Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Eczema - A working title in Identity and personal growth.

Hi. (The best pieces of literature always start with "Hi") At times this story may seem irrelevant or pointless, please stay with me if this is something which you have struggled with, I will eventually get it back on track ( Ish ) and hopefully may be able to help you not only notice similarities, but perhaps learn to read the psychological signs which your behaviour is screaming out to you. My name is Martin and I'm almost 33 years old. For 17 years, I suffered with Eczema, allergies and a some severely bizarre anxieties about the way I looked and the way people perceived me. At times it was unbearable and at times I learnt to cope with it. But having been in your place, I realise coping is not cutting it for you any more and quite frankly, I don't blame you. I am writing this simply for the off chance that somebody out who is going through something similar to what I've been through, can be helped by my journey. Chances are, if you're still reading this by now, you have. I remember what it feels like to be you, getting hopeful every time you see a different specialist or hear about a different cure that this, THIS, will finally be the one that cures you. Hang tight, you will get there, if you focus on the right things and pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. When I was 15 years old I looked about 37. That's not an exaggeration, I looked old. I had a really thin face and was extremely skinny. My diet was pretty shit and I ate a whole lot of processed food, began drinking regularly at the age of 15 and despite a very active life, playing basketball about 8 hours a day, was not the healthiest of people. The years from 15-21 are often the best years of people's lives, not so much for me. I used to get terrible dry skin, I would scratch, particularly my face and neck and it would feel like my blood was boiling from the anxiety and stress. What made it worse, without a doubt, was the obsessive nature of checking my appearance every 5 minutes to the point where I was scared to look in the mirror. I felt like my mind did not match my body. In terms of sense of humour I've always been ahead of most people my age. Thanks to watching sitcoms from a very early age, my sense of humour developed fast, unfortunately, because of the way I perceived myself physically, my confidence could not overcome a lot of social situations. Despite this, I was still a very popular guy in school and ever since then and the reason is something which you should eventually realise over time. This is the first piece of real wisdom I am going to give you.
It's not that nobody cares, but technically, yes, nobody cares about your anxieties and bad skin. Nobody notices. do you know why? Because people are too busy worrying about their own problems to notice yours. You are standing there in a pub thinking 'I look awful, I need to go to the bathroom to make myself look like me' Meanwhile, the good friend opposite you who has known you for years and loves you for who you are as a person, is too busy worrying about their own shit, to even begin noticing yours. And even if they do, what's the worst that can happen? You have to realise, the denial that you really are this person that looks a certain way is the cause of 90% of your problems. Accepting who you are and learning to love this is the quickest way to beat an ongoing issue like this. I realise of course, this is easier said that done though.
Now this denial that you have these issues can cause you to split into two people. There's the version of you who looks great and feels great. You have confidence, like the way you look and reflect that into the world. Then there's the version of you which you are not happy with. You blame yourself and get angry for looking a certain way and go to great lengths to hide it, deny it and prevent others from seeing it. See, this was my major problem, even at my very worst, my health would fluctuate massively. When I looked good, I felt great and wanted to see everybody, but usually, your social calender would overlap with a bad period and you would end up going to certain events feeling extremely unhappy. It's life's sarcasm to test us in this way and it will always happen. You will look your best at 3am on a Wednesday morning when nobody is around to see it and then, when you have something important to go to, you will start to deteriorate. This is not a coincidence. Life is a bitch. If you step outside of your front door step for two seconds when you are looking your absolute worst, there is about a 99% chance the girl who got away, the one you've been in love with for years will walk past your house at that exact moment. It's just life being fun. Just laugh, it's all you can do really. So anyway, During this period of 15-22 I had good times and bad but to be honest, it was something I learned to cope with. The fact that I worked in a pub when smoking was still allowed did not help. Working in the pub all day or nightclubs when I was younger, I would come home, make my face, arms, legs and chest bleed, like literally put holes in them, and then get up the next day and put myself back together again. I remember being so depressed once, I said to somebody "If I could be guaranteed the health of a normal person, I would happily work every day for the rest of my life" - Thank FUCK I didn't make that deal. I used to use hot water, a lot, because it would make the scratching sensation go away. Hot baths, showers, steam would help my eyes and when I used to scratch my hands so much the skin would actually be coming off, I could put my hand under scolding hot water and it would actually feel nice. I enjoyed the safe haven of bed or a blanket and TV. My personality seems to be divided into two people. One guy wants to get out there and party, celebrate, connect with other human beings, make friends. The other guy, is anti-social and does not feel like being around people. He needs to recover and regain some confidence and re-evaluate from recent events. In the back of my mind, at this point, I was starting to notice connections between behaviour, actions, choices and the way I felt.

 At 23 I went into cardiac arrest from an asthma attack and almost died. I had been drinking about 14 days in a row and was not taking my inhalers properly. When I was younger I used to take them twice a day, eventually I got to once a day and the doctor said I might as well come off of them. This, I am convinced, is where it all started to go wrong for me, when I was about 13. I never got back into the habit after that. So yeah, back to the "Almost died incident..." While I was in hospital they gave me a ton of steroids (Prednisolone or Prednisone) and for probably the first time in a VERY long time. I felt and looked great (By my standards anyway!). The way I felt and the way I looked finally matched. My confidence sky-rocketed and I was able to do cope with a lot of more of a social life. After leaving the hospital I told the doctors the hospital had recommended I continue to have some just in case, they believed me and for a couple of years prescribed them to me. In this time, I went and lived in New York, started having more consistency and relationships. I put on weight for the first time in my entire life and this was the most notable factor. I was always incredibly skinny and scrawny and this really helped to make me look healthy. Finally I could let my personality out a lot more and not have to worry about people looking at me in a certain way. I should point out at this point, I was always very popular and had a great amount of friends looking out for me, but weirdly, it doesn't really matter if you have 5 or 500 friends when you're going through this, because the only person who can figure it out and get to the other side is you. After a couple of years, the doctors clocked on and stopped prescribing them for me. I spiralled into illness very quickly and tried more crap which didn't work. Chinese medicine (Why would Chinese medicine work for me? I am not Chinese) but eventually, I started ordering them off of the internet. I got into my 2nd 3 year relationship with a beautiful younger girl who helped to make me feel like I was somebody very special. I am not telling you this to share personal details for the sake of it, but to show you the correlation of what happens in my life and how it correlates with how I feel and how I look. I started doing Stand up comedy which, was like many other things in my life, an up and down thing for me in terms of success. If I felt and looked good (Again, according to me) I would do well, If I felt I didn't "look like me" I would get very defensive and not be able to really connect with people in a likeable way. I became so dependent on these pills. They were my crutch. I didn't take a regular controlled dose, I just took a course of 5 or 6 (5Mg) tablets whenever I needed them, washed them down with alcohol and then went off to continue enjoying life.

But eventually you begin to develop a resistance to steroids. They also have a lot of side effects including Horrendous dry mouth - So bad Mood swings - When you come on and off them roid rage is a real thing - doesn't just apply to weightlifting drugs They destroy your bones and you will bruise easier Moon Face - In my case it actually helped but your face will get rounder and look swollen. Eventually I grew to miss my younger skinnier face! I decided it was time to get off of these drugs and try something else. I saw a specialist who got me to try something else, I forget the name, but it was very powerful. I was told I would notice a difference after a few weeks and after six weeks I would REALLY notice a difference. Oddly, within a day I felt and looked amazing. I was able to go out, drink heavily for two days in a row and feel great. But when it actually got to the six week mark, when it was supposed to really kick in, it actually started causing me problems. I started to scratch my "Special" area! during the night a lot and needed to take cold showers at 4am. Eventually I decided to come off of this and went straight back onto the steroids. The placebo effect is a fascinating concept and I used to joke with my doctor to wait a few weeks until I forget and try it with me, bitch never said yes. I kept holding out for Derren Brown to come and help me but he was too busy walking on water somewhere. Me and girlfriend broke up, I lost my job, I lost the house I was living in and was in a pretty dark place. I also felt like I couldn't ever exist without these pills and if I ever ran out? I would not handle it well. I used to be able to order 500 for £13 from online pharmacies in America. The amount I got through in 8 years is quite scary. So this went on until about 2 years ago when I decided to try Light treatment, this just gave me unbearable prickly heat and didn't really help at all. I went to see my GP who said " We've tried everything. That's it" So yeah. I was pretty happy with that. Very encouraging. I started to travel to Southampton to see another specialist who was confident he could help me. After about a year of travelling back and forth I finally started to get somewhere. I had a test to see how my adrenal glands were functioning after so many years of them not working (When you take more than about 2-3mgs a day, your body stops producing steroids naturally). The test confirmed I did have quite a high degree of compromised functionality. At this time, I decided to make some changes. An amazing friend of mine, who is a personal trainer, got me involved in a exercise regime which would help a lot. I should stress at this point, exercise will not solve your eczema, but it will lead to routine, behaviour and attitude adjustments which will pay dividends for you. At this point, about 9 months ago I made the single greatest discovery which solved 85-90% of my problems.
I know right? 17 years of medical attention, specialist and all kinds of shit and how do I solve a life long problem? I stop using hot water and start taking freezing cold showers every day. I began to wean off my steroids, gradually reducing the amount I was taking from 8mgs a day down to 5mgs and eventually 3mgs. I re-took the test and it showed a massive boost from my glands and they were ALMOST back to normal. I wasn't completely out of the woods and still had my bad days but for the most part, my issues were gone. At this time I left my job and went and travelled America on the train for 6 weeks. Now for somebody who was going through a major physical adjustment, I slept on trains, drank loads, smiled lots and had basically no problems the entire time. Mostly I'd imagine because I was having fun. I continued to wean down and now I am taking .5mgs a day which is absolutely nothing at all. It is just psychological and I plan to stop taking that pointless amount when I run out of this course. I was convinced that once I stopped taking a large amount of steroids my appearance and my confidence would be demolishes, but, if anything, I feel 100% better. My energy is much higher now, steroids make you drowsy and give you brain fog. I also know my body is strong enough to recover from the mistakes I've made and focus on natural ways to improve not only my health, but my overall outlook to life. From the last 17 years I can give you the following advice if this is the sort of thing you struggle with.

 Drink lots of water - Preferably bottled water or use a filter - There will be times when you may not feel like drinking water, this happens from time to time and in my experience, it's perfectly normal. Try and drink some juice and get some variety.

Try cold showers - Ultimately this is what fixed me, it might not work for you, maybe a lot of this is psychological but there are A LOT of benefits from Cold Showers. Give this a read Once you get out of the shower, dry yourself gently and quickly and do not spend ages fussing. If you skin is a little bit dry, relax, go have a drink, get outside in the air and within 5 minutes, if you forget about it, I guarantee it will go away. If you stress about it and stand there fussing, you will make it worse. There's a reason the skin on parts of your body people never see is usually flawless, it's because who gives a shit right!? You don't care how it looks. The face is a vehicle to communication and we care how it looks, but caring too much caused problems. Cold showers leave you feeling invigorated and alive. That feeling that you want to start your day. Hot showers leave you feeling like you just want to get back under the covers. Heat speeds up the ageing process, cold slows it down.

 If you have an obsessive personality and chances are you do, find something healthy to obsess about. Read a book, learn about something new, play a sport, do something which engages your brain and gives you something else to focus on. A lot of people who suffer from this affliction, myself included, often end up with gambling problems for example, simply because they crave distraction. Get some routine - When I was younger I was very organised and then as I got older, I went 18 light years in the opposite direction. The secret is balance but a regime of routine and positive behaviour will have HUGE overlapping benefits to other areas of your life. Avoid processed foods, try and eat fruits and vegetables, but most importantly, If you eat bread, pizza, pasta, chocolate, etc OWN IT. Do not give a fuck. I am convinced a good diet will help, but I have also seen proof that if you are feeling amazing about your life you can pretty much eat whatever the fuck you want and you will still be ok ( Unless you actually have an allergy - not an intolerance - Two VERY different things) Instead of focusing on the way you look, think about your aspirations, your creative side. What is it you want to do with your life? I know it's a cliche and believe me, I have given more sarcastic answers to this question than anybody on this planet, but if you feed this particular side of yourself, magical things begin to happen. I do believe in the words of Rumi that
what you seek is seeking you
If I am honest with myself about the last 10 years of my life, I can tell you that everything I have wanted to happen, has happened in a round about way. If I wanted to meet a certain type of person, I have met them. I wanted a certain type of relationship, I got it. I wanted to be paid off a shit load of money so I could go travelling, 3 weeks later it happened! Most people aren't honest with themselves about what they want and that's why they may disagree with me. But it is often a case of be careful what you wish for because the thing you thought would bring you happiness comes with its setbacks and that is what life experience is all about. Why is this relevant? Because if you focus on these things, things will eventually improve, I promise you. Just over 2 years ago I remember trying to use the methods taught in the book "The healing codes" and getting absolutely nowhere. Why? Because the rest of my life is in tatters. As much as that didn't work for me, I recognise that the method you use to heal yourself isn't the important part, it's the belief that what you are doing is working.

Placebos work for a reason, belief. You have to construct a story based on the timeline of your life, which enables you to make changes. See it like a book or a film and move towards the idea (however vague it may be) in your mind about a version of yourself you would like to be. I've been pretty lucky in my life, I have so many amazing friends and connections all over the world. A large majority of them would never have known this about me unless I told them because I am fine now. But the majority of this issues stems from identity. The blueprint of who you think you should be or who you want to be, does not correspond with the person you are. All this means is, you needs to create a new blue print. Anthony Robbins talks about this actually and makes a lot of sense. I just read a bizarre article about a woman who killed herself because she thought her blonde hair was going ginger, bit extreme I know But I could actually understand the frustration she was feeling, she had created an impossible idea of herself which reality wouldn't reflect for her. It's not a vanity thing, it's a control thing. Merge who you feel like into what you look like and the rest is a piece off piss my friends... Well, I am tired and have written this in 1 1/2 plays of The Marshall Mathers LP2 so It is time to get up and start my day (At 2:40pm) Even if this helps one person to put their own life in perspective and notice a pattern or behaviour, I will feel glad I wrote it. Peace.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Ruby Sparks

I haven't reviewed a film for a while now, but tonight after watching Ruby Sparks I kind of felt compelled to do so. The film starts out in the same way all RomComs do, nothing particularly different is happening from the norm. But then, gradually, the film becomes more and more dark; Well, dark for a RomCom which is essentially a mix between Weird Science and Stranger than Fiction. We begin in a familiar fashion. We learn about the sensitive traits of the main character Calvin and how he yearns to meet somebody. He seems the typical quiet, shy type that is just looking for somebody to love; he's a soft, gentle misunderstood soul and he writes. I know, what are the odds right? This longing for love becomes so prominent in his life that he begins to dream about the perfect girl. After a few encounters and a challenge from his therapist, Calvin begins to write again. Only, he chooses to write about this girl he has become completely besotted with. His writer's block is traded for unsociable obsession as he knocks out several chapters of Ruby's background, her life, her soul, her essence. Then the fun begins. Ruby comes to life and we are reminded that this is a light hearted RomCom. So far. Montages, the problems of meeting the family and integrating her into his world. The fun doesn't last too long. Things get very, very dark. Calvin's crippling fear of being abandoned is mentioned several times by this point, mostly as a result of being dumped by his one and only girlfriend. As the honeymoon period wears off between him and Ruby, she attempts to break free and find her own identity in life, away from Calvin. Oddly enough, Calvin isn't too happy about this. In one scene Ruby is out drinking with new friends and tells Calvin she won't be coming over. Calvin, who has been slaving away over a hot stove (what a stupid fucking expression) making dinner, can sense that she is slipping from his grasp. In an act of desperation, he goes back to the typewriter and makes Ruby massively dependent on him; so scared to leave him even for a second, that she can't even bare him to answer the phone and let go of her hand. This particular trait, which is a mirror image of himself is an ugly realisation that he is not in a real relationship because he is holding this creation hostage to his own ideals and his own crippling insecurities. The darkness of this film lies in it's ability to get you to relate to the main character Calvin, but to then gradually expose the ugly truth that Calvin is actually a bit of an asshole. He is the perfect illustration of all of our worst sides. He is scared that she'll leave him but repulsed by her clingy behaviour and in there lies the problem. He wants her to be perfect. He wants her to be at his desire's beckoning call. He does not want her to be a person. Luckily for Calvin he realises this and attempts to do the right thing; there's hope for us all yet. It's pretty fitting that today is one year to the day that me and my ex girlfriend broke up and I saw a lot of familiar themes in this film. If you try to hold onto a person too tightly, they will run from you screaming. If you ignore them they will give you resentful attention that is motivated from despair and sadness. The challenge of all relationships is finding that balance. Calvin should perhaps consider watching Breakfast at Tiffinay's, if only for the last scene where he would learn that woman do not want to be put in a cage. If you love something, set it free. If you can learn to do that and it comes back to you? At that point, put a ring on it. Either that or you know, build a dungeon downstairs and keep her there... no not in your mind. A real one, like that nifty Austrian guy.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Falling back in Love with New York City

I've just got back from New York for the 7th time. Once again, I'm left astounded by the magic of the greatest city in the world.

So Saturday morning I set off on the long journey. I get the bus to Gatwick and then the coach to Heathrow airport. I'm worried I've cut the time a bit tight because usually travelling is a nightmare and I'm expecting to run into at least 17 obstacles before I even get to the plane. Today though, I'm blessed with the other side of luck and I experience the easiest flight of my life. I get there and the Virgin staff member organises my upgrade in a matter of minutes. Everything is looking Big and Apple like...

Landing in JFK is usually just as stressful. There's usually a queue about 15 miles long and custom officers who haven't had sex since Clinton also "didn't have sex" But no, not today, there were a mere 10-15 people in front of me and I walked straight through. I get straight on the long island railroad and head for Manhattan. Penn Station appears in barely 20 minutes and i check into my hotel. Not before arguing with the lady about the deposit per night though. I don't understand what she's saying because my ears haven't popped yet and although I've nothing to worry about, I get the impression they get a lot of English people arguing with them because she has that "roll her eyes god not again what is it with you people" kind of expression. I apologise loads and therefore also come across stereotypically English.

I get to my room and immediately feel better, I can take a bath and blast out whatever is showing on HBO at the time. I end up relaxing while listening to Garden State, Natalie Portman is cute and neurotic, but she was the other 56 times I'd seen it so... I head uptown to my favourite bar HURLYS which is on 48th & 8th. I get there and recognise the bar staff, I order the Turkey & Bacon clubhouse sandwich and a Makers Mark...I'm home. I've spoke to my friend Spanish Rob and TJ but they haven't got back to me yet and come 8pm I start to get kind of sleepy. I head back to the hotel and decide to take "a nap" This is an impressive nap as I wake up at 12:00am. Still no message from Rob so I go back to bed. I wake up and 3am and Rob has text me about 1:30 saying they've just finished dinner, where am I? This place is like Spain, people go out about 12:00am here and party until 4-5am. It's the city that never sleeps but I am tired so I temporarily disagree with this perspective. I am now however wide awake so I start to watch Scream 2.

I forget Portia De Rossi is in this film which sparks enough interest for me to continue watching it, again. I had forgotten what may very well be the most annoying thing about America. This being the sheer number of adverts they show. When watching a film over there they show 9 minutes of film then 4-5 minutes of adverts. Result? It takes 3 hours to watch a 90 minute flick. Seriously considering writing to Obama to tell him I have figured out why they have so much gun crime in America.

I have to stay awake so fuck it, let's watch The Goonies again. I'm not sure If I've paid for breakfast but decide to find the breakfast room again. I use the computers for a while to email everybody I haven't spoken to for the last 15 minutes and therefore miss terribly.

I need to kill some time today as I don't have much on so decide to go see the new Woody Allen film "Midnight in Paris" It's actually a really great film. I love Allen's films but they're not for everybody, this one however is for everybody. Owen Wilson is a Screenwriter who is captivated by the romance of Paris. He accidentally travels back in time and finds himself socialising with his literary heroes. The Fitzgeralds and Hemingway to name a couple. It's nicely done and perfectly illustrates the way we romanticise as a way of escaping the ugly present. It's a great film and I'm happy to hear from Rob who has invited me for dinner and drinks tonight at a place called the Sun Burnt Cow. Sounds delightful...

I go back to the hotel to get ready for the evening ahead. I take a cab over there and immediately feel more at home in New York. Taking a cab in New York is just one of the many thousands of cliche's which immediately make you feel like the star of your own movie. It's also a great way to see the city. As we drive through Union Square I am feeling better already. I've also been stuck inside my own head now for over 24 hours. I decide that New York City is the greatest city in the world when you are in the company of others but can be one of the loneliest and most isolating places in the world when you are on your own. This is no revelation, in the tradition of Travis Bickle, this contrast is merely a consequence of the sheer volume of people and things going on at any moment.

I get a bit annoyed at Ordering a Makers and coke for $10 because as Rob arrives with his entourage he informs me this place does a deal where you can eat and drink as much as you want for $20! Insanity and probably a reason America has some rather large citizens. I meet his lovely girlfriend Courtney and some other guys including some people I met in the Hamptons last year. Lots of cocktails and food flowing while the English & Australian (Rob's girl) gang up on the Americans. Or at least put up a fight.

Rob heads off to sort something with his Girl and me and one of his friends Matthew take off to The Life Cafe, my other favourite place in the whole of New York (East 10th & Avenue B)I'm delighted to see a lot of the same faces still there. Arran, otherwise known as The Gay John Cusack is still there. Funny guy. I feel at home in this place, it has familiarity for me and that is sometimes needed in another country.

Monday morning I have to check out so i go to use the computers again. I can't get back into the room once I check out so I ask this American lady to let me back in once I've handed in my key card. I get chatting to her and she's a drama teacher in town from Indiana. She agrees with me about my take on New York and the evils of being stuck inside one's own head. I get the most use out of the computer room before setting off to my next hotel. It takes me a while to find and I stop off at a great little book store in the West Village but I eventually find my hotel. The Larchmont on West 14th between 5th & 6th. Upon arrival it becomes clear to me immediately that I should have come straight here and not bothered with the Overpriced Pennsylvania that didn't even have free Wifi. This place is smaller but perfectly clean, tidy, tv, WiFi, great location, free breakfast in the morning and helpful and polite staff. I love it and tell them I probably want to stay an extra night on Wednesday as well.

I have my big list of Open Mic comedy gigs to consult. I organise two gigs for the evening. The first was Eastville Comedy Club. The audience consisted of all acts and It was in the order of signing up. Since I was 17th of 20 and these acts all had other gigs to get to, I ended up performing to about 4 people. Fun but pointless. But it's ok because I have a second gig lined up. The Z-room. I have trouble finding it but luckily Spanish Rob turns up at the last minute and drives me to my destination. This gig is much busier and looks promising. I have to sit through about 2 hours of mostly good acts but some shit too, I finally get on and there's still a decent crowd. The set goes really well and I settle into my own material after a minute or two working out the rhythm of some one liners I'd been working on. Rob actually laughed and said I was the best one of about 3 of the night. There were about 25 acts. I see a guy from my previous gig there, Jason. Jason is from Australia and managed to do I think 6 gigs on this particular night. This is impressive in any country and made my record of 2 on that night look mighty feeble. Fucking Australians. Always competing. Rob drops me off and I get a relatively early and mildly tipsy night.

Tuesday I kill some time in the day again and go to see The Tree of Life with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. If you know me you will know I quite enjoy artsy fartsy films and basically anything involving Sean Penn. But this film was a bit of a stretch to enjoy. Eventually it started going somewhere but really did take far too long to get into. The film is about death, loss and the connection of everything. Even so, that doesn't necessarily justify the film detouring into a big bang/evolution science documentary. That being said, the film ends up watchable but I've got to head back as I'm doing another 2 gigs tonight. The first gig is at the Treehouse in Greenwich village. I did this gig last year and didn't really like the layout. I did however love the staff and they had a bar tender who looked like a cross between David Grohl and Robert Downey Jnr, cool dude. I walk into The Treehouse and smile as I see Grohl/Jnr is still there at the bar. He recognises me straight away which I find rather impressive as we weren't there too long last time. He asks about the people I was there with last year, Rob & my girlfriend. I am astounded but saying that, as a former barman/waiter for so long, we do remember faces.

I am also pleased to see they have moved the gig out to a room in the back, this is sensible as we no longer have to compete with the noise from the bar. I get on third (perfect) and the gig goes great, much much better than last year. I recognise two of the other acts from last year also. My second gig is uptown at the Republik Lounge. I have to get a cab after taking the subway as I'm running late. When I get there I'm told what time the sign up is, his angers me as i just paid 20million dollars for a cab and confirmed it by email first. I'm about 18th on the running order so I decide to go sit at the bar. I talk with Jolene behind the bar who looks a little like Nicole Richie, her friend is a Psychology student who is fascinated to learn how I did my dissertation on masculinity in the gangster genre. She asks me all about it. THIS IS EMBARRASSING, I HATE TO TALK ABOUT MYSELF....

A few drinks and a couple of hours later I am starting to feel a little hammered. I go back to check on my spot, oops, I've just missed it. My etiquette as a comedian is usually very good as we are all usually expected to stay after and be a healthy part of the audience but In this country, nobody seems to care, especially me. I talk to the host who kindly puts me on next. I do my set, it goes well, I don't remember all of it but it's all on auto pilot and there's about 5 people in this particular audience so who cares right? I go back to the bar and decide to shoot onto another gig that's around the corner. I'm starting to realise why there are so many gigs, it's because people can't be bothered to move. Apparently only 2 people wanted to come to this one and they are both acts so I say thanks but no thanks and jump in a cab towards Plan B (which is now called The Blind Barber) ID? Fuck, what self respecting 30 year old brings out their passport? Ok, i actually usually do IN this country but tonight i actually forgot. Eventually the guy lets me in though and I go bother two randoms in the room out the back where the most historic conversations took place whilst smoking weed. Unfortunately things have changed rather dramatically and shit just ain't the same these days. I don't remember leaving and woke up in a cab outside my hotel. That's pretty good timing. Thanks brain.

Wednesday I had to switch rooms which meant I had to go out into the incredible heat for at least 3 hours while they sorted my new room. Union square is a nice place to sit and read but too hot for me on this particular day. I decided to take a pit stop at the Hearltand brewery for some food. My smaller room was actually bigger than my big room, but that was cool with me. I headed over to the Duplex on Chrisopher Sreet. This gay bar was about 7 doors down from where I used to live in 2005. I got there very late and put my name on the list but it wasn't looking good to get on. After a few acts in though the standard and crowd was so good I decided to ask the host nicely in my most English of accents. He said he'd make sure to get me on but not to tell anyone. Does the Internet count as anyone?? Some amazing acts, I got on second to last just before 9 and the crowd loved me. I got approached by a few people and the host said come back anytime and gave me some contact details. I then had to shoot uptown again as I was meeting Robin (former regular member of Anthony Peake's forum) and Danielle (Agent and Niece of Susan Kovalinsky) at a mid town gig - Charlie O's Bar and Grill. There was about 5 people in the audience again, two of them were Robin and her husband who I enjoyed meeting. Another act I'd met earlier on that week really struggled but the energy in the room was not particularly friendly. It was actually a room used as a vacuum for NASA to study the sleepiest of particles. Danielle got there just in time to catch my act. Lucky her! Afterwards we got the subway (after 30 minutes of Danielle tirelessly attempting to get a cab, seriously she even questioned the physical intimidation of an oncoming bus) downtown which was a harrowing experience for Danielle who basically has a phobia of people. Particularly ugly, stupid and fat people. America has been known to harbour and produce these types of people. We popped to the The TreeHouse again, unfortunately Grohl jnr wasn't working today. This, other than the red wine I drank earlier, was the only night I didn't drink alcohol. I'm far too old and can't handle this much anymore. Plus I knew I had Thursday, Friday and Saturday still to come.

Early night for me I went back to the hotel but saw Joe Devito on the television who I could have sworn I'd performed with earlier that night. Same material, same guy. I was convinced anyway.

So Thursday was going to be a great one. Martin, the former bankruptee and compulsive gambler was going to Atlantic City. To make it even more special I was going with a girl I saw for a bit while I was living in NYC in 2005 and her Fiance Brian. Veronica was 8 months pregnant. I know, I smelt a sit-com too. I got to Port Authority and booked a ticket for 11am. While waiting for my bus I saw that Weiner had finally resigned after consulting with his wife. As much of an idiot as this guy actually sounds, I think it's ridiculous that he can't do his job because he basically gets horny and seeks validation. Essentially, biology is the reason a man can no longer do his job. The future is looking bleak for us men if we're not careful.

The bus got in at 13:30 but I had a couple of hours to kill so took a walk around. Veronica and Brian picked me up about 15:45 and we headed to our casino/hotel. They had got me a comped room and fuck was it nice. We went down for the buffet about 18:00 and made sure we got our moneys worth. We had to queue for nearly an hour though and Veronica ended up playing the pregnancy card. Thought it would produce more than just a chair, she should have piled it on thicker. Food was totally worth the wait though. Some amazing variety, an abundance of awesomeness. Basically, a shit load of awesome food. After dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner and desert we headed to the poker tables... Uh oh...

If you have no interest in poker this next section may some how put you into a state of boredom, higher than the state you had already achieved by listening to the mundane tales of my existence. So feel free to skip to the part where I was only down a little bit of money..

I sat down at the first table and lost $100 pretty quickly. I cashed back in for another $100 and quickly won back $200 after playing Pocket Queens all in to take down a stubborn Ace King. I continued for a few hours going up and down until I lost to a Made Full house having a slightly lower full house... I know... very unlikely to happen odds wise, I'm just lucky that way I guess. I decided that as much as I'd like to continue losing money it would probably be wise to just go to bed. So for once I took my own advice. I went to bed, messaged my girlfriend and watched Ryan Renoylds being interviewed by Conan. I do like the double R. I love him in that episode of Two Guys and a Girl where there is a leak in the house and he says "I'm the toilet King" - If anybody has this, let me know cause I want it!

I woke up feeling slightly cheated and disgusted with myself so I decided to sit down at the tables with another $200 before checking out. I was pressed for time and through tight play managed to get up to $252 and then went to meet Veronica and her fiance to check out. They dropped me back to the bus station at Ceasers and we said goodbye. Good luck to you guys for the birth in about a months time and hope to come out for the wedding in April.

But now, back to my stupidity. I walked around for a bit and couldn't find where my bus would be leaving from. I must have selective navigation because what I DID see was signs heading back to the Casino. I thought about it, then I stopped thinking about it and just did it. I sat down with $100 and got up quite quickly, this was a nice table and there were a few idiots (yes bigger than me) there which I was outplaying nicely. Then a Chinese lady came and sat to my right and starting playing very aggressively. She put me all in on a bluff which I called but luckily for her she hit her two pair on the river. This annoyed me. I cashed in again for my remaining $150. I made a few small wins and then got dealt ACE 10 of clubs. The flop came down with two club cards and I almost had the nuts flush. Chinese lady right on target started betting into me and I called $30 as did the player to my left. I had one of those please god moments which paid off because the final card which i believe was the 7 of clubs gave me the unbeatable hand I needed. I checked the hand as did the player to my left. Right on schedule, Chinese lady bet $25 which I happily re-raised all in which was about another $40. I got 2 calls and enjoyed getting my money back from her. I hit a few more flushes and laid down a full house to another higher full house, this was pure genius on the turn as I was actually losing but the river would have given a split pot and the pot got very, very big. I got this money back from the guy a little later on after hitting a king high flush. I laid my final hand of pocket 8's down which was probably wise as the kid opposite me had Aces. Could have been interesting. After getting to $400 I decided to cash out. I felt smart and very proud of myself... I SURVIVED ATLANTIC CITY.

I went to make my bus from a different casino but had to run a mile in the smouldering heat in 10 minutes. I made the bus, barely and enjoyed the slightly longer journey back to Port Authority. Just over an hour to kill before I met up with Rob for ANOTHER night out. Fuck it, HURLYS it is then. Rob picks me up and we grab a few of his friends and head to a place in the village for wings. We head to the first club but encounter a lovely racist bouncer who has an issue with some of he ladies out with us. This angers me. I decide to give him my scariest look, I don't think it's working. I tell myself that he got the message and go with rob and co to the next club. A few Long Islands later and I wake up at Rob's house in Hackensack New Jersey. I'm a bit hungover...again. I decide not to get a lift in with Rob and to trade the ride for a few more hours rest and just take the bus a little later on. I've stayed in this house so much now that I know it very well. I stop to wish his mother happy birthday and head off to catch the 165. I'm falling asleep as I approach Port Authority again. I've decided to pay for one last night in the Larchmont Hotel tonight so I have somewhere in the city to stay and can leave on Sunday with little hassle. I get the same room as last time but am disappointed that Ellen was not on at 4pm (I do very much so enjoy her dancing). I decided to watch The Dark Knight just because it was on. Heath Ledger still cracks me up with his delivery of the line "Six"

At about 8pm I get impatient, Rob says he will be around about 11pm so I decide to take a walk down to Life Cafe for some food and my last evening. Gay Cusack is behind the bar. Fabulous.

The thing I love most about New York is the best nights I've ever had have often been on my own. This can occur for 1 of 2 reasons, but mainly both.

1) America takes more effort as to who they employ to work behind the bar. They actually learn how to make drinks, tend to be Attractive (I'm mainly talking women here but Grohl/Jnr was certainly a good looking chap!) and are friendly and sociable with customers. England tends to just hire those with little prospects and little interest in talking to anyone. Now I'm certainly aware this isn't true for everybody so don't cry if it doesn't apply to you. I worked in the industry myself for about 8 years and know there are some great bars in England. I'm just saying, New York bars do it better, the layout of the bars, actual bars you sit at and talk to the barman encourage this kind of dynamic and it's just one of the many reasons I love this city

2) People also talk to other people out there. The barman/customer dynamic is infectious and they are often a catalyst in getting people to talk to each other. Most people from New York aren't from New York (at least originally as well) and everybody has a story to tell. It's a ride and you can sit anywhere to enjoy it from a different perspective.

Within minutes of ordering my food with Gay Cusack an Irish girl named Sarah sat down. She'd just quit her job. As I had also quit mine recently it was faily easy to get talking. We enjoyed a good chat for 30 minutes or so and then she headed off to Brooklyn. I've struggled with the sadness in life sometimes at how you can chat with people and never see them again but it's merely part of the ride that we are all on and it's something you just get used to, especially living here. I also got chatting to a guy named Seth from Utah and two girls he was with. Seth started the best conversation with me about Neitzsche and the pattern that guys who grow up with no father tend to be massively creative and Charismatic. I may have been bias to this theory having lost my father at the age of Six..... possibly. This is why I'm a natural networker and love New York so much, there are just so many smart people out there that can enrich your life with stories and knowledge and fresh perspective on things. You can never eat to much from this menu.

Rob came and met me and I said goodbye to everybody there and we headed to a party in the East Villiage. As the song goes "nobody throws an Eastside party like we do" the music being played here was very much my taste! Naughty by Nature, Arrested Development and lots more old school hip-hop. Tribe Called Quest. I really do enjoy being the English Whiteboy that'll dance my ass off and scare people with a 97% lyrics accuracy. This % has gone down in recent years due to brain cells coming under fire from alcohol. Lots of look a likes at this party, I got the Morrisey thing....weird that, rarely happens.... luckily I was able to retaliate to the DJ who looked like Dwayne from Different World and Jason Segal who apparently owned the apartment I was drinking in...oops.

I left my bag with Rob at Tiffinys the next day While I went and bought some gifts, mostly from the shop at NBC. Went to HURLYS for a final sandwich and got chatting to a girl behind the bar from Ireland who also seemed to share an addiction to the game wordfeud (online scrabble). This made me chuckle as I've been slightly preocupied with this game now for several months. A lady came in and asked for directions to Robin Williams' show. After the lady left Barlady said she should probably know seeing as he comes in there all the time, should have known, HURLYS is awesome.

Left and popped into Tiffany's to grab my back and say goodbye to Rob. The journey to JFK was made more interesting on the subway by a young kid dancing like MJ for money, made a good video and kid had skills.

One of the most exhausing trips of my life but also very enjoyable. See you soon New York. I love you!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

List of gigs for June

Comedy Cooler - June 3rd The Alibi
Victoria Terrace, Kingsway
Hove, 8pm

(Possibly) The cavendish arms - Stockwell, London
June 7th - 8pm

Monkey Business - June 9th 8pm
The Oxford 256 Kentish Town road, NW5

The Smugglers pub - June 25th 8pm
Pitt Level, Hastings, TN35 4EH

Monday, 10 January 2011

The Jordan Rules

The Jordan Rules

It’s rare you pick up a book that engages your interest so much you literally can’t put it down, but this was a beautiful exception. What a book! Sam Smith seems to have been able to uncover every single high and low experienced by the Chicago Bulls during their turbulent 90-91 season. From Jordan and his gambling & golf issues, to his team mates (or his supporting cast) and their problems with contracts, playing time, involvement in the “give the ball to Jordan and get the hell out of the way” playbook and so, so much more!

Smith really manages to take us into the atmosphere of the players and the trouble they had forming a cohesive unit. It’s very easy to think of all of these players as a group of spoilt athletes bickering about petit jealousies and differences, but as you learn about the way some of them were treated, you begin to understand why some of them acted out in the way that they did.

Let’s start with Jordan. Carrying the weight of not only his team on his back but the weight of the league itself, Jordan manages to bring his team together in time for the playoffs whilst also gradually isolating himself from the league and its exploitation of his image, talent and competitive drive. He is caught between a rock and a hard place at times and although you certainly see the point of view of players who, at times, have had enough of Jordan, you also realise what sacrifices it requires for a player of Jordan’s stature to dominate almost every night that he decides to.

Pippen, Grant and especially Paxson all show remarkable patience with Krause and his obsession with recruiting Toni Kukoc. I happen to love Kukoc, he was one of my favourite players, but I had no idea of how long the Bulls had their eye on him for. Pippen and grant were consistently performing All-Star’s and John Paxson, who won player of the game in the Final game of the finals, was an extremely reliable shooter during clutch time. All of these players had their contracts delayed longer and longer in the hope of signing Kukoc who seemed put off by the intimidating presence of Jordan and all of the controversy that seemed to surround him.

Scott Williams and Will Perdue were among the many brave bench members who kept their heads up during all the stress and strife. Bill Cartwright is portrayed as the soft and kind hearted gentleman that we all knew him to be. Cartwright seems to be an illustration of a player who is both frail and powerful at the same time. He is the starting centre but with his age and injuries he always seemed one bad fall away from retirement.

BJ Armstrong is the player who would probably go on to improve the most. Eventually becoming an All-Star in seasons to come he would replace John Paxson in the starting line-up and earn his position as well as his pride.

Phil Jackson is an enjoyable character to learn about. His philosophising and eagerness to coax his team into one of the greatest Dynasties of all time are matched by his patient ability to test his players and ignore a lot of potentially damaging issues amongst his players.

Such an enjoyable book. To see your favourite players struggle with their own “human” issues off the court is a revealing process that teaches us that Sportsman should not always be role models. I’m tempted to pick up a copy of Phil Jackson’s book about the Lakers.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Somewhere....(There is a point to this film)

Now, before i begin to attempt to explain to you how bad this film is, let me first make something clear, I LIKE FILMS WHERE NOT much HAPPENS. Some of my favourite films include The Anniversary party, Coffee and Cigarettes, Before Sunrise & Sunset, The station agent and most notably, Sofia Copolla's last effort, Lost in Translation. I like films that rely on dialogue and character. Films that are comfortable to have characters share a familiar situation which is true to life. This is the beauty of film-making.

I saw "Somewhere" at the cinema the other night, I think. It quite easily could have been Lost in Translation, or an edited version where someone had taken out all of the good bits. Copolla has made the same film again but decided that there was too much storyline last time. This time she relies on the excitement of real life, you know, like when you take a shower or brush your teeth.

It opens up with a car circling an off road track. You think "this is intriguing" Let me warn you, it's not. It's simply a preview of what's to come.

There is one scene where we're actually watching the grass grow. I think the only time my heart rate reached "alive" was when Chris Pointius plays some Guitar Hero, by comparison it was almost watchable.

So to conclude, awful, just awful.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Make that change.

Coming up to that New Years resolution time of the year where business for Gym's sky rockett and efforts to attend them fail miserably. So why is this?

Change really isn't as easy as some people would like to think it is. Some people are able to make dramatic changes where others struggle to do so. So what does this mean? It means some people are pre-destined with the genetic make-up and environmental factors that can foster this behaviour. Otherwise, you are almost trying to change paths when there is no bridge between them.

So based on this logic, change almost occurs based on a coming-out-of-a-coma-like state. If you're lucky enough to experience this, make changes quick before you slip back into your life coma, it's often unavoidable. Our Waking Lives are often so mundane it's as if we are merely the spectators of a life that is being played out on its own, like a Dvd set to repeat.

Change must be gradual and structured. It requires focus, discipline and sacrifice so if you are unable to display any of these qualities you're only hope will be that life makes the changes for you and that rarely goes the way you would like it to.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Funniest song on the Album Recovery and maybe ever!

Here We Go Lyrics: Eminem (Recovery Bonus)

Nah man, not quite finished yet! Haha… Whoo!

[Verse 1]
Girl I think you just might of tried to pull a motherfuckin’ fast one; I’m mad
You just hurt my goddamn feeling and that was the last one I had
Does this look like an arcade, tryna play games, see this saw blade
See this silhouette of a stalker in your walkway, better cooperate
Or get suateed and rotisseried while you’re hog-tied
MC’s get so quiet you can hear a motherfuckin’ dog whistle when I walk by
Colt Seavers on a mule stuntin’ on that ass like a fuckin’ Fall Guy!!
I don’t gas my Mercedes after midnight, I treat it like a Mogwai
Cuz it will turn into a gremlin, and run over kids, women and men
Vrnn Vrnn, motor so big you can fit a midget in his engine
Bitch gimme them digits while you cringin’
Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin will I spend spend
Even ten cents on you since when
Did you think it’ll cost me a pretty penny
Shiit, if I think a penny’s pretty, just imagine how beautiful a quarter is to me
Eenie-meenie-miney-mo, catch an eskimo by his toe
While he’s tryna roll a snowball
But, don’t make him lose his cool, if he hollers better let him go y’all!

Do you love me?
Now here we go, go go!

[Verse 2]
Get up baby, get a move on, like a U-Haul
You can rack your brain like pool balls
Who woulda ever think of this shit, yeah honey you called?
Well here I come, Havoc on a beat I reek it
Evil, I see, hear, and speak it
Lady put your money on Shady, fuck that other weak shit
Put your eggs in the same basket
You can count every motherfuckin’ chicken ‘fore it hatches
Cuz you can bet your ass that, we gon’ get it crackin’
Like the Kraken in Titans when they clashin’
Get your brains bashed in so bad you’re gon’ have Kurt Kobain askin’
To autograph a bloodstained napkin
Unfashionable and ’bout as rational as a rash on a fag’s asshole
Now let’s take that line run it up the flagpole
With Elton, see if he’s cool with it (kh)
Don’t stand there and look stupid at me
Bitch I ain’t in the mood for this shit
Get my dick Google it, til it pops up
Y’all just so motherfuckin’ full of shit that you stopped up
Me I’m always shittin’ diarrhea of the mouth
Til your speakers crap out, pfft, huh what?
Girl you got a hot butt, like a lit cigarette
(J-Jrrga what) But you won’t get a hot fudge sundae
From me so don’t strut my way, slut because…

Do You love me
Now here we go, go go!

[Verse 3]
And now that I got your panties in a bunch and your bowels in an uproar
Imma show you why I came so you stop asking me what the fuck for
Now look you little slut, cunt whore, I know you want more
Bitch it’s time to put the math back into Mathers cuz I’m a fuckin’ [problem], run boy
Every flow got it mastered, so every last word that you fuckin’ fags heard
comes straight from the bitches ass, yeah in other words I’m a bas(turd)
Lookin’ at me like I killed Kenny, gas in the tank, yeah still plenty
No morals are instilled in me so remorse, I really don’t feel any
Eat your heart out Hannibal, understandable
Why you’re jealous, fuckin’ animal, I got cannibal magnitism cant resist em now can you hoe
“Shady I don’t understand your flow”, understand my flow
Bitch I flow like Troy polamalu’s hair boy
Don’t you dare try to follow or compare boy
I’m raw, you ain’t even medium rare, stay the fuck outta my hair boy
You can look, you can stare and point, but you can’t touch, I’m too [clairvoyant]
I don’t get it man is there a void, all this weak shit, what am I steroids?
Well bitch I’m back, with some shit for that ass
And your trunk, elephant, [hemorrhoids]
And remember boys

The King is back.

Eminem has just released his new album "Recovery" Masterpiece comes to mind. The most talented lyricist in the whole of Hip-Hop has some how found a way to get even better. His lyrics are tighter, stronger and just ooze confidence. He is once again untouchable. The opening track "Cold wind blows" is one of my favourites from the album, the beat and the lyrics go hand-in-hand as very dark and angry. The collaborations with Rihanna and Pink are fantastic and the verse on the song "No love" with Lil Wayne may be one of the best of his career. I'm not a fan of Lil Wayne, I just don't get it. Despite this, I can say it's one of his better efforts and the song has a tremendously catchy flow. The song "You're never over" which was written and performed for deceased D12 member and best friend "Proof" is a perfect ending to the album.

He's back to his old self, let's hope he stays that way, if he does Hip-Hop will continue to be in his debt.

Sunday, 13 June 2010


Fuck an intro man, lets go..
I come around like what goes around
what goes up must come down
anyone who comes up must go down
might as well go for the gusto now
better not let up better not let them breath
last shot give it all you got
try to turn me down b-tch get f-cked with the volume nob
fuck all you snobs
hoes I hope all you rott
2 bottles of lubriderm and a box of condoms is that all you brought
and you wanna menage a trois you twats
fuck that I’d rather turn this club to a bar room brawl
get as rowdy as Roesthlisberger in a bathroom stall
like a leech stuck in a vacuum your only nothin but a whole lot of suckin’
goin’ on in rap
yeah but I’m home
Bad to the bone
Back in the zone
Let him alone
You don’t wanna go eggin’ him on

It’ll never be my chair that your on
crown so tight that it cuts off circulation to the brain no oxygen
otherwords there’s no heir to the throne
when I die so does hip hop
hitchcock better shit bitch ass got a zip locked in a bag
you fags aint been able to fade me since Kid Rock had a high top
keep blogging while I’m mind boggling my zone like I’m in the twilight
talking of my bone this is my mic dog I like hogging it

flow so wet I’mma take this beat tobogganing
I’m water logging it, I’m sogging it
pull your verse out the beat and stomp on it
suplex it on cement like I’m on some straight outta compton shit
take this dick and chomp on it
I’m so bad I can b-tch slap a back handed compliment
jack ass eat a donkey dick
the game I just about conquered it like Donkey Kong
I’m bonkers bitch, I’m the king of this honkey shit, I reign supreme in this honkey shit
no sense screaming and arguing
makes no difference whether a Benz or Bentley or a Beamers the car you in
you think you ball well I palm it
I throw up bombs when I vomit
boy I throw down in the kitchen might hit your mom with my omlette
but you got egg on your face now watch me drop an atomic
I should be strapped to the chest of a kamikaze
bitch I’m as bat shit as Ozzy it’s obvious
you can tell I go right off the bat
no pun intended but come any closer I’ll bite off your head
tryna give me the fingers kinda like giving a spider the web
lyrics courtesy of www.killerhiphop.com
I’m just gonna spin it and try to use it to my advantage
I catch a fly in that bitch you think you fly you just food
I give as much as a flying fuck as that superman dude
guess I just do what you can’t do or make you look stupid and bamboozled
confused as usual and you can get ripped she can open a can too
but you better hope you can handle the heat
or stay the fuck outta hell’s kitchen
I came to cock block like a square fucking male chicken
yeah it’s shady slut the rest can suck on a big one
cause I’m as despicable as Daffy Duck when I’m spittin
(haha recovery)

The king is back.

England - Why we HAVE to win.....someday.

Now anybody that knows me will realise I've hardly been the biggest football fan for the last, hmmmm, 16 years or so. But I do still love football. I grew up loving football and still remember the 1990 World cup like it was yesterday. Now yes a few years later I began playing basketball and my transformation into a yank had sadly begun. But underneath all of the American in me, I'm still an idiotic, English football fan, oh yes I am.

It's a question of mortality. Every 4 years, we have our hearts torn out and stomped on and the most painful thing is knowing we'll have to wait ANOTHER 4 YEARS before we do it all again. Even if you don't give a fuck about football, this should still bother you as a human being, counting the seconds of your existence. English world cup football is like an egg timer for your life and time can be a very cruel thing indeed.

The best effort I have seen in my lifetime is still Italia 1990. I remember David Platt scoring that goal in the last minute of extra time sending us to the quarter finals. In the quarters even Ireland gave Italy a run for their money just losing out 1-0. We then took on Cameroon and the awesome Roger Milla. Platt opened the score for us and all looked good. But with only 20 odd minutes or so left we were 2-1 down to the underdogs, story of our lives right? WRONG. Lineker, fucking legend that he was brought us back by victory by scoring two penalties on a row........

sorry, what was that?? What did you say.....?


Semi finals and once again we found ourselves in a familiar situation. 1-0 down after a fucking own goal. I still remember now the moment that ball deflected off of Paul Parker and went high in the sky lobbing poor Peter Shilton. Fucking heartbreaking. But Lineker, LEGEND, brought us right back in the last ten minutes......

Penalties. Oh Fuck.

As a nation we had to rid ourselves of this fear of losing. We play not to lose, we play scared and we play cautious. We need to rid ourselves of this fear, this pressure and just let our talent speak for itself. We have the players, we have the chance, we just need the attitude. Fuck it if we make mistakes *cough* fuck it if our keeper makes mistakes. Mistakes are good, as long as we recover from them quickly and the only way to do that is show belief in our team. So despite being a such a traitorous Americano, I am with you England. Let's erase all the heartbreak and take it back to 1990 when we had some belief in ourselves.

If not, I'll be one of thousands of 60 year olds huddled around a TV praying that this year will be OUR year. I believe we CAN win this year. If we don't why are we bothering?

Saturday, 22 May 2010

How I Wound Up As A Film Surgeon

Father issues are at base of it all, on top of which is my frustration at failing to attain even a modicum of the recognition and success that some of the filmmakers I enjoyed demolishing had attained. And of course, the very drive to attain such success (getting world’s attention) was itself sourced in those father issues.

But all that is rather rudimentary, and a bit simplistic. It’s true that if I had succeeded as a scriptwriter/filmmaker in Hollywood, I wouldn't ever have written The Blood Poets. But on the other hand, I began writing film criticism before, or simultaneous with, writing film scripts (at about 14). In fact, some of the first “reviews” I wrote were imaginary ones of the films I would some day make (I recall one called Houses in Motion, starring Robert De Niro and Jessica Lange, the title taken from the Talking Heads song). . . . So the two drives co-existed from the start, which indicates that it wasn't frustration that led me to write the film books, but merely a natural alternative mode of expression that pertained to the same area, that of movies.

What actually inspired Blood Poets was re-reading Pauline Kael for the umpteenth time and thinking, “I wish I could do that.” The penny then dropped: "Hey, I could!" By that time (late 20s), I was less into movies, watching or making them, than I was into reading about them, and as already stated, I had more passion for Kael and her writings than I did for most, if not all, filmmakers. She was closer to a kindred spirit, let's say, than any filmmaker, presumably (in part) because I was more of a writer than a visual artist.

One of the things that most impressed me about Kael was how she could influence my own feelings about a movie. Films I liked I would grow cool towards after reading her totally demolishing them; films she admired I would give a second look. (Ironically, she was less persuasive in this direction, and rarely did one of her reviews change my mind about a movie I didn’t care for, while it was frequent occurrence for the reverse to happen.) Kael saw through the contrivances and conceits of filmmakers, and the gullibility of audiences, and exposed the hypocrisy and dishonesty at their core. Her influence was especially profound on me because I discovered her while I was still a teenager, so with movies that I would have grown out of/seen through eventually, she accelerated that process. (A good example would be Midnight Express, a film I loved at 14, so that I must have been disappointed by her trashing it at the time. Yet by the time I wrote about the film for Blood Poets, I found myself trashing it also, albeit in my own voice ~ because she had been right, it did suck as a movie!)

Yet underneath all this, my desire to write film criticism, and specifically to demolish films that were highly regarded and bring the filmmakers down to size, really pertained to a need to validate my reality.

It was pointed out to me recently that, since the filmmakers I criticized rarely read my criticism, it wasn't having any effect on the quality of filmmaking per se. This is probably accurate, and now that I think about it, the target of my vitriol was always less the filmmaker than the audience , who, by buying into such crap, were endorsing it and keeping the crapola machine running. If a talented filmmaker made a poor movie and was critically drubbed for it, I had no interest in mucking in. Why kick them while they are down? My target was always films that were crap but which audiences embraced as wonderful works of art, that won awards for their filmmakers despite being some of their worst work, films such as Wild at Heart, Silence of the Lambs, Barton Fink, Match Point. I wanted to show how, when a filmmaker gets praised for his worst work, he is likely to lose sight of his own gifts and never recover. Beyond that, I wanted, needed, to “set the record straight,” if possible, by persuading audiences who had let themselves be fooled into thinking a work had merit (just because it won awards) that it clearly didn’t.

(On the other hand, like Kael, I often went out of my way to praise, and even overpraise, works of merit that were being ignored, such as United States of Leland, some of Keith Gordon’s films, Hottest State, and so forth.)

Reality validation.

To this day, it disturbs me if I get the impression that only I can recognize something that isn't right. Recently, I watched Bad Lieutenant with Nic Cage. Halfway through, Cage begins to distort his voice and assume a very broad, almost cartoonish accent. I kept asking my wife if she’d noticed. It baffled me that he would do this deliberately, it was so obvious to me, and I became mildly anxious that maybe I was the only one who noticed it. Did the director even spot it? Why did he allow Cage to do it? (My wife did notice it, at least when I pointed it out, but she put it down to the character’s exhaustion.) Something like this might even cause me me to go online and do a Google search, just to make sure that other people spotted it. I find it unsettling, to say the least, if something very obvious to me, something that seems incongruous, isn't being commented upon.

As a child, there is one thing that was very obvious to me that others didn’t see: my brother’s bullying. There must have been countless other things also that I saw that weren't commented upon, even if they were obvious to all (my mother's madness, for example). I suspect that this is what’s behind my emotional need to validate my own perceptions about movies: if I can see, clearly, that a movie sucks, for example, it upsets me when people are talking about it like it’s something wonderful. This is especially the case when they are people close to me. One of the most uncomfortable social situations for me is if someone I respect brings up a movie which I hate, and starts praising it. (A recent example was In Bruges, a really mediocre movie that lots of intelligent people seemed to enjoy.)

Consider the following, an argument of my former self:

Dan Brown is a great author.

Opinion, or error of judgment?

Dostoyevsky is a great author.

Opinion, or statement of fact?

To my way of perceiving, neither of the above statements are opinions. One is a fact, while the other is an error. Most people here (at least if they have read the authors in question) will surely agree, intellectually at least, even if they have an emotional resistance to this position and perceive it as “tyrannical.” They might then argue (intellectually) that it is all relative, or whathaveyou (define “great,” etc, etc).

OK. Now try these ones:

Stanley Kubrick is a great director.

Opinion or statement of fact?

Stanley Kubrick is overrated.

Opinion or statement of fact?

Eyes Wide Shut is an underrated movie.

Opinion or statement of fact?

Eyes Wide Shut is a pile of horse manure.

Opinion or statement of fact?

As some of you know by now, I would consider the second statements to be statements of fact, the first ones to be mere opinions.

If given the time, I, or my former self, could show you why, whatever greatness is on display in some of his movies, and however much you may like his work, Kubrick certainly is overrated. I could also describe to you the sociological, and even conspiratorial factors (a culture that worships intellect, for example) that contribute to Kubrick’s false canonization, and the way the psychology of previous investment obliges Kubrick-devotees to defend a work of such shocking ineptitude as Eyes Wide Shut: in order to maintain their structure of beliefs around its maker.

The question is, however: why the Hell would I bother? Why would I care enough to try and change people’s minds about Kubrick, or anything else?

The answer is two-fold, like everything. First there are the patterns mentioned above, which cause me to feel threatened when my own perception of what-is isn’t being supported by other people’s perceptions.

This creates a rift. Keith is one of my closest associates; the fact that he adores Kubrick doesn’t come between us, as such, but that’s only because we don’t spend much time talking about Kubrick. In my mind, it is still there. I think, "Keith is great, but he does love Kubrick. Damn. That’s a real shame. I really need to do something about that."

Now, is that entirely because I want Keith to validate my perception of reality, and to be as much like me as possible?

Or is it also because I know that he has been hoodwinked, and want him to see something that he is unable to see?

When Kael exposed the dishonesty of a movie I liked, she also exposed my own complicity with that dishonesty. It was disillusioning, even painful, and sometimes infuriating; but it was also liberating. After all, I had “lost” an emotional attachment to a movie I’d liked, yes. She had "ruined" it for me. But then, I’d also found a more honest, accurate perception, one that allowed me to see that the attachment I’d forged wasn’t worth having. It was basically a lie.

So then, my desire to criticize movies and filmmakers and “set the record straight,” wasn’t just an emotional need to validate my perception of reality. It was also an impersonal drive to get to the truth, and to bring the truth to others, by exposing their own distortions to them.

In other words, just what I do at SWEDA!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Brief Encounter

I have wanted to watch this classic for many years. The cover of the film encapsulates a lot about the film. It illustrates what to expect, the fact that it will have such beautiful and realistic dialogue (both for that period of time and arguably our own). Other films such as "The station agent" do a great job in proving you can judge a film by its cover and this was no exception.

We have all had either a romantic encounter or an affair of some sort. Some may not have enjoyed the excitement of such an affair, of those that say this, at least 50% of you are LYING!!! This film is structured flawlessly, from start to finish it manages to tell a story. It tells a story which is honest, brave, fair and remarkably poignant.

What I loved most about this film was the actress Celia Johnson. She is a very beautiful actress in a very safe and friendly way. By this I mean she isn't strikingly stunning or anything, she is a fairly normal looking woman, particularly for her time. But at certain moments in the film when she smiles, she has a really genuine beauty. It's attainable and very glamorous at the same time. When Alec Harvey teases her in the restaurant about killing a few patients in the morning, her face lights up with surprise which melts slowly into one of the most genuine smiles I have ever seen. It is precisely within its ability to make the deceit of an affair seem so honest, simple and unapologetic that the genius of this film lies.

The way Laura deals with the guilt of the affair is very true to life. In my own experience, women try to be the more practical of the two genders but ultimately fail to overcome the feeling of being alive and all the drama that comes hand-in-hand with such an affair.

The film tells the story in such an intelligent way that we can all relate it to our own experiences and, I would imagine, no matter what your position, you can't help but empathise with these characters. Without films as brilliant as this we would probably never have seen "Before sunrise & Before Sunset" and other romantic films that really grab your empathy for the characters and their situation. The film is so simple and yet so complicated. The locations used are both mundane and yet so exciting. The scene on the train after their final encounter is so similar to the scene at the end of Before Sunrise. When Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke sit on different trains playing the days events over in their head, we see a very similar look from Laura as she makes a very poignant summary of love by saying internally "Nothing lasts, neither happiness nor despair" This is one of Love's greatest revelations, it's what helps and hurts us inevitably in both the short and long term.

A fantastic love story that doesn't apologise for its honesty, but also doesn't fail at conveying its guilt and shame. A perfect depiction of the universal love affair within us all. Don't pass judgment, it could happen to you. I think this film just about makes my top ten based on its simplistic brilliance.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

My mother said I never should - Directed by my wonderful housemates

Last night I went along to Theatre 48 in Horsham to show my support to my housemates, who have directed a wonderful play about 4 generations of women. The last time I saw a play was last summer, when I went with Anthony Peake to see Time and the Conways, which also followers the generations of a family over the decades, exploring the change of dynamic between parents, children and siblings. Time and the Conways is more of a social commentary on the nature of time and life but the two plays do share a lot of similar themes.

I was absolutely blown away by the performance of Doris Partington (Great granny). The director told me her age and I have to say I have nothing but respect and admiration for the way this woman was able to move around the stage and give such a performance for two hours and change. She has that generic "nan voice" that we can all relate to. That sympathetic yet boarder line condescending "That's nice dear" nan-type response to anything you say! She commands respect not through bold, strong, loud gestures, but by being so sure of herself that others know she is a fountain of knowledge and experience. That really, is where the strength of this play lies; being able to show some general family memories and moments, in which anybody can relate to their own specific memories.

The young girl that plays the role of Rosie is fabulous. So energetic and live, exactly what is needed from the character. I would agree that she seems the most well-rounded in perspective of all the characters which, in a way, is the main goal for this chain of women.

Jackie's role is a challenging one, she conveys the sympathetic understanding of a battered daughter with great ease. Some of the earlier scenes showed off he ability to do a fabulous impression of the little girl played by Morwenna Banks from Absolutely. Even if it wasn't intentional, that's what it made me think of!

Margaret Bradley has a difficult role to pull of in that she had to convey her frustration through some rather cold-hearted and brutal moments with her daughter Jackie. It would be very easy to dismiss the circumstances brought to life by the play and hate her, but she manages to convey her own frustration at the choices offered to women in her own time and the harrowing fear that her daughter would take the same route.

I rather enjoyed the scene where Jackie and Doris are sharing a game of solitaire. My own mother used to play this game and taught me to play also. I almost bought her a set for Christmas this year but she lives in Spain and decided to wait until May when I see her again.

This made me reflect on my own memories of visiting my grandmother but from the perspective of my mother and what It must have been like for her. It's a very nice play that stays true to real life and the many layers of beauty that lie within the family dynamic. I must give a genuinely massive round of applause to both the cast as well as Lee & Toyah who have worked so hard on this. Well done, a fantastic performance was given by all.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Everybody's Fine

Family is important. So people keep telling me. I don't have a particularly close family and I'm OK with that. I function perfectly well as a human being. I think. I will say though, this is the first film to really make me actually stop and think about this, properly. Father-Son scenes always seem to get me a little. It's disgraceful and I'm completely ashamed of myself, but I got very teary eyed during "The pursuit of happiness" Damn you Will Smith. Damn your quivering lips and puppy-dog eyes.

This film didn't have quite the same effect on my eyes but as I said, It did make me stop and think. My own mother lives in Spain and we rarely see her. My little sister hasn't spoken to her in about 8 years and I know she will regret this one day, such Is life.

The reason this film works is because De Niro is able to evoke real empathy for his character. Essentially, the role he's playing is one of a father who has pushed his children too far in life. Over the years of cinema this has often been a rather hated father figure type. But because we see it through the eyes of such an amazing actor, we understand he had the best of intentions. It is, at times, a rather sad and depressing film, but as an entire film it is actually quite inspiring for families that aren't close to realise how lucky they are.

It has similarities, in places, to the film "Flowers" with Bill Murray. A road trip with a goal will undoubtedly result in lessons being learned along the way. Although the ending of the film seems like a rather obvious place to finish, it also has the appeal of a new beginning.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Derren Brown - Some sort of Devil God.

Wow! This was the 4th time I have seen the fabulous Mr Brown live and it was quite simply "The most impressive thing I have ever seen"

Even when you think he has lost control, he's just fucking with you. Even when you think you're asleep he's fucking with you. To summarise, Derren Brown, can fuck with you anytime he pleases. Oo Er.

A great performer, a great magician, a great story teller, a great comedian.

I hate him. I hate him in all the ways that women hate women that are prettier than they are. The only refuge I can take is that he is both taken and gay, although last night Derren, I think you may have "turned" me.

I won't talk about any of the funky tricks he does because some of you will still be going to see this devil-man in action. All I will say is WoW! Even if you have been following this man's career in the way I have for this long, he can STILL surprise you with just how fucking good he is.

I'm not joking, some sort of Devil-God.

The Science Festival in Brighton - Saturday 27th

This was brought to my attention by Marcus Chown on Twitter about a week ago and I had the day off work for once so thought this would be a nice day out. Fantastic day out!

Had to get there for about 9am when it was opening at 10am because it was sold out and they only had about 50 extra tickets. There was a choice of lectures and presentations from two different theatres. We spent most of the day in Theatre two.

The Hero of the Zero - Fame lab Winner Tom Whyntie talks humorously about the Large Hadron Collider. He explains why finding nothing in this very expensive on-going project may turn out to be a very exciting and helpful result after all. This was a very informative and at times, rather funny look at science and the intentions behind this project. The possible outcomes we explained with honesty and genuine appreciation for all perspectives. A great start and I now understand quite a bit more with regards to what they're actually doing!

The Lying Ape - Brian King and Harry Witchel reveal the amount of deceit that surrounds us. These two, very sadistic men spend the first part of the lecture informing us how necessary and crucial lies are to holding our society together. Social lubrication I believe they refer to it as. THEN! They spend the second part of the lecture telling us how to spot a lie. What the hell are they thinking?? Interesting in places but they didn't go into too much depth with the concept which was a little disappointing, was expecting a little more. But still, a very interesting talk.

The Top 10 Bonkers thins about the universe - This was the main reason I came along to the festival. To meet Marcus Chown. Marcus is without a doubt one of my favourite authors. Having read "The universe next door" "The never ending days of being dead" and "We need to talk about Kelvin" I am always blown away with how interesting he can make certain concepts, but mostly, how accessible and easy to understand Marcus makes some of the heavier, more complicated science. Marcus gave his talk and I was able to chat with him for a while afterwards while he signed books. He is a very modest and humble man, far too humble in my opinion! I asked Marcus a few questions about his knowledge of Anthony's work and was surprised he knew so little. I gave him as much of a summary as one can give in a few minutes and we discussed several other things such as consciousness and it's effect on time and quantum variables. I must say It was a real pleasure to meet Marcus and I hope at some point he'll have the time to look at Anthony's work and drop by on the forum.

Science Story - Michael Moesly's BBC2 series, Science Story, gives us a summary of the evolution of scientific theory focusing mainly on Newton and Hooke. A very polished speaker (obviously) and great to listen to. He gave a great analysis of the famous apple falling from a tree story which has been amplified throughout the centuries because of its very reductionist appeal to years of hard work. Our society really is all about instant gratification forever isn't it.

Climbing the tree of Physics - Three young scientists (including Tom from the first talk) discuss how different branches of scientific theory need to come together to explain different things. I was expecting a lot more from this talk, we ducked out early of Michael Mosely's talk to come see this, not sure why. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as good as it should have been. Had I known about the last talk we were going to we would have ducked out early from this one too.

The Miller's Tale - Ben Miller is interviewed by Steve Mould about abandoning a PHD in quantum electro-dynamics for a career in TV. As well as fronting Armstrong and Miller he writes on science and takes place in science programmes. Ben discussed the struggle to include some science sketches in his shows, the idiocy of Homeopaths and his interest in the future of science. The night before we came here I had a fairly early night. I could have put on 1 out of 200 old videos full of old TV shows I had recorded but by some strange coincidence I put on Paul Merton the series from about 10 years ago. In some of these sketches was of course, Ben Miller. I stayed behind afterwards to chat with him which was a real bonus to finish the day on. He was very impressed that this was pointed out as he said this was his first ever job in t.v. We discussed the brilliance of Paul Merton. I pointed out how wonderful it is when Paul Merton starts any sentence on Have I got news for you with the words "Is it....(this)" or "is it.....(that)" which was appreciated and agreed with. Look out for his new book, if it's named "From infinity to one" I would like a bit of credit, in fact, all of it! I was tempted to ask him for some tips in blending science and stand-up but I didn't want to ruin the moment by becoming "that guy" = A giant man whore.

A fantastic day out for £10!! Shall definitely be going next year.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Horizon - What makes a genius?

Best of the three episodes I've watched over the last few weeks. I was totally engaged with this last night, from start to finish it was absolutely rich in content and fantastically balanced. It left you feeling optimistic but deluded about what the human brain is capable of.

Part 1 - Maths Genius! Not quite sure about the process this guy used but it wasn't similar to Daniel Tammett! It was actually mathematically worked out.... amazing. He gave a very good explanation of how he does what he does. He says he's not a genius, a genius he associates with creativity, where as what he does is mechanical. He "plays the piano well and there is a difference between a skill and something that is immensely creative." This is similar to Matt Damon's character in Good Will Hunting. He says as far as he can remember he's just always been able to play. It's not so much creating art but more letting art flow through you because you are tuned in, where others aren't.

Part 2 - The experiment that tested the intuitive estimates of which colour has more dots on a screen was rather interesting. This test allows us to predict the mathematical potential of children and rather accurately too. It also indicates certain precognitive skills and ties in nicely with Malcolm Gladwell's work in Blink. Malcolm discusses snap decisions and how they often prove more accurate than thought out ones. The presenter actually stated when the analytical part of his brain fought the intuitive part he started to struggle. Was this because the intuitive was weakening and the analytical role was being forced due to necessity?

Part 3 - Learning gene identified in mice - Seems slightly cruel (probably not in comparison with some experiments they probably do) but necessary I guess.

Part 4 - Chess - Been playing a lot of chess lately, used to play a lot when I was younger. Obviously very good for coaching your brain to think 10 steps ahead in all realms of life. Are some people blessed or is it the wiring of their brain? Very interesting section about a former player that spent 20 years training to be a chess master, he never broke through and became obsessed with the reason why. He became a neural-scientist and researched brain activity and concluded that chess masters are born, not so much created. His final statement seemed a bit jaded but may have been fairly accurate. People can become great, but the status of genius has to have been something they were born with.

Part 5 - Spotting genius. The IQ test about the "termites" was something I read about recently. Can't remember where, may have been in Gladwell's work. This section helped to open the alternative viewpoint that we can mould our brain to fit our environment. We lose parts of out brain that are not used and strengthen neural pathways that are useful to us. Our brain in this way is like ever changing dictionary that will bring out new editions based on the life and times of its existence. We specialise for our environment but of course, there are some environments that because of our genes, we will excel in more.

Part 6 - Mozart/Stevie wonder - Derek is a remarkable piano player that can her a piece of music once or twice and know how to play it, adapt it slightly to his on whim. The superhero notion of other senses strengthening to compensate is something that has quite often been considered a myth. But it's more a case of the brain re-wiring to adapt in making sense of the world. There is another example of a lady later on who can see through sound. Much like the young boy (name forgotten) who could see through making clicking noises with his tongue and using the vibrations. The book I read on this indicated it could be possible to actually see through your skin based on re-wiring of the brain. Our senses are wired in a certain way based on evolution and it is not technically written in stone in terms of how our brain develops. It is versatile and undoubtably the most unique thing about all of us.

Part 7 - Smartening up through electricity and water! - Yeah I was a bit...errr as well! An experiment here to again improve cognitive skills and intuitive response time which helps to create new path ways as quickly as 30 minutes later. After about a day, it will become functioning. Structural alteration after a day!! Amazing.

Part 8 - Brain Plasticity - This section really complimented the book I read about Brain Plasticity about a year or so ago. A lady explains how she can see through technology that encodes sounds from her brain and allows her to produce images based on the re-wiring of her brain. These pathways have been there since we were babies. Evolution dictates a certain path because it is the most successful in survival for the majority.

Part 9 - The greatest minds combine Knowledge with creativity. "Imagination is more important than knowledge" Einstein. A man had a brain hemorrhage and has been painting ever since, literally. He can't stop, his description of this had a very similar feel to the TLE descriptions Tony has mentioned. This section boasts the paradox of Genius. You need to be open to many things to allow creativity to take effect, but closed enough to focus on that one piece of art, whatever form it may take. Dr Mark Lythgoe of university college London gives a very interesting explanation of this. The walls are higher for some people than others and this can cause problems at either end.

I plan to turn my wall into a window, 95% of it all will apparently go right through.. ;)

Best thing I've watched in a while, highly recommend it. Should be available on i Player. Go watch it. Now!