Inspired By Insomnia

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I find myself insomnolent
At three in the morning
Can’t get back to sleep
Though day is several hours from dawning

It’s a frustrating situation
Because I am truly tired
But I don’t think that I will get
The sleep that is required

I try to relax by breathing
I expand my diaphragm
But the more I try to doze
The more alert I find I am

It’s a vicious circle
It makes me want to weep
The longer that I’m conscious
The harder it is to sleep

So as long as I’m awake
I’ll use the extra time
I get up out of bed
And I pen this little rhyme

 

James Explains Giraffes Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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Welcome back to that bit of my blog where I pretend I’m going to explain stuff but then don’t explain anything much at all. This week, as ever, I’ll be answering the questions of other people.

People like Haylee who previously asked about lions and bears and hot dogs and jaffa cakes and is still from the UK but somewhere different in the UK to me. Haylee asks:

Do giraffes make a sound? And would they be the rudest animal if they could speak ‘human’?

Now this does seem like an obvious opportunity to promote the ‘Magic Penguin’ bit of my blog which features a character called Fat Giraffe, who speaks ‘human’ and has been known to be rude, but I’m really not into that kind of self-promotion.

Although you should totally check out the ‘Magic Penguin’ stories now.

But back to the question and whether giraffes make a sound. The answer is yes, yes they do. And I doubt they’re anything like as rude as a vole. I once met a vole who was just the rudest creature.

Ok that isn’t entirely true – I’ve never met a vole of any temperament but I can’t imagine a giraffe would be all that rude. They seem like they’d be quite polite as animals go.

Want to hear what a giraffe sounds like?

Then watch this video in which a giraffe makes a noise.

Jay from the USA asks:

Which is better, Godfather Part I or Godfather Part II? Follow up, why is there so much hatred for Godfather Part III?

Now it would genuinely help if I had seen any of the Godfather films and I haven’t. I should have done, I know I’d enjoy them, but I never seem to have got around to it.

Still, it does seem to be widely accepted that both of the first two Godfather films are pretty good – although according to Wikipedia (the place I go to learn everything), the first one was marginally more successful both critically and commercially. But in the end it’s all just a matter of opinion and as I’ve never seen either I’m not really entitled to have an opinion on this topic..

And why is there so much hatred for part III? Well I haven’t seen that either, but I’d imagine it’s because it isn’t a very good film, a fact which is made all the worse because the other two are supposedly very good.

But I haven’t seen any of them, so what do I know?

I was going to watch them in preparation for this, but frankly, they do seem to be a bit long.

gigglingfattie who previously asked about rubber duckies and is still from Canada asks:

Why, when challenging yourself to post 10 songs from your iTunes, will the most embarrassing ones always be played?!

I think anything that is likely to cause embarrassment is almost inevitable.

So the trick  is not to be embarrassed by anything.

I know that when I’m putting together playlists for my own amusement at home or in the car, they tend to be a mix of nineties and noughties indie classics.

But give me one too many tequilas on a night out and I’ll happily bounce around the dance floor to some ‘interesting’ choices.

Like the one below:

 

FInally, Pete, who previously asked about my name and ‘the point’ and is still from the UK but somewhere different in the UK to me and Haylee asks:

Will we all be rich after Brexit?

I think the answer to that is clearly no Pete. While I’m pretty sure that Brexit will neither be as bad as some of us fear nor anywhere near as good as some people would have us believe,  most of us will be as rich or as poor as we ever were.

But we will have our blue passports back so whatever the other consequences, it will all have been worth it.

And that’s it for another week of explaining stuff.

I expect I’ll do it all again next week if anyone posts a question or two in the comments section below.

Ninety-One

James Proclaims (4)

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Do bloggers blog about the very act of blogging when they can’t think what else to blog about?

Perhaps so.

I know I’ve been guilty of that before.

And perhaps I’m guilty of that today.

I’ve got loads of things I want to blog about though, so this post is not entirely about a lack of other topics.

For example I could blog about the time, recently, that I won a massive cake in a raffle. Or how Mrs Proclaims and I survived in near arctic conditions when we thought our boiler had broken, but in fact our boiler was fine and it was our gas meter that had broken (oh the hilarity of going for three days without heating only for the wrong kind of repairman to turn up!)

Or I could brag about how I totally won an argument conducted through the medium of email in work today.

Because I owned that email exchange.

But today I want to blog about this very blog.

Because I have been something of a blogging machine of late. Yesterday I posted my ninetieth post in ninety consecutive days. Today is my ninety-first post in ninety-one consecutive days.

That’s a pretty good record by anyone’s standards.

And I’ve brought some new stuff to the blog too. Like my slightly rubbish film reviews. Or the genuinely perplexing ‘Magic Penguin’ stories. Or the utterly unhelpful ‘James Explains’.

But some of the ninety-one posts have, I think, been quite good.

Not this one obviously.

But some of them have been.

And now I find myself a mere nine days and nine posts away from hitting a century. A hundred posts in a hundred days.

Will I make it?

Who knows?

Who really cares?

I mean I care a little bit. But it’s not really going to change my life. I won’t even get a celebratory t-shirt.

Maybe I should make a celebratory t-shirt.

That would be cool.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Because I’m not there yet.

Today I’m at ninety-one.

And ninety-one does not make for a cool t-shirt by anyone’s standards.

 

Magic Penguin And The Continuing Lack Of Action

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Magic Penguin, Fat Giraffe and Stupid Donkey were enjoying a few drinks in the Shoe and Phone one afternoon. Fat Giraffe was a little irritated by Stupid Donkey’s appearance in  a second successive story.

“So you’re going to be a regular fixture then?” he asked, failing to mask his animosity.

“Yeah, the writer felt that the series needed another regular character,” said Stupid Donkey.

“Well I thought the first two stories worked quite well as two-handers,” muttered Fat Giraffe.

“I don’t think it really matters,” said Magic Penguin, “as long as I’m in the stories. After all, I am the principal character.”

“Well I think I’m quite important too,” said Fat Giraffe, “what would the Magic Penguin stories be without Fat Giraffe eh?”

“I think we’d get by,” said Magic Penguin.

“Oh, I think you’ll find that the stories would lose something without me,” said Fat Giraffe, “to be honest I’d go as far as to say I’m the only thing holding them together at the moment.”

“I’m not sure that the stories are working though,” said Happy Rhino, “they’re a bit samey really. Nothing much seems to happen in them.”

“Who are you?” asked Magic Penguin.

“I’m Happy Rhino,” said Happy Rhino, “I’ve been brought in to reinvigorate the franchise.”

“But you  weren’t even in the opening paragraph to this story!” exclaimed Fat Giraffe, “where did you come from? This is preposterous.”

“Oh, I’ve been here all along,” said Happy Rhino, “I’ve been in the background of all the stories. You didn’t think it was just you two in the pub all this time did you?”

“I suppose that would be strange,” acknowledged Magic Penguin, “there were bound to be some other patrons.”

“Not to mention staff,” added Ed the Ostrich from behind the bar.

“Hey Ed,” said Fat Giraffe, “how come your name is slightly different to ours?”

“What do you mean?” asked Ed.

“Well, we all seem to have an implausible adjective as our forename and then the kind of animal we are as our surname. Whereas you have a normal name followed by the definite article and only then the kind of animal you are, which suggests that your species isn’t actually part of your name.”

“Oh yeah,” replied Ed, “I’d never noticed that before.”

“Well to be fair, you’ve only been in the story for a few lines,” said Magic Penguin, “maybe we’re asking too much of you.”

“Anyway,” said Stupid Donkey, slightly irritated that he hadn’t had anything to say for a while, “what happened about last week’s cliffhanger?”

“Oh yeah,” said Happy Rhino, “I forgot about that!”

“You didn’t forget,” said Fat Giraffe, “ you weren’t even in the story.”

“Yes I was,” explained Happy Rhino, patiently, “ but as I said before, I was just in the background.”

“So you say,” muttered Fat Giraffe.

“But seriously guys,” continued Stupid Donkey, “what did happen about the cliffhanger.”

“Well, you were definitely there, so I’m surprised that you’ve forgotten,” said Magic Penguin, “but allow me to jog your memory. If you recall, the mysterious stranger was just a red herring. Who went by the name of Red Herring.”

“Oh yeah,” said Fat Giraffe, “and if I remember correctly, Red Herring had a problem, that necessitated an investigation, which resulted in a compelling adventure, with lots of action and some thrilling twists in the tale, before it was all resolved in a satisfactory way”

“That’s right,” said Magic Penguin. “It was exciting stuff alright.”

“So why isn’t that adventure the basis for this week’s story” asked Happy Rhino, “that would seem a much better premise for a tale than whatever this is.”

“True,” said Magic Penguin, “it does seem strange that the writer has chosen to focus the narrative around a boring conversation rather than an exciting adventure story.”

“It’s almost as if he has no respect for the reader,” said Stupid Donkey.

“Yes,” laughed Magic Penguin, “it does seem if he has no respect for the reader at all.”

But Magic Penguin and Stupid Donkey were wrong. The writer did respect the readers.

He just wasn’t a very good writer.

An Early Start

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As he navigated the narrow streets of the old town, Martin noted that the weather was a touch colder than he’d anticipated, and he slightly regretted leaving the warmer of his jackets in his hotel room. The hoodie he had grabbed in his hasty exit was slightly inadequate. It was, however, still quite early and he was optimistic that conditions would improve as the day went on.

Otherwise it would, he felt, be a long day.

He pulled the hoodie tighter and increased his walking pace, hopeful that intensifying his cardiovascular output would counteract the effects of the cold.

As he neared the old docklands, the absence of any kind of sustenance in his morning thus far also began to play on his mind. He checked his watch. He had about ten minutes, time enough for a coffee at least. It was, however, so early, that although there was a plethora of eateries in sight, not one of them was yet open.

There was no time to look further afield so he resigned himself to his hunger and paced along the quay, trying to maintain something approximating a tolerable body temperature.

There was no denying that, at this time of day, the wharf was charming. As the day went on, and tourist numbers increased, some of that charm would inevitably disappear, but at that moment it was a serenely quiet and prepossessing location. Still, Martin would have preferred to be in the warmth of his hotel room, happily dreaming or tucking into room-service scrambled eggs.

Instead he was here, waiting.

The time dragged, and ten minutes turned into fifteen, which turned into twenty. A van pulled into sight, Martin recalled seeing it on previous visits and knew it would eventually add to the numerous waterfront food retailers. He hoped that it would begin trading soon, but the proprietor appeared to be in no rush, seemingly seeing to his own refreshment needs first by way of a small thermos.

Another five minutes went by and still no sign of anyone else.

He checked his phone, and only then did he realise it was on set on silent. He noted three missed calls, all received in the last few minutes and all from the same number. He returned the call. It rang only once and then he heard a familiar and slightly irritated voice.

“Where are you,” asked Martin, struggling to mask his own irritation.

He listened to the reply

“But we said we’d meet by the harbor,” Martin argued, “I’ve been here for ages.”

Had there been any passers-by at that moment they would have struggled to make out the muffled words coming out of Martin’s phone but the frustrated tone would have been all too clear.

“Ok, I’ll see you in a few minutes,” said Martin, “I’m sorry.”

Hanging up, he looked hopefully  at the van and saw with relief that it had now opened for business.

After purchasing a bacon sandwich and much-needed americano, Martin began trudging back to the hotel, to what he already knew would be a reception so frosty that it would make the current temperature seem positively balmy.

 

Better A Witty Fool Than A Foolish Wit

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Today begins a new theme on Artist’s Corner. For the next few weeks I’ll be producing portraits of some of history’s greatest literary and cultural figures. Because what better tribute to these great minds than a slightly rubbish doodle?

Is this a portrait of Shakespeare I see before me?

Er, yes it is.

 

 

Films I Watched When I Was Younger – Issue 4: Gremlins 2 – The New Batch

James Proclaims (6)

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No-one could accuse the 1984 comedy horror movie Gremlins  of taking itself too seriously. But as tongue-in-cheek as the original Gremlins is, the 1990 sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch is absolutely bonkers. Anarchic and completely irreverent, at the time of its release I was absolutely convinced it was superior to its predecessor.  I was, however, a stupid child and nearly always thought that sequels were better. These days I realise that is rarely the case and sequels that are superior to their forerunners are far from the norm.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch is not at all better than Gremlins, but in many ways a comparison is pointless because they are very different films. Admittedly they are different films that both have scary mischief-making monsters in them but the second Gremlins movie is madder than it’s eponymous antagonists.

The fourth wall takes such a battering throughout the shambles of a narrative that it’s often hard to work out what is actually happening within the story.

Not that it matters, because what Gremlins 2 might lack in terms of a coherent plot, it more than makes up for in its chaotic sense of fun. If the first film struck a balance between horror and comedy, then the emphasis of the sequel is entirely comedic.

Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates reprise their roles as Billy and Kate from the first movie and perform as admirably as ever, and the addition of John Glover as eccentric mogul Daniel Clamp is inspired. Christopher Lee is also a welcome addition as the unsettling Dr Catheter.

As with the first movie though, it’s still the Gremlins themselves that are the stars of the show – in particular the genetically altered ‘Brain Gremlin’, whose musical turn at the movie’s climax still makes me laugh.

However, whereas the original Gremlins has stood the test of time quite well, the satire of the sequel feels a little dated in 2018.

I loved Gremlins 2 so much when it came out that I can still find much to enjoy about it today, but I’m not sure I’d feel the same way if I didn’t have that nostalgic bias and was viewing it for the first time.

Stupidly Happy

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Oh to be an idiot
That would be rather good
I’d like to not know anything
And not know that I should

To be ignorant of my ignorance
To be unaware I’m thick
To have the intellectual capacity
Of a fairly stupid brick

I wish I was dim-witted
That I understood much less
Were I more simple-minded
It would cause me no distress

For knowledge isn’t power
Wisdom is not a helpful trait
And life is rather scary
When you understand your fate

So I would be much happier
Indeed I’d be delighted
If I could spend my whole life
Blissfully benighted

James Explains Jaffa Cakes Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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Welcome back to another ‘James Explains’ – the home of knowledge. But not the home of wisdom.

Or knowledge really.

This is a place where questions will be answered. Not always, admittedly, with the correct answers. But it’s the thought that counts.

And so on with the questions:

Glen who previously asked about combs and then asked about tools and who still resides in Australia asks:

While cookies are baking can it be said the cookies are loading?

I think you’ve mixed up your cookies there Glen, but that’s OK. You can say they’re loading if you like. I have no objections.

But I would ask in return, while cookies are loading can it be said the cookies are baking?

And of course the answer is definitely probably yes.

Haylee who previously asked about lions and bears and hot dogs and is still from the UK but somewhere different in the UK to me asks:

Jaffa, cake or biscuit? (Standard, centuries old dilemma!)

A dilemma indeed, although as they’re called Jaffa Cakes I think it’s obvious they are cakes. Cakes that seem to be quite a lot like biscuits admittedly.

I don’t think it matters. They are what they are and what they are is delicious. I had some cranberry and clementine Jaffa Cakes over the Christmas period and they were tremendous.

And definitely cakes.

That seem a bit like biscuits.

Bryntin, who is from the UK but somewhere different in the UK to either me or Haylee asks:

James, please explain Jacob Rees-Mogg and how he can possibly still not appear aged after leaving university in 1838.

Now this is a mystery and there really can be only one explanation. And that is Jacob Rees-Mogg is a vampire and therefore immortal.

But, I hear you cry, Jacob Rees-Mogg seems to be perfectly happy going out in daylight.

And that is true, he doesn’t mind daylight. But that’s because he’s that rare thing in the world of vampires, the ’Daywalker’.

In fact 1998 movie Blade is actually based quite heavily on the life of Jacob Rees-Mogg. It’s a great film but it did raise some eyebrows at the time because some people thought the casting choice of Wesley Snipes was an interesting direction to go in. But I think Snipes captures the essence of Rees-Mogg fully in that movie and the, frankly brilliant sequel Blade II. I was less sure about his performance in the third Blade movie, but he did his best with a poor script, and it was still probably  better than the forthcoming ‘Blade Brexit’ is going to be. Not much is known about the script but the premise seems to be that the title character becomes the unlikely leader of the Conservative party and in doing so also becomes a Prime Minister without a mandate who leads Britain out of the clutches of the European Union and into economic uncertainty and isolationism. Many think that it’s too far-fetched.

And that’s it for another James Explains. Tune in next week to see if anyone has bothered to ask me any more questions.

If you’d like James to answer a question on James Explains, then why not ask it in the comments below?

 

Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Batman!

James Proclaims (4)

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At the moment I appear to be in quite a bizarre place health wise. The Christmas period certainly did very little to reduce my weight. And by weight I do, of course, mean mass. Weight, as anyone who studied science to a fairly basic level during their school days will know, is a force and is measured in newtons. We measure mass in kilograms, grams etc. (or stones, pounds, ounces etc. if you prefer the imperial system over the metric system. It’s your call, I make no judgements). But conventionally we refer to mass as weight.

And thus, talk about losing weight.

When we should be talking about losing mass.

Call me a pedant if you will, but I don’t want anyone thinking me to be an uneducated oaf because I refer to weight loss when I actually mean mass loss.

Nonetheless, for the sake of accepted convention, I’ll go back to calling it weight.

So long as we all recognise that that is technically incorrect.

Anyway, I clearly didn’t lose a lot of weight over Christmas. But I didn’t gain any either.

Because while I’ve been eating lots of bad stuff, I’ve also been exercising a bit.

And I seem to have struck a balance, whereby my Body Mass Index isn’t getting any better but isn’t really getting worse either.

And that’s fine, because even if I should probably try and lose some weight, I’m perfectly happy to just buy bigger clothes.

As far as I can see, my weight will only become an issue if that ceases to be an option.

And at the moment I’m happily able to buy clothes that fit me from most major retailers.

So, it’s all good.

But as I say, I have been doing quite a lot of exercise.

This is motivated partly through health reasons, because exercise is generally viewed as being a good thing, but it’s also motivated by a desire to be Batman.

Obviously, I’ll never be Batman, he’s a fictional character, and, even if we were to suspend our disbelief and imagine that Batman could actually exist, his alter ego, Bruce Wayne is super rich. So, while Batman’s crime fighting ability comes partly from his supreme fitness, agility and strength, it also comes from having expensive bits of kit, like the Batmobile.

Even if I can get as fit as Batman, I’m not currently rich enough to own a Batmobile. I do have nice little city car that gets me from A to B. It’s great around town, copes with motorways reasonably well, and is relatively economical to run.

But utterly useless for fighting crime with.

So mostly I exercise for health reasons.

But, given the recent world events it’s probably just as well to be in the right physical condition to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

But I do sometimes wonder (not enough to really do anything about it) whether my policy of exercising a lot but then eating what I want is better or worse than if I had a more sensible diet but did less exercise.

In all likelihood it’s  a moot point because the leftover indulgences from Christmas are nearing their end. I’ll soon be forced to make the decision to eat more healthily or buy more bad stuff in my grocery shop.

And Christmas has wiped me out financially until …er…next Christmas.

So, a sensible diet is probably going to have to be my modus operandi for a while, albeit for reasons of cash flow.

But I presume that will make me healthier.

So ironically, poverty might help me in my quest to be Batman.

But I still think the car is a bit of a barrier to achieving that goal.

 

 

Magic Penguin And The Third Character

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One afternoon Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe were imbibing alcoholic beverages in the Shoe and Phone, as was their way, when in walked Stupid Donkey.

“Alright mate?” said Magic Penguin greeting his old friend.

“Not bad,” replied Stupid Donkey, “How are you guys?

The exchange of banal greetings continued for a few more moments as the three friends established that they were all in adequate health and generally doing well, even though such exchanges were merely platitudes and not entirely true.

Fat Giraffe, for example, despite claiming to be fine, was actually concerned about a worrying growth on his right buttock, while Magic Penguin was more than a little preoccupied by a letter he had received from his bank that very morning. Stupid Donkey also had his woes.

“I have my woes,” he said to the other two.

“That’s a strange way of putting it,” observed Fat Giraffe.

“I know, I’m not sure why I phrased it that way.” acknowledged Stupid Donkey.

“What are these woes?” asked Magic Penguin.

“Well, it’s a bit of a long story,” began Stupid Donkey.

“Oh, well then I’m not really interested,” said Magic Penguin, who hated long stories.

“Oh, ok,” said Stupid Donkey, “I won’t tell you then.”

“That’s a shame,” said Fat Giraffe, “I had a strong inkling that your woes were very likely going to be the basis for the plot of this story.”

“True,” acknowledged Magic Penguin, “It would seem the obvious direction for this story to take. Go on then Stupid Donkey, let’s hear your woes.”

So Stupid Donkey told Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe all about his woes. And really they weren’t all that interesting.

“Nope, no plot there,” sighed Magic Penguin, “bit of a waste of time you telling us really.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” said a visibly wounded Stupid Donkey, “but my woes are very real to me.”

“Yeah but they are first world problems aren’t they?” said Magic Penguin, “Not the sort of thing I can investigate as part of my new role as Private Detective.”

“I thought you were a Private Investigator,” commented Fat Giraffe.

“Aren’t they the same thing?” asked Magic Penguin, suddenly concerned about the three hundred business cards he’d recently ordered online.

“Dunno,” conceded Fat Giraffe.

“Wait, you’re a PI?” asked Stupid Donkey, “Don’t you need a license for that or something?”

“Probably,” said Magic Penguin, “I’ll get round to that eventually.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure you do need a license,” said Stupid Donkey, “Do you think they’ll let you have one with your history?”

“I don’t know what you mean” said Magic Penguin.

“Well, I mean, what about, you know…the thing?” mumbled Stupid Donkey.

“What thing?” replied Magic Penguin haughtily.

“Well…you know…The Kipper Scandal!” said Stupid Donkey

Magic Penguin sighed. He’d managed to get through two stories without anyone mentioning the Kipper Scandal. He’d started to think that people had forgotten about it. But, he realised, something as big as The Kipper Scandal was not just going to go away.

“Oh yeah, I forgot about the Kipper Scandal!” exclaimed Fat Giraffe, “You’ll never get a PI license mate!”

“I’m sure I will,” muttered Magic Penguin, even though he was not at all sure, “but it doesn’t really matter anyway does it?”

“Why not?” asked Stupid Donkey.

“Well because I’m the eponymous hero of my own series of short stories,” replied Magic Penguin, “so I can definitely be a PI if I want to be.”

“I suppose so,” said Stupid Donkey, “but don’t you think you should actually investigate something then? I mean this is the third story in as many weeks and as far as I can see nothing much has really happened in any of them yet. In fact there were only two characters until I turned up.”

“I’d hardly call you a character,” said Magic Penguin bitterly, “and if your so-called woes had been more interesting we might already have a story on our hands. So it’s your fault really.”

“I don’t see how,” said Stupid Donkey, “but I think something needs to happen to retain the interest of the readers.”

“Oh I imagine we’ve lost any readers we ever had by now,” said Fat Giraffe, “but I agree, something needs to happen on the off chance anyone is still reading this.”

“Like what?” asked Magic Penguin.

“I dunno,” said Fat Giraffe, “what about ending this story on a cliffhanger?”

“Yeah, that’d work,” said Stupid Donkey, “What we need is a good cliffhanger.”

The three friends were pondering what kind of a cliffhanger might work to retain the interest of an already diminishing readership when the door of the Shoe and Phone opened and a mysterious stranger walked in.

“I need help,” said the stranger, “and it’s a matter of life and death!”

“Yep,” said Fat Giraffe, “that’ll probably do it.”

Tune in next week to find out if the mysterious stranger is going to lead to an actual adventure for Magic Penguin or whether it’s just a red herring to dupe you into committing to reading another of these, frankly awful, stories.

A Super Day Out

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Tony drained the last few dregs of the tea that represented the culmination of that morning’s breakfast. Not the healthiest of breakfasts, he was bound to admit, and certainly far from economical, but as nothing in the service station was particularly good value for money, he felt that paying over the odds for a bacon and sausage sandwich was a touch less offensive to him than paying for overpriced porridge.

His GP would no doubt disagree. A recent check-up had resulted in the unsolicited advice that ‘he might want to think about his weight’.

This was, of course, entirely wrong. He did not want to think about his weight. Thinking about his weight only caused him stress and Tony reasoned that if obesity was having a negative impact on his health then feeling stressed about it could only cause further damage.

This ‘head in the sand’ approach to life’s difficulties extended beyond matters of health for Tony. He was perfectly content to ignore all of his potential problems. He felt there was no real need to spend time worrying about anything today when it might not be an issue until tomorrow.

A perfect example of this was sitting in the service station car park. Tony’s battered old runaround was really not fit for purpose. The scratched paintwork and dented panels certainly gave the impression that the car had seen better days, but in truth what was far more worrying was the strange noise that the engine made when the automobile attempted any speed over thirty miles per hour. The black vapour that the exhaust pipe emitted on occasion was also cause for concern and that red light on the dashboard that had appeared in recent weeks certainly suggested that the vehicle might be in need of a professional appraisal.

Tony, however, took the view that as long as the machine was able to get him from A to B, as it apparently still could, then any major surgery could wait until the car’s MOT in three months time. Tony couldn’t really afford to be without a car, the commute to his underwhelming job would be impossible on public transport, yet he also couldn’t afford the repairs that he knew his car needed. But, even though he knew he still wouldn’t be able to pay for the repairs in three months time, should the car survive that long, it was still something he didn’t need to worry about today. So he didn’t.

Given the potential imminent demise of his sole mode of transport, Tony was aware that he shouldn’t really be attempting the long journey that had necessitated that morning’s break in a service station. The thirty-minute daily commute to the daily grind was unavoidable but additional travel on the weekend was best avoided. A two-hour Saturday morning jaunt around the M25 seemed positively preposterous, even more so when Tony reflected that he would also need to make a return journey later that day.

But if it could be avoided then, truth be told, Tony did not want to avoid it.

Life was for living Tony reasoned and, without significant lifestyle changes, he might not even have that much longer to live it. So while he could make some dietary adjustments, start taking more responsibility for his actions, save his money for the rainy day that was almost certainly around the corner and conserve his car for the weekday commute to drudgery, he felt more inclined to seize any rare opportunity for pleasure that life afforded him.

Tony was aware of the strange looks he was receiving as he walked back from the cafe to his mangled motor. He didn’t care. It was distinctly possible that the sight of an overweight man in lycra was amusing to the average onlooker, but as drab and dull as his normal existence might be, today Tony was far from ordinary.

Because for one day a year Tony wasn’t Tony.

Cape billowing in the breeze, he caught sight of himself in his own windscreen. Perhaps he could have waited until he reached the convention before he donned his costume. But he had put a lot of work into it and wanted to make the most of the opportunity.

He opened the door to the vehicle he had renamed for the day.

He started the ignition after a few attempts and the Tony-Mobile sped out of the car park (insofar as it was capable of achieving anything resembling speed).

Several onlookers continued to stare in wonder as the car disappeared from view.

One such onlooker turned to his friend and quipped “Just who was that rotund masked-man?”

 

Films I Watched When I Was Younger – Issue 3: The Fugitive

James Proclaims (6)

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It’s a valid criticism of modern cinema that much of the current output comes in the form of sequels (and indeed prequels), or remakes/reboots of movies that already exist. Or multiple adaptations of the same novels. Or big screen reimaginings of much-loved TV series. The resurgence of the small screen, thanks in part to online platforms, has also seen a trend in the opposite direction – TV series are now being made that are re-imaginings of much-loved movies. There is, apparently, a dearth of new ideas. Or more likely there is a dearth of new ideas that anyone is prepared to take a financial risk on.

Then again, if it’s become more prolific in recent times, it’s clearly a practice that has been around for a while.

A lot of films I saw in my youth were big screen adaptations of older TV shows and, to be fair, done in the right way, the results can be some pretty decent movies.

1993’s The Fugitive is one such example.

Based on a 1960s TV series of the same name (that I have, admittedly never seen – although it was apparently pretty good) The Fugitive tells the tale of Dr Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) a man wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. Through a road traffic accident (that is admittedly quite convenient but fairly important to the narrative) he manages to escape the bus that is transporting him to death row. Once free he has to juggle the seemingly impossible task of proving his innocence while at the same time not getting caught. Pursuing him with a dogged determination is Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones – winning a whole raft of awards for his performance), a man who is rather less concerned with whether or not Kimble is guilty than with the fact that Kimble’s continuing freedom wounds his professional pride.

The plot holds few surprises, we know Kimble is innocent, we assume correctly that he’ll prove that innocence and the bad guy, when he is finally revealed, is pretty much the most obvious candidate. Were he wearing a T-shirt from the outset with the logo “I’m the bad guy” emblazoned across it, the revelation of his villainous status would hardly be any less of a bombshell.

It’s not the outcome that thrills but rather the journey it takes to get there. The pace and tension within the film is relentless. If there are plot holes and clichés running throughout the narrative it’s pretty hard to care. Add to the mix strong performances from both Ford and Jones and The Fugitive is a thriller that actually manages to thrill.

Whether it’s especially faithful to its source material seems irrelevant when the resulting movie is this good.

It’s a shame that can’t always be said of remakes, reboots and adaptations.

 

Coping With Stress

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It’s best not to ponder
All of your fears
That way lies madness
It’ll all end in tears

Beating stress is quite simple
A doddle in fact
Just forget all your woes
And you’ll have it cracked

There’s no need to focus
On tasks uncompleted
If you attempt to achieve them
You’ll end up defeated

Far better instead
To try to unwind
Ignore all your worries
Forget daily grind

For if all your duties
Have got out of hand
It’s better to bury
Your head in the sand

And one certain way
To ensure you’ll feel fine
Is to take all your problems
And drown them in wine

James Explains Hot Dogs Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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It’s Tuesday and according to my not-very-strictly-observed blogging schedule, today is the day I explain things.

It may well be things that people have asked me to explain or it could be things that no-one asked me to explain.

It may be things I know something about or it may be things I know nothing about.

But dammit I will explain.

And today I will be explaining the following things:

Glen who previously asked about combs and is still from Australia asks:

How did people make the first tools if they didn’t have any tools?

Well Glen, that is a question. And another question is what did poor workmen blame before there were any tools?

And the answer, quite simply, is rocks. They blamed rocks. Because they couldn’t accept that they were just poor workmen.

But the good workmen, they took those poor scapegoated rocks and they made tools with them. Somehow. And then the poor workmen were happy because they had some tools to blame.

Which is better than blaming rocks.

Pete, who previously asked about my name and is still from the UK but somewhere different in the UK to me asks:

What is the point?

A marvellous question Pete. And one I’ll answer right now.

A point is the tapered sharp end of a tool, weapon, or other object. If a rock has a point then you can probably use it to make tools.

But you weren’t asking about ‘a point’ you were asking about ‘the point’ and your use of the definite article changes everything.

Because the answer to that question is that there is no point Pete.

None at all.

Unless you’re referring to the tapered sharp end of a specific object.

In which case, that is the point.

Haylee who previously asked about lions and bears and is still from the UK but somewhere different in the UK to either me or Pete asks:

Is a hotdog a sandwich?

Well you’ve opened up a can of frankfurters there Haylee and no mistake.

According to my research, which consisted of clicking on one link, there is much debate on this matter.

Apparently people really care about this.

So I’m going to sit on the fence on this one, because I really don’t care.

Although it obviously is a sandwich.

Finally Tragically Uncool from (I think) the USA asks:

Will American corporations figure out they’re in a race to the bottom (in terms of product quality, financial ethics and overall social responsibility) before they actually reach the bottom or only after they’ve completely decimated the country?

That is a superb question Tragically Uncool and one I’m in no way qualified to answer. Partly because I’m British but also because I don’t really know anything about anything.

But I’d hazard a guess that the answer to your questions is probably that they will never realise and things will only get worse.

And on that optimistic note, that’s it for me for another week.

I may be back explaining stuff next week.

Who knows?

If you’ve got a question that you need James to answer then why not ask it in the comments below?

 

I’m Not Being Racist But…

James Proclaims (4)

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As someone of mixed race, it is, of course, technically impossible for me to be racist.

Except that it isn’t.

For, despite being a remoaning bleeding-heart leftie, I am capable of the odd moment of prejudice. I don’t want, or mean, to do so, but I have made judgements about people based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and various other attributes that may mark them out as different to me. For the most part these judgements are innocent enough. They don’t come from a place of hate, they come from a place of ignorance, of misunderstanding, of genuine confusion.

But they are prejudices nonetheless.

And when I realise I have been guilty of making snap judgements based on accepted stereotypes, I try to learn from the experience.

Because it’s actually ok to make mistakes, even mistakes that may have unintentionally caused someone else mild offense, if as a result of that mistake we become better, more rounded, people.

Because we can’t all be like ‘The Donald’ who recently informed journalists that he was the least racist person that they’d ever interviewed.

Which is a very bold claim to make and leads me to conclude that either Mr Trump:

  1. Genuinely is a paragon of virtue when it comes to racism
  2. Is perplexingly well-informed about every single person that those particular journalists have ever interviewed and has hard evidence that each and every one of them is definitely more racist than him.
  3. A liar

It’s not for me to judge.

Closer to home there has been the shocking revelation that the leader of UKIP has a racist girlfriend.

I was shocked anyway. I didn’t realise that UKIP actually had a leader at the moment. Indeed I’m a bit surprised to discover that UKIP think they even have a purpose anymore.

But apparently they do have a leader and his name is Henry Bolton. And his girlfriend apparently said some racist things about soon-to-be-royal Meghan Markle.

Racist things which are pretty horrible truth be told.

But it’s OK because, according to Mr Bolton, some of the comments have been taken out of context.

Although when questioned about the comments on TV this morning he did concede that the most offensive ones weren’t take out of context.

They were just really offensive.

But some of the other ones were taken out of context so really we just need to get over it

And to be fair, after being shocked that UKIP still exists and that they have a leader, I wasn’t massively surprised that he would have a racist girlfriend.

No more than his wife probably was anyway.

Apparently he’s got one of those marriages where it’s OK for him to also have a girlfriend who is half his age.

And racist or not, I find I judge him a little bit for that.

Which makes me prejudiced I suppose.

I’ve got so much to learn.


 

Magic Penguin And The Career Decision

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Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe were spending the afternoon playing darts and drinking heavily in the pub of their choice, the inimitable Shoe and Phone. Fat Giraffe was winning easily.

“One hundred and eighty,” bellowed Fat Giraffe as he landed a third consecutive treble. It was a treble seventeen, which made Fat Giraffe’s claim slightly erroneous, but as he was nowhere near good enough at maths to work out what his actual score was, he maintained that all trebles were worth sixty points.

Magic Penguin, for his part, had no interest in the honesty of his friend’s scoring. He was happy when any of his darts even made contact with the board, so he knew the score was irrelevant. Cheating or not, Fat Giraffe would eventually win. Magic Penguin didn’t much care. Losing at darts to Fat Giraffe was still far preferable to the alternative of ‘actually going to work’.

Although, he realised as he scratched around in his pocket for enough change to purchase another pint of overpriced craft IPA, he did need to find a source of income soon. And he certainly wasn’t going to make any money through maintaining a blog. He wondered why anyone would ever commit so much time and effort to writing blog posts when they had no chance of ever making it their career. Talk about an exercise in futility. But he needed to do something to get some cash…

“Why don’t you try being a private investigator?” said Fat Giraffe almost as if he had read Magic Penguin’s mind.

“Did you just read my mind?” asked Magic Penguin.

“Yep,” said Fat Giraffe, “It’s an old trick I picked up in ‘Nam.”

“You were never in Vietnam!” exclaimed Magic Penguin, “and even if you were, that still doesn’t make sense.”

“Sorry, did I say ‘Nam?” asked Fat Giraffe, “I meant to say Nandos.”

“That still doesn’t make any sense!” said Magic Penguin, “and do giraffes even eat chicken?”

“This giraffe does,” said Fat Giraffe, “anyway, that isn’t the point. The point, my friend, is that you need money and you aren’t prepared to work for a living.”

“I still think we need to discuss this mind-reading thing,” said Magic Penguin, “but you’re right, I do need money and I’m not prepared to work.”

“So, become a PI,” said Fat Giraffe.

“Doesn’t that still involve work?” queried Magic Penguin, “and wouldn’t I need a license or something?”

“Details my friend, details,” soothed Fat Giraffe, “Sherlock Holmes never had a license, did he?”

“I don’t know,” pondered Magic Penguin, “but wasn’t he a fictional character?”

“Aren’t you a fictional character?” replied Fat Giraffe.

“True, I am indeed a work of complete fiction,” agreed Magic Penguin, “but even so, I’m not sure I have any skills that would allow me to become a PI.”

“You’re the titular character in your own series of short stories,” argued Fat Giraffe, “what more skills do you need than that?”

Magic Penguin pondered this for a moment. Then he giggled at the word ‘titular’. Then he pondered some more.

“Ok,” he said, “I’m up for that. Private Investigator it is.”

“And obviously, every PI needs an assistant,” said Fat Giraffe.

“Yes, but who could it be?” mused Magic Penguin, hoping that it might be someone glamorous.

There was an awkward silence.

Then the penny dropped.

And, as he bent down to pick up the penny, Magic Penguin realised that it was a metaphorical penny and also that Fat Giraffe had been referring to himself.

“Only joking mate,” he laughed, even though he hadn’t been joking at all, “of course you can be my assistant.”

“We’ll have the best of adventures!” enthused Fat Giraffe, “this is going to be brilliant.”

But Fat Giraffe was sadly mistaken. It wasn’t going to be brilliant at all.

 

A Change Of Pace

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Arnold liked routine. His working day followed a familiar pattern beginning with two medium-sized soft boiled eggs consumed with brown bread soldiers, each one cut with military precision to the same size and shape. Next came his thirty-three minute walk to work, for an 8:45am start, where he conducted his daily administrative duties with an efficiency that made his co-workers seethe with jealousy. He paused from these duties at 12:30pm to consume his regular ham and cheese sandwiches (the cheese was a mild cheddar – number 3 according to the supermarket classification.  He had once dared to opt for a slightly more mature variety, the number 4, but quickly regretted this dalliance and returned to the comfort of the number 3 with haste) before continuing with his duties until 4.45pm when he re-traced his morning commute, adding an additional seven minutes to purchase a microwaveable evening meal from the mini-market near his flat.  Upon his return home he would consume said meal at 5.45pm, washing it down with a glass of weak lemon squash and would then spend the evening ensconced in a video game of his choice. This Monday to Friday regime was nirvana to Arnold. The only issue that periodically threatened this state of bliss were the occasions when a well-meaning but misguided colleague elected to invite Arnold out with the rest of the team for a few post-work drinks on a Friday. Arnold would patiently explain that he didn’t like drinking and if that didn’t work he would further explain that he didn’t much care for people either. That usually worked.

Weekends were a touch more problematic.

Arnold would gladly have spent the entirety of Saturday and Sunday playing video games, occasionally punctuated by trips to purchase more microwaveable meals. There had been a time when he might have ventured into town to purchase a new game, but online shopping had long since rendered that unnecessary.

Unfortunately Arnold was not permitted to keep his family at quite the same distance as his colleagues. For whatever reason (and it was a mystery to Arnold) his parents and sister demanded that he spend time in their company.

None of them had the slightest interest in video games and he had not the slightest interest in any of their hobbies. Indeed he had so little interest as to be largely unaware of what any of their hobbies were.

He was vaguely aware that his father liked sports of some kind. Ones involving teams of men and balls mostly. In his youth there had been an attempt of sorts to encourage Arnold to take an interest in both playing and watching these sports but his total antipathy had finally been accepted.

No there was very little common ground between Arnold and his family. He supposed, if he thought about it, he did quite like them. He was glad they existed. He just didn’t really see the need to actually spend any time with them.

Yet there was this insistence that he join them for a meal every weekend. Even more annoying, the time and day of that meal was subject to change. Sometimes it was lunch, sometimes tea, sometimes Saturday, other times Sunday. Sometimes it would be hosted by his parents, at other times by his sister and more recently by his sister and that other person that seemed to now live with his sister, whoever he was. There were even times when Arnold was expected to go and eat with them in a restaurant.

It was intolerable really.

But one Saturday things got immeasurably worse. He was sitting in his kitchen staring hard at his mobile phone, as he tended to do when awaiting the inevitable message from his mum, which would let him know his fate for that weekend, when there was a knock at his door.

Arnold was not accustomed to visitors and it took a second knock for him to realise that the person on the other side of the door expected him to answer.

With a sense of trepidation and extreme irritation at his routine being so flagrantly disregarded by the knocker, he made his way to the offending entrance and opened the door.

Stood there was a man who he had met multiple times. Nonetheless it would be a stretch to suggest he actually knew the man. Yes they had sat at the same dinner table for many a weekend now, but the man was his sister’s friend. Arnold had no reason to bother with him.

“Hi Arnold,” said the man, “how are you?”

“I’m ok,” replied Arnold with suspicion.

“Er, I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here?”

Arnold nodded his confirmation of that theory.

“Well, it’s just, what with me marrying your sister next June, I thought it might be nice if we got to know each other a bit better.”

Arnold took a deep breath. He could see it was going to take him some time to explain to the man why getting to know each other would not be ‘nice’ at all.

Then he noticed what the man was holding.

“Is that Bonecrusher 3,” he asked.

“Yes,” replied the man, “it’s just come out. Your sister said you might be up for playing a few levels with me.”

It was unorthodox to be sure. Arnold much preferred gaming alone. But pay day was still several weeks away and there was no way he was going to get a copy of Bonecrusher 3 before then.

“You’d better come in,” said Arnold.

 

Misinterpreting Literature

The Book Thief is a 2005 novel that was adapted into a 2013 film of the same name. I haven’t read the book or seen the film but I imagine I’d probably enjoy both. Certainly what I do know of them suggests that they are worthy works that depict the horrors of the Nazi regime and I really shouldn’t be making fun of them in any way.

And I’m not.

But the title did inspire my latest doodle, which, as it turns out, has nothing much to do with either the novel or the movie.

But I still think ‘The Book Thief’ is as appropriate a name as any for my latest creation…

Book Thief

Films I Watched When I Was Younger – Issue 2: Speed

James Proclaims (6)

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1994’s Speed is often referred to as Die Hard on a Bus. Which is a little unfair. While many action flicks owe much to the mighty Die Hard I’m not sure Speed really does.

Unlike John McClane, Speed’s protagonist, Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves), spends very little of the movie fighting and killing bad guys. Indeed he only dispatches one bad guy. Because there is only the one.

And (this is hopefully not too much of a spoiler, although if it is then you really only have yourself to blame – you have had well over twenty years to watch the thing) he doesn’t see off that bad guy until the end of the film.

Instead, Traven spends most of the running time trying to foil the evil machinations of the aforementioned bad guy, machinations which mostly consist of trying to blow things up, mainly a bus, but also an elevator and an underground train.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t a lot of action, it’s just more ‘a bus travelling at high speed through places where it shouldn’t be travelling at high speed’ action, rather than ‘lots of shooting of terrorists’ action.

Directed by Jan de Bont (who went on to direct…er…nothing else good), Speed is aptly named. Admittedly the bus, which is the scene for much of the action, rarely travels much above 50mph, which is no doubt fast for a bus, particularly through heavy traffic, but not really all that fast in the greater scheme of things. The narrative, however, travels along at a breakneck pace.

The bad guy in question is Howard Payne (played ably by Dennis Hopper) and he’s as mad as a box of frogs. But, as we’re reminded multiple times during the movie, crazy doesn’t mean stupid. Indeed he is very much one step ahead of the authorities and the intrigue comes in part from Traven’s efforts to match wits with Payne. Mostly, though, it comes from a bus going too quickly.

Hopper and Reeves both perform admirably but arguably the standout performer is Sandra Bullock as Annie, the plucky student who ends up quite literally in the driving seat. This was very much a star-making turn for Bullock and deservedly so.

The plot of Speed defies credibility at times (quite a lot of times actually) and the dialogue is as hackneyed and clichéd as many a bog-standard action flick but Speed is definitely a notch above others of the genre. The pace is relentless and there isn’t time to dwell on the bits that don’t make sense.

Far better to suspend all disbelief and just enjoy the ride.

Because it is indeed quite a ride.

Financial Fragilities

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Now December is over
And I’m feeling poor
My credit card’s maxed out
There are wolves at the door

Not literally of course
The wolves are metaphoric
But there are bills to pay
And they’re not allegoric

And though Christmas was fun
It came and it went
And during its course
I may have overspent

For we’re in January
And the well has run dry
And the gas bill is here
And it seems rather high

And while I could stand to lose
Some holiday weight
I was still rather hoping
For some food on my plate

But I can’t buy groceries
And settle the account
For the costs of my heating
(Well not that amount)

I, alas, must decline
All invitations to pay
Until the end of the the month
Which seems quite far away

Until then all I have
(And I’m not being funny)
Is a fortune in gold coins
Which are all chocolate money

James Explains Rubber Duckies Amongst Other Things

James Explains

ducks-452485_640Hello and welcome back to ‘James Explains’, the bit of my blog where I explain stuff.

This is the first proper ‘James Explains’ after last week’s introductory post. And the response to this new feature has been absolutely whelming. Which is to say neither underwhelming (which would’ve been no questions at all) nor overwhelming (which would’ve been more questions than I can possibly answer).

Still, I won’t be answering all the enquiries I’ve received on the basis that I don’t know if anyone will bother asking anything ever again, so I’m saving some of the queries until next week.

Obviously if the response to this feature moves up a notch from whelming to overwhelming then I’ll reconsider that policy, but there is a definite and distinct possibility that we’re more likely to head in the other direction towards underwhelming and I’d regret it if I’d put all my metaphorical eggs into this particular basket.

Nonetheless, it would remiss of me not to explain anything today so, without further ado…

Glen from Australia asks:

What is the name of the space between the teeth of a comb?

Well Glen, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that question I’d have exactly one dollar. Which would be completely useless to me because I live in the UK and I couldn’t spend that here. Not even to buy a comb.

Still, it got me thinking and, after about twenty seconds of that I still didn’t have an answer. So I googled it and the interweb did not let me down. Two suggestions I discovered were umpernater and combdrum,  but neither of these words appear to be in the dictionary so I’m not sure if they’re real or made up. Feel free to use either of them though.

A less comb-specific word is interstice, which does have the advantage of being in the dictionary. It is defined as being “space that intervenes between things; especially : one between closely spaced things”.

I hope that answers that particular question for you Glen.

Pete from the UK but somewhere different in the UK to me asks:

Why are you called James, James?

A great question Pete and one I ask myself regularly. I can’t be certain but I may have alluded to this issue on my blog before. In case I haven’t though, ‘James’ is one of the given names that appears on my birth certificate. It was chosen by my parents for reasons that only they could answer, but, controversially, it is not the first name that appears on the aforementioned certificate. It is the second one. But, even more controversially perhaps, it is the name they then elected to call me in daily life, causing much confusion and often hilarity during my school days whenever I got a new teacher and they read the first of my given names out when calling the register. I’m still working on the script for the sitcom but I understand that the BBC are very interested commissioning a pilot episode of ‘James or Not James’.

I hope that answers that particular question for you Pete.

Haylee from the UK but somewhere different in the UK to either me or Pete asks:

Who would win in a fight, bear or lion?

A superb question  Haylee and not an easy one to answer. I suppose the problem is that there are many kinds of bears and animals that aren’t bears but take the name bear. For example a Koala Bear is, I believe, actually not a bear, which is just as well, because that little fella is not beating any lion in a fight, not even a mountain lion, which isn’t really a lion.

If we consider lions and bears in popular culture, then I wouldn’t fancy the chances of the Cowardly Lion off of the Wizard of Oz against many a bear, but he might have shot against Yogi Bear.

Lion-O from eighties cartoon Thundercats is pretty handy in a fight, although I’m not sure how he’d cope against BraveStarr, eponymous hero of different eighties cartoon BraveStarr when he is using his fabled ‘Strength of the Bear’ powers.

Basically the only way we’re going to find out the answer to this is to organise a fight between a lion and a bear.

I hope that answers that particular question for you Haylee.

Finally, gigglingfattie from Canada asks:

What, precisely, is the function of a rubber ducky?

I’m really glad you asked that gigglingfattie. Fortunately I’m a long time viewer of Sesame Street so I know the answer to this.

Quite simply the function of a rubber ducky is to make bath time lots of fun. If you’d like a more detailed explanation then why not consult this lecture on the merits of the rubber ducky as delivered by Professor Ernie from the University of Sesame Street.

Be careful though because incorrect use of the rubber ducky can impede the playing of the saxophone as demonstrated below:

I hope that answers that particular question for you gigglingfattie.

Well that’s enough wisdom for one week. Tune in next week when I imagine I’ll be explaining even more stuff.

If you’ve got a question that you need James to answer then why not ask it in the comments below?

James Complains About Eggs-tremely Early Easter Eggs

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By anyone’s standards, Christmas is well and truly over for another year. I, alas, had to go back to work on the 3rd January, which seemed a little early given that it was very much within the 12 days of Christmas. I’m not sure it should really be legal to make people work while Christmas University Challenge is still being broadcast.

I watched that particular show avidly. Mrs Proclaims and I are fans of the main show anyway, although I find it perplexingly difficult to get the questions right. I find for the ‘celebrity’ Christmas edition though, they make the questions a bit easier so I’m able to feel artificially cleverer during the festive period.

It was with great pride that I saw my adopted town of Reading make it through to the final of the Christmas edition. It was with subsequent shame that I saw them fail to score a single point in said final. Technically I am both a current student and alumnus of Reading University (‘alumnus’ having already obtained a ‘professional’ accreditation from said institution and ‘current’ as I’m stumbling through my MA part time and at the slowest pace permissible) so the pride and shame of their success and ensuing failure was keenly felt. Continue reading James Complains About Eggs-tremely Early Easter Eggs

Magic Penguin And The Broken Fourth Wall

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Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe were frequenting their local public house one afternoon, as was their tendency. Fat Giraffe was drinking a generic lager, but Magic Penguin had opted for a more pretentious craft IPA. The Shoe and Phone (for that was the name of the establishment that they were currently patronising) was relatively empty, suggesting that either it was not a particularly thriving business, or that Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe were drinking when most of the rest of the world was at work. There was more than a little truth in both theories.

“I mean, it’s hardly the ‘Will of the People’ if only 52% of the electorate voted for it,” said Magic Penguin.

“I dunno mate,” reasoned Fat Giraffe, “I’m no mathematician, but 52% does sound like a majority to me.”

“Yes, but it’s a slim majority,” argued Magic Penguin, “and, if you take into account all the people who didn’t vote, then you could argue that more people didn’t vote for it than did.”

“Yes,” acknowledged Fat Giraffe, “but I’m not sure that’s how democracy works. If you don’t vote then you don’t get to have a say.”

“Fine, said Magic Penguin, “but surely you must agree that quite a lot of the 52% didn’t actually know what it was they were voting for.”

“That’s certainly true,” acquiesced Fat Giraffe, “I thought I was voting for breakfast.”

The two sat in contemplative silence for a moment before Fat Giraffe broke it. The silence that is.

He didn’t break anything else, though he was not unknown to break wind on occasion. Sometimes he broke wind and silence at the same time.

But on this occasion, he just broke the silence.

With words.

“Is it me,” he began, “or were we just debating Brexit”

“Sounded like that to me,” affirmed Magic Penguin.

“In which case, does that mean that we are, in fact, in Britain?”

“That would seem the logical conclusion,” said Magic Penguin, “Why do you ask?”

“Well, I’d fully accept, that as fictional beings created by a UK ‘writer’, that we’d probably have certain British characteristics, but I wasn’t sure if we weren’t in some sort of made up place that isn’t actually Britain, but more Britainesque.”

“You mean like how Thomas the Tank Engine is based on the island of Sodor, a place that seems a bit like the UK but really isn’t at all?”

“Exactly so.”

“I’m not sure,” pondered Magic Penguin, “I don’t know if the ‘writer’ even knows.”

“Well to be fair, I wouldn’t put a lot of store by what he says anyway,” said Fat Giraffe, “I mean, I’m not sure if that bloke even knows whether he’s coming or going half the time.”

“That seems a little bit harsh,” contended Magic Penguin, “I mean he did create us after all.”

“Yes, but he’s basically ignored us for the best part of 15 years,” countered Fat Giraffe, “he found us entertaining enough when he was avoiding writing essays during his student days, but this is the first time he’s bothered to let us out in ages. I mean he’s had this blog for nearly three years now, and yet this is our first outing. It’s not like he’s been writing much else that’s any good. He could at least have given us a shot before now.”

“It’s true,” mused Magic Penguin, “and he did promise that he was going to bring us back as far back as January 2017

“Exactly,” fumed Fat Giraffe, “Why’s it taken him a year? What else has he been doing? He’s got time to write 24 rubbish film reviews during December, but he hasn’t got time for us?”

“I quite liked the Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) films,” said Magic Penguin, “but I take your point. He could have made a bit of time for us earlier.”

“Too right he could have done!” exclaimed Fat Giraffe, “and when he does finally decide to let us have our day in the sun, he buries us on a Sunday morning, fully aware that no-one ever visits his blog on a Sunday morning. And by the time Monday rolls around he’ll no doubt have written something trite about novelty egg cups which means no-one’ll ever read this!”

“That may well be for the best,” suggested Magic Penguin, “It’s not as though this is even very good is it?”

“That’s hardly our fault!” raged Fat Giraffe, “He’s the buffoon that wrote this! Even the title doesn’t make sense. Breaking the ‘fourth wall’ surely only applies to visual media. The man is an absolute idiot”

“You know, I’m not sure it’s all that wise to call the ‘writer’ an idiot,” mused Magic Penguin.

“Why not? He is an idiot!” seethed Fat Giraffe, “What’s he going to do about it?”

At that precise moment Fat Giraffe fell off his bar stool, almost as if pushed by an omniscient and slightly irritated narrator.

“That was a cheap shot,” muttered Fat Giraffe as he picked himself up.

“Anyway, I think the point is that our esteemed creator has had the grace to bring us back today,” said Magic Penguin, almost as if he was sucking up to an omniscient and slightly irritated narrator.

“I suppose so,” agreed Fat Giraffe, who had learned the errors of his ways, “and even if this story isn’t especially good, it is nice to be back.”

“And who knows,” said Magic Penguin optimistically, “Maybe next week’s adventure will be a bit more compelling than this one was.”

But sadly, as he would soon discover, Magic Penguin’s optimism was very much misplaced.

 

 

 

 

 

The Teapot

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The old china teapot was not the most glamourous of vessels, the design had long since faded and the spout was chipped in such a way that transferring the scolding liquid into a mug was often something of a lottery.

Nonetheless, Bruce was convinced that the tea, which survived the perilous journey from pot to cup, tasted better for the experience and thus the mild inconvenience of spillage was worth it. No other pot, opined Bruce, could ever match the quality of the beverage that was produced in his antiquated teapot.

In the early days of their relationship, Clara had tried to convince Bruce that this was nonsense. She had argued the merits of making the tea in the cup, had attempted to turn his head with other teapots, had even, through much research on a well-known internet auction site, managed to track down a near identical model of pot in better condition.

To no avail.

Bruce, not ungracious, had accepted the gift, indeed had accepted many a hot drink produced therein, but, as she discovered one morning when he had thought she was still sleeping, he continued to use his favoured teapot whenever charged with making his own drink.

In the end, it was an idiosyncrasy that Clara felt that she could live with. In all other respects Bruce was a model partner – kind, considerate and not generally given to strange obsessions in other aspects of his life.

But the infatuation with the teapot was perplexing.

It was not, as Clara had first assumed, any kind of heirloom. Bruce’s mother was as mystified as anyone as to its origins.

It had just appeared, one day, at some point during Bruce’s years of living alone. Even Bruce was sketchy as to when he had acquired it.

He just knew it made a fantastic cup of tea.

On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Clara wanted to do something nice to mark the occasion. Though she normally refused to use the chipped china repository, reasoning that tea-making should be a less arduous affair, she felt she would indulge her husband with an early morning cuppa made the way he liked it.

What happened next was unclear. Clara couldn’t recall any recklessness on her part, but as she poured the hot brown liquid into the mugs, there appeared to be more errant fluid on the work surface than was usual. The moment when the spout detached from the pot seemed to take an eternity but there was, nonetheless, a parting of ways.

Bruce found Clara in tears, and reassured her as best he could.

But no matter how much he tried to play down the importance of the teapot, Clara knew that it meant something.

Bruce, for his part, took it well.

However, he remained reluctant to part with the pot, and though it clearly had no serviceable function any more, he held on to it.

Superglue was purchased and spout reattached to body, but, even then, it was clear that it would no longer be suitable for its primary function.

Still Bruce kept it as a kind of ornament, nostalgic for the halcyon days of the best cups of tea he had ever known.

He learned to appreciate tea from other pots –  he acknowledged that the near identical pot that Clara had tried to sway him with did indeed produce a fine cuppa. But it wasn’t quite the same.

Until the day, some years later, when Bruce accidentally chipped the spout.

At least he claimed it was an accident.

Clara was never sure.

But it turned out the chip was the solution. Bruce rediscovered tea nirvana.

Clara, for her part, still couldn’t taste the difference.

Films I Watched When I Was Younger – Issue 1: Demolition Man

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After spending most of December writing reviews of Christmas(ish) films, I’ve decided that I should make the reviewing of movies a more regular feature on James Proclaims.

After all, there are films out there that don’t include even the vaguest of references to Christmas and they shouldn’t be precluded from featuring on this blog just because of one, admittedly careless, oversight.

However, I don’t really get much chance to go to the cinema these days, and when I do I find it a profoundly irritating and overpriced affair. I’d be ok with the cost of a ticket if it meant I got the whole screen to myself, but apparently other people are still permitted to come into the room. Given that most things are available to watch at home within a matter of months of their big screen run, and given that television sets are now quite big screens in their own right, I find the cost of the cinema utterly perplexing.

Obviously I still go for things like Star Wars, but mostly to stop people from ruining it for me. Which, to be fair, the latest installment almost did on its own. Although I did still quite like it I think. I’m not sure. I’ll need to see it another ten times before I’m absolutely certain.

Anyway, with my cinema aversion firmly established, it seems unlikely you’ll gain any insights into the latest releases here.

But I do have a fairly substantial collection of DVDs and currently subscribe to two different web-based providers of visual media.

So I can totally review old films.

Which is probably the most useful thing anyone ever did on any blog ever.

So, I shall be doing just that.

Be warned, however, that not everything in my DVD collection is of the highest quality, but they all have a special place in my heart.

So, without further ado, let us begin our cinematic odyssey.

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And what better place to start than 1993’s Demolition Man?

Probably quite few places actually.

Still Demolition Man is the film I’ve chosen to kick this all off with, because few films represent my cinematic choices as a teenager better than this one.

Unlike today, going to the cinema was one of my favourite activities when I was younger. Or more precisely when I was too young to pretend to be old enough to drink in the local hostelries (at least those prepared to turn a blind eye to underage alcohol consumption). It was more affordable for my younger self to access the big screen than it is for my current self. Although I only had pocket money to survive on, I also had no mortgage or bills to pay. Plus I was young enough to qualify for a discount on the entry fee but old enough to pretend that I was actually of a sufficient age see to certain films, despite often being a full year younger than the advertised age-restriction at the time of release. The same thrill I would later experience ordering low quality lager in disreputable public houses was definitely a factor in my willingness to flout British Film Board Certification guidelines and restrictions.

Often I’d just go and see whatever was on – there didn’t need to be a specific movie out to entice me to make the journey into the centre of Cardiff. It was a Saturday afternoon ritual for me and my friends. Meet up in the morning, jump on a train, wander round the shops for a bit, possibly purchase a CD and/or item of clothing from Top Man. Next we’d hit a fast food establishment and finally see whatever film was the least unappealing in the multiplex before heading home on the 17:21 train

But Demolition Man was different. This was a film we all wanted to see.

It was practically event cinema for a teenage boy that year.

Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes on the same screen?

How awesome is that?

Throw in a young Sandra Bullock who was more than easy on the eyes of a hormonal teenager and you had the recipe for cinematic gold.

But, I like to believe that my cinematic tastes have evolved over the years, so it was with some trepidation that I revisited the movie this week.

But actually Demolition Man is quite good. It’s not, you understand, a ‘must see’ movie. If you haven’t ever had the pleasure then you can rest easy in the knowledge that you’re not missing out on one of cinema’s hidden treasures.

But, as a way to pass a couple of hours, it more than suffices.

It is, for the most part, a fairly generic action movie not untypical of the early nineties.

But Stallone, Snipes and Bullock are all competent performers and make the most of the material they are given to work with. Throw in Dennis Leary and  Nigel Hawthorne and the cast is certainly not the worst ensemble that ever spent time together on screen.

Essentially Stallone and Snipes play a nineties cop (John Spartan) and villain (Simon Phoenix) respectively from (the then slightly futuristic) year of 1996, who end up being cryogenically frozen (for reasons that are ridiculous but relatively coherent within the narrative) and waking up in 2032 where the peace-loving citizens are unable to deal with a criminal of Phoenix’s brutality. Apparently only Spartan can stop him.

I wouldn’t go so far as to claim there is much in the way of originality on offer, but at least there aren’t the kind of gaping plot holes that are more than commonplace for this kind of fare. Certainly within the film’s own, admittedly skewed logic, the story does make sense.

The dialogue is often clunky and there are plenty of the ‘witty one-liners’ that seemed to be the staple of action movies of the era. Most of them are harmless enough, although one does stand out as particularly strange. Spartan is in the process of beating up a man that turns out not even to be a bad guy and offers these words of wisdom shortly before pummelling him into submission:

“You’re going to regret this the rest of your life, both seconds of it!”

It’s problematic in that the ensuing fight takes longer than two seconds and the recipient of Spartan’s wrath doesn’t actually die. Also, as previously mentioned, he isn’t even a bad guy. So death threats seem a little out of place.

Where the movie really differs from others in the genre is in its humour. It is quite funny. Not pant-wettingly hilarious, but this is not a movie that takes itself too seriously. Some of the futuristic fads are so ridiculous as to be entirely plausible and the joke about the three seashells substituting for toilet paper still raises a smile.

Throw in some genuinely excellent action sequences, and Snipes playing the bad guy with a gleeful insanity that elevates him head and shoulders above many a nineties-era villain and Demolition Man is a far better movie than it really has any right to be.

 

Calories Are Not Just For Christmas

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It’s not that I’m sick of the festive fare
But there still seems to be lots of it everywhere
And it’s hard to stop eating high calorie treats
When the cupboards are full of chocolates and sweets

Willpower has never been a friend of mine
If temptation is there then I’ll rarely decline
And though I should clearly be trying to lose weight
I’d rather indulge in food that tastes great

But alas that means the future is bleak
For my waistline is as large as my resolve is weak
And this problem’s not going to end anytime soon
I’ve got enough chocolate to last until June

So the only solution that I can see
Is to forget the diet and set myself free
To eat all I want till all of it’s gone
And buy bigger trousers that I can get on

James Explains ‘James Explains’

James Explains

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It’s the second day of 2018 and, taking the metaphorical bull of ‘New Year Good Intention’ by its equally metaphorical horns, I’ve decided to do something new on James Proclaims. And by new I mean something old.

But new to these pages.

I’m bringing back ‘James Explains’.

If you go to the ‘About’ page of this very blog, you’ll discover that ‘James Explains’ was the name I gave to the regular column I wrote for my university’s monthly newsletter.

It was, as I recall, quite a popular column.

Well I liked it anyway.

I had originally intended to call this very blog ‘James Explains’ but I didn’t because:

  1. ‘James Proclaims’ is a better name because it is a better rhyme.
  2. If you put the words ‘James’ and ‘explains’ next to each other, as would be required for a website address (eg. jamesexplains.com) you’ll see that the word ‘sex’ appears in the midst of it all. Which might bring the ‘wrong’ sort of visitor to this site. Which could only lead to disappointment for all parties

Anyway, just because the whole blog is called ‘James Proclaims’ doesn’t mean there can’t be a bit of it called ‘James Explains’.

Because the words ‘proclaims’ and ‘explains’ aren’t synonyms.

So ‘James Explains’ could be the bit of my blog where I explain stuff.

Which is what I’ve just done, with regards to the new ‘James Explains’ feature.

If that’s all a bit meta for you, then worry not, for next week (possibly but not definitely next Tuesday) I’ll be using my awesome powers of explanation to shed light on some other stuff.

 

 

Invitation for ‘audience’ interaction

If you’ve got a question that you need James to answer then why not ask it in the comments below. And if you’re lucky, he might select you out of the thousands…sorry…hundreds….no?….tens?…too ambitious?…possibly one other question that he receives each and every week.

And if he doesn’t get any questions then he’ll just pretend that he did and make something up.

 

Beginning The Journey To A Brand New Me

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So 2017 is but a distant memory and now it’s all about 2018. And what better way to start the new year than by making some New Year’s Resolutions?

Because convention dictates that this is the day that we all need to take a good long look at ourselves and realise that we just aren’t good enough.

Now I have been accused (mainly by myself) of not taking this whole New Year’s Resolution thing seriously enough. And to be fair I didn’t achieve any of my goals for 2016 or 2017. Not even the one about watching every episode of Star Trek. I did get through all of the original series, all of the Next Generation, about half of Deep Space 9 and all but one of the films before I gave up. Which is pretty good going. I enjoyed it, but it does get a bit ‘samey’ after a while.

Still I might press on and finish the rest of them this year.

But I’m not making that an official ‘resolution’.

I would like to roll over last year’s target of becoming super rich. I still think I’d like to achieve that.

And maybe the one about becoming a superhero.

But today is not about rehashing old, unachieved resolutions.

No, today I must come up with some new ones.

And maybe they should be ones I have a vague hope of actually achieving.

Although that does take some of the fun out of it for me.

Nonetheless, it’s clear I’ve been overambitious in recent years and it’s time therefore to get real.

So, without further ado, here are my, slightly more modest, New Year’s Resolutions for 2018:

  1. Run a mile – that’s right by the time January 2019 rolls around I will definitely have run at least one mile. At this stage I’m not committing to doing it all in one go. It may have to be a cumulative effort. Don’t be fooled by the fact that I used to run marathons and half marathons in my younger days – this is definitely going to be a challenge.
  2. Watch at least one film of Mrs Proclaims’ choosing and not make sarcastic comments all the way through – I might be overstretching myself here, but I think I can probably do it. It may take a few attempts though.
  3. Take the Christmas decorations down – because they just aren’t ‘special’ if you leave them up all year apparently.
  4. Go back to work – I will definitely do this. My mortgage repayments do rather depend on it. But I’m not promising to actually do any work when I’m there.
  5. Eat more healthy food – as long as this doesn’t preclude the continuation of eating unhealthy food obviously.

There we go, five resolutions that might well be achievable. I wouldn’t want to jeopardise my chances of self-improvement by committing to any more than that.

But I am quietly confident I will be able to look back in a year and say that I met some of the above targets.

2018 marks the dawn of a brave new era.