Well fancy seeing you here...

Hello and welcome to the rambling rollercoaster of useless ponderings, strung together in what the internet calls a "blog," and the voices call a waste of everyone elses time.

Please check your sanity at the door (along with your dignity, logic, principles, good taste and prejudices against daftness.)

"I am here to seduce you into a love of life; to help you to become a little more poetic; to help you die to the mundane and to the ordinary so that the extraordinary explodes in your life." -Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Saturday, 29 November 2008

A Cruel and Unusual Punishment

This week it was on the news that some teenagers in America have been punished for their noise violations by being sentenced to listen to Barry Manilow songs. I think this is a bit harsh, but it reminded me that I have had several conversations about noses lately. (Four and a half, actually. How one can have a conversation about half a nose, or half a conversation about a whole one is rather complex and long winded, and it’s probably best you don’t ask.) However, I have disliked my nose for years – most especially since it went a bit weird after being broken. I am not certain that ‘bulbousness’ is a word, but regardless of semantics, it is for its unfortunate bulbousness that I am less than enamoured with my nose.

I'm not the only one of my acquaintances that feels this way (about their nose – if they all felt that way about my nose I'd not admit it here, I’d just sneak off to have it shrunk a bit. Fortunately the generalised olfactory paranoia relates to individual body-image issues, and isn't all focused in my direction.) It seems that disliking one's nose is common to my circle of friends, and this had me wondering why. Do people with issues surrounding their distinctly Roman profile instantly share some subconscious bond, triggered by subtly insecure body language signals? Or is it that people with freakish nasal landscapes naturally congregate together, like all the fat kids at school who sit at one table, whilst all the gingers sit in another (shadier) corner?

Of course, it could just be that I have noticed that body-image issues are commonplace in society in general, and that my micro-study serves to do nothing more than back up the statistics that rhinoplasty is the most often performed elective/cosmetic surgery. (I prefer still to think it's because people who hate their noses send out secret nose-twitching signs; recognised only by other members of the elite, in a clandestine crossover between the Masons and 'Bewitched'.)

The other songs played to the troublesome-teenagers in America are performed by childhood favourite Barney the Dinosaur. I used to think he was alright in a "will never be as good as Sesame Street" sort of a way; but then my sister went overboard in her fanatic appreciation of him, and there are only so many times one can hear those songs without wanting to rip the stuffing out of that big purple dinosaur and let an untidy gerbil nest in it. It is because of the trauma associated with my memories of Barney that I sympathise with the kids who are being forced to listen to him. My other gripe with Barney is that it’s because of him that I came to watch what must surely be classed as The Most Disturbing Film In The World, Ever.

That film is called Death To Smoochy. I actually shuddered when I typed that. Properly shuddered! That would have been brilliantly timed for dramatic effect if this was a video and not a written blog. I'm glad it's not being filmed though, as I washed my hair half an hour ago and it's still a bit damp, so I look like a drowned rat. …Come to think of it, that's probably why I am shivering. It's not repressed terror, I'm just a bit cold.

I was subjected to this film a few years ago when having a DVD marathon with my friend Tom, and after mentioning my phobia of Barney the Dinosaur he thought I'd like to watch a movie about the twisted backstage goings-on behind the scenes of a show like Barney. Now, there is technically nothing wrong with the film. It has Ed Norton and Robin Williams in it, and is directed by Danny DeVito. But it remains - for me - The Most Disturbing Film In The World, Ever. It's just too weird. I have tried to block a lot of it out, most especially the fuchsia-coloured rhinoceros "Smoochy," played by the aforementioned Eddie N.

I quite enjoyed the film in some respects, but only in the way people on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here say they "enjoy" the bush tucker trials where they have to crawl through slime, and then roll in ants and let spiders crawl into their anus whilst they are doused in brandy and set on fire like some icky invertebrate-ridden Christmas pudding, (which not a single one of you will now eat this year. Good. Less chance of me setting anything else on fire when carrying a burning cake then.)

I just found the film very uncomfortable to watch (though I admit that having spiders scrabble into my arse would be worse.) Robin Williams' character "Rainbow Randolph" was a spiteful, bitter, bastard – which is not what I have come to expect from the man who brought the Genie to life with such aplomb in Aladdin – and Ed Norton's was naïve, embarrassing, and well, just a bit mental to be honest. The whole film was a bit mental! I think people who liked the surreal madness of Fight Club might like Death To Smoochy, as it did similar things to my already fragile sanity. I blame movies like that for a lot of the bonkers-randomness that goes on in my head actually.

Here’s a short, funny scene from the film (this doesn't showcase its nightmarish, insanity-provoking potential but I couldn't bring myself to watch other clips of the movie when sat here on my own with no chance of them not just running round and round my head like an evil version of the Moomins, (who I found a bit weird in their non-satanic format; so can only imagine the psychological scarring that could be caused by a malicious remake.)

Death To Smoochy: Get You Off've That Smack:

imdb blurbs for Death To Smoochy:

"Fired in disgrace, kids show host Randolph Smiley finds himself out on the street, while his replacement Sheldon Mopes, finds himself on the fast track to success with a new hit show as the proud purple rhino Smoochy. But things take a turn for the worst when Sheldon finds out that some of the people that he works with, and some he doesn't know he's working for, are all in it for the money. Meanwhile, Randolph is slowly turning insane with his only thoughts focusing on killing Smoochy and getting back to his life of luxury."

Link To Trailer

"In the cutthroat world of children's television, Rainbow Randolph, the corrupt, costumed star of a popular children's TV show, is fired over a bribery scandal and replaced by squeaky-clean Smoochy, a puffy fascia rhinoceros. As Smoochy catapults to fame - scoring hit ratings and the affections of a jaded network executive Randolph makes the unsuspecting rhino the target of his numerous outrageous attempts to exact revenge and reclaim his status as America's sweetheart."

After other – unrelated – events this week, I also blame my confuzzledness on my father. I'm not crazy; I have just inherited some of his talent for saying the most inappropriate and incredibly stupid thing possible, in any given situation. This week for example, he went to order Nan's new washing machine with his partner Sam (for the sake of clarity I could have said 'girlfriend' there, but I like the fact that some of you will have assumed the words "Dad," "partner," and "Sam," mean some kind of Biblical slash-fiction scenario.) Anyway, they went into the shop (which for the sake of argument we will say was Curry's, though I have no idea which electronics store they actually purchased the appliance from,) and after selecting a couple they liked, decided to take advantage of a sales promotion on an Indesit model. This would have been fine, had the sales clerk not queried the offer, protesting its very existence and denying all knowledge of the promotion. It was at this point that my Dad totally eclipsed all of my own recent ramblings, to commit a faux-par that left him cringing with the same depth of visceral dread that might accompany a viewing of Death To Smoochy, or an hour's exposure to Barry Mannilow.

Now, Dad – who really needs to get his eyes tested, but is too recalcitrant to do so (another trait I intend to henceforth blame on my DNA) – was pretty frazzled after a day working at a very busy time of year, countered the sales clerk's claims that the offer was not valid until the following day by pointing out a large sign on the other side of the shop and exclaiming "It says it is over there. Even I can see that!" to which the clerk replied; "I can't... I'm partially sighted."

It was then – somewhat too late – that Dad and Sam noticed the man's name badge also bore the words 'Please be patient, I am visually impaired.'

That spectacularly surpasses the only stupid thing I said today, and my stupid thing is only considered to be so by other people. I think it makes perfect sense. Well... It makes slightly imperfect sense, but that's sensible enough that I don't feel the need to change. The 'thing' currently the point of reference is that I have left the clock on my DVD player running an hour fast. This sounds a little odd, but I only made it worse when trying to explain to someone why I do so.

The thing is, if I have somewhere to be at a specific time, I need constantly jogging along to keep the motivation I need to not be lazy, and actually make the effort to ensure my life is moving at the correct pace, and in the right direction, to get me where I need to be. I often don't really experience the surge of determination needed until it appears that I am running out of time. Having the clock an hour fast means that I get that little panicked prompt 'not to be late,' early enough that I stand a chance of being on time. This is apparently a little unconventional, but it prevents me from succumbing to lethargy and constant tardiness.

As I typed that I noticed that my DVD Player thinks it is 5:30am. 5:30AM!!! I now want to get offline and go to sleep, despite having checked the alarm-clock and the one on my computer to reassure myself that I have an hour before it reaches that time. It's good motivation to unwind. Honest…

Don't look at me like that. It works. And if you really think it's weird, then from now on don’t blame medication or occasional bouts of misanthropic seclusion for my behaviour: know it is the fault of my paternal genetics and the influence of The Most Disturbing Film In The World, Ever.

Don’t have nightmares…

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Mutant Moggies and The (Very) Early Spring Clean.

Today I have been on an epic mission to de-clutter my living environ by reorganising my quarters to better embrace the principles of feng shui, and delight Laurence Llewellyn Bowen. It has been a long, arduous journey that began at the birth of day, and continued 'til it was, well, about primary-school age. (Okay, so I cleaned out the cupboard under the sink and it took up several morning-hours and one or two afternoon ones.) I also shuffled round stuff that my grandparents – who have lived in this house for 50 years – had stuffed in the back of drawers and forgotten in the deepest, darkest recesses of the pantry.

My grandmother is notorious for not throwing away food that she thinks may still be edible. She also has what she calls a "healthy suspicion of expiry dates." She sees them more as guidelines. In fact she sees the guidelines, and then chooses to pretend they are merely scurrilous rumours about when the food might go off, and by accepting them she would be pandering to gossip. My late grandfather and I used to pick out tins from the back of a stack and challenge each other to guess how many years out of date they were, before throwing them away while she was out. She claims it's because she was born in 1939, during WW2 and because rationing continued into the 50's she was hardwired to never waste ye olde vittles.

Today when clearing out the cupboards, I discovered she had bottles of children's cough syrup that expired in 1992, and some medicated ear drops with my name on which had a warning printed on the prescription label that read; "Discard one month after opening." She'd only kept them a little while longer than recommended. If you can call fourteen bloody years a "little while!" There was also a large can of Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup that was bowed and bulging as all sorts of nasty chemical-y things happened inside of it. It looked about ready to explode, so of course I delicately wrapped it in newspaper and placed it in the wheelie bin gently, didn't I? Well... No. I peered at it warily before removing it from the cupboard rather gingerly – grasping it as one might a grizzly, flailing toddler covered in drool – and then dropped it unceremoniously into a bin liner, right onto a dusty jam-jar with a desiccated daddy-long-legs in it, where it burst open and filled the sack with fermenting tomato crème.

I also discovered this brand new saucepan which was still in its box and was sporting what I thought was "cool retro packaging." It's not: it just really has been sat on the shelf in its box since the 60's when Nan was still working for a local hardware shop called "Light's." I questioned the logic of remembering purchasing a saucepan but never remembering that it was in the cupboard when she needed to use one, and was told to "go and make a cup of tea."

60's Saucepan:

After removing all the tins that were past their sell by date (including a jar of frankfurters that contained enough bacteria to have successfully invaded Poland,) and re-discarding half the tins Nan rescued as "perfectly edible," I had cleared about half the kitchen. I have so far discovered several packets of tea-light candles, nine large boxes of "these will come in handy if there's a power-cut" candles, three soap dishes, seven large bottles of fairy washing up liquid, four and a half china teapots and three stainless steel ones; including one designed to make twenty cups of tea which was last used at a street party for the Queen Elizabeth's jubilee. It had so much dust on it that I'd not like to guess which jubilee – or even which Queen Elizabeth. I suggested giving it to the charity shop, but Nan wanted to keep it "in case we have a family party." I added up all the people in our immediate family, and even including their kids and spouses there's no way we'd need to make 20 cups of tea. Besides which, full up it'd be bloody heavy. Whoever was making the tea in that would e inevitably scald themselves and need rushing to the burns unit. (Which in itself would mean there were two less people who'd be having a brew; further proving my point that we don't need that huge teapot.)

I chucked out about 40 cans of food that were past their expiration dates, and a dead mouse (though I don't know when that expired. I have been watching the first and second series of Bones this week and did poke it with a party cocktail stick to see if I had learned anything about forensic science that might help me determine when the mouse had met its end, but not wanting to get too close in case it stank, and not really knowing enough about rodent pathology to determine if it had rigor mortis, my Quincy Jones moment was scuppered when the cat tried to eat it and nearly set the other mousetrap off.)

Tuppence "helping" me to sort the cupboards:

I also found a box of kids’ toys that had been packed away for years, and which had been favourites of mine when I was very little. There was a little yellow rabbit in the collection which I have seen photographs of myself with in the pram when I was only about the same size as the cat. I also discovered one of a trio of puppets that were given to my sister and I when we were very young and my grandparents dog died. We were too little to understand, and so the powers that be (who in that Orwellian kindergarten-era were pretty much just ‘Nan and Grandad’) decided that we should be fed the "she's gone to live on a farm" tale so many kids are presented with when a parent wishes not to corrupt their children’s innocence with mammalian bereavement. Only in this case, they were well aware that if they told me that the dog had gone to live on a farm I'd want to visit, so they paid me off with Sooty, Sue and Sweep puppets – which were supposedly leaving presents from the dog, but which I suspect were indeed not bought by her at all. That she purchased toys to soften the blow of her departure would be leap enough, but would also involve my believing her to have foretold her own death: and a psychic dog is a little far-fetched even for me.

Rabbit, and 'Sue' puppet in the background to the right:

All in all it was a reasonably productive day, though I still have half of the kitchen to sort and will undoubtedly encounter lots more things that either need dusting down, throwing away, or re-lubricating with a few well aimed squirts of Mr Muscle.

I did take a moment out of my busy cleansing ritual to discuss this weeks’ oddest news items; which comprised of a lingerie model who has not got a navel and finds herself constantly refuting claims she is an alien, and a kitten with two faces. By that I do not mean that it was duplicitous; telling its owner how much it loves the new jingly-ball toy and then slagging off their paltry attempts at entertainment every time it had a check up with the vet – no, I mean it was some sort of freaky conjoined twin-thing, or chimera, and had two distinct faces attached to the one head and body. Because it is a kitten (or would that be because "they are kittens?") it was still cute though, even though its face was mental. It will probably be an ugly cat though.

Double-Headed Kitten:

(Note to anyone who comments to bring me bad news of this kitten's fate: I am aware that mutant animals don't usually live very long, but I am not going to Google it to see if it has gone to live on a farm somewhere, and particularly do not wish for you anti-agriculturalists to tell me there is no farm, and that it's a lie perpetuated by the Vatican to make people more receptive to the panic buying of carrots.)

YouTube link to freaky-cat:

If the kitten hires Max Clifford as its agent, it could probably use its story of a tragic childhood to launch a perfume and take over the Iceland adverts job from Kerry Katona. She was in Atomic Kitten, so they are obviously a company willing to employ increasingly ugly-looking ageing felines of no discernable talent but much publicised personal misfortune.

Oooh, “meow.”

Monday, 3 November 2008

Hope for Tomorrow

Tomorrow – or today for most of you reading this – is the day of the US Presidential Election. God that's narcissistic; there will be all that going on tomorrow – papers full of it and coverage on every single news channel – and I still anticipate that you will have taken time to read the witterings of a slightly-bonkers-but-officially-not-mad woman. If any of you are reading this on November 4th 2008 then for goodness' sake go and put BBC News 24, Sky News or CNN on or something! Not Fox News though. If you watch Fox News then you shouldn't be reading this bloggy-thing at all, because you'll believe every damned thing I say – however preposterous. You probably even believe John McCain's camp when they tell you that Barack Obama is a "muslim terrorist baby-killer," and you will also have (on at least one occasion) fantasised about the homicidal-librarian-alike Sarah Palin spanking you with a novelty gun-club bookmark. If you answered yes to any of those questions then go and read the Daily Mail or something and delete this site from your browser favourites. (More of the old narcissism I see. I don't presume you clicked a link – which I probably sent you anyway – I assume you have it saved and are notified by a fanfare of emails whenever I update this page.)

Anyway, I am not voting for Barack Obama because I can't. There’s some stupid law about British people not being allowed to vote for American politicians. I think it's the same law which states that all our politicians have to be ugly bullshitting bastards that we don't particularly want to vote for – and sometimes don't even get the chance to vote for! …Yes Gordon, I mean you. (I know what you're thinking, but hinting that the PM reads this is not narcissism, it’s fact.) If I could vote for Obama however, then I most definitely would. I have been seduced by his charisma, and the glitz and glamour he has brought to proceedings with his campaign. "Oooh, they could have their first black president! Lets get rid of the retarded cowboy and let this charming mixed-race chap have a go. I'm not entirely clear on his policies but he's a damn fine looking guy and has a profile that will look marvellous on collectable coinage in the future. But for gawd's sake someone board up the White House cat-flap so Monica Lewinski can't get back in."

Barack Obama

You will by now know who won the election, whether you're reading this the day of – or the year after – the event. (Modesty, see it? The "year after." I have obviously grown as a person in the space of two paragraphs. Okay... only a little bit, but progress is progress.) I'll not bore you with political musings, as I'd only make a fool of myself. The other day I completely forgot about Al Gore because when I watched that election I was focused so intently on being annoyed at losing Bill Clinton from the political stage that I paid very little attention to the pair vying to succeed him. Actually, I think that's how George Bush got in. (Again, somebody make sure that bloody cat flap is secure, will you?)

As I was exhausted today and plan to stay up all night tomorrow to watch the coverage of the election, I stayed offline most of this evening planning to rest. So, in place of prowling the internet making a prat of myself as I usually do, I watched a host of shamelessly romantic and saccharine films instead. They're so utterly without cinematic merit that they're even considered tawdry examples of that much maligned genre the 'chick-flick'. So why do I watch them? And moreover, why do I continue to enjoy them (even if it is accompanied by a large helping of self-loathing for having such pedestrian – not to mention oestrogen-friendly -- tastes in movies.)?

I have been asking myself that question and really don't think it's as straightforward as being a daft-and-romantic girly. I've never protested my daftness, but I do often find myself having to justify myself as an 'unromantic.' In a woman that's not generally expected, and people often think I eschew it because of feminist ideals (and I'm pretty sure my mother still occasionally wonders if I am a lesbian, purely and simply because I didn't cry at Dirty Dancing and can't quote it from beginning to end.)

My mothers ludicrous misconceptions aside, there is still the question of why – if I am as unromantic as I claim to be – do I watch films made entirely for those whose hearts sit desperately close to their sleeves? I think the answer lies in my previous description of these movies as being "saccharine." If romance is sugar, then idealism is artificial sweetener; both have the same effect, but whilst one is notoriously bad for you, the other likes to consider itself to be the more virtuous option.

I know I am an idealist, and whilst my belief in god is vague, and my faith in humanity often tested; the thing I believe in above all else is hope. Hope that things will get better, or hope that they will not get worse. For me, these sorts of films buy right into that set of values. A romantic sees the protagonist stroll off into the sunset with their one true love and bathes in the afterglow of a happy ending. An idealist such as myself witnesses that same scene, and is more comforted by the message of hope: the idea that whatever may be around the corner for the loved-up pair heading out toward the dimming golden light, they hope that their lives will improve now that they have found each other. That is, I feel, always the underlying sentiment I am left with when watching this genre of movie. Whatever the set of circumstances on which the credits roll, they always end with the characters feeling they now have a little more hope for a better tomorrow.

I also think it has a little bit to do with overcoming obstacles. That is a predominant theme in many movies, not merely the 'chick-flicks' of which I speak tonight. There is always some endeavour; something or someone standing between the man and his true love; the woman and her dream job (yes, I did deliberately have the man be the one looking for love and the woman as the career driven one. It may only be an example but that doesn’t mean it has to conform to traditional stereotypes.) Back to the point: a lot of my own life has been given over to "beating the odds" and whilst there are lots of genres of film where the protagonist has trials to succeed in if they are to meet their ultimate goal, in many they chart the story of little people doing very big things. The scale is often far too grand for someone like myself to feel I can identify with, whereas in a 'chick flick' the triumph over adversity tends to come in the form of ordinary people fighting toward an aim that is shared by many other ordinary folk. Whether portrayed as family, friends, career, or soulmate – the pursuit of love is the underlying theme of all this type of film – and that to me represents something far less hopeless, and far more attainable: the extraordinary achievement of a commonplace desire.

(...That said, I still wouldn't recommend 'The Lake House.')

After typing that, I went downstairs and made a cup of tea and while passing through the living room (on the most direct route there is to the kettle without jumping out of the back bedroom window,) and I heard a muffled swishing noise coming from behind the redundant gas fire, which probably means it will all need to be unscrewed tomorrow because a bird has fallen down the chimney again. This occurrence is not nearly as frequent now as when our neighbour bred racing pigeons; as when it was the season for all his young birds to fledge, they seemed suicidally drawn to dive-bomb our chimney like little fluffy kamikaze pilots.

Just for once I'd like to go into the kitchen at night and not be accosted by a cat, a dog, a tortoise, a mouse, a pigeon or a bloody great big spider with 86 million legs and a murderous gleam in its eyes.

When other people complain about living in an "Orwellian State" they usually mean Big Brother, so why did I get Animal Farm?

(Yes, I am aware that Animal Farm is a bit darker and more intellectual than 'the bit in Snow White where the sparrows help to do the washing up' - but this bloggy thing isn't ironically called 'Meretricious Nonsense' you know.)