Box To The Future

•June 5, 2014 • 1 Comment

Earlier this week I had an acquaintance approach me with the assumed knowledge that I was definitely a Father. Pending an extraordinary twist worthy of the world’s craziest soap-operas, this is not the case. I promise. However, this odd appointment (and today’s activity) has made me think about a number of things in a different way. And listen to music. I am currently listening to a rather bombastic, action-packed score, and reminiscing. I am casting my mind back. Way back…Back to the year 20…something (2002? 2003?)

In this year, I bought myself an Xbox. Money had been slammed down, metaphorically, as fast as electronic transfer means would allow – I had made this impulsive transaction at a time of life where it was probably in the Top 5 Most Expensive Things I had ever personally bought. The result was this massive, big-enough-to-eat-your-VCR-player-and-still-be-hungry monstrosity, that I had decided to purchase after being enthralled by a friend’s console. This experience of being “thralled” had left me believing that my recreational time, if not along with a measure of my rest time, would be best spent in conjunction with this…this…Box.

"HELLO LOVER - MEET MY LEASHED SIDEKICK, BUTTON-O"

“HELLO LOVER – MEET MY LEASHED SIDEKICK, BUTTON-O”

I was mostly right: It definitely got a hell of a lot of use. So much use in fact, that when it’s replacement, the whizz-bang, high-tech, slightly melted-looking Xbox 360 came around for release, I pre-ordered. Months later, myself and a similarly fanatical friend were waiting in line at the midnight opening, paid-off receipts in hand, eager for our early purchases of gadgetry to be distributed. Which happened very shortly after the clock struck 12. Laden down with boxes and plastic clam-shelled accesories, we raced back to his house, where his console was set up in minutes, and we spent the rest of the night blasting our way through the new titles, revelling in the machine’s processing power, and the freedom of our wireless controllers. After finally succumbing to fatigue and snoozing, I took my haul home and placed it reverently aside my TV stand.

Where it remained sealed for at least two months.

"COME ON! LET'S DO THIS THING! WITNESS MY LEVITATING SIDEKICK!"

“COME ON! LET’S DO THIS THING! WITNESS MY LEVITATING SIDEKICK!”

Looking back on it, it’s very clear to me that it was a strange, and potentially my first,  case of buyer’s remorse. Why exactly? I don’t know, but I was resenting that thing, that off-white, slightly sunken entertainment upgrade. I had loved every moment I spent playing my friend’s console, but something was stopping me from setting it up and getting into it myself. Was it the widespread stories of a high failure rate that scared me from powering up? Was it the amount of money it had cost and my relatively ambivalent level of excitement regarding the games I had? Was it just a nagging sensation that I had bought something I really didn’t want or need? I cannot answer any of the above. I lost many hours of sleep trying to figure this out. (Just imagine how my rest is interrupted by something REALLY important.) However, some later event occurred that ended with me setting up the device, and I never looked back – I love it like the other half of my unconventional cop partnership that would have spawned a successful movie franchise, had we only had that first, daring cinematic release.

One of these is a high-tech robot.

(left-to-right: High tech robot, Genre-savvy Detective)

Flash back (forward?) to 2013, the announcement was made that the third generation of Xbox was on the way, the confusing and oft-mocked Xbox One. Not the Xbox III. Being a lover of the portmanteau, I have taken to the “Xbone” nomenclature (pronounced “crossbone”, which should bring to mind either Pirate flags, or particularly macabre-looking arrow-shooting weaponry), and decided very early on that, controversy aside, it was the next-gen horse that I would back, and then promptly did not go out and did not pre-order it. My conviction and loyalty was so strong, I did nothing. Six months on from its release, to the day, and I’d still not bought one. Why is this?

Part of me was still sore from the resentment I held for the Xbox 360 (which, like a kid who is allergic to and loves playing with dogs even though they bite him, I still don’t fully understand.) Part of it was also a far more pragmatic “there wasn’t really a bunch of games I’m keen to plow into”. One of those could be resolved with time and a progressive release schedule. The other may require introspection, a process of rationalisation, and in a real extreme, therapy. In either case, I made a decision today, which explains the change in tense that this paragraph possesses: I bought a crossbone.

Wireless? I call shenanigans.

Wireless connectivity? I call shenanigans.

Partially it was because there’s finally games I’m keen to dive into and lose my free time with. Partially it’s because I finally said goodbye to my DVD player, which was the last single-purpose device I owned, opening up some cabinet space. Partially it’s because my co-conspirator B1acksword was generous with his time and skills, and wrangled a deal for me that was absurdly good, and will make the retailer rue the day they decided to be flexible. And partially, it’s because the stars aligned and I have saved enough to pay for it, so that it doesn’t appear to flat line my bank account.

"LOUNGE ROOM CURRENTLY POPULATED BY HUMAN DESIGNATED: NICK 4216570"

“AREA CURRENTLY POPULATED BY HUMAN DESIGNATED: NICK 4216570”

I wish I could say more excited, complimentary things that went into making this decision, but the truth is as bland as that: I decided I was going to get one, and then waited. The process leading to the actual purchasing of this entirely-entertainment-based device was a realisation of maturity for me. I’m not saying I am a total man-child and that this is my sober Moment of Clarity, but it was definitely a decision I thought about with a lot more depth and measured control than I may have previously. I am quietly confident that the excitement and praise will manifest once I’m button-mashing my way through a high-definition world. I am also quietly confident that this third iteration of the X-brand will suck up just as much of my time as it’s predecessors.

Which I am ENTIRELY looking forward to…

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Sketching is hard

•April 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

SCENE ONE: A manger.

A baby is in a crib, his parents cluster around him. There is a knock on the door, through which three mafioso walk in. They look around the manger.

Over the last few weeks I have been working in a ramshackle fashion with a number of others to create some comedic undertakings. I like to think I have the potential to write funny things, so teaming up to write things and then film them into funny creations seemed like a great idea to me, but it has taught some truths: Some terrific, some terrible.

1) My friends are quite extraordinarily adept at the technical processes involved in filming.
2) My friends have some ingenious concepts for sketch comedy.
3) I am incapable of writing sketch comedy.

For as long as I can remember I have been a critic of Saturday Night Live, (or as the cool kids refer to it, “SNL”) in that I said SNL was not funny. This criticism I stuck to, even after watching parts and finding myself to be amused. Sometimes I even chuckled. I did. But still, I stuck to my guns, because I knew that there was something I was still not keen on. My comedy sense was tingling, and it was not all together a nice feeling. My experiences over the last few weeks have helped provide me the insight I was needing to define this lacking factor, and that factor is…punchlines.

There’s a moment in this video that eluded me, but now makes perfect sense (I linked the video to the precise moment, so go watch it. And if you have 80 mins and a love of cartoons/Star Wars, watch the whole thing.) It’ll take about ten seconds at most. Billy West’s statement about comedy structure struck me as just a pithy gag, but I now realise what he meant – a comedy sketch will have a beginning (the concept, often quite silly), a middle (the unfolding action of the scene) and an end (the punchline). SNL excels at concepts, and plays out the middles, but their ends are dramatic endings: someone leaves a scene, the status quo returns, the cameras pan out. They do NOT know how to end sketches. And sadly, neither do I.

The entire realisation has initiated flashbacks to my first school camp. This was my introduction to what I would soon learn is a staple activity on camps of all kinds – the “talent night”, where people assemble an act and perform it. I had a collection of superhero masks with me (don’t judge), and a friend and I put together a very simple sketch involving said masks. It was a riff on that joke about a school kid going home and getting homework answers from their family, which when assembled makes a funny/rude sentence. We were running that, but we forgot to rehearse the ending. Then, during the performance we reached that pay off point, and…nothing. It was dead in the water.
I have documents filled with short concepts, a few lines describing the setup, and even ideas as to how the middle unfolds. I have other documents that are pages of silly script, banter between ludicrous characters and caricatures, but I don’t have endings – my writing always lacks the punchline that everything else is setting up. I have become SNL.

But the bright side to it all, is that I don’t find this to be an issue as much with long-form comedy. Whether it be a blog post designed to amuse, a short story unfolding in a setting of fantasy and absurdity, or even as part of a short movie script, I can write the wit into one-liners and direction, because each of these is it’s own joke – it’s a comedic creation that can survive on it’s own merit without the overall structure being required to make it work. And INVERSELY, the overall structure can then utilise these little jokes into a larger, funnier idea. Like Voltron, only involving more laughter and less robot lions.

But a short sketch about three wiseguys that visit a manger on the inauspicious evening that the saviour is born? I’m still stuck at the made men looking around the manger, and trying to decide what kind of offer they can make, that shan’t be confused.

Purple Rain

•March 24, 2014 • 2 Comments

I had one of you question what happened after Purple Reign #3. I also had an idea to start a post with that exact sentence, but none of you obliged me with the query that would make such a thing factual. An important delineation for today’s ramble.

Last week I plunged myself into a world populated by purple soft drink, and me. I plunged in with my heart, my soul, and various other organs along for the ride. We, my bodily components and I, immersed ourselves in the fizzy violet liquid, trying to do our very best to become one with it. This involved bathing, imbibing and at one surreal point, conversing. The longer I spent with it, the longer I was connected to it. But I swore I would not become dependent. I know the dangers of dependency, even on something as mundane an innocuous as a refreshing grape-flavour.

I am not afraid to admit, I fell off the wagon.

At the time of my fall, the wagon was piled high with cardboard containers of alternating sizes. In one, robustly square container was the smaller oblongs of aluminium cans, each brimful of the Drink, nestling together like the giant-sized magazine for some kind of soft drink propelling weapon. The other crates were racked full of 1.25 litre bottles, each one opaque with the Drink. It is understandable why I fell – the amount of space left for my footing was inadequate.

But the most important part is yet to come. As soon as I was separated from the Drink, the power it possessed was cut. The link severed, the addiction evaporated. I was a free man once more, as long as I did not return to that wagon, laden down with the Purple Dragon. With a clear head, I reflected on my infatuation with the Drink, and realised that without the Drink’s presence, I was not so enamoured. The Drink had lost it’s grip. I had regained mine. Cackling like a man knowing he is no longer mad, I poured a convenient canister of petrol over the wagon, and set it alight. I then fled into the night, wanting to be clear of the impending plastic fumes. (And also the potentially impending Purple Fumes)

I am, once more, a man free of the grape-flavour’s insidious grasp. I am also, once more, out of inspiration. But is this factual?

Dammit.

Purple Reign: Day Three – Limerick

•March 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Purple is a colour that for a long time has been associated with that alien musician who walks amongst us, whose musical works are released sporadically and are designed to make us challenge our preconceived notions of music, fashion and indeed, his own prior music.

I am not talking about David Bowie. No, I speak of his Transatlantic compatriot, Prince Rogers Nelson. (With a name like that I imagine he was named after the country royalty that is Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson. It might be the case.) For as long as I, or he, can remember, Prince has been linked with the colour purple. Mostly because of this.

At the intersection of fresh-cut flowers and leather-clad motorcycles, you will find PRINCE.

At the intersection of fresh-cut flowers and leather-clad motorcycles, you will find PRINCE.

“At the intersection of fresh-cut flowers and leather-clad motorcycles, you will find PRINCE.”

He’s also known for this place:
paisley_park
But Paisley Park, (and paisley) is not purple. No, this Park is a giant temple to the Purple-Clad Prince himself.

The once was a singer named Prince
Who called purple his favourite of tints
He eschewed Scientology
And preferred Musicology
Lilac, and a deep mauve rinse

I think I forgot that this was supposed to be about purple drink, and it became about a purple….guy. Whoops.

Purple Reign: Day Two – Haiku

•March 20, 2014 • 1 Comment

Purple holds a powerful position. Whilst it is not one of the triumvirate of primary colours, and is not one of the other trio that we use to perceive light with the cells within our eyes, it possesses a number of traits that are just as important, and in many ways, interesting.

Did you like that word I used before? Triumvirate. It comes from an Ancient Roman term used to define a regime dominated by three powerful individuals, each one who is known as an Umvirate. I think that’s pronounced “Oom-veer-aht”. It’s German or something. I don’t know anything about words.

But I do know about paint. What happens if you mix red and blue paint together, I hear you ask? The teacher washes your hands and face, and makes you stand in the corner. But the paint…the paint has metamorphosed. It is now a blend of the primaries, a hue of purple, maybe crimson, maybe a tad more magenta – honestly, that bit’s out of your control at this point, but you can still admire it.

As a colour, it stands out strongly. So strongly in fact, that it’s all but been adopted as “the royal colour”. It’s true – royalty and important people wear it confidentally, whilst if I tried it, the stylist would recommend a lemon shirt, would take a few steps back to appraise, and then dress me completely in sombre grey. I am, thus, not royalty in disguise.

Or am I?

Flavour by colour
Means cola is always red
And grape is purple

Purple the colour
Frequently seen at day
Obscured at night

Power of purple
Is sovereign and regal
KNEEL FOR PURPLE

Purple Reign: Day One

•March 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Cast your minds back, dear readers, to last week. Deer readers, you should cast your minds back as well, but I would like to spend some time with you later to learn where and how you developed such abilities as to understand the wiles of deer.

"I'm gettting a K...does your card start with a K? Cards are numbered? WHAT?"

“I’m getting a K…does your card start with a K? Cards are numbered?! WHAT?”

Last week I ranted about direction, and inspira- look, it’s right here. Refresh yourselves, okay? Right. So one of you, you five diligent readers, left me the following thought:

“I think you should spend a week writing about purple soft drink , each day post a poem, a short story, a haiku, a limerick about purple soft drink. Yeah that will do it. and maybe draw a picture of Batman fueling the Batmobile with purple soft drink.”

PURPLE SOFT DRINK. Have you ever had such a thing? Do you know where to find it? Do you know why it’s purple? I have heard of such things, and I know where to find it.

Exhibit A: Purple Soft Drink disguised as a box.

Exhibit A: Purple Soft Drink disguised as a box.

Never has the word “Fanta” meant less to me than after I looked this picture. Fanta is orange. The word has simply lost all meaning, and I don’t know why.

The past weekend I hunted down every supply of this magenta-coloured beverage, and bought it. I stocked every cupboard in my house with aluminium and plastic containers of this fizzy amethyst refreshment. I have become the LORD OF VIOLET DRINK. And I drank it. Oh, did I drink it…

And my mind opened, allowing the lilac liquid to completely be absorbed, and to enlighten my though processes with it’s plum purposes. And I came to one startling, and powerful question:

WHY IS GRAPE-FLAVOURED DRINK DEFINED WITH PURPLE?

Grapes are not purple. And even the ones that look purple, are not purple within. Wine is white, or red, or pink if you get confused and accidentally mix the two. There is no purple wine. What? WHAT?

I will investigate. And I will know. Then you will know.

The Search For Inspirado

•March 12, 2014 • 3 Comments

(or…”Watching The Un-filled, Un-heated Pot”)

Every morning I get into work, turn on my computer, and do the following: Open Outlook, open Firefox and then whilst Outlook is trying to remember who I am and what Inbox I own, I open seven tabs in Firefox. Always seven. Always the same seven destinations. Every day.

I can probably automate this, but then I won’t know what to do with those now-free seconds. I’d probably have a minor breakdown from the rapid on-set anxiety that would occur. I’m not going to dwell on this any longer, I can already feel my time-anxiety rising. (time-xiety?)

One of these tabs, is for a little blog I like to read, called “Thoughts In the Key of N“, which, if you’ve just clicked on that link, will have appeared in your browser, and will currently be giving you a very strange feeling of deja vu. Don’t worry reader, that was purely intentional. I intended that. I’m trying to get those hits up in any way I can. Which leads me to today’s thoughts…

I’m not doing anything.

I sit here, logged in every day and looking at the beautiful bar graph of life, and wonder. If this were a pet, I’d be idly watching it flounder to an inevitable flatline.

The post is a long-time fan favourite.  I have no idea who Bald Gary is.

The post is a long-time fan favourite.
I have no idea who Bald Gary is.

But it is not a pet – that Graph O’Life is a visual representation of activity in this little corner of the internet (or lackthereof), and one I should not treat as a piece of decoration, but rather a call to action.

Namely: WRITE SOMETHING, YOU LAZY BASTARD

That was the motivated part of my consciousness. It’s the part that actually enjoys throwing on loose-fitting clothing, running around parks, and walking the fine line of activity-caused dehydration. There is another part, that sits back in the comfy seat, twiddling with a pencil, trying to figure out which thought is best to start the writing with. Then there’s another bit that is standing behind the other, shouting random thoughts out loud and sniggering often. Then there’s another bit with a diary in hand, droning out dates and activities and things-that-must-not-be-forgotten. Then there’s one more bit who’s thinking about video games, or websites that need to be looked at, or wondering what purple soft drinks taste of.

What I’m trying to say is…I’m easily distracted, and I need some extra motivation or discipline. Or ideas. Got any ideas? I need an idea. Or criticism. Criticise me, I will be galvanised by your negative feedback and discerning commentary on my failings.

Help me help my blog, and ultimately help you. Or something.

“Help something.”

– Anon