Thursday, September 30, 2004

Sugar, Spice & Everything Nice

It's a girl! Complete with eagle-eyes and kung-fu grip.

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

Just doing my job, ma'am

“Workin' 9 to 5
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

Curriculum vitae

Seeing as the baby STILL hasn't arrived (and the terrifying prospect of inducement gets ever closer), I've yet to embark on my paternity leave, and still find myself at work with little to do today. Which got me thinking about my working life, and the wending twists and turns my professional existence has taken. It looks a little like this:

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

Turn around, back up & hit me with it

Sometimes it pays to electronically hoard things on my Hard Drive. I feel complete again.

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

Mind the Gap

Oh, that’s it. They’ve gone too far. By “they”, I mean the evil, vicious scatmunchers behind the Gap advertising campaigns.

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

Bar Bores

On my daily sojourn to the pub at lunchtime today, for an hour of privacy, literacy and sugary, caffeinated soft drinks, something happened that I was hoping could be avoided. But it was inevitable. I go there far too often, and I was just tempting fate.

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

Not fun, and not fair

So, I tried to make it two in a row. I really did. At lunchtime today, I ambled over to my new friend: the idyllic, unsullied, unoccupied, isolated grass verge. It was another fine day, and I was prepared, with a can of Dr. Pepper and my book, in an attempt to replicate the gentle relaxation of the previous day.

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

Always Greener

Dammit, I can’t sustain the unfettered hatred. I almost enjoyed today. I spent my lunch break sitting in the park, the sun blazing down causing little trails of condensation to swirl down the side of my ice-cold Dr. Pepper, reading a book (Joe Queenan’s The Unkindest Cut, for those who care about such things). I was the only one in the entire park. Green Park, it ain’t. But I did like it. I was chillin’ like a villain.

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

Diff'rent Strokes

Here are some of my initial observations on village working life:

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

Once again it's on

On my new desk, at my new job, in my new office, there is one of those naff, archaic Daily Tear Off Calendars. Every date on the calendar comes complete with a useless factoid about this day in history, and a (supposedly) life-affirming little homily. Now, loath as I am to give credence to such broad, meaningless, hollow platitudes, the one for today has caught my jaded eye. It reads: "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."

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.