonic marvels, this is Waits at his bruised and beautiful best, with that inimitable voice that sounds like bourbon and barbecue, gravel and gasoline, heartattack and vine.
David Holmes – Ocean’s Twelve OST (2004) – The Rat Pack stylings of the first film are tweaked for a more Eurocentric groove on another flawless package of retro concoctions from Holmes.
Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell – Beautiful (2003) – The Neptunes sterile soundscape twinned with the loping drawl of the Doggfather gives him his best single since those days with Dre.
Maxwell – Now (2001) – One for the Where Are They Now? file. Maxwell’s third album came out almost four years ago, and not a semi-quaver from him since. One of the artists at the vanguard of the Nu Soul movement of the mid-90s, Maxwell’s mixture of 60s vocals, lush 70s arrangements, and a splash of 80s rawness created a sound that sounded reassuringly familiar and sparklingly new at the same time.
Bobby Womack – Lookin For a Love (The Best of 1968–1976) – What can I tell you? It’s Bobby Womack. It’s great. He certainly doesn’t need me bigging him up. The music speaks for itself. Classic.
SINGLE OF 2004 - Twista – Slow Jamz – This would win purely for rhyming “Vandross” with “pants off”, but this valentine to the quiet storm soulsters of the 80s combined with furious wordplay from the ubiquitous Kanye West has been played regularly in the AKA crib for the whole year. We have a winner!
Other than that, I’ve been leaning on old standbys for most of the year, with lots of Joni Mitchell (Blue and The Hissing of Summer Lawns) Stevie Wonder (mostly Fulfillingness' First Finale) and Curtis Mayfield (mostly the Right Combination album he did with Linda Clifford).
A caution on a worrying trend I spied at the end of 2003, which has been maintaining a dangerous pace this year – The evils of Fogey Jazz. Yes, I do mean this hideous Jamie Cullum, Katie Melua, Michael Buble stuff we keep getting. Jazz, like hip-hop 20 years ago, always used to signify innovation and flexibility. Now, its just tired rehashes, and white folks doing black music without any of the flair or creativity. Just a bunch of unnecessary covers foisted on us with depressing regularity. If I hear Rod Fucking Stewart massacring another standard, I will break his beak, shave his spiky head, flay his fake-tan hide and feed him to a leopard. Where’s Courtney Pine when you need him?
Oh, and I loathe the Scissor Sisters. Stop lauding them. 'Tis shit.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Alfie. A remake of a film that was very much of its time, encapsulating the Swinging Sixties of London and Carnaby Street. Seeing as Carnaby Street’s reputation for blazing fashion trails is long dead, and the place is now a hideous tourist trap festooned with tie-dye T-Shirts and cheap plastic junk for our foreign guests to take home (see also: Camden), the new version transposes the action to New York.
Our modern-day Alfie still likes to bone his way through the laydeez of the city, though. Jude Law needs an open-handed slap in the face for his horrible smugness. Name-dropping labels like a fashion whore, but still managing to look like a rumpled Reservoir Dogs reject. Sporting awful scarves that would better serve the audience as a garrotte to throttle the breath from his body. Incessantly jabbering to camera, when you just feel like shouting “CUNT!” at the screen. Before Alfie, I merely thought of Jude Law as overrated. Now, thanks to the magic of cinema, I hate him unreservedly.
At random intervals throughout the film, words like “DESIRE” and “PURSUE” appear on billboards, in a feeble attempt at hanging themes onto this shapeless mess of a movie. It’s a lazy cinematic conceit, and it fails in every conceivable way.
This is a plotless, aimless, poorly written, poorly acted, misogynistic, homophobic waste of celluloid. Decent actors like Omar Epps and Marisa Tomei are given thankless supporting roles, sliding off the screen in the slipstream of Law’s odious monologues, as the Jude Show rolls inexorably forward, destroying everything in its path. Every time the film looks like its about to commit to something resembling a story, the film writes itself into a corner and struggles to find a reason to keep going. And there’s no ending. The film just stops. With Law looking to camera and saying “What’s it all about?”. Fuck knows, Jude. But you should have tried to work out the answer to that one before the cameras started turning over. Horrible.
What else did Friday hold? Another Christmas party. A good one. Two of my brethren and I gorged ourselves on sausages and inhaled schnapps and laughed heartily at the expense of Wee Jimmie Krankie at the Bierodrome in Holborn, before decamping to Baker Street and the inexpensive beery delights hidden therein. Now, THAT’S how you do a Christmas Party.
Today is my last working day before Christmas. To celebrate, I will be taking in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events after work, before returning home to the endless joys of Buttercup, who has now mastered the art of inspired babbling. As her little head appears over her mother’s shoulder, her face cracks into the widest grin, followed by a breathless stream of almost-comprehensible chatter. Merry Christmas to Me.
And in other news: Rumsfeld proves he’s a Complete Shit again.
Friday, December 17, 2004
For those with memories longer than that of your household goldfish, you will know I’ve already unveiled four of the twelve. (That would be Kill Bill Volume 2, Man on Fire, Oldboy and The Punisher).
Time to stop you from waiting any longer. Here, in absolutely no order whatsoever, are the rest of the AKA 2004 Top Twelve Movies. Have at thee!
The Cooler – I’ve discussed this film on the blog before, so I won’t repeat it all here. Nevertheless, one of the all-time great Vegas movies.
The School of Rock – I wish I had been eight-years-old when I saw this, so it could have changed my life. All family movies should be as brilliant as this. (Having said that, I wish all Jack Black and Richard Linklater movies were even half as brilliant as this.) Rockin’ good fun.
Lost in Translation – In retrospect, maybe it is a little po-faced and pretentious. But the two central performances are fantastic, and it was funny, touching and beautifully shot. People who complained that there was no story should be locked in a Karaoke Bar with their ear lobes stapled back for all eternity.
Spider-Man 2 – I’ll come clean. I was one of the only people on the planet who thought the first Spider-Man movie was a bit, well, average. Having suitably lowered my expectations for the sequel, I was absolutely thrilled with this. Stan Lee’s most famous son faces off against Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus in THE Marvel Comics movie of 2004. (Which more than compensates for the truly dreadful Blade Trinity, which managed to unleash a heavy stream of piss all over the first two movies and Wesley Snipes, whilst producing a fantastic performance by Ryan Reynolds at the same time.)
Hellboy – Ron Perlman and Guillermo Del Toro weave wonders with Mike Mignola’s creation about a demon raised by the Allies to fight-the-forces-of-evil in the wake of the Second World War. Apart from the abrupt ending, this was sweet perfection.
American Splendor – A different kind of comic-book hero. The inspiring life of loveable curmudgeon Harvey Pekar and his stubborn refusal to change his ways for anyone, whilst all the while he plugs away at his life’s work, the underground comix of the title. Paul Giamatti should have won the Best Actor Oscar for this.
Infernal Affairs – Makes Michael Mann’s Heat look like a straight-to-video cheapie knock-off. A Hong Kong crime epic that will be neutered by its forthcoming Hollywood remake. The most rich and complex crime movie since L.A. Confidential.
Dawn of the Dead – This should have been awful. A Hollywood remake of one of the most beloved cult zombie classics ever. Somehow, it worked. Replace Romero’s shambling Undead with 28 Days Later’s souped-up Infected, stick some cannon fodder in a mall, and let rip. Resplendent in all its awful beauty, and genuinely scary.
WORST FILM OF 2004: Elephant – When Gus Van Sant was being reviled for his unnecessary shot-by-shot remake of Psycho, I just shrugged. So what? It was just an art-house conceit welded onto a Hollywood classic. Superfluous? Sure. But maybe that was the point. Well, Gus, I’m not going to fight your corner anymore. This film SUCKED! A meandering, directionless meditation on Columbine, this broke the cardinal rule of cinema: it was boring. Elephant dung.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: The Incredibles, Northfork, Jersey Girl.
Monday, December 13, 2004
I don’t know when it occurred to me to catalogue the events around my Corporate Christmas Party in (almost) real time, but I was prepared with pen and paper to keep me company on my long dark night of the soulless. Needless to say, I am alive and well and back in the comfort of Stately AKA Manor. But that is now. This is then. So without further whatever…
And I’ve just found my hotel room. I used to think that hotel rooms were these amazing, anonymous, empty spaces where anything could happen. One night, it’s a hooker and her john. The next, a writer up against a deadline, hiding from external chatter and distraction, an endless supply of cigarettes and coffee at his disposal.
Well, tonight it’s me on a corporate Christmas party night. And all hotel rooms look the same. Power shower, pay-per-view, small kettle, trouser press, blah blah blah. Maybe a tiny bit of the mystique of hotel rooms stays with me…
I’ve got two single beds in here. I was hoping for 1 double so that I could stretch out later on. Oh well…
I’ve dumped my stuff. I’ve already had one beer on an empty stomach. Two drinks left me with barely any change from a £10 note. Time for me to rejoin the hoards of colleagues propping up the hotel bar.
I miss Mrs. AKA & Buttercup…
Back in my room. I’m all done with schmoozing. I’ve had Beer Number 2, and I think it’s safe to say that I’m not enjoying myself.
Vice Versa is on TV. Maybe Judge Reinhold can save my sanity for the next couple of hours.
Due downstairs at 7.30pm.
I am STARVING. Tried to order some room service, but they don’t answer the goddamn phones!
The Company might think that they are treating the staff, but I see it as ripping me away from my life on MY time. I’m pissing away my weekend on the people I’m already shackled to from Monday to Friday.
I hate it here.
The light in my hotel room makes everything look grey. Or yellow.
Fred Savage is starting to annoy me.
Made myself a coffee. Ate some shortbread. (What is the point of shortbread? It’s gross.)
Showered, suited and booted. Time to hit up the free bar.
What kind of compulsive writing dickhead stays up to chronicle this inconsequential bullshit? I think I’ve just answered my own question. With the better part of a bottle of Jack Daniel’s swirling around in my guts, plus half a bottle of cheap ass, 3-quid from-the- corner- shop Red Table Wine in the brew, I really, really should be going to bed. But I want to get this all down before I forget and its gets washed away by a night’s sleep.
So, drinks in the bar until 8.30ish. Small talk with nobodies for a couple of hours. (Writing right now is hard. Wonder if I’ll be able to read this tomorrow?)
Food was SHIT. The potatoes were wrinklier than my NUT SACK! Dry as fuck!
Speech from the Chairman. Then, oh my sweet lord, THEN, a gameshow-themed evening. FUCK!
Then Bad, Bad Christmas music. Slade and shit. At one point, the sparkling diamond in the rough of Run DMC’s Christmas in Hollis kicked in and I was blissfully happy for a couple of minutes before the All Shit, All The Time playlist came back with Wham!’s Last Christmas.
After that, there was a casino set up. Oh yeah! I was kicking some serious Blackjack (and winning too!) for an hour, before sitting out the rest of the night in the hotel bar.
And now, I’m toasted. Can’t write no more. Time for bed. Good night. Later.
Awake. Had breakfast. Need shower. No more words from me. Too tired. Home soon.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
I can’t say that it’s done wonders for my mood.
I ended up reminding myself of the deaths of people whose work I admire, and stumbled upon a few that I didn’t even know about. How can talentless amoeba like Peter Andre continue to thrive when we lost a slew of mighty artists we could ill afford to lose? To say I am bummed out would be an archaic understatement.
So to these fallen greats, I salute you all.
A farewell and a final bow to actors Ron O’Neal, Paul Winfield, Victor Argo and Christopher Reeve, and to Bosom Auteur Russ Meyer.
And one last rimshot to musicians Johnny Bristol, Elvin Jones, John Whitehead, Ray Charles, Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, Rick James and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
I’ll just have one last squint at your names through the amber light of a shot of Jack Daniel’s before toasting you all.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Critics always try to make connections where, often, none exist. They try to find trends where only coincidence resides. After all, they have copy to file and only a finite number of interesting things to say about any given piece of work.
Frequently, trends exist solely due to imitative behaviour. “Well, if that worked, then we should do it again and again and again, until we hammer it into the ground and suck every last penny out of it!” That’s why there are so many sequels.
2004 has seen the resurgence of the zombie film; the continuing success of the superhero movie; and the nascent birth of Hollywood’s move to remake all manner of Asia Extreme oddities (by sucking out whatever made them unique in the first place, and blanderising them in the name of Money, Money, Money).
Next year, I predict less zombie movies, more superhero movies, and a heaving warehouse full of American studio movies based on Korean and Japanese mini-classics.
But I digress. For me, THE movie genre of the year has been the full-blooded return of the Revenge Movie. And I do love to have me a good revenge movie.
The Bride’s mission finally ended in Kill Bill Vol. 2, Thomas Jane strapped on an armoury that would make the toughest mobster’s bladder void itself in The Punisher, Denzel Washington showed us a neat trick with exploding suppositories in Man on Fire, and Min-sik Choi topped that with an even neater trick with a live octopus in Oldboy.
Now, a lesser writer would try and find some tenuous connection between this surge of bloody retribution splashing in crimson arcs across cinema screens the world over. Shit like: it’s a sign of the increasing shift to the right in America. Or: it satisfies a need for catharsis stemming from the events of 9/11 and the War in Iraq.
But that’s all a bunch of crap. Tarantino has had a love affair with the revenge movie most of his life, the Marvel Comics character The Punisher dates back to the early ‘70s, the script for Man on Fire has been bouncing around Hollywood for a couple of decades, and Oldboy is the middle chapter in Chan-wook Park’s revenge trilogy that has been gestating for a while now. The fact that they all turned up at the same time is a simple matter of coincidence.
So, to that Wild Bunch of anti-heroes, to Beatrix Kiddo and Frank Castle, John Creasy and Oh Dae-Su, I salute you all and your endlessly inventive ways of dispatching evildoers. Even though not a single one of you could be excused of your own evildoings, you doomed death-dealers.
And every one of these four movies sits comfortably in my Top Ten Flicks of the year. AKA says check ‘em out.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Coincidently, of course, those three letters denote “alias” in and of themselves. As in “Also Knows As” or “Another Known Alias”.
Lesser known (and, consequently, far less useful) acronyms include: “Asociace Komunikaèních Agentur” (the European Association of Communications Agencies) and “Attack Cargo Ship” (Auxiliary, Cargo, Attack). Avast, me hearties! I can definitely groove on some of that pirate patter.
Incredibly useless acronyms for a slew of clubs that I would never be a member of: “American Kennel Association”; “American Killifish Association”; and “American Kitefliers Association”.
No, I don’t know what a “killifish” is either. But further research tells me that it is “Any of numerous small fishes of the family Cyprinodontidae, including the guppy and mosquito fish, inhabiting chiefly fresh and brackish waters in warm regions.”
So, now we all now. Knowledge is power.
In Japanese, depending on where you put the accent, “AKA” can either mean “red” or “demon”. That’s right, laydeez, I’m a veritable Hellboy.
I’ve left my favourite until last. It’s something that I’m sure I should be dishing out more often. “Above Knee Amputation”.
Clearly, I have far too much time on my hands today.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
I’ve been left in charge of the department, without being told how any of the arcane, and quite frankly shit, software works, and I’ve got people chasing me up to do things I’m ill-equipped to handle. Bullshitting my way through tasks and telling people I’ll get back to them.
The Office Comedian, who looks like a cotton bud with a Bart Simpson haircut, never shuts his fucking mouth, and its aggravating me. It’s an endless flood of verbal effluent seeping into my ears.
He was mumbling some interminable joke / story / jibba jabba about wishing he could be a Dictator when he grew up.
I told him he had the first syllable down pat.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Most people (mistakenly) believe that dossing is just pissing away hour after hour on nothing at all. You know, shirking work.
I disagree. I think dossing is useful, practical and, occasionally, essential. Because, to me, dossing is using time for yourself, catering to your own desires, satiating your own curiosity, feeding your own mind, and neglecting everyone else’s bullshit.
Follow me down this cul-de-sac of rationalisation: I’m a writer. But…I don’t know what it’s like to get shot. I don’t know what it feels like falling out of an aeroplane. I haven’t experienced extreme poverty or extreme wealth. I have never been a butler, or a fireman, or an alcoholic, or a circus acrobat, or a rent boy. I don’t know what it’s like living in Arkansas, or Nepal, or in another century, or on another planet. Imagination will take me part of the way there. And the Internet will carry me the rest of the way, in its designated role as my personal database of misinformation, outright lies, shocking facts and amusing nonsense. Its fleshy truths yield and widen to the masterful probing of my fingers, unlocking its secrets with incantations framed as urls.
I am the only one working in my corner of the office this week. Which gives me a five-day window of opportunity to play with my electronic friend. I’ve “acquired” a laptop from a stash in the Server Room, I’ve tricked it out with all the trimmings I need to ply my solitary fun, I’ve hooked it up to a phone line away from the All-Seeing Evil Eye of the corporate firewall, and I let the games begin.
I’m deep into Day Three of my aimless ramble round the Internet, and I feel energised by it. I’ve finally caught up on a teetering slush-pile of unanswered e-mails. I’ve had the world’s news outlets at my disposal (despite the fact that I have no interest in Ozzy Osbourne’s stolen jewellery or Virgin Mary cheese sandwiches). I’ve hit all my favourite websites many times over. I’ve pinballed around the ‘Net from Neil Gaiman’s blog to a James Ellroy interview to a mother who cut off her baby’s arms to a story about a fraudulent film journalist who pretended to interview Stanley Kubrick. And much, much more besides.
My head is buzzing with ideas and inspiration. And I’m still managing to do my job, too.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some surfing to attend to.
Friday, November 19, 2004
Thursday, November 18, 2004
And I do try. I often find a small wedge to lever my way into stray conversations in a misguided attempt to get even mildly involved with my “colleagues”. But, most of the time, I end up wishing I hadn’t bothered.
When I was younger, I used to ratchet down hard on my vocabulary, and tamp down the urge to use all the words at my disposal from the reservoir of language sloshing away neglected in the murky waters of my brain pan. I used to find that it helped to keep me anonymous, subsumed into the hive mind, and it made me “one of the gang”.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been concerned with inclusiveness and fitting in. I really don’t give a shit what most people think of me. Take me or leave me. In the immortal words of Popeye the Sailor Man: “I yam what I yam, and that’s all I yam”. I can’t be arsed to pretend that I am stupider than I actually am. Fuck that.
An unusual side-effect of this, is that They all like to use me as a talking dictionary, asking for spellings of not-obscure words like “gesture” and “definitely”. And for some reason, there is a misconception around here that “prepare” is spelt “prepair”.
Here are just a few of the choice nuggets from the provincial fuckheads in recent days:
One of the office scumbags took a picture of his girlfriend’s tits with his mobile phone, and then showed it around the office. Classy guy. I’m sure the aforementioned girlfriend would be thrilled to know that her pixelated breasts were being used for in-house entertainment.
Another one decided to give a play-by-play of the Abi Titmuss and Paris Hilton home movies that he watched one-handed whilst eating his dinner on Friday evening.
The same person delights in deliberately mispronouncing my name. Have no doubt that I will shortly stick a straightened paper clip right into the soft meat of his left eyeball.
They all find themselves endlessly amusing (which they aren’t), and from what I can gather, it appears that They live on a steady diet of prime time television most evenings of the week, tirelessly quoting from bad shitcoms and reality TV shows.
Oh, and I’ve started slapping people down over the racial epithets. They don’t seem to understand. They just gawp and mumble, “Well, what are we supposed to call them then?”
I was starting to come around to thinking that working here for a year or so would be a good time to recharge and relax, a bit of fallow time before my inevitable return to a London Life. A vaguely decent salary, a more sedate life, and the ability to go home in the evenings at a reasonable time to chill with my wife and play with my daughter. But I am starved for intelligent interaction in this backward-ass place.
I’m Not a Moron….Get Me Out of Here!
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
I have never made claims of genius about myself, but I think there’s a deeper point buried away in there, and I agree with it to an extent.
Let’s get this perspiration thing out of the way first. Yes, you will probably never achieve anything of note without putting in the hours, paying your dues, honing your craft, flexing certain creative muscles, whatever you want to call it. On the other hand, there are people in the world that may hammer away at something hour after hour, day after day, and all they will end up being is a solid craftsman. There may be no flair, nothing outstanding, nothing exceptional about their work, but they will be dependable and reliable and solid. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, it does mean that, at some point, inspiration or talent or the Muse or, yes, a touch of “genius” has to play a part. And probably in a quantity of slightly over and above 1%.
I think I’ve made it abundantly clear in this blog that my current job is by far one of the least mentally and physically taxing jobs I’ve ever had. And I think I’ve also made it pretty clear that I have yet to find any allies in this intellectually barren environment.
And I think that’s part of my problem. Because I really, really like to surround myself with intelligent, witty and original thinkers. I like to think that virtually all my friends fall into this category, because I crave constant stimulation, a constant flow of challenging ideas and, you knew it was coming, constant inspiration. The double whammy of this new job wedged in the Cornhole of Nowhere, and the domestic demands of rearing young Buttercup (who is herself something of an inspiration, and already showing signs of being a comedy genius, but we haven’t quite sussed out the intricacies of two-way conversation just yet), have left me isolated from the nourishing comforts of friendship and the stimulating banter that goes hand-in-hand with that.
I’ve struggled with stuff for weeks now. Last week, I had a couple of cracking ideas, one for a comic book and one for a movie script, and I fleshed those out for a couple of hours, and that felt pretty damn good. They were full of striking, dark, twisted images, and absolutely no solid story or plot yet. But it’s a start, I suppose.
I’ve pretty much stalled completely with film journalism recently. I just can’t get it to work at the moment, but I will persevere. I’ve got a couple of long overdue pieces pending, so I hope I snap out of that particular blockage soon.
I tooled around with a couple of self-imposed writing exercises this morning, one that involved writing purely in sound effects, and the other writing using only words that start with the next letter in the alphabet (Always Be Closing!), but neither worked.
At the same time, maybe I’m being a bit too ambitious at the moment. After all, I do have a new job, a newborn baby, and a wife who deserves an attentive husband. And all those parts of my life are tiring. Maybe writing isn’t meant to be floating at the periphery of my mind all the time right now.
Anyway, I’m clearly rambling now, and writing this was primarily a way for me to organise some stray ideas. Unfortunately, if you’ve read through this far, you are clearly a very patient reader who has been subjected to my disjointed thoughts. Sorry about that.
The good news is that I have a rare night out on Baker Street this Thursday coming, where I will be pitted against the titanic, boundless imagination of one of my Brothers. We will spitball ideas ranging from the stupid to the innovative and back again, and we will talk much crap, and we will laugh and smile, and we will smite our enemies with the razors of our wit, and the table will be slick with lime juice and beer, broken glass and blood and barbecue sauce. No one will be safe. Not even us. It will be the stuff of legend. I can’t wait.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
In a separate, but related, matter:
I have absolutely no respect whatsoever for the people I work with. But, if I did, every iota of that respect would have evaporated today. Braindead Employee Number One was pleased with The Sun’s front page news today, because he doesn’t care about the US Election, and “it doesn’t affect us anyway”…
Braindead Employee Number Two argued that it didn’t matter who was elected President, because they are equally shit anyway…
Clearly, the people I work with are marginally stupider than the anal discharge from a lobotomised Big Brother housemate.
Am I overreacting? I don’t think so.
Am I naïve to be continually surprised by the narrow perspective and shortsighted “I’m OK, so fuck everyone else” worldview of other people? Maybe.
Drink up, Arthur. The world’s about to end.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Now the insanity will begin in earnest. Ragnarok is coming. The last four years was just the warm-up act.
This is a dark, dark day, with the Smiling Satanic Simian flinging faeces at us from his Big White House.
I am indescribably depressed at this news.
When I get home this evening, I’m going to dig out my unread copy of Jake Tapper’s Down and Dirty: The Plot to Steal the Presidency, (the exhaustive look at the dirty tricks behind the Bush-Gore 2000 Rumble) and my well-read copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.
Very, very exciting. The unfurling of history. But I don’t think there will be a definitive answer any time soon.
Monday, November 01, 2004
110 minutes and counting…PricewaterhouseCoopers seem to have coined the phrase “rate tarts” to describe people who change credit cards every six months to take advantage of 0% APR offers. What a marvellously disparaging smackdown to belittle sane people who don’t want to be put in the poor house by the criminally high levels of interest charged by those modern-day loan sharks, the credit card companies. The credit card companies can take care of their own damn selves. If they want to offer 0% APR, then they can fucking well live with the consequences, and stop crying about it in public. It’s very undignified.
103 minutes and counting…The sight of someone who doesn’t see an open filing cabinet drawer, and then goes flying over it with the loud thud of shoes against metal, followed by the even louder thud of soft flesh against hard floor, is a good way to break the drudgery of a Monday afternoon, and loosen up the neglected laughter muscles. Take my word for it.
95 minutes and counting…With the return of Greenwich Mean Time denoting the official start of Winter, its time for another annual bout of Seasonal Affected Disorder. Or, as I like to call it, the pathological compulsion to jab rusty forks into the pee-holes of fuckstick kids who set off fireworks at 3AM.
34 minutes and counting…I just serviced a printer. The printer thanked me, and I asked it to leave the money on the dresser on the way out. Arf arf, fnarr fnarr.
32 minutes and counting…I’m not sure what worries me more. The fact that George W. Bush could conceivably get four more years (sending the planet into a hellish vortex that will no doubt irrevocably scar us all), or the fact that no matter what he says, John Kerry can’t seem to break this deadlock so close to voting. Whatever happens, such close running must indicate some kind of constitutional crisis soon. Obviously, neither candidate is sufficiently attractive to the electorate. Which must be a Very Bad Thing. I have never known an American presidential election to get such extensive coverage in the world media. Which just goes to show that the stakes are higher than they have ever been, and the outcome will affect people far beyond American borders.
11 minutes and counting…It is now absolutely pitch black outside. I’ve had enough of today. And I’ve got four more days of this shit before the next all-too-short weekend.
I need a holiday.
Friday, October 29, 2004
I have no idea why my place of employment wanted me to procure this qualification. It has absolutely no practical application in my day-to-day job, and I will never, ever use it in my life.
In other breaking news, it seems that Boredom has finally been recognised as a medical condition. From the On-Line Medical Dictionary: “A psychological state resulting from any activity that lacks motivation, or from enforced continuance in an uninteresting situation.”
I knew it all along. And I’ve been feeling it all week. 55 minutes until the weekend…
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
“Coloured” is a half-step up from “nigger”, and I’m stunned the word is still in such wide usage in this country. Is “black” so difficult to use? Does “black” even NEED to be used as a descriptive term most of the time? People can be defined in many, many other ways…and we don’t substitute “white” with “colourless”, do we?
And a “comedy paki” voice isn’t funny. They make Indians sound Welsh when they do it so badly anyway. Obviously, too many nights watching Peter Sellers in The Party haven’t paid off. There would no doubt be dancing in the streets if Mind Your Language was released as a DVD box set.
And a “mincing queen” voice coupled with numerous, unfunny butt-fucking jokes aren’t funny either. So Fuck the self-appointed GX Aryan Brotherhood.
I know there is absolutely no malice in any of this; it’s just archaic, blinkered ignorance in the guise of harmless jokes. But the main thrust of jokes, historically, is supposed to be humour. And I can’t find any in the feeble puns and inappropriate use of language in these parts.
And in this almost-exclusively white office, in this almost-completely white village, the few black or Indian people around me just accept the little jibes. I understand why. But only to a point. Sometimes, you just need to shake a place up a little bit.
So far I’ve bitten my tongue and walked away from any confrontations. But people who know me know that, in the past, had any of this sort of shit happened within my earshot, I would get shot a glance, as the rest of the room waited for me to step up and smack a fool down with withering verbal violence. I think it’s only a matter of time before I say something. We’ll see.
Not many things get a rise out of me. This is one of the few. And I’m not too arrogant or stupid to think I can change the way people are. I just think some things need to be said. After all, nobody else around here censors themselves before chatting shit. And I would hate to have to get all Uma Thurman on someone’s ass.
Friday, October 22, 2004
I LOVE the London Film Festival. Two of my favourite things, London and Film, rubbing shoulders, ripping each other’s clothes off and violently bringing each other off in a fortnight of frenzied, hungry rutting, with blood, sweat and celluloid sprayed in all four corners of Leicester Square.
This is the first time in four years that I haven’t had press accreditation for the festival. I couldn’t really justify it with the new job and new baby. But I used to love the whole thing. In the lead up, there’s two weeks of back-to-back press screenings, three movies a day, starting at around 9.30am, leaving you on the verge of deep vein thrombosis by the late afternoon, squinting into the icy winter sky over the South Bank.
And then when the festival begins, there are more screenings. And interviews. And far too much coffee. And parties. And free beer. And you end up starting the day at 9am, and finishing at 3am in an after-hours dive in W1, arguing about movies with your peers, in slurred, nonsensical, fractured sentences. And sometimes, there’s a bit of journalism thrown in there too.
I’m going to miss it.
But to mark this occasion in my own special way, I’ve been reflecting on great London movies. And I’m struggling. It’s much easier to think of the London movies that suck.
Notting Hill is a bad, bad London movie. So is Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch. None of those films are any kind of London that I know. It’s dishonest fakery, a counterfeit London for an international audience who don’t know any better, and don’t care either.
And the Carry On films and the Ealing comedies and Brief Encounter are all interesting in an historical sense, or as entertainments, but it’s a London that predates me, and it doesn’t matter how much I like Sid James or Terry Thomas or Trevor Howard, these aren’t people I recognise from my London life.
So, here are the top three London films that I can think of at the moment:
An American Werewolf in London – It took the objective eye of the great and underrated (American) John Landis to conjure up this perfect confluence of horror and comedy. The gore and laughs are piled high to dizzying levels amidst some of the great London-on-film moments, like the werewolf’s-eye-view of a rampage around the London Underground, or the porn cinema showing “See You Next Tuesday”, where David is confronted by all his victims (in reality the now-closed ABC cinema on Piccadilly which is currently a ticket booth that I never, ever see anyone using), or the decapitated head bouncing down Piccadilly.
28 Days Later – Not strictly a London film, but this is up there for the startling opening shots of Cillian Murphy wandering around the abandoned zombie-ravaged capital, all shot on the fly, guerrilla-style, in the early hours of daybreak by Danny Boyle. Burning cars, littered streets, and toppled-over double-deckers. Just like the real London after the Poll Tax riots.
Dirty Pretty Things – “We are the people you do not see. We are the ones who drive your cabs. We clean your rooms. And suck your cocks.” My favourite London film ever. Superficially, it’s a thriller. But it resonates because it's really about how we live our London lives today. Stephen Frears has a meticulous eye for detail, and every scene rings true. This film opened the London Film Festival a couple of years back. And I do believe that is where I came in...
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Abu Hamza was yesterday charged with 10 counts of inciting his acolytes to murder Westerners and Jews, five counts of whipping up racial hatred and one charge under the Terrorism Act 2000.
Abu Hamza is, clearly and unambiguously, an evil fuck.
Abu Hamza has two hooks where his hands used to be, because the dumb shit claims he blew his hands off clearing landmines as a Mujahaideen fighter in Afghanistan.
However, Abu Hamza is about to be given a brand, spanking new hook by the NHS, approved by the Prison Service, at a cost of £5000. Yes, that figure was five THOUSAND pounds. Paid for with our tax money.
I have a better suggestion. Give that Popeye-looking muthafucka one of those giant Hulk hands that were so popular last year. Grab a blowtorch and weld that heavy emerald plastic onto one of his stumps. There must be some sitting in a warehouse somewhere. Or on eBay.
Then we can all point and laugh as he tries to wipe his shitty ring piece with an enormous green plastic glove.
Monday, October 18, 2004
This blog frequently helps me win the battle against procrastination and, that bane of all wordpeddlers, writer’s block. It can be a pretty handy warm-up before the more arduous workout of my “professional” writing: the film reviews, the feature articles and, when I’m really rolling sevens, the contributions to books. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing. But it ain’t always easy.
I can come on here and spray paint my graffiti on the electronic wall without any of the performance anxiety of the other writing in my life, and sometimes I surprise myself with stuff on here that is far superior to the supposedly “real” writing that I sign my name to. And I’ve been wondering why that is. Partly, I suppose it’s because there are no limitations here. I can write as much or as little as I want, as often or as infrequently as I want, about whatever I want, without the straightjacket of editors, or house style, or deadlines, or anxiety about my professional reputation (such that it is).
Another factor must be subject matter. On here, I invariably write exclusively about topics about which I have an opinion. With, for example, a film review, I sometimes find that I have nothing that I really need or want to say about a movie, but I still have 500 words that I have to fill, and I hate to just hack something out if I can avoid it, so I punch it repeatedly in my mind until it acquiesces and says something vaguely meaningful, informative or entertaining.
You see, lately, I’ve been able to come to the blog, write away happily, post an entry, and then I go off, fire up a Word document, and gaze at a white screen for a long time waiting for some kind of inspiration. Admittedly, the demands of fatherhood make it difficult to think clearly sometimes, but this is something I’ve noticed before the arrival of the little poo-factory Buttercup.
And in some ways, the blog becomes another avoidance tactic to postpone the other work clamouring for my limited mental attention.
Not sure that there is any conclusion or solution for this one. I’m just thinking out loud. But I really am going to go off and try to finish a feature article I should have put to rest months ago.
By the end of the week.
Friday, October 15, 2004
When I’m alone in the lift, facing the mirrored wall at the back, I like to shape my left hand into the shape of a gun, push it into the soft, yielding flesh at the base of my chin, and pretend to blow my brains out. Am I alone in this? Surely not.
I really, really want to see Oldboy.
I hope that John Kerry wins the US election, for the sake of America, Iraq, Britain, and the rest of the world that my daughter has to grow up in.
I have a powerful urge to violently void my bowels. I have since about five minutes after I walked out of the front door this morning. It will need to wait until I get home. I don’t go for the whole shitting-in-public thing.
I’ve mentally wrestled with a film review feature article that I’ve been kicking around for over two months, and I've come no closer to cracking it. Curses.
Water really is the best drink ever. And it’s free!
Clock-watching truly does make time move at a glacial pace. Twenty minutes until the weekend…
Monday, October 11, 2004
Towards the end of 1978 and the beginning of 1979, I would have been in the early stages of my sixth year on the Planet Earth, around the time the last son of Krypton crash-landed into my life. Whilst my peers were obsessing over George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away, I was awed by a different fantasy. To this day, Superman remains the finest superhero movie ever made, and I’m convinced that, regardless of advances in technology, it will never be bettered.
From the jagged, opaque, crystalline refuge of his Fortress of Solitude, to the urban sprawl of Metropolis and the spinning globe atop the offices of the Daily Planet, everything was perfectly realised as a world just like ours, but not. And the moment that crackled along my synapses and irrevocably changed me, in the split-second when I pledged my heart to the cinema forever: The bumbling, well-meaning Clark Kent rips his shirt asunder to reveal that S, before diving into a telephone booth and appearing in the bold red, yellow and blues, his cape billowing in the city night. And then his feet leave the ground.
“Easy, miss. I've got you.”
“You, you've got me? Who's got you?”
And it wasn’t perfection because of the now-primitive special effects, or the word-perfect screenplay, or the confident, assured direction, or the all-star cast, or the point-of-view of a six-year-old boy witnessing miracles (although all those things played a part). It was all down to Christopher Reeve. He was Clark Kent. And he will always be my Superman.
For someone as insanely devoted to comics as I am, I’ve never been into Superman comics. The character on the page never did it for me. I was spoilt from a tender, young age, because I saw the real thing. A bulletproof man who could jump buildings in a single bound, and was more powerful than a locomotive. Part of me never stopped believing that Christopher Reeve was really Superman. Clark Kent was just another fake identity in Superman’s Russian doll identity. When you peeled off all the layers of artifice, Christopher Reeve was a genuine superhero.
In 1995, the man who could fly was no longer able to walk. When he appeared at the 68th Academy Awards ceremony on stage in his wheelchair, I cried in a mixture of delight, joy, and sadness. Since then, he fought tirelessly for medical research to help cure the causes of paralysis, with limited, but by no means insignificant, success, hamstrung by political bureaucracy.
And now he's gone. And I can't think of a suitable goodbye that will do him justice, or that won't sound trite. But maybe I'm just not ready to say goodbye to him yet. So I'll leave it with these words from Jonathan Kent to his adoptive son, that could just as well apply to this greatest of American heroes:
“You can do all these amazing things, and sometimes you think that you will burst wide open unless you can tell someone about it, don't you? There's one thing I know for sure, son. And that is, YOU ARE HERE FOR A REASON. I don't know what it is, exactly, but I do know this much: it's NOT to score touchdowns.”
Sunday, October 10, 2004
To celebrate my birth, and for one time only, daddy has allowed me to take over his blog. My motor-skills are still a bit lacking (give me a break! I’m only eleven days old!), so he is transcribing my thoughts as I dictate them.
So, what can I tell you? It’s been an interesting first week. I’ve been filling lots of nappies. There was one yesterday that must have been my own body weight in poop the colour and consistency of Dijon mustard. Ha ha! Daddy freaked out a bit cleaning that up.
In my defence, I’m not feeling too well. I’m having my first cold. My immune system doesn’t really exist yet, so this cold will do me good in the long run. I couldn’t sleep very well the other night because of my cold, so daddy stayed up until 4 in the morning to look after me, and we also sat and watched Cabin Fever at the same time. I don’t think I’m old enough to watch stuff like that yet…daddy told me that it was overly derivative, and that I would be better off with stuff like Evil Dead and Night of the Living Dead. Daddy’s parenting skills worry me sometimes.
Mummy was up with me a lot last night, so daddy is letting her sleep late while he looks after me. And what did he do? He just made me sit through Gigli! Just wait until he has to empty my nappy later on…I will pay him back for it then!
What else? Daddy says we are a lot alike: we both smile when we fart. (Mummy smiles when I fart too. But she runs away from daddy when he does.)
I need a nap now. If I don’t get 22 hours solid sleep a day, I’m no good to anyone, and I need to get up later to gaze at lights and study my hands. Bye bye!
Thursday, September 30, 2004
6.53pm last night
7 pounds 4 oz
My daughter shares her day of birth with Andrew "Dice" Clay and Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra. Which means she may well grow up to be a foul-mouthed writer.
Chip off the old block, then.
Right, I'm off to see my newly-minted Powerpuff Girl, and my very own Professor Utonium (Mrs. AKA to you).
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
What a way to make a livin'
Barely gettin' by
It's all takin'
And no givin'
They just use your mind
And they never give you credit
It's enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it”
Who would have thought Dolly Parton would be the font of such sage words? You can feel the ample weight of their buxom perspicacity.
So, after leaving the self-immolation of the Soho animation company, I found myself temping at a number of budding dot coms, which led to my next, short-lived, permanent job:
3. I worked for one of the key movers and shakers in the London dot com scene, a household name for all of fifteen minutes, and now just a footnote in the history of stupid business ventures.
Yes, it was that dizzying era when otherwise sane, well-balanced individuals misguidedly believed that we would be set for life, with the minimum effort, but the maximum rewards. We were overpaid! We could work from home just because we felt like it! We kept our own hours! And, best of all…we had share options! Woo Hoo!
What a bunch of fucking idiots we were. As the share options turned into luxury toilet paper, dappled with Verdana and Arial Bold fonts for maximum absorption, everything crashed with lightning speed. With the benefit of hindsight, it is all too easy to see that this was never going to work. There was never, ever any kind of revenue stream. It wasn't enough to just be a dot com, with one eye on that elusive flotation that would make us all rich, rich, RICH!
An average day at work went a little something like this: Wander in whenever I felt like it. Surf the net until lunchtime. Take a long lunch break. Exchange e-mails with friends non-stop throughout the day. Go out for a long coffee break. And, occasionally, work on convoluted research projects that were abandoned just shy of completion, before being handed a different research assignment, starting the fruitless cycle once more. Now, how the fuck was that going to contribute to a business bringing money in, let alone turning a profit?
In less than a year, I was made redundant and the company imploded. Loads of people around London were in the same position. And therein lay a big-ass problem. Too many people, not enough jobs.
I was stuck in employment limbo for nigh on two years, interspersed with bouts of consultancy work for former dot bomb colleagues, full-time film journalism, and re-educating myself to expand my skill set, which finally led to…
4. The last job. The one I griped about at length in the early days of this blog. A business publishing company that published books no-one bought, no-one read and no-one wanted. The place bled money like a menstruating elephant. It was a startling coalescence of everything a job shouldn’t be. I took a massive pay cut to take the job, purely because I needed ANY job by that point. And there was no upside. I was poorly rewarded. I didn’t learn anything or pick up any skills that I could take with me elsewhere. I didn’t enjoy it. Apart from a couple of important friendships, the place was a waste of fifteen months of my life, but now I’m…
5. Here. And it’s far too early to take any kind of overview of the place.
And I’m far too distracted to formulate any more organised thoughts at the moment. I’m only blogging because Mrs. AKA has been sequestered in the local Maternity Unit, as she is on the verge of labour, and I’m not allowed to stay the night. I need a bath, some food, a cigarette, a warm bed and a book…unless the phone rings and I get summoned back to the hospital. Wish us luck.
Monday, September 27, 2004
1. I managed to last an impressive four years in my first job. Having dropped out of my degree course on the grounds of apathy and unsuitability for the vocational path I had misguidedly selected (it was a law degree. Ha!), I jumped into a role at what used to be a very well-known high street record chain. To this day, still the best bread-and-butter job I've ever had. What's not to love? Hanging with your friends, listening to music and talking trash. It was the best. Having to sell Michael Bolton and Bon Jovi albums to brain-washed dullards was an unfortunate side-effect of the job. I met some of my closest, lifelong friends there. I met my future wife there. I had some of the best nights of my life after leaving the shop at the end of the day. Lots of laughter, lots of fun, absolutely sod all money. But somehow, we all managed to cope on our minimum wage. Which wasn't too hard when our job and our social life were exactly the same thing.
Towards the end of my time there, I had reached the heady heights of Acting Assistant Manager (which roughly translates as "Assistant Manager with a lower salary".) A new Manager was placed in the shop with the explicit task of splitting us all up. To force us to either transfer to another branch, or quit. We all quit. I was the last one of my crew to leave. I was surrounded by strangers in my last weeks there. It was about time, anyway. It wasn't somewhere to carve out a career. Which led me to...
2. The television post-production and animation company in Soho. I started at the bottom of the totem pole as the lowly runner, and within a month, I ended up with the dual-pronged job title of Production Assistant and Personal Assistant to the Managing Director. I snagged this role by exhibiting a character trait not usually associated with career advancement: I didn't flinch when the M.D. screamed at me for 5 minutes non-stop. So she promoted me, impressed with my ability to soak up an inordinate amount of shit and abuse. And she was more than happy to provide the shit and abuse. She was a stone-cold bitch.
On my first day in the newly-minted role, I was sent to buy her a tube of KY Jelly and some ribbed jimmy-hats. Either she was the dried-up skank I imagined her to be, or she wanted her man to do her in the ass. I like to think it was a bit of both. They do say that people in power often like to take the submissive position in a sexual scenario.
I tolerated her increasingly frenzied verbal molestation for another two years. She hurled every swear word at her disposal towards me over those years. She ignored me most mornings, she debased me most afternoons. But I'm a tough cookie. I inhaled her venom like cigarette smoke, and exhaled it when I left every evening. The job did play havoc with my self-esteem towards the end, though. If someone tells you that you are worthless shit enough times, you tend to start believing it.
The job in and of itself was quite enjoyable (which was why I put up with it for so long). I got to work on some interesting film-shoots for title sequences and commercials. I learnt a lot. I was a shit-hot Production Manager. I could throw a successful film shoot together from scratch within the space of an afternoon. I was reasonably well-rewarded for my work. And I was well-liked and respected. (Even the M.D. with her Medusa-like tresses was fond of me. She just had a fucked up way of showing it.)
There were two flashpoints which made me say "Enough!":
a) On a business trip to Prague, the M.D. was being bothered by a cleaner who insisted on cleaning her hotel room. Which was, y'know, just her job. After struggling to get rid of the cleaner, who didn't understand English, the M.D. screeched "Just fuck off back to the Concentration Camp!" and slammed the door in her face.
b) Shortly after the M.D. had returned to the opulent environs of our Soho offices, our receptionist was raped. Too terrified to call the M.D. to inform her why she would not be able to come to work, she called me. I told her I'd smooth things over at work, and not to worry about the office. In the big scheme of things, work wasn't important. On the receptionist's second day of leave to come to terms with the fall-out of her attack, the M.D. flipped out: "I don't give a fuck! It's a problem for the police, it's not my fucking problem! She should be here at work!"
And that was the second when I knew I had to get the fuck out of that company. I resigned later that week, even though I didn't have another job to go to. She fought to keep me, but too little, and far too fucking late. I think I'd sold out enough of my soul by then. I'd also made a conscious decision to leave the T.V. industry. It was a difficult decision to make. I was doing well in the business. I was starting to make decent connections, and I was damn good at what I did. But I couldn't face all the ancillary bullshit: the corruption, the rampant egotism, the self-centredness, the epic wastage of money on the truly diabolical shit that clogs our televisions.
So another change of career was on the horizon. But I'm already starting to run long here, and I should at least feign diligence as I hammer at these keys. Barring the arrival of my baby, I will return to the next sharp turn in my working life soon...
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Following the (in retrospect) ridiculously pathetic events of July 7th, and after a couple of days of gently repopulating the archives of the site, I can now officially unveil the complete, combined, unexpurgated, ongoing works of both Stray Bullets and Sucker Punch, here for your gratification and edification. Alternatively, feel free to hurl rotten fruit at your monitor.
Everything is exactly as originally posted, right down to the date and time. And any grammatical screw-ups or crappy writing remain my fault the second time around. The only thing that is different is that I've lost all the original comments left on those posts. Nothing I can do about that now.
Enjoy. Or ignore. But it’s all here to stay. For good this time.
Birth news: The baby still isn’t here yet.
Death news: May Russ Meyer rest in teats.
Monday, September 20, 2004
They crossed my tolerance threshold years ago with their jingly jangly formation dancing commercials, a clusterfuck of politically correct multicultural beautiful people spasmodically swirling in front of a white backdrop, rictus smiles carved into their botox-poisoned features. Then came the celebrity endorsements, which has now reached its nadir with the worst commercial ever.
When did someone use one of Lenny Kravitz’s guitar strings to cheese-cut his nuts off? And what is up with that fruity haircut? And Sarah Jessica Parker and her facial blemish can Fuck. Right. Off. They should both be boiled down into bars of soap, so I can wipe my ass on them for all eternity.
And in a bizarre word association crossed wire in my head, now all I can think about is The Gap Band. But that’s probably because after watching that commercial, I want to go Oops Upside their Fucking Head.
On a lighter note, it was my firstborn’s due date yesterday. But the baby has yet to arrive. I wonder if fatherhood will mellow me...
Monday, September 13, 2004
The bartender started making small talk with me.
Now my little bubble of anonymity has been popped, and that obligation to smile an anodyne smile, and to gently nod my head in recognition when I push my way through the heavy swing doors will slowly harden into a bad habit. I am in danger of becoming A Regular.
I need to find somewhere else to kill my lunch hour now. I have absolutely no intention of telling a complete stranger how my morning was.
The rest of the hour was spent trying to concentrate on my book whilst attempting to block out the Easy Listening Horrors pumping out of the sound system. Cliff Fucking Richard and Katie Shitting Melua. If there had been even the slightest hint of Jamie Cullum, I would have smashed my glass on the side of the table and slashed at the landlady’s carotid with the shards. Or possibly my own.
I made a mental note: Better to have an N.W.A tape and not need one, than to need an N.W.A. tape and not have one.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Over night, a bunch of pikey fuck-knuckles had erected a "fun" fair. You really had to squint to see the green hidden amongst the noisy, greasy, ugly metal death machines. I hate fun fairs. You can hear every screech and whine of the rides with each tiny whirl, twist and shimmy, just calling out to the local tards as if to say, "Forget about becoming a concert pianist, kid, for tonight I will crumple your delicate fingers in my rusty joints."
"Roll up, roll up, poison your guts with luminous sugary snacks that have been in a warehouse since the days when Frank Bough still had a career!"
"Waste your hard-earned pocket money trying to win a stuffed monkey that only cost us 50p at a car boot sale! Marvel as the stuffing squeezes out of the toy's eye sockets the minute your little brother gets his hands on it! Gasp as his skin breaks out in a rash from the cheap material it was cobbled together with!"
I really, really hate fun fairs.
Monday, September 06, 2004
But I have no doubt that today was an aberration brought on by a pleasurable weekend and the unseasonably awesome hot weather we are having.
Oh yeah, you should all go and see Spielberg’s The Terminal this week. There are loads of reasons for this, but you can discover what they are for yourselves. Go. Watch. Enjoy.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
1. You will never find the book you want, CD you want, magazine you want, or even the brand of gum you want. Anywhere. Ever. All shops sell things you neither want nor need. Unless you want ornate cherub candelabra, or garden furniture for toddlers.
2. You will be forced to eat lunch at the same place every day. Unless you want to have lunch at your desk. No thanks.
3. Short people with long legs just look plain wrong. Poor bastards.
4. Irony and cynicism are alien concepts. Use sparingly to avoid an outbreak of furrowed brows and tilted heads.
5. Tie - Neckwear consisting of a long narrow piece of material worn (mostly by men) under a collar and tied in a knot at the front. This item of clothing has absolutely no practical application or utilitarian purpose whatsoever.
6. Silence is not necessarilly golden.
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
It's got me thinking. (Dangerous, I know.) When Sucker Punch (and before it, Stray Bullets) began, there was so much to write about, because I had a lot of inspiration. London was my playground, with its eccentric ways, abject stupidity and combative inhabitants. Movies, people, ideas were in bountiful supply, and I love to soak up new shit, and there was always something to spark my imagination and stimulate my itchy keyboard fingers. Blood and bile sprayed freely and often.
I doubt that the Muse visits anyone in Gerrards Cross, though. But I'm starting to sound like a bad workman blaming his tools. It's time to up my game.
This is my tenth working day in this place, and the honeymoon is now over. Not for me, y'understand. For them. Time to smoke some fools with necessary roughness, instead of sitting here imprisoned by collar and tie. I may be here for the forseeable future, but I don't have to do it on their terms.
For people interested in my professional writing (and who know where to find it) expect more and better film reviews and feature articles. It's been a bit slack recently, I know. For afficionados of the Punch, I envy you the enjoyment and wisdom I will bring you. No more will this be just an aimless journal of my daily existence. There will be more focus, more fury and more fire.
This blog entry has been brought to you on a brand new, unused IBM laptop from the Server Room, plugged into an ADSL line to keep it off the corporate network and away from prying eyes. After I'm done, I'll delete all cookies, temporary internet files and the internet history, box it up again and return it to the Server Room. Told you I'm upping my game.
Monday, August 30, 2004
Almost two weeks into the new job now, and I am still firmly cast in the role of The New Guy. I am almost totally ignored by absolutely everyone in the company, I have little to no work to do at the moment, and I can’t kill time the way I used to (surfing for eight hours straight, interrupted occasionally with a bout of profane e-mails to friends). So, my working day consists of me badgering my superiors for work to do (I’d rather be bored and busy at the same time), being told that there’s nothing to do at the moment, looking like I’m busy by forcing my eyes to skim across techie websites, and making an occasional foray to the toilet or the kitchen. I spend my lunch hour sitting in the pub scrawling film reviews into note pads to keep my brain alive, reading, eating stodgy pub food. My working life is making me feel very restless and isolated at the moment, and I’ve never known such a massive discrepancy between my self-image (unshaven, foul-mouthed writer prowling the streets of London) and the reality (immaculately turned-out, mute IT wage-slave ambling through a green and pleasant land). It’s quite disconcerting. If things continue like this, I might snap. I’ll end up garrotting someone with my tie whilst telling them to choke on my fresh shit.
I went into Soho on Tuesday night for a press screening. It was great. It was like refuelling my tank with Distilled Essence of W1, and the minute Piccadilly Circus tube station vomited me up onto the street, the hum of humanity was incredibly energising. Everything was faster. The people, the traffic, my pulse. I walked around before and after the movie just soaking it all up. I reckon one pure hit of London lasts for a good two or three days before the shakes set in again, so I might have to make it a habit to go up (down?) there twice a week. It should stave off irreparable psychosis.
Last Friday was my birthday. 32 years and still going strong. The incomparable Mrs. AKA secretly orchestrated a blowout Thai meal in my old ‘hood Harrow, surrounded by my much-loved homies and an unending stream of potent beer. And she bought me The West Wing Season 3 boxset, and the Leone Dollars trilogy boxset on DVD. What a gal.
AND I finally got myself a car. Once the insurance is sorted, I can take to the roads at last. Be afraid.
The last two days, we have been continuing the endless preparation for the arrival of our little one, with dusting, vacuuming, washing, cleaning, tidying, throwing out shit…we eventually got to bed at 2am last night. There’s something almost Zen about hoovering in the early hours of the morning.
Got the house to myself today, so I can relax somewhat before the week begins in earnest. Going to write a film review or two, iron shirts for the week ahead (gah!), do some research on pain relief during labour, and then I can loll on the couch, crack open a can, and finally watch the Hellboy DVD that has been calling me from the shelf ever since I bought it a month ago.
On balance, all is good. And despite my grouches and grumbles, it always is in the end.
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Well, I’ve been at my new job for two days, and I’ve got a full clip of observations to unload on you. Let’s start with the short bit: the pros of the new job. After fifteen months at Feeble Business Evisceration plc, and being treated like the Office Bukkake Bitch, closing my eyes and opening my mouth to the showered offerings of my employers and co-workers, a few things are strangely pleasant. More cash, more holiday entitlement, they are offering to pay my full salary as paternity pay for two weeks (a big plus in their favour, seeing as they don’t know me from a hole in their ass), loads of training, they took me out for a swanky lunch on my first day…so far, I’m quietly impressed at the way they treat their staff. Ask me again in a week, though.
Here’s the down side. Shirt and tie. Every day. Dammit.
Never had to do this before. I pointed out that some elements of my job would require me to get a bit filthy. Their response? If I anticipate that that might happen, wear a polo shirt. Polo shirt! Why don’t I crack out the jodhpurs whilst I’m at it? Shiteaters! Do I look like Chris Eubank?
What else? No casual internet browsing, no checking online e-mail accounts, mobile phones must be turned off in the office. They may as well cut off one of my hands. Yes, I know this is not uncommon company policy in a lot of places, but I’m getting the distinct impression that these guys mean it.
Another discomforting oddity. I thought the office was deathly quiet in the last place I worked. That was fucking Mardi Gras every day compared to this morgue. I don’t even have the luxury of plugging in a CD and zoning out.
All the men talk in clipped middle England word-perfect BBC diction. All the women are shapeless blonde lumps squeezed into too small clothes with screechingly loud voices, fresh off the shelf from the Denise Van Outen clone factory, with a mid-90s Essex vintage.
You can take the boy out of London, and they seem to be trying their hardest to take the London out of the boy too. Will they succeed? They can suck on my balls. They will fail. Although it does feel a little weird to me. I’ve worked in London, and not lived there. I’ve lived in London, and not worked there. Most of the time, I’ve done both. This is the first time in my entire life that I’ve done neither. It’s almost as if I’m having a long-distance relationship with one of my deepest loves…
I’m not knocking the area. It’s the beautiful and sleepy village of Gerrards Cross. I don’t do sleepy too well. I need that ragged edge of anxiety, frustration and simmering anger to keep me going. It makes me feel alive. Walking through GX (as the locals are wont to call it) is like floating through the day without drinking enough coffee. It’s all too slow and gentle and green. I don’t want to be able to see the sky. I want the sky obscured by towering edifices, and crowded with pollution.
Now, beautiful, on the other hand. I can do beautiful. But beautiful to me is a bitterly cold night walking on the South Bank, the chill wind off the Thames cutting into my face, a busker playing Blue Moon on the sax, whilst the lights of my city dance on the black water. Beautiful to me is standing outside a Soho pub, watching the eyes of a complete stranger crinkle and smile in a private, conspiratorial, fleeting moment of connection, as a motorcycle courier gets knocked over by a cab reversing too quickly. Beautiful is sitting in the Empire, Leicester Square on a Tuesday afternoon, as the pin-prick lights on the ceiling twinkle, twinkle in the darkness briefly just as the curtains open, and a new adventure unfurls across the screen. Beautiful is the feeling that you know nothing, anything can happen, there are no certainties, and any minute now, you could be in the greatest moment of your life.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Even though my last day at work was Friday, I was wished farewell the afternoon before, so that the MD could tell me how great I was. I don’t blame her. I understood her overwhelming urge to foist a stream of platitudes upon me. And, of course, I am great. False modesty be damned.
Pleasantries were exchanged, and then she handed over my leaving gift. The Starsky & Hutch Season 1 DVD box set! It was just what I wanted! It was easy for them to get me just what I wanted, seeing as Beckett, Coupland and I had sneaked on over to the HMV Trocadero a couple of hours earlier, where I got to pick it out myself.
After I’d bagged my booty, I hustled my ass on over to the Metropolitan Bar on Baker Street to OD on lime-tinged beer. Five hours of drinking, bullshitting and spitballing ideas back and forth across the table in the company of my brothers.
I have an innate inability to get to sleep when Mrs. AKA isn’t at home, so I finally bedded down at 2.30am, catching four hours sleep before rousing at 6.30am for my last day.
Obviously, I was late for work. Not much they could do about it at that point. Wolfed down two sausage and egg McMuffins to settle my rebellious stomach. It wasn’t so much a hangover, as the queasy instability I usually feel when I haven’t had nearly enough sleep.
I compounded my culinary errors at lunchtime by forcing down a foot long Italian B.M.T with all the trimmings. ALL the trimmings. It sat in my stomach like a vicious meat demon kicking away for the rest of the afternoon, whilst I tried to distract my evil gut with a CD of Nigerian funk. Beckett & I spent the remainder of my last working day throwing bottles of mineral water down our throats in preparation for the evening’s festivities.
Which kicked off shortly after 5pm at the Glasshouse Stores. Far more people than I had expected to attend were there. No doubt due to the fact that word got out that the company credit card would also be making an appearance. And the boozing commenced, as I sat there with a beer in my hand and a bad case of the meat sweats.
As the booze flowed fast and furious, the artificial barriers of office politics melted away in the corrosive face of beer fumes, and home truths were spat out with humour and vitriol. It was awesome, watching people sliced and diced with the odd well-chosen putdown. I just sat back and enjoyed the show, with the Big Brother final lurking in the background on a muted TV screen.
Much later on, when we had all lost the ability to talk about anything coherently, I noted with as much detached coolness and nonchalance as someone as drunk as I was could muster up, the following observation: “That dude over there is C-3PO”. This was met with a combined chorus of “Bollocks!”, “Who?”and “So what?”. As usual, those who doubted my mutant ability to identify anyone remotely significant in the celluloid world would tremble at the truth of my words.
Anthony Daniels (for it was he) was a gracious, kind and erudite guest at our epic bacchanalian debauch, and we had to keep reminding ourselves that this man was the iconic Lucasfilm gaybot beloved by generations of Star Wars gazers.
He sat and drank with us for an hour (despite the best attempts of his Fox PR bodyguards to wrest him away from us), and regaled us with tales of galaxies far, far away. He was professional enough not to spill any plot details of Episode III, and we were smart enough not to ask. I like to think that we didn’t come across as a bunch of sweaty geeks. He may think differently.
At the end of the evening, he wished me good luck with my new job, and handed over a glossy picture of one of cinema’s most famous robots, emblazoned with the legend: “To AKA, with Force! Anthony Daniels.” It was a perfect end to a perfect evening.
Normally, Saturdays are synonymous with lie-ins. Not then, though. For her birthday, I had purchased a maternity massage as a joint gift for Mrs. AKA and our soon-to-be bouncing bubba, so we had to get down to Marylebone High Street for midday.
Whilst Mrs. AKA was being pleasurably rubbed down by a pro, I bought a couple of second hand Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels, and then went and sat in the blazing dry heat outside a pub, with the previous night’s excesses oozing from my pores, gently sipping a Coke. (It was 32 degrees that day, for those of you with goldfish memories).
Following a phenomenally hearty lunch at Giraffe with my newly kneaded lifemate, we pounded the pavements shopping. Well, Mrs. AKA shopped. I carried the fruits of her spending.
As the sun set, we ended the day with Fahrenheit 9/11 and a curry. So far, I was batting three for three on the eve of my break between jobs.
But with the highest highs, sometimes follows the lowest lows. But I’ll save that for next time….
By the way, this blog posting is dedicated to the memory of his royal badness, the superfreak and underrated funkateer, Rick James. Long may he continue Bustin’ Out.
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
I’m bored, bored, bored and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Because I’m stuck in the office marking time, trying to dodge work until the clock strikes five on Friday afternoon, and I can throw of my shackles and make a break for freedom for the very last time. Call me Kunte Kinte.
If I wasn’t stuck here, I could do anything my imagination could conceive of. Instead, this is the third day that I’ve sat here cooling my heels, fighting off deep vein thrombosis by jiggling my legs restlessly, and chewing on my nails to stop me from screaming in frustration. Two more days, two more days, two more days…it’s like a mantra buzzing in the back of my head.
I’ve been struggling to feed my restless mind with something, anything, all week.
I keep visiting all my favourite websites hoping that they’ve updated with something new for me to read. Doing it every five minutes and then wondering why there’s nothing new there.
I’ve entertained myself by trying to think of classic closing lines from movies. The horror, the horror. Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads. Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Well, nobody's perfect. Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly. Shut up and deal. That's right. That's right. Attaboy, Clarence.
Wrote a film review. Didn’t take as long as I thought it would, dammit.
Electronically shuffled money from one pile to another to keep my debtors at bay for another month.
Played with my Incredible Hulk action figure. He’s got a hell of a right hook.
Tried to crop image files using shit like Microsoft Paint, before realising that I’ve just wasted about an hour.
Listening to Eric Bogosian’s 1998 album of his stage show Pounding Nails in the Floor with my Forehead. Ironically, it's a recording of his show about frustration. It’s not helping.
Two more days, two more days, two more days…
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
The New Piccadilly will soon be going the way of deeley-boppers, videocassettes and Vanilla Ice. Apart from the fact that, y’know, the New Piccadilly is actually good and will be missed. The owner is hanging up his spatula, retiring and selling up.
It’s not just the quality of the food, the reasonably priced menu, the slightly-camp uniforms the waiters wear, the comfort in knowing that you can ALWAYS get a table, or the fact that both formica and cholesterol are in plentiful supply. All fine reasons for going there, but that’s not it. It’s the sad realisation that another part of My London is being shunted out of the real world and into the sepia-coloured contours of my memory.
My grandparents used to have a place like that. When they first came over from Cyprus, they had a greasy spoon on the Parkway in Camden. The floor was sheer geometric perfection, with black and white tiles from the front door to the kitchen. Then they had a place in Willesden in the late seventies / early eighties that I vividly remember. The ketchup dispensers shaped like big, red plastic tomatoes. My grandfather behind the counter cooking up the food, his beaming smile always visible through the fugue of greasy smoke, and my grandmother bussing tables with nothing but a stubby pencil, crumpled notepad and her ever-present hairnet keeping the thick, black strands of Mediterranean hair out of her face. I don’t think I ever saw her without that hairnet on.
I wish I valued the place whilst it was still there. To me it was just the place where my grandparents used to make me food. I remember that my brother and I always used to complain that we didn’t want to eat there. We wanted MacDonald’s…
That place was worth a million Big Macs.
For the record, I had a Mixed Grill (bacon, sausage, egg, chips, peas and steak), bread and butter, two large Cokes and a slice of apple pie with cream. I had a mad sugar jag and a bloated gut for the rest of the afternoon, but it was worth it.