Friday, January 27, 2006

All right ramblers, let's get rambling!

Feel like a good hearty laugh at my expense? Of course you do! Read on…

I spent the beginning of the week in a dark frame of mind. Over the weekend, I discovered a lump under my left breast. (My left, your right). I freaked out, because men can get breast cancer too, right? And there wasn’t a corresponding lump on the other side of my body, so I was good and spooked by this point.

The next couple of days were a murky haze as the clock slowly ticked towards my doctor’s appointment. I couldn’t stop touching the damn thing. At first, I thought it was all in my mind. But the more I touched it, the more I was convinced. It didn’t feel right. It was very, very wrong. Surfing the ‘Net for information just poured virtual fuel on my mental fire.

I started planning for the future. The letters I would need to write to everyone. I was thinking about how my daughter was far too young and she would never remember me years from now. I would just be the funny giant man she used to hug. But she wouldn’t remember my voice or my face or any of the details. I would have to write her letters or record messages for her to have later on.

I kept my spirits up as best I could. I even considered naming the lump Titty the Tumour. Mrs. AKA thought I needed to chill the fuck out.

Strangely, I felt extraordinarily calm and serene. I wouldn’t have to worry again about crappy jobs or stupid people or any of the countless things that slowly erode my patience and sanity on a daily basis. I could just enjoy The Good Things without guilt.

So, on Wednesday, I went to see the Doctor. I started with the timeless preamble that I’m sure everyone starts with when they go to see a Doctor: “I’m sure it’s nothing, but…”

(FACT: Everything before the word “but” in any sentence is a complete and utter LIE!)

“Pop your shirt off and let’s have a look, then.”

He gently cupped my breasts. (Now, THERE’S a sentence I never thought I’d type).

“No, nothing there.”

“Yes, there is! Feel there! There’s nothing like that on the other side!”

He peered over the top of his glasses in the way that only teachers or doctors can, to add a delicious layer of condescension to whatever is about to be said.

“That is your rib.”
“But it’s not like that on the other side!”
“It is your rib. It is just a bit of your body where the rib is curving round. It’s nothing.”
“Great! Thank you!”

I left feeling totally devoid of any shred of embarrassment. I was far too happy for that. There’s a good few years left in me yet.

I celebrated my good fortune by ordering a small stack of CDs for myself with none of the guilt I feel whenever I usually spend even a penny on myself. (I usually feel that all the money I earn should go to my wife and daughter, and that I’m doing something wrong when I buy myself something.) So, I now eagerly await MF Doom’s collaboration with Danger Mouse Mouse and the Mask under the name of Dangerdoom, plus both volumes of the MF Doom and Nas mash-up Nastradoomus.

“Okay, first things fuckin' last!”

Also, saddened to hear of the premature death of Chris Penn this week. An underrated actor who always lived in the shadow of his ridiculously talented older brother Sean, Chris Penn was nevertheless a fine performer who rarely found roles that suited his particular brand of mercurial menace, that delicate knife edge between a smile on his face and a gun in yours. He will always be remembered as Nice Guy Eddie in Reservoir Dogs, but it would be remiss to forget other great moments in the likes of True Romance, At Close Range and Abel Ferrara’s The Funeral.

Currently listening to:
The repetitive thwacking whine of dysfunctional air-conditioning.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Call Me Ishmael

Barely three weeks into the New Year, and London is getting decidedly odd very, very quickly.

Celebrity Big Brother
is horrific and compelling viewing – I need a shower after watching the damn thing. Pete Burns and his monkey coat, George Galloway and his cat impersonation, Michael Barrymore’s very public meltdown as he descends into a mire of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, slurred speech that would make Ozzy Ozbourne proud, and a growing repertoire of scary facial tics, whilst, unbeknownst to him, there are people waiting outside to serve him with legal papers. When Dennis Rodman is the voice of reason in such a Melting Point of the Strange, you know that the world has tilted somewhat off its axis.

At the other end of the weird scale, there’s the tragic story of the whale trapped in the Thames. What started as a story picked up for its sheer, downright oddness quickly graduated to wonder, awe, and an inspiring rallying of spirit to try and rescue the whale and return it home. I followed the story all day Saturday, and surprised myself with how gutted I was when the whale died. Amazing pictures here and here.

Also, been dabbling with some more webfuckery on this page, trying to collect things in one place. In the left-hand column, you will now find links to my Bloglines blogroll, collecting all the blogs I check on a daily basis. Plus, I’ve set myself up with a page in which to hurl all my accumulated stray urls that I found shoved in old e-mails, scraps of paper, in my browser history and many, many other places. Probably won’t need access to any of those links in a hurry, but it’s nice to find somewhere to keep them all handy if I need to get hold of them. Feel free to have a dig through them. You can always pretend you are shuffling through the teetering mounds of scrap paper on my desk, whilst jabbing a sharp stick at the disparate preoccupations that gnaw away at my psyche.

At some point, I’ll add a Flickr link, once I finally get around to populating my Flickr page with photos. Sucker Punch, embracing Web 2.0 in 2006!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Chocolate coated, freaky and habit-forming

“Good evening.
Do not attempt to adjust your radio, there is nothing wrong.
We have taken control as to bring you this special show.
We will return it to you as soon as you are grooving.”
Parliament – P-Funk (Want to Get Funked Up)

So, the revitalisation of Sucker Punch begins. If you scroll down the right-hand column, at some point you’ll get to a section called Funk Fiction, and a red box full of the platters that matter I been listening to for the last week on Last FM. Just cracking my head open for y’all to take a peek at the funk in my trunk. I believe that the box is refreshed on a weekly basis listing the noises in my head.

Why Funk Fiction? Well, a long time ago, I can’t remember exactly when, but I’m guessing about twelve years ago, I used to D.J. And I D.J.ed under the name Funk Fiction. We had these beautiful flyers with the words Funk Fiction emblazoned across the top, over that iconic image of Jules and Vincent with their gunarms outstretched and unloading. You know the one.

Underneath that were the words: “Big Funk. Small Funk. All Kinds of Funk. Get Blown Away at…” and the date and location of wherever we were playing.

I didn’t D.J. for long, partly because I already had a day job, partly because we were always getting ripped off and underpaid, but I loved it. I was shameless in my promise of “All Kinds of Funk”. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers would be followed by Miles Davis, and Public Enemy butted up against Earth, Wind and Fire. In the words of James Brown: “Whatsever I play, it’s got to be funky.” And we certainly delivered.

I always used to start the set with a really exclamatory chunk o’ funk, something like Ice Cube’s Bop Gun or the New Power Generation’s The Exodus Has Begun. And the nights always, always ended the same way. With the Staples Singers and Let’s Do It Again, followed by a soundbite from Pulp Fiction where Jules and Vincent unload their guns. Loudly. As the gunshots echoed, the lights would come up and it would all be over. It Was Great.

I would go to bed those nights (mornings?), with white noise and static thrumming in my ears as I tried to decompress, the smell of cigarette smoke in my hair, and a salty stew of alcohol and exhilaration sweat slowly cooling on my skin.

“Sweet love in the midnight
Good sleep, come mornin' light
No worries 'bout nothin'
Just gettin' good, just gettin' good
Just gettin' good love”
Staples Singers – Let’s Do It Again

Thursday, January 05, 2006

4 8 15 16 23 42

I think I must have somehow rewired my DNA over the Christmas break, because I have gained the ability to defy sleep…

The family were away last night and I was left to my own devices (never a good thing), which meant I eventually forced myself to go to bed at around 3.30am…and I struggled to get to sleep even then…and I woke up three hours later to get ready for work and I feel absolutely fine. Invigorated. I can’t decide whether or not this is a Bad Thing.

I’ve got into the habit of watching loads of Lost re-runs over the last week or so. Frickin’ obsessed with that show. I see Hurley’s numbers everywhere, flickering behind my eyelids like Tetris blocks…

So, last night, I dug out the half-bottle of brandy that I bought for Christmas, stretched out on the couch and indulged myself.

Which brings me neatly to Day 3 of the Brain Candy Blow-Out. I feel that my cup may be starting to runneth over:

SEEN: Unleashed – Once upon a time there was a man called Bruce Lee. But he died. And then along came another man, and he was called Jackie Chan. He was known as “The New Bruce Lee.” Until Jet Li came along…and then he was “The New Bruce Lee”. Until last year, when people starting calling Tony Jaa “The New Bruce Lee”… But before I disappear up a Post-Modern Bunghole, let’s backpeddle a step to the Last New Bruce Lee.

Unleashed gives Jet Li the opportunity to do something he doesn’t often get the opportunity to do: act. Sure, he kicks much ass, but in between all the bone-snapping, the gravity-defying critter gets to exercise his thespian chops too. This Is Good. Unleashed reminds me an awful lot of Leon. Unsurprising, because the fingerprints of Luc Besson are all over this thing. Like Leon, this is the story of a killing machine who discovers love and emotions amongst all the crunching cartilage and arcing sprays of blood.

And it’s great. You get a full-on scenery-chewing Bob Hoskins, you get grey, rainy Glasgow, you get Morgan Freeman at his avuncular best, you get Mozart and underground fight clubs and the joys of vanilla ice cream and wire-fu. Also, you get a film that succeeds in convincing you that Violence is Wrong, whilst indulging in some brutal and exciting set pieces. Something for the sensitive adrenalin junkie in your life.

READ: The Pocket Essential Sergio Leone by Michael Carlson – When I started film critiquing years ago, we used to get handed books like this all the time to review. But they’re review-proof. It’s a brief whirlwind tour through a genre / director / actor (delete as applicable) which is readable enough and handy when you need to either research something or you’ve got some time to kill. This book is one of the better entries in the series, but the only truly essential Leone book is Christopher Frayling’s stunning Something To Do With Death which is exhaustive and perfect in all ways. My main gripe with the book is the number of typos. For such a slender volume, there’s a hell of a lot of them. Surely proofreaders aren’t that expensive these days?

CLICKED: So at around 1am, I fired up the laptop for an aimless surf, and I stumbled upon the nexus of all musical realities, Last.FM. I couldn’t leave it alone. Track after track of funky goodness delivered straight to my hungry earholes, from forgotten favourites to new discoveries. All my musical prayers have been answered. Loads of interesting bits to play with, and I’m thinking of adding something to the blog from over there, too.

One of my aims this year is to customise Sucker Punch a bit more, to move away from the feeling of Huge Chunks of Text. There will be The New and The Shiny here this year. Oh yes, there will, as I trick the blog out with lovelinesses. Think of it as Pimp My Site.

And this seems as good a time as any to remind you of the following: You love me. You all love me. I make women swoon, and I make men get all Brokeback on me. Why am I telling you all this? Because it’s time for nominees for the 2006 Bloggies. Go and vote. And spare a thought for the fella who sent you, eh? Just sayin’…

Still got that spring in my step, and that glide in my stride.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Dude Abides

I can still see Christmas in my rear view mirror, and already the Big Ugly Commerce Machine is ramping up for Easter. I keep seeing posters for Cadbury’s Crème Eggs everywhere. It’s a conspiracy to kill us all with unidentifiable gooey fondant fillings.

Also: At the end of my road I spotted a small notice that read: “It is an offence to drink alcohol in public. Maximum penalty £500”. Just below it was an almost identical notice that read as follows: “It is an offence to urinate or defecate in public. Maximum penalty £300”.

Now that’s a messed up value system right there. If I pop a tab on a beer, I will probably be fined less than if I cop a squat under a lamppost to alleviate pressure on my bowels…2006 is shaping up to be a strange one alright…

I’m still in a fine, fine mood though. Insane bureaucracy and rampant commerce can’t dampen my excellent spirits. I can’t keep my hands off Mrs. AKA, and Buttercup screeches with joy when she sees us huddled together cuddling on the sofa. She raises her arms in the air and lumbers across the room with her diminutive Frankenstein gait to hurl herself in our collective laps to join the family love-in. Fantastic.

And as the New Year’s Pop Culture Info-Dump continues:

SEEN: Stander – Gotta love Thomas Jane. The man who finally banished tortuous memories of Dolph Lundgren as The Punisher. The man who has the most glorious sideburns that rival even mine in the classic Boogie Nights. And now comes Stander, the true story of the Chief of Police in Johannesburg who spent his lunchbreaks committing bank robberies, and went on to bust out of jail to catch his second wind on another rampage of delirious larceny. Has the feel of the great American crime movies of the Seventies, conjuring up memories of everything from Slither to The Hot Rock. A brilliant, virtually-unknown diamond-hard gem of a movie.

READ: Brokeback Mountain – Annie Proulx’s short story that forms the basis of Ang Lee’s surprise-success movie that gives new meaning to the word “cowpoke”. (And Ang has a lot to make up for after the atrocity that was Hulk. But I digress…). Proulx’s lyrical, vivid, raw prose creates a rich story that belies its brevity. Beautiful.

(For those wondering how I can feed my mind so much so quickly, bear the following in mind: I have a long commute that’s conducive to reading. And when the AKA clan are tucked up in bed and I’m over-caffeinated, I unwind by slipping a DVD in the player. So there.)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Bust the Cap on the Moet

2006 already, eh? How the fuck did that happen?

Well, clearly I’m not ready to be hurled back into the mire of office life. Know how I know that? There was a large empty pizza box sitting on the floor right in the middle of the office and people have been walking around it all morning. It’s been getting on my nerves.

I finally got up and shouted “Why is this box on the floor?”

A room full of dead eyes looked away from their monitors long enough to shrug confusion at me. I picked up the box and hurled it in the bin, and then I realised I had said “I’m surrounded by fucking crazy people!” out loud. Everyone looked back at their screens pretty damn quickly.

I always think it’s important to set the tone for the year. Having the drones cowering in fear from the surly fucker in the corner can only be a good thing, yes?

Christmas was the usual bacchanalian debauch of excessive behaviour. Too much food, too much booze, too much money flowing in the wrong direction. On the up side, lots of rest and sleep and time with my wife and daughter. As a bonus, little Buttercup started walking on New Year’s Eve.

Just after 1am on New Year’s Day, just before I was about to crawl into bed to start my battle with an impending hangover, my mobile rang. It was one of my oldest, closest friends calling from California to wish me a Happy New Year. It was still 2005 over there at the time. I haven’t seen him since my wedding day two and a half years ago. Excellent way to start the year.

Lots of things to think about this year. Moving home (it’s too small for the three of us now, and my daughter needs her own bedroom. Also, I’m sick of waking up at 6.30am every day to get to work. Need to move closer to the action).

Writing things keep percolating, but I feel generally pretty positive about that at this point. The brain is still working just fine, and I just need to keep it firing long enough to get things out of my head and into the world often enough. I’ve stopped caring about being published quite so much, so I can concentrate more on the business of creating and less on the problem of pitching. I’ve got a small shelf of stuff I’ve had published, and I look forward to that growing, but that’s not my overriding concern at the moment, and it's a liberating feeling.

I’m interested in spending the coming weeks just soaking new shit up, to see what it kicks loose, and so I'm making a concerted effort to power through my piles of unread / unwatched / unheard things cluttering up my crib. In that spirit:

SEEN: A Very Long Engagement – Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Audrey Tautou’s follow-up to Amelie is a slippery thing. In some ways, it’s a lot like Amelie, sharing its picaresque rambling anecdotal storytelling, with some lovely effective sequences. Conversely, it also weakens the film, by taking so long in getting to its destination via such a convoluted route. I liked it OK, but it’s no Amelie.

READ: Losers Vol. 4: Close Quarters – The penultimate collection of Andy Diggle and Jock’s action movie-on-paper / conspiracy thriller. God, it’s good. Clay, Jensen, Cougar, Pooch and Aisha are The Losers – a former covert CIA black ops / wetworks division gone rogue, fighting for justice after being betrayed and left-for-dead on a mission years earlier. They make The A-Team look like The Village People. The kind of comic that the phrase “high octane” was created for.