Financial Fragilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Explains Rubber Duckies Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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

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

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

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

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

Glen from Australia asks:

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

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

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

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

I hope that answers that particular question for you Glen.

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

Why are you called James, James?

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

I hope that answers that particular question for you Pete.

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

Who would win in a fight, bear or lion?

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

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

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

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

I hope that answers that particular question for you Haylee.

Finally, gigglingfattie from Canada asks:

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

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

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

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

I hope that answers that particular question for you gigglingfattie.

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

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

James Complains About Eggs-tremely Early Easter Eggs

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

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

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

Magic Penguin And The Broken Fourth Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But on this occasion, he just broke the silence.

With words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Exactly so.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Teapot

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

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

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

To no avail.

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

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

But the infatuation with the teapot was perplexing.

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

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

He just knew it made a fantastic cup of tea.

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

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

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

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

Bruce, for his part, took it well.

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

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

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

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

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

At least he claimed it was an accident.

Clara was never sure.

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

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

Este Carne Es De Ratta

James Proclaims (6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I can totally review old films.

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

So, I shall be doing just that.

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

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

Image result for demolition man

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

Probably quite few places actually.

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

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

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

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

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

Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes on the same screen?

How awesome is that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Calories Are Not Just For Christmas

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

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

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

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

James Explains ‘James Explains’

James Explains

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

But new to these pages.

I’m bringing back ‘James Explains’.

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

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

Well I liked it anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Invitation for ‘audience’ interaction

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

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

 

Beginning The Journey To A Brand New Me

James Proclaims (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

And maybe the one about becoming a superhero.

But today is not about rehashing old, unachieved resolutions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 marks the dawn of a brave new era.