Friday, March 30, 2007

30 March

This date is a reminder to me, as it is to Red, of the distance we are from our families.

Five years ago today, it was a Saturday. We still lived in a small flat in London back then. Red and I were getting ready to go out for the day. It was early, I guess about 8:30 am. The phone rang. As is normal at our place, I was the one to pick it up.

I still feel a pang of guilt that I heard about Red's dad's passing before she did. Stupid to feel that way, isn't it? But I do. She knew it almost instantly, though. Within seconds I had gone from being cheery and upbeat to simply muttering a stunned "no" down the phone, no doubt with a suddenly grave look on my face. (I think I actually said "cazzo" ["fuck"], so stunned was I, though I can't be certain of this. It seems both appropriate and inappropriate at the same time.)

That was only the beginning of one of the strangest days I've been through in recent years. Don't even ask how we managed to be in Italy later that same day, which was Easter weekend... I suppose sometimes you just have to put your game face on and make stuff happen.

We both have our crosses to bear regarding those few weeks. I don't talk about mine. I prefer to live in denial about some things.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

As Thursday draws to an end

It's been one of those days... One of those days when I get very busy. And yet also one of those days when I look back at what I have actually achieved and it ain't much.

Half the day was spent in a meeting with our design partner in my dining room.

Almost half the day was spent retrieving an old computer out of storage and quickly bringing it back on to the front line and into active duty following the death of its brother. And that entails reinstalling software, reinstalling fonts, copying any other relevant files on to it...

About an hour and a half spent doing our quarterly tax shenanigans. And an hour or so was spent doing proper work work.

No time to write any blog posts. No time to visit any blogs and see what my buddies have been up to.

Oh, I did have a massive clear-out of my desk (above), though. That was worthwhile. I could no longer function the way it was. It was bordering on insanity. I found several bank statements and other important documents that really ought not to be languishing at the bottom of piles of junk and waste paper. Oops.

You know what they say: messy desk equals messy mind. Well, now my desk is very empty, and my mind feels that way, too. Surely that's not good? And now I'm going to close down, go and have some dinner (Red is making vegetarian spaghetti carbonara), and watch Little Miss Sunshine.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Manon Des Sources: a triptych of updates

Carrying on from this post, here are the results of my survey of local video-rental stores.

This was our first port of call. We went in in person, so the impact is not so much fun. One can't be quite so unforthcoming in person as perhaps is possible on the phone.
"Hello! Do you have a copy of Manon Des Sources?"
"Man on...?"
"Manon Des Sources."
She types. I clearly see her type "man" then hit the space bar. I helpfully offer that it's "Manon, one word".
She retypes and tells me that they don't have a copy but that there are three copies in the county of Kent and she can order one in. It might take up to 14 days.
We place our order, pay the 25p reservation fee (bless!), and take our leave.

"Hello! Do you have a copy of Manon Des Sources?"
"Man on the Sauce?" the shop girl replies, half-laughing.
"No, Manon Des Sources."
"Umm, hold on..." She disappears. I hear her talking to another clerk. I wait...
And she returns. "Is it one word?"
"No, it's three."
"And it's Man...?"
"No, Manon. M-A-N-O-N."
"Oh. Hold on." She disappears for a few seconds. Then: "No, we've never stocked it. It's a world-cinema title. Try the library. Or Canterbury."
I thank her and hang up.

"Hello! Do you have a copy of Manon Des Sources?"
"A copy of what, sorry?"
"Manon Des Sources?"
"Hold on..." She disappears. Then: "Man on...?"
"Manon Des Sources."
"Manon Des Sources."
She tippy-tappies into her keyboard.
"We haven't, I'm afraid. It is in our new campaign, though, so we might get some in."
I thank her and hang up.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The things people say

Sometimes people say things to us that we remember for a long time. They stay with us for years. I occasionally remember things from my childhood that mean nothing. Maybe a nice thing that a friend or teacher said that no doubt meant nothing to them, but somehow it has stayed with me, inexplicably "meaning something" to me.

And of course there are occasions when people say mean things. They don't always mean them to be mean, but they kind of are anyway. Like the first time I went to a hairdresser in central London, and she told me I was going thin on top.

But I want to focus on the nice things people say. Just as with mean things, though, the nice things aren't necessarily always intentional.

Here are two things people have said to me that I hold on to as compliments, though I know they maybe weren't meant to be.

1. An acting teacher once told me: "You remind me of Marlon Brando. You don't act so much as you react." Now, I know some people don't dig on Marlon, but many people regard him as one of the finest actors in the history of cinema. I'll gladly take that comment!

2. A friend once said: "You talk as though you are in a movie." Once again, some might perceive that as meaning I talk in a contrived, overly expletive-laden fashion with a few Americanisms thrown in. I think that means I talk like a cool and hip motherfucker!

So, dear readers, what have people said to you that you have decided to hold on to and consider compliments?

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Monday, March 26, 2007

A French film diptych

Yesterday, Wife and I watched classic French film Jean de Florette, from way back in 1986.

It was the first time that either of us had seen it, and it was very pleasing.

At the end, though, we really wanted to watch the second part of the story, which is set some 20 years later and is called Manon Des Sources. We didn't want to wait the 17 months it was likely to take to wend its way through our online video rental service, though, so I decided to call our local video store.

"Hello," I said when the guy picked up the phone. "I just wondered whether you have a copy of Manon Des Sources."

Silence. Then: "Sorry, what was that name again?" he asked.

"Manon Des Sources," I repeated. Uncomfortable silence now.

Then: "Um, we've got Man on Fire, is that what you mean?"

Note: This blog post is meant for entertainment purposes only, and the story told herein may not have actually happened. In fact, it didn't. Only the bit about watching the film happened. The rest was a discussion between me and Wife about what might have happened if we had called the video store. Patronizing, aren't we? Sorry.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Poke ’er? I beg your pardon...

No, not "poke her"; poker! I find there is no better way to make a little extra money.

Every couple of months (despite a rather long recent hiatus), I like to have a poker evening. Time was -- in London, three years back -- that there would be seven of us playing, but one person moved back to Australia and another moved to Manchester, then me and the missus moved out of the Big City, so it's been a little haphazard of late. Still five people is plenty fine.

And we seem to have settled back into a routine: alternate venues, London and Kent. Last night it was the turn of me and Wife to host.

The rules are simple. No limit Texas hold 'em. The blinds go up every hour. £10 initial buy-in, with unlimited buy-ins permitted after that.

So we all coughed up our ten squids and the first cards were dealt. First hand I get pocket rockets -- a pair of aces in my hand. Sa-weeeet. Not that that means anything really in a low-stakes game on the first hand, but it sher looks perdy.

We played all evening, from about 8:45 till 12:45, eating and drinking as we went, chatting, laughing. It's always good fun. One of our number, she loves to gamble, and she loves to drink. She loves to keep buying in. All in all, a lethal combination.

Still, I can't complain, being as I came out THE WINNER! I walked away at the end of the evening with a PROFIT of £41.50, another guy made £2.50, and Red made £1. The other two went home empty-handed, stripped of even their stake money. Now that's what I'm talking about!

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Other recent bits and pieces

If you'd like to read my 100th movie review, head on over to Such As They Are for the lowdown on David Lynch's masterpiece Mulholland Dr.

And if you'd like to see a mathematical equation related to cats, click along to Cat: A Blog of Disasters to see what happens when I'm without a TV. I just have to make my own fun!

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Friday, March 23, 2007

An update on the TV-less couple

So... It ain't so bad really. It's true that, on the whole, we wouldn't miss TV. Mostly we watch films and stuff on DVD anyway, but there are some good shows out there, such as tonight's Simon Schama show on the abolition of slavery. Hopefully they'll repeat it. And we get our new satellite receiver tomorrow, anyway, when the man from Sky will come a-knockin'.

Fortunately, last night we didn't have to resort to talking after all, especially since we'd IM'd each other during the latter part of the afternoon, so I'm really not sure what else we would have said to each other.

I opted to cook my famed, once-weekly chilli sin carne (recipe coming soon, for those who are interested), and we opened a bottle of Rioja, which went really nicely when we sat down to get our grub on.

And we watched an episode of Scrubs on DVD while eating, followed by the second episode of this US mini-series Kidnapped, which we had waiting for us on the DVR.

Red fell asleep in the middle of that, woke up for the end, declared her general lack of interest in it (neither of us is ever really satisfied by these mini-series, whether UK or US-made), and then made her way up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire, leaving me in the company of Naomi Watts and Laura Harring (see right). Lucky ladies!

I was soon hearing the call of father/son team Hypnos and Morpheus, so I turned off the DVD at about 75 minutes in. The trouble with Lynch films, though, is that mostly they don't have chapter breaks, and our cheap DVD player doesn't remember at what point the disc was stopped, so now I'll have to wind it forward for 75 minutes next time I sit down to finish the movie. Grrr.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bye, Sky, bye

Oh, woe is me. And woe is the missus, too.

We woke up this morning to learn something of what it must be like to be Milla.

Yes, that's right, folks: the television-less one and we have that adjective in common. Kind of.

Our satellite receiver is dead, kaputt, extinct, no more, resting in peace, an ex-satellite receiver. It's beamed its last broadcast into our humble abode. And we are left ... having to talk to one another.

Keen viewers of this page will know that we mostly like to carry out our communications via blog comment boxes and the occasional IM session. But now we have to do what people used to do in the BC days (Before Computer). I'd forgotten what this lump of flabby stuff in my mouth was for and was wondering whether it was only used for far less bloggable pursuits. Get your mind out of the gutter: I meant licking envelopes. Jesus wept!

Fortunately, it wasn't long before we remembered... We can always watch DVDs. Phew. Thank the maker!

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Haikus. Come and get ’em

If you dig haiku,
you really ought to check out
this blog. I like it.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Post #600, wherein I will undoubtedly navel-gaze a little and blather on about stuff I’m ill equipped to discuss on any meaningful level

It's the first day of spring. Happy spring to you all! (Thanks to Red for the lovely photo.)

And so it came to pass, my 600th post. It's taken a little longer than I had hoped, but you just can't rush these things. Well, you can, obviously. I've rushed many of the previous 599 posts at this blog. In fact, about 591 of them have been rushed. I did take my time over those three posts on cinema, though, and those few building up to my 500th.

Not only have I rushed almost 600 posts here, I've also rushed many of my posts on my other blogs. What a guy! So, there you have it: you can rush these things. Super!

So, 375 days and 600 posts. And not only that, but I've also watched more than 100 movies in that time, 99 of which I have reviewed; they can be found over at my movie-review site Such As They Are.

Anyway, I have a tendency to anticipate these "landmark" posts far too long in advance, and they become like an albatross. This is especially true when I haven't actually prepared anything in advance.

And it's not that I'm talking about having to "entertain my readers" or anything quite so "delusions of grandeur"-ish as that. It's all to do with my borderline OCD, a-place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place mentality.

We have lightswitches in our house, you see. Much like you do, I suspect. The room in which I am typing this is upstairs. From my desk, without leaving my seat, I can turn on the lights in the room. But I don't like to do it once I'm up here. Why? Because it means the switch for the same lights at the foot of the stairs looks as though it's in the off position, when in my mind it should look as though it's in the on position.

Likewise, at the top and bottom of our other flight of stairs we have double switches: one for the light at the top and one for the light at the bottom. I like it when both are in sync with one another. I don't like when they are in alternate positions. Do you catch my drift, get what I'm saying, see where I'm coming from?

Yes, I alphabetize my CDs and DVDs, too. Who doesn't?

So, getting back to what I was saying. This symmetry, if you like, this "commemoration" of "event" posts is more to do with me wanting the 500th, 600th, 750th posts to be something that I'll consider worthwhile of my time.


By overthinking them I will often end up with an outpouring of nonsense fit for consumption by neither man nor beast.

Furthermore, I actually don't have much to write about today. Well, that's not strictly true. There are several things that have got my goat over the past 24 hours and upon which I would gladly wax unlyrical, but these subjects are all downers, and I don't want my 600th post to be a downer. Subjects like:

1. British schools can now ban students from wearing full-face veils. (Small print: if the veil is inhibiting learning or a threat to personal safety.) I mean, what the fuck does that mean?! The headline says one thing, but then the option is removed entirely by perfectly impossible clauses.

2. Number of fatal stabbings in the UK higher this year already than in the whole of last year.

3. German animal activist wants to kill polar bear. (Or, as I would call this story: "Knut und kunt".) Have you heard this? What a fucking tosser!

I mean, the world's going down the fucking pan.

So, no, I don't want to post on any of that stuff. I want to be upbeat, at least for today.

But the powers that be are conspiring against me at all sides.

4. Gordon Brown and his fucking Budget. You know it can't be good for anyone and it's going to be full of bullshit. But let's not dwell, shall we?

Instead, I'll get this post rounded off with something almost witty or pithy or amusing, then get back to my work and hopefully manage to pop in and read a good number of the blogs on my blogroll.

But I can't think of anything witty, pithy, or amusing. Bugger!

And to top things off, I was going to post a video clip from YouTube, but the fucking thing's been removed because of copyright infringement. As a creative type, I understand the need for copyright (oh, God, I've done this rant before), but so much stuff just languishes in copyright owners' vaults at TV centres around the globe... Share the fucking love, you cunts!

So, turns out I did navel-gaze a bit in this post, but I did less blathering about things I know nothing about than I had expected. That'll teach me not to put the title in before writing the post in future, won't it?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Less vs. fewer

This morning, on the BBC News 24 channel, I was appalled to hear an outdoor journalist say that there were "less and less public toilets" in the UK.

I was then pleased to see studio anchor Sîan Williams equally horrified.

But -- oh the humanity -- she then had to try to explain the difference between "less" and "fewer" to people's dancing hero Bill Turnbull.

She used the following example:

"You might have drunk less beer last night, but you had fewer pints."

Still Bill was troubled. "I just don't get it!" he exclaimed.

Now, at this point, don't get me wrong: I read a lot of writings by non-professional writers, in blogland and elsewhere. The writers don't always know some of rules of the language. But people in positions of professional journalism really don't have this excuse.

Bill, here, especially for you, the dummies guide to the difference between less and fewer: SINGULAR VS. PLURAL.

Just as you don't say "I ate too much pies", you don't say "I had less pies than you."

A plural noun takes the word "fewer"; a singular takes the word "less".

C'mon Bill: don't be such a dozy prat. You're a newsreader/journalist for the BBC, for Christ's sake. You're supposed to have a reasonable command of the English language...

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They’re burying one of my kin today

My dad's Uncle Charlie died last Tuesday. I'm not sure why they waited a week to bury him.

But more than that, I'm not sure why my family didn't tell me until 8pm on Sunday.

I rang my sister on Friday morning. She didn't mention it.

I rang my mum at 6pm on Sunday to wish her Happy Mother's Day. She didn't mention it.

My nan rang me at 8pm Sunday to thank me for her birthday card. She said, "I expect you've heard about Uncle Charlie..." and proceeded to tell me. "Well, we've all gotta go sometime," she said. She's cool, my nan. A very philosophical 79-year-old. The same age as Uncle Charlie. And she was the same age as Red's dad when he died. It must be weird when your peers start falling all around you...

I rang my dad. "You didn't tell me about Uncle Charlie." He replied that he thought someone else would have. "Your mum knows. Your sister knows."

I rang my sister on Monday. "How come you didn't tell me about Uncle Charlie when I spoke to you Friday?" She said that my mum had told her and said that she would tell me later so not to mention it (although why, I don't know). She never rang me later; and, as previously mentioned, she never said anything about it when I finally spoke to her two days later...

What's particularly galling is that I might have been able to get to the funeral if I'd known about it a few days ago, but with 36 hours' notice, there is no way I can swing things. Crazy family. My dad won't be there; he's working away. Uncle Charlie's wife won't be there; she's wheelchair-bound in an old folks' home.

There'll be other family representatives, including Charlie's kids, my mum, my dad's partner... Oh, the potential for this to go horribly wrong is huge. I should be grateful I'm not going to be there, really.

So, Uncle Charlie, this one's for you. You'll never have heard the song; it will have no meaning for you. But for me it seems like the perfect song for the occasion.

"Green and Grey"
The time I think most clearly, the time I drift away
Is on the bus ride that meanders up these valleys of green and grey
I get to think about what might have been and what may yet come true
And I get to pass a rainy mile thinking of you
And all the while, all the while, I still hear that call
To the land of gold and poison that beckons to us all
Nothing changes here very much, I guess you'd say it never will
The pubs are all full on Friday nights and things get started still
We spent hours last week with Billy boy, bleeding,
yeah queuing in Casualty
Staring at those posters we used to laugh at:
Never Never Land, palm trees by the sea
Well there was no need for those guys to hurt him so bad
When all they had to do was knock him down
But no one asks too many questions like that since you left this town.

And tomorrow brings another train
Another young brave steals away
But you're the one I remember
From these valleys of green and the grey.

You used to talk about winners and losers all the time -
as if that was all there was
As if we were not of the same blood family, as if we live by different laws
Do you owe so much less to these rain-swept hills
than you owe to your good self?
Is it true that the world has always got to be something
That seems to happen somewhere else?
For God's sake, don't you realise that I still hear that call?
Do you think you're so brave just to go running
to that which beckons to us all?

No, not for one second did you look behind you
As you were walking away
Never once did you wish any of us well
Those who had chosen to stay
And if that's what it takes to make it
In the place that you live today
Then I guess you'll never read these letters that I send
From the valleys of the green and the grey.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Global law?

I was watching the news over breakfast this morning, and there was a report on a minority religious group in Iraq. I'd never heard of this group, but then I'm pretty sheltered like that. They are called Mandaeans, and their beliefs are considered by many to be older than those of Christianity, although some schools of thought believe the sect may have been started by John the Baptist himself.

Regardless of how or when their religion was started, the Mandaeans are under threat of extinction, through murder, torture, rape, and forced conversion to Islam.

The news story focused its attention on two recent cases of abuse of Mandaeans: a jeweller who had been blinded (thereby unable to continue working his trade) by having acid thrown in his eyes, and a boy of about 10 years old who was kidnapped from outside his school and forced to jump through a bonfire to win his escape. His jump was too short and he landed in the fire, suffering burns to his body.

And I got to thinking...

Isn't it about time we got some world leaders in power who would stop all this fucking bullshit and start telling people like it is?

"There is no God. There is no higher fucking power. There is no point to your religions. Your religions that are the root cause of all the world's wars and grief. From now on, the practice of any religion is a criminal offence, punishable by life-long imprisonment. Denounce your religions. Denounce your gods. Or pay the price."

I truly believe this is what the world needs. Too many of the planet's citizens are adhering to nonsense that was invented centuries ago to keep the people in order. These "laws" were devised for an uncivilized time. We should now be beyond all that. The religious books have served their purpose and now they are being misused and abused to serve extremists' own ends. We should no longer be slaves to this sort of mind control.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

“It’s so nice to go travelling...”

The orange line through the middle of this map represents the journey we should have taken last night; and indeed this was the route we took up to London. The red line is the route we took coming back, since the Blackwall Tunnel was closed (luckily we discovered this before departing) AND access to the A2 was closed from the Dartford Bridge. Un-fucking-believable. So our route was 48 miles to get there, and 72 to come back! England is a fuckhole.


Friday, March 16, 2007

“Friday night’s here / What’s the scene?”

The oven is on, preheating, and soon I will put my pizza in it to cook. Not one that I made; I'm not that smart. It's a bought frozen one, but they're okay once in a while. Meanwhile, Red will have leftover chilli from last night, which I cooked. Chilli sin carne is one of my specialities, but last night's was a little lacking in seasoning, so I'll rectify that for her when I recook it today.

And then we'll be preparing to go to The London again. Specifically, The Camden Town, for tonight is the long-awaited gig night. (We don't get out much, as you can tell!) Omaha, Nebraska's finest, Mr Conor Oberst, aka Bright Eyes, will be performing for our listening pleasure. Very exciting.

So, I'll catch up with y'all over the weekend.

Ooh, first, though, I have to choose my ensemble, as does the missus. Ooh, what to wear? What will make us blend in with the undoubtedly 20-something crowd? What will prevent them asking us, "Are you in the right place, Gramps?"

Jeans, for sure. Converse? Do you even need to ask? Maybe a stripey pullover? Aaahh, but it's in the washing basket! (I'll give it a sniff. Might be okay. Plus, do you think I'll smell any worse than 20-something Londoners? I think not!)

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thank you, Pickled Olives!

Following on from this recent post, the wonderful Pickled Olives dropped me a line one day last week to inform me she had found and purchased a one-cup espresso pot for us and would we please let her send it.

Red and I were most touched. We accepted her kind offer, and today, through the genius of DHL, the moka/cuccuma/espresso pot arrived at our house, having only been sent on Monday.

Thank you, Olives. This was very kind and sweet. And I hope we haven't embarrassed you with these words of gratitude and little video of us unwrapping our package.

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“Jolie” – sulla falsariga* of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”

Your beauty is beyond compare
With crazy lips and greasy hair
That tattooed skin you flash for all to see

Your smile is awkward and quite weird
You like to keep us all in fear
But you have lots of cash, that's true, Jolie

You like brown kids and yellow too
You'll take them off to live with you
Won't Brad soon get bored of this, Jolie?

When they hear you're touching down
Third World parents all leave town
They're scared you're going to take their kids, Jolie

Jolie, Jolie, Jolie, Jolie
I'm begging of you please don't take my kid
Jolie, Jolie, Jolie, Jolie
He doesn't want to live with you and Pitt.

They talk about you in their sleep
Their children they would like to keep
But they heard you'll soon be visiting, Jolie

It's plain, you think, for all to see:
"Their kids are better off with me!"
Is that the mantra that you chant, Jolie?

Jolie, Jolie, Jolie, Jolie
I'm begging of you please don't take my kid
Jolie, Jolie, Jolie, Jolie
He doesn't want to live with you and Pitt.

* Sulla falsariga is an Italian phrase meaning, in this instance, "sung to the tune and cadence". I like the phrase, and I'm not entirely sure what the English equivalent is. "Parody" doesn't quite seem to do it justice.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Nothing to report

I had to go to The Town Of London Town today, which is why I ain't posted nuffink. Hopefully I'll have time to do one tomorrow. In the meantime, I was pleasantly surprised by this picture, which I took from the train on my way back home. The speed of the train coupled with the slow shutter speed on my phone means you never know what you're going to get (just like that retarded fucker and his box of chocolates), so when something half decent emerges, it's some cause for celebration!


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I’ve got an itch I just can’t scratch

It's my new ink. One week in, and now it’s itching like a motherfucker!


Working and Heroes and Idol, oh my!

I had to take a day off yesterday. Pretty poor start to Year 2, I know, but that anniversary post took it out of me.

Not much to report here. Busy. Worked flat out all day yesterday. Then came up for another hour after dinner and ANTM and Heroes.

I. Am. Fucking. Loving. Heroes. If you haven't started watching yet, you simply must ASAP. It's on the SciFi channel here in the UK, and it is one of the best serials I have seen on TV in a very long time.

Admittedly, I'm a sucker for tales of time travel and superpowers. This is mostly because I have superpowers and can travel in time, of course. But I realize that not everyone can, and that's why this show is so exciting. Last night's show (episode 5, "Hiros") actually gave me goosebumps in a couple of scenes. It was that good.

I will definitely, definitely be buying this show on DVD when it comes out. I only hope they can keep it up and don't let it outstay its welcome. The only problem with it is those fucking commercial breaks, man. There are four, and each one is quite long, which sucks.

What I really want to do each week is record the show and watch it later, skipping through the ads, but I literally can't because I'm too excited and want to watch the show as it airs. I guess I'm an instant-gratification kinda guy.

(While looking for a pic for this post, I was psyched when I found the one above cos it shows something I haven't yet seen but doesn't give away too much. I love Hiro; he's my favourite character. He's a rockin' motherfucker.)

Finally, and on another topic, I just want to apologize to Lee for taking so long with her contest prize. Things are moving along on that front, and you have not been forgotten. Bear with me, kiddo.

And finally, again, avid long-term readers may have noticed that there's not been much in the way of a running critique of this year's American Idol so far, despite my fondness for it last year. Sorry about that. (I know you all come here especially for AI news.) I'm a bit out of inspiration where AI is concerned this year. They mostly all seem a bit shit. What more can I say?

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Blog About Nowt: Year 2, Day 1


On Friday night, I said to Wife, "Y'know, maybe I'll just stop tomorrow. One whole year of blogging, then 'So long, and thanks for all the fish. I've been * (asterisk)... Good night!' That sort of thing."

"Yeah, right," she said. "You couldn't do it."

Truth is, maybe I couldn't. Actually, I think I could, as it happens. But, like with drinking alcohol, why would I stop? I like it. It tastes good.

And I've met a lot of what I could almost call friends here in blogland. I don't mean that in a disparaging way when I say "almost". Simply that it's quite difficult when you've never met someone -- in some cases never even seen their faces or know their names -- to consider them friends, but it is amazing how closely you can connect with people out there.

The way you feel when:
people shut down their blogs, and you just want to know they're okay;
people are ill, and you know there's nothing you can do for them;
people experience personal loss, and you just want to hug them;
people have a new baby, and you want to feel her squeeze your finger;
people take more than three days off, and you worry about them...

But there can be personal contact, too. Red and/or I have sent and/or received packages to at least four different bloggers. Again, people we have never met other than in this weird and wonderful Blogger space.

I never would have figured the way things would go, way back on Saturday 11 March 2006. It was just a bit of fun, a way to record some stuff that I might do with the missus, an outlet from the boredom of work a couple of times a day.

Now... Well, let's just say I could easily fill a day going to my favourite blogs and writing my own new posts. Is that insane?

And what else has blogging done for me, except take up much of my spare time and give me lots of new friends?

Well, let me count the ways...

It's made me far more of a photographer than I've ever been before.
It's allowed me (rightly or wrongly) to share some of my music with "the world".
It's reignited my enthusiasm for film-making (albeit thus far in a rather limited way, time constraints being what they are).
I've now got a Flickr account, two MySpace accounts, a YouTube account, several blogs...

All in the space of a year.

It's kind of made me realize that the Internet is so much better than I knew for so long. We are at the dawn -- well, perhaps elevenses -- of a really exciting new era, and I'm happy to be able to share it with a cool, interesting, and diverse group of people based all over the world: the UK, Italy, the United States, the Philippines, Hong Kong...

Most especially, though, of course, I'm most glad that I've been able to share it with Red, who was cynical at the outset. I'm so glad she (graciously) conceded to giving it a go. It wouldn't be half the fun without her.

So, guys -- here's to Year 2. Thanks.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Funny stories. And meeting people. And the Grand Canyon Skywalk

You know, I'd quite like to meet some of the blogpals I've made over the past year. But...

The thing is, we must all have these big preconceived ideas of how people are from the stuff we read by them on their blogs.

For example, I like to think I come across quite witty and cynical and humorous in my posts from time to time (not always, obviously). And, y'know, people occasionally say they laugh at certain things I've written, so I'm not just being egotistical here.

But I am only witty, cynical, or humorous three times a day, maximum. And not every day. If I have a witty thought, I have to run quickly to my blog and type it up.

So what if I'm not witty, cynical, or humorous in the few hours I might spend having a drink with a blogpal when we meet up?

Oh my God... it doesn't bear thinking about.

By the way, I must be the last person on God's green earth to learn about the Grand Canyon Skywalk. I just read about it at Cynnie's blog. I kid you not, I literally had to go and wash my hands from all the clammy, sweaty shit induced by those pictures. I asked Wife if she knew about it, and she told me that she did know about it but thought it best not to mention it to me...

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“Words of Love” – a lyric

I just posted this song over at my MySpace thing: Please feel free to have a listen.
And add me as a friend if you haven't already and you're into that
sort of thing.

sing me a song
read me a book
give me that hoochy-coochy love look.
write me a verse
give it a tune
call it a love song and send it soon.

this is what I want to hear
those words whispered softly in my ear.
words of love, words of love
words of comfort, words of love.

call me up soon
give me a ring
send me a lyric, I'll try to sing.
throw me a party
a fancy-dress ball
I'll come as graffiti if you'll be my wall.

I wanna be all over you
if you were skin I'd be your tattoos.
words of love, words of love
words of comfort, words of love.

I just wanna be with you
I'll do anything you want me to.

give me a chance
I'm a nice guy
I'm sure you'll like me if you'll only try.
I can't wait forever
I need you soon
you know if I could I'd give you the moon

I just wanna be like UHU
so I can stick to you like glue.
words of love, words of love
words of comfort, words of love.

(without you) my life has lost its meaning
(without you) I can't learn, I cannot teach.
(without you) like trying to touch the ceiling
(without you) there's no way that I could reach.

I wanna be all over you
if you were skin I'd be your tattoos.
these are the things I want to hear
screaming gently for all to hear.

words of love, words of love
words of comfort, words of love.
words of love, words of love
words of comfort, words of love.

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New film review

Just click here to check it out. Cheers!

Friday, March 09, 2007

A curry-ific journey

From the pan to the metal tray...

... which goes into a paper bag...

... which gets put into a plastic bag...

... which gets put into the delivery man's car...

... which gets driven from the takeaway place to my house.

Then the bag comes out of the car...

... and is brought to my front door...

... and is handed to me while I fumble for funds.

I take the food into the kitchen...

... and out of the bags...

... and out of the trays...

... and on to the plate.

And that which isn't eaten goes into the fridge...

... and the next day on to a plate...

... and into the microwave...

... and on to another plate...

... which is placed on a TV-dinners tray...

... and set on Wife's lap...

... and from the plate on to the fork...

... and from the fork into her mouth...

... and while in her mouth, on to her tongue.

I'll let you figure out how it then got into my ear...

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Two cunts: a haiku

Tony Blair, Marga-
ret Beckett: cunts. Just in case
you needed telling.

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Tattoo aftercare

I got my first tattoo waaaay back in September 1990, and in all these years the aftercare that I have used on fresh ink has changed quite a lot.

That first one... Jeez, I don't think I had any aftercare regime.

tattoo + 3 days
With the second one (the Allen Jones S&M woman that I'm now in the process of covering up), in 1991, I was advised to use E45 cream. Slather loads of it on, I was told. So I did, and I think it healed quite well.

Since then, I have used E45 normally, but often way less than slathering. In part this is because when having to, you know, wear clothes, heavily creamed-up arms, chest, ribs, armpits, whatever, tend to stick to your shirts.

Ditto at night time, in bed. Cue manky, scabby, sticky bedsheets.

And in more recent years, I have used no creams at all, and that's kind of been okay up to a point. The problem can be, and sometimes has been, that the scabs come away too early and take more colour with them than is desirable.

So to my new tattoo. Although I had seen the name bandied about on tattoo forums over the years, this was the first time I had been advised to use Bepanthen, which is a delicate cream for nappy rash. For the first time, too, I have been told to give the tattoo a good wash twice daily, dab it dry gently with a paper towel (no rubbing), allow it to air dry for 15 minutes or so, then apply a thin layer of Bepanthen.

So this is the regimen I am currently following. I figure I'm good for a change, not having been too impressed with some of my other attempts. Fortunately, working from home, I am able to get away without covering up my new ink when it's slick with cream. And at nights I am wrapping the arm, not too tight, in clingfilm (or Saran Wrap).

So far, so good. And the way I figure, if any healing problems arise that adversely affect the quality of the finished product, these can at least be corrected when I go in for the second sitting.

All of which brings me to today's question: I know several of my visitors are tattooed. What aftercare routines do you adhere to, and how have they worked out for you?

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Birthday dinner

No pictures of my birthday dinner, I'm afraid. It's funny: when we are on holiday abroad, the missus and I almost never feel any shame in whipping out the camera and photographing every course in detail, but here in the UK it just seems so wrong! So we didn't even take the camera out of the house with us. And I'm kind of glad of it, to be honest, because we would have been rather conspicuous.

I knew in advance that the restaurant I/we had chosen was a bit posh. But I thought it was going to be just that: a bit posh. I mean, it's only 7 miles from our house, so how posh could it be, right?


It turns out it was only the second restaurant I've been to in my life where you have to ring a doorbell to gain admission. (The first one, incidentally, was also for my birthday dinner, two years ago, in Rome. Seems I am something of a high-class motherfucker after all, choosing all this fancy shit for my "special day".)

So the door is opened, and we are greeted and allowed in (phew!). Our coats are taken and we're shown to the lounge/bar area and asked what we want to drink. It being a celebration, we chose the Champagne. (To be fair, being Italian-ish, we asked for Prosecco, which is kind of Italian Champagne, but they didn't have it; they informed us that the house Champagne was Pol Roger.) So we has a glass each, and they soon brought us the menus and a little plate of appetizers: olives (yuk), two teeny-weeny cheese on toasts, and a couple of anchovy breadstick things. The cheese on toast was deeelish!

We ordered from the menus next. Red opted for a first course of pumpkin risotto, followed by the steak with (I think) dauphinoise potatoes and parsnips. I chose the first course of Parma ham with caramelized pears, rocket, and Parmesan shavings, followed by the veal escalope with capers and a fried egg on top. (This latter dish should also have anchovies, but I didn't fancy that so had them left off; I also left all the capers.) Side orders of vegetables accompanied the main courses: spinach, roast potatoes, and baby carrots.

But before the first course came, we had another freebie dish, this time a celeriac soup with croutons. The soup was in a teacup, and the croutons were set on a teaspoon on the edge of the saucer! It was really yummy, as was all of the food.

For dessert (cos I just gotta!) I had the clementine cheesecake with a lemon posset (whatever the fuck that is; even the waiter didn't know!) and a citrus sorbet. So kind of like three desserts in one. The cheesecake was DIVINE... the best cheesecake I have ever tasted. So damn light and smooth. Unbelievable!

Man, but this was a posh fucking joint, I tell you. The table of four next to us, which was full of nouveau riche cunts, just kept the Champagne flowing all night. We counted three bottles that they ordered, and at least one of the women didn't seem to be drinking. They were those loud-but-stupid types, y'know. They love for everyone to hear what they're saying, but they don't know what the fuck they are on about.

The one woman had a voice that made you want to strangle her: a real common Kentish accent with a squeaky stupidity added in for good measure. Her partner was a builder from what I could make out. But not like a good, honest, grafting builder; more like one of those builders that owns the business and can sit on his arse all day getting other people to do the manual labour. He sounded more Londony than Kentish, but he was vile, too. He was talking about being at some bloke's house and said, "But, y'know, I don't think he was a poof" at the top of his voice. I'm no prude and that, but I think it's unacceptable to be quite so brazen with your bigoted terminology in a refined environment.

Anyway, that is all by the bye, I suppose, with the exception of Red saying that they kind of spoiled the evening for her. Still, at least we had a good laugh at their expense. And blogged about how fucking vile they were. Ha! Take that, suckers!

It turned out to be the most expensive meal we've ever eaten, and yet we only had three glasses of Champagne between us, in terms of alcoholic beverages. Put it this way, there wasn't much change from £150 between the two of us once the tip was added in. (And we don't do crazy 75 per cent tips, or whatever the new norm is for you guys in the States.)

All in all, though, a very pleasant evening. And it led perfectly into today, which is International Woman's Day. So to all you international women out there (including my very own international woman), have a great eighth of March!

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Soon come

Well, I'm just three days away from my first blogiversary, and I was thinking it would be cool to have hit the 600-post mark by then. Y'know, a nice round figure. But that's going to be difficult...
...unless I start doing this: splitting each blog post into several separate posts.
What do you think? I'll tell you what I think. I think it would be tedious...
... Not only for me, having to take God knows how much longer just to post one post...
But also for my readers. What a pain in the ass to read a post that is so broken up like that.
However, should that matter? Should I not just get on with it and hit 600 any way I can?
Or should I stop being such a plonker and not even worry about whether or not I hit 600 posts before my first year is up?
Tell me, dear friends and loyal readers... What do you think? Truthfully, though, I think I've already ...
... decided that this post, in this format, will be a one-off, saving everyone all the hassle that it would cause. Sorry. And thanks.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

It’s my birthday, hurrah!

Yes, boys and girls, today, yours truly is 37 years old. On this day in 1970, I took my first breaths of Earth air.

It's been quite a ride so far, let me tell you, but I'm pleased to be able to say I'm in a good place right now. The best ever. The love of a good woman is a wonderful thing.

On that note, I'd like to wish every happiness to my blogmates Suze and Alex. For those of you who don't know, Alex proposed to Suze via a blog post a few days ago. And although she kep us waiting for her answer, it was a resounding yes.

Well, I promised you pictures, and pictures you shall have. Herewith, before and after shots of Stage One of my latest tattoo (paid for by the missus for my b'day prezzie), which -- did I mention? -- is a cover up of a tattoo I got almost 16 years ago, with money I received for my 21st birthday.


This is the "before" shot. I took this image off a postcard for fetish club The Torture Garden, which I picked up at Kensington Market when I first visited London in the early 1990s. For me, it tied in with the imagery of early Adam & The Ants' songs. Unfortunately, the tattoo never came out that great (difficult picture, shit tattooist). For those of you into art, the original image was by British artist Allen Jones. I found this out years later, but the following coincidence was not lost on me: Adam Ant's unfinished art-college thesis was on the work of Allen Jones.

Before you ask, yes, tattooing makes you bleed! What you see here is mostly blood and plasma wrapped in clingfilm. Well, no one ever said it was going to be easy!

You can still see the blood and gunk here, but you also get a sense of the tattoo.

And this is how it looked this morning, after removing the dressing and giving it a good hot shower and soap-down. I think it's pretty fucking excellent, and tattooist Xam at Frith Street Tattoos has done a great job.

Here's a close-up detail of the panther's face. You can also see the great claws here, too.

And check out the beautiful green of the snake's head.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

It’s tatt-Tuesday. Or tattoos-day.

At 2pm today I will start my new tattoo. Three hours of tattooing fun, paid for by Red as a birthday present.

So I'll soon be making my way to the train station and heading to the West End.

Catch you on the flipside, babies... with photos.


Monday, March 05, 2007

New DVDs to watch

Saturday, Red and I went out to buy a new hi-fi* because our old one had given up the ghost. First the tape deck went wonky; then the CD trays began playing up and being fussy what discs they would play; and finally the minidisc slots started swallowing minidiscs.

And while we were out shopping at the wonderful Bluewater mall in Kent, I took the opportunity to use some of the funds still on my Virgin gift cards.

What goodies did I purchase?, you might be wondering. (Equally, you may well not be wondering, but I shan't let that stop me from sharing regardless.) I bought the following discs:

Brick, the one-disc version; I didn't even realize there was a two-disc version. Bugger! Not to worry. I don't even know yet if I like it, cos I ain't bleedin' sin it yet. I have high hopes.

The Three Burials of Tommy Lee Jones (or whatever it's called). Again, I have yet to see this, but the trailers look well wicked, so fingers crossed.

Open Water. You know the one about the two people who get left behind in the ocean after a diving trip. Uh-oh, shark bait! I enjoyed this film and thought it worth having on the shelf.

At £20 (US$40) for the three, I thought they were a bargain. So I guess these flicks will be getting reviewed over the coming weeks. As ever, though, I am somewhat behind in my reviewing.

For your information, these are the films I have seen in recent weeks but have not yet reviewed:

The Libertine
The Rundown
(aka Welcome to the Jungle)
The 6th Day
Crimson Tide
Mulholland Dr.
25th Hour
The Family Stone

Anyone seen any of those? What did youse think?

* I use the term "hi-fi" very loosely, since for the sort of money we were paying and the size of system we bought, high fidelity is highly dubitable, but it seems okay so far. Its dinky size meant we could put it on the same side of the lounge as the TV and stuff, so for the first time in several years we've routed the TV and DVD players through it, too.

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Other posts from Casa AsteRed

I may well not get around to posting here today, but you can check out other stuff at these highly recommended blogs:

A film clip with poetry at Cat: A Blog of Disasters;

A movie review at Such As They Are;

An amusing tale of linguistics and music at Red-Letter Day.

Go, my friends, and enjoy them all!

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Have you got a smaller one?

So, it turns out that Red doesn't like my new David Lynch Signature Cup Organic Espresso coffee, which came all the way from California in a super-smashing-great stylish black tin that sounds like it vacuum seals when you close it.

This should come as no surprise to those of you who already know how much that wife of mine dislikes David Lynch and all that he does.

More often than not, though, we only need a small cup of espresso each, so we use our three-cup moka stove-top Italian espresso coffee-making thing. We also call it a cuccuma.

And should the occasion arise that I need a cup of espresso when she doesn't, then I opt for the dinky one-cup version that I have.

But if she won't drink Lynch stuff, then we both need a one-cup machine. So off we went to buy one.

We tried three or four stores, including places like John Lewis and House of Fraser. No joy. Then we walked past Whittards, the tea and coffee folk. Surely, if anywhere....

"Excuse me," I say, holding aloft the three-cup model from the shelf, "have you got this in a smaller size?"

"No," replies the clerk, "that's the smallest one."

"Well," I counter, "it's not the smallest one in the world, is it? I mean, you can get smaller ones. You just don't stock them, yes? You can get them for one cup, you see."

She seemed bemused.

We exited the store, empty handed and empty hearted.

Guess we'll have to wait till our next trip to Italy. Ooh, sudden brainwave. Maybe I can get one in Soho next Tuesday...

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Friday, March 02, 2007

An early spring clean

I guess it was about time I got around to deleting some of those old projects. Clearing out my hard drive...

It’s here... it’s finally here!

My David Lynch Signature Cup Organic Espresso... Ain't she a beauty? And there was a free Inland Empire coaster, too!

In the same parcel, lovingly delivered by UPS, I also got my gorgeous Eraserhead DVD. Beautiful packaging, Mr Lynch. And I'm sure the film will look lovely too.

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“About Your Dress” – The Maccabees

It's rare that I post music videos, but I love this one. I don't mind the song either, and at least it's short 'n' sweet. But the video rocks!


Thursday, March 01, 2007

I’ve been outed.

Somewhere on the Web, within easy finding distance, sharp-eyed readers will discover a place that reveals my given Christian name.

Of course, the perpetrator may find his/her way here, read this, and make an amendment... We shall see.

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