Sunday, 22 May 2011

Worst film ever... not quite!

So it was the other evening that the family found ourselves seated to watch a DVD. This is not in itself unusual. I quite often purchse a DVD at the Supermarket for perusal on a Saturday night. Over the last year we've watched some great films... "Observe and Report" for instance, which we watched again a couple of days ago. A really well scripted and slightly quirky comedy. On this occasion though the aforementioned DVD purchase was a film called "Barabrossa: Siege Lord". Now, I'm a bit of  a history buff myself and the cover (not the above image) showed a scene of epic battle chaos. So I thought to myself, "This could be a quite brutal depiction of actual historic events!" I then purchased said DVD for a price that it would later become clear was somewhat greater than the visual return value.

Almost straight from the off it was clearly low budget, but besides that the script and acting were inordinately bad. The scenes depicting Barbarossa's vast army never really got out of the tens of figures as far as I could see. The film was Italian made and as the Milanese rebelled against their tyrannical ruler, I'm afraid to say that they came across as arrogant and obnoxious not to mention quick-tempered. I hoped that Barbarossa would crush them mercilessly thereafter. In fact, unlike "Spartacus" or "Braveheart", where the rebellions were justifiable, the Milanese seem to have been well-treated by Barbarossa and seem largely autonomous when they first appear. Unfortunately, the grandiose climax where the two opposing forces meet was laughable, with cut-scenes of battle and a charging Barbarossa being played sometimes three or four times. The same clips!!!

Best of all, despite stealing elements from Gladiator, the end battle was in fact a complete rip-off of Braveheart. The heroic speech before-hand was almost identical... "freedom, blah, blah, blah....". When Barbarossa's army were advancing, the same "Wait for it" line was used and even the same idea of faking retreat to reveal "Schilltroms" (armed squares of spearmen) appeared. Something which was in fact unique to the Scots! Disappointingly, the Milanese were victorious!

Now as bad as this film was, it wasn't the worst I've ever seen. That honour goes to a film called "Mummy 2". When "The Mummy Returns" was released on DVD, my wife (much to our ridicule) purchased the aforesaid title thinking it was the latter. The Mummy involved in chasing after and presumably killing some American teenagers, was a bandage -wrapped creature not unlike that you would have perhaps seen in a 1920's silent movie. It moved at the speed of a snail while a cowering teenager screamed helplessly for sometimes several minutes as it advanced like a deranged geriatric, never for a moment considering fleeing from it's pathetic advance. Now that is a film you should watch. It has it's own novelty value, quite comic really, in terms of just how awful it is.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Here's my Hoof Print!

Today, I "signed-on" for the first time since becoming unemployed. Unless you live in the UK you won't understand what this means, but basically it's going to the Job Centre at a specific fortnightly time to sign to receive benefits. My signing-on time was 9am and I turned up only to wait with a couple other guys for about 10 minutes until someone deigned to unlock the doors. During this period many people passed by looking at us like we were the scum of the Earth, including a couple people I know unfortunately. Maybe they weren't looking at us like that, however, that's the way I was feeling. It was undignified and demeaning. There is still very much a social stigma here about being unemployed. The assumption would be that you don't want to work and that you're some sort of lowlife.

I don't even know if I'm going to get any money anyway. I just want a decent job. I went back to Uni in 2003 and spent four years there. I was Student Rep every year. I had the highest marks in every exam and in coursework. I achieved a distinction despite having no tutors for the last 6 months of my final year... and I can't get a proper job. I have talents, I have ideas. Nobody seems interested. I get the distinct impression from job interviews I've attended that they would far prefer for me to bullshit. They have no interest in my experience or knowledge. I honestly sit there thinking "They want to me to make up some nonsense about my life!" You might not know what I'm talking about, but anyone involved in Scottish education might have a good idea. Your ability to teach or subject knowledge is now secondary to your other talents. I have honestly been told that I would get a job no bother if I could juggle or do Martial Arts. I know why too. They now view teachers as child-minders tasked with entertaining children rather than educating them. Purely, because they've bought into all of these talent shows on the TV. "Those are popular. Let's make education like that! The children will love it!"

I know I came into education at the wrong time, but despite the recession, goverment cuts, local authority cuts and school cuts, what I've seen is rotten to the core. The new curriculum which is "going to put Scotland at the forefront of education"... if I were a parent of the first tranche, I would be livid. I've seen the pupils who are the "first to benefit" from the new curriculum and in more than one school. What I've seen frightens me. They will be a lost generation. Their entire education will be rendered meaningless. They have and are being failed. The goverment will no doubt blame the teachers, but they chose to implement this new curriculum when teachers said they weren't ready for it, without proper finances, when job cuts were looming and with a curriculum which is nothing more than a wishy-washy set of ambiguous and utopian statements of intent. You should know that there is no curriculum really. Teachers are being asked to make it up as they go along. Every school will be teaching different things in different ways. God help any child who moves to another school. They will be completely lost in the system.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Feeling Low!

Well, it's true, I'm kinda depressed. I saw it coming, but I thought it could be avoided. I've had 3 years of constant work, different jobs, but without a break. That has now ended. As of last week, I am out of work. I did go for an interview, but I didn't get the job and once again, something about the interview didn't feel right and I suspect that they already had someone lined up. That's not uncommon here!

To add insult to injury, the wife and I drove up to Torridon to climb Beinn Eighe on Saturday. It was a beautiful day and we really enjoyed ourselves. However, as soon as we started the drive home, the engine warning light came on and I discovered that the coolant had disappeared. I filled it with water again, but the engine was clearly over-heating. I've a good idea what the problem might be, but I don't want to discuss it. Let's just say, it could be expensive and couldn't have come at a worse time. The prospect of being out of work and without transport is not to be contemplated. If I do find suitable employment, I will almost definitely have to commute every day and public transport as infrequent as it is, cannot be relied upon in this part of the World.

So, this is where I find myself. It feels like I've been on a roller-coaster for years. To be honest, there is no real prospect of employment at the moment anyway. Employees are being let loose all over. Certainly not being employed. I haven't been this despondent in such a long time. I think I'll go and make a sandwich for my lunch. Yay, highlight of my day!!!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Two-state Machine!

So Winter has returned with a vengeance to North-East Scotland. I got caught in a fairly vicious snow-storm while driving home on Thursday evening. All I could see were the tail-lights in front of me, so I just had to hope that they could see the road better than I could. I'm really enjoying my new job, even though it's only temporary. At least I'm getting to do the kind of work that I wanted to do. It's only until Christmas though, so I don't know if I'll be back there in the New Year... it's in the lap of the Gods.

The image above reminds me of this T-shirt I almost bought one-time, "There are only 10 types of Computer Geek in the World, those who understand binary and those who don't". Of course, you have to understand binary to get the joke, which is sort of the whole point. Since part of my job is to teach people about binary, it really appealed to me. I was even more tempted to get myself a binary watch and I still might to be honest. Although, the ones I've seen aren't as visually appealing as I would like. I wonder if you can get a Hexadecimal watch?

I haven't been out hill-walking for a while. The weather was bad, then I hurt my back and then the weather turned bad again. Winter walking in Scotland's hills is actually a very dangerous pursuit. First off, there is a considerable avalanche risk, which kills a few walkers every Winter. Then there is the risk of falling over a cliff in white-out conditions. Also, without crampons there is a considerable risk of slipping on ice, especially if it has a thin layer of snow covering it. I banged my head and knee 2 Winters ago, near the end of a hill-walk. I was kicking myself for letting my concentration slide so close to the finish. I can't wait to get out actually, especially to get some fantastic Winter photos, but I will wait for some slightly decent conditions first.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Carrying A Heavy Load!

I haven't really had time to post lately, or to do anything much at all in fact. I just started in my new temporary job this week and it's been busy indeed! First off, I knew I was coming into something of a mess and that I was going to have to sort it all out. Deja vu really, because that was how my last job started also. It has taken me three days though to get the information I need on just how bad things are and it's worse than I expected. Sorting it all out won't be easy. I won't look for any help, because I've learned quickly in this business that you're on your own.

So once again, I'm shouldering a heavy burden. Mind you, turning things around and getting everything ticking over nicely did nothing for me last time around. You had to get yourself noticed there in order to get anywhere. Just doing your job and doing it well wasn't enough. Also, I thought that helping people out now and again might smooth the passage, but in reality I was just doing someone else's work on top of my own and nobody took a blind bit of notice. I won't be doing that again unless it's clearly going to benefit numero uno.

We're still languishing in the deep freeze here, but it could be worse. My niece got stuck on the motorway and had to spend 2 nights in a hotel in some god-forsaken industrial estate town and she only got a room because her mother managed to book one over the phone... they were queueing out of the door. However, the snow looks likely to melt at the weekend, before the mercury plunges once again next week.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Still Working!

Well, today was my last day at my present job. After two and a half years, that's it over. Fortunately, I have been able to secure another post which will last at least until Christmas and probably a good bit more. I figure this will be the 12th job I've had and quite a variety over time as well. The longest I've ever been in the same job for was 6 years. That said, I can't say I've ever been truly happy in a job and at the end of the day, that's what really matters, not the pay, not the hours... but, job satisfaction!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

What A Palaver!

Well, as you can see from the snowman my daughter and her friend made, we still have lots of snow here. Despite that we were back to work today after 2 days off, even though it's colder and it's started snowing again. The boss thinks we'll be back to normal tomorrow. I have my doubts! Anyway, another two days and I'm finished. I did have another interview this afternoon though, so hopefully some good news tomorrow. I need it after the spell I've had lately.

I've probably said this before, but it's amazing how the infrastructure in the UK collapses as soon as there's any amount of snow. I was watching the news and some very bemused travellers from Denmark wondering why they can't travel in this country, when they were able to go about as normal back home and in much worse conditions. There is no obvious reason. I'm sure that 150 years ago, people would have carried on as normal with little fuss, so something has obviously changed in our mindset since then. Clearly our transport network is vastly inferior and unsuitable, but I think it's about attitude as well.

If you are reading this in another country, you may be surprised to hear that many UK citizens really hate their work. It's probably the same elsewhere, but employees here, are in the main really treated with a great deal of diresepect. Quite often the threat of being made redundant is held over you to force you to do tasks way outside your job remit, to work unpaid overtime and to get little or no recognition for what you do. That I beleive is the main reason for so many sick days in this country and as an extension of that, the perfect excuse not to make it into work as soon as there's an inch of snow on the ground!!!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Snow Go!

So, we have almost a foot of snow here right now. I haven't seen it so bad since the day I got married, almost 18 years ago. My back's still bad as well, so I'm having a quite miserable time at the moment. I got some anti-inflammatory tablets, but the side-effects were almost as bad as the reason for taking them, so I gave up on them after 3 days. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to go anywhere and that's a major problem when there's a shortage of food in the house. Anyhow, I did manage to go to the local supermarket this morning, but my back was hurting pretty bad the whole time, worse than normal.

I think I can see a pattern emerging in the weather. The last three Summer's here have all been wash-outs, no real extended nice spells and last Winter was our worst for a long time. This one is already making last year's look ordinary. Things are definitely changing. Where it's all heading though, we can't know for certain. Maybe it's better that we don't know. All I can say is, global warming is only making Scotland's climate worse as far as I've seen.

So far this Winter is the Winter of my discontent. I've had failed interviews, a bad back, time off my work which I won't get paid for, and soon enough I will be out of work. I'm not really sure which way to go next. I have ideas obviously, but more than likely something will turn up, as some Dickens character played by David Jason on TV once said.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Down, but not out!

Well, yesterday I went for my third failed job interview since August and I'm starting to get a bit demoralised. My present position ends next week and I haven't manged to line up another job yet. To compound matters, when I woke up yesterday, I had a sore back for no apparent reason and it only got worse as the day wore on. As a result, I'm not in work today, and I don't get paid for being off, even with a legitimate reason. So, I know it's not the end of the World, but I think I can be excused for feeling a bit down right now.

As for the interviews... I don't think I'm actually doing that much wrong. In this line of work the motto "It's not what you know, but who you know" certainly seems applicable. I can tell you for a fact, that in one of the aforementioned interviews, I was getting negative vibes right from the start, as though they wanted it over and done with, they already had their employee. That was not a pleasant interview. There were other factors too, like a distinct lack of follow-on questions, which gave me the impression that I was bashing my head against a brick-wall!

Basically, I'm heading down a blind alley. I still have a few options, but time is running out. I was promised great things when I started, but thanks to the "present financial climate", everything has been turned upside-down. Sure, I'm not the only one that's worried about the future, but it's different when It's actually happening to you!!!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Spesh Ops!

I know that Call of Duty: Black Ops is the big thing in gaming right now and if I was a teenager I'd probably be playing it all of the time just like my own son is. However, you might have noticed that I've been messing around making some comic strips recently and I've decided to do a mickey-take of Black Ops for my latest venture. Somebody had to! Three pages no less as well....

Click on each page to view full size. If you like it, then please leave a comment!