Friday, 25 June 2010

Deep Thought

Today, I would like to talk to one specific person, in the hope that it might illuminate his life and lead him to spiritual fulfilment.

Dear Sir Ian Blair – former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Hello there Sir Ian. I missed you being knighted, by the way. When did that happen? What did you do to deserve it? You haven’t been in any cool films, like Ghandi or Star Trek: Nemesis, so it can’t be that. Maybe it was your brilliant deflection of blame when those police officers you were responsible for shot that innocent guy repeatedly in the head. That was classy. Calling it ‘a mistake’, like ‘Whoops! Silly us! Blew a guy’s head off! Crazy old us!’ Maybe it was that.

Anyway. That’s not really what I want to say to you. I don’t really know anything about running a police force, and I’m sure you do your best, and that there aren’t really giant injustices done in the name of expedience, and that it’s all very above board.

What I do know is this: I know the meaning of life. I do. And you don’t, you silly old top cop knighted person, you. You don’t. And that in itself isn’t so bad; after all, not everyone is going to know the meaning of life itself, and it’s not like it was part of your job description. No, the silly thing was going on Radio 4 this morning and pretending you did. You said you knew the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

You said it was 43.

The annoying thing is, I can’t remember what you were actually talking about. That’s how aghast I was at your mistake. ’43?’ I shouted, drowning out whatever it was you said next in my indignation. ‘FORTY BLOODY THREE?’ It’s a good thing I was stopped in traffic just off the Armley Gyratory, or I may well have swerved into the side of a house. 43? Is the man insane? It’s 42! FORTY TWO! Everyone knows that, don’t they?*

Here’s a tip, Ian. Sir Ian, sorry. Here’s a tip. If you want, you can give me one in return. But don’t make it that one about saying something was ‘a tragedy’ when it was in fact the result of systemic errors in a flawed and politicised system. I’ve already used that a number of times. Make it something cool, that only a knight would know.

Anyway, here’s my tip. Don’t use pop culture references, unless you understand them. They don’t make you sound clever. In fact, when you’re discussing something serious (whatever it was – like I say, the details have been eclipsed by my incredulity at your incorrect evocation of Douglas Adams), it does you no favours to introduce glib, pointless and inaccurate allusions to a book about spaceships and towels.

So there. Thanks for reading, Sir Ian. You may like to check out my humorous comments on Star Wars in earlier blogs. And in the unlikely event that it wasn’t you who made this mistake, and that I wasn’t really listening, and that it was in fact David Blunkett or someone, then I’m sorry. It’s a tragedy. Let’s draw a line under it.

Love, Rob
* Subsequent research has revealed that no, not everyone knows the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Asking around the office, I got answers as varied as ‘47’, ‘23’, ‘love’ and ‘boobs’. So it turns out Sir Ian was relatively close after all. Sorry, Sir Ian.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Klaatu Barada Nikto - B, C

Why won't you let me post pictures, Mr. Blog? Why? I pressed the right button and did a link and everything,  and it put a big splurge of HTML in with my text. And that, I am led to believe, makes complete sense to your computerised brain (despite, to my eyes, looking like what would happen if a calculator vomited). But then I publish my post and... no pictures. Just a little square. Now, if I click on the square, then you give me pictures. Oh yes. But that's not what I want. Why do you hate me, Mr Blog?

/ sobs /

Anyway. Hello, humans. Last week I posted the first in a series of dictionary entries about Star Wars. It met with rave reviews from everyone and I was made the King of Being Ace. I also had a dream in which a man had flippers for feet. But that's not important right now. What is important is this, the second amazing instalment. Possibly with pictures. Possibly not. But there is an acrostic in there this time. Yay for acrostics.



Apparently these guys, referenced in Return of the Jedi, were spies, and lots of them died to get the, frankly incorrect, information that the second death star was not ‘fully armed and operational’. Liars. I suspect they didn’t do any research, simply looked it up on Wikipedia, copied and pasted it to Mon Mothma, and then pretended some of them had died, thinking it ‘wouldn’t really matter’.


Cloud City

Calrissian is something of a
Ladies man, he lives in
Opulent surroundings while the
Ugnaughts do the
Dirty work

Crimson and gold clouds
Iridescent, glowing in the sunset
Towers and spires dream into the sky
Yavin is rubbish by comparison


Lucas clearly has some Freudian fear of women, given the huge emphasis he puts on cavernous, devouring holes in his universe. Luke and Leia are confronted with one as they engage in their first act of incestuous snogging on the Death Star. Clearly symbolic of the sexual threat the couple must avoid given their future relationship. Luke is, however, later claimed by the giant vagina of Bespin, shortly after learning of his true parentage – a symbolic return to the womb as he is forced to confront the circumstances of his own birth. Vader later reclaims his fatherhood by tossing the emperor – a potential substitute father for Luke – down yet another pit. Which does lead one to wonder why, exactly, Palpatine felt the need to install, in his throne room, a giant dangerous chasm the led to the nuclear reactor at the heart of the entire space station. Maybe it’s because Lucas is trying to defeat his insecurities by hurling a selection of villains down shafts in the hope that the scary monster of feminine sexuality will be subdued.

Boba Fett, of course, is claimed by the hairy hole of karkoom on Tatooine. Maul tumbles down a great big chasm in Menace. Even the first Death Star has an incredibly dangerous shaft in the floor of the hangar bay, down which a number of stormtroopers must have fallen over the years. What is up with the people who design these places?

Oh, and Han and Leia find their true love developing after he pilots his spaceship into a giant, moist cavern. Truly, it’s amazing these films aren’t 18 certificate.

That's all for now folks. Send fruit!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Klaatu Barada Nikto

I have reached the point on Friday where there is no chance whatever of me doing anything useful. So I thought I'd share something with you. And by 'you' I mean 'whoever'. I don't know who you are. You're a stranger to me; a weird voyeur, seeing yet unseen. You could even be naked. I would never know.

The thing I want to share is this. A year ago a friend and I played a game via email whereby we had to come up with a Star Wars dictionary, one letter at a time. The game was called Klaatu Barada Nikto and was, in my opinion, quite fun and so I'm going to share my favourites with you. By odd co-incidence, my favourites are all the ones I did, and none of the ones my friend did. Take that, objectivity.

This will also be my first attempt to include pictures in my blog. So if you clicked on this and your screen simply started vomiting colours at you, that's probably my fault.


Admiral Ackbar

Apparently for your last ditch attempt to destroy an evil empire, using every resource at your disposal in the desperate hope that you will win against impossible odds, what you really want – what you really NEED – is to be led into battle by a big red fish.

Antony Daniels

The closest thing Lucasfilm has to a whore. He is in absolutely everything even vaguely connected with the films. I don’t know what on earth he does with the rest of his time, but it’s clearly not very fulfilling. I imagine he hangs around Skywalker ranch all day, every day, waving his arms around and desperately hoping someone will commission a new series of Droids. He was probably in the development meetings for the prequels saying things like ‘I think maybe Threepio should win the podrace’ or ‘maybe Threepio should be the one to impregnate Amidala’. He’s also the one you can always find at interviews, on press releases and in commentaries, talking up the significance of his shiny alter-ego. The other day I was whistling to myself, and he popped out of the fridge, shouting ‘What is it now Artoo?’ and looking hopeful. Sad, really.

More soon.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Christmas in June

A few months ago brilliant old digital television justified its cybernetic hold on my free time by bringing me, for the first time, the wonders of Gavin and Stacey.

I was vaguely aware of the programme, of course. Everyone had said it was all made of lovely and then all the actors from it kept popping up on chat shows and talking about how brilliant they were in it. And I had even become vaguely aware that the fat bloke and the big girl were not the titular couple after all, but that they did write the show, and that they probably weren't going out with each other, even though that would have made sense in my opinion. Anyway, as with most things, I'd managed to miss the entire three seasons and then it finished and I thought 'Oh well, that's that then.'

You see, there's something about watching a show when it is current that far outstrips the pleasure of binging on the DVD box-sets after the fact. Partly, there is the joy of feeling part of the buzz that surrounds a show that has grabbed the public mood. Being able to join in conversations about it, getting other cultural references to it etc. Plus, of course, you don't have to fear spoilers. I enjoy wandering around the internet in search of TV and film stuff with which to impress my so called friends, but the presence of spoilers renders the whole exercise a terrifying trip through a minefield. A minefield laced with enjoyment-ruining information on who dies, or makes someone else die, or was dead all along but never noticed. Boo to spoilers.

Oh, and also there's the joy of having to wait between episodes, to experience the end-of-episode tensions as God intended. I like that.

So, when a series passes in its entiriey, I tend to think I probably won't get round to watching it at all. Popular culture seems hell bent on throwing out more interesting TV than I could ever get round to watching anyway, lobbing series after series of things I Absolutely Must Watch at my face, while I like whimpering in a corner, still contemplating unwrapping series two of the Sopranos.

Anyhow, obviously I did wach Gavin and Stacey, mostly because it only has a finite and do-able three series to overcome, and I'm very glad I did because it's very, very good. You probably know this, because you're probably not the pathetic late-adopter that I am, and you probably enjoyed it when it was fresh. But look, I'm here now aren't I? Let me be happy for once. And stop eating my chips. You said you weren't hungry.

Evil digital temptress that it is, GOLD showed series one and two and then just gave up, leaving me all a-frezy with no chance of consummation. But now we have borrowed the DVDs, thwarting GOLD and its nefarious schemes, and this week we watched the Christmas special.

Now, I'm a great enjoyer of the seasons of the year. I like my Summer full of sunshine and white wine and blasting pop music. I like Winter to embrace me in a flurry of snow, the glow of Bing Crosby and the gentle haze of Baileys. Christmas is for Christmas, and should stay there. That's what I think. That's usually what I think.

But my goodness, watching the Gavin and Stacey Christmas episode, in the late evening sun in mid June, I did feel really, properly Christmassy. And liked it. There 's something about the seies that I really can't put my finger on, but whatever it is, it makes me glow inside. Gorgeously real and enjoyable characters played with great subtlety by a perfectly cast ensemble who appear to genuinely like each other. Brilliant writing that allows space for lovely, quirky moments. Moments of true genius, like the songs that bubble up naturally and draw you along.

Ahhh. So good. In summary, then. a) Thinks I think are often directly contradicted by other things I think. b) Gavin and Stacey is good.

I'm sure I had something else to say. Ah well. Be good to each other etc.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Funeral in the rain

Turns out three magpies might not be for death after all. It might be for a wedding. And there's much debate about the whole 'five for silver, six for gold' bit. I have been looking into it, in the interests of science. And the interests of not getting on with any real work.

Death is, however, on my mind, First it came for Gary Coleman, and I did not speak out, for I was not Gary Coleman. Then it came for Dennis Hopper, and I did not speak out, for I was busy watching the Candy Coloured Clown bit from Blue Velvet. Then, last week, it came for my old, poorly, Aunt May, and - I'm hoping - took her somewhere better. Hopefully not in the same bus and Hopper and Coleman.

My Aunt May was not the same as the one from Spiderman. I never had an Uncle Ben, for one thing. Had some of his rice once, but that probably doesn't count. My Aunt May was actually my dad's aunt. As children, my brother and I used to go round every Tuesday and torment her for the evening while my dad went to spend quality time with some beer. My mum worked nights, so this was his only night of freedom in what must have otherwise been a miserable week of looking after my whining, selfish younger self.

Aunt May never had kids, so she used to enjoy spending time with us, her oldest great-nephews. Quite why I'm not sure. At that age, my brother and I were selfish, demanding monsters, hell bent on making a plaything of her emotions and wrecking her house. It was like inviting a couple of miniature Simon Cowells into your home to belittle your life, mock your possessions and eat all your biscuits. Despite this she was ridiculously kind and patient, not even minding when we span her comfy chair round and round, shouting 'Die, Davros. Die!'

Her most notable achievement, in my eyes, was that she took me to see Star Wars for the first time, when I was seven. A more brilliant cinematic experience I have never had. I can't imagine I ever will. I don't remember much about my life before, say, nine years old, but this trip I remember with great clarity. I came home bursting with unspeakable joy, drawing poorly realised X-Wings and TIE fighters on every available surface. My life changed, that day. Now I knew what it was to have a work of art transform my every waking moment, so that everything else became a blank surface onto which real meaning was inscribed by my new obsession.

From there came my love of spaceships, and robots, and monsters, and lasers, and scrambling around pretending to save the galaxy. From then on every stick was a light-sabre, every dustbin a robot, every pile of dirt an alien planet. I even tried to use the force a number of times. And, if you are a boy, so did you. And of course, from here came the love of Doctor Who - that other great, transforming text of my life.

You may think I am ascribing too much importance to this event (and you may think, hang on, weren't you being sad about your Aunt a minute ago, and now you're talking about aliens again). Well, no I'm not, and you're a liar, and your hair looks crap, and those shoes don't go with that face. Thanks to my Aunt May, I saw a film, at 7, that truly inspired me. And then she took me to see Time Bandits, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and... well, lots of things. Lots of wonderful things.

Since getting older I have been shamefully neglectful of most of my relatives, and this has been very much the case with May. Attending her funeral yesterday, I considered again how I tend to assume that, at some point, I'll catch up with everybody. I wrote to May occasionally, but that was pretty lazy, really. Most of the letters were just photos of me to remind her what I looked like, and a bunch of paragraphs bitching about the Phantom Menace.

But she made a difference. To me. And to lots of people. And now she's with Gary Coleman, and Dennis Hopper, nattering away randomly. Coleman looks up at Hopper. Hopper looks down at Coleman. I'm no Theologian, but that sounds like the beginning of an interesting day in the afterlife.

Friday, 4 June 2010


One is for... sorrow? I think that's right. It's a David Bowie song. Except I think it's a cover. I don't know who did the original. It's not very good,anyway. Ashes to Ashes is good. The song. And the TV show as well, but I'm talking about the song.

Hello. At least once a week I pretend I'm about to blog, and then I feel the pressing need to wander about the house going 'laa laa laa, my house is nice.' Not my house, technically. But my home. I do have a house, but it's off imits. Geographically and conversationally.

Two is for... mirth. Not joy, as is often reported. Mirth. Which is joy, I suppose, but seems less hateful. Mirth. To rhyme with birth (coming soon).

I have had a variety of obsessions this year. Like Toad, of Toad Hall. I think it was him. I was obsessed with Adrian Mole for a bit, and that was nice. Then Stephen Segal, thanks to Vern's great book. This was quickly followed by a devotion to all things Chris Morris related. I listened to loads of Blue Jam, and On the Hour, all prompted by the great book 'Disgusting Bliss'. Recommended. I like my obsessional phases. I'm currently on A-ha, whom I love because I'm going to see them in November. So I bought lots of their albums and am listening to them a lot.

Three is for death. Yes, death. Not a girl. No. You can't have a girl. You can have death. The magpies bring the end of things. Death.

It is sunny, so there's that and that makes me happy. I'm very lucky to have a number of very good friends who like a) the sun, b) wine and c) drinking wine in the sun. Hard to believe that this time last year I was seriously thinking of moving away from these wonderful people. They keep me alive. And I need keeping alive. In case the magpies come.

Four is for birth. See, I told you that mirth was good for something. It rhymes with birth.

I'm enjoying Doctor Who, and Matt Smith is very, very good. Just watched him in Party Animals and he's a lovely actor. Looking forward to seeing where he takes his Doctor. The series has been zippy and entertaining and has made me glad. If I can keep away from the forums, and the spite and negativity that passes for fandom over there, I should be able to continue to enjoy the series in all its exhuberance. I'm just so happy, every week, that the series I have loved for so many years is on TV again.

Five... that'll do for now. Let's stay at four. Maybe it will encourage me to blog again before the year is out.

Enjoy the sunshine.