Thursday, 21 December 2017

McDougall's "Life Hack"

If, like me, you despise the way that McDonald's have replaced the burgers in all of their time-limited-menu chicken offerings with two Chicken Selects in a shamelessly transparent bid to make you pay the same – or sometimes even more! – for less meat, this "life hack" (the concept formerly known as "a good idea") that I invented today may interest you. It's dead simple: in addition to buying the "burger", you buy a Spicy Chicken Snack Wrap from the saver menu for £1.49, take the actually fairly generous bit of chicken out of it, and add it into the bun along with the two Chicken Selects. This will result in a very satisfying and filling burger which, while it will end up costing you a bit more, will still be no more expensive than Burger King.

Monday, 13 March 2017

How to save 10,000 albums (and more) in your Spotify

So, if, like me, you are a Spotify user with a voracious appetite for music who hates playlists, you may have already filled up your 10,000 song limit and been forced to delete stuff. Well I've got a really, really simple fix for this: instad of saving the whole album, just save the first song. That way, it still appears in "your albums", and it's just one extra click to take you to the whole tracklist. This way you can save 10,000 albums. In the unlikely event that you actually fill this up as well, then my next suggestion is to delete all but the latest (or your favourite) release from each artist. When you see it, you'll be reminded that there are are other albums by them you like as well and you can just click through to see them. OK, so I know this is saving 10,000 artists rather than albums, but it does mean that you are highly unlikely to ever run out of space – what are the chances you are going to want to save 10,000 artists?

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Dream 25/09/16

I drive to see my old mate Kurt Cobain whom I know from my junkie days and who lives in a decaying mansion at the top of a hill. I leave the missus and kids to have lunch in a pub as I have no idea what state he'll be in. The top floor room of his house turns out to be the most disgusting cesspit full of decaying newspapers, massive spiders, and a bunch of animals including cats, goats, sheep, and two baby hedgehogs that can jump six feet in the air.

Later, Cobain and I go to confront a local Seattle crime boss over Cobain's junkie son, who has holed up in a room at the man's house. The two go way back; the guy used to cheat him on their smack deals. The boss is a shadow of his former self and is on the way out. As his last revenge he plants a bomb to take us out, before Cobain shoots him dead. I manage to rescue the boy, who has overdosed and barricaded himself into his room, before the bomb goes off, destroying the house.

We take him to a rehab clinic where I am hailed as a hero by all my friends, except my ex-wife, who berates me for putting the children in danger even though they were nowhere near the scene. She is shut down by a tough-looking relative of the boy. Shaken by my experience, I decide to stay in rehab for a few days. I enjoy hydrotherapy but keep getting chewed out by the other patients for using their lane in the pool.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Dream 21/11/15 – "Of Premonition and Consequence"

Last night I dreamt I watched this amazing short film called "Of Premonition and Consequence" that I discovered on YouTube. I was like, "I've got to tell everyone to watch this!" and was so gutted when I woke up and realised it was just a dream, I decided I had to make it.

It was all about this kid called Nicky who's at high school in this small town in the late '70s/early '80s and is the singer in this hard rock band that is already really successful and is playing massive arena shows. He is signed to a major label and has this real roguish, rockist manager who has paired him with two older, more experienced session musicians for his rhythm section. The band's main draw is its two guitarists, sexy identical twins called Elizabeth and Shannon who are classmates of Nicky and who have long, wavy, jet-black hair. Nicky's dad hates the whole rock 'n' roll thing and thinks that he should give it up in order to focus on his studies. He is concerned that Nicky is going to get into hard drugs or break his neck stagediving or something.

The story hinges on some sort of supernatural being that can take the form of anyone it wishes. It takes the form of one of the twins. It is perhaps a vampire or some other sort of life- or soul-sucking creature. It uses sex to lure its victims and of course Nicky is lured by it, thinking it is Elizabeth wanting to shag him. He gets gradually drained of life à la Lucy in "Dracula". People think he is on drugs. He always goes to the school's third-floor broom cupboard/chill-out room at lunchtime but finds it is shut or verboten now, so goes to the second floor and finds there is a whole massive bar there, dimly lit, all made of weathered dark wood, real fire burning in the grate. This is where he meets "her". It's kind of a magic place, like it feels as though it shouldn't really exist. Other people are also affected, like the two old rocker rhythm section guys and maybe the manager. There is farcical confusion over who shagged Elizabeth or not.

He probably dies at the end. The being should be exposed but not destroyed. It escapes or vanishes back into the woodwork. The final scene is a big close-up of Elizabeth's face (or is it her?), tears trickling down her cheeks, reciting the words of one of Nicky's songs which encapsulates the plot perfectly (it's akin to "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac, but more melancholy, with the word "dreams" in the lyrics). There's a sense that perhaps the creature has fallen in love with Nicky as well. The last shot pans away across a field, autumn trees, a shiny, curved-front, steel-and-smoked-glass building prominent, some local business. The whole thing has a colossal Liz Hand/Anne Rice vibe.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Dream 20/10/2015 – "Net"

Last night I dreamt in incredibly fine detail a Canadian sci-fi horror series called "Net", created by David Cronenberg and starring Kevin Bacon as a Pop Tart-eating lawyer. It was all about this boy genius who, back in the '70s, creates this incredibly powerful artificial neural net that instantly became self-aware and so powerful it can alter the laws of time and physics, make people age 40 years instantly, bring the dead back to life, make you travel in time, etc., and he and his brother use it as a toy until the FBI get involved, then the kid goes missing, never to be seen again, and the machine disappears, presumed destroyed, and all the schematics are lost. Then, years later, the kid's brother, played by Bacon, gets sucked back in when all the weird shit that happened years ago starts happening again and he realizes that the machine, and possibly his brother, are still out there, and he spends the rest of the series looking for it as it travels through time wreaking havoc.

There's loads of old green-screen BBC B computers, grainy antique film stock, men in suits, 50s FBI agents, bodies with cataract eyes, scenes of the kid aging 40 years in 30 seconds (truly disturbing). There's also a female character who is disabled in some way. When we first meet her she's dragging herself through the snow on an old-fashioned 70s skateboard, putting electronic tags on lost dogs in the wake of some sort of disaster (an earthquake?). Voiceover: "I felt it was the only way I could atone." She works with Bacon, who keeps trying to get her to eat Pop Tarts. Her mother sends her to work with Frosties. Perhaps she is a cop or a lawyer too. There was even a behind-the-scenes featurette about how Cronenberg came up with the whole idea but had no money so just went to the place in rural Canada where the guy from Starz was filming another series and shouted across the road at him does he want to give him some money to make this amazing new show. It was partially shot in Gary, Indiana, the home of a huge special effects house.

In the title sequence, all shot in grainy dim tones of red, curtains open on a dark stage. We see legs sitting in a theatre box, hands holding a crystal ball. It starts to glow and a woman's screaming face appears. It slips from the hands onto the knees. Printed circuits are visible around the inside of the ball.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Dream 24/06/14

I  have to go on a long mission on the bus to a run-down supermarket in this tatty town centre, which is the only place to get an ingredient I want. It's somewhat convenient for me though, as a friend of mine runs a hairdressing salon next to the supermarket, so I can visit her at the same time.  As I'm walking round the supermarket I meet this sexy goth girl whom I vaguely know who tells me she needs a haircut, so I take her into the little salon, which is deserted, and introduce her to my friend. She sits down in the barber's chair and my friend starts giving her a rather severe feather cut. About halfway through doing the haircut, she suddenly announces that it's lunchtime and that we need to go to the cafe next door before it gets too busy. It turns out that the cafe has become famous on account of its amazing macaroni cheese, which has been hyped to the heavens by food bloggers, and is now deluged by Hoxton foodies every lunchtime. Promising the girl that we'll only be five minutes, she leads me next door into the cafe, leaving her sitting in the barber's chair with her hair half cut.

We're the first lunchtime customers in the cafe but the old Italian guy and his son who run the place are already madly busy. Dozens of piping hot dishes of macaroni cheese are already plated up and sitting on the counter, like half-poured pints of Guinness on the bar of a Dublin pub. The old guy greets us, we each take one - my friend tells him to put it on her tab - and we sit down at a table and start eating and gossiping. It really is remarkably good, and we're so busy nattering away that it's only half an hour later that we realize we've left the goth girl in the barber's chair.

Hurriedly we dash back into the salon, but the girl is gone. I feel guilty so I go out to look for her. It starts to rain. Eventually I find her huddled in the doorway of a delivery entrance at the back of the supermarket. She is crying so I sit down next to her and put my arm round her and comfort her. At first I think she is upset about her hair being only half cut, but it turns out that she is in some kind of trouble with this psychotic drug dealer guy.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Dream 08/02/14

I'm in the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Lots + Lots!!" which is based on book and lyrics by Lerner & Llep. It is over three hours long and the music is stunningly beautiful, the best he has ever written, like a cross between Adam Guettel and Tori Amos. The plot has an anthology structure, with four unconnected segments about ordinary people who do extraordinary things. One is about a woman scientist who discovers a new ultra-amazing molecular multivitamin extracted from citrus fruit that can be used to help treat depression. Another is about this girl who has a choking paraphilia and pretends to hang herself with her belt to freak out school bullies. A female friend and I are in this segment. On the school campus we have to fight our way through a densely packed cornfield to get to the main building. We meet the girl who tells us her story then we see her doing her thing (hangs herself by her belt with her toes just touching the floor, gets pleasure from choking). We get worried that one day she will accidentally kill herself. When we decide she's had enough we take her down, dress her in her pyjamas and gently lay her in bed.