Thursday, 6 September 2012

Day 2:

Morale is high, but it ever is while the supplies last. Everyone is still well groomed and civil, but already the cracks are beginning to show.

The chittering from our headsets grows more insistent and angry, like hornets trapped in a jar. Every howl from the People of the Broken Printers reveals the depth of our painted-on smiles, the shaking hands holding our coffee cups betray the whispering fears beneath the surface. When will it stop? Will we hold or break?

We look to each other for solace, hoping the endless stream of corrupted profiles and servers shrieking their agony will cease before we run screaming into the dark. We know it won't, but for now there is fragile, precious hope.

Privately, we all wonder who will be first to acquiesce to that dark temptation, to be torn to pieces by the chanting masses, those unspeakable horrors known only as the End Users. Perhaps the first will be speared by the weapons of his fellows, envious of their new-found freedom from sanity.

As I huddle deeper into my blanket of apathy, part of me hopes I will be the one to run first.

Farewell the Tranquil Mind.

Hello Blog,

Yes, I know. I'm shit at updating this thing. Still, school time again soon so I need the practice. I passed my first year by the way. 50 something percent, which is just enough that I don't have to describe it as squeaking a pass. I took the internet hivemind's advice and just handed in what I had when deadline time was up and accepted that I didn't have time for it to be perfect. This meant I had to hand in a couple of almost empty essays, which torpedoed my average. A pass is a pass though, and I'm pretty proud of myself anyway. I'm not an easy guy to motivate but between you guys, last FM's blues tag radio and my ever supportive cat, we got it done.

I was originally planning on putting the degree on hold after this year, but then our country's fair and noble leadership decided that fuck students. So my degree costs would have drastically risen, but if I keep studying I get to pay pre-governmental sodomy prices. So yay, full time work and study for many years to come. This is my comeuppance for many years of laziness, we all knew it would come. Friggin' Karma Monkey has had it in for me ever since I torched that orphanage.

My next course actually counts towards my degree fo' realz, so I have to work hard, as I actually want to get a good degree result (more on why next time). Fortunately, the title of the module is “Reading and Studying English Literature” and that right there is one of my faaaavourite things. It hasn't even started yet and I'm already balls-deep in Othello, if you'll pardon the unnecessarily graphic metaphor. I realise what a tool it makes me, but I'm really enjoying it. The introduction is twice as long as the play and studded with little footnote numbers. It'll get tiresome I'm sure, but it's really nice to be reading something challenging after a few months of relatively light reading.

Speaking of the literary arts, I WRITED A POME. I didn't really intend it to be poetry, but a few of the people who read it described it that way and who am I to deny my adoring audience? I guess I'll retroactively claim it's free verse and look like a clever artsy-man. I had the idea of a busy service desk as a siege and it kinda stuck with me so I wrote it down as a Facebook status. People seemed to like it, so I thought I'd do one or two more entries. I'm only going to post them here though, as Facebook is basically the mask you wear in public while on the internet, and it's wise to be careful what you say. It'd be easy to misconstrue it as publicly bitching about my job and I've seen more than one person get into trouble for that. I'll repost the first entry here as my next update and get to work on Day 3.

I'll try and keep up with this more, but I've said that before. I wouldn't want to hurt you again, Blog.


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Wouldn't You Believe It? It's Just My Luck.

Hello Blog,

Well, it's been a while. Life has been somewhat hectic for the past few months, and also I'm a very lazy man. I've had a fair amount of changes of late, but documenting them all here would turn this into a huge wall of text and no-one likes that. I'm hoping to actually start updating this thing more frequently, so at least it'll give me some material.

First up, University. It's been a weird experience, as someone who never really got along with education. I was extremely nervous at first, worried that it was all going to be beyond me and I'd get my profound stupidity conclusively proven. That didn't really happen, I found a lot of the material pretty easy to grasp. The introductory course is always going to be relatively simple, and many of the sections were on subjects that I find interesting.

Where I've hit a brick wall is studying things I don't care about. It's been a curious revelation that studying things that aren't really interesting is really freaking hard. A section of my first essay was on the French impressionist painter, C├ęzanne. I don't know how well you know me, mysterious blog-reading person, but those are not a few of my favourite things. The first part was about Cleopatra, which chimes with my keen interest in videogames and movies classical history. Ancient Rome is a fascinating era and I flew through that section, but writing about picture planes, composition and brushwork made me want to die. I found myself staring at a blank word document for half an hour, swearing and then going to play Minecraft. Minecraft is not part of my course. There is no extra credit for building a sweet mountaintop skull fortress.

I finally got the essay done (after many extensions) and got a pretty good mark for it, but I sweated blood over an essay that I could have totally half arsed. This is the crux of my dilemma, Blog. I'm facing the same situation with an essay at the moment (half Faraday/half poetry). I'm not the biggest fan of poetry in the world, but at least it's relevant to a literature degree. Faraday is an important historical chap and Faraday cages are awesome, but I just don't care about history of science. So my options are:

  1. Half-arse the thing. The course is entry level and pass/fail. My tutor tells me that it's not too hard to pass really, and there are very easy guidelines to meet which leaves not much room for tutor input. There are some essays you can pass even if you are totally wrong in your answer, as long as you use the right terms, etc. This option doesn't really sit right with me though, if I'm honest with myself.

  1. Work really hard on every essay and study my balls off. Yeeeaaah. This isn't going to happen, I have a full time job I have to be vaguely alert for, a full time girlfriend that I have to be watchful and cunning for, and a social life that I have to be drunk for. If I study enough to do really well on every assignment, one of those things will slip. I guess you could say I should let the social life slip a bit, but fuck you, Internet Person, what do you know? Incongruous outbursts aside, you need to let off steam somewhere. Also my friends are awesome and religiously read and give feedback on my blog, so why wouldn't I want to spend time with them?

  1. ABORT! Or put it on hold at least. I can come back to it later, and either study something more in tune with my interests or give myself some time to adjust to my new job (foreshadowing!) I probably won't though, I'll probably just sack it off and wallow in delicious, salty regret.

I'm currently leaning towards half-arsing it just for the sake of passing. This course is a requirement for doing more or less any arts qualification, so I have to do it sooner or later, but honestly the workload is kicking my ass. What say you, Blog?

Sunday, 16 October 2011

We All of Us Deserve Better Fish.

Hello Blog,

I haven't posted for a while, and for that I can only apologise. It's partly that I've been busy and tired, but I could have made the time. I know I don't treat you right sometimes, Blog. I promise I'll do better in future. What can I say? I'm only human.

It's been an interesting few weeks. I had my birthday, which was pleasant but uneventful. I got some cool things, including Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Death And The Penguin, and Creature of Havoc. Oddly representative.
Also, Richard and Mary took a bunch of us to Water World at my request, because apparently this was my 8th birthday. Then on my actual birthday I got a whole crate of drunk. So I guess moderately eventful.

I finally quit my job, something that has been brewing for some time. I can't really go too far into the details, because complaining about your workplace in a public forum lacks class. Suffice to say I'm not happy there and think I can get more rewarding work.
I have a few irons in the fire for replacement jobs and I can fall back on being a student if necessary, so no worries about becoming destitute. Not ones that have any basis in reality anyway.
The main thing that I don't like is that I won't be a projectionist any more, although mainly for the cool job title.

I know I promised you I'd talk about school this time, Blog, but I had a backlog and nobody likes big walls of text. I know I say that every time, but it doesn't make it any less true. Come on, Blog. Don't be that way.


Monday, 26 September 2011

You Don't Know, Man. You Weren't There.

Hello Blog,

It's been a busy week. I have a few things to share with you so let's move right along.

First up, I went to see Reginald D. Hunter at The Royal Concert Hall on Saturday. The theatre was very beautiful even if we were so far up that it was vertigo inducing.
He was supported by Steve Hughes, an Australian comedian who apparently doesn't have a DVD for me to shill. Steve was funny, unfortunately I'd already seen the bulk of his act on TV so few giggles were had, but it was an experience to see him live anyway.
Reggie was great though. Warm, engaging and with far more bite to his humour than I was expecting from his TV appearances. He's still on tour so if you get the chance you really should make the time to see him.

I tried to think of a good segue here but I got nothing, so here's a jarring subject change.

My friends Kate and Laura just got back from a month in Vietnam which sounded totally fascinating and also leech infested. I'm looking forward to hearing more stories of old ladies shotgunning American soldiers and looking at pictures of the beautiful countryside, however the thing that has me giddy with ghoulish glee is my dead GI lighter.

 A friend and I used to talk about this sort of thing years ago, so half jokingly and fully drunkenly I asked Kate to bring me one back and lo and behold the girl came through on it. It's pretty knackered and possibly they knock them out to flog to tourists but even so it's a pretty cool and unique souvenir.
I already have a zippo that I haven't used in a while, mostly due to laziness, so I intend to cannibalise mine for parts and repair it.
I'm aware of the moral issues at play here. This is a dead guy's possession and it's a little bit creepy to revel in it's provenance, but it's cool and was thoughtful of Kate to get it for me. I mean no disrepect, I have nothing but awe for the bravery of soldiers and I will take better care of it than the guy who hawked it. Pics to follow.

Uni starts this week and frankly I'm freaking out a little bit, but that's a bigger post than I'm ready for right now. I'll talk about that next time.


Sunday, 18 September 2011

In My Restless Dreams.

Hello Blog,

Today I want to talk horror and fear. I've always had a fascination with it, the first adult book I ever read was Steven King's Eyes of the Dragon. I read that thing over and over, taking a curious joy over the sensation of being frightened whilst perfectly safe. I think that therein lies the crux of any horror enthusiast's attraction.
It's not often in life you really get to be afraid in a controlled environment. Many people simply lack the empathy to really place themselves in a character's situation, also there's the childish bravado of “I'm not scared!”
I'm not saying people that don't like horror are poorly developed but, you know. Draw your own conclusions.

The problem, of course, is that much horror media is tripe. The genre even has a sort of self-referential humour about it. Silly gore movies, such as Machine Girl or Braindead (Dead Alive US) are a lot of fun after a few beers, but noone is really having any emotional reaction except amusement or revulsion.
Slasher movies can occasionally be played with some finesse, as the skillful use of build up and jump scare will leave the audience feeling pavlovian dread as soon as creepy music starts. The first Halloween was a masterclass in this. As discussed previously however, most horror movies are 8 teenagers played by actors well into their 30s, a death every 20 minutes and a jump scare every 15.

Many horror books fall into the same trap. Shaun Hutson in particular writes incredibly lurid pulp horror, with a monster of the week, usually something unpleasant on the cover and probably a disturbing-for-all-the-wrong-reasons rape scene. 

Mind-shattering indeed.

Steven King isn't the world's most talented writer. His endings are almost uniformly awful and his stories have a bit of a tendency to meander. He writes some strong characters though, and that empathy between reader and character forms the basis to generate fear. IT was excellent for that. A book packed with chilling moments, giant spider be damned.
One book that needs to be mentioned is Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves. I don't even know where to begin describing the story. It's a about a guy who finds some books about a documentary about a house. Yeah. The book does not get less confusing. It really is a work of twisted genius however, with pages in mirror writing, pages written on the diagonal across the page and footnotes within footnotes within footnotes. It has the same pervasive sense of otherness that Lovecraft used so well, but without aping him. This book scared the bejesus out of me any number of times and I don't have much bejesus to spare. Heartily recommended.

Videogames are a relatively new medium, and tend not to have the most complex characters or stories. Even of those that do, horror games have never had a huge following. Most of them follow the Resident Evil playbook of “zombie dogs through the window whenever there's a lull in the shooting”. Not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with that, but shock is never as effective as dread.
For dread, you really need to visit Silent Hill. This series is very close to my heart and has been consistently terrifying me for many years. Silent Hill is a demonically tainted town that draws in sinners and lost souls and toys with them for it's own amusement. There's a reason why, but it's a spoiler and makes the whole thing even more creepy. Some are better than others, Silent Hill 2 being the real standout, but they all really get the sense of isolation and strangeness right.

The other problem of course, is that horror is very personal. What's scarier than a letter from the testicle doctor for one person is funny or boring for others. Some people are scared of moths or spiders, some of dogs or heights. I, for my part, scream in abject terror at even the friendliest of clowns and Kayako from The Grudge (Ju-on JP) had me nervous to be on my own for weeks afterwards.

Fear is one of the most powerful emotions in our toolkit, and those who avoid confronting it safely will be paralysed when the real thing comes around. Don't be put off by the vast bales of dreck, we live in an age of information. Seek out high quality examples of that which scares you and confront it. From the couch. With some nice cake.


Thursday, 15 September 2011

You Met Me at A Very Strange Time in My Life.

Hello Blog,

I've mentioned that I work in a cinema as a projectionist, and I want to talk a little about that. There's only so much I can say in this age where your boss can catch you calling him a penis online, so I'll try and keep it neutral.

The first question I usually get asked is “So do you just sit around watching films all day?”
The answer, obviously, is “Of course I fucking don't, who would pay someone for that?”
Usually I just say yes to avoid the conversation.

The truth is that I do occasionally get to watch a movie at work, under the pretext of checking it for faults. This is less necessary with digital than it was with 35mm film, but there could be corruption or various other types of faults with a digital copy.
Rarely, however, do I have time, will or a free projector to preview films.
There is a perception that because a lot of what I used to do with film is now automated, I am apparently free to have every monkey job that the corporate department can dream up shat onto my lap. (Keep it neutral, keep it neutral.)
A good 70% of movies that come through our cinema are awful anyway. It makes sense really, we are a business and romantic comedies, unchallenging horror movies that go “boo!” every 20 minutes and CGI cartoons with talking animals are our bread and butter. That doesn't mean I don't inwardly weep when we pass over a Studio Ghibli movie or some quirky Norwegian horror flick for some flaccid effort with Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher.

All this means that I probably don't see any more movies at the cinema than anyone else. I suppose I could come in early or stay late to do them, but I spend enough time in that gloomy room with my only my girls (the projectors) for company.

The second question, almost without fail, is “Have you ever spliced a frame of porn into a children's movie?”
The correct answer is “Woo! Fight Club joke! You never hear those as a projectionist! I want to hit you as hard as I can.”

Seriously though, where would I even get frames of 35mm porn? If I actually did manage to find some on, I would almost certainly get caught, sued, arrested, then worshipped on 4chan. Nobody wants to be worshipped on 4chan. Still, I do have the relevant skills and equipment and I'm sure it would elicit at least one giggle. Or a lul, if you prefer.

By the way, if the preceding URL works, don't click it.


Saturday, 10 September 2011

Welcome to the Cheap Seats

Hello Internet,

 My name is Neil, but most people call me Riley. I'm 31 years old, work as a projectionist for a reasonably large cinema chain, and since I was seven years old I've been fascinated by the written word.

 I've always loved books, I feel on edge and ill at ease if I don't have something on the go. Much of my early years and on into my twenties I mostly read fairly light, easy on the brain stuff. Wizards and dragons. Spaceships and laser guns. A few years ago I decided to read more classic works. In that time I've read some truly phenominal books. I still read a lot of genre fiction but tend towards the classier end of the scale.

 Where I going with this is that I want to write. I think, if nothing else, I could write some decent short stories, maybe have some people like them and that's enough for me really. I've had next to no practice at it however and as I'm sure you can probably see, my written English could use some work. This is where you come in, blog! I'm going to start studying English Literature at the Open University soon and the lack of polish in my writing has me worried, so constructive criticism would be much appreciated.

 I also consume media at a prodigious rate, movies, games, books or whatever. The older I get, the wierder stuff I find myself enjoying. I watched some opera recently, god help me. I'll probably post various impressions on whatever I've seen/done recently, just for the sake of something to write.

So that's what this blog will be about. Me, my progress towards being a writer (in whatever capacity), school, work and nerd stuff. I hope you enjoy reading about this stuff, but I'm really doing this for me.