J Bov Explodes Rhetorically


Hulking Adonis-esque God-Made-flesh

Due to my desire for recognition, and in some cases vindication, I’ve been looking around for places that may buy my idiot ramblings. By virtue of the fact that my latest idiot rambling takes the form of a discussion of electronic cigarettes over their analogue counterparts I’ve been thrust into the odd world of ‘health and fitness’ websites.

I’m not particularly either of those things, incidentally; I’m a recently ex-smoker with a penchant for sitting down and eating. By ‘eating’ I don’t mean begrudgingly shoving two unsalted peanuts into my mouth every few days, like the ‘health and fitness’ buffs would have you do, either. I mean EATING; food with flavour and substance. “Do you want barbeque sauce on your massive cheeseburger, sir?”

Yes.

And ketchup on the chips.

And make sure you put pepper on EVERYTHING. Even the salad, which I won’t eat anyway.

In the interest of balance I will say that I take more care with what I shovel into my flapping gob than your average slob who eats McDonalds every day. I move around significantly more than them, too.

That is to say I’m not morbidly obese or woefully unfit. I’m about average.

Which isn’t good enough, apparently. I need to be a hulking, Adonis-esque God-Made-Flesh according to the majority of the places I’ve been looking through. It’s humanity’s biggest regret that we can’t starve and physically abuse ourselves to the point of immortality, but we should at least be at the salad bar or on the cross-trainer trying our best, not just for our sake, but for all the members of the opposite (or same) sex we might wish to fornicate with.

That seems to be the driving force behind all of this bunk, by the by, regardless of its advocates’ chirping to the contrary.

There’s no place for the average Joe who wants to maybe not smoke himself into an early grave, or maybe wants to shed just a few pounds so he’ll feel better when he catches sight of his hideous, twilit, wheezing naked form in the bathroom mirror at three in the morning. Not amongst the sculpted, bronzed Guardians of Fitness.

They are perfect, and they hate you because you aren’t. They may say things like ‘I respect someone if I see them working up a sweat in the gym, trying to get fit.’ but they don’t mean it. What they mean is ‘That foul peasant is going to get his fat-person sweat on our machines. How dare he think he can join our party? HOW DARE HE!?’

As such you’ll find no real, practical fitness advice. It’s all for hardcore gym-rats and presented in the interest of making small tweaks and adjustments to the body they’ve kept in nigh-pristine condition since they were issued with it.

No amount of Echinacea and jogging will fix the flabby meat-sack you’ve been filling for twenty years. You’ve been listening too intently to the Id for your whole life and just because the Ego has finally made its voice heard, doesn’t mean you can do anything about it now.

Sure, you might be able to shed a couple of stone, but you’ll just end up with the excess, stretched skin dangling off you like badly hung curtains made of meat. You’ll never look like the air-brushed, oiled, aesthetically perfect people in the magazines.

Still, chin up, all they talk about is themselves and fitness and how fitness pertains to themselves and their rivals (fitness fanatics don’t have ‘friends’). They’re mostly thuddingly boring and you might not be. It’d be safe to bet that most of them are pricks that have never read a book and wouldn’t know what to do with one if you gave it to them, staring at it dumbly like a cow trying to follow a card trick.

But they look better than you. They could also beat you in a fight.

You should probably just kill yourself, because they win in the end.



For Every Day Is Sunday

Ever get that feeling that life is just a procession of Sundays?

Nothing happens on a Sunday, but you always notice when it rolls around.

Maybe because you have a hangover; I don’t drink right now so I don’t know. Maybe it’s the one day you get off work a week; I don’t work right now so I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the sheer electric boredom of a day when nothing ever occurs. One way or another Sunday sticks in your mind like a twisting knife every week.

Perhaps we should do something about it. Perhaps we should designate Sunday to be our ‘Do Something Fun’ day.

Go for a stroll. Call up your friends, maintain a constant beverage intake and play card games for hours. Put on a silly hat and write gentle diatribes about inconsequential things like days of the week. Paint something.

Or maybe we can all sit about on our own, watching documentaries about Pink Floyd and listening to Portishead. Either way is good, I suppose, there’s really no objective way to say which activity is better.

Still, when Sunday rolls around I always find myself loath to do anything.

Then again, it’s not like if I was doing something I would be doing something. Something worthwhile, that is.

But what’s ‘worthwhile’? Good question. No answer. I suppose I could be doing something productive, but since the only productive thing I actually do is write it looks like I’ve got that covered, after a fashion. Except this isn’t worthwhile.

I’m only going to put it on the internet and watch it like a hawk. I should buckle down and get something off to My World Is Clouds for the second issue.

Sunday. Sunday, Sunday, Sunday everyday forever and ever and for all of time.

I need a cup of tea.



Grey Pillars of Grit and Mud

Thank you, cinema. Thank you for showing us that you should never give up on something just because it doesn’t seem to be working.

I mean, if you try something in the 50’s and it doesn’t work out do you ditch it? No! You wait until the 80’s and you try it again. If it doesn’t work that time, well it’s probably best forgotten, right?

Nope! Stick it back in theatres in 2010, that’s clearly your best bet. Third time’s a charm, right you shithorns? Third time’s a sodding charm.

But now it seems like the recent rash of 3D films is petering out, with a suitably wounded whimper, presumably to rear its poxy head again in 2040, with a new innovative approach that will be equally pointless and shit as the one we put up with in this round of the 30-year cycle. Less and less new movies are being lauded and sold to us simply because they pretend to have an extra dimension. This is excellent.

I can hear you, by the way, gnashing your teeth and groaning that 3D is brilliant, and that Avatar was so perfect in every way you ruddy well pissed your balls inside out. I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. 3D is rubbish. Was rubbish. Will probably always be rubbish.

Here’s why;

  1.  It only works in cinemas.

Sure, you can get a 3D TV for your house. Of course if it’s not active-3D then it’s awful, so you have to shell out on the glasses, too, and batteries. God help you if you don’t sit exactly where the TV wants you to, as well. “Oh, you want to sit in your armchair? Fuck you; blurry screen time. Boy, I sure wish we had a carefully calculated seating plan like in the theatres.”

    2.  It’s usually stupid, childish and bloody annoying.

The majority of 3D films don’t use the 3D at all. They have the odd thing fly out of the screen at you and it’s so clunky and obviously just for the effect that it breaks the whole movie. I’m looking at you My Bloody Valentine 3D. The whole idea of 3D is to be more immersive, and this kind of thing shatters the illusion to the point where it’s almost comical, regardless of context. Plus, with no physical feedback it really doesn’t matter if something just whizzed by my head; since I’m only picking it up with one sense it registers in my brain in big flashing neon that says ‘NOT REAL’, and any investment I had is gone. Replaced by yawning and a gnawing sense that I’ve wasted perfectly good money and free time.

    3.   Nobody uses it properly.

With minor exceptions, like the underwhelming and dull Avatar, almost all 3D films are simply using the system to charge you more money. Avatar uses its 3D to give depth of field, which is brilliant and works spectacularly. Yes, the odd thing does pop out at you, but mostly it’s used exactly right. Shame about the movie itself, really.

One other exception that I absolutely adore, because it shows a director exploring what 3D could do for movies, is Coraline. Again, the 3D is used mainly for depth of field, but there’s one section that really shows off what the system can do for the art of cinema; when Coraline is entering the other world the dual cameras that are used to shoot 3D are placed ever-so-slightly too far apart, which the eyes don’t notice but the brain registers as being COMPLETELY WRONG, which translates in the cinema to that scene physically causing you to experience a feeling of deep unease. It’s genius.

I could also mention how most 3D movies are ‘post-production 3D’ (meaning they make it 3D in the edit, rather than shooting with two cameras. It’s cheaper, but it looks awful) or that they still haven’t found a way to stop it giving you headaches, but they don’t really deserve their own numerical appropriation.

One definition of insanity is repeating the same action time and again and expecting different results, but apparently that doesn’t apply to cinema. They can keep banging their head against the wall of the padded cell and covering themselves in excrement as much as they like and presumably we put up with it since they keep trying so hard, bless ‘em.

3D films are a failed experiment; they have no place in life; they must be cast out and left to die like the evolutionary dead-end they are. They are little more than awful, grey pillars of grit and mud that blight the landscape of artistry that moving pictures has created and the sooner we can let go of them and get on with making actual films the better.

Ding dong, the witch is dead.

For about 30 years.



I’m Not Reading Any Books Right Now: A View of E-Readers

(Also available on my Tumblr.)

I’m one of those lucky people who owns a Kindle.

It was a Christmas gift, which I tell you only to impress you by continuing ‘I’ve only had to charge it once since I received it.’ Stand-by battery life is just shy of a month and a half, which impressed me at least.

Anyway, I’ve given it a fair amount of use over these two months; downloaded a number of ‘books’, checked out the note-writing system and all that jazz. It’s a beautifully designed device and system, very intuitive. One qualm I have is the page-turning buttons on the sides. Both sides of the device are adorned with a large ‘>’ marked button beneath a smaller ‘<‘ marked one. At first I found myself hitting the right hand ‘>’ (or ‘next page’) button to turn, predictably, forward in the book and the left hand ‘>’ in an attempt to flip back a page, which led to some small confusion. It’s a small annoyance, and I adjusted quickly enough. In fact the dual-sided controls are proving to be a wonderful idea as I find myself doing other things while reading.

The screen is excellent. It’s virtually glare-free, so reading in bright sunlight isn’t the rage inducing shit-fest that a phone or tablet screen would tend to be (without accoutrements, anyway).
This is because of the ‘E-Ink’ system, which uses microcapsules of negatively-charged black pigment and positively-charged white pigment which can be arranged an re-arranged according to the whims of two electrode layers above and below.

Here’s a picture that I stole from Wikipedia of the microcapsules in question.

Research tells me a colour version has been available since 2010 that is capable of displaying 4096 colours alongside 16 shades of grey. That’s a real headfuck when you think about the science behind it.

Enough of the technical details, though, let’s talk about the experience:

Reading the Kindle is not unlike reading a ‘book’. Presumably that’s what the creators were going for. The display looks like paper for the most part, which gives you a little jolt when you spot a blinking cursor moving about on it because a part of your mind screams “BUT PAPER IS A STATIC OBJECT! GOD HELP US ALL!” for a split second.

The most striking thing I’ve noticed, though, is right up at the top in the title; I’m not reading any ‘books’ right now.

I of course mean that in the literal sense, I’m a voracious reader and tend to have at least three ‘books’ on the go simultaneously, which I do right now except all of them are virtual.

There was no change-over anxiety, there was no jarring sense of loss (or gain), there wasn’t even any recognition of the fact until just before I started writing this. I simply hadn’t noticed that I wasn’t using physical ‘books’ any more.
That’s not to say I won’t from now on; I love ‘books’. I love the way they feel, look, sound and smell. ‘Books’ appeal to me both aesthetically and in terms of their content, like I’m some sort of lovelorn fool besotted with some intelligent, beautiful, perfect woman.

All I’m saying is her, referring to physical ‘books’ as a singular feminine entity for the purposes of this metaphor (keep up), younger and sleeker sister, meaning virtual ‘books’ on an e-reader like the Kindle (Still with me?), is equally attractive. Or is that ‘are equally attractive’? I’ve ruined my own metaphor there.

It’s very helpful to a style of reader like myself who when travelling would normally pack a couple of oft chunky, frequently fairly weighty ‘books’ into a bag to the detriment of other, possibly more important, items. Like food, bug-spray or an anti-wild-animal knife. Having the ability to dip into roughly 1000 ‘books’ (according to the marketing spiel) on a device no larger than a couple of take-away menus stacked together is a life-saver. Not having to remember page numbers or find lost bookmarks is good too; when you close (leave? quit?) a ‘book’ on the Kindle it helpfully remembers exactly what page you were on, for every single ‘book’.

By the way, I’m putting ‘book’ in inverted commas because this whole experience has rocked the paradigm and now I’m unsure what to call either of these items. If a physical object with paper pages and printed ink is a ‘book’, then the virtual, ones-and-zeros, differentially-charged microcapsules type almost needs to be something else. The trouble with that is I find the term ‘e-book’ slightly demeaning. It’s the same content, compared side-by-side, and ‘e-book’ reminds me of some terribly formatted, childishly written guide to making bombs from bleach and tinfoil.
So basically they are both ‘books’ until I can adjust my brain into thinking of them both as just books.

Apropos of all this, here’s my view:

I felt strangely about e-readers when they first made an appearance on the market, because my love of physical ‘books’ set me at odds with the idea that one could transition without some gargantuan effort. I felt like switching would have a huge impact on a part of my life that I love dearly.

It has not.

If anything it has merely extended the ways in which I enjoy the written word, which is really all ‘books’ are for anyway, despite all my posturing and declarations of love for the objects themselves the content is what drives anyone’s love of reading.

So this isn’t the end of physical ‘books’ as far as I can see, not for some long time at least, but it isn’t a failed experimental attempt at sci-fi futurism either. It’s a system that works, and it works really bloody well.

It’s not a replacement, it’s an augmentation.

Plus, I just really like it.

I love ‘books’. Doesn’t matter how I read them.



On Writer’s Block

‘Writer’s block’ is a term that almost everyone has heard and a state that a good many people have experienced.

It is the name given to a feeling or belief that one is simply ‘unable’ to write experienced over a period of time, anything from a day or two up to years at a time.

But what is it?

Some people believe that it does not exist. Acclaimed author Warren Ellis, the man behind the seminal comic Transmetropolitan, has stated “… [Someone with ‘writer’s block’] isn’t a fucking writer anymore. The job is getting up in the morning and fucking writing.”

This, while harsh, is a fairly erudite explanation of how it feels to be ‘afflicted’.

 

I’m of the opinion, seeing as I have a lot of time to think about this kind of thing, that writer’s block can be classified as a very mild psychological breakdown.

Let me tell you my experience(s) with this particular ailment:

 

I’ve run into writer’s block a couple of times and it has a very distinct feeling about it. It’s not even remotely similar to what one might feel in school, say, when faced with an essay or exam and cannot think what to write next. That’s a momentary frustration that can be overcome by remembering that you do in fact know the answer to the question.

Writer’s block is more insidious than that. It’s a slithery, slimy bastard that sneaks into your mind and squats there, nibbling on your brain every now and then when it gets bored. It’s sneaky, in that it makes you want to write, then stops you from doing it.

 

Now, I say ‘stops you’; there’s actually nothing physically stopping you from putting words on the page. There isn’t even anything hindering your vocabulary or fiddling with the way you write. It just feels like there is.

That’s why I’ve come to the conclusion that this situation is, or at least is caused by, a very low-lying crisis of confidence or even an existential one. I’ve gone to write something and caught myself thinking ‘What’s the point?’ or ‘Why even bother?’ The belief that you could write something, but it would ultimately be terrible, unreadable drivel is a prime factor of writer’s block.

I’m forcing myself to write this through a hefty bought of it, and I can tell you that the horrible little gremlin in my head is telling me to delete every word and start over. I can also tell you that if I did delete every word the gremlin would then tell me there’s no point in starting again, and I’d probably abandon the piece altogether.

It’s that aspect that is the most interesting to me, and I wonder if people who don’t suffer from writer’s block are simply happier, more enthusiastic, more optimistic people.

It conjures the image of the tortured artist, slashing yesterday’s paintings in a fit of rage because they are ‘awful’, even after a gallery has offered to buy them. As cliché as that seems, that’s roughly what one can expect to be going on in a writer’s head when they tell you they have this malady. It’s very cyclic, to the point that it’s almost bipolar.

 

As I said; it comes in waves. There are periods of time where, at least for me, I feel like everything I write is gold dust and I can’t put a word wrong. There are others where I feel like every single idea I have is shit or stolen or stupid or a stupid, shitty idea that I stole. It’s so hard to fight through that and produce something, because even if you do part of you still thinks ‘This is awful. I must destroy all evidence of its existence.’

There are vast novels floating in the void or filling the shelves of Deaths library with my name on the cover because I’ve written something then immediately confined it to oblivion. (I like to think destroyed literature ends up somewhere).

 

There are ways around it, however. Forcing oneself to write something, anything, is one way, as long as you can convince yourself to keep going and then not to delete it upon completion. That’s part of the reason I like writing in notebooks; it’s not as easy to delete a physical object. There are exercises you can find in books and online that claim to help with writer’s block. Any and all writers will give you no end of various kinds of advice, some of it useful, some of it not.

 

The trouble is it’s a very personal problem. The prevailing feeling is that you know you can’t write right now, even though people tell you that you can. The truth of the matter, however, is that those people are right. You can still do it, you just feel like if you try to you’ll produce something sub-par.

Maybe you will, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fix it. Or write something else.

Writer’s block is as personal as writing itself, in that you may have certain music you like to listen to as you write, or certain sounds or sights that completely throw you off kilter and stop you being able to think straight.

 

As though to provide evidence to myself, I’m really struggling to write this last paragraph. Something in my head is screaming that this is all self-indulgent nonsense and to get rid of it immediately, but I refuse to give in.

That’s really all one can do in this situation. Dig in your heels, bite down on a stick and force yourself forwards. Of course you can still write; you just need to remember that.

J Bov.



Ooh! My Favourite!
02/01/2011, 4:00 PM
Filed under: Diatribes and Debates, Gibberish | Tags: , , ,

I will now list my favourite media, because I am bored.
These are subject to change on a regular basis, particularly the music related entry (-ies), but I’ll tell you how I’ve started my year and attempt to justify my choices, so first up;

Favourite TV Show:
Mystery Science Theatre 3000

MST3K is a wonderful show that I never caught on tv. I’m not sure if it was ever on in the UK anyway. Thankfully a lot of it is now online (if you’ve never seen it I suggest you seek it on YouTube) and it’s great.
I will come out and say it right now; I talk over movies. I’m one of those people that likes to amuse myself when a movie (or TV show) is failing to do so. If it’s good, I’ll clam up, if not then watch out.
MST3K is terrible old movies over which three guys make jokes. It speaks to me on a personal level and it’s arse-clenchingly funny. Seek it out.

Favourite Live-Action Film
I’d love to do this one by genre, but I’ve got two more film categories and I’d rather not inundate the post with movies, so:
Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb

Yes, that’s one movie, it follows the old tradition of naming a film twice.
This film is far and away the best comedy I have ever seen. It’s equal parts pantomime and understatement with a perfect ratio of comedy to seriousness. It’s not the constant laugh riot that Airplane is (Airplane being my second pick, consequently) but it never fails to make me laugh.
Parodied to this day, it’s filled with moments that you will have seen but never realised where they came from, most notably the nuke riding scene, which happens right at the end.
Every actor is fantastic, every joke is crisp and perfectly played and Peter Sellers can do no wrong by me.
Plus any film that ends with this;  Is doing it right.
Superb. Watch it.
“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, this is the War Room!”

Favourite Animated Film:
I would consider it sacrilege to say anything other than
Spirited Away

This movie is just amazing. The story is great, the art is beautiful and it just hits every mark available. It’s funny, it’s tense, it’s heart warming, it’s scary and it delights in being very very odd.
There’s no surprise then that it’s critically acclaimed and has a plethora of awards to it’s name including an Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
It also makes a good screensaver film. You can have it on while other stuff occupies your attention and it’s still enjoyable.
One thing I will say, however, is that if you watch it you should endeavour to watch the subtitled Japanese version, for the real experience and to avoid the main character’s incessant shrieking in the dub. Not too bad, but the Japanese voice acting is better in that case.
Anyway, It’s Japanese Alice in Wonderland and I love it so.
Plus, he was a river the entire time.

Favourite Computer Animated Film:
Wall-E

If you know me at all or you’ve read the rest of this blog you’ll know that I have a soft spot for robots and that this choice was inevitable.
What can possibly be better than a robot love story?
This film is utterly masterful in it’s scope and in terms of it’s emotional impact on an audience. I know people who like robots less than I and some who are blithely indifferent towards them who think this movie is great.
A great mix of a post-human scorched earth macrocosm, with all the desolate beauty that entails, and the curiosity and consequential emotional growth of a (ridiculously endearing) robot in the microcosm.
Mix that with a genuinely heart-warming love story and you’ve got success. The majority of this movie is free of dialogue beyond the occasional chirping of the autonomic protagonist(s) and that’s a choice I can heartily get behind.

Does it ruin the film when they introduce humans? Not at all, but I would have prefered if they hadn’t.

Favourite Comic:

Transmetropolitan

This choice will probably never change. Warren Ellis crafted a perfect vision with this masterpiece. The… ‘hero’… of the piece is Spider Jerusalem; a Hunter S. Thompson analogue channelled through an idealised version of Ellis himself, and while this may seem lazy and egotistical to some, it works so well that eventually you forget all about it as he takes on a life of his own. A righteously angry, offensive and abrasive life.

The awful world that Spider inhabits is brought to life, also, by artist Darick Robertson. With a style that looks sketchy but fully fleshed he really lends a layer of grime to The City that the writing alone couldn’t.

If you like comics, read it. If you like angry cynics, read it. It’s fun cover to cover and who knows, maybe you’ll learn something.

Favourite Album:

Knee-Deep in the North Sea by Portico Quartet

I had some trouble recently picking my nine favourite albums for a thread on a forum. My taste in music is subject to my whims and to-ing and fro-ings, but I settled on this choice for now for one simple reason:

Unlike most albums I own, there is not one track on this album that I would skip. Not. One. They are all great. Easy to listen to, fun and exciting by turns, modern jazz could have done a lot worse than these four gentlemen. I haven’t heard the second album yet but chances are it’s as good as this one and if that’s the case I will be one happy faux-beatnik.

Favourite Book:

Lord Of Light by Roger Zelazny

This section is as liable to change as the one above, but as of right now Lord of Light is at the very least in my top five recommended reads. Zelazny manages to spin a sci-fi world out of ancient Eastern religion in a way that’s both interesting and entertaining. I don’t want to give too much away but it covers the ideas of ‘religion as control’ as well as questioning our right as humans to suppress knowledge or repress each other on any basis. All through the lense onto the world of the (sort of) Buddha Mahasamatma, or Sam for short.

It’s a stunning book, you should read it.

So there it is, laid out before you for your judgement; a list of my favourite media as of January 2011 with some brief justification. It would bring me great joy to think that someone might go away from this list to seek out and subsequently enjoy my suggestions and I urge you to do so. Do it. Now.

J Bov.



So That’s That

So 2010 is almost over, the starting point of a new decade grinds slowly into the middle. What have we learned this year?
Nothing we didn’t know already, basically. Tories are evil, Lib Dems are spineless and Labour are practically useless.
We’ve learned that charges will be dug up out of nowhere so America can get somebody they think has wronged them ( Support Assange).
We’ve learned that some people fear science while others fear religion, with both sides willing to call for genecide.
We’ve also learned that protesting doesn’t work and neither does rioting. It’s impossible to change someone else’s mind for them.
We’ve learned that snow get’s boring very quickly and that here in England we still can’t deal with it.
On top of these things, we’ve learned that TV will continue to aim for the lowest common denominator and succeed in making stars out of preening idiot nobodies.
We’ve learned that the music industry is far from dead, but it is senile now.

Is it all bad? Looks that way, but when evil rushed from the box there was one thing left inside. Quivering in the corner right at the bottom, cold and naked, was hope.
We’ve learned that privately funded space flight is not just theoretically possible; it’s a viable option and probably the only way the layman will get off this rock. That’s exciting.
We’ve learned that a cure for HIV is closer than ever. So too, cancer.
We’ve learned that stem cells are essentially magic cures for almost any genetic defect, if only people would take the research seriously.
We’ve learned that at least some people care what happens to them and others.
We’ve learned that there are always voices from the dark telling us that we’re cared for and that we’ll be okay if we just hang in there.
We’ve learned that there are whole nations committed to making sure this planet doesn’t become a burned out, inhospitable Venus clone.
We’ve seen pictures of the Earth taken from the window of the ISS.
We’ve witnessed changing attitudes towards race and sexuality.
We’ve seen people seriously considering the medical and economic benefits of legalizing a substance that is only illegal in the first place because a man who hated Mexicans wanted to monopolize the paper industry.

We’ve seen great art created and people engaging with it.
We’ve seen kids becoming genuinely excited about reading books. Sure, shit books, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Personally I’ve learned something quite important. It’s the same as it ever was. We go around and around again and every time it gets a little bit better, we care a little bit more about people instead of things, everything gets a little bit easier.
We can have frank discussions about controversial subjects and we can research controversial topics with less incoherent, uneducated screaming.

So yes, 2010 is drawing ever closer to being an entry in history books. But despite how it may look right now, I think we’re going to be okay. If we just hang in there, we’ll be okay.