Saturday, March 17, 2007

Day of rockening

Well, we're not going to win the Eurovision Song Contest again this year. After Lordi's win last year, you just know gimmicky costumes are going to feature in every performance this time round, so the great British public have selected "Flying the Flag" by Scooch, who dress up as flight attendants and can't sing. Admittedly all of the songs to choose from this year were terrible, but this one was particularly so. Terry Wogan and Fearne Cotton also made a mess of announcing the winner (they tried to do a gag where they each said a different name, but of course Terry bellows so loudly that nobody could hear Fearne saying anything), and it all ended in confusion. But still, John Barrowman was on it so the experience wasn't all bad. And yes, I could have spent the evening doing something other than watching this rubbish, but Eurovision just appeals to me. If I confess that another of my unfulfilled dreams is to win the Eurovision Song Contest, would you just laugh at me?

I also went to Nottingham today, and I must say the newly-unveiled market square looks fantastic! I've got so used to the whole area being boarded off and hidden away while noises of construction emerged every now and then, I'd forgotten it wasn't meant to look like that. There are squirting fountains and everything. The layout is brilliantly designed and original, and I think it's fantastic. When I'm a zillionaire I'll get the same person to design my back garden.

Friday, March 16, 2007

What I need is some kind of telepathic typewriter

I seem to have a great talent for writing, but only when it comes to composing bits of the book/website/exciting superhero comic in my head at any time when I'm not sitting at my computer and typing. When it actually comes to writing it down, it doesn't work anywhere near as well. I should make some kind of resolution to sit down and transcribe what I'm thinking about as soon as I think of it, because I have a habit of sitting down and mentally composing huge long essays without bothering to write anything. I sometimes suspect I'm not a natural writer. Natural writers are the ones who write.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Not pretending any more

This is the real post for tonight, seeing as the one this afternoon was just pretend. But I haven't really got anything to say, seeing as I spent most of the day either waiting for a plumber or waiting for a TV crew. And I've already pretended to blog about the filming, and the plumber adventure really isn't exciting enough to merit a blog post to itself.

Tomorrow, though, I'm sure I'll manage to do something worth writing about.

Pretending to do my blog

I've got the TV people here, and the guy thinks it would be good to start with them pretending to interrupt me typing my blog. So while they wait outside, I'm sitting here pretending to type. Well, not pretending as such. I'm actually typing. I'm honest, you see, unlike television producers and their cinematic fakery. I suppose I'm going to pretend to say hello to them as if I'm meeting them for the first time when they come in, but that's the limit to the deception I'm prepared to perpetrate here. The whole thing is going to be a triumph of cinematic verity. Although I might not post this, which would make it a fake/pretend blog post of some kind, because the camera's pointing at me now and it's making me all nervous and I keep spelling things wrong, which just makes me look bad. Also, this whole thing is kind of incoherent, and when the guy came in I said "hello, I'm pretending to write my blog", which I thought would be funny at the time but actually came out sounding really stupid. Why did I agree to do this again? I should probably stop with the stream of consciousness stuff before I end up typing something really embarrassing.

The above paragraph is a shining example of why I don't write my blog when there's someone else in the house. Still, if this thing does get made and shown on Current TV, and you see me typing on my laptop, that's what I was typing. The inside story, brought to you by Zoomy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Blue CHEATer, more like

I watched Blue Peter today, because I'd heard they were going to apologise for the slight mix-up in a competition last year when they awarded the prize to a passing child in the studio rather than anyone who'd phoned in. It turns out that the show is exactly the same as it was when I used to watch it regularly however many years ago that was, which is rather comforting. Well, except for all the modern technology, and come to think of it they didn't make anything today, which is a bit disappointing.

They did have the results of another competition, to design a new Bash Street Kid, and I couldn't help notice that one of the winners was a girl with a split personality called Rose and Thorn - you know, like the old DC comics character with a split personality, Rose and Thorn. Frankly this doesn't restore my confidence in the fairness of Blue Peter competitions. But then, I'm just jealous because I always wanted a Blue Peter badge and I never got one. I never entered a competition or wrote in to them, but I wanted a badge anyway. They could have just sent me one to be nice.

I've got the Current TV people coming to film me tomorrow. I watched a bit of Current TV yesterday to see what it was like, having read about it. I'm not terribly impressed. But still, you all have to tune into it now in the hope of catching a five-minute chat with me.

I'm currently wondering whether to risk destroying my laptop in order to listen to an old CD. It's a cheap one that I haven't listened to for years, vaguely remembering that it was broken, but I took it out and tried to play it tonight and it turns out it still sort of works - it plays okay but makes rattling, grinding noises and periodically stops, freezing up my computer in the process. But I can't remember what one of the tracks goes like, so I won't be able to sleep tonight unless I play it. I'll risk it, after I post this.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

St James Infirmary Blues

Check out this fantastic post on Dennis Hyer's blog! He's pieced together the sensational backgrounds from the Betty Boop cartoon "Snow White", and that's quite a feat since Koko is dancing in front of them in the cartoon itself (also check out Dennis's previous post for a clip of the song from the toon - it's an unmissable Cab Calloway performance).

I've probably said it before, and I'll certainly say it again, but in the early 1930s (if not in the whole of cartoon history) the best cartoons in the world, by a long, long margin, were the ones produced by the Max Fleischer studio. They are insane, surreal, clever and absoluely hilarious, and it's really quite criminal that they're not better known these days than they are. "Snow White" is a fine example of all the best points - like a lot of these cartoons it starts off with a story, a fairly straight telling of the fairy tale (years before Disney's, I would remind you), but then lurches into the song and dance routine, and finishes with the Queen turning into a monster and chasing our heroes, who defeat it in short order (Bimbo pulls on its tongue and turns it inside-out) and then dance in a circle to celebrate. The seven dwarfs have vanished by this point, forgotten in the way that the setup plots in Betty Boop cartoons usually are.

There are so many great moments in Snow White - I just love Betty dressed in her cold-weather outfit (her usual skimpy dress, plus a tiny woolly hat perched on top of her head), the animation is fluid, detailed and looks wonderful, and the musical number (one of three Cab Calloway Betty cartoons, and they're all timeless classics) accompanied by those amazing backdrops is maybe the most visually arresting sequence the Fleischers ever did.

It's often said that if not for the Hays code, which came into effect in 1934 and severely limited what you could put on screen, Betty Boop and Max Fleischer would have gone on to be as big as Walt Disney and his gang. They certainly deserved to. But Betty (being basically a personification of sex) had to be drastically toned down under the new rules, and people forgot how great she had once been, watching her awful late-thirties cartoons where she dresses in modest outfits and points at series of weak visual puns. It's a crying shame, it really is.

Bimbo and Koko are the ones I feel sorry for - at least people still remember Betty Boop today, thanks to the revival of her merchandise in the last few decades. Her sidekicks, scrapped in the mid-thirties because they weren't allowed to have characters openly lust after the heroine any more, have disappeared into cartoon limbo, the poor things.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ooh, I could crush a grape!

I'm really annoyed with myself. Memorising binary digits this morning, everything was going fine until well into the recall, when I realised I'd used a wrong journey by mistake, and hadn't even noticed. My journeys are in a fixed sequence (a completely arbitrary one based on the order I wrote them down on a piece of paper a couple of years ago, but a fixed sequence nevertheless) and I always use them in the same order. But today I realised I'd skipped to an entirely wrong one (the Queensgate centre in Peterborough) somehow, and then gone back to the normal sequence after it.

Very strange. But it doesn't matter, of course, as long as I remember where in the sequence I put this rogue journey (I used six-and-a-bit journeys in total). And that wouldn't be a problem, because I was doing that thing where I link the last image in each journey with the first of the next. It's a sort of double-check failsafe thing. So I concluded that I'd done Queensgate after Meadowhall, and wrote it all down. Something still didn't feel right, but I knew it had to be that way round. When I came to check my answers, it turned out I'd got the sequence wrong - I'd blanked on the last image of the Burton journey, and that same image was one of the final group of images in Meadowhall too, so I'd got them mixed up. I actually did Burton-Queensgate-Meadowhall. So I'd written two whole journeys - 52 rows of 1s and 0s, 1560 digits - in the wrong places.

I hope that makes some kind of sense. I have great difficulty describing the inner workings of my brain. The simplified version is that I made a really major fundamental mistake that I didn't even think it was possible for me to make. The most irritating part is that my recall was excellent - even without those two journeys I ended up with a score of 2830. With those extra rows in the right places, I would have scored a bit over 4000. I can take comfort in the fact that it was caused by an unlikely combination of circumstances - the wrong journey (which I've never done before) and the annoying duplication of one image in just the wrong places (which is statistically unlikely) - so I'm not likely to do the same thing again at a competition. But it's still infuriating!

The recurring image, incidentally, was Skeeter from Muppet Babies. I think this is some kind of karmic retribution for not going to see Howie Mandel in Las Vegas.

Still, I shouldn't complain. I also got 79 in abstract images, which is a timely reminder that I really need to work on that some more, and a more than acceptable 1920 in hour numbers. And got it all done with plenty of time to spare for sitting around watching TV! It's great having no social or professional life.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


The champion of Crufts 2007 is a dog called Araki Fabulous Willy. Seriously. What kind of person calls a dog 'Fabulous Willy'? It gives the poor thing a lot to live up to in life. Still, congratulations to it. Similarly, congratulations to David Thomas, who did win the US Memory Championship yesterday. Now if his parents had decided to call him John I could have had a really rude joke there, couldn't I?

Anyway, I haven't spent the whole day giggling at words that stopped amusing most people around the age of seven - I've decided to spend the next three days doing a full world memory championship's worth of practice events, all ten disciplines, even the ones I don't like. So I've been getting memorising and recall papers ready for that. This is going to take up a heck of a lot of time, and I'm not entirely sure whether it's feasible - at memory competitions you have someone else to mark your papers and work out your scores for you, and you very seldom have to cook your own meals in between events, but I think it'll be fun.

Then on Thursday I've got the latest TV person coming to film a typical day of mine, so I'm going to have to think of something to do. A genuinely typical day for me wouldn't really be worth filming, after all. I'll do exciting and telegenic things and pretend I'm like that all the time.