Sunday, 19 September 2010

August Missions

“A fight is not won by one punch or kick. Either learn to endure or hire a bodyguard.”
-Bruce Lee

You may remember that, in July Moments, I mentioned I received a job offer.

The assistant manager of Rififi nightclub wanted me to work as a podium dancer- or at least, that's what she told me after watching me in the club. I never heard back from her, though. Boo. Someone I spoke to mentioned she has a tendency to make things up and lead people on. Weird. Well, at least my weekends are still free.

On Friday 13th August I saw two of my friends batter their way to glory. Warriors 6 was a boxing event put on by KO Promotions in Manchester's Ritz nightclub.

My MMA instructor Dave Butlin- boxing on this event- took his opponent apart fairly swiftly in an explosive bout. Team-mate Jordan McClusky- boxing on the night too- also won his bout after a tough, long fight. Team Quannum all the way!

Once the fights were over, we hit the after party at Silks Gentlemen's Lounge.

Silks sponsored the night at the Ritz and also provided the stunning ring girls. I spoke to Bob, from Irlam, who'd just whacked out £40 on a 2-girl dance. “Well, it is a nice club,” he said, admiring the opulent décor. “And the girls are beautiful. I enjoyed the dance, but it was too dark. They plonk you on this leather couch in a little room- it's private and comfortable, like, but the lights are so dim you can't see what's going on. It didn't exactly last very long, either. The dance, I mean.”

I have to say it was unusual going to a bar full of beautiful women and turning them all down. You find yourself avoiding eye-contact with them, because you know they're going to come over and try to take your money, for want of a better expression. I guess that's what a night out is like for a lot of women. Sort of.

Moving on. In a failed attempt to save money, I have spent most of August with my head in books. First up: the 1970 SF classic, Ringworld, by Larry Niven. Louis Wu is a successful but bored 200-year-old, celebrating his birthday by teleporting himself around the world to extend his birthday in the year 2855. When a member of an alien species offers him an opportunity to join an expedition to a planet that encircles its own sun, it offers the excitement he's been looking for. But the Ringworld itself has some strange surprises for Louis.

I think this book has stood the test of time because of its relentless creativity and scientific realism. From the first page, Niven shows us a world- Earth- that has developed to the extent that science has altered everything we touch or encounter- the moving footpaths, the high-powered sun cream that protects characters from the UV rays that pour in past the diminished ozone layer, the alien species that have (somewhat) integrated with human society- Niven packs every page with vivid details.

Literary types say that SF will always have a date stamp on it- the technology we have now dictates how writers envisage the world(s) of the future. But forty years on, Ringworld is still standing the test of time. The science still works and the story is engaging. If you're thinking of dabbling in SF, this is a good place to start.

Nostradamus: The Complete Prophecies for the Future. A handy book to have around, wouldn't you think? Mario Reading's book takes a look at some of the quatrains (sort of free-verse poems depicting future scenarios) written by the 16th century diviner. Nostradamus was an apothecary- like a pharmacist- but became famous as a prophet. Reading interprets the quatrains with a lot of assertion. He explains in the introduction that Nostradamus used wordplay a lot, and that nobody would have interpreted his texts literally in his time- hence we shouldn't do now.

Scholars believe that Nostradamus has already predicted the great plague, the great fire of London, The rise of Hitler and the attacks at 9/11- and the resulting war on terror. A note- at some point this year, we are due an advance warning of the third Antichrist. He won't drop into the maternity ward until 2032, however, so you've got time to batten down the hatches. (The first two, if you were wondering, were either Napoleon and Hitler or Stalin and Hitler. Reading and other academics haven't concluded on that one.)

As a book it's interesting, although Reading's thought processes seem a little presumptive. I'd have liked more info on past predictions first- I think a lot of readers would be more receptive to the predictions that way. It would have been more fulfilling if there was info on how researchers have come to interpret the work the way they did. More to the point- how did Nostradamus have these visions? This is a key question that isn't even touched on in the book. I also thought the book, as it stands, could have been smaller- publishers Watkins have formatted the text so wide that there's hardly anything on the page.

A good book, but a bit thin on the ground leaving a lot of questions unanswered. No wonder it was on offer in a bargain book store.

No Country For Old Men swaggers in next. This 1970s-set western novel moves at breakneck speeds, has authentic slang and grips from the offset. If you've seen the film, you'll know how original it is- even though the premise is not. Hunter Llewellyn Moss finds $1.2 million at the scene of a botched heroin deal, a spot in the desert surrounded by bodies and bullet-riddled trucks. He cuts and runs with the loot and, with an ageing sheriff and the entire Mexican cartel on his tail, starts to throw away his life a piece at a time.

The book is even more sparse than the film- details of the plot are left for the reader to figure out themselves, and McCarthy manages to say a lot in just a few words. He describes events clinically, leaving you to feel the appropriate emotion rather than read about it. A short, sharp shock of a book, and a worthy read even to those who know the film.

Oh, God. I plunged in at the deep end after this. William Burroughs' Naked Lunch bit my head off, chewed it up, shat it out and served it back up to me. This once-banned 1959 novel still stands as being possibly the most twisted, depraved book in existence. It's written as a series of loosely connected vignettes, starting with a heroin addict roaming the streets trying to score drugs. It then descends into a drug-fuelled, homicidal sex orgy for 200 pages. Imagine American Psycho without the yuppie lifestyle info. Or the complete works of Hunter S Thompson with no journalistic intentions- just drug accounts. Then multiply by a thousand. The descriptions are fantastically vivid, if you can stomach them- giving hilarious, poignant and sometimes quite sad insights into the world of 1950's addicts. Read it if you dare.

I needed to lighten the mood after the carnage of the violent books I'd read over the last few weeks- so I ended the month with Hank Zipzer: Day of the Iguana. Penning the Zipzer children's novels is none other than Henry Winkler, AKA “The Fonz” from Happy Days. He also, more recently, played Coach Klein in The Waterboy. Did I mention that I met him and my got a signed copy?! Yes, I did. It was the first kid's book I've read in about 15 years, but it was still pretty good. Hats off to Mr. Winkler for creating a character with dyslexia and bringing learning difficulties into the limelight. Not only that, but he's dyslexic himself, and has a series of books out. Well done indeed.

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

Who here has been to Newcastle? I went earlier in August for Gaz's stag do. I'd never been to Geordieland before. I'd never been on a stag do either- nor dressed up as a pensioner with a flat cap, a pipe and a cardigan. But that was the theme. So we set off at 7am in full old-person attire and hammered it 98 miles north.

Or at least, that was the plan. We may have looked elderly, but we made a major schoolboy error. Whoever rode shotgun programmed the satnav for Newcastle-under-Lyme, in the south of England, as opposed to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, just below Scotland. We'd covered about 50 miles of southbound motorway before we realised our mistake. Next time, I'm in charge of the satnav. Even without the detour, it was the furthest I've ever driven. So I was a bit frayed by the time we passed the Angel of the North and cruised into the B'n'B.

We then went out and visited some piss-stinking old-men's pubs, which were hilarious, as most of the customers had dressed exactly like us. (That's us except for the stag, who looked like a cross between a bride and a fairy, in some kind of pink ballerina outfit with a matching handbag.) Drinking games and vast quantities of booze followed, as did a yuppie bar, a strip club (where I was certifiably ripped off- I won't go into detail, but Diamonds Bar would have got the big thumbs up otherwise as most of the night there was hilarious) ( and a seventies bar (where I wasted a guy in a dance-off). We also found a Boris Yeltsin lookalike who was, ironically, drunk and falling asleep in his chair. It was a photo opportunity we couldn't resist.

The city was cold, as expected, but the locals were surprisingly friendly and the women were mostly hot. I haemorrhaged my account that weekend, but I have no regrets.

“You got a way of talking about one thing, then, ZAP- you start talking about something else.”
-The Wolf (Harvey Keitel), Pulp Fiction

Indeed I do, Mr. Wolf. And on that note, here are my two pennies on Manchester's recent Gay Pride parade. I was in Newcastle when this happened, but I read about the “Christian” picketers shouting “sinful” and “wicked” at the gay people as they walked past. I'm a straight man, and a Christian. In case, y'know, you didn't know. I don't really bang on about either of those aspects of myself. But I still thought the protester's behaviour was appalling. I hope Manchester City Council ban them next year, as they apparently plan to. Do the protesters not realise that there are already gay chickens, emus, penguins, salmon, lizards, tortoises, turtles, rattlesnakes, frogs, toads, salamanders, worms, beetles, dragonfly, crickets, moths, fleas, flies, wasps, bears, bats, elephants and domestic cats? Genesis says God made all of those, right? Get with the program, guys.

I suppose I should write a conclusion to this. Going back to the subject of endurance, I've got tons more to do including stories I want publishing, ideally. So I should stop rabbiting on about gay animals (pun intended) and get on with it. Laterzzzz.....


Todd Laurence said...

An answer to the Nostradamus

"such is the nature of reality,
that anyone can experience that
which is least understood."

CageFightingBlogger said...

For info on how I was ripped off, there's a hint in the "Terence Hits Newcastle" story in the Fluffy Oakes saga, below right. I'm not saying which part though- you'll have to read it all...

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