But Which One is the Parody, Actually?

I’m not sure what the electoral college in the US is doing today (or what it does generally) but I am aware that there is a some sort of Trump verification button that needs to be pressed before he can move his gold chandeliers into the White House. As it is 2016, we can assume that the verification people will probably verify him regardless of, well, 2016. But I’m glad this has come of it.

Oh and here’s the original in case you don’t have time to watch Love, Actually. Probably none of us will watch it again because we’ll be running from nuclear war or something.

Happy nearly-Christmas!

Christmas in September, and Other Small Ways I Damn My Soul to Hell

I wasn’t sure of a lot growing up – books disintegrate in the bath some days, but on others they just go crackly and if that’s not a sign the universe is a risky place, I don’t know what is –  but I was sure of one thing: Christmas marketing in September is for wankers. There is a pure and fiery place in hell for the motherfuckers in charge of Clintons and Smiths and Sainsburys who decide to introduce Christmas stock before schools go back. Before Halloween. Before I’m ready to put my shorts away and get out my scarves.

dishonour-andersonhale-tumblrcow-andersonhale-tumblr

Winter is coming, hiss advent calendars and crackers. The year is nearly over, whisper tablecloths and novelty teapots. We want to access your bank account and bleed you dry, murmur the fake Christmas trees.

DIE IN A HOLE, I retort as I browse for factor 15 or Halloween confetti or regular teapots. YOU WILL NEVER CONVINCE ME THAT CHRISTMAS SHOULD START UNTIL AFTER BONFIRE NIGHT.

I feel like this every year. It’s bad enough that Christmas is expensive and loses its magic a bit more every year; I won’t be bullied into buying cheap seasonal cushion covers. And yet recently I’ve realised that I’m well on my way to becoming a giant hypocrite. I preach, but I don’t practise.

Because here’s a fact they don’t pin to gondolas in Debenhams: when you run a shop, even a tiny one on Etsy, Christmas has to start in July at the latest. It has to. Because if you start it any later, you may as spend the rest of the year with your feet up, picturing money you’ll never hold going down the drain.

There’s stock to order and goals to set, last year’s stats to analyse and shipping times to work out. There’s Black Friday game plans and seasonal packaging, contingency plans and Instagram graphics.There’s custom orders versus regular ones, craft fair table decorations and notes on scrap paper as you calculate how much cash you can tie up in products that might sell. If you’re an artist and you carve out time in your day to make art, you carve up that part of the day to become an accountant, a marketing manager, a PR officer, an HR admin – even more than you would the rest of the year. You worry over minute photo details, because that’s where the devil lives, and rewrite product descriptions until you fall in love with a postcard you’ve seen every day for a year. You sign up to newsletters to learn about ‘streamlining your shipping station’ and ‘managing your brand’.

You actually find it kind of fun, because the aim is to earn as much money from your art as you can during the most affluent time of year… and if you were happy just to make the art, you wouldn’t have started an Etsy shop.

By the first of October, you think you’ve got it. You’ve got notes and stock and to do lists and you can picture yourself emerging from the January sales with triumphant fistfuls of profit that make those fourteen hour work days worth it.

And then you remember –

Halloween is in a few weeks. It’s supposed to be your dry run.

You’d better dig out last year’s stats and grab your confetti. The time for targeted marketing isn’t 6th November, it’s now.

bats-and-paper-bags-and-string-they-are-a-few-of-my-favourite-things

You’re all getting little plastic bats if you order from me until the 31st. You might get little plastic snowflakes in November and December. There’s money in the nation’s pockets and I’d rather it went to me than to Debenhams.

I probably deserve to get cheap seasonal cushion covers for Christmas, but I promise I will never try to sell you a novelty tea pot.

A Really Tenuous 6 Degrees of Separation feat. GotG & Troye Sivan

I GOT A NEW KEYBOARD AND LIFE IS GLORIOUS.

It’s been about a thousand years since I did a music post and this week I bought two new records so let’s, like, music video and chill.

Awesome Mix Vol. 1 by assorted people who existed circa 1970

The other day Mum and I saw that X Men/Sky advert and said ‘that tune is in Guardians of the Galaxy. Let’s watch Guardians of the Galaxy.’ Then we said ‘these tunes are the best tunes. Let’s find the soundtrack.’ For the record (ha) I will personally not rest as a screenwriter until I can write anything as good as this:

Neither of us have seen the new X Men yet, but we definitely won’t get Sky.

Blue Neighbourhood by someone who definitely did not exist in the 1970s

The other day I was in New Look and thought ‘this song about youth and partying sounds like it could be by this Troye Sivan guy I’ve heard about.’ Then I spent several days suffering through YouTube ads before cornering a guy in HMV to find Troye’s record. Lil tip: check you can spell an artist’s name before requesting the staff search them. Also, there’s a chance you couldn’t find the CD yourself because you were too short to reach the shelf and didn’t want to upset your takeaway coffee by tiptoeing.

Someone pointed out that this video is basically what Tumblr looks like:

and they ain’t wrong. My favourite songs on Blue Neighbourhood don’t have videos, but they are the same colour as my soul in the same way My Chemical Romance is the same colour as my soul. I’d forgotten what it was like to hear that sort of music for the first time so to celebrate I dyed my hair again and nearly committed to adding more metal to my head. I’m reliving my teenage years. Oh and you should watch these.

Okay I’m gonna go make my pets dinner and dance to the Piña Colada Song. 10 points to the first person to state the six degrees.

Review: ‘About a Boy’, Nick Hornby

This review  is the first that feels a little like cheating because I had actually seen bits of the film on TV, about 10 years ago. All I could remember before starting the novel is that Hugh Grant’s in the film and so’s that guy who went on to be in Skins (I think?). So my memory didn’t spoil it for me and I won’t spoil it for you.

My copy of About a Boy is courtesy of a university I considered attending long enough that they sent me free things. The parcel contained a letter from Nick Hornby advising that every misstep is not, in retrospect, a misstep (coincidentally I have been clinging to this notion since I decided not to go to university). The book itself follows that concept, predominantly through its two protagonists, Will and Marcus. Will has a life most of us live at the weekends. 30-ish and unattached all but the Countdown schedule, he spends days inside cafes and hours in front of the television, and has a work/life balance of pretty much 0% work and 100% chilling out. Marcus, a 12-year-old boy who’s just moved to London with his mum, has a happiness/life balance of about 30/70.

I can’t tell you how Will and Marcus meet, because it’s one of the funniest parts of the story, and I can’t really tell you too much about the supporting characters, because a lot of them hinge around the plot too. I can tell you that the novel contains a dead duck, Kurt Cobain, Christmas songs and some hilarious one liners that made me miss being 12. (Petition to start allowing adults to say exactly what they think just as much as children.)

Review: 'About a Boy' by Nick Hornby

 

The story takes place in the 1990s, and it would be quite different if it were set today (who are the 2010s equivalent of Nirvana?!). It was nice to read something that didn’t mention Facebook, actually, but my favourite thing about the book is that the two protagonists are about as different as two people could get while having quite a lot in common, and it was the alternating of points of view that turned the book into a very gripping story. There are a lot of ironic moments, and a lot of sad moments, because Will is judging Marcus at exactly the same time as Marcus is judging Will. All the characters are quite normal people you would expect to meet out and about, so of course they are actually all bonkers and more fun to read about than most superheroes. So go read.


 

My previous reviews are here; you can support my work by funding me on Patreon every time I review a book here.

God Exists. #Justice4Leo

I would like to thank leap day for the opportunity to eat an extra day’s worth of crispbread. Did anyone else get up today and think ‘I had better make it count since the gods have granted mercy on my workload and blessed me with an extra day to get my shit done’? And did anyone else spend half of that day in a state of ridiculous happiness about Leonardo diCaprio at the Oscars?

Good. I mean, I feel like one of my uncles just won the Academy Award. It’s like he’s risen above the sea of racist family banter and decade-old cliques to slay at the annual murder mystery.

LEO FUCKIN WON AMEN from Villiage Roadshow Pictures
from Villiage Roadshow Pictures

There is a lot of shit in this world, but a small wrong has been righted and somewhere there is a lesson for us all.

Dinner time: ‘If Leonardo diCaprio can wait 22 years for on Oscar you can wait a little longer for dinner to cook young lady’

Customer service: ‘You waited a whole day for your Xbox to arrive? Well come back in 22 years’

Traffic jams: ‘It takes longer to get down the M25 than it did for diCaprio to get an Oscar’

Teachers: ‘Now we know five years seems a long time to study, but it took a certain golden-haired angel two decades to win acclaim for his work, so you just take this B and think about what subjects you want to take at uni’

And the one I’m going to holler at everyone: ‘if Leo waited 22 years to win an Oscar you can wait two fucking minutes for me to get the door’

Oh, the possibilities. Okay I’m going to go read screenplays and exercise and do all the other things I never get round to the rest of the year.

Would You Like that Gift Wrapped? A Question About Customer Service

I must say if I had known how well people would react to a blog about the perils of salad, I’d have opened up about IBS a lot earlier. Watch the cracked tiles for more anecdotes, I guess.

This week I have been wonderfully, amazingly busy packaging up Etsy orders, most of them for Valentine’s Day (or I presume they are, since they’ve nearly all been postcards with puns about the Greek gods) and I’ve also had some lovely feedback from customers – the sort of stuff that makes you smile and stand up a bit straighter. I try to offer the sort of service I’d like to experience myself, like lots of communication about processing times, cute packaging that makes a change from bills, and inexpensive postage. Essentially I’d like to be a more time-and-customer sensitive version of this:

Let me send you cinnamon sticks.

Anyway, I have been thinking about what makes good customer service and how everyone has different standards (the fact a bow wasn’t tied on the cellophane in that clip would have upset some people) and I was wondering if you guys have any horror stories or good experiences to share? In a shop the other day, the cashier complimented my purse but didn’t make eye contact, so it felt like he was trotting out a line more out of general politeness (and because his boss told him to) than because he actually gave a shit. In a ceramics studio in Zante, the proprietor served home made lemonade and gave my friend a free accessory because they were both artists.

Do you expect free lemonade? Do you expect eye contact? Do you secretly want lavender added to every bag ever?

A Tourist’s Guide to Being a Tourist: London Film Museum’s Bond in Motion Exhibition, Covent Garden

I should start this by saying that I know very little about cars and even less about the James Bond film franchise. I like the films – explosions! Pretty beaches! Completely implausible plots! – but I haven’t seen that many of them… and to be honest, when I was younger I thought that James Bond was incredibly disrespectful towards women and drank too much (doctors have recently proved that he would be a raging alcoholic if he was an actual person). My family, on the other hand, are huge fans and it was considered a given that we would go to Covent Garden to see the London Film Museum’s Bond in Motion exhibition, which is on until March 2015.

I also know squat about film-making, but the exhibition made me want to enrol in a course. Almost everything was downstairs except storyboards, which I forgot to photograph for future reference. The main exhibition space, which was basically a basement painted black and given decent wifi, housed a load of vehicles that where used in filming, as well as miniature models and scraps of props that had been blown up as part of the story.

Apparently this car is a big deal:

Bond's Jag

Someone had the smart idea to play on loop the scenes in which the vehicles featured playing in the background, alongside information plaques and iPads. I think the lady there was worried Bond was going to do something stupid, which I assume he did.

'Casino Royale' props

You can tell that Casino Royale was made either before the new passport regulations came in or by a design team who forgot that fringes are strictly forbidden.

Sidecar CarAt a stunt show a few months ago the monster trucks did that two-wheels on the ground trick and according to the bloke who was commentating, this Bond film was the first example of it (presumably in films, since every idiot with a car has attempted something similar since the dawn of the boy racer). Too bad I can’t remember which film it was, haha.

Event and Place London Film Museum, Covent Garden

Cost Between £9.50 and £38, depending on who you are. It’s not a cheap day out, but I suppose they’ve got to keep out the riff raff who’ll leap over the ropes and take selfies with the DB9 (you didn’t need to jump over the rope, there was space enough to take ’em anywhere).

Food Yeah, because they’ll let you eat near the priceless exhibits. Actually there was a cafe in which you could look at mini props that were made for long shots. We went to a Mexican place instead, which I can highly recommend.

Other people Bond enthusiasts or film enthusiasts, the lot. There was a small boy who was so excited to see everything he almost combusted, and there were partners or family of fanatics who were looking forward to going to the Mexican place. But even they were awed by the information about the filmmaking and the designers’ attention to detail. Too bad they completely forgot to note down useful names and details to research… 10/10 for things to look at, 2/10 for general visibility when searching for your phone in your bag.

A Tourist’s Guide to Being a Tourist: Warner Bros. Studio Tour, Watford

I feel like I should blog because it’s Literacy Day or something and I’ve got some time to kill before a webinar later. I was going to have a shower so I could be all snuggly with my headphones on, but then I realised that snuggly usually equals sleepy and I’m supposed to be a professional.

Plus I really need to get some proper work points because I spent at least forty minutes today playing around with the customise options on WP and seriously considered making all the links here bright pink. Anyway, Literacy Day!

What’re you all reading at the moment?

I’m reading this:

HPATPS

Why, Francesca?

Well, I went somewhere rather special yesterday, and by rather special I mean a warehouse in Watford…

Privet Drive

Cool huh. I have about a billion photos, mostly of Hagrid animatronics and concept art and Diagon Alley. I was never that into the films because the screenwriting sort of ruined Hermione. It’s a good thing Emma Watson is a total sweetheart.

Yule Ball Set

She’s clearly also teeny tiny.

Since I’ve been to London a few times recently and am on a ‘gap year’ so am supposed to be getting life experience or whatever, I’ve decided to do a little review of my excursions so I can add reviews to my online copywriting profile.

Event and Place Warner Bros. Studio Tour, Watford.

Cost Insane. Tickets plus food plus batshit crazy priced merchandise. They had integrated Starbucks shops and really decent catering but a lot of people had taken picnics. Do that and spend a fiver on Butterbeer, which is foul.

Food See above. Plus nothing I ate made me puke, which was good.

Other people Go early to avoid the crowds. It’s such a popular place that it’s probably packed all the time, which was good in a way because it showed just how many demographics Harry Potter appeals to. There were people from all over the country, people from other countries, old people, families, couples, people with illnesses, deaf people (with sign language guides). 10/10 for people watching, 2/10 for geeking out in peace. It took about halfway round for me to fully process how much stuff I was seeing, and you can only go in one direction. I missed out on the details of loads of little artefacts and information because I’d think “I’ll just go and see X while the crowds are at Y” then I’d get distracted by Z. Take your time. Appreciate how flipping cool the art department was.

What else did I learn?

Well, the Dursleys’ hall carpet is the same as the one my grandparents used to have.

Harry's Cupboard

I might post more photos as and when, just to spring them on everyone in the hope that people dash onto the M25 and have a look for themselves. You don’t have to be a fan, but if you have any interest at all in any aspect of filmmaking, save your pennies and get on it!

Next up: either the Tower of London’s poppy art, a gallery in Fitzrovia or a James Bond exhibition. Wait. The webinar.