So you want to know me now?
How I've been?
You can't help someone recover after all you did.
So, tell me: am I looking better?
Have you forgot whatever it was that you couldn't stand about me?

Yes, I do feel better.
Yes, I feel alright.
I feel well enough to tell you what you can do with what you've got to offer.
I feel ready now to tell you what you can do with what you've got.

- Yes from The Sound Of McAlmont & Butler (1995).

(Dedicated to Glasgow, Vancouver and Cirencester for reminding me how painless a friendship with a member of the opposite sex can be, even when there's "history". May the rest of the world catch up soon.)

Top Seven Things That Attract Me To Blogging

It's seven this time because it's kitkat's idea. She tagged me. I stole one of her answers too. Why not cut out the middle man and read her blog yourself in future?

7. I'm part of the zeitgeist now.
6. I'm never bored at home because I can always post an article.
5. It's cheaper than therapy!
4. I'm bad at staying in touch with more than half a dozen people at a time and it assuages my guilt that friends have a place to check up on me, if they want to.
3. The chance to flex my writing muscles.
2. It's socially-accepted voyeurism.

1. The exchange of ideas and opinions on topics that matter to me.


They Call It Madness

"It's the height of madness to do the same thing you did yesterday and the same thing you did the day before that and expect different results."

- An otherwise boring speaker at an industry dinner I attended last night.


The Kids Are Alright

Delinquent crime is out of control here compared to when I emigrated two years ago. (Honestly, I can't leave you people alone for five minutes!) The news is full of acts perpetrated by minors that are so vile and disgusting I can't even bring myself to report them to you here. Keep one eye on the B.B.C. News homepage if you want to go half-blind.

Ten years on, friends from university are still in regular contact via e-mail. Ranting and venting are commonplace! You can play devil's advocate on hot-button issues and rarely cause offence... it's that "friendship in the bank" thing again. The Rt. Hon. Count von Schmell wrote something this week that struck a chord in this bleeding heart liberal more concerned with tackling the root of the phenomenon than inventing new hardline punishments. Here it is, reproduced with the author's kind permission:

We have to ask why our kids are in such a mess.

It's a sad fact that we have virtually abandoned an entire generation. We are all complicit in this - it's not the kids' fault. For government ministers, etc. to peddle the line, "just because you dont have a playing field doesn't mean you can throw stones at the police" is missing the point. These are children, not adults! They are not like us; they are like coiled wires of energy. We've taken away their recreation areas, destroyed the sports curriculum and we pander to their want for video games. By treating our children like normal consumers and fleecing them of their cash we're storing up problems that we will pay for in the future.

Our children should be part of our society in a positive way. How do we expect them to show respect when they see their elders lying, going to war, etc. and acting like imbeciles in Parliament? I had a lot of contact with The Yoof during the Iraq war build-up and, as a single event, I think it did more to harm our relationship with the younger generation than the last twenty years of school F-ups. They watched how we supposed "matures" conducted the whole war debate at a level lower than their playground. Believe me: they took note.

Why should they show respect to a police force that went in so heavily against the peace protests? A couple of friends of mine who were 16 at the time were quite badly manhandled while protesting at the ExCeL Centre in London's Docklands, at the International Arms Fair. At a peaceful sit-down protest they were hit across the backs and shoulders with truncheons.

No wonder children have no respect when that's how adults behave.
I'm at ExCeL for most of next week but it's an International Toy Fair so the only truncheons around should be made of foam rubber, require two AA batteries and give off a sound effect when you hit someone with them.


O Brothel, Where Art Thou?

I must be the 88,000,000th person online to talk about porn titles that riff on famous mainstream movie titles. Do I win a prize? The following are all (allegedly) real:

Beverly Hills 9021-Ho
Big Trouble In Little Vagina
Das Booty
Diddle Her On The Roof
Driving Miss Daisy (Into The Headboard)
Grand Theft Anal
I Know Who You Did Last Summer
Intercourse With The Vampire
Moulin Spooge
My Big Fat Greek Cock
Position Impossible
Saving Ryan's Privates
Tea Bagger Vance


When Bad Career Moves Attack

This started out as a Where Are They Now? until I realized I know where they all are... I just don't believe it.

First, some Buffy The Vampire Slayer alumni. David Boreanaz made his name playing a vampire and his new show is called Bones. I don't care that it's a police procedural show - it's still derivative. No doubt he's a cop with a soul. James Marsters has gone from playing a bad boy vampire with a Billy Idol fixation to a roadie messing with the occult so he can become a bona fide rock star himself, in the made-for-television movie Strange Frequencies 2. This is called being typecast and not having the industry clout to do anything about it.

Another actor with no range is Eliza Dushku. Her latest vehicle is Tru Calling - a cross between The Dead Zone and Buffy with the production values of the former and none of the writing talent of the latter. Her character is actually called Tru - I shit you not. She probably wishes she'd done a Sarah Michelle Gellar and disappeared up Freddie Prinze Jr. instead.

Next, I have to inform you that comics have been naughty. Spider-Man joined The Avengers and it was cool to see Aunt May and Captain America reminisce about the good ol' days until Iron Man gave Petey new battle armour. I've been looking for a reason to quit buying The Amazing Spider-Man for a while and, if this ain't a one-issue gimmick, I think I might have found it. It's not even blue, True Believers!

Kelsey Grammer as Beast in X-Men 3 most definitely is blue, but it sucks they outed the guy who played Hank McCoy in the first sequel for someone with more star power. Did he mutate into Frasier Crane first, before he mutated into Beast? Don't even talk to me about the casting for Psylocke - a dead ringer for Angelina Jolie in the comics before Angelina Jolie was even invented. Do they ask my opinion? Do they nuts.

Finally, we turn to real life. (It had to happen sooner or later.) Larry Wachowski of The Matrix fame has a new strategy to make you forget all about the dire sequels. And George Galloway M.P, the man who made the headlines by questioning the U.S. Senate Committee about their dealings in Iraq when they were supposed to be questioning him about his, is currently starring alongside Traci Bingham in Celebrity Big Brother 2.

The whole world has gone to hell in a handbasket, and you're invited!

Minding The Gap

Tonight my Inbox went from 49 unread messages down to 37, and a third of those are toy industry bulletins that don't require a response. I'm getting there! To the sadly neglected individuals who don't deserve such treatment from me: please accept my sincere apologies and trust that I will get back to you, some time between tomorrow and when your Alzheimer's kicks in.


I just had the pleasure of watching the extended and recut version of Frank Miller's Sin City, which isn't out in Britain yet. The new scenes don't add much but Bruce Willis' story makes better sense without the rest of the film in its middle.

Disc Two has some innovative features: an audio track of a preview screening, for the atmosphere of a full auditorium in your living room; the option to watch the entire movie in "green screen", i.e. the raw colour footage before any post-production effects were added; and Robert Rodriguez teaches you how to make breakfast tacos in under ten minutes.

Even if you found the ultra-violence repulsive and the characters irredeemable, you have to admit that this movie looks like no other. It's pure comic book. Filmrot has page after page of visual comparisons if, like me, you never read the source material.


Feeling Good About Norfolk

Yeah, you read that right. I don't know if it's the spirit of the New Year or what but I caught myself not feeling glum about America the other day. Regular readers probably think I hate the place and I don't, so it's time for some proportional representation!

Norfolk was just about the oddest experience of my life, and hopefully things will stay that way. Personal problems that usually have the good grace to come at separate times, to give you time to breathe, dovetailed a little too seamlessly into a period of about twelve months and I was completely overwhelmed. From the eye of the storm, I didn't like it much at all. But branches grow strong in windy conditions and diamonds are made under pressure. From this safe distance, I'm beginning to realize that I got a lot out of it.

There were plenty of laughs - if you count me laughing at my own jokes. I made friends that I'll never forget and wish I had the time to keep in contact with more regularly; I slept with some really nice people (plus one or two that were not-so-nice) and ticked a couple of boxes on my list of things to do before I'm 40; I started blogging; I saw Las Vegas, D.C., New York, Baltimore, Atlanta and Toronto (I missed New Orleans and ran out of cash before Boston and Seattle); and I got a kick out of simply living in unusual surroundings - regardless how redneck or under-developed they were.

Spiritually, intellectually and emotionally, I grew up. Professionally and medically, I overcame some adversity. Financially, I still have some work to do! I'm reminded of the hobo in The Two Ronnies who wears shoes two sizes too small for his feet because the only pleasure he has in life is the sensation of taking them off. I appreciate the little things at home now in a way I never would've if I'd not been deprived of them for 16 months. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, truly.

Next time I bash Smalltown, U.S.A. - and there will surely be a next time - bear this shit in mind.


Detox Month

Some years ago, The Paranoid Mod started the tradition of taking a month off from beer, cigarettes and whatever else was in fashion at the time, to refresh his system. He chose February because it's the shortest.

I think it might be time to revive that tradition... I spent all last weekend (well, the times I didn't have a drink in my hand) nursing self-inflicted wounds to my liver. Thank goodness for Mondays working from home!

I won't pretend I can do 28 days straight. If I didn't drink on dates I'd be grossly misrepresenting myself to my potential future wife, and we can't have that. But I'm going to give my body time to breathe. If I offer to be the "designated driver" twice in a row, don't worry.

What does a liver do, anyway?


Top Five Traumatizing Celluloid Moments

1. Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984)
When Rick Moranis is being mauled by a hell hound outside a posh restaurant and the rich diners ignore his screams for help because they take him for a drunk or a tramp. Aged 10, I was saddened and disgusted that no-one would help him.
2. Damien: Omen II (Don Taylor, 1978)
The scene where Damien makes the ice crack under the skating children, and one goes under. Through the frozen surface of the water we see him carried away by the lake's undercurrents and there's nothing anyone can do to save him. It goes on forever and it's completely harrowing!

3. Damien: Omen II (Don Taylor, 1978)
The usual falling elevator scenario except this time a section of weighted steel rope cuts through the compartment and chops a guy in two, right across the belly. I don't like elevators!
4. Company Of Wolves (Neil Jordan, 1985)
I don't like fierce dogs and I don't like thinking about old people having sex so when the old Marquess exposes her wrinkly, floppy breast at the dinner table and it grows grey hair, I have to leave the room.
5. An American Werewolf In London (John Landis, 1981)
I saw a clip aged 7 and made a mental note to never see more.

From this we can deduce that I don't watch many horror films. I always avoid old ones with crappy production values because the cheapness adds a layer of grossness that the director probably never intended and it makes me want to retch all the more. Give me terror and suspense over gallons of claret any day.

The Hole Beck Farm Experience

Imagine, if you will: ten thirty-somethings in two secluded cottages in the Lake District with enough food, alcohol and party favours to get them through three New Years. Scared that we'd run out of something and not be able to find civilisation, we made a huge shopping list via e-mail before we went and I came back with more booze than I went with!

My mother had a health scare so I delayed my trip up to be with her. (She's had test results now and she's fine, thank goodness.) When I finally arrived at the farm Tom was cooking already, Nic was setting the table and everyone else was changing for our Casablanca-themed murder mystery dinner. I was American bar owner Kirk Ransom III, a third-rate knock-off of Humphrey Bogart's Rick. I was told my accent was quite convincing but the people who said that were people I hadn't met before and they didn't know what I normally sound like until the following day.

One of our number was a profesional make-up artist which was useful when we realised we hadn't cast an important female role and Adam volunteered to fill in. The ladies of the group looked more stunning than ever thanks to Nathalie's skills, whereas the boys plastered on Brylcreem and we all look like crap in the colour photos. I want to make a witty remark here about Jo's melons but I've got another hangover and I'm having trouble even forming sentences that make sense so I'm just gonna leave it as a classless double entendre. Needless to say, there was much debauchery and when I staggered home (all ten feet) it was already getting light.

2006-01-01 was a write-off. I got up at 1800 and watched I Heart Huckabees. Then we watched Catch Me If You Can. Then we watched The Sky At Night. Nobody moved very far very fast all day. The following day I managed a short walk and got chased by a bull.

I drove back Tuesday night, slept again Wednesday, had a day out in Oxford on Thursday, went back to work Friday then got drunk with my Dad, went pubbing with school-chums last night and tomorrow I drive to York. Somewhere I squeezed in seeing my sister and her family too. It's been an exhausting "break" but so much fun, I think I'm cured. Szczesliwego Nowego Roku, as they say in Gdansk!

"Et Tu, Brute?"

Poor Charles Kennedy must feel a bit like Julius Ceasar this week - except for the getting murdered part. Under his leadership the Liberal Democrat Party became a viable option for government and secured a record number of seats in Parliament, so I'm not alone in thinking he deserved a better ending than this.

What the linked story doesn't say is that Mr. Kennedy survived a vote of no confidence less than a year ago. If that process and that victory is supposed to mean anything at all, I'd expect him to have won the support of his party for another twelve months. Minimum.

My brother and his friends talk about "friendship in the bank". It means that once a loyalty has been proven, you should stop wasting time thinking about it because that's counter-productive. Your friend has your back and you've got theirs so take that support and go and achieve something spectacular with your life. Perhaps you want to relocate 3000 miles to be nearer the woman you love - or maybe you dream of one day running the country (he added hastily, trying to keep this more about politics and the workplace than any issues he may or may not have with an ex-girlfriend).

My point is that if it had given Charles Kennedy its support instead of bitching behind his back for weeks on end to a third party that can't actually do anything to improve the situation (the press) then the Liberal Democrat Party might not be in the mess it is today. Take a break, Charles. You've earned it and anyone that disagrees can answer to me.


But I Digress...

I started writing a new article last night (because I promised Candace I would) but when I left the room for a smoke I got distracted by an episode of The Avengers downstairs. Was it good to see Emma Peel in colour? No, it was fabulous to see Emma Peel in colour!

My dad was finishing a glass of white and making noises like he was about to go to bed when I opened the box of red I recently inherited. (It baffles me how they get four bottles into a box that small but I dare say it's got something to do with corners.) Unsurprisingly, bedtime was postponed for the time being. He told me that one of his friends thinks his cat is a mechanic because every time he kicks it, it makes a bolt for the door. I parried with George W. Bush's reaction to hearing three Brazilian soldiers had been killed ("How many is a Brazillion?") and he finished with a ditty about getting pulled over for speeding:

Policeman: "Do you realise that you just drove 60 m.p.h. in a built-up area?"
Punchline: "That's impossible, officer. I only left home ten minutes ago!"

Clearly, it was downhill from there so we drank more wine and channel-hopped instead: the end of Out Of Sight wasn't as good as I remembered; Ronnie O'Sullivan's shirt puckered on The Frank Skinner Show, treating the viewer to his super-hairy belly; and Teddy Sherringham qualified for the semi-finals of the 2005 888.com U.K. Poker Championships. I had the remote and tried to make it look like I didn't know where all the free late night soft porn lives. He talked about going back to Cuba and offered me all sorts of help for when I move out.

We went to bed about 0400, slurring what fun we'd had en route. Good times! For which I hope you'll forgive my stunning non-return to the blogosphere last night. Somehow Dad was up before 0900 today yet I'm blogging from bed.

Emma Peel, one last time. I feel funny when I look at her.