May 28

I’m on my way out to a family birthday party. It’s Mexican themed so I know there will be tequila, beer, chilli and lots of lots of salsa.

Oh and sombreros. You know things have got bad when your mother phones you up and asks you to buy sombreros and fake moustaches for you, your dad and your uncle.

When next you see me, be kind. The tequila won’t be.

May 24

Have you ever done something in a moment of foolishness then came to regret it later?

I volunteered a few weeks ago to take part in a quiz team for my work. It’s a charity do, so I didn’t think any harm could come of it. We go along, have a few drinks, have a laugh and feel good at helping out a good cause. That was the plan when I volunteered.

Of course you know what they say about best laid plans*. The following considerations have since come into play, and they take some of the fun out of it:

1) I’m driving, so having a drink goes out the window (see, and you thought this blog wasn’t offering anything in terms of social responsibility? Kids, when someone wants you to drink and drive, just say NO! And if they want you to talk in a cinema, punch them. Quietly.)
2) Last year apparently saw our team get hammered pretty damn bad.
3) It was fine in a moment of whimsy to volunteer but now that it’s the quiz night and I’m up against it, I really have a ton of stuff to be doing and wish I could just skip it.
4) I get to eat dinner at 11pm.
5) Unless the quiz steers alarmingly into geeky territory I’m not going to be of much help to my team.
6) I have an early start tomorrow and I suspect this thing is going to go on late.

The above points 1-6 were sponsored by the Statler and Waldorf Foundation for Misanthropic Old Men. SaWFfMOM: sucking the magic out of fun things since 1911. We hate it all so you don’t have to.

Actually it should be okay. It’s not as if we’re going in deadly serious to defend the work’s honour, and as long as we’re doing a charity a good turn I can’t imagine it’ll be a night too badly spent. I just hope we’ve got someone on our team that can cover sports questions because I gotta confess, if I’m my team’s secret weapon on that front then we’d be as well to run up the white flag right now.

Well having shaken my fist blindly at quizzes in general and this one in particular I suppose I better go do that voodoo that I don’t do so well. Expect stories of crushing defeat and humiliation tomorrow. Or me ranting about something else.

Actually it has just struck me that I have now written and moaned about stuff for two days in a row, which is hardly positive. With that in mind, I will try to make a concerted effort to write something cheerful tomorrow before my reputation as a narky old man is confirmed. After all I don’t want all the kids on the Blogosphere to take to calling me “crazy old Mister FawnDoo” and start ringing my doorbell and running off just to annoy me.

Oh, and ten points to anyone who manages to identify the song behind the horrendous pun I have used for today’s title.

* they gang aglay, which is old fashioned Scot speak for “gone wrong”. Modern variants include “Gone pear shaped”, “Gone tits up”, “All gone Pete Tong” and “Run, it’s gonna blow.”

May 23

In keeping with pretty much every science fiction fan in the world right about now, I would love to talk a little about the newest Star Wars flick, Revenge of the Sith. I would love to venture opinions, air speculation and even give some insight into the “ooohs”, “ahhs” and OMG moments the film offered me. Okay, it wouldn’t really do much to set me apart from hundreds, nay thousands of other bloggers out there, but it’s a common experience, shared by us all and I would love to join in.

Unfortunately, I can’t. What I am going to talk about today is something far more unpleasant, annoying and downright rude. The topic that has hijacked my attention is this: people who talk in cinemas.

Now, right off the bat I should probably admit that in the course of this little digression I am likely to sound a little intolerant. I might even, if you are in a particularly sunny mood as you read this, sound a bit misanthropic. I should also admit that I sometimes talk in movies, but strictly only sotto voce and only occasionally. The barest whisper to the person next to me once or twice during a movie does not compare to what I was forced to endure on Friday night.

Though they weren’t actually part of the problem for me, we had a young family sitting in front of us in the cinema, and the kids of that young family talked through the film. However, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. They’re kids, they were excited, and they were relatively quiet. Also, they were talking about the film so I can at least see the causal link. I am all for kids getting excited and carried away because, let’s face it, we all know that in adulthood there is plenty enough times when you won’t be allowed to get excited and will have to be quiet, reserved and grown up, so kids should grab all the excitement they can in those chubby little mitts and wring it for all it’s worth.

The kids, to be absolutely clear, were not the problem. I only mention these youngsters to create an effective contrast with the actual source of the problem I have with that night at the movies, so please any parents out there, don’t come looking for me with a blunt instrument and dark side thoughts of your own, I’m on your side, really. Honest. Seriously. Go kids. Wooo.

So, the kids in front of me, not a problem. A bit noisy, but understandable and so, could be tuned out without much bother. However, the people behind me were adults, and yet seemed intent on talking about anything except the movie in front of them. They didn’t seem to like the battle scenes and long lightsabre fights just seemed to bore them, so they chatted a lot during such scenes. About anything. His mum coming over to dinner. Her seat being a bit uncomfortable. Haydn Christensen looking good but not being much of an actor (at least one comment about the movie – hooray!). Did she want some popcorn? He was thirsty. She wanted sweet popcorn, not salted. And on and on and on the whole grisly affair went, with everything from post-war economics to physics apparently up for discussion. I glared. I “Shhhhh”-ed several times. I glared again. Nothing.

I have to ask the question – if battle scenes apparently bore you enough to start idle conversation, and lightsaber fights don’t do it for you, why in the hell do you come to watch a Star Wars film? Did they think that episode III would mark Lucas’ departure from the storytelling form that had made episodes I, II and IV-VI such a success? Did they perhaps think this chapter of the Star Wars saga would be a thoughtful, incisive arthouse flick, shot in daring black and white with some animated sections drawn in pale pastels? Something perhaps with a soundtrack that featured Bach, Mozart and Portishead? Did they imagine that the movie would preach a doctrine of peace over war and feature long scenes of the Republic sitting at the negotiating table with the Seperatist Council? “Well Viceroy Gunray, that’s all well and good, but if we could turn to page seven hundred of the proposed peace treaty, I would like some clarification about sector boundaries in contested areas, so we can then clarify exchange rates across areas of influence…”. I mean, come on.

Then we had the people to the left, who timed each rustle of their bag of crisps (chips, for those of you waaaay over there) to coincide almost exactly with every line of dialogue. And the people in the front row who thought that the little advert at the start of the movie saying turn off your damn mobile phone couldn’t possibly have applied to them because they’re obviously a special case and couldn’t we all see that? No, all we could see was your damn screen flashing on and off as you texted your mates throughout the whole damn film.

All in all, by the end of the movie I was in the strange position of actually having enjoyed the film, but having fallen out of love with the whole experience of going to the movies. I knew the opening weekend of a Star Wars flick was going to be busy, I knew there were going to be lots of people around and the cinema was, therefore, likely to be a lot busier and noisier than usual. I just wasn’t expecting quite so much annoyance as I got. Maybe I’m spoiled by DVDs and the ability to sit at home and enjoy a movie in peace. Maybe I am just a misanthropic old man shaking his fist at the world. Maybe.

Or maybe just maybe, I’m right.

Nah. Pass the popcorn would you? Oh, and the bottle of water. That was a good bit wasn’t it? Don’t “shhh” me mate. This seat’s a bit hard isn’t it? Eeewww, this is salted, I wanted sweet. Oh god, not another space battle…

May 18

Well, I said some time ago that I would like to host a party, and I suppose the time has come to put my money where my eating-hole is and actually get it done. So here we are, with my first attempt at hosting a convivial gathering of bloggers. The topic I have decided to open up with is this:

What are your top five “Oh my God!” moments? They can be from movies, TV, books, real life, anything at all – as long as they evoked a strong reaction from you.

We all react to things in different ways, and it can be interesting (and telling) to see how we react to extremes, shocks, surprises and the like. Feel free to talk about anything, since I intended this as a wide ranging one so I could get the feel of hosting one of these parties. Be it personal (up to you on this one), TV related, book related, anything, it’s all up to you.

There we are then – my first blog party, with a topic and everything. To give everyone enough time to co-ordinate, let’s say the party will take place on Friday 3rd June (gives us all two weeks or so to get thinking) and I will do the write-up over the weekend of the 4th-5th to give people in different areas/timezones time to post and not miss it. As with MCF‘s format, just stick a link to your entries in the comments, or email me if blogger are having an off day.

Hope to see you all there! Bring beer! And dip!

May 17

Structure has never been my strong point, but some thoughts in particular at the moment:

1) Star Wars: Clone Wars is very enjoyable. It takes a moment to get past the rather stylised representations of each of the characters (worryingly enough, Palpatine has a bit of a Monty Burns forehead thing going on) but it has the scope, the panache and the overall kidlike excitement inducing feel about it. Check it out if you’re a Star Wars fan.

2) I think that this might just be the worst example of parking that I have ever seen in my entire life (I feel compelled at this point to give a nod of credit to Kelly‘s “random from commute/roadtrip” series). Taken at my local supermarket on Sunday evening – check it out and see what you think:

3) Sunny days must do something to me, because I’m busy right now, work is hard, but I feel up for it and able to handle it. Yesterday I got stressed, annoyed and accordingly my productivity dropped…maybe someone was walking by in the street with some kryptonite?

4) I think it is rather amusing, endearing and entirely typical that with everything going on in the world today, the British spend this much time, energy and vitriol talking about the new graphics on the BBC weather reports. To paraphrase William Shatner – for god’s sake, it’s a weather report people!

5) I have come to the conclusion, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, that I am just not built for modern video games. My PS2 gaming sessions pretty much boil down to an uninterrupted series of deaths, embarassing crashes, friendly fire incidents and plain old getting lost. When I play the Battlestar Galactica game I swear I am a gift to the Cylons. When I play James Bond…well let’s just say if I were in charge the movies would all be a lot shorter and probably end in a spectacular burst of gore. The less said about my performance as a Jedi, the better. I think my head is still stuck in the golden age of the platform game. Sonic, Mario, come back, all is forgiven. None of which is going to stop me playing of course – the games are fun, even if I am rubbish at them, and it amuses the hell out of my better half when she sees me make a complete arse of myself, even if it is only in virtual form.

6) New blogs, cha-cha-cha, new blogs, cha-cha-cha…my blogroll increases yet again with some new cool blogs to check out. My net reading time is getting taken up more and more. My optician thanks you all, my better half looks askance, and my keyboard hates you for all the extra punishment it’s taking these days.

7) Denny Crane.

Any more thoughts occur, you’ll be the first to know.

May 13

Another week from my last chance to blog, and another week of mounting, niggling, irritating little pangs of guilt. Seven days of that little voice in my head (always, I note, the voice of my grandpa) saying “If you’re going to do something then you should do it right.” with increasing volume.

When I think about it, it’s been a busy week. Work has got very busy, but in a good way – and while it has been taking up a little more of my time of late (which runs counter to my previous work/life balance decisions, I know) it’s been enjoyable. My work has expanded, and I am enjoying stretching myself a little. I know it sounds weird, but it’s good to be working hard and pushing myself that little bit further, and I don’t mind putting in a little more time if it’s something I enjoy.

However, I have also tried to focus on time away from work. My better half and I are making more of an effort just to go out for a coffee, have a wander round a bookshop, take in a movie, grab a meal – just enjoy time together. I’m also becoming a shameless couch potato for much of the time – but like Homer I blame the TV companies, making all that comedy and sci-fi. I’m even getting into my Gameboy (damn you, makers of Tetris, damn you!) and my PS2 (damn you, makers of Sonic, damn you!), making time to have fun and making sure I do things that I enjoy. So even though I am working more, and working harder, it’s still being put in context. I’d like to thank MCF for some measure of inspiration here, since his work/life balance issues seem to have been mirroring my own to some small degree, and seeing him make that decision to redress the balance has prompted me to do the same for myself.

On a geeky note I finally got to see the two part story “In a mirror, darkly” from Enterprise’s last season. This story – set entirely in the evil universe first shown in the original series episode “Mirror Mirror” – shows the crew of the Enterprise as evil, nasty opportunists who manage to steal an advanced ship from an alien race. The episode is superb, and the sight of original series sets, props and ships hit every “nostalgic Trek fan” bone I have in my body. Even if you’re a casual fan I strongly suggest you check it out.

As a second geek note (perhaps a geek addendum) my excitement about the third Star Wars film is finally starting to build up. I picked up “Clone Wars” season 1 last night and have yet to watch it (mayhap my Friday night is taking shape already – some beers, some food, some Star Wars? I’ve heard worse plans) but I am starting to get that old kid-like excitement about the movie coming out.

So all in all after another week all is sunny outside, and not so damned bad inside. I’ve gotten over being annoyed at the elections (even though the party I voted for got in, which you would think would make me happy about the whole process, I was disappointed by the sheer number of radical far right parties making an appearance at the polls) and if anyone was offended by the swearing, then forgive me. I’m a flawed man, but with your help, I’m trying to make myself better.

May 06

Quick note before we get started: they say you should never talk about religion or politics when you’re in company. I say the hell with that but y’all should be aware that I mean no offense to anyone reading this. Unless you’re a racist fuckwit who hides behind shoddy excuses for policies just to cover up for the fact that you’re…well…a racist fuckwit.

I should probably mention I swear a bit in this one too. Anyways, on with the show.

Last night I went to vote in the General Election. It was a nice night, sunny but cool with a slight wind suggesting colder temperatures to come. I had a little white card in my pocket telling me where to go so I could vote, and off I went.

For all the importance put on voting (and I do believe it to be a serious and important thing) it always surprises me that it comes down to me squeezed into a tiny wooden booth with one sheet of paper and one stubby pencil tied to the bench with string. I mean come on – is anyone actually going to steal the holy and sacred Election Pencil? You get your sheet, you make one big X in one box, and that’s it.

It always strikes me as a bit of an anticlimax. All the tremendous importance of the voting process seems to demand something with a bit more flair, a bit more va-va-voom. Having thought about this vital issue for precisely 8 seconds, I have some suggestions:

1) Borrow (steal) an idea from the Vatican (hey, Benedict won’t mind!) and issue everyone with special coloured chemical stuff to burn in their fires. If you want Labour, burn red smoke out the chimney. For Conservatives, blue and Lib Dems, Yellow. Other parties (Scottish Nationalists, Green Party, hell even the Vote for Yourself Rainbow Dream Ticket party and the Monster Raving Loony Party) can be assigned colours easily enough.

If you are actually stupid enough to vote for the British National Party (BNP, and no no and thrice no, absolutely no linky linky goodness here for you lot – I have my standards, low though they may be, and I will link a million times to the Monster Raving Loony Party before I link once to people like you) just set yourself on fire using the special chemicals. Might as well use that oxygen to keep some people warm instead of having you breathe it in and spit out racist shite along with your carbon dioxide.

We burn the chemicals and whoever gets the biggest colour clouds gets in. Easy. And pretty.

2) Make the whole event a more fun process by making it possible to vote by standing on a big coloured pad on the floor that makes an amusing sound, kind of like that large piano keyboard floor thing they had in Big.

3) Give the voters an option for “Lucky Dip” on the voting sheet like the lottery – they hit a button, a computer makes a random choice and boom, you have your candidate. They could add drama to the proceedings by getting someone in to provide a drumroll.

4) Make the candidates fight in jelly. Whoever wins, rules. I think the Americans should adopt this too, just to show the “special relationship” is as solid as it could be. Come on guys you know it would be fun, even if it might not be as pretty as option 1.

5) Do the election like the dance-off in the remake of Starsky and Hutch, with a camp disco commentator. Admittedly similar to the jelly approach but a bit more groovy, and since we’re supposed to be “Cool Britannia” now, I figure it fits well enough. Again I can see this working for our American cousins. “Oooh, George is doing the two gun, but what’s this…..oh, Kerry is going for the moonwalk!”

I think these are sensible plans and policies for a healthier Britain and America. Who’s with me?

I was glad to see that turnout for the constituency I live in was higher than the last election, so at least that means more people actually shifted their arses and voted. I hate nothing more than talking to someone about current events in which they moan about the government then say they didn’t vote. I’ll say it loud enough to express my frustration: IF YOU DON’T VOTE, SHUT THE HELL UP. IF YOU CAN’T BE BOTHERED WALKING 100 YARDS AND WRITING ONE “X” ON A FORM ONCE EVERY FUCKING FOUR FUCKING YEARS, YOU DON’T GET TO COMPLAIN ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT SO Q.Y FUCKING B.

*ahem*

So let me see now, I’ve pissed off the British Nationalists (no bad thing) and the voters who put the “pathetic” into “apathetic”. I shall sign off now with a simple few messages to all those people who depressed me by voting BNP/National Front/UKIP/Veritas last night (yes I sat up, like lots of other geeky people, watching the results come in and groaned when the returning officers had to read your names out, often with numbers after them that made me blush with embarassment that you actually got people to vote for you). To make it simple I have rendered it all down to easy to remember mathematical notations:

Black people = White people. (important word here is PEOPLE!)
*insert colour here* people = every other *insert colour here* people (just to be sure)
Immigration <> The death of society as we know it
Jewish people <> The core of some huge secret society planning the above
Immigration (just to reiterate) <> Britain being full. We’re not falling off the White Cliffs of Dover quite yet
Friendliness and tolerance > Anger and fear
The average voters intelligence > The crap you peddle hoping to scare people
The sense behind your stance < sensible to say the least
Everyone should be = so please don’t be offended if I say once and for all, on behalf of everyone who doesn’t hate everyone else on reflex, fuck all the way off.

And for everyone else, thanks for staying with me this long. Hope you enjoyed this insight into one of the finest political minds of this lunchtime.

May 04

Well I didn’t get the job I went for, but I don’t feel so bad about it now. You see I have a friend who actually works at the place I got interviewed, and he just sent me an interesting text message. Turns out that on the day, every other candidate being interviewed was an internal one (ie, someone who already worked there and was looking for a promotion) so I, as pretty much the only external candidate, never stood a chance. Now this might sound strange, but I feel better about this for two reasons:

1) I didn’t do that badly on the interview – they just wanted to promote up from within, which I can see as being laudable enough. I didn’t get laughed out of the conference room and into the street.

2) I managed to get an interview at all – considering they must have had a few internal candidates in mind, the fact that I scored high enough to merit a place says something.

So my perspective is somewhat restored. No new job, but then again my current one is undergoing something of a change. Extra work, but it feels good to have my abilities stretched a bit. Must be the first time in history that someone has actually been made to feel better by finding out the deck was stacked against them from the start.

May 03

Which pretty much sums up the letter I got about my job interview. “Thank you for coming in to see us about the above position, but we have decided not to take your application process any further forward.”

Thanks to all for the good thoughts – keep them coming for the next one.

May 03

It would seem that my blogging experience has hit a first – I’ve been tagged. The rules seem to be simple enough – you will find below a series of openings to sentences. I pick 5 and complete them. I think the theory is that this will serve to give some insight into my mind and my thought processes while at the same time (maybe) being entertaining along the way. Before we begin any insight achieved in the course of this writing should be taken as entirely accidental.

Here’s that list in full:

If I could be a scientist…
If I could be a farmer…
If I could be a musician…
If I could be a doctor…
If I could be a painter…
If I could be a gardener…
If I could be a missionary…
If I could be a chef…
If I could be an architect…
If I could be a linguist…
If I could be a psychologist…
If I could be a librarian…
If I could be a lawyer…
If I could be an inn-keeper…
If I could be an athlete…
If I could be a professor…
If I could be a writer…
If I could be a llama rider…
If I could be a bonnie pirate…
If I could be an astronaut…
If I could be a world famous blogger…
If I could be a justice on any one court in the world…
If I could be married to any current famous political figure…
If I could be a dog trainer…

Well, here we go…

If I could be a doctor then I would have realised the earliest – and longest held – ambition of my life. Quite a lot of my family are in the medical and healthcare services, so from an early age I wanted to be a doctor. I carried that through primary school and into high school, where I picked sciences, maths and other subjects designed to target a medical degree. From about age six to age seventeen, “I want to be a doctor” was my mantra. I wanted to be able to help people, simple as that, and I saw medicine as my way to go about achieving that aim. Couple that with not bad rates of pay and all the free tongue depressors you can steal and I’m sold.

What got in the way of this lofty career plan then? Well for that, read on…funnily enough the very hurdle in question appears in the list above.

If I could be a writer then I would have realised the second ambition I ever had for a career. Throughout school I was always top – or near the top – of my class in English. I love literature, writing, the creative process, planning a plot, everything. I enjoy reading, analysing works, immersing myself in someone’s thoughts and finding new things to read. Always have, always will. I suddenly realised at 17 that I wanted to be a writer (having had some stories well received, submitted a script etc) and so made an emergency course change when I went to university, aiming for an English degree instead of the long planned for MD.

If I could be a writer I would write science fiction, because it is the genre I love. You won’t find a richer, more adaptable genre in the world, I swear. Stories can be set in the past, present or future. They can feature fleets of starships, or the exploration of what it means to be human, and everything in between. I’d write at a desk with a nice view of some greenery, and would strive to write some entertaining stories for you all to read. Maybe my slide into writing at 17 was prompted by a realisation that there are other ways to leave your mark in the world besides doctoring…and I always mean to go back to it one day.

If I could be a lawyer I would try to be as hammy and as entertaining as Denny Crane. Law has always fascinated me – the arguments, the set precedents, steering the course of society and providing a fair standard for us all to live to. Oh, and charging through the roof – gotta fund that writing hobby somehow you know. I’d have a nice corner office. Beyond that I don’t know, I’d probably do what many lawyers do and make it up as I go along.

If I could be a world famous blogger we’d all be in a lot of trouble because I have to say the bar would need to be set pretty damn low for my meagre talents to rate as “world famous”.

If I could be an astronaut I would have to fight, daily, the impulse to press buttons I really shouldn’t press. I’ve never been in a space shuttle but I imagine it has a whole world of red buttons with big signs above them saying “DO NOT TOUCH” in pretty much every language possible. As a hopeless button presser I would be duty bound to press at least one which would probably cause some kind of horrible disaster.

If I was an astronaut, I would touch the stars. Sounds like fun. Mind you, there are ways to do this on earth too – just need to find them, which I suppose is the fun part of the challenge.

Well there you have it – my five from the list. For my candidates I will nominate Kelly and Lorna. I’d be interested to see what those more talented than I can come up with.