Monthly Archives: September 2009

The Ducks And The Slabs

Recently, gaming blog Kotaku had an interesting set of instructions to allow you to adapt videogame classics to be played in the playground. It reminded me of a game we used to play in the playground at my primary, Scott Lower School.

In the playground there were these three large concrete slabs stuck in the playground. They were flat on one side, probably with painted circles and targets for throwing balls at. The other side had a sloped section at 45 degrees, which stuck out about two feet from the bottom. They were known as “The Slabs”, and from what I can see, they’re not there any more.

In the gender-polarized world of the 5-year-old, girls would play on one side of the slabs, and boys on the other, although there may have been some crossover. I doubt it involved me if there was. The girls used to do handstands against the side with the sloped part, and the boys would play something altogether more … sinister.

To the tune of When The Saints Go Marching In they would sing “When the Ducks Go Marching In”, and walk past the slab in a row. A lone kid with a tennis ball or a small toy ball would would throw the ball at the row of kids. If a kid was hit, they would be out, and they would stand with the thrower. If they weren’t hit, they would run around the slab and back for another pass.

Eventually, one person was running past the slab, as a group of children cheered them on and sang, while the thrower desperately tried to hit them with the tennis ball.

I think the ducks thing was referring to those old carnival games where you fired pellets to knock metal ducks over, as simulated in the video arcade classic, Carnival. Hence the Kotaku link.

OK, not so sinister. Anyway, it was either that or Kiss Chase (yuck!) or worse, Knicker Chase! Double yuck! (At least until eight or nine years later…)

A-Movin’ And A-Truckin’

Cassie and I moved in together, at the same time moving north to San Francisco. Double whammy! Luckily, my company paid for the move, so we were able to sit back and relax as paid men boxed all our crap personal effects and loaded it onto trucks.

They were amazingly quick, because they weren’t distracted by everything they picked up, like books or scraps of paper, they just packed everything in their path. They were like locusts, it was incredible. We had to shift all of the stuff they weren’t to take out of the way. That was easier for me, because I was living alone in San Diego, and I had a spare room. I just put my suitcase and the stuff I was taking by car in there and told them to ignore it. It was harder for Cassie, because she had a roommate, and lots of his stuff was mixed up with hers, especially in the kitchen.

But because they were so quick, they also ended up packing some stuff that was a little unnecessary. They would open a drawer, take a sheet of their wrapping paper, grab a handful of the drawer contents, and wrap it up, almost without looking at it. This meant that when we were unpacking, we would open a bundle of paper to find that they had wrapped a couple of paper clips, a half-burned tea light and some lint. If we had packed, it would have taken ages, but we would have purged at the same time. As it was, while unpacking at the other end we filled the trashcan twice over, and the recycling bin, and two or three boxes for the thrift store.

It was kind of embarrassing to have them running up and down stairs in San Diego on a very hot day, while I literally just sat on the sofa. There was nowhere else to sit, the sofa wasn’t being moved, and it was out of the way. I walked to 7-11 and got them cold drinks, but other than that I was just hanging around, keeping out of their way and answering questions from time to time.

Once they had left me alone in my little place in San Diego, Rimah, the best landlord I’ve ever had, came over and we did the paperwork and final sorting out. Then it was time to hit the road, first to LA, where Cassie had just said goodbye to all her stuff as the movers whisked it away.

Her place looked weird, completely empty. I don’t think her roommate had much of an idea how much of the furniture was hers. A blank slate, so he can make his mark. We spent a day or so making final preparations, meeting friends, feeling too hot thanks to the local brushfires, and getting psyched up. Then we hit the road, Cassie in her Jeep and me in my Audi, stopping first at Home for a final breakfast. We didn’t plan to drive caravan the whole way, but that’s the way it ended up. We got a mighty convoy, ain’t she a beautiful sight, only with Bluetooth instead of CB Radio. We only got split up in the morass to pay your toll and get over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco itself. Once we arrived, we had a bit of a rest before inflating our temporary air beds and getting comfortable before the delivery of our stuff.

In San Francisco it was the same embarrassing situation. I stood there with a clipboard, while the movers dealt with the stairs, boxes, and sweat. When they left, Cassie and I were stuck with the task of trying to make all this stuff fit in our apartment. We’re still trying now,  but slowly and surely we’re getting there.

After unpacking, we had a dozen boxes filled with flattened other boxes and wrapping paper. A call to the movers and they came and collected that as well, for reuse or recycling.

And here we are! It’s been couple of weeks, and we’re pretty settled, but there are some boxes around the place which whisper to us and make us feel guilty when we watching whatever’s On Demand on the cable. Soon, my boxy friends. Soon.

Marber’s ‘The Ice Cream Man’

Many years ago (’91-’92?), I recorded a some comedy and music benefit gig off the telly. I think it was hosted by Jools “Be there or be ungroovy fuckers” Holland, at the Hackney Empire. It was a benefit for AIDS research or something, and it was very funny. I watched and rewatched it, and one of the acts which stuck in my head to an extreme degree was this parody of a “Jazz Man” in a plaid suit whom I now realise (or at least think) was Patrick Marber, in his early stand-up days before The Day Today and playwright success.

In fact it stuck in my head to such an extent that I still find myself running through some of the text in my head, complete with probably-now-inaccurate recollections of the words, actions, and look of the piece.

I’ve searched online for clips or even mentions, with no immediate luck. So just to get it out of my head, here is what I recall. Maybe it will pull some searches in, like that matters.

Curtain up.

Marber enters the stage, and approaches the microphone. He is wearing a garish plaid suit and a newsboy cap. He walks to the microphone and mutters distractedly into it as if to say, “Yeah I’m here”. He then launches into a rhyming comic beat poem/monologue about being a jazz musician and how to be cool. (The following parts may be out of order, wrong, and all that stuff. Soz.)]

He says something about going into the lavatory before the performance to have a …

“… think about what to say and play.
And as I completed my little wazz,
It occurred to me I’d play you some Jazz.”

“It was the dude Oscar Wilde who used to say
That, ‘a wag about town should face every day
With one pair of briefs,
And three handkerchiefs.’
“Saying, ‘One just for show, (indicates silk square in breast pocket)
One in which to blow, (indicates regular handkerchief in inside pocket)
And one final hankie, (shows unpleasantly congealed tissue)
To mop up the winky-wanky.’
The wit of Oscar Wilde.”

“If you wanna play jazz you gotta wear a suit,
Don’t buy your suit
From a car boot sale,
Or from Anthony Quayle,
Crystal Gayle,
Brian the Snail,
Or Burtons.”

“If you want to play jazz you’ve got to have a slick name,
Not a Tom, Harry or Dick name.
Be cool! That’s the word.
Be like Charlie Parker – they called him ‘Bird’.
Be like Dizzy Gillespie – they called him… ‘Dizzy’.
George Mellie – ‘Fat Pus-bucket’.”

He then talks about how cool he is, and when you see him play his horn…

“…y’all gonna see why I am
The Ice Cream Man.”

He pulls out a small brightly colored plastic toy trumpet. The audience laughs.

“Do not mock the horn of The Ice Cream Man! Or should I say, the cornet?”

He plays the toy trumpet, by pressing the button things along the top. The toy trumpet makes a little bell “ting” sound each time a button is pressed. His cheeks-puffed playing style makes him sweat. He reaches into his pocket, and mops his forehead with a handkerchief, before realizing with disgust that he is using the congealed toss-rag revealed earlier.

He goes back to playing the trumpet, and completes the little bell tune that it plays. He bows and exits.

Curtain down.

Now I’m pretty certain there was a lot more to it than that. But that’s all that I can remember, which you may think is already too much. Still, it’s out there now. Marber, if you’re listening, please tell me I didn’t make this up.

Now He’s Back On Track

I suddenly find myself able to access my website from work again, so I’d better let you know what’s been happening. The biggest news is of course that I’ve moved to San Francisco, together with Cassie. Actually, that’s pretty much everything from the last few weeks. I’ll also post some stuff and photos about my time at Comic Con, and maybe I’ll post some updates about my favorite albums and so on. Who knows.