Film This piece from The Wave Magazine is a primer for people in the Bay Area of San Francisco to help them decide what to do on my birthday. Which is pretty pointless if you're out of the area. But I'm more interested in the sidebar which lists five scary Halloween films. Number 2 is The Karate Kid....
"... a horrifying tale about a boy who gets forced into slave labour by an evil martial arts guru. Despite having the most clever costume at the party (or, perhaps, because of it), Ralph Macchio gets his shower curtain-covered ass handed to him in a scene that will scare the high holy crap out of every kid with a single mom.
It's a while since a film actually scared me. Or rather disturbed me rather than make me jump -- a slightly different effect. I tend to be horrified by images. At University I saw a photograph in a Life Magazine portfolio entitled 'The Odyssey of Pain', which consisted of a young man strapped to a wooden chair, as two old men used electrodes to administer an electrical current to various parts of his body to see where the pain would go, the word odyssey suggesting that this was some voyage of discover the chap was on. The look on his face as the fear pulsed through a face which was trying to show utter placidity haunts me. Just be glad that I couldn't find a copy on-line.
TV The TV CREAM Guide to Television Presenters - from the pages of Creamguide!. Enough said really. Just click in and enjoy. Love the orangy colour scheme.
Games "Everything written here was actually said by these kids. Really. The only change we made was to remove the more gratuitous usages of the word 'gay'." I read a story the other day about how a bunch of eight year olds turned up a signing for a Doctor Who merchandising whatnot and there were a couple of Daleks in attendence. Apparently the once scurges of the universe were harranged by the kids for five minutes, the nicest of comments being: "You're rubbish." This is of course the saddest thing in the world.

Or it was because this article is sadder. Electronic Gaming Monthly asked a group of teenies to experience the awe and mystery of a series of classic computer games in their original format to see if they still had that magical effect they had on all of us growing up. Here is Tim's review of Space Invaders:
"This is nothing compared to Grand Theft Auto III, because you can't steal a taxi cab, pick up somebody, then drive into the ocean with him."
Which is true of course. And, well, yes, technology has moved on. But pardon me for being a gaming luddite but I tend to find the vast majority of new games deeply unsatisfying for the simple reason that they tend to be so massively complicated. In trying to replicate a so-called real world situation or feeling they seem to lack that sense of achievement when you've actually beaten something.

Actually, this article is somewhat skewed because they've thrown in some games which are possibly genuinely 'gay'. Suspect movie license ET on the Atari 2600 is in there. And I never really understood the Pong attraction. I suspect the reaction was based on a similar emotional level to the audience who ran out of that cinema when they were shown a short silent movie of a train coming towards them, but ran back in again to see it over and over. It was something interactive, on a tv screen people could play together.

I think the last comment says more about how kids don't fully appreciate the passage of time, and is also a commentary of how technology has moved on. Kirk says, "I'm sure
everyone who made this game is dead by now." [via B3ta]
Life Nothing odder than leaving work at 10pm. Odder still that it's my last day before my annual birthday week off (you mean people out there choose to work on their birthday?). With work over I feel relaxed, weight lifted off the shoulders. I think the issue most of us have with work is how if we aren't careful it restricts our freedom. We get up at the same time every morning, so that we can get the same mode of transport into work at the same time. Then leave work so that we can eat tea at the usual time and go to bed at such and such an hour so that we can get enough sleep to we aren't tired the following morning for the inevitable repeat. For me at least, holidays (or vacations) are about changing the routine. Getting up when you like, doing what you want, when you want. And to be able to do that on my birthday is bliss.
TV Memorable TV themes is a short but interesting rumination. Blissfully it mentions W. Snuffy Walden who along with Mike Post writes the best in the business. I haven't seen thirtysomething in years but I know Walden's tie-in CD inside out. What's your favourite TV theme?
Life Somewhere along the line I decided I could write literature (actually about six months after the English classes I talked about the other day -- thanks for all your kind words -- as I said to Vicky I had meant that post to be a light hearted look back at my English classes -- a humourous examination of my failures. Whether it was because it was late, or I'd been working until ten that night (and all week) it all got a bit dark. I really don't dwell on it though. It only ever comes up when I'm updating my CV and try to justify having only one A-Level).

It was only a short phase of about three years and I grew out of it. But the following was one of the products. It did actually happens, as you'd expect, mostly as it's described, although I spoke to the graduate and didn't actually indulge in the mind-reading which appears to take place in here. I can't remember what 'rubbish' was playing, but I'm sure it was probably The Prodigy. I really hated them....

-----> He sweated everywhere. Jeans, T-shirt, Jacket all wet with the salty liquid, soggy with no clear way of drying himself out in this atmosphere, humid and steamy. The bench at the edge of the makeshift dance floor was low and uncomfortable. His knees were in front him, higher than his waist, his hands resting on them, his feet tapping in time with the drum-ridden rubbish that was being played, rubbish which had been in the music chart at sometime. Although not a drink had passed his lips all night, he couldn't think straight. He was tired, excited and jealous all at the same time.

Next to him, a guy in thick rimmed spectacles was comparing tongue length with a half- burned blonde. His eyes were closed, as though he didn't want to realise that she was only kissing him between sips of lager and puffs of a half burnt cigarette, both of which she held with the hand that wasn't making the lonely dance under the T-Shirt of her 'stand' for the evening. It was a compelling sight. The other side, a woman a few years older than him, in a large, floppy maroon hat, seemed as bored as he was as she glanced at her watch. It was close to midnight. This was her celebration after graduation, but the friend she had come with had disappeared into the crowd with an ex- boyfriend. He thought better of striking up a conversation - the idea of screaming some half-hearted questions about courses over the loudspeaker which hovered above them, wasn't very appealing. He continued to sit and sweat.

Cigarette smoke wafted through the air, mixing with the fibres of his clothing. He thought of the launderette visit which would follow on the Monday, and the owner, who sat strangely, in the shadows, making dribbling noises occasionally. Unknown to him, the graduate had also been there once and a faulty machine had eaten her favourite leggings. Which why she was wearing odd ones tonight - pink and black, green and yellow, they clashed desperately, but worked - somehow.

She got up and disappeared into the dancing mass, as did the tonsil twins, still joined at the mouth. He waited hopefully for some Rock. He could Mosh very well, but anything would be better than this hell on vinyl which was making his heart beat irregularly. He crossed his legs, closed his eyes and placed his head on the wall of the stage. He was going to ride this out.

When he opened them, time seemed to have stopped, all movement being held stationary, apart from one thing. Just in front of, glazed in blue light, danced an apparition. Her body seemed to become the source of the music, not just ebbing and flowing with it. Nothing about her was that different from her fellow dancers. She was quite short - shoulder length brown hair. A stripy-blue tank top extenuated a ... generous figure. Though he was all too aware of her, she was only aware of the music - her feet sliding her across the dance floor, until the world she lived in eclipsed a party light.

It felt uncomfortable and excited. He knew he was staring, but his eyes would not leave her. What was she thinking? What memories were hidden under the hair which was hovering above and rapidly covering her whole face. He ran his fingers through the strands on his head and she repeated the action.

The drums ended, the synthesizers died. Time began again. The small pocket of reality she occupied that he had invaded disappeared. She smiled at some at some friends at the other side of the hall and disappeared into the crowd. He smiled broadly and stood up to rejoin his friends, who were crashing into each other drunkenly on the other side of the hall. He tried to join in, but it was only half-heartedly. The reality he had just experienced, which he had not asked for was infinitely better than the reality had chosen. <------
Music Earth revolves around the sun. Mutya and Keisha of The Sugababes aren't getting on with Heidi ... even though they stress they are. Hopefully Heidi have to go all the way to Japan like Siobhan Donaghy did when it all comes tumbling down. It's the sound of history repeating.
Film Rather eye opening Frequently Asked Questions piece about The Wachowski Brothers creators of The Matrix Trilogy (like anyone reading this wouldn't know this already). The following random paragraph contains scenes of a disturbing nature:
"Larry really planning to undergo a sex change operation?
Probably not, although that doesn't make the reality any less strange. At the Reloaded premiere, Larry, who once favored jeans, flannel shirts, and Chicago Bulls caps, sported a floppy knit beret, delicate earrings, plucked eyebrows, and what appeared to be full makeup. Afterward, Jake Miller, Winslow's estranged husband and himself a female-to-male transsexual (try to keep up now), popped up in the London tabloids to explain that Larry had stolen his wife after the two met in Winslow's dungeon. Furthermore, Miller claimed, Larry was taking female hormones in preparation for a sex change operation. Now living in New Orleans, Miller admits he has no firsthand knowledge that Larry is planning to go through with the surgery and concedes he was paid for his story. "I lost everything," he says of his breakup with Winslow.
Which does go some way to explaining the costume designs. And what that guy who met Neo at the start of the first film was doing....
Life I failed my English Literature A-Level which meant I got into university on a wing and a prayer. Unlike other pupils in other parts of the country, two years worth of work rested on a couple of three hour exams in which I couldn't take the set texts in. Now I'm not saying that was any excuse not for getting a grade, but it did make it a bit tricky.

In the recent move and subsequent life laundry, all kinds of artifacts have appeared, and that includes the essays I slogged away at over the two years of study which led up to the drivel I evidently spewed out on those fateful mornings in June 1993. I thought I was quite good at them towards the end, and it's true there are some good teachers comments. But most are just a catalogue of my failures, as usual. For your edification I present them here. To gain extra marks see how many reflect the weblog as well.
"Doesn't answer the question...

Get a dictionary and use it!

Weak effort

Some good points but not really rigorous enough

Your handwriting is 'orrible!

Passable -- grasps some of the main ideas . Style is quiet well realised. Don't make idiotic spelling mistakes.

Some good points - but:
(1) Very hard to read
(2) Too much storytelling
(3) Too many general comments

A reasonable survey - though some ideas seem misunderstood, you discuss a wide range of ideas

Too often difficult to follow your train of thought. Concentrate on clear expression.

Contrast of styles

Some valid points, but also some waffle. You must read widely to improve your essay style.

Some misunderstandings and some clumsy passages, but this is a workman like attempt. You need not follow the chronological order of the book.

Do try and stick to the point using a plaid (unreadable word) style

Some fairly serious misunderstandings - make sure you fully grasp the meaning of the poem. Don't make idiotic, basic spelling mistakes.

Barely begins to answer the question

Sketchy, unfocused

Some promising comments

Style improving - watch for careless errors

Hints at some understanding, but mainly shallow and wrongheaded.

Lacking a final coherence but clear in outline

Far too short and generalised. You must go into greater detail.

Weak on the poems

Weak on text

And finally -- the only F I got in a sea of Es and Ds:

This is a thoroughly feedle attention in class. See me at the end.
Looking through it's fairly obvious which essays I took time over and which I didn't. Frankly if was given some of the garbage I handed in then to mark now I would have given it and automatic D as well.

But here is the paradox. I loved the books themselves. I still do. I can still remember sections of them and have copies on my shelf. Milton's description (in Paradise Lost of the fall of man (and woman) is one of the most erotic scenes I've ever read. I'll also not forget the scene in Othello when Iago talks The Moor into believing something which flimsy evidence would easily prove to be false.

I wasn't that academic. At no point in my school career did we have a general class which taught essay writing. The idea was that we would gain the skill through practice. But the size of some of the classes meant that some of us didn't get the attention we needed until very late in the day. Although in some cases (but not all) the teaching tended to be very dry -- in one teacher's classes I would utterly blank out every week. The only times I could pay attention was during the moments when we would read the thing out loud, and I got to act out scenes with some girl I had a crush on.

So it was actually touch and go as to whether I'd even complete my A-Levels at all. And this was a good school and on the other hand I was a prefect. I was caught in what could quite comfortably described as a Rushmore Syndrome, and I was Max.

But I did buck my ideas up, and in my last year at school the essays really did get better. I began to type them on an old electric typewriter (which built in Tipp-Ex corrector) and glancing through them now they flow much better. Maybe if the final mark had beens based on coursework as well as exams (as is now the case) I might have fought my way up to a D or even a C.

I'm dredging all this up now, because The Big Read list is out and looking at it I feel like I've wasted my life reading wise. I've read precisely one book on the list and it's a novelisation of a radio series. When I was reading tie-in novels I could have been absorbing good narratives, increasing my vocabulary and improving my writing style. Time then to make up lost time and The Big Read list seems to offer the perfect structure (skipping Archer of course).

Ideas in the comments box, please, for where I should begin...