Something for the Weakened

Archive for August, 2004

Bunk Holiday

August 31st, 2004 by

Hello serfs. Bank holidays are all well and good, but they are in some respects deeply unsatisfying. The long weekend has always been a concept that I don’t really understand. Yes, having the extra day is nice, but I’ve never been able to find anything extra worth doing on that superfluous Monday. Perhaps it’s because all I ever seem to do is catch up on sleep and listen to the radio on Saturdays and Sundays these days. Rather than having all these disparate days throughout the year, wouldn’t it be better just to have an extra week off? Bugger the economy, any reasons of tradition or whatever. I want proper spaces of time for me holidays. Four days off work at the very least, with a weekend tagged on too! I’m just grumpy, as I know it’s going to completely throw my weekly body clock for the next fortnight or so. It’s also the cheap excuse I can use for bumping A History of Collecting on a day again. It’s not that I’m lazy or anything. No, it’s all the fault of bloody government enforced time off. If I ruled the world it’d all be so much better . . . Today’s pitiful plea for understanding was helped by the sounds of Stephen Malkmus’ sophomore effort Pig Lib.

August 27th, 2004 by

Sport, eh? What’s that all about then?


Released Without Charge

August 26th, 2004 by

I always remember to bring a phone charger with me. It’s one of those things that seems to be permanently welded to the bottom of mighty satchel. Except for today. And of course, my battery has died. To make matters worse, there are various people who I might or might not need to get in contact with. Their numbers are of course stored in only one place. On the phone. Which is a bit of an arse really. So, if anyone reads this before 5.00PM today and wants to contact me, please e-mail me. I’m sure you have my address as I have no intention of emblazoning it on here where anyone can use it. Not that this means a lot to anyone else, but I would like to request the opportunity to give Rob some money today. Let me know if I can and where. I’ll be in town until about 7.30. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Orange assisted this plea.

Bags Bags Bags!

August 25th, 2004 by

Those of you who know me realise that I am seldom to be seen without a bag. But not just any bag, oh no, a trusty satchel. I know it can look kind of effeminate in a handbaggy sort of a way, or can give the impression of an overgrown public schoolboy. I know that. But following many years of bag experimentation in my youth I’ve found the satchel to be the most pleasing of all the bags. Living as I do in the arse end of beyond, necessitates a device for carrying essentials around (changes of clothes, toiletries, umbrella, discman + discs and so forth). So what advantages has the satchel over these other inferior bag types? Well . . .

The Carrier Bag. The carrier bag is instantly cumbersome. The absence of any sort of strap, leading to you having to hold it is a major disadvantage. This leads to losing the use of one whole hand whilst in motion, possibly causing many a disaster. Then there is the difficulty of actually retrieving anything from a well-laden carrier whilst on the move – a near impossibility. The carrier can be used in conjunction with the satchel, if one is carrying more items than can fit into the satchel, but should by no means be considered a substitute.

The Rucksack. Many favour the rucksack and I will concede that it has its advantages. The straps are perfectly fine, both hands are free to operate heavy machinery should you so desire, they normally feature an array of compartments in which to secrete and eventually forget about all manner of junk. I can take none of these achievements away from the mighty rucksack manufacturing classes. The problems I have are threefold. The rear mounting of any form of bag is the major issue. Having to swing the bag round to fumble around within is unnecessary hassle I’m sure you’ll agree. Then there is the matter of the dual straps. Using both always makes the wearer look a bit silly, whereas I personally have never been able to carry off the single strap over one shoulder. It feels wrong and frankly makes me look sillier still. Finally there is the sight issue. I feel safer if I am able to see anything I have with me by simply glancing down at it. This is why I never use back pockets. My intense distrust of the world at large leads me to worry about small children writing slogans in permanent markers behind me without my knowledge. Unlikely I know, but my paranoia is all encompassing.

One Of Those Sports Bag Type Things With The Bit Of String You Pull To Shut, You Know. These are essentially carriers with straps, thereby negating the major disadvantage of the carrier. The problem I always found with the one I had was its shapelessness meant you couldn’t really fit anything in there easily. Okay, it did have a shape, but it wasn’t a useful one. Plus you only had a bit of string to secure it. I mean, come on. Useless in wet weather and hardly a deterrent to thieves, unlike the marvellous Velcro on my current satchel.

So, as you can plainly see from this conclusive proof, the satchel is without a doubt the way forward for all right minded carriers of things. The only problem that I have found with mine is that it is distressingly easy to spill entire pints of ale into it. The resulting beery niff the bag gives out sadly seems to endure for several weeks afterwards. It’s only a minor quibble. I’m half tempted to stop drinking altogether, just so I can revel in its majestic bagly glory. Face it, you need a satchel. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Today’s piece was brought to you in association with the Satchel Marketing Board of East Anglia and Death Cab For Cutie’s The Photo Album. Thank you for your time.

A History of Collecting – Part Seven – One Hand, Two Hand

August 24th, 2004 by

Christ almighty, is he still doing this? I mean, at first it was “Okay, ha ha , very self indulgent,” but he’s been banging on about this shite for almost two months now! Can’t he understand that no one’s interested? Jesus wept . . .

A note to regular readers (you sad, sad fools) – the events which take place in this episode probably precede those that occurred in last weeks action packed tale, it’s just that I’d forgotten about them. It’s also possible that they didn’t – my memory doesn’t seem to register dates. Story so far – comics, comics and yet more comics.

As a youngster, my parents would often drag me out on day trips to a variety of places. Sometimes it would be as simple as going to the village fete at the school down the end of our road. Other times it would be something altogether further afield, including numerous air shows, arboretums and Navy Day down in Portsmouth. We went to this annual event for a few years on the trot, which I always found fascinating with my mind military bent, as it was back then. Apart from the opportunity to wander around on aircraft carriers, sit in jet fighters and watch all manner of marching go on, there were also quite a few street traders plying their wares. To my delight, I discovered one bloke flogging off old comics, some older than I was. It was a joy to behold the old tabloid sized issues of Krazy, sitting on a table and gently being blown by the sea breeze. And they were only a couple of pence each! You can probably guess what happened next.

This is I think where my love of the second hand first came about. There seems to me to be a slight dichotomy in the purchasing of someone else’s old goods. It’s perfectly possible that they are merely items that said individual no longer has any further use or want for. On the other hand there is always the possibility that either financial reasons or some other instance of unpleasantness enforced such partings. Does this mean that one is getting pleasure from another’s misery, no matter how far removed from the original nastiness one is? To this day I’m uncertain, but I’m not sure that I was really worrying about it back then.

And so I started down the road of buying other peoples tat. School fetes, bring and buy sales, car boot sales, if we visited any there would always seem to be someone else selling off the remnants of their childhood. The fact that they were old and tatty didn’t make a lot of difference to me; it was always the stories that mattered. I don’t have a photographic memory by any stretch of the imagination, but in the twenty odd years of my comic addiction I think I’ve only ever bought duplicates a dozen times, if that. The covers just seem to have lodged into my brain, sometimes more than the tales contained within. This was as true then as now, so the chance to buy something a couple of years old at a fraction of the cover price was something I would always try to take advantage of.

My collection had grown quite enormous by this time. I had filled nearly three supermarket boxes with them, which sat neatly at the bottom of my wardrobe. I think they were alphabetised, even back then (God, I’m anal). But I could only fit two boxes into the bottom of the wardrobe and still have room to actually hang any clothes in it. At my parents suggestion I moved them into the garage, which we used for storage at the time. It was a decision I would later rue . . .


August 23rd, 2004 by

It’s all gone a bit mad today. Suddenly I have things which need to be done, extracting almost any writing time I might have had. Except for this bit to say I haven’t got time to write anything. Too think, I could have put down something constructive instead of this crap. Hey ho, the paradox amuses. Though not much, obviously. Not even sure it’s a paradox. Must dash.

New Scum, Same As The Old Scum

August 20th, 2004 by

Hello all. Twenty-seven and a day (my parents are uncertain of the time of my birth, so I can’t give you hours) and all’s remarkably well. My wrists are intact, it’s almost the weekend and Comic Showcase beckons me with it’s exciting four coloured fingers. I would almost go as far to say I’m jolly, if I was living in the nineteen thirties. I’ve come to two conclusions since my last post. I use the word ‘still’ far too often in these posts, so am going to try and cut down on it or start making moonshine so I can use it in a different way. The other is that my obsession with the phrase “ATTENTION SCUM!” is beginning to get out of hand. I pointlessly designed a poster about tonight’s frivolities, using it as the heading. Some people got it; the rest don’t seem to be talking to me. Ho hum. It’s all swings, roundabouts and various other cliches. It does give me the excuse to put this link in. It’s utterly pointless, but I like it. Listen to Aphex Twin’s 26 Mixes For Cash. I am, but don’t fall into the trap of putting the Bowie/Glass Heroes thing on repeat. I think I’m onto my fourteenth listen today. Damn, it’s good.


August 19th, 2004 by

A number of things have come to mind over the course of today. Here are a couple of them.

I saw someone wearing a T-shirt with the slightly odd logo ‘Outward Bounder’ emblazoned all over it. Does this imply that he’s some sort of over exuberant cad, or am I inferring the wrong message?

I’ve recently noticed that certain phrases can seem oddly arousing when used by people with a particular accent. I can only think of two examples at the moment, both from films I’ve watched in the recent past. The first was in The Spanish Prisoner, not David Mamet’s finest hour but enjoyable watching nevertheless. At one point Rebecca Pidgeon’s character says “Crikey” with an American accent. Whether it was the shock of such an English word being used by a colonial, or something else altogether, it managed to give me a little tingle. The other, slightly more distressing example is to be found in Peter Jackson’s excellent Braindead, not really one for the weak of stomach. At one point, the Hispanic female lead shrieks the immortal line “Your Mother ate my dog!” which, I’m not proud to admit, led to a significant genital firming. Is that wrong?

Like all calendar-turning moments, turning twenty-seven doesn’t seem as painful as I had suspected it would be. This is liable to change entirely in the very near future, but I’m prepared to give it a couple of weeks before I reach for the razor blades.

These wry comments (yes they were) were written with musical assistance from Company Flow’s Little Johnny From The Hospital. It’s the album instrumental hip hop was made for (as a genre – it’s not all a cappella).


August 18th, 2004 by

I officially turn twenty-seven in under eight hours of this writing. This depresses me somewhat, though not quite as much as it has done in previous years. It’s a kind of nothing year, despite signalling that in six months I’ll be closer to thirty than to twenty five. That is worrying, yet I still manage to feel remotely cheerful about things. The major depression probably won’t hit until tomorrow. Something to look forward too, I guess . . . Sigh. One song has been obsessing me today – Tonight by The Soft Boys. It’s on the Underwater Moonlight album and has those slightly disturbing lyrics I love so much. Kind of like Permafrost by Magazine, which I haven’t listened too today, but deserves a mention for no good reason.

A History of Collecting – Part Six – A Battle Lost

August 17th, 2004 by

Batten down the hatches, stoke up the fires! No one leaves the room until they’ve finished reading the next mind stultingly boring episode of A History of Collecting! As you recall, last week Alastair started buying Action Force stuff. Now read on, in appalled anticipation, as he buys some more!

With the new found regular Action Force fixes, I fell into a cheerful routine of buying my figures every couple of weeks and the comic every seven days. But then disaster struck, almost without my noticing it. At the time, of the two unrelated AF strips appearing in Battle, one was in colour the other black and white. Over the course of a few months, the creators (artist John Cooper – most recently seen doing work for Private Eye – and a writer whose name escapes me) had been creating an enormous overblown story. This was probably some sort of marketing opportunity to feature as many characters as possible (oh, how cynical I’ve become), but made for a great read at the time. The thing that I didn’t realise was that this was the end. The story came to a halt with the baddies (called Cobra, or possibly C.O.B.R.A., I think it was an acronym back then) being thwarted in a far harsher manner than I’d ever read before. It should have been plainly obvious that it was over, but it never dawned on me for a second.

The next week, I rolled into the newsagent as normal and dived on a copy. I remember thinking it strange that it only said Battle on the cover. No mention of Action Force at all. Arriving at home, I was livid to discover the reason. No Action Force content. At all! Not even two strips in the middle you could pull out and pretend was a whole different periodical. My anger nearly led to me chucking the bastard paper away, but the Collector gene stopped me and the new issue fitted neatly into my comic box. It is only now, with hindsight, I realise that the war stories that made up the bulk of the comic were almost certainly of a far higher quality than the tie ins in the centre. But back then I never gave them more than a cursory glance. Battle instantly went off my radar at this point and would stay off it for some time. At least I still had the toys.

Or did I? A disaster of similar magnitude happened a few Saturdays later. On a trip to Toon Town, I entered Giles’ and made my usual beeline for the AF wall, only to find . . . To be perfectly honest I can’t remember what they had put up instead, I think the mental scarring runs too deep. What I do recall was that there wasn’t a figure in sight. Were the toy companies smiting me too?! Not even any of the larger, more expensive vehicles were available. I left, dejected, though probably with some other nick nack – I may have been fickle, but my self obsession still meant I had to get something. And so it continued on subsequent trips. I needed a new obsession.

What I hit upon during this cold turkey period was Sectaurs. A comic adaptation appeared as a back up story in Transformers, which my brother continued to read. These weird half human, half insect beings interested me in the stories I read and it wasn’t too long before I found the action figures the comic was a shameless tie in too. Larger than the AF toys, with far fewer points of articulation and squidgy heads like He Man, the main innovation with the line were the slightly shoddy antennae stuck onto their foreheads. Not much of a selling point these days, but I lapped it up as an idea. Also, rather than having cars or tanks for them to ride about on, you could buy larger insects, most of whom were motorised in some way. I quickly immersed myself in the line for almost three seasons.

Brief digression. It was approaching Christmas and I was present at a family gathering. My grandmother asked me what I wanted Santa to bring me. “Sectaurs,” I replied in my distressingly high pitched voice (I have tapes, they really disturb me). She shot me a concerned look, turned and whispered something to my Mother. Seconds later my mother burst into laughter. It transpires that my Nanna had whispered to Mum “Don’t you think he’s a bit young for sex toys?” Digression over.

A problem soon presented itself with the Sectaurs gambit. The Action Force line had something between thirty and forty figures in the initial run I encountered. Thus it took some effort on my part to get a complete set. The Sectaurs line had maybe a dozen figures at most, which though slightly more expensive, were still available to me at a one or two per month. Even the ones that came with mini insects could be acquired relatively easily. Soon I had each of the figures and had nowhere to go. My only other option was to save up for the really expensive insects, but that might take up to three months at a time, which simply wasn’t an option. Gratification could only be put off so long (a rule that I’ve always stuck by).

I can’t have spent very long floundering in my toyless rut, because of yet another fruitful newsagent trip. Browsing the comics as I always did, I quickly spotted it, sparkling on the shelves. Action Force No. 1. A full comic, dedicated solely to the characters on a weekly basis. In full colour, no less! I was thrilled, and of course it instantly became mine. What had happened was simply a change over in the licensing of the intellectual property, from IPC (as it was then) to Marvel UK. And why had this occurred? Why, because an all new run of toys was being produced, so the next time I was in Toon Town, there they were. Back on their wall, but with swankier packaging and bigger, more expensive vehicles. Previously my love for the toys had been quite passionate, but what they say about absence and the heart is true. Now I had to have it all!