Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Are You Sitting Comfortably? Then I'll Begin.

Did you ever read a story as a child (or perhaps you had it read to you by an adult who wasn't thinking about the subject matter much and was probably more concerned with forcing you into Dreamland as soon as possible so they could go and relax) that didn't sit quite right? I remember several of these at different points in my childhood, and upon reading them again as an adult I found myself appalled at the tales that had entranced me as a kid,. Take Brer Rabbit for example. Brer Rabbit lived in a small village seemingly populated by only one of every species (even at age 5 I was aware that this didnt match up at all with the things I knew about nature) who were all, rather puzzlingly, named Brer (originally it was "Bre'er" - pronounced "bruh" - which meant "brother"). There was Brer Bear, Brer Fox, and Brer Something Stoaty that I can't find any reference to on the internet but am positive I haven't made up. I swear it's not a misguided attempt to force an otter character into this, despite how much better otters make everything.
The stories inevitably began, ended or somehow managed to weave in one or more animals trying to molest and/or kill and/or eat Brer Rabbit, not necessarily in that order. It seems odd that no one ever seemed to wonder why these animals were confined to this one place, or why none of them had mates or children, or why - even though they could all communicate to each other like humans, and hell, even dressed in human-ish clothes - morals went completely out of the window when the question of dinner was at stake. 
I'd given this a lot of thought recently, and came to the conclusion that the Brer animals were trapped in a kind of hideous, mutated universe. Unable to get out, unable to find comfort in others of their own species, they descended into an immoral, cannibalistic, crazed hierarchy where the only goal was to feast on Brer Rabbit, who was the obvious choice of prey, being weaker and not as predatory in nature as the others.
Now, I can kind of understand WHY they wanted to kill Brer Rabbit. He did kind of seem like an insufferable little dick, always outwitting the others and stealing their vegetables (even if he happened to be stealing back vegetables the other animals had stolen in the first place, in a pointless cycle of theft,). He always seemed to rain vengeance down upon them in some way, using his brains to outwit their brawn, and took great delight in yapping about his triumph. But whereas in other books, I have found characters that I love to hate, and characters that I hate to love (Umbridge from the Harry Potter books springs to mind), I never really empathised with any of the characters in Brer Rabbit. It wasn't the animal factor, I've read plenty of great books with animal protagonists that I encourage everyone to read - the Chronicles of Narnia, for example, or David Clement-Davies' Fire Bringer, and let's not forget my ultimate trashy thrill in the Warrior Cats series - but I always felt that Brer Rabbit just never quite made the cut.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Music Is My Hot Hot Otter

I tend to not know what I'm going to blog about next until it actually happens. I like to live my life dangerously on the edge of bloggerland. That's just how I roll, homies. Try reading that last sentence again in a Scottish accent. Yeah, the cool factor just went down a million points, didn't it?

I've somehow managed, despite hardly ever doing any exercise (although in hindsight that might be the crux of the issue) to sprain my foot. Not the ankle, or the toes, or any part I could name, just what I will refer to using the technical medical  term "the foot part of the foot". I've developed a listless dragging gait that makes people around me shy away, especially people in the street. It's not remotely zombie-like, guys, I swear. Put the gun down. No, seriously. Somebody's going to get poked in the eye. Just because I'm pale and quite often glazed over, staring into the distance, does not mean I'm one of the undead. Your discrimination is zombie-ist.

Anyway, like I was saying before I tangented wildly into the distance, my foot hurts. I came home early from work, took some painkillers and am resting the foot in the hope that this will cure it. I also started listening to some music, partly to take my mind off the foot and partly because its been a long time since I listened to any song on something as ancient and dated as an actual CD. Normally I use my ipod, which has many obvious benefits - no accidental skipping if you happen to clumsily smash it against something, holds a ridiculously huge amount of music and is small enough to fit in a pocket. However, there is something to be said for owning CDs. They are tangible things. If one CD scratches or breaks, you haven't lost your entire collection in one fell swoop. They have booklets inside which usually have lyrics or interesting information about the band, and some CDs have special hidden tracks which you can only hear by waiting a certain amount of time after the 'last' song has played. It's a different kind of experience altogether.

I've been influenced by my mother's love of 80/90s rock and my dad's obsession with all things Motown (which, by the way, is a damn odd mix to grow up with) and have developed a rather eclectic taste. I like almost everything, but here are my five favourite songs of the moment:

1. Music Is My Hot Hot Sex - CSS
2. Little Lies - Fleetwood Mac
3. Waltz #2 - Elliot Smith
4. Church - T-Pain
5. The Way I Push It - Salt 'n' Pepa versus Timbaland

See what I mean? Rather random. Incidentally, if I had a pair of kittens, I would call them Salt and Pepa, and every time they came in the room I would make Push It jokes ("oh, how cute, they're showing you how to become number one in a hot party show! Squee!" or "yo baby cat, yeah you, come here give me a kiss") The fun would be endless. Of course, I could name them Jesse and James and go in a totally different but equally geeky direction of Team Rocket jokes, or perhaps I'd be better calling them Holmes and Watson, thus taking a literary path to the wonderful world of Nerd.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Alot of Blogging

I'm a huge fan of Hyperbole and a Half's blog. Every time I read her posts, I find myself in helpless, hysterical giggling fits. If you've never visited, I encourage you to do so now. I have already introduced thous-... hundr-... okay, tens of people to this wonderful world. I'll start you off with this post, which features a special animal called the Alot (found here http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html). Go on. I'll wait til you're done. No, honestly, it's fine. I'll sit here for a moment until you come back.

Done? Okay. Let's move on. My friends and I are fairly obsessed with the Alot at the moment. Of course, Hyperbole and a Half has gone into some details with such notable creatures as Alot of Fire and Alot of Beer Cans, but I feel like she has missed  a few very important inclusions in the Alot community. For instance, Alot of Cheese (which happens to be a great thing however you look at it) which I imagine could be carved up like an animal. In the same way that a cow can be cut up for rump steaks, sirloin steaks, mince, tongue and so forth, I believe Alot of Cheese would have a Brie mouth, cheddary legs and delicious soft innards made of Camembert. I'd love to do a diagram but I don't want to infringe on copyright as Hyperbole has a book out now (it's a proper one, with pages and everything. It'd make a great birthday present. I'm just saying. I'm a pimp otter, you know that). The Alot of Cheese is an shy and elusive creature, what with being so stupidly tasty and all, so they are rarely seen in the wild.

A day in the life of an Alot must be a frustrating thing. People are always addressing it, which must be the pet hate of any Alot. Consider how many times in a day you disrupt an unsuspecting Alot from its thoughts by saying such trivial sentences as "I like this, Alot" and "This costs, Alot" and "Have you noticed Steve drinks, Alot?" The Alot is like the Honey Badger - it does not care. The Alot does not give a damn what you like or how much the milk costs, and frankly it thinks that you should keep your mouth shut where Steve is concerned because you're no stranger to alcohol yourself and he's been having a hard time lately. We always imagine that the Alot responds sulkily, annoyed by the constant interruptions.

Many Alots are delightful creatures. The Alot of Happiness frisks around gaily like a baby deer in springtime, sneezing glittery joyflakes over the world, while the Alot of Dancing can usually be found at parties, getting down with its bad self. But not all Alots are nice. The Alot of Wires is a particularly tricky beast, and the most likely to anger you. It spontaneously assembles whenever two or more cables (regardless of type, length or usage - cables are clearly the dirty whores of the wiring world) are within a few feet of each other, and no human is in view. The trouble with this, while admittedly it can make for a great photo (coming soon provided by an otter near you) is that the Alot, once formed, is stubborn about reverting back to mere individual cables. It is the wire equivalent of forcing apart molecules, except much, much more difficult.

I suspect this post has basically been a massive fangirl wankathon, but I do genuinely adore Hyperbole and a Half, and aspire to be like her. Unfortunately my MS Paint skills are not helped by my shaky hands and lack of creative flair. I prefer making things out of clay, like this Tonberry:

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Sugarer's Apprentice

After watching tonight's episode of The Apprentice, I wanted to write a quick post about it. It's my new thing, dontchaknow, branching out into topical, er, topics. And stuff. Yeah, that.

Now, I've only recently started watching The Apprentice. I somehow managed to miss out on all the previous seasons, convinced that it was just another tacky reality television show that people loved to hate (and my quota of tacky tv was already filled at that point with The Biggest Loser, various Do You Have A Talent You'd Like To Showcase On Television For The Entertainment Of The Masses shows and of course my all time favourite, America's Next Top Model). And then, rather unexpectedly, I started watching the most recent season from the first episode.  I became hooked.  It was unsettling. It was constantly cringeworthy. It was like watching American Idol, if the contestants were told to simply yap on forever about themselves and their own immense talent and never actually prove it by singing.

Sir Alan Sugar does not quite possess the presence or grace of Tyra Banks (they do however share the same habit of putting down contestants with their rags-to-riches life stories, although of course only one of them knows how to Smyze) but there is something enjoyable in watching him tear down idiot after idiot. My current favourite idiot is Susan, the 21 year old who runs her own beauty company and is all a lot of respects a massively high achiever without even taking into consideration her age, but who has produced some truly amazing soundbites of lunacy, such as "Do the French like their children?" and in tonight's episode which had her team starting a Mexican-themed restaurant, "What does 'el' mean, anyway?"

Then there is my favourite oddball, Tom. He was never going to win - he lets people trample over him like he's made of rice paper and looks like he might start affixing lightning rods to the boardroom chairs and mumbling about how "they don't understand the genius of my inventions, but I'll show them. I'LL SHOW THEM ALL!" at any moment. He has been a consistent presence in the background, always lurking, occasionally coming up with good ideas but rarely speaking loudly enough to have heard.

Then, there is Irish Jim. Irish Jedi Jim, who comes across as, depending on your view, a charming and unstoppable sales machine who don't work for nobody but you, or a smarmy, slippery little wretchbasket who has somehow managed to hypnotise and blag his way into the final by any means necessary despite not knowing that 60 x 7 is 420 (basic mental math skills are worth bugger all in today's marketplace, it seems).

Finally, there is Helen. My dear, sweet, lovely-but-with-a-slightly-dark-and-sexy-undercurrent Helen, who has been on the winning team now for all but one of the ten tasks. She's managed to consistently bring in record profits, she has delivered word-perfect sales pitches and has managed to get on reasonably well with everyone so far. If Helen doesn't win, there will be one very sad otter, clutching a little Team Helen sign and sniffling at the tv.

Monday, 11 July 2011

A Penis Tortoise Is Worth A Thousand Words

Since the public approval for the Penis Tortoise (I swear I can't help but giggle to myself every time I type that, and I've typed it a lot this past month) was so great, I thought I'd share some other pictures with you, dear sweet audience. You guys are awesome. No, really. You're all SHINY AND STUFF and I'm all like WOAH. What's that? Laying it on thick? I've never heard the expression. I'm quite sure I don't know what you're talking about.

Anyway, the love for the Penis Tortoise is so massive - so enormously girthy, in fact - that I'm considering trying to make a banner from it for the heading of this page. I can just picture the day my mother masters the internet and with some excitement finds the blog her daughter talks about. She'll click the hyperlink (by then she will know what it is and perhaps, oh giddy dreams, even know how to make one in a Word document), her eyes lingering hopefully over the loading bar, and then suddenly its all OH GOD WHAT IS THAT and WHY DOES MY ONLY CHILD HAVE A PICTURE OF A TORTOISE THAT LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE A PENIS ON HER WEBPAGE and so on and so forth. I dread the day that happens. I dread having to answer that something deep inside me simply finds immense hilarity in the Penis Tortoise. It is something in my soul that I cannot explain through the use of mere language, nor even of interpretive dance. (I actually shudder to think what a Penis Tortoise interpretive dance would even look like, and do not encourage you to close your eyes and imagine it as I have just done.)
I suspect this day may come sooner than I think. She does have access to neighbours who are much more modern and very helpful. Let us not dwell on this, however. I promise a full and in depth post if such an occasion ever occurs.

Since we are already on the subject of genitalia, and it seems like we are on this particular subject a lot at the moment but I'm going with it, I'd like to introduce to you to two photos I took in Oxford which never fail to make me laugh.

"What shall we name this street?" 
"Let's have a drink first and THEN we'll worry about that."  
"...Good plan."

Enter with care and tenderness. Don't just go barging in there like you own the place. 

In conclusion, this was our attempt at balloon dinosaurs, which were purchased as a birthday gift by someone lovely who had no idea that I am actually quite afraid of balloons, which I might add is a perfectly valid fear for a half-grown woman/full grown otter to have. Yes, I know the worst thing that can happen is that it will pop and make a small noise, but I can't convince my survival instincts. I find it odd that a body which can barely pull itself together long enough to master walking up a flight of stairs without falling over somehow manages to have the reaction speed of a cobra when balloons are around.

Now, I say "our" attempt, but I mostly watched from a safe distance and supervised - which is as we all know my best position during teamwork. Bonus points if you can actually name any of the dinosaurs we made. You will receive special otter points for making up ridiculous but referential dinosaur names.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Back To The Future (Of Technology)

As many of you now know, my family are an endless source of entertainment for me. They always have been and I hope that tradition will last forever. I actually aspire to the dizzying heights of insanity that they manage to achieve, seemingly effortlessly, on a pretty much daily basis. One of the great things I love about my parents is how far behind on technology they tend to be. They got broadband only last year, for example, and when I tried to show them how to do a few basic web things, they ended up mostly bewildered and lost. I have to actually be there in person now because on the few times they have tried calling me to enquire about a solution for a computer-related problem, I have realised that they do not follow instructions well at all. I have inherited this trait unfortunately, but not, it would seem, to such a crippling degree.

This conversation was held over loudspeaker so my dad could hear me as well. He is a little more computer-savvy than my mother and so I could occasionally hear him giggling in the background at her helpless attempts to connect with the modern day world.

Mum: So, how would I look for that?

Me: Well, you'd just use Google.

Mum: (doubtfully) Goo..gle?

Me: (aware that this conversation will frustrate me to tears and it has barely begun) Yes. Google. You know?

Mum: Um, I've heard people talking about it?

Me: Right. Well, it's a search engin-...it's a way to look for things. You use computers at work, don't you?

Mum: Yes but I don't use The Internet.

She pronounces it as if it is a strange and mystical being which could be angered by some small misstep.

Me: Okay. Well, Google is just a page on the internet. What you need to do is double click on the little internet picture...

I wait for her to double click. I hear two clicks in slow, laborious succession.

Mum: It's not working.

Me: You need to double click. Not click twice, but double click.

Mum: (heaving a massive sigh) Okay.

I wait again. After a moment I hear her still clicking like she's starting and stopping a 100-metre race, but at least it works.

Mum: Okay, now what?

Me: Okay, now type the word "google" into the address bar.

Mum: The what?

Me: The address bar. The bit on your screen at the top where the name of the webpage is?

There is a hesitant, desperate silence.

Me: Why don't I just come and visit you at the weekend?

Mum: Would you?

Me: (pinching my nose) Yep. Fine. It's not like I had plans.

Mum; Thank you, dear.

Me: Oh and remember, never type 'Google' into Google.

Mum: Why?

Me: The internet will stop working.

Dad: (teasing) What was that? TYPE 'Google' into Google? I'll do that for you!


This whole conversation just reminded me of the time I told my mum that the word "gullible" wans't in the dictionary. Her response was a perplexed "oh. Really? Well. Why doesn't someone do something about that?"

Now, I understand this issue with new technology and my parents, to an extent. I imagine that the fear and confusion they experience whilst trying to navigate towards YouTube is about the same as I would experience after being told to lift a yacht with one hand or die. I understand that people of my parents generation find it a little harder to get to grips with the internet and all the wonders it can open up. But I still find it hilarious to recall stories about their ignorance - the time my mum asked me whether it cost anything to send an email (and when I explained that it was free, she asked me where you put the stamps) or the time my aunt told us that my cousin wouldn't add her as a friend on Facebook.

Me: He's fifteen. Of course he doesn't want to add you as a friend.

Mum: You'd add me as a friend on Facebook right? If I had one?

Me: Um...

The thought of my mother being able to access my life and all the hideously drunken photos I've ever been tagged in, is a horrifying, soul-rending thought. The thought of her having the power to, say, follow me on Twitter and see all my tweets about the #penistortoise and other such masterpieces of photography, is just terrifying.

Me: Probably not, if I'm honest. It's for the best.

In case your curiosity was piqued by last last line, here's a treat. Ladies and gentleman, the Penis Tortoise.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Librarians Do It On Record

When I was in Oxford, I had the delightful experience of going on the tour bus. I've lived in Edinburgh for about 8 years now and have managed to successfully bypass most of the tourist attractions (with the exception of the Castle and the Zoo, obviously) including the tour buses. But this was incredibly fun. Oxford is a beautiful place with a fascinating history. I had no idea that a pub called the Eagle and Child was where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien would meet to exchange stories and new work over a beverage or two (I actually managed to visit and totally nerdsploded all over the place at being in the same building two of my literary heroes had once been in). If I squinted, I could almost see them sharing a quiet drink - discussing Frodo or perhaps Aslan and his sweet breath, debating about whether Caspian would be able to kick Aragorn's ass (not likely, let's be honest) or hooking up the White Witch with Gandalf (now there's a story of loss and redemption that I for one would love to read).

The Bodleian Library was one of the most impressive buildings on the tour. Under the law, it holds one copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland, ever. It even has an underground walkway and an electronic cart system (which made me imagine a kind of Indiana Jones style railway-through-mine-shafts). I could easily and quite happily live forever in such a place like some kind of feral otterbeast, scuttling through the dark, guarding the precious books. I could see myself as some sort of hideous library Gollum, crooning gently and lovingly at the stacks. Apprentice librarians might tell tales around a campfire, late at night, of a strange monster which makes little snuffling whiskery noises in the shadows before pouncing on students who venture too deep into the labyrinth. They say the only warning you get is a faint smell of fish before it drags you off to a horrible gnawy death....

Now, Edinburgh has its perks. It's a wonderful place to live with many exciting attractions and plenty of history, recent tram debacle aside. But Oxford was just so pretty. The museums, the streets, the university buildings - it was all so British, so aesthetically pleasing. I'm wandering dangerously into city fangirl territory now so I'll stop, but I really was impressed. If you ever get the chance to visit, I highly recommend it.

To finish this post, I'd like to show you this picture of me with a giant fork at Edinburgh's Taste Festival. If there was ever a reason to visit Scotland, then this is it.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Winning Team

It was my birthday yesterday. I just want to say a huge, heartfelt thanks to all my friends and family for making it the Best Birthday Ever. If I learned anything from yesterday, it's that the awesome people in my life are approximately 64% more awesome than I initially realised. I also learned that odd things happen when I drink Goldschlager, but I fear that's a lesson I'll need to relearn over a period of years (and if anyone can explain to me why I woke up with my keys, wallet, phone and some plastic bullets in my bag then please venture suggestions). I don't think I embarrassed myself too much last night - I only made the You-Make-Kitty-Scared face once as far as I can remember and the interpretive dancing to certain songs was kept to minimal otter robot. I'm sure this will turn out not to be the case, but for now I am languishing in happy ignorance.

Oh and for those of you who read the previous post about the buckets - yes. Yes, I did.

I went to see my parents yesterday afternoon. Halfway through lunch, my dad started telling me about the round of golf he'd played earlier that day (three birdies) with some excitement. Mum, as usual, was rolling her eyes. Despite the fact that my dad has played golf for about 20 years, she's never bothered to learn the terms, and usually starts to glaze over pretty quickly. I admit my own knowledge of golf is limited to childhood caddying for my dad, and a few of the Tiger Woods PS3 games, but even I know what my dad means when he says he 'sliced' a shot. My dad began telling me about a conversation a couple of weeks previously between my parents, which went a little something like this:

Dad: (bursting through the front door with trophy held aloft) Champion! Champion!

Mum: Oh for god's sake. Another trophy?

Dad: (momentarily confused) I won it.

Mum: There's nowhere to put it.

Dad: What about over-

Mum: No, that'll ruin the look of the fireplace. You can put it in the spare bedroom.

Dad: (giving up) Fine, whatever. I WON! I am the greatest! How does it feel to be married to a winner?

Mum: Well, YOU'LL never know.

Dad: .......You're right.

I seriously love that I was spawned by these people. Bless their hearts.