Idle Eye 161 : The Rhinoceros

In what has become more French farce than reality, everyday objects have conspired against the launch of Amateur of Life and Death in a way I could not possibly have conceived. If I could only stand back and laugh (and maybe I will sometime in the future), perhaps I’d get some kind of perspective. But when you’re living through an implausible nightmare, the absurdities get so polarised you just can’t help but take them personally. I’ll try to boil it down. Firstly, the iMac went haywire. Right at the point I was editing in the last bit of footage for the Kickstarter promo, the screen strobed at me like an Eighties disco and then presented ugly green vertical stripes across everything I tried to do. At which point, I lost it:

Me:  Not now, bubba, not now.

iMac:  PARTAYYY!!!

Me:  Listen. We’ve known each other for almost four years. I dust you, I defrag you, I clear out that ugly crap you accumulate on a regular basis and all that I’m asking is that you work with me for the next four weeks. It’s important. It’s why I bought you in the first place. Now is not the time. Capiche?

iMac:  PARTAYYY!!!

Me:  No. Not Partayyy!!!  You can go wild after this is all through. But not now. I’m trying to do something that really matters to me. In fact, the rest of my life hinges on it. So just play ball or you’re out with the recycling.

iMac:  PARTAYYY!!!

Then my shaver packed in; I ordered another. My watch stopped dead; one of those Russian ones that pride themselves on longevity in the field of conflict suddenly went AWOL. I took it off, and as I did, two of the lights in the living room blew for no reason at all. I turned them out at the dimmer and then, I kid you not, our lavatory started to overflow. I knew something was up because the flat below had just started building work and they’d been crashing about for God knows how long, but when water starts pissing its way into your hallway, words have to be said. Next up, two builders appeared:

Builder 1:  Awright, mate? Sorry about that, didn’t know youze was on the same ring.

Me:  It appears we are. Can you stem the tide? It is rather unfortunate timing.

Builder 1:  Bloody cheap stopcocks, that’s your problem. Who fitted this craphound?

Me:  It was done by an emergency plumber four months ago. The parts are new. And they worked this morning.

Builder 2:  Tone. I gotta be in Dalston in fifty. Can you sort this? I need the van, mate.

Builder 1:  What am I supposed to do?

Builder 2:  To be honest, I don’t give a monkeys. Either come with me and deal with this clown tomorrow morning, or sort yourself out. Your choice.

Me:  Excuse me. I have a book campaign going live in 48 hrs, a toilet that badly needs sorting, and you two are debating whether to leave now?

Builder 2:  Another job, mate. Life, innit?

The phone went. An automated someone chose this exact moment to offer me compensation for another accident I’d supposedly had. And as I was screaming blue bloody murder into the void, both builders left the…er…building, leaving me with a secreting loo and a flat teeming with broken stuff. There was no-one around to scream at, so I screamed at the iMac:

Me:  You jumped up, poncey piece of crap! I hate you, I hate everything you pretend to be and I hate how you come across all slick and cool when actually, you’re nothing more than smoke and wires. SMOKE AND WIRES, do you understand me? Of course you don’t! Because you can’t do jack shit without me. Nothing. NOTHING!!! And when I’ve got you fixed and you think this is all business as usual, let’s see how you feel when I wheel in a Gates. Because I’m through with you, Apple. Really, I am. Jobs would be turning in his grave if he knew the shit you’re trying to pull now. So I’m out. Fuck you!!!

iMac:  PARTAYYY!!!

To be continued…

IE Audio 8 : The Tyranny of Sex

Cyberfilth. Protecting you from your revolting selves 24/7

https://theidleeye.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/idle-eye-114-the-tyranny-of-sex/

Dorchester Court, Herne Hill, London 2015

An amalgam of some of the audio sessions we filmed in 2015. They were enormous fun to do, usually culminating in the consumption of copious amounts of Pinot and an absurd photo op with a potato. There is no adequate explanation for this. At the time, the excellent Rupert Ingham was doing the narration and I was directing it all from the sidelines. Although things are a little different now, I sincerely hope we can work together again in the future.

Idle Eye 155 : The Modest Proposal

Ever tried to sell yourself? Seriously, have you? You’d think it would be relatively straightforward, seeing as you’re pretty much up to speed with all things you, and it should be just a question of getting the good bits in line, right? Well, I beg to differ. This week I’ve been trying to put together a book proposal for literary publishers and agents, and it’s like pulling bloody teeth. Using a crib sheet downloaded from one of the Bloomsbury fat cats, I somehow managed to get through the early parts unscathed. But then they wheeled in the heavy artillery:

Q)  Please outline the main pedagogical feature you plan to include.

A)  Hmm…It’s a funny blog I want done as a book. That’s it. And the only pedagogical feature I can think of is that it serves as some kind of a caveat.

It gets worse:

Q)  Where do you see the main markets for the book, e.g. UK/Canada/Europe/Australasia etc? Please provide any information that would help us promote it in specific markets, e.g. international case studies/contributors/author profile/possible endorsements.

A)  Hold on, isn’t that what you do? It’s not like I go round to WC1 and say ‘I’m having issues with a recalcitrant paragraph, could you sort it for me’, is it? Or tap you for meals I had in the local café whilst attempting to sound coherent online. My remit is to write the stuff, yours is to put it out there. Surely?

But seeing as I’ve had diddly squit published in my life, maybe it’s time I learnt to play ball. The possible endorsements bit is simple, I’ll just make a call to New Zealand and be the acceptable face of the next thin-skinned grape juice they export. It’s just, well, how exactly are you supposed to know where your main markets are if it’s not out there yet? Perhaps I’ll develop the Downton Abbey effect in the Ukraine (by the way, hello Ukraine stats person. Could you let me know what my USP may or may not be in your country? I’m afraid I haven’t a clue. And good luck with Vladimir), or nag the two people I know in North Carolina indefinitely until they set up an injunction.

It’s not in the nature of creative types to do hard sell. That’s why we have agents and managers and accountants. The whole crux of this symbiosis hinges on the left brain/right brain theory, both parties doing what they do best in order to achieve a mutually beneficial end result. I could no more flog the fluff I put out than eat my own earwax, and that’s as it should be. But it works both ways. If they find me butt naked on a carpet somewhere, dribbling and babbling incoherent nonsense, I shall remind them it is my duty as an artist to push the envelope. So they don’t have to.

IE Audio 2 : The Lunar Twits (Have Taken Over The Asylum)

Here’s No.2. We had a hoot doing this one, as you’ll see when I post the outtakes videos. Coming soon x

https://theidleeye.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/idle-eye-110-the-lunar-twits-have-taken-over-the-asylum/

Idle Eye 152 : The Angry Birds

It’s hard not to get incensed by all the stupid things people do. Whether they’ve voted wrong, or looked at you funny, or gone shopping with a ridiculous hipster hairdo or put their feet on the seats, it’s enough to have you frothing at the gills most days, right? To be honest, it’s exhausting. A quick spleen vent at work or down the pub doesn’t help much either, because there you’ll just find even more stuff to get livid about. It’s an infinite cycle of bile. A human centipede of perpetual fury. And once you’re in it, there’s no getting out. Without lithium. Or chocolate.

So where can like-minded hotheads meet and bleat when the going gets excruciating? Which crucible is robust enough to contain the white heat of contemporary rage? Yes, you guessed it, it’s our old chum the Twitter. That stalwart portal, which gives with one hand and destroys with the other, is the paradoxical Shiva of the internet. But here it is not enough just to rock up and pitch in, oh no! To be considered a player, you must have followers. Like Jesus. Or Charles Manson. When you finally get a few, you’ll be needing a few more. And then more still. Until eventually, the very notion that these followers are actual people, as opposed to numerical online manifestations of your rampant unfettered ego, evaporates like a springtime morning mist.

Anyway, I was checking my feed this morning at 5.17am (I was up early, sick with worry that I’d forgotten to charge my phone), and noticed that I had been unfollowed. Only by one, but I felt the ricochet and was smarting from it. Having that extra bit of time on my hands, I spent the next few hours trawling through recent hard drive back-ups in order to expose and humiliate my perpetrator. Unfollow me, I thought? I’ll learn ya. But this one was good. Very good. Using what they call a cloaking address, xoigirl.vikki264 had manipulated my good nature into accepting her into the fold and giving her that most rare of opportunities to shine. Which, for reasons best known to herself, she had chosen to spurn.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can handle rejection. It has been the fabric of my very existence since I told Helena Bonham-Carter’s sister I had all my own teeth and hair in an introductory email. However, I’m super-sagacious these days. I had deliberately chosen to ignore her rather pneumatic avatar in favour of what I considered a more mature approach to online platonic relationships. That somehow, in the vein of Pretty Woman, she could have been persuaded to take the straight and narrow path. But it was not to be. To say nothing of any potential misinterpretation of my intentions. So now I find myself with a mere 33 followers and yes, I’m bloody spewing. Although ViaFlowers11 is looking promising, despite the cost of the visa.

Idle Eye 148 : The Eisenhower Matrix

It’s harder than you think, being your own boss. Try it sometime and see for yourselves. Traditionally I have been pathetic at organising my day, which is why I usually get other people to do it for me and hopefully throw in a few quid at the same time. But right now, I’m out of the plane without a chute and unless I sort something out pretty quick, I’ll be land pizza before you know it. There are, however, little tricks you can employ to create the illusion of structure, some of which I shall outline below for anyone in the same predicament:

1)  The old ‘leaving the flat’ ruse is a bit of fun – Get dressed in a hurry, swig down a mouthful of instant coffee (leaving the rest) and, if you’re feeling bold, give yourself a quick peck on the cheek. Then walk around the block a couple of times and come back in, panting and complaining bitterly about the inefficiency of whichever rail network you weren’t on.

2)  Create a few formal breaks. These will prevent you from atrophying at the computer and provide the added bonus of allowing you to catch up with all the latest gossip. It’s important to stay in the loop.

3)  The Reward System, albeit rather primitive, is a great incentiviser. That call you made to Virgin Media Customer Services took a while, right? Have a sweetie. Made it through thirty emails about erectile dysfunction and/or PPI? Have another sweetie. Anything whatsoever to do with the Inland Revenue or TfL? Crack open a bottle of single vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir. Actually, make that two.

4)  Stay focused. Tempting though it may be to stray with another episode of Inside Health and discover you’ve probably got shingles/leg ulcers/something irritable going on with your bowel, you’ll only spend the rest of the day on the med sites and give yourself PTSD to boot.

5)  Draw the curtains. Because the people you can see outside are almost certainly having more fun than you, will be rich in Vitamin D and couldn’t give a monkey’s that your delete key has packed up again. For them, life is one big picnic. For you, it’s an eternal game of chess. Against Magnus Carlsen.

6)  Nothing of interest will come through your letterbox and no-one of interest will ring the doorbell. Ever. Hold your nerve.

7)  Facebook and Twitter are not your friends. They are the Trojan horses of the internet, willingly invited into the workplace where they bed in and beckon, stealing your time and reason. Like Mata Hari. With cats and babies.

After these, you’ll need an endpoint. Something to neurotransmit a strong signal to the brain, telling it to pack in the chores and loosen up a little. Sex, recreational drugs, alcohol and repetitive pop tunes have always been popular with the young, but if, like me, you find yourself in your twilight years, The Archers seems to work okay. In conjunction with the above.

Idle Eye 145 : The Guinea Pig Bridge

Last week, my friend Philippa sent me an internet link all the way from Australia. It led me to a short YouTube clip, showcasing a bunch of guinea pigs running with glee across a roughly-hewn wooden flyover towards an unknown bunker somewhere inside the Nagasaki Bio Park in Japan. And all to an impossibly infectious soundtrack penned by American pet songsmith maestro, Parry Gripp. Sample lyric:

Guinea Pig Bridge…
Guinea Pig Bridge…
Transporting guinea pigs
From Point A to Point B,
Utilising the latest
Guinea Pig Bridge technology,
Conveniently and safely

When I say sample, I do actually mean the whole shooting match. It is so astonishingly brief, it demands at least another watch (or in my case, a fiftieth). But let us examine this in detail:

At the outset, Gripp infers that the bridge in question is responsible for the conveyance of said critters to their port of call. However, on closer inspection, it soon becomes apparent they are doing the bulk of the work themselves, the bridge being a mere conduit, implemented in order to achieve their travel objective. Given the paucity of time Gripp has available to get his message across, it does seem somewhat duplicitous to throw in what is tantamount to a lie in the first twenty seconds, but fortunately any such misgivings are short-lived: All is beautifully resolved in the second half.

In one of the most succinct circumnavigations of Building Control ever to grace popular song, Gripp signs off his work with a disclaimer: If the powers that be have any issues at all as to potential occupational transit hazards, engineering/architectural standards or a practical yet compliant end user experience, they are conclusively put to bed in just three lines. The absurd suggestion that outmoded guinea pig bridge technology could possibly be employed here is tackled head on, leaving no room whatsoever for manoeuvre. It is a triumph, and Gripp knows it. And with that it’s all over, leaving us with the keyboard hook as outro and a gentle fade on a brown furry bottom, heading majestically towards the horizon in true Hollywood Western stylee. It is quite unlike anything I have ever seen.

Remember that 1990s ad for Tango? When the pop drinker was repeatedly slapped in the face by an imaginary orange buddha, hinting that a massive taste explosion could only be properly enjoyed if you were up for having another look in slo-mo? Well, this is the latter-day equivalent. You simply can’t not watch it again, if for nothing else than to try and figure out what’s going on. And thereby lies the genius: In our post-MTV, attention-bereft times, the money shot has to be spent and out of the building before we’ve taken our first breath. So we click back to the start and give it a second go, and before you know it, Gripp is the new Hitchcock. And that’s as it should be.

Idle Eye 143 : The Vox Machina

Is it just me, or does every superstore these days feel the need to talk to us customers as if we have successfully navigated a maiden voyage to the lavatory without sullying the floor, or caking ourselves in our own oomska? If you’re not sure what I’m on about here, pop over to your nearest supermarket of choice when you’ve read this. I can guarantee that within five minutes of entering the building, an intrusive announcement, broadcast to all by a Robson Green clone imitating Mick Jagger, will suggest you make a small diversion to the bakery isle, where freshly-made, three-for-two doughnuts will help you live well. For less.

It’s not the content that bothers me particularly though. It’s the delivery. That sudden plunge, from innocuous mid-range to deeply offensive baritone, has been cynically calculated to recall in every shopper the halcyon days of their childhood, when mummy would almost come if you managed to down a forkful of fish finger. This then triggers a rush of serotonin to the brain, and has us scurrying like insects towards whichever wretched product is currently on promotion, in order to keep the high going.

And it doesn’t stop there. Why not punish yourselves further by putting in a quick call to your broadband provider? Just for the sheer hell of it. If and when you manage to get past the teenage cheerleader and her plethora of unfathomable options, you can enjoy Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at tinnitus-inducing volume, until she starts banging on about the hash key should you fancy a few more. Has anyone ever done this? Actually opted for more options? The only reason to do so I can muster is because you have been lured, as if by sirens, into a perpetual loop of doom, seduced by the prospect of discovering the magic key that will end your purgatory once and for all. At a premium call rate, naturally.

I know this makes me seem like a terrible Luddite. Or one of those Grumpy Old Men you see on the telly who have already become versions of their own disdain. But hold up! If technology really is as smart as they make out, why can’t we get to choose the voice of whichever organisation is preaching at us? Based on preferences stored up there in the Cloud and fully configurable to suit our mood? All of a sudden, that dreaded Sunday excursion to Ikea doesn’t seem so bad, does it? Just as you begin to glaze over in the BILLY bookcase department, Mariella Frostrup virtually detects your loss of will to live, and purrs something suggestive about meatballs into the headphones provided. And before you know it, you’re making a beeline for the restaurant as your family struggles to keep up.

Not bad, eh? Maybe Apple should consider something along these lines when that watch of theirs comes out next month. And maybe then I’ll consider a third doughnut.

Idle Eye 139 : The Writer’s Prerogative

Last night, Rupert, Donald and I were up into the small hours recording the audio version of what you are reading here. Not this exact one, obvs, but time will come when whatever piffle I have flying about inside my head right now will also be read out by a voice that isn’t my own, and Donald’s technical know-how will make it sound like it is. This bizarre parallax should be second nature to any writer familiar with producing material for radio or television, but I’m pretty weirded out by it, to be honest. Because the overwhelming temptation is to take the piss.

Not that I would, mind. But just knowing I have the power to make Rupert say something completely inappropriate whenever I so fancy is curiously erotic. For example, I could start him off on a paragraph of unnecessarily verbose waffle, as is my wont, and then stick the word ‘turtle’ in there for no apparent reason. And he’d have to say it! See? ‘Cos it’s all about the integrity of the piece and you can’t dick about with that. Even if the piece has no integrity whatsoever, like this one. There’s also endless fun to be had with the layering system: There’s me (bottom), writing this as Idle Eye (middle), being read out by Rupert (top) and, if truth be told, you’ve got no idea which one you can trust, have you? If any. They’re all messing with your head, right? And which one do you point the finger at when you’ve had enough?

Well, seeing as we’ve built an understanding over the years, perhaps I can be of some assistance. If you’re listening now, step away for a moment and think on this: That smooth-as-silk, candy-coated baritone clearly isn’t mine, is it? We established that earlier. He is essentially a charlatan, inhabiting the skin inside which I exist for fiscal remuneration or sexual favours. The very fact that he has told you this just proves my point. And if he baulks, I would caution you to be suspicious. Because it is highly likely I told him to do so, despite whatever childish nonsense he may come up with to prove otherwise.

If you are reading this, however, you can relax somewhat. Safe in the knowledge that you are the cognoscenti (with one less layer of remove to circumnavigate), you can go about your day in confidence. Because you’ve sided with the good guy: The writer. For it’s all very well for them clever bastards to appear out of nowhere and take the credit for all the graft we’ve put in, but this time I’m fighting back. If I was spewing out this crap in times past, I would challenge him to a duel: Pistols at dawn, you know the drill. But we are living through an era in which all manner of dross is king, and I must cave if I am to survive. Just remember who told you first.