Friday, 17 August 2012

She Is... Still

Remember this?

It may be coming out on DVD, provided sufficient people sign up.

Go here. Make it happen.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Modern Pentathlon

Sixteen days ago I quite happily sneered at the Olympics; they were too expensive for a economically-knackered country, the money would be better spent on infrastructure or a much-needed cash injection into the NHS, they’d been overtaken by the corporate sponsors and had become nothing but a shill for Coca-Cola and worse, a shill paid for by the British taxpayer. Worse, I’ve been unable to take my usual weekly ride out past Stratford as the entire Lee Valley has been cordoned off from the likes of me and my battered Dawes. Last time I was able to go past, the first thing I saw of the Olympic Park was the rear end of The World’s Largest McDonalds.

So how is it that this afternoon, as I write this, I have one eye on a woman riding a horse – admittedly a fine-looking horse – around a course in Horse Guards Parade? And how is it that I have no idea what I’m going to do tomorrow when the Games are all over?

The Opening Ceremony had a lot to do with this: I was still in full-on sneer mode when I say down with a couple of friends and a couple of beers to watch it. I’m not afraid to say that the promise of beer was the deciding factor in joining them that evening. But within half an hour I was done. Drawn in. Suckerpunched. Sitting there with a Stella in my hand, a Chinese take-away on my lap and a stupid great grin all over my stupid great face.

Every day for the last fortnight (and a bit) I’ve sat down and watched whatever was on, switching channels to see what obscure feats were on the Red Button. Every morning I trotted out and bought a newspaper, then came back and read every word of the twenty pages of dedicated Games coverage within, plus the seven or eight pages in the main paper. I’ve never done that, not even in the height of the football season.

And here we are, with that football season less that a week away; usually this would see me poring over the fixture list, making judgments about how each team would perform against another. Today, it leaves me cold. The modern Premier League makes the worst excesses of Barclays’ bonuses look like the petty theft of a sherbet dib-dab from a sweet shop. Let them get on with it, their ridiculous play-acting and their non-stop indiscriminate shagging and their petulant demand for ever more absurd amounts of money. Sod them.

Instead, I want to see more of what I’ve seen over the last fortnight: athletes at the peak of their abilities pushing themselves to the limit and beyond for nothing else but the joy of doing it (yes, and for a potential medal, and for the potential millions in sponsorship and endorsements they could make, but for now you can just shut up, alright?).

I want to see the small sports, the sports that are played in draughty school halls, the sports that are only now coming out into the light as the Lottery money hits; I want to see the weird sports like the keirin with its bowler-hatted pacer who looks like Mr Benn on a day off from being a cartoon. I want to see astonishing things like the gymastic rings, where men built by geometry hold themselves horizontal, several feet off the floor, or like the bars, where tiny flimsy girls throw themselves into the air and bounce off the equipment, their bodies bending and twisting as though they came straight from the pen of Tex Avery. I want to see myself being amazed by things I thought comical; gasping at synchronised swimming, at the levels of athletic ability and physical control needed for that sport and to do it suspended, upside-down, underwater. I want to see thousands of people cheering until their throats bleed as people with origins from all over this world push themselves harder and harder and prove that to be British, and a hero, today doesn’t mean you have to be white, middle-class, moneyed.

I want to feel the inclusivity, the joy, the love that I’ve seen this last sixteen days.

I want to see more of human beings being the best that human beings can be.

And more: these Games have shown again that the BBC, for all the bullying it takes from those in the pocket of those they take to the stadium as guests, does this sort of thing, this kind of event, the kind that pulls the nation together, far better than any commercial concern can. Can you imagine ITV cutting to a commercial the second Jessica Ennis crossed the line? Ant and Dec as anchormen? A refusal to show the lesser-known sports or the qualifying events as they attract insufficient advertisers? There’s a very real chance that in eight years time the television rights to the Games will have been sold off to a subscription-based channel. It’s being discussed, and given the present government and the present Culture Secretary, it may well happen.

For now, though, we’ve had wonderous coverage, provided by the Olympic Broadcast Service and distributed by the BBC: if you wish to know what things may be like in the future, read up on the atrocity dished up by NBC in America.

Although I now joyfully effuse about the Games with the zeal of the convert, there’s been one thing that’s disappointed me. I may be wrong in this as even I have had to leave the sofa every so often, but in all the time I’ve spent basking in the radiance, I’ve yet to see anything at all of Ken Livingstone. Without Livingstone’s work, his enthusiasm, his love of London, we probably wouldn’t have been given the host role in the first place. If he’s been excluded, or written out of the history, or worst of all just forgotten, it would be a tragedy. Ken deserved to be there. I hope he was. I hope that, even if he wasn’t there, he was proud.

The Women’s Pentathlon is just finishing: each competitor staggers into the arena and across the finish line, those who finished faster rushing up and embracing them; an ever-larger group of exhausted humanity rejoicing in their collective achievement.

Now then: how far ahead can you book tickets for Rio?

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Meanwhile, in the universe next door...

Fan opinion is divided over news that the success of Before Watchmen has led to a further spate of spin-off mini-series. DC Comics co-person Ronnie James Didio last night issued the following press release which probably wasn’t written by him at all:


No, hang on, that was the cat walking across the keyboard.

Try this.

“Hey! After After Watchmen which introduced readers to the other great comicbooks that were a little bit like Watchmen in that they used the occasional big word and had not so many fight scenes as an ordinary comic, and after Before Watchmen which is still setting comics alight – literally in some cases, as the more enthusiastic fans of  Alan Moore are firebombing shops that carry it – we knew there were more stories to tell about the beloved characters in the Watchmen universe.

That’s why we’ll be launching During Watchmen, a new set of very limited series featuring the characters that, while not at the forefront of the original series’ narrative, were essential to its success.

The series will be:

Rich Gay Gentlemen From Chapter Two: The rich gay gentlemen from the restaurant scene in chapter two (page 25) leave the restaurant and go to a club or something. Not a sweaty dancey club, more one of those swanky nob type of club where you sit in button-back armchairs and read the Washington Post while a waiter brings you a decent scotch or two.

Rhonda, Darlene and the Girls On the Street: The hooker who propositions Rorschach in Chapter Two (page 25 again! What is it with Alan’s story structure that means there’s Ordinary People on page 25 all the time I asks you?) gets into a strange john’s car. When she doesn’t come back, the other working girls form their own band of revenge-seeking vigilante-justice-dealing ahh, you get the idea. It’s just like any other female-led mainstream comic but with cheaper costumes.

Billboard Guy: Some schlub goes round pasting up the big ads for Nostalgia, maybe he drops a bucket of paste and has to go on the lam, maybe he moonlights as a Gunga Diner delivery boy. We’ll think of something.

Where We Goin’, Daddy? Heartbreaking one-shot revealing the backstory behind the father and daughter at Grand Central Station in Chapter Three (page 24 this time. Close enough, huh?). Greg Schlub has promised his daughter Hayley a magical trainriding holiday ever since she was a baby, but cutbacks and economies have always meant poor Greg didn’t have the money to do it. Now one of Greg’s distant Aunts has died and left him a few thou, Greg’s finally going to take Hayley on that long-promised train journey…if a giant squid bomb plot twist doesn’t get him first.

Joey The Lesbian Cab Driver: Yeah, that made you pay attention, didn’t it?"

During Watchmen or something very similar to it will be on sale early next year. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Candy Coloured Clown

There’s to be a Sandman prequel! Huzzah, and triple orgasms all round!

I know full well that I’m in a minority regarding The Sandman; I was quite impressed with the first year or so, but it was obvious that as soon as it became a top-selling title, the story started to be stretched out beyond its natural length. In fact, in the first issue there was a text piece stating that it was planned to be forty issues long. I can understand that sometimes a character demands more space than was originally planned, but nearly doubling the length of the run was, you have to admit, pushing it a bit. And be honest, a few of those six-parters could have been done in one, two issues tops.

Add to that the spin-offs, the various mini-series, the merchandising, and you’ve got something that couldn’t be the work of literature it’s claimed to be. What you’ve got is a brand. No different from Harry Potter or Fifty Shades Of Grey or even Police Academy or Scary Movie.

Regardless of my opinion, the prequel’s to be published. I believe it’s as despicable a publishing decision as some claim Before Watchmen is, as it’s an unnecessary adjunct to a work that is supposedly sufficient unto itself. The argument in favour of it is that the original creator is to write the new series, but I don’t see why that makes a difference; if the new story is such an important part of the overall work, it doesn’t matter who writes it, it should have been part of the work from the very beginning. Adding extra sections now is like pouring Bisto gravy all over your main course at The Fat Duck.

Except that in this case, the chef’s standing by your chair, taking a deep sniff of the gravy aroma and letting out a long, contented ‘Ahhhh…’


Anybody who knows me well enough will remember that about eleven years ago I went through a phase of falling asleep at the most inconvenient times. It turned out, after many weird medical tests, to be caused by stress-related narcolepsy, and that in turn was a result of my decision to stop allowing the day-to-day aggravation of working life (and working shifts, as I was at the time) to set off the most appalling migraines.  Seems I could do something about the need to stop the car on the way home to vomit and get my sight back, but nothing about the need to alleviate the stress without some form of bodily reaction.

Frankly, falling over was far better. I'd get more warning – there'd be a feeling of incredible fatigue for a few hours beforehand, and recognising this meant I could make sure I was in a safe place before passing out. Generally I’d get home, feeling more than a little tired, make a cup of tea, sit down to drink it and wake up the next day, still on the sofa and with a lap full of cold PG Tips. The most obvious exception to this was the first attack, when I collapsed on the last Piccadilly Line tube home and had to be carried off at Finsbury Park station, feeling undiluted hate radiating from every other passenger whose journey home I’d ruined. Still, on the plus side, the woman who pulled the communication cord, got me into the recovery position, waited with me for a cab and made sure I got home is now one of my closest friends. So that’s all good.

Anyway: the last six weeks or so have far more stressful that I’d care them to be. Don’t worry about why, they just have been. Nothing you or I can do about it at the moment, but it’s slowly getting sorted out.

As a result, I’ve found myself again unable to do a great deal. For two out of the last three weeks I’ve been in bed for far too long, and when I’ve not been there I’ve been sat on the sofa, occasionally waking up with a start and cursing myself for losing another afternoon. The rest of the time – the actual waking hours – I’ve been in a fog of confusion, stumbling about in what’s been like a very very long senior moment, unable to gather my thoughts to do anything except basic self-care.

Luckily, the last few days have seen this state ebbing away; I’ve been more active, even been out for a few long bike rides, seen a few friends. And, as is evident by the fact that there’s a new post here, I’ve been able to write again. 

It’s been a bastard and it’s caused me to miss some important things that I would have liked to attend. But I think it’s passed.

Normal service, etc. As soon as possible.