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 J├Ągermeister 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?