Frustratingly Fatigued

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Feeling tired is fine at night
And much less helpful now
But when the time to sleep was right
My mind would not allow

Unconsciousness to find me
So in bed I lay alert
I couldn’t get my brain to see
That insomnia would hurt

Any chance of a productive day
So my work I can’t complete
Because I simply cannot find a way
To stay focussed and upbeat

Though coffee helped it didn’t cure
Overwhelming weariness
And so again I must endure
A day of heightened stress

And I really have a lot to do
So much I should achieve
As my tasks continue to accrue
I have no tricks up my sleeve

To help me stay on the right track
And I’m heading for mishap
So I think I’ll lie down on my back
And have a work-place nap

James Explains Rin Tin Tin Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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Hello fact fans and welcome back to another ‘James Explains’, the bit of my blog where I answer the questions that other people have asked me. And, after the unfortunate business of last week, I can confirm that this week I do have questions to answer. Indeed I was inundated with so many questions that I can’t fit them all into one post. Or at least I can’t be bothered to fit them all into one post, which is essentially the same thing.

But let’s not dwell on such matters of indolence and move, instead, onto the questions I can be bothered to answer, which this week are as follows:

Longtime questioner, Pete asks:

WHY?

Great question Pete, and one I’ve often asked myself. I’ll refer you to the answer my parents always gave me, which is, quite simply, BECAUSE!

Habitual hobbyist Haylee asks:

Do you feel it would be more dangerous to suppress a sneeze whilst driving around a roundabout or let it out, close your eyes and hope for the best? It happens frequently to me and it’s terrifying!

A tricky one Haylee, but in most situations I find that the most pragmatic solution to any given problem is to close my eyes and hope for the best. It’s worked out pretty well for me so far so I certainly won’t be changing tack now. Furthermore, the best piece of driving advice I was ever given, is to drive as if everyone else is an idiot. But occasionally I think it’s ok to be the idiot and suppressing a sneeze is never a good thing. Let the sneeze out and assume that other drivers will get out of your way should you lose control of the car.

Bryntin is back this week to ask:

James, it is often said that you can ‘conjure up something from thin air’. What I want to know is, how thin is the air normally from which things can be conjured? And do you know where the things come from? As a side question, how often do you have to say the word ‘conjured’ to start thinking it sounds pretty odd because it seems to be about five to me?

Actually Bryntin, it has been scientifically proven that ‘conjured’ starts to sound odd on the third repetition, so clearly you have a greater tolerance than most to the word.

Congratulations.

In terms of the thinness of the air from which things can be conjured, I’d estimate the air should be no more than 3mm thick, but ideally less than 2.4mm, and I have based these figures on absolutely no evidence whatsoever so you can be certain they are as reliable as any information that is currently purported to be fact in the popular press and indeed that which comes out of the mouths of politicians. As to where the things, which are conjured, come from, I can only assume that Narnia is the most likely scenario. Some scientists have recently mooted the possibility that Narnia isn’t real, but that is a controversial theory that doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny in my opinion. I mean there are seven books about it for goodness sake.

Long time commentator but first time questioner, Smilern asks:

Hi James, it looks like Bryntin, who is probably a relative of Rin Tin Tin (the dog) has asked too many questions. Is he barking mad?

It’s not for me to question Bryntin’s sanity Smilern, but a quick check of the comments section from last week’s ‘James Explains’ does confirm that Bryntin is indeed a relative of Rin Tin Tin. But which one we don’t know. Cos there were loads of them. Or more specifically there were four. Although actually all four Rin Tin Tins were supposedly related so they could feasibly all have been related to Bryntin too.

Interestingly, the fourth Rin Tin Tin wasn’t much of an actor so he was replaced by a dog who wasn’t called Rin Tin Tin in real life but who apparently made for a more convincing  ‘on screen’ Rin Tin Tin than the actual Rin Tin Tin.

Suze, who clearly read all the comments in the comments section last week, asks:

How could anyone with taste call a perfectly nice dog “Rin Tin Tin”? Why repeat the “tin”? Was the person that named that poor beast a stutterer?

Granted Suze, Rin Tin Tin is a pretty stupid name for a dog, but I struggle to get on board with Rin Tin either. I don’t think it’s the extra ‘Tin’ that makes it a stupid name. Even the original Rin Tin Tin thought it was a bit daft and he went by the nickname ‘Rinty’ for most of his life. Which is also stupid. In the end I think we have to forgive him though because he was a German Shepherd dog who was actually from Germany but named after a French good luck charm, and then moved to America. The poor dog clearly had identity issues so who are we to begrudge him an extra ‘Tin’?

 

And that’s all we have time for on this week’s James Explains, but if you did ask a question of me that has gone unanswered then worry not, I’ll get to your questions next week. Although do feel free to ask more in the comments below. We don’t want a repeat of last week do we?

 

Il n’y a plus de poulet !

James Proclaims (4)

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It’s the 26th February and before this week is out, it’ll be March.

March!

The days will start to get a bit longer, the weather might be slightly less inclement, and winter will be over for another year.

Technically we have wait until March 20th for Spring to officially…er…spring? But I think we can start to shake off those winter blues as soon as we’ve seen the back of February.

Alas, that is slightly longer for me than it is for you dear reader, as I am currently writing this at some point last week in a bid to stay slightly ahead of my blogging schedule. As things stand, it’s very much winter and, if I may say so, it’s a winter of discontent.

For, at the time of writing there is very much a national crisis unfolding, as KFC has run out of chicken!

This does seem like an oversight for a business that seems, at least to me as a layperson, to be entirely reliant on not running out of chicken. What else are they going to Kentucky Fry? Sparrows? Hmmm, I could go for a Kentucky Fried Sparrow right now…

Actually, I’m not really a great patron of KFC so I’m not really too affected by the current crisis. I was known to indulge in fried chicken in my drunken youth, but I don’t think I tended to go for a well-established brand like KFC. It’d more likely have been one of the lesser known back street outlets that did the vast majority of their trade in the early hours of Saturday morning.

When I was living in Paris (a city I was often inebriated in) I used to frequent an establishment near the Moulin Rouge called Paris Fried Chicken. I don’t know if it was any good, but I never got food poisoning, which I always saw as a bonus the morning after. There was also a Paris outlet I did occasionally go to when I was sober, mostly because it was the only eatery on the street I lived on, and so convenient on the days I couldn’t be bothered to cook. It was called Ghandi Fried Chicken (or GFC). I presume it was so-named because it was run by a family who had the surname Ghandi, rather than being named after the well-known civil rights activist and strict vegetarian, Mahatma Ghandi, but I never asked.

I don’t recall Ghandi Fried Chicken ever running out of chicken though.

Anyway, at the time of writing the KFC chicken deficit is creating quite the furore. I hope, for the sake of fried-chicken lovers everywhere, that by the time this post hits the blogosphere, the crisis will have passed and people will once again be able to enjoy a calorific meal that is finger-lickin’ good.

 

 

Magic Penguin And The Need For A Nemesis

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Magic Penguin, Fat Giraffe and Mystic Mouse were whiling away the afternoon in the Shoe and Phone as they were sometimes inclined to do. Fat Giraffe was slightly irritated that he had mostly been left out of last week’s story, seemingly only to be used as a cheap device to conclude the narrative with a misleading cliff-hanger. It was the second time the writer had employed that trick and Fat Giraffe was concerned that the standard of the Magic Penguin stories was not improving. He was considering striking out and starring in his own spin-off series of ‘Fat Giraffe Adventures’, particularly now that Mystic Mouse seemed like she was going to become a regular fixture. Fat Giraffe had never been too bothered about the arrival of Stupid Donkey as a potential rival sidekick, but Mystic Mouse was different. She and Magic Penguin had more in common, both being of a slightly supernatural persuasion, whereas all he, Fat Giraffe, had to bring to the table was his improbable obesity. Then again, trying to make it on his own could be risky whereas Magic Penguin was now an established franchise. Maybe he could stick around for a bit longer and see if he could make it work.

“So, whatever happened to the private investigation business?” asked Mystic Mouse, “Had any interesting cases lately?”

“Well, yes, quite a few actually,” said Magic Penguin, “though surprisingly none seem to have actually made it into the stories.”

“Yeah, it’s a bit odd that,” agreed Fat Giraffe, “I mean we had that whole corruption case recently, a conspiracy that went right to the top of government, and yet for some reason the writer chose to ignore that and instead he always seems to focus all of the stories in the pub, on the days when we’re not really doing much at all.”

“Well, hopefully now that I’m around, things will change a bit,” said Mystic Mouse, “Now we’ve kind of got that whole ‘Harry Potter’ vibe going on.”

“How so?” asked Fat Giraffe.

“Well there’s three of us,” explained Mystic Mouse, “and Magic Penguin is kind of like Harry Potter, the de facto leader and I’m like Hermione, the clever and talented one, and you’re a bit like Ron, the slightly useless, but ultimately loyal one.”

“Oh, ok,” said Fat Giraffe, unsure whether he was offended by the obvious slur or pleased that he was definitely considered to be part of the group.

“I think it’s a bit of a tenuous link,” said Magic Penguin, “I mean, apart from the fact that there’s three of us, there really isn’t that much that we’ve got in common with the Harry Potter novels.”

“There’s no denying that they were really successful though,” pointed out Fat Giraffe, “I wouldn’t mind being part of something as big at the Harry Potter franchise.”

“Obviously that would be nice,” agreed Magic Penguin, “but I just don’t really see it happening for us. Literally nothing ever happens in these stories.”

“What we need is an antagonist,” said Mystic Mouse, “that’s what makes Harry Potter work. You need a nemesis.”

“Well there’s always Red Herring,” said Fat Giraffe.

“No, he’s just a bit of a timewaster,” said Magic Penguin, “He likes to appear at the end of the more nondescript stories to build up a level of excitement for the following week that we can’t possibly live up to.”

“Which is pretty evil when you think about it,” said Fat Giraffe.

“True,” acknowledged Magic Penguin, “but it’s hardly on the same level as Voldemort is it?”

“No, I think we can do better than Red Herring,” said Mystic Mouse, “what about if an already established character were to betray you? What about someone like Stupid Donkey?”

Stupid Donkey, who was skulking in the corner feeling rejected by the trio, looked up hopefully at this point. He would rather be one of the good guys, but he’d take being a villain if it meant he got to be back in the stories again.

“No, I don’t think Stupid Donkey would be any good,” said Magic Penguin, “he just doesn’t have what it takes. He’s a tertiary character at best.”

There were audible sobs as Stupid Donkey rushed out of the pub. Barely anyone noticed.

“No, I think we’re going to need to introduce a new character to be my nemesis,” said Magic Penguin.

“But who?” asked Mystic Mouse.

“I don’t know,” said Magic Penguin, “but I’ve irritated my fair share of people over the years. There are plenty of people who don’t like me.”

“I’m not sure that ‘not liking you’ is going to be enough of a hook to keep the readers interested though,” said Mystic Mouse, “surely the baddie needs to have some kind of evil-scheme that’s about more than getting one over on you?”

“Well that’s going to raise a whole new set of problems,” said Magic Penguin, “I mean if they’re that dangerous, how are we going to overcome them?”

“But that’s where the intrigue comes from,” said Mystic Mouse, “we need to prevail against all the odds.”

“I don’t know, that sounds like a lot of work,” said Magic Penguin.

“Well we definitely need something to up the pace of these stories, and it can’t just be another cliff-hanger that doesn’t really go anywhere,” said Mystic Mouse.

At that moment, the sound of nineties classic ‘Informer’ by Canadian rap-artist ‘Snow’, filled the room. It was Magic Penguin’s ring tone.

“Hello,” he said answering his phone.

A voice spoke briefly on the other end.

“Oh,” said Magic Penguin, “are you sure?”

Again, the voice spoke.

“I see,” said Magic Penguin and he ended the call.

“Who was that,” asked Fat Giraffe.

“It was Red Herring,” said Magic Penguin, “with another cliff-hanger.”

“Oh,” said Fat Giraffe, “well we can probably ignore that one then.”

“Not this time,” said Magic Penguin, “Red Herring told me that my cousin is back in town.”

“What, Lovely Penguin?” asked Fat Giraffe, “I haven’t seen her in ages. It’ll be great to catch up with her.”

“No, my friend, it’s not Lovely Penguin who’s back,” said an ashen-faced Magic Penguin, “It’s Evil Penguin.”

There was a loud thumping sound as Fat Giraffe fainted.

“Now that sounds more like it,” said Mystic Mouse, “I expect things are going to get interesting now.”

But as ever, Mystic Mouse was being far too optimistic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Targeting Success

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Red-faced and drenched in sweat, Ryan pumped out his final set of reps on the bench-press. With a grunt of relief he lowered the barbell for the last time and staggered to his feet. He glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was still only 6:30. Plenty of time before he had to start work, so he donned his gloves and took out his remaining aggression on the bag, demonstrating a power and ferocity that suggested he was more than capable of looking after himself.

In point of fact he was. Ryan’s physical prowess was a huge source of personal pride. A keen amateur pugilist, and certainly not a stranger to the odd bar brawl, Ryan’s skills for violence had recently resulted in a long overdue promotion.

As well as being handy with his fists, Ryan also knew his way around a firearm and this had not gone unnoticed by his superiors. Of course, maintaining security was, essentially, already a significant part of the role that he and his colleagues carried out on a daily basis, but a few months earlier, Dan, the head of the Elite Squad, had notified Ryan of a vacancy within the unit and suggested that he apply. There had been other applicants, but Ryan had blown them all away. Quite literally in one unfortunate incident, though Ryan had been vindicated of any wrongdoing – all the candidates had known the risks and willingly signed a waiver prior to the exercise.

In the end, Ryan’s physical fitness, alongside his substantial skill with a handgun, had made sure the job was his. Following his successful application, Ryan had enjoyed a lengthy holiday, so today was his first day in the role and he was rather looking  forward to getting stuck in.

After his workout, he showered and dressed in his new uniform. It was a sleek, black affair, with a badge on the shirtsleeve carrying the corporate logo, and an insignia which indicated his new rank.

He exited the gym and entered the courtyard. It was 7:20 and there was still some time to prepare before the new inmates arrived.

Of course, alongside the augmented security aspect to his role, he still had to perform a lot of his previous duties. It was something of a drag, he’d never been keen on the other bit of his job but, he supposed, it was still a necessary evil.

He went to the armory and checked out his weapon. He was pleased with his new equipment. Gone was his simple revolver and instead he was handed a more substantial semi-automatic. He checked his watch – he still had time to get in a few practice rounds before the day started properly so he went the range to try his new kit. After thirty pleasurable minutes it was time to get to work.

First he needed to attend a briefing with the rest of the team. The chief was in there giving his usual spiel about it being a big year, and raising standards. Nothing new or especially interesting on offer, but it was good to catch up with his colleagues. He saw Dan across the room, who gave him a solemn but friendly nod. Dan was never one to display too much emotion, but when you had as many kills to your name as he did then emotions were best left buried deep.

Briefing over, Ryan made his way to his room. He saw the buses, which carried the inmates pulling onto the site, through the security gate. In a few minutes he’d be coming into contact with his delegated group.

He got to his room, took a swig of coffee from his thermos and watched them trickle in and take their places.

He looked at their expectant, slightly fearful, faces. He knew he cut a formidable figure, but surely they realised he was there to protect them first and foremost.

Then again, they were only eleven, they still had a lot to learn. He smiled and began his usual ‘first day of term’ speech.

“Morning class, welcome to Broadacre High School,” he said, “I’m Mr Northcroft and I’ll be your form tutor this year.”

Не продается вдохновенье, Но можно рукопись продать.

Pushkin

Another Friday, another, frankly dreadful, portrait of a literary great. And today we travel to Russia to meet Alexander Pushkin, who apparently was quite good at writing. Not so good at duelling though by all accounts and he met his premature end at the hands of his French brother-in-law, who apparently had a bit of a thing for Pushkin’s wife. It was all a bit unfortunate really, but Pushkin had already churned out a fair bit of literature by that point so it wasn’t all bad.

Maybe I’ll read some of it one day. Not in Russian obviously, that would be really hard. But I expect some of it has been translated into English by now.

 

Films I Watched When I Was Younger – Issue 8: Total Recall

James Proclaims (6)

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Like 1982’s Blade Runner, 1990’s Total Recall is based on a story by acclaimed science fiction writer, Philip K. Dick. However, a dystopian futuristic setting, and similar source material is probably the only common ground the two movies share, as the intellectual and philosophical weight of the former is largely jettisoned in the latter for a more violent, action-packed romp. This is, after all, a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by Paul Verhoeven and it plays to the relative strengths of both. Which is not to say that there isn’t an element of the intellectual within the story – it is conceptually quite intriguing and there is an underlying satire to the movie – but if your expectation of a Schwarzenegger movie is that he’ll run around beating people up and shooting people then you won’t go far wrong with Total Recall. Equally if you think of Verhoeven movies as often being exceptionally violent and gratuitous, then this certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Indeed, the violence is often extreme and probably not necessary, as the movie would have plenty to offer without all the blood and guts. It’s not fair to compare it to Blade Runner, most sci fi films come up short in that regard, but Total Recall is far from the worst Philip K. Dick adaptation out there.

Schwarzenegger demonstrates that, if no-one could ever accuse him of being the finest actor of his generation, he absolutely knows what he is good at and he does it particularly well in this movie. So well, in fact, that I was actually able to suspend my disbelief that a man with such a strong Austrian accent could possibly be called Douglas Quaid. Which, as it turns out, I didn’t need to because apparently he’s actually called Carl Hauser, which totally works as an Austrian person’s name. Although it does beg the question why, when deciding upon an assumed identity, he would ever have thought that Douglas Quaid would work.

It’s a minor gripe in truth and does nothing to detract from the enjoyment of the movie. If you can stomach excessive violence, albeit within the context of nineties visual effects, then Total Recall is definitely worth revisiting.

 

Ode To A Pod From A Coffee Snob

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What would life be without the pod
From which my coffee doth arrive?
Of all of the cons considered mod
It’s my favourite ogive
For without the pod how could I
Ensure my daily caffeine
Without effort and commitment
Of methods so slow they make me cry?
But I suppose they are still less obscene
Than granules freeze-dried and instant

James Explains Nothing Very Much At All

James Explains

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Admittedly it was something of a risk when I started a regular feature on my blog that was entirely reliant on ‘audience participation’ that there might come a day when the audience chose not to participate.

Or more specifically when I started a feature, which was entirely dependent on other people asking me questions, that there might come a week when no questions were asked.

And that time has arrived, for I have no questions to answer this week.

Or very few anyway.

The ever-reliable Pete did ask a question this week, and actually I believe there remain some unanswered ‘Pete’ questions from previous weeks.

But this is not all about Pete.

It’s a bit about Pete obviously.

But it’s not all about Pete.

Yet.

So I’ll answer one or more of Pete’s outstanding questions next week, but this week I thought I might try my contingency plan for when the day arrives that even Pete can’t be bothered to ask me any questions.

And my contingency plan is that I will ask myself some questions.

Because, if I’m honest, I am the kind of person that talks to myself quite regularly anyway, so there’s really no harm in doing it in blog form. They say it’s the first sign of madness, but in reality I’m pretty sure that the ship of sanity sailed a long time ago for me.

I mean I’m obviously not claiming to be mad, because that would be conclusive proof that I’m boringly sane and a bit on the dull side. And while I offer no denials that in real life I am a mind-numbingly dull person to spend time with, I’m not sure I always make the sanest of choices.

I’d give you an example of what I mean, but actually that might save this car crash of a post with something resembling interesting content and I’m far too committed to making this as perplexingly bad as I possibly can to allow for anything resembling an interesting narrative at this juncture.

Instead, in for a penny, in for a…

…well a pound seems like bit much, but I’ll certainly go as high as 20p…

So, without further ado, here are this week’s questions:

James, from James Proclaims asks:

What’s going on right now?

Well James, you appear to be having something of a breakdown on your own blog. It’s all quite distressing really.

James, who is also from James Proclaims asks:

Seriously though, why is this happening?

Great question James, and truthfully I’m not sure. Maybe this is some kind of self-aware satire that is genuinely meant to be funny, or maybe this is the very worrying decline of a man in his late thirties, who has finally realised that many of his long-held ambitions are pipe dreams.

James, who to be clear is still the same James as before and is in fact me asks:

Am I going to get through this?

I’m not sure James. Only time will tell. Perhaps lay off the red wine for a few days though eh?

And that’s it for another James Explains. If you never want to see anything quite as tragic on these pages again then please ask a question, any question, in the comments below.

James and I are depending on you.

Disclaimer: I actually did end up getting asked a few questions this week but I’d already written the above nonsense and decided to post it anyway, so apologies if your question went unanswered this week, I’ll definitely answer it next week! Although still ask more questions below and consider the above a cautionary tale of just how low I’m prepared to sink on these pages if I don’t get my own way…

 

The Valentine’s Day Monotony

James Proclaims (4)

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As I write this it’s Valentine’s Day. If you’re reading this on the day it actually hits my blog then it isn’t Valentine’s Day anymore because I’m intending to publish this post on Monday. Specifically Monday the 19th February. If you are reading this on Valentine’s Day then it is almost certainly not the same Valentine’s Day that I’m writing on. It’s most likely a Valentine’s Day in the future. Possibly Valentine’s Day 2019, but potentially a Valentine’s Day even further in the future than that, and you’ve more than likely come across this because some search engine has mistaken the fact that I’ve written the term Valentine’s Day eleven times (including the title) in this post as being an indication that this post is about Valentine’s Day.

Which it isn’t.

It’s just that today, February 14th, 2018, I have a reasonable amount of time to kill and I’m trying to get a little bit ahead with my blogging. Because I’m on something of a hot blogging streak at the moment. This will be my 112th post in 112 consecutive days and I’m rather keen to keep the momentum up. But equally, time is a rather precious commodity at the moment and I really don’t have enough of it to dedicate to producing a daily post of even dubious quality without sacrificing some other commitments. And many of those commitments relate to things I need to do for the institution that pays my wages, which in turn I use to pay my mortgage provider, who, as a result of receiving said payments, allows me to keep a rather shabby (and in very inclement weather, leaky) roof over my head. So I’m trying to make the most of those rare occasions when I do have a bit of time on my hands to produce as much content as possible, so that I can continue with the relatively futile and pointless goal of producing something new everyday. Because we all need something to aspire to and this, frankly, is all I’ve got.

And today I do have time on my hands because I’m waiting for someone to knock on my door and collect something. It’s like a kind of reverse delivery. Ironically I wrote about the frustrations of having to wait in all day for stuff in the form of a poem recently. It’s ironic because when I wrote that poem I wasn’t actually stuck at home waiting for something, I was stuck at work, meeting with the parents of the children I sometimes deign to teach (or, y’know, stand in front of and say things at) and I had time to kill between appointments. I thought a poem about a school’s parent’s evening might be a bit niche, so I changed the focus of the waiting to another frustrating waiting situation (am I revealing too much about my writing process here? Because that’s pretty much how I produce most of the rubbish that makes up this blog). Anyway, just a week on from writing that poem, it’s half term and on one of my precious days off  I am actually stuck at home.

Waiting.

But like I say, I’m waiting for someone to come and pick something up.

So after all the waiting I won’t even have a delivery to enjoy.

So far I’ve been waiting for seven hours. The window closes in another two.

Fortunately Mrs Proclaims bought me some rather nice salted-caramel chocolates for Valentine’s Day.

There aren’t many left at this point.

But if it wasn’t for this interminable waiting, I’d never have produced this.

Although after seven hours of sitting around with nothing else much to do but work on this piece, you’d imagine it would be better than it is.

 

Magic Penguin And The PC Brigade

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Magic Penguin and Mystic Mouse were enjoying a drink in the Shoe and Phone.

“It’s nice in here,” said Mystic Mouse.

“Is it?” said Magic Penguin in surprise, for he had always felt that the Shoe and Phone was a dingy backstreet watering hole, and certainly not the kind of establishment that anyone would ever describe as being ‘nice’.

“Well, no. ‘Nice’ probably isn’t the best word to describe it,” admitted Mystic Mouse, “It’s actually kind of horrible. But it’s nice that you invited me.”

“Well I thought we were overdue a catch-up,” said Magic Penguin, “after all there are precious few female characters in the Magic Penguin stories.”

Mystic Mouse pondered this for a moment.

“Are you saying you only invited me, so I could be a token female character?” she asked.

“Oh no,” said Magic Penguin, “I genuinely wanted to meet up again. It’s been ages. But it certainly won’t hurt in trying to alleviate some of the criticisms we’ve been getting of late, in terms of the lack of female representation in the Magic Penguin stories.”

“Oh,” said Mystic Mouse, “I’m not sure how I feel about that really.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” said Magic Penguin hastily, “We really wanted to include you because you’re an interesting character in your own right. It’s really just a happy coincidence that you’re also a strong female role model.”

“So, I’m definitely not just a token female character then?” asked Mystic Mouse with genuine scepticism.

“I mean, not intentionally, no,” said Magic Penguin, “although, as things stand, given the lack of any other female characters, with the exception of last week’s villain, ‘the Melancholy Tomato’, one might mistakenly make the assumption that you are the ‘Smurfette’ of the Magic Penguin series.”

“But I’m not, right?” verified Mystic Mouse, “The writer is planning on there being other female characters in the stories soon?”

“I’d imagine so, yes,” said Magic Penguin, “as I say, it’s not intentional sexism on the writer’s part. It’s just, as has been mentioned before, he’s really not a very good writer.”

“Well it’s political correctness gone mad if you ask me,” said Wise Owl from a nearby table, where he was completing the ‘angry word’ in the Daily Hate (the ‘angry word’ was like a crossword but much more incendiary).

“Well no-one did ask you,” said Magic Penguin, “and you can keep your stupid intolerant ‘Daily Hate’ inspired bile to yourself”

“Is the Daily Hate, basically just our version of the Daily Mail?” asked Mystic Mouse.

“Essentially yes,” confirmed Magic Penguin, “But the writer thought it would be clever and satirical to rename it the Daily Hate.”

“Hmmm,” pondered Mystic Mouse, “It’s really not that clever or satirical is it?”

“On reflection, no,” agreed Magic Penguin, “but the writer does what he can, which is not easy when you’re as utterly talentless as he is.”

“It can’t be easy,” nodded Mystic Mouse, “I think he does very well for even having a go, particularly given his recent legal problems.”

“It’s a load of rubbish though isn’t it,” grumbled Wise Owl, “and it’s particularly bad now he’s busy pandering to the PC Brigade.”

“I mean I don’t think he is especially pandering to the PC Brigade by just including a long overdue female character,” argued Magic Penguin.

“Yes, he is, he’s bloody pandering,” said Wise Owl bitterly, “and they won’t be happy, that PC Brigade, they’ll want more.”

“Did someone mention my name?” asked PC Brigade, of the local constabulary, who was also in the pub, enjoying a few whiskies, while on his lunch break.

“Er, no officer,” said Magic Penguin, “Wise Owl was referring to the erroneous notion that there is an entity known as The Politically Correct Brigade, often abbreviated to the PC Brigade, who like to go around being offended by stuff and ruining everyone’s fun, when in fact there’s no such thing and actually Political Correctness is just a way of trying to make the world a fairer, more equitable and ultimately nicer place for everyone.”

“Oh, ok,” said PC Brigade, downing another scotch, “as long as you weren’t talking about me.”

“We definitely weren’t officer,” said Magic Penguin before adding, “should you really be drinking so heavily if you’re on duty?”

“Who are you, the Health and Safety Police?” growled PC Brigade.

As it was obviously a rhetorical question Magic Penguin chose not to answer.

There was a brief moment of silence as everyone went back to what they had been doing prior to the conversation.

“Seven down,” said Wise Owl returning to his ‘angry word’, “a scourge on society, eleven letters, starts with ‘I’.”

“Well, as long as I haven’t just been included on the basis of my gender and I’ve actually got a full role to play moving forwards, then I’d definitely be delighted to be part of the Magic Penguin stories,” said Mystic Mouse, “after all, last week’s story actually had something resembling a narrative, and if that’s going to be a regular feature then  it could be quite a lot of fun moving forwards.”

“Yeah, the writer seems to have lost his way again this week though,” said Magic Penguin, “and truthfully, last week’s effort was really just a rehash of something he wrote back in 2003 before he lost all hope and resigned himself to a life mediocrity and disappointment.”

“Well, there’s still hope he’ll find his way again,” said Mystic Mouse with naïve optimism.

“Possibly,” said Magic Penguin, “but to be fair, this week’s story is not a particularly promising sign that things are going to get better.”

At that moment Fat Giraffe burst in through the doors of the Shoe and Phone.

“You’ll never believe what’s happened!” he exclaimed.

“What is it old friend?” asked Magic Penguin.

“No time to explain,” said Fat Giraffe, “but come quickly, I think we’re about to have the adventure of a lifetime!”

“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” said Mystic Mouse leaping up to follow Fat Giraffe.

Magic Penguin followed too, but he was a tad more sceptical. This was a little too much like the cliff-hanger in Magic Penguin And The Third Character and he suspected it was the work of his old nemesis, Red Herring.

Tune in next week to discover that Magic Penguin was right all along and there was absolutely nothing to get excited about whatsoever.

 

 

Keyboard Warrior

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The tea was hot, milky and very sweet, just the way Byron liked it. He took a sip as he stared at the screen. The match was not five minutes over and already the furore had begun on the forums.

Red4eva2001 had posted the first inflammatory comments about the game, citing the poor refereeing decisions as the main reason for the ‘Reds’ defeat.

Uptheblus04 had been quick to respond to the slight, suggesting that the Reds had benefited from more than their fair share of dodgy refereeing decisions in other games that season.

The forum continued to be abuzz with comments, many about the game itself, some about the ramifications for other games, still others lamenting the sport as a whole, deliberately trying to provoke a reaction from die-hards who couldn’t see that their enraged responses to these comments were exactly the reason they had been written in the first place.

“Don’t feed the trolls” Byron said to himself, taking another sip of tea and continuing to watch more and more comments appear on the screen.

Some commenters had already descended into personal battles with others, some were posters they had jousted with before, although there were also newbies who had been naively sucked into a war of words with some of the more experienced wind-up merchants on the forum.

Byron had yet to post anything himself that afternoon. Partly this was because he was enjoying the vitriol that had already been unleashed by others and partly because he hadn’t actually seen the game in question, and was trying to get a feel for the main areas of controversy before diving in with his own words of wisdom.

The main crux of a lot of the arguments was whether a penalty that had been given in the 38th minute was really a penalty, or whether the Blues striker had gone down a little too easily. There also seemed to be a contentious tackle in the 73rd minute which perhaps should have resulted in a Blues player being sent off.

In truth, Byron was ill-equipped to comment on either of these incidents, but, in the absence of any other information to go on, he was more than prepared to nail his colours to the mast. He took another swig of his tea and, assuming his identity of blueboy439, he began typing.

Typical whinging pinks, can’t take losing to a better team. Always got to blame the ref #pathetic

He was particularly proud of the ‘pinks’ slight – the emasculating of the Reds was always guaranteed a response.

Indeed he needed only wait a few minutes before he’d reeled in his first catch of the day. Redking2005 responded with a very personal attack, indeed so full of vitriol was it that Byron was certain the moderators would take the comment down after a few minutes. He took a quick screenshot of the comment just in case it was deleted. He saved the image into a folder he had named  ‘The Trophy Cabinet’. There were already well over a thousand such screenshots in there, but he was particularly proud of this one. It was always fun to get under the skin of a ‘Red’.

He was all set to type a response, partly to further incense Redking2005, but also with the hope of sucking in more prey when he heard a call from downstairs.

“Byron sweetheart, dinner’s ready!”

Byron sighed. The forum would be overloaded with comments by the time he made it back upstairs. Still, there was bound to be another comments section opening up on another news site, as various pundits wrote up their post-match analysis. There’d be another Redking2005 to irritate that day.

He closed his laptop and went down to dinner.

Lasciate Ogni Speranza, Voi Ch’Entrate

Dante

Continuing my theme of drawing third-rate portraits of well know literary figures, here is my attempt at capturing the reasonably talented Dante Alighieri, who is perhaps best known for his Divine Comedy. I haven’t read it, but I do enjoy a good comedy so I’m sure I’d really like it. He is cited as an influence on many subsequent literary greats, including, but not limited to, Milton, Chaucer and Tennyson.

But his greatest legacy is probably the fact that the ‘Inferno’ bit of the Divine comedy was the inspiration behind Dan Brown’s fourth Robert Langdon novel of the same name. Unlike the Divine Comedy, I’ve actually read Dan Brown’s Inferno and I can honestly say I didn’t dislike it as much as some of Dan Brown’s other novels. Which is high praise indeed.

 

Films I Watched When I Was Younger – Issue 7: Pretty Woman

James Proclaims (6)

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1990’s Pretty Woman might seem an odd film for me to enjoy given the genre of film that I’ve tended write about in recent weeks. But if the nineties action movie was generally the staple of my teenage movie diet, I did occasionally sample other delights and I did really like Pretty Woman when it came out.

That said, my reasons for rewatching it recently were more as a direct result of revisiting a small screen classic of the era. Mrs Proclaims and I spent much of 2017 watching the entire nine seasons of Seinfeld, which, with the exception of Jerry’s hairstyle in the earlier seasons, has stood the test of time rather well (perhaps better than some of the subsequent sitcoms it clearly inspired). As much as Seinfeld is an ensemble piece, and all four leads contribute to it, both Mrs Proclaims and I are in agreement that George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander, is the standout character.

Which reminded me that the only other thing I’d ever seen Jason Alexander in was Pretty Woman. Plus Mrs Proclaims hadn’t ever seen Pretty Woman before, which seemed like an oversight because it is totally the kind of film she would like.

So, when it was broadcast on terrestrial TV recently,  we felt obliged to watch it.

And I have to say it was every bit as good as I remembered it being.

There are some troubling elements to overcome, it is essentially a film about an unscrupulous businessman paying for the services of a sex worker and that doesn’t necessarily seem like the basis for a romantic comedy. And the briefest of internet research indicates that it was intended to be a much darker film at the outset but was reimagined as the Pygmalianesque tale that it ultimately became. Obviously, in order to appreciate the sanitized feel-good movie that it definitely is, you do need to turn of your inner cynic and just go with the flow. But once disbelief is fully suspended, it really is hard to find much to not like about the movie. The afore-mentioned Jason Alexander is excellent as the loathsome lawyer Stuckey, Hector Elizondo is charming as the sympathetic hotel manager Barney and Laura San Giocomo is suitably kooky as Kit ‘the best friend’. As for the two leads, Richard Gere is perfectly adequate as Edward, the ruthless businessman who ultimately re-thinks his life for the better, but this movie belongs to Julia Roberts, who charms from the moment she arrives on screen and renders the character of Vivian entirely sympathetic.

As previously mentioned, there isn’t much about the plot that is plausible, and even the darker elements that remain in the script seem to be momentary blips that are easily overcome rather than the horrific life-changing and traumatic events that they would actually be in real life, but it doesn’t matter. The movie is a fairy-tale at heart, in spite of the adult themes, and is best enjoyed as pure escapism.

Pretty Woman set the standard for the nineties romcom, a standard few others measure up to. Whereas I’ll more than happily sit through a nineties action movie of dubious quality, I’d struggle to get all the way through a bad romcom, so the fact that I’ve seen Pretty Woman multiple times is probably the highest endorsement that I can give it.

A Sententious Sonnet

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How do I love thee, let me count the ways
Although perhaps counting is not for now
When I’m trying my best to express how
I feel about you today of all days
Maths is not a noted way to give praise
Quantity of sentiments won’t allow
Expressions of feelings of love to thou
Indeed, and I feel that I must paraphrase
Enumerating is not effective
When expressing affection and love
To the person who I claim to adore
A better solution might be to give
A more considered declaration of
Passion with which to build up our rapport

James Explains Morality Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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Hello, and welcome to another James Explains, the regular feature on my blog where I answer the seemingly unanswerable. Remember, if you have a problem, if no-one else can help and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team. But if you just have a question and you can’t be bothered to Google the answer yourself, but you can be bothered to leave a question in the comments below, then maybe I’ll answer the question. For free. Which is definitely cheaper than the A-Team. Although if you lock me in a warehouse I won’t be able to fabricate a tank out of an old bathtub and bits of a bicycle. So really I‘m not in direct competition with the A-Team. We offer very different services. But we do both pity fools.

And so on with today’s questions and they are as follows:

Regular contributor Pete asks:

 What was the name of the first vegan aardvark and why was it significant in helping to explain Pythagoras’ theorem?

Phew, Pete, that is quite a question. At first I thought this was a trick question and that there was really some sort of link between aardvarks, veganism and Pythagoras. So I Googled all those things and found nothing obvious. Although interestingly there is a suggestion that Pythagoras was actually vegetarian and indeed in the days of yore, before the term ’vegetarian’ was widely accepted as the way to describe that particular lifestyle choice, people referred to themselves as being Pythagorean. Obviously that might not be true at all, I haven’t taken the time and trouble of verifying my source for that particular claim, but I quite like it so I’m going to choose to believe it. I couldn’t find much to do with aardvarks though, so instead here are some pictures of some well known anthropomorphic aardvarks who might well be vegans (although the blue one is only so because he consistently fails to catch the anthropomorphic ant that he wants to eat) and who probably understand Pythagoras’ theorem quite well. Take your pick:

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Related image

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Next up, first time contributor Suze asks:

If electricity comes from electrons…does morality come from morons?

At first glance the answer would seem to be a definitive yes. But that, alas, is not how language works. Although it is fair to say that both electricity and morality are dangerous things in the hands of the wrong people.

I’m not sure morality is solely the purview of morons, it’s probably not a bad idea for all of us to live by some kind of moral compass. However, where morality and moronity often cross paths is when someone insists on inflexibly imposing their own moral code on others, without any acknowledgement of the subjective nature of morality.

So in a way, yes, morality does often come from morons and like electricity morality can sometimes be shocking and unpleasant. But equally, used in the right way, like electricity, morality can also be illuminating.

Another regular contributor of questions, Haylee asks:

How do you keep finding such interesting flavours for biscuits? You must live in the centre of the biscuit universe!

Now to be fair, Haylee was not asking this question in the context of requiring an answer on ‘James Explains’ but merely asking a rhetorical question in light of the fact that I have mentioned various biscuits on these pages that she hasn’t come across despite living in the same country as me. However, in the absence of any other questions this week I am going to answer Haylee’s question.

Alas I don’t live in the centre of the biscuit universe, although that does remain a lifelong ambition, but I feel my my consumption of interesting biscuits has a disappointingly simple explanation. While it’s possible that the disparity of our biscuit experiences could possibly be explained by the fact that Haylee lives in the north of these fair isles and I live in the south, when it comes to groceries, regional differences are increasingly a thing of the past. Mostly I buy my biscuits in major supermarket chains which exist throughout the UK. But it is fair to say that I am a fan of novelty and whenever a limited edition or seasonal product is made available, I will often purchase it in lieu of more regularly available items and in the field of biscuits I employ this strategy almost exclusively. This can pay dividends and I have enjoyed some delightful cookies, wafers and shortbreads over the years. It can also go awry however – for example my biscuit tin currently contains some banoffee caramel digestives which are nowhere near as nice as I thought they’d be. I’m going to have to go back to the tried and tested realm of the chocolate hobnob for a week or so just to get over them. But once I’ve recovered I’ll be back in search of more avant-garde garibaldis.

And that’s it for this week’s questions, but before I go and while we’re on the subject of biscuits, I must just address one linguistic point that was brought to my attention by a friend of mine in relation to last week’s ‘James Explains’.

Last week, I made reference to the greatest of all the biscuits, the noble Jammie Dodger, and claimed that they are manufactured in Wales. My friend took umbrage with my use of the word ‘manufacture’ in relation to biscuits, claiming that the word ‘manufacture’ should really only be used in relation to the production of cars and the like, and I should have said that Jammie Dodgers are ‘produced’ or simply ‘made’ in Wales. And he may have a point. But I would argue that while convention might dictate that ‘manufacture’ is implicitly linked to larger mass produced items such as cars, biscuits too are made on a large scale using machinery so my use of the word ‘manufacture’ was not technically incorrect and only a true pedant would pick me up for it. That said, I’ve always felt that pedantry was an admirable quality in anyone so I apologise to my friend if my linguistic choices offended him but as I am also quite the pedant, I will also insist that I was absolutely correct in my use of the word ‘manufacture’.

So I hope that settles that.

And if you’d like me to ‘manufacture’ some answers to your unanswerable questions for next week, then please leave them in the comments below.

 

Winter Wonderland

James Proclaims (4)

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I don’t much understand the Winter Olympics – we didn’t get to do much skiing, snowboarding or speed-skating when I was growing up in South Wales. Then again we didn’t do a huge amount of rowing, dressage or modern pentathlon round my way either and I like the Summer Olympics quite a lot, so maybe my disinterest is less that the winter games are full of sports I’ve never played and don’t understand and more the fact that not many of my compatriots are very good at them either.

Time was, of course, that British medal hopes in both the Summer and Winter Olympics were minimal, but thanks to a ruthless funding campaign, abusive and bullying coaching strategies, and questionable interpretations of the Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) to legitimise the use of performance enhancing drugs, we Brits have become serious medal contenders at the Summer Olympics. Alas those same strategies aren’t going to make the UK more snowy and mountainous so success in the Winter Games will always be more elusive.

Norway seem to be pretty good at winter sports. Maybe as part of our Brexit deal we could join forces with the Norwegians, who already find themselves outside of the EU, and then I could enjoy the Winter Olympics a bit more.

Although a Norwegian style deal seems to be off the table and instead we’re hoping for ‘Canada +++’. I don’t actually know what that means, but the Canadians are also good at winter sports, so I’m OK with forming an alliance there too.

Then again, it’s not like we’ve never had any success at the Winter Olympics. We seem to be alright at curling, which is perhaps not the most exciting of the ice-based sports but it does make for strangely compelling TV, and there’s been some success in the skeleton, which seems to involve going really fast downhill on an ice-track supported by what is essentially a tea-tray. Which is madness really.

Historically, there is even a history of British success in figure-skating. After all, who can forget national treasures Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean? Well no-one can, because every Winter Olympics the BBC appears to be obliged to show footage of their gold medal performance from 1984. And obviously they’re involved in ITV’s Dancing On Ice, which is like a less popular and more hazardous version of the BBC’s flagship show Strictly Come Dancing.

We did have an ice-rink nearby when I was growing up. I remember ice-skating being a ‘thing’ people did for their birthdays during my teenage years. I went once with a group of  friends and, for the hour or so we were on the ice, I was utterly petrified. I never went again and so died that Olympic dream.

I fared better on my one skiing holiday as a teenager, in that I did actually enjoy that. Sadly though, in my one week of skiing I didn’t quite manage to hit Olympic qualifying standards.

Which seems like a missed opportunity on reflection.

Magic Penguin And The Melancholy Tomato

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One day, after a competitive game of squash, Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe decided to pop into the Shoe and Phone for a few drinks. As Magic Penguin had narrowly won the match, Fat Giraffe had to get the first round in. He went to the bar to order the drinks while Magic Penguin went to see if there was a pool table free. As luck would have it there was, so Magic Penguin inserted some change into the slot and proceeded to set up the table. When Fat Giraffe returned from the bar with the drinks he was accompanied by Edward the Ostrich.

“Alright Ed!” said Magic Penguin, “Haven’t seen you in ages.”

“No, I was hoping to be in the last story, but the writer went with Stupid Donkey instead” replied Ed.

Yeah, that was a strange choice,” acknowledged Fat Giraffe, “but that Donkey can certainly hold a tune.”

“Yes, I heard he was good,” muttered Magic Penguin, “shame I missed it.”

“Well it’s good you’ve turned up for this story,” said Ed, “after all, what would the Magic Penguin stories be without you?”

“I think I kept things ticking along nicely last week,” protested Fat Giraffe.

“I mean it was alright,” acknowledged Ed, “but it’s just not the same without Magic Penguin.”

“Cheers mate,” said Magic Penguin as Fat Giraffe bristled slightly, “hey what’s that?”

He was referring to the red drink that Edward was holding.

“It’s a  Bloody Mary,” replied Ed, “I’m nursing a bit of a hangover. I had a few too many with Happy Rhino last night.”

“Fair enough,” said Magic Penguin as he picked up his pool cue to break, “Fancy playing the winner Ed?”

“Don’t be stupid,” replied Ed, “Ostriches can’t play pool. That’s just silly!”

“Yeah I suppose it is really!” laughed Magic Penguin as he took his shot.

Sometime later, after Fat Giraffe had managed to exact his revenge on Magic Penguin for squash by beating him at pool, the three friends sat down in a corner of the bar and whiled away the afternoon drinking and catching up on all the latest news from each other. Fat Giraffe was in the middle of telling a racially insensitive joke when they heard a loud sobbing. They looked up and saw a young tomato crying her heart out at the next table while drinking a large vodka.

“Hey there little tomato, what’s up?” asked Magic Penguin

“Nothing.” replied the tomato before bursting into a flood of tears.

“It doesn’t look like nothing to me,” said Magic Penguin kindly, “why don’t you tell me what’s troubling you? I might be able to help.”

“You wouldn’t understand,” wailed the tomato “you’ve got friends.”

“I’m sure you must have some friends too,” said Magic Penguin “things can’t be that bad.”

“None of the other fruit will hang around with me” cried the tomato, “Angry Banana says that I’m not a proper fruit like the others because you can’t put me in a fruit salad but you can put me in a proper salad. He says that I must be a vegetable but I’m not a vegetable I’m a fruit!”

Magic Penguin shook his head sadly, he had been a key figure in bringing about peace between the vegetable and fruit communities and it made him sad to see this kind of petty prejudice still existed.(Younger readers probably won’t remember the fruit and vegetable wars of the 70s.)

“I think it’s time we taught Angry Banana a lesson,” he said, “but how I wonder…”

“I’ll punch him if you want,” said Fat Giraffe.

Magic Penguin smiled, it would be a very unlucky person to be on the receiving end of Fat Giraffe’s wrath but violence wasn’t the answer. Angry Banana was well respected in the fruit community and assaulting him would just make the tomato’s exclusion permanent.

“There’s nothing you can do,” cried the tomato, “All the other fruit look up to Angry Banana.”

“I’m sure we’ll think of something,” said Magic Penguin, “in the meantime I think we should have another drink. It’s my round I believe, Ed do you fancy a pint?”

“No thanks,” said Ed,”I wouldn’t say no to another Bloody Mary though.”

“No problem mate,” said Magic Penguin, “Wait a minute that gives me an idea!”

Later that day, Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe knocked on Angry Banana’s front door. It was opened by Jolly Apple, Angry Banana’s good friend and housemate.

“Hello Magic Penguin, hello Fat Giraffe, what brings you two here?” asked the apple.

“We’d like a word with Angry Banana if we may?” said Magic Penguin.

“Certainly,” said Jolly Apple, “I think he’s taking a shower at the moment but you’re welcome to come in and wait.”

So the two friends entered Angry Banana’s house and awaited him.

After about ten minutes, during which time Fat Giraffe entertained them with his humorous impersonations of minor celebrities, Angry Banana entered the room.

“Hello!” he exclaimed “I wasn’t expecting guests!”

“Hello Angry Banana,” said Magic Penguin, “I’m afraid we’ve come to talk to you about a rather sensitive matter.”

“Oh yes?” said Angry Banana looking interested.

“Yes it’s about young Melancholy Tomato.” said Magic Penguin, “She feels that you’ve excluded her from the other fruit.”

“I see…” began Angry Banana but Magic Penguin interrupted him.

“I know she’s not like other fruits and I agree that she does belong in a normal salad and not a fruit salad, but that doesn’t make her a vegetable. Essentially, she does match all the other credentials of a fruit including one that, if I may say so, you lack yourself.”

Angry Banana arched one eyebrow, “And might I ask what that is?”

“Well you can have orange juice, apple juice, pineapple juice, “observed Magic Penguin, “and as my good friend Edward the Ostrich reminded me with his choice of drink in the pub earlier, you can have tomato juice, but I’ve never, in all my experience, come across banana juice!”

Angry Banana looked slightly sad at this remark and Jolly Apple leapt to his defence.

“How could you say something so hurtful?” the apple snapped, “Angry Banana’s very sensitive the juice situation, and anyway, it is entirely possible to get banana juice, but it’s very difficult to separate the pulp from the juice, so it tends to be sold as a ‘juice drink’ with the pulp supplemented by additional water and sometimes other fruit juices, but ideally with no added sugar. Also bananas make the basis for many a smoothie !”

“It’s not quite the same though is it?” observed Magic Penguin, “ I didn’t wish to upset Angry Banana but perhaps now he understands how Melancholy Tomato feels.”

“But I didn’t exclude Melancholy Tomato at all!” protested Angry Banana. “It’s just that there is still a lot of tension between the fruit and vegetable communities, as you of all people should know. I merely pointed out to Melancholy Tomato that her involvement in normal salad might be a conflict of interests at this sensitive time”

“Well I think the sooner this issue is resolved the better,” said Magic Penguin, “as it happens, Melancholy Tomato is waiting outside, and perhaps if I bring her in we can discuss this properly.”

“Of course,” said Angry Banana, “bring her in.”

So Fat Giraffe went to fetch Melancholy Tomato and Magic Penguin smiled to himself. He enjoyed being a diplomat again, and if only it hadn’t been for the unfortunate Kipper Scandal perhaps he’d still be doing it for a living.

Melancholy Tomato entered with Fat Giraffe. Angry Banana rose to greet her but before he even had time to speak Melancholy Tomato pulled out a dagger and stabbed him.

“Die fruit scum!” she cried, “Long live vegetable-kind!”

And she ran out laughing. Fat Giraffe ran after her but she was too fast and managed to escape.

Jolly Apple rushed over to Angry Banana.

“Oh no!” he cried “hang in there old friend.”

“It’s too late,” gasped Angry Banana “the wound is fatal.”

“No!” cried Jolly Apple

“Avenge me,” sighed Angry Banana and with that he died.

“See what your meddling has done?” growled Jolly Apple at Magic Penguin, “Fruit-kind will not allow this insult to pass without retaliation. Those vegetables will pay!”

Later that same day Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe were back in the pub discussing the day’s events.

“So there’s going to be another war then?” asked Fat Giraffe.

“Looks like it, yeah,” replied Magic Penguin.

“I suppose it’s our fault really.” said Fat Giraffe.

“No arguments there.” said Magic Penguin.

“Not really our problem though.” said Fat Giraffe.

“Nope, not really.” said Magic Penguin.

“Fancy another drink?” asked Fat Giraffe

“Yeah go on then mate,” said Magic Penguin with a grin, “I’ll have a Bloody Mary!”

And the two friends laughed.

It’s The Taking Part That Counts

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Mike wiped the sweat from his brow, and looked at his crestfallen team-mates who were gathered round him for his half-time talk. It was not going well, they were being out-thought, outplayed and simply outclassed by their opponents.  As team captain, it was his job to re-motivate the boys, lift their spirits and get them pumped for the second half.

“Come on guys,” he said, “we’re still in this. We just need to tighten up at the back and get the ball to Darryl.”

Darryl, who was by far and away the team’s best player, and was more than gratified by his captain’s faith in him, still felt a reality check was in order.

“Mike mate, we’re 10-0 down,” he said, “I don’t think we’re still in this at all.”

“Come on Darryl, we need to be more positive,” chided Mike sternly.

“No, I mean obviously, I want to be positive,” acknowledged Darryl, “but I mean, I think we’ve misjudged this a bit – they are quite a lot better than us.”

Mike siged. He knew what Darryl was getting at. When they’d first contemplated entering a five-a-side league, a few weeks back in the pub, there had been some concerns expressed that the sum talent of the team didn’t really amount to much. Darryl was fine, Pete was not without skill, although a little out of shape, and Roger was certainly keen, if not entirely what you’d describe as gifted. Eddie, Pete’s brother-in-law, was a reluctant recruit who’d only agreed to turn up because he ‘owed Pete a favour’ and there was certainly no guarantee he’d be back for future fixtures. As for Mike himself, well he was definitely the least able player out of the five. But he was enthusiastic and a natural leader. Or, at least, he was the only one who could actually be bothered to sign them up to a league.

Unfortunately Mike had rather misjudged the standard of the competition he had committed them to. Their current opponents ‘The Kingsmen’ (so named because they all drank at the Kings Arms) were clearly superior in every department. They also had a contingent of more than five players, meaning they were able to use substitutes, which was a luxury Mike and his team could only dream of. Nonetheless, ‘The Kingsmen’ had only managed to finish tenth out of fourteen teams last season. It was unlikely that future fixtures were going to get any easier for ‘Mike’s Machines’.

“To be honest guys, I don’t think this is really for me,” said Eddie, to the surprise of no-one, “I’ll see out the second half, but you might want to look at getting someone else for the next match.”

There were a few half-hearted efforts to change Eddie’s mind, but no-one realistically believed that there would be any need to recruit an additional player for future games.

Mike though, was not going to walk away without an attempt to rescue some pride in what was almost certainly going to be his team’s only fixture.

“Come on guys,” said Mike, “we’ve got to give it our all for another twenty minutes!”

There were non-committal grunts of unenthusiastic assent.

“And the first round of drinks is on me after the match,” continued Mike.

There were slightly louder, more enthusiastic murmurs.

“Now let’s get out there and give Eddie the send-off he deserves!” exclaimed the captain, loud enough to draw amused glances from their opposition.

“For Eddie!” bellowed Darryl as he charged onto the pitch.

“For Eddie!” came the slightly muted chorus from the others as they followed, with the exception of Eddie himself, who looked less than comfortable with the battlecry.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, albeit the goals did not come quite as thick and fast as they had done. ‘The Kingsmen’ had rather taken their foot off the gas, what with victory being so completely assured, and were using the remaining minutes as a training exercise, trying audacious passes and shots that they would never have contemplated in a closer fixture.

Perhaps it was this complacency that permitted Darryl to steal the ball of a rather cocky sub in the dying moments and smash what was the first strike on target for ‘The Machines’ all game. It was easily parried away by the goalkeeper, but, in the most unlikely of flukes, the rebounding ball was caught by an unintentional knee belonging to Mike as he bounded up the pitch with his unwavering enthusiasm. As the ball crossed the goal-line in what was the final act of the game, changing the final score from an embarrassing 15-0 to a much more credible 15-1, Mike was swamped by his team-mates.

The Kingsmen, for whom winning was nothing of note given the ease of their victory, were more than a little perplexed by the resulting celebrations from their opponents.

Mike, for his part, was in a reflective mood as he was carried out off the pitch on the shoulders of his friends. There may be no future outings for his ‘Machines’ but he would never forget his brief tenure as captain of this fine group of players.

La Senda De La Virtud Es Muy Estrecha Y El Camino Del Vicio, Ancho Y Espacioso

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Another Friday, another doodle and, as per the last two weeks here is yet another depiction of a great literary figure. And it’s none other than the great Spanish writer and one of the world’s first novelists, Miguel de Cervantes.

He’s probably best known for writing Don Quixote, which to be honest I’ve never read. I don’t even know what it’s about. But more educated people seem to think it’s quite good.

For ages I thought it was called Donkey Hotay and wondered why one of the first novels ever written would be about a donkey called Hotay. I realise the stupidity of that particular thought process, not least the fact that if it was actually written about a donkey, the title would have the Spanish word for donkey and it would’ve been called El Burro Hotay.

I might one day write a book called Donkey Hotay and, with any luck, it’ll be just as seminal as Cervantes’ novel. And then I won’t seem so stupid after all.

Films I Watched When I Was Younger – Issue 6: Double Impact

James Proclaims (6)

 

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Last week I wrote about 1992’s Under Siege, a film in which Steven Seagal solved the problem of being a mediocre (at best) actor by surrounding himself with much better actors thus producing a film that is really quite good (for a mindless nineties action flick).

A year earlier, Jean-Claude Van Damme opted for a different strategy and instead decided to elevate his own credentials by appearing in a movie in which everyone else was a much worse actor, and casting himself in not one, but two leading roles. It sort of works in that he is pretty much the best thing about the movie (twice over) but that doesn’t necessarily mean that either of his performances is particularly good and the notion of Van Damme playing twin brothers, separated at birth, only to be reunited years later to avenge their parents’ death is exactly as mad as it sounds.

On any objective level, 1991’s Double Impact is not a good film, but when I saw it was available on a popular internet subscription service my curiosity was piqued – because I did remember rather enjoying it in my youth. And truthfully, the combination of nostalgia and the ‘so-bad-it’s-actually-good’ nature of the movie did result in 107 minutes of me being vaguely entertained.

Van Damme almost convinces as two distinct characters, although we do have to get past the bizarre notion that, although each ‘twin’ has experienced very different upbringings, one growing up in an orphanage in Hong Kong, the other raised by his deceased parents’ American bodyguard, they both somehow wind up being experts in martial arts and, more bizarrely, with identical French accents (well Belgian accents if we’re honest but the film would have us believe that they are French). This strange coincidence is explained by the fact that the Hong Kong orphan is brought up by French nuns and the other child is brought up by his American guardian in France. Logically neither of these facts would necessarily result in quite such a pronounced accent as Van Damme’s but I do admire the effort to add some credibility to an otherwise implausible plot.

Really though, there isn’t much plot to speak of, and action is the main selling point of this movie. And double the Van Dammes means double the action.

Except it doesn’t because there really is only so much action that can be crammed into the running time.

In reality, the novelty of two Van Dammes wears off after a while and this is really just another ‘by the numbers’ second-rate nineties action flick. In Bolo Yeung and Corrina Everson are two performers who might have made great Bond baddies, but there’s nothing much else on offer.

Probably only worth watching for reasons of nostalgia, if you watched it back in the nineties, and even then with the expectation that it won’t be as good as you remembered it being.

 

While You Were In We Thought You Were Out

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One thing in life
That I find quite frustrating
Is when I have to spend time
Endlessly waiting

For something or someone
That is due to arrive
At an unspecified time
Between 8 and 5

That’s quite a large window
And it makes me feel stressed
To spend a whole working day
Under house arrest

It’s hard to endure
Is it mandatory
To spend so many hours
In such purgatory?

And what is much worse
You can always depend
That the time of delivery
Will be nearer the end

But you can’t take the chance
That it won’t come at the start
So you have stay in
And wait in good heart

Hopeful that today’s wait
Won’t be quite as long
But after several hours
You’ll know you were wrong

And once the delivery
Window has expired
And you’ve wasted a day
And you’re bored and tired

Only then you’ll discover
That you dropped your guard
For at some point today
Was posted a card

That claims that delivery
Was attempted that day
Despite all evidence
Suggesting that there’s no way

That anyone bothered
To ring the doorbell
Or even to knock
So how in the Hell

Did they post that card
Without you being aware?
And why did they do it?
Do they simply not care

That you’ve wasted a day
For a package unreceived
And now all you feel
Is wronged and deceived?

And so after waiting
You’re forced to wait more
But now the delivery
Won’t be brought to the door

After twenty-four hours
It’ll have to be collected
Which is beyond irritating
And you feel quite dejected

Because if delivery windows
Must be so imprecise
At the end of it all
A parcel would be nice

 

James Explains Schrödinger’s Cat Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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Hello and welcome back to ‘James Explains’, the bit of my blog where I explain things that other people claim to want to know more about, but possibly don’t really want to know about.

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

When will we ever learn?

At first I thought this was a trick question Pete, because it seems abundantly clear that we will never learn. But after some research I can confirm that we will, in fact, learn today. And tomorrow. And we also learned yesterday. Because according to conventional wisdom, we learn something new every day and also every day is a school day. Except weekends of course. And the various school holidays throughout the year.

They aren’t school days.

They aren’t school days at all.

But all the others are.

Jay who previously asked about The Godfather movies and is still from the USA asks:

Will you please proclaim something about Jammy Dodgers?

I will Jay. And I’ll also forgive your minor spelling error, for you aren’t from these shores and therefore can’t possibly know the huge cultural significance the noble Jammie Dodger holds for all of us Brits. It is, quite simply, the greatest biscuit ever invented. Not to be confused with supermarket ‘own brand’ Jam Rings, which are nowhere near as good, the Jammie Dodger is a jam and shortbread combination that is beyond compare. They do come in a variety of flavours these days, but there is no need to ever deviate from the flag-ship flavour of raspberry in my humble opinion.

Through my ‘research’ for this particular question I also discovered that Jammie Dodgers are currently manufactured in my homeland of Wales, which just adds to their awesomeness. Also, apparently 40% of them are consumed by adults. I suspect, though, that I account for a significant proportion of that figure.

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

James, my son asked me a question recently, I blogged about it but actually had no answer for him.

He said ‘Dad, you know the film The Matrix right?’ Yes I did.

He said ‘When Neo is offered a blue and a red pill, right?’ Yes I did.

He said ‘What would happen if Neo took both pills from Morpheus, stuffed one up each nostril and sniffed really hard?’

To be honest James, I was stumped. So I’m asking you, for him.

Well, Bryntin’s son, that is a question and no mistake. Of course by taking the red pill Neo is able to escape the false world of the Matrix and live in the relative freedom but harsher existence of the real world. Had he taken the blue pill he would have remained blissfully unaware of the Matrix while continuing to live within said Matrix. By shoving both tablets up his nose, all we can really establish is that he would have subsequently suffered from severe sinus problems. But whether those sinus problems would have been in the real world or the Matrix is harder to be certain of. But it wouldn’t have much mattered because he would have needed medical attention in either reality.

These Were Humans from planet Earth asks

Do you think Schrodinger was probably more of a dog person… or could he only afford a small box?

Great question. I looked up Schrödinger’s cat as a way of cleverly answering this question and realised that although I thought I did understand it, it’s actually way more complicated than I thought it would be. But it’s fairly clear that it could apply to dogs as well as cats, so one must conclude that either Schrödinger really did hate cats, or that box-size was actually relevant. As the box itself is made of steel, I’d imagine that cost does come into play, but there are many small dogs, so it can’t just be about the size of the box he could afford. Therefore it’s safe to assume, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Schrödinger was indeed a dog person.

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

 

 

 

A Second Referendum?

 

James Proclaims (4)

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Since the UK voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, it’s barely been out of the media. The election of a racist misogynist billionaire to the White House has provided some light relief on occasion, but you can’t turn on a TV, listen to the radio or open a newspaper in the UK without encountering some kind of Brexit debate.

Ok, that isn’t strictly true, obviously there are myriad TV channels which don’t feature any kind of political debate, I can’t recall ‘Heart Radio’ featuring too much in the way of topical news shows, and who on Earth reads newspapers anymore?

But my point is that Brexit is kind of a big deal.

It’s a big deal because, it actually is, legitimately, quite a big deal – the economic, legal and security ramifications of Britain leaving the EU are confusing and will almost certainly mean significant change and long periods of uncertainty.

It’s also a big deal because not everyone voted for it. It was a pretty good turn out at the polls and 52% of voters were in favour of Brexit, meaning that 48% were not. That’s a pretty close call, and those of us who voted  to remain are rightly irritated by claims that Brexit is ‘the will of the people’. At best it is ‘the will of some people’.

But I’m ok with losing a democratic vote because obviously the proponents of the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign had a plan. I might not want Brexit, but handled correctly I suppose, in the longer term, it might not be that bad. There may even be aspects of it that are quite good. Because they absolutely had a plan.

Except that , apparently, they didn’t.

And this is really why Brexit remains a big deal. Because, just over a year and half on from that fateful vote, no-one has the slightest idea what Brexit actually means.

Our beloved Prime Minister did coin a phrase when she first came to office, which was, if I recall, that ‘Brexit means Brexit.’

And I’m sure that is true but, and maybe I’m missing something obvious, it doesn’t actually tell us what Brexit means at all.

Some ‘Remain’ campaigners (hilariously dubbed ‘Remoaners’ by the right wing press) have suggested that there should be a second referendum.

Others have suggested that a second referendum flies in the face of democracy.

And I can see their point.

Because obviously giving people an opportunity to vote on the future of Britain’s relationship with Europe is all well and good, but giving the public two opportunities is completely undemocratic because…

…er…

…nope can’t see how that is undemocratic actually.

Having said that, I can’t see that a second referendum would go any differently to the first one. Indeed, such is the regular anti-EU fervour stoked by sections of the British media that I wouldn’t even be surprised to see a second referendum produce a result that was more emphatically in favour of leaving the EU than the first vote was.

But the problem remains that we still have no idea what it is that people did actually vote for back in the golden summer of 2016.

So perhaps a second referendum would be useful just to drill down into what it is that the British people actually want. Perhaps a referendum with a range of choices rather than the straight dichotomy of Remain or Leave.

Here are my suggestions:

Option 1: No Brexit – or ‘this all seems a bit too complicated and it’s better just to keep things the same as they are now’.

Option 2: Soft Brexit –  or ‘leave but don’t actually leave. Like say we’ve left so we can stick two fingers up to Europe, but actually stay part of the Single Market and Customs Union because actually leaving properly seems a bit scary.’

Option 3: Hard Brexit – or leave and cut all remaining ties. We’re British and we’re awesome. Even if it looks like economical suicide it definitely won’t be. After all a stiff upper lip and traditional family values will see us through any problems.’

Option 4: War – or ‘this has always been about hating foreigners and we’ve always been pretty good at wars. That’ll definitely show those European bastards who’s boss. Plus war time is brilliant – remember the good old days of the Second World War when everything was black and white and Britain was great? Let’s go to war again!’

There we go, a referendum to reunite Britain.

You’re welcome.

 

Magic Penguin Phones It In

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Fat Giraffe and Stupid Donkey were sitting in awkward silence in The Shoe and Phone.

“I’m sure he’ll be here any minute now,” said Fat Giraffe breaking the silence, “he’s normally very punctual.”

“Well let’s hope so,” said Stupid Donkey, “I’m not sure if we can carry this one on our own.”

“I mean, I’d sort of thought I could,” said Fat Giraffe, “but now it comes to it, I am a bit nervous.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” said Stupid Donkey, “you’re not a bad secondary character, but he’s the star.”

“Well, I think I’m more than a secondary character,” said Fat Giraffe, “but certainly, it is a double act, and it definitely doesn’t work as well without him.”

“I think it’s a bit much to call it a double act,” said Stupid Donkey, “the stories would definitely survive without you, but I’m not sure they can work without him. He is the titular character.”

Fat Giraffe and Stupid Donkey both paused to giggle at the word ‘titular’.

“I think the stories would definitely lose something if I wasn’t in them,” argued Fat Giraffe, “after all, what would Sherlock Holmes be without Dr Watson? What would Batman be without Robin? What would Danger Mouse be without Penfold?”

“I think you’re proving my point,” said Stupid Donkey.

Fat Giraffe pondered this for a moment.

“I suppose you’re right,” he conceded, “you’re quite insightful for a tertiary character.”

“I think I’m more than a tertiary character,” grumbled Stupid Donkey, “after all what would Sherlock Holmes be without Mrs Hudson? What would Batman be without Alfred? What would Danger Mouse be without Colonel K?”

“I think you’re massively overstating your importance in comparing yourself to those characters” said Fat Giraffe.

“Maybe you’re right,” sighed Stupid Donkey.

He then started singing a musical number about the woes of being a tertiary character. It was quite a moving rendition but it’s quite difficult to convey the magic of the performance in prose.

“Fairplay,” acknowledged Fat Giraffe, “that was pretty good mate. If these stories ever get adapted for TV, as the writer seems to naively think might happen one day, then that could win us a BAFTA.”

“Well let’s hope so,” said Stupid Donkey, “but I doubt we’re going to get the TV deal if our main character can’t even be bothered to turn up.”

“True,” nodded Fat Giraffe, “it’s a bit shambolic to say the least.”

At that moment Fat Giraffe’s cheap Pay-As-You-Go mobile phone started ringing. Or more precisely started singing, as his current ringtone was 1988 dance track ‘The only way is up’ by Yazz and the Plastic Population.

“Hello?” Fat Giraffe answered, “oh hi mate. How’s things.”

He paused to listen to the voice at the other end of the line.

“No, we’ve started already,” he replied to the mysterious voice, “we’re about 473 words in at this point. Where are you?”

He listened again to the response.

“No, it’s going quite well actually,” he said, “Stupid Donkey is a bit rubbish, but I’m doing quite a good job I think. Although to be fair, that Donkey can sing.”

Fat Giraffe again paused to allow the caller to speak.

“”Ok mate,” he replied, “well get here when you can.”

Fat Giraffe hung up and turned to Stupid Donkey.

“That was Magic Penguin,” he explained, “he’s been held up in traffic. He was late setting off apparently. Something to do with the Kipper Scandal.”

“Oh, is that still a ‘thing’?” asked Stupid Donkey, “I thought he’d put that behind him.”

“Well, I’m not sure you can ever put anything as big as that behind you forever,” mused Fat Giraffe, “but he says he’s just around the corner and he’ll be here in a few minutes.”

“I doubt he’ll find it easy to park at this time of day,” said Stupid Donkey.

“Well, we’ll just have to hold the fort until he gets here.” said Fat Giraffe, “how about another musical number?”

So Fat Giraffe and Stupid Donkey sang a duet to pass the time.

And eventually, after he did indeed have much trouble parking, Magic Penguin arrived at the pub.

But by that time the story was already over.

Insomnolent Isometrics

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John awoke with a start. It was dark and without his glasses on he couldn’t make out the digital read-out on his radio alarm clock. Rachel was still sound asleep beside him, giving no indication that his sudden return to consciousness had in any way disturbed her.  Feeling it was probably better to maintain that particular status quo, he shuffled delicately out of bed and slowly exited the room.

Deftly avoiding the creaking floorboard on the landing, he made his way carefully down the stairs in darkness, knowing that the slightest hint of light creeping under the bedroom door might be enough to wake his beloved wife.

Once he was safely on the ground floor, he made his way into the living room, where at last he felt it was safe to risk switching on the light. Realising that he had left his spectacles on the bedside table he was forced to squint at the digital readout on the cordless handset that was connected to what was, in the age of the smartphone, a redundant landline. It was 2.30am. Far too early to be awake, but, by the same token, he calculated that, thanks to a relatively early night, he’d had about four and half hours of sleep. It wasn’t enough, given the day he had ahead of him, but he had survived on less.

It wasn’t the lack of sleep that worried him, so much as quite how he was going to occupy the hours before he actually needed to get up for work. Moving around the house would be too noisy, the last thing he wanted or needed was for Rachel to wake up. He loved his wife, but she was not particularly well-disposed to missing out on sleep, and the fall-out for imposing his insomnia on her could result in days of recriminations.

Better then, to suffer in silence. But it was going to be a long night if he couldn’t find anything to pass the time. Television was too noisy, and the novel he was currently attempting to read was sitting next to his glasses in the bedroom.

He scoured the room for anything to do. There was a half-finished jigsaw on the dining table, but that was Rachel’s project, she would not thank him for completing it for her, even if his rationale was that he’d only done it to protect her current state of slumber. Beyond that there was not much else on offer.

He sat for a while, staring at the opposite wall, breathing deeply, trying to relax himself into a state in which a return to sleep might actually be a possibility, but after ten minutes he had succeeded in boring himself, almost to tears, without discovering anything resembling inner peace and tranquillity. Indeed, he was arguably more tense than he had been at the outset.

Out of the corner of his eye he spotted a much-ignored kettlebell, purchased at a time when he had had a wave of enthusiasm and misplaced optimism about getting into shape. Perhaps exercise was the key to solving his current state of insomnolence. Despite being alert beyond all reason, he didn’t really feel that he had the energy for a workout, and it would be a difficult activity to carry out in silence but, in the absence of any other options, it would certainly fill the time. As carefully as he could, he cleared a space in the centre of the room, picked up the weight and started swinging.

Five minutes later, John was breathless, sweating and completely exhausted. He still didn’t feel particularly sleepy, but he certainly felt drained. He collapsed onto the floor and stared up at the ceiling in a daze. He lay there for a while contemplating what else he might do to kill a few minutes. He lay there a little longer. He wasn’t especially comfortable, but neither was he uncomfortable.

John wasn’t sure at what point he had drifted off, but it was daylight when he became aware of Rachel prodding him.

Rachel, for her part, was somewhat confused as to why she had discovered her husband on the living room floor hugging a sixteen-kilogram lump of iron.

 

 

 

J’aime Mieux Un Vice Commode Qu’une Fatigante Vertu

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It’s Friday and therefore time for my regular doodle, which this week continues the theme I started last week of producing portraits of some of history’s greatest literary and cultural figures.

And what better person to follow on from Shakespeare, in these times of Brexit, than the man some might consider to be his Francophone equivalent, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, otherwise known as Molière?

Although he really wasn’t as good as Shakespeare truth be told.

And I should know.

I studied a few Molière  plays during my university days. It’s probably my main claim to being vaguely intellectual.

Although I didn’t much understand them to be honest

 

Films I Watched When I Was Younger – Issue 5: Under Siege

James Proclaims (6)

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1992’s Under Siege is that rarest of things, a good Steven Seagal movie. It’s oft described as being ‘Die Hard on a boat’ and that’s not an entirely unfair description.

Except it’s not as good as Die Hard.

Mostly because it has Steven Seagal in the lead role rather than Bruce Willis.

Furthermore, while Seagal’s character, Casey Ryback, shares a similar fate to Willis’ John McClane insofar as he is unexpectedly caught up in a situation where only he can defeat a load of bad guys who have taken everyone else hostage, he does seem to be slightly more equipped to cope with the situation being an ex-navy seal (who for fairly spurious reasons now works as a chef) rather than an off duty New York cop.

Indeed he dispatches henchmen with consummate ease for the most part and there seems little doubt that he will, eventually, save the day.

The action sequences are fine, but the story is predictable and formulaic, and Seagal does very little to enhance the movie. It’s probably his finest on screen performance and he’s basically OK at best.

What does raise Under Siege above the realms of bog-standard Die Hard rip-off is the performance of the villains. And that is villains plural. If you can’t have Alan Rickman playing the antagonist then Tommy-Lee Jones is not a bad substitute. But good as he is, the plaudits really go to Gary Busey  whose manic performance as the sociopathic Krill means he steals just about every scene he’s in.

Under Siege is not likely to change your life if you’ve never seen it, but as nineties action movies go, it’s worth a watch.