The Young Folk

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Young Folk

I would love to be able to engage with the young people in my office. They always seem to be having so much fun and glow with the enthusiastic energy of a supernova. At times it’s like watching an advert for the upswing of a bipolar disorder.

They constantly chatter about something really exciting they have done, or are going to do. Or where they went the previous night, or are going tonight, and tomorrow night – and the night after.

It all sounds amazing and so much better than anything I’ve ever done. I listen to their lives with great interest and a yearning for a nice cup of Horlicks and an aspirin.

It’s almost embarrassing when they turn to me and ask how my evening was. Talk about awkward, they hang on my every word and pose difficult questions. In short; I’m sadistically interrogated by ISIS-trained One Direction fans.

It’s no joke! It’s also fucking tricky to keep making interesting shit up to tell them each morning. I can’t regale them with my tales of watching Coronation Street, finding a lump on my back, and retiring to bed at 8.30pm without having sex (again).

It’s now got to the stage where I Google ideas the night before, and rehearse my casual answers during my commute into work.

  ‘What did you do last night, Paul?’

  ‘Oh, I popped by an alternative lifestyle awareness event that was held at my local multicultural centre. I threw a clay pot, made a goat-skinned tambourine, and then I took my wife and son to get decorated with ethic beads crafted by blind, young offenders. How about you?’

Most of my colleagues are exceedingly attractive and sickeningly single. A lot of their time is spent talking about hair products, the gym, and whatever relationship they are trying to get into. I listen to their stories of being cheated on by this guy, or not getting a call back from that girl, or how the Rohypnol was so weak that Shelia is now having flashbacks towards getting into a cab with the weird bloke from Accounts.

If you didn’t already know, I’m married, and carry all the traditional hate-etched wrinkles and scars that come from a loving relationship with someone who would rather have you living in the shed (at your parent’s house).

In spite of this I’m pretty safe in the knowledge that my wife’s spirit is now suitably crushed enough for her to keep hold of me as a charitable cause. I take this as justification for not giving to Oxfam (after all, I’m one of them!), and enjoy the thought of never needing to play that syringe-littered “field” again.

To be honest, I wasn’t very good at it the first time around, and have a nice library of petrol-soaked photos of previous girlfriends to verify my crapness at being good relationship material.

The beautiful people in my office also keep asking me out with them, and it makes me feel wanted and relevant.

Only a few weeks ago I was asked to join a 5-a-side football team by what appeared to be a fitter version of the Wolf Pack from Twilight. These guys were gorgeous and healthy, and didn’t seem tired or bitter!

I smiled and explained I have a trick knee that stops me from being Lionel Messi. Without missing a beat they immediately suggested a few beers and a session on the Xbox. I took it as a friendly offer, made in light of my heavy breathing and sweaty response to their stupid suggestion of unnecessary exercise.

And get this… a couple of very cute twenty-something girls keep asking me to the pub, and always enquire whether I’m going to attend any of the relentless social events that are seemingly arranged by the hour.

They see my snarky demeanour and washed-up appearance as a challenge away from the obvious targets found within the Wolf Pack. I should take the bait one time and be surrounded by these angels in hot pants for a few hours. To feel all young and “fuck you” about everything would be a welcome change from just feeling “fucked off” and ancient.

And whilst I’m exhausted enough never to stray, it would be kinda nice to be the older guy with an alluring twinkle in his eye, and a smart-bomb wit that could weaken the most assured and desired of the gang.

It would be very nice indeed… but I always turn them down. I say that I need to be home for my 4 year-old son, and make apologetic expressions for being such a square!

Seriously, what would these heavenly creatures want with a 43 year-old bloke who always looks like he’s just slipped in some dog shit? In truth, I think they only want me there so they can sacrifice my baggy ass to the pagan gods that keep their bodies hard and breasts mesmerising.

And in case you were wondering, my son doesn’t really need me. In fact, he’s recently taken to calling me, ‘that guy that drinks beer in my house!’

It’s strange to be surrounded by gaggles of people who will only be in their 50’s by the time I’m shitting myself in a state-run care home, and being hosed down by a friendly Jamaican nurse who I’ve taken to calling “Dark Momma!”

It’s all simple mathematics: the older I get, the more people of a younger persuasion will come n’ mess with my shizzle.

I might never be able to feel comfortable with those that were born only knowing the remakes… rather than the originals. Nor will I ever get to a stage where I can match their lifestyles and daring accessorising.

Does it worry me? Nah! Age begets experience, wisdom and a calming acceptance for the person you are. And providing those young girls keep inviting me to their alcohol-soaked coven, I’ll continue to play the snarky bloke with the greying hair that keeps lying about what he did last night.

Paul Millard 2014

IF YOU’RE YOUNG, LEAVE A COMMENT

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A Place for Everyone (My run-in with the Twitter people)

You know you have reached a certain time in your life when you start reading Playboy for the quality of its authors, rather than for the quality of its silicone. Personally, I still bounce between the two factions. I respect the genius of past contributors (Joseph Heller, Roald Dahl, Jack Kerouac, to name a few), but I can’t help but get distracted by the beautiful female “journalists”, and their use of split infinitives and saucy lingerie.

Anyway, after you’ve finished here, I urge you to go read Gilbert Gottfried’s piece in June’s edition (link below). Within The Apology Epidemic, he assassinates the social media dwellers that seem to be in a perpetual state of being offended or outraged by something. It’s hilarious, wickedly insightful, and required reading for a few people I recently ran into.

Gottfried is no stranger to controversy. Tweeting jokes about the Japanese tsunami, and baiting the outraged masses on social media, he was dismissed from a recurring television advertisement campaign as a direct result.

Honestly, if it’s that easy to destroy the livelihood of comedians you find offensive, why isn’t Michael Macintyre and the cast of Mock the Week claiming jobseekers allowance right now?

However, not a month after the Gottfried piece went out in Playboy, Anthony Cumia, from the Opie and Anthony Show on Sirius XM, was sacked for reasons that were equally amazing and staggeringly familiar.

It would seem that Cumia, whilst taking photos in Times Square late one night, was assaulted by an African-American woman who claimed he had taken her photo without permission. Rather than report the attack, Cumia recounted the experience to his Twitter followers. Big mistake!

Ignoring the vicious and unprovoked act of violence he had endured, the faceless offended picked over his tweets and simply branded the guy a racist.

Looking at the comments made it’s fair to say his words were unforgiving, understandably angry, and clearly written “in the moment”. But it’s a leap to call them racist.

Stupidly taking the bait, and engaging in the hatred (when he should have perhaps ignored the resulting tweets as nothing more than gravy-train outrage from the worst examples of social media bottom-feeders), Cumia was later dismissed from his radio show. All thanks to a few tweets and a lot of outraged people with internet access.

Now is it me, or are these ridiculous social media reactions nothing more than an example of the toxic piling-on culture that seems to be the proclivity of the more “sensitive” user?

Usually hiding behind their anonymity (a luxury not all of us have!), these people add their thoughts (loose term) and shake a disapproving fist at things they have either not fully understood or should not care about – certainly not as much as they profess too, as you will see later.

Perhaps naively, not only did it surprise me that so many people could be so hate-filled by such banality (seriously, you people can’t find anything else to get a tad miffed about? How about wartime rape or state-sanctioned child abuse?), but it also inspired me to experience a little of the heat for myself.

Now, I only became a Twitter person recently, and solely for the purpose of advertising this shambolic website. I use it every now and again, checking in on a few people I know, and a few I would like to know (I’m looking at you, Anna Kendrick!).

During the signing-up process, I remember being offered a few friendly suggestions on who I should be following – one of these was the UK X-Factor winner, James Arthur.

It was James who sprung to mind when choosing my muse. You see, I needed someone I could post a stupid comment too, and guarantee myself a shower of disapproving zealots who will bundle in and take issue with my obnoxious bullshit.

But that wouldn’t be enough, I also had to write something dumb and thoughtless enough that most would simply ignore as the act of an attention-seeking moron, but spiteful enough to lure out the whack-a-doodles and flick their Pavlovian conditioning to chase the bone thrown, en masse.

If my goal was to say something a little stupid and misguided, then I was in good company with dear old James. Here was a guy that had certainly seen his share of outspoken moments and strange controversy – my personal favourite being his alleged dropping from a record label for glamorising terrorism!

Seriously, Bananarama would turn in their grave if they knew what today’s pop stars were up too!

Anyway, with my research into his brand of followers concluded, I was ready. I had sent a few testers in previous weeks to see how deep the waters ran, and to explore what would provoke the right reaction.

But then something happened.

On the day I decided to drop the bomb, I read online that Mr Arthur was considering the removal of his Christian (first) name within the title of his next album, in the hope of shaking off yet more controversy. This time it was certain lyrics that had been deemed homophobic (by whoever monitors the use of homophobic lyrics in songs, I guess!). This was too good to miss.

After preparing my apology (because I knew I would need one), I sent the following recommendation to James… sorry… I sent the following recommendation to Arthur.

  “Rather than drop the James @JamesArthur23 , how about dropping yourself from a multi-story car park? Just a suggestion. Think about it.”

Honestly, I felt pretty shitty when I sent it. You see, I have no interest in James Arthur, or his name dilemma. I don’t know his music, or hold any malice towards him. He seems to be a decent guy who is trying to deal with the shitty side of instant fame as he sees it. Not an easy thing to do, and something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy – regardless of the groupies and money made from lucrative Iceland adverts!

However, I knew James had a particular sort of following that would leap at my tweet. Sure enough, they came running – threats and all.

One follower suggested that,

  “…his [my] son must be proud of him [me].

I can only assume this person was so angry they carried out a search on my name, found my website (thanks for the bump in readership!), noted that I had referred to my 4 year-old son in the past, and then used this information against me, in order to make a very creepy point.

Is this the work of a stable individual? I’ll let you judge.

Another stated that,

  “When somebody tweets that they clearly lack intellect or empathy”.

Now that’s a very fair point to make. However, just as I thought I had found a sensible voice among the chorus of bile and hatred, the same person tweeted,

  “Paul, you are clearly a fucktard”.

As much as I smiled at the moniker, the irony in their words was far more typical of the breed.

Finally, someone tweeted the below picture and rhyme.

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I’ll be honest; I’m really not sure what to say on this one. Whilst it has provided some amusement over here at Snarky Towers, I resent being called a “troll”.

For the record, I only go under bridges in order to receive £10 hand-jobs from whatever homeless person is living there.

Relax! I’m making a joke! Please, I don’t want to hear from any offended homeless people who happen to have a smart phone, a Twitter account, and a better hand-job pricing structure than the one I eluded too.

Anyway, after an hour of dutifully taking all of the above comments on the chin, I issued the prepared apology and explained the reasons for my actions. I also provided my email address should any of the outraged tweeters wished to contact me directly for a calmer, more constructive, discussion.

If I had genuinely offended anyone, or caused a second of unnecessary upset, I wanted to discuss it and offer an honest apology – one that would be longer than 140 characters and perhaps a little more human.

Amazingly, all those people that had so much to say during their throws of being so unforgivably offended; suddenly dried up upon seeing the reality of the moment.

In short, when offered the chance to honestly engage with the person they found so deplorable and had freely insulted, threatened and vilified – they chose to become opaque and disappeared as quickly as a chip being fought over by a plague of starved rats.

I can only assume my dumb-ass comment hadn’t offended anyone that night. It pointed more towards a moment seized upon by a group of people that perhaps lack a more meaningful anchor within their lives – caring a little too much about a pop star, and not enough about their own questionable actions of self-justified retaliation?

In essence, these outraged and offended followers had only managed to mimic the ignorant and malicious position I had adopted – the only saving grace was that mine was a construct, I can only guess at what their genuine reasons for such behaviour were.

And once the mob mentality and knee-jerk piling on had disbanded enough to become unworthy of their faux abhorrence, the validity of the concern shown became truly transparent, comical and utterly indicative.

For the most part, the whole evening had stunk of that acceptable facet of verbal assault, via keyboard, which seems destined to be the foul undercurrent of an otherwise remarkable tool of mass communication.

Social media seems to have provided a flawless breeding ground for some truly breathtaking witch-hunts. The ability for people to group together, and attack from the safety of large numbers and unknowable distance, is truly frightening – particularly if you don’t have the stones to dismiss it all as stupid Twitter comments, and really not worth the candle to begin with.

For me, it’s a wicked by-product towards the larger benefits enjoyed from freedom of speech. How the likes of Twitter and Facebook can provide anyone with a podium to have their views and voice made public. Albeit usually from behind a curtain of absolute anonymity, and delivered without real ownership or consequence.

I should also add that throughout this episode, James Arthur was the only one of us who responded like a responsible, measured and assured human being.

How does that saying go: “You can choose your friends, but not the crazies that follow you!”

Paul Millard 2014

http://www.playboy.com/articles/stop-saying-sorry-on-twitter

http://variety.com/2014/biz/news/fired-opie-and-anthony-host-wont-apologize-1201261702/

Snarky Tuesday Mark Twain

I HESITATE TO SUGGEST ANYONE LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS ONE!

The Sickness Syndrome

I recently overcame a crippling bout of flu. No, it was far worse than flu. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was a mutated strain, more akin to SARS, deadly Swine Flu or the T-Virus from Resident Evil. I was in bad shape and unable to do any household duties – even if I wanted too – which I didn’t.

Confined to my couch and linked to my Xbox and refrigerator, I was suffering, in turmoil, close to death!

Not that my wife was interested in any of this. Passing my sick bed with a sneer, she failed to acknowledge the torture my infected body was going through. It’s no fun when your wife has expert medical knowledge, decades of professional healthcare experience, and a piss-poor attitude towards the dying.

Now I may have been knocked down, but I wasn’t pushing daisies just yet.

Sure enough, my superhuman conditioning came though the challenge. The Millard anti-bodies, aided by my crime-fighting immune system, sought and destroyed the interloping virus. Five days later, a fridge of food devoured, and a few thousand Xbox points achieved, I unstitched myself from the sofa and marveled at my ability to cheat Death!

My heartless wife offered her shitty congratulations on my return to good health, pointed to the sink and threw a tea towel at me.

However, it soon became clear that the last laugh was safely in my pocket. The following day, and with a barrage of coughing and sneezing, she too was struck with the plague. Karma can be a real bitch, eh?

As a caring husband, I was itching to give her my complete support and loving attention – you know, just as I had received! I was ready to brush past her internment on the couch with the same poxy attitude she had offered me. And with the fridge empty, and her lackadaisical attitude towards gaming through sickness, she would be truly shipwrecked and unable to battle past the snot-filled days ahead.

At first, she tried to put on a brave face. She fussed around in the kitchen, dragged the hover over the entire house, and re-grouted the shower – all before lunchtime. I could see right through it. She didn’t impress me with her stupid attempt to ignore the disease raking over her system.

After a restless night of listening to her wheeze and drip I was up early the following morning, waiting for my beloved to stumble into the kitchen, all pox-ridden and fevered. As anticipated, she looked truly disgusting – to the point where I stopped her from making my breakfast.

It was clear to see. Stage two of the infection was underway! I remembered my own weakened state. She could forget about re-plastering the ceilings or whatever acts of silly indifference she planned to show me.

She would buckle today, just as I had.

Later on, after she had popped out to get the car serviced, she returned home with the weekly shopping, four bags of cement she had planned to use for resurfacing the patio area, and a few tubs of the ice-cream I had asked for (I had a slight tickly throat that needed soothing).

Only stopping to take on a Lemsip or a handful of paracetamol, she hadn’t missed a beat. I got bored waiting for the fall, and returned to the sofa and a box-set of Homeland.

She went on like this throughout the day. The house looked lovely, the garden was immaculate and my son was washed and sand-blasted. 48 hours had passed since her first contact with the superbug, and she was acting like Mary Poppins on ADD medication!

Ok, so she still looked a little undead and slimy, but she wasn’t eating VapoRub or crying blood anymore.

I guess looking back, it’s clear my wife suffered a different, less potent, strain of the killer flu. What else could it be? Her tolerance towards the illness was certainly not some stereotypical, sexist, display of how women can just get on with things. Or how men linger and ponce around crying over a stingy nose.

Oh no! She was bloody lucky! And only a fool would suggest otherwise.

Paul Millard 2014

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Sick Days

 

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Halloween Hangover

A four-day Halloween weekend has taken its toll, and I’m not prepared for this week’s nonsense. Sorry.

Normal service will be resumed next week.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of two kittens in a boot…

Snarky Tuesday Kitten Boots Paul Millard

Paul Millard 2014

 Seriously, if you leave a comment for this week’s rhubarb, you need help.

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On Halloween

Why do us Brits have such a sniffy attitude towards Halloween? Around this time of year I hear all sorts of miserable excuses for not taking a single fang of interest: Young kids trick or treating is nothing more than begging (this gem was from my own Father!), it’s an American thing, it’s all commercial and too expensive, my great grandmother was burnt as a witch and it brings back bad memories. Seriously, I’ve heard them all, and they’re all an absolute crock.

I love it all: costumes, decorations, a good scary movie, haunted house parties with 40% proof spirits, and trying not to lose any fingers on the pumpkin carving. And how about the kids coming to your door dressed up and hopped up on chocolate-covered lumps of bubblegum-flavoured kiddie crack pellets of pure sugar? Honesty, how the hell can anyone call that begging? It’s just a bit of fun… with a hint of type-1 diabetes. Cheer up!

Begging is what those overly friendly charity workers on the high street engage in. Armed with a clipboard, a bright yellow t-shirt and a stupid grin, they try to talk you out of your bank account details, with a guilt-laden script provided by a worthwhile charitable trust that needs every penny possible. However, these efforts fall flat when it transpires that the charity in question is paying said stupid, yellow, grinning bastard an attractive hourly rate so they can annoy the shit out of you.

It’s intrusive, fucking annoying and all perpetuated by adults… and not exactly in the same realm as a seven year-old Dracula asking for a few sweets. If you don’t agree then don’t open the sodding door! Pretty simple isn’t it?

Halloween is also the one time of year I absolutely long to be in Florida. In all fairness, I always want to be in Florida, but it’s more keenly felt around the witching season. That’s not to say I buy into the second excuse mentioned above, quite the opposite in fact. All Hallows’ Eve isn’t just an American thing – they just seem to embrace the tradition more than anyone else, and as a result, do it so much better.

Spooky shops materialise in empty lots, and dematerialise all the money in your wallet – leaving us all with a sense of being robbed by Casper the friendly pickpocket! Spirit Halloween is a particularly good store that appears for a few months in the Orlando suburbs and is usually filled with an array of plastic stuff provided by our trade partners in China. We have similar places in the UK, filled with the same shit. I’ve purchased my fair share of Halloween ‘merch’ from these places, to the extent where I can now read Mandarin and have a desire to occupy Tibet.

Sticking with the American thing for just a minute longer, the Florida theme parks also have their say in the proceedings too, and are again another reason why I would sell a kidney to be stateside during this time of year. The cash registers ring for Universal Studios and their legendary Halloween Horror Nights. Disney has Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (check out the below photo), SeaWorld have their Spooktacular and Busch Gardens hosts the annual Howl-o-Scream event.

And to top it all, you have craft beers with their seasonal brews – Shipyard, Dogfish Head, Blue Point and a hundred others. It’s a time for pumpkin bread, candy corn, pumpkin spiced latte and Count Chocula cereal. Jesus, it’s beautiful!

Yes, I can hear you… “Aha! You have just accepted the third excuse on your list… it is too expensive and disgustingly commercialised!” And yes, you are right; the examples above all have a nice price tag. But it doesn’t have to be all about the money.

How about a little time with the kids making a costume, some candles, a jack-o-lantern, and a few bags of sweets for anyone who knocks on the door? Your best scary stories with a few episodes of Scooby-Doo and you’re good to go. Regardless of which side of the pond you reside, you could do all of this for a fraction of the price a theme park will charge you (in the case of Universal Studios a Frequent Fear pass for Halloween Horror Nights 24 is coming in at $86.99, that’s £54.00 for 16 nights entry – damn good value in its own right!).

As a semi-responsible father to a four year-old, my time dreaming of the theme park scare events are currently suspended, and a cheaper Halloween family tradition is heading my way. This year I have the day off work and I intend to spend every minute of it with my son: making his costume, preparing the house, carving the lantern, trick or treating and doing all things spooky. I have Blackbeard’s Ghost and The Haunted Mansion on DVD, and a few scary stories up my sleeve for when the night comes to a close.

So what’s left on the excuse front? Ah yes, your great grandmother, the sorcerer! Well, this is even more reason for us British folk to gather around the cauldron and celebrate a holiday we hand a fair hand in creating. Whilst originating as a Celtic tradition, centuries of pagan history, Druid rituals and white witchcraft have all recognised the importance of celebrating the dead as keenly as they would the living. All Hallows’ Eve, All Saint’s Eve, Allhallowtide, it has gone by many names and has been consistently observed, in one form or another, since the Roman Empire. How do ya like those (bobbing) apples?!?

In the UK, we have thousands of haunted castles and stately homes, all with their own terrifying stories of grey ladies, headless monks, and blood-soaked servants wailing down the corridors. We gave the world Charles Dickens, M. R. James and Yvette Fielding. Ours is a history steeped in the supernatural – why the hell wouldn’t we take one night out of the year to recognise it? We celebrate a terrorist every 5th November, why not Will-o’-the-wisp?

The truth is there is no attitude, not anymore. I think Halloween for us Brits is a generational thing, which is becoming more prolific within our shops, and more acceptable within our homes, as time continues to bring a new batch of accepting parents. For the record, my parents hated the time of year, and did precious little to celebrate it. I would like to think that my son is destined to have nothing but fond memories of Halloween, and of how the house was always decorated, Mum was usually the casualty of a few scares, and mischief was always encouraged by his stupid Father.

Paul Millard 2014

Snarky Tuesday Halloween Strip

 LEAVE A COMMENT, AND JUST TRY TO ARGUE WITH ME!!!!

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A Damn Good Scary Movie

Snarky Tuesday The Conjuring

The importance of a good spooky scare cannot be underestimated. Seriously, think of it like this: in your day-to-day whatever, how many times do you receive a good fright? Something that gets the heart racing and the mind clawing to comprehend what has just caused you to lift a few feet into the air whilst letting out a chicken-shit whimper of terror? I’m guessing not very often. Unfortunately, unless you’re a Ghostbuster or have the sickening pleasure of living in Portsmouth, the chance of bumping into a horrifying spectre to provide such a jolt is pretty slim.

Enter a good scary movie to address this balance.

Now, I’m not talking about the stupid torture porn that passes for scary these days. Hostel, Saw, The Purge – you might be very popular with the popcorn masses, but you can all bugger off to the back of the queue. Why? Because those films just ain’t scary. Vile, ugly and staggeringly predictable, perhaps, but not scary! I’m also not referring to monster movies like The Thing, Jeepers Creepers and The Mist. Yes, they do have some spooky elements and I enjoy them all, but no, you lot also need to wait by the door until called for.

Perhaps at this time of year more than any other, we all need a real butt-tingling film to truly shatter the bone marrow and make us fearful to turn our backs on the open bedroom door. I’m looking at movies such as Poltergeist, the first Paranormal Activity movie (theatre cut), The Grudge, The Orphanage… and more recently, The Conjuring. Yes sir! The Conjuring is a perfect example.

I’m an old hand when it comes to horror and fright flicks. I’m seasoned enough to remember the VHS/Betamax video nasty debates of the 1980’s, and the first time Freddie, Jason and Michael pitched up in the local flea-pit cinema. I’ve sat through Cannibal Holocaust, The Men Behind The Sun, Visitor Q and Audition. From the trendy wave of Japanese, Spanish and Mexican horror imports, to the reinvention of the more tongue-in-cheek creature features such as Piranha 3DD, Sharknado and Big Ass Spider. Whilst they may all have a place within the wider billing of “horror”, not all are quite so deserving of their resting place among the truly unsettling and macabre.

As testimony to this, last Saturday evening I rediscovered the beauty for a simple, no thrills, utterly gripping, good old-fashioned scary movie.

The Conjuring has no bad language, zero sexy moments, and less blood and gore than a typical episode of Casualty. The premise is easy, the story accessible, and the execution right on the money. To be clear, this isn’t so much a movie review but rather a review of how a movie scared the crap out of me!

The film certainly conjures (sorry!), a sense of uneasy companionship within the first few minutes. The opening shot alone cements you into a creepy apprehension on what’s to come, and there’s something to be said for that edgy, uncomfortable feeling you get when in the presence of a balls-out-of-the-bath scary movie. I have to admit, twenty minutes in I was starting to feel the heat and had taken to occasionally looking away from the screen, not out of boredom, but in an attempt to limit my exposure to the scare… when it eventually arrived.

The jump moments in this film are provided in a way that abandons the obvious attempts to catch you unaware, and instead lulls your misplaced trust into a flash of fist-clenching fright. It’s difficult to explain, but there were several moments in which the scare arrived, I jumped and swore, and then immediately re-watched the scene in order to relive the moment with a little more awareness and bravery.

Mid-way through and I was totally engrossed with the story, invested in the characters, and questioning my choice to watch this bloody film just before bedtime! This is embarrassing, but I actually started to laugh at the scares in the hope of taking the edge off. Seriously, such was the nervous energy I was infused with, I felt like I needed to laugh at the craziness in order to get through it. Stupid eh?

Minimal use of tired stereotypes, no “dumb blonde” moments and a cast of mostly believable characters who were making the same choices that I would have made in their situation – this was proving to be a very different movie to the one I had subconsciously predicted. In essence, The Conjuring had some truly unique features towards what has become a quite hackneyed and predictable genre. For my money, it was these aspects that added to my own fear scale, which for the record, was now starting to worry me!

However, the last ten minutes of this film also happened to be its worst, and provides an anticlimactic ending that almost feels out of place when referring back to the previous ninety minutes of painful suspense. Everything is wrapped up nicely (maybe a little too nicely), and whilst it managed to readdress my own levels of stupid apprehension at the time, it has provided a derisive talking point for the horror elite out there – with many taking real issue towards such a cop-out approach to close an otherwise refreshing film.

With that said, it’s been a very long time since I felt this way during a movie, and rarely have I found the need to look away and hide my trepidation from the screen before me. I really should have saved this film for Halloween night, and tested the nerve of my wife (who has categorically refused to watch it as a result of reading this!).

I’m not sure how The Conjuring played in a packed cinema upon release, but in my living room at 1am, with the lights off, and a strong coffee as my only company, I was spooked out like Shaggy in every episode of Scooby-doo.

clap-clap!

Paul Millard 2014

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Feeling Those Magic Balls

So, another £100 million Euro Lottery weekend has gone by, and I’m not a penny richer from it. Damn! After carefully selecting my numbers, and weighing up the pro’s and con’s for having more than three single digits in my choice, I duly purchased my ticket and dreamt of what I would do with all that lovely lolly.

A charitable soul by nature (not that you would notice!), I’m going to bypass the countless good causes I would bless with my galloping philanthropy, and dismiss my altruistic acts towards all the caring foundations that provide dyslexic, one-legged, lesbian, Kurdish transsexuals the chance to build a better life and pursue meaningful careers in event management. Don’t you worry; I’d do my bit for charity and throw a few shekels into their collective sky rockets – you never know I might get a knighthood, or meet Coldplay!

And while we’re on the subject of the alienated and mentally puzzled, I’d make sure my family and friends were sorted – even the ones I don’t like and avoid like a dose of Ebola. All would be provided with a brighter future, a little less fiscal worry, and a lovely new washing machine. I’d even take care of my wife’s side of the family twig… although when I say “take care of” I mean it in the Tony Soprano sense. Bada-bing!

What else? Well, I guess I would also quit my day job. No, let me re-phrase that, I’d scrape my job from the soles of my shoes quicker than Oscar Pistorius can shoot an unarmed door! Seriously, thanks for the budget brand tea and coffee, and for the use of that shitty toilet with the broken door and bogey-covered mirror, oh, and for all those free envelopes you left in the stationary cupboard – thanks a fucking bunch for all of it… but I really need to go now. See ya.

Next I would take a long holiday – for about six years. Myself, my wife and my boy… we’d go everywhere. Experience scores of different cultures, and look into the faces of every nation we could reach. We’d see the true wonders of the world and succumb to the wider embrace our little planet can offer those with a valid passport and the right inoculations. Just think about it for a second – Burma, Nepal, Bora Bora, Guernsey!

And with the world truly encircled, the day job safely exorcised, my furthest and dearest comfortably rinse-cycled, and a glut of questionable charities fairly rewarded, what else would I do with all that free time and loot?

Well, after a brief stint as a megalomaniac, and a few failed attempts to build a working “death ray”, as a means of exterminating the parasitic Justin Beiber from our lovely blue marble forever, I think I would retire into a life of doing nothing. Yeah, that’s right, I would do sod all for as long as possible.

It’s funny, but whenever you get into this type of conversation, everyone barks the same statement,

“Ohhh, you would eventually get bored though wouldn’t you?”

NO! I fucking sure as hell is hot wouldn’t!

I’m serious. I would never be bored again. Speaking from a great deal of personal experience, I’m here to tell you all that working a crummy job is boring, not having the cash to travel the world is boring, not being able to afford a decent washing machine is boring (what is it with me and washing machines today??). But having millions to blow on whatever… isn’t – boring – at – all.

Money doesn’t buy happiness – fuck you! Eight holidays a year, no mortgage, a new car whenever I fancy one and a bottomless bank balance will bring a smile to my face every sodding time. And to push the materialistic shit to one side for a moment, the potential of having a son who gets to see his Dad for a little longer than my current working week allows would certainly make me and mine very happy indeed. Easy money is easy lost… just try me!

Guess what? It’s this fantasy that will drive me to buy yet another ticket next week. I’ll gladly spend £2 on keeping that dream alive for a few more days, until the next draw – because that’s what we do isn’t it? We buy the dream each week and make wondrous plans, and outrageous imaginary purchases, with the immense wealth six random numbers could bring. That sliver of printed paper is truly the stuff of dreams, and until mine is dashed, I’ll continue to surf Trip Advisor, purr over the Audi R8 website, and dribble at the new Hotpoint washer/spinner coming out this winter.

Paul Millard 2014

Snarky Tuesday Lottery

 WOW… WHAT WERE THE ODDS?!?!?!

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Fu’Coffee To Go

Costa, Starbucks, Cafe Nero and all the other coffee dealers along my high street, why do these places give me the Purple Pim? Regardless of the name over the door, everyone of these coffee shop drug dens appear to be stocked with the same freshly pressed employees (all of whom make me feel like The Grinch on laundry day), stupid ceramic merchandise for stupid ceramic commuters, and hillocks of tasty apple pastries – that are seemingly filled with the same preservatives found within the crocodile-like corpse of Joan Rivers (too soon??).

In all honesty, I don’t go into these places that often, but when I do I always feel the same way: like a stupid teenager in a packed supermarket, attempting to buy condoms with his Oyster Card.

So, let’s start with the beautiful people serving behind the counter. Just old enough to avoid tricky child labour laws, these Sesame Street baristas cluster around the complex coffee machinery and chatter about their complex hair products with animated gestures that would usually indicate severe brain trauma. When shambling into these sweet-smelling temples of coffee coolness, desperately trying to disguise my confusion on where I should stand to place my order, I always expect to be ignored by the gaggle of matching polo shirts in attendance. However, in an act of defiance towards the God of Shit Customer Service (a deity who seems to be worshipped everywhere!), these sparkling visions of youth and facial hair take pity on my bewildered form, and cheerfully engage me in light conversation towards what cup of something I should exchange all the money in my wallet for.

Now I can’t speak for my fellow snarkhists, but this kind of enthusiastic welcome puts me on edge right off the bat. Don’t they realise that I’m not one of them? I don’t look nearly as good as them or sound quite so shit-sickeningly odious. I don’t have a skincare regime or an emo girlfriend who’s currently experimenting with self-harming. Have they mistaken me for someone else… someone relevant? I’m 43 years-old and a bit grumpy, I can’t fit into any sized pair of Firetrap jeans, and I’ve never been pierced (intentionally). The stubble on my face is an act of sheer laziness, not because of some hip Movember bollocks, and the closest I get to cutting edge reality TV is the Coronation Street omnibus on a Sunday morning.

However, my uneasiness doesn’t stop there. I’m never too sure what to order, or how to pronounce it correctly. Is a frappachino the cold one? How about a skinny latte, is that the strong coffee that comes in a cup small enough to keep in my left nostril? What about the fruit coolers and the vanilla berry refreshers – are they coffee?!? I would like to think that I’m self-assured enough to ask these questions to iCarly behind the counter, but I don’t. Instead, I order a plain black coffee and hope she doesn’t ask me if I want to ‘husk my own beans’ or something else I’m too square to understand.

And if that isn’t bad enough, I don’t feel comfortable sitting in those places. They all seem to have taken their design inspiration from a 17th century Dorset cottage reworked by the bloke who invented all that iCrap. Exposed wooden beams with antique ironmongery, offset by brushed steel toilet roll holders and subtle LED lighting that provides a cool calm and mild neurological seizures. They have carefully distressed brickwork, monochrome posters of yet more beautiful people and factory- produced aluminium customers.

On rare occasions, usually when I have nowhere better to go, I’ve perched myself on a vinyl stool that is clearly designed to promote spinal damage, and taken my cinnamon-spiced coffee conundrum among the twatlings (collective term) of open laptops, smartarsed smart-phones and wireless doohickies. In short, it’s an awkward beverage from within the Starbucks Batcave!

Now I was about to launch into a few more paragraphs on this subject, and continue my small-minded assassination towards the coffee culture that has left me behind in the local ‘greasy spoon’. However, my wife has just peeked over my shoulder, and within thirty seconds of reading this rubbish, delivered a perfect (ly annoying) suggestion…

“Stop moaning and just buy a coffee machine for the kitchen!”

I hesitated for a second in my response. That could be the solution – I could buy one of those things, try to use it before my 4 year-old fucks it up by ramming Play-Doh into its fragile mechanisms, and be the master of my own coffee. No longer would I need to be bashful in the face of a pretty barista, or exhausted by the espressos on offer. In short, I could reclaim one of last legal highs available and hit that shit like it ain’t no thang, anytime I damn well please! Unfortunately, by the time I had processed all this; my wife had left the room like a shitty Elvis impersonator. I had to shout back something discouraging towards her genius proposal…

“Yeah… well… I don’t like sitting in our kitchen either!”

Whilst I think it’s fair to say that my rapier-like response was devilishly cutting and most fantastic in every way, I’m now waiting for a suitable amount of time to pass before I make the suggestion to get one (from the money I’ll make by selling our kid on eBay!).

Paul Millard 2014

Snarky Tuesday Coffee

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Cooking Up With CD’s

Here’s one I wrote a while ago for another website, but wanted to share with you good people. I guess with legal downloading and illegal torrent sites becoming more publicized, and with Thom Yorke just releasing his new album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, via a $6 BitTorrent download, the redundancy of physical copies of music (and media in general), is perhaps even more relevant.

Anyway, here it is…

In a world dominated by MP3 and digital download, the compact disc is seemingly destined to become the secondary medium for delivering music to the masses. With a similar future to that of whoever wins X-Factor this year, the fate of the humble CD stinks of obscurity, and will eventually be cast aside like those quirky C90 cassette tapes of the 1980’s. For my part, and in an attempt to embrace the digital age (with staunch fascist minimalism and sufficient digital back-up’s), I recently decided to dump my entire CD collection to the local charity shop.

You see, I moved into my new house just under a year ago, a move that forced me to not only pack all my CD’s into several boxes, but also to suffer the misery of unpacking the lot onto some very expensive shelves I had purchased for the new spare room.  This endeavor occurred a few months ago, and it turned out to be the last time I touched the sodding things!

In essence, my CD’s have become modern equivalents of those awful ornamental plates old people hang on walls, or worse still, those tiny Lilliput cottages that have real working lights and incidental bits and bobs that make you go, ‘Oooh, look, an old wellington boot is outside the backdoor, and it has a tiny spider-web on it, how cute.’

So, in a display of nihilistic reproach I decided to dump these silver discs back into the boxes, and send them off to fight it out with the other redundant shit found at the local Oxfam shop. However, whilst sorting through the hundreds of CD’s I couldn’t help myself from taking certain albums back.

A few Nirvana albums, Meat is Murder by The Smiths, The Kinks, Blur, and Talking Heads – the selection continued. These albums were not particularly special, nor had any kind of associated memories harking back to a first girlfriend, a first kiss, or the day Krispy Kreme Doughnuts opened a franchise in town. They were just albums far too precious to give away – after all, how the hell could I give away Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens?

A stupid gestalt sentiment kicked into over-drive, and with the fevered intent of a seasoned drug addict looking for his works, I ended up fishing out about fifty CD’s of no particular note that went back on the shelves… no doubt to be ignored until the next house move.

Reciting this story back to a work colleague only compounded my bafflement. His response was elegant and simple, ‘I wouldn’t get rid of any of them. You need to be able to look back through them when you’re eighty!’

Why? I mean, why bother with CD’s? We’re not talking about classic vinyl here – vinyl that was purchased back in the day when “Compact” and “Disc” were just two unlinked words with no meaning outside of their respective dictionary entries.

I’ll admit it, vinyl 33’s”, 45’s” and 78’s” has to be the biggest provocateur to the subliminal music tweeker. I know this is more sentiment but I recently rescued my father’s vinyl collection, which he had lovingly left in a dirty cardboard box, in the attic, for the best part of 30 years… unbelievable! He had an original Sgt. Peppers up there, and the Stones first album. I’m pleased to report those relics of the lost past are now housed within plastic airtight containers, safely removed from human hand.

In fact, you could say that vinyl has a different set of rules and artistic merit. The artwork is represented on a big, square piece of cardboard and usually with a glossy finish. The disc is carefully pressed on mysterious machines, (not via a £10 CD-RW optical drive), and housed within a separate paper sheath for added protection. The vinyl is heavy and usually matt black (with an occasional limited press in either white or green). You have sleeve notes, printed lyrics and maybe a few photos within a gate-folded outer cover. It seemed that within its grooves sat truth, emotion and love. A CD, by comparison, is where you now store the crap created by Simon Cowell/Victor Frankenstein. Thousands upon thousands of the same soulless shit-birds that learnt three chords on the guitar via episodes of Hannah Montana – to hell with that!

And arhhh… therein lies the rub. To cast aside silver plastic is seemingly easy and acceptable, but to dump the same collection of music on vinyl… not a chance in hell.

Is there an answer to such a display of elitist appreciation of what is nothing more than a different delivery system of the same product? Taking aside the arguments towards a better sound quality from vinyl; or the unique emotion within the physical playing of vinyl – the spinning of the table, selecting the speed, dropping the needle – maybe it’s just some kind of stupid Pavlovian response certain music junkies get from a certain version of the same damn drug.

In short, I have no interest in looking back on a shitty CD with their cracked covers and fading little booklets that always get torn as you remove them from the plastic front, but I’ll happily sell a kidney to keep my Radiohead vinyl in vacuum-sealed containers, preserving them forever with my unremitting love and loyalty. Will I ever listen to them? Probably not, I’ve got the entire collection on my iPhone, why bother with tube amps and correctly-balanced turntables.

As you can see, my head is like a bag of cats on this topic. Perhaps there is no answer, just my own proclivity towards what makes the final cut: timeless CD’s, beautiful vinyl… or entire Lilliput villages.

Paul Millard 2008

Snarky Tueday CD vs Memeory Stick

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On Fatherhood

On occasion, it’s difficult to believe that I’m someone’s Dad. It’s weird to say the word, let alone get comfortable with the concept. I’ve been doing this job for four years, and there are days when I honestly don’t think I’m suitable for the position. Maybe there was a mix-up in the Human Resources department, or perhaps the recruitment consultant was just like every other recruitment consultant I’ve ever met – staggeringly stupid and glorious in their empty-headed inability to do anything, much less offer a guy like me the role of “Father of One – 3rd class”.

I mean, how the hell can I be someone’s Father?

Anyone who has had the pleasure of my company (you lucky devils), will agree that I’m a tad prickly – not nasty prickly, or prickly in the way Josef Fritzl might come across to his children, I’m just a bit difficult.  I give dreadful advice about pretty much everything, I’m constantly distracted by whatever is going on in my head at the time (a perfect trait to have when caring for a baby!), and for the most part I’ve never really given a shit about much else.  I consider my day job to be an impediment that I’m trying to find a corrective shoe for, my wife an impediment towards my desire to marry Amanda Peet, and my ancient, money-pit of a house a serious impediment… period!

Where do I get the balls to have a kid, much less school the poor sod in the ways of life? I’m not joking here; take my general regard towards the various jobs I’ve had over the last twenty years, it’s truly horrendous and not exactly in-keeping with the kind of thing a father figure should be promoting.

Honestly, I’ve had more roles than a delivery driver for Greggs (I know the spelling is wrong, but just go with it). I’ve been known to start a promising career at 9am, go to lunch a few hours later, and that’s pretty much it. The older I get the more I regress into a prissy student who’s too stupid to hold down a job and just fucks off when the dinner bell rings… I’m like the Curious Case of the Unemployable Nothing. I’m embarrassed by it. The amount of jobs I’ve carefully expunged from my resume is hilarious – it’s like cutting and pasting into a patch-work quilt of utter bollocks.

I’m serious; my resume is so fictitious Marvel was interested in buying the rights (they eventually went with Guardians of the Galaxy as it’s more believable).

However, having a child brings alarming things into your once semi-manageable life. I don’t mean alarming as in “let’s scare Dad by putting spoons into this power socket”, but more in how they can alter your perspective, your character, your need to put circuit breakers on everything and insulation tape on their pudgy, burnt fingers!

For me, I seem to be moving away from the snarky Dr Seuss character I’ve spent a lifetime fleshing out, and more towards something akin to a weird Jewish mother-type figure, with wide eyes and thinning hair. You see, I’m now stupidly neurotic, over protective, suspicious and bat-shit crazy when it comes to my precious. In short, I’m Gollum with a Toys-R-Us store card.

Am I happy about this? I guess so. I used to spend a lot of time doing stuff I had no real reason to do – like trying to get stupid Benjamin Button references into whatever I’m writing at the time. These days I spend most of my time removing Lego figures from the soft tissue of my foot and wondering where all the damn spoons have gone.

With each new day comes a new fear. Something I can mull over, worry about until I’m on the verge of mixing myself a vodka Prozac martini, and then drive my wife insane with my unfounded dread and anxiety. She hates this aspect of my quirky, lovable nature – to the point where I frequently need to remind her that Amanda Peet would be far more understanding and sympathetic to my sociopathic tendencies. Will I ever get used to fatherhood? I really don’t know. It’s a minefield that changes on an hourly basis and is destined to end in an amputation of some kind.

I guess you’ll have to watch this space to find out which limb goes first.

Paul Millard 2014

Paul Millard Snarky Tuesday

… and for my own enjoyment, here is the future Mrs Millard!

Amanda Peet Snarky Tuesday

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