Mar 29

Busy Easter weekend, that one.

I would love to have been able to relate it as it happened, but thanks to the redoubtable NTL not only was my phone line and internet connection down for the ENTIRE EASTER WEEKEND but most of my TV channels were unavailable as well. Truly, it is a service fit for kings – it certainly seemed to me to be royally fucked anyway.

No problem, I hear you say – I can relate it now that I have a working connection to the outside world again. Well, I would love to, but I seem to have lost my connection to something a whole lot more important than the net – that is, any ability I ever had to write in a fashion that even halfway approached interesting. I’ve tried three times now to write about my weekend. First time round I read it back to myself and realised halfway through that I was actually looking at my own watch waiting for it to end. Second time round I got about a quarter of the way through before my brain leaked out through my ears and made a spirited dash for the door. Third time round I actually checked if this was my blog, then thought to check if I had actually woken up this morning and wasn’t having my “inarticulate moron” dream again.

So after that litany of disaster I find myself writing about my inability to write something, which is surely a case of the tale wagging the blog if ever there was one. The whole thing is made all the more annoying because I actually had quite an interesting weekend. Work was closed Friday and Monday, which gave me a nice long weekend off and I actually had plenty to do. I bought a videogame, went out for a couple of meals, spent time with my family, even took in a play and a movie. It was not my usual long weekend off, which roughly runs along these lines: food, sleep, food, sleep, food, sleep, fume at wasting a weekend, food, sleep etc. No siree, this time I had a good, busy, full weekend.

Yet here I am, keyboard in front of me, net connection open and working away as it should and what am I doing? Are my fingers dancing over the keyboard, painting a picture of a weekend well spent? Are they making you laugh with delightful whimsy? Nah, they’re picking up a cloth to wipe the bloody drool off the keyboard. Okay I was never up for a pulitzer with my initial attempt at blogging (unless of course they’re feeling generous? No? Well, you know where I am if you need me mister or mrs pulitzer person) but at least before now I could put something together that didn’t have me looking at it and crying. Christ, don’t tell me I can write about Derek bloody Acorah and not my own weekends. Okay then, one more try.

Weekend fun in all. Friday fun with family. Saturday fun shopping and fun at theatre. Sunday fun with family and fun at movies. Monday fun playing videogame. Lots of fun had.

Fun.

Fun.

Fin.

Mar 24

It might have taken them over a week to actually get it to me, but last night when I got in from work I was pleased to see that the best show they ever cancelled had arrived, on two shiny DVDs ready for my perusal. Fox’s Greg the Bunny was smart, topical, funny and could handle sentiment without getting schmaltzy, which is something a lot of TV shows have trouble with. In all, it had the makings of a show that could knock it out of the park as far as comedy goes. So, of course, they cancelled it. Andromeda they keep running for years, but Greg gets thrown out after only 11 episodes on the air. There really is no justice, is there?

As the tagline on the box says, I simply suspect TV wasn’t ready for a show like this, which is more the pity because for every Greg that gets cancelled, we get a Joey that deserves to and doesn’t. There is absolutely no reason that TV can’t be as varied, challenging and profound a medium as any other available to us today, but the people in charge constantly run to the middle ground and safe territory. Enterprise got cancelled because Trek fans moved away in their droves. At about the same time the remade Battlestar Galactica stormed ahead, securing a second season and (hopefully) a few more besides that, as well as becoming the second highest program on TV for the month of february. The difference? Enterprise plays it safe, Galactica dares to push things a little. Pandering to the lowest common denominator is mean in both senses of the word.

One quick word on the DVD set for Greg the Bunny – what comes across pretty quickly is the sheer enthusiasm of the creators and the love they have for the show. Each menu is narrated by Greg (just like the episodes) and a great many of the episodes have commentaries by the cast and crew. There is a gag reel, easter eggs, unaired episodes, everything. Not since the excellent Red Dwarf DVD sets have I seen so much packed into two disks. I can really appreciate this because as a Star Trek fan, I see those expensive Trek boxsets being put out with (if we’re lucky) an hour’s worth of extras in each one – extras that are, for the most part, dull as hell. Gee thanks Paramount, don’t go crazy on us with your mad generosity.

Ah well, at least with the advent of DVD everything seems to be making its way onto shiny disk at one point, which allows good TV shows to enjoy some recognition. They might not still be on air, but at least they are not forgotten. And looking at the TV schedules, that probably isn’t such a bad thing.

Hmmm…..I wonder if Space: Above and Beyond will make it to Amazon some day?

As a quick PS, I notice I stand accused by MCF of having insight into what it means to be a geek. This is a heavy charge indeed!

Mar 22

Well, we were off last night to the Derek Acorah spiritualist medium show at the Royal Concert Hall. Say what you might about the man’s abilities to see into another realm of existence, he certainly has pulling power because the place was absolutely full. Prophet? Maybe, maybe not. Profit? Absolutely.

I mean, have a look at the place (apologies again for the image quality, it was poor light in the hall and my phone camera isn’t the best):

Packed, I tell you, packed! Think of the money. Show me the money, Derek. Show me. And don’t worry, the blue hazy lights around the stage are meant to be there, they’re not manifestations of spirits that my crap camera has managed to capture.

The audience, I couldn’t help but notice, were predominantly female and definitely towards the older end of the spectrum. He certainly seemed to know his demographic and aimed to hit it, combining the usual “I’m getting the name Jean/Jim/Arthur” etc with some tame Dick Emery-esque camp humour which put me in mind of those people who are on the godforsaken daytime TV circuit and depend on the blue rinse brigade to keep their careers going. Which is not, in all fairness, to say he was dull – the show was certainly entertaining and made me laugh enough that the time didn’t drag by. He did his turn and did it well – picking people out of the audience, chatting with them for 5 minutes or so, and passing on a message “from the beyond” from loved ones.

However, a strange thing started to happen during the show, and I am a little embarassed to even commit it to type here. I started wishing that he would pick me out of the audience. You see, in the past few years I have lost two of my grandparents and what stays with me and what I deeply regret more than anything else was that the last conversations I had with each of them were so damn ordinary. It was like “chat chat chat, see you later, watch yourself, bye!” and then *boom*, they were dead and that was that. And let’s face it, it’s hard to keep chatting and catching up with one another after that happening without people looking at me funny and making sure I’m not standing too close. I mean, of course I wasn’t to know they were going to die, but it still leaves me with the sense of things being left unsaid.

So what did I want to happen last night? For him to pick out my grandparent’s names and point to me? Tell me that they were okay? Assure me that they were happy? Was I looking for evidence of things unseen or was I just feeling guilt about not saying things to my grandparents when they were alive? Was I looking for some means of assuaging that guilt by getting some message from them or being convinced that they were somehow able to hear me?

I don’t really believe in spirits from the afterlife floating about on earth moving about tables and making lights appear in grainy camera film. With that in mind, why did I want a man who might or might not be a charlatan to pick me out? Was it to challenge my point of view, confound it, or confirm it? What would I have done if he had picked me out? What would I be talking about now, how it was a load of rubbish or how it changed my entire worldview?

It’s a question (or a series of questions) I have wrestled with all through the night and I’ll probably continue to do so for some time to come. The cynic and sceptic in me all point to my going to a show with a medium and – not unnaturally – thinking of people in my life who have recently died. This means, the cynic points out, that I was thinking of things I regretted and might have been looking for a means to ease those regrets a little. And in the main, I agree, but there is still this tiny little bit of me asking “what if?” and I am afraid there is no real answer to that one, or at least not one I can think of. The background of the set for the show had something written on it: “To the believer, no proof is necessary. To the non-believer, no proof is possible.” It’s as good an example of sophistry as I am ever likely to find, but it’s still niggling at me now, a day after the show.

One entertaining point of the show – at the end old Acorah threw the show open to questions from the audience. I’m sure you know the form – if you need any advice, have any questions etc, just ask me and I’ll see what I can get from the “other side” to help you. Turns out he has quite the rabid fan following and when one woman got the microphone and said “Derek, I have two questions for you.” I heard a woman behind me and to the left mutter with genuine venom and anger in her tone, “You’re only supposed to get one fucking question!” which I couldn’t stop laughing at. I wonder if Mister Acorah foresaw the potential riot building, because he ended the show pretty quickly after that.

Mar 21

I’m getting to know my new iPod mini and was heartened to see that I’m not the only one who goes about the process of building up a “relationship” of sorts with my music player. I gotta say I like mine – it’s simple to use, lightweight, and makes going to the gym a damn sight more enjoyable. Pleasant to look at, simple to use, excellent crisp sound, good battery life – not much more I could ask for, really. I would have enjoyed having a go at the Shuffle, which does look like it has the edge in terms of being lighter, but I’m finding the mini to be a very pleasant experience and a nice introduction to the world of MP3 players and having my music in my pocket wherever I go.

Besides, immature as it may sound, there is something very amusing about walking down the street or exercising at the gym and listening to something like The Sex Pistols’ “Friggin’ in the Riggin” or South Park’s “Unclefucker” at the same time. What can I say, I think it appeals to the large part of my sense of humour that could charitably be labelled “schoolboy”.

When I think about it though, the iPod was always going to look good to me. The last thing I had that I could play music on as I walked down the street was an awful white plastic walkman that took 4 AA batteries to keep going and had a voracious appetite for chewing up cassette tapes. As if the white plastic and the “tape killer” habits weren’t bad enough it came with those horrible headphones with the orange foam padding at the ears, and all in all the thing had enough heft in it to kill a man if it fell from even a moderate height. Think of a white housebrick that you could stick a tape in, and you’re there. Long lasting bit of kit though, I still have that old walkman and it still works – though whether that says more for 1980s manufacturing quality or my tightness with money is anyone’s guess.

Mar 21

Tonight my darling better half and I are off to see Derek Acorah‘s live show at the Royal Concert Hall. Mister Acorah is a spiritualist medium…oy…so if I manage to survive without running really hard at the wall with my head down (a crude method of taking one’s life I admit, but hey, if you run fast enough…) then I shall blog about the show itself tomorrow. To be blunt I think the whole medium thing is a lot of bollocks – my dear better half only watches the TV show Acorah is on, Most Haunted, because she says it is the best laugh she has had in ages.

Now I don’t know about you but if I had the choice between watching Yvette Fielding wailing in a dark room like a demented background character on Scooby Doo and watching some paint dry, it’d be some popcorn and and a hearty “bring on the dulux!” from me.

You see, when I was out Christmas shopping for her I noticed the wonderful Acorah had a show on and in a spirit of frivolity and seized by a silly idea, I bought her a couple of tickets thinking she would take someone else. A good night out would be had by her and a mate and I would come off looking great in the process as the man who made it all happen. Sorted.

I now see the hole in that plan. Two tickets, she says, two of us, problem solved, right?

Bugger.

And yes, before you point it out, it has occurred to me that Derek Acorah could probably have told me that was going to happen.

Mar 19

It’s unseasonably (and unreasonably) warm outside, which is a good thing when you consider that two or three days ago it looked as if Scotland were about to be washed off the face of the Earth. I had a nice lunch (thank you, Subway!) and enjoyed pottering about, wandering in and out of shops. I even picked myself up a nice new iPod mini, but the guy in the shop did annoy me a little.

You see, I had gone in to ask about the new iPod shuffle. I don’t listen to much music except in two places – the car, and the gym. Since I have a CD player in the car I couldn’t justify the £200 or more it would take to get an iPod just to listen to it at the gym but when the new (and cheap) Shuffle model came out I thought “that’ll do!” and headed down into town to pick one up. Except that, as usual, Glasgow’s Apple shop didn’t have any in. Given that the iPod mini is pretty close in price to the shuffle I shrugged my shoulders, paid the extra 30 notes and got the extra 3GB of memory space.

However when I was paying, one of the store staff looked at my box, and rather snootily said “Not picking up one of these, then?” and drew an iPod shuffle out of his top pocket. While I flashed him a polite smile and made some comment I couldn’t help but think “No, I’m not picking one up dickhead, because whatever iArsehole runs this place didn’t think to order in enough, because it’s Saturday morning and you’ve run out, so go stick your iHead up your iArse, why don’t you?” He seemed happy enough with whatever jokey comment I had made, but I’m pretty sure the sentiment of “iThink you are a twat” came across pretty well anyway.

Tonight is looking good – leave the car at home, dinner, movie, some beers in a nice bar, perfick. I’m typing this and the sun is streaming in through the trees, the birds are singing, and we’ve opened the front door to let some cool air blow through the flat. I’m in a good mood, I have to say. I’m still waiting for the post office to get their fingers out of their arses and actually deliver my “Greg the Bunny” DVD boxset, but life is good and I’m feeling pretty damn groovy.