Avatar The last of the tang

I am a hoarder by nature.

I refuse to let go when others would be quite happy to throw those things away. I know this and in my own way I am doing my best to try and be a twenty-first century Womble of sorts.

There are times though when even I am powerless.

I wanted to finish it, I really did. I was going to get some custard and finish it off with dignity. In the end all it did was take up space in my freezer and now, many months later, if I tried to defrost and eat it then it would taste weird and probably give me some kind of stomach cramps.

Nonny no nay in my mouth-ay

I am sorry that I let you all down. I do like it tangy.

Avatar The worst three

Last weekend, me and the boy decided to live it up and catch the showing of classic cyberpunk anime ‘Akira’ at the local cinema. The cinema was so hot that I struggled to stay awake during the second half of the film; it didn’t help that the one we were in was on the top floor and, as all good little scientists know, hot air rises. I did stay awake but you would think that the combination of psychic children, exploding people and the end of the world would be enough to keep my brain and eyes functioning.

Before the film started, we discussed what would be the three best films we would like to see at the cinema. The conversation then inevitably came to what three worst films we would want. Having been witness to some of the abject atrocities of cinema from the last forty years, I believe I may have an insight into this that most people wouldn’t. I therefore present to you my choices for the three worst films I want to see on the big screen

Paycheck

John Woo was an excellent director from Hong Kong when he started his career. He ended it tucked away in Hollywood directing bollocks like this. ‘Paycheck’ is a personal favourite of mine because it wastes a story by Philip K. Dick, the acting talents of Ben Afleck and Paul Giamatti and features hilarious one-liners that aren’t meant to be funny including ‘I was eating pie!’. I used to own five copies of this however after moving around a few years ago I had to cut down to only two. If you can see this I strongly recommend it if only for Uma Thurman being horribly miscast as the love interest and displaying barely enough chemistry to boil a kettle.

The Jerk Too

As a child I was introduced to Steve Martin films through my siblings. I owned a copy of ‘The Jerk’ on VHS and watched it repeatedly. It’s not his best but it was his first and puts most modern comedy films to shame with the amount of ideas and general lunacy. What I wasn’t aware of was a made for TV sequel done some years later which only involved one of the cast from the original film (his mum). Steve Martin played the title character, Navin Johnson, as a sweet and misunderstood good-natured person. Mark Blankfield, however, plays him as someone with learning difficulties. It was quite unbearable to watch at times. If you need an example of this (it’s not on Youtube, I checked), try and find the poker game in the shack and the scene where someone mentions lemon merangue pie; you’ve never heard someone ejaculate a noise mixed in with an as worrying as Mr Blankfield does in your life. Throw in some bad guys who make The Little Rascals look like the cast of a Guy Ritchie film, a bizarre musical number in the middle for no apparent reason other than a homeless woman to serenade Navin and an opening credits scene that shows you the entire movie before you’ve seen it and you’ve got a perfect recipe for nonsense.

Bula Quo

You all knew this was coming. The cinema could be decorated in hula flowers and coconut drink cups and… hang on, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Primarily funded by the Fiji tourist board as a way of enticing tourists to visit Fifi, ‘Bula Quo’ is a film that’s not a film because it’s a terrible rock band who can’t act running around Fiji being chased by the least threatening gangster villain since I put a fake cigar in my mouth and did an impression of Al Capone. The music is awful, the humour is awful, the acting is questionable and the whole thing stinks, no, reeks of desperation. Fiji should know better. I wouldn’t be surprised if tourism went down after this “film” was released. The only legitimate way to enjoy it is to be absolutely hammered or… no that seems to be the only way to enjoy it.

There were a lot of runners up: The Quest was a strong contender, Reuben in particular chose “Die Hard on Ice” (see ‘Sudden Death’ starring Jean Claude Van Damme), the Doom film, a parade of Adam Sandler films and anything starring Kevin James. Given how Chris has only ever seen one film I expect it will be a difficult question to answer but what would YOUR three films be?

Avatar Fear the return

Fear. That burning at the pit of your stomach. That tingle on the back of your neck. The shivers that overwhelm your entire body and reduces you to a pitiful mess of a human being.

Everyone fears something and I am no exception. If you’ve ever seen the film ‘Biodome’ then you will know what I mean. Monstrosities like that should not exist in this world so if you ever see it anywhere, be in VHS, DVD or, heaven forbid, Blu-Ray, destroy it before it can infect another person.

Recently a friend of mine found a new fear in an unaccepted place. It looked cheery enough but underneath that happy façade was the high pitched voice and relentless energy of a toddler sucking Coca Cola through a red liquorice straw covered in sherbet.

The horror, the horror…

Don’t look at it. Don’t touch it. Don’t go near it. Don’t even think about the fact that it is somewhere in this world. Just be thankful it’s not where you are. Close your curtains and lock your doors. Turn out the lights and hide in the darkness.

You never know when he might be coming.

Avatar The Craxford Diaries

A good few years passed with nothing much to take note of. Whatever he was expecting to happen in both his forties and his fifties did not happen, not a lot did. On the eve of his sixtieth birthday, McIver poured the boiling water from the kettle onto his Pot Noodle and decided now, five minutes before the deadline, he would put the lottery on one last time.

As he struggled with the tiny buttons on his phone, he remembered a time when the dexterical simplicities of his youth came to him so naturally and fluidly. He could amble, he could frolic, he could dial a phone number without repeatedly pressing the wrong digits, not that phone numbers existed in 2043.

An odd calm came over him as he bought the ticket and took his seat next to the large window, his trusty foot stool by his side, his old man blanket covering the delicate parts of his frail frame. As the numbers popped up one by one a fire was lit beneath his amble behind, a warmth he hadn’t felt in decades. Six numbers in a row picked out like posies in a summer meadow. A cool one point five million was his and his alone because there were no other winners that night.

The first thing he did was hire a butler. Mackford showed up the next day at 8am sharp dressed in the finest attire that the North-East could throw up. Mackford was not his name but the butler would go by any name to assume the position that lottery bucks could afford.

He looked at his new master, the greying yet still handsome Mr McIver, a cheerful look on his face admonishing all the years that ageing had taken away from him. Why, he looked ten years younger already dressed in his usual checked shirt and jumbledown jeans. A cut-price squire, a Lidl lord, the dapper red snapper.

“Take me to Greggs, Mackford,” he announced, stepping into his Seat Ibiza, carefully making his way into the back over the passenger seat, “I’m in the mood for pasties.”

Away they sped through the mid-morning air. The traffic, low and humming, the streets empty because it was a Tuesday morning and everyone of purpose was already at work. He hadn’t felt this at ease in years.

Outside they stood, Mackford eager to take up the challenge of his master, McIver licking his lips in anticipation of the prizes that awaited him. The latter entered the hallowed premises, softly at first but picking up speed as he deftly nimbled past the sandwiches. It wasn’t too long before there was a tap on his shoulder and Mackford was back at his side. “Is there a problem?” asked McIver. Mackford looked forlornly at his feet and nodded. Only the worst could have happened, they must be out already. Some fat pie hogger has hogged all the pies!

“I won’t stand for this! Out of my way, Mackford, I must see the manager!”

“It’s not what you think, sir,” replied Mackford, “there’s plenty on the trays. I… I don’t know how to say this but due to inflation the cost of a cheese and onion pasty has shot up to one hundred pounds a pasty.”

“A pasty? That’s outrageous. I’ve never heard of such an absurd concept, Mackford. What kind of a world do we live in when a ludicrous lukewarm smear of dairy and vegetable costs that much? Damn and blast, I can’t leave here empty-handed. I’ll have to settle for a sausage roll instead.”

“It only gets worse, sir, the sausage rolls are fifty pounds each.”

McIver took a seat on the nearest bench before he toppled over in disgust. A cold sweat appeared on his brow, a fearful chill down his back. He was finally living his dream, the dream of all dreams, the life of luxury only it was too late. The economy had caught up, inflation had made devils of them all and there was no way around it. With his head in his hands, McIver wept the sweet weeping of a lifetime and all the yum yums in the world couldn’t raise a smile on those lips.

Avatar The smart man cometh

Welcome to a story that starts off well, gets a bit bad and then goes all grand mal on your ass before you realise what’s happening.

I’m a nerd. I’m sorry to hit you with that reality but I’m not the cool guy you thought I was. I know that I dazzle you all with my endless tales of motorcycles, bar fights, chicks and umm cool stuff however in reality it is the complete opposite. My nerdity stretches to almost all levels of nerdom (although I’ve yet to play a proper game of D & D and I’m not ready to quite drop my trousers and start collecting Magic: The Gathering cards) although recently, and for the last few years, it has settled in v. game town.

I collect for a huge range of systems. The Sony PSP, the slightly older, less attractive handheld cousin of the PS Vita, has a large library and currently most of the games are dirt cheap. We’re talking cup of coffee and a toffee crisp prices here, people. We’re talking a day ticket on the bus with all the trimmings (you know, some have TVs that don’t work and some have a USB port so you can charge your phone because it’s an electric bus and it’s the FUTURE). There will always be rarer titles as there is for every console and it is here we find me with an idea.

The PSP isn’t region locked meaning you can buy a game from the other side of the world and it will run on your machine. There’s a game I’ve had my eye on that only ever keeps going up in price in the UK so, in a flash of brilliance, I check a used video game website in the US that I’ve used previously. Lo and behold there it is, in stock and about twenty quid cheaper overall. I know there’ll be postage and import tax to pay yet it’s too enticing to ignore. Surely this is a good idea and nothing can go wrong. This is the loophole that will see me through to the good side of the fence. I go to the basket only to be told that the website doesn’t post to the UK anymore.

Sniff sniff, can you smell that? If you can, it’s probably Brexit.

Foiled and a little crestfallen I mull over this for a day or two. Then it hits me, a second brainwave. Twice in one lifetime? When you’re hot, you’re hot! There’s a website where you can order anything from the US and have it sent to a shipping depot in the US, they’ll then reroute it to your address in the UK and sort out the tax and everything else at the same time. This is too good to be true, right? Right?

My fingers are already going, it’s ordered and paid for. I get the notification that my parcel is on its way to the depot. I am the Thriftmaster. Thrifting is my middle name. Bow before me, peasants, for I am both the king of the Co-op and king of the thrift.

I go to create the shipping request. Duties and tax are reasonable, of course there’s VAT and… the shipping method. The cheapest option available is a little over thirty dollars. Taking into account the aforementioned other charges, this will now put the total cost of getting the fucker to my address in the UK ten dollars more than I actually paid for the game.

I wanted to believe that this was a good idea. This will be the last time I try to be clever. For now, I will be sitting in the corner wearing the dunce hat and counting up to ten only missing the seven out every single time I try. I await your lambasting.

Avatar Get out of my mind

Pop music, it’s dumb right?

Not all of it. A lot of it very intelligently made and well put together. There are those out there though that abuse it’s magic and only concoct the worst of the worst to make a cheap buck. Pop music is the house of the lazy songwriter. It has committed more crimes then I’d care to mention (I’m looking at you, ‘Boys of Summer’ by DJ Sammy).

I have recently been re-listening to ‘This Year’s Model’ by Elvis Costello and the Attractions, a lovely bouncy set of new wave poppy rocky songs from 1978. It features two stellar singles; (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea’, a sentiment I think we all share, and the ludicrously good ‘Pump it Up’. Costello is reported to have written the song on a fire escape during a stop in Newcastle of all places. What if he wrote it on my fire escape? Wait, I don’t have a fire escape.

The song ‘Pump it Up’ was later sampled by a sack of arse called Rogue Traders. In classic lazy pop fashion they took some bint they could find (in this case the Australian actress Natalie Bassingthwaite – she used to be in Neighbours because of course she did, she’s from Australia), got her to knock out some half-based vocals and called it ‘Voodoo Child’.

Rogue Traders – Voodoo Child (Video) – YouTube

It features lyrics so banal if you closed your eyes and pointed to random words in a dictionary you would come up with a better one. Would you like an example? Take a sweet glance at the chorus:

“Baby baby baby
You are my voodoo child, my voodoo child
Don’t say maybe maybe
It’s supernatural, I’m coming undone.”

Awful, yes. Catchy, yes. I do believe it has more to do with Elvis Costello and the Attractions more than anything else. If you took away the pounding organs and guitars you’d be left with an empty pickle of a song, a limp biscuit if you will. I only mention this because my brain, in its infinite wisdom, continues to remind me of things like this rather than remembering useful things. When the aliens come and take us all away I will be filed on a shelf of knowledge called ‘Why bother?’ and only called up when they need a particularly spicy pub quiz question.

Whenever I hear ‘Pump it Up’ there is the quiet unsightly ghost of Rogue Traders hiding in the background.

Absolute bastards.

Avatar Clennel

Every day I drive to work.

Shocking I know, right? When I’m driving I use my eyes to see things like a lot of other drivers. I tend to use my regular eyes instead of all the other pairs that I have lying around. They only have a finite lifespan after all and who am I to liberally chunter off an expensive set of peepers for my own benefit?

There is always one thing that sticks out when I drive to work and that is this:

Everything else looks and behaves fine. If there’s a zebra crossing it behaves like a zebra crossing. The roundabouts are standard, the kind that you would see anywhere else. See that junction over there? It’s functions as a junction. It’s a functional junctional. The clennel though, I’m not buying it.

Firstly it’s not a word. I’ve tried looking it up and there’s nothing there. It’s definitely not a name or a surname. It’s as though someone misspelt the word ‘kennel’ and nobody bothered to correct it. I’m pretty sure it’s not a breed of dog or a type of salmon or the spoon on the table when you go out for a fancy meal that you never use. It’s not an illness; you can’t be off work with a spot of clennel. It’s not a film by Federico Fellini. It’s not a perfume or aftershave by Jean Paul Gautier.

What were they thinking? Does anyone else know about this and can they see it? It’s a clear indication that something isn’t right and I am convinced that there’s something or someone hiding down Clennel Avenue, a hidden thing that might be sinister and otherworldly like a sock that can tell the time or a bee that hums French fancies. I want to know the secrets hiding in plain sight and yet I know that some things man was not supposed to know. It eats away at me, day after day, the chewing on my elbows is unbearable. Don’t listen to your gut. Don’t go down the Clennel. Leave it alone and you’ll be fine. Wipe the sweat from your brow and go back to thinking about whistle pops and candy whistles.

There it stands as a monument to things that do exist but probably shouldn’t. I hope to God that I never find out the truth.

Avatar Bad Ears

My hearing has been compromised for as long as I can remember.

We all know how questionable it is at times because if anyone is going to mishear something it’s going to be me. Matters took a turn for the worse a few weeks ago when the hearing in my right ear went a little bit six-wide.

As I was driving down to Leeds for Christmas I experienced what can only be described as “bad ear” when I could feel something wrong and part of my hearing just disappeared. I could still hear everything although it felt as though some kind of substance was blocking my ear canal. It was a big muffled as though I was doing that thing crappy singers do when they close their eyes and hold their ear to hear their pitch and reach the high notes only Mariah Carey and dogs can reach.

Over Christmas I gently started scooping out the contents and as disgusting as this is to write it’s another thing entirely when experiencing it first hand. Normally I’m quite adept as keeping on top of personal hygiene; during the month of December this must have taken a flight abroad and forgot to leave a note. Waves of wax came out in all shapes and colours. I cleaned my ear with a delicate hand and with no proper medical help until January when doctors returned from their Christmas-shaped holes (I was resolute that I was not going to A & E or calling III because of earwax) I put up with my folly.

There was a ringing too, a constant ringing that wouldn’t go away. Looking back now I think it may have been before all of this, meaning it may be two problems or one problem in two halves.

I did a grown up thing and called the doctors. “I’m sorry sir, we don’t syringe ears on the NHS anymore,” said the receptionist, “it’s not considered to be safe. You’ll have to try elsewhere.” Hmmmm, said a sarcastic voice in my head, you won’t help me but encourage me to look into it myself? Go private? Okay, sure, I’ve got this, leave it to me.

I went to Boots for a free hearing test where they told me both my ears needed to be sorted out. I made an appointment for less than a week later to use a futuristic sucking device to clear out the mess and afterwards it was like that fresh minty feeling you get after you have your teeth cleaned at the doctors… only in my ears.

“Do you want the bad news first?” said the Boots employee, shortly after vacuuming my inner sanctum. Apparently my ears are now free of wax because she can see my eardrums when looking in my ear. The bad news is that some of the wax went so balls deep into my ear that some of it is lying on my eardrum and it’s too dangerous to try and suck it out. The solution? Olive oil ear drops. I’ve been squirting this stuff now for about a week in the hope that it’ll shake loose the wax, stop the ringing and give me my hearing back. If this doesn’t work, I may have tinnitus.

All in all January could have been a lot worse but then again it could have been a lot better.