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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Don't Cry For Me Grizzled Blog Fans

The truth is I never left you. Just been a little busy. Well, busy and slack. I'll get back to speed soon. The short version of how things are is:

- South Africa looms. We fly out next Wednesday and I've got truckloads to do before then.

- I'm reading through my NaNo novel, and finding the whole rewrite thing pretty intimidating. Small chunks, that's the way to do it. One positive is that I am actually enjoying the read-through, despite the many cringe-inducing errors, or bits of clumsy prose.

- Not much else to report at the moment. Plus, I'm doing this on my phone, so thumbs up to brevity.

I was at : Soho, Westminster, London W1D 3,

Carry on reading...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 26/01/10

What can I say? Life is just so exciting! Anyway, yesterday I:

- Was a little hung over from Doug's birthday drinks the night before, but not too bad. Jolly Jonny C had stayed over at ours, so I went for breakfast with him before he caught his train back to Suffolk.

- Jumped a bus to Lewisham to visit two thirds of te whanau Bradley, with added grandmother. Dana's mum was over from Oz and it was nice to see her, as well as have a catch-up with Dana and my very cute goddaughter.

- Headed for home around 1pm and had a bit of a slow journey back, taking about half an hour longer than it took to get down there. Still better than doing a bus/rail journey, though.

- Did some domestic stuff, faffed a little, got dinner sorted, then played Dragon Age for a couple of hours.

- Did some internet shopping at Jacamo in preparation for the trip, but was having trouble getting the stuff delivered to my work. Annoying.

- Watched the first episode of the new series of Newswipe, which was great but also felt like a bit of an old message: the media loves fear. I actually thought I'd seen Brooker do this before, but I guess it's just something that's been done a lot by others. Either way, he has a knack for imparting serious information in the most entertaining manner.

- Started watching a BBC documentary about the rise of the British navy (pointed out to me by Bruce), which was rather good. Didn't finish, though, as Alex came through at the end of Glee.

- Watched Nurse Jackie to the end of the first season. Hardly a surprising conclusion, but still quite an effective way to end. Nothing new now until March.

- Sleeeep.

Carry on reading...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 22/01/10

Here's a funny thought: I've now lived in London longer than I lived in Wellington. Got some way to beat Paraparaumu, but still, something of a landmark. Anyway, yesterday I:

- Had a very frustrating journey in to work. The trouble with starting on a late shift is that by the time I leave the house, rush hour proper has begun. So travelling on the bus becomes a bit of a nightmare. I really do have to start walking in again (although being annoyed by buses is the least of the reasons why).

- Worked. New comics day, which meant I was mostly on the till. I do still enjoy doing the till work, seeing all the regulars on a Thursday. It can be a little stressful, and leaves me a bit knackered, but it's fairly rewarding. I just need to make sure I do a little less of it on Fridays and Saturdays, so I'm not so bloody behind in my work all the time.

- Managed to get a little time off to catch up on emails at least.

- Got home, had some dinner and managed to finagle an hour of Xbox time (which involves me taking over the TV, of course). Played Dragon Age, which I'm really getting into now, in that way where I'll find myself thinking about the story at various points throughout any given day. I love it when a game gets its hooks in you that way.

- Watched a Nurse Jackie. The show has a feeling of looming disaster right now, an inevitable crash in mood as all the titular character's indiscretions catch up with her.

- Went to beddy-bye.

Carry on reading...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 21/01/10

Doin' some quick lunch-time blogging. But yesterday I:

- Worked. Delivery day, so I was wrapped up in that all day, all the more so than normal due to other people needing to be prioritised to other jobs. So, lots of counting, lots of bagging, lots of boredom.

- Went home and read a bunch of comics. A few highlights this week. Lovely Marcos Martin artwork on Amazing Spider-Man, nice first issue of new Grant Morrison series Joe the Barbarian, a couple of actually decent Siege tie-ins, a new Solomon Kane series and I still need to read but am looking forward to the latest issues of Rasl and Hellblazer.

- Watched the final two episodes of season two of True Blood, which were something of a disappointment, really. Over the final few episodes the whole thing just crosses the line into the too-silly category. Very sloppily put together too, lacking any real sense of tension. We'll probably carry on to season three when it starts, but it'll be back on an episode-to-episode probation.

- Hit the sack. Jeez! What a dull day!

Carry on reading...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 20/01/10

Two weeks until we go away! Yeah! Anyway, yesterday I:

- Did some more work getting ready for a revision (I would say something like "first pass" but to be honest that just makes me feel like I'm trying to be something I'm not quite yet), just making notes and gathering my thoughts about how I should proceed. The NaNo site has a lot of advice on its forums, but I'm largely going blind. I barely even rewrote essays at school, let alone a novel. Any of you folks with experience in this kind of thing have any advice?

- Worked. Lots of boring stuff involving spreadsheets, plus a little excitement with a misbehaving piece of software. Oh, and I also rearranged our basement back corridor, which had become something of a deathtrap of badly stacked boxes.

- Got my book! My free proof from, a prize for finishing NaNoWriMo, arrived! I have to say, it was a real thrill. Even though it's just a print on demand item, it was extremely exciting to see my efforts transformed into a sort of real, honest to god novel. 184 pages of blood, sweat and lazy hackwork. Gave me a great boost to get things going on the rewrite, and even gave me that pleasurable buzz you occasionally get when reading back over your own work and going "Hey, that bit wasn't bad at all." Good buzz. Here it is!

Small Perils, by the way, is a rather hastily decided on title, thought up at the CreateSpace submission stage when I suddenly realised that my previous title, Winter Moon, was lame (which I already knew) and had no bearing whatsoever on the story. So, given the deliberate anti-epic nature of the book, and the idea that even the most minor traditional fantasy monsters would pose a huge threat to normal folks, Small Perils sprung to mind. Not sure it'll stick, but it'll do for now.

- Worked a little late thanks to the aforementioned software hiccup, then headed home.

- Bit of a nothing of an evening. Went over the (very tight) holiday budget with wifey, called my mum, called my sister to wish my nephew a happy birthday, watched Gordon Ramsey swear his way around India, watched a True Blood and a Nurse Jackie, then hit the sack.

Carry on reading...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 19/01/10

Tired this morning. But yesterday I:

- Made myself a little to do list, which I checked through as the day went on. Very happy with the results, as there were only a few things left unchecked at the end of the day.

- Went down to Angel to write and made the stupid choice of going to Tinderbox. Why do I go there? The staff are sullen and unfriendly, other than a few choice spots, the place always feels crowded and you have to pay for the wireless. Why, why, why? There's a Starbucks nearby which, while being a Starbucks, has friendly staff, comfortable seating upstairs with plenty of power points, and (with one of their top-up cards) free wireless. (Or even stolen free wireless from the Wetherspoons next door.)

- Did some prep work for my novel rewrite. I've left it a bit, but it's time to get stuck in. I've been having this sort of generalised anxiety about not having any particular writing project on the go. I've got lot of ideas floating about, but I've been dithering about whether or not I should do certain things, and any time I commit to doing anything I start thinking "But what about...?". But yesterday I came to the realisation that working on a second draft of my NaNo novel is actually a worthwhile priority. A big job that should be the focus of any writing I do this year, aside from Script Frenzy in April and NaNo again in November. All forward motion on that is a good thing.

- Leaving the cafe, I had to slip between my table and that of a woman next to me. As I was wearing my bulky jacket, I said to her that she'd better move her coffee - sat right on the edge of her table - or I might send it flying. I said it in a slightly jokey manner, and so gave a little laugh at the end of my sentence, at which point a small glob of phlegm dislodged from the back of my throat and went flying, landing on the arm of said woman's coat. I was horrified and there was this supremely awkward moment where I wasn't sure what I should do. She clearly wasn't happy about it, but was very good about the whole thing, and I offered her a tissue amidst a tumbling waterfall of apologies. I could've died. I left as quickly as I could, feeling like some horrific monster. I laugh to think about it, but it was genuinely one of the worst moments of my life. Augh!

- Got home, did some domestic stuff, then got stuck into Dragon Age Origins, secure in the knowledge that I'd had a productive morning. Made some good progress, too, getting past a section I had been working through for a while.

- Alex got home, so had dinner and faffed about a little on the internet.

- Booked tickets to South Africa! At last, we've got firm dates. We've been holding out price-wise, but things seem to have bottomed out and are now creeping back up. But Alex found flights through an agent with BA going for £640 each, so we're in business. Flying out on 3rd Feb, flying back on 3rd March. Doesn't quite seem real, to be honest.

- I intended to try and watch a movie while Alex did the soaps and Glee, but spent too much time fluffing about. So she came through for bed and we watched a Nurse Jackie then hit the sack.

Carry on reading...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 18/01/10

Tt...I really should have done up some end of year lists. Anyway, yesterday I:

- Went to visit Alex's Granny for her birthday. We got up early and walked down to the car rental place. It's in one of those curious spots where taking the bus involves a change, pushing the total time (45-ish minutes) up beyond the amount of time it takes to walk there (30-ish minutes). The place is down by Pentonville Prison, whose library graphic novel collection is now supplied by yours truly. Shaping minds and hearts.

- Drove out to Kent. It's a nice drive out there on the M20, as Kent is all beautiful rolling hills and forests. It helped that it was a nice day, though the sun shining off the wet roads was a bit much.

- Went to Granny's (just like in Spirited Away), had a coffee and then took her out for lunch. We went to a pub called The Black Horse in a village called Monks Horton. It's properly in amongst the kind of hair-raisingly thin country lanes that crisscross the British countryside (and which anyone who attended our wedding will be familiar with). Really nice place, with a great carvery. I do love me a good English country pub. Nothing else quite like it.

- Dropped Granny home and had another drink and a chat before heading back into London. I like coming back into London. It's a bit of a shithole, but I do love it. Don't get me wrong, it makes you work for that love and sometimes it really puts you through the wringer, but then you wake some mornings and look at it's beautiful sleeping face and it's all worth it. Except for the tube.

- Had some dinner and watched a few things before bed. Bit of True Blood (slightly lame episode), bit of Nurse Jackie (flawed but enjoyable). Went to sleep.

Carry on reading...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 17/01/10

More like things I did every other day...

Anyway, yesterday I:

- Got in to town a little late in the pre-work hours, so didn't really write. Again. I did make some notes for reviewing Messiah of Evil, though, which I'll hopefully get to in the next day or so.

- Worked. Busy day, actually. Only three of us on and a shedload to get done. Getting work done while you're on the till is a nightmare on a Saturday, but we got to the end of the day with most stuff done. I'm still behind on my work, though. Think I might need to pull a long day on Tuesday to get myself caught up.

- Alex came down to work and we met Andrea for dinner. Went to Kingsland Road for some Vietnamese and had the good fortune of taking a chance on a place that was empty but had very nice food. Well, empty when we went in, but packed by the time we left. That's just the extraordinary trending power we have, I guess.

- Walked up Kingsland Road to Dalston and popped into the Fox pub. Nice pub, if a little expensive. Weirdly, the last time I was there was for Marianna's birthday almost exactly a year ago. I texted her to wish her a happy birthday, but turns out I was a day early. I try to be good...

- Walked home, saying goodbye to Andrea at Dalston Junction. Really must make more effort to catch up with her more often as she's Good Folk.

Carry on reading...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 15/01/10

I know, I know, I'm stumbling a little. ust wait until next month. Anyway, yesterday I:

- Came down with a cold. Blah.

- Got up late and got into town late. Luckily I was also starting late, so not really a problem. Still, left me less time than I would normally like in the pre-work hours. Didn't write at all, which is bad. Bad Andrew!

- Worked. New comics day, so not much notable happened to speak of, other than my attempts to surreptitiously blow my nose while on the till. The worst is when your nose is really going for it but you're working your way through a queue of people, and every time you get near the end, ready to grab that tissue, someone else comes up. Meanwhile you're snuffling and sniffing your way through it all. I don't particularly like blowing my nose then serving someone as I feel it's a bit unpleasant for the customer. Not to mention the fact that I haven't shaved for a few days, so making sure my nose is blown properly and then the area effectively cleaned takes a bit of time. Not to mention the horror of tissue stuck in my razor-like stubble. Sniffing seems like the better option. Too much information?

- Finished late and moped my way home on the bus. Got in, had some dinner, had a bath, read some comics, watched some True Blood then went to sleep.

- Lay awake at 1 in the morning as it dawned on me that taking those two Lemsip capsules just before bed may not have been that great an idea. Don't they stuff those things with caffeine?

Carry on reading...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 13/01/10

Had some bad news today about Bonnee Harkess, someone I knew through my good friend Marianna back in the Wellington days. She'd been based in the UK for a while and I'd seen her a few times while she was over here. Not sure of the details, but she passed away while on a flight back to the UK from NZ. Horrible news. She was a real gem of a person, vibrant and enthusiastic. I was always amazed at her travel stories, particularly about her time spent travelling around South America (including a stint working in a wild animal rehabilitation centre), and last time we saw her she was in a very happy relationship, as active as ever with sailing and god knows what other outdoor activities on the go. Very sad.

Anyway, trivial as it is, yesterday I:

- Worked. Did an early start (8am) so that we could get stuck into a huge stocktake we're doing to get our POS stock management system corrected. It's drifted slowly but surely into inaccuracy, as it does, and it's been quite some time since we last corrected it. That, combined with us taking a hard look at how we're managing stock generally, meant it was a colossal job. Is a colossal job, I should say, as it's still going on.

- Worked through lunch then knocked off at 3.30, heading home. Put in some Xbox time, including a good little run on Dragon Age, getting past a bit that was getting me stuck. Spent most of the time playing Left 4 Dead 2, though. Versus mode has got me hooked all over again and let me tell you, I play a damn good Spitter.

- Cooked dinner and then we watched Michael Palin's Sahara, followed by the new series of Survivors. I really want to like this show, but every time it's on I get about 10 minutes in before slowly losing interest. I'm just not that interested in the characters, I guess. Plus, as much as I like Patterson Joseph, I just can't see anyone but Johnson from Peepshow. Seriously, did you see that clip last night where he was staring down at the guy he just beat up, mugging into the camera for a POV shot? Johnson.

- All the while we made some good progress on a jigsaw we've been doing for a while now. "Doing for a while", as in "Put away for months at a time". Nice puzzle though: a vintage world map, complete with areas "UNKNOWNE".

- Watched the first episode of Nurse Jackie. I quite enjoyed it. Difficult to do anything really new in a medical show, but it's been son many years since I've watched one that it's pretty entertaining. Nice dark sense of humour, too. Plus it's only half an hour, leading to good, punchy writing.

Carry on reading...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 11/01/10

Whoops. You think you write these things in a vacuum! Anyway, yesterday I:

- Had the day off! We got up reasonably early so as to head over to visit Dana & James and recent arrival (not to mention cute as a button goddaughter) Annie. Discovered that, unbeknownst to TFL Journey Planner it seems, we can get to Lewisham on the 21 bus in under an hour. Handy!

- Had a very nice visit with the Bradleys. We stayed for a few hours before making ourselves scarce. I think their house is a bit like Grand Central Station at the moment!

- Stopped in a delightful Wetherspoons pub down by Lewisham station. Well, I didn't get glassed and it did the trick as far as a cheap lunch goes, so not too bad. We went through the South Africa guide alongside our new draft itinerary, trying to plan our movements. We've got a few firm dates booked for safari and so on, but we needed to rejig our plans a little to work around the dates. Also wanted to get as much in as possible while still allowing time to relax a little and just mooch about Cape Town.

- Came home and chilled. Started watching the Sopranos again at last, then moved on to True Blood after. I was planning on staying up late and playing Xbox, but come 11pm was wiped. Such an old man now.

Carry on reading...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 10/01/10

I'm typing this in blogger, using the Chrome browser while waiting for an application designed to allow desktop management of my Android-powered phone to do its initial setup. I'm Google's mutt, it seems. Should I be scared of how much they know about my habits? Anyway, yesterday they were fully aware that I:

- Worked. Got up quite late, actually, so didn't get much time before work. Just read a few feeds on my phone over coffee, then headed in.

- Frustrating day on the till, though it was still pretty quiet. Managed to get a few bits and pieces done, though working on the Redbridge library standing order is always a bit fiddly and annoying. So many different splits in terms of branch, age range and content, with no doubles.

- Came home after work and had some nice dinner. Didn't really do much that I can remember. Rather uninspired evening!

- Watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for the first time in years. I have such fond memories of the film: queuing outside the Odeon in Leicester Square in the pouring rain to see it at the London Film Festival (with Ang Lee Q&A), then the jaw-dropping impact of that first fight scene. Alex had never seen it and I had a real hankering to watch it again lately, so we popped that on. Unsurprisingly it's still a great film, in fact one of my best of the decade, if I were so inclined to make such a list. It's all wonderfully arch, an action-packed melodrama which pays respect to the best of classic martial arts films, while tipping its head to the likes of Zhang Yimou. One notable thing about this viewing: I watched the English dubbed version for the first time. Alex is dyslexic, so watching subtitled films is a bit of a pain for her. Not that she can't, of course, but she really has to concentrate, which kind of takes her out of the movie. Now, I must admit that I thought a film as big as this would have had a fairly slick dub version, but it really was - with a few notable exceptions - appalling. Still, you do get used to it, and the film is good enough that it soon doesn't matter so much.

- Hit the sack. Tried to start the final book in the Jonathan Maberry trilogy, but quickly decided that maybe I needed a little break, and perhaps should read something a little edifying next, instead. In the meantime I read the latest National Geographic, which has a great article about the Inner and Outer Hebrides that really made me want to head up there and see them.

Carry on reading...

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 09/01/10

Phew! Nearly missed it! Yesterday I:

- Worked. Late start again, so I meandered my way in, finished off the second of my schlocky Jonathan Maberry horror trilogy novels (Dead Man's Song: sequel to Ghost Road Blues, prequel to Bad Moon Rising, and to be honest something of an unnecessary, difficult middle child), then sauntered in to work.

- Spent the day filing and such. Nothing particularly exciting, though it should be noted that this week is one of the quietest I've ever worked at Gosh. The weather really has kept people out of town, or at least kept them in a firm home-work-home travel pattern that excludes any diversions for comics. Can't blame them, it's bloody freezing. Literally. Currently 0°.

- At the end of the day, Will B, Barney and I were going to divvie up the remainder of a box of Peroni given to us by a couple of customers for Christmas. But we figured we'd knock one back before we left. Wound up finishing off the box and leaving at about 10.30pm. Pleasant evening chatting about all kinds of crap, though, including the old Gosh-centric minicomic project Nice. It was fun to leaf through the few issues of it we have kicking around the store.

- Got home, ate some food in front of Celebrity Big Brother and then went to sleep. Had the worst night of nightmares I've had in a long time, including thinking I saw something lunging out of the clothing rack at me just as Alex came to bed. Freaky deaky.

Carry on reading...

Friday, January 08, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 08/01/10

Still a bit chilly. I get the impression out there in the larger world that this is being reported as total winter chaos, our civilisation teetering on the brink of utter collapse. Truth be told, down here in London at least, it's been nothing more than an inconvenience. Perhaps they're eating one another up North, but I wouldn't know, what with the complete breakdown of communications beyond smoke signals. Anyway, yesterday I:

- Was on a late start, so took my time getting ready and getting into town. I used to enjoy doing the early start on a Thursday, as I could finish at 3.30pm. But I've really come around to the late start, as I usually feel completely relaxed by the time I get into work after something between 1 1/2 - 2 hours writing and relaxing beforehand. The evening goes a little quick, though.

- Worked. Delivery had arrived by the time I got in, so it was straight into it. We normally get the delivery a day before it goes out on sale, which gives us time to get everything done, so yesterday was pretty stressful all around. Still, we used to do it all on the same day as a matter of course, not to mention bag 75% of shelf stock as well, so I shouldn't really complain. Anyway, it was a relief once I got myself up on the till and was just able to get stuck in to serving and filing.

- Got home and read a pile of comics. Highlights included Orc Stain, a truly bizarre mish-mash of fantasy and underground comics. If I could compare it to anything it would be Vaughn Bode, though a modern comparison to Brandon Graham wouldn't be far amiss. Good fun. Also, got my hands on an advance copy of Mezolith, a collection of a strip that ran in the ill-fated DFC, a subscription-only children's comic which ran for a while from 2008-2009. Mezolith always looked like the standout, a kind of prehistoric adventure story with a surprisingly dark tone and amazingly lush artwork. David Fickling Books is now collecting a number of the strips that ran in the comic, and Mezolith is in the first wave of three. And it's bloody great. I really hope this is enough of a success to warrant more books in the series. Outside of the Edginton/D'Israeli War of the Worlds books, it's the best example of a British emulation of the European adventure albums that I can think of off the top of my head.

- Watched True Blood. It's funnier than the first season, right? Am I imagining that? I think that's why I'm liking it so much more, because it's having more fun with the concept.

- Slept. Dreamed I was walking up the hallway towards your room, a cold knife held tight in my sweaty, murderous palm. Woke, startled, but relieved to discover that at least this time I was still in my own house.

Carry on reading...

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Mobile Test

So I have a mobile blogging app. Just testing it out!

I was at : Earnshaw St, Camden Town, Greater London WC1A 1,

Carry on reading...

Things I Did Yesterday 07/01/10

Well, it's all a bit chilly here in London town. And yesterday, while it snowed down, I:

- Sat upstairs in the Starbucks by Tottenham Court Road, as noted, and watched it snow. It wasn't settling at that point, but there's something I find really magical about sitting in warmth and light, watching the weather outside. It's the main thing I love about winter: observing the miserable weather while warm and cosy inside. Upstairs in that Starbucks is particularly good, as it has floor-to-ceiling windows nearly all around. Get yourself into the comfy chairs and you're golden. Great people-watching spot, too. No lack of foot-traffic about there.

- Worked. Had a meeting in the morning about stock control and so on for the coming year. We're having a massive sale on stuff that just hasn't sold for us the last year, or hasn't sold as well as we expected. Some good stuff in there , but we just need the space. So we talked about we could keep overstocks to a minimum throughout the year. Fairly productive, though there's always an element of guesswork in book ordering. This year was particularly bad, with the audience for Marvel and DC trades really dropping through the floor, leaving us with quantities of titles we had sold through on the previous volume. Don't get me wrong: you always expect drop-off. But this has been far beyond anything we should have expected. It's almost as if people are just getting bored with a rolling series of crossovers and events. Go figure.

- No delivery thanks to snow being particularly bad up in the North West (where Diamond's warehouse is), so just spent the afternoon working on libraries. Time to start looking towards the wrap-up for the financial year.

- Went out for a few drinks as it was the last chance to see Tom before he heads back up to York. Me, Nat, Will K, Will B, The Original Tony Lee (not that comics writing fella) and Tom went to the Crown. I do like the Crown. lots of fond memories there, plus it's still the cheapest place to drink in town (along with the other Samuel Smiths, of course). Does leave you feeling rough, though. The in-house Sam Smith's brews go down easy but give you a good kicking in the morning if you're not careful. Intended to go out for one or two, but stayed until closing. Don't do that very often any more, so that was nice.

- Ran to catch a bus, which conveniently came along just as I got to the stop. Not enough money on my Oyster card, though, so muttering to myself I walked down to Holborn to charge it up,, then had to wait in the freezing cold for another bus. Rassumfrassumfuckinghell.

- Got home and "accidentally" woke up wifey so I could have a cuddle, selfish old drunk that I am.

Carry on reading...

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 06/01/10

Sat in Starbucks by Tottenham Court Road watching the snow come down. Holy shit, it's 2010! Anyway, yesterday I:

- Got up a little late. Had the day off, as I really wanted to have at least one extra day off over the Christmas/New Year period. Glad I did, though I always feel vaguely guilty when I take an extra day off. Silly.

- Twiddled about on the internet for a bit.

- Headed down to Angel to go see A Serious Man, the new Coen brothers film. While I certainly enjoyed watching it, the ending felt a little abrupt. Without spoiling anything, I’ve no problem with a film that requires a little thought to interpret it’s intent, but I do find it a little disappointing when the narrative leaves quite so many things hanging. I guess the point is the character arc Larry takes to make the decision he does. But even so, it makes for a slightly disappointing experience. Mustn’t grumble, though. There’s plenty to enjoy, especially in the too-brief, scene-stealing appearances of Fred Melamed as Sy Ableman, a bastard in sheep’s clothing. It does a wonderful job of evoking the time, as well, not to mention the ordered, bleached ennui of the suburbs. So worth a watch, and certainly still within the realms of what you would expect from the Coens, light years away from the mediocrity of Intolerable Cruelty or The Ladykillers, which have thankfully turned out to be missteps rather than directions.

- Came home and did some domestic this’n’that.

- Played some Xbox. Had the distinct pleasure on Dragon Age of getting past a fight which had me stuck for a couple of days, only to careen into another. Frustrating. Shot some zombies instead.

- Made a lamb casserole which was delicious enough that I feel the need to mention it here.

- Watched an episode of Michael Palin’s Sahara which happened to be on TV. I thought I had seen all of his travel programs, including this one. Turns out I was wrong. Must track the rest of it down.

- Watched an episode of True Blood then hit the sack. Enjoying the various story threads running through this season, and I admire the juggling being done to fit them all in. One thing I will say about this season: it feels more like x-rated Buffy than ever.

Carry on reading...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 05/01/10

Dammit, I'm so used to typing on my Eee PC keyboard that my fingers are all out of whack for a full-sized one. But yesterday I:

- Got up with great intentions of having a productive day. My main goal was to do a bit of PC housekeeping: something which always seems to take an inordinate amount of time for little visible result, but needs doing. I also thought I might get out and catch a film. The Coen brothers' A Serious Man is high on my list of need-to-see.

- Sat on the internet. I don't have any structured time for reading my RSS feeds anymore, so I'm well behind. About 75% of my web reading currently takes place on my phone while I'm travelling, which is handy, but restrictive. Anything with media or links or just too long gets left for a later that never comes (or does come 3 months later). Then of course I wind up spending half my day doing a catch-up and get annoyed with myself for wasting so much time.

- Got out of the house with the intention of going to the movies, but got a call from Alex about lunch, so I met her down at Angel. Popped into the Waterstones down there to have a browse while I waited for her. Unsurprisingly, with the Borders in the N1 Centre closing down just before Christmas, the place had been pillaged. Slightly depressing now to think that this store - never the best store around - is about the only bookstore that I know of in this part of London. Does North London not read? Or are we all Amazon fiends? Reminds me, I must check on the status of that order...

- Missed my intended session time, so flagged the film. I'm off today as well, so I might pop down. Came home and got a little domestic.

- Sat down to get stuck into my PC housekeeping. Started playing around with the Chrome browser extensions that are now available for the beta. I quite like Chrome. It's certainly very fast and much improved on the initial release. The lack of customising that Firefox offers has stopped me switching over, but now that's changed there's little beside a fondness for the Mozilla browser that keeps me with it. Not to mention my wariness of that feeling I'm being lured into Google's gingerbread house. In the last six months I've become a Google whore with disturbing speed. But it's all just so convenient. It all just works so easily. But then, I guess, so does Apple.

- Also played around a little with Evernote: note-taking software that I can sync across my machines, including my phone. The free version is pretty well-featured, but if works out I may well stump up the $5/month for the benefits of premium, the key attraction being the fact that the free version only comes with 40mb of storage. I've toyed around with note-taking software before, but never really found anything yet which has stuck. The fact that I can use this as an app on my phone then sync back to my Eee PC and my desktop might be the winning factor here though. Hey, at least it's not Google, right?

- Played Xbox. Dragon Age Origins, to be precise. But I kept dying during one fight, to the point I would have to get up and have a little walk between each attempt. Otherwise I may have embedded my controller in the television. Thankfully DAO offers saves at any point, a feature traditionally lacking in console games, so at least I'm not having to go back to a save point or anything silly. I appreciate that it adds a sense of peril to your actions, a cost for failure, but to be frank it just annoys the fuck out of me. Played a little Left 4 Dead 2 as well.

- Cooked dinner. Wifey was out for after work drinks, so I went back to Xbox. Left 4 Dead 2 again, but playing in Versus mode, which is just genius. It's two teams of four playing against each other. Sides take turns on each level of a scenario playing either the survivors or the "special" creatures. The survivors simply try to get as far through the level as they possibly can, with no resurrections for any character who dies along the way. When you play on the zombie side, you cycle through each type of special creature. Each has a special ability (grappling tongue, charging ability, venomous spit, etc), but they die very quickly. This results in you being timed out as an observer for about twenty seconds before coming back as the next type of creature. Anyway, it's a lot of fun and not a mode I've played much before, so I got completely sucked in a pretty much played it the rest of the night.

- Watched the second and third episodes of True Blood. Again, immediately enjoying this a lot more than last series. Trashy fun.

- Alex went to sleep, while I snuck back into the lounge for some more L4D2. I got it bad.

Carry on reading...

Monday, January 04, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 04/01/10

Apparently it's -5° outside. Also, I just discovered that I can type a degrees symbol by holding ALT and typing 0176 on the numeric keypad. My life is complete. But yesterday I:

- Worked. Went to the Starbucks down by Tottenham Court Road beforehand to read for a bit and found myself surrounded by a group of Hillsong churchgoers. They meet up beforehand for a little pep talk and a prayer and I felt more than a little out of place. Hillsong is a bit of a cringe-inducing thing: a decidedly happy clappy church that is slightly embarrassing in its "Jesus is cool!" rock music way. Music which I am reliably informed is terrible. Anyway, the group was led by a youngish Australian woman who was all "Let's rock that theatre for Jesus!" I didn't know where to look. And, honestly, I'm not someone who gets snooty about overt religious behaviour, but it really felt like parody.

- Work was uneventful. I was stuck on the till all day, and with Hayley off sick and Nat on holiday I was just doing sales cycle tasks.

- Came home, had a delicious roast and watched some television. Can't even remember what. Top Gear, for one. There's a strange thing about Jeremy Clarkson: I can't stand him, except within the context of Top Gear, where even his populist politics don't irritate me as much. For a show whose main message often seems to be "Global warming is nonsense because dealing with it interferes with things I enjoy", I'm surprisingly entertained.

- Oh yeah, watched the start of Celebrity Big Brother to see who was in, but just found it unbearable.

- Watched the first episode of season two of True Blood, which was thoroughly entertaining. Either it has markedly improved, or I've just gotten used to it. Either works.

Carry on reading...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 03/01/10

Jesus, it's a bit bloody cold out, isn't it? Anyway, yesterday I:

- Slept in until 9.30 because, well, no reason really. I just did. Tooled about a little, then decided we were going to head up to Wood Green and see Sherlock Holmes. Harangued wifey out of bed so that we could get up there in plenty of time for the midday screening.

- Saw Sherlock Holmes. When I first saw the trailer for this, I thought it looked for all the world like parody: a Player-esque satire of producers cheapening the work of writers who had no doubt crafted an intelligent, literate detective mystery. The fact that it was produced by Joel Silver only helped the impression. But still, I found myself looking forward to it. It looked fun, and I was interested to see what Guy Ritchie - a director whose visual flourishes I generally enjoy for all his flaws as a writer - would be like working from someone else's script. Plus, Robert Downey Jr has just the right charisma to pull something like this off.
Happy to say, I wasn't disappointed. Sherlock Holmes is a well-formed action adventure which isn't quite as Silver-ised as you might assume and actually still provides a surprising amount of Holmesian deduction. Okay, some of it is ridiculous, but then wasn't it always? The fight sequences, where Holmes (with us along for the ride) plans the entire fight out in his head before engaging his opponent is a fun gimmick which isn't overused, but I can see it annoying some. Still, as a means of opening the door to Action Holmes, I think it's a nice idea.
Of course, as a film it's not reinventing the wheel, and the characters are certainly staple archetypes for this kind of adventure: the flawed protagonist; the long suffering sidekick; the sassy love interest with a checkered past who's the protagonist's only true weakness. But it entertains, which is exactly what it sets out to do. Now, if you can't get over the idea of a contemporised Holmes, well then you're probably wasting your time even trying to get with this, but if the idea doesn't make you entirely ill, then give it a go. Big thumbs up. Oh, and I'm happy to see black magic practitioners as the bad guys. Not enough devil worship (or near enough) in movies these days.

- Jumped a bus back down to Clissold Park and went to a pub called the White Horse, which is run by a very nice Turkish guy. The only food they have are Turkish mezzes, so we got a few in and they were absolutely delicious, particularly the chargrilled chicken wings. Nice fresh Turkish bread, too.

- Got home, got a haircut, then got on the bus and headed into town. Wifey stayed at home as she wasn't feeling the best, almost as though she had just had a week of late nights and heavy drinking. Weird. It was Tom Hardy's birthday and he was having drinks down at the White Heart pub on Drury Lane (London's oldest licensed premises, dontchaknow!) The pub has gone back to a pleasant pub-styled atmosphere after a short ill-advised stint as a wine bar. Still a bit more civilised than its Scream chain days though. Lovely night and nice to see the folks there! Left about 9.30, bought some lamb ribs from Chicken Shack, or whatever the chicken joint down near Holborn is called (Chicken Village?) then jumped a bus back home.

- Had a craving to watch Once Upon a Time in the West, but couldn't find my copy. Very frustrating!

- Watched Vengeance instead, a Johnnie To film starring 50's French rock'n'roller Johnny Hallyday, who really needs to stop the plastic surgery. Anyway, it actually worked quite well for his character, and suited the whole cool, distant feel of the film. I enjoyed it; an art-house action film which recalls some of the feel of early-90's Hong Kong cinema when it was still surprising and fresh. Unusually choreographed action wrapped in a story heavy with themes of family, loyalty and brotherhood. Johnnie To is someone whose name I've heard a bit before, mainly relating to the film Election from a few years back, but who I've never actually seen any films from. Well, so I thought (he says, checking IMDB): turns out he directed The Heroic Trio back in 1993, which I loved, so small wonder he should capture that early 90's feel so well. Based on Vengeance, I'm definitely going to track down Election.

- Went to sleep. Badly.

Carry on reading...

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 02/01/10

Nearly off to a terrible start. I'm writing this with a few drinks in me, watching Johnnie To's film Vengeance. Johnny Hallyday looks like some kind of plastic-faced monster. Macau looks like a crazy place and all. Anyway, very briefly, yesterday I:

- Got up a bit late, but felt remarkable good. Played some Xbox and faffed about on the internet waiting for Alex wake up. She surfaced about 1pm not feeling quite so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

- Wandered up to the Alwyne Castle for a pub lunch. Nice idea that really hit the spot.

- Wandered home, our strenuous New Year's Day outing done.

- Sat on the couch. Alex slept while I played Xbox until 6-ish, then she hit the soaps.

- Watched telly the rest of the night then went to bed. Honest to god, that's about it! Still, it was nice to have New Year's Day where I didn't feel like shit the whole day long, even after having a pleasantly drunken night. Nice work, liver and kidneys!

Carry on reading...

Friday, January 01, 2010

Let's Start As I Mean to Continue

Well, hello!

So it's been a while. How you been? You're looking good. Lost weight?

Needless to say, I've been neglectful. When last you saw me, NaNoWriMo was upon me, and I was entering the final week with a good amount left to do. Well, I'm happy to report that I finished the novel handily, and even wasn't totally horrified with the results. Don't get me wrong, it's far from the point of human consumption, but it's not a disaster either. Starting this month I'm going to work on rewriting it and see if I can't hammer it into something worthwhile. Further to that task, I've taken advantage of a NaNoWriMo winner's prize of a free print on demand copy of the book. It's been quickly proofed for spelling & grammar, formatted up (184 pages!) and submitted. Should have the physical copy in 2-3 weeks. Very exciting!

In other news, it's the new year, and in the spirit of resolutions and all of that I'm intending to up the blogging level. I'm not quite sure what to do at the moment, but I keep toying with the idea of a new comics-related blog, or perhaps just using this blog a lot more for varied purposes. Really, just exercises to keep me writing in the mornings when I'm lacking inspiration. I think I'll bring back the things I did yesterday feature as well, just because it's a great way to clear the cobwebs when I sit down to write in the mornings. Also, given the handful of readers I have are mainly friends of mine, they act as a convenient means of keeping people up to date with what I'm doing. Which, as you all know, is vital.

What else? Well, in terms of online presence, the addition of my beloved Android phone has got me very active on Facebook. Well, on status updates, at least. But other areas have become sorely neglected, particularly my Flickr account. I've allowed my pro subscription to lapse and am debating as to whether or not I should re-up. It's frustrating, as I use Picasa for my photo management, but the online galleries lack the functionality and social networking ease of Flickr. I've played with various plugins but nothing works as smoothly as I'd like. Anyway, hardly riveting stuff, I'm sure.

Twitter has pretty much lost me now, I'm afraid. I stuck with it for a while, but at the end of the day it wasn't serving any real purpose for me, or rather not enough of a purpose to justify the extra time it consumed. I'm thinking of using Google Wave to do the kind of short comics reviews I was doing on Twitter, so we'll see if that works out.

That's about it! I'm sure more will occur to me on a daily basis now, but I'll get back to you on that. But for now I'm gonna play some Dragon Age Origins on Xbox before wifey wakes up!

By the way, loyal tiny circle of readers, what would YOU like to see me do with the blog?

Carry on reading...