Friday, January 28, 2005

Pillow Talk

I really, really wanted to write a punchline for this news story, but sometimes, the darn things just write themselves:

"My wife and I were very shocked but we watched it until the end because we couldn't believe what we were seeing.”

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Text Maniac

“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.” Groucho Marx

I was really looking forward to my lunch break today. I rushed over to the pub to bag a nice big armchair near the fireplace, so I could hunker down and finish my book, Lawrence Block’s brilliant The Burglar on the Prowl. Despite the bright, cloudless sky, it was still bitterly cold outside, and the wind bit into my cheeks as I hauled ass along the high street. Inevitably, all the good seats near the fireplace were taken, and I couldn’t quite talk myself into buying a Jack Daniel’s to ward off the cold, so I made do with the seat I had, a glass of Coke, and the urbane wit and charm of Bernie Rhodenbarr, antiquarian bookseller and light-fingered housebreaker.

The book was great. I stretched the conventional definition of an hour so that I could put the book to rest. And the remains of my day have been all the better for it.

Back at work, a leisurely afternoon’s surfing has yielded links to here and here from the excellent Bookslut. And they’ve got me thinking.

I miss London and it’s myriad wonderful little (and big) bookshops. It’s impossible for me to walk into a bookshop and walk out empty-handed. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t have access to London on a daily basis. I’ve got a wife and daughter to support.

The heaving, dusty shelves of Murder One on Charing Cross Road. The four-colour fantasies popping off the walls in Gosh! and Comic Showcase. The beautiful marble staircase in the Waterstone’s on Piccadilly, still possessing many of the gorgeous fixtures and fittings from the long gone days when the store was still Simpson’s. The lucky grab bag of remaindered books you can always score on the cheap upstairs in the Soho Bookshop, whilst the porn remains barely hidden downstairs behind a curtain of coloured ribbons.

Hello. My name’s AKA, and I’m a bookaholic.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Sound of Carnage

Sometimes, just sometimes, an afternoon in the office can be quite bracing. Needless to say, I hate it here. Enjoy:

Shotguns and axe wounds and brain-spattered kitchens
Bullets and buckshot and gore that would sicken
Arterial jets of blood, bruises that sting
These are a few of my favorite things.

Crimson and scarlet and blood running freely
Dismembered, castrated, some snapped bones ideally
Eyeballs ripped loose and torn entrails like string
These are a few of my favorite things.

Slaughter and slicing, a hard fist that smashes
Punctures and punches, blades that cut deep gashes
The pain of my colleagues, so energising
These are a few of my favorite things

When the time drags
When the shit falls
When I'm feeling mad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad.

Pai Mei

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Douglas Adams

According to people who know about these things, yesterday was the most depressing day of the year. Don’t take my word for it, look here.

But I had a little treat yesterday that lifted my spirits in the most unexpected way. As usual, I’m getting ahead of myself…

To my mind, the worst ailment to afflict the freelance writer is insecurity. Any writer who says otherwise is, probably, a liar. We all work in a vacuum. And variations on the same thoughts flood our heads: “I’m not very good at this.” “I can’t do this.” “My old stuff was better.”

I think I know when I’ve written something good. I’m pretty sure I know when I’ve written something bad. But all creative types have moments when they are convinced that they suck.

Neil Gaiman once asked Will Eisner why he continued to write and draw and tell stories. Eisner answered that he had once seen a film where a jazz musician kept playing because he was still searching for the Note. That’s why Eisner kept working. He was striving for perfection, to finally create something that pleased him, hunting for that Note.

I guess we are all like that. Always looking for the Note, no matter how good or bad we are.

I’ve gone off on another tangent, I know. Bear with me.

In a moment of boredom, I Googled myself yesterday. I make no apologies for this. False modesty be damned! I bet ALL writers with work out in the world Google themselves occasionally.

I found out that a prestigious London university is using the two chapters I wrote for a lovely book that was published last year as course materials for one of their Film Studies degree modules.

Feels a bit weird. Just when I think, "I'm not very good at this writing thing", something happens to convince me otherwise. At least for a while.

Ironically, I could never get onto a Film Studies university degree course when I was younger, and years later, the students are turning to my texts for wisdom. Odd.

The never-was-a-student becomes the not-quite-a-teacher. Wax on, wax off.

Monday, January 17, 2005

All Time Low

The other day, I wrote about how little I have to do in my day job. I’ve finally tracked down the evidence to back this up. There’s a call logging system here, where I’m supposed to record the work I’ve done and the amount of time it’s taken. Obviously, I don’t log every single tiny thing I do, but this is a pretty good indicator. When looking at these figures, bear in mind that I’m at work for 7 and a half hours a day (not counting lunch breaks here), 5 days a week. Also, I started working in this job towards the end of August last year. And now, those figures in full:

August - 4.166833337 (Yes, that’s just over 4 hours. Just over half a day's work.)
September - 0.25 (I know. Amazing, isn’t it? That’s 15 MINUTES of work done in my first full calendar month working here. Scary.)
October - 14 (The highest monthly output so far. All the more impressive because I had two weeks paternity leave in October.)
November - 11.83333333
December - 11.16666667
January (so far) - 9.933333333

Which brings me to a total of 51.35016667 hours work done since I started in this place. Which is just under 7 days work in total. George Costanza would be proud.

So, when I say I’m bored, I’m not bullshitting you.

And a bit of site news: You may have noticed that the Links section on the right-hand side of the page has now been expanded from bloggers I know personally to include blogs I visit on a regular basis. I heartily recommend each and every one of them. Happy surfin’.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Jerk Out

It’s been slowly coming to my attention that the site is attracting a significant number of strange guests. All the friends and regular readers of the Punch can ignore this message. But here’s…

An open message to the freakishly large number of one-handed readers who have arrived here at Sucker Punch looking for Abi Titmuss porn.

Fuck off, wankers.

(Anyway, you can probably find what you want by searching Fleshbot.)

This has been a public-service announcement brought to you by the letters T and A, to protect the world’s computers from sticky keyboards, and to save monitors from getting gluey streaks caked across them.

Banzai!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Look Back in Languor

A couple of months ago, I did a little review of my working life to date. It’s on here somewhere. Feel free to search the archives for it.

At the time, I refrained from passing judgement on my current job, because I needed to give it a fair shot before coming to any valid conclusions.

I’m five months into this job now. And I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time this week thinking about this job. Time to get it all out of my system.

Here’s my disclaimer in the spirit of fairness: It’s not the worst job I’ve ever had. Not even close. It’s not the worst paid. I’ve been treated far worse elsewhere. I’ve been subjected to degradation and disrespect in other places, but not here. It’s Not a Bad Job.

But…

It is, without a doubt, the most Boring job I’ve ever had. Eight hours a day filled with about 15 minutes of work, every day. Nothing To Do. Ever.

Lots of ways to look at this. First up: Surely this role must be at risk. There is only so long I can get away with being paid for doing nothing. At some point, they will wonder what they need me for, and throw me out of the building.

Secondly: Damn, it makes me restless. I like to be kept busy. I like to honestly earn my paycheque. I like to go home tired for a reason. At the moment, I’m battling insomnia every night because I’ve not managed to mentally or physically exhaust myself. And bear in mind my “other life” in film journalism and my three-month old daughter still can’t tire me out.

And lastly: What the fuck am I doing here? Other than some cash once a month, and an easy life, I’m not getting anything out of this place. Not learning anything. Not enjoying myself. Getting frustrated. So…

Here’s where I’m at now. Polishing up my outdated CV to get myself back into some kind of rhythm to shatter this horrible inertia. Looking to steer my unruly career back onto some kind of editorial track, and away from the mind-deadening world of I.T. I’ve always been more comfortable with slang and communication than servers and computers. Give me aggressive invective over artificial intelligence any day.

And here’s the bonus. Unlike last summer, when my state of mind was “Give me a job. Any job, I don’t care”, this time, I have no sense of urgency forcing my hand. I can be more selective and wait for the right job to hover into my line of sight. So, let’s see what happens next.

Also: I can’t be the only person who thinks Jackie Stallone looks like a lump of melted cheese that’s gone ten rounds with Apollo Creed, sprinkled with a thin layer of glitter.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Tic Tic Bang

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.” Red Smith

As part of my ongoing drive to become a Better Writer, here are some irritating writing tics I’ve identified in my work that I want to eradicate in 2005:

1. An annoying attachment to alliteration. Obscenely overused and unbelievably ubiquitous.
2. A stunning, towering and epic over-reliance on adjectives and superlatives.
3. I’ve never met a deadline I liked. Time to make friends with some of them.
4. Probably linked to my innate ability to procrastinate endlessly, but I seem to start a lot of things that get abandoned or left alone, never to be looked at again. Time to start wrapping up some loose threads.
5. Over-use of some dodgy metaphors and similes. I rely on them like a pimp on his stable of hos.

No doubt there are more unruly kinks that I need to violently pummel into submission, but I think this little lot will keep me busy for now.

Some links to read:

Why being anonymous on your blog can be a Good Thing, and why Waterstone’s have just bitten themselves in the ass.

The e-mail scammers get scammed. “When all above seems a great test, Get on down with the Holy Red Breast.”

Friday, January 07, 2005

No Static At All

What a week to start the year.

The whole tsunami thing is still blowing my mind. Utterly depressed to see Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake make the front page of The Sun today in lieu of actual news. You would have thought that everyone’s worldview would have shifted a little bit in the last week. You would have thought wrong.

The death of Will Eisner continues to make me sad. I know he was very old, and I never knew the man personally, but I’m taking it quite badly. Which is adding surprise to my sadness. Read The Will Eisner Reader the other night. Started Last Day In Vietnam yesterday. Determined to work my way through every Eisner book I have on my shelves in the coming weeks.

I can’t get Steely Dan’s FM out of my head at the moment. It’s been bopping around between my ears for days now, and no matter how many times I play it, I can’t seem to exorcise it. Not sure I want to, to be honest. I’m quite enjoying the feeling of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker jamming in my frontal lobe.

The wind has been screaming outside my office window all day. The BBC website says: “Gusts of 80 to 90 mph will uproot trees and cause structural damage to buildings. Driving will become extremely dangerous.” Treacherous wind.

Time to prepare for my evening. Got a press screening followed by beer and chat and ting.

And I’m exhausted. No change there, then.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

DIY

Brian: Please, please, please listen! I've got one or two things to say.
The Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them!
Brian: Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't NEED to follow ME, You don't NEED to follow ANYBODY! You've got to think for yourselves! You're ALL individuals!
The Crowd: Yes! We're all individuals!
Brian: You're all different!
The Crowd: Yes, we ARE all different!
Man in crowd: I'm not...
The Crowd: Shhh!
(Monty Python's Life of Brian)

Now I’m riled. This is the second time in the space of two days that the Office Sheep have tried to force me to frolic with the herd.

I’m a grown man. I can think for myself. If I want to do something, or if I feel that it is appropriate that I do something, then I will. If I don’t want to do something, or if I feel it is pointless or illogical to do something, then I won’t.

See, I’m evolved. With a brain that works and everything. I don’t have to join the Pack.

Fuck the Pack.

Sometimes, my behaviour may coincide with that of the Pack. And that’s fine, too. But just ‘cos you do something, don’t expect me to.

You don’t know what I’m talking about yet, do you?

Someone is leaving the Company tomorrow. Congratulations. I’ve never met this man. I’ve never spoken to him on the phone. If you showed me a photo of him, I’d say, “Who’s that guy?”

Consequently, I feel absolutely no desire to sign his leaving card. I don’t know him. He doesn’t know me.

OK, I’ll concede. I’ll sign the card.

But I won’t give you any money for the motherfucker. I don’t know him! He’s nobody to me! Leave me alone, you shrill fucking harpies! I keep hearing sly digs that “someone” didn’t put any money in. “Someone” is fucking tight.

People keep shooting me dirty looks. Because I won’t Play the Game.

Shit. Don’t hate the Playa, Hate the Game! Knaamean?

Don’t get me wrong. I frequently give towards leaving gifts. The more I like someone, the more I give. Even if I don’t particularly like someone, but I’ve worked with them for a significant period of time, I’ll throw something in.

But I’m taking a stand now. And this comes after yesterday’s initial attempt to crowbar me into someone else’s plan. Now, this might not be one of my most popular theories, but hear me out.

Yesterday, there was a planned three-minute silence for the victims of the tsunami, at midday. Fair enough.

But answer me this: How does this benefit the dead, wounded, lost and suffering? Isn’t the silence just a balm for your own conscience? As if you are doing something constructive?

Silence is not doing something. People are entitled to mourn, or pay tribute, or deal with this tragic event in any way that they feel is appropriate. And I’m sure they do. If silence helps you deal with it, by all means be silent. If crying helps, then cry. But don’t do it just because someone told you to.

I don’t object to the silence in principle. I’m just wary of the ill-defined reasoning behind it.

Why don’t we try this instead? Why doesn’t everybody stick their hand in their pocket and pledge £3 pounds simultaneously to the relief effort? Or, even better, £30? If you can afford it, how about £300? There’s a group activity that would actually help! Don’t buy so much crap in the January sales (that you don’t really want anyway), and give that money to something important. Skip a meal, or a movie, or a trip to the pub. There’s the money right there.

Or why doesn’t everybody spontaneously donate 3 hours of their time to a charitable cause? Or, even better, 3 days?

Alternatively, ignore me. We ARE all individuals. Do what YOU feel is best. Not what the government, or the media, or, worst of all, your fuckmonkey colleagues bully you into doing.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Will Eisner

Will Eisner died yesterday at the age of 87 following quadruple bypass heart surgery.

I cannot possibly convey how incredibly sad I am at hearing this news. Will Eisner was a man for whom the words "legend" and "genius" were not mere hyperbole. He changed the way comics were written, drawn and read, over and over again, and he never, ever stopped innovating.

From the sublime sequential art of A Contract with God, The Dreamer, Invisible People and numerous others, to the sheer glory of The Spirit, Will Eisner was a one-off and a true artist in every sense of the word.

My wife bought me a copy of The Spirit Archives Volume 4 for Christmas. I know what I'm going to be doing this evening.

I cannot recommend the books of Will Eisner highly enough. If you want to learn more, please go, learn and read here.

Beef Jerky Time

Billy Ray Valentine: Merry New Year!
Clarence Beeks: That's "happy." In this country we say "Happy New Year."
Billy Ray Valentine: Oh, ho, ho, thank you for correcting my English which stinks!
(Trading Places)

Back to work. New Year, Same Ol’ Dickheads.

I had to get through the familiar seasonal refrain from the phalanx of fuckmooks for the first hour or two of the day. You know the one. It goes like this:

“Good Christmas?”
“Yeah, it was alright. You?”
“Yeah.”
“New Year?”
"Yeah."

Repeat ad nauseam.

Meanwhile, here’s my first nominee for Utter Bastard of 2005.