December 28, 2011

Second Christmas in Many Media

Second Christmas is the highlight of the festive season. I have been close friends with much the same people for over ten years and every year between Christmas Day and New Year's we get together for our own Second Christmas, cooking up a huge roast, playing games and swapping Secret Santa gifts. There are also a ridiculous amount of empty Port bottles by the end of the evening.

This year, I documented the occasion in six different media:

1) Photography

2) Drawing

This is about as accurate as it gets
3) Mime

4) Poetry

Twas two days after Christmas,
And all through the Castle,
There were nibbed for all,
And Joe ate them, the rascal.

Mulled wine on the hob,
And far more Port than sense,
We were pissed before turkey,
The sprouts were immense.

As we sat down to dinner,
And pulled all our crackers,
'Thank you, dear chefs!'
Came the cry from the slackers.

We all gathered round,
For presents from "Santa",
The secrets came out,
In the midst of the banter.

In the dark early morning,
We said our farewells,
But we'll be back next year,
To jingle those bells.

(S. Taylor, C. Jayasinghe, G. Robinson, B. Jones, et al)

5) Song
The Second Christmas Song - Luke Alexander, Stuart Taylor, Ben Jones

6) The Movie

(Make it HD and fullscreen that bad boy)

Second Christmas 2011 from Stuart Taylor on Vimeo.

December 25, 2011


I've recently just realised something about Christmas for me.

When I was younger, almost every year we used to go to my Nana's (Dad's mum) house for Christmas. Even though my Dad's side of the family is far more disparate, small and estranged than my Mum's, there was always enough of us to gather around her big table every year. The people might be different every year but there was always a big feast.

My Nana had a decent sized house in Beckenham - we even lived with her for a couple of years - so a whole mix of extended family folk could gather comfortably to eat, relax and watch christmas episodes of every single soap opera. The meals were always huge at Nana's. It was like suppertime at Hogwarts, with dishes stacked beyond their physical limits, more potatoes than Ireland could devour in a year and gravy to drown the Titanic. The only christmas photos I remember from my young childhood were in Nana's living room, with decorations across the walls and ceiling, fake snow on the windows and a great many faces I haven't seen in years.

Nana died when I was 16. We had one final Christmas in her house without her before moving on. And Christmas hasn't really been the same since. I'm not saying it's been bad - it's still a lovely day of being together, giving gifts, eating stupid amounts of food, playing games and snoozing on the sofa. But Nana defined Christmas. To me, that's what Christmas was, and since then it's always felt imitation of Christmas.

Maybe it's like when your dog dies and you get a new dog. You love the new dog just as much, but it's a different dog and whenever you picture the concept of dog ownership, that first dog will always stick in your mind, because he was your childhood dog. He gave you the very concept of "dog". I think because Nana died right at the point of me transition from child to adult, that cemented her Christmas as the canonical Christmas in my mind.

So here's to you, Nana. I'll always think of you at Christmas.

December 19, 2011

Eugene Delgaudio's Secrets

Someone stuck me on Eugene Delgaudio's mailing list, and he keeps me up to date with his terror about the radical homosexual lobby. His latest fear is that he won't raise as much as he budgeted for and the Homosexual Lobby will find out. So, go ahead, you radical homosexuals - look at this:

Dear Stuart,

Just weeks remain before Public Advocate reaches a critical deadline -- before every radical homosexual activist holds a copy of Public Advocate’s financial records in his conniving hands.

December 31st is the deadline for contributions to appear on the IRS 990, the public report that discloses exactly how much money Public Advocate raised and spent in 2011.

But right now, our figures are falling short of my 2011 objectives.

If I’m to meet budget expectations this year, I must raise $46,359.17 with all checks postmarked before December 31st.

If I fail to raise $46,359.17 by December 31st, I’ll be forced to broadcast our weakness and vulnerability to the Homosexual Lobby.

After the brutal fights this year on the Gay Bill of Special Rights, the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and the Homosexual Classrooms Act, the Homosexual Lobby must not find Public Advocate with little money left to fight next year.

Stuart, don’t worry, no one in the Homosexual Lobby will ever know how much you’ve contributed to Public Advocate.  I assure you your personal information is fully protected and kept confidential.

The radical Homosexual Lobby will be looking for ANY sign of weakness in the pro-family movement -- believe me, they haven’t given up -- if they see Public Advocate’s treasury depleted they will see an opening to ram through the Gay Bill of Special Rights, the Homosexual Classrooms Act and the repeal of DOMA.

Words cannot express how much I appreciate your noble sacrifice, Stuart.

Without your financial support and prayers, Public Advocate would be nothing -- totally helpless against the radical homosexuals’ assaults on our families.

Stuart, you have done so much for our cause.  I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Today, I’m asking you to dig even deeper.  I hope to count on you for at least $50 -- $100 or even $200 if you can afford it.

December 14, 2011

X Factor Final: A Content Analysis

So, on Sunday we had the final episode show of X Factor 2011. Lauren and I have taken to Sky+ing the show (this is like TiVO) and watching it an hour behind live so that we can fast forward through the gumpf. But how much gumpf can there really be in one episode of the X Factor? If you looked at Twitter between 19:30 and 21:30 on Sunday, you'd see a sea of people screaming, 'Oh god how long can this go on for?' and 'Just tell us who won! JESUS CHRIST!'

So I took the liberty of analysing the 2 hours and 3 seconds of SyCo ejaculate that might make you realise that Simon Cowell and ITV are taking us all for a ride.

The two hour show represented as a clock. Imagine the show starts at the 12 o' clock position and travels around the clock face until it ends.

So, the naive me might think that the whole point of watching the X Factor is to watch the contestants perform and to find out the winner, right? Some people enjoy watching the judges opine, but as this was the final, they all just spout hysterical love for everyone - the bitchy comments are long gone.

Well, if you wanted to see the contestants perform you got a total of 19m31s of singing in your two hours. And that includes the winner's song, which is just a repeat of what they sang earlier in the show. That's one sixth of the show. So what do they do with the other 5/6 (83%) of the show?

Well, you might have enjoyed the other performances from Westlife, Coldplay and the pre-recorded compilation for all the finalists that opened the show. I say, 'might', because I didn't enjoy it very much, but this does count as the programme attempting to put on a show for its audience, so I'm not going to snootily sniff at it. Anyway, that's another 16 minutes (13%) of entertainment so there was still a lot of show to fill. Can you guess what else took up our precious time?

Yes! Adverts! A whopping half an hour (or a quarter of the show time) was taken up by adverts. The biggest break we got from adverts was in the third quarter of the programme when both acts performed the winner's single and had to see their highlights and Olly and Caroline pissed about with their 'fans' in the audience. So basically, in the biggest amount of time free from adverts they treated us to the same song twice, a clip reel of stuff we'd already seen and two idiots trying to shout over a crowd of locals who'd baked Little Mix into a pizza. YES.

So, in total, the performances took up the most of the show - as it should be. But almost half the show was taken up by Dermot telling us what we'd just seen/what we were about to see, video clips of things we'd already seen, the judges (who I suspect were drunk) telling everyone how brilliant they are, and Caroline and Olly.

So let's break it down a different way:

If we separate out the contestants performances from the other performances, we'll obviously get 'adverts' as the biggest player of the night. So what I did was strip out all the necessary parts of the show that are required to keep the flow between the performances and the judges' comments. So, this includes Dermot's links between actual stuff happening, telling us the phone numbers, introing the acts by means of intense montage and announcing the results. Those are the required parts of the show (and I'm being generous. I don't think anyone benefited from the judges on Sunday).

This leaves the gumpf, or the 'padding'. The stuff they threw in to make up the time. There was twenty minutes of padding - more gumpf than singing. Olly Murs and Caroline Flack were padding; the VTs of the contestants family telling them they were awesome was padding - partly because they see their friends and family enough not to need a VT of them saying generic Canderel but also because Olly and Caroline are standing with the families constantly asking them how proud they are.

By the way, I included the live link to Philip Schofield talking about Text Santa. It was an advert. It was an advert masquerading as... god only know what.

So the lesson here is - always tape the X Factor and fast-forward through all the gumpf. Take that, Cowell. I've proven your show has too much rusk and not enough sausage.

December 09, 2011

The Way I'm Feeling

So I have depression. I was diagnosed with it back in the spring, but I think it was creeping up on me for at least a year before that. I often find talking about it (verbally) a frustratingly difficult thing to do, so I thought I'd knock out a few written words to help people understand a little bit about what goes on inside me. I guess this is mainly for people close to me than the wider world, though if you're reading this and find yourself comforted by empathy, that's good too.

To me, the main overriding 'feeling' isn't sadness particularly, but a kind of emotional exhaustion. Everything that requires me to care or that I'd need to classify as 'important' just batters me into submission almost immediately. Applying for jobs, talking to people on the phone, having a conversation about 'my plans for the future' (etc, etc) are all things that I struggle to do for any significant length of time without needing to give up and do something mindless or sleep.

I feel a lot like I'm at the bottom of a deep, steep-sided pit. At the opening of the pit is where I need to get to where I have a job, where I can socialise a bit more easily instead of staying in the comfort of my home, where I can talk about things I need to talk about, and so on. But the sides are so steep and so slippery that every effort I put in is so immediately exhausting and futile that actually it's more comfortable to stay at the bottom of the pit and not bother to do anything. The very thought of tackling the climb out of the pit fills me with dread. I just don't feel like I have the skills to get out.

So eventually, caring out getting out of the pit and developing the parts of my life you once enjoyed just kind of went away. I feel very little emotion at the moment about almost anything. When I care about things, it comes from a logical place; you'll see me posting stuff about gay rights, for example, because it makes sense to have equality not because I get emotionally angry or upset about it. Emotionally flatlining has its good and bad sides. Sometimes it's nice to know you're approaching situations without the often misleading emotional fire in your belly. But other times when I don't feel happy to see people, or sad when they get sick or empathise if they are upset, it makes me realises the massive disconnect between everyone else and me. A chasm has opened up where once I used to be able to feel another person's feelings, now I just observe them. This is a strange realisation to come to.

And so from the frustration of the "slippery-slope" to climb and the disconnection from the people around me comes the ease of suicidal thoughts. I'm going to try and be as honest about this as possible. Again, this isn't a sort of 'raging' suicidal thought - it's not something that happens in the heat of emotion or despair or anxiety. Instead, it seems to come from logical conclusion: I can't get out of this pit, I don't really feel much for what's going around me, so what's the point? That's the kind of thought process my head goes through. Unfortunately ("unfortunately"), just because I don't feel that connected with other people, I know this doesn't mean they aren't connected to me. If I went and offed myself, that has consequences. I understand this, and that's part of the reason I went to seek out help when such thoughts started to overwhelm me.

So I haven't really made huge amounts of progress since my diagnosis other than the fact that family and friends are now aware of my depression so I'm going through it alone. Nonetheless, because I hate talking about it, I tend to carry the load myself and worry other people because I won't really talk about how I'm feeling. So here it is, for those who care. I hope it's helped understanding if anyone wanted to know. I still feel pretty flat and rubbish most of the time. Sometimes I won't want to come out. Sometimes I won't have applied to jobs or done things I should have done because for some reason I found them extraordinarily difficult. But, I'm going to try and get better.