A Genuine Job Application

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I just found an old job application I wrote for a computer game company looking for a writer.

I never heard back from them.

The Letter

As we all know computers were first invented by aliens attempting to find the best fighter pilots in the galaxy. But since those times, games have come quite a long way. Now you can use them while you go to the toilet, which was very much frowned upon in the days of arcades. I’m interested in this role because once, just once, I’d like to be able to help someone in the bathroom without it being considered “a matter for HR”.

I’ve always loved computer games. From the earliest days of duck hunting, throwing fruit at karts and travelling through pipes, I thought “Gee, I’d much rather be at home playing computer games”. And then my parents got me a Nintendo. Sure it might be the reason I once came last in cross country out of my whole year, or lacked the upper-body strength to peel a banana, or even the reason why I struggled so talk to girls until embarrassingly late in my life. But it gave me something far more important.

Strong thumbs. Like, super strong.

And also the ability to see how stories work in the only really interactive medium. To see how exposition is given without interrupting the action, to see how a cut scene and loss of control can be powerful, rather than annoying. To tell stories in a way that for the vast majority of human history just hasn’t been possible.

But it’s mostly the thumb thing.

I have lots of writing experience. In fact, I won the judge’s award for UK’s Funniest Blogger 2015 for my blog www.ivorysoapbox.com. Which was even more impressive when it was still 2015. I’ve also written jokes for a Rose d’Or winning BBC radio show. And I’ve written “about” comedy for the most read comedy reference site in the UK. In fact, these very hands, the hands which thanks to the wonders of modern technology you can’t actually see, these hands wrote a diary of their time on the stand up comedy course widely considered the best outside North America, a summary which is now used by the course themselves to promote it. You can read this here. But if you get bitten by the comedy bug and develop the Lyme disease of seeking other people’s laughter to soothe your fragile ego, I am not to blame.

I also wrote a few bits for Time Out London’s comedy section, which doesn’t exist any more, BUT I WASN’T TO BLAME FOR THAT!

I write a lot in my spare time. Too much, some might say. Especially those I ask to read it all. Be it a book on the space/time-travel properties of non-Newtonian liquids, or blog posts about why Captain America is the best. And if any in your team have ever wanted to read an unproduced episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine with some pacing issues and a plot that’s perhaps a bit too much for a 20 minute show, then boy do I have something for them!

I also have a super-power for meeting celebrities. In my current job I organise comedy nights with some of the biggest talent in the UK, including Stewart Lee, Jo Brand and Arthur Smith. I also got Lee Mack to agree to become an ambassador for the charity. I convinced my favourite writer to meet me down the pub for a couple of pints one day. And I got one of the biggest bands in the UK to help me with a massive personal favour.

Now, I’m not saying that if you hire me I’ll bring a different celeb each day like I would a packed lunch… “Today? Well we’ve got jam sandwiches, a packet of Frazzles and…. 80’s teen heart-throb Rob Lowe”. I’m just saying, statistically it’s more likely if I’m actually allowed onto the property.

So that’s me in a nutshell. And it’s probably also a good reason for you to rethink your policy on “inventive” covering letters. So we’re both taking something away from it.

This job sounds really interesting. I remember my mum always told me to get off the computer. “You’ll never get a job making computer games, so do something productive. Besides, it’ll turn your eyes square!”

Well take THAT mum. With your crazy microwave-shaped head.

Any questions, just whisper my name into the wind. Or, if you’re after a reply, maybe drop me an email or something.

Thanks,

Craig

On the Enduring Power of You Know My Name

Bond-style Car
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It’s not often that a celeb death hits me, but seeing that Chris Cornell had passed away definitely qualified. I mean, he was only 52.

Fuck.

This is a piece I think about all the time, but had never really taken the time to write out. So here’s the story of why I think Chris Cornell wrote the greatest Bond theme of all time.

When they announced a new Bond movie back in 2005 I was pretty apathetic. Bond was out-dated, right? The last few films had been pretty lackluster. The only bright light in the Bond franchise was playing as Oddjob in the N64 Goldeneye, but now it was looking like game over.

They announced a new actor, (with a minor controversy over him being blond), but otherwise nothing noteworthy happened. He’d be Bond. He’d wear a suit and outsmart everyone before getting the girl (and maybe one or two other girls along the way). I’ve seen this story before. Nothing would make me excited to see this film.

And then I heard You Know My Name.

Taken a stand-alone song, it’s brilliant. The slamming intro, the orchestral backing, and of course the inimitable tones of Chris Cornell.

But taken as a theme for Casino Royale? This was something else. This showed that they were serious about taking Bond and doing something with it. Something new. Something exciting.

It’s a song that shows an entirely new side of Bond. One wracked by guilt, struggling to hold on to his humanity in a world where that can only make him weaker. “If you take a life a life, do you know what you give? Odds are you won’t like what it is.” This isn’t a Bond who rocks a tank and mows down henchmen with a song in his heart and a quip on his lips. This is a man who worries that with every kill something of him slips away. “Try to hide your hand, forget how to feel”. This is a man who knows that, for all the good he aims to do, he might never been a good person.

Then throughout the whole song there’s the extended gambling metaphor. “The odds will betray you”, “I’ve seen diamonds cut through harder men”, “life is gone with just a spin of the wheel”. It’s obviously a perfect theme for a movie set in a casino, but it’s more than that. “You can’t deny the prize, it may never fulfil you. It longs to kill you. Are you ready to die?” This is a man gambling not only his life on his work, but his very soul.

But the most important part, the cherry on top an incredible song, is that this is Bond. The quote that most rolls off the tongue when imitating him is his name. This might be a different version, but it’s a man who needs no introduction.

You know his name.

There’s A Hole in My Bucket List

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Yesterday was London Marathon day. Thousands of people put themselves the ordeal of 26 miles and 385 yards of stubbornly putting one foot in front of the other. At the end they were left broken, bruised, be-blistered and, depending on their Vaseline-to-nipple ratio, bleeding. All for a medal.

Why do we do stuff like this to ourselves?

This got me thinking about bucket lists. And that reminded me that someone challenged me to write a piece about bucket lists months ago and I never got around to it. So here it is.

A bucket list is the name given to a set of life activities and achievements someone would like to achieve before they, well, kick the bucket. Before they’re brown bread. Before their take their terminal breath, depart this mortal coil and generally snuff it.

Are bucket lists a good thing? I think so.

It’s pretty easy to get bogged down by life. To wake up, go to work and be wishing you were at home, then get home and be lamenting that you’ll soon be back in work. You start to see time not at work as recovery time – it’s OK to sit around watching telly and snacking because, well, you work pretty hard. You didn’t “eat a family bag of chocolate buttons to yourself”, you fuelled the fire of your limitless potential. Fuel you then spent watching Netflix and calling people dicks on the internet.

A bucket list takes us outside of this. It reminds us that there’s more to life than work. That our jobs give us money, which unlocks everything life has to offer. They remind us that the one thing no amount of work can ever give us is more time.

But that said, the contents of the list is really important. I think so often the items on a healthy person’s list are more things that they want to have been seen to have done, rather than things they might actually want to do. Some might be to try and feel better than others “you haven’t been to every continent?” Others might be things we think will make us happy, but are foolish or misguided – “I want to be famous”. And others downright harmful, if not to ourselves, then society as a whole “I want to ride an elephant”.

I think a true bucket list, one written with the safe and secure knowledge that your passing will happen, and soon, forgoes all this. Instead you focus on what really matters. Which activities would you want to do, regardless of who knew? If someone came to you today and said they could make that dream a reality, but you could never tell anyone, would you still want it?

Suddenly a lot of the items drop away. It’s not so important to own a sports car, I can’t take it with me when I’m gone. If I’m honest with myself I don’t really care about shredding on the guitar, I just think I’d look bad-ass doing it. And, truth be told, I’m actually OK not eating fish that can kill me if it’s not prepared properly (especially since it’s not meant to taste all that special anyway).

Instead, we look inside, and find that which really matters to us. The activities which, if we left our camera at home, we’d still treasure even if people say “pictures or it didn’t happen”.

A bucket list is a great way to record those moments when we feel inspired by an activity or idea. When part of our soul sees something and says “me too”. Like seeing a friend cross the finish line of the London Marathon.

Which brings us back to the original point – why would someone put themselves through the London Marathon? It can’t be the desire to say to other people that you’ve done it. Not only could you lie (no one’s going to trawl through entry records of all the marathons ever to call you out on your after-dinner anecdote) but would strangers really care?

Instead, we think of the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing. The knowledge you’d have, until your dying day, that you did this. You pushed yourself further than you thought you ever could. You saw the training through, stuck with it through the easy times and the tough. You achieved something that so few people have done. And that, we realise is its own reward. That knowledge is with you until your dying day, and may provide a light in darker times.

And that makes us think. We might need to put in some hours. It might take more than a little elbow grease (or, for a marathon, “knee-grease”. Actually no, that just sounds wrong).

But it gives us the real belief that we could do something pretty special too.

Movie Music Magic

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The topic chosen this week was movies with soundtracks that were better than the film itself.

OK. confession time. I’m not exactly sure I should admit this… I’ve spent years building a reputation. One of impeccable taste, class and sophistication. Not successfully, but I’ve tried. But… *sigh* OK, here it is.

The Spider-Man soundtrack is one of my favourite albums of all time. Not my favourite movie soundtrack. Favourite album. Of all the albums made. Ever.

Judge away. And I’ll wait until you’ve cleaned up the horrific spit-take from your anguished cry of “WHAT?!”. Your keyboard could probably use a clean anyway, I know the kinds of websites you visit. Dirty.

OK, back? Good.

So the Spider-Man soundtrack came out in 2002, which is around the time the movie was released, conveniently. I heard and loved some of the songs before the album was released. And this was prior to Janet Jackson’s boobs inadvertently invented YouTube, so I had to watch music channels on repeat to hear my favourite tracks.

Luckily this film lived up to its soundtrack. Some are not so lucky.

Sometimes a fairly mediocre film can become memorable thanks to a great song. I Will Always Love You ironically manages to save The Bodyguard. Bryan Adams said that (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, but apparently decided against getting Robin Hood to have an English accent for us. And I’d let Tom Cruise take me in the Danger Zone any day.

But I think the most interesting relationship between music and film is when the two manage to feed off each other and become inseparable. For me this is summed up best by my relationship with the film Stardust.

When this film came out, I was not a Take That fan. Spoiler alert: I’m still not. But I kind of thought the song Rule the World was alright. I guess.

Then I saw the trailer for Stardust, which it was the soundtrack for. I’d never heard of Neil Gaiman at that stage, so had no idea what it was. But the trailer looked… quite good, maybe?

These two emotions started to feed on each other, the trailer made me like the song more, which made me like the trailer even more. Then I saw the film, which I had really positive emotions going into, and the story made the song even better. And so the two fed off each other, growing. Like two snakes eating each other, or a double ouroboros. Or audiouroboros.

A great song can hit us on a more emotional, primal level than a film ever can – just look at the popularity of Let It Go from Frozen. But a song, no matter how good, can never save a terrible, terrible film. Even the awesome 80’s power of Starship can’t save Mannequin.

(Except Getting Away With Murder for the Chronicles of Riddick. Because fuck you, it’s awesome.)

How Stories Beat The Scientist Out of Me

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As a kid I loved science. I used to carry a Dorling Kindersley encyclopaedia everywhere I went and read it obsessively. It showed me how the world worked. What is a shadow? Where does rain come from? Why is the sky blue, and not, like, red or green?

I loved reading other books too. I followed with interest the adventures of Billy Blue-hat and Roger Red-hat. I had a fondness for Roald Dahl, Paddington Bear, and the Jolly Postman. And tales that featured dragons were always appreciated. But these were just for fun. They were silly stories, whereas my encyclopaedia… that contained the secrets of the universe.

I knew when I grew up I’d be a scientist. I’d wear a lab coat. I’d have glasses too, because they’re cool and sciencey. I’d probably invent the hover-car, just so I wouldn’t get stuck in traffic and could get to the lab to science sooner.

This plan was definitely, definitely, definitely what I’d end up doing.

Until I discovered a guy called C.S. Lewis, and he ruined everything. The bastard.

I would have been about 9 when my teacher decided to read us The Magician’s Nephew, and I found it wonderful. I was completely enthralled by it. So much so that I went to the library to get out The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, because twenty minutes a day of reading time wasn’t enough. And I put the full collection at the top of my Christmas list. After all there was an entire chronicle to get through.

For the first time in my life, I realised that these books contained information. Lessons I could draw. Not in the overt way of a science book, but they explained other ideas. What is courage? How do we act if we want to be a good person? What is the real difference between right and wrong?

And from there it grew. And I read more. And more. And the older I got, the more science lessons I got under my belt, the more I started to realise something. You know the stuff in my science book? That’s all already been discovered! I might not know how a car’s engine works, but someone does, so I don’t get any points for working it out. If I became a scientist, my days wouldn’t be me in a lab throwing chemicals together like George’s Marvellous Medicine to see what comes out. It would be repetition. Testing. And, well… mathsy.

And the less I learnt from science, the more I seemed to learn from fiction. Harry Potter would teach me to always question authority to determine whose interests they really cared about. His Dark Materials would put form to my beliefs. The Wheel of Time would show me the burden of leadership.

Even now as a “grown up” I learn more from make-believe than I ever could from reality. I read The Man in the High Castle and get a glimpse into a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God world. I read Terry Pratchett and see language and ideas broken down, twisted and played with for comedy, or I read Neil Gaiman for a glimpse into magical worlds which let us truly see ourselves. These aren’t made up stories. These are the truth told differently.

That science book formed a huge part of what I know. But the stories I’ve read form an integral part of who I am.

So Happy World Book Day everyone! And no matter how old you get, may you never be too grown up to have a silly story change your outlook entirely.

 

Europe, Eurdown – Who Knows Where Eu Are

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Europe. Eurgh. You’re all going to be sick of the topic before long. By the end of this article for definite. But you asked for it, so here it goes…

I was trying to think how I might tackle it.

Maybe I’d look at the irony that Conservative ministers are decrying the lack of democracy in the EU. Ministers, who are appointed to the position by their party leader, rather than an election. A leader who himself only received 35,201 votes, and yet speaks for the country. Whose party received less than a quarter of the votes in the general election yet somehow gets a majority. And who is actively attempting to move constituency boundaries, reorganise the electoral registers to disproportionately remove young and poorer people less likely to vote for them and cosying up to the unelected head of media for the nation, an Australian-born billionaire. A prime minister who is officially appointed by the Queen, an unelected position who also happens to be head of the Armed Forces. But, y’know, there aren’t enough elections in the EU or something.

Or maybe the sovereignty argument – that we lose control by being in the EU, which a real problem. But apparently not the power we lose by being in the UN, or NATO, or the hundreds of other treaties, deals, agreements and conventions which limit our power. They’re different. Somehow.

Then I thought maybe I’d argue from a practical point of view. How the 60 million people living in the UK are a far less attractive potential market than the 450 million or so that would be left in the EU, or the 319 million in the US, or the 1.3 billion in China.

But instead, I wanted to argue it from a different angle. One I’ve not heard covered as much.

There are two facts which I believe to be true. I believe Britain is great. And I believe the EU is not perfect. But I can hold both these views, and still whole-heartedly say that I believe we should be in the EU. It’s not illogical. It’s not because of “scaremongering” and the worry of what might happen. It’s because I believe in the ideas upon which the EU was built.

Firstly, Britain is awesome. We are lucky to live in this country, at this time. I would argue there has never been a better time to be alive here, and we seem to be forgetting that.

I say this not from a jingoistic point of view, but from a practical one. I was educated for free until I was 18. When my parents were ill they had free treatment from the NHS, and support they needed to look after two kids so we didn’t live on the streets. I can walk those streets without fearing for my life, and if I do get into trouble I genuinely feel I could trust the police to help me. These things are not true for everyone in the world, and they’ve not all been true in Britain for very long in the grand scheme of things.

The Right forget how great we are with a rose-tinted nostalgia for the sun never setting on the British Empire. We’ve given up the glory of our proud nation to be in the EU, turning our backs on the days when the British stood shoulder-to-shoulder and defeated Napoleon, or the Nazis, or those other wars that they never really make films about BUT SHOW HOW GREAT BRITAIN WAS!!!

The Left seem to forget how great we are with an odd double-think cynical-optimism of saying everything is shit and could be so much better, but we’ll focus on it being shit rather than the making it better. Europe isn’t perfect, so BURN IT TO THE GROUND!!!

Britain, as I love it, is slowly being killed. Everything that makes it great is being destroyed – tuition fees are shooting up, the NHS is under threat, privatisation is creeping into every aspect of life where it doesn’t belong. And instead of having things to love about our country, we’re being told to simply have an unquestioning love for our country, without question. The things worth loving are being torn down, with a sense of jingoism put in their place. That we’re great because WE’RE BRITAIN DAMMIT! Anything less than whole-hearted endorsement of this proud nation and screaming the national anthem at the top of your lungs means you hate your country, and therefore everyone in it. To question decisions that are being taken, to suggest that we could be better, to suggest that with work and effort we could become more than we are is to accept that we aren’t perfect already – WHY DO YOU HATE BRITAIN?!

But here’s the funny thing. Many of the bits I love are still present on the mainland. University is often still free. Working conditions are often better. The EU has given us so much. And I feel much of it is things that our own Parliament would love to take from us. Things like workers’ rights, paid holiday and sick leave, and maximum working hours are all very inconvenient to rich people who want to make more money. And if you doubt that this includes our Government, just remember that they voted down a bill saying that rented properties had to be fit for human habitation. I don’t want to live in a country ruled by a Government that see me as cattle, and have the power to treat me so.

The EU is indeed a threat to our national power. It keeps our Government in check. And I, for one, am far more scared of what might happen without it.

This article topic was suggested by a reader for Over-To-Uesday. If you fancy suggesting an article for next week’s blog, message me on Twitter or drop me an email.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

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Christmas music is a joyous experience.

It’s pretty much the only time of year which comes with it’s own soundtrack. Oh sure, tracks like the Fresh Prince hit us and get us equipped for the summertime, but that’s a fairly long period (meteorological speaking – in Britain the actual summer lasts approximately three days, all while you’re at work).

But Christmas music, because you can’t listen to it all year round, does retain some of the magic of childhood. The excitement of putting the tree up, writing the list and general wonder that the season brings are all brought back with the songs of childhood Christmases past.

Although this idealised sense of wonder and nostalgia is starting to be crushed by the horrible underbelly of reality. Now That’s What I Call Christmas is starting to look very different in a post-Yewtree world. And that’s after the fact that this is the time of year where it’s widely accepted and encouraged to share the story of a member of the clergy breaking into children’s rooms to leave them gifts.

We’re no longer having Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas as Gary Glitter remains otherwise engaged. Baby It’s Cold Outside feels a bit too sinister – “say what’s in this drink?”. All we need now is for Great Uncle Bulgaria to have fondled Orinoco to get himself a Wombling Merry Christmas, and our childhood is over.

I can’t remember the last time we had a decent Christmassy number 1. Now all we get at Christmas is a warbly rendition of an older song on the John Lewis ad, or this year’s X Factor winner, with their tearful claims that “It’s always been my dream and when my aunt’s neighbours chiropodists cat died I swore I’d make it happen. So this is for you, Tibbles”.

Except Rage Against the Machine. Rage Against the Machine fucking rock.