Wednesday, May 28, 2008

TV Mania Continues

Still on the subject of tellies, I guess yesterday’s tale of screen-lust illustrates that, even while food and fuel prices are going through the roof, electronics still seem to be getting cheaper. I may starve to death, cold and shivering, but at least I’ll be able to buy the latest iPod or HDTV. Well, that’s the priorities in my life sorted out! Phew!

(Until high oil prices mean that the plastics and transportation involved mean that electronics become more expensive too, of course, but let's not venture there...)

The whole need to buy new stuff to replace old stuff that’s actually OK is definitely the latest manifestation of capitalism’s need to keep the economy continually expanding. My mum’s old telly lasted for 20 years, whereas I bought a new one after 3. Not because the old one broke down, but because the old one just wasn’t hot enough dammit!

Anyway, the old one is up on eBay now. I paid £700 for it – I reckon I’ll be lucky to get £200 back…

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Demented Weekend of TV Psychosis: Blog Therapy Begins after Retail Therapy Goes Wrong

I’ve been forced to take a long hard look at behaviour I’m doomed to repeat over the Bank Holiday weekend. I’m no psychoanalyst, but I can tell that my consumer urges are particularly demented. Am I typical or is my shopping psychopathology commonplace? This is the question I repeatedly ask myself.

This long weekend’s madness started with GTA4. We have a perfectly serviceable 26 inch (funny how tellies have remained Imperial) HD TV, but I was having to get up close to it to see the game properly. This pops a little thought into my head: “Need a bigger telly”. Once it got in there, the usual pattern of behaviour begins. It starts with the online ‘research’ and idle searches on Amazon and This goes on for a couple of weeks.

OK, fast forward to the wet miserable Bank Holiday; 3 kids running wild around the house. Nothing to do in Welwyn Garden City except look around the shops. I find myself nosing around the televisions in John Lewis, the Sony Centre and Argos. Set myself an imaginary budget. The desire begins to build. Is it going to be the Sony with its Bravia Engine or LG with 1080 ‘true’ HD input? Do I really understand what a 7000: 1 contrast ratio actually is? Should I spend more at John Lewis for the 5 year warranty? I circle dementedly like a squirrel trying to get at nuts in a bird feeder.

Frankie, my astute 7 year old son, summed up my state of mind when he said that once I’d got the new telly I’d keep buying bigger ones until I had to buy a bigger house to accommodate them. He knows me far too well!

Matters are brewing nicely by the time we all go out to a coffee bar for breakfast yesterday. My wife seems to have accepted that my urge is unstoppable and wisely sanctions the purchase. I opt for the Sony, but the Sony Centre hasn’t got the right model in stock (even though it’s the headline item in their display, with balloons all over it screaming ‘Bank Holiday deal!’) and then the salesman pisses me off by trying to push a more expensive model.

So it’s back to Argos, but Stan is getting fed up with being in his pushchair. Em suggests we head back to the house to release the irate toddler, but my consumer lust is so strong I get shirty with her for cramping my style. Can’t she see I must have a new TV to the demented exclusion of all other considerations?! Unforgivably, I have a subdued tantrum, but head back grumbling anyway, like a big sulky only-boy child…

…only to make another foray to Argos in the afternoon! Following additional online research, I buy the Sony, then Frankie, Mila and I cart it back to the house in a shopping trolley.

I hold the joyful unboxing ceremony in the living room, plug the shiny new TV in and switch it on. Nothing happens. I try plugging it into another socket. Dead. Jesus, after an entire weekend of growing obsessive mania, my chosen television doesn’t fucking work! Not only that, Argos is about to shut and I have to get Mila and Frankie back to my ex-wife in London.

I pack the TV up again in a frenzy and rush back to Argos in a panic. Anxiety is enhanced by the rain starting to pour down when I’m halfway there. I imagine an invalidated warranty due to water damage.

I make it safely to Argos, where a disinterested member of the sales staff limply goes through the returns process. They haven’t got any more Sonys in stock (but I must walk away with a TV NOW!), so I go for the LG (1080 input). Wheel it back, exhausted by anxiety and physical exertion. Thank god, this one works and the picture looks great!

Of course, now I’m getting cognitive dissonance over my choice. I now find that 1080 input doesn’t mean it’s ‘true HD’, so maybe I should have waited for the Sony with 9000: 1 contrast ratio?

That’s the trouble with psychosis – it’s never bloody over!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Judge Dredd: Justice Department Equal Opportunities Policy

There are plenty of female judges in Mega City One. Why, even the Chief Judge is a woman! Here's a doodle of a lady judge I drew this morning...

My (Short) Career as a Teacher

I feel like I’ve had a tough couple of weeks. It’s all work wear-and-tear, so I can’t complain really. It’s not like my children under rubble in China or my home has been swept away in Burma. In fact, when things in my working life get me down, I try to keep that kind of perspective on things. In the bigger scheme of things, I’m doing pretty damned well.

Actually I do have one thing that keeps me on the straight-and-narrow when I’m stressed. When I left teaching, I always swore that I’d never forget how cardiac arrest-inducingly, arse-bendingly stressful that job was and it would help me calm in any subsequent work environment.

My career in teaching was short-lived. I taught adults at Kingsway FE college while I was studying my PGCE at the Institute of Education and did well there. Then I went to a 6th form college in Grays, Essex and it all went tits up. To be fair, I was pretty crap teacher in terms of paper work and the job made me miserable. I was good in the classroom, but even that used to terrify me at times. I was only in my 20s, too young to impose discipline on students with the same weird hair (mine was pink at one stage) and piercings as me. I incurred the displeasure of the Principal with my freewheeling (i.e. disorganised and rubbish) approach to lesson-planning.

In the end, the 1997 election ended my teaching career. I stayed up to watch Portillo getting kicked out and drank champagne until 4am (very New Labour). The next day I was close to death. When it came to my afternoon GSCE English class, I sat waiting for my students, feeling like a badger was trying to excavate my brain with its big front paws. After 20 minutes, no one turned up, so I thought ‘OK, I’ll fuck off home to die’. Then I did.

Unfortunately shortly after I left, one student turned up and my Head of Department happened to walk past, finding a lesson with no teacher. Needless to say my contract was not renewed.

Luckily, by then, I’d discovered the internet and eventually found my niche as a copywriter. It’s amazing how much easier a job is when you love it!

Footnote: my GCSE English students got higher marks than the Head of Department’s, so there.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Betty Blue Memories

I went back to Leamington Spa over the weekend and, for some obscure reason, it triggered memories of Béatrice Dalle. Not the stunningly beautiful French actress has any associations with Leamo, other than in my head.

I remember going to see Betty Blue at the Warwick University cinema with my best friend Amy Gladdy. I must have been 17. I was in love with Amy at the time (sadly the feeling wasn’t mutual), but by the end of the film I was also in love with Béatrice Dalle. I suppose I actually fell for the character of Betty, wild, unpredictable and, ultimately, tragically damaged.

I think Betty may have even influenced my choice of women afterwards, drawn as I was to the unstable ‘femme fatale’ (or, more objectively, ‘fuck-up cases’). This was a joyless situation, as neurotic or self-destructive people are generally self-obsessed and fundamentally unable to form an equal partnership with anyone.

Talking of the Dalle influence on my taste in women, I have also just realised that my wife and ex-wife both have gappy teeth – just like Béatrice! Spooky!

Anyway, back to Dalle. More than any other actress, there was something about her that resonated for me. Perhaps it was the rebellious waywardness in her real life (I Seem to remember she was done for shoplifting) as much as her beauty, a flawed earthy beauty that bizarrely teeters on the edge of ugly at times. Sadly, apart from ‘Clubbed to Death’ and ‘Night on Earth’ I haven’t really seen her in any other film since. Maybe her stuff just doesn’t get released in the Anglophone world. Perhaps it’s a good thing, for her to live on in my mind as a timeless icon of teenage memory…