18/01/10

An arm and a leg, a pint of blood, a pound of flesh, and that’s me done with the tax man til July.

It has been a bit of a joy this year. It’s the first tax year where all of my income has been from self-employment and rather than just sit in front of a pile of receipts weeping, shouting, laughing, leaking snot and inventing new sweary words as would otherwise have been the case I have paid a man to do it. A cheery accountant called Colin. Who couldn’t love a Colin? It’s one of those names that just cheers you up. If he wasn’t an accountant he’d be a spaniel with a lop-sided head or a spider plant or something. See a Colin, love a Colin. That’s my motto.

That and: Please may I have another biscuit?

So cheery Colin told me what to pay. I shuffled up to the woods where my shoe box full of cash is buried. I undid the extra stout elastic band and took my money down to the Post Office to pay, and this is where the only miserable bit of day was. Because the Post Office, which was never Chessington World of Adventure in the first place, has now become some bleak Eastern European tribute shop. Everything has been swept away and all that’s left is a subdued line of people who look like they’re waiting on the off-chance that a delivery of beetroots will arrive and little Ivana might have something to eat tonight.

It was always a bit of a hotchpotch but it was at least distracting in its own way. As you bumbled your way slowly up the queue there was a bewildering array of retail opportunities on racks as you went. Dusty greetings cards, Learn Yourself Portuguese on cassette (cassette!), beach balls, I Spit On Your Grave on DVD for £2.99. And insurance! Oh, so many different ways to insure all the things you own.

Now there is nothing to divert you other than the flatulence of the people in front of you and the morbid sound of the seconds of your life just falling off the clock. Whatever a jamboree is, the Post Office in Inverness is now the opposite of one.

Luckily I had my iPhone so I played Yahtzee for a while.

Apart from that, what a fabulous day. Breakfast with my excellent chums Jason and Soo who had deposited their baby in the nursery (or as Jason would have it “docking station”) for the morning. Ah, the glittering conversation of three cosmopolites over black puddings and fried eggs. Only now that I think back on it, what did we actually talk about? Was it just envelopes and staplers? It seemed a lot more exciting than that at the time. Hooray for friends. I might buy some more off the internet.

For the avoidance of doubt, the conclusions we reached are:

1)      Staplers which have under-chassis carrying space for more staples are a good thing.

2)      In the matter of envelopes, go for the ones with self-adhesive strips and backing tape rather than the ones you have to lick. The licky ones will let you down.

Thence to HMV where I spent some of my remaining money on a PS3. O to the M to the G. It’s bloody fabulous. As with so many things nowadays it pretty much set itself up and I now have high definition surround sound gaming going on. It plays Blu-rays too. I had some doubts that it would do it as well as my Samsung, but it does. So after a mere 18 months my poor old Samsung is now my spare Blu-ray player. Spare Blu-ray player! How fancy am I?

To check how fancy I am I texted Bookshop Toby.

“Why you’re fancier than all the characters in Top Cat,” he assured me. “Apart from Fancy obviously. And Choo-Choo. He was pretty fancy too.” So there we have it. I am fancier than Benny the special needs cat and Officer Dibble. That’s all.

The Blu-ray test for me is a screening of 2001 A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 content-free masterpiece.

I love this movie. It flabbergasts me every time I see it. However if you don’t like it I quite understand. It doesn’t make any effort at all to ingratiate itself.

The first time I saw it was on the massively big screen of the ABC1 in Leeds. I went with a small group of friends on my thirteenth birthday in 1978. It had obviously been re-released in the aftermath of the world-consuming success of Star Wars, though it’s hard to imagine two films less similar in outlook.

We were nonplussed I seem to remember at the apparent lack of story and the colossal ambiguity of the ending. Crucially though we weren’t disappointed. I remember that. I bought the Arthur C. Clarke novel and the progression of ideas in the film became clearer. I bought the soundtrack album and became obsessed not with The Blue Danube Waltz and Also Sprach Zarathustra, but with the astringent, eerie Ligeti pieces. It gave me an enduring interest in difficult listening.

The second time I saw it was on the BBC over Christmas in the early eighties and it was a travesty. This painterly film whose every widescreen frame is a work of art was panned and scanned into incoherence. Except for the space flight sequences. Those were still presented in widescreen but some witless dandiprat in the corporation had painted stars on to the black strips at the top and bottom of the frame. Unbelievable. And yet it was still a brilliant film.

I have since owned it on VHS, DVD and now Blu-ray, and in this last format the film looks better than I have ever seen it. Better, in fact than anyone has seen it since it was released. The picture is just mesmerising. The sound is mixed beautifully into Dolby 5.1. I am completely seduced by it all over again.

What I have noticed about Blu-ray is that whilst recent films don’t always look mind-blowing, two types of old movie really do. Firstly animation, the traditional kind where every frame was individually painted. Sleeping Beauty, which is a Disney cartoon I’ve never really rated, comes alive on the format. It looks sensational. The second sort is anything that was shot by an adept cinematographer on good film stock. So old films like The Wizard Of Oz, Gone With The Wind and Cool Hand Luke come out looking like they were filmed yesterday.

Before I leave 2001 I should mention that Moon, Duncan Jones’s marvellous indie sci-fi movie from last year has a lot of 2001 references in it. The lone astronaut with only a menacingly-voiced computer is the most obvious, but my favourite is the surprise placement of a comic actor in a straight role. In 2001 it’s Leonard Rossiter. In Moon it’s Matt Berry, one of the stark staring mad cast of The Mighty Boosh.

Duncan Jones’s dad is David Bowie who had a hit with Space Oddity. As Lester Freamon once said, “All the pieces matter.”

I got a bunch of games with my PS3 too which look great, but I haven’t had time to play them yet what with still having a living to earn and everything.

3 comments on “18/01/10

  1. Dirk Maggs did a brilliant job of adapting the later hitch-hiker books for radio 4, which is where it works best (with the original cast and all). Ford Prefect reprograms a security bot to be permanently overjoyed. Ford names his new companion Colin, and Andy Secombe does justice to the name. Recommended.
    – ACI

  2. Dirk Maggs made a pretty good job of adapting later HHGTTG novels into radio shows, with as much as possible of the original cast. At one point, Ford Prefect reprograms a security robot to be joyful all the time.
    He names his new companion Colin, and Andy Secombe’s voice performance does justice to the name. Recommended.

    • Hey ACI.

      You know what would be a good feature of a moderator? Some sort of moderation I’m guessing. Sadly all I’ve got is blind flailing technical incompetence. Apologies for my techno-doofus-ness which has resulted in duplication of and/or deletion of your splendid and worthwhile comments.

      I’m enjoying a life rebalancing blog holiday just now. Be back in April probably.

      Great to know you’re out there though.

      J

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