Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Easy rider’s raging bullshit

At last. With my 32nd year racing towards me like bugs to my windshield, I’ve finally passed my driving test. Second time’s the charm. The last (and first) time I took my driving test, was nigh on 18 months ago. Got round to it in the end. Can’t exactly expect Mrs. AKA to drive herself to the Maternity Ward when her waters broken, can I?

For my homeboys who remember my exploits from back in the day, this will no doubt amuse them greatly. Etched on their frontal lobes will be the memory of me slumped in the passenger seat, or splayed prostrate on the back seat, exhausted from nights of beer, Jack Daniel’s, movies, poker, porn, pizza or just sitting in someone’s living room until we could hear the birds outside. Clouding up their cars with an endless chain of Marlboro Reds, my left leg propped up on the dashboard. Hurling cassettes around and violently punching buttons on the tape deck until I could find just the right song. N.W.A.’s sonic soundscape pounding the bass until your eyes throbbed lightly in their sockets, James Brown rattling the windows, Chaka Khan on the verge of shattering glass, a Prince guitar-solo making stray cats run for cover.

I’m no-one’s favourite passenger, believe that. It’s a testament to my friends’ loyalty that they tolerated my more annoying ticks with broad shoulders, exhalations of resignation and very few mutterings of annoyance. Of course, I will now have to repay years of debt by driving them everywhere and anywhere they desire, if they dare to get into a car with such a notoriously malcoordinated eejit as me.

My long-suffering wife also finally gets to sleep on the ride home, instead of watching me mouth-breathing with my eyes slammed shut.

It's the end of an era, I tell you. Now I just need to buy a car…

Friday, June 25, 2004

A Private Disfunction

In a fine mood today. I’ve even been forging relationships with inanimate objects.

I was just downstairs looking at the lift, and there was a sign on it that read: "You might get stuck in this lift. It is dysfunctional". I was going to walk up the one flight of stairs, but I couldn’t resist. If I ever see a button saying “Don’t Press”, I have to press it.

I got in and waited for the lift to tell me that it's wife wouldn't sleep with it, and that the kids ignore it at dinner. Sadly, it said nothing.

But it did make me smile.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The glass has got some water in it

I like to think of myself as, on balance, an optimistic person. Not that you’d know that from reading this blog recently. Everything seems to be getting on top of me recently, putting me in an increasingly frazzled and foul mood.

This blog is teetering dangerously close to really bad stand-up comedy. It’s not very constructive for me to rail about polyphonic ringtones, people with umbrellas or cigar smokers. Pet peeves don’t always translate into good writing. If I thought it was cathartic, I’d happily write about it. Just let it all explode onto the web in a gory mess of Travis Bickle bloodletting. But it doesn’t make me feel better. It just makes me stew for longer on things that don’t really merit so much scrutiny.

Some painful belt-tightening recently has resulted in me widening my outlook to find entertainment and distractions that fall between the posts marked “Cheap” and “Free”. I’ve found it difficult to devote time to simple pleasures in the last month or so. I miss reading uninterrupted for long periods of time. I miss the feeling of loosing my imagination free of its constraints to let ideas surge onto a page. I miss the ability to sit and watch a movie without feeling my eyelids fighting to stay open. And I miss the sensation of listening to someone talk without getting aggravated and confrontational. Sometimes, just stringing a coherent sentence together is an epic task.

Yesterday, it was clear that the good weather had well and truly passed for the time being. Good news for me, as it means my hay fever has gone on hiatus. Fed up of lunch breaks that consisted of sitting in St. James’s Square munching on sandwiches, Becket & I decided to go walkabout. We ambled down to the Mall, flicked through the overpriced magazines in the ICA bookshop for ten minutes, and then headed on over to the Horse Guards Parade. Over thirty years living in this city, and I’d never really seen it properly before. The rain whipped our faces as we checked out the big-ass cannons in the courtyard. It was great.

The rest of the hour was spent deliberately treading the back streets of the city up towards Leicester Square. Browsing the graphic novels in Comic Showcase up on Charing Cross Road. Stumbling upon out-of-the-way noodle bars in the alleys around Chinatown’s Gerrard Street. Amazing to think that where Dr. Johnson once convened with his Literary Club, you can now bag some Japanese pink mags and a copy of Battle Royale II on VCD. Now that’s what I call progress.

Best lunch hour I’ve had for a very long time. And the walk was more nourishing than any sandwich could have possibly been.

Monday, June 21, 2004

The A-Team

During the 1920s and 1930s, some of the greatest literary minds of the era gathered at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. The gathering, dubbed the Algonquin Round Table, set the literary standard for a decade.

I’m nowhere near New York. Ever. I’m stuck in an office in W1, burning my retinas on artificial light, and searing my lungs on air conditioning. But, shit, I’m online, so I can be anywhere I damn well please with the right urls at my disposal.

I’ve got my own Round Table, y’see, in the big bad world of blogging. Now, all bullshitting aside, most blogs are really fucking diabolical. I don’t care what Frank in New Jersey had for lunch, and I couldn’t give less of a shit what Julie in Croydon thinks of last night’s television. Fuck them all for wasting bandwidth on trivia and minutiae of interest to absolutely no-one. We have all this technology at our disposal, and we fill it with nonsense.

Well, not all of us. Cast your eyes over to the right hand column of this page. You see those links? Heroes all. Articulate screams in the darkness, over-caffeinated pleas for sanity in a world hell-bent on twisting our minds into balloon animals, whilst hacking away at our souls with stupidity, small-mindedness and office stationery.

IsThisNormal? chronicles the epic quest of one man’s attempt to survive in a house full of media whores, tight-wads and buffoons, without the added incentive of round-the-clock live video streaming or a 70 grand prize fund. Sit slack-jawed at the ridiculous ends other people go to to dump a load on your day, every day. Feel free to give generously to the “Buy Coupland an automatic weapon” fund, so we can help him fulfil his dreams of a quiet life.

more pricks than kicks used to be the most devastating and venomous attack on office life ever. Becket made Ricky Gervais look like an ineffectual pussy with a sense-of-humour bypass, with words that could make you bleed. But then it all got fucked up when word spread to all the wrong places. Now it’s a repository of ideas, poetry and primal screams, and if you are really, really lucky, you might still find the odd lost grenade sitting there, just waiting to cripple the right offenders. You know who you are.

Bonnie_Blue is the home of day-to-day anecdotal horror stories, from the dangers of online gaming, to the curse of being a freak magnet. A blog not unlike the humble Stray Bullets. Except it’s funnier. And sharper. And there’s more estrogen.

Go and read. Learn something. Feel ashamed at the way you hobble our minds. As for me, I just hit those blogs for shits and giggles, ‘cos I know their pain. But more importantly, because I recognise their talent, and every time they succeed, it pushes me harder to do the same. I am honoured to call them friends and peers. They are horrified that they even met me. I think I’m getting the better end of this deal.

And if all of this seems overly self-aggrandising and self-mythologising, well, you may have a point. But I’ll never concede it. Fuck off and start your own blog.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Self-explanatory

Dear Employer,

I’ve been your docile, acquiescing fuck-tool for far, far too long. No more.

Explain this one to me, if you can see through the fog of your own muddy, self-serving thoughts: First up, I had my appraisal almost two months ago now. To refresh our collective memories, here is the outcome of that appraisal: 74% on my ability to do my job, and 82% for my aptitude and abilities as an employee generally. Pretty good by any measure of what “good” is.

And it was stated that I was only marked down for gaps in my experience and knowledge, gaps that existed long before I took on my current role (and weren’t an issue then), and gaps that the company has taken absolutely no steps to help me fill, despite assurances in the past that I would receive adequate training. Oh, and I was marked down for consistent lateness as well. I work in the centre of London at the mercy of public transport! Who ISN’T consistently late?

While I’m on the subject of my ability to carry out my duties as an employee, let’s clarify one more thing. I’m not an I.T. specialist. Never have been. Don’t want to be. I joined this company, because it was a PUBLISHING company. My background is editorial. Over four years of editorial experience: writing, editing, running company websites, published journalist (and, I might add, my words have been read more widely than ANYTHING this company has squeezed out of its corporate cornhole. FACT.), sub-editor, proofreader, and on and on. I’ve been shunted away from the areas at which I excel into areas that I do not, and will not, ever be an expert in. I would also contend, without a shred of false modesty, that I am far more expert in areas of editorial prowess than ANY SINGLE ONE of the people this company laughably refer to as “Editors”. Maybe this is subjective, but I’m ranting, so work with me here.

As an employer, you refuse to play to my strengths, and make no attempts to help me in improving on my weaknesses. And fuck you for that.

At the end of my appraisal, I was informed that I would not receive a pay rise because it could not be “justified” at the time. Strangely, you manage quite easily to justify having me work for twelve days in a row without any kind of reward. Or any demonstration of gratitude, for that matter. Interesting to note that I am the ONLY person appraised so far this financial year that has NOT been given a pay rise. I guess that must have been easier to justify.

The main reason given was the company’s lack of profitability. The company has NEVER been profitable and NEVER will. Fair enough, it is not your problem that I have a mortgage, a wife and a child on the way. Having said that, it is most certainly not my fucking problem that this company can’t make money.

Which neatly segues into my next point: “Sales” people. Sales people??? HAH! These people make far more than me as a basic salary for doing little to nothing on a daily basis. And on top of that, of course, is their commission for NOT meeting their monthly targets. Someone is going to have to explain this bizarre reward system to me.

Want to hear something funny? Shortly after my wife found out she was pregnant, she was fired. They won’t tell her why. They refuse. Legal action has been taken, but that doesn’t put food on the table or heat in the house. Her employers must think that Nature is Wrong. Procreation is Wrong. Propogating the species is Wrong. Creating Life is Wrong. Someone better tell God that he’s made a mistake. Babies are a genetic aberration that should result in punishment. How silly of us not to realise that before. The scales have fallen from my eyes and I’m enlightened once more. Thank you thank you thank you.

What else? I was told that I must “own” my role more, take control of it. Bullshit! Every attempt at initative is frowned upon, my decisions and opinions are uniformly ignored or overruled, and I always, always, always end up doing menial tasks that are fucking beneath me. I’m sick and tired of being micro-managed. If you want me to take control, then leave me the fuck alone to do it, instead of treating me like your fucking skivvy.

I should staple your eyelids to your forehead, squat over you and shit into your eyes to corrode them out of their fucking sockets. No doubt this missive will wash over you like piss in a scat movie, and your mind will wander once again onto who will be evicted from the Big Brother house this evening, and whether or not you need to plant another Ingerland flag on the back of your car. Fuck you for making it harder for me to find a new job. Fuck you for sending me further into debt. Fuck you for taking precious time away from my life. Fuck your ancestors, fuck your family, fuck your unborn progeny and Fuck You.

Yours with a crumpled and bleeding rectum,
AKA

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Housekeeping

Right then.

My cartridge of Stray Bullets have been spraying infrequently and erratically in the last few weeks. There’s nothing wrong with short, controlled bursts of grouped shots, but my aim has been about as consistent and accurate as that of an overweight businessman with high blood pressure on a paintballing weekend. Fuck that. So, here’s where I’m at.

Yes, I know I stopped my devastating exposé of film journalists, leavened with random personal observations about why I love films and writing. I know you all, dear readers, realised how phenomenal and groundbreaking it all was, but my life intruded and curtailed my ability to write for protracted periods of time. This will resume at some point. I don’t know when. But there will still be all kinds of good shit for you to wrap your heads around here at the AKA Corral.

Right, my financial stability has recently faced something of a crash, whilst my professional obligations (my Clark Kent “day” job shit, not my more-powerful-than-a-locomotive film writing stuff) increased dramatically too. They take away from me with one hand; they punch me in the solar plexus with the other.

Maddeningly high pollen levels in London; irregularly scheduled bouts of blind, frenzied nationalism brought on by bellends with soccer balls; 12 media wannabes locked in a “house”, taking a dump on their self-respect and smearing it all over their future, whilst fighting for the right to ensure they are heckled in the street for the rest of their piss-poor lives; severe sleep deprivation…. it’s just a conspiracy to test the limits of my patience, isn’t it?

Lock and load. Make sure you aren’t standing on a plastic sheet. More Stray Bullets coming soon…

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Brother Ray

Murph: Tell me a little about this electric piano, Ray.
Ray: Ah, you have a good eye, my man. That's the best in the city of Chicago.
Jake: How much?
Ray: 2000 bucks and it's yours. You can take it home with you. As a matter of fact, I'll throw in the black keys for free.

The first time I saw The Blues Brothers at a young, hairless age was also my first exposure to the grandfather of soul Ray Charles, kicking some serious Hammond funk on “Shake Your Tail Feather”. It broke my fragile, unschooled mind.

There are obituaries all over the ‘net for Ray, so I’m not going to duplicate all that business here. You want to know where he was born, his discography or any of that mess, look elsewhere. This is what the man and his music meant to me.

In an age where “soul” is just as much an overused and abused word as “genius” or “classic”, Ray Charles epitomised all three. My all-time favourite Ray Charles track is still the one I’ve been playing all weekend whenever I’ve been able to snatch five minutes for myself. The title track of Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night (just like the better-known “Georgia on My Mind”) opens with that unique anguished howl yanked out of the dark abyss at the core of the great Soul Men, that gives you minor heart palpitations, like a lovesick werewolf baying for heartbreaking, soul-destroying sex.

Genius + Soul = Ray, and in this age of anodyne pop “idols”, music just got a lot less interesting. I’m mildly placated by the fact that he’s now jamming with Miles, Marvin and Barry White, drinking, cussing, grooving and checking out the heavenly bodies. He deserves it.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Ray Gun

It’s not earth-shattering, but B-movie actor, Alzheimer’s sufferer and one-time POTUS Ronald Reagan is no more. And I really don’t need an excuse to draw some tenuous links between movies and current affairs.

Some aimless surfing yielded this interesting quote from Ronnie from an address to the nation on January 16, 1984: “History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.”

GWB obviously wasn’t taking notes that day. Say what you like about Reagan, but the man was an actor, and he knew how to deliver a killer line. Whether he believed it or not is another thing.

My favourite Reagan-related exchange is, of course, this:

Dr. Emmett Brown: Then tell me, "future boy", who is President of the United States in 1985?
Marty McFly: Ronald Reagan.
Dr. Emmett Brown: Ronald Reagan? The actor?
(chuckles)
Dr. Emmett Brown: Who's Vice President? Jerry Lewis?
Marty McFly: What?
Dr. Emmett Brown: I suppose Jane Wyman is the first lady. And Jack Benny is Secretary of the Treasury. I've had enough practical jokes for one evening. Good night, future boy.

Friday, June 04, 2004

The Big Chill-Out

The weekend is nigh. Two days off. Free from the shackles of any kind of salaried obligation, and an opportunity for me to kick back, Ferris Bueller style. This weekend is more valuable to me than a Faberge egg, because from Monday, I’m working twelve days straight without a break, a lie-in, a financial incentive or any kind of gratitude from my lack wit, tight-wad employers.

Fuck.

So, I’m sitting here, watching the minutes tick away before I can run into the street like a kid hopped up on Sunny Delight, daydreaming about how I can fill the next two days of ignorant bliss.

I’m finally going to have the chance to scrape the hair of my face that has been accumulating for the last two weeks. I’m starting to look like Grizzly Adams.

I can sit on the couch with a big-ass pile of comics by my side, and the smell of fresh coffee caressing my nostrils like a geisha girl.

I can actually spend some time with Mrs. AKA, stroking her maternal belly and saying whatever I want, without worrying about how it sounds.

I can sit huddled over my laptop, stabbing out words of staggering profundity, heart-breaking beauty, and mind-polluting deviance.

I can watch all the movies my reddened eyes can stand.

I can listen to great music, instead of the sounds of feeble minds trying to articulate inchoate thoughts that don’t deserve to ooze out of their twisted mouths.

I can lie in the bath sculpting my hair into a Mohawk with shampoo, just watching the windows steam up.

I can’t wait. Nearly there, nearly there.