Thursday, 23 June 2011

A Little Respect And A Lot Of Other Stuff

This week, I have been in Oxford - bringing the Scottish flavour to England without the use of shortbread or heroin hasn't been easy, let me tell you, but I've done my best.

On Saturday, Jen (@JenClone) and Alex (@nicelittlestory) and I attended a great gig at Westonbirt Arboretum. Sophie Ellis Bextor was supporting Erasure, one of my favourite bands of all time, and we were all very excited. The were a couple of odd moments during the evening which I feel worthy of bloggage. The first was when The Bextor (note: once I've grown attached to a celebrity and they have proved themselves worthy of my eccentric and perhaps slightly misguided but unconditional adoration, they get assigned a 'The' - see previous extensive notes on 'The Dern') announced that she was about to perform her first release 'Murder On The Dancefloor' and then followed that announcement by saying "which was released in 2001." Imagine the horror. A whole decade has passed since then. I won't deny I had an existential freakout.

Me: Did you hear that?

Jen: What?

Me: Ten years since this song first came out. Oh my god, I haven't done anything with my life.

Jen: Um...

Me: You see that child standing next to you?

Jen: (looking increasingly uncomfortable) Yes?

Me: That child wasn't even born when this song came out. SHE WASN'T EVEN BORN.

It had started off a quite a nice summer evening, if a little cloudy, but soon the weather began to torture us for enjoying '80s electronica. It started with a light refreshing rain, followed by a heavy, drenching shower, finished off with a delightful round of painful, belting hailstones marinated in a chilly breeze. This is really something to savour when you're standing in a forest, jumping up and down in muddy joy with a couple of hundred other people.

Once I'd forgotten about The Bextor and the horrible implications of my own mortality had faded (this took about ten minutes, as the attention span of an otter is short and easily led by shiny things) I was able to relax and enjoy the gig fully. Erasure came on stage and performed brilliantly. They played all the classics - 'A Little Respect', 'Ship of Fools' and one of my personal favourites 'Love To Hate You'. The crowd was a varied mixture of people both young and old, gay and straight, and the atmosphere was lovely. About halfway through the set, a man wearing fluorescent sunglasses pushed in front of us. I happened to glance downwards for a moment, and saw that he was carrying a clear plastic bag, filled with yellowish liquid. I hesitate to relay the following conversation, and not least because of what it concerns, but let's face it, you've heard me talk about worse.

Jen: That guy..

Me: What's in the bag? Is it a goldfish?

Jen: A...goldfish? Who brings a goldfish to a gig?

I admit, I hadn't thought the idea through fully.

Me: What is it then?

Jen: I think it's piss.

Me: I'm sorry?

Jen: Piss. He's carrying a bag of piss.

Me: Why? Why would anyone do that?!

Jen: It could be beer.

We all looked at the bag with reactions ranging from curiosity to plain horror. People around us were beginning to stare at the man with the bag.

Jen: If it is beer, I don't know how he'd pour it.

Me: I'm still stuck on the bag of piss idea. Somehow I can't get past it.

Jen: Hmm.

There was a pause as we tried to bend our minds around this concept.

Me: Do you think he has a bag of piss from every gig he's ever been to?

Jen: What, like a trophy?

Me: Yeah. Like, maybe he has a shelf above his bed where he keeps them all neatly labelled. That's what I'd do, if I had a bag of piss.

People were looking from Piss Bag Man to us for help, as if we would be able to offer answers. We distanced ourselves quickly, making clear we-have-no-idea-either-and-are-frankly-scared gestures. We may never know what he was carrying, since we were afraid to enquire further, so it will remain one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time, however I appreciate all suggestions.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

In Hindsight, The Hippo Molar Was A Mistake

I was an intelligent child. I know you might find that hard to believe now, but bear with me. I'm actually pretty smart (something I will prove once I stop crashing into things, topping up my wine with Ribena and dancing around the kitchen holding Roland in a waltz position and informing him through spoken word rap that he fills up my senses like a night in the forest. I just wish he'd let me lead for once) and that became obvious fairly early on.

My parents therefore treated me, on the whole, as a very short adult most of the time, but it meant that occasionally they would forget that I was actually a child. One particular memory stands out from this as what I like to think of as The End Of Innocence. We all have this - some instant from childhood where you suddenly realise that the world is actually not the glorious, happy place you thought it was. For most kids, this involves Santa, and I was no different. At the tender age of 7, I came home from school one day to find my parents standing about in our living room looking rather worried.

Me: Hi. Has someone died?

Mum: What? No! Just... sit down, will you?

I sat obediently.

Mum: Er... (looking with desperation at my dad, who was eyeballing the ceiling) Listen. You might have heard your friends talking about something in the playground, and we just wanted to talk to you about it.

Me: Like what? Like sex? People talk about that.

Mum: (horrified) No! Not that!

Me: Oh. What then?

Mum: Like...Santa.

She winced, as if waiting for an explosion. I stared at her in growing confusion.

Me: What about him?

Mum: Well. He''s....some of your friends might have said that, um...

Me: (gently) Mum. I know Santa isn't real.

Mum: (with immense relief) Oh thank god!

Me: Of course he isn't real! No one could deliver presents to everyone all over the world in one night. That doesn't make sense. It's ridiculous.

Mum: Right. Right. I'm so glad, we were worried you'd be upset.

Me: No. I've known for ages that you were lying to me.

Mum: (uncomfortably) Well see, the thing is, it's not a lie, exactly. It's something parents tell their children to make the world a better, more fun place. All these things, like Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy-

Me: Wait, what?

My dad, sensing impending doom with the trained instincts of a man born to survive, began to edge towards the door.

Mum: What?

Me: (lip beginning to tremble) Did you say the Tooth Fairy isn't real?

Mum: (wild-eyed in fear) Um...

Me: How can the Tooth Fairy not be real? She brings me money! You can't just...I don't believe this!

Mum: We thought you knew! (looking at my dad, who by now has managed to edge almost completely out of the room) You come back here!

Me: (wailing) How can she not be real? Where do the teeth go?!

Mum: I kept them.

Me: (horrified) You KEPT my TEETH? That's sick!

Mum: Okay, this is not going how I thought it would.

Dad: I told you we should have got someone else to do it.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Gleefully With Glee

You know what annoys me? The answer to that is, I admit, a long and perhaps whiny list of things, but right now one of the things that is currently annoying me is the recap that happens in the intro of every Glee episode. The problem I have with it is that the voiceover inevitably says "and that's what you missed on Glee!"  Well, no, I didn't. See, the reason I know what happened is because I watched the previous episodes. If it's for the benefit of people tuning in for the first time, why bother? Any actual plot-continuity and character-motive was thrown out halfway through season 1 and anyone who switched on the TV now could happily watch any of season 2 as a standalone, since almost every episode manages to completely ignore things that happened in the past - one character was pregnant and gave her baby up for adoption to another character's biological mother (this is referenced again maybe once) while another wheelchair-bound character was magically given new technological legs in a schmaltzy Christmas episode and has never used them again since (even though they cost about $200,000 and were a present from the school football coach - I need to change career, stat).

In addition to this, many small things irritate me. The main character, Rachel Berry, has two mysteriously absent but apparently doting gay dads who have never been seen in two whole seasons except in one photo in the pilot episode; the song choice frequently serves to pump up the iTunes album's place on the charts rather than to further any particular scene, and most of the plots bring to mind a child ramming a square peg into a round hole over and over and over again with shiny-eyed determination.

Don't even get me started on Kurt. I like the actor who plays him - Chris Colfer - I do, even if he lets the wardrobe department do some awful things to him that even Tyra Banks would be horrified at, but I can't stand Kurt. As a character, he started out well - he came out as gay in a relatively positive way, he provided some excellent one-liners and he could be reliably counted upon for eye-rolling reaction shots during dramatic scenes. However, since Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee, has seen fit to turn Kurt into a mini-me, the character has become an insufferable, arrogant dillhole. It's like, as they say on the forums, Kurt is regarded as a Special Sexual Snowflake and can do no wrong.

Another character who annoys me immensely is Finn, the star quarterback and the lead male on most of the Glee clubs songs. He swings back and forwards between the main character Rachel Berry, and the pregnant girl mentioned above, both of whom swoon over him incessantly like he's the best thing to ever amble awkwardly down a hallway. His range of expressions encompass such delights as "Puzzled Now" and "Brooding Sadly", along with old favourites like "Forced Happiness". He only has about three, so in the space of an episode you'll be able to see these drift aimlessly past on the conveyor belt of his face.

And let''s not forget poor Mercedes, who has had virtually no plot concerning her since the Tater Tot revolution in the cafeteria that one time. If there is one thing I learned from Glee, it was that fat people like to eat. Or was it that black people like potatoes, or that gay men like Marc Jacobs? Maybe it was that breaking out into song as you duet with your blink-and-you'll-miss-it romantic partner for the week, whilst twirling around each other in the only dance move you apparently know how to do, is a totally normal occurrence? Wait, it must have been that a high school Spanish teacher who manages a Glee Club is able to use problems and issues from his own personal life appropriately to teach his kids valuable lessons about morals. Right? I don't know. Glee tries to teach me a lot. But like a crazy old uncle, you can never be sure how much it had to drink before it sat down next to you., and therefore how much of the waffle they're talking they really believe themselves.

You might think from all this that I don't like Glee. That wouldn't be strictly true. I do like it on some levels. I enjoy the rare moments of actual comedy. I enjoy some of the songs and will admit to having them not only in my ipod, but in a playlist (that is commitment for you, right there). I love the fact that when Brittany said one line in season 1 about sleeping with Santana,  the audience response was so overwhelmingly positive that the writers actually began to explore that storyline properly instead of making it a gesture to the stereotypical male fantasy. But more and more I find myself watching in horror as yet another song I love is crushed under the deadly weight of autotune, and as yet another character's entire previous life is erased and carefully re-edited to fit the current situation.

It's sad, so sad. Why can't we talk it over? It always seems to me, that Glee seems to be the hardest word.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Wheels On The Bus Turn In A Circular Fashion

I haven''t written an internet junk post for a while, and I'm sure you're all desperate to see what I've been watching/reading/generally chuckling at recently, so I'll get to that right after I talk about something rather close to my heart. That's right - games. Specifically, in this case, bus games (small diversions that I have developed specifically for the bus or that I have adapted to be bus-friendly, because sometimes public transport can be a trying experience). obviously, there are the classics - Who Is That Smell Coming From, Spot The Arch-Nemesis, etc, but my current favourite game to play with strange women is Gay Or Just Chavvy, which should only ever be played mentally and the results should never be verified with the target of the game, in case of disastrous and violent consequences. I mean, you could approach the lady and try to determine whether you were correct or not, but I cannot be held responsible for the consequences. It's all in the handbook (section 4. Liability - Otternator cannot be sued for any action taken by a reader, regardless of whether or not she asked, suggested, dared, served so that it was On and street cred was at stake or otherwise incited the reader to perform said action. Otternator performs all of her own stunts. Do not try these at home).

There is also Ned Or Dead, which my friend came up with, which involves deciding whether a person on the bus is practising the art of chavvy heroin-chic or is in actual fact a zombie. She informed me that playing this game can lead to serious paranoia and fear as, depending on the bus and location, you can quite easily convince yourself that everyone on board is about to turn around slowly en masse and tear you limb from limb.

Now to the good stuff. Good people, feast your eyes upon these beauties. First, we've got a link to Christine O'Donnell video, which is basically Christine's public announcement (that she was in fact not a witch, and the astounding theory that none of us are perfect - has she never seen a Laura Dern film? Good lord) which has been autotuned and made into a song. It is really quite catchy.

If you have cats, you'll understand this perfectly. For everyone else, just enjoy the pictures and pray that one day you too shall know the fear and ultimate longing that can only come from petting your kitty on the tummy and being aware that any second they could try to sever your hand from your arm by means of a thousand scratches delivered in the space of a second but OH SO SOFT AND GLORIOUS WHILE IT LASTS.

This next one amused me greatly the first time I saw it, and everyone I've shown it to since then has turned to me afterwards, eyes wide with joy and said "that was awesome!" It's a fan-made trailer for what could actually be a proper Thundercats film, if any Hollywood studio picked it up. They have spliced scenes together from different films and cast the parts excellently (Brad Pitt as Lion-O is my favourite - watch out for his Troy scene making an appearance with the line "We are LIONS!")

Okay, the final one. I've saved the best for last. Here is Stephen Lynch singing his comedy standup song "Craig". This guy is a genius. Trust me. You'll be singing it to your friends and guffawing, possibly forever.


Friday, 10 June 2011

Star Gazing

I'm not too fussed about celebrities in general. Of course I have my small Dern-obsession, but apart from that I don't really follow the lives and loves of the elite famous. I didn't even recognise, at first, the curly-haired guy stood next to me in a bar in London (Simon Amstell of 'Never Mind The Buzzcocks') or the tall, indie teenager wandering past me at the train station (Sam Pepper from 'Big Brother 11').
There was the day Jane Espenson (amazing writer for 'Buffy' and 'Battlestar Galactica' amongst much else) talked to me on Twitter (still one of my favourite moments of my entire life thus far) and I started calling all my friends to tell them, even if they didn't know who she was. JUST SHARE IN MY JOY, BITCHES.

Anyway, it's not exactly Hollywood but it can be kind of cool sometimes. Really, this is all just a lead in to one of my favourite family stories relating to a celebrity, because I'm smooth like that. When my uncle remarried a few years ago, my two cousins were still quite young. The youngest was really into Amy Winehouse at the time, and he rushed up to me on one of my visits back to my hometown.

Cousin: Otternator, I was in London!

Me: Were you? Was it fun?

Cousin: Yeah, for my dad's wedding. You'll never guess who was there!

Me: I have no idea.

Cousin: Amy Winehouse!

Me: Wow, that's awesome! Did you get her autograph?

Cousin: I got her autograph AND a photo of me with her!

He showed me the photo. He looked delirious with happiness.

Cousin: I wanted to invite her into the wedding but Dad said I shouldn't.

Me: Why not?

Cousin: He said there was something called

Me: (nodding sagely) Ah. Wise.

Monday, 6 June 2011

The Dangerous Nature Of Buckets

One group of friends and I get together for a meal at one of our houses every couple of weeks or so. Usually it's takeaway curry from the nearest local Indian restaurant, which is why we refer to it as Murray Curry And Gay Film Night. We pick the worst gay rom-coms ever made and spend the time screaming a mixture of insults and brilliantly sharp criticisms at the screen. The former increase and the latter decrease as the night progresses and the alcohol content in our systems rises.

Because these evenings invariably involve alcohol, which as we all know is my downfall, it generally leads to much stupidity despite my best efforts. So it was no real surprise when, during the most recent curry night, the following happened. In order for the following to make sense, you will require the following pieces of information:

1. A local bar we go to sells buckets (children's sandcastle type buckets) full of alcohol, ice and straws.

2. I consumed many buckets and very much enjoyed them on a recent night out which was the best one I'd had for ages.

3. The day after I imbibed said buckets, I woke up still drunk and felt invincible, at least for a couple more hours.

4. I have a fervent wish to do this again.

Two of my friends and I were talking about their upcoming trip to Germany, which we realised was happening (rather unfortunately) over my birthday weekend and the following weekend as well. They invited me to go, as some of their friends are coming over (turns out its the Women's World Cup football, apparently, you know I don't follow sports unless it's ice hockey and even then I only really go to see the thrill of man-on-man violence) and I thought it sounded like a decent idea. However, I said I'd have to think it over, as I had been planning to have a small but fun night out somewhere in Edinburgh, preferably accompanied by lots of the aforementioned buckets.

After a moment's pause to consider this, the next sentences out of my mouth were "On my birthday I want to get fucked. With buckets." Which, you will note, is a perfectly logical statement to make, but only if all everyone can see the punctuation. I sometimes forget that life inside and life outside my head, despite only being separated by a few layers of skin and some bone, can be two very different realities.
Both friends looked horrified and whipped their heads round to stare at me, before bursting into hysterical laughter. It took me a second to work out why, and then my feeble protests only served to increase their hilarity. Then the more I explained how, on my 26th birthday, I wanted to imbibe alcohol in buckets like on our last night out, amd not, as they thought I had suggested, voiced an urge to begin sexual relations with plastic construction materials, the more they laughed. It was a moment that with other friends, I might have been able to play down and hide under the Carpet of Memory, but not these guys. I knew this would be become another joke. 

It's on me. But in three weeks' time, so are the buckets. Let the good times roll.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Birthdays And Cocktails And Whiskers On Kittens

I spent Saturday afternoon with my family, celebrating my cousin's 18th birthday. I hadn't seen my parents in over a month, so there was a lot to catch up on. The party was in full swing - people lounged around and chatted (stomachs pleasingly expanded to breaking point due to an excellent buffet) and a series of what I can only describe as indoor fireworks which my aunt insisted on lighting on the dining room table, in spite of the rather dangerous looking sparks that streamed from it, lit up the room rather prettily. During a lull in the conversation, my mother leaned over to me and said in what she probably imagined was a conspiratorial whisper but, due to the amount of punch she'd consumed, was more of a Jack Bauer quiet-shout:

Mum: You'll take care of us in our old age, won't you?

Me: Um. Of course?

Mum: I don't mean we'd come and live with you! Haha!

My left eye starts to twitch.

Me: Right.

Mum: Wouldn't that be fun, though? We could go shopping all the time and I'd clean your house for you!

I can feel the twitch expanding to my left cheek.

Me: Wonderful.

Mum: (hopefully) But, I mean, you'll put us in a good nursing home, right? A nice, clean, expensive nursing home?

As I opened my mouth to answer, my dad caught my eye over my mother's shoulder and mouthed the word "separate", waving his arms emphatically with wide, serious eyes.

Me: Yes. Er. I can definitely say that I will.

As my mother moved away to speak to another party guest, my dad moved past me.

Dad: Make it look like an accident. I want to play golf all day every day, understand?

Me: Gotcha.

Sorry, Mum, but I've always been a Daddy's girl. Besides, he slipped me some money on the way out. Have your people call my people. I'll await your offer.