Sunday, 16 May 2010

New Website

Want to see my new website? CLICK MY MASSIVE EYE! GO ON! CLICK IT!

I'll continue to update the blog there.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Games With Stupid Names - #12: Captain Bible in Dome of Darkness

No amount of snarky commentary can do these screenshots justice. Suffice to say, I have been playing Captain Bible in Dome of Darkness, a PC point n' click adventure game where you must use Bible verses to defeat evil robots in a bizarre lycra-clad futurescape. Instead of an energy bar, you have a 'faith' bar, which is depleted if you fail to respond to the robots' (who look like a scuba fetish version of the Smash aliens) lies with the appropriate scripture. I played it for a bit, then started to feel my brain turning the consistency of aerosol cheese and had to stop. Just look for yourselves.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Just Don't Fling The China

A few months ago, back in my flat in Cambridge, I started eavesdropping on our new downstairs neighbours. I'd crouch on the living room carpet with my ear to an upturned pint glass, like in the movies. It didn’t work very well. Fortunately their rows were loud enough to hear even if I’d got the telly on.

They were a young couple who’d just moved in together. I'd tell myself I was concerned about the state of their relationship, but that was a lie. I listened in because it was a good way to put off cleaning the oven. And because pretending I was in a spy novel helped me forget I’d nothing better to do on a Thursday evening than lie alone on the floor with a pint glass to my ear.

Given the frequency and intensity of their spats, the odd thing was, neither of them seemed to enjoy arguing. For example, one of their earliest barneys, from what I could tell (I’m only alerted to a row once it’s escalated to yelling, so it usually takes a bit of detective work to figure out how it began) started because he was talking on the phone when she called for him to help her unload the washing machine. When he didn’t answer, she did the only sensible thing and flung all his freshly washed laundry out of the window.

As usual, his response was to adopt the whiny, nasal tone of a petulant eight-year-old sulking at being made to visit a much-hated relative.

‘Why-eee?’ he mewled, stretching the word out to two shrill syllables. ‘Why-eee? It’s not fay-yer!’

Her sigh was loud enough to hear through the thick barrier of floorboards and underlay. ‘Because you were annoying me!’ With this sentiment, at least, I could sympathise.

As a fully qualified armchair psychologist, I decided their relationship was doomed. They seemed totally incompatible. With all the anger and bickering, I couldn’t imagine them lasting another two months. However, the current thinking on long-term relationships suggests I may have had it all backwards.

Dr John Gottman is a leading researcher into marital stability and divorce. He claims to have developed a methodology whereby he can predict with 90% accuracy whether a couple will still be together four to six years later. Partners get wired up to heart monitors, then asked to discuss a topic they disagree on.

The recordings make for gripping listening – some couples squabble with a gladiatorial intensity that makes my battling neighbours seem like the picture of domestic bliss. What’s even more startling, however, is Gottman’s finding that legendary bickerers often have the most stable and long-lasting marriages. Angry squabbling doesn’t necessarily mean a break-up is on the cards.

Indeed, according to The (possibly slightly right-wing and horrible) Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education: ‘The number one predictor of divorce is the habitual avoidance of conflict.’ For many couples, it seems a spirited ding-dong is a great way of letting off steam and expressing one’s feelings. All partnerships involve issues on which the two people involved fundamentally disagree. The difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one is that, in a healthy one, opposing perspectives get listened to and acknowledged. For some couples, sometimes a row is the best way to achieve that.

Habitual conflict avoidance is something I know all about. After all, I spent the best part of a month with my ear to the floor like an under-resourced Stasi officer, when really, I should have just walked downstairs, knocked on their door and politely asked them to keep their voices down.

But a funny thing happened. After a while, the rows just sort of tailed off. Just before I left for Norwich (to move in with my own girlfriend), I saw them walking together, arm in arm, looking the very picture of sickening romantic contentment. So maybe a bit of verbal jousting is good in the long run. And if you disagree, don't keep it in. Let's argue about it.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Death Drive

Hello! Goodness me, I've been busy as a bee, moving cities back to Norwich, weathering minor psychic catastrophes and beavering away on the script for my FIRST EVER solo show. Yes. Like a grotesque bee-beaver hybrid, lying on its flank, its useless wings quivering, a rasp issuing from its misshapen, bucked-toothed maw... kill me... I was not meant to be... That's me.

So yes, rather than come up with some way of wittily paraphrasing it, here's the press spiel:

There’s nothing like seeing your dad have a go at an activity to make it seem embarrassing. It turns out suicide is no exception.

Sacked, dumped, and stuck living back with his parents, failed writer Tim Clare struggled to see the point in carrying on. Eventually, during a 4am drive, his newly spiritual dad staged a dramatic last-ditch bid to shock him out of his misery.

Thus Tim began a quest to lose his cynicism and get happy. But when you’re faced with jeering teens, obnoxious neighbours, all six Rocky movies and a psychic horse, is there anything in this sordid world worth getting happy about?

So far, I'm booked to do four previews of Death Drive at the Brighton Fringe from Saturday 1st May - Tuesday 4th at the Royal Albion Hotel, 35 Old Steine (4-5pm Sat-Sun, 9-10pm Mon-Tues). Tickets are £5 a pop and you can get them here. Then on Sunday May 30th I'll be doing another preview at the Pulse Fringe Festival in Ipswich, at the Sir John Mills Theatre, at 8:30pm. Tickets are £6 and you'll be able to buy them in advance here in a few days, when the full programme goes online. It's an exciting festival with lots of new shows to see on the cheap, so if you're in the area, COME TO MY SHOW AND LOVE ME UNCONDITIONALLY

I've got more previews coming up in July in Colchester and Norwich, and maybe one or two others - I'll post more nearer the time. In the meantime, if you do know anyone who lives in Brighton and might fancy a fun night out for a fiver, do let them know about my show, eh? I'm a bit nervous and a bit excited, all the clich├ęs, really - also nauseous and aroused. How's that? It'll be a challenge to hold an audience's attention for that long - part of what I love about performance poetry is it challenges you to compress thoughts, jokes and stories down to their shortest possible form, so you're not wasting anyone's time. Death Drive is quite a dramatic story with lots of twists and turns, and it all really happened, so fingers crossed, folks won't find themselves dry retching with tedium 40 minutes in.

Right. Off to play video games. Happy days.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Interview Podcast

Hey folks, check it out - I did a really fun gig a week or so back with Byron Vincent and A F Harrold, based around Poetry and Stand-Up. Before the gig, us and the compere got interviewed - you can listen to the interviews online here. I think the interviewer, Julia, asks some really insightful questions, and Byron, A F and Dr Kevin McCarron (who has some awesome ideas) all give great, articulate answers. If you're interested in stand-up or poetry or both, I'm sure you'll find it a rewarding listen.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Pat Sharp

Readers of this blog will know that a fair proportion of my life's work is devoted to promoting the creative output of the writer John Osborne. He has just done a new youtube video, for a poem I like called 'I Think Pat Sharp Is Lonely'. Here it is:

Today is MAR10 Day, apparently. I was going to have mushroom pasta for tea to celebrate, but I seem to have contracted a stomach bug and, well... I'll be uncharacteristically coy about the details but suffice to say I don't feel much like tucking in to a hearty, cheese-slathered meal. This is the first time since the beginning of my Lenten video games fast that I've seriously considered giving in and playing something, if only so my DS could accompany me on my frequent trips to the toilet.

Deep in my heart, however, I know that spending 6 hours sitting at my PC playing Civ 3 will leave me feeling sad and defeated, not because I'd failed to quit video games for Lent, but because at the end, I won't have achieved anything. I do love video games, and, in fact, I'd genuinely credit the Civilisation series for significantly improving my historical knowledge in areas such as military history, scientific discoveries and political history, but that addictive feeling of 'just one more go' can eat up hours and hours of your life. But unlike TV, most sophisticated video games make you feel as if you're actually progressing and achieving something, and afterwards there's this horrible downer as you remember that your trans-continental fascist empire, your 3598 bottle caps earned, your levelled-up paladin or your 'Silent Assassin' achievement unlocked don't mean shit in the real world.

Okay, right. That's my bowels calling. Off to the bathroom again. Ta ta.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Woohoo! Issa Me!

"There's a sense of wonder and a spark of imagination at the heart of the Super Mario Bros. games, and as children we pick up on that right away. Then, over time, most people lose that spark. School, career, social engagements, relationship drama, mortgage payments, credit card debt, medical ailments, and other things that we pick up on our way to and through adulthood weigh us down and we forget the simple pleasures of saving the princess from a turtle despot with an eye for annexing kingdoms and galaxies. Those of us who continue to play Super Mario games and who make them a part of our adult lives found a way to keep that spark alive."

A few weeks into my video games fast, I enjoyed reading this article on a 33-year-old guy wondering why he still plays Mario games. I accept that nostalgia plays a role, but this kind of feels like hand-wringing to me. I play Mario games because they're fun and they make me happy. No need to overthink it!

Oh, and since you asked, I'm doing okay without video games so far. I'd say my happiness is 3 Fygars out of a possible 5. I'm sort of stockpiling a to-do list of stuff I need to sort out once back in those pixelated virtual worlds - sell scrap metal in Fallout 3, replay Loom in hard, replay flawed PC Sword n' Sorcery RPG Silver (assuming I can get it to work - I'll probably need a proper mouse, too) which I dug out the CDs for when back visiting my parents, replay Planescape: Torment (it's been 10 years, but man I loved that game), maybe buy Fallout and Fallout 2 to play on the PC (I have been assured they are awesome, especially if you like Planescape: Torment and Fallout 3 - oh WAIT)... also I want to complete Spirit Tracks on the DS.

All this squeezed in around moving house, sorting out taking my debut solo show to the Edinburgh Fringe this year (more on that in a few weeks! Shh...), writing new material, planning the new novel, actually earning a crust gigging etc, and maintaining a social life. Okay, so maybe earning money and the social life will have to take a back seat for a while - just till I max out my Heal spell and get the twin-swords on Silver, at least...