Thursday, 31 January 2013

(TV REVIEW) Derek: Episode 1

"He's good at playing a retard, isn't he?"

Ladies and gentlemen, my mother. Say what you like about the political incorrectness of the statement, but it was quite majestic in a sense how she was able to completely undermine the point of the programme in one fell comical swoop.

But perhaps that's a little harsh. If you remove the negative implications of the word 'retard', she had a valid point; Gervais portrayed the titular character excellently, in my opinion at least. Also, her comment was somewhat reflective of the public opinion, or at least the media's opinion of the show; that is, you are somewhat forced to dismiss any negative implications in order to gain guilt-free enjoyment from it, and vitally, to truly appreciate it. But the thing is, these 'negative implications' shouldn't really exist.

I shall clarify. Much of the supposed outrage at the show; no, all of the supposed outrage at the show has been squarely directed at the fact that, at a glance, it appears Gervais is mocking those with learning difficulties. Sadly, it seems that yet again people are confused by the subject of the joke and the target of the joke- something Gervais has had to put up with his whole career. Many fear the prospect of laughing at a programme featuring a man with some sort of mental health issue would result in getting their door kicked down by the thought police. Others think Gervais is just a bully, an opinion fuelled by that Susan Boyle business a few years ago. However, if you satisfy the following conditions of a) actually watching the programme and b) owning half a brain, you'll find this isn't really the case at all. Is Derek the butt of the joke? At times, yes, but this is literally a necessity of the sitcom genre. Regardless of the few directorial and scriptual misgivings (which I shall get onto later), it is crystal clear that Derek is intended to be a hero; a kind, simple man whom all of us should be more like. Gervais has said similar things about the character in various interviews, but it's something I've discovered for myself to be true. Derek is the sort of character who makes you want to reach into the screen and give them a hug; and if you don't, you hate all disabled people. Probably.

As you can see, trying to discuss the public 'controversy' and overall context of the show is a messy and circular affair. Then again, to ignore it would be similarly futile; aspects of Derek, both the programme and character, appear to be a response to some of the aforementioned criticism. But I don't think this is Ricky trying to tell everyone he was a good guy all along; I don't really think he cares. Yet to a degree the programme is undoubtedly a reaction to cynicism in general; both suggested and actual. To describe Derek in a sentence, it's a brave and engaging yet flawed comedy-drama that, on ocassion clumsily, treads the line between utter bleakness and life-affirming warmth.

So, now onto the actual programme. The first episode was a generally enjoyable experience; not quite living up to the quality of last year's pilot episode (which in my opinion got the comedy to drama ratio just right), but indicative that it's going to get progressively better throughout the 6-episode run. The laugh-ometer would probably give a reading of  'consistent chuckles and the ocassional laugh'- so perhaps not quite as much as I was expecting. But it is interesting to note that I was smiling throughout, in a way that meant I didn't really mind about the relative lack of laughter. The only major flaw would have to be the application of its drama and pathos; whereas The Office interweaved tragedy elegantly between all the dancing, knob gags and the quoting of Eric Hitchmo from the Coventry Conference ("I don't agree with that in the workplace!") like the sketchings of a fine pencil; Derek slaps on the woe by the paint can; think those massive abominations Neil Buchanan used to make on Art Attack. But is this such a bad thing? Apart from feeling a little patronised at times, especially when Karl Pilkington's otherwise fantastic character Dougie delivers a mawkish piece to camera, describing how everyone's such a 'big family' while that piano score plays incessently in the background. But these are not show-ruining gripes- my only suggestion for improvement would have been to direct more time and attention to the comedy so when the drama hits, it really hits. Not that my say has any effect on anything.

So what's my verdict? Well, I enjoyed it, and I'm sure, with an odd sense of certainity, that it just needs time to get going until it reaches its full potential, a gauntlet laid down in part by last year's fantastic pilot (specifically, the 'Joan' scenes) and also by the excellent 'making of' documentary which you can probably still catch on 4OD. After all, I watched the first episode of The Office with a relatively stony face; as the first episode of Derek made me laugh and smile, by that logic it's going to better it. Yet I'm highly doubtful it will, but not really through any fault of its own. Even if Derek isn't going to end up as good as either The Office or Extras, that should not spell disaster; I mean, it's already better than Life's Too Short, just by not being Life's Too Short. Besides, do I care if it's recognised as 'good' or not? Not too much. What is important is the connection one makes with it, which applies to any kind of art. Derek, in its slightly blundering way, made me feel a bit fuzzy inside. It also had Karl Pilkington in a silly wig.


Saturday, 26 January 2013


Sparknotes would be far better if it didn't have those insufferable 'Geek Out!' advertisements down the side of the page. They really fucking annoy me.

That is all.


Friday, 25 January 2013

Writer's Block

In accordance with my one-blog-a-week pledge, I am due to write a post today, or else my New Year's resolution shall be broken and moral decay will surely ensue. Yet I really don't know what to write about.

The past week has been quite good, in terms of personal enjoyment. I can't help but feel that round about now, I'm undergoing some sort of formative interval; I distinctly feel my attitude towards things changing, in some ways for the better. I think I may be happier, and definitely more antisocial. Yet the word 'antisocial' has such negative connotations; in an effort to find a more appropriate word, I visited to find a suitable synonym, yet nearly all those available were similarly negative. I don't think the term is deserving of malignment; at least in my case, the absense of social aspects in my life provides happiness and, quite frankly, convenience. I say this all with no hyperbole. Though I have a fondness for my current, small group of friends, I have no desire whatsoever to obtain any more; other than of the romantic variety, but that futile wish is perhaps deserving of its own blog. I completely detest the idea of parties, and recently facebook, for want of a better phrase, is getting right on my tits. Though I enjoy college, I would much prefer it if those awful gaps between lessons were eradicated and instead the timetable consisted of straight lessons, so I could just go home early and get my work done, not having to waste time standing in the corner of a cretin-filled cafeteria. This wasn't really a problem until a few months ago, as my college library came equipped with a 'silent zone'; a wondrous workplace- for what it lacked in size, it made up with the golden rule of complete silence. However, building work has closed it for the foreseeable future, and part of me really misses it.

Anyway, back on topic; elsewhere in these ambigious developments, I've finally started to properly enjoy videogames again (fuelled partly by the announcement of all sort of great software for the Wii U- sorry, I'll stop being geeky), and have obtained a newfound ambivalence to my studies. If I'm using the word correctly, this means that I've gained some degree of previously absent confidence about them, but on the other hand, am scared shitless at the prospect of exams coming up relatively soon. Though my practise assessments and such haven't indicated any real areas of concern, half the time I'm convinced I'm not going to reach my personal aim of getting As in everything. At the peak of this madness, I got a bit annoyed at getting a 7.5/10 for a practise exam question, which as we all know is 0.5 of a point off an A. I'M GOING TO FAIL. But on the other hand (this is back to the first hand- not some conceptual third hand. That would just be silly.), I'm starting to view the idea of revision as less of a hassle, and more of a vital component of my weekly life. Though I generally reject the idea of duty, I'm a strong believer of the idea that so-called 'shade' is needed in our lives to enable appreciation of the 'light'. As is often the case, I have yet to practise what I preach; in the first day of my 'big revision 3-day weekend', I have done precisely 0% revision, 0% homework and 100% piss arsing about with videogames.

So perhaps I should go and do some revision. Then there's the homework. And that Cambridge essay isn't going to write itself.

Stop distracting me!



Friday, 18 January 2013

as wise as a group of owls

In an earlier blog, I briefly mentioned a bizarre story I wrote when I was younger. I've been taking advantage of the snow closure to clear out my cupboards today, and although I can't find the story in question, I've found some interesting and strange things nonetheless. I would thoroughly recommend looking at your old school work, if you still have it- it's hilarious.

First off is this diary, reading 'journal' oddity circa 2006; Elliott Wright age 11, if you will. It's a goldmine. Here are a few excerpts.

"In maths we found out where our food comes from."

"We had a french teacher who taught us french"

"The dance instructer came to teach us more of the ghost dance."

"(TEACHER NAME REMOVED) was very strict this morning- i don't blame her. Some kids didnt use capital letters and full stops!"

"I learned the most in I.C.T- about islam!"

I sound so proud.

"In maths we did a fudge investigation- and in the end we got fudge."

I'm starting to think I got maths confused with food technology.

"Bad news. Yesterday, we had a supply teacher, and nearly everyone was loud, naughty, and disrespectful. (TEACHER NAME REMOVED)s furious. She nearly exploded. I don't blame her. At least I didn't get in trouble. In numeracy we found out how to find out the area of a triangle. You first find the area of a rectangle, and divide it by 2. Easy. (TEACHER NAME) only gave us 10 minutes to do 8 questions. I was the only one who got the questions done. So I diddnt have to stay in at break. I didnt have to stay in anyway even if I didnt complete it, because I was good yesterday"

I'm starting to realise why I didn't have many friends at junior school.

"Good news! We are now allowed to write in pen."

"Yay! This week is anti-bullying week! We have an assembly today, and I get to act in it! I'm a bully who has to boss people around. But then, somebody stands up to me for the victim, and they play and I get angry."

I'm still waiting for that BAFTA.

"Today I have to go home early- I have to see a dermatologist for my skin condition"

Why I felt the urge to write that in a school exercise book I'll never know.

(date unknown)
"I think its right as long as they are kept in an enclosure simalar to their natural habitat, and are given good and areas where they can have some privacy"

I really hope I wasn't talking about ethnic minorities here.

Next, a hand-written letter, approximate date Summer 2007, presumably as a means to introduce myself to the teacher I had for the last term of that year. A lanky Australian, if I remember rightly. If my memory serves me correctly he was a nice fellow, though his insistence of the weekly activity of playing 'Aussie rules football' conflicted distinctly with my sedantry preferences. It's pretty standard 11-year old fare, but contains a startling piece on gender equality; "I believe that boys and girls have equal rights, and a girl and boy can be friends.", and "I don't like bullies because I think they should be stopped". Also interesting to note are my career intentions at the time- "When I'm older I want to be a dog breeder or an actor." I still can't quite get my head around the former. I don't even like dogs that much.

Better (or worse) still, I have uncovered work circa 2000-2002, including my earliest recorded piece of writing, in suspiciously neat handwriting and correct spelling.

"Dear Father Christmas, please can I have an action man."

I still find that a bit odd, considering I was never a child who was into action figures, or action of any variety.

Also, my first recorded poem.

"God is...

As Happy as a canairie
As loving as a pair of guinea pigs,
ash uge as a giant,
as wise as a group of owls,
as fun as two hamsters playing in a box,
as clever as a teacher,
as fast as a very fast ant
as gentle as a kind penguin
as kind as a very nice friend,
as helpful as a helpful hand,
as creative as a monkey,
as shiny as a bright star,
as special as a Christmas tree"

Clearly, this satirical masterpiece predates and serves as a premonition for my later atheism. The abundance of metaphor, frankly incredulous throughout, mocks the notional omniscience of a Christian God, but most of all, it contains the phrase 'as fast as a very fast ant', which probably deserves to be framed.

The religious motifs continue in my earlier work in a Christmas themed illustration (circa 29.11.02), depicting the virgin Mary glaring, quite frighteningly, over the newborn Christ, with the following caption; "Christians believe mary was happy but a little bit worried".

That's pretty much all of it worth mentioning, aside from some particularly demonic illustrations.

What I have learned? Not much more than I already knew. As a child I was very innocent, but also very strange.

As I said earlier, delving into your personal history is always a fascinating procedure, regardless of how painful it may be. 


Monday, 14 January 2013

A Wilde Evening

I write this locked in the thrall of that rare phenomenon which can only be described as feeling utterly pleased with myself. This abnormal, yet very quite welcome emotion has come as a result of  me finally taking some considerably productive steps towards that previously mentioned task of my inevitably futile entry to the Cambridge University Peterhouse Essay Competion. This emotion does not derive from a belief that I have a cat in hell's chance of being commended for it, let alone winning (my delusion does not stretch that far), but rather that I just wrote a whole lot of nonsense that is probably the beginnings of, and I realise I use this phrase to ludicrous frequency, the best thing I've ever written.

Perhaps one joy of this perilous, youthful  stage of my life is that my writing skills are in such an infancy that every new thing I write, self-indulgent blogs notwithstanding, is probably the best thing I've ever written. Nonetheless, I'm really quite excited about it all, which I feel is probably  mostly thanks to experiencing the great talents of a certain Mr Oscar Wilde. As good as his satirical dramatic creations are, while Dorian Gray signals a slide into beautiful madness, it is his epistle De Profundis that is an utter masterpiece, albeit one that is only recognized as such once it has come under some analysis. In layman's terms, I've just spent the last couple of hours reading and taking sloppy notes on an overblown letter written by some dead bummer, and I feel fucking great about it. But why? I shan't spoil anything by describing the work, as I would recommend you read it yourselves. But it's just really good, and seems to transfer some of its greatness onto the spectator, as all great works of literature should.

Anyway, I shan't go on, as I don't really know what else to say other than the fact that I 'heart' literature, and also because a chance glance of the television as 'What happens in Kavos' is on has reaffirmed my disdain for humanity (it's one of those hideous documentary programmes that chronicle the idiocy of young british tourists getting drunk and being generally awful in European holiday resorts, of which my view has gradually altered from amusement to bemusement). So yes, I don't know, go and read a book or something. And I mean a good book; as snobbish as this sounds; something that is considered a classic. By that I mean Wilde, Orwell, Salinger, Burgess, Tolkien, Bronte, whoever; not Meyer. Take an extract, and try to assess it critically. You might just have a lot of fun doing it. But probably not, I appreciate.


Thursday, 10 January 2013


I wrote a poem. Here it is.

it's perfectly adequate
yet devoid of anything
no longer is the tyranny in force
replaced by an altogether

one may have wished for this
they have

after aquaintance with it,
it seems no nearer satisfaction
just numb

for the thought of being a burden


Sunday, 6 January 2013


"Your blog makes you sound like a manic depressive"

Such a criticism would be damning given by anyone, undoubtedly, but when it's your own mother you can't help but worry. I really should remove her from facebook.

Anyway, my new windows phone came. It's quite good; no, really quite good. I particularly like how personable it is; such is the enjoyment of seeing your photos flit across the menu screen, I happily spent about half an hour downloading pictures of Alan Partridge onto it. Safe to say, if anyone else were to get their hands on the phone, they would think I was a complete mentalist.

Not much else has happened since the last entry, largely on account of the fact I've been writing my English coursework (because nothing says 'Happy New Year' like comparative literature) for the entirety of this week. Having finished it, I can say it's either the best or most pretentious thing I've ever written. Definitely the latter. Actually, perhaps this dismissal is premature. For long I've regarded my 5000 word beast entitled "Should I be concerned by the increasing accuracy of George Orwell’s dystopian prediction of modern life in his novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’?”, as the best thing I've ever written, but in retrospect it's more of a report than an essay, and in many ways a mere excuse to experience the joys of using Jeremy Clarkson as part of a highbrow analogy regarding Orwellian conceptualisations. Indeed, I appreciate that most my age enjoy activities such as seeing friends, loud music and inebriation, yet I'm quite content with my bathos, thank you very much. This observation is made sadder still by the fact that most my age don't know what 'bathos' means, either.

Disregarding my Orwell essay, the only other candidate for 'best thing I've ever written' can only really be my last piece of English coursework, given the fact it's the only thing I've really worked on hard on since. As much as it sounds like I do, ultimately I don't really care if this second piece is better or worse than the last, but if it gets anything less than an A I'll never fucking write again. My primary concern is finding time for, and allowing myself to, essay-writing-wise, 'breathe' before I start probably my most ambitious work yet; an entry to the Cambridge University, Peterhouse College Thomas Campion English Prize. There are many problems to face; I haven't done any of it yet and the deadline is the end of March, the questions are dauntingly lofty, even by my ludicrous standards, and if for whatever reason they find this blog, going on the unlikely premise I'll get anywhere with it, I'd probably be immediately disqualified on the grounds of crimes against literature. But anyway, my point is, I quite enjoy writing essays and like to think I'm progressively improving. However, none of this truly compares to one of the stories I wrote in Year 3. I shall have to dig it out soon; it is probably the most insane thing a child has ever written. Not in that delightfully 'zany', childish way, it's just sad. The teacher's sarcastic comment remains distinctly impressed in my memory, daubed in red ink; "Errr, very imaginative". It's quite telling how the very same riposte applies today.

Anyhoo, what else has happened? I watched the Celebrity Big Brother launch the other night, primarily with the view to write a whole blog entry about it. However, two things have prevented this from fruition. The first is the realisation that doing so would be shooting fish in a proverbial barrel; in other words, it is all too easy and uninspired to mock these washed-up cretins, especially when Claire from Steps looks like she's eaten the other members of the group.  Secondly, because my notes gathered after  viewing were quite pitiful. They are as follows; "crowd looks like a bunch of idiots. 'Lacy Banghard'- funny name. Rylan actually seems like a genuine bloke". By that last one, you could tell that by then my mind had just surrendered to the mush of it all. But lord help me, he does.

That's it really.


Wednesday, 2 January 2013

New Year, Same Shit Part II

Now the New Year has actually happened, I'm feeling a bit better about it. In fact, my spirits as a whole have lifted considerably, probably due to the fact I'm getting a shiny new phone. Though I pride myself on not investing too much value into material objects, all too often it takes a new gadget to cheer me up. I don't know the full name of it but I believe it's a Windows Phone, which I assume are quite good. Good or not, it's a definite improvement on my old phone, which is on all accounts bloody awful. This will also mark the first time I've ever been in possession of a smart phone. Though in a sense this probably serves as an initiation into some abstract condition of subservience to commercial culture, in which 'needs' and 'wants' are so sickeningly and downright annoyingly confused (I freely admit I'm being hypocritical here, as this applies to me whenever the latest Super Mario game comes out), I feel a probably bigger worry of the fact that I'll probably never get off the thing. I shall give, as I rarely put probably should do, an example to support my point; seconds after the new year, instead of popping streamers and hugging each other or whatever the hell you're supposed to do, the people in my company instead turned their heads down to their smartphones and tapped away. Not only did the image resemble a funerary procession, a visually scathing indictment of these capricious times, but I felt like a right tit struggling with my absolute brick of a phone. After texting all my friends (I probably texted about 3 people; so yes, all my friends) and not receiving any replies or acknowledgement of receipt, I started to convince myself they had all 'gone off' me before it shortly emerged that my signal was down.

The previous paragraph, I appreciate, emanates mixed messages; I righteously yet rather misinformedly condemn materialist desire, but on the other hand appear intrigued by gadgets, technology and 'the latest Super Mario game', the childish prick. I can't see why both traits can't be held simultaneously, however contradictory they appear. I think this all boils down to the fact that ultimately, I don't really like to see other people having fun. I have now opened a whole can of contradictory worms for those of you who may be aware of my comedic aspirations; why would such a misanthrope want to make people laugh for a living? Well, for me comedy is much more than 'making people laugh for a living'; chiefly, it's an art form, but no matter what efforts I make to dress it up I think ultimately it's a bizarre career choice borne out of my enduring requirement for external validation. I'm no expert in psychology, so let's just blame my parents for everything and be done with it.

Sorry, yes, gadgets and games. I quite selfishly desire these on occassion, but settle for a rule of quality over quantity to ensure I do not completely demolish the contents of my allowance-funded wallet. As all my money is technically my parents' (at some point in the blog I shall probably discuss at length how I can't get a job despite my numerous efforts, and whinge about how unfair this is), I feel a considerable duty to make sure that whatever I buy is a) good value for money, and b) I would get sufficient use out of it to justify the purchase. Mr Rolfe would be proud, not that any of you know who that is. This duty isn't imposed upon by my parents, not at all; it's completely self-imposed, and I think it ties in with the idea that while I don't assign much value in money, as so many of my contemparies do, but that I appreciate the stuff doesn't grow on trees and shouldn't be wasted. Again, this is something not necessarily taught to me, but something I have felt obliged to make my maxim after sheer experience. I come from a working class family, a statement I attribute to the fact that we didn't get a shower until last year, but I've never really felt denied of anything, a fact that in reflective hindsight is something I've hugely taken for granted. I might go and hug my mum in a bit. That said, as far as I remember my desires haven't been extraneous; instead of demanding, I don't know, ponies, my childhood gifts usually constituted of books (vast quantities), Lego, and, as I will now discuss, videogames.

Now, it would be wrong to assign videogames to my formative years, as I still take an active interest in them, but it would be fair to say that my dependence on them has waned significantly in the past year or two; not necessarily because I believe that they are no longer worthy of my attention, but I've realised that there are things that are, sadly, more worthy of my attention, such as writing big blog posts for an audience of no-one. To wheel out the well-worn excuse, I don't really have time for them any more. This said, I recently (I apologise in advance for the nerdiness) purchased a Nintendo Wii U. In spite of the seemingly apathetic wave of indifference the console seems to be experiencing from commercial and critical audiences, I can honestly say it's bloody brilliant, in that uniquely mad Nintendo way. If we're using a cinematic metaphor, think of Nintendo as the Pixar of the videogames industry; wrongly daubed by morons as some sort of toddler-feed, but actually usually create entertainment that is excellently crafted, apart from Cars 1 and 2. I really fucking hate Cars.

To get back on the subject, to use the term loosely, in spite of increasing disinterest (let's face it, the 3DS and Wii U are shaping up to be highly derivative of their predecessors, and consequently no-where near as revolutionary) Nintendo (apologies for the abundance of parenthesis, but I should point out that I'm using 'Nintendo' as a substitute word for 'videogames', as the games on other platforms have always seemed to bore me) has remained loyal in providing me with considerable entertainment. I speak as if the beloved Japanese game company has been a part of my life from the start, but this wasn't really the case at all until around 2006. This was the year the Nintendo DS really took off, and also the year my older brother received an original blue, I suspect second-hand original Nintendo DS, which now resides in a draw somewhere covered in stickers and collecting dust. It's odd to think how this ugly, tatty bit of blue plastic would shape the next five or so years for me, especially when, as I'll say again, I'm not supposed to attach so much value to physical, material objects. Perhaps it's the modesty of the thing that allows it to slip under this almost buddhist rule, but undeniably it all lies in the games; most notably Animal Crossing: Wild World, the bizarre animal life sim which consumed my life for about 2 years; see also, Mario Kart and the Pokemon games. These names stir within me an emotion that can best be described as heaving nostalgia. Though really this was not too long ago, they nonetheless constitute a shimmering conclusion to a recently bygone era in which genuine amazement was still achievable, which must have ended around the time I learned how to masturbate. In retrospect the contrast between the tiny size of the game cartridges themselves  and the tremendous game-playing experience resultant of them is quite poetic, and perhaps goes some way in explaining my tendency to veer towards the humble and unextravagant, as manifested by my reluctance to enjoy spending lots of money. In other words, and I say this with no phallic connotation, in my experience size certainly does not matter.

This is all very well and good, you may be thinking, but what the fuck does it have to do with New Year? Not much, really. All that reminiscing was quite irrelevant, though a new Animal Crossing game is coming out this year, which is good. I do, however, feel an urge to make some sort of New Year's resolution. Surely to decide what needs to be resolved depends on knowing what you need to change about yourself, and if this post is anything to go by, apart from my tendency to over-analyse I seem to have no major flaws. I don't have an alcohol, smoking or drugs problem (although I do endulge in the ocassional calpol), I'm not that fat any more (come to think of it I was happier when I was fat...), there's no problem with my academic record and, as discussed, I don't really need a job for now with all this gadgetery to muck about with. Perhaps I should take myself and other things less seriously; of course, in blog form I maintain an entertaining if cynical outlook, but in 'irl' I often awake to an apocalyptic feeling of dread and I'm not entirely sure why. I probably feel most emotionally contented when I'm writing these big-ass blogs, so perhaps to do more writing and less thinking is key. If I'm going to combat this miserablness I need to take productive steps, and whinging about it in a little-read blog appears oddly therapuetic, if incredibly futile. Hereby, I declare to write an entry at the very least once per week, and also resolve to write some reviews or stories now and then. Most vitally, perhaps I ought to try and have fun again, in the best way I know how; sitting on my own playing with a videogames console.

Well, what more do you want?