Sunday, August 30, 2015

Alrightreads: August

So am I just going to keep listing every book I ever read from now on, like some kind of Art Garfunkel? Hopefully it's just for the rest of the year. Next year can get its own damn gimmick.

It's not going to quiet down any time soon, as this month my wife got an new phone for her birthday and I inherited the old one, so I now have a portable, fun-size e-reader and audiobook player (I don't know if it has other functions).

Now I can keep reading while pretending to sleep! It's like being eight again. Hopefully I won't ruin my eyes as much this time.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Gareth Shinks' Absolutely Boring, Normal Day (demo)

I was putting together a blog post of synopses for things I'm clearly never going to write – story concepts anarchically bashed out on Notepad between cryptic password reminders and dream notes, older ideas languishing sadly in the '2011 Stuff' folder – when I was astonished to see that I had actually got round to writing this one.

Or at least made a determined start on it before getting visibly ground down by the tedious task and spoiling it before quitting. I wrote this a few years ago while stranded in a Malaysian city for several weeks, for reasons that I won't bore you with because you're about to be bored out of your goddamned mind as it is.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Alrightreads: July

So I did my arbitrary 100 books. Not all were equally worthy, and my attention wandered during some of the ones I didn't really enjoy but forced myself to get through in the name of fun. It's almost like it's all just a meaningless activity to give me something to do and cut down on the TV.

So there's no point stopping now; only stopping pretending it's some kind of challenge or achievement. Will I still bother to read as much without the fear of defeat pushing me on? One way to make sure could be to actually read things I might actually like. Which probably means things are going to get even more repetitive.

So to begin/end I went on a victory lap/month, revisiting favourite authors from the year so far and giving less favourite ones a second chance. It turns out you're allowed to do that.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Dream journal: Celebrity edition

I'm struggling for themes, and since a sizeable quantity of the recent dreams I bothered to jot down after waking (I said waking) involved a famous person of some kind, let's go with that. I'll tell you now that these aren't the sexy type of celebrity dreams - they exclusively feature quite old men.

Here are 20 more interesting-only-to-me unconscious adventures.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Alrightreads: June

After spending a month at the grown-up table (with a couple of exceptions), it was back to lightweight books in both senses for June. It was much more enjoyable, taking me back to those days of dipping in and out of several library books a night. Do you remember libraries? And pavements? And weather?

It's not only so I can get through this quicker. I prefer concise stories that are less likely to leave me lost and confused when my attention wanders every couple of chapters (especially treacherous with audiobooks) and having to catch up with the Wikipedia summary that's been floating in my tabs all week.

And when there's the occasional non-fiction topic I feel like reading about, and I convince myself to turn to an authoritative book on the subject rather than click through a few quick web pages that would satisfy that curiosity in a matter of minutes, I'd rather not be bogged down with the encyclopaedia.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ranking the Dizzy games, even though it's 2015 and I'm nearly 30

When listening to audiobooks, I like to have something to keep my eyes busy without being too much of a distraction to the old noggin. I used to do this by going on day trips and walking around. More recently, I've been playing through every one of Codemasters' Dizzy adventure games on Amiga and Spectrum emulators. I am nearly 30 years old. I liked some of them better than others.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Helping the misfortunate

Like all humble philanthropists, I don't like to talk about my charity work. Though in my case that's because I don't do very much, beyond a monthly Red Cross direct debit that could be a lot bigger, the annual Herring, buying the occasional charity eBook to offset my guilt for stealing all the others and dropping coins into cups on the rare occasions I head into civilisation. I'm no Jimmy Savile, is what I'm saying.

Living in what can inaccurately but emotively be called 'the third world' ('developing country' isn't any more accurate), you can imagine that my first world guilt is pushed to its limits every day as I walk past malnourished men, women and infants sprawled out on cardboard in the street, the ones who still possess a modicum of strength extending a withered hand in a silent, impassioned plea.

Well, you'd be wrong, as like all foreigners and aspiring middle-class people here I shield myself from the distasteful poverty by living behind guarded gates, out of reach of the zombie-like peasants' aimlessly grasping arms. I feel like a right prick when we look at prospective houses in gated subdivisions, but I know this is an unfortunate necessity to keep the more desperate locals away from my door and so I won't have to switch off the lights and hide in the dark when the trick-or-treaters come calling.

I try not to shut myself away completely though, and stay updated on all the latest depressing news stories more than I ever did back 'home,' where things just objectively weren't as bad. Are the Tories reducing your access to free medical care? That's a shame, we're just dealing with inevitable annual supertyphoons, the threat of war with China and the government handing over part of the island I live on to terrorists. I'm not so self-involved (LOL!) to not let my cushy, shut-in life be affected by the miserable hell outside, even if I feel powerless to do anything beyond the one-to-one level.

I've often wondered what it would take to shock me out of this apathy and to take a stand, and today I finally reached that level. Reading my favoured opinionated local news blog - which is the best I've found even if you have to tolerate the occasional homo/Islamophobia - my heart went out to one of its regular contributors, who valiantly bared his soul to tell us:

"I have the misfortune of having to live with house-help who enjoy watching local TV that is utterly filled with errors and worse. As much as I’d like to put a stop to it, I try to be a gracious host and employer and allow them to watch whatever it is they want. “To each his own” after all."

Goddamn, feels like someone just ripped the aorta right outta me.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Alrightreads: May

Anyone who's commissioned repetitive corporate work from me knows that I'm a firm believer in doing things properly and by the book, though preferably with the minimal amount of time and effort expended.

It's satisfying to tick off a book a day and get this self-imposed task over with quicker, but those picture books and Choose Your Own Adventures have to be balanced out. And however much I might enjoy all those undemanding pick-'n'-mix short story anthologies, when this is over, it's the (necessarily longer) stories I've spent more time immersed in that are going to be the most memorable, for better or worse.

So this month, I restricted myself to books of at least 480 pages. It was supposed to be 500 pages, but then I saw that the bird book I'd been looking forward to was a bit shorter than that (including full-page title pages, and admittedly quite a lot of said pages were taken up by pretty pictures). What are you going to do, mark me down?

Monday, May 4, 2015

A weird tale

I may have given up on the dream of writing creatively for a living as soon as I left university and entered the real world (not going back there again), but I can only consume so much of other people's works before I feel guilty and need to give something back, however paltry. Maybe I'll write a story a month? Not going to happen.

I wanted to call this 'Gob of Death,' but feared that might compromise the tone somewhat. Then I resorted to silliness anyway, never mind.

Octopus photo credit, before I forget: Alexander Semenov.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Alrightreads: April

I hadn't intended to read a book a day this month, but when it got to about half-way through and I realised things were averaging out that way, I thought I might as well commit.

Admittedly, I didn't exactly tackle any whopping Dickenses or David Ickes this month. I've bought myself the time for those now.