Thursday, 17 July 2014

I Have a Hot Head

I had three conversations re: Channing Tatum
If you're asking "who's he?", there's no need to relate 'em
If your interest is piqued, I'll transcribe them verbatim


***

It's too hot to write a proper blog post.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Odds


Interesting fact: I have never used the letter 'k' in any of my previous blog posts.

It wasn't intentional. It just happened that way. I probably just have a tendency to avoid 'k' words. I've used all of the other letters at least once, in addition to many symbols.

It's not just the 'k'. I've also never used a huge variety of numbers. Of all the numbers in the world, I've only used a fraction of a percent. I've used 1-10 many times over, and have in fact used most numbers up to 100. But after that, there are big gaps.

Of the billion known numbers, I've probably only included four hundred in this blog. And I've nearly done nine hundred blog posts.

Pretty weird.

That's the thing with probabilities. We do so many things every day that the chances of us doing something statistically improbably are, like, 100%.

I've done a quick search, and in seven years, I've never once written about Roy Scheider.

Unless I spelled it wrong.

I've started cutting up my apples before I eat them. It really is a different experience. Revelatory. The core is thrown away, so you're left with nothing but pure fruitflesh. The stem is a non-factor.

I'd never realised how oppressive an apple-core is. If you're eating an apple whole, it's always there. Sure, it's holding the thing together. But it's a blight on your enjoyment. You have to avoid the central pillar. There's always the threat of an errant seed.

No-one has ever been totally relaxed when eating an apple. How can you enjoy yourself when, at any moment, you might get a stalk in the eye?

Cutting up the apple takes away the danger. All killer, no filler. All apple, no crapple.

Admittedly, it does require a knife and a plate. That's extra washing-up. But I think it's worth it.

No more having to endure a rapidly browning core on your coffee table, because you're too lazy to throw it away.

You can make a change. You can improve your situation. Don't be afraid to break with tradition.

***

We have too many books, and not enough bookcases.

I'm sure you're in the same situation. You love to read, but you don't love storage. The books pile up, under the coffee table, on the arm-rests of chairs, on top of umbrellas, down the sides of things. When your godmother comes to stay, she tuts so loudly that you denounce Catholicism.

But fear not! I'm here to give you some innovative and elegant storage solutions for those extra books. There's no need for a trip to Ikea. Because you're already on a trip to IDEA. (By reading some of these ideas)

Ceiling Nooses

Nooses have a bit of a bad rap. They're commonly associated with hanging people. But a noose is just a loop of rope, secured with some kind of knot. They are multi-purpose; it's not all about the human neck.

Simply hang nooses from your ceiling, light fittings or original Tudor beams. In each noose, put a book. If you want to retrieve one, just reach up and get reading! It's fun, fashionable, and convenient. The books will no longer be in your way, unless your ceilings are too low, the ropes are too long, or you are to tall. But all of these are negotiable.

Spare Microwave

We all have more than one microwave. Some of us have as many as five, dotted about the open-plan kitchen/diner. We really only need one. But we never seem to get around to throwing them away. "What if I need a spare?" we'll say, pathetically justifying our sloth.

Well, there's no need to chastise yourself any longer. A spare microwave is the ideal place to store your books. Use the little turntable part to give yourself a view of the books from a variety of different angles. Inspect the binding.

In winter, heat the books (for twenty to thirty seconds) to provide a comforting and snug hand item.

Library

A library is literally built to house books (unless the building was re-purposed at some point). They have the space and they have the expertise. It's a little-known fact that, in addition to granting you borrowing privileges, your library card gives you the right to store your own books in the library.

Just bring them along in a wheelbarrow and secrete them around the building. When you want them back, just come and collect them, no questions asked! (Though there may well be some questions.)

The only drawback is that other library users may try to check your books out, as though they were common library stock. If this happens, grab the book from them and say "NO. NO. NO."

Holsters

Carry several books on your person at all times, in tiny bespoke holsters. I have The Hunt for Red October in my ankle holster right now.

If someone challenges be to a reading duel (or "bookdown"), I'll be on chapter six before they've even opened their duffel bag.

Mirrors

Glue your extra books to mirrors. If they have reflective covers, that's all the better.

Other Books

We're all aware that you can store things inside other books. This is usually in the form of a hole cut into the meat of the pages, leaving a secret section. In fiction, this is often a gun or a hammer or a magical key. It's a way to keep these objects hidden. Who would look in a book?

Exactly. Who would look in a book for a book?

To store extra books this way, simply find a larger book on your shelf. Cut away the page innards, so there is an appropriately-sized inner chamber. Then place your extra book within this hidden hole and there you have it: two books for the space of one.

Just remember to keep track of which books are in which books. A good way to do this is to cross out the title of the "host" book from the spine, and write the inner book's title on there instead.


I hope this entry has been helpful. Before long, you won't even remember what it was like to trip over piles of superfluous books.

"Remember tripping over piles of superfluous books?" people will say.

And you will shake your head.

Join me next time, when I'll be suggesting some easy ways of smuggling windows through customs.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Lucky

I've been doing this blog for almost exactly seven years. My first entry was about the mirror I'd broken the previous day.

Looks like my luck is about to change...

I scraped my hand against a wall on my way to work this morning. That's not going to happen any more. No more grazed hands for Paul, no sir. Fortune may favour the brave, but it also favours the mirror-breakers, seven years in.

Time to start gambling. First up, the Grand National.

I just placed a bet that the Grand National was happening this coming weekend, and got tremendous odds.

William Hill wasn't open, so I decided to bet with Henry Hill (Ray Liotta's character from Goodfellas). I have my fingers crossed that he'll pay out. I know he may not be the most trustworthy of people, as he is both a gangster and deceased.

I should have gone with Hank Hill from King of the Hill. Or Silbury Hill from actual hills.

With my winnings, I'll probably buy some hand balm.

***

I just stabbed myself in the thigh with a fountain pen to emphasise how thin my jeans are.

No, that's not true. No-one uses a fountain pen. Not these days.

I'm finding it difficult to concentrate. It might be the weather. It's close. Humid. Muggy. There's no room to think, because every gap in my brain is filled by the disgusting air.

Yes, I'll blame the weather. I feel like I'm drowning in a grain silo.

I just turned on a small desk fan. It's been on the top shelf for ages, gathering must. Now it's back on, but is very, very weak. It's not blowing away the cobwebs, it's not blowing away the grain. It's barely blowing at all. But to turn it off now would be an admission of failure.

Oh, hang on. It seems to be picking up steam. That's good. I feel vindicated. It's like when you decide against drowning a stupid friend, and then they turn out to have a lovely holiday home. Patience is a virtue.

If I could do anything I wanted to with the rest of my life, I'd like to be caught, paralysed and webbed-up by a giant spider.

Not eaten; that would be horrible. No-one would wish for that.

But if the spider perhaps died of natural causes after the webbing, or moved abroad, it would be an ideal situation for everyone.

I'd be nice and secure. I wouldn't have to worry about paying the bills, or attending christenings, or arranging MOTs. I'd be paralysed, so I could sell all of my juggling clubs.

I could just lie down, in a soft cocoon, on a bed of webs, and have a nice sleep.

What could be better than that?

It's practical, it's economical, and it just makes sense.

And yet, if I were to describe that scenario in a job interview, in answer to the question "Where do you see yourself in ten years' time?", people would be all like "WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!".

Happy Friday, everyone.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Xylophone

Here's the beginning of a blog post that didn't make it past draft stage.

***

Behind every fence was a dog.

We never knew their names, but we knew the pitches and volumes of the respective barks. And the timbre or whatever. We knew the speed of their response. We speculated that, if we could teleport, we could warp up and down the street, and play the dogs like a xylophone.

But none of us ever learned how to teleport. Not as far as I know, anyway. I don't keep in touch with most of them. I never see anything about teleportation on Facebook.

***

And that is why.

But I can't stand to throw anything away. I'm a hoarder of terrible ideas. I keep them all in a crepe paper safe of my own design.

***

Sometimes, I think: "I know a lot about soap".

But then, I'm like: "No, Paul. You've just seen Fight Club."

I like to put myself in my place.

***

I've been reading Anna Karenina lately, which makes up for my complete lack of intelligent thought.

I haven't written anything interesting for ages. Nor have I engaged with any serious topics of conversation. I haven't been paying attention to politics. My academic glands have shrivelled and dropped off. I can no longer count, write, solve problems, or make arguments. I've done nothing with my brain. My most strenuous mental exercise is retaining knowledge of World Cup scores for the entire gap between the final whistle and walking over to my wall chart.

Except for reading Anna Karenina. I've been doing that, so I'm still an intellectual.

I went to Oxford University. I'm supposed to be clever.

And a stranger might look at my life, strewn with comics and wrestling message boards and FIFA mini-games and think that I've regressed.

But I've been reading Anna Karenina. That's something a grown-up would do. No-one has been forcing me to read it, and I've been reading it.

I know almost all of the characters' names.

I don't need to worry about improving myself or taking an evening course. I don't need to find out what's happening in Iraq (I started reading an idiot's guide article to the conflict, but lost interest). I don't need to have informed conversations with knowledgeable peers.

Because I'm reading a Russian novel. Admittedly, it's fairly well-known. And it's a bit too much fun to be pure scholarship. But it makes me feel better.

It's a bit like when I waste an entire weekend, but then play my guitar for half an hour. It feels worthy. (Playing a stringed instrument is a higher pleasure than playing an electronic pinball machine simulator. I don't know why, but it is.)

Or like eating a huge pile of disgusting unhealthy food, and then having an apple. It makes it all OK.

Anna Karenina is just like that. It's halting my decline: like the jagged rocks on which my self-esteem parachute is caught. Sure, it won't hold indefinitely. But I'm still alive for now.

APPLES. PARACHUTES. GLANDS.

MIXED METAPHORS ARE FOR THE STRONG.

Good grief. It wasn't like this when I was in my twenties.

*reads old blog posts from when he was in his twenties*

*sees that it was exactly like this then*

*realises that the only major change has been the use of asterisks to indicate actions*

***

I'm surprised that so many people hang themselves. Not that the initial impulse is a strange one - we're all human - but because, once you've gone to the trouble of hanging a noose, you might as well turn it into a tyre-swing.

And then you have a tyre-swing, which is the only thing better than suicide.

Or a lantern.

Most methods of suicide remind you of something that makes life worth living.

Jumping off a cliff? Live for geology.

Shooting yourself? Live for marksmanship.

Head in oven? Cinnamon buns.

Overdose of pills? Pick 'n' mix.

Slit wrists? Godfather II.

That's why the human race has flourished. We are conditioned to see the positive in the face of despair.

We're all so sad and then happy that we'll live forever.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Death From Above

I'm taking a break from my fascinating story. The break may or may not not be permanent.

What a disgusting world this is. The sooner we're all killed by an asteroid, the better. Or by many asteroids. Perhaps we could each be killed by our own asteroid. That would be pretty neat. Seven billion little asteroids finding seven billion targets, flush.

Of course, some people are in bunkers right now (nuclear fallout, golf). The asteroids assigned to the bunker folk would have to be very precise. They'd have to get through thick reinforced walls, mine shafts and electronically locked doors. They might need security keycards. But in this scenario, they can do all that. Asteroids with credentials.

This all happened before with the dinosaurs. It's high time it happened again.

I'm not a misanthrope. I also hate plants.

I got my hair cut recently. Immediately after I sat in the chair, the barber woman (barbress?) started giving me lots of information about her personal life. I know this is de rigueur in scissor circles, but she launched into it so quickly that I barely had time to tell her about my fatal gel allergy.

I like chatty people, as long as they don't need much input from me. If they want to shoulder the burden of the conversation, I'm more than happy to let them.

At some point, the conversation turned to her boyfriend/husband, and got really interesting. I'd bought a suit that day, and she began talking about how he finds it difficult to find well-fitting clothes because he has the body shape of a monkey.

"He has a really big upper-body, but really skinny legs. And long arms. He's technically overweight, but that's just because of the top of his body. Doctors say that his legs are actually malnourished. If he buys skinny jeans, they're baggy on him."

That's the trouble with traditional weight categories. They're an average of the whole body. You could have morbidly obese calves and no head, and still be considered healthy.

I was curious. I thought about asking to see a photo of him, and I'm sure she would have obliged, but I decided against it in the end.

I wonder if she was mistaken. Maybe she's only ever seen him from above, and so the disparity is merely an illusion of perspective.

She didn't seem that interested in the cutting of my hair, and neither was I. Still, it seems to be gone now.

I didn't have any change for a tip, so she probably felt offended that her interesting banter had gone unrewarded. I am full of remorse.

I bought a suit. I mentioned that in the middle of the last section. I've never bought a suit before. I feel like a proper grown-up. I bought it with the same speed and lack of thought as I do all my clothes. It fit, so I got it. Now I'm thinking about getting a job that requires you to wear a suit, like a gangster or a playing card.

But seriously, we're all more than ready for the asteroids. What more are we going to achieve? Let's quit whilst we're ahead. We're probably not going to top the metronome. That was the peak of human invention. Everything we do now (the tram, the computer, 2Pac's California Love) are just variations on a theme.

We may already be disgusting, but we could get even more disgusting. We don't want to get ourselves into a latter-day Simpsons situation. Cut our losses. Get the astronomers to beckon the asteroids with their powerful telemagnets; we've had a good run.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Backdrop - Part 3

Backdrop 

3

TEN YEARS LATER

David and Maura are both dead. Luckily, their children - and yes, they did have children - are now fully grown and are much more interesting characters.

Their eldest daughter Jood is eight feet tall, and can predict the future. Their middle daughter Faye has an unusual accent and leads a subterranean revolutionary army. Their son Alto is a clone of Steve Martin. Their youngest daughter Caroline has a very dry wit, and knows lots of well-connected people.

On a bright spring morning, they all meet at their parents' graves to discuss the annual family get together. which Alto has dubbed 'the sibling ribaldry', despite the incestual overtones. Jood had predicted that they would all go to Universal Studios in the summer, but Faye doesn't want to spend too much time away from her sewer command centre.

All of this information could have been imparted by dialogue, but wasn't.

Caroline's fashionable handbag spilled open, and dozens of cigarette holders tumbled out onto the grass. She sighed and rolled her eyes.

"Woo har yein goad illa demfa?" said Faye.

"I'm attempting to civilise the worms," said Caroline, lighting the big long wizard pipe that she'd been holding all along.

"Wurms fitin holdos. Cad smoak demshelps."

"Would that we all could," muttered Caroline.

The two gravestones had been chiselled in different fonts, which irritated all of the siblings.

"I think the 3D Transformers ride alone would justify the trip," said Jood. "And when you throw in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter..."

"We're not going to Universal Studios!" shouted Alto. "It's too expensive."

"Ang I'ch tordyoo: am bizzry."

"I know you're busy," said Jood. "We're all busy. But this is tradition."

"So is dying alone," said Caroline. "Anyway, I agree with Al and Faye. Can't we all just hire a barge and get smashed like last year?"

"Lash yur?! I lass faur regimens! Faur massakurs!"

"Come on, they were all part of the same massacre," said Jood.

"Graveyards make me bored!" shouted Alto. "And they're too expensive!"

Alto was cheap. But, to be fair, this one was more pricey than most.

He wandered towards the cafeteria, with Caroline and Jood bickering behind him. Only Faye remained. She looked at the gravestones of her parents, and beyond them to the dozens of other markers, tight together in rows, waiting expectantly like chairs in an empty theatre.

Faye had lost so many friends. But the uprising was gathering momentum, and she knew that their sacrifices had not been in vain. She also knew that her decisions had led to many deaths on the other side, many fallen foes filling graveyards similar to this one, many families grieving as she had done.

On the floor, the cigarette holders still lay scattered between the reeds, on top of the untended earth. Faye picked them up, and bunched them together like flowers, before sticking them in the space between where her mother and father lay.

A worm, disturbed by the new bouquet, writhed in the disturbed soil and then disappeared.

"Mee tooh," said Faye. "Amm goan ta go bak unnergroun."

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Backdrop - Part 2

Backdrop 

2

David climbed the steps slowly. His clothes were heavy with water and the sponges in his pocket. The umbrella didn't keep him dry. The rain fell right through.

As he approached the officials, their voices grew quieter, and their faces became blurred, low-res, indistinct. One of the officials turned to David, just as he reached their step.

"David," she said. "We didn't expect to see you here. Not today."

She gestured at the sky. David noticed that she was completely untouched by the rain. Her umbrella handle was dark as black pudding.

"I wouldn't have come if I didn't have to," he said.

The other officials - three women and one man - that had been in the same group had slid away when David had approached. They stood on the same step, but far away. The same, but smaller.

The woman, whose name was Maura, gave a patronising smile. "You know I would have passed on the salient details," she said, oozing friendliness.

"Well that's just it," said David. "I think we have different ideas of what's salient and what isn't."

"I don't think they'll even be expecting you. You're not on the list."

"Then I'll come in with you."

She winced and looked over at her colleagues in the distance. "I don't think that would be a good idea."

The rain was starting to stop. An old man fell up the steps and spilled the contents of his briefcase all over the place. He struggled to retrieve the damp paper from where it had stuck to the stone.

David looked down at him, then back at Maura. "I wouldn't have come all this way in the rain," he said, "if I wasn't sure that I could get in."

Maura's concern fell away. "Well, you did. Because you can't."

David reached into his pocket - the non-sponge one - and pulled out a pistol. He pointed it at Maura.

"I am sure. I wouldn't have come if I wasn't."

David's pistol was also transparent. The barrel was transparent. The trigger was transparent. The handle was transparent.

And David knew that Maura's guns were not transparent. They were as opaque as her umbrella, their handles just as full of blood.

Maura looked down at the gun. Though it was transparent, she could see the bullets in the clip.

So she made a little nod of acceptance and they both went up the steps together.