Sunday, 31 May 2009

Blogger's Cafe award

Thanks to Argentum Vulgaris over at Blogger's Cafe for awarding me the Blogger's Cafe First Award. Truly undeservedly of me I'm sure!
The rules say I have to pass this on to 8 others (who in turn pass it one etc...) and quote the following:
“These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers.”

Now I usually tend to pass on awards to the same folks (you know who you are, and how great you are - well at least how great I think you are if that matters for anything). Truth is everyone on my 'Blogs worth reading' list are just that, along with plenty of others (sorry, not very good at updating that list!)

So I've decided to pass this award on to the blogs I've not passed anything on to before. These are all very good blogs, and I urge you to take a moment to go check them out:

1, 2, and 3: Amy Greenburg, Rachel G, and Susan K all over at Daily Artwork
4 - Nicole over at The Writings of Noupa *
5 - Ram over at The Prison Diary of Ram Venkatararam (formerly The Food Here Convenience Store before his - er - incarceration)
6 - Ben Goldacre at Bad Science
7 - Chrissy at I Shoulda Been a Strippa
8 - AV of course, over at Blogger's Cafe to name just one.

And there you have it. I'm not going to the usual thing of telling these people they've won something, as I'm helping cook Chicken Tagine, and well, it's 8 comments to write and I'm lazy. Plus some of these people are far too popular to care - but I urge you all to go have a read for yourself, and tell them I sent you.

In separate news, we had a 'Spanish Festival' here today in London. They closed off Regent Street to traffic, and in it's place had loads of tents full of crowds of people all wondering what the people at the front where looking at. They were also cooking 2 giant Paellas on what appeared to be captured UFOs, and had dancing horse from Menorca - as my wife mused 'the horse version of synchronised swimming'.

Was a tad disappointing I have to admit, as when you did manage to fight your way through to the front of a crowd, you found that there was just a man at the front giving out holiday brochures for villa, however, the wife did manage to climb over pensioners and tourists at one stall to get a free hat. Worth the trip for everyone else to casualty I'm sure.

Also, if I don't smoke today I've manged a week without - which means I've already reduced my risk of a heart attack by 50% and screamed loudly into a pillow every 10 minutes. I'm hoping the withdrawal symptoms - which consist of me shouting loudly at the world in general - will soon subside.

Until then, I'll leave you with a quote:
'I started out with nothing, and I've still got most of it left.'

EDIT - It's come to my attention that I haven't actually written any fiction, or anything about writing fiction pretty much since I started writing this blog, which is what I was originally intending to do (hence the title). Sorry all, I'll get something down tonight whilst I'm drunk and post tomorrow when I',m sober.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Off the Boyle

Apologies - but this is another post about people singing on TV.

Tonight is the final of 'Britain's got talent', and unless you've been living in a cave for the last month, you've probably heard of Susan Boyle - the 100million hits on youtube singing muppet.
Now don't get me wrong, she can sing quite well, and I'm sure she's a lovely lady (though going ballistic at journalists this week hasn't helped her image), but she's no Kathryn Jenkins.

The fact is, that if she was pretty, she'd be pretty unremarkable. The only thing that makes her stand out is that you don't expect someone who looks like they should definitely get out more (and do some serious plucking with their eyebrows) to be able to sing. If she was 25, reasonably attractive and sang like that, no one outside of the UK would have heard of her, and she may well have not made the semis. Certainly not the final with the out of tune start she had singing memory this week - which the judges seemed to completely miss. No doubt they're banking on her making the final to boost the ratings. Piers Morgan is a prick, and Amanda Holden can't move her face because of all the botox, so I don't expect them to tell the truth, but even Simon Cowell said she did well - and he's usually honest to the point of brutal.
I'm sure this says a lot about the society we live in, and the way we judge people on looks (good and bad), but I'm no psychologist.

There's been lots of press around her this week, maybe quitting the show, going mental at the TV because a singer in another semi-final did well, close to breaking point from the pressure etc... most of which seems to be pretty lame PR by the shows producers and judges to me.
To quote Jo Hemmings, a behavioural psychologist 'She's angry, she overwhelmed. It's all very sad'
My prediction - she won't win. No way they'd risk putting her in front of the queen in her current precarious mental state.

On a brighter note - I'm still not smoking. This is my 6th day, so going pretty well. I'm trying to avoid alcohol - which will either help in that alcohol makes me want to smoke, or hinder, as now I have 2 things to not do. Maybe I should just join a monastery.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Swine plague

Well I've got 'man-flu' (as the wife calls it) in May. Not just any May, but abut the hottest, sunniest May on record, which I'm sure is not the usual time of year to catching these things.

Personally, I think it's probably swine flu, or the plague, or some weird cross-hybrid of swine plague. No doubt Dustin Hoffman and Cuba Gooding Jr will be parachuting from a helicopter onto my roof any minute now to stop Donald Sutherland blowing up my apartment block.

Strange thing diseases, especially viruses. You ask me, we should be vaccinating the pigs, they're the ones who are giving people flu. I'm sure it can't be that hard, I mean, they can vaccinate cats against AIDS for crying out loud. Maybe we should get the vets and the doctors to all switch jobs for a week, see how things work out.

The good thing is I'm not smoking - breathing is hard enough at the moment without making things even more difficult for myself. Hopefully I'll last longer than a week this time.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

From the strange to the F*%£ed up

Tuesdays are normally my least favourite day of the week, but today I feel strangely sanguine. Maybe it's because I've got lots of stuff planned for the weekend (my sister-in-law is coming to stay), or maybe it's because my wife's been putting Valium in my coffee to make me more cheerful, but whatever, good days should be enjoyed, not dissected for their meaning.

On a 'I-should-really-have-blogged-about-this-at-the-weekend' note, the UK came 5th in this years fantabulously weird and probably most camp competition in the world - Eurovision, which was held on Saturday in Moscow. Our entry was sung by Jade, accompanied by the phantom of the opera himself, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and watched by me and wife accompanied by a coupld of bottles of wine (not necessary but highly recommended).
For those of you outside of Europe, who are not familiar with this annual spectacle, allow me to explain.

Every year, Europe holds a song contest. Just about ever country in Europe (and Israel which always puzzled me) puts a song forward. There's normally a couple of heats before the top 25 songs get performed live on stage in the country that won it the previous year, followed by the live votes from all of the European countries (and Israel) which decide the winner. Previous entrants include that little know band at the time Abba, as well as God botherer Cliff Richards and Bucksfizz.

The acts are normally your typical euro-pop. It's customary for them to wear some sort of hideous costume that makes your eyes hurt, whilst belting out such great lyrics as 'Dum tek tek' (this years Turkish entry which came 4th).
There's also usually a couple of entries that are just plane weird, and the odd one or two that are actually disturbing, such as Russia's entry this year which seemed to consist of a woman having a nervous breakdown whilst a video of herself turning into an old woman was played behind her on the stage. I guess they couldn't afford to host it 2 years running.

Anyways, the winner this year with quite possibly the most annoying song in the world was Norway - some fiendishly cute elf-man playing a violin and singing about being in love. Someone pass the bucket. They scored a new record of 387 points, easily beating the previous highest score of 297 or thereabouts set by Lordi, the zombie death metal band who won it a couple of years ago with 'Hard Rock Hallelujah'.
Yes, you read that correctly, zombie death metal.

They were followed in second place by Iceland, whose entry was a very nice ballad sung by a pretty girl dressed like one of those dolls old people put on top of toilet rolls. They were robbed if you ask me, much better than Norwegian elf boy.
Third were Azerbaijan, I have no idea where that is on a map.

But hey, we came 5th! that's the first time we've been in the top 10 for years, mostly due to the fact that they've changed the voting system, so now half the votes come from people phoning in. Last year (as in previous years) it was decided in each country by a panel who voted for whatever country was threatening to invade/turn off their gas supply if they didn't vote for them.

My personal favourite was the Ukraine, with 'Be my Valentine (Anti-crisis girl)'. Apparently she re-mortgaged her flat to pay for the stage set-up. The bit with her being towed by Roman soldiers whilst playing the drums is the best bit.
And not forgetting Germany of course - awful song, but they had Dita Von Teese taking off her clothes on stage, so not all bad!
I'll leave you with some of the highlights, just to annoy you.

Now looking for a new flat - Ukraine

Previous winners Lordi. If you think this is bad, you should have seen second place.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Springboks make me drink too much

Went out last night with the wife to Vivat Bachus - they had a South African wine tasting/meal thingy. Very enjoyable,

The night started out at the bar they have there, with the winemakers all the way over from South Africa giving out the wine at the wine tasting. Like most wine tasting I've been to, nobody spits it out, so by the time we'd done there and headed down to the restaurant, we were pretty battered already. Dinner was 5 - yes 5 course, each one with a different wine. So that's 5 meals and 5 glasses of wine. Here's how it went:

1st course:
Already feeling a little 'lubricated'. The food was chilled watercress soup with roast scallops and chorizo oil, accompanied by a rather nice white wine from the Tokara vineyard.

2nd course:
Starting to feel 'mostly lubricated'. We get pan fried Froi Gras with sweet corn puree and a glass of Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir. Not a big Froi Gras fan - tastes a little like warm meaty blancmange.
My wife looks extremely pretty today.

3rd course:
Roast Springbok with Risotto and some Vanilla stuff with a glass of Thelema cabernet sauvignon.
The woman from the Hamilton vineyard comes over to say hello and asks if we're enjoying our evening. 'Hell yeah!' cries the wife. I tell her I've never eaten Springbok before but I've seen one on TV.
My wife looks out of focus.

4th course:
Cheese board and some red stuff in a glass. Think it's a Syrah - tastes very nice. Most of my cheeses smell funny and I'm sure one of them just moved. The Chef comes over to ask how we're liking it so far. I tell him I saw a Springbok once on the tele - I think David Attenborough was there. He says that's very nice. My wife throws cheese at him.

5th course:
Ever wondered what wine gums and real flowers taste like? Well I no longer need wonder as that's what was on the table just next to my head. They bring us some more wine which is either in a very small glass, or my hands are ginormous. The waiter asks if I'm OK and could I please ask my wife to stop dancing on the table and trying to get everyone to sing along to Jay Zs 'Can I get a'. I tell him I saw a Springbok once on David Attenborough, and has he got any peanuts?
Somehow managed to get the tube home without falling asleep and waking up miles away at 2am.

I am one classy guy.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Well it's a little after 5am, and I'm partially awake and typing.
I hate not being able to sleep. I have this weird kind of insomnia some days whereby I find it really easy to get to sleep at night, I just wake up ridiculously early and can't go back to sleep (about 4am today).

Personally, I blame work. Having a shitter of a week/month/year.
To make my boring job worse, our overlords have told us that we won't be getting a pay rise this year. Pay freezes for everyone. They've also said that no one can get promoted, as that would mean they'd have to give them a pay rise, and they're not going to do that. Which is particularly bad if you got told you were getting a promotion at this years annual review - one of only 2 times in the year that anyone is allowed to be promoted, and now you're told you'll have to wait.
It's not like I work for a bank or anything, so I'm pretty sure this is just to piss us off and increase profit margins.

On a cheerier note, I've just discovered Don DeLillo - friend of mine bought me a couple of his books. Reading White Noise at the mo, not got very far yet, but it's pretty good so far.
His writing style is a little like mine, or more accurately, my writing style is a little like his, only he's much better at it than me - with clipped sentences and the like. Not that I write that much like that here, this is just me madly ranting my inane tirade into the void, but I guess everyone needs a hobby.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Kreativ Blogger

Thanks to Street Guru over at What the world needs now for awarding me with the Kreativ Blogger thingy.

Cheers dude!

I have to list 7 things I love apparently, so here we go in no particular order:

  1. The wifey - Mrs Block. As a friend said to me on my wedding day 'you do know you're punching above your weight don't you?'
  2. London - lived here long enough to know it's a great place, but not long enough to get sick of the tube (yet)
  3. Fridays - don't we all?
  4. The south bank - full of my kind of weirdos
  5. My camera
  6. Writing - must do more!!!
  7. A nice glass of red wine - especially when combined with numbers 1 and 3

I also have to award 7 other folks, so here they are - again in no particular order:

  1. HillBilly Duhn over at Hillbilly Duhn's times and tribulations
  2. JoJo over at I once was captain of whatever
  3. MissMess over at Life as a loaded gun
  4. E over at Epiphanizing
  5. Michael over at If you're going through hell keep going
  6. Amanda at My photos
  7. Short Stick over at the Patsy log - gone but not forgotten

Friday, 1 May 2009

Pig flu and 26 miles later...

Well she did it!
4hrs 32mins - second hottest London Marathon - 6000 people requiring medical assistance - position 4 thousand and something - which puts her in the top 12%
And she didn't stop once, ran all the way. I'm very proud indeed, and she's raised over £1700 so far as well for the sick kids.

Now if only people would stop asking me if I'm doing it next year....

Anyways, enough of the feel good stuff, and on to global pandemics.
You may be mistaken for thinking that face masks are the latest designer craze amongst the cool kids and Mexicans but no, we're all going to die apparently. Thank god the media's not overreacting or anything (that was sarcasm incidentally).
And I'm not entirely sure why everyone's buying masks anyway, given that they don't actually offer any protection whatsoever. But let's put this into some sort of perspective.

So far, there have been 13 deaths, 1 in the US and the rest in Mexico.
In the average year, 'normal' flu infects 5 million people worldwide, and kills 36,000 in the US alone, and between 250,000 and 500,000 worldwide. In fact I'd go as far to say that there's never been a better time to get flu; you sneeze now and you'll be carted happily off to hospital to get shot full of Tamiflu and monitored 24 hours a day until you're all better. I'd say your chances of survival look a hell of a lot better than the average year.
And let us not forget the last swine flu epidemic in the US in 1976. The strain closely resembled the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, and was considered to be that great a risk that terribly bad public service adverts were aired, and the powers that be decided to mass vaccinate everyone.
In the end, 1 person died of swine flu. However, 500 people contracted Guillain-Barre Syndrome from the vaccine, 25 of which later died. So in other words, the vaccine killed 25 times more people than the virus itself.

No one knows how far the current swine flu will spread, or how many people will be infected or die. But I'd say on the information we have so far, you're a lot more likely to win the lottery.

Anyways, here's a little ditty for you. I've never heard of the 'slap chop', but I'm sure my dad had something very similar when I was a kid.