In 2005 I started writing a blog. On this page, I explain what was going on in my head at the time I wrote it, and what I think about it now.
Faster Pasta - Did I really start writing the blog when I was in Taiwan? Seems random. I can't remember why I started with a restaurant review. Maybe I'd seen one and wanted to parody it, or maybe I'd been given food poisoning and wanted to vent. One of my students was called Michael Chen, so that's where I got the name from. He was only about twelve though, and I'm sure hadn't developed any weird fetishes.
I like the piece. It's silly and funny and easy to read. And I'm pleased with the credit card info at the end, as though I was a real reviewer. It looks right.
The comment from Tiffany amuses me. I remember writing a lot of stuff explicitly to annoy Tiffany. Her p.s. could have been written by a number of people over the years. "Endless whining, insufferable sarcasm, and eccentric behaviour." There's my epitaph right there. As an aside, I really did try to teach her how to lie. I remember that, but I don't remember why I deemed it necessary. Hmm...
March for Freedom - When I was in Taipei there was a monumental protest march against the fact that China had about 700 missiles pointed at Taiwan. The number is probably double that by now. Pointing missiles at your tiny, democratic neighbour is pretty despicable, really. But that didn't stop me making fun of Taiwan in general and Tiffany in particular.
The post is okay, but I guess some of the jokes would be lost on people who'd never been to Taiwan, which is obviously not the point of good writing. I like the bit where Tiffany's anger escalates, and the reveal that she's dressed like a missile.
I love her comments again. I always smile when people say 'how dare you...?' Then once again, she pierces straight to the heart of my character - "... the look of disgust on your face whenever you see a woman who is not gorgeous."
For some reason I had a pic of the protest in a separate post, which made no sense whatsoever. I've moved it to its rightful place.
The Taiwan Center for Mentally Unsafe Foreigners - This post was based on real events. A quick glance down the post makes me think that every incident actually happened. Yep - one involved me, I witnessed one, and my Canadian friend told me the coffee one. I don't know why I changed him to an American. Ah, now I remember. I've just got to the end and the worst case guy is the Canadian. I had to make a contrast between Subject A and Subject C to make the story flow better, but in reality it was the same guy both times.
I think I still like the post. It's fun to take weird real things that happen and turn it into a piece of writing. I'm thinking 'what would I change if I wrote it now'? Honestly, I wouldn't change much. I'd probably change the name to 'dealing with culture shock' or something that might get more hits. Cynical? Moi?
Trends in Taiwan - More making fun of Taiwan. No wonder they made it hard for me to stay! I snorted at my 'dates with zero' joke. There really were huge queues for doughnuts for weeks. The second bit was me mercilessly teasing Tiffany, who let slip that she'd forgotten to pay for a meal. Of course, she went back the next day when she realised her mistake. I think the gate-crashing thing is a dig at her, as well. Sadly, I didn't future-proof some of these posts very well. I guess I didn't think anyone would read them 6 years later.
A Musical Language - I think this does what I wanted it to do - which was to bitch about my neighbours and complain about the stupidity of Asian karaoke.
The World's Highest Wedding - I think there are a few pieces like this. They involve me getting excited about meeting girls, then not meeting any, and going home alone. I could have written more about the tedium of the wedding and how my hope of meeting a girl faded bit by bit and left me feeling utterly desolate. It's good where I go down too many flights of stairs. That was a nice touch.
Termites 101 - I'm not sure this piece does a good enough job of communicating how gross and disgusting that experience was. If I edited it, I'd jam in a bit more imagery. Especially about the pile of writhing maggot creatures. And it looks like I forgot to mention that they got into the fridge somehow. I don't think I ever used that fridge again.
Harry Potter 6 - I wrote this for the Guardian - they'd heard that Dumbledore was going to die in the upcoming Harry Potter 6 and wanted people to write the death scene. I did it in the style of the over-by-over cricket coverage. They liked it, but I don't think a lot of my readers got it. You pretty much need to know Harry Potter, cricket, and the conventions of the over-by-over genre. Which is probably about three people I know in the whole world.
Chinese Taipei vs Iraq - I actually played in the crumbling stadium once. The beginning of the story makes me remember how hot she was, and makes me want to watch Asian porn. Is that wrong? I'm going to assume you said 'no' and continue reading.
The bit about 'worst player ever' made me think. I wrote this in 2004. It's seven years later - Have I seen a worse player than number 41? Well, I played this morning and a guy went on a dribble and ran into a tree. Smack into the middle and fell flat on his back, like in a comic.
When Andrew Met Susan - I wrote a whole story called The Ämsterdämmerung and put a few bits on the blog. This is one of them. It was probably a good thing, because it meant that each chapter was self-contained. The writing seems pretty good, but my favourite thing is the comment from the Canadian. I'm sure the Canadian winter is bitterly cold, but I'm also sure they have heating. Shanghai - no heating.
The Early Bird Catches the Towel - Another bit of The Ämsterdämmerung, and probly one of the favourite bits of my writing. I was really struggling with it, just couldn't get out what I wanted to say. But it all clicked into place when I saw the description of REM sleep. When I used that as the 'image', the whole piece came together.
Germany World Cup 2006 - After I got home from Taiwan I had a few months of not doing anything much at all. I watched a lot of TV, drank a lot of cups of tea. When the World Cup was coming up, I realised I had time to watch every game, and on a whim I decided to write a blog post for each of them. I'm not sure if everything I wrote makes sense any more. I spent a while today merging 31 short posts into 5 long posts. They made me laugh, which isn't bad five years after the event.
Opole Mio - I thought I'd write a bit while I was in Poland. I didn't have a laptop, though. I remember one of my students went to Manchester for something, and I arranged for him to meet my mother, and she passed on my laptop to him. But it was good I didn't have one most of the time I was there - I was forced to go out and talk to people and be social, instead of staying at home playing Master of Orion.
As a piece of writing, there's not much good about this one. I guess I had some vague idea of writing the whole story of my time in Poland, but apart from one or two nice little vignettes, I didn't write much at all. Had a blast, though.
Great Brzegspectations - Another post that could have been much, much better. But I'm glad I recorded something about that guy. I've had tons of great students over the years but there was something really special about him. Apart from his surreal generosity and good nature, he had an amazing life story and although he repeated himself a lot (especially about Stalin - seriously) he was always fascinating.
In short, he's the kind of person you want to meet when you set out to travel the world.
I deleted a couple of posts from Poland because the videos were out of date.
Disco Polo Polo - Disco Polo is an art form from Poland. In England it'd be called 'cheesy eighties pap' or something, but in post-Communist countries it's huge. These Russian guys are amazing. At first I posted the video as a joke, but the more I listened to it, the more I loved it. Last time I checked it had about two million hits on Youtube. Probably about a third were from me.
Moss Side Stories - Ah, Emma. I doubt that was her real name. Ha! I just remembered what her real name was. I still have her email address. She was the typical 'cute girl in the office' but more so. She sat just in front of me and I loved staring at the back of her head.
OH MY GOD I just totally checked her out on Facebook. All I can see is her face and neck and shoulders. She's not as hot as the girl in my memory. Maybe I shouldn't have looked.
And the story? I'd probably swap the semi-colon at the start for a colon, but whatevs. It's a story about kids. No-one likes kids. Ah, but I have to hand it to those stupid Italian and French teenagers in the story. They really were cool. Éugénéménté was everything right and wrong with teenagers, and everything right and wrong with the French.
Huh. This is pretty good, actually. I'm enjoying this. A bit teary, even.
Yes, it's true that my lights had exploded. I should have made clear in the story that my house was near the City Centre, so I could have stayed late and walked home. And I could have pointed out that the reason I didn't was that I was so in love with Emma and it hurt to see her there, leaving me forever.
'You're a writer; write something to say to her.' THIS is how my brain works. I hate it.
York 2007: Make Them Scream - The blog also had a 31-part story about York, but I took it off for technical reasons. The ghost tour was a huge, smash hit success. One of the best things I've ever been involved in. I didn't believe in it until Jason and Lucy got so freaked out (in part 3). I should probably expand the names instead of having the initial of the person speaking - that would make it clearer. There's a few lines that make me laugh, but then again, I was there. Is it funny for someone who can't see it?
Anais - Anais will be surprised to learn that she's my dream girl. How so? I always hoped someone would read my stuff and sigh and say 'Mon Dieu, he's the one for me.' Except I didn't think it would be 'Mon Dieu' because everyone knows French women are moody and difficult. But here was a woman who had found my writing and liked it and wanted to get to know me better. Sacre Blue!
We talked a bit on MSN, and the Academie Francais post was one of the results. Meh - it's okay. Couple of good moments. Probably tries too hard. The main aim was to annoy Anais, though, not to be a piece of writing that would last till the end of time.
English Rose - Pretty surreal, but makes me smile. Then again, I may be the only person who gets why it's supposed to be funny...
French Horoscope - I think we can all agree that I'm a bit hit and miss when it comes to the short story, but one thing I've got a great record in is 'Writing Something That Appears to be General but is Aimed Specifically at One Girl.' This is one of those things.
But surely I'm not the only one who thinks it's legitimately amusing? 'Start on page 8 and you'll enjoy it more.' 'Your lucky crab.' The quote from Confucius. What? You don't think so? Tsch! It's funny and the girl liked it. Win-win.
Valentine's Day Poem - Why did I write a poem for Valentine's Day? Don't remember. It's good, though!
Der Böögg - Turns out Switzerland is just as weird as everywhere else. Seems to be a slow, quiet place focused on banking, but they have this snowman burning thing and the highest proportion of prostitutes in any major city.
Some other stuff - Meh. I deleted a bunch of stuff. Maybe I shouldn't do this when I'm grumpy.
Adolf Kitler and the Furred Reich - Amazingly, this is my all-time number one blog post! It made me realise that writing beautiful, heartfelt love stories wasn't going to get me noticed on the Internet. Which is why 90% of my latest posts contain funny images.
Texts from a Fan - I thought about deleting this one quite a few times, but actually it's one that quite a few people have commented on. The real Professor Ibrox told me the rainbow bit made him laugh out loud, and my French friend recognised the word 'aggresivity' as being very much 'French English'. Why did I post this poor girl's private messages to me on the Internet, then make fun of them?
What, is that wrong?
Anais: The Truth - It's self-explanatory. Anais wrote her version of the story. It was totally wrong. I set the world to rights. Certain people reacted badly. Most agreed it was funny. It's making me laugh now, though! Parts 6 and 7 made me lol. And 8 and 9. Man, I wish I could write something like this every week or so. I'd be richer than Croseus.
Guide to Haggling in China - I want to write more stuff like this! It's so good. Thing is, it might sound like I'm joking or exaggerating, but all those tips work. My friend visited me in Shanghai once, and after watching me haggle for nine or ten minutes he calculated how much I had saved. It was negligible, like the amount of taste in tofu. The saleswoman was impressed though. She probably still talks about me.
A Trillion and One Ways to Score Points with Chicks - I stopped writing blog things because it seemed like no-one was reading. I didn't stop writing though. I wrote one-fourth of my future masterpiece 'Paradise City' and completed the first draft of 'Robots versus Vampires'. Then the new teacher at my school, Cecile, found my blog and told me how much she liked post X and post Y. Half the time I'd forgotten those posts existed.
I wrote Trillion and One, and realised I could link to it from Facebook. Got some good feedback, and decided to start blogging again.
Death Threats from a 9-Year Old Girl - Obviously I'm not exactly the creative talent behind this post, but I did make it happen by being weird. Not pictured - the even sicker, more twisted post-it note comics I drew about Ella.
Why Men Love Die Hard and Women Get Fat in Winter - This was a lot of fun because my design team were online and were able to turn my ideas into covers within minutes, and I could suggest changes on the fly. Not having to do all the messing about with design software saved hours. I like it when my design team add some ideas of their own to the projects.
In this case, they found the art for 'threesomes', 'security' and so on, but also added the '#1 Why Author' bits at the tops of the books.
Clicking on some of the links makes me laugh, too. I forget what I've selected to be the picture and when I see it, I laugh. Example - the link to 'vampire' in this post.
SVP Poster Campaigns Through the Ages - Will anyone outside Switzerland get this? Maybe. The first and third images are spoofs of posters from what should be an obscure right-wing party, the SVP, but they became notorious so people might have seen the originals. The middle picture is an homage to some allied propaganda.
I had to rewrite the whole thing a couple of times. I had some great lines I wanted to keep, but had to take them out because I added the second and third pictures. Kill your darlings!
Asterix: Latin Jokes Explained - My latest project. Started as 'translate the Latin' and has morphed into 'Explain the jokes and make them funnier.' I'll do all the books, even the (terrible) newer ones.
Average Contents - More great work from my design team.