Essay

“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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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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The Space Lizard Next Door

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Is it me, or does there seem to be more people these days that might be carnivorous space lizards, hell bent on controlling the Earth and systematically enslaving the entire population – who they intend to eat as part of some intergalactic sushi bar?   You know what, let me dial it back a little and explain the concept.

The whole space lizard way of thinking was the brainchild of ex-football pundit and part-time messiah, David Icke.  It goes a little like this:

Flesh-eating reptile humanoids, living in underground bases around the world, have infiltrated every facet of human life and are the key players in a world-wide conspiracy.  In fact, many of the world’s leaders, decision makers, cultural icons and royalty are decedents of these space lizard people – who according to Icke, originated from the Alpha Draconis star system… which is, for those that are interested, just left of Krypton and two hundred yards before the Death Star turn-off.

Now, I’m currently living in Portsmouth, England, and while this place does not appear to be one of the hive locations for the space lizards, it could well be twinned with one.  So, as perhaps the only genuine human (keep your jokes to yourself!), living in Portsmouth, I need to ask a question… where is the real downside to this theory?

I mean, how cool would it be to have space lizards walking around, staffing pound shops and creating government policy?  What a hoot!  Prime Minister’s question time would be insane.  Just imagine the BBC broadcasting our beloved PM lying under a giant heat lamp, with the Defence Minister shedding skin and all the back-benchers eating flies, cockroaches and other examples of junior minister.  Say what you like about the licence fee, but I would certainly watch it.

Joking aside, what is the lizard conspiracy against humans – apart from wanting to dip us in hot sauce and chow down?  What could be worse than that?  Are they going to wreck our rock solid banking system and plunge most of us into negative equity?  How about dragging our arses into questionable wars with other lizards from sunnier, middle-eastern, climes?  The best conspiracy theory I heard was along the lines of the secret installation of a government no one actually voted for, and is working against our better interests and systematically rear-ending us into oblivion… oh, hang on!

How about the proliferation of an endless stream of mediocre talent shows, designed to slowly brainwash our kids into manufactured consumers who are controlled by social media and influenced by Justin Blabber and Miley Montana?  Is that the best shot they have?  We’re already living that shit and guess what, I’m still standing.

And if their plan is to simply turn Earth into a posh gastro-planet, what’s so wrong with eating humans?  It wasn’t long ago people were losing their stupid minds about eating tuna because the nets were also catching dolphins and asylum seekers.  We’re so limited in our taste.  We can’t eat swan (only the Queen can – another lizard!), monkey chunks don’t actually exist (but sound yummy), and beef will send you crazy from cow, hoof, swine-avian flu or some shit.

Maybe it’s time to enter a new food group into the mix and get ourselves some earlobe stew with dick mash.  If we have any doubts on the health implications of eating orange-coloured Essex drones, try feeding it to those bastards on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here – they’ll swallow anything in return for a contract to sell frozen food on national television.

And how about when these space lizards die, just think about what we could do with the skin.  You could have a lizard-skin suit made from the remains of William Hague, a bunch of nice wallets from Prince Phillip, how about a whole fucking closet from the Kardashians?  We need to do something with these things once the MTV gravy train runs out, why not recycle and look fashionable all at the same time.

I guess what’s more worrying is not so much the prospect of space reptiles controlling the planet via their New World Order, but the fact that so many people are gullible enough to believe such horse-shit.

I’ve done minimal research into this, I just couldn’t bring myself to verify facts on space creatures that live underground and hold civil service jobs.  But with that said, and from the little research I did achieve, it seems some 47 countries have vocal supporters of David Icke’s theories and rainbow-thinking bollocks.  Icke himself regularly preaches the word to hoards of paying clowns crowds.  The guy has built a very nice line in seminars, books, and public addresses.  It’s amazing, such influence and power sounds vaguely lizard-like – maybe Icke is nothing but a scaly-skinned traitor to his own people… lizards… whatever!

Perhaps the best statistic comes from our brothers and sisters across the pond.  A poll taken in 2013 calculated that over 4% of Americans believed in David Icke’s theories – I’m guessing that 4% were all lizards, or tourists from Portsmouth.

Paul Millard 2014

(First published in The Spoof – February 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.

The Wolf of Wall Street

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I love films that look at excessive behaviour, whether it is gangsters, people who used to work for gangsters, or biopics about dead people – The Doors (Jim Morrison), Man on the Moon (Andy Kaufman), Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (a few are dead, the rest are in prison).  In fact, I was frequently reminded of The Smartest Guys in the Room when watching The Wolf of Wall Street.

For those not acquainted with the documentary, The Smartest Guys (as I’m now going to term it), is an absolute powerhouse of a movie, detailing the rise and fall of what was America’s most innovative company, Enron – a business with a one-time value of an estimated $100 billion.  It encapsulated the realisation of the American dream, and was promptly uncovered as being nothing more than a massive criminal conspiracy.  An epic smoke and mirrors show, all conducted by some very, very clever men – with testicles the size of medicine balls.

With a similar swagger, The Wolf of Wall Street is all about the excess and the conspiracy, fun and decline, instant fortune and rapid failure.

I loved every second of it, and was immediately inspired to re-watch.  However, that pleasure will have to be taken another time, partly as a result of the three hour running time, but mainly due to the damage my four year-old boy would sustain if walking in on me watching this film.  For a Marty Scorsese film there is hardly any violence, but the language and graphic sex depicted throughout is outrageous – and utterly fantastic.

So, whilst I’m all in on the sex and expletives, the prospect of my son overhearing some of this film and then calling me a ‘cocksucker’ over the breakfast table, is not desirable.

Based on the true antics of one time Wall Street titan, Jordan Belfort, this movie tells a very simple tale of greed and excess, while offering a loud ‘F-You’ to any molecule of morality or realised consequence of action.  As a Wall Street broker, Jordan Belfort spun a web of bollocks like no other.  If any of this portrayal is accurate, and I’m pretty sure most of it is, then this guy was a virtuoso in the field of unquenchable demand from a pool of illusionary supply.

This film’s vision of greed is only matched by its utter entrenchment towards excess.  In fact, the necessity of sexual conquest and fanatical drug use often overpowers the ability to successfully perpetuate the crimes Belfort and his army of clones are chained too.

In typical fashion for such films, the decline is eventually realised and as the wheels fall off the fun-bus, poor old Jordan loses everything (to a degree).  Roll credits.  I don’t mean to be flippant, but that’s exactly what happens.  This film is a very basic, one dimensional telling of an all too familiar rise and fall story.  In some hands this would be a serious problem, but with Martin Scorsese it’s an absolute joy to behold, much like Goodfellas.

I think we’ve all heard how good Leonardo DiCaprio is, and the balls-out performance he gives, so much so that I really have nothing more to add.  He is immense and totally sells the shit-bag character of Belfort perfectly.  In fact, I’ll extend that to all those around him, even the usually awful Jonah Hill puts in a decent turn – clearly, working with people other than the vomit-inducing Michael Cera and that talentless twerp, McLovin’, helps his nauseating attempts to remain relevant.  Keep working with real talent, Jonah, and you might just survive the oblivion usually reserved for your type.

However, with source material provided by Terrance Winter, and based on Belfort’s own book, I would defy any actor to not have a hoot when speaking this dialogue.  The blackness of the comedy is a welcome break from the usual frat-pack stuff, and is akin to Seven Psychopaths and the works of Joseph Heller and early Coen Brothers.

DiCaprio is a force of nature when delivering his sales speeches, Johan and crew are equally memorable with their episodes of living in overabundance, even Matthew McConaughey has a cameo that is up there with Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross – yet another film about the quagmire world of vicious sales and vulgar sales people.  In fact, the pleasurable assassination of sickening sales drones is a ripe topic to poke a shitty stick at.  Speaking from the safety of personal experience, your average sales person is perhaps the perfect example of base arrogance with a slimy, snake-oil void of charm or empathy.  Whilst they may weave a picture of familiar friendship and helpful requirement, the reality is more akin to the arena of prostitution – but without the integrity or valour of screwing someone honestly.

It’s clearly a perspective Hollywood loves, with the likes of the aforementioned Glengarry Glen Ross, The Wall Street movies, Boiler Room, Tin Men, and to a lesser extent, Death of a Salesman and Jerry Maguire.

With The Wolf of Wall Street, this interpretation of greed dominating veracity is almost faultless.  Granted, you are not going to see any original use of lighting, camera position, or a more diegetic soundscape.  The story is very linear and seldom strays from what you already know is coming, and the acting – which is solid – is not breaking any new grounds or challenging the craft.

With this said, it’s a testament to the film that none of the above actually matters, and would only detract away from the real focus of the film – an A to Z route map of the glory of excess and egocentric bullshit, and the stark recognition of its consequences.

Paul Millard 2014

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Scenes from a Portsmouth Supermarket

I take my lunch at the same time every day.  On the appointed hour, I rise from my desk and vacate the building as quickly as possible (usually via the 1st floor window).  Evading the guard dogs and searchlights, I play a game of Frogger across a very busy road and make my way to the local Tesco for a sandwich, a packet of crisps and a critique of the human condition.

In between bouts of awareness towards the inescapability of death, and upon its arrival what happens to my club-card points, I manage to cross paths with a wide variety of indigenous shoppers… and other forms of local pond life.  It’s a strange place, filled with the very base levels of human emotion, moments of stark insanity and attractive buy one, get one free, offers.  On average, I spend thirty minutes each day within its confines and I’ve come to a very worrying conclusion – I’m addicted to the place!

I like to believe that the world is a much safer place than the one portrayed on our television screens.  If you take the scaremongering for what it is and step out, more often than not the world will meet you with an aura of vulnerability which comes from a good place, and when in sync, can be embraced and surrendered too.  Unfortunately, this philosophy is completely redundant at the local Tesco – a supermarket that should be avoided like a council estate prostitute.

With each visit I pretty much see the same series of events played out, usually by the same people I saw the day before.  Honestly, it’s like watching a really bad Betamax copy of Groundhog Day, it’s all grainy and annoying to look at, the tracking is a little fucked and it skips at the best bits.

Right off the bat you have the people that lurk outside the store entrance, usually selling either roadside breakdown cover or paintballing weekends.  They all have the same Joker’esque smile crayoned onto their face and are desperate to make eye contact as a means of kicking off their sales pitch.  On those occasions when I’ve accidently gazed in their direction, and have been asked how my day is going (an enquiry that is delivered with all the sincerity of a politician wiping his arse on a homeless person); I usually supply the following response with the same levels of sickening bonhomie:

‘I’m terribly sorry, old bean, but I don’t speak a syllable of English.  Thanks all the same and toodle-loo.’

This usually confuses them to such a degree that by the time they have worked out that I’m being a little snarky; I’m already in the shop and moving towards the next collection of mouth-breathers.

Why is it that stores of this type have the same layout wherever you are in the world?  I was in a Publix supermarket in Florida last year and the layout was identical – so much so that I didn’t like going in there because it felt so bloody similar.

Right up front you have the magazine aisles and lunchtime sandwich selections.  I’m guessing they put this up front because it’s common knowledge that eating and reading are intrinsically linked, like swimming whilst painting.  I’m also guessing that these aisles are up front because those taking lunch are so weak from hunger and lack of quality reading material they are unable to fully enter the shop.  Truly, my heart bleeds.

After this point, you are plunged into a theatre of dread, in which to survive you must depend upon your ability to predict the unpredictable and invoke whatever supernatural guile you may possess.  A skilfully-crafted maze of refrigerated cabinets, awkward salad isles, and confusing corridors of brightly coloured tins, boxes and packets await you – all of which is being traversed by a myriad of coupon-crazies and guttersnipe shoppers hell-bent on messing with my groove!

With each trip I take I can always rely on two things happening.  Someone will usually stop dead in front of me for no obvious reason, and a kid will be shouted at by a grotesque parent… for no obvious reason.  Of the two, I particularly like the stop dead event.

It’s not like these people stop to look at something, or pause a brief moment to mull over the store brand spaghetti hoops.  No, these people seem to be governed by an invisible traffic light system that demands their total compliance regardless of all those around them.  They just stop, like a fat bloke’s heart during his third plate of cheese.

I’m always tempted to take the hard line, and act as if I were in my car.  In those moments when someone just stops for no reason, and you slam on your brakes in order to avoid a collision with their fuck-tarded stupidity – I’m not alone in my knee-jerk desire to immediately act like an arsehole taxi driver, lean on the horn, and swear until my vocal chords fray, am I?

Well, try this approach the next time some bastard hits the brakes on their shopping trolley.  Get as close behind them as possible and start making loud “beeeeeeeep” noises.  Go ahead and scream ‘fucking idiot’ at the back of their head, and question the whereabouts of their father and need for corrective spectacles in the hope of avoiding future altercations of a similar nature.  As you pass them, give a massive “wanker” sign right in their face… and call them a ‘effing idiot’ again for good measure, and maybe do the “beeeeeeeep” noise again.  At the very worst you will get a suspended sentence and maybe a little community service.

As for the poor child being berated by their parent, well, I currently live in Portsmouth, an area renowned for incestuous teenage pregnancy and people that revel in the lower spectrum of intelligence, respect and self-worth.  I can only hope the poor little bastard gives their grunting mother/sister the slip and seeks a better life away from this abysmal plague-pit of a town.

So, after taking a zig-zaggy, partially-sighted, tour around the place – avoiding traffic violations and inbred kids caterwauling their lungs onto the floor – I eventually arrive at the last stage of the supermarket experience, the cashiers.  After yet another battle of wits with an unarmed opponent, and with my head filled with visions of a toxic spill coating the area and rendering it uninhabitable for the next two-thousand years, I eventually leave the supermarket and head back to my office… another place filled with empty-headed-who-cares-bollock-talkers.

But do you know what the real kicker is?  Ultimately, when all is said and done, the joke is on me.  Why?  Because through all this nonsense and snarky opinion, and away from my tortured tales of battles with local beer-can goblins and £2.00 fruit salads, I still sit at my desk and look forward to my next trip into oblivion.  What a loser!

Paul Millard 2014

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Meandering Through The Medicine Cabinet

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Why is it that in this age of enlightened attitudes from the new generation of modern families and forty-something hipsters-wannabes is there still a wholly unrounded perception towards those who ‘do’ drugs?

My days of indulgence were sadly snatched away from me upon the birth of my son.  My last joint was rolled and flamed on the very day he was born.  I had spent all night at the hospital, the little fellah arrived with screaming and tears (mainly mine), and once Mum was settled in her fancy recuperation unit, I went home and rolled a fat one.

Sitting in my back-yard with the strongest coffee I could find, an empty stomach, and a few ounces of Afghanistan’s finest Kush, I not only pondered the reality of being someone’s dad, but also that being a dad means I need to stop getting stoned all the time.

Don’t get me wrong, the minute my son leaves our house and ventures off to college, university, whatever, and with a large part of my fatherly duties achieved, I will no doubt revert to the waking-baker I have always been.

My misadventures with various herbs, tabs, pills and powders were always conducted away from the normal and the acceptable.  In a strange London club that was allegedly operated by the Real IRA, on a transatlantic flight (back in the days when you could do shit like that without being mistaken for a terrorist), and once whilst stumbling through downtown Miami, at 4am, with two transvestites in a Pontiac Firebird!

All those moments, and many more, yet strangely enough not once during my times in the medicine cabinet did I feel the need to rob someone, hassle someone, fight someone, rape someone or act like a lady’s clunge area.

However, and not including the panic roused by the scum-bag media, the amount of times I see a viciously over-stimulated man-woman-thing, trying to lock an aggressive gaze with anyone who makes eye contact, is beyond a fucking joke and worryingly regular.  What makes it worse is when you realise it’s not the behaviour of your usual chavvy little fucker whose parents are one DNA sequence away from dog shit, but actually as a result of drug use.

That sullen-eyed expression, the sickly smell of a recently dogged joint, or even the overpowering bouquet of the one drug we all find acceptable, alcohol.  It’s a sight that not only provokes a sense of avoidance and revulsion, but also an instantaneous disgust for the drug you have attributed to the behavioural patterns displayed.

Seriously, it’s this kind of stuff that gives drug use a bad name!

Please, all you people that fit the above description.  Stop.  Stop ruining the party for the rest of us that can handle our high without the need to become a loathsome little puke.

There’s no great mystery to it.  Drugs can make you better.  They have the power to lead me to a nightclub – a place I would normally fucking avoid with my broken fingernails scratched in the pavement.  They can make the most boring flight into a possible alien encounter in the sky (no time to explain now, but it was very trippy).  They can make me talk for hours with two transvestites in a Pontiac Firebird!

All you twats that get fucked up and rob someone, please leave the area, leave the country, leave the fucking planet if possible.  Take all those bastards that have given acid a bad name with you, those people that dance in fields to awful music designed to provoke tinnitus and extreme diarrhoea.  Try blowing your whistles and throwing shapes as my fist punches through your thorax.

I know it’s trite, but look at music and comedy; it’s a fucking hotbed for great drug use.  Hendrix, Keith Moon, Dee Dee Ramone and John Bonham, Lenny Bruce, Greg Giraldo, Chris Farley and John Belushi; they all took drugs and they all made the world a much nicer place to get wasted in.

Ok, so they also died in hideously fucked-up and horrifying ways – with most of them found lying in their own shit, riddled with Hepatitis B, and drained of any semblance of their previous personality – but let’s not get hung up on that.

Besides, those guys act as a nice little precautionary tale for anyone looking to step up from the lower leagues of funny, mischievous, lovable drug addict to the scary premiership of “I’ll fuck your mashed skull” drug addict/droog.

I want more of those guys and a little less of Michael McIntyre, The Wanted and those little scrawny fucks that congregate around the local Kwik-E-Mart.

It’s two sides of the same Rizzla paper.  We have those that can freely use drugs with minimal disruption to their lives (perhaps a little more time than usual spent talking to transvestites, but that’s it), and those that fucking ruin it for the rest of us with reckless indulgence and escalated arseholery.

I don’t want to be mean, or avoid the whole “it’s a disease” horseshit, but let’s bottom line it for a second.  You rob someone, you attack someone, you rape someone, it’s all on you, bitch.  Everyone who’s every committed a criminal act had a fucking reason for doing it – usually as a result of either piss-poor judgement or trying to work outside the system we all adhere too.  That’s it.

Just because you’re a drug addict doesn’t give you a free pass to run riot, and blame the blackened tin-foil for the shit YOU have elected to do.  You rock the pipe, stab a vein, smoke a bowl or any of the other terminology I’ve heard in The Wire, then you and your broken shitty-arsed veins need to stand up and be counted, rather than hide behind an excuse based on a sickness.  Cancer is a sickness, Alzheimer’s is a sickness, man-flu is a really bad sickness – smoking crack is a fucking life choice, at best.

In essence, those that can’t manage their high, start robbing the town-folk, and go all Breaking Bad on us; you people need to stop playing with the rest of us.  Go to a clinic, or wherever you need to go, and take up basket weaving or Moshi Monster collecting.

Stop ruining our lovely drug-taking.

Paul Millard 2014

P.S.  I think I’ll give the past word on this to one of my heroes… over to you P.J.

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A Christmas Evening, With Fish and Tits

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It was just before Christmas when myself, and my wife, took the decision to do a movie double-bill one evening.  Our son was safely in bed and we were free agents to watch whatever we fancied.  We weren’t going to watch yet another episode of that Welsh fire-fighter bloke who appears to live in the most flammable fucking town on the planet, or those American kids who morph into plastic toys that look gay and shit.  Oh no… we could be masters of our own viewing!

So, with such time on our hands what masterpiece did we decide to watch?  Yep, you guessed it; we chose Piranha 3D and Piranha 3DD.

We decided on these films for two very sound reasons.  I really wanted to see Kelly Brook in a sexy bikini, and I thought my wife would really want to see Kelly Brook in a sexy bikini.

To raise the stakes a little higher, we also watched these films whilst building one of those online photo albums as a Christmas present for my parents.  Different, huh?  You won’t get this kind of film critique from those stale, uninspiring hacks over at Empire, and as for Total Film, they are little more than a fucking poster magazine at this point and therefore no real competition when it comes to unique movie reviewing.

Anyway, back to the movie…

The lovely Kelly Brook only appears in the first film, and whilst she was truly amazing in that bikini, to say nothing of her poignant acting throughout the stirring underwater lesbian scenes, I was truly surprised by how good this movie turned out.

First off, any film that starts with Richard Dreyfuss, rowing a boat whilst whistling “Show Me The Way To Go Home”, already scores big with me as a hard-core Jaws fan.  However, whilst it was nice to see him, the appearance is short lived as it seems a Great White Shark, and a prissy Robert Shaw, is no match for a bunch of angry fish.

The plot is easy to reach.  An annual spring party held on the postcard perfect Lake Victoria falls foul to some bad joojoo, and a pack of prehistoric piranha set about fucking up the incredibly young and beautiful people dipping their toes.  That’s pretty much it.

It’s hard to discuss this film without falling into a dozen clichés and nods towards the B-movie creature features that inspired its remake… but that’s the point, this film has its fins firmly in that wheelhouse and is actively looking to be compared to those that came before.

Fun, gory and at times a little scary… and I’m not referring to the acting.  Although, whilst we are on the subject, the crappiness of the performances is only matched by the dreadfully stereotyped characters these luvvies are trying to inhabit.  Let’s be honest, there’s more depth to a fridge drip tray than there is to the portrayal of a sexed-up, Girls Gone Wild video director who only seems concerned about the prospect of the piranhas eating his dick.

This being said, the film manages to bag a few good actors.  Kelly Brook is obviously in a class of her own (and is perhaps best suited to silent movies), but the director, Alexandre Aja, managed to sign up Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames and Christopher Lloyd, to say nothing of the aforementioned Ricky Dreyfuss.  Hell, they even got a porn star, Riley Steele, to eventually sleep with da fishes.

As the credits rolled, and with thirty pages of the online photo album done, my wife looked at me and we both gave an approving nod – we liked this one.  Piranha 3D feels like the kind of movie that is destined to become a true cult classic… but you may need to wait another 15 years for the film to reach that pinnacle.  Enjoyably gruesome with some genuinely funny moments, and all aided by two of the sexiest women on the planet making out… underwater.  Enough said.

Made a few years after Piranha 3D, Piranha 3DD ushered in a new director in John Gulager, and a grand total of five different writers, all geared up to make a worthy sequel.  However, with so many people involved in penning this script I’m still unsure how they all managed to miss the point of a B-movie, and make a truly fucking awful mess of a film.

This time, Nemo and his friends set their tiny eyes on a Wet ‘n Wild type waterpark, and manage to do a pretty good job messing shit up for all the amazingly young and still beautiful-looking people dipping their toes… again.  However, that’s where all the fun ends.  It’s a film that looks half decent on paper, but desperate and trite on celluloid.

I’ll be honest, ten minutes into the film I gave up on the plot, gave up on the characters, I even gave up checking out the rack on the lovely ladies, and concentrated more on cropping the photos for my online album.  It’s that bad.

The Richard Dreyfuss cold open from the first film is replaced with a similar manoeuvre employing Gary Busey.  So even before the film starts, the audience is pretty much slapped with a notice telling you that zero thought or originality has gone into this, and instead the writers have tweaked the nipples of the first film to see if anyone notices.

Talking of cast, it’s once again a veiled version of the original.  Christopher Lloyd is still here, as is Ving Rhames, but the rest are about as forgettable as that thing I just forgot about.  The heroine, played by Danielle Panabaker is watchable, but this is largely due to Danielle being as cute as a button, and from her work in the Friday the 13th remake and The Crazies.

Even the attendance of David Koechner (Champ Kind from Anchorman), fails to divert your attention away from this lazy river of dog shit.  I’m genuinely staggered by how much this film choked, and if I’m being honest, a little disappointed and cheated.

With the rise of films like Sharknado, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus and Big Ass Spider, the continued health of the modern day creature feature is not in question – however, the continued adventures of the piranha are dangerously close to being filleted, and may require the industry standard reboot in another five years in order to stay appetising.

And with that, our piranha double bill evening was over.  The first fishy tale was a delight, and one I will revisit at some point – if only to watch Kelly again – the second movie was a big, fat red herring, dipped in mouldy breadcrumbs and eaten by a shabby homeless person who has a faint smell of piss on his fingers.

… and if you are curious, my parents loved the photo album.

Paul Millard 2014

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Are You On Facebook?

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If I had to pick one question that sums up the past six years of society on Planet Earth, this would be it.  I am asked it on a weekly basis by various people, sometimes by the same people who asked me the same question the previous month!

In fact, I’m not actually sure how I should take this repeated questioning?  Is it out of pure fucking amazement that I’m one of the few remaining who does not have a Facebook account, or is it more a spiteful sarcasm that sails clearly over my head?  Who knows… who gives a shit?

Facebook – the mind controlling, all-seeing, all-knowing, self-inflicted lifestyle choice that George Orwell didn’t get around to explaining.  CCTV and Big Brother, Room 101 and the Ministry of Truth… all this stuff is puppy-dog tails and Julie Andrews singing on top of a big mountain when compared to the hypnotic gait and consuming addiction Facebook has to offer.

I don’t like it.  All these people updating every fucking second of their life to an audience of people who they last saw in infant school.  Or even worse, updating every second of their life in order to inform the same people these clueless shit-wits work with eight hours a day – and the family and friends they see for the rest of the time.  Why bother?

Ok, ok I know what you’re thinking – this is all a bit rich coming from a man who runs a website, writes for a dozen more, and forces his twaddle down your throat.  While I may not like the association, it’s a fair point to make.   My only saving grace is that I don’t fucking care what you think.  You need to go searching for my crap, and even if you stumble upon it, you have a choice to ignore it… furthermore, judging by the number of hits I get each month, there seems to be plenty of disturbed individuals with clearly nothing better to do than trawl though this rhubarb – so stick that in your friends list and smoke it!

What’s your Facebook status?  What’s the point?  I can’t be the only one who finds little messages telling everyone how happy they are in love, or how they just managed to buy a really expensive dress, or how they got Rohypnoled (again) last night, completely banal and the folly of teenage girls with too much free time on their hands… am I?

JIM99 is really looking forward to a party this weekend, and FatDud was so pleased to see KathyWoodenSpoon in the pub last night, and Paulfuckingboredwiththisshit is about to buy a machete.

Do I have a Facebook account?  Yes, I do.  A few years ago, and under the cover of darkness, I stealthily opened an account.  I told no one of this seeming reversal of attitude and duly entered all my details like a snuffling, two-faced, little troll boy.

Names of schools attended, names of jobs sacked from, names of pets owned, names of school pets that got jobs, names of jobs that got pets then went to school, I entered the lot.  I didn’t want too, but it was all in the name of science and proving my own twisted little point.

Two weeks later, I received a telephone call from my younger sister.  In between bouts of family shit and other things, she uttered, “You’re finally on Facebook then?”  Whilst my sister is capable of many things, I have no reason to believe she is a witch – how did she know I was on there?  It took two weeks, for fucks sake!

I was going to leave it for a month, but this prompted me to take a look at the account earlier than I had anticipated.  Sure enough, there was my sister asking to be my friend (the fact she has been my sister for forty-two years is by the by and fucking worthless in the world of Facebook!), and she wasn’t the only one on there.

I had a friend request from a girl I last saw over thirty-five years ago.  How in the name of God’s glorious piss did she find me?  Has everyone turned into part-time psychic detectives, who constantly search for everyone they have ever known, so they can write on their wall about how fucking happy they are that Sharon Awful has got through to boot camp on X-Factor?

There were others on there, two of which I knew, the others I had absolutely no recollection of.  It’s fair to say that many years of smoking copious amounts of weed has held my memory back a little, but I haven’t quite given up the ghost yet.  I had no idea who these people were.  I find this particularly creepy and one of the reasons why I can’t get on with this Facebook cult.

Two people who I don’t know, and who may or may not know me, requesting they be my friends – if these fuckers really knew me (and how prickly and snarky I usually am), then I wouldn’t get the friend request in the first place, would I?

And now to pull the pin and clear the room of all these fevered egos – I’ll argue with anyone who fails to accept their real need for Facebook – to nose around other people’s lives, to check that someone isn’t doing better than you, and to collect as many people on your Friends List as possible as a means of looking popular and relevant.  Seriously, if collecting stuff is your thing then buy some fucking Pokémon cards!

Surely in a world plagued with online dating horror stories with sex pests and pedophiles around every corner (according to the Daily Mail), isn’t there something dreadfully wrong with this picture?  However, in order to wrap this shit up and by way of an example, I had two people in particular who requested me on Facebook – one of them is my own sister who I already have more than enough contact with thank you, and a girl I once sat next too when I was 7 years old.  Talk about opposite sides of the cyber scales!

So, did this little exercise convert me to Facebookism?  Have I dumped that ill-informed sniffy opinion towards its millions of users?  Not a fucking chance.  I’ve still got the same shitty attitude towards both it, and its more desperate users.

In short, Facebook is a place where you are defined, in seconds, by the worst choices you have made and the worst aspects of your character.  The ‘piling on’ of communal scrutiny and instantaneous opinion is vile – add to that a squeeze of public shaming and it becomes obscene and monstrous.  It’s the realization of a self-appointed lynch-mob, borne from friends and acquaintances you have collected in the name of popularity.

Sometimes a single photo tagged within a page of meaningless and harmless nonsense can result in the worst fucking forms of judgment, aggression, bullying and general disassociation towards the human behind the Facebook account.

Ok, so Facebook may just be the technological progression that is diametrically linked to the pace of our modern culture, the crazy velocity of communiqué, and the strength in our ability to crave, syphon, and reassemble information.  However, it’s equally the result of our obsession with titillation, public self-destruction, moral liquidation and a Daily Mail idiot conviction that has become a fucking petri dish for the worst aspects of communal misjudgment – all purveyed and farmed by anyone with a smartphone.

Not for nothing, public humiliation and public shaming was outlawed as a formal, state-sanctioned reprimand during the 19th century.  It was banned, and was considered by the law-makers at that time as a cruel and unusual punishment to bestow.  My word… look how far we have come.

With all this said, and if I’m being completely honest with you, dear reader, I’m also scared of Facebook.  I’ve not been back to the account since this incident; and I’m genuinely worried about who will crawl out of the woodwork next, who might be looking for me, who wants to be my special friend – here’s hoping that guy who touched my front bottom when I was six doesn’t have an account!

Paul Millard 2014

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There’s Snow Love like Frozen Love

People of a religious persuasion call it enlightenment, drunks call it a moment of clarity; but on a Sunday morning a few months ago, in a packed cinema, I had what I’m going to call the potential start date of my mid-life crisis.

Over the weekend I took my 4 year-old to the cinema to catch a movie.  My wife wanted us out of the house for whatever reason and it was too early to take the kid to the bar.  I considered the local ‘dirt’ park (the name I use to describe the disused shithole park close to our house that seems filled with climbing frames designed to kill children, and packs of drug-addicts trying to dismount the see-saws without sustaining concussions), but I wasn’t in the mood to stand around that place in the rain, and my son hadn’t had a tetanus shot for a while.  So with pick ‘n’ mix selected, bottles of water at the ready, and our stupidly priced tickets collected, we were ready to settle down in a giant-ass room full of screaming kids, to watch Disney’s latest offering, Frozen.

By the way, the cost of movie tickets is on my shit-list, I’m not finished with that topic by a long stretch.  Two tickets, a few bottles of water and some sweets racks up to £30.00 – are you fucking kidding me, that’s almost the same price the kids pay for a few hits of hillbilly heroin at the aforementioned ‘dirt’ park.  Anyway, that’s for another time.

So, the film starts… and it’s excruciating.  Talk about so sweet you’re giving me tooth-ache, within ten minutes my teeth had been extracted and replaced with a wooden set.  Disney know how to play an audience, no shit, they are fucking masters at it.  I’m not sure how many heart-strings we have, but they were giving a virtuoso performance with this movie.  The setting, the cutesy dialogue, the songs, the lovable snowman, this thing was taking no prisoners and was not going to stop until every man, woman and child in the place was crying little Disney-hallmarked tears for the big sentimental ending.

I’m forty-two, and pretty jaded on this shit.  I’ve been watching movies for a long time, and I’ve given my half-assed opinion on them in a ton of ways.   Yes, I handed over some loot for a prized Monsters University baseball cap on a recent hike to Disneyworld, but that movie had Billy Crystal, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi in it – Billy is a god, and the other two frequently appear in Coen Brothers films.  For all intent and purpose, I could be watching a weird Barton Fink’esque film based on a dream some kid has about monsters in their closet.  No shame in that.

Anyway, I’m sat in my chair and about half-way through the movie.  My kid is loving it, laughing at the right moments, and is already talking about the best bits.  I’m listening to his chatter and playing with my phone, checking IMDB to see how long this movie goes on for, and in relation to the amount of time I’ve already served.  Then it happens…

A princess by the name of Elsa gets thrown out of the kingdom or something, heads to a mountain and builds a huge ice palace – I’m guessing without any prior planning permission or local council involvement.  The fucking singing starts once again about how free she feels and stuff, and I look up from my phone just as this computer generated character loosens her alluring blonde hair, sweeps her perfectly-formed head, and with the most wondrous eyes, stares at the camera.  She stares at me!

It’s at this point I suddenly become more interested in this film than pretty much anything else I have ever been cognitively aware of… ever.  My kid could have wandered off and started eating popcorn from the fucking floor whilst taking a piss against the old woman in row H, I would never have noticed.  I was mesmerized by the goddess on the screen.

From this moment my eyes did not leave the screen.  Fuck, I don’t even remember blinking.  The plot, the singing, the snow shit, all of that dissolved and my complete being was now hopelessly linked to the possibility of her next scene stealing appearance.  She was the Princess Elsa, and I was now wrapped within complete devotion.

The film ends, and we leave the place.  I go home and my wife asks about the movie.  My son gives it the full low-down and rants on the finer details of the snow monster fight and how the Princess punches the baddie and knocks him into the water – for the record, that guy is a real fucking asshole, and clearly has no understanding on how to treat a princess.

Anyway, when my wife asks me about the flick, all I can muster is that the animation was very good.  That’s all I had.  Why – because to explain my new romance with Princess Elsa felt wrong, forbidden, alarmingly creepy and probably grounds for committal to the local cuckoo hatch.  How is it possible?  In the space of one hour and forty minutes my love has somehow waned for my long-suffering partner, and defected to something that was drawn by a fucking twenty year-old Disney intern, and only exists on a hard-drive in Hollywood!

Since then I have pretty much Googled the words ‘Princess Elsa’ every day, I’ve downloaded some jpegs of her to keep in my wallet, and have managed to persuade a few friends to watch the movie – for the sole purpose of checking out the blonde hottie wearing the long dress in the ice palace scene, who I will eventually marry in a ceremony probably attended by Pluto, Mary Poppins and a whole fucking team of psychiatrists.

In other words, the kaleidoscope of women I fantasize about has just included the most unobtainable of the species… those that don’t actually fucking exist.

Paul Millard 2014

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