Elton vs. D&G

The absurdity of celebrities reached amazing levels last week. Employing everyone’s favourite method of witch hunting, Twitter, Elton John launched a scathing attack on cloth-cutters Dolce & Gabbana, encouraging the whole world to boycott their stupidly expensive clothes.

The reason – they said something mean about IVF babies and surrogacy during an interview.

Now.

I’ll be honest; I didn’t know Dolce & Gabbana were actual people. I thought it was just a name, like Burger King or Pound Land.

Furthermore, it seems they have an immense amount of power, enough to influence the entire planet. Well, Ricky Martin seemed to think so. He tweeted the following in light of Elton’s call to arms;

Martin Tweet

Putting aside Ricky’s astonishing talent for “text speak”, the fire didn’t stop there, and only a few hours later a crusader called Ryan Murphy lent his views on Messrs Dolce & Gabbana;

Murphy

Now here is a perfect example of outrage, à la social media.

Not satisfied with showing his upset at the interview, Mr Murphy gives a little fashion advice on the side. Not only are their views unfashionable, but their clothes are ugly. I’m guessing he went on to sing a song about how Mr Dolce smells of poop, and followed it by stealing several of Mr Gabbana’s Pokémon cards at playtime!

I followed this twaddle with genuine fascination. But it got to the stage where I couldn’t keep up with the amount of double standards and two-faced dreck being spouted by these people.

It seems animal testing and using real fur is fine… but not agreeing to couples in love having IVF babies all over the place? Now that’s a bridge too far! Boycott the bastards! How about we slag off their clothes (that we all used to wear and promote!).

Look, Dolce & Gabbana were offering their opinion – granted a pretty dumb one and not particularly well judged or informed – but an opinion all the same. It wasn’t a piece of legislation, or a change in government policy… it was just an opinion.

During the fallout, everyone seemed to forget a very important luxury we all possess – the ability to simply ignore this kind of horseshit and move on with our day.

I guess what interested me was the motivation that caused those to speak out and join the boycott?

Let’s put it this way. Exactly how many people do you think Dolce & Gabbana have corrupted with this interview? Are you going to tell me that a couple (regardless of sex) going through IVF treatment or surrogacy will read these opinions and become shamed into changing their minds?

If they do, then trust me, it has little to do with a fashion designer boring us with their take on things, and more about a larger uncertainty that was already there to begin with.

The inner thoughts of Dolce & Gabbana are not going to rock the world into criminalising IVF. Nor will they alter the opinion of those who already see the innocent and inherent joy surrogacy can provide those who ache for a family. So let’s all take a breath!

As for Elton John and his merry band of Twitter bullies – calm the heck down! Do you not realise how distasteful it is to gleefully engage in this social media “piling on” behaviour?

Elton had his children by whatever means suited him, not as a result of some endorsement from a fashion designer. And not for nothing, no one is calling your kids anything, Elton, but you are by rising to this rhubarb and lending a voice it simply doesn’t need.

You don’t believe me? Well, let’s see how many people are still talking about this nonsense a month from now.

And as for Victoria Beckham, John Barrowman, and all the other celebs that slithered out and bundled onto the issue like spiteful lemmings… can someone do the planet a favour, and destroy their smartphones!

Paul Millard 2015

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Arresting 4-Letter Words

I had a run in with the police a few weeks ago. Yeah… that’s right… I’m so gangsta!

However, if you’re expecting to hear about car chases, my time in prison with a big bloke from Norfolk who kept calling me Doris, or the witty repartee only an obnoxious police officer with a Napoleon complex can provide – I’m sorry, but you’re backing the wrong horse.

You see, my beef was with the internet police, and it happened on a Tuesday morning, at my desk in the office, whilst eating a delicious biscuit.

After publishing that week’s Snarky Tuesday over breakfast, I had taken my 40-mile wacky race into work and started the daily toil in earnest. After shuffling papers for a while, I grabbed a coffee and checked in on the website to see how the early morning traffic was looking.

With an entire Jammy Dodger wedged into my stupid mouth, I clicked on my website, and nothing happened.

Not one to give up that easily, I clicked on the link a further fifteen times, just to make sure. Nothing. I slammed the mouse on the desk and threw it to the floor… to check it wasn’t a particle of dust blocking the circuit board thingy. Still nothing. Just as I reached to unplug the screen (in order to give it a rinse in a bowl of warm, soapy water), I noticed a message:

This page has been blocked because of suspected offensive page content (fuck).

It seemed my website had been blocked because I had used a potty word! One single use of the f-bomb, within a 700-word, skilfully crafted, totally sexy, mind-bendingly funny, essay had gotten me disavowed from the internet.

Now.

I have an issue with this.

Let’s start with how many times you think that word appears on the internet? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it’s more than once – and not always by me.

And how offensive is that word anyway?

It’s been employed within canonised works of literature for centuries, shouted a thousand times a day at most North London comprehensive schools, and by way of several variants, frequently used to describe every politician on the planet.

You’re telling me that Islamic State can jump on YouTube as a means of repulsing the world with their shenanigans, but due to 4 letters arranged in a certain way I can’t reach a two-bit website that gets the same kind of viewing figures Educating Joey Essex got (before being canned)? This is a joke, right?

I was curious. Who gets to decide what is considered offensive?

I spoke to the IT guy. I wanted to understand the justification behind being blocked in such a way. With nerd juice flying in all directions, he told me it was blocked by software used by the company that was based on a matrix of words and a particular set of algorithm’s that sets a redundant “cost” on something that I didn’t understand, at all!

I think he was still talking when I wandered off and bought a Mars bar.

Techno babble aside, surely there are repercussions towards this annexing of certain parts of the English language? It smacked of the overbearing result of a nanny state – one that seemed hell bent on indoctrinating a charter of unsolicited standards towards what is deemed acceptable and what isn’t?

However, at that moment of rallying my thoughts, and getting a bit political, I remembered a salient and very critical facet to all of this.

The computer I’m using, and the time in which I’m using it, is not mine. I’m at work for Christ’s sake! I should be, ya know… working.

In short, it’s all well and good to have lofty ideas towards how language is being embezzled by faceless censors with absolute power, but do it in your own time, eh!

Oh, and stop eating all the Jammy Dodgers!

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Blocked

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The Metro Online

I recently had a few pieces published in The Metro Online. Now you may think this is nothing more than a cop-out from this week’s usual rhubarb… and you would be right! However, I wanted to share the links here and ask you to take five minutes, have a look, and leave a comment.

http://metro.co.uk/2015/02/15/the-perils-of-a-mid-life-gamer-readers-feature-5062674/

http://metro.co.uk/2015/02/08/video-games-made-me-a-killer-and-i-feel-fine-readers-feature-5053020/

I’ll be back next week with the usual dreck.

Paul

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On Fatherhood – Part 2

  “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.”

Wise words from Phillip Larkin there, and certainly applicable when talking about my own levels of neurosis towards my 4 year-old son.

Let’s take the latest issue being faced by my stupid psyche. It’s certainly a biggie, and one that I have feared for some time now (well, just over 4 years!).

You see, back in September of last year, my little bundle of lithium starting school.

Not an issue in itself. Thousands of kids do it each year. Well, this is the first time my kid has done it, and to put it mildly, I have my own shitty hangs up.

In short, I hated school… every poxy second of it!

With the exception of a few mates, and a wicked English Literature teacher who scared me into learning stuff that was actually helpful, absolutely nothing else about my entire educational experience was enjoyable. The day I left was like receiving a get out of jail free card – hand delivered by a team of Playboy Bunnies.

The educational establishments (loose term) that I occasionally attended were truly dreadful, and acted as nothing more than state-sanctioned hurt lockers for aspiring criminals and future cast members of Benfits Street.

The pupils didn’t give a shit about the school, the teachers didn’t give a shit about the pupils, and I didn’t give a shit about most of it.

As a result of this breathtaking daisy chain of crapness, from Sunday night to Friday afternoon I pretty much plotted ways to avoid the school bell.

I hoodwinked my mother into time off with tales of various germs entering my frail body and laying waste to my immune system. I played truant with my friends in the local town centre, hiding in various café and perfecting my ability to eat cheese toasties whilst playing Paperboy and Bubble Bobble.

And when I had no choice but to attend, I spent the entire time doing anything other than what I should have been doing. For the most part, I concentrated on trying to make the girls laugh whilst avoiding the roaming bullies, droogs and other members of the faculty staff that were employed to keep order and maximize fear.

It was a bad time for me, one that I wouldn’t wish on my favorite enemy – if I had one.

And so it comes to pass that my son now enters the British educational system. The most precious thing I have is being handed over to who knows who, for six hours a sodding day! When else would a responsible parent do such a thing? Do I throw the keys to my house at a complete stranger each morning, and say, ‘I’ll be back in six hours, try not to break anything!’

I feel like I should fight against this apathy. I need to challenge the arcane doctrine we all seem way too willing to accept as normal. And yes, I’m also terrified that his experience will be just as shit-awful as mine!

However, it would appear that underneath my painful attempts to redirect my fear, I have miscalculated one very important aspect. One fundamental element in all of this ridiculous expectation and self-created scaremongering:

My son is not me!

Honestly, I can’t tell you how much of a blessing this is for him. Actually, if you’re a frequent visitor to this site, you probably know all too well just how lucky the kid is for not taking after his father.

Whilst it’s fair to say that being skeptical, a little introverted and a tad standoffish is good for business, it isn’t always helpful away from the keyboard. It’s also pretty obvious how this aspect of my nature (albeit a younger, more toned down version), would ensure my time at school be nothing short of a glorious picnic of red ants and curly Spam sandwiches – covered in dog shit!

I really don’t want to get into a whole diatribe about Paul Millard: The School Years, and recount tales of woe and misery-soaked bollocks. It really wasn’t like that. I’ll freely admit to a little poetic license in this tale, but do not dismiss it as nothing more than a complete fiction. My schooldays were far more Carrie than Tom Brown. Trust me!

Anyway, these days I’m more transfixed with the hope of seeing such potential horrors vanquished from my son’s future experiences. The thought of him having to deal with some of the shit I went through is enough to have me follow him around each day, disguised as a text book, and ever ready to jump out and protect my little angel from weird teachers and fat kids with personal space issues!

Well, he is now into his third term at school. His teachers are glowing towards his efforts, he already has more friends than I have managed to accrue in 42 years on the planet, and he seems to love every aspect of the school experience.

In short, I think his experience will be just that – his experience. No need for me to muddy the waters with my bullshit. I should take a breath and have a little faith in my son.

The fact that he was recently caught in the girls toilets trying to make the chicks laugh, will be put down to a rogue strain of the Millard personality seeping though!

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard The Breakfast Club

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Comfortably Vexed

I used to be quite angry for a lot of the time, particularly when I was younger. In fact, when I was in my early twenties I had a permanent scowl on my dumb face – and for reasons I can’t quite remember. I think I wore it because I thought girls would think I’m edgy and a bit challenging. In fact, it just made me intolerable and annoying. I didn’t get much action back then!

I also used to have an opinion about everything! With my facial muscles seemingly frozen into that stupid, angry glare, I would spout utter horseshit about things I had absolutely no knowledge of. I rallied with such conviction and cool exasperation, anyone with half a brain overhearing me would have been driven to convulsions by my pantomiming and general arseholery.

But I believed in all of it – so deeply that I could have reached the earth’s core with my shit-bag opinions on stuff no one was interested in to begin with. What a prick!

These days I struggle to find anything to get that angry about. I’m too old and don’t have the energy to get worked up and punchy. Come to think of it, I would much rather reserve that energy for when Mrs Millard lowers her guard enough for me to sneak some love her way!

Also… what’s the damn point anyway?

Ok, so a bad result in N5 can get me a bit steamed for an hour or two on a Saturday afternoon. The aforementioned wife is no more challenging than any other form of mental cruelty, and with the exception of tearing my feet up on abandoned Lego constructions; my son is a perfect foil to almost all of life’s little attempts to water-board the shit out of me!

This is not to say that I don’t have some concerns and worries.

My ability to detect individual bacteria entering my circulatory system borders on the clairvoyant these days. Not a day goes by when I don’t feel a tinge of pain that requires a lengthy spell on Wikipedia or the NHS website for irrational idiots. Age seems to have delivered a growing trepidation towards mortality and good health – one that I can’t seem to dismiss, regardless of what Google tells me.

As I said earlier, my son is a miracle eraser towards those stupid things that would get me tight and a little vexed. However, the flipside to that coin is my newfound hysteria towards his well being and safety. I’m a crazy man when it comes to my son and heir. In fact, anyone calling themselves over protective clearly hasn’t walked a mile in my moccasins!

In short, my childrearing style takes the nurturing warmth of Mr. Mom, with the offensive qualities of a MOAB intercontinental ballistic missile. I can do the cookie-cutter shit, and I can also lay waste to a nation with the flick of the right button. That’s overprotective, my friend.

Anyway, maybe it’s best if I hold back on my parenting mémoire for now, and get back to the psychological profiling I’m conducting on his new school friends!

So, what else? You know… that’s pretty much it. Without wishing to sound like a psychotic who necks prescribed drugs like a member of the Jackson family, there really is very little I give an honest shit about these days.

Jobs and money always seem to come and go, and sometimes with very little in the way of forewarning. My extended family is an unreasonable monster that should be placed in a cage, and never fed after midnight. And everything else is slow moving traffic and minor train delays on a Friday night.

Honestly, what’s the point in getting all worked up over that? I guess the angry young man of yesteryear might have embraced such torment and drama as a way of attracting impressionable girls with a taste for the stupid. But the older model is far more interested in his raging cholesterol, and whether his son’s school teacher has a criminal record!

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Angry2

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Car-cophony

My car is making funny noises again. I thought I had this licked a few months ago when the nice man at the garage managed to fix that squeaky noise that I thought was a squirrel in my glove compartment. It wasn’t a squirrel, or any member of the Sylvanian Family for that matter. No, in that particular instance it was the heat shield thing coming away from the exhaust thingy. In all honesty, I pretty much knew it was probably the old heat shield thing on the exhaust thingy problem; I just like to test the mechanics.

More recently, my car seems to be a little slow when I accelerate and sounds really pissed off that I’m trying to move it in any direction. As a rule, this is usually because I’ve forgotten to release the handbrake… a simple thing to forget when you’re stupid and easily distracted by virtually anything that happens near you! However, this was not the reason for my current Autobot anguish.

I then thought maybe it’s because I don’t always select the right gear. However, an expensive trip to that nice man in the garage taught me that a 14 year-old Honda doesn’t like being gunned out of a parking space in 4th gear! So it can’t be that.

In desperation for an answer I spent most of Sunday morning poking around the engine. It was a total waste of sodding time… I couldn’t find the Flux Capacitor, or indeed any kind of time-drive that might be limiting the power to the Allspark!

Now, as you may have guessed, I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in the motor vehicle field. I’ll admit it; my wizardry with such things is akin to that dumb Irish kid in the Harry Potter films – I try my best, but it usually ends with something catching fire.

However, and as I have explored before, as an older guy a certain amount of wisdom is just assumed of me – usually by people who don’t know any better. I’ll give you an example.

A few weeks ago, one of those annoyingly attractive girls I work with asked me a car related question. I initially thought she had done it on a dare, or in an attempt to avoid working (not a bad reason in itself, but why involve me!).

Anyway, with a voice that could melt granite, and a flutter of eyelashes that made me forget I was married for a few seconds, she asked me what the below symbol on her dashboard means;

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Radiator TempI scratched my chin in a manly fashion, gave a knowing look as if I get asked this question all the time, and delivered my carefully constructed opinion to this damsel in distress.

“Does your car have a periscope? Because it might be that you haven’t lowered it or something.”

Based on the symbol, and my deep insight into Autonomous Robotic Organisms, I thought this was a damn good guess.

I later found out it has something to do with the radiator! Far be it for me to tell the car manufactures around the world their job, but that symbol is fucking stupid and looks nothing like any radiator in my house.

So, moving away from the office hottie with the periscope problem for a moment, what could my car be going through right now?

I know an engine is measured in horsepower, could it have a touch of foot and mouth? Is the battery connected to the accelerator pedal? If so, maybe I should stop flicking my hazard warning lights on each time I do a wicked bit of manoeuvring? (I do like to alert people to how good I am – particularly when you consider my car hasn’t been retrofitted with a hover system yet!)

Maybe the big end has gone? I’m not sure what any of that means, but I once heard Kenneth Williams say it in Carry on Cabbie.

What if I’ve bought one of those bloody Decepticons by mistake – and it plans world domination by limiting my ability to go 88mph down the A3?

Whatever way I spin it, I guess another trip to the garage is called for – and yet another conversation in which I try to disguise the fact that all of my car knowledge comes from an 80’s cartoon, Marty McFly, and mild sexual innuendo.

Paul Millard 2015

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The Dead Don’t Work For Me

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard The Walking Dead2

I’m already sick to death with February! The prospect of stupid Valentine’s Day will usually bring out a gollup of spiteful resentment in me at the best of times. But it goes a little deeper than that. I’m fed up with the dark mornings, the dark nights, and the dark rings around my scathing eyes.

Weather forecasters keep scaring us with predictions for Day After Tomorrow’esque snow blizzards; my winter weight gain has reached its zenith and I have now started to collapse into myself like a dying star, and the expensive garden I built currently looks like a perfect medium to grow rice in!

This black dog of seasonal depression always hits me at this time of year, and usually continues right up until Christmas. As a means of escape, and to avoid a messy divorce, I try to lighten my mood with a little TV. Last year I worked my way through five seasons of Breaking Bad, the year before was a gruelling three seasons of Boardwalk Empire. This year, I thought I would try the hugely popular The Walking Dead.

Well, I’ve done the first season, and I got two episodes into the second, and promptly gave up.

I’m a big fan of the show’s star performer, Andrew Lincoln, and a sprawling story about a zombie apocalypse is just my particular brand of tea – as it were. In fact, I did spend a lot of the first two episodes nodding my head enthusiastically, and thinking, ‘Holy jumped-up bald-headed Jesus palomino! I would be just like him!’

As Deputy Rick Grimes, Egg, sorry, Andrew Lincoln, does a stand-up job and gives a believable grimace to an unbelievably horrifying situation. The American accent is no worse than Dick Van Dyke’s cockney horseshit, and as the hero figure, he plays it low key and from an everyman perspective I like.

Trying to find his family while coming to terms with the new, bitey neighbours, the show got off to a promising start – with the tension becoming as epic as the production itself. The camera pulling back on an Atlanta city street, slowly expanding the view and revealing thousands of “walkers”, was a real highlight of that first episode. For such a wide shot, it felt utterly claustrophobic.

The supporting cast do a reasonable job, and deliver the dialogue with just enough commitment to stop it going full cheese… and it’s always a pleasure to see the bat-shit crazy Michael Rooker on our screens.

But this isn’t a review, because as I said a while back, I quit the show after the first season.

Why?

Because it was just too damned depressing! I was feeling gloomy enough, without watching a band of people under constant fear of being eaten by a bazillion bastard zombies! It was too much for me, and this is coming from someone who is a seasoned horror fan, and loves a juicy plotline to slowly work through. I did five seasons of Breaking Bad in a month… The Walking Dead should have been a walk in the park.

But it seems to me (and I know this is only after one season), the show might ultimately suffer from its own longevity. What I mean is that whilst Rick and his fellow survivors might encounter the occasional moment of light relief (precious little in the first season, and non-existent in the first two episodes of season two!), that constant threat of being swarmed by happy eaters is just too much of a buzz-kill.

Oh… and I have since learnt that our ill-fated troupe of walking ready meals frequently run into other humans who also want to do nasty things to them! No, no thanks.

In short, you can’t help but feel they are simply running from the inevitable – like One Direction does from their inescapable obscurity!

Again, I know this is a short-sighted view, and maybe if I worked through the five seasons currently available, I may be proved wrong. But The Walking Dead was a little too gloomy for me, and filled with the kind of existential horror I normally reserve for dinner with my in-laws.

… and it’s only the 10th February!

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard The Walking Dead1

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Time to Unplug?

I’m in the midst of a tricky home entertainment dilemma at the moment. No, I’m not referring to the fact that my wife now refuses to juggle with chainsaws since the new wallpaper went up, but rather that I’m questioning whether I should cancel my various TV packages and go rogue.

Our American cousins call it “cutting the cord”, which gives a somewhat gory connotation to practices best left in the maternity suites! With that said, it’s also a pretty fair explanation towards what is becoming a very common practice for those who no longer wish to pay inflated prices for a few hundred channels they don’t watch.

Would it not be more in keeping with this modern age to be able to select exactly what you wish to view? To pay for only what you consume?

It’s quite a tricky thing to pull off for us Brits, as we don’t have the luxury of choice found in the US.

First off you have the BBC TV licence fee of £145.50 a year. This is only avoidable if you ensure no TV aerial is ever connected to your lovely 40-inch LED! It’s a tough one to avoid, and wholly impossible if you want to make use of their channels, or any of the free-to-air services provided by the likes of Freeview.

Sky TV (evil Galactic Empire, and headed by melty-faced shitbag, Emperor Murdoch), has a vicious stranglehold on the likes of HBO and most of the UK sports franchises. This chokes our ability to subscribe to a dedicated streaming service that could offer any kind of alternative… at least, nothing that’s strictly legal.

For years we have seen the rise of clandestine websites providing HD coverage of Premier League football – which is arguably the biggest and most sought after cash cow for British broadcasters. However, this small band of rebel websites has provided some means of evading the dark lord Murdoch… providing you are willing to bend the rules a little.

For the most part, Netflix and Amazon Prime have our movie and TV box-set desires covered. And should you need to watch Game of Thrones as it airs (in order to avoid some miserable bastard in the office giving away spoilers), well… let’s just say that other ways exist to source what you need!

In fact, HBO have publically recognised that their shows are immensely popular with the swashbuckling torrent sites. But rather than become bitter and shitty about their expensive TV shows being raped and pillaged by men with peg-legs and parrots, they see it as a flattering testament to the quality, and desirability, of their programming. I’m not suggesting the executives are jumping around in delirium and joy towards those who download, but it is a unique approach to the anti-piracy argument.

I also feel that HBO have learned a tough lesson on this front, and by tying themselves in with the likes of Sky, have only limited themselves to a select audience who are paying over the top prices for an ever expanding list of unwanted channels. Perhaps it would have been more profitable, and less restrictive, to simply release the HBO Go app to the UK market. Time will tell.

Perhaps it’s not so much a case of what is on offer, but rather what the viewing habits of the household are, and how these choices drive the decision to pull the plug on a particular service.

The only thing I watch on “live” TV is Coronation Street. Everything else is Netflix, various box-sets that I pick up on Ebay, and with growing frequency, the wonders of YouTube. My son has recently moved away from the Disney and Nickelodeon channels, and now spends more time watching Netflix Kids, the free-to-air CBBC channels, and a bit of YouTube (Play Doh movies for the win!).

Strangely, my wife is the heaviest user. Our TiVo box is home to an ever expanding list of series links, ranging from whodunits, fashion and home-craft, and those TV shows that carefully document people who don’t sell their house, don’t move to the country, or don’t complete their grand design on budget!

Not being without its limitations, I do believe a phone call to my supplier is not too far away. Looking at the above, it seems I’m paying a lot of money each month for stuff I could get on a £20.00 Freeview box.

But what of the larger question towards a true a la carte TV experience? Will it happen? I think it will, but we have a ways to go yet. In the UK, the BBC and Sky are still the key players in this media brawl, and control just enough to keep most of us in line… and on the books.

From this brave new world, questions towards the validity of the BBC licence fee spring up frequently, and seem to gather more support with each new cycle. Such a decision would certainly be a game changer, and carry monstrous repercussions for not only the UK audience, but also for the global BBC community. Whether it should happen is another question, and is one I have mixed views on.

In short, with the shift in our viewing habits becoming more pronounced, shouldn’t how we select and pay for these services also change?

Cutting the cord? I think I prefer the term, “Virgin Media… I’m outtie!”

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Virgin Media(I’m not taking any responsibility for the above “joke”… it was the only Google image I could find!)

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House of Cards

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard House of Cards

Last Sunday morning, whilst trying to avoid my son (and yet another retelling of a dream he had about teenage turtles), I flicked on the TV and stumbled into the last five minutes of The Andrew Marr Show. On the receiving end of his shitty gaze and carefully rehearsed criticism was our much beloved Prime Minister, David Cameron. As I watched our glorious leader lie, spin and spill his stupid face all over my television, I was drawn into a brief moment of pressing enquiry.

First, I pondered the likelihood of a decent assassination attempt happening right at that moment, and whether the gunmen would make allowances and do Andrew Marr at the same time to really boost the ratings? Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I wondered when House of Cards would return to Netflix.

As it transpired, no men in stylish balaclavas did bust onto my screen that morning. Marr and Cameron remained bullet-free and bullshit heavy, and I switched off the TV like all people with any sense should do when greeted with such dreck. I was, however, very pleased to learn that House of Cards is back in a few weeks.

Yes! Come the 27 February, we will all get the chance to watch another twelve hours of Kevin Spacey snarling at the camera whilst delivering a steady stream of disaster capitalism, and giving the likes of David Cameron something to truly aspire too!

Over the past two seasons, House of Cards has been nothing short of perfect. If savage political intrigue and intelligent dialogue is your thing, then I would first question why you are visiting this website… and with keener interest, whether your Netflix subscription is up to date.

The cast are beautiful, the production is sharp, and the plot is excruciating in its unfolding – and seemingly never afraid to take a few risks with its obedient audience.

Here now be spoilers!

The main protagonist, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), is the embodiment of what all vile politicians should be – corrosive, calculated and arrogantly charming. However, rather than drive you into a bout of galloping diarrhoea (just as any decent politician should do), he endears himself to us with the same devil-like manipulation he has used to reach the Oval Office in the show.

His frequent addresses to the camera coerce you into his plans, and breeds compliance with his treachery. It’s a well worn cinematic device, but perhaps never has it been so brilliantly employed than by the mesmerising Kev!

Claire Underwood, played by Robin Wright, shares her husband’s panache for being a vicious shit-bag, and perhaps due to the soft-spoken delivery, and chic appearance, manages to outdo Frank in the truly despicable leagues. Withholding critical neo-natal medication from a pregnant former work colleague, in order to win a lawsuit, is one of my personal favourites!

In short, not since the event of Big Brother, and all those other gutter-level reality TV mutations, has a show continually revealed the lower echelons of what humans are capable of, only to then dance around in its own glorious filth and pat itself on the back for a job well done. The saving grace for House of Cards is that such demonstrations are by clever design and brilliant performance, rather than out of a crass need to pitifully debase oneself for the chance to “be on da telly.

But let’s move away from the bevy of performing idiot monkeys that reality TV provides us, and back to something good.

With the third season fast approaching, can we expect House of Cards to hold back on the shocking moments of unfortunate demise? Not likely. The first episode of season two delivered perhaps the biggest to date… and it still hurts!

The loss of Kate Mara was a personal tragedy for me (see below for a partial description of my reasons), and for a few moments I thought the death of such a key figure might be a total season killer. In fact, it spun the show into a new direction, and opened up a cyber terrorism subplot that may well turn out to be the eventual undoing of Frank Underwood’s master plan. Now tell me that isn’t inspired storytelling!

Honestly, the elegance of its spiteful narrative is more engaging than crack, and during its ten month hiatus, has provided the same kind of chronic withdrawal symptoms for those hopelessly addicted.

It’s no surprise that Netflix will be hyping this into the stratosphere over the coming weeks – and rightly so. With Showtime, HBO and AMC as the more familiar names when it comes to providing game changing programmes, it was a real coup for Netflix to steal a sizable chunk of that action and deliver such an astounding piece of drama.

I’m now impatiently waiting for that familiar logo to appear on my Netflix account, announcing the arrival of season 3. Like all good addicts, I’ll binge on it over an entire weekend, twitch my way through another 10 month detox, and wait for season 4 to hit the servers. Knock-knock!

Paul Millard 2015

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A Childhood Realised in The Suburbs

This is a piece I wrote several months ago, but couldn’t find the right time to drop it here.  Anyway, with the recent storms and crappy weather, is there not a better time to read about long summers, childhood memories, and an album that inspires me to time-travel.  Hope you like it.  Paul x

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Every now and again an album comes along, is listened too on a weekly basis, carried with you everywhere you go (thanks to smart phones, tablets and laptops), and four years on from its release still manages to surprise and expose the emotional edge of a scathing 42 year-old man.

Just like a plate of your favourite food, or a certain comedian that always earns your smile, Arcade Fire’s, The Suburbs, is an album I can turn to at a moment’s notice and feel immediately better for it.

It’s a multipurpose tool. I use it to wind away tedious train journeys, listen too whilst washing dishes, and perhaps most personally, reach for in those moments when I need to disappear and realign my soul to simpler times and safer places.

It’s an album that seeks out the gainful feelings of youth, conformity, falling in love, peer-pressure, friendship, and summer months that were spent outside – and once found, turns all those remarkable reflections back onto the listener, in the hope of finding some shared kinship. A recollected time to point too and completely own.

It certainly worked for me.

Throughout this album I’m taken back to one summer in particular in the early 1980’s.

Without going all Stand by Me on you all, I and a group of neighbourhood kids spent the better part of that entire summer building a camp within the forest my family home backed onto.

Passing through a gap in the wire fence, we all entered into a place that was away from any rule or parental order. You had freedom to take on shapes and guises, to explore not only your surroundings, but also who you were… and who you were to your friends.

These memories begin with the opening track. The steady movement of The Suburbs digs deep into the exploration of childhood antics and achingly familiar hopes. The entire feel of this song, and the faultless repetition of the hook, harks to visions of children running through their yards, hot pavement and cool grass, and the memories of hilarious screams and neighbourhood battles with those kids who lived on the other street.

These themes continue throughout – from the fast-paced, living in the moment, anthems such as Ready to Start and Empty Room, to the beautifully layered Suburban War and Deep Blue.

In fact, Suburban War is a real counterpoint, and bridges the middle section perfectly.

If the opening tracks take me immediately to those childhood memories, then Suburban War fills any gaps within my internal narrative. I can’t help but swallow a little deeper when I hear lines such as,

And my old friends, we were so different then”, and “This time’s so strange. They built it to change. And while we’re sleeping all the streets, they rearrange.”

The truth is we were so different then. The world-weariness of adulthood was unknown, and the future was made up of long anticipated birthdays, the mischief of Halloween and Bonfire Night, and the hope of winter snow and Christmas presents too exciting to think about.

I don’t remember a single day away from our construction project in the forest. With that morning haze lifting away from the landscape of soft earth, snaring brambles and the huge, muddy-coloured trunks of the oaks, ferns and sycamores; the afternoon revealed high temperatures, higher times and spectral breezes that softened under the jungle canopy as if they were barely there.

The album continues with further interludes of real inspiration. We Used to Wait is a track that trembles with a relentless piano refrain, and an urgency to keep the story unfolding. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), is a siren song, and is perfectly encapsulated by the gorgeous Régine Chassagne.

Only with such a remarkable collection of musicians can Arcade Fire tell their tales.

And with the end reprise of The Suburbs (continued), I’m taken to that time when the light is fading all too fast. Around 8.30pm, and your surroundings take on new forms. What was once so familiar and native now looks strangely different and somehow threatening. And in the distance, the clarion call to go home becomes sickeningly imminent.

Trying to rush through one last game of cricket or football, one last battle between the Empire and the Rebellion, to steal one last kiss from the girl you’re sweet on – just before the pain of saying goodbye threatens to crush the feelings you’re struggling to fully understand.

This is the glory of The Suburbs, and on occasion, its curse. When listened too during a reflective mood, it becomes all too painful to revisit those past times. And as one gets older, it’s harder to stem the onset of a few tears.

For the more sensitive of us, the aging process is not without these times of fragile inflection and reassuring smiles of joyous reminiscence. However, no matter how hard you try to keep a tight grip on that lingering memory; they always seem to trickle away and are swiftly replaced with the here and now.

For my part, this album has created new memories. The album’s release in 2010 was only a few months after the birth of my son, and shaped many a sleepless night. Rocking him to contentment, and all the while accompanied by songs such as Half Light I and Wasted Hours.

Thankfully, albums such as The Suburbs help retain those memories, and capture something no camera could hope to achieve. This album makes you long for youth, with a realization that it passes all too quickly, and once gone, can never be returned too. As Win Butler hauntingly whispers to us,

“If I could have it back.

All the time we spent wasted.

I would only waste it again.

You know I would love to waste it again.”

Paul Millard 2014

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