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Swimming, Not Drowning

During my recent afflicted period I have been assessing my use of time. There’s a term in economics: sunk costs. It refers to retrospective costs incurred that cannot be recovered. Like a failed investment, it has been spent; gone, no recourse. Apply that concept to time, specifically those days, months, and years that on reflection were squandered. How much time do we all pine over? The wrong turns, the miss-steps, the make-dos and the dead-end relationships. Instead of grieving over lost time consider it a speculative gamble. Thinking of my “wasted” time as simply sunk costs has allowed me to contextualise it more constructively. Instead of ruing past investments, I focus on future spending, just so long as I dispense that time wisely.

As the above may suggest, I’m still a tad unwell. I manage to temper that by producing a page of script, which also served to nullify the four hours I spent playing LEGO Batman. I can’t help it: the game keeps taunting me with a completion  percentage after every level, and I’m only on 74.6%. During my recumbent gaming, Hattie the rabbit once again imitated my every move. This time, I took photos. I couldn’t get close, though, as she would leap up every time I stood, hence the wide shots.

This was at 11:00:

Then at 13:00:

14:00:

And then at 16:00:

I’d quite happily watch her morph into the carpet all day. Another sunk cost? Money in the bank.

© 2011 Ashley J. Allen, All Rights Reserved

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Atop The Gop

I was reminded earlier of a brilliant piece of trivia about Frank Serpico. Who’s Frank Serpico? Firstly, ha ha! You don’t know who Serpico is? Idiot! Secondly, Frank Serpico was a New York police Detective during the Seventies who testified against his own department over allegations of police corruption. The story was adapted as a film – imaginatively named Serpico – starring Al Pacino.

Now you’ve caught up, here’s the trivia: Serpico spent two years in my hometown of Prestatyn (1974 and 1976) as part of the Witness Relocation Program. Not a lot of people know that, and it impresses me far more than being shot in the face and surviving. Recalling that soon made me wonder: surely, as far as Hollywood is concerned, the story isn’t over. I’m usually the first to knock a blatant cash-in sequel, but Serpico: The Prestatyn Years has a certain ring to it. If I was ever going to sell out I couldn’t think of a more appealing prospect.

The scar tissue in my throat – the unfortunate souvenir of my shoddily performed tonsillectomy – is swollen and so very, very painful. It seems to be a seasonal affliction, about every three months, which coincidentally was the frequency of my chronic tonsillitis before I agreed to have the offending tissue removed.

Considering the operation (or, rather, the infection I caught during it) triggered my ME, was it a fair trade? Most certainly not. Do I now regret having the tonsillectomy? Even though I recognise that I could never have been party to any privileged information that could have suggested I would become ill as a result, I do regret it, or maybe I just regret agreeing so nonchalantly, without researching filthy, scummy, dirty Wythenshawe Hospital beforehand. It is neither productive nor healthy to consider it in such terms, but I really can’t help it. I relay this dispassionately, simply externalising, thinking out loud. Regrets are constructive; they are a gift and our most persuasive learning tool, if we can embrace them.

© 2011 Ashley J. Allen, All Rights Reserved

Shadowplay

I don’t enjoy starting yet another post with, “I don’t feel too good,” but feel I have justify myself to, well, myself. I feel a bit guilty about, three days in, not having any work to show for the week. Not quite as bad as having Alien Vs. Predator on in the background while I write, though. My excuse for allowing one of the biggest travesties committed to celluloid to play on the TV is that it provides me with some white noise without threatening to interrupt my writing.

I draw comfort from the fact that Hattie the rabbit has done as little as me, if not less. Actually, our laziness became synchronised: every time I would surrender my attempts to sit upright and instead gradually recline into the sofa, Hattie would drop her legs under her body and coalesce with the carpet like a furry T-1000, then close her eyes. Seems she’s picking up all my best habits. I wanted to take a photo, but every time I stood she hopped up, too.  She just ate some cecotropes out of her bum – she certainly didn’t get that one from me.

I usually enjoy the rain – like this afternoon when I went into the garden to stand in the torrential downpour – but not when it prevents me from watching a lunar eclipse. This is the second time in a row. Boo! Rain, stop conspiring against me you tempestuous yet alluring whore!

© 2011 Ashley J. Allen, All Rights Reserved

I Can Haz Plagiarism

I’m poorly rough today. I think I’m being punished for having the audacity to walk around some charity shops last week. Plus, it appears that my teeth-clenching may be due to wisdom tooth growth, which has only served to compound my ouchness. I did receive two belated Birthday cards and a present, though, which was most lovely. With the promise of another present to follow, I wonder how much longer I can string my Birthday out for?

It occurred to me today that I invented the LOLcat. A tall boast, to be sure, but absolutely true. During the late Nineties, my friend James and I invented a cartoon character called Stupid Cat. I fleshed out the environment and supporting characters, but then (as with most silly ideas) forgot about it. That is until I went to University. At some point between 2003 and 2004, some friends of mine were planning to launch their own magazine and wanted submissions for potential comic strips. I suggested resurrecting Stupid Cat which, after a brief explanation, was well-received. I drew and submitted two three-panel comic strips – showing Stupid Cat communicating with his pals in a child-like form of broken English – but by that time the magazine idea (as with most silly ideas) had receded.

Note that the first recorded use of the LOLcat meme was 2006. I don’t know why it took me so long to notice the similarities, but my work on Stupid Cat definitely pre-dated the most notorious of the 4chan crazes by at least two years. I realise only four or five people ever saw the three-panel pages of Stupid Cat talking, but it only takes one person to steal an idea, the intellectual property-infringing bastards. If I wasn’t feeling so rough I’d go out to the garage to hunt out the proof. Maybe soon I will.

© 2011 Ashley J. Allen, All Rights Reserved

“Not the bees!”

Tonight, I watched the Neil LaBute remake of The Wicker Man, coincidentally on the same night it was shown on Film 4. Luckily my version was without advert breaks, meaning I wasted slightly less time than had I watched it on TV. Small mercies.

It starts in very much the way I imagined an American remake would play out – whereas the original takes less than a few minutes to place Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) on the island of Summerisle (inexplicably modified to Summersisle here), this incarnation takes a good twenty minutes setting up our character, with a car accident, post-traumatic stress disorder, an old flame seeking help, and a convenient bee allergy, with no payoff whatsoever. Apart from the bees. Oh, God: the bees. Unintentional comedy at its best. It’s a shame the rest of the film fails to carry the same hilarity.

The director doesn’t seem to trust his audience – we see a dream sequence harking back to a supposedly relevant incident* that occurs to Nicolas Cage earlier in the film, the fantasy demonstrated by being shot in monochrome… and a gain effect… and by cutting back (three times) to Cage sleeping. Surely just one of those techniques would have sufficed? Three is patronising overkill; I think we’d have figured it out. LaBute insists on revealing the island conspiracy to us through the inhabitant’s shifty glances, and making early reference to the titular figure which only serves to dilute the potential impact of the ending. Oh, and he has Nicolas Cage talking to “himself” (i.e. to the audience) while he sifts through the poorly concealed evidence. I refer to him as Nicolas cage, rather than his character name, simply because if Cage has ever he played himself (his increasingly frequent default setting) it is this very film. His investigation is one-note: “Agghh! Rowan! Agghh! Tell me where she is!”. Such a shame. I seem to recall that he used to be an actor.

It can only ever pale in comparison with its predecessor. Its modern setting leaves it feeling too anachronistic. For example, why didn’t he take a satellite phone with him? Or back-up? Or a rocket launcher? Unlike with Sergeant Howie, LaBute’s bastardisation goes to great lengths to stress that Nicolas Cage IS NOT A VIRGIN. Nor is he a devoutly religious man, losing the juxtaposition of the contrasting beliefs – Howie’s Christianity versus the islanders’ Paganism – and the irony of each faith failing its followers. In fact, there was a stark absence of subtlety and subtext in every aspect. The narrative hints at a supernatural element which feels out of place and is never expanded upon, leaving it entirely redundant without contributing to tone or atmosphere. Its crimes reach further than mangling one classic, though, as it also steals a number of visual riffs from Don’t Look Now.

I’m tempted to reformat the above splurge into the form of a review, but the film hasn’t even earned that. If LaBute can excuse such shoddy presentation it seems apt that my appraisal reads like an unfocused, stream-of-consciousness rant.

N.B. My distaste for this film has very little to do with the distinct lack of Britt Ekland dancing with her baps out. Very little indeed.

*Supposedly relevant. It really isn’t.

© 2011 Ashley J. Allen, All Rights Reserved

Assay

I spent the evening in a Bangali restaurant called Coriander, where I celebrated my Birthday. Reports and reviews had led me to believe that Coriander is “the best kept secret in Manchester,” though by posting such a statement online it entirely contradicts their declaration. Regardless of technical oxymorons, I got the impression that Coriander had the potential to usurp The Great Kathmandu, my favourite curry house in the World, ever (or, at least, it was until they extended the premises: their previous high standards are struggling to be met with the increase in custom).

I spent dinner discussing (mostly with myself) my personal rating system. I usually rate out of ten, with ten set as an unattainable figure, the impossible ideal. Ten is perfection. I also avoid the risk of rating something 10/10 and then later encountering a candidate to surpass it. In my system, if I award a two or more things a mark of 9/10 then to differentiate them I can easily switch to a one-hundred point scale. For example, Primer, Dancer in the Dark, and Don’t Look Now are 9/10 on the ten point scale, but when I convert those scores to my hundred point scale Primer is on 91/100, Dancer in the Dark is 94/100, and Don’t Look Now is 93/100. Oh, I should also add that, on my hundred point scale, the highest possible score is 98/100, not 99/100. I’m not entirely sure I can articulate why, but ninety-nine feels uncomfortably close to one-hundred.

People assume it must be infuriating to be this anal, but it’s surprisingly fun.

Coriander earned 7/10.

© 2011 Ashley J. Allen, All Rights Reserved

Despite being only halfway (I hope) into my current script, I have already been approaching some potential readers ahead of the completion of the first draft. I’ve allowed the kind souls who will be casting their critical eye over my work plenty of warning, giving them the vague target of by the end of the Summer. The idea being, conspiring with others helps to enforce the completion date. Well, I thought it might be prudent of me to crystalise it, right here, with an actual deadline: 1st September. That is when I will – nay, must – finish my first working draft.

I’ve done it now: I’ve written it here, and it will be posted for all to see. Healthy dose of pressure? Hopefully. Undue stress? Only the Summer will reveal. Factor in the seven-years-in-the-making album that I intend to finish recording by 30th July and I have quite a season ahead of me. I’d complain about the Summer sun being curtailed by the sheer volume of rain recently, but I love the rain so I’m quite content. What I wouldn’t give for a late-night thunderstorm: lights, sat in the conservatory, cup of tea, listening to Kid A. Ah!

I’ve had a bit of a rough day today – aches, drowsiness, and for some undetermined reason I’ve been unconsciously clenching my jaw over the past few days – but I don’t foresee that extending into tomorrow (except the jaw thing, unfortunately. My teeth hurt!): I’m sure it’s nothing a good sleep won’t fix.

© 2011 Ashley J. Allen, All Rights Reserved