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Saturday, September 16

Off On Holiday

In the car on the way to the airport now. Will be away for a couple of weeks. This holiday comes at an important junction in my life. The job should sort itself out in my absence. I received a cheque for the equity of my house this morning, so it's time to buy one when we get back too. I'm knackered and need a holiday.


Thursday, September 14

Debating or Bating?

To: info@christianvoice.org.uk
Subject: Beliefs are not facts

Dear Christian Voice,

I became aware of your organisation through your very public demonstration against Jerry Springer The Opera, which some of your members may have seen, but which the majority of you simply took as being offensive on recommendation.

I've been reading your website and found your discourse with the Co-op bank to be highly curious. You find it offensive that they decided to terminate dealing with you because you hold oppressive views on homosexuality; something which their liberal outlook cannot tolerate. Yet you wish them to be liberal enough to continue dealing with you? Surely that's a contradiction? In addition, you were using them to apply for an HSBC credit card when they decided to terminate your account. A credit card? Christian Voice? Surely not. What did Jesus say about the money lenders? I've no idea, but I've seen the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, and he wasn't happy about them in that.

Personally, I find your views to be intolerable. I respect your right to make decisions about how your own lives should be led. I also respect your views concerning which activities are the path to righteousness and which are the road to hell. However, you incorrectly assume that your belief system gives you the right to oppress others and misrepresent the world in the process. Beliefs are just that, beliefs. You can no more prove that a god exists than scientists can prove whether homosexuality is genetic, behavioural or spiritual. If you say you can, then you are allowing your beliefs to make you into a liar. If it were possible to prove, then it wouldn't be a belief, nor would it be possible to debate either way.

Surely your belief system encourages forgiveness? Reading your website, all I get is a sense of superiority, smugness and hate; your alleged "true facts" about the links between pedophilia and homosexuality are a classic example. If you were good people, you would invest your time doing positive things. Rather than hitting the streets to complain about a piece of light entertainment, maybe you would go around to a local nursing home and help the terminally ill enjoy some company in the last days of their lives. Maybe you would put your efforts into helping develop your local community, or doing some conservation work.

Everyone has problems with their beliefs and their identity. I suspect that Christian Voice is founded on such a huge sense of insecurity that if you're not out there shouting your heads off about your beliefs, you'd be at home doubting them. Relax. It's okay to be gay if you're gay (and I suspect you must be to be so homophobic). It's okay for people to have a different view of what's morally acceptable, provided they're within the law (society's accepted general morality). It's okay for people to view things which are offensive; especially if they come to understand why they are offensive. Your God will not be scared by doubters - without doubt and without belief rising above down, then faith is meaningless.

So, why don't you stop being so foolish, shut down your stupid little website and do something good with your life.

Ashley Frieze

Filling

Apparently my blog has swelled to immense proportions and is nearly full.

And my email's not working.

The lines of communication are slowly being eroded...

Wednesday, September 13

The Feeling

I wasn't feeling it tonight at all. I had had a bit to drink, but not too much. I don't think it was just that. The general stress I've been feeling all week may have had something to do with it. The fact that I was doing another 5 in a London club when I went expecting a 10 and wasn't even officially on their list probably didn't help. The unruly crowd and selection of formula gags from other acts were not useful either. I just wasn't connected up. I replayed a reasonably paced recording of my set to the crowd, and they laughed in most of the right places. But I won nothing and wasn't satisfied. I'm glad that the winning act's 'encore' showed up his lack of further material. . . But my own 5 didn't make me expect a 10 spot booking any time soon. Not good.

I think I need a holiday!

[Editorial additions after the fact]
On the up side, though, I saw a shop whose name amused me:

I also had some amusement in the bar before the show.

An All Time Low

Yep... I've finally lost it. I ended up finding a story to contribute to on this site. I added babble concerning poor spelling to their Harry Potter contribute-a-paragraph-at-a-time-tale.

Pootling Along

As I self-absorbedly continue to meander through the day I feel the need to post the link to a blog which mentions a performance of comedy I did in August last year. Please ignore it.

First Camera

I've not owned a camera in quite some time unless you consider either the one in my phone (which I don't) or the Tesco Value disposable that I bought in July and took a handful of pictures with... which I also don't.

A few minutes ago, my girlfriend and I reached a joint decision on a camera to buy from Amazon to take on holiday with us this weekend. It's a beast of a thing, but should be useful for photographing beasts.

One Man's Meat

No, it's not some bizarre onanistic reality TV Show... though maybe one day it will be. It's the first half of the saying "One man's meat is another man's poison.", though perhaps that's a really weird saying. Maybe of the two men in question, one of them was insane:

Man 1: What you got there?
Man 2: A box of meat. I'm going to lay it around my house for the rats.
Man 1: Rats?
Man 2: Yeah, the rats. I wanted to give them a treat. They're so cute. So I went to the shop and I asked for something to treat my rats and they gave me this box. I reckon it must be meat to feet them with. Look, there's a picture of a rat on the front and he is looking well fed.
Man 1: Rat meat?
Man 2: Yeah, though if you look inside, it's just a powder... I guess rats must like their meat powdered and sprinkled round.
Man 1: And that's meat, is it?
Man 2: Yes.
Man 1: Right... let me know how it goes.

[The following day]

Man 1: You look terrible, what happened?
Man 2: I've no idea. I put the meat out last night... and...
Man 1: And what?
Man 2: Let's just say that I've presided over 17 mini funerals this morning. There must have been something bad in that powdered meat I bought.
Man 1: Well, you know what they say, don't you?
Man 2: What?
Man 1: Man 2 is a bloody idiot who gives rats funerals.
Man 2: Who says that?
Man 1: It's an aphorism.
Man 2: A what?
Man 1: Look it up.

Anyway, I've gone off the point.

People Like Different Things
That's the point. What, to one person, is something good is, to someone else, not necessarily very good. People seemed to buy that CD made by Chico. Some people listen to R&B (Rubbish and Bollocks) or Hip Hop (Hideously Insidious People Harping On-about Pimps). Noone has assassinated Mike Skinner of The Streets for his crimes against music and the English language. It takes different strokes for different folks (I know this because I met one person with no feeling down his left side, and another with none down his right).

So, when last night, the movie Throw Momma From The Train was on, I watched it dumbfounded that a younger version of me (it was 1987, so I would have been 13) actually went to see this movie at the cinema. It had some merit. It was, in some ways, a tribute to the Hitchcock movie Strangers on a Train, which is now, apparently, being remade. There were also some excellent moments of comedy from Danny DeVito, though I felt Billy Crystal failed to shine. Overall, though, this was a highly hard to believe piece of formula writing which plodded along without any moments of grand hilarity.

However, go to the IMDB link for the movie and you'll find someone harping on about how good the film was. It takes all sorts, especially if you work for Bassetts.

Aphorisms
I was remembering a number of Gavin Webster's jokes yesterday and how they're alternative takes on well-worn aphorisms. I resolved to make sure I keep my ears open for new endings to aphorisms. This blog entry may well be the most densely populated with crap gags of the month as a result.

Sorry Gavin.

They're my jokes, not his, but I'm just sorry to have mentioned him as an influence - it doesn't reflect well on him.

Some Comedic Blether

I got a bit anal on comedy over at Al's blog.

Tuesday, September 12

Distinctly Odd

I feel really odd at the moment. I'm quite dizzy and I feel tense. I've no idea why this is the case. I suspect side effects of the yellow fever vaccine, which may produce flu like symptoms about now. However, I can't resolve my particular symptoms with the published side effects. It's just weird.

I got a haircut this lunchtime. The assistant hairdresser did it. She's very rough. When she razors the back of my neck, I'm always prepared for the possibility of an arterial spurt. I survived.

I even survived the post office and managed to get something in the way of effective service from the grossly overweight person who is a natural at being officious and unhelpful. I now have travel money. Woo.

After being highly patronised on the phone yesterday when I called to ask about whether I had both outward and return flight vouchers in my pack of travel documents, I managed to find all the relevant paperwork last night. I couldn't stop myself from contacting the company responsible for the confusion to point out that if my girlfriend and myself and, according to the person I spoke with, many of their customers, find a system confusing, perhaps it needs changing. They replied offering to pass on my comments. They'll probably get filed under 'another idiot'.

Talking of understanding systems, I returned home last night to see my girlfriend teaching her dad how to use the system I made on Sunday. The fact that he got it without too much explanation, and remembered what to do with it reflects well on something.


It's Not A Competition

A colleague in stand-up has remarked on a few occasions that stand-up comedy is not, by nature, a competition sport. I'm not sure I completely agree with that, in that it's probably the role of most performers to best capture the hearts and minds of their audience. Every performer would secretly like to be told that their performance was the best of the night. However, that's not actually what performing is about; it's the vanity of performers which leads to the need to feel like a winner after a good, or even a bad gig. However, for newer comedians, competitions are a way to get discovered in the comedy business. Back when I was starting out, I put myself in for various competitions, often just to get gigs. In some cases, I put myself in for a competition when I wasn't ready to do it. Maybe I would have advanced in a few more competitions had I waited. In some cases, I advanced in competitions a little way and managed to get myself some well-needed self-respect.

As I've progressed further through my comedy "career", I've started to feel like I've more to lose in competitions than I have to gain. I should be able to go onto stage among a bunch of new acts, the likes of which normally do competitions, and have a ripper of a gig. This is because I've been doing this for 3 and a half years and if I can't shine among a bunch of inexperienced newbies, then I have really and truly been wasting my time. Okay, so some newbies are so naturally good that they'll instantly be better than I'll ever be, but on average, I should be able to go out there and storm it in an average competition environment.

This is not a skill to be proud of. When I won the Laughing Horse first round heat earlier this year, I had a moment of elation followed by regret at my brashness - how could I be proud of looking better than a bunch of people doing, on average, their 6th gig?

Where perhaps, the prize might be worth the risk of looking a fool by not getting anywhere, entering a competition is an even more negative experience... for the fact that if I don't get anywhere, I feel an overwhelming sense of bitterness and regret. I felt very very angered when I wasn't taken into the BBC competition last year. On the strength of the gig I did, where the audience were eating out of the palm of my hand, I felt like I deserved a place in the competition. Perhaps what I did didn't stand out enough? Perhaps I'm not demographically interesting? Perhaps I'm still slightly bitter that a number of acts, whom I feel are inferior to me comedically, managed to get places, and also managed to tick demographic diversity boxes... and that, I'm afraid is why I shouldn't do competitions. They bring out the worst in me.

Today is a day of walking away from competitions.

I had been down to do the Budweiser Legends of Laughter competition, but I've decided to cancel because it would be mightily inconvenient to do the heat this week, with a holiday imminent, and I've really nothing much to gain or prove with this competition. So, I pulled out.

I had also put myself forward for a competition run by a comedy agency in the North West. The prize was, amusingly, representation by the agency, along with a mountain bike. Nice touch. Today I found out that I didn't make the shortlist of 24 from applications numbering 75. How the hell did they decide that? I'd love to know. I think I'm better off not involved in competitions full stop, as they simply infuriate me with what can only be described as arbitrary judgement criteria. The word "arbitrary" can mean random, but it has the same root as the word for "judgement" and can also mean "by specific choice". In other words, I don't like being judged as inferior by people's own specific judgement methods... why can't people think my way!? Because.

So, stuff the agency who decided I'm not good enough for their stupid competition. Do they know who I am!?... maybe they do... maybe that's the problem.

It's weird. I feel like I've put in the effort and achieved enough to be treated with more respect than I sometimes feel I receive. I've had 3 very successful shows in Edinburgh, the first of which was down to a lot of hard work by Chris and I. The second two were pure stand-up and a group effort, where I was considered to be pulling my weight, on stage and off. People like what I do and they laugh. Is that not enough?

Maybe.

Do you know who I am!?
I used that quote earlier in order to let me tell the story of an excellent heckle. Kirk Douglas's son was a stand-up comedian and was dying on his arse on stage one night. In fury and arrogance he attacked the crowd. "Do you know who I am!? I'm Kirk Douglas's Son!" to which someone in the crowd replied: "No, I'm Kirk Douglas's son" and people then followed suit with "I'm Kirk Douglas's son" and so on. Brilliant!

Like the Murphy's
I'm not as bitter as I'm making myself out to be. I recognise the bitterness that comedy competitions awakens in me and I'm not happy to experience it. By reality checks like this, I can pretty much wave it away and get on with my life. I do hate to see a door randomly closed in my face, which is, essentially, the most probable outcome of any sort of competition or judging process. In fact, being told I'm not good enough goes completely against my entire outlook on life. I don't want to be "not good enough". So, I should either steer cleer of competitions or go out there and win them.

I think I'll steer clear.

Monday, September 11

Near Slice

Well, my job may well be provisionally safe, but the same cannot be said for everyone in what was my team. One of the guys, who has been on holiday for the last three weeks, came into work and then left again with a letter saying that he was unlikely to be keeping his job. Though there are appeals procedures, I have severe doubts that things in this company are so flexible that he'll be reborn like some sort of coding Phoenix. Whatever one's opinion of a work-colleague, it's never good to see someone lose their job. It's weird. It's almost like the person has, in some ways, died... but they're still out there living and breathing... but you'll probably never see them again... but burying them is not an option.

It brings home the fact that real people's jobs have been cut in this organisation. Most of the other people, who are now finding work elsewhere, are just names to me. I don't think I know a single one of them. In this case, though, I've spent many hours collaborating with this colleague and it makes it clear that it wouldn't have been more than a couple of different choices in the judging criteria to make it my job that was cut. That's how these things work.

A few of the people in the office are clearly leaving for good at the moment. There are hugs and brave faces all round. One of the characters who appears to be leaving is a lady who looks like my ex-girlfriend of a few years ago might have looked if she'd gained weight steadily for 5 years and grown her hair very long. It is she whom I've made a joke about on stage a few times where I've suggested that she looks like a sofa... in some ways, she does. Bye bye sofa lady.

Motivation
It's quite hard to be motivated at the moment. This is partly because there's no specific set of requirements to fulfil, so doing nothing seems equally as successful as doing something. I've been messing about with a programme to convert some data from one format to another, and I've been getting some sort of success, but the extent to which it can possibly succeed, and the extent to which it would be really useful are still unknown to me. I've lost a bit of my mojo with this and my head feels a bit woozy.

I think I may have drunk too much coffee/fizzy drinks.

I could quite reasonably try to train myself out of such behaviour.

Googling Oneself
In moments while I've been waiting for things to get processed on the computer, I've set about a variety of tasks of a distracting nature. One of these is Googling myself. I wouldn't advise doing this. Though it's useful to see what's written about you on the net (most of which I appear to have written myself), it's really really sad to Google yourself. However, I reached new depths of stupidity today when I googled misspellings of my name. I found a very generous review of my 2005 Fringe performance under such a misspelling. I was, apparently, in the camp of guitar comedians who "aren't completely shit". Nice.

Comedic Ideas
I couldn't get to sleep easily last night. I don't know why this is. Maybe I had had too much coffee. Maybe my head was buzzing with ideas from the programming. Maybe the first two episodes ever of Family Guy left me feeling empty and in need of a proper episode of The Simpsons rather than this lesser clone (cue rant from Family Guy fans who will tell me that it's much better and that I've missed the point). As I was falling to sleep, I had ideas for what I would do if I used a piano in my stand-up. Given that I spent a few gigs in Edinburgh learning to live without the guitar, it seems a bit odd to be heading in the direction of an even larger and more difficult to attach instrument. However, there's method in my madness. There are a couple of gigs I'm either doing, or might be doing, where there's a house-piano. Perhaps on these occasions, it would be nice to have a few party tricks that can only be done on the piano.

My "Imagine" spoof - "Imagine no piano" might be quite amusing, but I'm not sure how to end it. Quickly, is probably the best answer. "Imagine all the people, sharing all the glue - yooo-hooo-ooo-oooh"... oh dear!

I also have a new song which I'm chewing over in my head. There are some songs which simply don't work. There are some which have merits. There are some which are instant classics... and then there are those where I'm just not sure. The text-based Love Song was one of these latter cases. I practiced it for a while and wondered and wondered. It pretty much worked from the off, though I had to come to learn how to play it with the right pressure points to keep it funny. This current song has a neat joke leading into it, and it could be one of the more technically complicated songs to perform - lending what I do an edge of advanced competence, currently missing. However, I'm not sure about whether there are enough hard-hitting lines... and I don't quite have an ending. Grrr.

Last Week Before Holiday

Time is now ticking down. The holiday begins on Saturday and I already feel under prepared. I have my injections and malaria tablets. I even have a certificate, proving that I'm fully qualified against yellow fever. I should put that on my CV. However I feel like the holiday is too rapidly approaching. Perhaps a well placed trip to Tesco will post that out.

I don't feel like I've been particularly good with my eating habits this week, but a quick weigh on the bathroom scales, which agreed with my official scales at Tesco, suggests that I'm still losing weight. Somehow, I don't think I've lost as much around the waist and legs as I did by this point a few years ago when I was losing weight like this. I think I was walking quite a lot last time, where I'm presently doing very little exercise. I must think about that. Yep. Thought about it. No.

Maybe a good case of the squits on holiday will get those pounds off. You never see that on those dieting programmes on tv. That would be gross. . . but effective.

The weekend was fairly lazy. I regret sleeping in so much on Saturday. However, yesterday I spent the day programming. I made some sort of basic rent book system which works through a web browser. It won't win any awards, but I managed to make a coherent system in about 10 hours, which was nice. Now let's see how quickly it breaks!


Sunday, September 10


Friday, September 8

Safe

Well, apparently my job is provisionally safe. I haven't been given a letter saying my role is at risk, and if it was then I would have. So I could relax. . . if it was bothering me, at least. I have been through a variety of feelings about the job and I think that I am feeling fairly ambivalent today. Had I been made redundant today, I think I would just have considered it an excuse for an early trip home. Still I suppose I'll have more purpose about myself next week. And my program sort of works, which is nice.


Thursday, September 7

At The End Of The Day

Having poured my troubles out in the last post, as in the previous entry, rather than that bugle call, I set about having the evening that matched the day I'd been whingeing about. I got the tube to Archway, which was slowed by the inconvenience of my oyster card requiring a top up. Once at Archway I set about the brisk walk that my map suggested would take me to the gig.

I felt a sense of disquiet when there was no major lane crossing the hill I was climbing. . . Unless. . . It's not that bridge is it? No clues. No sign on the stairs near the bridge. It's typical isn't it. They put a sodding sign on the coffee machine at work to explain not to use its drip tray for random slops, but a road sign isn't needed in our nanny state culture. Anyway, after much nagging doubt and a detour round side streets not on my map, I found my way to the lane which didn't look like a bridge in 2d.

Sweating heavily and walking further, I asked for directions to the pub when I thought I must be near but couldn't see it. The people I asked indicated the building at which I had stopped them. The sign was not in my line of sight. That's my excuse.

Despite the effort and complications, I was still very early. Open spot early if you ask me. I had a well earned wee, was banished from the room where the gig happens for them to have a meeting, and managed to rescue my trousers so I could change in the toilet. My jeans made me feel more relaxed. I've no idea why. Maybe they fit better. Or maybe they're imbued with morphine. That would be cool.

Once allowed back in the room, following a seriously wanky discussion with an act on what is comedy, I asked about time and career progression in the club. I didn't book the gig and assumed I'd have a 10 minute spot. 5. I don't like doing such short spots, but the system is you do five and if the guy thinks you look like you know what you're doing, you might get asked back for a paid spot. I wasn't going to argue the toss and made that clear. I also said I was fairly experienced. . . Cos I am. That was that. 5 minutes. Among the weird and mystical collection of new acts, people trying stuff out, and people being shit. The first act was so shit he'd even faux soiled some pants, using chocolate. He underran so much that the guy running things suggested that I could do 7, 7th on the bill, closing the first half! Then a couple of acts unamusingly overran and I was cut back down. The laughs were getting thin and the audience were tired when I prepared to leap into action.

Ooh the story telling suspense. Here's me, after a fairly taxing day, ready to go on to a tired room and do a set that would feel about 15 minutes too short. How would it go? It would be one of two ways. Either it would be surprisingly easy, full of applause breaks and laughter of all sorts, or it would be a dull affair which made me look bad enough to need to come back in 6 months and do another 5 under similar circumstances.

I ignored the pressures and made it as funny as I needed to be to cheer myself up. The audience had the ability to laugh. I will be getting a longer spot next year sometime. Phew. Indeed, the gig broke my mood a bit and I'm even seeing work tomorrow in a positive light. Ish.

Strange isn't it? Little things can pick you up.


Today Truly Sucks

It has not been a good day at all. In no way shape or form. Not in the least bit good. I wish I had not risen from my bed. In fact, I nearly didn't, failing to truly register the importance of waking with the alarm that was set an hour earlier than usual to enable me to get a lift into work and be early enough in to be able to leave early. Eventually I worked out that it was necessary to move, and I managed to raise my girlfriend from her slumbers too. All was going vaguely to plan.

I even remembered to pack a bag with my jeans to wear at tonight's gig. However, owing to a number of confusions, largely caused by morning tiredness, I watched dumbfounded as the car, with these items in its boot, drove off leaving me empty handed at the office. No mobile phone in the car to call. I had to wait until my girlfriend had reached home before being able to ask her to return. Though I can do a gig without the guitar, I don't want to do this one without it. No.

At work, things were looking a bit up and a bit down. On the up side, I forced myself to use the new tools and new language to do something I might have found easier the old way. On the down side, after a morning's almost satisfying beavering away, I managed to lose all my work in one stupid mouse click. This was not good. Again I was speechless. I couldn't believe how final the destruction of my work had been. Then I started poking around on the computer. Though my original files were lost, I found where the files that are derived from them ended up, and I was able to get them translated back into an approximation of what I'd lost. It took time and totally took the shine off the apparent success I'd been having mastering a new set of tools.

I've said it before. I'm an idiot.

Things have been going poorly since last night. The pub quiz was preluded by some food. The chicken I ordered was so overdone that it was barely chewable in places. The bone and meat were almost fused together in a most unappetising manner. I wanted to call our quiz team something like "the microwaved chickens" or "sack the chef" but I wasn't allowed to. It's a shame, because they read out our team name, and the quiz master is also the landlord, so it might have been a good way to get the message to him. Maybe if our team hadn't been called "Lizards in a dyson" it would not have been called out.

The quiz questions were easier and we got some rounds completely right. We felt in danger of winning the quiz and I even suggested we should think about what to do with the money. The top prize is 50 pounds, and my suggestion was to donate it back to the charity that the surplus funds goes to each week. I think it's a bit off for the winners to get 50 when the charity ends up with 12 or something. Anyway, we didn't win. The wipeout round did us in. Even if it had not, we would still have been one point short. It was a major disappointment, apparently.

Things proceeded to go wrong when we got home and I set about sorting out the home network. The requirement was for the old computer to see the new one so the printer could be moved to it. I made some necessary changes to some settings . . . And then the old computer started prompting for a password that nobody knew. This was not good. Why have a password set if you never use it? Indeed! Yet it was set and I'd somehow managed to provoke it to be needed. Brilliant. There are only two options at this point: crack the password, or take the computer to pieces and copy the data elsewhere. I was ready for a late night of the latter when my girlfriend correctly guessed the password. It was 'cornwall'. Thank goodness for that.

Thinking I'd got everything working, my girlfriend, who would be a natural software tester/cryptanalyst, made me prove it all continued to work through a power off and turn back on. Wise idea. It failed miserably.

Not wishing to bore anyone with the details, but the fact that the computer with the printer was on the wireless part of the network, coupled with the fact that Windows machines find out about each other using broadcasts that don't get relayed to the wireless zone meant that I had to do something vaguely smart to make it all work. It worked in the end, but my nerves were rattled.

What a to do. Perhaps the yellow fever vaccine comes with some sort of bad luck charm. Should I maybe be worrying about tonight's gig, therefore? I don't know. Perhaps I'll enjoy the gig more for the light relief it should offer. Perhaps the slog up hill and down dale to get to the venue, which is near no tube, will be another nail in the coffin of a miserable early September.


Wednesday, September 6

Another Weird Day

My back hurts from the awkward angle I've been sitting at. I should probably learn some posture or something. I also feel a bit hot and bothered. I think it's too cold for comfort cooling to be on, and too hot for it not to be. Shucks.

Things are getting sorted out in my life at the moment. I'm almost moved out of my Farnborough address - I still have a DVD player there and I still want to double check it for mail for a day or so more, but apart from that, I'm done. I even have received the deposite back, which is nice... unfortunately, I realised that I'd received it back long after it had joined the general "funds" that is my bank account and had been spent. Edinburgh was probably more costly than I thought it was at the time.

The holiday is also well and truly sorted out, with the paperwork coming in the next day or so. We're staying in Mombasa (I'm inoculated for this now, and even have a sterile first aid kit, lest I become injured in the presence of non-sterile medical facilities). We're going on a Safari for a couple of nights and will see the Masai Mara. It's cost a bit more than I thought it would, but what the heck. It's going to be a good break from things.

The organisation of the house in Newcastle has reached the stage where I've been to a post office and sent away the letter which the solicitors need to, hopefully, complete everything that needs completing. At some point, I would hope to receive a big fat cheque. I should probably find some sort of big fat account to keep it in. Then, I can start thinking about buying a property to store my big fat arse in.

I'm still not incredibly sold on Reading as a place to live, but I can't see it being a very long term thing, so I don't see the problem. Two years on the property ladder in Reading will probably do me no harm whatsoever.

Other organisational things include... not very much, really. I accidentally published the first draft of my Edinburgh Fringe diary from this year, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I will include reviews and star ratings, for what they're worth, of everything I saw. I think that I'll be quite tough with the ratings. 4 will be a damned good score and 5 will be damned near impossible.

In other comedy news, I took a booking today, which is nice. The promoter sounded as flustered on the phone as I normally get when I'm ringing asking for work. Good stuff. I also had a couple of emails from places intent on not offering me gigs - no particularly bad reasons, just reasons. I've also put myself down to do a rather fun sounding cabaret style show, even though I'll largely just be doing what I normally do within it. More news on that if it ever happens.

For reasons that are not interesting enough to discuss, I had a look on the Broadway.com website to see what's happening on Broadway. Apparently, everything is a musical there, which is nice. It's good to know that all of the shows I most recommend from that site also appear to be playing in the West End. Note to self: see more musicals.

The majority of the day has been spent playing around with data and trying to work out if there's a neat way to convert some particular data we have into a form where it looks conveniently manipulable in some other format. This is not as dull as it seems, but it's pretty close. It's also hard to fathom and has involved much downloading of many equally hard to fathom tools. The bottom line is that my head and back ache and I don't think I've achieved very much. However, I am internalising the problems, so it's possible that I might achieve something sometime. We'll see.

I also ate a huge quantity of reasonably healthy stuff today, including fruit and yoghurt.

And I drank some juice. Apparently I won't go senile. I SAID I WON'T GO SENILE DEAR!

And I wrote some lyrics to a potentially new song... well, it's clearly new, but it's potentially a song... well, it's also a song, having a tune and lyrics now, but it may not make it out of my head and onto a stage - there's potential. That's the point. It may or may not be funny. I hope it is funny. I have a rather off colour joke to set it up, and it makes some sort of point and also uses something I've wanted to work into comedy for the last few days: Stockholm Syndrome. I only want to mention it because it sounds funny and it requires a bit of knowledge from the audience to understand it... so it makes everyone feel a bit clever. Don't be patronised by the link in the above text - it's just something I've done for the sake of completeness. You don't have to click on it.

Tuesday, September 5

Weight For It

A quick update on the weight loss. We're unsure of the weight I started at, so I've extrapolated the data I have to the point when I started eating sensibly. It's possible I lost a stone in the first month... or maybe not.

It approximates to 45 pounds lost, or 31 if you pretend that I lost nothing in the first month, which would be a ridiculous thing to pretend, since I probably had the biggest single weightloss in that time.

Here are the numbers. I am not revealing my actual weight, just its downward progress.



I'm still bigger than I ended up at the tail end of my last attempt to lose weight, and my trousers are still 2 sizes above where I was wearing them last time, though I was happier to be seen in tighter trousers then. However, there's a chance I could smash through this barrier in the next few months... there's also a chance I might tire of all this abstinence.

The Daily Grind

I found it very hard to wake up this morning. I don't know why I was so tired. I was woken at 7am to some knocking on the front door. I'm not sure who it was, though I suspect it may have been my girlfriend's sister. I didn't get up.

The alarm periodically managed to raise me from my slumber, but somehow managed to sleep on until well into "The Danger Zone". With some effort, I managed to disentangle myself from the bed sheets, stop stroking the cat - it's habit for us both now - and get myself dressed and out of the door. The drive to work was accompanied with the excellent Gavin Webster - in CD form, rather than in person, of course... that would be weird.

My morning in the office was ok. I continued tickling some code, which is teaching me the ways of a new language, without actually challenging me too much. Then I found out that there was no more of this code to tickle. It's pretty much all done. D'oh. Just when I was getting into it.

So, nothing.

I'll have to fill my time with reading things and the occasional blog entry, then.

Very dull.

Planning Holidays
All is not lost, though. I have finally managed to complete the arrangements for our trip to Kenya this month. I'm very good at starting things and getting 95% of the way to completion, but really poor at the finishing touches. I don't know why that is. It just is. Note to self - try to avoid doing this when living in your own home again.

Anyway, the Kenyan holiday form has now been filled out and returned to the folks in Kenya. Well, they're in Kent, but that's only a couple of letters different, right?

I even paid for the Safari, which my holiday insurance would prefer I organised here, as, apparently, British organised Lions are more insurable than Kenyan-native-organised ones. Something like that. I think it's probably more like something to do with suing people, but don't quote me on that.

Planning Gigs
History generally repeats itself, as no doubt would be confirmed by looking back on this date over the last few years:
  • September 2005 in which I was gigging in Penzance and Blackpool and organising my holiday
  • September 2004 in which I was so busy I failed to blog for nearly a month, but eventually blogged about gigs and The Musical!
  • September 2003 in which I was blethering about musicals, home cooking, gigs and more gigs
I'm basically a seasonal creature. That's me. I'm comfortable with that, I think.

In general, too, October and November are two of my busiest gigging months and I'm presently working on getting bookings enough to keep me busy in this, my fourth end-of-year season as a comedian. The problem I have at the moment is that if I over-book myself then I will create much stress in the home. If I underbook myself, then I will fail to capitalise on what I feel is the strength I've recently consolidated. It's a tough balancing act.

I want to advance as an act, but it's a competitive industry and there are times when I find myself advancing through a particular club's career path, only to find that when I reach the top of their staircase, the door had been locked to me all along. This is very frustrating. It's probably the opinions of about 6 people in the country that determine whether I get anywhere in a given year... but getting "somewhere" is different to gigging a fair bit and enjoying myself doing it. To those who seem to think that my act is "not for them" or "not for their club" then I say "boo". I'm not giving up and I'll keep trying things and improving things until someone goes "Ah yes, Ashley... I've always thought he was pretty good".

So, I'll be slaving away at this for some time, then.

It's still good fun and I have 21 gigs in the diary to look forward to.

My space
For reasons that I can't quite fathom, I've set myself up a MySpace site. This is just an excuse to beg people you vaguely know to be your friends. Theoretically it might be an effective place to manage my gig diary, but I quite like doing that on my own website. We'll see. At the very least, it has been a good excuse to get my new promo photograph into the wild. I quite like this photo.

A Picture

This is a picture I took. I've called it "Tough Crowd".


Monday, September 4

Another Wacky Week

Still not quite sure about what's truly on the mid term agenda at work. Even short term we're pretty much guessing. Today I slowly and steadily worked on getting some code ported across from one environment to another. If nothing else, the conversion process is teaching me how to think in both environments interchangeably. I'm getting there slowly however.

The weekend was much more fun, and I managed to shake off the misery which had been creeping upon me. I think I partly achieved this with the gift of sleep. Saturday happened more for me after lunchtime than before. There had been some buying of clothes around the early part of the weekend, but its key feature for me was probably the gig I did on Saturday night in East London somewhere.

In many ways the gig on Saturday should not have worked. The room was too big with a high ceiling, there were far too many acts on the bill, many of whom were fairly inexperienced, and the compere was an odd character/drag act. All of these were my first impressions as I watched the gig waiting to close it. Only I didn't just watch it. I enjoyed it. The audience were plentiful and up for it. The acts were fun, and when it didn't quite work, it was still interesting.

There was one act that stood out as appalling, but they'll probably rewrite themselves or disappear. This act was so bad, they'd even made the late stages of a fringe comedy competition. . . My theory is that the egregious sometimes is as rewarded as the excellent. It's a good theory as it uses the word egregious.

I've listened to the recording of the set I did. On the whole I am happy. The audience were tired out when I reached them, but I perked them up, and the order of the set pieces seem to make the set easy to pace. I still messed up a bit when I started racing through a couple of bits, but I stayed on top of things and managed to improvise my way in an out of danger. I think I'm getting better at keeping my persona up when I go loose and relaxed between set pieces, and I think I'm changing gear into set pieces a little more smoothly. I had a lot of fun at the gig.

Challenges for this week include sorting my life out. Today I sorted out some postal and financial things. Tomorrow I get yellow fever.


Parking Genius!

Every so often you see what can only be described as an audacious and genius piece of parking. This driver couldn't wait for the opportunity to reverse their car out and straighten up, they just had to get out and run. If I ever meet this person, I will study their driving licence carefully to see what I can learn!


Friday, September 1

Anarchy

Dress Down Friday
The company I worked for here in Farnborough (I suppose I still work for them, but they're a bought-out entity, so it's hard to tell) had a dress code which prohibited the wearing of jeans in the office. However, as I look around me, I can see several people in denim. I'm not sure what this means. I think that there's been something of a rumour suggesting that the dress code won't be part of the requirements in the new world order. However, I also think that the abandonment of the dress code is some expression of rebellion by the various staff who are aware that we're all potentially facing redundancy, though in an unquantifiable way. We'll only know once they've actually alerted people to whether their specific role is at risk.

I suppose people need something to rebel against.

I've rather become used to dressing a little smarter for work than I used to. It gives work a sense of distinction from the everyday other stuff that I might do. However, I won't mind if I'm told I can wear comfier clothing. Actually, a new chair wouldn't go amiss either.

Writing, but not profitably
At the moment, I'm finding it hard to know what to do. Writing my blog is hardly a profitable exercise, but it is, perhaps a better way to occupy myself than tackling a variety of things which might be for my own personal gain, but which would feel like cheating my employer. I don't like the idea of being paid to come into work and then using that time to do something which I might get paid for outside of work. Luckily, nobody pays me for this blog, so I don't feel even remotely guilty for adding to it.

I would like to do some writing. I wouldn't mind a few days of just me and my laptop and my thoughts. I'd like to write some more of The Musical!, actually. Either the radio adaptation I started and never quite got more than 10% into, or maybe the rewrite for a two-act stage version, which some folks in Southampton seemed so keen to put on.

Alternatively, I've got an idea for a novel, which involves a dangerously insane comedian.

Reflections on Seurat
Last night's trip to Sunday In The Park With George was, I think, a success. Although the seats proved to be on the second row of the highest circle - which some might term the balcony - the view was reasonably unspoiled - only one pespective didn't quite work - and the performances were, on the whole, stunning. Sondheim is very difficult to get right. He writes with a relentless word power with syllable after syllable of both incredible strength and subtlety. With rhythms that are hard to listen to, let alone sing correctly, and speed that seems to defy the performer to get any thought or expression into their reeling out of the text, it seems that Sondheim should normally sound disastrous. However, the cast at The Wyndhams Theatre knew what they were doing. Though clearly well drilled, they also had a spontaneity and wit, which made the show light up.

Everyone enjoyed themselves, and I was somewhat elevated from the slump in spirits which had started around midday yesterday.

Listening to the soundtrack from the original Broadway cast, I can see why I failed to spot so much of what this musical has to offer. It is very complex, and the performance on the CD lacks much of the dynamic range of expression that we witnessed in a live performance. Maybe it was hard for a young show, being performed in a recording studio, to have this range for the recording. Perhaps I should buy the London Cast recording.

Mental Kitten
We returned home last night for a night of kitten-sitting my girlfriend's sister's kitten - Marley. Don't ask me why the kitten is named after either the Reggae star, or ghost from Dickens: I couldn't tell you. Anyway, this kitten, after an evening sitting alone, decided to go mental for a while - chasing nothing in particular. Eventually, she curled up and went to sleep and I think I found her curled up near me at various points in the night. However, this morning, she had a total attack of the mentals and the predatory instinct. Anything which moved was fair game for some clawing and biting and my hand was included.

I invented a new game, though. Cat-Matador. You use a t-shirt as the thing to attract the kitten and then whip it out and over her head as she attacks. Extra points if you can throw it on top of her. This diversion can be used to allow clothes to be put on so you can get to work with only minor abrasions.

Other Musicals
As I've got musicals on the brain today, I'd like to list some shows I'd like to see in the next few months in London:
  • Evita
  • Avenue Q
  • The Producers - with Reece Sheersmith
  • Guys and Dolls
I'm sure there's more. Perhaps Wicked won't be as bad as it sounds. I'll also probably take my girlfriend to see both The Sound of Music and also Dirty Dancing and maybe I'll go and give Spamalot another try.

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