Friday, December 28, 2007

Shrapnel

Hello, I’m AKA. You may remember me from such blog postings as “Incongruous YouTube Video” and “Shapeless Rant About Something Insanely Trivial”.

Been quiet around here recently, hasn’t it? You can always trace a direct line from the infrequency of postings here to the crazed rush of industry in my life. December has been Mad Busy.

At this time of year, I usually do some kind of “Year In Review” bollocks. Not this year. I can’t be bothered. 2007 has been a weird, strange chapter in my life – a year that has veered unpredictably between devastating lows and exhilarating highs, and I’ve found it to be exhausting and, in many ways, crushing. And with only four days left, I still have no idea what the rest of this brutal year will throw at me. Can’t wait to see the back of it. Come on, 2008, hurry up!

December involved epic amounts of time juggling. In addition to the considerable and growing demands of my day job, a hefty, lucrative writing job fell in my lap out of nowhere (proving that Facebook actually does have viable social networking resources that can be translated into cold, hard green). The writing gig entailed three and a bit drafts, numerous meetings with producers and directors, mountains of (ultimately useless) research material that needed sifting and very little sleep. 4 hours a night max became the norm for a while. Weekends didn’t exist. I was shooting around London like a rubber ball stapled to an Oyster Card. And the deadlines were as tight as whalebone corsets.

On the upside, my long-dormant writing career got the sort of boost that I really didn’t predict and, if all goes well, this might be a nice little sideline moving forward. Sure, the money is nice, but the best thing is the fact that I get the opportunity to do what I do best – making shit up.

And the Christmas break has not brought me any kind of respite or opportunity to recover from the demands of the year. I’m tired in every way imaginable. I’ve been skating on the cusp of a burn-out for so long now that it’s become my default setting. What I want from 2008 more than anything is peace and stability. That would be a great belated Christmas present if anyone can swing it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Jack Lord Can Kill You With His Eyes

It's late, I'm a reluctant insomniac, my chicken-pox riddled bambina has taken my place in the marital bed, I'm desperately trying to postpone another night on the couch and the prospect of wedging all 6" 3 of me onto a lumpy sofa half my size makes my spine scream in fearful anticipation, and the beer I just cracked open is just too damn perfect to abandon just yet. There's only one thing for it, dammit! Time to revel in all 56 majestic seconds of this enervating sliver of pop culture wizardry over & over & over again. Aaaaaaand GO!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

AKA’s TV Round-Up

I am currently following the events of the Writers Guild of America strike with great interest. A titanic battle where art and commerce collide! I sense that they are hunkering down for the long haul on this one. Good.

It is estimated that the 1988 writers strike cost the American entertainment business in the vicinity of $500million. Good.

To paraphrase V: “Writers should not be afraid of their employers. Employers should be afraid of their writers.”

So now seems as good a time as any for a quick once-around-the-block look at my current viewing habits. The current American television schedules hold very little interest for me. I’m done with sitcoms. I may occasionally dip into the odd episode of Scrubs or My Name Is Earl, but the sitcom is a tired format at the moment and needs either resting or a serious smack around the head.

Which leaves me with only three currently airing shows that I follow on a weekly basis. Two of them are television at its best, and the other one is Heroes. And don’t worry; this is entirely spoiler-free, so read on without fear:

Dexter

The life and times of a everyone’s favourite ethical serial killer, Dexter Morgan continues to juggle his personal relationships and his own murderous impulses as the second series seamlessly flows on from the events of the first. Despite the absence of a Big Bad Nemesis for Dexter like the Ice Truck Killer of Season One, all the sub-plots and character arcs are simmering away nicely and flowing naturally onwards. Dexter hasn’t taken a hit in quality from Season One, and Michael C. Hall is still as wonderfully charismatic and twisted as before.

Good news: All the episodes of Season 2 are in the bag, so Dexter won’t suffer as a result of the strike. It also seems like Season 3 has been given the green light.

Also worth mentioning: The opening titles of Dexter are without doubt the best on television at the moment – a montage of a mundane morning ritual, with innocuous household objects recast as ominous and unsettling with a judicious use of sound and framing. Check it:



House

Another anti-hero still on top of his game. Well into Season Four, and House continues to make a virtue of its limitations. The format – an obscure illness is endlessly misdiagnosed for 40 minutes until inspiration hits in the closing minutes and they work out what the hell is going on. Every. Single. Week. And it really doesn’t get tired, due to excellent performances and withering one-liners from the misanthropic disease detective. Shifting the supporting characters around has given this show a hypodermic shot in the arm. Sadly, it looks like there are only enough scripts to take House to the end of the year and we’ll be heading into 2008 with a handful of unresolved character arcs. Never mind. Always leave them wanting more, right? Pop a Vicodin to dull the pain.

Heroes
Attempting to combine the complex multi-threaded narrative strands and mysteries-within-mysteries of Lost with the soapy mythology and epic sweep of old X-Men comics, Heroes never attains the heights of either, with the exception of the inspired cheerleader autopsy sequence in Season One. It’s always been entertaining enough, but never really great.

And Heroes continues to suffer badly from an over-reliance on nonsensical coincidence to make the characters cross paths, and the introduction of bland pretty-boys-and-girls-with-special abilities that do nothing for the story. There is a reason why Hiro Nakamura was everyone’s favourite character. He was the everyman who had a sense of wonder and awe about his powers, and the one character that represented the notion of an (almost) ordinary man in extraordinary situations.

Add to that a glacial pacing in the early episodes with only incremental plot advancement in every episode, and Heroes is really struggling. The last episode hinted that things are getting back on track and moving at an accelerated pace to hold flagging interest. This is all likely to come to a halt soon with only a few episodes left before the scripts dry up. This is A Good Thing. Maybe the writing team can reflect on what’s gone wrong and up their game for next year. Here’s hoping.

So with the clock ticking before the US schedules dry up and end up swathed in reruns, what does that mean for international television? Surely this must be a great opportunity for the UK’s best shows to find an audience elsewhere as American broadcasters look for The New to plug into their ailing schedules? Which neatly brings me to:

The Sarah Jane Adventures
The BBC’s latest, kids-oriented spin-off from Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures succeeds in all the ways that Torchwood failed. With the tone of the “classic” Who of the past, the show has the format of “monsters / aliens / ghosts invade Earth and are repelled by plucky teenagers and their experienced mentor”. The shows pop off the screen in a CGI squall of bright colours and lights. Lots of screaming and running and gadgets and cliffhangers and cackling villains and vanquished ghouls. This is what live-action Scooby-Doo should really look like. Terrific stuff, and far better than anyone could have hoped for.

So, what’s next? Don’t know about you, but this just about punches every single one of my geek buttons. Friday 16 November – BBC1. Oh yes:

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Here We Go Again

I’m two weeks into the new job and I’ve finally managed to get the New Guy stink off of me.

In a nutshell? I like it.

It didn’t take too long for me to adapt from the slapdash amateurism of the last place of employment to the slick professionalism of the new place. Got a nice desk, comfy chair, free lunch every day and a great view of the Thames from my office. I’ve also got a constant feeling of déjà vu.

I’m deep enough into my working life now to see certain patterns. I have this nagging feeling that I know these people. I don’t. I just know the types. The artificial blonde with the severe business suit, the arctic smile and the dead eyes who always appears to be pleasant, but she can’t hide the petty officiousness buried under layers of pancaked make-up. The effete prankster with a battery of catchphrases who’s convinced that he’s hilarious but really he’s just irritating. The doughy, perpetually exhausted longtimers who bitch and moan about the work, even though they refuse to either Shit or Get Off The Pot.

I’m busy all day every day (and I seem to be in meetings all the time. What is it with Big Corporates and incessant meetings?). I’m back in a shirt and tie. But I’m into it. I’m enjoying it. I’m comfortable and confident and I feel challenged and I’m learning and I feel a part of it. I’ve been made to feel welcome. It’s more than I expected.

So far? So very, very good.

Friday, October 05, 2007

End of Daze

I’ve just sat down at my desk in my office. It’s the same desk I’ve been sitting at almost every weekday for the last 25 months. Today is the last day I will arrive here, sit here, work (or pretend to work) here. Do anything here.

Feels damn weird. I feel like I need to mark this moment in some way. Cock my leg on the last two years and leave my scent behind in some tangible way. But that’s not going to happen. I’ll be forgotten by midday next Monday. Which is fine by me.

I’ve hated working here more often than not, but I suspect that at some point in the future I will look back on this time with some kind of twisted fondness. But not yet, and not for a while.

The sun has decided to come out and play for this last day. It almost manages to make this place look decent. This big, ugly concrete warehouse pretending to be an office building at the furthermost point on a big, ugly industrial estate, the outside of the building choked with weeds and triffids and rats the size of terriers. The murky dark water of the Grand Union Canal oozing past the window, rancid with filth and ducks desperately trying to swim through the muck and the plastic bags and the rainbow-coloured oily swirls leaking into the water from the car garage next door.

So. No more shaky air-conditioning that makes the room arctic on the hottest days of the year, or sweltering hot on the darkest days of winter. No more struggling to find space on a tiny desk choked with pens and papers and coffee mugs and standard issue office bullshit. No longer will I have to run a gauntlet of empty cardboard boxes and misshapen polystyrene and busted monitors and discarded cabling just so I can get to the toilet or the kitchen.

And, hopefully, no more insane, nightmare edicts from the technically-challenged company directors. I still shudder when I think back to the dark days of Summer 2006, when for three weeks it was decreed that we drop everything immediately to dedicate our waking hours to reading Every Single Incoming Spam e-mail. From cain’t see to cain’t see, from log-in to log-out, from 9am to 5.30pm, it was nothing but an endless parade of penisviagrarolexmortgagecasinolotteryorgasmhoodia craziness, burning my eyes, crushing my mind, breaking my spirit. And all because maybe, just maybe, one in every 10,000 e-mails might be a mistakenly-snagged valid e-mail with a customer who wants to spend £10 on a piece of shitty software.

Regardless, this is the closing of an undeniably odd (but annoyingly representative) chapter in my working life and I’m glad that it is finally (almost) over. It went on at least a year too long, and this ending is overdue, so I might as well welcome it with open arms, a gleam in my eye, and these words on my lips: “What took you so damn long? Come on, we got things to do!”

And it’s time to go do them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

You, Robot



Nestled in the midst of yet another summer where cinemas were buckling under the weight of bloated effects-heavy spectacles choked by a surfeit of plot strands and character arcs all struggling to extricate themselves from unnecessary narrative complexity (I’m looking at you Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End!), along comes the small and perfectly formed Electroma from Parisian bleep-sculptors Daft Punk.

Whereas the summer’s standard issue eye candy is just passive entertainment, a relentless barrage of noise and nonsense requiring absolutely no contribution on the part of the audience, Electroma is the opposite. It leaves plenty of room for the viewer as an integral part of the experience, allowing them to project their own feelings, interpretations and responses on to the film.

Those wacky Daft Punks may disagree with me. Co-director and imaginaut Thomas Bangalter describes Electroma as “…experimental and inaccessible; however, it's a movie that does not require your brain to function.” He couldn’t be more wrong. It is a far richer experience when both your brain and your emotions are receptive to the sounds and images skittering across the screen.

Heavily indebted to 70s American cinema, in particular nihilistic road movies and sterile sci-fi dystopias like Electra Glide in Blue and THX 1138 (with a dash of the suburban weirdness of David Lynch thrown in as seasoning), Electroma is the story of two leather-clad robots cruising the American highways, flanked on either side by a craggy burnished orange backdrop familiar from old westerns, saddled up in their black 1987 Ferrari 412 with its license plate displaying “HUMAN”.

And that’s all they want – to be human. To be different in a world full of robots. And that’s basically the whole story.

With the slow and hypnotic accretion of meticulously selected and stunningly beautiful imagery, Electroma is an entirely wordless meditation on the meaning of humanity, belonging, assimilation and conformity.

Every single miniscule element of Electroma is seemingly crafted with painstaking precision, from the grotesque human masks that the robots wear, melting in the sun and running down their faces like rubbery pink tears, to the immaculate location shots, in particular one striking shot of the desert laid out like the curves of a reclining woman, with a serendipitous pile of scrub brush appearing tantalisingly like a pubic mound.

Even better than the visuals is the fantastic sound design – the repetitive scuffing of boots on gravel; the crackling of flames; the unwavering drone of the Ferrari. Even the silence is perfect.

Music also plays a part in the whole tapestry (although, wisely, nothing by Daft Punk themselves). My personal favourite use of music is the sound of Curtis Mayfield’s Billy Jack as the two robots walk through a suburban town centre proudly wearing their new faces, in a twisted parody of Richard Roundtree or John Travolta strutting defiantly in the opening sequences of Shaft or Saturday Night Fever.

In a film without words, subtle physical performance and use of body language is vital, and Peter Hurteau and Michael Reich acquit themselves admirably. But I’ve said enough. A film that’s a blend of impressions and imagery is not a film that can be sold on the strength of words. And it’s now available on DVD.

Tempted yet? Here’s a teaser trailer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Songs for Swingin' Lovers

Buttercup is going to be 3 in just over a week. She has exemplary taste in music. I can prove it too. Look and listen:



At the moment, this is her favourite song. For the last few days we have both been wandering from room to room singing it incessantly. I can’t get the thing out of my head and, let’s face it, why would I want to?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bobby Byrd 1934 – 2007

I know you got soul
If you didn’t you wouldn’t be in here




Beautiful obit by Red Kelly over at The “A” Side

Bobby, take it to the bridge…

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Work Out

As of this Monday just gone, I have been in my current job for two years. I started with a healthy degree of new-job-enthusiasm. It didn’t take long for that to degenerate to the level of mild apathy. By the time my first year was up, I was well into the Outright Hatred zone, and I never got out of it.

It was around that point that I started looking for a new job. By my calculations, that’s over a year of hardcore job-search, with all its attendant annoyances: poring over webpages and squinting at the poorly-worded job ads in miniscule type; endlessly tweaking CVs and cover letters; verbal jousting with aggressive, incompetent and overly-friendly recruitment consultants; burning through my annual holiday allowance (with the odd sick-day thrown in) to attend interviews.

I must have been devoting around 20 hours a week to job-hunting. Over 300 job applications. Circa 30 interviews, increasing in frequency to the point where I was out of the office twice a week.

Now, the eagle-eyed readers amongst you will have noticed that I am writing in the past tense…

In the last few days, I have received not one, but two, job offers. I’ve grabbed one of those fuckers with both hands.

I feel a bit overwhelmed at the moment. It’s such a momentous thing for me, and I finally feel like I am back in control of my life in a significant way. My current job has been A Fucking Nightmare - and that’s an understatement.

There is no downside. There is only upside! I get out of this crummy North London suburb overrun with rats and fast-food joints. I get to have more time to myself (at least for the next month whilst I work out my notice period) now that I don’t have to endlessly pursue job opportunities. I’m joining a company flush with potential and the promise of a new beginning. I’m back in the heart of that fickle bitch London.

Such an immense weight has been lifted from me that I feel a little dazed by it, and I’m still adjusting to these impending changes. I haven’t tendered my resignation yet, as I’m waiting for all the paperwork to come through confirming everything, but in four weeks, my world will shift on its axis ever so slightly. And Donald Byrd was right – Change really does Make You Wanna Hustle.

I haven’t managed to wrap my head around all the implications of this, but the main one that affects you, dear reader, is that I finally get the opportunity to devote some valuable brainspace to writing again. This means more tinkering around with my little pet projects, but it also means an increased presence here for the next few weeks at least.

We’ve got a lot of catching up to do…

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tall in the Saddle

“Back in black, I hit the sack,
I've been too long, I'm glad to be back
Yes I'm let loose from the noose,
That's kept me hangin' about.
I been livin’ like a star 'cause it's gettin' me high,
Forget the hearse, 'cause I never die
I got nine lives, cat's eyes
Abusing every one of them and running wild.”

AC/DC - Back In Black

Oh yes. The Summer of my Discontent is now finally over and made glorious. There’s a metric shitload of things I wanted to write about, but I seem to be perpetually under the gun at the moment and just running to catch up with myself, so that’s going to have to wait.

I’ve finally managed to get my Twitter page to feed into the blog properly, so scroll down the column on the right and you’ll have a more accurate idea of my daily movements and adventures.

As I wrestle with the remaining hours of this week, I am comforted to know that we’re heading into a three-day Bank Holiday weekend which ends with my 35th birthday. Every day that we can rouse ourselves from our slumber and breathe in and breathe out is a day worth celebrating, as we put one leg in front of the other and continue to navigate our way around this Big Bad Ball of Mud. That goes double for birthdays.

“They gotta catch me if they want me to hang
'Cause I'm back on the track and I'm beatin' the flack,
Nobody's gonna get me on another rap
So look at me now, I'm just a makin' my pay,
Don't try to push your luck, just get outta my way.”

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mike Wieringo 1963 – 2007

Blogging still at a minimum, but I didn’t want this to pass without comment. Criminally underrated comic artist Mike Wieringo has died unexpectedly at the age of 44. Here are two of my favourite sketches by Ringo. First is a dashing re-imagining of Buck Rogers as part of a thread on Warren Ellis’ soon-to-be-defunct message board THE ENGINE:



Here is the other one. Ringo’s stint on Fantastic Four with Mark Waid is one of the most-beloved runs on the title, elevating it once again to its position as The World's Greatest Comic Magazine. Here is a tragically poignant picture of the FF waving goodbye to Ringo and his mighty, irreplaceable pencil:

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Urban Decay and the Vinyl Frontier

I’m still navigating the choppy waters of my personal life. I’m surrounded on all sides by ravenous sharks, and there is definitely blood in the water. Nevertheless, if I don’t do some writing, I’m going to go bug-fuck crazy. So here I am. Deal with it. Warning: This is going to be a bit rambling and shapeless. My thoughts tend to be skittish and unfocussed at the moment. And I’m rusty as hell with the ol’ word-slinging, so bear with me.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had a handful of reasons to be in the centre of London with time on my hands, so I’ve spent quite a bit of that time aimlessly wandering the streets, trying to hit some of my favourite areas. And I’m discovering that my favourite areas are gradually facing extinction.

About a year ago I wrote about the demise of Comic Showcase, but what I didn’t know at the time was that it was only the first salvo in the slow disintegration of parts of “my” London. London is many things to many people. No two people see this city in the same way. And that’s the way it should be. But it seems that progress or evolution or whatever- you-want-to-call-it has decided to call time on My London.

I suppose I first had an inkling a couple of weeks back. I went to a party thrown by a company I worked for many years ago – the company I was working at when this blog was born. You can check the archives to get a flavour of my hate-hate relationship with that place.

It was more of a wake than a party. After eight years in business, and having never turned a profit whilst ploughing millions into a misguided vanity project, they had decided to stop throwing cash onto the pyre. It was the end of the road. One of the deciding factors was the fact that the building where they were based was going to be demolished, and they couldn’t face another costly and ultimately fruitless office move. I was one of the key personnel involved in the previous office move. The reason then? That building was going to be demolished.

And I thought about my not-particularly happy working career. The jobs, the companies, the colleagues. Lots of places, lots of people. And it dawned on me that, with the exception of one company, they have all gone. They’ve either crashed and burned in failure, or they’ve cashed out in a smug burst of orgiastic glee, jerking off into rolled up £50 notes with a big “fuck you” grin on their faces.

Not only have the companies disappeared, their employees have scattered on the winds of opportunity, rolling up wherever the need for a paycheck takes them. And more often than not, even the buildings that housed those companies have been razed to the ground, to make way for plazas or mini-malls or who-the-fuck-knows.

Coincidentally, I also discovered the other day that my current company is on the verge of selling up. It appears that the directors have been casting around for buyers, and it looks like they might have found some. It’s only a matter of time. I discovered this through unofficial channels, so I’m not supposed to know this. I always seem to know things that I shouldn’t…

I went off on a bit of a tangent there. What I really wanted to write about was Berwick Street. The Fopp chain of record stores folded over a month ago, simultaneously doing away with my source of inexpensive music. It was always an excellent source of low-priced niche music. If supermarkets are increasingly catering to the Top 40 crowd, it fell to Fopp to cater to the rest of us, and they did it well. Their implosion had little to do with their day-to-day business, and more to do with a cash-flow problem brought on by acquisition and rapid expansion. They committed commercial suicide.

So, on Thursday afternoon, with time to kill and nothing to adequately slaughter it with, I decided to hit Berwick Street, Soho’s Mecca for the music shopper. Well, it used to be. Not anymore. It has changed. The stack-‘em-high, sell-‘em-cheap Mister CD had gone. Both branches of Reckless Records had gone. Selectadisc is long gone. The only remaining record store on Berwick Street is Sister Ray, and I wasn’t impressed. The prices aren’t that good. Neither is the stock range. I managed to snag a Latin jazz CD for £2.99, primarily for the Joe Bataan cover of the Theme From Shaft.

I remember the days when I could walk up and down Berwick Street all day (stopping occasionally for a burger or a beer), digging in dusty stacks of vinyl and finding piles of stuff that I wanted. I always had to put things back, because the stuff that I wanted exceeded what I could afford. Last week, it was a struggle to spend 3 quid. My friends and I would be tempting permanent spinal injury by hauling around bags weighed down with stacks of black discs engraved with the funkiest basslines and the baddest horn breaks. We were avid crate diggers, looking for elusive and unusual funk and jazz albums. And we never left empty-handed.

I know that shopping online is cheaper, but it’s purposeful. You want something, you find it at the best price and you get the fuck out. But you can’t browse in the same way. There’s nothing like holding something in your hands that you never knew existed. The death of the specialist shop is the death of pop culture archaeology, chipping away in the dust and the dim light to reveal a surprise.

Now, when I get on the train home from London, I don’t take any extra treats home with me. Not even memories.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Down And Out

I know that it has been quiet around here lately. Lots going on at the moment. Almost all of it apocalyptically bad. I don't really want to talk about it. At the moment, and for the forseeable future, this is me:



Normal nonsense will resume at some point. I don't know when. I wish I did. Over and out.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

Some things make life worth living. This music video is one of them. Telly Savalas singing (and I use that word loosely) If. If this doesn't fill you with joy, you are dead inside:

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Through The Looking Glass

It occurs to me that, after many years of indulging me and my inane chatter, some of you out there have no idea what I look like. Let me help you fill in some gaps.

An awful lot of people tell me I look like this:



Which is flattering. It happens less now than it used to, which may be attributed to my slowly advancing years. However, as time passes, I suspect that most people don’t actually mean that anymore. They mean this:



Bastards. Personally, I prefer this comparison:



Can you dig it? I knew that you could!

Occasionally, and this has happened more often than you would think, I have been compared to this:



This is usually followed by a brutal beating. And that ends today’s brief foray into Google Image Search Photofit Fun.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

No Subject Line Can Prepare You For The Horror



This is the new logo for the London 2012 Olympic Games. It cost £400,000.

Shit, isn’t it?

Looking directly at it gives me a piercing headache just behind my eyeballs. It looks like the aftermath of a Lisa Simpson chainsaw attack. It looks like someone’s granddad’s idea of cool. Because Granddad does so love that new hippity-hop sound.

Please feel free to add more insults and withering criticism in the comments section as you see fit, because ugly is in the eye of the beholder.

Friday, June 01, 2007

And The Tweet Goes On

Short Sharp Stabs Are GO!

George “drool-on-his-chin-and-the-devil-in-his-eyes” Bush is still the world’s most unbelievably Evil Bastard. Is no-one willing to challenge him for the crown of King of the Shits?

Be Kind, Rewind has the potential to be the finest piece of cinematic confectionary we can hope to consume in 2008.

As feared, I have become obsessed with Twitter. Have you seen me twittering yet? You should. It’s like this, only shorter. Less filling, but with the same great taste. And to all of my lovely friends out there who don’t like to go down on the blogosphere and get all messy with your hungry lips and roving tongue, now you have no excuse! Go forth and twitter! It will give me something else to read. And I can never have too many things to read.

And in the words of C.J. Cregg: "That's a full lid!"

Friday, May 25, 2007

Going Cheep

Dictionary definitions can sometimes make a point far more efficiently than I, and they use fewer words. Like this.

To Twitter:

to utter a succession of small, tremulous sounds, as a bird.
to talk lightly and rapidly, esp. of trivial matters; chatter.
to titter; giggle.
to tremble with excitement or the like; be in a flutter.
a state of tremulous excitement.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

I’m stupidly busy at work, my monitor is messy and crowded with open windows, and I’ve still managed to find a way to distract myself. Dammit.

I’ve started playing with Twitter, and now I have a Twitter page. There’s a shortcut on the right under The Others, but here’s a direct url to my page if you want to enjoy my Adventures in Microblogging.

This also means that I will be sending small twitters from my mobile phone at any time of the day or night. Oh dear.

I would put a flash badge in the right-hand sidebar so you can read my Twitters from here, but I tried that already, and it fucks up the blog template something horrible.

I’m hurtling towards the holiday weekend with open arms. It’s calling me. I can hear it…

Friday, May 18, 2007

Wrap Party

So, here we are. This is the last day of my experiment in daily blogging. I did it. One post every working day for a month. Time for a post-mortem, methinks. What did I learn?

• I’m capable of doing it. I thought I would flake out after a couple of days, but I just kept powering through.

• Yes. I know that I cheated occasionally with memes or video clips. Fuck it.

• When I think that I can’t write, I am wrong.

• I am my own worst critic. When something is crap, I want it to be good. When something is good, I want it to be great. When something is great, I want it to be perfect.

• There is no perfect.

• I thought that doing this every day would siphon brainspace away from other writing projects. The reverse has been true. This turned into a warm-up before the main event. I’ve noodled around with short stories, untold ideas, and stray snippets for things that don’t exist yet. When you invite the Muse in, you can’t just kick her ass out when you’re done with her. Sometimes she settles in for the evening. She’s a demanding mistress.

• Now my writing muscles are nice and limber, I am ready to finally dive in and start chiselling away at my main project in earnest: the first draft of my screenplay Rotten Timing. Oh yes, It Is Time.

I guess I’ll be back here on a less stringent timetable next week at some point. Or I might be back tomorrow. That’s the thing with blogging. You never know when you might need the fingers to fly, the brain to spark or the words to pour. Excelsior!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bad Brains

Tired and busy and just a little burnt-out this week. That means meme time. I wasn't actually going to post this, but I think this is weirdly accurate:

How's your brain?

Your Brain Usage Profile:

Auditory : 71%
Visual : 28%
Left : 50%
Right : 50%

AKA, your hemispheric dominance is equally divided between left and right brain, while you show a moderate preference for auditory versus visual learning, signs of a balanced and flexible person.

Your balance gives you the enviable capacity to be verbal and literate while retaining a certain "flair" and individuality. You are logical and compliant but only to a degree. You are organized without being compulsive, goal-directed without being driven, and a "thinking" individual without being excessively so.

The one problem you might have is that your learning might not be as efficient as you would like. At times you will work from the specific to the general, while at other times you'll work from the general to the specific. Sometimes you will be logical in your approach while at other times random. Since you cannot always control the choice, you may experience frustrations not normally felt by persons with a more defined and directed learning style.

You may also minimally experience conflicts associated with auditory processing. You will be systematic and sequential in your processing of information, you will most often focus on a single dimension of the problem or material, and you will be more reflective, i.e., "taking the data in" as opposed to "devouring" it.

Overall, you should feel content with your life and yourself. You are, perhaps, a little too critical of yourself - and of others - while maintaining an "openness" which is redeeming. Indecisiveness is a problem and your creativity is not in keeping with your potential. Being a pragmatist, you downplay this aspect of yourself and focus on the more immediate, the more obvious and the more functional.

Make of that what you will. In other news, is this the greatest panel in the history of comics? Could be! Credits where they are due: Written by John Wagner and Alan Grant. Art by Brian Bolland. Lettering by the late Tom Frame.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Get Rich or Blog Tryin'

I suspect that this isn't actually true:


My blog is worth $2,258.16.
How much is your blog worth?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Curtain

I’ve noticed something over the last few weeks as I’ve been conducting this little experiment in daily blogging. Unwittingly, I have been dividing my working day into four distinct chunks:

1. Actual work – the stuff I get paid to do. Suckers…
2. Job hunting – trawling through job sites, dealing with phone calls and e-mails, sifting through Employment Agency Obfuscation & Bullshit.
3. General webfuckery – going through my RSS feeds, news sites, random bouncing around online.
4. Blogging

I rarely take a proper lunch-break so, for the sake of argument, let’s call the working day a huge wedge of time that starts just after 9am (because I am pathologically incapable of arriving at work on time. I usually get here at 9.15am) and ends in the vicinity of 5.30pm.

Parkinson's Law states that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Ain’t that the truth. And I notice that I don’t get around to the blogging section of the day until somewhere between 3 and 5pm. Then I get a small rush of The Fear as I realise that I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to write about. So I do some mental free-association and allow my ideaspace to become polluted by anything that drifts lazily across my mind. Then the Muse pops in for an afternoon chat.

I permit myself to be momentarily assaulted by the tyranny of the White Page before I start tapping the keys. And then it just starts coming out. Sometimes it’s a painful trickle. Sometimes it’s an unstoppable torrent. But there’s always something. It’s like pissing with words.

It feels like a bit of a cheat to write a blog entry about how I write a blog entry. But as we are now well into the final week of my blog-a-day foolishness, I thought a peek into the process might be useful. Sometimes the Man Behind The Curtain really is The Wizard of Oz. And sometimes he’s just a guy who accidentally crashed his hot air balloon in a wonderful place.

I don’t really know what that means either. I just like the sound of it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

And Then

Looking back through the foggy clouds of time, back to the days when I was but a young scrivener, writing blocky text with my blunted Staedtler HB pencil, I remember that, occasionally on a Monday morning at school, my teacher would say:

“Today, I want you to write about what you did this weekend.”

And we would all hunch over our battered exercise books and write recklessly and breathlessly with no regard for full-stops or paragraphs, sculpting huge chunks of words with the occasional interjection of “and then” to indicate the next minor occurrence in our brief lives, where everything was new and exciting: The episode of Doctor Who I had watched on Saturday evening. The park I had walked around with my family. The toys I played with. The smelly farts my brother had done. (I may have made this last one up.)

Sometimes we would clumsily attempt to inject a bit of emotion into it, with a sentence like “It was great” or “My ice cream was chocolate and I ate it all up and it was good.”

There is something to be said for the charming and artless recitation of events, chronicling moments without any real colour or detail. It’s honest and pure and isn’t subject to the distortions of personal opinion.

This is a roundabout way of saying that that’s exactly what I’m going to do now. Have at thee!

On Saturday morning I went to the shops and bought some things and then I went to have a Red Bull and read my book and then I went home to play with Buttercup and her Spider-Man toys and then Buttercup and Mrs. AKA went out for the rest of the day. And then I did some housework and some writing too and then I watched a couple of episodes of House and then I threw a pizza in the oven and then I opened my first beer and then I put some DVDs on. I watched The Beat That My Heart Skipped. It was good. And then I watched the movie of Miami Vice. It was not good.

And then I went to bed and I slept. It was great.

On Sunday morning I did more housework and then I sat and thought about what I should do for the rest of the day. Mrs. AKA and Buttercup had plans for the day so I thought I might just relax at home and then my mum called and said that loads of our family are going there and I should too. And then I travelled in the rain for two hours and I got there. I was wet. And then I watched twin babies crawl all over me like a big climbing frame as I tried to stop them from jumping on my mum’s old dog. He might eat them. Ha ha.

And then I thought about making the journey back home but it was late and raining and I felt lazy so I went out for a drink instead. And then I had some beer and then I had some Jägermeister and then I went back to my mum’s for the night and I went to bed. Now I am tired and it is only Monday. And that is what I did this weekend. The end.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Pounding The Pavement

So. Yesterday. London.

One day, one man, one travelcard, one pair of tight loafers, one blog entry. Reminiscences are GO!

First interview at 11am. Door to door, it takes me about two and a half hours. This is bad. It’s Whitechapel. Or, if I’m feeling less charitable, Tower Hamlets. Commercial Road is a fucking shithole. It’s even worse than where I work now. This is also bad.

I go into the interview feeling pretty cavalier. If I don’t get this one, I won’t really care. The office is a hovel as well. It’s like all the crap from the street has overflowed into the building. I write this one off before the interview even begins.

People forget that interviews aren’t only about the company testing you for suitability. It’s a two-way street. Half an hour of the usual back-and-forth and I’m done.

I crawl back into the underground with a couple of hours to kill and end up spending five minutes chatting with a Big Issue seller outside Embankment. He ends up being the nicest person I meet all day.

I head over to Forbidden Planet to find something for my daughter. (No, really. Not for me at all. Oh no. For her. Yes). Buttercup is besotted with Spider-Man at the moment, and I feel a little bit bad that she can’t watch the movies. She’s far too young. As much as I love the rich mythology of superhero comics, I’m cognisant of the fact that, ultimately, they are ongoing tales of people in gaudy costumes slapping the shit out of each other. Not really something I want her to get into at her age. But I wanted to get her a little something, so she can at least revel in the iconography of it all. Mission accomplished.

At around the time that Tony Blair is waving goodbye to his beloved constituents, I start to head in the general direction of Warren Street. The next interview takes place somewhere that’s not quite Euston and not quite Camden.

This is much better. The guy interviewing me actually seems like he is trying to get to grips with what I can do, what I have done, and who I am (unlike the previous interviewer who just seemed to want a dry recitation of the information readily available on my CV.)

I read him quite quickly, and adjust myself accordingly. I shift from the Queen’s English to somewhere further down the scale, hovering above the level of Barrow Boy colloquialism. I drop the odd “t”, and say “Cheers” instead of “Thank you”. It seems to go well. I’ve learnt by now, though, that that means nothing. We shall see.

Still relatively early, and it’s raining by now, so I decide to go and watch Ryan Gosling as a crack-addict school-teacher and self-confessed “big asshole baby” in Half Nelson.

And then, with my toes screaming and heels chaffing in my too-small shoes, I forge onwards once more deep into the guts of the Underground to make the long journey home.

By the time my head hit the pillow last night, it didn’t take long for me to get to sleep. I could end with a flourish and tell you it was the sleep of the righteous. But I’ll go for the truth instead. It was the sleep of the tired, and it was great.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

You Made Me Forget Myself

Thought I had time for this today. Turns out that I don’t. You know the drill by now: a glut of work, webfuckery, job-hunting and, added to that, prepping myself for not one but TWO interviews tomorrow (so no blogging tomorrow either as I’ll be bouncing all around London like a pinstripe pinball. I’ll try and make up for it on Friday).

To compensate for it in the short-term, I leave you with a little slice of British television history. In 1997, one of my favourite songs, Lou Reed’s heartbreakingly beautiful Perfect Day, was featured by the BBC in a lengthy corporate advertisement of its own music coverage. The trailer was shown on BBC channels and in cinemas and went on to win awards. It was released as a charity single in November of that year for Children In Need, becoming the UK's number one single for two weeks, selling over a million copies.

Covering a broad range of musical styles and contributors, this is almost perfect. (Sadly, it is somewhat marred by the strangulated screechings of the monstrous and ridiculous Heather Small). Never mind. Here is Lou with a lot of his Very Special Friends. Oh what a Perfect Day:

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Earth’s Tiniest Hero

One of the highlights of my weekend was listening to my wife explaining to my daughter the benefits of eating your fruit and vegetables:

Mrs. AKA: The Hulk is green and strong because he eats broccoli.
Buttercup: Yeah.
Mrs. AKA: The Thing is orange and strong because he eats carrots.
Buttercup: Yeah. (pause) Mummy, what does Spider-Man eat?
Mrs. AKA: Blueberries and strawberries!

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Eyes Have It

Another relentless day. My eyes ache. For the first time ever since I’ve been working here, my employers have decided to make use of my editorial and journalistic background, and I’ve just spent the larger part of the day poring over the proofs for the company’s latest catalogue page by page. Proofing, sub-editing, re-writing. The whole thing was coated in red ink by the time I had finished with it. It looked like shit before. Now I’ve ripped it to pieces, it will look slightly less like shit. At least I’m not the one who has to spend the rest of the day twatting around in QuarkXPress to fix it.

Now, our astonishingly sub-standard Marketing Team keep asking me how I know what kerning is, and how come I spotted every single tiny error. No-one really knows anything about me outside of my role as I.T. Monkey in this place, so for them to find out that I have years and years of writing and editing experience blows their narrow little minds. Fuck ‘em. I’ve got a better eye for this shit than anyone on that Marketing Team, but I think this is the first time that they have noticed it too.

My bloody eyes are suffering for it now, though. I’ve forgotten how exhausting it can be to really look at a page in intense detail looking for every little screw-up.

And my boss has been scuttling around like a giant, bald hamster, treating our building like a massive concrete treadmill. Entering the building through the front door, doing a circuit of the office (both floors), out the balcony, down the stairs, lights a cigarette, hotboxes the fucking thing as quickly as possible, back in the front door, repeat ad nauseam. Bastard makes me feel dizzy.

Everything seems vaguely blurry now, so I’m going to wrap this up. Three-day weekend on the way, which means that I can rest my poor bruised vision for a bit, and I’ll be back here on Tuesday to continue the task of daily-blogging-for-a-month-with-weekends-off-for-bad-behaviour.

Oh! And I’ve got a job interview near Camden next Thursday too. So that’s something else to look forward to. Not a bad way to end the week. Not bad at all.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Five Knuckle Shuffle

Ridiculously busy again today. Got fuckloads of job-search related stuff to do. Plus my “real” work (you know, that depressing shit that I actually get paid for doing). It’s piling up and I’m trying to slice my way through it like John Locke in the middle of the jungle hacking away at the undergrowth with one of his big-ass hunting knives.

But I’m still determined to power ahead with this “blogging every day for a month” insanity that I seem to have committed myself to. I must be out of my damn mind.

So, whilst I multitask like a motherfucker, this is today’s game: Sticking my iPod on “shuffle”, and writing about the first five tracks that pop up at random. This could be good. It could also be complete and utter toss. Oh well, here goes…

1. Bubbles from the Deep Throat soundtrack



What a way to start…This is a track from the infamous 1972 Linda Lovelace filthfest. I don’t know who recorded it. Does anybody know? I doubt it. The lyrics (ahem) blow.
“Who’s been blowing bubbles from a rainbow pipe” – huh?
“Great Big Magic Bubbles” – what does that even mean?
Cheesy, kitsch, retro, and really quite mediocre. I’m sure that people were probably a bit more preoccupied with what was happening on-screen than worrying about some bloody hippy tree-hugging shit about bubbles and crap innuendoes about “blowing”. I like a double entendre as much as the next guy…actually, I like a double entendre more than the next guy…but this is a bit pants.

More info on the album can be found here, and for background info on the movie, go here. Next!

2. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll by Ian Dury



Is very good indeed. Man, I love this! Ian Dury was London’s very own street poet genius, and the Blockheads were a band with some serious funk chops. Only two of the Blockheads appear on this track, but it still kicks some serious funk. And Dury was a unique lyricist. Check this:

Every bit of clothing ought to make you pretty
You can cut the clothing, grey is such a pity
I should wear the clothing of Mr. Walter Mitty
See my tailor, he's called Simon, I know it's going to fit


Awe! Found some interesting history about the song here.

3. Blowin’ Western Mind by Manu Dibango from Countdown at Kusini



Fela Kuti may be the rightful king of Afrobeat, melding jazz and funk with traditional African beats, but I always preferred Manu Dibango, and his own brand of Cameroonian-inflected grooves. In particular, the tremendous Big Blow. This track is from the soundtrack to the 1976 Ossie Davis movie Countdown at Kusini. Percussive, seductive, restless, mellow, toe-tapping, cow-bell tinkling goodness. Oh yes, most wonderful. Blow that horn, Manu!

More on Manu Dibango here and a little bit about the album here.

4. Closer by Quasimoto (featuring Madvillain) from The Further Adventures of Lord Quas



Quasimoto is one of the many aliases of rapper, producer, musician, DJ Madlib. The Quasimoto persona always reminds me of Prince’s Black Album. Madlib has a naturally deep voice, so the Quasimoto “voice” is achieved by changing the pitch of the vocals to produce that distinctive high pitched kinda-falsetto.

This album came out on the Stones Throw Records label. I can buy anything with the Stones Throw logo on it and I will never, ever be disappointed. It’s beat-tastic! Go to the Stones Throw website and subscribe to their free podcasts right now. I’ll wait.

5. God Is Love by Marvin Gaye from What’s Going On



Difficult to take tracks from Marvin Gaye’s 70s run of albums in isolation, because they are always so integral to the greater whole. Nevertheless, this is a good ‘un from Marvin’s classic anti-war, protest-song LP. There is nothing I can say about the greatness of Marvin. If you don’t already know by now, I can’t help you. On the LP, this track is sequenced just before Mercy Mercy Me, and that is one of the finest songs ever committed to vinyl. Fact!

For more on What’s Going On, make with the clicky here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Page 123 - Fifth Sentence

Short of time? Check.
Short of inspiration? Check.
Still trying to blog once a day for a whole month? Check.
Does that mean it’s time to resort to a meme? You damn right!

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

The book is Profoundly Erotic: Sexy Movies That Changed History by Joe Bob Briggs. And here is the sentence:

“The only good news was that the rest of the casting went smoothly.”

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Snapshot

Sitting at my tiny desk.
Listening to Bobbi Humphrey on my headphones.
Drinking a mug of peppermint tea.
Loads of windows open: e-mails, web browsers, spreadsheets, folders, word documents.
Thinking about what to do with the rest of my day, the rest of my week, the rest of my life.
Formulating escape plans. Searching for new opportunities. Fighting for the exit.

No-one talks to me. I talk to no-one. But I’ve got music and tea and my thoughts and my words, and I’m counting the minutes.

Every working day is like this. The details change but the fundamentals stay the same.

How do I get out of this chickenshit outfit?

Monday, April 30, 2007

Q&A

Every Saturday in The Guardian Weekend Magazine, there is a section called Q&A, where a series of questions are given to a variable and broad range of luminaries. I’ve ganked the questions for my own nefarious purposes, and here are my answers, whether you want them or not!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?


Laughing, smiling and playing with my wife and daughter and no-one else is around.

What is your greatest fear?


My greatest (and only) fear has nothing to do with me, but with my loved ones and is so awful to conceive that I don’t even want to articulate it here. I’m sure you can work it out.

With which historical figure do you most identify?


Bill Hicks. For many, many reasons, but mostly because of this: “I was told when I grew up I could be anything I wanted: a fireman, a policeman, a doctor - even President, it seemed. And for the first time in the history of mankind, something new, called an astronaut. But like so many kids brought up on a steady diet of Westerns, I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice. And in my heart of hearts I still track the remnants of that dream wherever I go, in my endless ride into the setting sun.”

What has been your most embarrassing moment?


I don’t really get embarrassed anymore but, when I was younger (I can’t remember when now, but I could have been any age between 8 and 12), I was in the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Notting Hill with my Dad and my brother. They had just had the front of the place re-done with immaculate, clean, clear glass. I misjudged where the door was and walked into an immovable glass wall with an awesomely loud CLANG.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

My propensity for crippling self-doubt. (It used to be procrastination, but I’ve slowly managed to master that one).

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Cruelty. Rudeness. Greed. I haven’t even scratched the surface…

What objects do you always carry with you?

Books, notepad, pen, wallet, phone, keys.

Where would you like to live?

Closer to London than I currently do, in a house that can accommodate all three of us and our accumulated crap.

What is your greatest extravagance?


Comics!

What is your greatest regret?

I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention…

What is your favourite smell?

Freshly-brewed coffee.

What is your favourite word?

Daddy.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My wife and daughter.

Do you believe in capital punishment?

No.

How did you vote in the last election?

I can’t bloody remember. I either voted for the Liberal Democrats in protest over the war, or Labour. Either way, it didn’t matter. The area where I live is a Conservative stronghold.

Have you ever said ‘I love you’ and not meant it?

No.

For what cause would you die?

Although not something I would categorise as a “cause”, I would die for my wife and daughter. I’d much rather live for them, though.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Fuck, fucking, fucker, fucked and all its many and glorious variations, especially motherfucker.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?

If someone could eliminate the need for me to do soul-destroying and ultimately futile jobs by giving me a never-ending stipend so that I can sit and write all day, interspersed with breaks for time with my family and other more elevating, fulfilling and entertaining pursuits, that would be good. Failing that, more sleep would be nice.

How do you relax?

You can stick me anywhere with a book and a drink, and I’ll be just fine.

What keeps you awake at night?

Many things: my daughter; the bastard dogs next door barking; drunk shitheads wandering past on the street shouting; too much coffee; a swift kick from my wife if I start snoring; a full bladder.

Do you believe in life after death?

If it occurs after death, it cannot rightly be called “life”. Having said that, I am open to the possibility that there is something.

How would you like to be remembered?

Loved by some, hated by others. Any strong emotion other than apathy sounds pretty good to me.

How would you like to die?

Holed up in an empty house, surrounded by hundreds of armed Bolivians, and out of ammo. I dash out in a futile attempt to reach my horse and I freeze in an inexplicable sepia-tone, just as there is a shout of “Fuego” and the hail of hundreds of rifle bullets…

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?


Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Double Dragon

Q: What’s better than watching one Bruce Lee movie?
A: Watching TWO Bruce Lee movies!



London’s National Film Theatre (and that is what I intend to continue calling it, no matter how much they shove rebranding down my neck with BFI Southbank splashed all over it. It will always be my lovely NFT) is just pulling into the final stretch of its Heroic Grace: The Chinese Martial Arts Film Part II season, so I ambled down there on Wednesday night to catch a double-bill of high-kicking, bone-snapping Bruce Lee chopsocky classics: Way of the Dragon and Fist of Fury.

Both produced by Raymond Chow’s Golden Harvest studio in 1972, the tragically short-lived ascendance of Bruce Lee marked the shift in martial arts cinema away from the period-set wuxia pian movies that were the bread-and-butter of Shaw Brothers in the ‘60s and ‘70s, trading in elaborate swordplay for more brutal hand-to-hand (and foot-to-face) combat.

Now, Enter the Dragon is one of my favourite movies of all time. I have seen it many, many times over the years, and I never tire of it. And it’s not just because of Bruce Lee. From Lalo Schifrin’s glorious score and Bolo Yeung having the living piss kicked out of him, to Jim “Black Belt Jones” Kelly cherry-picking a bunch of hookers for some light relaxation before dissing the Big Bad Boss as “Mr. Han Man”. Then there’s the great John Saxon, and the hall of mirrors, and…it’s just a brilliant film. Writing about it makes me want to watch it again right now. But I’m zipping off on an over-excitable tangent now. Back to the other night at the NFT...



The NFT had programmed the films so that Way of the Dragon played first, followed by Fist of Fury which, to my mind, was getting it all ass-backwards.

Fist of Fury
was the last film that Lee would make with director Lo Wei, troubled by the racist undertones that permeated the film (a story of a vicious rivalry between Japanese and Chinese martial arts schools), in addition to other disagreements. Nevertheless, the fight sequences are pretty spectacular as Lee carries out his sustained campaign of revenge, and Lee’s body is just a thing of beauty, a finely-honed instrument of his art. The look on his face as he feels the bones of his enemies cracking under his feet, it's almost as if he is the one in pain, as if every death he causes is a stain on his soul that he can never remove. Every yelp is a combination of anguish and release, every vanquished enemy is another step closer to hell. And, is it just me, or does the soundtrack sound like someone has plagiarised massive chunks of Quincy Jones’ Ironside score? No matter, it's still a great film.



But not as great as Way of the Dragon. That movie kicks things up a notch. Set in Rome (although shot predominantly on sound stages back in Hong Kong), and both written and directed by Lee, this is something else. Unlike the steady stream of fight scenes in Fist of Fury, Lee here aims for delayed gratification, opting for fish-out-of-water slapstick as Lee tries to adapt to another culture for the first half hour of the movie. It’s all a bit clumsy, and Jackie Chan would have greater success with that shtick years later, but when the fists do start flying, it is undoubtedly worth the wait, as everything inexorably draws us to the final face-off between Lee and Chuck Norris in the Colosseum, watched only by a confused kitten that mewls at them at judicious cutaways so we can catch our breath before the body parts start flailing again. Selected refrains of Ennio Morricone’s score from Once Upon A Time In The West only bolster the sensation that we are watching something that is both mythical and epic. Beautifully shot, Bruce Lee understands that in cinema, action is character. And he makes sure that, at least for the audience, revenge is sweet.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Banging One Out

Tired and busy today. But fret not! It’s not every day you can read a story with the headline “Captain America Arrested with Burrito in Pants”.

Here is the late Captain America in better days, busting someone hard in the face:

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Obsessive Compulsions: Wichita Lineman

I am a lineman for the county
And I drive the main road
Searchin’ in the sun for another overload


Even a steely-hearted bastard like me can melt when confronted with the right piece of music. There are only two songs that can reduce me to a shattered puddle of messy emotion. The first is Otis Redding’s I've Been Loving You Too Long. And the other is the song made famous by Glen Campbell.

Wichita Lineman gets me every goddamn time.

It may be a cliché to talk about “the hairs on my neck standing up”, but it happens to me every time I hear it, as soon as that second chorus cuts in right on through to the very last note.

I hear you singing in the wire
I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita Lineman,
Is still on the line


A masterpiece of evocative minimalism, with only a handful of beautiful, yearning lyrics, alchemically commingling with those swooping strings and that glorious guitar solo, it’s just an exhausting song. And there isn’t a finer couplet in music than: “And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time.” That just kills me, and every time I look at my wife or my daughter, I know exactly what those words mean.

I feel physically shattered every time I hear it, and then I have to listen to it again immediately. But it’s not masochism. It’s a desire to revel in the unguarded vulnerability and wrenching honesty of it.

I know I need a small vacation
But it don't look like rain.
And if it snows that stretch down south,
Won’t ever stand the strain.


The song subtly shifts from the POV of the Lineman himself to third-person narration and back again, before being subsumed by the loping caress of the guitar that salves his heartache, at least for a short while anyway.

The song has been covered many, many times, and the Wikipedia page for it has a not-remotely-exhaustive list of all extant versions. I’ve got a handful of them myself, from a stripped-down Johnny Cash rendition to a truly wonderful version by the Swamp Fox Tony Joe White. Then there are the jaunty riffs by Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, and the Dee Felice Trio (a latin jazz vocal-trio that was a side-project for James Brown back in the ’60s when he liked to wear his producing hat) which, whilst they have an air of alluring lounge exotica about them, don’t really slice straight into your heart the way that they should. No, the real gut-puncher is the original recording by the Rhinestone Cowboy, Mr. Glen Campbell.

For the fascinating history of this amazing love letter to an unseen and eternally unrequited love, click here. And here’s a great version with Glen Campbell playing with Stone Temple Pilots. If listening to it don’t kill you, it’ll just make you stronger:



And I need you more than want you.
And I want you for all time.
And the Wichita Lineman,
Is still on the line

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thwip!

Insanely short of time today, but I want to keep to my one-post-a-day-for-a-month rule for as long as I can. Therefore, you get this, true believers!

Your results:
You are Spider-Man
























Spider-Man
80%
Superman
55%
Green Lantern
55%
Iron Man
50%
Robin
47%
Wonder Woman
45%
Hulk
45%
Supergirl
40%
Catwoman
40%
The Flash
35%
Batman
35%
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.


Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hide Yo’ Mommas! Big Brotha is Comin’!

Picture the scene: I’m walking down a darkened street late one night. A man jumps from the shadows wielding a large samurai sword. In one deft movement, almost faster than I can see, the blade whips through the air before resting gently across my neck. The man gives me a choice. Describe the perfect movie using no more than two words, or I’ll lose my head. Would I start sweating in fear? Would I uncontrollably soil myself? No, I would not. Because I know the answer. Don’t even have to think about it. The words hover in the air just ripe for the picking. Describe the perfect movie with two words? Shit, I can do that right now.

Truck Turner



I wish I could just reach through my monitor right now and place a copy of the DVD in the hands of each and every one of you. But I can’t. So this will have to do.

But first, a little piece of potentially apocryphal movie trivia: Apparently, when Isaac Hayes was approached by Gordon Parks to score Shaft, Hayes tried to use the opportunity to convince Parks that he should also be cast in the title role. Well, we all know that didn’t happen. But a few years down the line, Hayes got the chance to be the leading man in his own blaxploitation movie.



So why is Truck Turner (or, as I like to call it, “Isaac Hayes IS Truck Turner!”) so awe-inspiringly bad-ass? There are so, so many reasons. Here are just a few:

Isaac Hayes. He might not be the best actor in the world, but the man has presence. He just looks phenomenal, whether he is striding purposefully across a roof wearing nothing but a pair of jeans and a shoulder holster, or coated in sweat as he throws down in a barroom brawl.



Yaphet Kotto chewing the scenery as only he can in his barely-intelligible but utterly compelling growl.

Nichelle Nichols, obliterating every single lingering memory of the ladylike Lt. Uhura with her bold, brassy and foul-mouthed turn as the ruthless and icy madam Dorinda.

It’s subversive. The idea of the Blaxploitation Male Icon hinged on the slick, handsome, indestructible, immaculately-dressed and irresistible-to-women template, as personified by Richard Roundtree in Shaft, Ron O’Neal in Superfly and Fred Williamson in Black Caesar. Truck Turner spins that idea around and presents us with a man who, when we first meet him, is forced to dress for the day in a shirt that his cat has just pissed all over. He is fiercely devoted to his shop-lifting girlfriend, and lives a slovenly life littered with beer cans and junk food. Mack "Truck" Turner is a total slob, and he is still one cool motherfucker, proving that clothes don’t always make the man.

An almost continuous stream of car chases and shootouts, executed with a level of wit and invention that excuse the budgetary constraints, in particular the hospital gunfight and the Pursuit of the Pimpmobile!

The music. Of course! It’s Isaac Hayes doing what he does best. As far as I’m concerned, the music of Truck Turner is just as good as the music from Shaft and, from me, that ain’t no faint praise.

It’s funny. Genuine laugh-out-loud moments, which were a scarcity in most of the more serious and stern revenge-motivated action-oriented blaxploitation movies of the era. Special mention here goes to the sight of cocaine being sprinkled into the coffin at the Pimp Funeral as a sign of respect.

I don’t know what else I can say. I fucking love it. All I can do now is present you with the original trailer which blasts more action, laughs and funk into its brief running time than most full-length action movies. Those guys at AIP sure knew how to market a movie. And if you don’t love what you see in this trailer, then YOU HAVE NO SOUL!

Out For The Count

An apology is in order.

Clearly, I am an innumerate idiot, as Sucker Punch is now THREE years old, and not four as stated in the previous blog entry.

I am a bad man who must be punished for his transgressions against time, simple addition and plain ol' fashioned fact checking.

On the other hand, it was late on a Friday afternoon and I was tired, so cut me some slack.

Normal blogging will now recommence.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Three Strikes and I’m Out

Man, why the fuck did I say I was going to blog every day for a month?

Well, I’m not going to back down from the challenge, even if it is self-imposed. I’m afraid I’m not particularly entertaining at the moment, so let’s just plough through this shit one more time. Ready?

Job Watch Update – The recruitment consultant actually kept his promise and called me at 6pm last night. He wasn’t the bearer of good news. The feedback went something like this: I was a very, very strong candidate. Perfect for the job. They liked me very much. BUT…There was someone else who beat me by a tiny, tiny margin, and they have decided to go with him. So I didn’t get it. (This only reinforces my long-standing conviction that everything before the word “but” is always a lie).

It sounded like the reason it took them so long to get back to me was that they were agonising over a decision, and I lost it on a coin-toss. Fuck.

I have very mixed feelings about this. One the one hand, I’m gagging to get out of my current job, and I find myself back on the endless treadmill of hunting for the next one. At the same time, these people were probably going to be a complete fucking nightmare to work for and, in the long run, this will look like a blessing in disguise. Right now, though, I’m just feeling disappointed and slightly beaten down by the whole thing.

I’ve just read through 643 job ads. Whittling them down little by little, I applied for 5 of them. And the cycle begins anew…

As we pull into the final stretch of the working week, I’ve just noticed something. On Sunday, Sucker Punch reaches the dubious milestone of its Fourth Birthday. 4 years! I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing...

From here, I have discovered the following:

"Energetic" and "imaginative" best describe the 4-year-old. Often impatient and silly, they discover humour and spend a great deal of time being silly and telling you "jokes." A 4-year-old's language may range from silly words such as "batty-watty" to profanity. Loud, boisterous laughter may accompany such language.

Imagination suddenly becomes greater than life for the 4-year-old, who often confuses reality and "make-believe." Wild stories and exaggerations are common.

Four-year-olds feel good about the things they can do, show self-confidence, and are willing to try new adventures. They race up and down stairs or around corners, dash on tricycles or scooters, and pull wagons at full tilt. You still need to watch them closely as they cannot estimate their own abilities accurately and are capable of trying some outlandish and dangerous tricks.


Yeah, that sounds about right. Join me for another year of batty-watty adventures as I continue to hurl myself down flights of stairs, won’t you? Onwards!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Just Bees and Things and Flowers

It’s a gorgeous day outside. Kind of crappy inside, though…

My observation for the day – There is absolutely no scientific evidence for what I am about to postulate, but it remains a FACT! I can prove it with a length of string, a magic eight-ball and a soiled paper cup. Ready?

Blond women like bald men, but dark-haired women like men with hair. I SPEAK TRUTH! If you don’t believe me, walk around and take a random sampling of couples that you see. I know, I know. I am wise beyond my years.

Job Watch Update – My resolve weakened and I decided to chase up the recruitment consultant about the job. He wasn’t responding to my phone calls. I think he has had enough of me and has started to screen my calls. Tough shit, I’m a tenacious sumbitch when I need to be. So I sent him a strongly-worded e-mail voicing my displeasure and demanding a rejection or an offer, post-haste! He actually got back to me after that. Never underestimate the power of a well-aimed sliver of simmering rage. I got apologies and lies and yet another promise that I would have an answer by the end of the day. I’m not holding my breath…

Today, I leave you with this piece of YouTube exotica. Someone has taken idyllic sun-blessed footage of rippling water and shimmering sunsets and has soundtracked it with the hypnotic goodtimegrooves of Roy Ayers’s Everybody Loves The Sunshine. Well, if you're trapped in employment hell like me, this is the closest we're going to get to the good weather for the rest of the afternoon. Enjoy!