Monday, 26 October 2009

It's been a hard day's night.

At the end of last week I Saw Elvis was saddened to hear of the death of Mac Tonnies. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

I've decided that I'm never going to a cocktail party again. Not that I get invited to many you understand. It's just by banning myself from attending these events in advance, I'm actually serving a greater good. You see I'm a very clumsy person, and so putting me in a room with nice suits and glasses full of brightly coloured liquid is like giving Kiefer Sutherland a bottle of Jack Daniels and the keys to a Ferrari. For example two days ago I was in a supermarket, placing my items on the till conveyer belt, and somehow I managed to accidentally throw a tub of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream at the head of a rather startled woman in the next aisle. If it wasn't for my forewarning of "OH TITS!" and her cat like reflexes, the entire situation could have got rather out of hand.

Now being this useless is a tough old row to hoe. And, even though I really should be used to it by now, there's only so much social embarrassment one man can take. Which means I'm always on the look out for hair brained schemes that might - just might - allow me to take a romantic stroll on a beach with a loved one and, oh I don't know, not get stung by a scorpion. However, never in my wildest dreams did I think that the Pentagon would be the ones to step up to the plate in this regards.

According to a report on the BBC website, a pair of scientists in the Pentagon named Michel Maharbiz and Hirotaka Sato made a beetle fly around a room. Which isn't that big of a deal I guess. I mean give me a beetle and a rolled up newspaper and I can accomplish the same thing. However what is a big deal is that these dudes managed to do it by punching in some keys in to a laptop.

That's right folks, allow yourselves to be introduced to the world's first remote controlled insect (Gee Note: Not counting Paris Hilton). Now I’m not going to pretend to have any earthly idea how they did it, but apparently Messers Maharbiz and Hirotaka implanted beetle larvae with some sort of mechanical device. Then once the beetle reached maturity they discovered that with a flick of a switch they could get it to perform the Macarena at will.

Bare in mind that this is actually not as fun as it sounds, at least not for the beetle. The beetle’s thought processes aren’t altered during this entire experiment. Instead it’s muscles are the ones being controlled by the men in white coats. Which strikes me as kinda cruel. Say you’re a beetle and you spy off in the distance a lovely bit of jam. You set off on your way to acquiring that tasty treat, but then all of a sudden you’re flung up in to the air and are buzzing around like a maniac. All because some nerd with nothing better to do wants to show off to his friends. “Hey guys watch this,” he says “The beetle thinks it’s going to get the jam. And now it’s flying away from the jam. Ahahahahahahaha. Stupid beetle”. Speaking as a man who enjoys his jam that’s not cool bro. Not cool.

But there’s something even crazier to all of this. A cyborg beetle has absolutely no useful military application. I mean like none. Partly because as well as the various bit and bobs the beetle would need to be loaded with for this whole muscle control deal, it would also need to fitted with a tracking device. Which, while it might make a very entertaining real life version of the board game Buckaroo, would probably weigh the poor bastard down so much it couldn’t take off. And even if it could, the ratio as to what the beetle could carry would be so small - just 4.0 grams on the largest beetle tested by the Pentagon - that it would render it rather pointless. So unless they’re planning to get all Biblical on Iran’s ass by manufacturing a plague of, er, beetles with which to terrorize them into not making nuclear warheads, the whole thing seems a wee bit redundant.

Unless of course they manage to create a version of this for humans. Then I might get one and pay someone to follow me around the supermarket. Hey at least then I know I won’t assault innocent shoppers with some Mint Chocolate Chip.

Another story that caught my eye recently was in Wales’ very own Western Mail. It turns out that in the Brecon Beacons, which is a scenic mountain range running throughout South Wales, a new water treatment plant has caused quite the commotion. Locals from the Glyntawe area, which is about a stone’s throw from where yours truly lives, are exceedingly grumpy about the fact that the new plant looks like, well, a water treatment facility and not a pretty tree or something. Anyway they’ve gone and kicked up a fuss and formed a protest group called “We Want Out”.

One of the leaders of the group, 77 year old retired farmer Elizabeth Tyler (Gee Note: The first time I read this I did it too quickly and had to stop and ask myself “Why would Elizabeth Taylor give a toss about a building in Brecon? Is it a Richard Burton thing?” It turns out, no, no it isn’t) claims it represents “the lost beauty of the area”. She places the blame firmly on the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, or BBNPA, for not denying planning permission for the plant.

“We all need clean fresh water but this building is a disgrace to the park. The scale of the structure is completely out of character with its location in the beautiful Welsh mountains. Local people are disgusted that park officials have allowed this concrete building to dominate our village and countryside.”

And so the folks in We Want Out have decided to riot protest by spending the night on one of the cranes used to build the plant, complaining to media outlets, and hiring a local shaman to place a curse on BBNPA.

Dude… wait. What?

"This curse will only be lifted by the shaman when a public apology is issued by the BBNPA to the residents of this area." Says Tyler.

For a start where the hell do you find a Shaman around these parts? Bare in mind that I live here, and I’m in to all kinds of weird things (Gee Note: Reading up on sea monsters and UFO sightings I mean. Not stuff like “and the safety word is banana”) and I’ve never heard of anyone claiming to be a shaman. I mean just how do you find these guys? Do you just walk in to a pub and say:

“Excuse me, I’m looking for someone to place a curse on a governing body.”

“Oh I’m sorry love, I’m Dai the Glass. I fit windows. You want Dai the Shaman over there in the corner.”

Also how bloody harsh are these people? Curses used to be placed on thorough rotters who raped livestock and killed women (Gee Note: It’s just occurred to me I typed that the wrong way round. Screw it I’m not changing it now). Not on inept National Park administrators. You can imagine the folks at the BBNPA waking up one morning to find that their arms had fallen off and that their youngest child had been struck down with consumption. “Oh my God! My arms! Little Jimmy’s cough! Aaaaaarrrrggghhh! It’s the curse! The curse I tells ye! If only we’d have painted the water treatment plant green so it could blend in with a really large bush!”.

Still, even if they are horribly cursed, there is one consolation for the BBNPA.

At least they’re not beetles.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

We don't know what "never" means anymore.

 A brief return of our occasional feature "Gee watches a Science Fiction television programme and give his opinion on it. People then realise why he has never been hired to do this professionally.".

There's a wonderful passage in William Goldman's Adventures in The Screen Trade where he offers a word of advice for budding script writers. Say, for example, one movie studio produces a film about crime fighting hedgehogs that becomes an unexpected smash hit, destroying box office records and wowing critics and audiences alike. As a novice screenwriter waiting for their big break, you watch it and about half way through realise that you can write an even better hedgehog crime fighting movie. So you spend the next three weeks hammering away at your keyboard non stop, not pausing to eat or sleep or appease grumpy loved ones. But in the end it's all worth it, as you've managed to produce a script so good that it positively fizzes on the page.

You've also just wasted the past three weeks.

You see no matter how good your script, it's highly unlikely that any major Hollywood studio would touch it. Because, truth be told, by the time you've sent your script to the power players in cinema not only have they each received 500,000 identical scripts that week, but they've also had their own hedgehog crime fighting movie in development for months and months before hand. It's like when the Da Vinci Code went nuclear and all of a sudden there were a million other pot boiler thrillers about hidden codes in ancient texts clogging up bookstore shelves. Those books weren't written overnight (Gee Note: Although considering the derivative nature of most of them you'd be forgiven for thinking they were). Instead book publishers probably had these novels on the back burner, unsure what to do with them until the Da Vinci Code came along and did gangbuster numbers. In the entertainment industry the key is always to anticipate trends before they happen. That or start a new one.

So it's quite surprising then that five whole seasons of the celebrated television show Lost have come and gone before FlashForward was finally aired.

Then again perhaps not. Lost is on it's last legs, the coming season already confirmed to be it's final one. And with it's demise goes one of the consistently top ratings draws in ABC's arsenal. So it's only natural that ABC's exec's should try and find a carbon copy replacement to fill the airwaves.

This is where FlashForward comes in. It's premise is a simple one. An unknown event causes every man, woman, and child on Earth to black out for two minutes and 17 seconds. During this blackout they all see a vision of their own future six months down the line. Of course this being television everyone’s future is absurdly eventful. Like fighting swat teams with your bare hands, or drinking tequila slammers with an emu. Then everyone wakes up, dust themselves off and goes about the business of trying to work out what the hell just happened.

So far, so Lost. But you’d be a fool for thinking that FlashForward is some kind of identikit remake of Jack Sheppard and chums adventures on the island. You see Flashforward differs in one key aspect.

It’s not as good.

It tries it’s damnedest you understand. There’s unexpected creatures, like a Kangaroo hoping through Los Angeles for no reason. There’s an international cast of mixed ethnicity, including the stunningly beautiful Gabrielle Union, an Asian-American named Demetri (Gee Note: Why a dude with two Korean parents would have a Russian name is never explained. But then names aren’t everything. So says I, Gareth Danger Excitement Ninjaskills HOT Rhys Davies), and a pair of plummy Englishmen in the criminally underrated Jack Davenport and the criminally dull Joseph Fiennes. There’s even the occasional familiar face from Lost in there, with Sonya Walger and Dominic Monaghan amongst the series regulars. And of course, the plot is driven by a set of questions that lead to some more questions that, in turn, lead to yet more questions.

But the difference is that in all those areas where Lost succeeds FlashForward, er, doesn’t. Where the Polar Bears served a genuine purpose in posing a threat to the islanders, the Kangaroo just hops in to view and quickly hops back out of it. There’s no sense that it’s a mystery begging to be explained, just a whacky visual effect used to manipulate audience curiosity. Maybe it means something. Maybe it doesn’t. The fact is that currently in the series it’s a throwaway moment with absolutely no relevance to anything happening around it. It’s as if the show runners got together in a room and said:

“Hey guys. We need something to separate us from all those other metaphysical time travel dramas on television at the moment. Any ideas?” 

“Hmmm. Hey I got it. How about, now stick with me on this, but how about we get Joe to walk past a kangaroo?” 

“Why would there be a kangaroo in Los Angeles?”

“It doesn’t matter. We won’t mention it again and if someone asks we’ll just say it escaped from a zoo or something.”

“Hmmm. Kangaroo you say? I like it! It’s crazy! It’s unexpected! And it’s sooooo fits Los… um… I mean FlashForward. Good work guys. Let’s take the rest of the day off.”

The international cast is a mixed bag as well. Joseph Fiennes is by no means horrendous but doesn’t smoulder the way a leading man should. He just doesn’t have a smile or a light behind his eyes that could break hearts and weaken knees. And while I’m sure he will excel when the time comes to be full of anguish and internal torture, I’m not convinced he has enough to keep us interested in the meantime. Sonya Walger is also insanely unremarkable, to the point where you forget how charming and appealing she was in Lost. On the other hand, Davenport manages to carry the weight of the world’s problems around with him with such subtlety that it becomes quite touching. And  John Cho - playing everyone’s favourite Russian Korean FBI agent - is by far and away the stand out performer, managing to blend both rage and vulnerability seamlessly as he contemplates his future.

However the "unanswered question" plot structure also proves to be problematic. Even Lost struggles with it occasionally, walking a fine line between intriguing and frustrating all too often (Gee Note: Who attacked Sayid? Well that was John Locke. Why did he do it? Because Locke believes they were brought to the island for a purpose. Why does he think that? A great big smoke monster went up to him in the jungle and didn't kill him. Where the hell did the great big smoke monster come from? It lives in a well under Ben Linus' house? Why does it live… oh forget it). However in FlashForward's ham fisted attempts to follow suit they ratchet that frustration up another notch.

For example, at one point Joseph Fiennes discovers that the name "D. Gibbons" is apparently hugely important to all this time travel stuff. Then in one of those "Dun dun duuuuuuunnnnnn" episode endings he asks his suitably creep daughter what she saw in her future vision thing. The daughter answers with a cryptic "D. Gibbons is a BAD man.". Roll end credits while the audience goes "Oooh I wonder what she means!"

So in the next episode the first five minutes is devoted to a very serious Joseph Fiennes prising the information out of his daughter as to what EXACTLY she saw during her blackout right? Well, er, no actually. In fact it isn't mentioned again at all, as we're supposed to believe the conversation ended right there and Fiennes went off to Germany to talk to a Nazi war criminal about dead crows (Gee Note: Don't ask). Now I don't know about you, but if my child came home one day acting all weird the very first thing I would is sit them down, give them a cuddle, and make sure I understood precisely what was bothering them. Either that or lock them in the attic with a bucket of fish heads. Regardless that son of a gun is going to spill, especially if the fate of the world depends on it.

And here in lies the problem. FlashForward is so obsessed with being something else that it largely ignores the things that work in it’s favour. It's probably assembled one of the finest casts in television history, and so the writers should be climbing over themselves to give these folks something to sink their teeth in to. Instead we get cardboard cut-outs of characters going through the motions, killing time until the next feeble plot twist comes along. In the very first episode we learn that Fiennes is a recovering alcoholic. Great, except it has absolutely no impact on his day to day life apart from having to attend the occasional AA meeting. We never see him struggle with the addiction, instead he spends his time charging around the globe searching for clues. In that case why bother making him an alcoholic in the first place? It would be like everyone in Top Gun talking about how great a pilot Tom Cruise is, only to never show him flying a plane.

The aftermath of the blackout was shot beautifully, displaying the visceral carnage of buses ploughing through walls and planes dropping out of the sky with aplomb. But instead of lingering on the chaos by - say - following a brave fire fighter dramatically rescuing some helpless folk, we’re whisked away from it all far too quickly. We follow Joseph Fiennes as he heroically runs away from the destruction, stumbles across a kangaroo and thinks nothing of it, before arriving back at his FBI office to stare at a white board. “But… but” you cry, “there was all sorts of mad as a badger shit going on there. Why are we following this tedious mong when we could be watching explosions and fire and stuff?”. Why indeed.

Still we’d better get used to it, as this time next year there won’t be anymore Lost and FlashForward might be the only game in town. And, on the evidence so far, if that’s the case I hope we all blackout.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Now, why would you call his mother a garden tool?

With all the gardening and other heroic stuff I've been doing lately (Gee Note: Seriously, with no thought for my own safety, over the past two weeks or so I've been tackling giant life forms with my bare hands. Admittedly they were all large plants but, still, it's like I'm a ginger Flash Gordon or something. There should really be a picture of me with my shirt undone to my navel while women swoon around me. By the way I love the Flash Gordon movie. Remember that bit where Flash uses the guard's helmet like an American Football, and the chief bad guy gets all his men in a huddle and goes "He's playing a game. You must match him. Like this!" and then Flash gets knocked out because the weedy scientist can't throw properly? Fantastic stuff. Also it has Brian Blessed. And a great soundtrack. Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun FLASH aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh. Words can not describe how awesome it is.) things have become a wee bit backed up. Both my Facebook and Twitter accounts lay dormant, as does my email inbox. In fact it turns out that I haven't actually replied to any email that's been sent to me in the past three weeks. Which I'm sure is in no way related to the fact that a lot of people think I'm a jerk.

And so with that in mind, here's some of the stuff I need to catch up on:

Three emails from our old friend, the online psychic Tara - Tara has obviously decided that reasoning with me is a waste of time, and so has started shouting at me in the hope that I'll send her some money for a psychic reading. No really - her last email literally read "WHAT IS GOING ON Gareth?". I swear I've had relationship break ups that involved less drama than this.

Two emails from Facebook - Funny story. It turns out that Gareth Rhys Davies is also a male model, previously employed by Storm Model Agency. In 2007 Gareth made the movie Cut Sleeve Boys. Here’s the synopsis from the film’s official website.

MEL and ASH are two British Chinese gay men who studied and drink lychee martinis together. After attending the funeral of GAVIN, a closet case from their university days, they start examining the crow’s feet on their faces and questioning the meaning of the labels in their wardrobes.

Mel, an aging scene queen with the ego of Norma Desmond, believes life is a beauty pageant with him always the winner. He rejects the love of Todd, a provincial boy from the Welsh valleys who moves to London to be with him, in favour of quick-fix Botox sex to fight his insecurities. But how long can he sashay down the catwalk when his eye bags are bigger than his Gucci bags? And who is going to be waiting at the end of the rainbow when there is no place like home?

Yeah, I have no idea what Botox sex is either. Regardless Cut Sleeve Boys was a minor cult hit in the gay community, and seeing as Gareth’s character Todd was shown walking around shirtless for - oh gosh - the entire time he was on screen, it made him a bit of a star. So to cut a long story short, every so often I get a friend request from someone living in Eastern Europe who is listed as:

Gender: Male
Interested in: Men
Relationship Status: Single.

Two emails from Rob at Generation Minus One - One with a link to an online podcast in which a group of friends discuss who would win in a fight between various made up monsters. The other to tell me I'm a loser and his website is better than mine. Probably. I don't know.

One email from Bonnie Fairbrass - Delightful Bonnie Fairbrass sent me a mail to tell me she was enjoying the blog. Also that she was slightly tipsy. Which may or may not be connected.

One email from John Henry Fleming - A creative writing lecturer from the University of South Florida. Mr Fleming stumbled across this blog because apparently his next short story has a sleep walking Elvis strolling through the woods. And, let's face it, who wouldn't want to read that? John has a book on sale called "Fearsome Creatures of Florida" that I would give somebody else's left arm to read (Gee Note: An arm's an arm right? No sense giving one of yours if you don't have to) but apparently you can't get it here in the UK. So either some benevolent soul will have to send me a copy from the U.S. or I'll have to resign myself to looking longingly at it from a distance. You know, like the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 boxset I've been after for the past two years. She will be mine. Oh yes. She will be mine.

One email from a Mattress store - No really, a mattress store. Apparently they read the blog and have decided that they would give me a free mattress for a "competition prize" in exchange for heavy promotion of their store. Now while I'm really not above selling out, I have no idea what to do with this. Do I accept their offer? If so what the f*** am I going to do with a mattress? "Hey guys, it's competition time!!! And we're giving away this fantastic mattress!!! To be in with a chance of winning all you'll need to do is answer this question: What is the Dover Demon? Is it A) An unknown creature allegedly spotted in the Dover, Massachusetts area in April 1977, B) Ted Danson, C) A really big burger served by Pop's All American Diner, or D) Your mother?". See, I'm not sure the mattress people really read this blog.

One email from iTunes - “Here is you receipt for WITCH DOCTOR by the CARTOONS” said the email. “Huh?” said I, “I don’t remember purchasing that.” And then I remembered that I got drunk one Friday night and, sure enough, decided that my life wasn’t complete without some Ooo Eee Ooo Aaah Aaah Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang.

One email from Rachel - My friend Rachel sent me mail to tell me that she thinks her new lodger is a terrorist.

Another email from Rachel - It turns out, no, they're not a terrorist.

One email from my dad - My dad actually rang me about six seconds after he sent it to tell me exactly what this email was about. Which seems like overkill I agree, but then my dad doesn’t really trust technology. Or politicians. Or supermarket cashiers.

And, finally, one email from myself - Now you may be wondering why I would send myself a mail. Well the truth is I have an attention span about the same size as Mel Gibson’s chances of making Schindler‘s List 2: Back To The Camp. All too often I’ll have an idea that is lost as soon as I see something shiny. Or something with buttons you can push. And so if I happen to have a flash of brilliance or, more likely, think of something I want for dinner that night I’ve made it a rule to either write it down or mail it to myself. This one was, well, something I had completely forgotten about. It simply read “Don’t forget to do something on the Lake Van Monster soon”

Let's go all the way back to year 1995. The world was in mourning as music legends and entertainment juggernaughts Kid N' Play disbanded. Leaving a massive hole in my life the show business world, the music industry concentrated on filling the void with such pop classics as "Boombastic" by Shaggy and, er, well that was about it. Movie studios, realising that the cash cow that was House Party would be no longer, faired slightly better. Indeed 1995 saw the release of the incredibly good Godzilla vs Destroyah, the almost brilliant Die Hard: With a Vengeance, the spellbinding La Haine (Gee Note: Which was the launch point of Vincent Cassel's successful attempt to appear in every French movie ever made), and everybody’s favourite Sandra Bullock film, While You Were Sleeping. Sadly however their attempts at putting a smile on the world's collective face was marred with insufferable tosh such as Showgirls, Batman Forever, and Waterworld.

It's not known whether news of the loss of Kid N' Play travelled all the way to Turkey. What is known is that around the same time people started to claim that something fishy was going in Lake Van.

Lake Van is the largest lake in Turkey, measuring 74 miles at it's widest point and a recorded depth of 1480 ft. It has no outlet, instead receiving water from numerous small streams from surrounding mountains. Due to the lack of fresh water flowing through it, it has a high level of sodium carbonite and other salts. In fact it is so salty that upon tasting it Gordon Ramsey would probably spit it out and shout at someone. It's also the only known home to a breed of fish called the Pearl Mullet (Gee Note: Sounds like a redneck's haircut) which are potentially endangered due to the fact that fish are stupid and can't learn to avoid nets.

Now Lake Van has been like that for centuries and no one has really thought twice about it. That was until sometime around 1995 when reports started coming in of a "monster" in them there waters. It was described as being Plesiosaur like, around fifteen metres long with spikes on it's back. Still nobody took any notice, for a number of reasons actually. For a start Kid N' Play had recently broke up, and people had much more important things to discuss. Secondly misidentified animals are reported all the time. Heck only this morning I was walking over a footbridge on the River Tawe when I could have sworn I saw an alligator swimming towards me. Turns out it was a duck. Not even a particularly bad ass duck either. Just a regular quacking, beak nosed, feather wearing duck.

One man was convinced there was something to it however (Gee Note: The monster in Lake Van I mean. Nobody cares about the duck I saw this morning). Unal Kozak, a 26 year old teaching assistant from local Van university, became obsessed with the monster, interviewing the ever increasing number of folks who claimed to have seen it. He spent many a day circling the lake, finding a nice spot, and setting up a video camera - hoping to catch a shot of the wee beasty.

For two years Unal sat around waiting for a miracle to happen. And then in 1997, one did.

It was CNN who broke the story. Under the headline "Sea Monster or Monster Hoax?" (Gee Note: Well it isn't a sea monster for a start. Because it's in a lake. Not the sea. So there's half your question answered right there. I know, it's like I'm Sherlock Holmes or something.) posted on June 12th 1997, it featured the overjoyed Unal claiming to have finally captured footage of the creature. Said video was then supplied on the website and, copywrite infringements be dammed, posted all over Youtube.

So definitive proof that large animals previously unknown to science not only exist, but are splashing around willy nilly in the waters of Turkey. Surely there was much rejoicing to be had?

Well, not really, no.

You see the people who are serious about this type of thing are a sceptical bunch, and soon all sorts of questions were put forward. Like why does the camera never pan left? Why is the creature moving in a straight line rather than side to side? Why does it not breath in, just out? Why oh why oh why do they keep repeating shows on TV? All of which remain an unanswered. In fact, until the beast is caught, filleted, and served on a plate in front of them with a potato fondant and a red wine jus (Gee Note: In an unrelated note I've been watching a lot of Masterchef recently) then many people simply won't believe it. It also doesn't help that the large amount of publicity the monster has attracted has boosted tourism to Lake Van, so much so that the local government has erected a statue in it's honour.

(Gee Note: When I was I kid I used to have a couple of toys that were a bit like Transformers. Except that instead of turning from cool cars in to giant robots they turned from eggs in to dinosaurs. Not very successfully I might add. You'd end up with a T-Rex's head on a fat egg shaped body. For some reason the Lake Van Monster statue always reminds me of them).

Couple that to the fact that Kozak immediately had the good sense to cash in on his video and write a book about the monster, and you can understand why folks may dismiss the entire thing as hogwash.

Still it's a good old yarn. Enough to attract a Japanese film crew to the lake a couple of years ago (Gee Note: How come every lake rumoured to have a monster living in it get's a visit from a Japanese film crew? Seriously, every time I look up one of these things online I always find something about a Japanese film crew with a motorised submarine. Loch Ness, Heaven Lake, hell there's even been one in Llyn Tegid. Seriously these guys get everywhere. Which means there's either hundreds of these crew's waiting to mobilise the moment some fruit cake mistakes an otter for a woolly mammoth, or they're one highly specialised crack commando unit dedicated to filming lots of rippling waves while nothing happens. Actually, that would make an awesome sitcom. Think about it. A group of whacky scientist living together, lead by Matt Le Blanc who thinks that their one big break is just around the corner. "Hey Guys!" he'll say at the beginning of each episode "A badger with David Letterman's head and wheels for legs has been spotted in Lake Sottoshaw. Let's get in the van!". "Oh not agaaaaain!!!" the rest of them will say. And upon hearing this catchphrase the audience will start laughing, whooping and hollering. Cut to a theme song by some neutered middle of the road soft rock ensemble and BOOM we've gotta show.). And maybe, just maybe, there is something lurking under the surface of Lake Van. Since 1995 alone there have been over 1000 sightings of the creature, a number that's added to all the time. Which in itself is arguably enough to suggest that Lake Van does contain some type of mystery.

Or maybe it's just one big hoax. And if it is, it would hard not to begrudge Unal Kozak his moment in the sun. Because, despite the scepticism, his video of the Lake Van Monster has never been thoroughly discredited to this day. Instead it remains an intriguing enigma.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to email myself a new idea for a TV show before I forget.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Keep behind me. There's no sense in getting killed by a plant.

Now this may come as a shock to some of you, but I'm not what you would call a practical man. I mean if you need someone who could tell you who wrote, directed and starred in the horror movie "Def By Temptation" then I'm your guy. However if you need your washing machine fixed or something then, well, you'd be better off asking someone else. Put it this way, the last time I tried putting up a picture I ended up nailing my shirt sleeve in to the wall and breaking the photo frame. It's like I am David and DIY is my Goliath. Except Goliath always wins. Convincingly. And then dances around me while chanting "You suck!" over and over again.

Well that was until last week.

Before we start I really should explain something. I hate gardening. I mean really hate gardening. Actually a more accurate statement would be I hate gardening when I have to do it. Because, deep down, I'd love to be able to grow my own vegetables and cross pollinate Roses and Shrubs to create, oh God I don't know, Shroses. It's just I'll be damned if I can put the effort in. As such gardening is firmly established in the realm of something "other people" do. Such as working out. Or learning how to play guitar.

So it should come as no surprise when I say that the last time I did any work in my back garden, Michael Jackson was still alive and nowhere near as popular, George Walker Bush was President of the United States, and very few folks thought that Kanye West was a complete jerk. Problem was during that time my garden was taken over by a large family of Triffids whose sole purpose was to grow to head height and make me look bad in front of the neighbours.

Anyway at the tail end of last week I found myself with nothing else to do, and so decided to cowboy up and tackle this gigantic floral mess once and for all. And so, armed with an industrial petrol strimmer I'd hired that afternoon (Gee Note: "I'd like a petrol strimmer please!" said I. "What type would you like?" asked the Hire Store guy. "What do you mean?" I replied. "Well" said he, "Is it stuff like grass your looking to cut down, or something thicker like brambles?". "Er, it's green." said I. "That's probably grass" said he, with a knowing smile. Those Hire Store guys sure do know their stuff.) and dressed to impress in a pair of goggles and safety gloves, I set to it.

All in all it took about seven hours of constant strimming. That's not including the half hour it took for me to realise that the reason the strimmer wasn't cutting stuff down anymore was because the cord needing rethreading. By the end of it all I was sweating, aching, and covered in gunk.

I was also as giddy as a penguin (Gee Note: Penguins are giddy right?). The reason? Well not only did I kick the garden’s ass, but I had a ton of fun doing it. You see, there’s  something very pleasing about hacking up plants with a piece of machinery that could turn your limbs in to confetti should you make one false move. The sense of achievement as you hold down the trigger and watch the greenery fly above your head. The sheer joy in retiring for a cup of tea and discovering that you still have all ten toes. Had I honestly known how enjoyable it was going to be I would have done it months ago.

Which is all well and good. But sadly it means this blog has suffered in the process, as my cheery disposition has meant that I’ve been far too flighty to concentrate properly. I haven’t even been able to choose a topic to blog about this week. I managed to narrow the possibilities down to two choices but after that got a wee bit stuck. I simply couldn’t choose between the two, like Pamela Anderson with Tommy Lee and Kid Rock. Except with less tattoos. And less drugs. And less sex tapes. So not really like that at all. Anyway, as if I was Commissioner Gordon throwing up the Bat signal, I picked up the phone and called my good friend Jenny from Generation Minus One.

Without telling her why I asked her to flip a coin for me. If it came up heads I’d blog about topic A, if it came up tails then we’d go with topic B. Not only does it make my decision for me, but this way if it’s no good I can always blame her. Win win? You’re damn right it’s win win.

It came up tails.

There’s been a loose series of posts on here recently about folk who should know better claiming to have had dealings with extra terrestrials. Like the Japanese First Lady. Or the former Vietnam Vet from Florida. And obviously I enjoyed finding out more about these crazy characters when composing those posts. But part of me was relived that nobody like that had come from the UK. You see being a tiny island filled with tea drinking, crooked toothed dandies we need all the help we can get when it comes to international relations. The last thing we need is some fruit cake banging on about how they saw an alien walking down the high street one breezy morning.

Meet Adrian Hicks.


Mr Hicks is an orthopaedic technician in the Accident and Emergency department at Royal Hampshire County Hospital, a role he's held for the past 35 years. He is also a member of Winchester Council representing the Lib Dems. Basically he’s the kind of guy that on paper screams pillar of the community. Thankless job that benefits the community? Check. Heavily involved in the grass roots of local politics? Check. How can this guy not be the straightest of straight arrows?

The answer to that question is “When he claims he once spotted an alien moseying on through Winchester city centre.”.

Says Adrian:

I was near The Works bookshop when I saw this strange woman, a humanoid walking with a penguin-like gait. She had very large prominent eyes and was twirling her hands in a circular motion (Gee Note: HA! I told you penguins were giddy). She seemed friendly and totally at ease with us. She wasn’t scared, she was smiling, and seemed to be enjoying herself among us. She walked very slowly up the High Street. I remember she was very interested in the clock over Lloyds Bank. She was taking it all in. She was human enough to get away with it. Everybody’s heads were turning.

Hicksy claims this was in January or February 2004. However Adrian didn’t go public with his sighting until earlier this year. Why? Well Winchester’s finest was afraid that people might not elect him councillor if they thought he was crazy (Gee Note: I wouldn’t worry too much about that. It worked for Margaret Thatcher after all.). Instead Hicks spent £400 employing a sketch artist to knock up an accurate depiction of Miss Universe.

Well she sure is a striking individual. So how did the sensible shoe wearing Adrian react upon spying such a vision?

I was very confused and shocked. I was going to say ‘excuse me, you’re not from around here?’ but I thought it best to leave her alone.

So if we’re to believe Mr. Hicks and accept that this is a being from outer space (Gee Note: Rather than, say, a slightly barmy lady wearing big glasses) one question is perhaps more important than any other. What the hell was it doing in Winchester?

I think we have established contact, because I have seen this ‘being’ in the High Street. Other people will have seen her. I would like them to come forward. Clearly there are UFOs flying around and I’m keen to set up a UFO watch group for Winchester.

UFOs are flying in and out of the military base – Winchester is the UFO capital of Europe. (Gee Note: You must be so proud)

So is Hampshire the first place in the world to genuinely house creatures from another world? Well yeah. Sure it is. I mean Adrian Hicks seems like a decent guy, so there’s no reason to doubt…

Oh who am I kidding? Anyone who looks at that picture and listens to the eye witness report and thinks “Dude, a crazy woman walking around a city centre. I’ve never heard of that before! It must be aliens!” is in need of serious help. In the case of Cllr Hicks however he genuinely does seem to be a nice man, and maybe it’s just a case of him wanting to believe in something so much that he’s let his imagination run wild with him.

Either that or Winchester have elected a lunatic to public office. Which would be madness of the highest kind.

You know, like enjoying gardening.

Or leaving a blog post up to the toss of a coin.