Something for the Weakened

Archive for September, 2004


September 30th, 2004 by

Yes, the crap days just keep on coming. Might try and put A History of Collecting up over the weekend, though regular readers will probably realise how likely that is. At the moment I’m just trying to rest a little and attempting to convince myself that it’s hypochondria, not an ulcer. Bet it’s cancer. Listening to Adem. There is nothing more to say. Until the next time . . .

Mail Caul

September 29th, 2004 by

It’s been another unpleasant day, so much so that this is actually being written on my home computer. Normally I beat it out in a break at work, but at the moment breaks are something I don’t get. It’s all the fault of students, the learned swine. Anyway, this is generally going out as a general apology to anyone who might be reading it. I badgered the good folk at Uber Rob, the designers of this very site (I would put a link in here, but I’m writing this offline and can’t remember my html gubbins) for ages to put up a Contact link on the page. Of course, now that they finally have, I haven’t got around to checking my e-mails for a week or so. As such, this apology goes out to anyone who may have utilised the service and has heard nothing in reply. I’m shit with e-mail at the best of times, but this has been the longest period I’ve gone without even checking it for ages. Please feel assured that if you have sent me an intriguing missive, or anything I deem worthy of replying too, a response will come eventually. Just don’t hold your breath, unless it’s in some sort of auto erotic self-asphyxiation thing and you’re thinking of me. The rest of the week is going to continue to be horrible, so A History of Collecting is unlikely to appear tomorrow. I’ll try to put something up, but no promises. Written with one eye on the Artie Ziff (sp?) episode of The Simpsons and a pizza burning in the oven.

Not Savalas?

September 28th, 2004 by

It’s been another extremely horrible day and I haven’t enjoyed it one bit. I fear tomorrow is unlikely to improve upon it as I now plan to go out and drown myself in tequila. Ho hum. Apparently I was on telly last night. Didn’t see it myself and can’t say I’m that bothered to have missed it. It was in a documentary about the company I work for (Those of you who know me will know which one. Those of you who don’t will have to guess. I’m not giving them any free publicity until they start paying me a decent wage. Cunts.). Bizarrely it’s not the first time I’ve actually appeared on national television. The amount of time I spend wandering the city’s streets, it’s a fairly safe bet that I’ve shown up on a few local programmes by accident. But they don’t count. It’s national exposure that I need!

The second and probably least impressive appearance was in an episode of Treasure Hunt. Sadly it was a post Anneka Rice episode and only my scalp was visible in a shot from the helicopter, about 200 feet up. But I’m sure it was me. Myself and Neill with two Ls were on a school trip to some medieval theme park whose name escapes me (think it began with an L, though only one). We had just been in some sort of toy maker’s hovel, curated by a particularly unpleasant man that Neill with two Ls christened Mr Crab. Seconds later we were quite surprised to see Annabel Giles (Was that her name? Former tennis player, then did Treasure Hunt, then faded into deserved obscurity as far as I know) dash up and become embroiled in a tug of war with a variety of park employees. It was then that the helicopter we had seen go over made sense and sure enough, when it was televised there was a familiar crop of hair filmed from the chopper. Well, I was convinced.

The first appearance was altogether more impressive. It took place in Clearwell Caves, some caves (unsurprisingly) near Ross on Wye during another school trip. This time it was for a long since forgotten daytime travel show called Anything Goes, presented by the legendary Peter Purves. On this occasion I managed to get right to the front of a group shot of our entire class, standing in the caves being lectured upon some peculiar geological formation. Never got to meet Peter sadly. When it was broadcast I was clearly visible at the head of the pack, in my lurid green jumper with a picture of an American Indian on it. I kept the jumper for a long time, hopefully it’s still among the possessions stored at my parents house. My plan was to wear it next time I appeared on television as a spectacular in joke that only one person in the world would ever get (that would be me in case you hadn’t guessed). Missed out this time, but I suppose there’s always next. I’m sure it’ll fit me, even if it is sixteen years old . . .

I’m jealous of my cousin though. She had an episode of Challenge Anneka filmed just down the road from her. Don’t think she actually got on telly, but imagine having Anneka Rice just down the road from you for almost a week. Sigh. I like Anneka Rice. Composed with Marquee Moon in mind.

A Return to Rubber

September 27th, 2004 by

Hello my little fuckpigs! Sorry about the absence of a Friday column, but everything got rather on top of me then, rather as it has today. Was going to try and put something up over the weekend, but frankly lethargy got the better of me. Instead I found myself watching Forbidden Planet – you know the one, Leslie Nielsen, Robbie the Robot, The Tempest in space and so on. And it got me thinking the same thought I’ve been having for some time. Am I the only one sick to the back teeth of bloody CGI? It seemed like a great idea at first (well, maybe not at first – first time it was used was for a whole character was in Young Sherlock Holmes and I think we can all happily forget that one, except for the bit about custard), but I’m personally getting a bit sick of it. Terminator 2 was all very impressive to begin with and the first Lord of the Rings was pretty and all (haven’t seen the other two for reasons I may go into at a later date). But I for one miss the big rubber monster suits. The thing is that you can always detect the joins these days. It’s all a lot more high tech than old BBC superimposing; the wobbly white outline of the individual in front of the blue screen is long since gone. But there’s still that sense of disbelief that I find myself unable to suspend when someone’s slapped a big pixelated creature onto a screen, be it big or small. I’ll concede it can be done seamlessly at times, when used in period pieces as a type of advanced set dressing, but when do I ever watch period pieces that weren’t made by Hammer? Bring back the latex I say! Mold my face, throw it into some rotor blades then laugh your arse off as the squibs spray the red red krovvy all around! I can only hope someone involved with the new Doctor Who series is reading this . . . Soundtrack – Ozric Tentacles – Jurassic Shift. How I miss the early nineties. I wish I were still there.

A History of Collecting – Part Ten – A Reversal of Sorts

September 23rd, 2004 by

Who would have thought this infernal column would reach double figures? Is anyone even remotely interested? I have my doubts, yet the memoir continues. If you recall last weeks exciting episode ended in a shocking cliffhanger! The climax of the weekly Action Force comic . . .

“Great News Pals,” was a phrase oft bandied around in comics up until the late eighties. It was the phrase used when a comic was being cancelled, but the great news was always something of a softener. The usual course of events was that rather than lose out on the popularity that some characters would inevitably have gained in their own titles, a number of these would then move into another title. Thus, for a couple of months after a title came to an end you would still see it’s name faintly on newsagent shelves, just in slightly smaller print underneath the title of the actual comic which it had been streamlined into. The reason it was great news, was of course that now you’d have to pay half as much for your two favourite comics. I’m pretty sure that the publishers realised that the majority of the readers of the cancelled series probably didn’t buy whatever it was being incorporated into to begin with. Nevertheless, it was almost without fail announced as “Great News”.

And so it was with Action Force. But despite the cancellation, there was also the news that the stories would be continuing in another Marvel UK title. Inevitably, this turned out to be the other cash cow licensed from Hasbro, Transformers. Those of you with long enough memories, or some sort of access to an archive of this site (he hinted ever so subtly), might recall that my brother received a weekly dose of Transforming action with the Saturday papers. This had been the case, even up to the point that I replaced my Saturday morning Buster with Action Force. But during those glorious fifty weeks the AF series ran, his enthusiasm for the series had waned. Unlike my own collector based brain, he was happy to switch interests with alarming regularity, sometimes without even having a full set of some particular item! Baffling, I know, but this was the case. And so it was, that the regular order for the Transformers comic had ceased and, if memory serves me correctly, was replaced by the all-new Mask comic.

(For those of you who don’t remember, Mask was another toy spin off series. Also a cartoon, the concept revolved around international terrorists Venom (an acronym for something I’m sure) being hell bent on world domination. The only people who could stop them were Mask (another acronym – we had a lot back then), led by multi millionaire Matt Tracker. What made the concept slightly higher than that of Action Force, which it was almost identical too, was that they made the wise choice to give every character a sort of transforming vehicle. Though none of them became giant robots, they would instead change into another form of transport, motorbike became helicopter, car became, err, flying car and so on. The other thing was that each figure came with it’s own actual mask – a head shaped bit of rubber that could be put on the actual figures head. These were all supposed to have special attributes and were possessed by both members of Mask and Venom. I never actually had any myself. I just read my brother’s comics. Before him if I could.)

This made things a little easier for me and saved on a certain amount of anguish. If he had still been collecting Transformers, the question of who had eventual ownership of each issue would have led to enormous pitched battles in the lounge. It also meant that there would be a return to the Transformers mythos in the house. When he decided to make the shift to Mask, It was me who put up the most fuss about the cancellation of the Transformers comic. The fact that I would have one less thing to read of a weekend annoyed me somewhat, even though it would obviously never truly be mine, filed alphabetically away in a box. I can’t quite remember if we were still sharing a bedroom at this point – I eventually forced him to move into the spare bedroom after he committed the cardinal sin of colouring in a page of my He Man Colouring In Book. The wound still hurts.

And it came to pass that the week following Action Force weekly’s termination, that a brand new copy of Transformers and Action Force plopped onto the doormat that Saturday morning. And here I had a whole new experience. As with all Marvel titles, licensed or not, continuity plays an integral part. Here I was, twenty missed issues later, trying to figure out a story line. At this time, though you could pick up old comics in car boot sales and the like, there was no way known to me to acquire specific issues. Obviously, the tales weren’t that complex, so I was able to figure out what was going on in a general sense. But I would never know the true events of those missed issues. Was this going to happen again? Not if I could bloody help it!

Fidgety Filler

September 22nd, 2004 by

Fidgeting has always been a bane of my life. I suppose that it’s down to either nervousness or the distressing quantities of sugar I consume. Of course it becomes worse in more awkward situations, but I’m still prone to it even when sitting alone. Even sitting down to watch telly, no matter for how short a period of time, leads to some shifting about in the seat (though that may be down to my bony arse). It’s getting to the point that I’m starting to convince myself that I might be developing a whole host of nervous tics. A couple of weeks ago I noticed my thumb waggling about completely independently from any waggling I could have wanted it to do. It’s also come to my attention recently that my right eye periodically tries to squint for a fraction of a second every now and then. Without my say so (I should point out that I seldom squint with one eye deliberately). Maybe it’s yet more hypochondria on my part, or perhaps it’s the second stage of some sort of major breakdown (after the hairy palms). Nevertheless, the fidgeting will inevitably continue, no matter where I am. I’m like a whirling dervish in bed (yes, this entire column was constructed solely so that I could use that sentence). Can’t stop listening to Scott Walker. Nor should you. If you haven’t already, start!

Plea for Pez

September 21st, 2004 by

I just walked past a girl who smelt of orange Pez. Which was nice. Can you still even buy Pez over here? I know you can in the States, but I haven’t seen any in Britain for years. I can’t quite remember what characters I had on my dispensers, particularly as they always seemed to break after a day and a half. I have a soft spot for eighties confectionery, mainly due to how little of it I managed to consume. I mean, the Pez dispenser was a fantastic sweet eating innovation, but to make it worthwhile you had to consume a hell of a lot of those little chalky Tic-Tac sized sugar bombs. Still miss ‘em though. Written whilst singing along boisterously with Scott Walker’s Jackie (from Scott 2).

Uber Schlaf

September 20th, 2004 by

Well, here we are again. Why do I always find Mondays so unbelievably tiring? I slept in until gone eleven on Sunday morning, then napped for a couple of hours in the afternoon and went to sleep about half twelve as I normally do. Yet when my alarm went off this morning, I just rolled over and nodded off for about twenty minutes. I was embroiled in some kind of waking dream, which I can’t exactly recall the details of, though I think it involved a film of some description. Probably involved zombies, but I can’t be sure. Anyway, I normally allow myself at least ten minutes leeway between awakening and actually moving, it seems only right to do so. But despite the sixteen or so hours of kippage I had allowed myself over the previous twenty-eight hours, I was still unable to actually rouse myself on time. The main fallout from this is the fact that I didn’t have time to have my morning coffee (which has contributed towards the sleepiness), there was no time for me to shave (though with the rate that my chin fluff grows, it isn’t particularly noticeable) and, most unfortunately of all, I didn’t have time to grab any CDs to listen to during the day! I’ve had to make do with the ones I took with me on Friday! Truly unacceptable, I’m sure you’ll agree. The experience has taught me one thing though – to avoid Patti Smith’s eighties output. Christ, what was she thinking? Written with the assistance of Tortoise’s Standards, and without any input from Ms Smith.


September 17th, 2004 by

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been wondering if I might be lactose intolerant. It’s probably highly unlikely, and with what little I know about the condition I doubt that I’m exhibiting any symptoms. In fact the only thing I have read is an intriguing conspiracy theory that it was what killed Kurt Cobain. I know it sounds a little far fetched, but I seem to recall it had some intriguing, if not totally convincing, evidence. I believe they used the lyric “I’m on warm milk and laxatives” as part of their case, so draw your own conclusions. What I have definitely noticed is a peculiar sensation in my stomach, that I don’t remember experiencing in the past, when I drink coffee. It’s probably nothing, but perhaps it is the beginning of a complaint that will eventually send me over the edge, like it did with Kurt.

The main reason for my worry is the fact that the vast majority of my diet at the moment involves cheese. A lot of cheese. Frankly more cheese than it can be possibly healthy for one man to consume. Washed down with milk. So my problem is this – what am I going to eat if I can’t eat cheese? My culinary skills are a little less than zero and my ability to melt dairy produce on top of any foodstuff has been one saving grace in various attempts to make things palatable. If I truly do have some kind of allergy, I’m going to have to make something resembling an effort to cook! And no one wants that, now do they?

Of course the odd feelings in my tummy might have been caused by the fact I hadn’t eaten any vegetables in a week.

Except mashed potatoes.

With chunks of cheese in them.

Hmmm . . .

I’m going to die soon, aren’t I.

A History of Collecting – Part Nine – Annuals

September 16th, 2004 by

Notes for the uninitiated. A History of Collecting is an almost weekly feature now appearing in its new Thursday slot (at long bloody last). It functions as a sort of memoir/life inventory and should hopefully stop me from having any attacks of nostalgia the rest of the week (success at this is variable). What you might have missed in the previous eight episodes – Not a lot. All you need know is comics (many), Action Force (myriad), Transformers (a dalliance) and an unexpected inferno. Frankly you don’t even need to know that last one, but I’m going to keep brining it up in the vague hope of having sympathy poured upon me. Blub.

Growing up in the 1980’s, as I imagine most of you did, I’ve often thought that the capitalist nature of the decade filtered down to the kids at the time. It’s one way that I can explain away this entire series and not blame it on deep psychological insecurities, but I think it does hold an inkling of truth. What better explanation could there be for the consumer feeding frenzy that was Christmas back then. And what a boon the festive period was for the aspiring collector. Don’t get me wrong, birthdays also held a great deal of importance to me back then, but Christmas was always the biggy. Being born in late August as I was meant that my birthdays were normally quiet, mostly family affairs. Having only a small circle of friends at school meant that I would only ever be playing with four or five people during the summer holidays, so large parties were out of the question. But enough about the people let’s get back to the important matter of the commerce.

Toys were of course the major wants for any occasion, but the Christmas ones were always the more exciting. With retailers always far more geared up for the occasion, any trips to Toon Town during December always had my brother and I in rapt awe at the displays in the toy shop. Of course we wanted it all, but could never quite understand why we couldn’t have it. Apart from the Evil Kenevil stunt bike set I wanted when I was five, I almost always received the gifts I most wanted on the glorious twenty fifth. During my lengthy Action Force phase, it was a wonderful time of year. There was no way I would have been able to afford some of the larger pieces of moulded plastic Hasbro were flogging back then. The Transportable Tactical Battle Platform – essentially an oil rig with guns – would have had me saving pocket money for six months or more, were it not for the wonders of the festive season.

Christmas held much in store for the aspiring comic collector too. The main thing for me was the joys held within the many Annuals being produced back then. There are still a lot of these around today, sitting in book shops from about October onwards, but the range pales into comparison to what was available back then. For every mainstay like the Beano Book, there were always more obscure gems to be found lying around. Annuals for comics that had been cancelled five years beforehand and were trying to cash in on however few fans were left of the original series. TV tie-ins (my Mr T animated series annual is still a prized possession). Imported Americana that would never have survived as an ongoing title (the complete Jim Steranko run on Captain America in hardcover and blown up to almost A4 size would cost you almost twenty quid now – then, three pounds). Every Christmas morning something special and eminently readable would be wrapped beneath the tree, just waiting for me to get my sweaty paw prints all over it.

Momentary digression, to bring things back into the chronology of previous episodes. One year my parents went out for the night during the week between Christmas and New Year (I can understand them needing the break), leaving my Nan to baby-sit. All was well in the world and at about nine I wended my way up to bed. There I lay; reading the first Action Force annual that Marvel had produced. It being a while after Christmas, I was left with the text story, all comics having been read, all puzzles done and whatever other items of fun the book contained finished with. All was well, until I reached a point in the story in which Flint, leader of Action Force at the time, apparently died while in some sort of simulator. Back then the thin line between fact and fiction was a bit blurry for me. I had become attached to these characters and believed them to be real. Wailing away, I descended the stairs and went to Nanna for consolation, which she of course gave. After half an hour or so, I was okay again and went back to bed. Having calmed down, I decided to try and finish the story. It transpired that, though Flint’s heart had stopped, it was restarted again almost a paragraph later. My panic had all been for nought.

Even back then, when a fortnight seemed like an eternity, the Christmas holidays always felt too short. Compared to the summer, they were barely a drop in the ocean. All too soon I would find myself back at school, returned to the drudgery of everyday life and no hope of presents until Easter (I know it’s a bit weird, but my parents did buy us presents for Easter, as well as eggs. We weren’t particularly religious, which I suppose is obvious by the fact I was celebrating the resurrection of Christ by possessing new little plastic men with guns. We were spoilt in that respect.). This particular year though, an unexpected bombshell was about to drop. In February, the fiftieth issue of the Action Force comic came out. Inside it featured the message I was beginning to learn to fear. “Great News, Pals!” It was to be the last . . .