Thursday, 23 October 2014

Train of Thought

Good heavens, that's a long gap between blog posts.

In my defence (and defense, for that matter), I've been busy watching Werner Herzog films. That takes up a lot of time. I've also started to watch Twin Peaks for the first time, and have its incidental music in my head right now. I'm sane.

Oh, and I went to see Southampton beat Sunderland 8-0 on Saturday. That was rather bonkers.

I should write about those things in more detail, but I can barely bring myself to string even these few meagre sentences together. I'm out of writing practice (and practise, for that matter), and I don't want to pull a muscle.

So I'll just have a brisk walk around the block to stretch my writing-legs (fingers). What form should this walk take? It's nearly Halloween, so how about a spooooooky short story?

***

Vampire Train

The train was full of vampires. A vampire in every seat. In every window seat: a vampire. In every aisle seat: a vampire. In the overhead storage spaces: three dozen collapsed coffins. And a vampire. 

Vampires standing all the way up the aisle, blocking the refreshment trolley. Each vestibule chock-a-block. With vampires.

The train doors opened at Ealing Broadway. One vampire got off, and Naomi got on. 

Though she was a feminist (and a vampire), Naomi was half-hoping that there would be enough chivalry in the carriage for the occupants to make space for her. She hoped they'd squeeze out of her way. Maybe even offer her a seat.

But there was no room for chivalry. Not with all the vampires.

Naomi's seat reservation held no water, holy or otherwise. So she resigned herself to an hour of discomfort.

The conductor hadn't even tried to check tickets. 

"I'm not going out there," he'd said to a colleague. "It's packed tighter than a Welshman's leeksatchel."

The conductor's idioms were legendary.

In the vestibule, Naomi pressed her bosom against a safety poster to avoid the sharp collar-end poking her in the back of the neck.

"Sorry about this," said the collar-owner. "I've just had it starched."

Somewhere down the carriage, someone caused a commotion by opening a packet of cheese and onion crisps.

"Some people..." said the collar-owner, shaking his head and spearing the eyeball of the man next to him.

"That's IT!" shouted Naomi.

There was silence.

"I can't travel like this," she said. "Why don't we just all turn ourselves into bats?"

They assented, and all of the passengers enjoyed a peaceful, roomy rest-of-journey.

Everyone arrived at the convention centre as fresh as a daisy.

***

Chilling.

Utterly chilling.

I hope you weren't reading that alone at night.

Don't worry: it was only a story.

Or was it...

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Protection

I am anxious. I haven't even had any coffee this afternoon, and I'm still wincing like nobody's business. I need a wooden spoon to bite down on.

Still, I think I'm managing to look normal. I don't have to show anyone my broken teeth. That's why God made lips: nature's mouth-cloak.

It's all very hi-tech (highly technical), the human body. We have retractable shields protecting our most sensitive areas, which are consciously controlled. The eyeball has the eyelid, the mouth has the lips... oh. Those seem to be the only ones. I can't consciously close my nostrils or ear holes. I can't retract my genitals. Not completely, anyway.

Maybe the body is more lo-tech (Lopez technical) than I'd previously assumed. I wish I could curl up into an armoured ball like a woodlouse or armadillo. I'm too prone. I could make myself a giant ceramic egg, but it wouldn't fit into even my largest kiln.

I just put both hands over my face and sighed. If anyone saw me, they'd probably think I had something profound tattooed on my palms. There's too much of today still to go. I might take a break. I could go to the fountain and watch the ducks. You can't be anxious when you're looking at ducks. It's something about the way they walk. A stress-ball for the eyes, they are. And hands, if you squeeze them. And thighs, if you squeeze them with your thighs. All relaxing-like.

This is the worst Christmas ever. It's not even December.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Fresh Hell

I'm making my way through the Werner Herzog boxset and enjoying it quite a lot. The last film I watched was his Nosferatu the Vampyre, which was pretty great - eerie, beautiful, occasionally (intentionally?) funny. A bit too much rat cruelty for my tastes, but things were different back in 1979.

I don't find vampires particularly scary. Or zombies for that matter. I think I've worked out the reason.

Most people have a primal fear not just of death, but of becoming a dead thing. They don't like corpses, which remind them that the human body is just a machine of bone and flesh. Vampires and zombies and mummies are scary because they're a corruption of the human form. It's a violation of the sanctity of humanity.

I don't find them scary because I don't hold the human body in such high regard in the first place. For me, becoming a member of the living dead isn't corruption or perversion or degradation of a sacred person, but more of a sideways step.

Admittedly, I've lived my whole life as a conscious being, with all the hope and dreams and communication and stuff. But that's not to say that becoming a mindless, shambling, flesh-eating monstrosity isn't just as valid a lifestyle choice.

If I saw a zombie that used to be a loved one, I wouldn't think "oh dear god, look at how that familiar form has been twisted and degraded". I'd think "huh - that's a fresh take".

I wouldn't choose to use my limbs, body and teeth in that way, but it's a reasonable tack to take.

In zombie films, a person gets bitten and the protagonists make an agonising choice. If, let's say, Bill gets bitten and begins to transform, they realise that he will soon be just a monster. Bill isn't really Bill any more.

In the films, it's presented as a terrible thing. But I'd just nod at Bill's transformation, as though he was showing off an experimental new hairdo. "Interesting new direction, Bill," I'd say, as I was torn to pieces.

Why should we limit Bill to a life of empathy and eating things other than brains? It's narrow-minded to expect everyone to conform to our notions of "normality" or "the proper".

J.J. Abrams took the much loved Star Trek franchise, gave it a twist and a new look, and presented it as something familiar but fresh. It's the same with zombies.

The comparison doesn't hold completely, or course. One is an unpleasant, soulless, inescapable eyesore...

AND THE OTHER ONE IS THE ZOMBIE HAHAHAHA NO-ONE SAW THAT PUNCHLINE COMING!!!!

Anyway, that's why I don't get scared by mummies and vampires and what-have-you. It's difficult for me to be terrified when I'm well aware that a zombie would make better use of my body than I do.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Chekhov's Knife Turn

Walking to work the other day, I heard this snippet of conversation:

"...at the end, he turns on him. With a knife."

And I was so, so angry.

Why aren't people more careful about spoilers?

These people were just casually chatting about the end of something, in public, not even whispering. No consideration.

Of course, I have no idea what they were talking about. It could be any film or television programme. It could even just be an anecdote from their lives.

But still: livid.

Now, every time I watch a film, it's going to be in the back of my mind. If there are two male characters, I'll be half-expecting one of them to turn on the other one. Especially if a knife has been previously established.

People should think before they discuss key plot details in public.

It doesn't matter that it's vague. If anything, that makes it worse. It's like someone telling you that there's a twist without saying what the twist is. You spend the whole film so obsessed with figuring out the twist that you ignore all of the dialogue and popcorn.

From now on, I'm only going to watch films with fewer than two male characters. If people ask me why, I can claim that it's an act of Bechdelesque feminism. But really, it's so I don't already know the ending.

Or, I suppose I could watch it if the film takes place in a world without knives.

Either it's set in a pre-knife civilisation (early cavemen) or sci-fi set in an entirely different planet or dimension. They'd have to make it pretty clear that there were no knives, though. That element would probably have to be the main thrust of the marketing campaign.

[trailer voice]

"In a world where the knife is but a pipedream...

but pipes exist, I guess..."

[/trailer voice]

(Sidebar: It's funny how our jokes about trailers are totally out of date. No-one has used that "in a world" voice for ages, but we still do it to illustrate a typical trailer. Modern trailers are all just darkness, discordant droning and occasional throbbing flashes of Jessica Chastain.)

Though, if that was the marketing campaign, I would begin to suspect that knives would make an appearance at some point. I mean, why would they make such a big thing of it otherwise?

It would probably be the driving force of the plot. A man with a knife in a knifeless world.

It would be like that Ricky Gervais film about lying, except it would make sense. And would feature Ricky Gervais getting stabbed (if I was the casting director/prop master).

Basically, all visual entertainment has been ruined for me by those two thoughtless people. And maybe even audio entertainment. Someone might turn on Thom Yorke at the end of the next Radiohead album.

My life is over.

Also, on the same walk, I saw a heron on a tree branch.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Cold Clock

Doubt is my constant companion. I keep it on my person at all times. Sometimes I find it difficult to hold shopping bags, but it never occurs to me to let it go.

Occasionally, I will be forced to relinquish some doubt. I admit it. If I'm forced into a juggling competition, for example. I stuff it in drawers and onto the shelf under the coffee table.

If my flat caught fire, I could imagine myself running back inside to save the excess doubt, and being consumed by the flames.

You'd think, if I was so hung-up on doubt, that I would doubt doubt itself.

But I don't.

I'm even beginning to doubt whether this is a good opening to a blog post. Imagine that.

They were selling cheap ice cream in the work canteen today. They had the freezer up on the counter and everything. I suppose they want to get rid of it. Either they're retiring the ice cream trade for the winter, or the freezer is cursed and needs to be buried by a priest.

The staff were asking everyone if they wanted ice cream with their lunch.

The trouble with this initiative is that ice cream melts. You can't buy ice cream with your lunch. It would melt by the time you'd finished. Ice cream isn't something you can stockpile as an economical snack option. The immediacy of ice cream is one of its main selling points.

I suppose some people might go back for ice cream after they've finished their lunch. That makes sense. In fact, I might do it.

Or - and I shudder to think of it - people could eat their ice cream first, before consuming the bulk of their (presumably savoury) meal. But that would be appalling.

You know how the saying goes: 

Lunch before Cornetto: the best meal yetto
Cornetto before lunch: I hate you a whole bunch

Ice cream sales have always been the best way to mark the passing of the seasons. Sure, leaves may change from green to reddy-brown. But what if you live miles away from all deciduous trees, like I did back in the 90s?

Ice cream is the barometer. When the price of ice cream is reduced, autumn is upon is. When they start leaving the Soleroes out on the patio furniture, winter is about to rear its frosted head. When the birds begin to build their nests with discarded lolly-sticks, daubed with jokes they can scarcely understand, spring is in the air once more.

And so the circle of life continues. Turn, turn, turn. A time to reap, I time to sew, a time to buy mulled wine, a time to wear vests.

The patterns of life are beautiful when you understand them.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

!!~~POST #900 - GALACTIC RETROSPECTIVE FREAK-OUT~~!!


Keeping it simple this year.

Happy Nine Hundredth Blog Post.

I wonder if there's anyone - other than me - who has read all of these. I can't imagine that there is. Such a person would surely be known.

What was once an ironic "anniversary" special has become a regular fixture of the cultural calendar. It's impossible to remember a time before I posted a photo of myself doctored in MS Paint and rambled on and on and on.

Let's take a trip back in time. But we don't need a special portal or an 80s "Martycar". We can just click on links. HG Wells would be astonished that it's so easy.

Post #100
Post #200
Post #300
Post #400
Post #500
Post #600

Post #700
Post #800

I've been conducting a long conversation with my future selves. In Post #800, I wrote:

But enough about me. Post #900 Paul! How's it going, man? Did you manage to plant some flowers in your window boxes?

Also, have you done any good tweets lately, or is that whole deal over with now?


It's.. going, Post #800 Paul. Still going. We didn't manage to plant any flowers, I'm afraid. We did let the weeds grow, though. And a wild flower grew somehow. It was purple. Nature always finds a way. Jeff Goldblum was right.

And the tweets seem to have dried up. I did do a cutting @reply the other day, but that's about it.




I've never embedded a tweet before. I like it. It's much better than my usual copy-and-paste marathons. I don't know if it's enough to get me tweeting again, but stranger things have happened.

So, Post #1000 Paul. You must feel pretty pleased with yourself. 1000 Posts is nothing to sneeze at.

How did you like the last half-season of Mad Men? Did Don Draper die? Did Pete Campbell go to Woodstock?

Also, what's your mobile phone situation? At the moment, my current one seems to be on its last legs. I hope you've got an iWatch.

Seen any good gifs lately?

***

On my desktop, there's a text file called 'shoe song':


If you were to double-click on this text file, this is what you would find:


The question is: why?

What kind of a person would:
a) "write" a "song" about shoes
b) think it was of a sufficient quality to transcribe
c) save said transcript on his or her desktop
?

This kind of person.

It's not even like I have loads of stuff on my desktop. If I saved everything there, it would at least be understandable. I wrote a stupid thing and just saved it, unthinkingly.

But my desktop is very tidy. I have very high standards for the items that will appear there. If I don't use a program for several months, the shortcut is removed. If two folders can be combined, I will do so.

I like my desktop to be as clean and clear as possible.

And yet, there seems to be room for the lyrics to a terrible-sounding song.

It doesn't make sense.

Of course, the song is supposed to be terrible. It should be sung in a feeble, tuneless manner. That's the genius of the song.

You see?

I'm rather interesting.

***

In these anniversary blog posts, I like to mix things up. I play with form, with medium, with tone.

So here's a poem about belts.

Through loops, a snaking binding brace
Metallic grip of ancient craft
Support contorts with serpent grace
Pan-equatory, fore and aft 

No shame, no fear of fallen cloth
With pride, the trouser keeps its height
No exposed undies, by my troth
The belt makes braces look like shite


Oh dear. My opinion of myself just plummeted.

If you're American (and I can't imagine why you would be), you can replace 'braces' with 'suspenders'. It will screw up the metre, but that's the least of our problems.

***

I don't particularly care for chocolate, and I don't particularly care for croissants. But I love chocolate croissants.

It just goes to show that things can be more than the sum of their parts.

Equally: I don't particularly like oxygen. I don't particularly like hydrogen. But I love water croissants.

Everyone hates protons. But there are protons in everything they love.

Value is a matter of scale.

Wisdom.

My opinion of myself just plummeted upwards.

***

Ooh, it's suddenly got dark outside. I think a storm is coming.

I'd better go get the washing in. I haven't done any washing, but I'll get some in anyway. Hurriedly stuffing clothes into a basket tends to ward off evil winds, even if you're in T.K. Maxx.

Or maybe it's not a storm. The darkness could mean that the world is ending. The apocalypse is probably upon us.

If so, this blog will be an important historical artefact. Future civilisations can study this as a missive from a moribund society. Which is exactly what it is.

I saw this video/song on that site that has people telling you what their jams are. It's pretty good.



Not quite as good as my sock and shoe song, but still worth your time.

***

We've been watching the 80s television series The Jewel in the Crown, which is about the British occupation of India and set during the Second World War.

It's really good so far, and is full of shiny-faced oblivious posh people and slightly heavy-handed metaphors. I'm glad we don't have an empire any more. I've already got enough things to feel guilty about (personal cowardice, unwatched films in Netflix queue, that motorbike I stole).

The British mindset is now a winning combination of inferiority and arrogance, which is the ideal cocktail. I can't imagine why the Scottish would want to leave.

I'm going to stop writing this now.

It may seem a bit abrupt, but I can't be sitting here all day. In my screengrab of the shoe song icon, you can just about see that it was taken at 13:47.

It's considerably later than that now.

I hope you've enjoyed this extra-large celebration edition of "The Headscissors Comedy/Thought Experiment".

I value your custom. And your customs. (Shaking hands and whathaveyou)


***




Tuesday, 9 September 2014

In My Locker

Post #899 and I'm feeling fine!

Not fine in the "good" or "OK" sense. Heavens no.

The other fine. Fine as in thin. Like a mist, like a toddler's hair, like vermicelli. A slight breeze would blow me over a neighbour's fence. A strong wind and I'd dissipate completely.

I had an exciting incident the other day. I was trying to buy a Werner Herzog Blu-ray box set online, and almost accidentally bought the DVD box set instead! I'd got as far as the checkout screen! Bullet: dodged.

Aren't I cultured? Even if my main exposure to Werner Herzog comes from this:



So, so cultured.

In fact, I'm so cultured that I watched that French film recently. You know the one. It came out last year and won lots of awards. It's a romance; something of a coming-of-age story. I wish I could be more specific. I could describe the precise nature of the romance, but it's not important. Anyone who would even mention the nature of the central relationship would be nothing but a narrow-minded bigot. I will not be so reductive. It features two young people - that's all I need to say.

And as for the content, let's just say that there are scenes where the characters interact in an assortment of ways. To outline the nature of these interactions would be prurient, and would only expose my own myopic proclivities.

I watched the film, but did not judge. That's all I can say.

Oh, I suppose I could say that it's called Blue is The Warmest Colour. There's nothing salacious about the title.

My main thought after watching 3 hours of life and love and art and philosophy and humanity was:

"Man, the French sure do wear a lot of scarves."

Pretty cultured, I am.

***

I wonder if there's a Tumblr blog devoted to things stuck to the inside of high school locker doors in American teen movies.

There should be.

I didn't have locker at school. They're not British.

Lockers are for the secretive Yank. A hidey-hole in which they secrete their guns and bibles.

We had pegs.

Good old British pegs, like the Queen would have.

You don't need to lock your possessions away. Hang your books and PE kit on a peg. Keep a stiff upper-lip and a stiff upper-peg. Need a place to put your cricket bat and your Latin homework? Hang it on a peg. Hang everything on a peg.

You can walk down an American school hallway and have no idea of the property - or the intentions - that may lurk behind those metal locker doors.

In Britain, it's all there for everyone to see: from blazers to protractors, from plimsolls to sanitary towels.

Our possessions are our flag. We salute them in public.

Stand to attention - back straight, chin up - and sing a tribute to Her Majesty, our sceptred isle, and the sweet metallic kiss of mother peg.

...

Or maybe we did have lockers...

Actually, I think we did.

Never mind what I said before.

***

I feel like I might have written something like that before. I searched my previous entry for "pegs", but no dice.

Here's a tweet I keep coming back to:

2014 is the Chinese Year of the Month

I like it. It's ambiguous.

It's best to do it around Chinese New Year - that's when the impact is at its greatest.

It could mean (at least) two things:

1) That the 'month' is like an animal (like the 'rat' or the 'dragon'), and that it is the symbol for the whole year.

2) Each month, there's a competition for the best Chinese Year. And this month, the award went to 2014. It isn't always necessarily the current year. In fact, that's pretty rare. August's Chinese Year of the Month was 422 B.C.

It could be either. But not both.

It's like verbal equivalent of the rabbit-duck:



It depends on your point of view.

Right I'd better get an early night. Some may say that 4pm is too early.

To them, I say: look at my nightgown.

Then they look at my nightgown.

Then they look at my face.

Then I nod.

Then they nod.

By the time they've worked out their apology, I'm already asleep.