Saturday, 25 July 2015

How Times Have Changed

When I was a young man, in those dim and distant days when I found myself desperately seeking female companionship, womankind had me in their clutches. They had power over me and I was a slave to them.

I fancied any woman who would talk to me and the more beautiful the woman, the more enthralled I was.

Sadly, in those days, society dictated that it was the man that had to do the chasing. It was the man who had to ask the woman for a date or make his desires clear. And that was why women had power over me. They had the ability to twist me around their little finger.

And they were cruel, dear reader.

I remember one occasion when my so-called mates goaded me into asking a woman out.

“She fancies you, Dave. It's obvious,” they would say, goading me into action by appealing to the optimist in me. “Shall we come with you to give you moral support?”

Being a fool – and too blindly in lust to realise that the gorgeous target of my affections was fancied by just about every other male in the vicinity – I marched over to her with my “friends” behind me. She was with her mates too.

In order to protect her identity, let’s call her Alison.

“Hi Alison,” I said with a smile.

“Hi Dave,” she said smiling back. Yes – she smiled – that means she must like me.

“Can I ask you something?” I said summoning up all the courage I could muster.

“Sure,” she said.

“Can we – erm – get together? Will you go out with me?”

In my imagination, she stood up, threw her arms around me and said “I’ve been waiting for you to ask!”

In reality, she said “WHAT? With YOU???? You must be joking!”

She laughed.

Her friends laughed.

My “friends” laughed.

I ran away looking like a complete arse.

Don’t get me wrong; she genuinely liked me – but because I was funny. She wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of anything more than just friendship.

Bless her, she later found me and apologised and asked if we were still friends. Of course, still being enthralled by her, I agreed. But our relationship had changed.

This was the story of my love life around that time.

Thankfully, something changed and all of a sudden women decided that it was time to turn the tables. I guess they became fed up of waiting for guys to ask them out. I don’t know when it started – I just noticed that women were actually marching up to guys and asking them out on a date.

And then it happened to me. My ex-wife W basically took control and made her feelings perfectly clear. Many years later, my beloved Mrs PM did exactly the same.

In fact, over the years, I have been approached a few times, and had to let the poor woman down gently in the nicest possible way (realising how painful such rejections can be).

I for one am really glad that it happened and it marks a significant power shift in the way women behave.

I had an interesting chat with Mrs PM’s mum the other week. When we go to the pub with her and her other half, she refuses to go to the bar or pay for any meals we have in restaurants because, in her eyes, it’s the responsibility of the man. Mrs PM is a modern woman and we share most of the responsibilities.

“Why are YOU going to the bar,” Mrs PM’s mum says.

“Why not?” says Mrs PM.

It’s the same at home. Mrs PM’s mum does all the cleaning, washing, cooking etc. and accepts that role. She even packs both suitcases when they go on holiday, selecting all of his clothes and everything else he needs.

And she accepts this without question. In fact, she positively revels in it.

There is no way I would let Mrs PM choose or pack my clothes for me. Besides, she wouldn’t do it.

Not all women have embraced the power shift. Mrs PM has friends who still want the man to chase them. She calls them “princesses” presumably after fairy tale princesses who are swept of their feet by handsome princes.

When I cast my mind back to the time when I desperately wanted to be that prince, I recall being let down almost every time, sometimes cruelly.

I used to think that I wasn’t “prince” material and I considered myself, with the aid of Captain Paranoia, to be a hideous villain who would never get the girl.

Of course, these days, the whole concept of dating has changed. People do not have to humiliate themselves by marching confidently up to a member of the opposite sex and asking them out. The internet and social media has revolutionised the dating game.

You can join a dating site and now even get a smartphone application to help you. Take Tinder, for example. This app allows you to find other people within a certain distance of your location and matching certain criteria and, if you like them, you simply tap a heart icon if you like them and a cross icon if you don’t. Obviously two people like each other then they can arrange to meet.

I wish there had been something like that around when I was about eighteen years old. It would have protected me from being humiliated and having my poor heart shredded by a female friend who had no desire to take our friendship further.

Unbelievably, there is also an app called Binder that allows you to dump people too if you are too scared or too much of a coward to do it yourself.

This is the kind of message you get:

If there had been an app like Tinder around when I was young and single, I wouldn’t have been told to “Piss off” when I resorted to desperate chat up lines.  

In fact, I would have been equally concerned by a crass app like Binder because in those early days I can only imagine my poor heart being destroyed by a text message.

At least I wouldn't have received it in front of a group of people, I guess.

Anyway, I for one am glad that times have changed and that there is more equality when it comes to relationships.

After all, we are in the 21st century now, and not in the 1950's.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

The Poet

I was tempted to call this post Poetry is Rubbish.

The truth is that generally I find what’s known as serious poetry genuinely is rubbish, a sort of pseudo-intellectual bullshit similar to contemporary art.

Contemporary artists use paint, bricks, unmade beds or in some cases absolutely nothing to appeal to pseudo-intellectuals, inspiring them to wax lyrical about what the painting says to them, using quotes from philosophers and basically talking nonsense to make themselves seem to be more clever than the rest of us.

Some poets do exactly the same – but with words instead of weird materials.

When I was at school, my English teacher forced me to write a critical essay comparing two poems about horses. I read them both and didn’t understand a bloody word. I didn’t trust my English teacher, a man who had forced me to read The Mayor of Casterbridge (arguably the worst book I have ever read) and hailed William Shakespeare as a kind of modern genius (read my post Shakespeare is Rubbish  for my thoughts on the bard).

I was tempted to write the shortest critical essay ever:

The poems are both about horses and they are both rubbish.

Instead, I pretended to be a pseudo-intellectual and wrote a load of old horseshit (pardon the pun). Guess what? I got a good grade and that essay helped me to pass my O-Level English Literature. Incidentally, I had to write essays about William Shakespeare’s plays and The Mayor of Casterbridge as well.

My only conclusion is that all you have to do succeed in English Literature is pretend to be a pseudo-intellectual.

I stand by this.

In fact, I once wrote a poem on this very blog. The poem was proof that anybody can devolve into a pseudo-intellectual and, with the aid of a dictionary and thesaurus, can come up with any old rubbish.

Here for your pleasure (or otherwise) that poem entitled The Loquacious Figment:

I contemplated the torso of a despondent galactic masterpiece
And my heart thanked my voracious sight.
I hastened my swiftness, disoriented by my awareness
Yet somehow did not submit to fright.

It’s utter garbage. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. It took me about two minutes to write.

If there is anybody who thinks it is good, then let me know and I will write an entire book filled with this kind of nonsense and – perhaps – make some money out of it.

Yeah right!!!!

Anyway, you are probably wondering why I decided not to call this post Poetry is Rubbish. The truth is that there are poems out there that I actually quite like. These are usually silly limericks, puerile nonsense and, most importantly of all, the works of terrific songwriters.

Songs are simply poems put to music and I have some terrific thought-provoking songs in my collection that can stand alone as poetry.

Here are some examples of silly little limericks:

A stupid young man from Crewe
Once decided to build a canoe.
When out on the river
He found, with a shiver, 
He’d forgot to use waterproof glue

A funny young fellow named Perkins
Was terribly fond of small gherkins.
One day after tea
He ate ninety three
And pickled his internal workings.

I have also written poetry for a couple of friends on their birthdays. Here’s an example (with the names changed to protect the guilty):

A new decade's upon you; it's your 50th today.
The little hair that you have left will soon be turning grey.
You still play squash and cycle, to cling onto your youth.
But soon your muscles will give way, along with every tooth.
And when your gums are toothless (and chewing is a chore)
The only food you'll manage will be sucked up through a straw.
You take your lady dancing (Mimi is her name)
But believe me, waltzing's tricky when you use a zimmer frame.
Your pension is approaching more quickly than you think.
But forget that for the moment - we'll buy you lots of drink
To wish you HAPPY BIRTHDAY and, if I may be so bold,
To make sure you remember, Bill, that you are VERY OLD.

Now I’m over fifty myself, I think that might have hurt.

Moving on to songs, I think that the words can be almost as powerful as the music itself. In some cases, the words actually elevate a song for me. Here are some examples:

Rush – Nobody’s Hero

Dream Theater – The Answer Lies Within

I can only conclude therefore that poetry is not rubbish, only those pretentious poems seemingly auto-generated from a dictionary.

Well, I feel inspired to write another on for you, dear reader. Picture the scene. I have opened my browser and have begun looking for quotes from celebrated philosophers. I am devolving into a pseudo-intellectual.

I am now an arrogant smartarse who is looking down on the world. My inspiration is complete. In the words of Plato:

“The beginning is the most important part of the work”.

I present to you: The Enigmatic Equation:

The imperceptible formula, cloaked in derangement,
Struggles to reveal its worth.
Yet the analyst blindly persists in frustration
Anticipating its Caesarian birth 

What a load of gibberish. I hope you agree.

Over to you, dear reader.

Do you like poetry?

If so, does all of it make sense to you? Am I just being thick?

Do song lyrics inspire you?

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Inner Child

My eldest son Stephen graduated on Friday. At the same time, my youngest son, Michael,  is about to embark on the same journey, starting his own university course in September, hopefully.

I am fiercely proud of their achievement, particularly Stephen, who will soon be settling into a new job.

His adventure is just beginning.

At the graduation ceremony, I watched as lots of people were honoured, all dressed in gowns and hats surrounded by loving families and friends. As I applauded each and every one of them, I looked around at the other proud people smiling and clapping – and one minor negative thing was gnawing away at my delight.

It was a thought and it grew stronger. The thought was:

“Boy, am I getting old!”

I see younger colleagues at work with young children, each of whom are doting parents of children ranging from new born babies to those just about to enter their teenage years. And I remember when my two boys were that age.

It seems like a lifetime ago.

My lads are grown men, with their own outlook on life, their own opinions, their own likes and dislikes and their own plans for the future.

Three Men and a Lady
I am so proud of them but at the same time, I miss that childlike innocence that made me laugh yet at the same time allowed me to become a child again. Seeing the two of them in suits on Friday made me realise that I no longer have an excuse to allow my mental age to manifest itself into physical behaviour without looking like a complete idiot.

What’s more, in my fifties I am aware that the next major stage for me is retirement. Okay, that is quite far away – a good fifteen years – but when that happens I will officially be an old git.

Me in fifteen years?
I looked around some old blog posts and when I started writing this drivel I was forty five years old (it’s amazing that I am now in my eighth year of bloggery). 

What has happened to the time?

In another eight years I will be in my sixties. All my droopy bits will droop even more. My wild and feral hair will look like a mad old tribble and my old face look like the Grand Canyon.
My hair in my sixties?

How scary is that? 

I do have one advantage though. I don’t actually look my age so maybe – just maybe – people won’t think I’m a pensioner. The other benefit of having a young looking face is that my two lads have both inherited by youthful countenance. As I stood at the bar on Friday having just bought a celebratory round of drinks, both of my lads were questioned about their age. 

“Does that annoy you?” I asked. “It used to annoy me.”

Stephen just laughed as he put his driving license away.

“I’ve been used to it for four years now,” he said. Michael agreed but at the age of nineteen, he shrugged and said “And I’ll still have to get used to it I suppose.”

While the ageing process may seem depressing, I think it’s a good thing to keep the inner child alive, the one that has made me embarrass my own kids by behaving immaturely. I am still young enough to just about get away with behaving like a child sometimes and I love it when I am able to.

Mrs PM constantly reminds me of my immaturity. 

I think that it’s fun to release that inner child every so often and I don’t ever plan to stop. I think that as long as you have a youthful outlook on life your mind and body will follow and make you appear to be younger – which is an added bonus for me because I don’t look my age.

I just hope that I don’t suddenly wake up one morning having aged drastically overnight. 

Actually, scratch that! I don’t really care. As long as I’m happy and I can still walk around without pain I’ll be delighted.

Even if I can’t walk around without pain, I’m sure that I’ll be able to lift up a laptop and release my inner child on this blog.

That will do nicely.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Top Ten Classic Science Fiction Series

Last year, I listed my top ten science fiction shows, including a couple of classic shows that in my opinion stood the test of time. While compiling that list, I discarded quite a few classic science fiction shows that I enjoyed as a kid in the late 1960’s and 1970’s.

The reason these shows were cast away was that they were actually almost embarrassing to watch as an adult all these years later. At the time, in my evolving mind, I thoroughly enjoyed them and I have to say that without them, none of the shows of today would exist.

I think they deserve praise because there were some episodes that I really enjoyed, even watching them again all of those years later.

Star Trek, Dr Who and Space 1999 made my original list, so these will not be mentioned again.

Let’s dive in shall we?

10. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was initially a film and it spawned the series of the same name. The series was set on board a nuclear submarine called Seaview and recounted the adventures of the intrepid crew who encountered all manner of evil sea monsters and even aliens. The stories started off with espionage but gradually introduced weirder elements.

The plots were relatively straightforward and the good guys usually won in the end. Nevertheless, along the way,  the submarine usually suffered, mostly due to monsters roaming around the vessel, somehow finding the control room and ripping out wires and cables, resulting the submarine hitting the bottom of the sea.

You would have thought that if the captain had stationed a couple of guards outside the control room, life would have been so much easier for the crew.

9. The Invisible Man

I loved the novel of the same name by H.G.Wells and the whole concept of invisibility fascinates me. The series of the same name from the 1970s was very entertaining, if a little simplified, and it starred David McCallum, famous from another cult 1960’s show The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

At the time, I loved the special effects. These days they look a little dated.

Sadly the series didn’t last very long, which is a shame. In my opinion, there was a lot of scope for storylines.

8. Blake’s 7

Blake’s 7 is the story of a group of galactic rebels battling against a totalitarian state, led by, as the name suggests, a man called Blake. And it was British, produced by the Terry Nation, the man who invented the Daleks.

Although the special effects are quite tacky, I liked the story and the struggle of this group of renegades against the mighty Terran Federation.

The group often cross swords with the evil Servalan, a ruthless power-hungry woman.

To be honest, I haven’t watched any repeats of the series since the late 1970’s. Perhaps I shouldn’t so that I don’t ruin my memories of it.

7. Land of the Giants

Land of the Giants was the story of the survivors of a crashed ship that was caught in a weird anomaly and whisked off to a planet inhabited by giants. The survivors were known as little people and had to deal with colossal insects, cats and, worst of all, terrible plotlines.

I thought the show was hilarious – even as a kid. Each episode had roughly the same plot, with a few minor variations;

One or more of the little people are captured by a giant with an ulterior motive. The remaining little people rescue them.

That’s basically it.

The show was perfect for a young child like I was at the time, but when I watched the show again in the 1990’s that initial innocent magic was lost. I did see one of the giant telephones when I visited Universal Studios in Los Angeles and it was very impressive. That’s why I’ve popped the show in at number 7.

And the funniest thing about the show?

It was set in 1983!!!

6. Planet of the Apes

I loved the original Planet of the Apes films. I even read the books as a small child (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was my favourite).  It’s no surprise that the TV series that followed the movies would be on the list of my favourite classic science fiction series.

The concept is wonderful. Based on the original film, two astronauts crash land on Earth 2000 years in the future, having encountered a time portal of some kind in space. In the meantime, a huge cataclysm has occurred on Earth, resulting in intelligent apes becoming the dominant species.

In the series, I loved the main bad guy, a gorilla called Urko wo pursued the astronauts and Galen, the chimp played by Roddy McDowell in their quest to find a solution to their predicament.

Sadly, the series was cancelled prematurely (do not rant, Dave!!!).

5. The Time Tunnel

Of all the science fiction concepts out there, time travel intrigues me most of all. Unfortunately, science fiction writers don’t always consider the potential paradoxes associated with travelling to the past, or indeed, the future.

The Time Tunnel, while very interesting and enjoyable, used to infuriate me because of the plot holes. Basically, the show was the story of two scientists trapped in time and unable to be returned to their own time period. Every week, they were dumped into a past period, for example in the city of Jericho before the walls came down. Miraculously, wherever they landed and in whichever country, the people always spoke English and refused to ask why they had weird clothes – the SAME clothes, I should add.

And they certainly interfered with past events with little regard for the consequences of their actions. It seemed okay though because their observers from the future, the team who were trying to retrieve them, didn’t suffer any after effects, like popping out of esixtence.

Plot holes aside, I actually thought it was a very good series, one that I would have liked to have written an episode for.

4. The Six Million Dollar Man

Whenever I ran in the local park I became the Steve Austin, the bionic man. The theme tune to the show would run through my head as I imagined chasing cars and using my bionic arm to punch holes in walls and beat up bad guys – just like the clip above where he encounters Bigfoot.

Yes – I was a huge fan of this show. It was perfect for a twelve year old geek with a huge and active imagination.

I loved the show so much that when Lee Majors turned up later as The Fall Guy I refused to watch it because I didn’t want to imagine Steve Austin as anybody else.

Looking back at the show now, it seems dated, particularly the slow motion portrayal of Steve’s super speed.

I can forgive that though. Lee Majors will always be Steve Austin – don’t believe anything else.

3. Lost in Space

Lost in Space was so bad it was brilliant. By far the best character was Dr Zachary Smith, a cowardly man who thought only about himself. To me he was the star of the show and his verbal duals with the Robot were highly amusing.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for these two characters, I wouldn’t have watched the show. They kept it fresh and interesting (the others were kind of boring really).

Again, with my imagination, I would have loved to have penned an episode or two of the show as some of the episodes weren’t that good. Nevertheless, the best episodes were brilliant and always had Dr Smith at the heart of them – hence this lofty position.

As an aside, the recent film based on the series was not very good, apart from the revamped theme by the band Apollo 440:

2. The Incredible Hulk

The Hulk is my favourite Marvel character and I am delighted that he is the star of the two recent Avengers movies. Of course, before that, he was portrayed by Lou Ferrigno in this wonderful TV series.

I have watched a few episodes recently and while a little dated, I still looked forward to the parts where David Banner, played brilliantly by Bill Bixby, would evolve into the violent green monster and smash things to pieces.

One of the best things about the show was David’s struggle to find a cure for his condition, something that was perfectly captured in the closing credits of each episode with the solitary and very sad piano music:

1. UFO

Of all the classic science fiction series, only three made it into my all-time Top 10. UFO very nearly did.

The reason it didn’t was that it was quite dated. Supposedly set in 1980, it seemed like a weird version of the 1960’s.

That’s my only criticism. UFO was an intelligent and slightly disturbing series about a secret organisation called SHADO, that protected the Earth from mysterious aliens. The function of SHADO was to keep the existence of these aliens secret while at the same time trying to work out what their hostile goals were.

The aliens were humanoid but quite scary. Their skin was green because they breathed a green liquid.

There was enough to appeal to both kids and adults. I loved the Interceptors and had a model of my own, which fired a missile and gave me hours of fun. I have seen the odd repeat as an adult and if you ignore the obvious 1960’s influence, the stories are genuinely good and menacing. Even the end credits were spooky:

This is a prime candidate for a modern reboot.

And finally …

Over to you, dear reader:

Have you seen any of these classic shows? 

Are there any shows that I missed that might be worth investigating?