Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best of 2014, Not from 2014



It's the end of another arbitrary year, as if you hadn't noticed, and an opportunity for pathetic blogs to beg for desperate clicks by publishing banal end-of-year lists of some things they are aware were broadly popular within the previous 12 months, without risking revealing too much about their individual taste and putting off the clickers with obscure choices.

This isn't one of those blogs. I'm not interested in your clicks or your opinions, and I don't much care whether something's new as long as it's new to me. I barely bothered to keep up with what the kids were into even when I was one, and now that I live in exile under the tyranny of an 800MB daily download limit, my entertainment options of late have been limited. It's been the year of the low-bandwidth BBC Radio 4 iPlayer and occasionally being spoiled by the fuzzy textures and barely legible text of 240p YouTube videos when my standard 144p isn't available.

So here's a list of things I can remember happening to like in 2014, which invariably weren't made this year. I did enjoy some things made this year too - some of them quite a lot - but what chance does a single year have to stand out among all those multiple decades that preceded it (depending on the medium)?

I was going to do this last year, but abandoned it because it seemed a bit like a pointless waste of time. You can judge whether that means I've grown or shrunk as a person over the past year. You can also let me know your anachronistic picks if you like, I do care a bit.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fiction therapy



When I graduated with a creative writing degree seven years ago, I had to make the decision whether I was going to follow my calling and walk in the footsteps of all the people I admired by living the frustrating life of the struggling artist, or sell out to The Man and use my 'skill' of being able to rewrite the same page 50 times in slightly different ways to convince you to book overpriced flights.

If I was bolder, less concerned with financial security and had more interest in writing things people would actually be interested in reading, I could be writing this from a grotty squat above a cafe that reluctantly tolerated my open mic short stories once a Thursday in exchange for helping out in the kitchen. Instead, I'm writing this on a terrible Wi-Fi connection in an inexpensive condo in the Philippines surrounded by a cultural desert but with plenty of money in the bank. I'm not confident I made the right decision.

I've been writing corporate propaganda for a living for five years now, and it's safe to say it's completely sapped my creative spirit. Since I stopped travelling and settled down a bit, I've been taking on so much work that even when I've had an idea bubbling away, I haven't had the hours free to write it. Today was my first free day in weeks, so when no urgent work requests had showed up in my inbox by lunchtime, I eagerly bashed out my latest abomination. It felt great.

This is the sort of story I would normally spend a few days meticulously planning, with diagrams following through on every small detail (like I did for this one). Since I don't have the time to perfect it and become too disillusioned to bother writing it any more (that happens most of the time), here's the raw creative explosion, complete with overlong sentences, needlessly confusing diversions and inevitable plot holes. It doesn't much matter whether you like it, I had a good time.

If I don't have any work tomorrow either, I might even venture out of the flat and do something. Wouldn't that be a novelty!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Thieving Bastards VI: Legitimate Bastard



Getting myself published in proper, non-internet book form was one of my vague ambitions when I was younger, before I met people who were actually active in pursuit of that ambition, expending considerable time, effort and life force to get their work noticed in the fickle maelstrom, and I realised I didn't have the necessary determination.

But now it might be happening accidentally, as I got an email from a professor in Brazil requesting the use of one of my photos of Jeju Island for a book she's writing about coasts for a proper publisher. And by 'request,' I mean she bothered going through the proper legal channels and getting my signed permission to reproduce something anyone could just steal from the internet (or rather, the slightly better quality version on my hard drive).

I didn't expect it would be my photography 'skills' that would be my path to secluded footnote immortality, but as the saying goes, if you obsessively document your activities for four years and throw enough shit jpgs at Picasa, some of it will stick.

This is how you're supposed to do it, bastards.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

26 ways to enjoy tedious bus journeys (if you are a bit strange)



I don't normally bother offering tips or advice unless it benefits me in some way, like if I'm trying to work out what I think about an issue or just letting off steam about taxi drivers. Seriously, what a load of knobs.

Still, coming up with the following list and then needlessly alphabetising it helped to fill some of the dead time when being driven across Thailand in a cramped minibus, trying to ignore the stranger's head intermittently perching on my rigid shoulder and the topless man in the row in front complaining about the country to his local girlfriend to an excessive degree that made my own rants look like tourist board propaganda by comparison ('Why do they need so many f-ing drains?' 'Because of flooding.' 'But a hundred on one f-ing street?' 'Yes, there are typhoons and flooding.' 'Well, still.')

If you think you would be perfectly content passing the time talking to the people you like, playing with your phone or just sleeping, this list isn't for you. This is just for freaks.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Oliver is... Paphosterous

Oliver is a bit busy and lazy to bother writing his own travel blogs these days, so since I'm lacking inspiration in my own boring life and seeking any escape from boring work writing, I wanted to help him out. He provided the requested photos without even commenting on what a strange request it was. That was nice of him.

I don't know what he got up to in Paphos, what he thought about it or what these photos are of, since I haven't been there myself. But I've tried my best to get inside his mind and emulate his style so it wouldn't be too obvious. I'm not going to do anything boring like research though.

Oliver, feel free to copy and paste this into Wordpress as is.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Absolutely pointless nostalgia: The history of my email addresses



Do you remember the internet? What was all that about?

I don't mean the useful communication service integrally entangled with myriad aspects of our professional and private lives, that indispensable utility you take for granted until you live in a country that enforces a mandatory blackout hour daily because the monopoly electricity provider is typically inept.

I mean the internet, that fun commodity that you persuaded your parents to hook up to your clucking Windows 95 desktop after being awed by its clueless promotion in such Hollywood blockbusters as The Net and Children's BBC's The Web (I remember something about Zoe Ball running from a big spider, probably some kind of metaphor for sex predators).

The internet you were so impatient to use as your mum's boyfriend slowly connected the modem and explained in tedious detail how to use Internet Explorer 1 or whatever, but when you finally got your freedom to surf the information superhighway with the world's knowledge at your fingertips you didn't really know what to do, so just downloaded some blurry League of Gentlemen wallpapers and joined the first small forum or Yahoo! Group you came across dedicated to your favourite TV show or band which you doggedly stuck with for a year. You know, that internet.

Like other impulsive decisions you made and attitudes you embraced in your teenage years, those early email addresses could go on to spoil your whole life.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Rubbish travel T-shirts you need to stop buying



I'm not the fashion police. The fact that I just used the term 'fashion police' should give you an idea of how diligently I keep up with the latest trends generally. I never want to look like I'm trying to be fashionable, to the extent that I've always actively curated a blandly unfashionable wardrobe, avoiding branding and unnecessary designs wherever possible - until I started travelling that is, when location-branded T-shirts became the only form of souvenir I allowed myself.

Now I'm not travelling so much and spending more time shut up in a flat, all those exotic place names do seem less relevant, and I'm back to the frustrating annual exercise of tearing through pointlessly patterned products at overstocked malls to find five cheap T-shirts with differently coloured, blank facades that'll see me through the next few years. It's even more difficult to find those over here, where I was led to believe their kids make them, but needs must when my white 'Save the Sea Turtles' shirt gets beiger with every wash and my girlfriend orders me to throw it out.

Since we've been travelling again, my travel tees have felt relevant again and I've been nostalgically reacquainted with some old favourites - bewilderingly popular products sold by pushy vendors on the doorstep of sacred sites (or inside) and in every other shop down your Khao San Roads and Legian Streets. Practical holiday mementos are to be encouraged, but you people need to stop buying: