Category: Totally random

WebTV: Orange vs Apple | Trailer of the year | How to lose fans and alienate people

Instead of the Picture of the Week (which, I admit, has become more of a picture of the quarter), let’s do a little round-up of videos that have kept me entertained this week.

1. Comedy: Nerdy Five a Day

Okay, Annoying Orange is a bit pointless and kind of…well, annoying – but trust me, walking down the fruit aisle in your supermarket will never be the same again.


2. Movies: The Oscars are so yesterday (plus I can’t be bothered to blog about them)

Quite simply the smartest and funniest pop culture spoof I’ve seen in a long time.

3. Music: Retirement should be obligatory

I used to have a lot of respect for Meat Loaf’s work, up until he completely missed the point where it would have been appropriate to take a bow and say goodbye to the business (or at least to any attempts at singing live) a couple of years ago. And now along comes this first single from his new album, which seems to promise, above all things, that the story is set to get yet a bit sadder.

Cheesy pop song aside – WTF is this video?
a) A showcase of the latest collection of pimp suits
b) An episode of Scrubs gone very wrong
c) Police Academy 8 (gone equally wrong)
d) A desperate PR stunt aiming for media attention and a week or two in the album top 100

Feel free to throw in your own suggestions.

Picture of the Week: Steve Bloom’s wildlife photography

Here we go with Picture of the Week #3, and once again it wasn’t really possible to actually keep it down to one picture.

Steve Bloom is another of those People I Shoulda Known About (but didn’t until I had to look them up for work). He currently has a new book coming out, titled Trading Places – The Merchants of Nairobi and has also got a massive portfolio of absolutely stunning wildlife photographs. If you have a look at his ‘Animals’ galleries, don’t miss ‘Water’ and ‘Elephants’!

I love animals (as you’ve probably guessed from my rants about live duck bags and squirrel kebabs), so of course I instantly had a whole list of favourites when I looked at Blooms’ project galleries. Here are my top three:

Chimpanzee by Steve Bloom
A chimpanzee photographed at Monkey World ape rescue centre in the UK, from the Water collection. I love how he seems to be catching raindrops in his hand in this thoughtful pose while all the others are huddled together to shelter from the rain.

Wildebeest by Steve Bloom
Stampeding wildebeest crossing the Mara River in Kenya, also from the Water collection. This photo looks like an elaborate painting to me. The powerful movement of the herd seems to be frozen onto a canvas, with the dozens of horns rising out of the mist creating a pattern that’s at once beautiful and unsettling. Makes the animals look like the spirits of all the wildebeest that have migrated there over time rather than one actual herd. (Or maybe that’s just me seeing ghosts everywhere again.)

Polar bears by Steve Bloom
And, of course, this selection wouldn’t be complete without a bit of ‘Awww, fluffy!’ These three Polar bears, photographed in Manitoba, Canada, are just too cute. The one that’s looking at its hand makes me squee every time I look at the picture. Also makes me wanna paint its nails! The one lounging around next to it looks like it just needs a remote control and a can of coke. And the third is just kind of, ‘Meh, this sucks. Can we do something fun?’

I’ve always loved photos that bring out animals’ personalities – and Steve Bloom is clearly a master at it. I only wish we could all spend more time studying animals and less time driving them to extinction.

Where are Mulder & Scully when you need them?

Here’s one hell of a mystery for you:

Let’s set the scene with some atmospheric Mark Snow whistling.

Okay. If this whole thing wasn’t fucking freaking me out, I’d be in absolute bliss over having my first X File here; my very own unsolved case – mysterious, unexplainable, and bordering to the paranormal.

A little more than a week ago, I came home late (and considerably drunk) from work one night and found a parcel waiting for me on my doorstep. Expecting one of my eagerly-awaited Ebay purchases (or maybe not expecting anything in particular, given the fact that I was drunk enough to not even fully remember my journey home) I opened the parcel – and found a book tumbling onto my lap.

A big, heavy, hardcover book covered in dust and shelf marks. A book I had never seen before, or even heard of.

“Sushi for Beginners,” the cover said to me, while two maki rolled up and down in front of a crossed set of chopsticks and two headless crabs waved their tails at me from their nigri deathbeds.

(I admit that this particular occurrence might have been a product of the day’s alcohol consumption.)

As I tried to pluck the book from my lap, careful to prevent any more dust settling on my dress, a piece of paper came fluttering out from under the front cover.

“With compliments”, it said. From a school in Surrey. A school I had never been to, or even heard of.

Unsettled, I checked the envelope again. It had my name printed on it in capital letters, big and clearly, and my address. The new address of my new flat – known only by a handful of people.

Increasingly unsettled, but also incapable of forming any theory due to the low concentration of blood in my wine, I mumbled “WTF?!” at the book about twenty times and fell asleep.

The next working day I called the number printed on the compliment slip, without getting an answer. On the third working day it occurred to me that the school would be closed during half-term week.

Today I called the school again and explained the situation to the secretary. She promised to investigate. Just now, she called me back, informing me that she spoke to every member of staff in the school and that nobody knew anything about me, or the book, or where it had come from, or why it had been sent.

So how did a used, dusty copy of a book I never ordered, apparently sent by a school where nobody knows anything about me or sending the book, end up at my doorstep, in an envelope with my name and address on it?

I think some more atmospheric Mark Snow whistling is appropriate here.

And it’s still fucking freaking me out!

Total Film vs Empire = Total Dilemma

Every month, I find myself faced with the same dilemma: Do I buy Total Film, or do I buy Empire?

And, no, buying both is not an option. Being a poor student with a bank account suffering unbearably from my magazine addiction, I’m obliged to enforce some amount of self-discipline with regard to my monthly magazine budget.

So, every time we get to that delightfully exciting point in the month when the new issues go on sale, you’ll find me stalking up and down in front of the magazine shelves at WHS, pulling out Empire and TF, respectively, scouring the contents, browsing the features, swapping magazines, scouring, browsing, swapping…and swapping some more.

If one contestant happens to have a beautiful woman on the cover, the battle is usually won at this point. (Yeah, I’m that easily swayed. Magazine covers with beautiful women just look too pretty on my wall.) If there are no beautiful women to be found – which is generally the case – the dilemma usually carries on for about a week and involves daily lingering in front of magazine shelves and drawing many suspicious glances from WHS/newsagents/supermarket staff.

But, seriously – how do you choose between Empire and Total Film?

So, Empire may beat TF big time in terms of sales figures. They’ve got some fabulous formats – watching the Hollywood titans make a complete fool of themselves by not being able to answer a few simple questions about their own films is just priceless. And even the Video Dungeon and those little “things we’ve learnt” blobs alone make buying the mag worthwhile. Having said that, I don’t particularly like Empire’s attitude towards people who (usually for good reasons) haven’t seen A Clockwork Orange. (Basically, in that case, you’re not worthy of the mag.) And, no, I’ll never get used to the orange/red/brownish design on the reviews pages. Blech!

Total Film
, on the other hand, may forever be cursed with a life spent in Empire‘s shadow. But it’s way more than the cooler little brother. For one, TF is published by the country’s most awesome publisher, Future (who I totally want to work for – and that has nothing to do with the fact that they’ve got a life-size Lara Croft and Captain Jack Sparrow in their London branch cafeteria). The mag is gorgeously designed from cover to cover – the features layouts make me howl with envy every month – and you just got to love the TF folks’ delightfully wicked humour. Then there’s the wonderful randomness of the Predicted Interest Curve™ and the “If You Must…” film chart, along with tons of other weird, wonderful, random little formats. And, rather than make me feel ashamed of what I don’t know about films (sadly all too often the Empire approach), Total Film throws in lots of little bits of essentials and trivia that just make me love films a little more every month.

The very promising November 2009 Total Film cover. And I’m not even talking about Ms Fox here…

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that I usually buy Total Film. Unless Empire comes up with a total stroke of genius – like this month’s ’10 Years – 10 Covers’ Icons Issue:

Empire sets out to impress this December with 10 different ‘Icons of the Decade’ covers. Considering the men/women ratio in their choice of icons, I very much doubt they’ll impress anyone with so much as a single feminist gene though.

Which meant that, this time, I spent my magazine shelves lingering time shuffling through the stack of issues trying to decide which Icon of the Decade I’d like to grace my fabulously shiny metallic-y cover. Aragorn? Wolverine? James Bond? Somewhat upset about the lack of female icons (one out of ten? You’ve got to be kidding me!) I decided to go for the Joker, only to find that all the Heath Ledger-fronted issues had already been snatched up. So I settled for Jack Sparrow, who actually does make a pretty fabulous iconic cover – if you can get over the fact that the silly yellow “security protection” sticker would only come off stripping half the metallic coating off the cover along with it.

Anyway, thank you, Empire, for my somewhat ruined but still rather cool second-choice icon cover.

And to my great embarrassment I have to confess that, with all the excitement of 10 shiny covers to choose from and all, I somehow totally can’t remember what TF had to offer on the December issue. But, well, I’ve still got a couple of weeks to catch up on that before I have to face next month’s dilemma…

I made a magazine

Here’s some of my student magazine work. Or rather, my very own magazine – a dissertation project on the MA Magazine Journalism course at Sheffield Uni.

Unite – the magazine for parents of teenagers.

Click on the cover to get to the full PDF.

It’s a hard elf’s life

The good thing about sitting at your desk day and night in a complete deadline panic is that you get a round the clock insight into your neighbours’ lives. Well, at least if your desk is right next to your window.

Mr and Mrs Across the Street had their decorating day today. I watched them wrestle a fat, dark green needle monster out of the boot and through the front door. A few seconds later, they wobbled it into the living room.

Now, you need to know that Mr and Mrs Across the Street, for some reason, leave their enormous front room window completely uncurtained (and otherwise undshielded from nosey passers-by) at any time of the day. And since the room is just opposite my own and across the street from our backyard, I’m the lucky owner of a front-row ticket to The Life of Mr and Mrs Across the Street.

(The downside is that they, in turn, get an unobstructed view of my late night Salsa body movement practice in front of the mirror. Obsessive hip pushing and nearly-there body rolls may be acceptable if executed in a frilly red skirt in the pseudo-Cuban atmosphere of a badly-lit Salsa bar, but a South Yorkshire terrace house and fluffy baby blue Primark reindeer pajamas are just so not latina. I do use my curtains now.)

But I digress. Having witnessed the arrival of The Tree, I moved my writing agony business from desk to bed for a while – change of perspective and stuff, you know. For the rest of the afternoon I only occasionally noticed some elf-like tree-orbiting across the street when I left my position on a tea or chocolate quest.

As the semi-daylight surrendered to the general meteorological misery and made its exit around four o’clock, I ventured to the window, prepared to admire the seasonal masterpiece.

And there was the needle monster, its vast body embellished with a breathtaking total of five yellow lights blinking a little lost and rather nervously at me across dusky suburbia.

Merry Christmas, Mr and Mrs Across the Street.

The rock’s in the boots. (Who says men don’t notice shoes?)

Place: Empty pub, in the late afternoon.
Cast: Me [playing journalist], Very Tattooed Bar Guy.

Me: “…So do you think I could talk to the owner about this?”
Very Tattooed Bar Guy: “Yah sure.” [Comes round the bar and looks at my shoes] “Are you into rock?”
Me: “Uh?”
Very Tattooed Bar Guy: “Rock music?”
Me: “Yeah. Well, some of it. Why?”
Very Tattooed Bar Guy [pointing at my 11-year-old, scruffy black “the bloody hill is gonna freeze over again and I don’t have time to buy new shoes”-style winter boots]: “You dress like a rock chick.”

Never mind that I spent half the afternoon painting my nails black and blood red. The essence of my style apparently lies in the boots somebody gave me when I was a kid living in the middle of muddy nowhere.

Guess you could say I have a new favourite pair of shoes now.