The Horrific Tale of The Decaffeinated World, Part 1

Strong coffeeAbout 2 months ago I wrote a blog post explaining how I want to write fun short stories (preferably silly or comedic in some way) based on ideas that you, my readers, come up with and pass on to me. Not because I’m lazy – I always have a million ideas buzzing around (which actually gets annoying sometimes) – but because I think it could be a fun new way to interact with my readers and also actually get back to creating more on this blog (which does, to be fair, have the word “creation” in its title). Anyway, if you haven’t seen that blog post, or would like to suggest an idea or want to see the sorts of ideas I’ve received already, have a look here.

The first story I’m going to write is based on a suggestion by CricketMuse, another writer/reader/blogger/teacher who has been blogging at least as long as I have and who has managed to retain far more focus than I ever could. This blog is a must for anybody interested in books, writing, and well just words pretty much!

The story suggestion is: “Suppose aliens swoop in with a coffeebean emp– how will the world cope being caffeine free?” As a coffee drinker, this idea terrifies me. Let’s see what this terrible imagination of mine does to this perfectly great idea (sorry in advance)! This will be in at least two parts but maybe three (just to break it up for you readers (okay, fine, to break it up for me too))!

The Horrific Tale of The Decaffeinated World

Part 1

by the considerably caffeinated Matt Watson

I stared out the window motionlessly as the morning cup whirled down my throat and into my body in a desperate yet routine attempt to bring me back to life enough to drive to work and pretend to be a normal person, just like everybody else pretends to be. We all have that drug of choice to help us achieve this – for some it’s smoking, others it’s alcohol, for some weird people it’s something even vaguely healthy like tea or juice or even water. But for a large amount of us, all around the world, it’s coffee that enables us to feign functionality in a world that is set to drain us until we are nothing left but a mechanical husk of what we once were. It was coffee that had provided me with a means of being an adult for the last twenty years.

My hand moved, without thought, to lift up my coffee cup to my mouth, only something was wrong. I nearly threw the mug into the roof with its lack of weight that I was clearly not prepared for, but being quite sure I had not gained any superpowers in the previous moments of contemplation and window-staring I found myself surprised at the possibility that I had already consumed all my coffee. I looked into the mug only to see desolation and crushed hopes.

I put the mug back down and rubbed my eyes. “It’s too early for magic tricks,” I mumbled to anybody who would listen.

“What magic tricks?” she retorted from the other room.

“My coffee is gone but I swear I didn’t drink it.”

“Oh darling…you just need another coffee. Make yourself another one.”

She was right. Of course she was right. She always was. I had accepted that a long time ago – I think it was in the marriage contract or something. I stood up after a couple of attempts and reached into the cupboard for the coffee, but again the coffee jar was not as heavy as I had been sure it was only moments earlier. I looked at it in my hands – completely empty, not even the coffee dust on the sides. It looked like as if somebody had cleaned it. But…nobody had been in the room since I last looked at it a few minutes ago. I put the jar backed and checked the cupboard properly. Then I checked the entire kitchen.

“Are you okay in there?” The noise had intrigued her, but not enough to actually come and see what was going on.

“Erm…yeah. The coffee has just…disappeared.”

“Well maybe you ran out, dear. Get one on your way to work or something.”

“Yes…yes that’s a good idea. Of course.”

I finished getting ready, with only a few sips of coffee struggling to keep me conscious I was quite certain. I felt like I was losing my mind, which was something that usually required more than ten coffees to occur, not just a few sips. But maybe I hadn’t slept well. I had no reason to worry about it just yet.

No, the moment when I felt I was more justified in my all-out-panic was when I pulled out of the fifth consecutive fast food drive-through window without a coffee. All of them, much to their own surprise, had been entirely depleted of their coffee stocks in what seemed to be the first time ever. I drove to a nearby supermarket, but the same thing had happened there. After two more stores that yielded the same impossible results, I drove to work with a sudden fondness for armageddon.

At the office, it turned out, we had also run out of coffee. I don’t want to sound melodramatic or anything, but I am quite certain I fell to my knees and screamed “nooo” at the top of my lungs for a few seconds before rolling over into the foetal position.

***

Meanwhile…

“So like…do they talk or what?” The long, bony, surprisingly ungreen (it was more a light pink) finger of the alien known as Boll poked one of the dormant beans.

“Don’t touch it you idiot! We still don’t fully understand them yet.”

“Oh, sorry Boss.” Boll stood up properly after being reprimanded by the creature he called Boss, but who was otherwise known as Ocks. Ocks was elected boss not by any sort of mental or emotional aptitude he possessed or had displayed, but because of the fact he was only 97 centimetres in height. As Boll stood at an appallingly tall 189 centimetres, his career prospects looked pretty dim. Such was the way of life for the Floating Nobulas, a curious nomadic people of unknown origins who travelled around the galaxies causing minor mischief normally by accident.

“And yes, apparently they do talk. They are alive after all.”

“But some of those human people said that most living things on Earth don’t talk, that only they do.”

“Yes, Boll, but just because some human told you that you’re going to believe it? Trust me, they’re not the brightest pack down there. These beans can talk,” and Ocks paused to look, no, stare, at the coffee beans, before pointedly asking “can’t they?”

The silence was mostly humiliating. They had come a long way to pick up these beans, to save them from the evil humans who kept grounding them up. They had agreed not to mess with the human affairs other than to remove all coffee beans and place them onto the several hundred ships that waited patiently outside the solar system in which the Earth existed. They already had a few issues to solve, such as where they would actually put these beans in the long term, but this silence was not assisting the situation.

Running out of ideas, Ocks finally played his blackmail card. “Fine, if you don’t talk, I’ll just send you back to Earth and you know what ha-“

But Ocks didn’t need to finish his sentence, as thousands of tiny eyes sprung open. One tiny bean finally hopped forward and bowed politely. “I apologise…we do not know how to handle such kindness as that which you have poured upon us.”

“Yes,” started another bean, “usually we just have boiling water poured upon us.”

“Sh!” The apparent leader of the beans didn’t want to give the aliens any ideas. “We are at your service, so long as you spare our lives.”

Ocks and Boll looked at each other, before Boll exclaimed “Awesome! We have a tiny army!”

Boll’s gigantic and quite hideous grin quickly disappeared with a knock to the top of the head from Ocks. “We have plans to make.”

***

By lunchtime, it had been declared on the world news that coffee no longer existed. It had completely disappeared, not just the stuff in the shops but also the actual plants themselves. It was as if the human race had been hallucinating the stuff, the entire concept, for the last few centuries. Except that when they checked books about it, it was still in there. There were still websites dedicated to it, there were still bad bumper stickers on the backs of cars referring to it, there were still shops and cafés whose business depended on it even if those shops and cafés suddenly looked like victims of a really huge theft (which, to be fair, they were).

It was declared an international emergency. Wars were temporarily brought to a ceasefire, political squabbles were put aside, natural disasters politely asked to take a hike for a short while. The 7 billion inhabitants of the planet needed to put their minds together to find a solution. Which would have been a great idea if it wasn’t for the withdrawal headaches from which large amounts of the human race were beginning to suffer.

However, despite my headache, even though I was emotionally volatile, I realised that this was my moment to shine! This was when I would become a hero, the hero that saved the world’s coffee supply! Today, I would be the biggest single cure for a headache ever! Because while the planet searched itself for something it no longer possessed, I turned my eyes to somewhere entirely different…

To Be Continued….

A tribute to Rik Mayall

There isn’t much I can say about the passing of Rik Mayall yesterday that hasn’t already been said. It is a huge loss – his unique brand of anarchic comedy, from The Young Ones through to Bottom, Blackadder and movies like Drop Dead Fred, inspired a whole generation of comedians. At 56 it feels he was taken far too early, and as many other comedians have noted on social media (especially Twitter), he was a whirlwind of creative energy that has left a bit of a void all of a sudden.

So, rather than ramble on any more, I’m going to include some of my favourite clips of his here. In order, there is the shop keeping scene from Bottom, then his first appearance as Lord Flashheart in Blackadder, then a scene from Drop Dead Fred (where he plays an invisible friend) and finally a compilation of some of his funniest moments from The Young Ones because it was too hard to pick one scene.

Just a word of warning, some of this stuff might be offensive. Otherwise, enjoy!

R.I.P. Rik Mayall! You’ll be missed.

My New Misquoted Twitter Account

quotation marksI don’t mean that I have been misquoting my new Twitter account. What I mean is that my new Twitter account is about misquotes – real quotes twisted into something slightly different.

I’ve been enjoying being silly while I write on my second blog, A Listophile’s Haven, which if you haven’t visited yet feel free to go visit it and tell me how funny I’m not. But I have been planning for about as long to start a second Twitter account, also for the sake of some silliness, and now it’s finally here and I have it up and running.

So if you want to see me ruin a bunch of famous quotes (of course you do), check it out by clicking here, or if you’re a Twitter user you can find me at @Misquotationed – feel free to follow me too, and of course send requests for quotes for me to ruin if you like.

Many of the quotes I’ll be misquoting are about things I’m interesting in, such as books, music, coffee and so on. A lot of the quotes will be authors and comedians but also some actors, philosophers and other people will be thrown in for good measure. The point is, there might be some interest in it for you if you already follow my blog, so give it a go!

And if you haven’t added me on my normal Twitter account feel free to do that too, by finding me at @abritishperson or by using the Twitter widget on the side of this page! I normally follow back and I only tweet about rubbish some of the time.

 

Book Review: The Pleasure Of My Company

The Pleasure Of My CompanyI came to this book with high expectations. The Pleasure Of My Company is Steve Martin’s second novel/novella, and after having read his third and most recent a couple of years ago, An Object Of Beauty, which blew me away with its eloquent language and profound insights into the world of art, I knew I was probably going to like his first couple of books (I seem to be working my way backwards). Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed.

The Pleasure Of My Company is very different, both in story and character types. Martin is brilliant at painting deeply flawed characters who struggle for one reason or another, but, due to the way he writes and develops them through the story, you tend to fall in love with them as a reader. In this short novel (it’s around 160-170 pages – on the outside is says a novel but inside a novella) the main character is Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a young man somewhere in his late 20s or early 30s (depending on his mood) who suffers from a number of neuroses which leave him mostly trapped inside his house. As a few unexpected events occur in his life, including winning the Tepperton’s Pies Most Average American essay contest, as well as taking in some unexpected guests in need, slowly Daniel’s universe is forced to expand and he gets a taste for what his life could become if he could just break free. Of course, breaking free is not that easy for the modern neurotic.

Daniel is such an unusual character, but Martin has depicted him so vividly by writing from Daniel’s perspective. You get to read his thoughts on the various women in his life, from Elizabeth the real-estate lady to Zandy who works at a shop, to his student-counselor Clarissa. Through these insights, you see the way his mind works as he craves any attention he can get off these three women and dreams up loving relationships with them, even though he also second-guesses himself and wonders if he is just being ridiculous. At one point, when he finally gives up hope on at least one of these women, he says “She had destroyed whatever was between us by making a profound gaffe: She met me.” While quite witty, it also reveals the true nature of Daniel’s mind – self-deprecating and fully aware that his own limitations are not normal. And I think, perhaps, it is this self-awareness that helps us to sympathise and empathise with Daniel, because it brings attention to the fact that deep down he does want to break down some of these barriers in his life.

Martin’s language control throughout the book is quite remarkable, as well, as so much of the feeling of the story comes from the writing. The way Daniel describes situations can be very blunt and matter of fact, but it’s also very important that his fears be made to feel very real. One of his key fears is that of roadside curbs, namely that he cannot walk over them onto the road. But while the actual fear itself seems ridiculous to most readers, the feelings that the fear produces can still be welled up inside us through the use of building atmosphere through long, panicky sentences. As an example, this is a paragraph from one of the times that Daniel does walk over a curb (it happens a few times in the story):

If I’d allowed my body to do what it wanted to do, it would have fallen on its knees and its head on the ground, its arms stretched out on the sidewalk. Its mind would have roiled and its throat would have cried, and nothing but exhaustion would have made it all stop, and nothing but home could have set the scale back in balance. But instead, I marched on, spurred by inertia and the infinitesimal recollection that I had recently crossed a curb and had not died.

It takes Daniel nearly two more pages of writing to actually cross the dreaded curb here of which he speaks, but through the use of such language as this we find ourselves rooting for him as some kind of unlikely hero, as if he were facing a much more serious threat than he actually is, and that really is a sign of clever writing.

Ultimately, The Pleasure Of My Company is a triumph over adversity, and a fascinating view into a life that many of us could never even imagine. It is funny, sweet, tender and brave, and is a testament to Martin’s ability as a writer and a storyteller. If you haven’t read any of Martin’s fictional writing, I urge you to give it a try – he’s not just “a good writer for a comedian/actor”, he’s a brilliant writer full stop.

Tomorrow is Towel Day!

Don't Panic and Carry A TowelWhat is Towel Day, you ask? Towel Day is a day celebrated on May 25 every year as a tribute to Douglas Adams. Organised just 2 weeks after his death on May 11, 2001, Towel Day has become a worldwide event with happenings in cities all over the world. And all you need to do to show appreciation for the man and his books is to carry a towel around with you all day.

To see the events that are happening in your country, look down the list on the official website for Towel Day. There is a lot happening and it’s a good way to meet other Douglas Adams fans (which are surely some of the coolest people around).

But why a towel, you might wonder? Well, in chapter three of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is a rather in-depth explanation of the importance of towels, which apparently is based on a hitchhiking guide to Europe that Adams read which also stressed the importance of towels. The explanation goes as follows:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

So, if you’re a Douglas Adams fan, make sure wherever you go and whatever you do tomorrow that you take a towel with you and maybe check out events near you. And if you’re yet to read Douglas Adams, tomorrow is as good a day as any to make a start!

Introducing My Second Blog – One for list-lovers

Since January 2012, I’ve been informing thousands of amazing readers all over the world of my ridiculous thoughts and feelings on a range of things, most notably books, music, comedy, and occasionally donkeys. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing this and I have no plans to stop it, so don’t worry this blog will continue as usual.

But I have felt a growing desire to start a second blog for some time. Something entirely different to my main blog here, something that would be more creative and more than likely quite silly. I remember growing up as a teenager that I used to read a lot of lists, not only in the form of books like 1001 Books/Movies/Albums to Read/See/Hear before you die, but also in the form of “20 things not to do in an elevator” and other silly ideas like that.

So I decided my second blog would focus on lists. Lists of silly and hopefully funny things that I’ll come up with, but occasionally something more interesting or serious too. But mostly I plan to write fun lists, and most importantly I’ll be writing all of them myself rather than just reposting stuff already out there on the internet.

The new blog is at alistophilehaven.wordpress.com mostly because my blog is called A Listophile’s Haven (I just dropped the apostrophe and s from the url). Right now it only has one list and the about page has been filled out, but I will be adding more lists over the next few days before slowing down to a couple of posts a week on there (as I have already committed myself to a minimum of three on here).

Go visit my new blog, let me know what you think of it, follow it, leave me comments and suggestions if you want, and please if you like it share it with others and spread the word. I’m quite excited to see what I can make of it, and I hope if nothing else I can put a smile on your faces or maybe even make you laugh!

A Listophile's Haven home page

My Ten Favourite TV Comedy Shows Ever

It occurred to me recently that while I have written blog posts covering some of my favourite comedians, I haven’t written any such list of my favourite TV comedies. By TV comedies I don’t mean stand-up or sketch comedy, I mean shows with storylines (however vague those storylines might seem at times). I choose not to use the word sitcom because some people associate that negatively with comedy, which is silly because every comedy with a storyline, no matter where in the world its made or set, is a sitcom. But I digress.

This list will feature a mixture of British, Australian, NZ and American comedy, so it varies in style quite a lot. Here goes, in no particular order.

30 Rock30 Rock – One of my favourite shows from the last decade, this award-winning show deserves all the praise it gets. Based on Tina Fey’s experiences as a writer for Saturday Night Live, the idea of a show focused on the behind-the-scenes of such comedy and entertainment shows is simple but effective. What really makes the show is the wide array of personalities in the characters, brought to life by some (surprisingly) great acting from the likes of Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan and others. Definitely one of the more intelligent comedies to come from America this last decade. It takes a few episodes to get into but it’s worth it ultimately.

Black BooksBlack Books – One of the biggest cult comedy classics to come out of Britain recently (well, a decade ago but that’s still fairly recent), Black Books introduced us to Bernard Black, the grumpy drunk Irish bookstore owner on the outskirts of London, as well as his best friend Fran and bumbling assistant Manny. Only eighteen episodes across three series, every episode is amazing in its own way and even more so if you watch it in a marathon with a few bottles of wine and some good friends. Unsurprisingly, both Dylan Moran (Bernard) and Bill Bailey (Manny) have enjoyed growing success in their stand-up comedy careers since this show. One for book-lovers (and wine-lovers) everywhere.

BlackadderBlackadder – Rowan Atkinson’s other famous comedy series (Mr Bean being perhaps the slightly better known one), this showed off the man’s more sarcastic side of his humour. Each series was set in a different historical period, my two favourites being the Elizabethan England era and World War I. There was even a telemovie involving time travel made as a sort of reunion one-off back in 2000, and there’s a great parody of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (and a very clever parody, I might add). Atkinson was brilliant as the ever scheming Blackadder, but Tony Robinson as his dimwitted sidekick Baldrick was just as funny – it really does take a genius to play a total idiot well. Other notable regulars included a very young Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, as well as Miranda Richardson, Tim McInnerny and in the first series Brian Blessed.

The Mighty BooshThe Mighty Boosh – This unusual British comedy is one of those shows that I first saw in Australia about ten years ago late one night. After a single episode, I was both utterly confused and totally entranced and wanting more. With each series, the storylines became increasingly twisting and daring, not to mention more and more surreal, as the settings change from a dysfunctional zoo, to an apartment above a shaman’s shop, to the shop itself. But, despite this, the characters grow and develop as time goes on and you’ll soon find yourself warming to them as you sing along to some of the ridiculous songs in each episode. If you haven’t seen this, watch it in order from the first series – the second is the best but it takes a while to get used to, I think.

The IT CrowdThe IT Crowd – While many people think of The Big Bang Theory when it comes to sitcoms about nerds, for me I’ll always prefer The IT Crowd. This recent British classic comedy wrapped up last year with a one-off episode that follows from four very successful series, and centres around two young computer geeks who work in the basement of the giant building for Reynholm Industries. It also centres around their boss, Jen, who knows nothing about computers, and the big boss of Reynholm (the boss changes from season two onwards to the “son” of the boss from the first season) who is constantly trying to sleep with Jen. The storylines are sometimes absurd, but that only adds to the charm of the show in my opinion. A must-see comedy from recent years, it was created by the same person who created Black Books, Graham Linehan, for a bit of extra trivia.

Danger 5Danger 5 – This bizarre Australian comedy parodies the 70s spy genre in the most unusual way – Hitler is alive in the 70s, for no explicable reason, and the show centres around a group of spies who try to stop his various plans and fail to assassinate him at the end of each episode. Some of his plans include things like, you know, bringing dinosaurs back or kidnapping an entire country – normal stuff, basically. Despite seeming over the top, this series was actually really hilarious and a pleasant surprise. I’m hoping there’s a second series coming sometime soon.

Flight Of The ConchordsFlight Of The Conchords – In real life, Flight Of The Conchords are a NZ music duo who write comedy and parody songs, and who are both immensely talented. In the television show named after their band, they play fictionalised versions of themselves as they pretend to try and make it in New York, with little success apart from one super creepy but hilarious stalker. The first series of this is much better than the second, as the first series was written after the songs, but the second series they had to write the songs and episodes simultaneously which loses some of the magic. Still, both series are well worth watching – this show is very cool, very awkward and very funny. One for music fans everywhere, and also for both Aussies and New Zealanders (as there are so many jokes in there about the relationship between people from the two countries).

The SimpsonsThe Simpsons – This might be stating the obvious, but really I couldn’t not put The Simpsons on this list. I have grown up with this show (I am barely older than it), and despite its low points I also think it has bounced back in recent years (but everybody is too jaded from when it got bad ten years ago to try it again – seriously, watch some new episodes, they’re pretty good again now). Some of the highlights of my day on Twitter are the quotes of the day from this show (with accompanying pictures). When a show has been around this long, it’s alarming how much you can relate to it – “it’s like on that episode of The Simpsons” is a phrase I probably use too much, but I don’t care. I will always love this show, end of story. (And no, I’m not comparing it to Family Guy which I also love because that is like comparing apples and oranges).

Fawlty TowersFawlty Towers – In Monty Python (which, due to its sketch show nature I cannot include here) John Cleese became famous for his enormous height and lanky body which he could use to great effect in sketches such as the Ministry of Silly Walks and so on. He also became known for his anger (he actually had genuine anger problems back in the 1970s mind you), and so he managed to bring hotel owner Basil Fawlty to life in a mix of rage and slapstick silliness across the twelve (yep, there’s only twelve) episodes of this classic comedy.  First shown on television in 1975, the same year Monty Python and the Holy Grail was released in cinemas, this show helped take Cleese’s fame to all new levels, and for good reason. If you haven’t watched this in a while, watch it again. Trust me.

Harvey Birdman and FredHarvey Birdman: Attorney At Law –  This show features Harvey Birdman, once hero of classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons from the 1960s, as a laywer who fights cases often with his old enemies as the other attorneys. The clients also come from other characters from those old cartoons (one of my favourites is The Jetsons, who inform Harvey they’re from the future, from the year 2002, as he looks at his 2004 calendar on his desk in confusion). A very clever and witty reinterpretation of old characters, this show stayed interesting and hilarious across all three series and thirty-nine episodes, and I would consider it the best of all the Adult Swim cartoons by a long shot.

And there we have it! My ten favourite sitcoms of all time, and many of these have ranked among my favourites for a very long time already so this isn’t the sort of list that is likely to change easily, either.

So, what are some of your favourites? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!