Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Next stop: Rhamnous

It's hard I know, because there are so many folk only too ready to test your patience but the most important attributes to foster in professional life are civility and honesty. By professional life, I mean in the broad sense, very few of us are literal professionals and those that are, seem to spend all their time circumventing the ethical standards administered by their professions with little or no consequence. The rest of us though, have to get by and so I will relate a cautionary tale of, not exactly woe but a not so minor degree of misfortune for a particular individual. It's not woeful because he never knew about it, for him there was no gnashing of teeth or sour grapes to contend with, all that he knew of it was the phone just didn't ring.

There was this meeting, a fair few years ago now, during which a few potential creative resources where mooted. Only we get to one name and I'm afraid I must've let my guard down for a second and let one of those looks out, you know the rolling eyes and the fidgety head because everyone stopped talking and looked at me. 'You know him?' the boss asked.

'Er--no, I've had some... er I've encountered him,' would approximate my reply. I would've been trying hard to change the subject but to no avail because then the interrogation started, what's he like, is he reliable, that kind of thing. I pretty sure I didn't actually say the word arsehole in response to these queries but it would've been hanging in the air during the lengthy pauses between my words. I tried really hard to be fair, not to condemn him in literal terms but my feelings on the subject got the better of me and were betrayed by my countenance. My equivocal vocal response didn't help matters and he was quietly removed from the discussion.

I felt a little guilty because it was a case of personal animosity, I'd encountered him while I was touting for work and he was a little, how can I say this, um--obstructive? As I mentioned, I felt guilty but I didn't feel bad about it, someone else would benefit from his misfortune and they'd be buying a new house on the coast or boozing it up in Thailand in their favourite lady boy bar. In the end, we went for a guy who'd been quite a well known name from a decade or so before. He was an occasional visitor to the building, having some dealings with an agent on another floor. From his demeanour and attire, I gather he'd hit hard times so perhaps it's just as well.

I'm not quite sure why the unlucky party had given me such gip during our encounter, at the time I thought it was a wrong side of the river thing. Since then though, I have seen him interviewed and you know what, he does come across as a bit of an arsehole. I don't think he ever moved out of that flat south of the river though.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Waiting for dinner

There was this time I was waiting in an airport departure lounge in Boston. I bet you weren't even aware of any airports in Lincolnshire. Ho ho, got you it was Boston Massachusetts, I don't see a need to flee Lincolnshire by jet, not unless there's a prospect of being chased by mutant mangleworzles. Anyway I was scouting for food and tripped into an eatery where they were selling sea food, I think I might've bought a sandwich but they had in there, this tank.  In this tank there were a bunch of live lobsters, they had their claws bound with elastic bands but were otherwise quite aggressive with each other. It was something of a sight to see this little drama, a kind of mini wild life show depicting the aggressive behaviour of wild animals; I was quite engrossed for a while. Then the relevance of my perspective dawned on me, I was inhabiting the domain of what draughtsmen used to call, the divine aspect, looking down upon these creatures in the manner of dispassionate Grecian deity. Soon their fate would be decided by someone like me, external to the concerns of their little world and yet those lobsters were not equipped to comprehend any of it; makes you think don't it?

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Tunnel vision

Yesterday I was having a bit of a mare, migraine all bloody day, blazing sunshine with the sun low in the sky and no sunglasses. Even squinting was no use because my eyelashes fell out years ago. When I was a kid, migraine was so unbearable, the pain so excruciating that it's easy to appreciate why sufferers are occasionally discovered with their head in the oven. Happily, the pain hasn't been so much of a problem in adulthood--touch wood, uncomfortable yes but reasonably tolerable. The main practical problems being you just can't flippin' see properly and when your eyes are open, you just want to vomit and you incur the danger of the more severe symptoms, i.e the pain, occurring.

Unfortunately I had to be out and about for a while and it was evident from their reactions, that people thought I was an utter lunatic. Of course they did, a blinking (literally blinking) idiot who kept his eyes covered while he spoke is bound to draw some suspicion. You've probably heard about the weird lights blah blah, one of the most acute problems though, is the tunnel vision, which can really catch you out when it occurs. It's quite hard to describe because there is no actual tunnel, it's just that visual perception becomes confined to what you're focused on. So you're walking along the road and a woman with a pram appears out of nowhere, bang! You get an earful from an irate mother and if you're really unlucky, the threat of assault from some chav, either older son or irate boyfriend, that's accompanying her.

Something sweet is was what cured it yesterday, I grabbed a pecan pastry with treacle and I kid you not, it subsided almost as soon as the pastry hit my stomach and was gone within a few minutes. You know what's odd, the pastry tasted absolutely fantastic. It's as if it were ambrosia born from Olympus on a silken cushion and wafted to the earthly domain by a bevy of nimble, rather scantily clad goddesses. Marvellous what a little deprivation does to enhance the senses.

While recovering from this episode, I cast my mind to the subject of the previous post. Even for a politician of questionable ethical standing, it is possible to feel some sympathy when that person is enduring some physical distress. If that distress should prove to be the as the result of some serious condition, which at the moment I think is quite likely, what questions arise about the role of the media in such circumstances? I've seen enough to indicate that a certain degree of acquiescence, even collusion must be present. I suppose that's hardly a surprise but surely in this instance,  should events take their natural course, they are going to be difficult to reconcile. In a way though, that's already happened, there was no media footage of the incident in New York that brought this issue into the public arena, it was a guy with a phone or some such. So sometime after those shots of her face in the crowd at ground zero, someone must've said, 'No pictures' or something like it. What's interesting there, is that so far it seems they obeyed their instructions, not just one or two of 'em but all of them. Not a single dodgy snap from an agency bod nothing at all, except for what Joe Bloggs caught on his phone.

And there lies the irony, it's the measures taken to keep unbidden attention at bay that are so telling. The men in dark suits that block camera viewfinders so promptly, that faithful attendant who's somewhat evocative of the Nubian eunuch stereotype. He certainly seems to know his job, never flustered or indeed even surprised, he directs his more frantic underlings with an enviable assurance.

There are two things that arouse my curiosity, what kind of memos are the journalists getting in their in boxes and just what is in those handy palm size devices, those attendants are always getting out of their jacket breast pockets too soon.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Reflective millinary time

So I caught this video on YT, it's one of those live feed ones, so it sent my browser into a fit. The video itself concerns the political contest currently waging on the other side of the pond, specifically speculation on the health of one of the candidates. So it's not a normally a video I would naturally attribute much credence to. Politics in not a game noted for its honesty after all and the general climate of mendacious fiction permeates throughout the factions.

Or that's what I thought, just for the giggle I tried to gain further insight into the rumour this particular video was circulating by performing a Google search.  It's no surprise that a bunch of loony conspiracy theories featured prominently in the search results. Right I'll try the Google News search then--oh dear, more loonies but there's one thing here on The Huffington Post. Click--it's been pulled, happily though Google's cache provides me with the gen.

After reading the item the partisan slant is quite obvious but it did raise some awkward questions so I decide to re-examine the Google news search list. Among the luminaries featured in the search results are such august news gathering organisations as: Charisma News‎, The Inquisitr‎, Liberty News Now, The Hayride. Okay, so maybe not a story I should take seriously, except isn't there something missing in this list? That's right, nothing and I do mean absolutely nothing, from any of the major news services, not even a: ho ho ho, let's laugh at the conspiracy theorists and that shiny head gear. Okay so it's Sunday evening and the weekend lag might be causing a bottleneck with news copy but a total blank on the story? That's starting to make me wonder.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

The strange case of Tim, Richard and Alf

While I'm still in the mood to exploit the bountiful vein of workplace characters I've encountered, let me tell you about Tim. How can I describe Tim I wonder? Not an easy task because he was something of self parody but he was Pete's immediate successor as the workplace oddball. If Pete was annoying, Tim was insufferable, he was a bit of a new age moralist, continually pressing his judgements on those around him. So he dug himself into the same hole Pete had, only rather more quickly and more profoundly than Pete ever had. Despite his protestations about women's issues, together with his other right on views, he found himself particularly unpopular with the women in the studio. It was for this reason he was exiled to an annex adjacent to the dark room, so the rest of the staff could gain respite from the continual offence he so blithely aroused.

Tim was hard to completely dislike though, he had something about him a kind of naivety that mitigated his peremptory attitude and his arrogance which annoyed the girls so much, seemed ironic in the light of his meagre ability. He was active in political life, always going on marches to protest the fascist threat, educating those around him about Thatcher's menace; all the while of course, taking home about four times the average wage packet under her terrible regime.

Alf was something different, not an oddball at all, in fact I was the oddball in relation to him. Alf had arrived and taken up a prime position in the studio, a position that I'd been trying to manoeuvre into. They chose to go with Alf  because he was, you know qualified and had the relevant experience, while I was a complete chancer. Alf wasn't as demonstrative about his political leanings as Tim but I gathered enough to infer there was some common ground between them. Alf was something of a character too, he had an equity card so you'd see him in front of the camera on occasion and he also had a minor but reasonably lucrative musical career.

Enter Richard, the third player in this little drama, Richard was someone you wouldn't want to be around for any length of time. He was a bit of child catcher in looks and demeanour. He worked quite closely with Alf and had regular contact with Tim, myself I never had much to do with him and Alf but it seemed that Richard was reasonably competent at his job.

Things had moved on a bit from Tim's arrival and the whole studio had been re-organised. Alf and Richard had moved to a separate site and they took Tim with them. Partly, I think because Tim was so universally loathed and Alf was the only one who'd work with him. We'd get news across the grapevine of Tim's outrageous behaviour and his constant attention seeking, culminating in the episode were he came out as LGBT; which wasn't much of a surprise to anyone except me, I thought he was a vegetarian and wouldn't touch McDonald's.

One day the news arrived that Tim had been let go and while I though it was news that was well passed its due date, there was some surprise that he'd actually been fired. He'd spent so much of his time being a total prick, the natural assumption was the he'd remain because people had just got used to tolerating him. Not long after this news, there was an after work beano, a chance to meet and greet the new boss, some bint from Utah, who could've done with some plastic surgery, I think it must be the climate there that shrivels up faces like that. Anyway her prune like features didn't stop me trying to chat her up, and while under the influence I even got matey with Richard which was something I really wouldn't normally consider.

Richard seemed to be responding to the attention I was giving him quite well and even went so far as to let his guard down regarding his love life; which I would discover was conducted mostly during weekend ferry trips to Amsterdam. And so it with some regret, I must confess that what happened next, was again partially my fault. I'd made such a good job of buttering Dick up that he started to open up about matters of policy at work. It was while in this mood, he announced with some hubris, that his voice had been the important factor in the dismissal of Tim. Apparently the Tim problem had surfaced on the agenda of a weekly meeting and he'd been the one to insist that Tim should go. Better buy him another drink I thought, after that news.

Troubled ensued when the pub whispers carried the news to Alf's ears and when I say trouble, I mean the fist into face kind of trouble. It all flared up while I was back trying to chat the boss up, I was doing quite well too only to find we were both being chucked out the pub because of the disorder our party had been responsible for stirring. Being a yank, it was all too much for her and she was off in her Merc in a flash. Dick and Alf were still at it but it's fair to say that Richard was never coming out of that contest without a few bruises.

Alf was lucky, he was on staff so they couldn't get rid of him without a tribunal but he spent some time on probation over the incident. It wasn't until months later I learned that it was the news about Tim that had caused it, Alf told me himself while we were in the pub again. Then two French bints enter the pub, 'Que heure tile?' I says.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Pete and his Mini traveller

After the most recent post here, I got to thinking about Peter and his Mini traveller and how that incident embodied our interaction. The dodgy clutch wasn't the only problem he had with his Mini. I recall one time he, was relaying his adventures exploring the electronics of his vehicle and couldn't understand why it wouldn't start in the cold because he was geting, 'A good spark across the points'. The old Mini used contact breaker condenser coil ignition, like most cars did then. Of course the lt circuit is energised by the battery which acts as a kind of super condenser, so that the actual condenser (the coil) gets an even current. Inside the distributor there's another little condenser (they call 'em capacitors these days) to even out the current still further, the idea being to reduce the risk of spark across the points. So I say to him, 'You need to replace your condenser, it'll cost about four pence'.

Now to explain Peter's reaction, we need to illustrate his and my demeanour with some explanation. Peter was one of those guys who was under the impression he had insight into subjects or topics that he was in fact, completely ignorant of. He though he understood how electricity worked, so to him a spark across his ignition points seemed absolutely natural. It didn't matter how much I tried to explain the principle of a condenser coil, it made absolutely no impression upon his conviction on the topic. Thing is though, I have to take some of the blame for this particular incident because it illustrated one of my shortcomings. That shortcoming would be, no one took anything I said seriously. Honestly, it could be a topic with far more serious consequences than dodgy electrics on a banger, with everyone clueless except for me and all I would get was that, yeah right look when I would offer my insight. On this occasion though, my remonstrations where backed up by another guy with a senior position in the studio but even though his relevant credentials included a stint working for the AA, the damage had been done. There was no talking sense to Peter, he'd made his mind up on the topic and he'd be splashing a ton at his local bodger.

Pete did quite well at the studio, he held something of an ascendant position, well for a while at least. Unfortunately for ol' Pete, his undoing was his presumption of his own competence again. He'd angled a position by offering to do the photo transparency processing in the studio. You could do that with the old Ektachrome stock and we had pretty good darkroom facilities so it seemed to make sense. Then one day something went badly wrong, very badly wrong. He was asked to process some film as a favour and it came out of his process tank blank. After some hair pulling and general consternation, 'let's have a look at the film canister,' asked the guy who'd been my compatriot during the condenser coil incident. When we saw the label on the canister, we just looked at each other, Kodachrome.

I made an attempt to explain, 'That's Kodachrome, processing is pre-paid, you send it to a lab in Eindhoven'. It was an awkward moment because Peter couldn't accept it, it got worse when he discovered just how basic  his error had been over the course of the afternoon. That incident marked Peter's decline in standing in the studio, the film did belong to someone in a senior position but it wasn't particularly valuable. What caused the damage was the fact that his bluff as the photo processing expert had been exposed, so confidence in his competence in other areas waned.

Peter was quite an annoying guy and I did reciprocate by doing my best to annoy him back. One evening while working late, he approached me for change for a pound, he needed some for the coffee machine. I could only stump fifty pence but I needed to buy milk for the evening and I didn't want to break a note. So I tell him to give me the pound and he could have the change. Next day he's on me, 'Where's my fifty pence?' he says, none too graciously. The following day I've got a surprise for him, I wait for him to ask again, then I reach into my pocket, 'Here you are'. I hand him a hundred half pence pieces, that I'd had fortuitously stored in a yoghurt pot at home. The best part about that was, they were being taken out of circulation at the end of the month.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Super powers

Super powers as a device in the context of fiction and dramatic narrative, provide a number of interesting questions. Just what is their purpose within a narrative, why are they such a common element in fiction, where is the delineation between a super power and extraordinary ability. I think I can answer that last one, extraordinary ability is equivalent to a super power when it exceeds natural expectations or is unique to an individual. Therefore it is with some pride, that I can announce I DeadSpiderEye, possess a super power; yeah see, what do you think of that? Of course now that knowledge has been promulgated, I'll need to take better care of my secret identity.

Unfortunately my super ability is confined to a rather specific context and is not one that lends itself to engaging on a crusade against crime and corruption. As a consequence, I'm afraid the possibility of bringing to justice, those flagrant individuals whose malfeasance seems unassailable and immune the common standards of decency and morality, remains remote. There's not much chance of me exclaiming things like: 'Take that Keith Vaz... eat the fiery fist of justice Batmanghelidjh!' or, 'it's over Phillip Green!' any time soon. There is though, the slight possibility I might save the odd person some embarrassment, if they're in the market for a second hand car. You see my superpower entails the ability to detect a failing clutch friction plate on a car, purely through the sense of smell.

Doesn't sound particularly super I know but you'd be surprised just how extraordinary that ability proves to be in practical terms. I recall a trip in a mini traveller on the way to a lunchtime excursion to a pub, 'Your clutch is on the way out,' I says to the guy, Peter his name was. Good grief man, you'd think I'd exercised the clairvoyance expected of a charlatan at some passing fair from the reception my insight got. Incredulity quickly gave way to ridicule when I tried to explain that it was the smell coming from the transmission but that wasn't the oddest thing. No the oddest part of the episode occurred the next week, Peter missed a day at work and when he came in the next day, guess what the reason was; yep, his clutch had failed on the way into work, oops. Never missing the opportunity to say, I told you so, I reminded Peter of my prediction; he responded by insisting that it was merely a coincidence and my prediction remained specious. That's when I knew how Spidey feels to be so unappreciated but that's as far as the similarity between us goes. With great power... is not an axiom that resonates in this case and just trying to explain the odour thing is just too much trouble.