31 March 2010

Awesome Skateboard Animation

Click through to see the coolest skateboarding video ever made.

Simply titled 'Skateboardanimation', it is, in a word, brilliant. And clocking in at 1 minute 32 seconds, it is witty in its soulful brevity.

I don't know who Tille Singer is, but I sure hope s/he does a lot more of this kind of stuff.

Skateboardanimation from Tilles Singer on Vimeo.

Thanks to my man FZA for sending me the link.


29 March 2010

So Many Wrong Numbers


We've got a home phone now. We were given a phone number to go with it. Until very recently, the number we were assigned belonged to a man named Michael. Michael has debt problems.

It's speculation, but I think Michael deliberately neglected to give his new phone number to all of the many companies and individuals he owes money to.

The first time the phone rang at eight in the morning I was excited. Who could it be?

Turns out it was a very insistent debt collector looking for Michael, and not at all buying my phony 'American accent'. I hung up. And unplugged the phone.

Since then, we've received many phone calls of varying levels of politeness, all looking for the mysterious Michael.

Debt collectors all tend to call around eight in the morning. I've never gotten too much info out of them, so I don't know if they're all from one company and waiting for me to reveal an inconsistency in my story, police interrogation style. Or break down and confess that I am, in fact, Michael, or an accomplice who knows his whereabouts.

Or possibly Michael owes money to a legion of unconnected mosbters who coincidentally alternate calling days (though not times).

Actually, I'm not entirely sure that all of the phone calls are debt-related. But they are all looking for people who do not live here.

And it's contagious: last night an unknown number rang Chiara's mobile. I answered. It was a giggly teenage girl with a cockney accent, looking for a Jamaal. She was sure that I was Jamaal, and that my 'American accent' was just a hilarious and unconvincing prank. Until I hung up on her.

The lesson here is, I suppose, that I need to work on my accent. Either a more convincing American one, or an unplaceable, yet oddly convincing Eastern European/Korean one.

To throw them off Michael's trail.

And also I need a job, because all these debt-related phone calls are making me nervous about what I'm going to do, post-graduation.


26 March 2010

Working it out: Michael McIntyre @ Leicester Square


Chiara and I went to comedian Michael Mcintyre in the basement of the Leicester Square Theatre. McIntyre is very successful: his stand-up DVD Michael McIntyre: Hello Wembley, released last year, is the fastest selling stand-up DVD ever. During that tour, he performed live to half a million people.

Wednesday night he performed for about 40 of us.

We got tickets for the show thanks to a timely heads-up on Twitter. I'm not sure we'd be paying whatever he charges when he performs his next sold out arena tour, but I was happy to spring the 6 quid for the opportunity to see such a successful comedian try out some new material.

The opener was John Gordillo. His intelligent wit and quirky political views were great - e.g. the Geordie perpetual motion vomiting. But it was also clear that his material wasn't that polished - or perhaps he was a little nervous about opening for Michael McIntyre.

McIntyre came out next. He immediately addressed the question on everyone's mind: what is that eggy odour? With the help of an industrial can of air freshener he masked the stink, riffing all the while. He then got down to the business of testing out some material.

As might be expected, the show was uneven. This was a big part of the thrill for me. Because McIntyre is such a successful comedian I already felt savvy for being there to see the unadvertised 'secret' show. The giddy excitement of being involved in the crafting of his material (albeit as a 'test audience') made me side with him from the start, willing the jokes to work. So I rolled with the bits - whether or not they resulted in big laughs, little chuckles or a polite grimace. More often than not, it was little chuckles. But there were some guffaws as well.

His confidence of course helped - when a joke fell flat (or even at one point when I thought it didn't) he unceremoniously judged it a failure and moved on. There were even a few Hail Mary attempts at jokes he suspected would flop (the already-dated John Terry bit springs to mind).

All in all, well worth it - both for the chance to see a stadium comedian in an intimate (if eggy-smelling) space, and to glimpse that same comedian's process as he puts together a show that will very soon be a ridiculously huge success.


20 March 2010

Commas, & Apostrophe's

Can you see the terrible punctuating on the Air France homepage?

It's hard not to.

In fact - I don't throw this word around lightly - it is egregious.

Now that I'm a "Professional Writer" I'm rankled by the misuse of punctuation much more often.

Spelling has always been an issue. I love neologisms, can tolerate the use of deliberately jokey misspellings, and even the occasional typo. But straight-up poor spelling drives me crazy. And now that I own my own copy of Strunk, poor punctuation is that much harder to ignore. And it's everywhere

The 'Greengrocer's Apostrophe' happens so often it's almost impossible to tell whether they're: willfully defying convention; so used to seeing apostrophes that they don't know the difference between a possessive and a plural; or it's just a massive coincidence. In effect, I think greengrocers have applied to be a collective exception to the rule.

Air France has no such excuse. When I logged onto Air France the other day and saw the commas in the image above, I punched a hole right through my computer screen, into Air France, and thrashed my arm around looking for, someone to, strangle.

This is why companies have editors and copywriters. Because these people know how to use words and punctuation. I happen to know at least one (cough cough) excellent (ahem) copywriter who is looking for work.

A copywriter who may still make some mistakes in his punctuation, sure. I'm only human. But Mon Dieu there is no excuse for that kind of offence against punctuation.

Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe.

But 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves' became a worldwide bestseller, so obviously I'm not the only one who cares.

Besides, punctuation is awesome. If you don't agree, then you haven't had a look at The Oatmeal's handy guide to the apostrophe.


15 March 2010

The End of 100 Days

The 100 Days final event, part of the London Word Festival, happened almost a week ago, but I'm still recovering. Not from the strain of the 'upping, but from the 100-day sized hole it's left in my life.

The final event itself was pretty good - an excellent line up of comedians in the makeshift front room, with an audience space of couches and carpets. And a beautifully done up museum of projects in the back room behind the bar. The crowd was a good two hundred plus, split between project participants and regular mortals who hadn't endured the hundred day ordeal.

There was less celebration than I wanted, and more unpolished performance than I was expecting. Performance which was by turns, confessional, whimsical, hilarious, off-kilter, and poignant.

I met a few of my fellow hundred dayers, in and around the 100 Day Museum. And I found the show itself to be engaging and funny. But I dearly missed the celebratory whooping and high-fiving that I had imagined would be part of the completion of this project.

As the evening wore on I realized, I was missing was some closure. In the symbolic sense, but also the literal one: I hadn't done my final hundred press-ups.

I saved them for that evening on the understanding there would be some sort of group finale, but it became clear there was going to be no big group photo-op, no massage circle, no conga line, no shouting to the sky.

So during the final act of the show I snuck into the 100 Days Museum - which was empty save for one person.

And I took my jacket off, dropped down onto the cement floor, amid the projects and a single stranger, and did 50 press ups.

All at once. With no break.

A personal best.

Then I did 30.

Then I did 20.

By this time a few more people had wandered into the back, perhaps like myself, seeking some closure.

One of them, Lizzie Poulton, gave me the piece of lego pictured above. It is a piece of lego art from Daniel Weir, based on my project. I said my goodbyes.

Then I cycled home, feeling like the project had finally come full circle.

I can now focus myself on my next project, a solo show for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.


12 March 2010

The Rising Sun Coincidence


After my haircut at The Wacky Barber, something even wackier happened.

I popped next door to the Rising Sun pub. This in itself isn't strange in the slightest. Not only do I love pubs and beer, I've recently signed up to review pubs for my university magazine. I'd been to the Rising Sun some weeks ago and thought it worth a more focused, writerly visit.

Instead I just had a pint and read the paper. Then, seeing that Fulham was playing Juventus that night I sent my friend David, a Fulham fan, a text.

We swapped a handful of texts regarding the match, football in general, and the need to meet up for a pint in the near future.

By this time I had finished both my beer and my flips through the London Evening Standard. It was time to push off for home.

As I stepped outside I very nearly walked right into my friend David, with whom I'd just spent the better part of a half hour swapping text messages.

So we enjoyed that beer, there and then.

London often seems unwieldy. Despite the many friends, like-minded strangers, and joyous social occasions afforded by the hum of this global hub, you can get thwarted by apathy, gravity, and inconvenience. It can just overwhelm a person.

But then, this unwieldy metropolis will toss you a strange coincidence like finding yourself at the very same pub (out of 7,000 pubs in London), and you'll realize that sometimes you don't even need to work at making things happen, they just will.


Straight Cuts from The Wacky Barber


After a long hiatus, I got a haircut yesterday. I went to The Wacky Barber in Clerkenwell. Although it's neither close to my university or my home, I just figured it was the right spot.

  • I love Clerkenwell
  • They offer a student discount, and
  • It's called The Wacky Barber, for fuck's sake.
The font on the signage is decidedly modern, but the decor is honest kitsch - notice the barber pole in the photo. Inside it was piled with quirky signs, a dart board, loud music and a bar fridge. Kind of how I imagine the bachelor pad of a a recent lottery-winner would be. A well-appointed Man Cave.

I was sure that this was an historic establishment. A revamp of the barber shop that has been in this merchant class trading area of central London for hundreds of years, up the street from the butcher market of Smithfield; the place where butchers and haberdashers got their moustaches waxed by some outrageous penny-farthing riding fatman in Victorian times; 'The Wacky Barber' name a nod to the honest-to-goodness zaniness of the barber who founded the shop, in days of yore.

I was promptly corrected: the place is 2.5 years old. My romantic fantasy shattered. Then it got worse.

The 'how would you like it?' banter I got into with my stylist was awfully strained. She got tripped up on some words - including the word 'short'. I tried unsuccessfully to smoothly work in some haircutting terms - like 'texture' and 'straight-razor'. Like a true professional, she guided us to the next stage by offering me a drink.

I asked for water; she suggested a cold bottle of Carlsberg from the bar fridge. I broke into a big smile.

Having a beer while getting my haircut in a proper establishment wasn't something that had occurred to me. The title of 'place I go to get my hair cut in London' just became theirs to lose again.

They did not lose it.

  • She spent the remainder of our time talking me through my quest to pick an English football team. We didn't solve the issue, but it was nice that she cared enough to try and steer me straight.
  • She put two gold stars on my loyalty card.
  • Plus, if you thought I was handsome before... well, you should see me now that I no longer look like I'm wearing a scraggly alleycat as a hat.


10 March 2010

Day 100 of 100

Today is Day 100 it's early evening and I'm preparing to go out to the 100 Days to Make Me a Better Person Event. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about the conclusion of this project, because it's not over yet.

1. The project has been building steadily to this event, so afterwards I'll be better able to assess the project overall.

2. I haven't completed my 'ups yet. Josie requested that we save our tasks so we can all do them together tonight. I was a little nervous about doing all my piecemeal and belaboured physical exertions tonight in a public forum, so I compromised. I did my 100 sit-ups this morning, and will do my press-ups tonight.


Day 92: Did not 'up. Instead, I moved, the carrying of boxes and furniture and stuff into a van and car and up four flights of stairs serving instead as my activities.

Day 93: Did not 'up. I was too tired from all the moving and packing and lifting and IKEA trip and the whole experience of changing flats and dealing with landlords and other such excuses to be anything other than exhausted. I got down, but not up.

I also thought missing a couple days would round out my experience - I would experience everything, including not sticking to it entirely. For a more complete total experience, so I told myself.

Day 94: Sprung out of bed, and did my first set of 'ups in the new flat. I also missed the bed from our old flat, where I could just hook my toes underneath and get going on my sit-ups. The lack of carpet didn't help either. But I was so full of piss-and-vinegar I just barreled through them.

DAY 95: Did not barrel through the 'ups. But I did them.
I think. I lost count of the repetitions - I think I started with 41 sit-ups and 28 press-ups, and just got confused from there. Did approximately 95 - possibly. I learned that simple arithmetic is more of a factor in my project than I'd previously thought.

DAY 100:
The last day, the final event. Really excited about tonight. My first set of public press-ups since elementary school gym class.


09 March 2010

Moved to Hackney


We've moved. E2 TO E5 - not that I'm keeping score. From Roman Road to Chatsworth Road.

Neighbourhood-wise it's Bethnal Green to Hackney. It's a positive move – certainly a step up in terms of our flat. From a mouldy street level office to a top-floor 1.5 bedroom flat with terrace, it's a step up in many ways. and not just the literal four floors up a poorly-lit stairwell.

It means starting over trying to get from A to B or B to A, or even C to F. It also meant another trip to the ring of hell that is IKEA.

The point is: I like this new neighbourhood. Lower Clapton. Hackney. According to Timeout, it's on it's way up - even before we arrived.

A warm welcome

The first thing the place did for me was disappear our IKEA kitchen island from the sidewalk in front of our place. Not only did it save me having to hump that thing up four flights of stairs, it also taught me that I should watch my stuff in this neighborhood, but, if there's anything I don't want I can just leave it in front and let nature take it's course.

The neighbourhood is a nice mix of young families, hipsters, a cross-section of ethnic and religious minorities, and drug addicts. It reminds me of East Vancouver. It was Chiara who first pointed out the similarity to Commercial Drive while we enjoyed a lunch in the sun at L'Epicerie 56 and watched life happen.

Our building backs onto a church. My Sunday morning was spent reading the paper and listening to some boisterous Jesus fans who had no need for a microphone, bang on about Him into a microphone. I may just have to pop by one Sunday while I'm resting, to see this up close.

There's also a coffee shop, cafe and pub all within blocks. I haven't gotten too friendly with the staff or locals at these places, but it feels like, given time, it could happen.

The immediate vicinity is missing a bunch of other amenities. Like a restaurant with tables that doesn't focus on fried chicken. Or a supermarket that isn't a shitty gigantic Tesco hypermarket, but I can work around these things.

I think I can learn to love this place. And I've got nothing but time. According to the contract we signed, we've got at least 18 months.