Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Rear Gunners

A strange thing I noticed on the train the other night…

Scourge of sane readers hungry for quality writing and objective reporting (and Ken Livingstone), the back page of the hateful London Evening Standard is the Sports Page. Just like all the other newspapers. So far, so mundane.

At the top of the page is a banner that reads “ES Sport”. The Standard, in their finite wisdom, have seen fit to use a useless, user-unfriendly font, and that fuckheaded trend for leaving out the space between words. Youknow, sothatallthewordsruntogether. Clever, no?

No.

Anyway, a brief glance at the page made me think it said “Ass Port”.

I always knew the Standard was full of shit.

Welcome To The Terrordome

“I got so much trouble on my mind
Refuse to lose
Here’s your ticket
Hear the drummer get wicked”


Time to rip it up and start again.

As you can see, I’ve had the decorators in. A change is as good as a rest, apparently, and seeing as in the last month or so, I’ve been tempted to retire the blog permanently, this seems like a better option.

I’ve found my writing here getting a bit stale, as I rake over the same ground like an obsessive-compulsive farmer.

The content is likely to change considerably. But that is undoubtedly A Good Thing. I need to stretch different writing muscles, push in new directions, and find more interesting areas of my brain that are lying dormant.

So, welcome to Sucker Punch 2.0.

Enjoy your stay.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Giblets

This is not supposed to be one of my darkly humorous, amorphous-ranting bits…I’m genuinely fed up and pissed off.

Yet another broken laptop has arrived on my desk. Broken laptops land on my desk with alarming regularity, for numerous stupid reasons. That’s part of the job. But…

This particular laptop arrived on my desk in a cardboard box emblazoned with the logo from a chicken breeding farm, and the box was caked with chicken blood and chicken shit, full of wadded-up newspapers concealing the offending laptop.

That’s just plain disgusting. I don’t think navigating chicken entrails or offal fall into the remit of my job description.

If the fucking morons who work for this company had actually paid for the laptops themselves, then maybe they would look after them a bit better, and I wouldn’t be scraping calcified viscera and fowl guts off my trousers.

Imagine a job where someone tips a five million-piece jigsaw on your desk. But they’ve removed 500 pieces. And replaced them with 500 different pieces. And they’ve snapped another 200 pieces into unusable chunks. And they want you to finish the jigsaw within the hour. Whilst they stand behind you, saying “Have you done it yet? Have you done it yet? Have you done it yet?” over and over again.

That’s what working here is like.

On some days, I completely understand the impulse that drives people onto rooftops with sniper rifles.

I hate everyone and everything.

The Doctor is Out

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

I woke up this morning to find my world covered in a thin layer of snow, and to discover that Dr. Hunter S. Thompson has died. None of the breakfast news shows seemed to be covering this story. I found the news in my e-mail Inbox.

I’m really not sure what to say.

It’s true to say that if it weren’t for Hunter, I never would have become a writer. At the very least, not the writer I have become.

I first stumbled upon the words of the good Doctor in my early teens, when I bought a copy of The Great Shark Hunt. I loved it. It blew my mind. I can’t claim that I understood all of it, steeped in Americana my young mind was unfamiliar with, but his snappy, unique prose grabbed me by the throat and hasn’t let go since.

Whilst my peers were covering their bedroom walls with pictures of pop groups or football teams, I had sneakily cut a photo of Hunter out of a library book and framed it. Taken by Annie Leibovitz for Rolling Stone magazine, it was a black and white photo of a hotel room, littered with overflowing ashtrays, empty whisky bottles, discarded papers and a battered old typewriter. Hidden in the middle of the photo was a comatose Hunter asleep in his bed.

Underneath the picture, I had typed: “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me. – H.S.T.”

I used to look at that photo every day for years.

I used to think “Yeah. I’m going to be a writer one day.”

Reading Hunter’s words reminds me how far I still have to go.

Part of me still thinks that this is yet another classic Hunter prank, and that any minute now the news sites will be retracting the stories of his death.

The other part of me knows that that probably isn’t going to happen.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Whacks Lyrical

In response to a request from the divine Jennifer W.K., here is a minor addendum to the music blogomeme thingy that’s been boogieing around the web for the last week or two. And anyway, I feel like celebrating, seeing as George Michael has announced he is retiring from music. AT LAST! It’s taken him long enough. He can take his odious pop cack, his freaky little beard that looks like he drew it on with a magic marker, and his warbling, crooning, stomach-roiling vocal “stylings” away at last. Hey, it was worth the wait. You gotta have faith, right?

I’d just like to say that I found searching my bruised mind for song lyrics excruciatingly difficult. But I finally settled on these mouth-nuggets. Not my favourites, I’m almost sure, but they were the ones I could think of. So, enough of my joyous Wham-hating babble. Here are:

The first 5 best lyrics that come into my head:

1. Public Enemy – Black Steel in The Hour of Chaos
I got a letter from the government the other day
I opened and read it
It said they were suckers

2. N.W.A. – Express Yourself
I'm expressin’ with my full capabilities
And now I'm livin’ in correctional facilities

3. The Temptations – Psychedelic Shack
There’s a neon sign outside that’s says
Come in and take a look at your mind
You’ll be surprised at what you might find

4. Tom Waits – New Coat of Paint
Let's put a new coat of paint on this lonesome old town
Set 'em up, we'll be knockin' em down
You wear a dress, baby, and I'll wear a tie
We'll laugh at that old bloodshot moon in that burgundy sky

5. Donald Fagen – The Nightfly
I've got plenty of java
And Chesterfield Kings
But I feel like crying
I wish I had a heart like ice
Heart like ice

Friday, February 11, 2005

Blog Rocking Beats

Nothing like disseminating useless information across the world. Hell, that’s what the web is for, right? In an occasional foray into the world of blogomemes (or, in normal-person-speak, pointless lists and questionnaires of little-to-no importance), I present you all with this:

1. Total amount of music files on your computer:

About four hours worth of music. All of it legally ripped from my own CD collection. So take that, file swappers and copyright violators!

2. The last CD you bought was:

I bought two at the same time: Prince’s Musicology and the Kill Bill Volume 2 soundtrack.

3. What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?

Since I Left You by The Avalanches. Not out of choice, either. Mrs. AKA is currently obsessed with this admittedly wonderful cut-and-paste slice of uplifting turntablism.

4. Write down 5 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.

This is one of those questions where the list is totally dependant on the day you get asked the question. These are the five tunes that come to mind right now:

i. Theme from Shaft by Isaac Hayes.
“He’s a complicated man, and no-one understands him but his woman”. My favourite record ever, and inextricably linked to so many landmark moments in my life. My mum used to play this to me all the time and dance around the house when I was still in the womb. I saw the movie for the first time on my 18th birthday at the much-missed King’s Cross grindhouse The Scala in a double-bill with Superfly. I took (dragged?) Mrs. AKA to see the movie in the very early days of our embryonic relationship. One time, on our first holiday together, we were in a cheap apartment in Portugal with nothing but a crunchy, fuzzy television set in the corner, and I finally got one of the channels to come into focus. The opening credits for Shaft appeared, and the wacka-wacka guitar kicked in. This song is a unique personal talisman for me, and it raises its head in my life whenever a watershed moment of change is in the air.

ii. White Lines by Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel.
A couple of weeks ago, with Buttercup in my lap, I started human beatboxing the whole of this tune. Her little face cracked open into the most glorious big-cheeked grin, occasionally interrupted by full-on giggling. Since then, this has become a perennial sound in the AKA Crib. She particularly likes it when I say “Freeze!” or “Bass!” Never let it be said that my daughter hasn’t inherited my superlative taste for the funk. Old skool for the pre-school.

iii. Groove is in the Heart by Deee-lite.
This chunk of infectious early-90s sampladelia has been bopping around the AKA brainbox quite a lot recently. It never sounds old, it reminds me of a time in my life when I was stone-broke and loving it, and it’s got Bootsy Collins on it. What more do you want? It’s not vicious or malicious, just de-lovely and delicious. A confection of perfection.

iv. Betcha By Golly Wow by Prince.
As good as the Stylistics original, with extra strings for a bit of additional opulence. The aural equivalent of wrapping yourself in silk sheets. As my wedding day got closer and closer, I had no idea what we were going to have playing for the moment when my future wife was going to walk towards me as a single woman for the last time. So I painstakingly combed through my entire record collection looking for the ideal song: A long instrumental opening, melodious, rhythmic, lush and beautiful. Full of wonder and surprise. It suited the moment exquisitely.

v: Love X Love by George Benson.
I used to DJ a bit. Not much, just a tiny little bit. One time, me and one of my boys DJed at a corporate function as a favour to a friend. It was the first and only time we did that sort of thing. We weren’t really that kind of DJ. We just liked to play our favourite funk records in small venues, for fun. This function was at some fancy hotel in London. I can’t remember where now. Chelsea, I think. I’d just finished playing “Love X Love” to resounding indifference from the drunken suits. (As I recall, all the records we played that night were greeted the same way.) Anyway, as the record finished, the friend who had asked us to do the gig told me that George Benson was upstairs in the hotel bar with his wife and daughter, and then he told me to go up there and say hello. So I grabbed my copy of Give Me The Night and headed to the bar. I was sweaty and nervous and tongue-tied. I stood in the doorway of the bar and was about to bolt in awe-struck fear, when Mr. Benson called over. “Hey, what you got there, man?” In barely coherent monosyllables, I muttered something and showed him the LP. He asked me to pass it over and before I knew it he’d signed the cover for me. He then invited me to join his family for a drink. Incapable of rational conversation, I made my apologies, thanked him and returned to safety behind my turntables.

I never, ever get starstruck. I’ve lived in London my whole life and there’s a recognisable face on every street corner. I’ve worked in the media, where you work side-by-side with household names on occasion. I’ve even interviewed the odd name. Never bothered me. Famous people don’t faze me in the slightest. But George Benson is one of my musical heroes. And I couldn’t handle it. The only other time I lost my shit so badly was when Roy Ayers approached me in Tower Records where he was doing a signing. Both men were gracious, kind and friendly, and I was a mush-mouthed monkey in their presence. I know, I’m a dork.

(A small aside to this story: That same night, in the lobby of the hotel, we spotted a shifty and uncomfortable Robert Downey Jr. sitting on the sofa opposite us. In retrospect, I now realise that he was probably waiting to score some drugs. At the time, I just assumed he had a wicked case of jetlag…)

6. Who are you going to pass this stick to? (3 persons) and why?

Oh, I don’t know. Feel free to either play along on your own blog or in the handy little comments box below.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Analyse This

Bambaclat.

And now, a small experiment to illustrate the prurient nature of the Internet. With just two small words happily snuggling up close to one another, I will magically increase Internet traffic to my modest little weblog. If it doesn’t work, then my consistent underestimation of all of humanity’s freaks will have been wasted.

Having said that, I have no doubts that it will work. I will update all you lovely Punchers with the results of my experiment as and when I have anything remotely resembling empirical data.

And now, it’s time for the delicately worded incantation that will send my hit counter soaring towards uncharted heights. Ready? Here goes:

FREE PORN

No doubt, sweaty basement-dwellers with calloused palms will flock here to worship in the fleshy glow of their monitor screens, to be confronted by nothing more than my shapeless rantings. Bwahahahaha! I’ve just wasted five minutes of their precious masturbation time! I have them all in my thrall!

Wow. I’m dizzy with power in a Victor Von Doom kinda way.

One teeny tiny final thing: Hot on the heels of the news of John Vernon’s unfortunate passing came reports of yet another death of one of my all-time favourite character actors, the sublime Ossie Davis, civil rights campaigner, and frequent collaborator of both Burt Reynolds and Spike Lee. “Doctor, always do the right thing.” Sad, sad news indeed.

This is turning into a terrible year for my favourite character actors. I keep expecting to hit a news site to be confronted with the news that Paul Giamatti has been found with a sharpened arrowhead embedded in his throat…

Friday, February 04, 2005

Double Secret Probation

Dammit.

John Vernon was one of my favourite character actors of all time. He has just died at the age of 72. I won’t eulogise him at length here, as no doubt better writers than I will do that admirably in other places. All I have to say was that his distinctive voice and gravitas made him one of the most recognisable faces in Seventies cinema, and one of the all time great movie heavies. His C.V. is a list of some of the best movies ever made: Point Blank, Dirty Harry, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Charley Varrick, and, of course, Animal House.

They say there are no second acts in American lives. Now, that ain’t true. In the Sixties, and again in the Nineties, Vernon lent his gravely tones to a variety of Marvel cartoons, as the voice of Doctor Strange, Dr. Doom, the Sub-Mariner, Iron Man, and tireless Hulk-hunter General “Thunderbolt” Ross.

I just want to remember him here for some of his greatest lines. Take it away, John:

(Dirty Harry, starring John Vernon as The Mayor!)

Harry Callahan: Well, when an adult male is chasing a female with intent to commit rape, I shoot the bastard. That's my policy.
The Mayor: Intent? How did you establish that?
Harry Callahan: When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher's knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn't out collecting for the Red Cross!
The Mayor: He's got a point.

(The Outlaw Josey Wales, starring John Vernon as Fletcher!)

Senator: There's a saying, Fletcher: To the victor belongs the spoils.
Fletcher: There's another saying, Senator: Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining.

(National Lampoon’s Animal House, starring John Vernon as Dean Vernon Wormer!)

Dean Vernon Wormer: The time has come for someone to put his foot down. And that foot is me.

And his most immortal line ever:

Dean Vernon Wormer: Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

He’s got a point. Rest well, John, you’ve earned it.

Marked for Death

It’s an undisputed truism to say that we are all affected by our environment, and our surroundings shape us to some extent. If I take that as a starting point, I’m doomed to turn into a corpulent, sedentary, braindead dullard within a few short months if I carry on working here for much longer.

Let’s take it for granted that I woke up in a relatively foul mood this morning. Getting off the train a mere ten minutes ago, I embarked on the familiar stroll from the station to the office. Looking around at this quiet little village through the eyes of an irritable outsider who can think of about 386 better things I can be doing on a Friday morning, I noticed the bizarre girth of this little town’s inhabitants. It almost looked like the entire high street was being refracted through a Fun House mirror. A shake of my head confirmed that, no, these really are some fat motherfuckers. Someone should put a copy of Super Size Me through every letterbox in the area.

Now, let me be crystal clear here. I don’t mean “could stand to lost a few pounds” fat. I mean “coronary heartattack imminent” fat. The tettering topheavy ladies of the area look like they are auditioning for the role of Busty McFat in a stage production of “Wheezing My Last Sweaty Breath. Pass Me that Burger!”, and the lardy men waddle with all the grace of a constipated hippo, their swollen guts scrapping the tarmac as they attempt to navigate the hazardous terrain of this harmless little hamlet.

I got to the front door of the office to be greeted by my name being both strangled and bellowed by my candidate for Colleague Most Likely To Lose An Eye From My Leaky Biro and A Swift Stabbing Motion. I deliberately ignored him and kept heading for my desk.

As I sat down and waited for the PC to boot up, I could hear a monotone litany of nonsense: “…washing powder, washing-up liquid, chicken breasts…” What is that noise? Is someone outlining his sex toys of choice for a weekend of recreational bestial coupling? No…someone was reciting exactly what he had bought from the supermarket last night, item-by-item, inexorably battering my mind with each object of consumer joy. And here’s the kicker. People were patiently sitting and listening to the droning, and enjoying it! They were occasionally even interjecting with the odd question to give a fuller, rounder experience to the Great Shopping List Recitation.

And there’s a window cleaner repeatedly thwacking the window behind me with a metal rod. It sounds like he’s pissing down the wall whilst headbutting the glass.

It’s now only just passed 9.30 in the morning. Someone is going to lose a vital organ before this day is over. Where’s my leaky biro?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Funny, You Don’t Look Sick

I took the last two days off work sick. I wasn’t ACTUALLY sick, though. I felt perfectly fine.

I could have taken two days off as part of my annual leave. But where’s the pleasure in that? Part of the fun is letting the mucus build up at the back of your throat for half an hour, so you can give a big, theatrical snort of snot when you call in, mumble something suitably vague about viral infections and high temperatures, and then settle in for a couple of days of wilful slacking, whilst the rest of the world scurries along foolishly earning their paycheques.

And, here I am, back at work, taking it all in at a sedate pace, refining and embellishing my tales of weakness and vomit and loose bowels, as my colleagues offer their well wishes and, occasionally, a suspicious glance questioning the veracity of my time off.

How dare they doubt me? It makes me sick!

(Sorry. Couldn’t resist that.)

What else? London – a multicultural stew of people and their endless mixtures, combinations and offerings, contributing to the rich diversity of life in the Big Smoke, immeasurably enhancing the lives of the rest of us in a beautiful and perfect symbiosis of world cultures, in what should be a perfect microcosm of how the world could be, as we respect and embrace each others differences, creating things that are new and wonderful and exciting all the time.

So, of course, orange-hued leather-skinned hategibbering fuckcretin Kilroy wants to spoil it for the rest of us.

In other news, the newly-launched MSN Search is dreadful. I’ve been having a play with it and it doesn’t work properly at all. Bill Gates should hang his wealthy nerdhead in shame. Stick to Google.

Bit of MSN Search trivia. If you search “best browser”, the excellent Mozilla Firefox comes up. Internet Explorer is around 8th on the list. A search for “worst browser” throws up, yeah, you guessed it, Internet Explorer. Oh, the endless joys of the Internet.