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.