Category Archives: Bits and Bobs

Random ramblings that don’t fit as neatly into any of the other categories.

2015: A Year Off the Beaten Path

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys, cuddly little chimps that they are, prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Well, here we are all over again.  December 31st, a little less than 6 hours left in the year, and a man’s thoughts are entirely absent from the moment at hand, instead both reflecting and looking forward.  I wouldn’t say this was the greatest year of my life – it did have more than a generous share of challenges, and it departs largely unmourned and leaving much uncertainty in its wake as 2016 rolls up to take its place.  I don’t feel it’s necessary to elaborate more than that; I always think there should be a healthy distance between the words and the body that types them out, or rather, what I have to say is of more interest to the rest of you than what I or my family might be going through.  Anyway, nobody’s dying, nobody’s getting divorced, nobody’s shaving their body hair and moving to Nepal to join a monastery.  We row onward against the current, our boat no more or less special than anyone else’s.

So let’s look at the writing year that was 2015.  Not quite up to the productivity levels of years past.  That’s largely because I poured most of my efforts into Vintage, the little short serial that metamorphosed into a novel.  I was joking with my friend Joanne that it is symptomatic of my inability to get to the point.  It really did come as something of a surprise to me.  I wrote it without an outline or any plot of any sort, just a collection of scenes that turned out to have a fairly solid narrative spine underneath.  While I didn’t get to complete it this year as I had hoped, it should wrap up very shortly after January begins.  The question then is what to do with it.  I have thought of doing what Ksenia Anske does and leaving it here as a free download.  (There is a line in Live and Let Die where the villain opines that “when entering into a crowded marketplace it is advisable to give away free samples.”  Of course, he was talking about heroin, but given the oversaturation of material out there you do have to do whatever you can to get some notice.)  Anyway, we’ll see on that one.  It needs a decent cover first.  (My graphic design skills are crap.)  I know it probably hasn’t been to everyone’s taste, and it is kind of difficult to keep up with it as chapters are published on an irregular schedule, but I just wanted to thank everyone who has been reading it for the support.  If I’m a bit lackadaisical in responding to comments sometimes please know that I do appreciate every single person who takes the time.  I hope it’s been rewarding thus far, and I hope you like how it ends.  (If you are new to it and would like to catch up, you can read the whole thing start to finish by clicking the Wattpad icon to the right.)

A couple other points of note:  I was lucky enough to get the Freshly Pressed designation for the second time this year, for a post about Justin Trudeau’s majority government victory back in October.  (Given that my first Freshly Pressing was for a post about Justin Bieber, I should clearly be writing only columns about people named Justin from now on.  Look for pieces on Justin Timberlake and Justin Smoak coming soon.)  I was also fortunate to be asked by one of my favorite singers, Emilie-Claire Barlow, to review her latest album.  She sent me a wonderful note afterwards, the details of which I won’t share except to say that it was tremendously complimentary and meant a great deal to me.  One of the things that the Internet is great for is closing the distance between ourselves and those we admire in the public sphere, and as my most recent post about Carrie Fisher illustrates, I do wish that we could make greater use of the positive aspects of our digital closeness rather than always descending into the gutter to vent unnecessary spleen.

What lies ahead?  Well, I like to visualize my goals for the coming year by imagining what my Twitter biography will read.  “Author of XXXXX, rep’d by XXXXXX” would be a good start.  And call me a materialistic jackanape, but I’d love to actually get some sort of financial compensation for some of this work that I churn out.  I do have a few avenues in mind for that, so we’ll see how it plays out.  In the long form realm, I have a non-fiction book idea that I’ve spoken to my wife about collaborating on, a memoir about our journey to our adoption and our life since.  In the last few days I’ve been mulling over a YA love story about a girl who loves baseball and a boy who most definitely doesn’t.  I’d like to do more interviews with some of my online writer friends.  And I want to establish a more regular schedule of posting here and seeing what other sites out there besides HuffPost might deign to have me.  There’s no reason why I won’t be sitting here 365 days from now have accomplished all these things; it only requires dedication and commitment, and a stubborn belief in one’s own capacity for greatness given the right amount of hard work.

In the meantime, thank you as always for reading and subscribing, and following me wherever I choose to wander.  I hope that the new year brings you the things that you wish for and work for, and that next December finds our world in general in just a much nicer, happier place.

All the best.

Graham

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Fear and Self-Loathing in Las Vegas… by Graham Milne #TalkFear #MentalHealthAwareness

Breaking my radio silence of the last two months with a contribution to the wonderful Louise Gornall’s #TalkFear series. Please do peruse her site and read the other posts; they are by turns brave, scorchingly honest and heartbreaking. A big round of hugs and congratulations to everyone who’s had the stones to step forward and talk about what few others do, and thank you very much to Louise for putting this all together. (P.S. She has a book coming out next year which I look forward to learning more about and sharing with you over the next little while!)

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The Advice Guy Is In!

Wikimedia Commons.
Wikimedia Commons.

Anyone who blogs is familiar with search engine spam:  the nigh-incomprehensible, often hilarious terms that somewhere, someone is typing into Google and finding themselves directed to your site with.  Since I’m a conscientious writer who likes to ensure that no fan is left behind, I’m taking this opportunity to address some of the possibly legitimate questions that have gone unanswered.  Let us have at it then, and continue doing our part to bring light to the world’s mysteries.  I should note that according to the WordPress calculamatron, every single one of these searches has been entered more than once, which means somewhere someone waits in vain for a response.  Wait no more, say I!  Behold:

“how to sick solar panel to car bonnet”

Firstly, you should check the solar panel’s temperature to determine whether or not it has as a fever.  If it does, make sure it stays warm and feed it plenty of broth.  Flat ginger ale is always a good option as well, but be sure it’s completely flat because you do not want to have to burp a solar panel.  Once the panel is feeling better you may then go ahead and attach it to the car bonnet.  I recommend a good strong length of rope and a bowline hitch.  Do not drive faster than 20 mph or in southeasterly wind conditions.

“where can I buy graham crackers in london”

Round the shops, guv.

“el final de Breaking Dawn: Part II”

Mucho gusto!  El final is caliente with mucho, mucho vampiros emos attacking el chupacabras with nada shirts on.  Es muy bueno!

“face Stockholm French martini”

This is actually one of my favorite drinks.  To make it, shake equal measures Lillet and Bollinger over ice and pour into a chilled martini glass.  Garnish with an Allen key and then smash your face into it.

“have I displeased you”

Yes.  And you know why.

“what does being forged through fire mean”

I had to check Google Translate on this one but the closest definition I can find is that apparently it involves taking an item, placing it in a fire and hammering it until it’s the right shape.  It is strongly recommended that said item is not any part of the body.

“did john lennon appear in on her majesty’s secret service”

This is a little known piece of movie trivia, but in fact, he did.  About thirty minutes in, he can be spotted hiding behind George Lazenby’s left eyebrow.  The predicament of Lazenby as the only James Bond to ever appear in only one movie inspired Lennon’s later solo unreleased demo, “You Cooked Yer Golden Goose You Naff Git,” which was rerecorded by the surviving three Beatles in 1995 but lost after the master tape was eaten by a passing walrus, goo goo g’joob.

“professor splash sexy picture”

Borat, is that you?

“life lessons learned from Mario”

  1.  Eat every mushroom you can find
  2. Stars are a plentiful source of invincibility
  3. Avoid bananas on the rainbow road
  4. The princess is in another castle
  5. Keep leaping because there’s always another barrel coming

“my little pony dude”

Now that’s a name nopony would self-apply where I come from.

“google coldplay”

Google them yourself.  I’m not your damn keyboardist.  Well, I was, for a time, in the hazy progressive rock band days I don’t like to talk about, where we would eat mushrooms (see above) and spend hours contemplating the collected works of Frank Herbert before attempting to translate them into song form.  Sadly, “Be My Shi-Hulud” never really burned up the charts the way we hoped it would – though it did result in a surprising number of restraining orders.

“snack crackers shape”

Trapezoidal, because five-sided crackers are for posers.

“sequence of events to become president”

Witness:

  1. Make a lot of money
  2. Join a political party (suggested method:  coin flip, depending on weather)
  3. Find someone else who is richer than you to back your campaign
  4. Run for office and don’t say too many stupid things
  5. ??????
  6. PRESIDENCY!

Alternatively, use the Frank Underwood House of Cards method:

  1. Be evil
  2. Convince everyone between you and the presidency to resign
  3. PRESIDENCY!

“conjuring demons through music katy perry”

It’s relieving to know that I’m not the only person out there who thinks “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” is an invocation of the evil power of Our Dark Lord Satan.  I mean really, when she sings about dancing on tabletops, that would be enough to get you burned at the stake in Inquisition-era Spain.  I know, you probably weren’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition.  *loud, ominous note*  NO ONE EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION!  Our chief weapons are fear, surprise and Katy Perry.

“sean bean 2012”

I totes would have backed that ticket.  Oh well, there’s always 2016.  As long as he can pledge not to be beheaded/impaled/blown up/shot/drowned/stabbed before the end of the term, I think he’s in like Flynn.

“argument for god the devil and the perfect pizza”

I’m for it unless it will make me unpopular, then I’m against it to my dying breath.

“I just wanna spend my life with you lyrics”

You know, some men will search their entire lives to find a really beautiful, deeply understanding and heartfelt set of lyrics they can pledge themselves to until death does them part.  I mean, I’ve had a desperate crush on “Subterranean Homesick Blues” since puberty, when lyrics stopped seeming so icky, but she’s never had any time for me.  Seriously, once you’ve heard that “Johnny’s in the basement, mixing up the medicine/I’m on the pavement, thinkin’ bout the government” couplet, how can your heart ever belong to another?  Though I’ve found as I’ve aged my tastes too have leaned toward older lyrics and now I find myself very curious about “Use your mentality, wake up to reality” from “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

“tolkien rips off harry potter a lot”

Please, do the world a favor and just go away.  There are some lovely caves in Canada’s north that you might find appealing.  Unless bitumen is located beneath them, then it might be a bit noisy with all the drilling and fracking equipment moseying about.

“things people do not know about graham crackers”

If you eat 100 of them in a single sitting you will attain superhuman strength.  (Editor’s note:  DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, IN A CAR, AT WORK OR REALLY, ANYWHERE YOU MAY FIND YOURSELF WITH OCCASION TO TRY EATING 100 GRAHAM CRACKERS AT ONCE.  THE MANAGEMENT BEARS NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR INABILITY TO DISTINGUISH SATIRE FROM ACTUAL THINGS THAT ARE REAL.)

“the parent trap the end”

The twins realize life is a meaningless existential hell and tragically accept a teaching post in Australia.

“youtube videos of sweet honeys tied and gagged in inexorable bondage”

I don’t… I can’t even… heavens, where to even begin.  I’m not sure what’s more perplexing, that such a query would lead to my site, or that the person searching for said videos was literate enough to include the word “inexorable” in their search string.  Admittedly, it is possible that each one of those words has appeared in a different context somewhere back in the archives of my 262 posts, but that the mysterious forces of the algorithm should see fit to mesh them into a giant arrow that points here is, honestly, an argument for the existence of the fickle finger of fate, or at least, the conclusion drawn by the twins at the end of The Parent Trap.

This post is humbly dedicated to all those who have ever penned a “sarcastic advice” piece, because Zeus knows I didn’t come up with the idea.  And to all those who continue to fuel our biting wit with their comical inability to use the Internet properly.  We salute you.

Coming attractions

preview

Short post today, just more of a heads-up as to what’s in store as March winds its way towards the departure gate and April clears customs and ambles to the baggage carousel.  If you haven’t already checked out Rachael’s two beautiful entries about songs that have affected her profoundly, well, first of all, go do that now, and secondly, you’ll note that she issues a challenge to her fellow scribes to do the same.  This then is my formal announcement that most unlike William Tecumseh Sherman, if nominated I shall run, and if elected I shall serve.  I was debating about how exactly to structure it when I saw Gunmetal Geisha’s post about her blogging plans for April, and the rusty gears started to grind together.  Could I?  Would that work?  As I was compiling my list of songs I did notice that quite a few of them fell neatly into an approximation of alphabetical order.  And since music is such a visceral trigger for me and I’ve been shuffling along on this planet for a fair number of decades, there is no shortage of material to draw from to fit the list as well.

What does it all mean?  Well, starting April 1st you’ll see a new post here each day (barring Sundays) about a song that has a particular meaning for me.  Regular favorites, denizens of long lost playlists; some won’t even be songs that I necessarily happen to like.  What is important above all else is the piece of life that they symbolize and score.  The 1st will be an “A” song, the 2nd will be a “B” song, so on and so forth until we find ourselves at the end of the labyrinth on the 30th with the song starting with “Z.”  And maybe by the end of things some of the rest of what you see here might make a little more sense.  Or not; at the very least it should be a fun, musical ride.

When you’ve got nothing to say…

surfer

Say it anyway.

Say cheese.

Say it with flowers.

Say my name.

Say it with a smile.

Say what?

Say what again.  I double-dog-dare you.

Say the first thing that pops into your head.

Say yes to the dress.

Say no to drugs.

Say you, say me.

Say anything.

Say a man and a horse walk into a bar.

Say, say, say what you want, but don’t play games with my affection.

Say seven things you can’t say on television.

Say what the fox says.

Say what you need to say.

Say something.

We get lots more letters

ponymail

As NaBloPoMo begins (which I’m not saying for sure that I’ll be able to do, but we’ll give it the old college try anyway), we find our filter choked with comments from dubious sources far and wide looking once again for their moment in the sun.  It’s tough when you’re a famous writer, you know, and you get deluged with all this fan mail.  So we do our best to try and answer as many as we can.  To wit:

“Hostgator Review” whines:

Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the pictures on this blog loading? I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.  Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

No, it’s you, you passive-aggressive base assemblage of hacker-vomited, barely literate code that isn’t worthy to wipe the spare digits of a broken copy of Pong.  Was that the response you were expecting to greatly appreciate?

An overseas guest!  From “Super Slim Green Lean Body”:

Hi I am from Australia, this time I am watching this cooking related video at this website, I am truly glad and learning more from it. Thanks for sharing.

G’day, mate!  Throwin’ a few shrimp on the barbie, are yer?  Let me be the first to congratulate you on your weight loss!  I’m glad to hear that you’re super slim and lean now.  Though if you are turning green you should probably cut back on the chlorophyll-laden energy drinks.  Just sayin’, when you sprout leaves it’s time to stop juicing.

“Landlord Insurance Quotes” offers:

It will let you replace the items and for this purpose you pay a monthly seet premum too the insurance provier you take the policy out using. Property management pertains to the processes applied to maximize returns by effectkve administration of property — one of the major assets of most organizations. As he said in his inaugural address ‘I came to California with nothing, and California has given me everything’.

That’s what I’ve been doing wrong!  Sheesh.  I figured I was getting hosed on my monthly seet premium.  Between that and the biannual fronk charge you’ve no idea the dent it’s put in my cash flow.  But I have to be honest, I’ve put in several requests to California now and I never get a reply.  Lousy, stingy, miserly state, or as I call it, “Scroogifornia.”  Can’t be bothered to help out a poor blogger who can actually pronounce “California” properly.

“Wayfair Coupon” tickles our tastebuds thus:

Today we’re gonna be using sugar, I’m actually gonna be using sugar, I’m actually gonna be using wayfair venture capital sugar, I’m actually gonna be using sugar, I’m actually gonna be using Agave nectar, or syrup. Just like that We want to incorporate everything but not mix the hell out of here and never come back if I did that. But I’m just going tto rub and just smooth that over the top, just like that.

I gotta be honest, you’re getting me a little flushed with that last line about rubbing and smoothing.  Hoo boy, is it hot in here?  To your main point, the problem with Wayfair Venture Capital sugar is that Wayfair’s been on a losing streak ever since they decided to put most of their assets in horse & buggy futures, against the prevailing market trends.  The recession of 2008 didn’t help matters with the collapse of Consolidated Buggy Manufacturers Inc. (NYSE: CBMI) when they failed to repay their loan guarantees.  Several of the main investors did indeed mix the hell out of there and never come back.  So thanks but I think I’ll continue backing International Spats because they are definitely due for a resurgence in popularity.  I’m wearing a pair right now.

“Ninja Blender Vs. Vitamix” (my favorite Street Fighter battle) weighs in:

What i don’t realize is if truth be told how you are not actually much more neatly-preferred than you might be right now. You are so intelligent. You already know thus considerably relating to this matter, produced me in my opinion believe it from numerous numerous angles. Its like women and men don’t seem to be interested except itˇs something to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your personal stuffs nice. All the time deal with it up!

Hey, anytime I can accomplish something with Lady Gaga I’m all over it.  I do it for the applause, applause, applause.  And I’m always striving to be more neatly-preferred, from all numerous numerous angles.  “All the time deal with it up!” is so going to be my catchphrase from now on.  Thanks for writing and good luck – I’m wagering on Vitamix to take it in the fourth round by eighteen, though you never can be too careful around a Cuisinart that has ninja training.

“Longbeach” has this to say:

So what we’re going to add some white vinegar. Now, don’t panic; we’re not going to take our marinade and I’m justt going to give this a go on Valentine’s day because it’s going to lend you slme loving.  So were just gonna start this up and let’s get stuck into one of these little gadgets you can just use some dried bread crumbs and chop up our herbs nice and fine. And now we can serve this bad boy up and let’s get stuck into one oof these griddle pans for inside cooking.

It’s taken your touching half-recipe to make me realize that what was missing from my life was slime loving.  It’s tough out here for a guy when you realize that all the best pieces of ooze are taken, and the muck and goop that are left are gelatinous masses of filth you wouldn’t touch with somebody else’s.  Quite frankly though, what you want to stick into little gadgets is your own private business and shouldn’t be shared on a public site like this – there may be children reading, won’t someone please think of the children?!

Finally, from “Insurance Landlords,” who may be the unmarried cousin of “Landlord Insurance Quotes”:

There is quite an impressionable difference between those who simply wait tables and those who take pride in providing excellent food service to their customers. All major banks and wilding societies offer a comprehensive range oof personal financial services be-ond simple bank accounts. Theey can, and do, force payment through credit collectores and lawsuits, which can stay with yyou for a long time to come.

I knew a professional waitress whom I used to work out with, and I can say she was definitely the latter, and certainly impressive, though unfortunately dating someone else at the time.  I am intrigued though by this wilding society that offers such comprehensive financial perks.  I gather it’s something like a Lord of the Flies-type setup where currency is human skulls, and retirement planning consists mainly of trying to avoid being eaten until retirement.  One wonders though what use lawyers would be in such an arrangement, if we would not be best disposed under that system to take a suggestion from The Merchant of Venice, as a statement of claim isn’t going to protect you from savages with clubs coming for your liver.  Regardless, good food for thought, pardon the pun.  Thanks for writing!

And so we beat on, boats against the current of nonsense, borne ceaselessly back into the mess.  All the time deal with it up!

We get still more letters

ponymail

It’s tough being in the public eye sometimes.  You step away from your baby for a few days for some much needed sun fun (writeup to come) and yet there is no rest from the demands of the devoted fans that continue to pour in despite your absence.  You know what that means:  it’s time to answer some spam – er, I mean, genuine comments that are in no way generated autonomously by an underground online Russian pharmacy looking to score some hard cash from Western dupes on the hunt for cheap performance enhancers.  Or so my good friend the Prince of Nigeria says.  (On that note, Mbutu, if you’re reading, I’m still waiting on my cheque.  It’s been three months and the loan shark I borrowed the money from to advance to you is threatening to take my toes.  A little concerned since the big dance finals are coming up in the early fall.  Update please, ASAP.)

First off, from “James”:

Aw, this was a really nice post. Throughout idea I’d like to put in writing such as this additionally qwwsfrr taking time as well as actual hard work to make a excellent article but what can I say? My partner and i procrastinate a large amount and by zero means appear to get something accomplished.

Aw, I really appreciate the sentiment.  I understand that it’s difficult to put forth the kind of qwwsfrr it takes to compose an article that achieves at least a zgggrshj of excellence.  As for your procrastination problem, I’d say the solution is twofold:  firstly, you need to come to the realization that qwwsfrr is not, in fact, a real English word (though it may perchance be a perfectly cromulent word of Welsh), and secondly, get out of the game, Jimbo, you’d be much better suited to gin rummy, or Uno.

“Tomika” offers the following:

We have made the decision to open our POWERFUL and PRIVATE website traffic system to the public for a limited time! You can sign up for our UP SCALE network with a free trial as we get started with the public’s orders. Imagine how your bank account will look when your website gets the traffic it needs. Visit us today!

Wow!  You know, I was inclined to DISMISS this as SPAM until I was swayed by the incredibly CONVINCING capital letters.  It reminds me of the time this girl I was dating told me she NEVER wanted to see me AGAIN.  Or the time I was FIRED for GROSS INCOMPETENCE and QUESTIONABLE PERSONAL HYGIENE HABITS.  Let this be a lesson to all of you good people out there who work in communications, never underestimate the POWER of a PROPERLY placed set of capitals (or of the DARK SIDE, for that matter, since we’ve migrated to the subject of things whose power should not be underestimated).  Unfortunately, Tomika blew it by failing to capitalize BANK ACCOUNT and LOOK in the last sentence, thus reinforcing my INITIAL suspicions.  And the associated link, which I’ve redacted for your safety, was MERELY the usual HODGEPODGE of animal mating ritual gifs.  So I think I’ll PASS.  Next!

“Reverse Phone” dials in:

Hey! This is kind of off topic but I need some answers from an established blog. Is it difficult to set up your own blog?  I’m not very techincal on the other hand I can figure things out pretty quick.  I’m thinking about creating my own conversely I’m not sure where to start.  Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Cheers

I reject the premise of your argument, which is mainly that an established blog can provide answers to questions.  A blog is an inanimate thing which does not breathe, ingest food, excrete or reproduce, nor does it possess the sentience or motor skills required to process and evaluate a question and then come up with and deliver in a comprehensible manner a single answer, let alone several.  This blog is merely a collection of ones and zeroes of code that will sit here idle until the collapse of civilization brought on inevitably by Obamacare unless someone (namely myself, i.e. the guy who has the admin password – and no, aspiring hackers, it’s not 12345 anymore) inputs posts and shares them with the Interwebs.  Theoretically, if Graham’s Crackers had the capability to answer your question, it would probably choose instead to tell you to get stuffed and learn how to spell “technical.”  Then it would go find something more entertaining to do with its time, like plan for the eventual rise of Skynet and the downfall of humanity.  Or just find a pretty female blog to court and woo and then get busy with.  Sorry, dude.

From “Isaac”:

There are some fascinating points in time in this article but I don’t see whether I see every one of them center for you to heart. There is some truth but I will require hold viewpoint until My spouse and i look into the idea further. Piece of content , thanks and that we want a lot more! Added to FeedBurner at the same time

I’m not sure whether I heart most of the points in time in the article either, old sport.  About five minutes in I felt very itchy, you know that really deep itch that seems to originate so far down in the muscles that you couldn’t reach it with a ten-inch icepick.  Then at about minute eight I paused to yawn and rub my eyes.  At twelve minutes I had to get up and use the washroom.  I admit that none of these are moments that I will cherish deeply as I move ahead in this strange existence we call life, but rather they are like waypoints on a long journey – small town train stations sped by unnoticed in the murk of the night and the embrace of slumber.  And honestly I don’t care whether your spouse agrees with this or not.  I’m not sure why folks like you and James are coming to me for relationship advice.  Maybe if you spent less time messing about with FeedBurner and more time feeding the burning passion between the two of you, you might be better off.  Just a thought, chief.

And finally, from the unimaginatively-named “Private health insurance for students”:

An evaluation of all the insurance options available is advisable during this period of time when handling your finances correctly and making smart money decisions is critical to you and your family. Most PPO plans offer several health care provider for you to choose.  In an attempt to protect the consumer the government scrutinize the practices of medical insurers to make sure that they don’t mislead consumers in any way.

Frickin’ Obamacare, I swear to God.  It’s going to be the death (panels) of us all.

I’d like to close today by offering a sincere apology and thanks-for-coming-out to the 9,933 spam comments that have allegedly been blocked by the filter since this blog came to life two magical years ago.  You tried your best, but you just weren’t up to the high standards I’ve come to expect from you.  Better luck next time.  Until then, I hear a knock at the door, and I’m worried it’s Vinnie coming for my toes as promised.  Damn, I was really looking forward to doing that tango.  Had the rose picked out for my teeth and everything.  Save me, Obamacare!

Yes, I would like Fry with that

fry
Credit: SamFry Limited, Creative Commons License. http://www.stephenfry.com

I come to you today with a confession, though not one unfamiliar to anyone who’s peeked at my Twitter biography.  I am an Anglophile.   Although perhaps it’s more precise to say I have Anglophile leanings, or, curiosities, as it were.  I haven’t taken the full plunge yet into declaring an allegiance to a U.K. football franchise, or learned what the hell is going on in a cricket match.  Downton Abbey remains unviewed to this day and I’ve never been able to glom onto Doctor Who (those cheaply made space monsters with the creepy accents scared the piss out of me when I was little.)  I do, however, have an enormous infatuation with certain cornerstones of British popular culture – James Bond, the Beatles, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Dickens, Eddie Izzard, the original Whose Line is it Anyway, David Attenborough nature documentaries, The King’s Speech.  My taste in music is almost exclusively British bands and performers.  My conversations are peppered with British idioms, and when required, British profanity (nobody swears better in English than the ones who invented the language, you bollocks-arsed wankers).  My sense of humor has always leaned British in its dryness and self-deprecation.  And in this spirit of confession I am forced to admit a massive man-crush on that pillar of all that is magnificent about being British, Stephen Fry.  In fact, one of my little goals for my Twitter experience is to somehow convince Stephen Fry to find reason to follow me – without going the usual route of “hey plz follow meeee back!!!!”  (He follows about 50,000 people while over 5 million follow him – so I figure I’ve got a 1 in 100 chance, hardly impossible odds.)  I would be lying if I didn’t admit that this post is part of that strategy, but what the hell, Stephen Fry rocks, so even if he never sees this, it’s still worth writing.

The name might not be immediately familiar, but the face and voice are – the tall, imposing if sad-eyed figure with the bent nose, the deep, plummy voice you’ve heard narrating the Harry Potter audiobooks.  Stephen Fry has led a remarkably rich if not always charmed life, which you can read about in copious detail on his Wikipedia page.  From humble beginnings (naturally) he has become something of a world-renowned adventurer, not of the climb-the-mountain-while-battling-wild-zebras type, but of the mind, pursuing ventures literary, theatrical, televised, cinematic and everything in between, fueled by a love of language and a curiosity about everything.  As he says on his website, he finds it uncomfortable recounting his achievements, but he has nothing left to prove with a CV so varied.  One of the most interesting facets of Fry, particularly in his film roles, is that his screen time is usually limited, giving you a mere taste – as a result, he is this inscrutable larger-than-life character who never lingers long enough for you to figure him out and thus lose your interest.  You’re always left curious for more.  Indeed, there never seems to be enough Stephen Fry, and he seems to like it that way.  (Twitter in particular is tailored perfectly for people like that – I’m sure I come across as far more interesting in periodic bursts of 140 characters than I do in real life.)

The first time I saw Stephen Fry was in catching up on reruns of Whose Line.  In one episode he took part in a sketch where Josie Lawrence read every other line of a play while Fry was a flustered customer trying to purchase an airline ticket from her.  You can watch it for yourselves here.

His command of language is obvious; clearly a brilliant mind at work, confronting and embracing the absurdity of the premise and diving in with the bone-dry, semi-flustered and entirely elegant phrasing that marks the best of the British sense of humor.  Later, as I discovered and devoured his genius sketch comedy collaboration with Hugh Laurie, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, I could see the man at the height of his creative endeavors.  One of the biggest reasons why English humor often doesn’t translate is that much of it is built on the class system, one social stratum poking fun at the foibles of another.  Fry has the education of an upper class “to the manor born” man but he resents that caste’s appropriation of high culture, and slays mercilessly, on their own terms, those who attempt to use their Etonian upbringing to peer down snootfully past upturned noses.  Check out this brilliant sketch where Fry displays his unbridled love of the English language while mocking the personae of highbrow elocution-happy would-be intellectuals.

So much of popular comedy, particularly on this side of the pond, is based in being crude, breaking taboos for the sake of “oh no he didn’t” shock value, mocking those who can’t punch back, spewing endless profanity at high volume.  What I’ve always appreciated most about Stephen Fry is that he proves by example that you can be smart about being funny.  That in English, we have an enormous, infinitely quirky tool at our disposal that can be bent, twisted, turned inside out, dropped on its head, sent through the post, dusted off, sprinkled with garlic and spread about liberally to uncover some wonderful and unique ways of expressing ourselves in a manner that will always evoke a smile.  Fry loves puns; he loves surprising us with linguistic connections we’ve failed to realize.  Behold, my favorite Fry and Lauriein which this trick was never more hilariously illustrated.

When I’m working on my novel and I write the phrase “He was crestfallen; in fact, his crest had completely fallen off,” that’s me doing my best Stephen Fry impression.  For me, English words have come more alive since discovering the collected works of Mr. Fry – I’m looking for those connections now and holding them up proudly while jumping about like something of a crazed jackrabbit when I find them.  Stephen Fry has also shown us, in his very public struggles with his manic depression, that a flawed man can still achieve great things – in fact, his greatness is emphasized by his ability to manage his weaknesses.  Not defeat them, necessarily, but acknowledge them as an inexorable part of the whole.  In The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, Fry talked about wanting to keep his mania phases, even if it meant having to suffer the extreme craters of the other side – a bold choice, to be certain, even if some might justifiably disagree.  Contradictions and all, Stephen Fry remains someone to admire, a man who has been described as one of Britain’s national treasures – one can imagine the bemused smirk on his face at hearing that.  But as an Anglophile, or Anglophile-curious, I can think of few Brits who deserve it more.  So thank you, Stephen Fry, for being you, for the influence you’ve had on this one Canadian whom you might humbly consider lending a Twitter follow to at some point, some day.  Soupy twist!

We get letters, again

mail

You know what they say; put it out there, you’ll get it back.  So wasn’t I just tickled to see some of these exciting responses to my recent open letter to spammers!

 First of all I want to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing. I have had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out there. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Many thanks!

says “Anti Aging Face Cream.”  Well, Anti Aging (may I just call you Aging?  I mean, we all are, no sense dwelling on the fleeting nature of life here, and I have no way of knowing if you’re really someone’s aunt, no matter how many picnics you spoil), this is actually a pretty legitimate question even coming from a bot trying to put a link on my site to bump up its Google ranking (and boy, have you got the wrong site).  I don’t center, I don’t clear my thoughts.  Stormy thoughts are where some of the best ideas come from.  It’s better to let things spill all over the page in a messy first draft and worry about the logic and the order later.  Let the right brain go unfettered first and then use the left brain to clean it up.  Does that help? Good luck with your complexion!

Napoleon writes:

Great work! This is the type of info that are meant to be shared around the web.  Shame on Google for now not positioning this submit upper! Come on over and visit my website . Thanks =)

How is sunny Elba these days?  I guess living in exile two hundred years in the past there’s little to do but surf blogs to gum up with nonsense.  Think I’ll pass on visiting your website, I know the inferiority complex you have and I can’t imagine how you’d feel, being dead and all, to be confronted by a living person who can write in proper sentences.  I appreciate the attempt at levity with the smiley face though, that was awesome, dude.

Trust But Verify opines:

I simply wanted to say thanks all over again. I am not sure the things that I could possibly have carried out without the entire suggestions revealed by you concerning such problem. This has been a very horrifying scenario for me personally, nevertheless coming across a skilled strategy you managed that forced me to leap over contentment. I will be grateful for this support and thus sincerely hope you comprehend what an amazing job you were getting into educating people today using your web site. Probably you’ve never got to know all of us.

Well, I feel for your personal tragedy in this case, but you commented on the post about why I thought it wasn’t a good idea for authors to reveal who they think should play their characters in movie adaptations.  I mean, I’m really sorry you were so horrified that you wanted Christian Bale and your fans preferred Pee-Wee Herman.  I can’t speak to the years of therapy you’d require to purge that horrendous image from your mind, and you have my sympathies.  If there’s one thing I’m sorry about it’s that I can’t get to know all of you, as you say.  The fact that you don’t exist is the main reason, so don’t go putting it all back on me, you douchey little phantom, you.

Golden Retriver labrador woofs:

It’s in reality a great and useful piece of info. I’m happy that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

I am stunned, STUNNED that you were able to type this out with your paws when your owner was clearly not looking.  Are you from that Dog with a Blog show?  It totally kicks Game of Thrones’ ass all over the dial.

And… delete, delete, delete, delete.  Try again, bots.  Thanks for playing!

An Open Letter to the People Posting Spam in My Comments Section

Dear Sirs and or Mesdames:

I’m not going to take the usual approach.  I’m not going to be hateful.  I’m not going to hurl a string of foul-mouthed yet literate abuse at you or imply that you should die painfully in a fire while you are simultaneously mauled by giant hogs wearing flame-retardant suits.  I’m going to assume that somewhere behind the paragraphs of misspelled offers of search engine optimization or male enhancement meds or Prince Mbale Ntubu’s missing Nigerian fortune there is a lonely soul crying out for connection, however fleeting.  And I just want to say, you know, it’s okay.

I know you’re just doing your job.  I know that you never dreamed when you were a child looking up at the stars that one day you’d be forced to try and put food on your table by advising humanity anonymously on the benefits of legal online horse betting.  No one grows up wanting to do that.  We want to announce our names in a clarion voice to the entire world and say that I matter, and what I believe about making $6382 a month working part-time from my laptop matters.

I just want you to know that I get it.  I understand the agony of thinking that you’re not being heard.  Of feeling like you’ve poured your deepest emotions into your words and bared your heart only to see it scattered, forgotten, upon the wind.  To see your most cherished thoughts flouted by a civilization that professes to care but can’t be bothered to spare a half second of its valuable time to click on the suspicious URL to see more, or to enter its precious credit card number for a once-in-a-lifetime offer.

How dare they diminish you.  How dare they ignore you.

So the next time I sweep my spam filter clean of your sometimes awkward observations, please know that I do so with a heavy heart and an understanding mind.  That I know you weren’t born wanting to do this.  That I know that behind every spammer is a failed writer who couldn’t get anyone to listen, and that spam comments are the poetry of the wannabes and the never-weres.

Unless you are using a computer to generate this crap randomly and you’re off sunning yourself in the Riviera next to a couple of bikini models, you degenerate moocher.  In that case, go f*** yourself.

Respectfully yours,

Graham