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Thursday, December 21

Review of the Year 2006

This was a major year in my life, moving from Newcastle, where I'd lived for about 13 years, to The South. Exactly where in The South I was moving to was unclear to me when I moved, though I knew I had a job in Farnborough and a girlfriend in Southampton and Reading (one girlfriend, two locations - dependent on whether she was at uni or at home). After a year, I'm still unclear exactly where I was moving to.

Here is a breakdown by month of vaguely interesting things I blogged about over the course of the year, along with anything else I can remember happening around the time.

I started my new job and tried to get over the events leading up to my resignation from my last job. Despite writing an article for Micro Mart around this time on why blogging is best done in short bursts, I wrote a massive and unreadable blog entry on Jan 22nd when I recommenced the blogging.

I found a room in a house-share in Farnborough and in one 3 hours session in Newcastle, loaded enough stuff into my car to enable me to move into it and redecorate the walls which were horrible and dirty. The car held plenty.

I got back into gigging after the winter break and did a spot at my favourite club - XS Malarkey. This both went well and went badly, depending on how you look at it. I had found my break from comedy had made some stuff fresher, but had drained my ability to do longer sets and keep the energy up.

All the fun of starting a new job got me quite into long-winded debates about how to program and whether development and evolution could be compared. This was very dull indeed and coincided with my first car crash.

I started watching a lot of episodes of Friends and discovered that people on eBay were a bunch of thieving imbeciles, wanting £500 for an entire 10-box set collection of all the episodes ever.

We watched Bedknobs and Broomsticks chuckling at the word knob. This was childish, but it's a kiddies' film, so that's fair enough.

I managed to spend a couple of nights in my place in Farnborough and did a weekend of gigging, including winning a heat of a competition. I couldn't feel too smug about it, given that it was a new act competition and I wasn't even slightly new.

Work was challenging and I was getting stuff written and made. Just as I was getting the hang of it, I was dispatched to a noddy course on how to do the stuff I was doing. This turned into a week of near-boredom as the course progressed at the rate of the slowest person, which wasn't me, by a long way: there were only two other people there. The course took me to London every day, involving various train journey sillinesses, including Valentine's/Chip & Pin day.

I was still looking back at the job I left, but looking forward to arranging my way into my new life. I made a trip to Newcastle to de-Ashley-fy my house, ready for tenants. This, essentially, involved putting my worldly possssions into boxes in the loft, into my car for bringing down South, or into a skip. Those I left behind became either loans to the household, or things-that-come-with-the-house. The return journey, after an exhausting house-empty, had me single-handedly moving my piano into my sister's newly decorated house. That was weird.

My car, post-crash, was also suffering various maladies and needed repair. I ended up driving round in a borrowed Micra for a bit.

I was getting progressively fatter.

I got even fatter. I wrote Around the World in 80 Websites and neglected my blog. Bad me!

People moved into my house in Newcastle and started paying me rent. It was more cost effective for me than paying all the bills on an empty house.

Suddenly, I realised what was bothering me and went on a diet. Seriously. It just happened. I then went on to lose over 3 stone - maybe even 4.

I invested a lot of effort into upgrading my MP3 player, which started with buying an expensive hard drive for it, which I ended up having to pick up from my house in Newcastle. With this drive, I then proceeded to break my MP3 player.

I tried to complete my adaptation of The Musical! from its one hour Edinburgh version to a 90 minute two-act stage show by writing an arrangement of one of the new songs, around the time that my mouth was tender from my first dentist visit in quite some time. Both were unpleasant experiences.

My car was finally fixed after its accident in January. The repair came pre-dented.

My friends in Newcastle were losing their jobs owing to the fact that the company I used to work for had gotten into deeper and deeper trouble since the time that I deserted its sinking ship like a rat, deserting a sinking ship.

I was temporarily getting a little fervent about the work in my job. This is a good thing as I had a passion that made me want to go in of a morning. It was also a bad thing as it meant that I could get irritated if people didn't share my view on something. I managed to face a particularly unimpressed reaction with some grace. I also started missing performing in musicals. As of December 2006, I'm still missing it.

My MP3 player was fixed (by me) during a busy day of unimportant activities.

I hit upon a smashing solution for car insurance that will never happen. Then I reinsured my car with Kwik Fit and forgot about it.

I watched a lot of the first series (as in the first recent series) of Doctor Who and attended a wedding at short notice.

I started arranging a new mortgage for my Newcastle house - the aim was to pay less and extract equity enough to buy a home down South.

Just in case things were looking dull, I got myself roped in to a stand-up showcase in London for August. I say roped in, when I really mean that I volunteered for something stupid. My own fault.

I was clearly getting a bit too big for myself and going round either winding people up or being easily wound up - I'm sure my driving reflected this attitude.

Many long nights were spent in the pursuit of my girlfriend's degree. She did the work, I did the moral support. It was coming to an end and we were glad.

I found out that I was being evicted from my Farnborough house - a house I'd spent very little time in. I also started getting deeply self referential (this article is only making it worse).

Plans were progressing with the remortgage of the Newcastle house and I even managed to avoid falling for the old insurance sales-pitch.

With home-making in mind and with a plan to move into my girlfriend's parents' house. We entered the flat-pack stage of our relationship, visiting Ikea far too much and even putting up shelves together. We even bought a bed, which turned out to be an adventure.

I also started writing BurberryAndBroccoli while denying that I was connected with it.

In a high pressure situation at work - the half-yearly bonuses were depending on me - I decided to scoot off to Scotland to see a play. I enjoyed myself, though people around me were vaguely unimpressed. I even got a thank-you note in the programme (not for watching it, but for other reasons).

In that same week, in a fit of stupidity, I had managed to arrive early for a gig - about 3 days too early. It was a gig in the Blackpool area, but it proved to be worthwhile returning there on the right date.

We went to see Jerry Springer The Opera in Brighton at the end of its UK tour. Some Christians gave us a leaflet.

Preparations began in earnest for the Fringe in August. I had a photoshoot, which provided me my publicity shot and also an image for use on the poster of the show we did. I gigged all over the place to get myself into the right level of practice. I hadn't realised at this point that I'd be using Edinburgh to learn new tricks, rather than repeat old ones.

With summer on the way and a new guinea pig run to assemble, there was a guinea pig war and I was a casualty. We solved the problem with The Berlin Wall For Guinea Pigs.

My girlfriend came with me to a weird gig I did in a tent in the open air in Southampton. Very weird. The child heckler was the best. We were soon to return to Southampton for her graduation.

Having achieved much in my new job, the company was bought out and everything changed completely. As of the time of writing, it's still changing.

I did a week long run of the stand-up showcase in Camden. This brought back memories of doing something better. In actual fact, we had to cancel a number of the performances when no audience (and in some cases, the third act) arrived. Very big waste of time. Still, some shows were worth doing and brought old friends back into my life.

I started to prepare for the Edinburgh festival. I did this by watching tons of episodes of Lost and then forgetting to send a CD I'd sold on eBay back in June. However, my mortgage application for Newcastle was nearly complete - I had also been the delay on some of this.

Had a great time in Edinburgh, saw some friends, saw more shows, performed a load. Got confused when reality dared to show its face, and then tried to forget everything by watching the Bouncy Castle Hamlet and making a point in a charity shop only to discover that I was acting true to type.

My own stand-up was greatly affected by the combination of a sore throat and a desire to prove a point, such that I ditched the guitar and did some spoken material, only some of which was consistently poorly received.

Returning to work, there was much confusion following the buy out of the company. Redundancies were to happen and all projects and indeed all bets were off.

After leaving my girlfriend to herself while I swanned off to Edinburgh for the Fringe, it was nice that we went to a festival together - Cardiff. I've shown her the world, well, Wales.

Work was getting harder, but that didn't seem to be the priority since I was getting ready to go on holiday and mooching round being a post-Edinburgh comedian. I soon discovered that to my combined relief and chagrin, I'd be keeping my job. It was good because I would be paid, and not so good, because being in a perpetual state of flux wasn't my thing.

We were going on holiday to Kenya and I was feeling really odd, which I attribute to the holiday vaccinations.

We went on holiday after I'd sunk to new depths on the blog, which I'd also accidentally filled. The blog got two weeks off.

Just as we were leaving for holiday, a cheque for "silly money" arrived from the solicitors dealing with my Newcastle mortgage. Newcastle was sorted. While on holiday we decided to use that money to buy an investment property and let it out.

House hunting had begun in earnest and I was already getting dog-tired of estate agents and amazed at what people think it's reasonable to charge good money for.

I managed to lampoon a spam mail in such a way that I caused an international incident. Well, the incident was happening from overseas. I got an article for Micro Mart out of it too.

Only 9 days into the house hunting, I made an offer on the house we wanted. It was this house that we'd eventually buy. A second offer four days later was accepted.

With a bumper busy month of gigs and other things, I still found the time to go to a friend's gig. He was recently back home from a year in Japan with a new album recorded in the weeks of his arrival. I'd only seen him a couple of times since his return, once in Edinburgh. It was weird going to someone else's gig for a change.

The house buying hit a slow patch with various surveys taking their time. By the end of the month it looked like I should expect not to buy the house after all.

Work was vaguely on the up.

I decided to write a comedy drama about an office. Like that hasn't been done.

With winter approaching, I set about messing up the construction of some Guinea Pig nesting boxes. I got there in the end.

I was excited about the publication of my article about the incident I caused in october and rushed to buy a copy of the magazine.

I set up a blog in which I had a short-lived spurt of enthusiasm for posting ridiculous inventions. I may go back to it at some point.

We went to see a few shows which chased away the winter blues very nicely.

The one-year anniversary of my resignation from my last employer arrived and I took the opportunity to revisit how I felt about it all. It had played less and less on my mind, especially after July's events when my new job was changed quite radically. Work had been improving slowly but surely, too. Emphasis on the slowly.

We tried Ceroc and liked it. This was potentially a whole new avenue for us, though it soon petered out when they cancelled the particular Ceroc group we had gone to.

I ended the month by revising my offer on the house in the light of the survey and various reports which seemed to take ages to get.

The run in for Crisis Open Christmas began and the year started to feel like it was ending rapidly.

Work had turned into something with a clearly defined start and end. These were wrong, but they were consistently wrong, which was reassuring.

Bored of the office drama, the first episode of which I hadn't even completed, I started writing a spoof detective series which makes me laugh.

We reached the end of the something clearly defined and I felt like things were getting boring again, but the year was almost over.

As the icing on the cake of the year (that doesn't make much sense). I decided to finally send the CD that I didn't send in August. In August it would have been a month or so late. I sent it nearly 6 months after the eBay buyer had paid me. Still, it was sent.

What next?
2007, probably. A bit of work tomorrow, followed by a trip to see the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Not a bad way to end a year.

2006's Amusing Posts

Occasionally this year I wrote something which, on reading it now, I find amusing. Here are some links.

Photographic Amusement
I occasionally spotted something which amused me and was, by power of camera phone, able to capture it:
Replying to Spam
Some of the spam email I received warranted a reply. At least, I would have sent the reply if replying to spammers were not a dumb idea. I proved how dumb an idea it was with the whole A****o scam thing, which I ended up turning into a 5000 word article for Micro Mart. Anyway, here are some replies that didn't get me threatened with child porn:
Christian Baiting
Following the ridiculous way that the likes of Christian Voice sought to hijack the news for their own self-serving ends, I've found it amusing to bait Christian organisations or their ilk.
I was bored
When I'm bored I make a nuisance of myself or notice others doing that:

Life is a series of Decisions

Some of these decisions are clearly very small and innocuous - what shall I have for dinner? or which route shall I drive home from work?

Some of these decisions are more momentous.

Often, in life, we're at a fork in the road. One decision will cause our future to turn out quite differently than the alternatives. I think that we often underestimate the magnitude of such decisions, or even notice that we're making them.

This is where blogging comes in. If I have made an important decision over the course of the year, then surely it should have been noted down in my daily journal? Surely? We'll see. Tonight I was on the cusp of two futures. I had the instinct to go and see a Christmas comedy show in Brighton tonight - for I have time to kill with my girlfriend away for a couple of days - or I could just drive home and spend the night in. For reasons that were not apparent to me at the time, I decided not to bother with the trip to Brighton. I think that the fact that I am not a big fan of the particular comedian doing the Brighton show may have had something to do with it, though I'd just read a write-up suggesting that it was actually very good, and I had the urge to give the guy a chance. I've never seen him live.

I won't be seeing him live tonight.

Instead, I'm going to do a summary of the year on this blog. I'll probably not get the chance to write much more of it this year, so this shall be one of the last postings of the year.

I hope it works out interesting.

Thanks for reading all this crap, and spread the word. The point of sites like this is two-fold. Firstly, I need somewhere to write whatever it occurs to me to say. Secondly, the internet is a place to find something to read and be entertained with. Hopefully, this blog has been of some entertainment value this year. I reckon it's probably waxed and waned depending on my mood and what was in my diary. Either way, if you've spent any time reading it, then pass the message on. There should be more of the same old shit next year and I may as well reach more people - it's no more effort for me, and it somewhat vindicates me for putting the effort I do put in in.

Tying up Loose Ends

I wish this were a joke. It's not. I'm just off to the post office to send the printed copy of this. God I can leave stuff undone for a while. Still, it's another thing off my mind now:

Dear John,

Guilt is a horrible thing. Even a small indiscretion can eat away at your soul – no matter what good you’re doing, the memory of that one thing you didn’t do right is still there, bothering you, reminding you that you’re not perfect. What makes guilt worse is the acceptance of others. People treating you well, despite what you’ve done, makes that thing you didn’t do all the more poignant.

In this case, despite accepting your money - £4.95, which is closer to $10 than it’s not – I failed to send you the CD you purchased. It’s the sort of thing which happens on eBay, and I’m sure I’ve forgiven, or at least gotten over similar transgressions against me. Yet you didn’t even complain. You didn’t remind me that I hadn’t sent you the disc. You didn’t give me negative feedback (or not that I’ve noticed). You were simply stoic in the face of my inadequacy. You did nothing. You went “Ah well, eBay’s not that reliable. I probably didn’t want the disc anyway”.

In fairness, if it were that good a disc, I wouldn’t have been selling it, having bought it on a whim myself. However, that’s not the point. You have been a forgiving soul and you have allowed me to walk away from this failed eBay transaction without a blemish on my character if I so desired it.

But as I said, guilt is a powerful thing. In this case, the guilt is born of a sense of responsibility and propriety. When I listed the CD on eBay I fully intended to supply it to the winning bidder. You paid me and so, at the time, I fully intended to supply it to you. Your opinion of me shouldn’t matter, but it worries me that I’ve not only given you the impression of being the sort of person who charges for non-existent items (or at least items he has no intention of supplying) but that I’ve also acted like such a person. I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t want to take your money and give you nothing.

So, though it’s six months later than I would have liked, and though you’ve probably even forgotten that you bought the item. I am sending you your CD. With a bit of luck you’ll receive it at the start of 2007 and maybe it will feel like the world is not as bad a place as you were so willing to accept when you didn’t even bother complaining about the apparent rip-off you paid into. Some people might try to sweeten you up with a refund or additional gift in order to regain your goodwill and maybe get future purchases. I’ve decided that the best thing to do in this circumstance is apologise. No excuses, no self-justification: I was wrong and I’m sorry. I hope that I’ve put things right now.

I hope 2007 is a good year for you, and I hope you enjoy your CD.

Best regards

Ashley Frieze

Worth remembering the point of this sort of thing. Sometimes it's best to issue a frank and unconditional apology. I don't even think excuses are necessary.

I dealt with a similar issue in this post.

Wednesday, December 20


The Star Wars summary cartoons are fun. I've linked to them here, but you can check out them and their kith (sith?) and kin at Dude Studios.

Star Dudes

Also known as Episode IV or number 1.

The Bad Dudes Strike Back

Also known as Episode V or number 2.

Return of the Dude

Also known as Episode VI or number 3.

The Phantom Dude

Also known as Episode I or number 4.

Unseasonably Unfunny Joke

Q. What goes "ho, ho, ho, ho, ho"?
A. A mortuary attendant in Ipswich.

It's The Season

To bait the Christians!

From: Ashley Frieze
Subject: Remove Commercialism From Christmas

Dear Mr and Mrs Giroux,

I have been looking at your website and I would have to applaud your sentiment to say Merry Christmas to people. That's the whole meaning of the season, isn't it? to celebrate The Christ Child's birth. It's not about political correctness, so-called cultural diversity or petty commercialism.

In my place of work, I have insisted that everyone wish each other a Merry Christmas, none of this "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays". It's about Christ. The guy across the desk from me, Dharmander, had never wished anyone Merry Christmas before - he'd not been allowed to - imagine that! So, I got him to send a Christmas card to our boss, Mr Schwartz. It was a proper card, too, which I made using a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which I photocopied from my bible. Mr Schwartz was delighted and wished Dharmander a Merry Christmas back. Even though these two men follow the way of Satan with their false gods and false religions, they were able to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

So, I wanted to tell you that I agree with your idea in principle. Unfortunately, I'm writing to you to express my concerns about the way you are going about spreading the word. As I said at the start of this letter, Christmas is about the birth of the Christ Child and not petty commercialism. You appear to be using your legitimate campaign message to spread some sort of evil commercialism of your own. You're selling wristbands, Christmas cards and baubles. What's a bauble got to do with Christmas? Did the baby Jesus get delivered in a bauble? No. It was a stable. Yet you're selling your baubles, with the name of your website on them, rather than a Christmas message of hope and spiritual joy. Your wristbands are exactly the same sort of wristband that rock bands sell at their evil concerts. You're not even putting a spirital message on them. Just the hollow catchphrase "Just Say Merry Christmas". This looks like commercialism to me. I am frightened that you are cheapening this time of year with your desire to make money.

However, I was appalled, disgusted and nearly moved to tears of anguish when I saw your Christmas cards. You want to charge $12 for cards. Cards are not what Christmas is about. Worse than that, though, you're selling a card range called "Christmas Children". Have you not considered what your so-called "photography" might do for a pedophile? Look on the picture. It shows a naked baby. Not only would you be profiting from this time of year, which is a time of giving, not profiteering, but you'll be making money from pedophiles. Evil men leering over your photograph of a naked baby is not in the true spirit of the season and I fear for your souls.

Did our Lord not despair of the money lenders abusing the temple? Did he not say "blessed are the meek"? Well, what's so meek about you selling a cheap range of tacky Christmas goods under the thin guise of trying to promote Christmas? I think you're trying to promote your own ends and I would like to ask you in the name of God The Father, Jesus The Son, and the Holy Spirit to stop this immediately, before you condemn yours and all your co-workers' souls to the eternal fires of hell!

Again, I'd like to commend you on a good idea, but maybe in future you could make it a non-profit charitable organisation which doesn't sell anything. Maybe you could put your message in downloadable form so people could print it out for their offices. I know a lot of people who will use their office equipment and time to promote the word of our Lord. I for one have made a life-sized replica of our Lord on the Holy Cross, from an image I downloaded off the internet. It stands proudly outside the office of my boss, Mr Schwartz to show how our Lord died for our sins, and how the descendents of Judas are not entirely to be trusted.

I hope you will stop the evil part of your campaign right away.

Merry Christmas to you and your kin.

Ashley Frieze

Too Much Time On Their Hands

This is amazing. Well, it's amazing in the sense of the senseless waste of time it represents. Someone has remade the entirety of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade into a small animation (see right).

At least it's just a summary, unlike the ASCII based Starwars which was done frame by frame!

Tuesday, December 19

Unusually Quiet

I have nothing of note to report at the moment. There is a lot of waiting around right now. It feels like waiting for christmas, which is exactly what it is. Here's a tip. Buying a house over christmas truly sucks.

I feel like I can't make any long term plans until things are underway with the house. There's not much on at the cinema, and the outside world is choc full of party goers, so going out is not much fun. Gigs are off for the time being. So, basically, I'm house bound. This is pretty dull. It wouldn't be my first choice. However, it's temporary. All in the spirit of waiting.

Things will get moving when the weekend arrives. There is a week of volunteering for Crisis over night. Then there's new year, which is always an anti climax for me; I had looked at doing Edinburgh's hogmanay this year, but it's too late now. Once new year has occurred, it's back to work and, hopefully, into the new house. It seems like step one is going to be to smash the place up. With step two being to put it right again. There's a lot to organise, and the mortgage will be costing from day 1.

In other news, I received my purchase of The League Of Gentlemen radio series yesterday and started listening to it on the way in this morning. In truth, I already own this recording. I have it on tape. But I have no means of playing tapes in my car, so a 4 pound ebay price for an original of the Cd release seemed reasonable. Maybe I'll sell or give away my tape versions.

Just arrived at home is the newly bought series one of That Mitchell And Webb Sound. Series two was arse achingly funny, and I will never tire of the ubiquitous David Mitchell, which is handy, given his ubiquity.

Work has been a bit busy, with some interesting results achieved and some industrial strength head scratching required to achieve it.

More later when I can think of something to say.

Friday, December 15

A Message To The Drivers

To the driver of car which flashed and hooted at me this morning as I was leaving a roundabout, I would like to say this. See those white stripes on the road? They are called road markings. They indicate the routes you can take across the tarmac. Without them it may be possible to arbitrarily guess where to put your car for best travel around the roundabout, and you may even be able to use the positions of other cars as a guide. Without these lines, maybe you could make up your own rules for where to position your car for best exit from the roundabout. Heck, if this were a stock car race, like in the movie Days Of Thunder, you could just ram any car in your way. However, when the lines are present, and when they are so fresh that they provide a neat and clear mark of exactly which channels are available, I suggest you use them. I was using mine. I would have been faster off the roundabout, and out of your maverick path too if it were not for the car to my left missing the route proscribed by his white lines and veering temporarily into my path. I'm sorry that my car remained steadfastly in its lane and did not bend the laws of time and space to accommodate your pressing need to bypass it. I'm sorry that driving doesn't seem to be working out for you. Better luck next time.

To the driver of the car that I pushed in front of while indicating left and leaving the middle lane some 300 yards from my motorway exit. Sorry I was being so assertive. I was running late and the ranks were closing in in the inside lane. I had painted myself into a corner and needed into your lane. I'm sorry that I was more assertive in entering the lane than you were intimidating in trying to prevent me. After all, driving is all about holding your own, isn't it? Thanks for not crashing into me during my mirror signal manoeuvre. Thanks for cheering me up with an expression of rage that looked more like a dancing monkey. Thanks.

Thursday, December 14

Here's an Ocean of Weirdness

I've noticed this a few times, and it continues to puzzle me, so I'll share it with you, dear reader, via the gift of the mobile phone camera and the internet.

What could possibly be "notional" about a corridor? Is it really a corridor? In fact, the switch may operate lights within a room, or it may operate the lights of the stairwell. I don't know. What does this switch operate? The label isn't saying. Perhaps it relates to a string of lights that could be used to form a corridor of light across the open plan office space in which we are resident? Perhaps not. The label ain't saying. My opinion is this. If the description's no good, don't bother with it. Also, if it needs too much explaining, it's also probably wrong.

There. I've gotten that off my chest.

Wednesday, December 13

Couple of Recommendations

I actually read stuff on the internet, which is nice. Here are a couple of sites I recommend a good look at:

NewsPox - regular makers of the NewsPox Podcast
MediaWatchWatch - a sensible-thinking bunch of rational people who watch the people who make a nonsensical fuss about political correctness and religious agendas in the media.

Oh, and don't forget to check out Frank Sanazi - the combination of Swing and Fascism that the musical comedy scene needs. He and the Iraq Pack, including Saddami Davis Junior, have a few sample tracks online. My favourite is "That's Why Saddam Is In A Camp". Seriously, check it out.

A View From

The beauty of having the mobile phone camera is that you can capture those weirdass things that jump out at you while in your car. When I say "you", I of course mean "me".

Unnecessary use of Quotes
This sign is in Aldershot. What's with it? They're pointing out, on the entry gate, that you cannot just put cash in. Assuming for one minute, that this is necessary, on the ENTRY gate, which dispenses a ticket, what's with the punctuation? You do have to wonder whether someone was actually trying to stuff a tenner in the machine on the way in.

Anyway, what bothers me here is the fact that enclosing something with quotes makes it seem like you're either a) quoting, or b) suggesting that the word you are using is, in some way, not genuine. So in this case, when it does "NOT" except cash, do we assume that it "MIGHT"? And when it issues tickets "ONLY", do we assume that there's a secret button to make it issue all the secret cash that it accepted from other idiots?

As you can see from the photo, this is an example of the PLS - Patronising Laminated Sign. In this case, the sign was so inappropriate that a good flapping in the breeze has converted it into some sort of curling thing. Neat.

The Official Mondeo Repair Kit
Maybe my girlfriend and I are the only ones to notice this, but it's surely out of proportion with the total population of all cars. The Mondeo has a rear bumper which is frequently cracked and frequently fixed by the use of black gaffer tape. This photo is a classic example - the cracking is so extreme, in fact, that the gaffer taper has had to make interesting shapes with the tape and they still haven't gotten all of it taped.

I like this photo also because it was taken from the window of my car, which I dropped in an instant as I grabbed the camera ready for the shot. Purely by accident, I think I've managed to frame the photo quite well with the wing mirror making an interesting feature in the shot.

Tuesday, December 12

Worth A Read

Nick over on the Customer Service Blog has been working with another sending of this nasty poem, which I made mention of a month or so ago. This particular version appears to have been sent by

Dear Ellenor,

I found this poem on the Guardian's website:

You seem to approve of its contents. I was wondering whether you knew that it had been made public in this way. Personally, I think it's a disgrace. It's all too common these days for people to think this way, but I think that society has surely advanced beyond the point where this sort of thing should happen. It's tacky, tasteless and gratuitous, don't you think, to have so much clip art in a single mail. Disgusting. Should be stopped.

What do you think?


Ashley Frieze

Life Continues

It amazes me how time seems to be able to fly, whether I'm doing stuff with it or not. With few gigs planned for the next few months, I'm generally concerned about whether I'll have a comedy thing to do by this time next year. The sorting out of the house that I'm buying will have to come first, but I don't like festering at home, so we'll have to see whether some sort of compromise can be reached - one where I feel like I'm out and doing things, but am actually in and doing other things. We'll see.

Perhaps comedy writing will be a key to this. I could use the time that I'm not gigging to both do what I have to do around the home, but also devote more time to writing. The general consensus at my last gig - a straight stand-up gig - was that my material was lesser than my delivery. Having seen (and not heard) a video of some of that performance, I'd have to say that my performance looked pretty OTT - the difference between "Hey, this is funny" and "Please find this funny". Time spent writing might improve this. I'm currently about 2/3rds through the first episode of something new that I want to write. The problem I have is that I haven't planned where it's going and, thus, have no idea how to do that elusive final third. Some time spent focusing on writing may improve this.

Also on the subject of writing, I've been chasing up some invoicing for some writing I did earlier in the year. Just my luck: the one time I get a reply to an invoicing email, I've made a mistake in the invoices, apparently issuing duplicate invoices, when I meant to issue two distinct ones. Hopefully the lion's share of this will be sorted out in the near future. My tax return for this financial year is going to be fun!

Last night included a shopping trip where we bought nothing, except a smoothie, which doesn't really count, and parking, which was cheap. We saw the Wii - Nintendo's new games system. For some reason, I think this is pretty cool. I think it's probably the motion driven controllers. I like the idea of video game that you interact using big physical moves. I think that this game will probably find itself in deep trouble in about March of next year, once the litigious Americans wake up to it. Here's what's going to happen. Some unhealthy American kid is going to play for 6 hours non stop, pull a couple of muscles, have an asthma attack and then get their parents to sue Nintendo for causing them these injuries and suffering. Then the fat American judge is going to conclude that the warning on the system - that you should take breaks and look after your body - is not adequate and that the game should have forced a rest break on you or something. Then the Americans will outlaw all forms of exercise and make the eating of 2 pound burgers compulsory for all children under 7 unless they can get a doctor's note proving that they're vegetarian or already substantially overweight.

I'm not sure about the second part, but I bet there has been litigation regarding injuries sustained with Wii by next March. Let's see...

Also in last night's agenda was some writing in front of the TV, followed by the surrender of my laptop while I watched the rest of Sin City, a movie we saw in the cinema in June 2005. When I last wrote about seeing it, I wrote virtually nothing. This was probably because I was in blog-catch-up mode. I mentioned that it was very memorable. It was certainly that. I think that the distinctive visual style of the movie was part of its allure for me. There was an intentional emulation of the distinctive look of the original comic strip, and at the time I remember seeing pages like this which shows just how similar.

So, although nothing much happened between leaving work and returning to work, there's always something to say.

Monday, December 11

More Spam Wisdom

I love these random-spam text thingies. Here's the latest Viagra advert:

Renault pigeonholes hurt fistfight Gemini mollifys lovely handcar

Ramonda disembarasss dull anklet Denise appreciates bloody wencher
Robert overbuilds young kilometer Krystle trams tired mandrake

Juliann administrates few adorableness Macarthur succeeds fancy shoehorn
Ufa circularizes thoughtful bluest Ufa recommissions wicked amnesty
Krystle resaws scary colonialist Jobina knits powerful ingredient
Zorn cerebrates awful biotin Zorn enjoys fuzzy emittance
Helga introverts moaning feverishness Leonidas loids unusual altruism
Calli flares embarrassed fermium Gemini deposes bloody halves
Cele progresss impossible poignancy Vella retests silly medico
Bobina hyperimmunizes envious snooker Asa desolates hard bleater

your ID: YRIKDwEcJg4GChgOCAQMAxVfHQETWwMcBEpPT0sBSU2x_bGzt_m3tbq5ubK1vby7a98
Sabrina guys soft storekeeper Averill grooves ppearance buggy
Bobina exudes awful carsickness Nunez rejoices defiant phonologist
Chernobyl proportionates unusual gerund Denise wraps low dryness

Now this is a load of nonsense, but it's clearly a song trying to get out. It's one of those "laundry list" songs, where a number of assertions of a similar sort are made after the other. Something does something to something else in this formula. Here's how to make it into song:

Renault pigeonholes hurt fistfight
Jobina knits powerful ingredient
Gemini mollifys lovely handcar
Robert overbuilds young kilometer

That's how to do it, aha aha, that's how to do it yeah.

Juliann administrates few adorableness
Helga introverts moaning feverishness
Ufa circularizes thoughtful bluest
Krystle resaws scary colonialist
Nunez rejoices defiant phonologist

And then, and then.

Denise wraps low dryness
Zorn enjoys fuzzy emittance

And more, and more...

Macarthur succeeds fancy shoehorn
Chernobyl proportionates unusual gerund
Ufa recommissions wicked amnesty
Cele progresss impossible poignancy
Leonidas loids unusual altruism
Calli flares embarrassed fermium

Are you ready? are you ready?

Bobina hyperimmunizes envious snooker
Asa desolates hard bleater
Sabrina guys soft storekeeper

And the soft storekeeper, becomes hard...

..with Viagra.

Ramp Fun

I forgot to write this story up when it happened. It was a couple of weeks ago. The evening had been allocated as a Ceroc evening, but the Ceroc had been cancelled, and I was feeling a bit put out. We decided to go and see the Tenacious D movie as an alternative. It wasn't especially good. The drive to the car park had me in a very bad mood, but my mood was to be elevated thus.

As we went up the ramp to the parking, we discovered a car stopped in the middle. It had nothing in front, but it wasn't moving one bit. Initially, I was cross that someone would not notice that they had no obstruction and just get on with going up the ramp. Then the driver of the car got out and came down to me. I opened my window. He was a young lad. Early twenties or so. He said, "My car has just run out of petrol. What the fuck do I do?". In this one comical statement of desperation, my mood was shifted from irritation into amusement and again into action. I stopped my car. I sent him up to his. I recruited a couple of able bodied lads from the car behind and we then pushed this petrol free car up the ramp and into a parking space. Good team work. We got the job done. Then, chuckling to myself, I returned to my car to continue the night in a better mood.

The chance to recruit a team of complete strangers to do the car pushing was fun. I think I just liked the ego free way that the young lad beared his soul for me. Like there was simply no opportunity for bravado in the face of his stupidity at letting the engine run dry. Maybe he saw in me a problem solver. Maybe he saw me as an elder. I guess to a 20 year old I am nearly a generation away. I don't know. It was amusing either way. I even got to reassure him that he would eventually get it running again if he simply added petrol to the tank. He seemed fairly clueless about how the car worked.

Perhaps things like this should be on the driving test. Drivers should be able to deal with problems like empty window washers, low oil, flat tyres and no petrol.

Just a thought.

Friday, December 8

Couple of Links

With all the talk of spam, I was reminded of a couple of sites.
  • Spamusement - a guy who takes the subject lines of spam emails and makes cartoons of them
  • Exploding Dog - a cartoonist who just takes random lines and makes cartoons of them

Comedic Impedence

When I moved down south at the end of last year, I contemplated what this would do for my comedy "career". Would I be in an area where I knew noone and couldn't get any gigs? Would I end up trotting round free open-spot nights in London picking up the dregs of the comedy scene? Would I be starting afresh? Would this be a benefit - a new face, but one with plenty of actual experience and, thus, a better new face than the other new faces. I didn't know.

Over the course of the year I've been up and down with comedy. I think that last night may have been my last gig of 2006. Unless any last minute stuff happens, then that is definitely the case.

Last night's gig was very odd indeed and I decided not to play it for real but, instead, play it as befitted the situation. It was an "X-factor-style" competition-style gig. There were three judges. Each act had 10 minutes in a small room with a small audience, which waxed and waned in number over the evening. After the performance, the compere handed over to the judges for voting. As a result, there was more of a schoolroom atmosphere to the gig, like it was a masterclass in comedy. It was easy not to tune in and I found myself watching the TV that was on in the side of the room from time to time. The majority of the "audience" was made up of other acts, judges, or friends of the judges.

Had I gone out there and done my usual schtick, I think I would have felt more at risk of getting an ego-bashing from the judges afterwards. So, while a part of me was taking a risk by ditching the guitar and doing my "straight stand-up" some of which might actually be ok, when I come to think about it. I was probably also protecting myself. I was playing the role of "the Ashley who didn't do that many gigs and never played the guitar on stage". This is probably the sort of open spot I would have been in later 2004 if my musical stand-up and "The Musical!" hadn't happened. It's the alternative route which I cut off because I found laughter with the guitar and latched onto it in the hope of achieving greatness that way.

I was quite nervous (well, more so than usual) of what would happen - would I forget my set? would I get any laughs with the bits I'd done only once, twice or no times before? I was also able to take the whole thing a lot less seriously than normal. I would go out there and do this 10 minute thing and if nobody liked it then it doesn't have a huge bearing on my act.

I lost the audience in the middle. I performed too hard for such a big room. I went at a huge pace and accidentally stepped on laughs as a result. I was trying to cram a 15 minute set into 10 minutes and, as a result, had to cut some material to get to some semblance of a finale. It was, frankly, in need of editing, rehearsing and, in some places, cutting. But I didn't care. I had a go and didn't feel like it was a washout. The judges made some comments. They thought my delivery was bigger than my material - that's probably a good thing. One judge wondered whether I mightn't try being more deadpan like Jack Dee... well, if Jack Dee is prepared to try being a camp musical act and see whether that fits him... I think there's as much chance of me being deadpan as that.

It was, indeed, a very silly evening and it had some belly laughs but not nearly enough. The guy running it clearly has ideas above his station. I've never seen anything like it. I don't know whether it will lead onto paid work. I could email them and say "I wasn't doing my real set - I'm actually funnier, and a musical act" but that would look like I'm trying to make excuses. I'll just see what happens. I'd not normally want to rush to play at a free gig with a promoter who has a reputation for not paying people what he promises. I only went to this one out of curiosity. I'd heard on the grapevine that the promoter was weird and his emails certainly gave credence to that. As it happens, he was a charming guy in person, but there was something definitely amiss.

Still, at least I was paid what I expected. Nothing.

The journey home was shared with another of the acts, whom I bored to death with comedic blether. Still, he offered me a cup of tea when I reached his house, so he was, at the very least, gracious in the face of all my yattering.

That's a good word.

It needs to be shouted by a gruff american guy:

"Hey buddy! Quit ya yatterin'"

Enough of this. I did a gig last night. I'll get over it. I enjoyed myself, and it wasn't that far away from the office or home.


I am really enjoying the current breed of spam. This example dropped into my mailbox today:

This spam has everything. It has an odd subject line - "Re: complimen etceter" - which hooks you in because you think it might be a reply to something and slightly misspelt at that. It has a fake recipient - apparently I'm "Geronimo Sink". It uses embedded images to put the real message on your screen - they're selling "Pfizer"s, which we must assume mean Viagra, but are probably just some dust from their own lab's floor, coloured blue and stuck in a packet. Most importantly, there's the random blether, which is probably automatically cribbed from various online sources, to make it impossible for a spam filter to work out whether this is actually mass mail - each mail will have its own nonsensical paragraphs.

When I see words, regardless of the intent behind them, I make my own interpretation. Here's my reaction to what was spammed.

You know youre a-sweatin in the engine room.
someone who sort of makes up the tunes,
then writes down the stuff

We're kind of going all rap here, aren't we?

And when he's had enough, he sweeps the engine room with his broom.
I'm talkin' bout sweeping, perpetual cleaning
The engine is hot and you get my meaning
My buddy is weeping and his buddy is sleeping
We'll kick some butts and then turn some sheep in.

See, I can be random too!

Yes, Madonette said, and all eyes turned her way. What is the
Killerbot behind me. Is that clear?

Wow. The science fiction part.

Brick, he said.
And a section from a DIY manual's FAQ.

We asked an expert bricklayer what's the main thing you need for bricklaying. Brick, he said.

Me me - me
Typical. It's all "me me me"

There was the distant thank of a valve opening and cold water gushed its sample from his mouth.
Horror. Aagh, the water. Aagh, the sample (sample?). Aaagh - my mouth!

Gentleman stranger I can now say. Final tired eyes,
That's right, gentleman stranger. Final your tired eye with new eye-quin-ox. Just five drops of these and your eyes will be history.

I followed the others. Outdoors into a field of ripening off the suit-and a lot of flesh with it.
Actually, I don't think that suits grow in field. I've been wrong before.

The suit was padded. He was
Sound the alarm . . . she gasped. Disaster destruction!

A bit of ADHD going on here. Either that, or the disaster struck just as they were going to explain more about the padded suit.

Hypocritical narrow-minded bigoted moron.
Not my best review, but thanks for thinking about me.

Thursday, December 7

A Day Away From The Blogging

I must admit that I've been pretty preoccupied today. Work is busy and I'm trying to get myself into my highly productive highly motivated frame of mind as much as possible. This is because I enjoy the sense of ploughing through tons of stuff in a big burst. It still doesn't happen as much as I want because I'm far too easily distracted and far too ill-informed to be able to do everything I want in one massive "go".

My mind is on something I've working-titled Moonlight City, which is a comedic detective drama that's just pouring out of me. I have invented a character, largely based on my love for how certain words sound in the voice I used to do when I was in Guys and Dolls and my love for messing around with well-known phrases. Whether this script will make it to the end of a first draft is anyone's guess, but I'm enjoying myself with it.

Here's a random sample:

SEAN Apparently she’s scared of some gold digger marrying her for her inheritance, so she’s never gotten close to a man.
HARRY You mean she’s a… she’s… like Jesus’s mom?
HARRY Jesus? Mendoza? You know, from the five and dime. His mom reckoned she’d never slept with a guy. It was all crap, of course. She used to work in that gentlemen’s movie theatre, and it sure wasn’t as an usherette.

I know. Crap isn't it!? Still, it amuses me!

Wednesday, December 6

Another One

I must attract these strange ladies from overseas.

From: "Micah" <>
To: apostrophell
Subject: Re: Looking. for friend?

Dear friend,

I found your picture on one of the websitebs, can we talk to
each other? I might be coming to your place in few weeks.
This would be a great opportunity to meet each other.
baBtw, I am a woman. I am 25. Drop mea a line at

I had no choice but to reply:

Dear Micah,

Thank you for your email. I had no idea you were coming round. This is quite a surprise. I'll get some Mr Kipling Fondant Fancies in. I don't know if you like them, but I do. Especially the pink ones.

So, without wanting to sound too rude, who the HELL are you? How did you get my email? What is a websiteb? Is it something to do with Web 2.0 that I keep reading about? Look, I don't want to seem inhospitable, but I've already got some strange East European woman after me and I'm not sure I can afford to put you both up. For a start my girlfriend, though not an innately jealous woman, has her limits. As Oscar Wilde once said "To put up one Eastern European prostitute is unfortunate. To put up two is clumsy and foolish." What a wit, eh? He was one of ours.

Anyway, though it would be a great opportunity to meet each other, in much the same way as crashing into someone's car almost guarantees meeting the other driver, I don't want to meet you.

I notice you sign off calling me "Babtw" - is that some sort of midlands thing? I know that they call each other "Bab" in Birmingham and its environs.

I won't be dropping "mea" a line, whoever she is. As Oscar said "I can resist anything except courting the affection of third eastern european woman, but I'll have a go mother, now pass me a boxing glove, I'm fisting the Marquis of Queensbury tonight".

Good luck with your feisty ways Micah, but don't come around. I won't be in.


A Night Of Paper

In truth, not much happened last night, but I'll try to describe it as though it was a horror movie, in order to make it sound interesting:

In a world where it's all stacking up, one man has a mission where failure is not an option. The shower is on. The man is clean. The shower is off. But the paperwork won't do itself. This winter, you've got to ask yourself - "Is your paperwork done?".

It's hardly surprising, therefore, that I'm finding myself lacking in inspiration a bit today. I listened to half of The Phantom of The Opera while I was doing my paperwork, but that seemed to freak the cat out a bit. I had amused myself with the idea of listening to Cats while gathering my papers together, but it seemed too twee.

Those Crazy Christians

Just when you thought that Christianity, as lampooned so effortlessly on the Simpsons in the Flanders household, couldn't really be as silly as all that, someone comes along with a Christian Video Game where one of the moves you can pull is having a good pray. Bloody marvellous!

Tuesday, December 5

Unexpected Me Time

I found myself with some time of my own that I wasn't expecting to have last night. I arrived home to find that my girlfriend was out and not due back for a while. What could I do with all this spare time? Would I do some cleaning or washing? Perhaps I would sort through the mini mountain of paperwork on my desk? Or maybe I would do some writing? Read a book? I wish that I could say that I'd taken it upon myself to go for a walk and be healthy. Sadly I did none of these things, for I am weak, and faced with an easy option, I'll take it. I lay on the bed and watched a Dvd.

It was The Fast Show. It was their farewell tour, a show I went to see live. I don't think I remembered a great deal of it. I had watched the Dvd of their previous tour recently and could remember the handful of common bits of material. I enjoyed it, though. I like the Fast Show. It comes from a good set of comic minds and the character acting is superb too. This Dvd had interspersed behind the scenes shots with the show, so some of the magic of seeing it unfold with surprises is lost, and you wonder whether they needed to show you people getting into character before the went on. However, it was illuminating. Once the quick change was done, the performer might do a quick in character mannerism to camera, and the character was turned on. I think that's probably what you have to do anyway when you're playing multiple characters in the same show. Find a trigger. Something which epitomises the character, and do it to get going.

Following my girlfriend's return I went on to watch The Day After Tomorrow, which was as big as Independence Day, only more shit. Then there was Kiss The Girls, a movie which hooked me in, but was still a pile of rats' droppings. So, a lot of watching was done.

To be honest, I needed the down time. Work has been getting much more interesting of late, which is excellent, but comes with the normal aspects of writing computer software. Sometimes you have to wrestle with things for what could be forever, until the apparent chaos of what's going wrong suddenly clicks into focus and you can point to something fairly minor and start fixing it.

After a day hitting my head against the wall yesterday, I needed a break. It took a half day more of pondering and musing for the answer to hit me today. Get another job. One that's easier. But, the other answer also hit me, which was to change the stupid thing I noticed into something sensible. Within a few minutes everything was working and I haven't had to resort to the job seeking.

In other news, I have a gig this week which I've only decided to do because it looks weird. To make it more weird, I may choose to do it without my guitar, thus making it a proper open spot performance on my part. Or it could be the start of a greater degree of freedom for me. I don't know. Anyway, the good news is that I will know some of the other acts, so if it all gets weird, we can do group therapy.

Monday, December 4

Paint The Whole World...

Apparently this X-rated version of Rainbow was made specifically for the Thames TV Christmas party many years ago. It's possible. It's been kicking around the internet for a while, but it's worth another look.

I Be Tired

Another meeting yesterday in London, so I was up at 8ish and I even cycled to the railway station to get an earlyish train.

Following the meeting I got back to Paddington, got a coffee and then travelled on a very nice train back to Reading while debating free will and morality with a 20 year old guy who works in a Pasty shop in Cirencester. I don't know why I did that. We both enjoyed the debate and I was winning, though I'm sure he believes that he was. I would have liked to have completed my Jeffery Deaver book - The Vanished Man - which I'd read on the way into London and which was getting to that critical stage in each of his books where all the twists and suprises start hitting you wit alarming regularity.

Anyway, following arrival back at the station, the collection of my unharmed bike from the bike racks and a fairly pleasant pedal home, I got the chance to finish my book. Then I sort of snoozed from 8.30 until 10 when Lost was on. I wasn't that impressed with this episode which had no drama of its own, though I'm sure it set something up for later. We'll see. If Lost doesn't get good very soon, it probably won't survive many more series.

I got back to bed and to sleep, but I woke up tired this morning. Early mornings and weekends don't mix!

Saturday, December 2

Made It

The meeting this morning wasn't too bad. Whether it was essential is debatable, but it got my mind on the subject and prepared me for tomorrow's meeting for the same organisation. Things ended early enough for me to race back to the tube, and despite my oyster card needing a top up and the machine being out of order and there being a queue at the desk at the moment the train arrived, I managed to get sorted and onto the tube. I'm now heading to Leicester Square to see if I can pick up some theatrical fun for the afternoon.

An odd thing happened to me as I left the tube to go to my meeting. There was a big issue seller outside the station. I am certain that I recognised him from the past few years at Crisis, so I said hi, bought his magazine and told him I didn't realise he sold the big issue and asked how long he'd been doing it. He seemed not to know me. So, either I'd been mistaken or he had forgotten me. Context is important when it comes to recognising people. So perhaps it was who I thought it was, but I need a Crisis shelter and a badge for him to know me. Either that, or I just confused someone. Maybe he'll go through the day wondering who the hell I was and whether he should know me. Maybe he'll think that I was just a stranger being friendly, in which case, maybe he'll wonder why I said what I said. 'I didn't know you sold the big issue' - surely the package of them in my hand was a give away!?

I must remember to bring this up with the chap if I see him this year in the context of a Crisis shelter, though it would have to be brought up sensitively. You can't just ask a homeless guy 'hey didn't you sell me the big issue once?' it looks like stereotyping and he may take offence.

The D

I went to see Tenacious D in The Pick Of Destiny on monday. I like the D, having heard their original album at a time when I needed a good degree of good humour. I even went to see them live back then too. But that was four or so years ago.

I admit that I found this movie funny, and it is always good to start a film with a pseudo rock opera featuring Meat Loaf in fine voice. However, I must admit that even I thought this film was pretty lame. It had potential, but didn't really go anywhere. Shame.

Pulling Some Moves

I was very disappointed on Monday when we went to the Ceroc class we'd attended last week only to find that it wasn't on. I was also annoyed since I'd organised the evening around attending rushing home from work, getting food ready and generally gearing up for it. What annoyed me was that we had joined only the previous week and given our email addresses, so could have at least expected an email informing up that this particular chapter of the national Ceroc cult was no longer operating.

In fairness, they've not stolen our membership money and absconded to Hawaii. They simply abandoned a venue where local youths break into nice middle class cars while their owners are learning moves that will not help them face these youths in the street when they're all hyped up on the drugs for which they're stealing from cars. Yes, learning a martial art might be more useful in this part of town. And the Ceroc movement operates countrywide with other classes in the vicinity of Reading. So it wasn't the end of the world.

It meant that we had to make other plans on Monday for our entertainment, and that we had to reschedule Ceroc for another night. Last night, in fact.

We went to the session in Twyford last night and it was good and not so good in equal proportion. On the good side, the instruction was good and they even covered two of the moves we already knew from last time, which made us feel a bit like we were cheating, but also like we could appear to be good learners. On the down side, the session was much larger than the other one we attended, and we felt a bit too immersed in a crowd of dancers. Still it was fun and, though we skipped the practice/freestyle session at the very end, I think we got something out of it. No martial arts moves in there, though. However, if someone grabs my right hand with theirs, I'll put my hand up to shoulder height while rapidly stepping to their right and then step past them flipping my right arm to my right, thus spinning them clockwise and allowing myself an easy escape.

Morning Training

If I had my way, I would sleep about 12 hours on Friday night to catch up on the lost sleep of the week and prepare for the weekend. I often get my way. This is not entirely reasonable behaviour, but while there's nobody preventing me from doing it, I'll probably find myself doing it.

This morning I have a training course in London, which is why I found myself boarding a train at 8.10. This is totally unlike me and I feel exhausted. The train is on time and wasn't packed. This is unusual for trains. It's all weird.

Friday, December 1

That Time Of Year

It is now the time of year when people go mad for Christmas and start buying tons of rubbish and decorating their houses and doing other assorted nonsense in the name of having a good time. I find this all increasingly weird.

I think it is ridiculous that low income families choose to squander so much of their resources on the huge displays of their own stupidity that are the house sized christmas lights. Not only that, but the waste of electricity is selfish and no good for the environment. There should be a surcharge for over using electricity in such a way. But then, I've never lived in a low income household. Maybe Christmas is all they have to look forward to. Maybe they're just trying to give their kids as merry a time as possible. Maybe that's just their rationale for such gawdy displays. Maybe it's a culture thing that I just don't get. It doesn't have to meet with my approval to be worthwhile for someone.

And then I ponder whether any of this is in the true spirit of Christmas. And then I remember that you don't start a sentence with a conjunction. And then I remember that I don't care. And then I remember that I don't believe in anything to do with Christianity and that a festival to celebrate the clearly embellished story of some guy who may not even have existed is not the sort of thing I would normally expect to get all purist about and that the machinery of celebrating this is largely pagan anyway.

So what do we have to celebrate Christmas for? As a series of practices, it's exceedingly hollow and pointless. We don't know why we have a tree. We just do. And lights. Stars. Whatever. It's like there's a built in ritual involving nasty brightly coloured shit and we're stuck with it for no reason.

Yet the period of enforced holiday leading up to a definite end of the year is probably a good thing. It's a time to rethink replan and get ready for another year. That's good. I could easily do it with some space, some porridge and some rest. I don't think I'll get those luxuries, though.

Spare a thought not for the wasteful revellers but, instead, for those isolated and alone this Christmas. Even though the festival may mean nothing to them, the fact that they are alone when everyone else is apparently having a good time means that their sense of isolation is heightened.

In truth, I find this a challenging time of year. If you do too, then do something about it. Find some way to tear yourself from the bingeing and tv and get out and do some good. Even a walk is better than nothing.

This Made Me Laugh

Sometimes I get a joke. Sometimes I don't. Yesterday I received this image:

and I laughed, thinking that they were doing The Beatles:

when in fact they're doing the YMCA dance.

A Confidence Restoration

My gig was unpaid and over 200 miles away from home. This could have been a recipe for lots of questioning of myself. Is it really worth doing such a gig? Why go all that way for nothing. Moreover will a bill full of other comedians, prepared to play for free, would I really gain anything, or have time enough on stage to do whatever was necessary to regain my fading confidence?

The fact that I wasn't being paid and that I didn't think any future work was contingent on the gig was exactly what I needed. I made this performance about me, not pleasing the promoter or audience. Although I overran a fair amount, and although I was the 5th act on with a restless audience and a late start, it didn't matter. I had a good time. It wasn't my usual polished shtick. I rambled here and there between routines that don't normally either get done or chained together like that. Out of the rambling came some unplanned quips and laughs. I even set down the guitar and did some straight stand up for a bit. Not perfect, but better than the insecure version of me that has been leaving gigs recently.

It's time to move on now. There's much to do. I set the wheels in motion for the house buying today. No turning back now. Well. Not really. No plans to turn back!

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