Friday, 1 April 2016

A Guide to Surviving the Worst of April Fools'


You’re not entirely sure what wakes you up first: the sunlight hitting your eyes or the strange tension your body involuntarily gets moments before your alarm clock goes off. It’s odd; you don’t know, and have resigned yourself to never knowing, how your brain can sense it, but nevertheless it manages to get you just seconds before you’re assaulted with that hideous sound you’ve set that was designed for the sole purpose of shocking you out of sleep. 

The day seems normal enough, but something gnashing and gnawing away at your skull tells you it’s about to get super annoying super quickly. And it’s not wrong.

The first sign that something is amiss is the news. You click on an article that seems interesting enough: “Cats Arrested as Co-Conspirators in Kew Gardens Heist”. That whacky legal system! You click on the link, in a half-sleepy haze, unaware that you’ve just been redirected. It’s a splash screen, and on it written in massive, three dimensional letters so bold it’s as if the entire internet is screaming at you: April Fools! Way to get invested in current affairs, asshole!

Oh, right. It’s the calendrical equivalent of a douchebro with too much time on his hands. You close your computer. It’s too early for this shit. You make yourself a coffee, but stop before you pour the sugar in. Usually your roommates don’t play along with this sort of nonsense – they hardly put the effort into making any pancakes on Shrove Tuesday – but this could be the one time when they do. You wouldn’t put it past them. You gingerly dip your finger in and assert that, actually, yeah, it was just sugar.

But what about the milk? And the coffee? Something in this house has to be poisoned. You know it. Somebody has, for the sake of a prank, poisoned something you’re about to eat. Maybe even everything. You freeze, mug at the tip of your lips, tantalisingly close to your mouth. Eyes scan the room, looking for potential hidden cameras. This is the sort of shit that would make millions on YouTube. But you stop yourself. You’re getting paranoid at nothing. A completely arbitrary date in the calendar has turned you into a soviet spy after realising he’s given away the coin with all the codes hidden inside as a tip.

There’s no time for this. You’re going to be late for work. You dash out of the house, leaving the poisoned apple that is coffee on the side to congeal. Take that, you think smugly to yourself. Worst YouTube video ever. It’s colder outside than you had hoped. You cross your arms in an attempt to stay warm, and wish you had a cup of coffee right about now. Where the hell is the bus? It’s been forever. Maybe they’ve removed all buses as part of an April Fools’ Day thing. No one gets to work today!

No. Stop it. Nobody cares about this holiday as much as you right now. See? Here comes the bus now. Idiot.

As you travel, staring blankly at the weird, greasy back-of-head in front of you, you try to remember if April Fools’ was ever a good day. You like to think so. Maybe there was a time before every website with a bored intern had a crack at fooling us with subtle and totally real headlines such as Google Introduces New Patch to Wane Users Off, and Zach Braff is dead. No, honestly, this time it’s for real! But there probably wasn’t.

The rest of the news sites are info pieces on the history of the holiday. Like they do every year, and every time anything happens in the world. The Clocks Go Back This Weekend, Here’s the Entire History of Why We Do This. If no one could remember your article from last year, chances are nobody actually cares.

Either way, you’re not checking out any more articles until tomorrow. There’s tonnes of work to do and you’ve been putting it off for long enough. You sit at your desk … and stop. You feel something beneath you, on the chair. It’s cold, and possibly sticky. Dammit! Someone’s stuck glue to the seat and you’ve fallen for it. Way to go, numbnuts. You wriggle around in your chair, trying to free yourself, wheeling around the carpeted area like Stephen Hawking on the fritz … only to find there was nothing there at all. You’re losing it. Easy, fella.

You take your mind off the hundred potential pranksters in the room and grab the phone. You have to make a tonne of calls and … hang on. Is that black paint on the receiver? A-ha! You knew it! Take a tissue and wipe it clean. Or try to. Nothing’s coming off. Why is the paint not coming off it? Oh, right. That’s ink from when your pen leaked the other week. You mentally slap yourself alert. Stop this.

You need to get some files from your locker, but those can wait until tomorrow. You don’t want to risk opening it and looking like the biggest of all the April Fools. Who knows, maybe someone’s put a custard pie on a spring inside, and you need to be at a Skype conference in an hour.  Ain’t gonna happen. You eye up your co-workers, knowing that one of them has been sharing fake articles on Facebook all day and is giggling every time someone takes it seriously. That’s the one you have to watch out for.

Somehow, the day winds to a close. No one’s even mentioned it’s April Fools’ Day. You haven’t been pranked. But who knows, it could all come crashing down in these last ten minutes. Isn’t this where all the top pranking happens? You’re sure you read that somewhere before. OK, all you have to do is pack quickly and get out before everyone. You see the person … what’s his name again? The guy who sits opposite … whatever his name, you see him begin to pack his stuff. Probably leaving early to plant some big, end-of-day prank that’ll get everyone. But not you. You race him, and beat him to the finish. Bag’s on, jacket’s slung haphazardly over one shoulder you barge past him, knocking him sideways. You’re out the door. He sounds annoyed, and tells you you’ve been acting weird and jerky all day. You give him a look that says, “Yeah, I know what you’re thinking buddy”, and you leave. See ya Monday, suckers!

Everyone else begins to leave. You’re already on your way home, and you’ve nailed it. No one caught you out this year. Joke’s on them.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Metro Polis


I wrote this on the bus, as a way to pass the time:

On the streets, a cab swerves out of the way of a cyclist. He screams an obscenity at him, lets rip the horn, and briefly, Ares feels strength. Later, when the sun has dipped, there will be a stronger sensation, when people are inebriated and angry. Sometimes these people, now taken by Ares’ own son, cry out to Athena Polias, but they go unheard. Aries sees them, fuels them, while nearby his sister Aphrodite takes the others; the lovers, the soon-to-be regretters.

In the day, the lost wander and Minos guides them deeper into a labyrinth they may never escape. They wander into a world they are unprepared for, or a part of town they will never find their way out of. The streets twist and turn, and each road presents opportunities in their life they have never seen before, and will never again. They can take the path, or they can turn back – provided they have made the appropriate preparations first. Sometimes he is foiled by Athena, who provides them with the knowledge and the courage they need, but often not. She is busy; there are a lot of lost out there, and he has guided every single one of them.

Below these streets, watching the people enter and exit his domain with the sort of ease Orpheus would only dream of, Hades waits. He allows them access here: they pay more than one obol for the privilege. His patience is incredible, but he watches each soul through the grainy television screens of the ever-staring Argus with satisfaction. They traverse his plains now, and rush through his tunnels, but they’ll soon be here forever. Charon, in one of his hundred current forms, transports them, hurtling them through a life they have not paid attention to. No one pays him heed.

Apollo brings the sun, and Dionysus joins in the frivolities along the river. Here, when Apollo rides his cart across the sky in full, it is a cause for celebration, although he cannot quite understand it. The streets are lit still, even when he rides in the evening. He joins Dionysus later and they both watch the many lights reflecting in the surface of Poseidon’s domain, and asks his brother why they sleep not. Dionysus replies mournfully at first, but remembers his tributes and is cheered up. Apollo is not, and plans for grey skies the following day.

Hera watches over the entire city, perched on high from her tower. Every hour she calls out, four times, to assert her dominion and to remind the world that she can sing. Recently, though, she has been overshadowed, by taller, higher watchers. Empty towers void of gods, of higher beings. They mean nothing, occupied only by the eyes of Argus, but still, she is intimidated. Feeling stripped of a glamour once abundant, Hera is furious, and she cries out again.

In the baths, Zeus wonders why only men are stopping by. He enjoys the company, but the showers here feel less satisfying than the ones he poured on DanaĆ«. Perhaps, he thinks, he is being spoiled. There is plenty of fun to be had in this world, now he feels less the need to rule. He picks up a device he never thought he would hold, and swipes right. 

Thursday, 31 December 2015

How to Have Fun on New Year's Eve if You're Too Tired to Do Anything

The best thing about the winter months is that it gets dark early. This means that the night can begin at four in the afternoon. If you had been working, it would have meant that the night would have started at six, or seven, or even eight in the afternoon. But then again you’d be even more tired than you already are. And you promised. You already failed to do anything on your birthday, or Halloween, and you said you’d go but never did to the Christmas bash. If you miss this one, people will think you’re avoiding them.

You are, but you don’t want them to know that.

Christina has good parties. And she’s been asking you to come out for months. There’s no theme: a bonus. It’s north of the river, in a part of town with terrible connections home: a hindrance. If you’re out, you can’t leave before midnight; you’d be better off staying in if you’re doing that at this time of the year.

You’ve not done anything, but still feeling tired. Still recovering from a winter illness someone else gave you, or maybe you’re still digesting from Christmas dinner. Either way, mix it in with this arctic-level sun disappearance and it’s already beginning to feel like midnight.

It’s helpful to remember never to go to any parties that start at 4PM. These will inevitably devolve into horrorshows long before it’s advisable to. Christina’s part starts at 7. This gives you ample time to choose something to wear, leave the house, travel over a river you know is there to divide the likes of you with vastly more outgoing, happy and altogether better balanced Christinas of the world, and stumble your way into finding her place all the while being fashionably late.

The sun has been down almost four hours by the time you arrive, and you can feel the strain on your eyes as you try to convince yourself that this was a good idea. Dammit, it’s new year’s, and you’re going to make yourself enjoy it even if it kills you.

You stop at the front door and make sure you have everything before you knock on the door: keys, phone, wallet, bottle of wine to leave on the table while you drink other people’s drinks. Check. You briefly consider setting an alarm on your phone to remind you that the necessary time is up, but even you’re not that neurotic. That’s a level of neuroses even Woody Allen wouldn’t touch. Besides, now that you’re out and about, you want to at least try to have some fun. You’ve spent too much time not going out that it seems like a daunting monster of a task that won’t be enjoyable. You quickly remember that you’re an idiot who does not go out nearly enough.  

Good job you’re fashionably late. There are already people here, which means you can at least try to start a conversation and not just stand in the corner with your phone in your hand. Arriving too early is a great way to look awkwardly at people still fixing decorations. Better hope the corner shop is far away, you’re going to want to get out as soon as you can and stay gone for some time. Thankfully this is not the case here. You pour yourself a glass of your own wine and drink it, wishing you’d spent more time choosing one out.

Hey, these people are actually alright. Christina knows how to invite good people.

How is it not even midnight yet? It feels like it’s been night for days now. Months. No wonder people used to sacrifice lambs in the winter months in order to make the sun come up. You get the impression for a split second that this a sort of purgatory. Not nearly fun enough to be heaven, and not quite as terrible as Hell should be, but a sort of middle ground that stretches out from now until the end of time. Is this your wine? Tastes better this time around. Maybe there is something to this party business. Other people’s fun seems to be infecting you, on top of other people’s stomach flus (but you won’t know about that until the following morning). You’re starting to have fun.

The alcohol does not interact well with your general lethargy though, but you fight it. You’re glad you came out, and Christina does throw a good party. Where is she? Now seems like as good a time as any to talk to her, and tell her how great it is.

She’s by the sofas, talking to people you don’t know. If it had been Adrian or Boz or Greg, you could have interrupted. But these people? You swear they’re not even people, more the three-headed God of Not Being Able to Escape A Party Conversation. You turn around: the group you’ve been talking to has vanished into the sea of people. Great. Well, at least she’s by the couch. Just sit down and wait until she’s free.

How long until the clock strikes 0? This sofa is comfortable.

The party is still going at six in the morning, not that you’ve seen the last six and a quarter hours. You ask Christina, who appears to be free now, what happened. She says you fell asleep before the new year, but no one wanted to wake you. You thank her for a great party, and begin the weird, grey-lit walk home. You don’t feel tired anymore.

Well, people wanted you to go out more this year. Six hours in to the new year and you’re already out and about. And you thought that New Year New You stuff was crap.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The End of Time

It's good to keep busy. So busy in fact that look at the state of this blog. It's barely had anything happen to it in months. Shocking.

As of whenever my registration with 123-reg cancels, will no longer send you to this site, but to my newly created, which is essentially the same website, but it looks less terrible. It's been on my mind for ages now, to rebrand and change how everything looks. The blog design I don't think brings a lot of hope to potential clients, but a cleaner, easier-to-use site with simple navigation could do the trick. Chances are what you see when you click that link now will be somewhat different in the future. Probably be doing loads of tweaks until I give up and admit it was fine the first time around.

Eventually I'll remove the pages here, bit by bit, until it's just the original blog again. There is a blog on the new site, but I don't like the feel of it, so chances are every post will just be published on this site and the new one, until I can find a way to integrate the two (never. I'm really bad at web design).

Lately I've been animating again, and it's one of my toughest jobs in a while. The idea is simple, and to some extent the execution is too, but considering how little time I have to do all of this - weekends and whatever spare time I have that doesn't involve playing Arkham Knight - it's a tiny bit stressful. But here's the guy I'm animating juggling:

Totally worth it.

Remember this short story thing I wrote? No? Yeah, me neither. Well anyway I'm adapting that into a long, long story. A novel in fact. It was meant to be a script but then I figured it's easier to adapt a novel to screen than a film to book, well, not shitty books anyway. And to prove that this isn't a thing I'm starting only to ditch it, I'm around halfway through the first draft, with documents of plot details, character bios, timelines and a chapter-by-chapter breakdown.

PRO TIP: do a chapter by chapter breakdown for your whole story before you start. Without feeling trapped - you can change the plot as you move forward if you want - you will always have something to refer to on days when you're just not feeling the inspiration to write. I'd have given up on this thing months ago if I didn't have that.

It's almost Christmas, but I don't have anything Christmassy to show, like I do every year. So here's the e-card I made for a friend a couple of years back.

Merry Christmas, y'all

Monday, 14 September 2015

The Organisers Have Reached Their Goal


For £10, you would get biannual updates, for the first ten years. (5,000 takers)
            There were already two generic cards written, for the first day, and Christmas. Then the plans were to send one every year at those times, probably with equally generic messages. It didn’t matter; for that price, people didn’t care that much.
            For £25, you also had access to photos and vlogs. (0 takers)
            It was nothing exciting. No one picked this option. Endless videos and countless pictures of uninteresting people talking or going to the beach. No one was interested in them; it was the product they cared about.
For £50, you could suggest a name to be put in the hat. (1,000 takers)
On the day, a name would be picked from the hat, and that would be its legal name. There were no limits: you could pick any name you want: your own, or a specific name for either boys or girls. Popular, because it had a higher chance of being picked, were the gender neutral names; Jamie, Leslie, Fuckface. There were petitions across the globe to have everyone pick a specific name, but the amount of contributors allowed was suddenly limited.
For £100, you would also get a t-shirt and other branded gear. (43 takers)
There was also a mug (or pint glass, if you preferred), all of which had printed on them its face (when they knew what it looked like, of course) with one of the catchphrases they would try to teach it as its first words. Takers were allowed to suggest catchphrases, but none have been decided on so far.
For £500, you can Skype with the organisers. (1 taker)
The conversation was to be recorded and put out as a vlog for the other takers, but the conversation was deemed too one-sided and unbroadcastable. The video was leaked, and became available to all takers of £25 or over.
For £1,000, you had access to the nursery feeds (2,000 takers)
The site went down briefly on the day, people crowding online to view the feeds. There had been ten cameras installed altogether in the nursery, most were ceiling level, but others were on the ground, with three hovering over the crib, and one over the changing table.
For £2,000, you had sole intellectual property rights on it. (12 takers)
During three months, photos, quotes and videos were yours for private or commercial reasons. Once the story hit the news, takers had to again be limited. The media will be saturated enough with this for a long time yet.
For £5,000, you could meet it one day, in the next few years (2 takers)
For fifteen minutes on a day – in the near future – you could meet with what has made the news lately. Depending on availability, and transport. Maybe also, you could have your picture taken with him.
For £10,000, you could be present for the day. (5,000 takers)
Transport, food and accommodation not provided. A crowd still came, and the venue had to be changed from a ward to an auditorium. Good seats came first come, first served, but there was a screen for those too far in the back. You could be forgiven for thinking something exciting was happening, the crowds there were.
For £100,000, you could keep him for the night. (100 takers)
And for two, you could also keep the pictures.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Freewrite: The Ads Considered You


The ads considered you.
That sentence alone was enough to make Carter shudder. The ads considered you. They looked at you and they thought. They fucking thought. And then they sold you something.
In the split second since he had appeared in the billboard’s line of sight, a million calculations had gone underway and now it showed, in a brilliant display – both literal and metaphorical – of scientific ingenuity, a cinemagraph of a single can of Diet Dr Pepper, moisture sliding down the side, a cloudless sky in the background.
Millions of dollars had gone into the research and development, and it assessed that Carter, in hundred-degree weather, might be thirsty.
Still, he never got over the impression that they were learning. They were designed for that, certainly. They tag you, follow you around, remember your habits, and sell you a can of Diet Dr Pepper. Well, still, he reasoned, they knew he drank diet. So there was that.
The weather was beating down hard on him, though. The machines reasoned well. A can of Diet Dr Pepper would certainly be exactly what he needed.
But he resisted.
The billboard had failed to notice the bottle of water he kept in his bag. He guessed it was nice that they didn’t have X-Ray vision just yet. He opened his bag, took out the bottle, and stood in front of the billboard’s badly hidden cameras as he poured the still-cold water into his mouth. For added effect, he made sure the label was facing the right way.
The machine within the billboard whirred as it tried to figure out what Carter needed. He looked refreshed. He didn’t look particularly hungry. He had the air of someone who seemed pretty content with life.
Except, the machine had been told, no one was ever content. They needed something. It scanned Carter with increased scrutiny. Beads of sweat had formed on his forehead and on top of his hair. His hat size was large. His income dictated he could spend upward of thirty dollars on something as frivolous as a hat. There was a good clothing store that offered that within a mile.
It displayed a large-brimmed Tilley Airflo Hat, only twenty-five dollars, from a shop 0.83 miles away – with directions.
It was exactly what Carter needed. But instead, he fished into his bag and fetched out a very similar hat, and placed it on his head.
The machine ignored people walking past it, and focused on Carter. It was almost vengeful. Carter’s shoes were starting to wear out. There was a cobbler nearby who could fix the soles for cheaper than a pair of new shoes, and it was only 1.34 miles away, provided Carter turned back on himself.
Carter wanted to walk past it, like everyone else. Ignore it. But it had just too weird for too long. He took off his shoes and threw them in the trash. He had figured the machine would notice the shoes, and had also packed a small pair of sandals. They were much comfortable to wear in this heat anyway. And then he did something he never thought he would: he smiled smugly. At a machine, as if that would make any difference.
The machine thought long and hard, and once again considered him. Carter looked like he needed a hospital.
The Chicago All Saints Hospital. 2.51 miles away. Catch an Uber there for less than seven dollars!
Carter almost laughed. He’d beaten it. “There’s nothing wrong wi –”
The bolt struck him in the leg and left a large, burning hole. He collapsed on the floor, howling in agony.
The screen changed: Dialing Uber driver
Carter stood up, pain searing through his entire body. He tried to retrain the tears that were pooling up around his eyes.
“I’ll walk, thanks,” he said, through grunts of misery.
He saw, through his tear-filled, hazy vision, the screen change once more.
Sanford Funeral Care. 1.99 miles east. Buy 5 get the sixth for free!

Carter barely had time to speak when the bolt exploded through his head.


Thursday, 7 May 2015

The World in Review


Do you ever get the impression you're juggling too many projects at once? Maybe you're the kind of person with a focused mind that knows that the only way to get to Point B from Point A is to not randomly go off on a side-road on the search for Point C.

Yet this seems to be happening to me, like, all the time. Which is why, despite every natural instinct in my body, I'm going ahead with this short film I'm writing, despite something in my brain egging me to ditch it and write a short-form web-sitcom. Because if there's one thing I haven't tried and abandoned yet, it's web sitcoms. I'm also plowing ahead with the webcomic, slowly but surely. I kind of blame the vlogbrothers, especially Hank Green, for this. There's something about their amazingly varied careers and mix of projects - vlogbrothers, Crash Course, SciShow, 2D Glasses, VidCon, that made me want to do everything. I wonder if envy is a good motivator.

But, here, on the horizon, a new project appears! It's called The Asian Cinema Critic, and it's essentially just a review site for films from East Asia. There's not a whole load of content on there yet but I do want it to be a hub for all kinds of films from the region. It sprang up when I was looking for a review of Police Story 2013 and found only one or two. Now that one of my favourite asian cinema review sites, Snowblood Apple, is down (and has been for some time), I thought I'd jump on it. It's a bit barebones at the moment, but I'm hoping in the future to include essays and editorials, if it gets big. Right now, it's just a place for me to put down my thoughts on films as I watch them. It's fun and it's helping keep me writing and analytical with film - two things that I need to keep up to date with.

Oh, that and drawing. Tried my hand at a 100 Days of Drawing thing, but bailed out at around thirty. Not that I couldn't, just more that I was having the hardest time actually finding something to draw, and then drawing it to the point where I liked it enough to upload. Didn't have the highest standards by any means, but a lot of them were awful and never made it online. A few can be found below. Most were either Final Fantasy or Discworld themed.

They say that talking about your goals is the worst thing you can do to achieve them. Only now I've just written a bunch of words about it, and frankly, I don't want to delete them all and write a whole new blog entry. That sounds difficult.