Something for the Weakened

Archive for March, 2005

Bus Scot

March 27th, 2005 by

Everyone’s heard Jasper Carrot’s ‘nutter on the bus’ routine I’m sure. “EEH! Anyone seen my camel?” and so on. If not, you are either too young or have far better taste in comedy than I ever will. I bring it up as a peculiar variation happened to me the other night. It’s fairly rare for me to catch buses these days, only in cases of exceptional late or idleness. A breath of fresh air from the past ten years of my life, I can tell you. Ha ha, finally I have beaten the evils of Stagecoach! But I digress. It was just before eleven on a Tuesday night, and I had to be out of town. Due to road closures, I was forced to use a reasonably unfamiliar stop. On top of this was the fact that the timetable had changed somewhat since last I had used this route, so was stuck standing there for twenty minutes.

People were already gravitating towards the pole and it was about five minutes after I had arrived that the Scotsman appeared. He had obviously had a few. Quite a few. Unusually, I was almost entirely sober and, even more unusually (if you can believe that), wasn’t listening to my discman. With an incredibly thick Glaswegian accent, the Scotsman began to speak, commenting on how nice the occasional bursts of Billie Jean coming from a nearby restaurant were. Fearing for my own safety, I concurred and tried to look disinterested. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in life, it’s not to annoy Glaswegian skinheads with facial scarring (it was only a scab on his nose, but it made me a little wary). Obviously my disinterest showed and he soon moved on to chat at other queuers. Apparently they showed even more disinterest and possibly hadn’t even replied to him, as soon he was back talking at me.

This didn’t particularly bother me. So long as I agreed with most of what he said, everything would be fine, I thought to myself. This turned out to be the case. It might be the fact that having grown up reading far too many issues of The Beano allows me to understand the Scot’s accent better than most. Even at this advanced state of inebriation, I was still able to discern most of his babblings. Subjects ranging from Irish horses winning the Grand National, Billy Connelly, to the others waiting for the bus were thrust at me. All the while I smiled pleasantly, chuckled when it seemed appropriate and generally tried to keep his spirits up, lest an evil streak rear it’s head. It soon became clear he was waiting for a different bus than I, and both of us kept wondering when it would show up (me more than he, I think you’ll find).

After fifteen minutes of this, my own transport arrived, pulling up slightly down the road from the stop. James (for that was his name) had been momentarily distracted when I dashed off to catch it, so I waved a cursory good bye over my shoulder as I boarded and thought no more of it. Settling down in an upstairs seat, I finally got the discman up and running, when a familiar stubbly head appeared over the top of the staircase. Yes, it was James, who instantly came down and sat right next to me on a half-empty omnibus. Shit, thought I. Perhaps I had misheard his destination and was now going to have to put up with another forty-five minutes of blather. I started behaving a little more cagily as he started eyeing up the talent and raucously detailing it for me. It must have been my unresponsiveness that he noticed as he gave me a hurt look after a couple of minutes and said;

“I just paid a quid tae say good bye tae ye.”

A bizarre and kind of touching thing to do to a complete stranger I realized. The combination of the compliment and the new safe knowledge that he would be getting off in few stops relaxed me considerably. The next three or four minutes were passed with me responding in the manner I had when waiting for those eternal fifteen minutes. Sure enough, a few stops later he got off the bus, and presumably had to return some distance back into town to catch his actual bus, never to be seen again. I let out a sigh of relief and contemplated the fact that I had gone one better than Carrot. Not only had the ‘nutter on the bus’ sat next to me, but had actually got onto it because of me.

In unrelated news, I have spent all of today alone in room smelling faintly of leeks, damp and semen.

Happy Easter.

Crap joke I thought of in the pub last week on the subject of Roman Law but never managed to crowbar into the conversation

March 22nd, 2005 by

JUDGE: Would the defendant state his name.

DEFENDANT: I’m Spartacus.

PROSECUTOR: No, I’m Spartacus.

et cetera

Sorry things have been a bit quiet here of late, but they’re only going to get quieter over the next couple of days. I’ll be away in Durham until Friday, so I doubt anything will go up until Saturday at the earliest, unless I find some kind of technology up there. If I don’t manage it until after then, a happy egg day to you all. Ta-ra.

The Name Blame

March 17th, 2005 by

Hello children. Do you want a sweetie? I’m absolutely shattered, so I’ll attempt to make this brief – probably not hard at the moment as I haven’t the faintest idea what I’m going to talk about. Um, okay, how about names. I may have mentioned this before, so I apologise if I’m repeating myself, but frankly the sound of my own voice is so sweet that I don’t really care what it’s saying any more. Over the past couple of years I’ve been finding it harder and harder to remember names. There could be a number of factors responsible for this. The first is the fact that I tend to meet new people on what seems like an almost daily basis. The fact that I can still remember my old school register in alphabetical order might imply that the naming part of my brain is full. Perhaps if I was to jettison some of the older, less useful names (how likely is it that I’m going to run into Leigh Wensley again?) and refill the zone with new ones, this might improve my chances. Secondly is my tendency to meet people while drunk. Though I’ve curbed my habits so that I no longer lose hours through booze, conversations can seem particularly hazy in the morning and names even more so. The obvious solution here would be to drink less, but regular readers will realise just how unlikely that is. Thirdly and finally (’cause I really should be doing other things now) is the fact that I’m just great and people always want to come and speak to me a second time. This normally leads to dim memories on my part and a lot of time spent calling them “you.” This simply can’t be avoided due to my inherent greatness and you all being frankly far too mediocre for me to waste any of my mighty brain space upon. Go and get yourself nametags, you smelly proles! I’ve got to go and catalogue some things!

Motorless Section

March 16th, 2005 by

We at Weakened Towers recently received a missive from irregular correspondent Mr Colgesso of Manchester. Following a sustained rant about the seeming omnipresence of the evil Paul Morley (with which I’m sure we can all agree), he went on to request a motoring section. And who are we to argue with the needs of the great unwashed. What follows is the first of an irregular series reflecting upon the transport our esteemed bullpen of writers have recently been using.

NOTE TO READERS – To give this a more authentic motoring section ambiance, please place unnecessary EMPHASIS on EVERY other WORD. Thank YOU.

Today was spent testing a fairly old pair of legs, acquired second hand for a nominal fee. Now I for one have never been that interested by the current fascination with vintage legs. Though I can appreciate some of the charm people could find in the design of, say a 1983 model, the advances in leg technology make them look like dinosaur legs clamped in irons. At least your vintage leg has more class than the legs the Japanese are exporting to us, but it can hardly match the acceleration, speed or safety of any brand new mid price pair of legs on the market.

Nevertheless, these legs, an old ‘77 model from a Luton based manufacturer who shall remain nameless, surprised me. Though a little sluggish to start first thing, once I got them rolling they began to respond like a member of Deep Purple to a bowl of coke. Having never used legs that weren’t in some way power assisted, the handling wasn’t the treacly cement I had been led to believe. In fact I executed an almost perfect one-point turn within seconds of starting them up. Even when trying to pull away quickly on our test course, it was incredible to see this old timer couldn’t even manage a single foot spin.

But what of the on road performance? These legs do seem remarkably fuel efficient, capable of running on mere pints per day. This leaves you spending barely twenty pounds per week on the up keep, plus, due to it’s age, you no longer need to pay for the annual MOT. Unfortunately there are a couple of points that let the legs down. A paltry maximum speed of barely five miles an hour leaves you left behind when a traffic light hit’s green like someone hitting Lorne Green in Battlestar Galactica. Though the handling works well, it still covers ground far quicker in straight lines, though even when employing this tactic I still found myself being overtaken by what looked like a ‘57 pair while cruising through town.

The interiors can only be described as sticky. The red, purple and white colour scheme looks as if it was designed by Vivian Westwood on some sort of red, purple and white trip. Though the seating position can be quite comfortable, there’s no real room for passengers and though the boot looks enormous, you’d certainly have a job fitting as much as a spare tyre in there. And I hope those were rust patches on the rear axle.

The Drooling Classes

March 15th, 2005 by

Hey! You! Get off of that clod! It was about grass wasn’t it? Well, words to that effect. A combination of idleness, booze and peculiar self-loathing (am I the only one who considers throwing themselves down stairs rather than walking?) have precluded any activity here over the last couple of days. These now being mainly over, I had hoped to make a sizable entry today. Unfortunately some ingrate demands the use of the computer, so it’ll have to wait until tomorrow. Feeble excuse I know, but hey ho. Until then, then.

Why, God, why?

March 11th, 2005 by

Oh dear God no! Make them stop! Somebody! Pleeease!! Make them stop before it’s too late!!! AAARRRGGGHHH!!!.

Late Night Ramble

March 11th, 2005 by

Good morning boys and girls. Little later than I’d planned today, but I’m sure you’ll allow me to consider this as a Thursday post. Isn’t there some school of thought that claims that the next day doesn’t start until the last second of 12.59 has passed? You know, like the naysayers claiming the millennium didn’t start until 2001 (even though they were right, the killjoys). There isn’t? Well maybe it’s time I started one.

Found myself crying with laughter today. Not that unusual an occurrence for me, but rarer when I’m sober. Last time it happened was while watching an episode of Arrested Development – surely the funniest thing to come out of America since the mighty Curb Your Enthusiasm. How I miss that show. When is some terrestrial channel going to start showing it again. I almost miss Sky. Almost. Anyway, the Arrested Development moment occurred for me during a guest appearance by the even mightier Henry Winkler. Don’t say ‘who’ you fucking heathens! He was The Fonz. Anyone not knowing of who I speak should be wiped from the planet this second, or at least be educated of the character’s existence. Probably the former though. Anyway, a scene in a public toilet came in the plot, at the end of which Winkler (playing a lawyer, not The Fonz – though I did hear something about a Happy Days reunion show this year – YAY!) looks into the mirror, about to comb his hair, then doesn’t! Do you get it? Do you!?! Bloody better. I was rolling around on the floor after that one. Of course, I was drunk.

Today’s (yesterday’s for the pedants) happened while at work. Not as bad as it may sound – my afternoon breaks are normally spent trawling the internet alone in an office. No, not like that. People are always walking through, so I couldn’t even if I wanted. And I don’t want too. This afternoon I spent some time trawling through some of the archived Fan Fractions at disappointment.com (I would link at this point, but I think I’ve spelt it wrong. I did one a week or so ago – look in my archive under addendendumdum or something. I really should write this online). Many of these amused me, but one had tears of mirth running down my cheeks. Annoyingly I can’t remember the name it’s filed under, only that it’s a skit of a fictional TV show starring Tom Selleck – his name is featured in their archive if you’re looking. The premise is simply that Selleck plays a cop with an enormous flapping anus. Quite why I find this so hilarious is beyond me (does it make me gay?), but I did find myself uncontrollably crying at the mental image of Tom constantly dropping his pants in the front of the chief.

This would all be well and good (if a tad puerile I’ll admit), but half way through my blubbery sniggers someone walked into the room. The entire thing is completely text based, so it wasn’t as if anyone was going to become horribly offended looking over my shoulder. That wasn’t the problem. That was the fact that I didn’t see who it was, though presumably they got a glimpse of my tear stained cheek and saw me jiggling up and down making noises that could have been interpreted as crying. All I heard was a muffled “sorry” from a male voice and they were gone. Does this mean that there is now someone wandering the building thinking that I’m even more of a puny geek than I really am? Can’t say I’m particularly worried about whatever credibility I don’t have, but you can never tell when vanity will strike. Stop looking at me. Now!

Something for the Weakened

March 9th, 2005 by

Evenin’ all. You may be wondering why I’ve used the above title for this post. The simple reason is that, while the site was sown a couple of weeks ago, I found myself looking for back doors to let me back into Something for the Weakened. None of these worked, of course, but did lead to my discovery that this site had been deposed as lead result for a Google search of the phrase “something for the weakened” (with or without speech marks). I assume this was probably because of the site being down, but did lead to my discovering a couple of things.

As I’m sure most of you are aware, this site was constructed primarily on the strength of the Page’s of Fun I was doing for the not much lamented music pamphlet OHM (whose demise I must write a column about one day). Having never really received much feedback for the ’zine, or for Something for the Weakened (why won’t anyone use the Contact icon? Come on you swine, speak to me!), I have always assumed any influence I might possess would be negligible to non-existent. But I might be wrong about this.

For you see, the Google search showed up not one, but two other sites using the phrase something for the weakened. And what’s to be found on these sites? The first is an album called Something for the Weakened by some Londoner called Dan Haythorn, available for free download it would seem. The second is for an album by an American band called Player Hater, whose Picking You Up Just To Put You Down album contains a song called (yes you’ve guessed it) Something for the Weakened.

I’ve personally not listened to either of these – none of the computers I use are really happy about downloading music – and I’m not going to spend twelve dollars on an album for a track name alone. I can’t vouch for them being any good (though I could if I were sent free copies . . .) and I certainly can’t say if my own dirty influence seeped into the naming of these things. But I can’t help but wonder. Plus it’s given me the chance to use the phrase something for the weakened many more times than either of those sites do, thereby assuring my prime Google place. Ha ha, victory is mine.

A History of Collecting – Aside One – Thrill of the Chase

March 6th, 2005 by

Welcome, boys and girls, to the first of A History of Collecting’s asides. Don’t know if I’m going to do many, but events have transpired recently which I feel I have to get down. Therefore usual whinging about reading the archive need not apply. Though you can if you want.

There are great elements of chasing in the art of collecting. These can often be the most fulfilling and gratifying parts of the hobby. They can also be the most infuriating and tedious. It all depends upon one’s temperament, determination and luck. For many years I have been jotting down a list of comics that I need (no, not want, NEED). Some of these are works by particular authors whose work I became interested later in their careers than I perhaps should have. Other’s are pieces that I dismissed at the time of there initial publication and have since become more intrigued by. The majority however are gaps in collections of ongoing series, caused by my either not noticing a new publication on the shelves or, as is more often the case, my local shop not ordering enough copies. And me not ordering copies from them, something I am frequently guilty of, but often find myself cursing the shop’s lack of foresight more so.

Plugging these gaps is one of the most joyous parts of Collecting in my eyes. There are a few ways that this can be achieved in my experience. The first and obvious move is your local shops own back issue bins. These served me well for the first few years of my habit (which we are yet to arrive at in the overarching narrative yet), but are less useful to me today, except in unusual circumstances where I start picking up a title halfway through it’s run. Secondly there are a number of mail order services, often advertising in press magazines (another topic for another day), sometimes even printing their full catalogues within them. These also saw me through many of my early forays, supplying me with a wealth of material. To this day I occasionally use them still. Thirdly there are the marts, conventions and such like. These too will be covered at a later date in detail, though it must be pointed out that dealers at these events always seem to be carrying little obscurities that I’m pursuing. Recently the internet has also provided me with a few oddities to fill gaps. Paying about fifteen pence for a copy of the final issue of the Epic series of A1 on E-bay was a triumph for me. Paying to have it shipped from the States was less of a triumph, but it was worth it. Then there are car boot sales, flea markets and the like. These rarely turn anything up, but having a sift every now and then doesn’t hurt. It’s how I got about half of the issues of Love and Rockets, not to mention an almost complete run of Warrior. And of course, there are other comic shops, in other cities (not to mention countries, but that too will have to wait).

Which brings me to the reason for the timing of this aside. While strutting my stuff around old London town, I was lucky enough to plug a number of gaps in my collection. Most of these were issues of comics published in the past year or so, readily available to anyone looking for them, but foolishly missed by my shop and myself. These are pleasing finds, allowing me to appreciate a whole story, though one still fresh in my mind. I also happened upon some gems which have alluded me for some time. The one which impressed me most was finally laying my hands on issues twenty-six and twenty-seven of the second volume of Doom Patrol. This obviously means nothing to you, but was a little miracle for me. You see, dear reader, I had been fruitlessly searching for these two small pamphlets for about twelve years. Yes, you heard right, twelve years. I only really bought the title for the writing of Grant Morrison (issues nineteen to sixty-three) that ran 1989 to 1993. I only started picking it up in late 1992, so spent some time acquiring the forty or so issues I had missed. These two were the last I needed to complete the set, a little grail I had yet to see. And there they were, sitting in a box, priced at a mere quid fifty each. At first I was unsure I had the correct issues, having left my wants list at home, but examining the issues around it these were the two covers that seemed most unfamiliar to me. And by God, I was right. The elation that filled me at that moment is frankly hard to express. A quest that was over a decade long was finally over.

[I probably ought to point out that there were a number of issues from the series present there. These were presumably from a bulk lot someone had sold off due to numbers twenty-five to thirty something being collected as a graphic novel recently. Yes, if I was that desperate, I could have just bought the compendium. I probably would have done at some point in the next couple of months (I have in the past), but it would have cost me about twelve quid rather than three. Frankly I think I made the right choice in waiting this one out.]

The other little epiphany occurred in the excellent shop Gosh, just off New Oxford Street. Having read about some sort of non-existent ‘Mega-Sale’ supposedly taking place in Forbidden Planet on the tube and spending not a penny in the shop, I strolled to Gosh with high hopes. As ever I was not disappointed. While flicking through the Mike Allred section of their back issues (back issues ordered by creator!), a member of staff caught my attention and waved a couple of other comics under my nose that hadn’t been on display. I was astonished. A complete set of Grafik Muzik, Allred’s pre Madman work that I had oddly been thinking about a few days previously. I had never even seen a single issue of the series, much less a complete run. And what was this with it? The Creatures of the ID one shot he’d done with Bernie Mireault! These things never turn up anywhere, particularly in this country where they probably sold about eight copies when they originally came out back in 1992! Admittedly these were a bit steeper than the Doom Patrol’s, but were such a bizarre find, particularly as I had wondered about them so recently, that they had to be mine. According to the bloke who handed them to me, some fool had asked for them to be put aside months ago, but had never returned to pick them up. And now they’re mine, all mine I tell you!

I will close on a bit of a down note though. Due to my not having my list with me, like a twat, I did manage to buy stuff I already own. Only two comics, one of which is also a decade old, but it’s still no excuse. My memory for covers used to be encyclopaedic enough that I was able to recognize a book I had instantaneously. Now it seems that the old grey matter is decaying at a rate of knots and it’s all becoming a bit hazier, even if it was ten years ago. So now, I say to you all, go forth from this place and collect. Just don’t forget to have a list with you at all times. Here endeth the lesson.

Tatefully Done

March 5th, 2005 by

Good evening Gimmers. Back at base camp and have been for about twenty-four hours now. The London trip was curtailed by a day, due to a lack of funds on my part and an illness (read hangover) on the part of one of my prospective visitees. But fear not dear readers, my final day in that fair city was not ill spent. I’ll be going into some of the details tomorrow (the Collecting ones, obviously), but I spent much of the morning escaping the blizzards in the Tate Modern. Yes, I can be almost cultured when I have the inkling. Only saw one of the temporary installations; Bruce Nauman’s sound piece in the Turbine Hall, which I found oddly pleasing. I had hoped to look at an exhibition of Joseph Beuys sculptures, but felt that eight quid was a bit steep, plus I was meeting someone for lunch. Instead I wandered the free galleries, which passed a couple of hours quite happily. I’m hardly a fine art buff, but there were a great many things that I found really impressive. Had I spent longer there I might have picked up more names that I could bandy about now, but I was carrying a particularly heavy bag so didn’t spend as long as I might have done reading the captions by the various works. I was a bit disappointed to see only one Gilbert and George piece and that it was a video, but other than that the variety of work was quite expansive.

And now the crux of this piece. Throughout the gallery were a smattering of Picassos. Now, I have nothing against Cubism or any other forms of im or expressionism. Art is after all about ideas and frankly any original or new ones can only be good things. Even Emin. So long as some level of craft is shown in the finished piece when it comes under my scrutiny, then I am a happy wee git. Back at Pablo, I was really impressed by the early pieces, Cubist or otherwise. They showed an incredible grasp of his art and seemed to show an artist at the height of his powers. Then there were the later pieces. I realise that these were painted by a man in his eighties, but come on. Do these really deserve to be hanging in one of the nation’s most high profile galleries? By that age, the craft seems to have completely deserted poor old Pabby, so all you are left seeing are what look like half finished works, paint daubed half heartedly onto the canvas. I appreciate the paintings have relevance within the man’s career and can understand that people want to see whatever works are available to them. But in a gallery with such limited space (yes, it is a huge building, but the space is still horribly limited) would it not be better to exhibit the works of a more diverse range of artists than clutter up wall space with some aged womaniser long since past his best? I forget the captions by the particular paintings which annoyed me; maybe they were just sketches or preliminary drawings. Still, I stand by my, admittedly laboured, point.

Discuss.