Saturday, October 01, 2005

Match of the Day

Boston won their first match of the season without me being there to cheer them on today - one-nil against Peterborough (three bookings apiece and the only goal came from a penalty - sounds like another local derby classic!). They're coming to Notts County next Friday evening, don't ask me why it was scheduled for such a strange time, so I might go along and watch that one.

I went to Nottingham today, picked up some comics and watched a really cool street performer jump through a tiny little hoop with sharp knives all around it. I'd love to be able to do something like that. For that matter, I'd like to look good with my shirt off, like this guy did. Maybe I should join a gym, and pump iron or whatever it is people do in those places. That mens sana in thingummy doodah works both ways, I'm sure, so it would probably enhance my memory skills drastically if I had a flat stomach and rippling muscles.

My all-time favourite performers I've seen on city streets are The Alley Cats, a fantastic family folk/blues/skiffle etc group I saw in Lincoln years ago. Hopefully they're still going strong, because they were absolutely fantastic.

Having got home, I dug up my CIMA certificate from the bottom of my box of paperwork, since Michael Page have been hassling me about it (presumably they think I'm lying about my qualifications). It looks quite fancy, actually - I haven't really looked at it since I got it three years ago, but it says "Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting" in big letters. Maybe I should have it framed.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Up and down the City Road, in and out the Eagle

Payday today - the penultimate one from Parkhouse. And I'm already planning how to spend it all. I've got to clean up my flat in preparation for my party, then buy some cooking equipment and bake a cake. Okay, I don't really HAVE to do that, but I want to. I haven't properly baked things for years.

Elsewhere, the war of words is still going on between the Mind Sports Olympiad and the British Othello Federation. BOF chairman Aubrey has kindly posted all the emails between him and MSO boss Tony on the BOF mailing list, so we can all keep up with it. Basically, Tony is saying that the MSO needs money from the BOF because it costs them a fortune to host othello tournaments along with all the others they have at the MSO, while Aubrey is politely expressing amazement that any event like the MSO could cost anywhere near the amount Tony is saying it does, as well as explaining that the BOF hasn't actually got any money to spare.

As an MSO and BOF person (possibly the only one who falls quite so much into both camps), I'm really not enjoying this whole affair. It's like having your parents fighting in front of you. I was actually planning to give some of my redundancy money to the MSO fund, since Tony's actively appealing for donations, but then I don't want him to use that to score points over Aubrey. I'll just keep out of it altogether - I'm not in a position to judge the MSO's finances, seeing as Tony asked me to do the accounts for them a couple of years ago and I turned him down.

In other news, my washing machine's playing up. Actually, it has been for ages, but I think it's getting worse. It's still just about washing clothes, though - if I can keep it going until I move out, I'll get a new one then.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The good, the bad and the ugly...

...things about moving to Burton-on-Trent.

Good: It's much bigger than I thought it was. Lots of shops and things, with a town centre about the size of Lincoln's. Glen did actually tell me that before, but I didn't believe him until I went along and looked around. There's also a Conference football team, Burton Albion, which would mean I could go to an affordable game on a Saturday afternoon without a train journey. And it would certainly be a lot more convenient for work if I lived there.

Bad: I'm pretty sure there isn't a comic shop, although there might be one hidden in a back street somewhere (like comic shops always are). If there is, though, they don't advertise it in Comics International. That'd mean a hassle getting my weekly fix of superhero action. Also, moving house is such a drag in the first place. And I'm still not convinced this job will last.

Ugly: The whole town smells like a brewery. I suppose you get used to this kind of thing if you live there...

All in all, I think I'll commute for a couple of months until I'm sure I'm not going to get sacked for gross incompetence, then find a place to live there.

Anyway, having the day off also gives me a much-needed chance to cram a few more hours TV-watching and comic-reading into a day. I discovered a fascinating cartoon called 'Gnoufs' this afternoon. It's French originally, dubbed into English with a strange variety of regional accents, and as best I can determine from the episode-and-a-half I watched, it's about a group of aliens who've come to Earth in the form of cuddly toys. The half episode was the best - I missed the start, but I have a feeling I wouldn't have had the faintest idea what was going on even if I'd seen it all, which is always a good thing.

Basically, it seems that one of the gang, a jack-in-the-box, had retreated into the dream world at the bottom of his box and the others joined him there. Cue a whole lot of floating past psychedelic imagery and bizarre dialogue: "You all have your own dream world at the bottom of your boxes." "But we haven't got boxes. We've got feet." "Everyone's got boxes. Everyone's existence is on the end of a spring."

And it subsequently turned out that everyone's dream world was the real world, because they all like it so much. The second half of the double-bill, in which one of the characters swaps bodies with a dog, and is nervous of its owner on the grounds that he's Welsh and therefore probably a cannibal, was comparatively tame.

What's particularly weird about this show is the script. I watch a lot of cartoons, and there's a general rule that anything at least theoretically aimed at kids (as this seems to be) should have somewhat dumbed-down dialogue. Nothing too drastic, just enough to keep it comprehensible to younger viewers while still entertaining for older ones. That doesn't seem to apply to the Gnoufs, though. If anything, they go out of their way to use big words, without explaining them. I have not the faintest idea what age group this is meant to be aimed at - possibly it's aimed at very weird 28-year-olds. Possibly I've just watched a very atypical episode and they're normally standard preschool fare. I'll have to see more, anyway. If I could remember what time it was on and which channel, I'd set the video tomorrow.

Also (I've got extra time for writing this thing tonight, so I'm going to go on and on and on for pages and pages. Feel free to skip it) I watched an episode of DS9 on Sky. I confess to being a Star Trek fan, and DS9 in particular, but this particular episode was one of the two I actively dislike, so rather than explain why I like (or at least put up with) all the others, I'm going to go into detail about why this one is so bad.

It's "Inquisition", the episode that introduces Sloan and Section 31, horrible mistakes in both cases. The problem is that the episode does its best to make it clear that a perfect society like the Federation couldn't possibly exist without a shady undercover organisation doing nasty business and dressing all in black. This is really infuriating to me, and completely against the whole idea of what Star Trek is supposed to be about. Individual characters can and should be multi-faceted, even downright evil on occasion, but the setting they're in really should be a representation of what human beings are capable of. A big part of Trek's appeal is that it's so optimistic about the future. When you make out that there's 'dirty work' going on behind the scenes to make the future look bright, it spoils it.

The other DS9 episode I hate, incidentally, is "Body Parts", which is based on a huge, fundamental misunderstanding about how Ferengi culture works. And, like "Inquisition", it has major repercussions on the ongoing storylines, so you can't just ignore it. There are plenty of other bad episodes, but those two are the ones that have something so wrong with them that they tarnish the whole series. "The Storyteller", for example, misses the point of the whole DS9 series (it's a Next Gen-style episode changed with the bare minimum of rewriting into a DS9 show), and has laughably bad plot, dialogue and characterisation, and unforgivably ends with the line "No thanks, I think I've had ENOUGH storytelling for one day!"... but it's fun to jeer at, is never mentioned again and doesn't do anything that undermines the fabric of the universe it's set in. So I'd rather watch that one than "Inquisition".

I've also been buying comics today, and while I've got nothing better to do I thought I'd talk about them too. It has occurred to me, incidentally, that I could split these kinds of rambling posts into several shorter posts, but I quite like the idea of forcing everyone to read the whole long thing. That way people interested in only one of my various hobbies and obsessions can learn about the others. Or just ignore me completely. Either is good.

So, comics. Only two new ones I was interested in buying this week - Young Avengers #7 and the ABC A-Z. Still need to get Ultimates #8 somewhere - I really need to find a good comic shop (by which I mean one that orders too many copies of each comic so they don't run out) or start ordering them in advance. I also got the fifth volume of Exiles in trade paperback form - I'm collecting them now after years of reading it occasionally in the shop but not generally buying it.

The ABC comic is strange. The whole ABC line was set up for Alan Moore to do whatever he liked with a whole new range of characters. It was uniformly brilliant, like everything Moore does. When he got bored with it and moved on to whatever strange things he's doing now (involving human sacrifice and tarot cards, probably), he let other writers play with his characters, foremost among them Peter Hogan, who's writing this one. It consists of a lengthy Tom Strong story recapping his origins and introducing his large supporting cast, and a shorter Jack B Quick story doing essentially the same thing. I have no idea why they thought anyone would want to buy this. Tom Strong is only occasionally published nowadays, and new readers really don't need to know the back story in summary form to understand it. Jack B Quick hasn't appeared in a new story for ages (and I hope he carries on like that if Moore isn't writing it - nobody else could capture the sense of pseudoscientific insanity that makes Jack such fun).

If you want to know what happened in the old Tom Strong stories, go out and buy them. Nobody needs to read an ultra-abridged, soulless synopsis like the A-Z to like the new stuff. I doubt anyone will buy it apart from people like me who buy everything with the ABC logo as a matter of principle. It's not even entirely accurate, for crying out loud - it suggests that Fingel Parallax is still alive, which is either foreshadowing of an upcoming story or (more likely) a flat-out mistake.

Young Avengers #7 is the first part of a new storyline. Marvel comics nowadays come in six-part story arcs so that they fit nicely into a paperback collection, and the first six issues of Young Avengers mostly consisted of writer Allan Heinberg fulfilling the awful remit he'd been handed ("We've decided to do a series about young versions of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and Hulk. Because Teen Titans is cool, so Young Avengers would be even cooler. Go and write it.") The opening story did that, introduced some less stupid characters, killed off Iron Lad and set it up with some great promise for the future. And did it very entertainingly, albeit with some incomprehensible time travel logic. The first part of the new story looks like it's going to be great. It really could be a big hit - it's selling well, and word-of-mouth is only going to get better now Heinberg's writing the kind of characters he wants to write, and hopefully avoiding world-changing drama. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to read a genuinely good modern superhero story.

As for Exiles, this collection is Chuck Austen's five-issue fill-in run from 2003. Austen is much maligned in the comics business, and with good cause because he's just not a very good writer, but these ones aren't too bad. The stories don't make a great deal of sense, but that's never been a requirement for Exiles stories. The character interaction is quite fun, and the abundance of characters in the X-Men crossover really works somehow. Stories with more than ten major roles all doing something have always appealed to me for some reason. It's not as good as the Judd Winick stories that appear in the first four collections, but it's still worth reading.

Anyway, that's probably enough babbling for one afternoon/evening in between watching cartoons (Justice League Unlimited is great, by the way). Conclusive proof, if any were needed, that I'm only writing this thing to entertain myself. Imagine being someone else and reading through all that. I shudder to think of it!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

In heaven's name, what am I DOING?

The above is my all-time favourite Wile E Coyote quote (closely followed by "I wouldn't mind, except that he defies the law of gravity!". It also rather melodramatically sums up the theme of this entry - for at least three different reasons, I've been thinking today about exactly why I'm writing this here blog, and who I'm expecting to read it.

Firstly, I was googling myself again yesterday (don't judge me, it gets lonely sometimes, living on your own), and noticed that of course my previous post on the subject, in July or August or whenever it was, which mentions my 'real' name, shows up on Google searches. This made me realise that anybody who chooses to look me up on the internet will find my blog. Not normally a problem, but I have it on good authority that my mother Googles my name every now and then, and I'm pretty sure I've said some snippy things about her here before.

Then I spoke to my dad on the phone today (happy birthday to him, by the way!) and he told me he's entered the 21st century, and has an email address and everything now. So he might conceivably work out how to use the internet and find this thing too, and I (entirely affectionately) poked fun at him here the other day. Plus it'd spoil the surprise when I get round to treating him to a day on the steam trains. And even my brother (who, as you'd expect from someone with a PhD in English literature, has trouble with reading and writing) has been known to go on the internet occasionally and might find Zoomy's Thing too.

Apart from the horror of my family reading my diary (which, let's face it, happened all the time when I was a teenager), I felt that last night's entry was a bit... unexceptional. Links to two interesting websites and a couple of thoughts of my own on the subject. There are millions of blogs that do that. I want mine to be different. Quirky. Entertaining. Fun! And I think I manage that most of the time.

So I thought I should set out why I'm writing this thing, and what I'm writing in it. Just in case I forget and need to check back.

I'm writing this primarily for myself. I enjoy doing it! I like looking back on what I've written, and chuckling to myself about how entertaining my life seems when I've written it down. And I like finding ways to make the things I do every day seem entertaining.

Secondly, I'm writing this to give my friends a laugh. I have a wonderful collection of friends who (I hope) are genuinely pleased to read my feelings about Coco Pops adverts and job interviews. Happy birthday to Suzy, too, incidentally! It's a good day for birthdays.

As for what's in it, the only rule I've had up to now is no mentioning of politics or religion or any other subject that might be considered controversial. There's too much talk about this kind of thing in the world already, and nobody needs another blog of some idiot expressing his half-thought-out views. But after today I'm also going to put a ban on two more subjects - firstly, much-too-serious posts like this one. Nobody wants to read rubbish like this. And secondly, links to entertaining websites as a substitute for talking about something entertaining I've made up myself. Although I'm going to be kind of flexible with this rule - basically, it just has to qualify in my brain as sufficiently different from all the other blogs out there.

Anyway, serious stuff over. Pointless rambling resumes tomorrow. I've got the day off legally, and I'm going to go to Burton and see what it's like.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I've been everywhere, man

Stealing ideas for blog topics from Sam again, I've produced this map highlighting all the countries I've been to:

create your own visited country map

That's just pathetic, isn't it? I've been to nine different countries including this one, or 4% of the world. And most of them don't count - I've only passed through Belgium a couple of times on my way somewhere more exciting, and my visits to Italy and Switzerland were day trips while on a school trip to France, back at the dawn of time or thereabouts. And it seems silly to have Alaska highlighted in red like that, just because I've been to a couple of the less arctic states.

It's always been one of my many life's ambitions to travel to every country in the world, in alphabetical order. That last bit is very important - it seems to me that any old fool can visit every country in the world, so I'd need to find a unique way to go about it. That's an ambition that'll have to wait till I'm a millionaire, though. Or if Danny Wallace or Dave Gorman need a new adventure, it sounds like their kind of thing. There's probably a TV series in it somewhere.

Anyway, I'm not likely to be a millionaire any time soon if I succumb to temptation and bid on this. Assuming it's not some kind of con, the guy's selling all his worldly posessions, among them no end of cool things that I'd like to have - electric guitars and drums! Digital cameras! And a cuddly white tiger!

I can just see my new place furnished with all this junk. It'd be like buying someone else's life. It's not terribly sensible of me to be considering bidding on it, but consider this - he lives here in Derby, next month is going to be the one time in my life I'm ever going to have more or less that much money in my bank account, I am (as mentioned the other day) in a very impulse-purchase frame of mind at the moment. The universe wants me to bid on this.

It's worth mentioning that I'm probably more in debt than this guy, but I've always believed in buying lots of material goods in case inflation or economics devalue all your money, and it's about time I started putting this firm belief into practice. And I want an entertainment centre.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Okay, I'm here after all. I was feeling a bit off colour this morning, so I exaggerated it a bit and called in sick. I don't know why I never remember that I get horribly bored sitting around at home all day when I'm supposed to be at work. Plus I feel guilty about not being there. Ah well. Back tomorrow, and then I can remember how boring it is being there in the first place.

Still, in just a month and a bit, there'll be a new job, with exciting new responsibilities and irritations. I'm getting increasingly nervous about it, to be honest. I bet I'll be the worst management accountant they've ever seen.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The proof in the pudding

This being my second blog entry in one day, you might describe it as the 'pudding' to a main course of coco pops. And it's about proof-reading.

I bought a new book today (I always do much more impulse-buying when I'm flat broke at the end of a long month), 'Little People' by Tom Holt. It's fun - I've only read one of his before ('Expecting Someone Taller') and had trouble getting into any others, but the sense of humour is quirky enough to appeal to me, and there's some great wordplay and hilarious turns of phrase. The story is good too, although it suffers a bit from an overload of exposition to explain the concept without enough things actually happening once the setting's been established. But then, I'm not half way through it yet, so it's probably a bit early to start criticising.

What really bugs me, though, is the huge volume of typos - 'of' for 'or', 'by' for 'my', that kind of thing. As I said, I'm not half way through, and there have been six times I've picked up on one of these and it's yanked me out of the flow of the writing. Do they still have proofreaders at modern publishers, or do they rely on the computers to pick up the mistakes? Either way, someone needs to be fired or reprogrammed.

Going to the dogs (not in the usual way, to the greyhound races) in Nottingham tomorrow night with work people, so I might not be back in blogging action until Tuesday.

I'd rather have a bowl of Coco Pops

How am I expected to achieve anything in life when there's Looney Tunes all day on Boomerang and two hours of Kids Next Door on Cartoon Network? Actually, Cartoon Network are bugging me slightly by showing KND episodes at random in no particular order. There are continuing storylines and character development that are spoiled by that kind of thing. Some people just don't take cartoons seriously enough. Still, suffice to say I haven't done anything this weekend at all. But it's given me something to think about. With an overdose of cartoons comes a lot of adverts in between, ripe for studying and critical analysis.

For example, Coco Monkey and his gang sing "We'd rather have a bowl of Coco Pops" at the end of every advert, a jingle that no longer makes any sense. It's been nearly twenty years since they were offered any alternative foodstuff compared to which they could express their preference for chocolate flavoured rice-based breakfast cereal. The original batch of adverts, which came out when I was in primary school, consisted of a character introducing themself, describing their staple diet and finishing with the famous catchphrase. Being the kind of person who memorises things, I can still remember most of the lyrics:

"My name's Coco, I'm a monkey like you. I live in the jungle, not in the zoo. I lived on leaves when there weren't any shops, but I'd rather have a bowl of Coco Pops!"

I might have to revise my standard answer to interviewers who ask if I've always been interested in memorising. I did always make a point of learning all the words to advertising jingles. That said, I can't remember the less-memorable sequels to the original Coco advert as clearly. Ozmelda Ostrich's one ended "I eat plants when they're not in pots, but..." and the giraffe, whatever it's called, was "For breakfast I have two tree tops..."

I don't think poor old Ozmelda has had a single line in an advert since her first appearance, but she's always in the background to this day. Anyway, the point I was making is that the Coco Pops adverts nowadays have degenerated into bad-guy-tries-to-steal-the-cereal antics, just like every other advert in the world. They used to be more varied. And if you've just thwarted a crocodile's attempt to purloin your breakfast, you don't quip "I'd rather have a bowl of Coco Pops!" It's a complete non-sequitur, for crying out loud!

Just thought I'd share my thoughts on the subject.