So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

•July 8, 2008 • 3 Comments

Yeah, I haven’t exactly lived up to the “post a blog every day” promise and I’m not going to be able to for a couple of weeks as my trip to Madagascar has suddenly sneaked up on me.

So I’ll do my best to write down everything that happens and see you all in a fortnight.

Until then, some fossa action:

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My last stab at being a shameless media whore.

•July 1, 2008 • 2 Comments

Every year or so, when I lose whatever job I happen to be doing at the time, my thoughts turn to old dreams of working in the film industry. I’m not sure if it’s an attempt to harness the countless hours of joy I’ve felt watching movies that have shaped the way I feel, think and see the world since childhood or the promise of copious drugs and money, but I have always harboured a desire to be part of the business they call show.

As you may have guessed, I haven’t quite managed to “live the dream”. After studying film history at university I did a few unpaid runner jobs, mainly for TV, but ran out of money before they amounted to a proper job. Then an old flatmate introduced me to the possibility of getting into CGI effects while he was working for CFC Framestore on the Danny Boyle movie Sunshine. So, as I was of the understanding it was the only way to break into the industry with no technical know-how and I rarely learn from previous mistakes, I applied for a runners post at said VFX house. A brief interview later and I had the job! Almost. There was just the small matter of a trial day, just to see how I would fare. I spent the morning taking sandwich and coffee orders and the afternoon changing a shit-load of lightbulbs (I can only assume they saved them up before getting some mug to change them rather than them all blowing out at once). At the end of the day, I was told they would let me know and I never heard from them again. The longer I stayed around Soho, the clearer my problem became. Post production houses pack this part of London and each of them have a team of staff rushing back and forth, looking after clients, taking tapes from place to place. These people are the face and image of the company that they project to other businesses. If they don’t look a certain way (young, good-looking, cool) it will reflect badly on the company. They won’t tell you you’re an ugly fuck on the day, they let you do a bunch of shit for free, then say thanks, but no thank. It’s like X Factor, but instead of a succession of slack-jawed idiot singers, they have a steady stream of slack-jawed idiot slave labour to find the one they hire.

Needless to say, that was my last attempt at breaking into the film industry.

That was until I met Poncho yesterday. Apart from having the world’s coolest name, Poncho is a friend of a friend who works at The Moving Picture Company*. He kindly agreed to meet me and chat about what he does and how he got into doing what he is doing. Turns out his story is similar to mine. Had a job in marketing until he was 28, came to the UK from Mexico interested in becoming a photographer and took evening classes in various forms of 2D and 3D image software. He told me there were skills you can learn that are the kind of stuff established animators are too busy / important to do. These can give you an entry level position, usually night shifts that make it much easier to get a foothold and work you way up. Best of all: no fucking running.

It’s still a pipe-dream. It’s still highly likely I’ll spend a wheelbarrow full of money on college classes with not a great deal to show for it. But now’s the time to try. I have no job, I’m still *cough* fairly young and I still have the tiniest spark of what was once a burning passion to see something I worked on up on the big screen.

* MPC have done some of the CGI for the new Chronicles of Narnia sequel, Prince Caspian as well as Sweeney Todd and all the Harry Potter movies.

Come for the wildlife, stay for the many colourful ways you can die. (You might want to finish eating before reading further)

•June 29, 2008 • 1 Comment

With just over a week to go before I leave for Madagascar I think I’m all set. I have my flight booked, my visa in hand, insurance all set up and I’m vaccinated up to the eyeballs. A total of five injections means I’m protected from tetanus, polio, Hepatitis A, typhoid, diphtheria and rabies.

Well, I say I’m protected from rabies; the course means I will only need hospital treatment and two more injections should I get bitten rather than dying, so that’s ok. I’ve been told that if any symptoms present themselves (frothing at the mouth, hydrophobia) you’re dead. No treatment, no pills. Dead. So if I don’t get to a hospital in time I’m going to run off into the jungle, dribbling and snarling, biting anyone who comes near me. Might as well have some werewolf fun before I cark it.

Talking of having fun before you die, I could get “Sydenham’s Chorea”. This disease causes erratic muscle spasms and was described in1867 by Dr Andrew Davidson in The Edinburgh Medical Journal:

After complaining, it may be one, two or three days, they become restless and nervous, and if excited in any way, more especially if they hear the sound of music or singing, they got perfectly uncontrollable and, bursting away from all restraint, escaped from their pursuers and joined the music, when they danced sometimes four hours at a stretch with amazing rapidity. They moved the head from side to side with a monotonous motion, and the hands in the same way, alternately up and down. The dancers never joined in the singing, but uttered frequently a deep sighing sound. Their eyes were wild, and the whole countenance assumed an indescribable* abstracted expression, as if their attention was completely taken off what was going on around them.

Basically this is exactly how I dance when the mood and 12 cans of Red Stripe takes me. The only difference is that the inflicted jigs about for 4 hours not 4 minutes, like me. But if you’re going to go, go like you’re at an never-ending Robert Smith concert, I always say.

But not all Malagasy maladies are as much fun. Come with me for a brief run-down of some of the bloody horrible things I’m going to get:

Jiggers or Chiggers

Usually found around the toenails, jiggers attach to the host, inject digestive enzymes into the bite wound, and then suck up the digested tissue. Breeding females burrow into exposed skin and lay eggs, causing intense irritation. After this point, the skin lesion looks like a 5 to 10 mm white spot with a central black dot, which are the flea’s exposed hind legs, respiratory spiracles and reproductive organs. This orifice allows the flea to breathe while feeding on blood vessels in the cutaneous and subcutaneous dermal layer. In the next two weeks, the flea releases about 100 eggs through the orifice, which fall to the ground. The flea then dies and is sloughed by the host’s skin. Within the next three to four days, the eggs hatch and mature into adult fleas within three to four weeks. Nice! Thanks Wikipedia!

Jiggers

Lymphatic filariasis

Also known as elefantiasis, lymphatic filariasis is spread by mosquito bites. The Wuchereria bancrofi worm lives in the human lymph system and, in the chronic phase, fluid collects causing swelling in the arms, breasts legs, and, for men, the genital area. Best of all, this will occur a YEAR after infection so I won’t know if I’m going to get nut-sack like a space hopper until 2009.

Schistosomiasis

Known, rather charmingly as “Snail Fever” (I got a fever and the only cure is more snails!), schistosomiasis is caused by a fresh water-borne fluke that burrows through the skin and into the blood vessels. At first there’s an itchy rash then after a month or two, flu-like symptoms. Then, if untreated, damage to the liver, lungs, bowel and nervous-system. Suffice to say, I ain’t taking my Speedos.

Ok… That’s more than enough. To sum up: I’m doomed. Ah, I’m only joking. I’m much more likely to get robbed at gun-point than get a terrible disease.

I’m sure everything will be fine.

* Dr Davidson had a pretty good stab at describing it anyway.

Testing. Testing *Feedback*

•June 28, 2008 • 3 Comments

Due to the timely demise of my Myspace page (for Christ’s sake, I’m pushing 30) and the fact that Facebook only allows the slightest hint of what’s going on in your life through the status bar (“Phil is finding it difficult to get the blood out of the curtains” etc) I thought I would start a proper blog.

Why would I want to do that? Excellent question. Thanks. First of all there actually seems to be people who want to know what’s going on in my life. When I tell them “nothing, nothing at all” they don’t believe me and think I’m being evasive or coy. Well, I hope this blog will provide ample proof that not only is there nothing to report from my life but that there is also very little going on inside my head as well.

Secondly, and most importantly is that I need to get back to writing regularly; to “get my write on” if you will. I took a creative writing class recently that was sadly cancelled due to lack of attendance. In the short time it was running I not only met some lovely people but was also reminded how much fun pouring your brain onto paper* can be. I’m hoping this pleasingly understated site might force me, if not to put pen to paper, to at least put finger to keyboard** more often. Who knows, I might get better at it and resist phrases like “get my write on”.

Before I go, some quick ground rules:

  1. I will post something every day, except when I don’t.
  2. I will try my very best to find something interesting to say and not a gruelling run-down of my daily mundane existence: “I went to the shops, they were out of Findus Crispy Pancakes blah blah blah”. I understand this will mean some flights of fancy and the odd flat-out lie. To be honest, most of my posts will be about popular culture, especially films. This is because I’m a nerd.
  3. I will put pictures up as often as I can as to be honest they will be more interesting than anything I could write and make the place look pretty. Currently, this will mean ripping pictures off the Information super inter-web which may or may not be allowed on this site, but I hope to be getting a flash camera soon (that’s a nice camera, not a camera with a flash… Though I’m sure it will have one).

Hope to see you soon.

* That’s a metaphor.

** “Pen to paper” is an alliteration. “Finger to keyboard” is not, which is why that sentence ended so badly. See it all sinks in, even when you think it doesn’t.