Friday, October 29, 2004

Malcontent in the Middle

I passed an exam this week: I am now licensed to run a pub in the U.K. All I need now is about £10,000, a pit bull, a baseball bat, and a face like a slapped arse.

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

Stupid White Men (and Women)

I’ve gradually been reminded of yet another reason why I prefer to work in London than on the outskirts. Here in suburbia, ignorance is by no means blissful. The small-minded ass-clowns around me need to smarten the fuck up and drag their mighty whitey worldview into 2004, instead of revelling in their “Black and White Minstrel Show”-infected perspective. And this is why:

“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

City Lights

The London Film Festival began on Wednesday.

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

Fisting the night away

Abu Hamza is the one-eyed former imam of the Finsbury Park Mosque.

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

Writer's blog

One of the advantages of the multifarious Sucker Punch, for me at least, is that it helps to kick loose the inarticulate, the inchoate and the incoherent from my seething psyche, and strings it all together into a series of sentences that perpetrate the idea that I am a witty and intelligent man. Sometimes.

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

Brain Candy

Paternity leave is now well and truly over, and I am back to the unfettered idiocy that is other people. It’s only been three days and that deeply ingrained boredom and apathy that seeps deep into your bones like a cold snap and infects you on a sub-molecular level is threatening to eat me alive. Less than an hour away from the weekend, and I’ve had almost nothing to do since I came back to work. Just alone in a room full of people, with nothing but my thoughts to keep the taut skein of my sanity from unravelling in a messy pile of irritation. Today’s wayward thoughts include, but are not limited to, these:

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

You’ll Believe a Man Can Fly!

“Say, Jim! Whoo! That’s a bad outfit!”

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

Lone Wolf and Cub

Hello. I am AKA’s eleven-day-old daughter. You can call me Buttercup (it’s not my real name, but daddy says that people on blogs don’t use their real names, in case they want to say something horrible about people they know, or they want to say bad things about where they work without getting fired. I can dig it).

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!