Random Snarks

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

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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

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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

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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

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“Something like this…”

In light of the amazing amount of celebrity deaths taking place each week, I thought I would jump in and give my two-bit opinion on perhaps one of the most influential, yet alarmingly neglected, comedians still with us.

Now, let’s see how many of you know who I’m talking about before I get to the next paragraph. Recording his first comedy album in 1960, it went on to top the Billboard charts and won two Grammy’s. His second album swiftly followed, winning yet another Grammy, and for an eight month period, both albums occupied the number one and number two places in the charts – I think it’s fair to say this guy started his comedy life at the top!

Two hugely successful sitcoms later, more albums, and a handful of movies, his career has been an irresistible force for the last 60 years. Now in his eighties, and only appearing in the occasional episode of The Big Bang Theory (for which he bagged an Emmy), he is still relevant, still hilarious, and still one of my all time favourite funny people.

Any ideas? Ok, I’ll tell you. I’m talking about the great Bob Newhart.

It’s a name that might cause a few of us ‘limeys’ to scratch our heads in utter ignorance and start trawling IMDB for a reference point. You see, Newhart is an all-American comedian and not particularly well known outside of their borders – which is a total tragedy as his work has pretty much shaped the way modern situation comedy is built.

First off, you need to listen to those first three albums he cut. The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back! and Behind The Button-Down Mind. Whilst a few of the bits are a little dated and entrenched in their time (late 1950’s, early 1960’s), it’s clearly evident that Newhart was bringing something different to the mix. With a style on stage that felt conversational and stammered in the set-up; the delivery of each piece (usually started by a brief explanation, and embarked upon with his famous phrase “something like this…”), was nothing short of flawless and utterly mesmerising.

With such immediate success from the vinyl, and after a few years working the nightclub circuit, Bob looked towards television. The Bob Newhart Show was recorded in the seventies, and sealed his image as the amicable everyman with the deadpan delivery and apologetic tone. The show is, on occasion, very much an animal of its time and can be a little inaccessible for a modern audience, however, it remains warm, light-hearted and truly provided the template for so many after it – The Cosby Show, M*A*S*H, Cheers, Frasier, and more recently, Two and A Half Men, How I Met Your Mother, and ironically, The Big Bang Theory.

With that said, for me the real strides in his TV career were made during Bob’s second sitcom, Newhart. His earlier guise of a psychologist in Chicago was replaced and for the new show came a new Bob, that of an author who owns and operates a Vermont hotel.

With a perfect stage to play on, new challenges to overcome each week and a string of secondary and tertiary players that filled the gaps between memorable and inconsequential; the show ran for eight seasons, was hugely popular and caught the attention of a very young Paul Millard.

Only airing in the UK sporadically during the mid-1980’s, and not via any substantial series run you would expect by today’s standards, it found me in the twilight zone of being too young to remember everything, but certainly old enough for the wry humour to seep into my subconscious and linger. It was also around this time I was discovering those other American greats, Abbot and Costello, The Marx Brothers, Mel Brookes and Sid Caesar. For the record, and to ensure my British heritage is firmly established, this American invasion was built upon the foundations that Tony Hancock, Will Hay, Peter Sellers and the Ealing Comedies had already laid – all of which was gently influencing my own later attempts at comedic styling.

Newhart was wonderful in its simplicity. It didn’t act highbrow or folksy, overly staged or under performed. The material was consistent, mild mannered, easily reached and always funny. Its comfortable viewing and accessible cast delivered a sitcom you can wander into, and out of, without any feeling of unfamiliarity. Seinfeld and Friends owe a great deal to this method, and for my money became the leviathans of comedy they are, from the vantage point of Newhart’s shoulders.

I could go on, and in all fairness my wife will probably be subjected to back-to-back seasons of Newhart after this post hits the website – I can only assure her that it will be time well spent. For me, Bob Newhart is a gentle giant of comedy whose influence can be seen most evenings… all you need to do is switch on any sitcom post 1972 and sit back!

On a more sombre note, we have all recently been stung by the mortality of some comedy greats – Robin Williams, Joan Rivers and James Garner in particular. In the face of so many funny voices leaving us, I can’t help but feel the need to cherish those that are still here.

To this end I say thank you, Bob… for everything.

Paul Millard 2014

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No Signal For You!

I’ve recently changed jobs. Yes, I know what you’re all thinking, “So, in addition to the astounding quality of dross produced on this website, he also does a proper job?!?!” I do… well, I used too. Many years ago back when I was working in and around London I did several proper jobs, and I was quite good at a few of them, these days I’m interned on the south coast of England, and now dwell within the quagmire offices of whatever company is hiring – prior to their filing for bankruptcy.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I escaped the last place I was sentenced too – a truly awful shithole in which slimy, obnoxious, dim-witted sales agents fleeced old people out of their money, by falsely promising to provide cruise holidays the company could never hope to deliver as advertised/lied about. It was the most dreck-filled sleaze pit I have ever had the misfortune to sit within… think shitty high street McDonald’s, but with a photocopier.

After eventually rediscovering my soul, I quit the place in question and now work within yet another office, located in a very nice hamlet town just outside of Guildford (I’m slowly inching away from the seaside wankers, and back to my beloved metropolis). However, this recent change of paymaster has brought up a very alarming side to my being, one that I was totally oblivious too.

You see, in the English countryside we have a great many things – cricket greens, cobbled streets, fudge shops, incest and charitable devil worshipping. The houses are older than the Lost Ark (and just as difficult to find), and the people are warm, gentle of face and just a little bit fascist.

However, during my two weeks among the tweeded gentry, I noticed the one thing they don’t seem to have… a decent cell phone reception.

What the hell is wrong with this place? How can I stand literally anywhere within a three mile radius of my office, an office that is located amongst some of the country’s most expensive real estate, and not get a sodding phone signal? At first I thought my new employer was utilising some MI5, phone cancelling, spy-shit technology to stop its workers from looking at Plenty of Fish and Grindr. In fact, no one cares about sexual deviancy in the countryside, and my lack of being able to “phone home”, was the result of my network provider’s ass awful coverage. Bastard!

Now whilst that may be annoying, and seriously affecting my scores on Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, what I find more alarming is my newly discovered attachment to my phone. Seriously, when did I start to care about my phone? Have I really become that person – the kind of clone who cannot be without their app-filled guardian for one second longer than it takes for yet another insignificant selfie to appear on Instagram?

I hate to say it, but the answer is yes. I need my phone. I need to be plugged into the Twitter-verse at all times, I need instant news from my various RSS feeds, I need the half-arsed opinions from the countless blogs I subscribe too, I need to see my email, my SMS service, my WhatsApp, my Snapchat. I need the ability to listen to a podcast whilst taking a shit, or watching YouTube videos about people I’ve never met… whilst taking a shit. I need to be linked-in, facebookered, instagramified and all other things I’m probably subscribed too but don’t fully understand.

I never knew how dependant I was until some bastard mobile phone operator skimped on its mast technology and left a town full of city laywers and smugs of Prii (if you’re not sure, that’s the collective noun for more than one Prius), in digital darkness. In short, I say goodbye to my phone signal as I park up, and I don’t see it again until I’m ten minutes into my commute home.

It’s been two weeks now and I feel utterly out of the loop. My stupid twitter comments are no longer consistent or relevant to whatever celebrity died that morning, I can’t keep track of my hate mail from this website, and my wife is unable to drop me little texts to remind me that I’ve forgotten to get our kid out of the bath… again.

It’s got to a stage where I’m thinking of dropping a line to social media pimp Mark Zuckerberg. I heard on several news feeds, a series of tweets, and his MySpace page that he is planning to fly drones across Africa – in an effort to provide broadband connection and Facebook adverts to those people who don’t have access to clean drinking water. How about leaving that shit to Bill and Melinda Gates, and send a few of your drone things over to parts of Surrey and Sussex?

I can’t be alone in thinking that some first world problems demand a billionaire’s third world solution?

Paul Millard 2014

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Robin Williams

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I was awoken at 4am this morning by a text message from a friend who informed me that Robin Williams had passed away.  He was 63 years-old.  As I write this, most of the international news agencies and media outlets are confirming suicide as the probable cause of death.

For those who did not know the genius of his comedy, go check out A Night at the Met with Robin Williams.  It was recorded in 1986, showcased Robin at his absolute best, and won a Grammy.  Quite simply, it’s a performance that once seen, is never forgotten.

For those who did not know the genius as his acting, go check out The World According to Garp.  Filmed in 1982, it’s a wonderfully subdued performance, and testament to the largely forgotten “coming of age” movie genre – a genre that was rife in the 1980’s and encapsulated the teenage years for most of today’s 40somethings (myself included).

I honestly can’t think of anything more to say.  In short, it’s a tragedy that Robin has gone so soon… and anyone who loves comedy, and knows their history, will feel the awful gap in any humour being found this morning.

RIP Mork from Ork

Paul Millard 2014

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Be My Virtual Saviour

A lot must be considered when picking the right religion to be on-line ordained into.  Due diligence is key to finding the right path to enlightenment, and whilst it looks very easy for those tambourine-rattling, devil-dodgers on Songs of Praise and The Only Way Is Amish, a degree of actual commitment and clarity of mind is critical for spiritual success.  My personal journey began on a Saturday morning, and only after I had managed to sit still for a full five minutes without the need to check football scores or snipe on Twitter.

During a rare moment in which my kid wasn’t trying to break my spirit and with absolutely nothing better to do, I managed to reach a strange inner stillness – the kind you get when idly watching the fat bloke in your office stuffing a KFC into his monstrous face.  Almost without thought I reached out to my laptop and clicked the Google icon.  Courageously battling the obvious urge to immediately watch porn, I entered the mystically sensitive sentence, ‘Ordain me, bitch’, and sat back.

I was now locked into a sea of organised beliefs, all clambering over themselves to stake a claim on my soul (such as it is).  This is when the real inflection and quest for the glorious and the divine began in solemn plight.

There were so many to consider… The Universal Life Church, Spiritual Humanism, The Open Ministry, The Pacific Life Church, First Nation Ministry, to name but a few.  If enlightenment was on the menu, then I was starting to feel a little stuffed – a feeling said fat bloke from the office will never experience.

The Universal Life Church was very appealing and offered a lovely line in redemption, soul saving, and a very reasonably priced Ordination Package.  For a measly $26.99, you could own a “… beautiful credential for your wall, a clergy badge, a plastic personalized wallet card credential, parking placard, and a Minister Window Cling.”

As an opening offer this one was hard to turn down.  $26.99 for all that lovely plastic shit!  It was tempting.  However, I was soon turned off The Universal Life Church upon reading what I could get from the Spiritual Humanism site.

Not one, but three packages to choose from!  $14.95 would get you the Basic Clergy Service Pack (Really… who wants to be a basic clergy?), the Advanced Clergy Service Pack came in at $39.95 (now we’re getting somewhere), and finally the Deluxe Clergy Service Pack walked on water at $89.95 (I want to be a righteous weapon of God, please?).

The deluxe package was bringing all the good shit, Ordination Certificate, quality ID badge, manuals, CD-ROMs and lots of other stuff including a whole mess of baby naming certificates, marriage certificates, affirmation of love certificates, to name a few.  Ok, so an official pardon certificate for molesting altar boys was not included, but I’m pretty sure you could have ordered one via their online store.

Now, you would think that my quest for cost-effective enlightenment was over, and deluxe divinity was awaiting my PayPal account?  Hell no.  Much like the road to Damascus, my journey would be long, difficult, and littered with the occasional mound of donkey shit.  So with this in mind, I made myself another torturous cup of coffee, laboured hard to open the second bag of chocolate, and pushed my twisted and gnarled body back into my wonderfully comfortable sofa (cross-shaped), and flicked on the TV.

In between episodes of The Real Housewives of Orange County, I continued my quest.  The First National Ministry had a very basic web design, and for those blessed with a higher calling, they seemingly failed to make use of higher jpeg resolutions.  The Pacific Life Church appeared to be more interested in selling T-shirts and tote bags to religious zealots with healthy bank balances.

… and as for The Open Ministry, well, they looked cheap and nasty – religion for the pound shop brigade.

In short, the more I searched for the perfect religion to be ordained into, the more I was getting side-tracked by the lovely Heather and Tamara from Orange County – two women that once ordained, I fully intended to brain-wash into my new cult.

Holy shit… I would need to sort out a cult!

All of that organization and grooming I would have to do.  I would need to find a compound to preach from, stock up on food and water – enough to outlast any police stand-offs.  Where the hell was I going to buy Ak-47’s and rocket launchers from?  It was all getting too much.  I’m naturally lazy and shiftless, hard work is something I try to avoid at all costs.  Seriously, I get a little clammy when asked to do the washing-up, how was I going to handle the logistics of my congregation’s eventual mass suicide?

Un-nailing myself from the sofa, I paced the room in lonely contemplation and inner reflection.

Suddenly, as I walked past my DVD collection, the enlightenment I sought was blasted into me like the sound-waves emitted from a celestial chorus.  Falling to the floor, with the tears of a thousand sinners upon my cheeks, I gathered myself up and three minutes later was ordained into the one religion I could fully commit too.  I was now a recognised minister, capable of marrying people, christening kids, procrastinating spiritual advice, and a worthy foot-solider awaiting the Rapture.

I could now drink White Russians, go bowling anytime I liked, wander around in a bathrobe and generally mimic one of my all-time favourite movie characters – safe in the knowledge that I was doing all of the above in the name of spiritual harmony, wellbeing and sanctified lethargy.

The Church of the Latter Day Dude is my sunbeam, and in The Big Lebowski I had found my shepherd.

Rev. Paul Millard – 2014

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A Zombie Holocaust

I know the title is a little sensational, largely misleading, and not even close to rational or truthful.  However, you take a walk around any high street or shopping mall on a Saturday afternoon, and the heading of this week’s rhubarb becomes very real and alarmingly honest.

By the way, I’m not talking about the zombies seen in too many movies, or the ones stumbling around a dozen TV shows.  I’m not referring to the types found in every videogame since 2006, not even the one wailed about in that shit-awful song by The Cranberries (although I think that zombie was less about eating brains, and more about the socio-political issues facing Ireland… an easy mistake to make I’m sure you’ll agree).

No, these zombies are far more relentless and come in far greater numbers – certainly more than anything a team of hacky Hollywood script writers could conjure up.  Without the need of a toxic spill, a troupe of rage-infected monkeys or the Umbrella Corporation, these unfortunate collaborations of limb, fluid and tissue appear without any noticeable ingress and swarm en masse with a single, unifying purpose.

If you haven’t guessed, I’m referring to those ruinous bastards (usually men) who shamble behind their partners on that unavoidable, vomit-inducing, Saturday afternoon shopping trip.

We’ve all seen them, ambling around shop doorways and eerily peering inside, vacantly observing the frenzied shoppers inside, all in the vain hope of spying their significant other.  They can also be found leaning against walls or handrails, glowering into space and dribbling into their ready-nit scarves.  Occasionally, you may see one of these sorry mofos trying to mimic the actual behaviour of their “handler”, with lacklustre attempts to engage in the rows and rows of identical jumpers and skirts, all in the hope of appearing semi-normal… and not dead inside.

You don’t believe me?  You think I’m exaggerating this stuff and trying to be all humorous and shit?  I was in my local town only a few days ago and I took the below photos as proof.  I wasn’t in some hide, waiting for these things to appear… I was sat in a sodding Burger King!  Check it.

 

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And this is just a tiny fraction of the pandemic now facing every guy who would rather be doing anything else on a Saturday.  It’s a silent, despair-inducing, sickness that attacks without provocation or aspiration.  Regardless of race, religion, social standing or financial positioning, the look found on these people is waiting for you.  All it takes is one nanosecond of weakness, observed and exploited by your devious, self-serving partner.  This is how it works…

Right off the bat, you find yourself in the car (and perhaps more remarkable, you’re the one driving it!).  Already baffled by the cunning ruthlessness of your usually soft and mushy spouse, a jeremiad of inconsequential nonsense is spoken at you.  She drones on about her week, her stupid TV shows, and her awful friends – who are all no doubt cocooning their own partners in a similar web of mall-seeking bollocks.

Wiping the blood from your eyes and ears, the inane babble is only halted by the view of the multi-storied car park.  With pay-and-display paid and displayed, you exit the car and slowly begin the transformation into a bag-carrying undead piece of shit.  Your will is not your own, your mind is not your own, your coffee is not your own… as she inevitably always wants whatever you have.

I’m not kidding around here; it only takes three visits to the same store to turn any fellah into the first stages of zombification à la SuperDry.  Chase this with a ten minute examination on the implications of owning two pairs of pink Converse, and you are all but ready to succumb to an afternoon of mindless wandering.

With three hours in, the gangrenous rot of imposed consumerism has not only settled into your lymph nodes, but has also ravaged the immune system of your relationship with your partner – someone who clearly has no issues with dragging your frustrated carcass around Debenhams.  In fact, you begin to question what kind of banshee you have chosen to be your special honey-bunny.  What was once a loving soul-mate has now deformed into a cross between Gok Wan, and the spiteful sister of that Jigsaw bloke from the Saw movies… and all because she needed a new pair of skinny jeans and a “few bits” from Accessorize!

As the cashiers and shop floor robots get twitchy for closing time, the last remnants of your humanity are rinsed from your body with the swift efficiency of a Hotpoint spin-dryer.  “Full Zombie” is achieved and you are eventually led to the car, bags in hand, car keys in mouth, and soul in the fucking crapper.

However, all sagas have an ending, and this one is no different.  From the confines of your home; and only after it has been suitably sterilised and medically certified, the infection can be addressed and neutralised in short order.  A slow rehabilitation process is realised and your return to being a semi-human is at hand.

With a belt of Jameson’s whiskey, a snifter of Hendrick’s gin, and a few ounces of “Mike down the Road’s Weed”, the effects of Saturday shopping are despatched.  The love lost for your shit-bag partner is soon rediscovered – with promises of never putting you though that pain ever again.  You are given assurances that next time she will go shopping with her sister, and in my case, I get to snuggle up to a bacon sandwich and Test Match Special.

Paul Millard 2014

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P.S.  Should you agree/disagree/don’t give a shit with any of my rhubarb, then put your money where your mouth is and leave a comment…  no need to provide your name or email address, just your inner thoughts!  Easy.