Sunday, 19 February 2012

I just don't care anymore

What a nihilistic title for a post.  Of course, I don't mean it generally; I'm being very specific with it.

There are things in my life I care about and have always cared about.  I care about the well-being of my friends.  I care about having an interesting career.  I care about the latest scientific developments.  And I care about the health of our guinea pigs.

There are things I have never cared about.  Football, for instance.

And then there are the things I used to care about, but really don't raise any interest anymore.  Things which I used to actively seek out information about and take an active interest in, but which now pass me by.  It's not that I've gone from "liking" them to "disliking" them - it's simply that I don't really care anymore.

Firstly on the list is Madonna.  Back when she put out "Ray Of Light", I used to listen to every single and follow when the next album was coming out.  We even went to see her on tour.  I have to say, the concert was pretty disappointing.  Rehearsed to the point of perfection, there was no spontaneity and no life in it.  Yeah she sang live, and yeah she played a bit of guitar, but I would've preferred a few more rough edges and a little more fun. Since then my interest has waned.  I don't actively dislike her, I just don't really care anymore.  She came across as quite unpleasant on Graham Norton the other week, I admit.  I was hoping I'd watch that and care again.  But I just don't.  She's got a new album out soon, apparently.  *shrug*

Also on the list is Top Gear.  It used to be fun.  The challenges used to be interested and the jokes used to be original and funny.  And then it became the same.  There are occasional flashes of interest - but largely every new series could be replaced with a repeat of the last series and nobody would notice.  I don't even both recording it on Sky+ anymore.

I'm almost ashamed to admit that I don't really care about QI anymore.  I used to love it.  Pedantry and trivia are two of my favourite things in the world, and putting them on TV with Stephen Fry (who is also on this list, btw) seemed ideal.  And it was.  For a few series.  But it's all a bit same-y now.  Time to put the format to bed and come up with another, methinks.

And finally, and I hate saying this even more than I hate saying I don't really care for QI anymore...  I really am not that bothered about Doctor Who anymore.  I don't know quite how it happened, but it saddens me that it has.  I was a fan as a kid, and never missed an episode.  And so I was thrilled when it came back a few years ago.  Reinvented, but still the same old show, I got hooked and was watching every week and used to count the weeks until the new series started.  And then it faded.

It wasn't sudden.  It was a gradual drifting away.  I think the constant barrage of stories where the Doctor saves the Universe have worn me down, and compassion fatigue has set in.  Every series had to be bigger and have more of a sense of "the end of everything" than the last and it started to get silly.  I guess I'll watch the next series, but if I miss an episode, I shalln't shed a tear.

So I need some new things to care about.  I need some TV series to watch and get drawn into.  I need some new music to listen to.  Maybe the answer is to start watching films? ;-)

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


I've been accused of wearing my "never seen many films" badge with honour.  I wouldn't say I wear such a badge with honour, but it's certainly something I talk about often.   It's interesting to talk about for two reasons. When talking about how few films I've seen, it's interesting to hear people tell me how much I'm missing out on.  Even the most banal of film can turn into a cinematic masterpiece when people are telling me how much better than the book it is.  Secondly, and more interestingly, people often say "you should definitely watch this" and then recommend the films I should watch.

The other weekend, we had a couple of friends over for an evening in, and I saw True Lies.  It was honestly the first time I'd ever seen it, and by my rough counting, I think it was the 19th film I've ever seen all the way through.  Yes, nineteen.    It was fun; I did enjoy it.

I've no moral objection to film.  I don't see it as any less an artform that literature or music.  I'm sure it's a great art form, and I'm sure some of the people working in film are true masters of their art.  But in the same way I have little interest in ballet, I have little interest in film; it's just not an artform I feel able to connect to.

As a kid, cinema wasn't a huge part of my life.  I saw a few films as I was growing up, but going to the cinema wasn't a regular thing for me.  Books were much more so.  Pretty much from the moment I was able to coordinate my hands enough to hold a book, one was thrust into them by my mother.  She was (and still is) obsessed with books.  She has an entire room of her house full (I mean literally full, there is nothing else in the room!) of books.  Stacked on shelves, on the floor and on each other.  She knows where every one of them is and has her favourites in places she can easily get to them.

I can remember the first books I read - Freddy the Frog ("A curious frog is our Freddy, for when the rain starts to fall quite steady, to save himself from splishes and splashes into the lake he quickly dashes") and I remmeber Mr A. Mazing and his Amazing Monsters.  I honestly can't remember the first film I saw.

This left me with an appetite for books and an ability to read books at quite a pace - once absorbed in a book I can read it at great speed whilst blocking out the world around me.  But it's also left me with nothing more than apathy for cinema.

I watched the BAFTAs the other night.  It was interesting, but I realised that in the past year the only film I've seen is the final Harry Potter film.  I've not see Hugo, or The Artist or any of the other films featuring heavily in this year's award season... seeing the Harry Potter films is a tradition followed for reason I shalln't go into here rather than because I love the films; in truth I prefer the books!

There are so many films which I've not seen.  I've not seen any of the Star Wars films. I've never seen any of the Lord Of The Rings films.  I've never seen The Godfather.  Nor any Hitchcock films.  I've seen The Sound Of Music.  I've seen This Is Spinal Tap.  I've never seen a film with either Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise in.

I don't think that I'm ever going to see a film which will lead to an epiphany.  I don't think any one film is ever going to leave me with a feeling inside which says "I now understand cinema".  I just don't think it's something I have a connection to and don't think it's a medium which can ever move me in the way a well-written book can.

Whenever I see a film poster on the tube, there's nothing in me which says "must go and see that".   If the premise from the poster looks interesting, I'm more likely to research the book the film is based on and buy that instead.  It's a prejudice, I admit that, but it's a hard one to shake and I'm simply not sure the rewards are worth it.

When I used to take long haul flights regularly, I started watching quite a few films.  But generally I found myself bored by halfway through and turned it off and went back to reading a book instead.  I think the only film I watched all the way through on a long haul flight was "Mr Bean's Holiday" and I suspect I only stuck with that because a) it was short and b) I just wanted to see if it could possibly get any worse as it progressed.

A few months ago, we were at home and wanted to listen to a CD.  Yes, one of those old things.  We realised that in our living room, we don't have any way of easily playing a CD.  We don't have a DVD player, nor a games console which can play CDs or DVDs.  We have a Mac Mini, but that's not wired up at the moment.  The best solution we could come up with was to use one of the PCs elsewhere in the house to rip the CD and then bring an MP3 player into the living room and plug that into the TV to use the speakers.  Yes, we don't have a music system in the living room, either.

So what's film number 20 going to be.  Well we were at friends' place on Friday night for dinner, and having pretty much this conversation.  We came home with a DVD which we had been loaned.  So, film number 20 is going to be "Team America".    Who knows when I'll actually get around to watching it; I'm going to need to find something on which to play DVDs first!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Camp Hand Gestures

It's an oft-asked question - "What would be your super power if you could have one?"

It's not a question I've pondered much, but if you were to ask me right this second, my answer wouldn't be anything to do with solving world hunger or being invisible so I could creep around the place unseen - right now, I'd like to be able to ironing clothes whilst sitting on the sofa using only the power of my mind.

But whilst on the subject of mundane super powers, I once saw Laurence Llewellyn Bowen by the side of the road.  It was back when I worked near Paddington and he was standing on Eastbourne Terrace.   Suddenly, he flung his arm out and performed what can only be described as a "dandy-ish gesture" with his hand.  Right at that second, a Mercedes pulled up alongside him - seemingly appearing from nowhere - and he climbed in and was whisked away.   Now that's a super power I wouldn't mind - gesture your hand in a slightly camp way and a Mercedes appear to whisk you out of the cold.  It'd make getting home from the pub much easier.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

I love a good ghost story, me

I do love a good ghost story.  I don't believe for a second that ghosts actually exist, but a well-written ghost story is a great thing to read.

Even for someone who doesn't believe in ghosts, a well-written ghost story can create enough tension to get the hairs on the back of my neck standing up.  Even though I know there's not going to be anything staring back at me, a well-written ghost story can cause me to stare nervously out of the window into the darkness, for a moment hoping that there won't be a figure looking back at me.

So, I bought "The Woman In Black" at the weekend.  I don't ever go to the cinema (*) but I am aware enough to know that the film's out at the moment and I'm aware of the stage play, too.  I guess that's why the book was so prominent in Waterstones when I was in there.

Anyway, I'd heard that it was genuinely quite scary, so I thought I'd pick it up and give it a read.  It's a short book, so I got through it in a couple of days' worth of commutes across London.  And it was great.

I really would encourage anyone reading this to go and buy the book, so I shalln't write too much of the plot - but suffice to say it strikes the balance brilliantly between injecting enough to create the chilling atmosphere but without the ridiculously overblown encounters which some less well-written ghost stories tend to rely on.

Talking of less well-written ghost stories, I bought a book of true (yes, I know) ghost stories whilst up north at the weekend.  I already had the first volume of Wirral ghost stories by Tom Slemen and I enjoyed it (in the way one may enjoy a Pot Noodle or watching Eastenders.  A sort of shallow enjoyment...) so much that I thought I'd buy the second volume.  It was great.  The funniest thing I've read in a long time...

*I really don't ever go to the cinema.  I've probably seen under 20 films in my entire life.  And three of those are the Matrix films.  And no, I've never seen Star Wars.

The futility of it all

Firstly, please don't judge me for this.  I don't deliberately listen into other conversations.  I'm naturally inquisitive, it's true, but I am not one for eavesdropping into a private conversation in the same way I wouldn't want anyone to eavesdrop on my conversations.  However, on a rush hour of a morning, personal space is in short supply and if somebody is having a conversation right next to you, it's impossible not to hear it.

Of course, hearing it isn't the same as listening.  But even when not consciously listening to a conversation, the brain can still pick out the odd word, and sometimes there are words, or phrases, or threads in the conversation which act like a beacon to the conscious brain - drawing attention from your book or current "Words with Friends" game and pulling it into the conversation of the person next to you.

I was on the tube yesterday morning and this happened to me.  I was trying to finish off "The Woman In Black" and I overheard the conversation of the woman next to me, and the guy who was standing next to her.

Sometimes, I worry think about the ultimate futility of my job.  Don't get me wrong - I enjoy my job, and I believe I make a good contribution to the company and the team - but I don't save anyone's life or make the world a better place at any fundamental level.   But when you overhear a conversation of someone describing how their task for the past week has been to organise the re-upholstering of the office chairs into the new company colours - suddenly life as a software manager doesn't seem quite so bad.