Monthly Archives: April 2009

The curse of Star Trek: refined

You know the curse: the odd-numbered Star Trek films are bad, the even-numbered ones are good. ST:TMP bad, ST:TWOK good, ST:TSFS bad, ST:TVH good, etc.

(However, the UK MAD magazine cover for ST:TSFS was good: my brother created it. I can’t remember, but I think the idea might have been mine. I’m sure he’ll correct me.)

The traditional curse held until film 10, Star Trek: Nemesis, which was no Khan that’s for sure. And film 11, just coming out now, is reportedly a fine reboot for the franchise.

So I hereby refine the Star Trek curse: the ordinals of the good films have digits that sum to an even number. The bad films have digits that sum to an odd number.

The existing rule and the refined rule agree for films before Nemesis, as they contained only one digit in the ordinal. The refined rule differs at film 10, for which the existing rule wrongly predicted goodness. The refined rule sums 1 + 0 to get 1, an odd number, correctly asserting duffness. And film 11 has good omens as, I am led to believe, 1 + 1 = 2.

Note that I do not here overturn the orthodoxy and cause the heavens to whirl, as Copernicus and Galileo did; I am but a modern Albert poised unsteadily upon Isaac’s shoulders, peeling away the Paramount onion to reveal a deeper truth.

And now, I must sleep.

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Avaragado is 40

DSC_0122.JPGA good birthday party needs a few simple ingredients: food, drink, people, music, cameras and ritual humiliation. All of these were present last Saturday evening when about fifty chums of various flavours converged on the barn at The Punter to celebrate with me as I officially peaked and began the long, slow descent into Alzheimer’s International Airport.

Forty. Forty! It barely seems ten minutes since my thirtieth. It was great to see so many veterans of that night still on speaking terms with me.

Traditionally I put off any planning for my birthday until the latest possible moment and choose a restaurant in a hurry. This year I was exceptionally well-prepared. Back in January I booked the venue, sent pre-invitation invitations to gauge interest, and secured, hush-hush, the services of some very special guests. I must thank Andrew for giving me a few ideas, liking mine and not letting me get away with doing nothing.

The Punter – the latest incarnation of what was once The Town and Gown – would take care of the catering. A notoriously veggie-apathetic pub (every time I visit there’s a token veggie option, invariably a random risotto) I took a keen interest in the food, and requested sample menus. Lots of time to chat about the options, I thought; but as is the way of such things nothing was finalised until the week before the event: a finger buffet, 50:50 veggie:meatie.

To keep track of attendees I fired up a Google spreadsheet, which sat in a browser tab at work and at home for the next three months. Naturally – see blogs passim – I saw a list of names as merely a starting point to a whole raft of pointless stats. There was a purpose, however – that’s what I kept telling myself – as the barn at The Punter had a limit of sixty, so I couldn’t invite the universe and see who turned up. By the day of the event I’d received 55 affirmatives. I figured a certain proportion of no-shows would be balanced by one or two extras, so I threw the number sixty at the pub kitchen (“never knowingly underfed”).

I charged Chris with musical duties, a task I knew he would approach with gusto. He tapped Andrew for additional intelligence on my listening habits. The result was, as Chris described it, a five-and-a-half-hour megamix. To play this we’d need some kind of sound system; and not just a CD player, since my very special guests would require microphonic enhancement. Chris found a kit we could hire: CD player, speakers, mic, mixer. Sorted.

So to the special guests. For my fortieth I wanted something more than just an evening of food and drink with mates, as nice as that is. An idea occurred to me in January and it immediately appealed. What would make for an entertaining, memorable event; provide an experience that would be a first for many of the attendees; and undoubtedly involve some form of ritual humiliation for me? I had just the thing.

They’re called The Fleurettes, and they’re a drag act. Winners of the coveted Drag Idol event in 2005, and – handily – regulars at the Bird in Hand, which I also frequent. I know them pretty well and they readily agreed to assist with my celebration, out of the goodness of their own hearts and also my own wallet. Very few people knew they were coming: I wanted it to be a surprise for as many as possible.

Saturday morning, the day of the event, was relaxing. A quick wander in town, then some trivial yet exciting DIY – screwing some hooks into a picture frame and hanging up my present from Chris and Melanie. Then it got busier. Lunch at The Wrestlers, and another amazing present: 24 DVDs of 1969 films in a custom-made box (a group present from the usual suspects). Then picking up my friend Damon from the station, then a quick stop at Andrew’s to pick up another couple of presents (a cake, plus a T-shirt with a three-UTF-8-character message in binary, and no, it’s none of the ones you’re thinking of), then time for a cuppa back home, then off to Cottenham to pick up Chris – who nearly forgot the music – and straight to Milton to collect the sound system, which we dropped off at The Punter, then home to get changed, then back to the pub to figure out how to put the sound system together, then, finally, party time.

It’s true to say I was a bit apprehensive: would everyone turn up, would the food be OK, would the sound system work, would we successfully avoid making the sound system explode, would people like the Fleurettes… I had nothing to worry about. It all went swimmingly and everyone had a great time – at least that’s what they told me.

The Fleurettes were naturally the highlight of the evening. They picked relentlessly on poor AndyC from work, who I think is now scarred for life. His girlfriend Emma enjoyed it though.

Of course they picked on me too. The dragged me up in front of everyone, and then… dragged me up in front of everyone. (Andrew was also not-so-randomly selected from the audience for the same treatment.) I emerged, chrysalis-like, resembling Amy Winehouse drawn by a three-year-old. It’s safe to say that several photos were taken (see the Flickr group).

You’ll see, in those photos, that I’m wearing a T-shirt. I made this myself: it shows the 8-year-old me wearing a T-shirt of a slightly younger me. My plan is, ten years hence, to use one of the photos taken at this party to make another T-shirt. Every ten years I will nest a little deeper. Perhaps I’ll make a paradoxical T-shirt too, where a younger me is wearing a photo of an older me. The possibilities are endless; and indeed tedious.

After the whirlwind that is the Fleurettes departed, Chris decided that a lonely microphone was too good an opportunity to ignore and began an inpromptu karaoke session. Much to my surprise I joined in. We’re not going to win any awards, I must admit, but it was fun.

It was an amazing night all told, and a great way to kick off my forties. I’ve got ten years to think of a way to top it.

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Handbag and a hula hoop

So this is what it’s like being 40. A lie-in, a lazy breakfast, an amazing present from Chris and Melanie, bumping into a friend in town and wandering round some colleges in sunshine with my camera, a lazy lunch, tea and cakes, a walk by the river, and The Apprentice.

Is it like this every day?

(The title? It’s a gay bingo call. No, I don’t really know why handbag equals 4. Could be worse, it’s often a body bag.)

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Easter is a time for vampires

This year I celebrated the death of the baby cheeses with a full veggie English, copious tea, a little people-watching and a Swedish film about preteen love and vampires.

I met Andrew and Matt for breakfast at Cazimir at 9:30 on Friday morning. I had already performed my good deed for the day, giving directions to some boy racers aiming for King’s College but the wrong side of the bollards on Bridge Street. Apart from them the roads were virtually empty, which goes to show that crucifixions aren’t all bad news.

We later re-educated Matt in the Apple store, hopefully ensuring another convert to a much more beneficial religion. Tea and cake followed in the Picturehouse bar where Andrew noticed that Let The Right One In had a performance an hour later. We were both interested to see it, so bought tickets.

It’s a coming-of-age film with a twist: one of the parties is a vampire, as becomes apparent very early on. But this is neither a comedy nor a Christopher Lee hamfest. There’s no garlic, no crucifixes and no priests, but there is blood-sucking and phobias of daylight and the uninvited crossing of thresholds. Oh, and apparently cats are accurate vampire detectors, much like dogs with zombies (have I mentioned how great World War Z is?).

The film’s set in a small housing estate in a Swedish town in the middle of winter. Oskar, a 12-year-old boy, is bullied at school and not fighting back. His parents are separated, his father lives out of town. Bleak, slow-paced, nicely shot. But then keep that same feel and insert the vampire elements. You get the daily grind – well, a vampire has to eat – mixed with a growing anxiety in the community at disappearances, and a growing friendship between Oskar and the 12-year-old androgynous girl, Eli, who lives next door.

It’s not a high-budget film but the fantastical elements essential to any vampire flick aren’t badly done. If anything the restrictions of the low budget enhance the feel of the film, as you don’t see everything in your face in huge, gory detail – except when you do. It’s all the more effective when it contrasts the sedate pace of the film overall.

The film’s adapted from a novel of the same name, which is going to be re-adapted by Cloverfield director Matt Reeves for an English-language version due for release next year. Given how the novel differs from the existing film (according to Wikipedia) it’ll be interesting to see what he does with the source material. All my instincts are saying he’ll ruin it.

I can confirm that Let The Right One In is my top pre-teen rom-vam Swedish-language film of 2009 so far.

Avaragado’s rating: one dandelion root

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Spot the difference

I am a great fan of the BBC, as you know. Institution, example to the world, etc, etc.

The fuss over the Ross/Brand broadcast was, of course, manufactured outrage by the Daily Mail that spurred Middle England into action (despite very few complaints at the time of broadcast). And the fallout from that affair is still settling – not least within the BBC, which has (according to some insiders) become noticeably more risk-averse in the last few months.

But the BBC does itself no favours with Chris Moyles. He can, it seems, broadcast blatantly homophobic material mocking Will Young, be found in breach of the broadcasting code by Ofcom for doing so (despite just eight complaints), but continue broadcasting without any apology. Oh, he has been “spoken to” by the Radio 1 controller, but that’s it. (And it’s not his first offence either.)

Contrast with Clare Balding. Interviewing the winning Grand National jockey she made a joke about his poor teeth. I saw it and laughed, as did those around her. The jockey was mildly embarrassed but it was all in good humour. And yet the BBC received nearly 1500 complaints and Balding has now had to apologise.

I just do not understand this.

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Avaragado Five Bellies

“You’re Shazzie’s mate, aren’t you?”

Why yes, I am. It was one of the staff in Revital, a health food/nutty potions shop in Cambridge. I was there to buy some of the wacky toothpaste I use, and suddenly I’m no longer just a run-of-the-mill customer, I’m Touched By Fame.

We chatted for a bit, he asked after her, the usual things. I realise now I could have embiggened my status by deploying words like “editor” and “book designer.” Not my style, though; in any case, she’s no Stan Lee, is she?

He then handled my purchase. And to my surprise, I get a 10% discount. “Well, you’re a mate of Shazzie.”

I won’t let it go to my head. But I should have bought more than a tube of toothpaste.

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