The sun now sets on TV

Round 2!

TV is a huge of part of almost all of our lives, it offers a medium from which we can get our news, draws inspiration for all those office water-cooler conversations.  It has the power to make us smile, make us weep, make us feel more informed, make us angry, unite us, divide us.  It has allowed us to be more connected to the world around us, it has brought so many important events into our homes, both inspiring and depressing. TV allowed us all to witness the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it allowed us to take those first steps into freedom with Nelson Mandela, it sadly brought us all too close to those horrific events on the 11th September, 2001.

Now I personally have never been a fan of the bashing of TV, never been a fan of those who labour under the delusion that by not owning a TV, one becomes a superior human being.  After all, it is not the TV itself that ‘dumbs people down’, it is what they choose to watch on it.  There are plenty of intelligent, engaging programmes around that allow people to become engaged in for example politics, the natural world around us, to educate us about history, about engineering, about science. There are even some quality dramas around, which can both entertain and engage us.  Even the news, obvious agendas aside, is still a useful way to allows us to keep up to date with current affairs.  TV isn’t just about shallow, vacuous pesudo-reality shows, its not just about an endless stream of insipid talent shows, there is still plenty of engaging, interesting content to be found on the box in the corner of the room. (Disclosure, I do enjoy light entertainment quiz shows such as The Chase or Pointless, I never claimed to be a role model!)

Rambling aside, do I think TV is still relevant in this digital age?  In a word, no.  The purpose that it once served, bringing the world into your front room, can now be served much quicker through using the internet.  If you want to read the news for example, you can now almost instantly read whatever story you were interested in within seconds.  Thanks to social media and YouTube, you can get even closer to any breaking news around the world, and you can see the stories for yourself, rather than through the eyes of a national news organisation with whatever agenda it has.  The internet age is allowing more and more of us access to real, factual accounts of events and lets us put our own interpretation on them rather than viewing someone else’s.  Even in terms of entertainment, the internet age is slowly winning over the age of the TV.  Online streaming services (such as Netflix, my own particular choice) allow people the choice to watch what they want, when they want.  Whilst the selection is limited to whatever the servers host, people can still find whatever they like in there and watch it instantly, without adverts and they can watch as much as they want in one sitting.  In an age where people have less free time, online streaming allows the viewer more control.  Rather than having to stick to TV scheduling, people can watch their favourite shows at a time which is convenient to them.  On a personal level, I only ever really watch the television for football or any other big sporting event.  My entertainment mainly comes from sources such as Netflix, or through catch-up TV services such as the BBC iPlayer.  I even enjoy some original content creators online, both via YouTube and Maker/Blip or through their own websites.  I also still have a decent collection of DVDs, which provide the same function that online streaming does in that I can watch what I want, when I want.

The internet allows all of us to access everything instantly, whatever news or entertainment we desire.  When we are able to access everything now, why wait until the TV schedules will show something?  Why wait for the news bulletins at 6, or why wait for the 24 hour news cycle to cover a story when we can just go online and in seconds find out the information we want?

However I’m sure this discussion was had when TV took over from radio and yet radio still carries on today, strong as ever (granted mostly through people at work or people travelling).  Television won’t ever completely die, I feel we will still turn to television during the big events of the day, whether they be news, or sports, or entertainment.  But for most of our everyday lives, the internet/social media/streaming is now king.


My adventure with the boys from the Dwarf… 

(As someone who is notoriously indecisive, I’ll be doing a couple of these.  I also love film and TV, so yeah, there’ll be a bombardment of my mediocre offerings.  I can only apologise in advance)

Some of my earliest memories of TV have been sci-fi related.  One of my earliest (and longest lasting) loves has been the space sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf, which operates in a similar vein to Doctor Who in that the premise allows the characters to move freely within time and (mostly) space.  A brief introduction for the uninitiated, the show centres around the titular mining ship, wandering aimlessly throughout the universe 3 million years into deep space.  Contained within this ship are our cast of hardy space adventurers, trying to find their way back to Earth.  Our cast of brave souls is as follows:

Dave Lister:  The last human in existence.  Lone human survivor of a nuclear accident which wiped out the entirety of the Red Dwarf crew (he was in stasis at the time).  Lister finds himself awoken 3 million years away from the future, and away from home. Doomed to wander space and time forever, unless he can find a way home.  Loves: slobbing, beer, curries and more slobbing.  Hates: cleanliness, order and pot based noodle snacks

Arnold Rimmer: A hologram of Listers dead bunkmate.  A man of tremendous cowardice and great pettiness.  Totally dedicated to his (non) career, to the deficit of his relationships with his fellow humans.  The character I probably identified with most as I was growing up incidentally, make of that what you will!

Kryten: A service robot rescued from the wreckage of another spaceship, arguably prissier than C3P0.  Kryten lives to serve, takes great pleasure in menial tasks and is almost entirely subservient to the rest of the crew.  Develops a rebellious streak as time goes by (not always consistently, but this is a comedy and notoriously inconsistent with almost everything it does)

The Cat:  A creature evolved from cats, behaves pretty much as you’d imagine a human-cat hybrid would. Vain, self-obsessed and incredibly stupid.  Pretty much the comedy foil to every other character.

I know it’s a long winded opening but it’s all necessary to reach my point. Which is basically if I could enjoy a consequence free visit to the future, I would spend it with the boys from the Dwarf!  It’d be interesting to visit alternate dimensions and visit my counterparts, to see how changing even the smallest decisions in my lifetime would affect me.  I’d quite like to visit the backwards universe, cause it would probably be the only time I could experience a world without crime, without war and without hatred (although granted Christmas wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun, and don’t get me started on the lavatory or eating arrangements!)  It would be interesting to see if we really are alone in this universe, if there is any alien life hiding in the darkest recesses of existence, and whether or not they are friendly (for the record, there are space creatures in RD, but they’re all creatures of human design.)  Mainly I guess it would just be nice to spend time with characters who I grew up with and being part of their unlikely band of brothers.  Others may wish to spend time upon the Starship Enterprise or suchlike, exploring the universe with a brave and dashing crew.  But that’s not for me, give me this rag-tag bunch of smeg-heads any day of the week.  Plus who doesn’t want to be waited hand-on-foot by the admirable Kryten!

New Year, more comfortable skin

Well now, Happy 2015 followers/casual readers! I hope you all had a good New Years Eve and Day wherever you are and however you celebrated it.

As the New Year dawns it is of course the perfect time to take a breath and take stock of where I currently am and where I would like to be this time in 2016. I’d say I was a reasonably ambitious man and would hope to at least achieve one of these to consider 2015 a moderate success. So without further ado here is a list of ‘resolutions’ which would help to make my skin fit a hell of a lot more comfortably.

1) This one I admit is impossible, so this will be my only wish to be a different person. Regular readers of this blog know that I have a rather impressive list of disabilities, mainly physical, slightly mental. If I was able to radically change bodies for the next year, I guess I would choose to spend a year out of the only period I will enjoy ever in existence in a body that isn’t spectacularly limiting/abuse fodder for utter troglodytes. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I can do pretty much anything that a ‘normal’ person can in my current state, but it would be nice to spend a year unencumbered from handicap. (that’s it for the melodrama, promise! The rest of the list is more ‘typical’ for New Years’)

2) Lose weight/build some muscle – the most stock of stock New Years resolutions, but it is one that I feel more prepared to fulfil. I dont think I could ever become a full-on fitness fanatic or become essentially a walking muscle (I love food that is terrible for me and real ales far far farrrr too much), but to lose some timber and sculpt some muscle on my arms would do me right down to the ground. The health aspect is obviously also part of this resolution (although I wouldn’t class myself as dangerously overweight as things stand) but mainly it’s just for aesthetic purposes. Despite the above, I am still guilty of a little vanity. I could stand to have a healthier diet as well, I’d like 2015 to be a year where I feel and look better than ever.

3) Read more – It’s not that I don’t already read as things stand, I do read as it is. My problem is simply that I am keener to watch TV/go on my laptop/X-box than sit down and read a good book. There are several books in my possession that have simply gone unread, I want 2015 to be the year that this is resolved. By NYE 2015/6, I want to have read every unread book I own. I want to be a more well-read and consequently more interesting person. Because right now I am honestly a little dull.

4) Follow the news closer/keep up with current affairs – for similar reasons to the above, I could stand to be lot more interesting, the only thing I’m really ever up to the minute on is football. Whilst I am usually aware of what’s going on in the world (and mildly annoyed at people who aren’t) There’s never any harm in keeping a closer eye on the news, trying if possible to get several perspectives in an effort to try and keep an open mind.

5) Be less afraid to express my opinions/take positions – I really need to start expressing these more often on social media for example. I am not a man who enjoys confrontation admittedly but I feel this year I should be more forthright, obviously whilst trying not to be too obnoxious or self-righteous about anything. A subsidiary of this resolution is to ensure that I research stories as much as possible so I can take a properly informed position that can stand up to inevitable scrutiny. I need to be more prepared to fight my corner if needed as attempting to appease everybody pleases no-one.

6) Blog more – I have about 5 blogs running on my WordPress, 4 of which will now consist of cobwebs, they are that neglected. As somebody who enjoys writing and would like to work in more creative roles/industries, perhaps even to go into writing itself, it would make sense for me to actually fill these blogs. One is dedicated to reviewing the (intentionally) terrible films that my gran gets me every Christmas for example. I love watching terrible films and I also dabbled in film criticism a little, why not write about them? Another blog is about one of the bigger loves in my life, football. Why not fill this blog in more often? Yes I do fear my work being torn apart by others, but how can I improve as a writer if I never let my musings be read by others. Blogging more would give me the chance to experiment some more as well as to test it out on an audience.

7) ENTER THAT DAMN COMPETITION! – Applies to two contests here; the Bridport short story/flash fiction/poetry competition, something I’ve been meaning to do now for a couple of years, entry doesn’t close until the end of May so plenty of time to craft something. The second is that I did say I’d put my name in the ballot for the Great North Run, it is something I feel I’m fit enough to do and I really do kinda fancy it, also gives me an excuse to go running and get fitter, so do it!

8) Make it a successful year at work – I was fortunate enough to find work last year with a new offshore supply, service and repair company, and this year I want to do my bit in helping this be a big year for their growth. This would also help my professional growth in a big way.

If I can achieve all or most of these things (barring the first one obviously!) I think I could make my own skin so much more comfortable to live in. So much so that I don’t think I’d ever want to leave it again!

Guilty Pleasures, everybody has a few…

Dear Pizzerias, chocolate makers, real ale makers, fast food producers, coffee houses, Rick Astley, other creators of cheesy yet glorious tunes (most artists active in the 80s, and you Carly Rae, and you Taylor Swift…) Thank you Tommy Wiseau, thank you Claudio Fergasso, thank you Chester Novel Turner, Edward D Wood Jr, Jean-Claude Van-Damme, thank you Troma productions, thank you amateur filmmakers everywhere.

You people are the ones who fill my life with colour, the ones who give me the utmost in pleasure. I love fast food, heavy ales, the sweetest of sweet confections. I love campy music, it always manages to raise a smile and warm the cockles of my cynical heart.

(as I write this I have the magnum opus of young Edward D Wood Jr, ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’)

When we were safe…

I had left the courtroom and for the first time in what seemed like forever, I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. It had seemed like an eternity since I’d known a peaceful life, one where I could not leave my family for ten minutes without fearing that it would be the last time I would have seen them. I should have known better than to tangle with loan sharks, I should have known that by trying to secure my families’ future via these vile predators, I had actually put more than just our home at risk. But that was all over now, consigned to the annals of a nightmarish history.

I picked up my phone and scrolled through the contacts until I found her, I felt a celebratory breakfast was in order. It had been so long since we’d felt able to go out somewhere for a good meal, and I had just the place in mind, the cafe where we first met five years ago. I’d got there early and sat straight in our booth, just around the corner from the counter, the smell of coffee and freshly baked goods brought with them a wave of joy. I looked out the window and saw my trio of angels standing at the traffic lights, the youngest so eager to press the button that made the little green man appear. I felt the phone vibrate again, without thinking I took the call, and a voice every bit as cold as the crisp morning air said something that sent ice through my phone and into my bloodstream.

‘Congratulations on winning the case, I expect that you think you’re debt problems are over eh? Think you’ve cheated me out of that £10,000 you owe me you snake?’

The traffic light turned amber

‘Well I have some good news for you Tommy boy, I’m a honourable man and I fully respect the word of the law. They say the debt’s illegal, and that you don’t owe me a penny. I accept the court’s ruling and from this day forwards, you can kiss your debt goodbye.’

…green, hands linked, they stepped out onto the road. Tears began to fill my eyes, but the emotion behind them had since changed drastically, I tried to motion to them to turn, to go back. But they simply waved back at me.

‘However this poses me a challenge Tom. Thanks to you, I’ve made a loss, and I’m not a man who likes to lose. It hurts me buddy, leaves a void, understand? Since I’m not allowed to take a penny off you, I’ve had to get creative about how best to solve this little conundrum, and I think I’ve come up with a solution which will make us even…’

‘RUN!’ I screamed through both the window and my haze of tears ‘RUN!’

I heard the engines rev. I saw the car hurtling towards it’s defenceless targets. I heard the screams, the sickening thud and the engines fade into the distance.

Do Today.

In short, there are times when you should wait and times when you should Carpe Diem. Currently, as I sit here writing this blog (and when writing the deeply personal previous Daily Post response) I have been taken back to times where I perhaps waited too long to do something, like enter short stories for competition or running for Students Union positions, only for deadlines to pass. There are times when you just need to jump straight in and follow your heart/desires. In the modern labour market, the emphasis is growing more and more on people being proactive rather than reactive. Rather than waiting for job offers to come along, it would be more worthwhile to volunteer to help out on projects, to help get your face and your work known. This is certainly something I wish I’d done whilst at Uni, just gone out and done rather than sit back and wait for whatever reason.

However, as I said at the start of the blog post, there are things that in my eyes are worth waiting for. Those things being truly rewarding relationships. I say this as a single man, but nevertheless, the best relationships are those which have been crafted over a long period of time. Relationships need time to build, time to allow those involved to learn everything about each other, to be able to look past the physical attraction and to build a mental connection as well. Relationships need time for people to discover each others’ foibles, weaknesses and insecurities and to learn to love the other for them. In love, good things do indeed come to those who wait, you will find the right one in the end and will be forever grateful for the time you invested.

You’re not quite a wizard, Anthony.

I come across my decade younger self waiting for me at the coffee shop. Bedecked in a wonderful wizards tunic made lovingly by my grandmother (black tunic pebble-dashed with silver wizard-y things, and a hat!) I say hello to younger Anthony and he says hello back, in a monotoned voice, not quite returning my gaze. Before I share a coffee and dispense my words of wisdom, I have a little fun. I joke that that was not a very energetic way to greet older you, pull your socks up and try again! Immediately, younger me reaches down and yanks his socks as high up his legs as he can manage, then says hello in a more enthusiastic manner.

I order us both a coffee (a mocha for me, and a hot chocolate for my junior counterpart) and sit down to business.

‘What I’m here to tell you, is that life over the next ten years is going to be very much like riding an almost physically impossible rollercoaster.’ I decide that being straight with my younger self is the best way to go, hearing the hard truth has always been the best way for me to learn and change.

‘First and foremost, High School is going to be a reasonably unpleasant time, kids like us, damaged through no fault of our own both physically and mentally are seen as fair game for the immature workings of the teenage brain. You will feel that every whispered comment, every bit of laughter, every private exchange between friends will be at your expense. Taunts and even the occasional physical attack will occur, but you must always remember that you will make it out OK on the other side. You will be fine, there will be times when you break down and made to feel lower than the belly of a dead and buried snake, where tears will flow, but you will make it through. My one piece of advice would be to carefully consider who you choose as friends, because if not you will make some terrible choices (although admittedly it will be friends of those you choose as friends who will show the most intolerant attitudes, those who will not accept you because of the way you are. But once again, you will be fine, there will be good days and there will be some happy memories. However the most lasting will be the negatives.’

I notice 12 year old me’s face fall slightly and I put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

‘Once High School finishes, life improves. Sixth Form is by and large filled with decent memories. One piece of advice I would give is perhaps choose your A-level topics a little more wisely and with a bit more thought into where you want to go once you leave, or perhaps even consider going to a different college. AS-Level Biology is going to be hellish, perhaps you may be better off trying your hand at Performing Arts or perhaps Law, or perhaps try a more scientific route. By and large though, Sixth Form is pretty decent. However I would recommend getting some ID sorted as soon as possible, and for GOODNESS SAKE, take it easier at the Sixth Form ball (English version of Prom), embarrassingly drunk will not cover it!’

‘Getting into University will be one of the best things you do, even during the time where you will struggle for jobs, you will still never regret a second. It is the place where you truly find yourself, where you meet the best people you ever will have known. You will live, study and socialise with some great people who will help you to come out of your shell. Again those, on some nights take it easier with the drink, embarrassment will not cover it (and one particular meme will always float around on the internet for all eternity, go easy. You will love your graduation day, whilst also hating it. It will mark the end of a great period in your life, one which you may struggle to let go of whilst you stagnate back in the village you came from, back with the parents, and one where joblessness and living on the dole seems an unfortunate end to such promise! Another piece of advice, run for the Student’s Union committee in some form (never president), because it will be something you will regret at nights when writing blog entries about meeting your decade-younger self.’

After this, younger Anthony begins to perk up and a smile forms across his face.

‘I guess my advice for the next ten years is this; don’t be afraid to express yourself, be the person you are today back then, have a laugh, make jokes about yourself and your (ahem!) shortcomings, run for more drama productions, run for more extra-cirricular activities. When you go to Uni, same thing again, run for everything you can, get involved with the student paper, student radio, students’ union committee, find a part time job. Snatch every opportunity you are given and never, ever, EVER be made to feel less of a person because of the way you were born. You are capable, you are smart, you can be talented and you will find a way in the world.’