Monthly Archives: March 2015

Movies I Refuse To Ever Watch Again. Ever.

I’ve been thinking recently about some films that I will never ever watch again, for a variety of different reasons. Some because they were truly bad, some because they were so much of a let-down, some because they hurt. Here they are, but no spoilers – because there might be something wrong with you and you may want to actually go and watch these…

Grave of the Fireflies

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While a lot of this list is based solely on my personal opinion, this film is renowned for moving the most emotionally immovable people. It is one of the excellent Studio Ghibli animations, which while they do frequently have very deep themes, they are normally characterised by quirky, fun characters, and being steeped in Japanese lore. This film is a very different beast. It follows the story of two children in Japan at the end of the 2nd World War… and it will wrap its tiny hands around your heart, and squeeze and squeeze until it is crushed into a ball so small, your chest will collapse into the vaccuum.

Alien: Resurrection

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An ex-boyfriend once wanted to buy the Alien quadrilogy boxset. I told him not to bother, because I would make him leave this fourth film outside the front door. It is a complete car crash of a movie, and I HATE it. The rage kicked in for me when they start getting science – the premise that the entire film is based on – wrong. The most disappointing thing about the whole movie for me is that it was written by Joss Whedon, who is normally like Midas when it comes to TV & film. QUIT FUCKING UP MY FAVOURITE FRANCHISE, YOU BASTARDS.

Elektra

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I paid to see this at the cinema, and I deeply regret contributing in even that small way to profit from this movie. It was perhaps the dullest and most disappointing few hours of my life, outside of the bedroom towards the tail-end of a relationship. I have a bit of a lady-boner for comic book adaptations, even if I have never read the actual comics – the visual style, the costumes, the depth of the characters, the innate sense of history and complexity, the back story… In fact, you have to try really hard to fuck them up, because someone else has already done all of the legwork. Elektra was as interesting, deep, exciting and visually stimulating as a sock. A used sock. A used sock, discarded in the corner of a teenage boy’s room. Just with less edge.

The Green Mile

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This is a great film, stuffed full of really talented actors, but the crippling unfairness of it broke me. I cried for the last 10 minutes of the film. Full on toddler snot trails down my face, and I will never put myself through the heart-ache again.

Hell Ride

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This had so much promise, but it is easily the single worst film I have ever seen – and I have spent massive chunks of my life watching dodgy low-budget 80’s movies from the darkest corners of the local video shop. Bad writing, bad acting, bad direction. I’m fairly sure that there was supposed to be a plot, but I’ll be damned if I can tell you what it was. I am a huge fan of swearing, but the dialogue in this film seems to have been written by a handful of 12 year old boys who have just discovered the words “fuck” and “pussy”. It was trying so hard to be what I assume from the adverts Sons of Anarchy is, but it failed. Hard. It wasn’t even ironic enough to achieve cult levels of awfulness.

Million Dollar Baby

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Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman. As you would expect from such great actors, this film was engaging, funny, real… It was going SO WELL – until the last half an hour. Devastating. I cried myself to sleep that night thinking about it. Sobbing.

Goodfellas

Goodfellas

This is a film about arsholes. Arseholes doing arsehole things, sometimes to other arseholes, sometimes to people who aren’t arseholes, but who don’t get any screen-time. Even the victims of domestic abuse garner no sympathy, because they are arseholes. I have been advised that that’s kinda the point of the film, which I fail on every level to understand.

The Blair Witch Project

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As a film, this was alright, innovative I guess, but horribly over-hyped. I had a mission when I was younger to find a film that would truly scare me. Based on the marketing, this was going to be The One. I went to see it on Halloween with my eyes shining and my heart full of promise. I got to the end of the film and my response was; “Oh. Was that it?”. Gutted doesn’t describe it.

The Day After Tomorrow

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Another film that I paid to see at the cinema and was just awful. Dull, clichéd, hugely disappointing. I really really wanted to walk out. I should have just left, but I stayed partly because I had already handed over money which I wasn’t going to get back, partly because after a while I went past a tipping point of personal investment, and partly because I was kinda still hoping it might turn into something worthwhile at the end. Actually, that’s pretty much exactly what happened with most of my previous relationships…

Oh, how insignificant we truly are: Thoughts on an Eclipse

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Eclipse Selfie – this is how you do it, right?

I’m not sure there is anything much more powerful and awe-inspiring than being confronted with the reality of how utterly insignificant and powerless we truly are.

The last time there was a major eclipse in the UK was in August 1999. I had been back in Northampton for a month after finishing college, and I had just started work in the same place I am actually back working at now. A big group of us stood outside the front of the building, and we slowly fell into an awed hush as the light around us dimmed into an orangey purple colour. An eerie silence crept through the crowd; there was a night-time quiet amongst all of the birds and animals that makes up the usual background noise of life that you simply don’t notice until it’s unexpectedly absent.

We all knew what was happening, WHY it was happening, and that it would go away again soon…but it was SCARY. For a short period of time, it was immediately apparent how vulnerable we all are to things that we absolutely have no control over. It genuinely felt like being in a Sci-Fi movie. It is completely understandable why primitive peoples created gods to explain phenomena like this, because even now it evokes primal fear and a sense of utter powerlessness.

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That was 16 years ago and needless to say, I have been ridiculously excited in the lead up to the eclipse that happened today, because I like Science, and also creepy shit.

I had already decided that I wasn’t going to be doing any work between 9am and 10am; I was going to get a coffee, take my pin-hole camera, and park myself outside until everything was over. I had no intentions of missing a moment.

Before any of that happened, I needed to make a pin-hole camera in the first place. I’ve never made one before, but I got the general idea. I took a cardboard box, sealed off gaps in one end with masking tape, and used a big safety pin to poke a hole in one side. I tested it out using the LED bulbs in my living room lights as substitute suns, and it worked like a dream. I did adapt the design a bit – by ‘adapt the design’ I mean ‘I cut a chunk out of the front to allow my face to get a bit closer’.

High tech.

Check out my tech.

So, the Science bit of this, and forgive me if I’m teaching you to suck eggs here; the box is like your eye, the pin-hole is like your iris, and the inside wall of the back of the box is like your retina. It all does the same job, although my interpretation is a bit fucking clumsy at best. The image of the object that is actually emitting the light passes through the pinhole, and appears upside down on the inside wall of the box; it does the same thing on your retina, it’s just your brain has learned to flip the image to make it make sense.

So, I had my pin-hole camera, I knew that it worked with a light bulb – all I needed then was a nice clear day to observe the eclipse!

Oh...

Oh…

Balls.

I got in my car at 08:24 to head to work, and the sky was disappointingly cloudy…but not a lot of lumpy clouds. It was mostly like a fog, but washed across the sky, and as I got closer to work, it started to glow with the light of the sun behind it. Shadows started to stretch out underneath the cars on the road in front of me, and I began to get a little bit more excited about actually being able to witness the solar spectacle.

I headed to the top of the multi-storey car park – being a Friday when people generally take a day’s holiday, I got my pick of spaces, and headed up as high as I could get.

The light was already changing, emphasising blues and reds.

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It was this point that I realised that in my excitement, I had forgotten my access badge, which also had my drawer keys attached – the collective result being that I had to walk around to the other side of the building to beg forgiveness from the security staff, and also that I had to queue for coffee in the shop, rather than using my own stash.

Net impact; I was having a typically constrained British strop by the time I got to my desk to set my laptop up, before then heading back out and start watching. Drama aside, by 09:04am, I was back at my car and I had my observation station set up.

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High quality Science happening, right here.

By 09:13am, the cloud cover had burned out enough that I was seeing bright and recognisable pictures of the emerging eclipse. Two minutes later, the birdsong around me noticeably changed.

Would you look at that? It actually worked...

Would you look at that? It actually worked…

The clouds were moving in waves of variable density past the sun, so the image inside my viewer was pulsing in and out of focus, but at 09:22am, the picture sharpened up again to show a noticeable difference in the encroachment of the Moon across the surface of the Sun and my belly went fizzy with excitement.

It's no surprise to me that people think I'm a bit odd at times.

It’s no surprise to me that people think I’m a bit odd at times.

The temperature was really dropping. The last eclipse I witnessed was in August, so the base temperature was significantly higher, but this morning it was so cold that my breath was fogging up the air around me and my fingers were going numb.

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You’re inside my box. Fnarr fnarr.

The Moon was steadily progressing across the front of the Sun, and by 09:33am, the light was so dull that I could no longer see anything through my pin-hole camera. I turned around…and there it was. A Cheshire Cat smile in the sky, layered behind roiling thicknesses of cloud.

Cheshire Cat

Yes, the phone on my camera sucks. Deal with it.

It stopped being a projection on a piece of cardboard, and hit me in the chest with the full force of reality. I was looking at the ACTUAL sun. I could see the ACTUAL moon rolling across in front of it. I had a clear line of sight across space, and the sheer distance and size of the bodies involved hit me like a solid weight.

I have many, many examples from TV and film to fuel my imagination, and my brain took everything it had at its disposal and zoomed in across space like the opening credits to a sci-fi series. I felt genuinely overwhelmed by the magnitude of what I was witnessing…and by comparison, the insignificance of the petty squabbles and turmoils of human life.

We need this shit more often.

Relationship Lessons: “How Not To Be A Cock”

I have had a few relationships over the years, most of which ended out being utter car crashes due to poor choices on my part. I am happy to put my hands up and accept responsibility for that. I am not perfect; in fact, if you’ve been here a while, you will know that I write about exactly how NOT PERFECT I am.

However I (as many others have, I am sure) inexplicably put up with loads of completely unnecessary bullshit in my relationships. Over the years I have identified a few important elements of friction-generating behaviour in my ex-partners. I am keen to share some tips with everyone to help you avoid unwittingly becoming the kind of boyfriend or girlfriend that makes their significant other want to throw furniture at them.

Also, it’s a bit funny…

…in retrospect.

In no particular order;

  • Don’t make a mess, and then complain about there being a mess.
  • Learn when your partner’s birthday is, and decide in advance whether you are going to acknowledge birthdays or not. You have 364 OTHER days to sort this out; do not under any circumstances ask to borrow money from your partner, on their birthday, to go and buy them a gift. Also, do not ask them to drive you, with their own money, to go and buy them a present. On their birthday.
  • Don’t buy a car you know you can’t afford to run, and then get deeply and personally annoyed when you can’t afford to run it.
  • If you don’t want a rubbish bin full of stinking liquid in your kitchen, don’t put perishable liquids in the rubbish bin in your kitchen. And then complain about it.
  • Don’t say “I’ll be 20 minutes”, if what you actually mean is “I fully intend on making a sandwich and having a shower before I leave.” Do not underestimate the rage you can generate in another person when you make them wait around for 40 minutes in which they could have been drinking beer instead.
  • Don’t suggest going out to the pub over the road for dinner when you’re both hungry –  and then spend 30 further minutes experimenting with your hairstyle and accessorising your outfit before you leave.
  • If you’re going to talk with authority about a complex scientific subject, don’t get pissy when someone asks you questions about it which you are unable to answer.
  • If you are living rent-free in someone else’s house and staying at home all day, earning no money while you are pursuing personal projects, do the fucking washing up. Do not wait until everyone gets home and then express your INTENTION of doing the washing up.
  • Understand that “Best Before” dates on food and drink are guidelines about optimum quality, and not an instruction to throw something away.
  • If you really want to do something, go and do it.
  • If you really DON’T want to do something, don’t do it.
  • If you don’t know WHAT you want, but equally don’t want suggestions, shut the fuck up about not knowing what you want.
  • If you choose to utterly dismiss the ideas and guidance of your partner, do not then unquestioningly accept that exact same advice from one of your parents, in front of your partner. Regularly.
  • That mold you just noticed growing in the corner of your window? That’s been there for the last 6 months, and is not why you are suddenly ill.
  • Don’t balance breakable glass items on your fingertips if you know in advance that you’re clumsy and not very good at cleaning up.
  • Don’t assume that because you are a musician, you are instinctively more in tune with everything and are therefore correct. About everything.
  • If you have cold-like symptoms, there’s a good chance you’ve probably just got a cold.
  • Try to remember that there is a world of difference between opinion and fact.
  • If you decide to be sneering and dismissive towards your partner about being such a hideous drunk that they do not remember specific conversations and events, try really hard to ensure that those conversations and events didn’t in fact happen with a previous partner of yours.
  • Take a stand about Valentine’s day; decide that you are either going to DO Valentine’s Day, or that you are NOT going to do Valentine’s Day, but do not under any circumstances ask your partner whether or not they want a Valentine’s card. On Valentine’s Day.

Thank you, Terry.

I am really quite fond of my brain. Don’t get me wrong, it drew some frankly unhelpful conclusions early on in my life, but otherwise it’s fairly sound, and has looked after me through a lot of experiences that could easily have broken me. It has the ability to empathise with other people, and be nice to them. It’s also reasonably quick, and it likes to take on new information and Work Stuff Out.

I also like my brain because it’s a bit fucking weird sometimes.

It has always seemed to work against the tide of what’s happening around me. Often, it will be presented with the same information as other people get, but will run off in a different direction, ending out miles away from where it’s supposed to be.

It tends to take normal and unrelated ideas, and then mash them together, producing weird hybrid offspring thoughts – which more often than not I think are clever and hilarious, contrary to the raised eyebrows and blank faces around me.

Quite frequently, it will look at day-to-day stuff and see something ridiculous, other than what is supposed to be there; I am that annoying person who will laugh like an idiot and then say “Oh, it doesn’t matter…” when you ask why, because annoying you is less awkward than the sympathetic expression on your face when I try to explain.

My brain is in no way unique. It isn’t special in the way it works, but it is unusual enough that when I find another person whose brain does the same thing, I feel a joy and sense of connection that often changes the way I feel about life.

The first time I experienced that joy was reading a Terry Pratchett book. It was called Moving Pictures.

His brain was like my brain, but squared. His brain did weird conclusions, random thought leaps, and sharpness exponentially better than mine, and then wrapped it all up in a ribbon of good humour, genuine insight, irreverence and eloquence, topped with a bow made of warmth.

When I was a young person, lost in a sea of faces, places and events that I just didn’t recognise or feel part of, Terry Pratchett was a beacon. He was an open window in the darkness. He welcomed me in and showed me what it was like to feel at home, like I belonged somewhere.

Thank you, Terry.

Thank you for unwittingly being there when I needed someone. Thank you for your bravery and honesty. Thank you for always sharing yourself. This place isn’t as good without you in it.

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Sweet; Liebster nomination!

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Well, I have just been nominated for a Liebster award, and yes I had to Google what that was. Don’t get me wrong, I have done my research and I am aware that it’s not the Pulitzer Prize… Regardless, I genuinely feel honoured that someone has noticed my words, and they have resonated enough to stick in their memory.

I would like to say a massive thank you to The Bold Bluebonnet for the nomination, while I am not 100% sure on the rules, I believe they are fairly fluid and open to interpretation – you nominate X number of blogs, answer what your nominator suggested you answer, and then similarly propose a challenge for the bloggers you have chosen to nominate.

I don’t want to turn this into a car crash of a chain-blog, so fuck it – you can search it out and follow the prescripted rules, or make it up as you go along, or just simply take it as me saying “Hey, you guys are doing an awesome job!” and then read some more of the shit I write at the bottom of this post.

Without further ado, I would like to nominate the following blogs that I follow personally for being genuinely entertaining and worthy of your time;

The Hard Times – funny, sharp, vibrates on my wavelength.

Roswell Ivory – who doesn’t love a beautiful, smart, thoughtful redhead, right??

How To Be Myself – Jillian is awesome and I feel somewhat of a kindred spirit

ThorNews – Yeah, so I get a lady-boner for Scandinavian stuff, deal with it.

Life: A Scot in Norway – Norway, and Bergen in particular, is a place that captured my heart, and this blog is a way to relive it.

Lisa’s Project: Vegan – a recent addition to my interesting blogs, but one that really supports a lot of the things I have been doing with my life recently.

#Better Be A Hit – a young man who is living my dream! Give it back Aaron, damn you!

Pineapple Sage  – say hi to Chris who is a thoroughly lovely human being, on a level I simply am not capable of.

I was asked to answer an open-ended number of responses to the question “If you could sit down with a version of yourself from a decade ago, what would you tell them?” Well, holy shit. Where exactly am I supposed to start?? Here goes;

  1. Trust your gut, not your mind. Your subconscious self is always being honest with you even if your conscious self isn’t, so when something doesn’t sit right, doesn’t feel right, listen.
  2. Spend your time with people who value you for the same reasons that you value yourself. Go where you are celebrated, not tolerated (I wish I could claim responsibility for that quote, but I can’t.)
  3. Whilst good natured piss-taking is the backbone of any worthwhile human relationship, anyone who genuinely belittles you or sneers at you for anything you do or have done is deliberately trying to make you feel bad about who you are, or who you were. Fuck that, and fuck them. That’s bullying, and that is not acceptable.
  4. The people who you can choose to spend your life with should not make your life hard, or unhappy. If they do, you have made the wrong choice.
  5. You are allowed to make wrong choices. You are fallible because you are not a machine; you are subject to a brain that works on chemical reactions and historical experience. If you made a wrong choice, that does not make you a bad person, nor does it make you stupid; it simply makes you an actual human. Following on from that…
  6. You are allowed to walk away from a relationship or situation that makes you unhappy. You do not have to give a logical and detailed explanation, showing your workings. Being miserable is a perfectly valid reason to leave.
  7. You are shit at managing money. Accept it, own it. Go hungry/without beer/without holidays rather than get credit cards and loans. They genuinely are going to be one of the biggest regrets in your life.
  8. No-one else is necessarily right about how to live life, especially yours. Examine what you are doing and why. Life, mortgage, job, relationship, smoking, drinking – keep checking in with yourself to make sure that it is truly what you want, and not just want you think you should have.

That’s 8 points for 8 great blogs. Cheers, writing types!