AUTHOR GUY PORTMAN'S BLOG

PORTMAN'S PONDERINGS, PROCRASTINATIONS, PREAMBLES, PROGNOSES & PARODIES.

1
EuroMillions
2
The Book Olympics
3
Blog Post & Book Review
4
National Lottery Scratch Cards
5
Countdown to London 2012
6
Actuaries
7
The Evolution of Social Media
8
The Electric Toothbrush
9
Bieber
10
Olympic Trademarks

EuroMillions

Last Friday – I was watching The Bank Job (starring Jason Statham) on television.  Remembering I had a ticket for the x14 rolled over EuroMillions lottery draw, which had taken place earlier that evening, I turned over to check the numbers.

68.8 Miles away in Haverhill, Suffolk – Adrian Bayford was lying beached on his sofa.  He too reached for the remote and turned over from The Bank Job to check his numbers.  That’s where the similarities ended. For whilst I won £2.90, Mr Bayford was coming to the realisation that he had bagged the jackpot of £148,656,000, beating odds of 1 in 76,275,360.

Tuesday August 14th – Early afternoon – I am walking along the street eating a Toblerone, bought with the profits from my Lottery windfall cashed in moments earlier at a Waitrose supermarket.  On a big screen in the window of the estate agent beside me, I caught sight of a rotund and jovial couple spraying champagne, before holding a giant cheque in front of them in characteristic Camelot pose (see picture).  The couple are the Bayfords.                                                   

I stand and watch the proceedings, unable to comprehend why it is that the Bayfords of their own free will are walking up to the Camelot gallows and willingly placing their heads in the hangman’s noose.  For by waving their right to anonymity they are surely leaving themselves and their progeny open to a deluge of begging letters, con men and the prospect of being overcharged in shops and harangued in the street.  And this is to say nothing of the ever present threat of robbery, burglary and kidnap.  Then there’s the plethora of other potential problems such as extortion and the unpredictable nature of peoples’ jealousy and greed.  Imagine walking along the street with people throwing themselves to the ground in front of you, before claiming you tripped them over and commencing legal proceedings.

I close my eyes and picture the Bayfords, alienated and alone in their new mock Tudor monstrosity of a home, as they peer through a gap in the Chanel curtains at a hostile world where they are now the prey.  Imprisoned within this tomb to their decadence, they are too afraid to drag their corpulent carcasses outdoors to the swimming pool complex, for fear of the mass of tabloid journalists swarming overhead in helicopters like angry wasps.

The Toblerone is now finished.  I throw the empty packet in the bin and continue along the street, basking in glorious anonymity as the rays of a resplendent sun shine down upon me.

Incidentally the main protagonist in my book is called Adrian though he is a rather different Adrian to the Adrian of the moment,  Adrian Bayford.

I am very grateful to the kind readers who left positive reviews for Charles Middleworth on Amazon this week.

The Book Olympics

What if there were an Olympics for books.  One would probably be correct in assuming that the events in a Book Olympics would not be as enjoyable a spectacle as seeing the charismatic Bolt in full flight or cheering on your own country in their pursuit of medals.  A Book Olympics would surely require a competing book’s performance to be judged over the entire duration of its life.  Here are some possible Book Olympic events and results:

The High Jump – (highest number of book sales)

                   Athlete                                       Coach                        Total Points (Sales)  

Gold:         A Tale of Two Cities           Charles Dickens              200m

Silver:        The Lord of The Rings          J.R.R Tolkien                   150m

Bronze:      The Hobbit                           J.R.R Tolkien                   100m

(These results were compiled by ranker.com)

The Long Jump – (longest book in the English language)

                        Athlete                         Coach                              Metres (No of words)

Gold:              Mission Earth              L.Ron Hubbard              1.2m

Silver:            Sironia, Texas              Madison Cooper            1.1m    

Bronze:         Clarissa                        Samuel Richardson        969k

(These results are courtesy of listverse.com)

Please note that I have disqualified a Mark Leach book, which purportedly has 17m words.  The reason being that Mark seemingly wrote this monologue with the sole purpose of being the author of the longest book.  In my opinion this performance enhanced result is not in the spirit of the Book Olympics.

Individual Mentions

Best Athlete of 2012

Winner – Fifty Shades of Grey (E L James)

This probably didn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  Nearly 40m copies of this book have been sold so far and it’s only one part of a trilogy.  The author has no plans to return to her day job anytime soon.

Worst Performing Competitor Ever (Award)  

Winner – BIRTH CONTROL IS SINFUL IN THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES and Also ROBBING GOD OF PRIESTHOOD CHILDREN!! by ELIYZABETH YANNE STRONG-ANDERSON.

Please note the winner was selected not by me but by the popular author Michael N.Marcus in his book Stinkers.

I was keen to read the book myself but due to its cost (£113.92) I decided against it.  The reason for it being chosen as the winner in its category includes but is not limited to:

  • Every letter in book capitalised
  • Ridden with grammatical errors
  • Ludicrous subject matter
  • Excessive price tag
  • Neurotic nature of its author

Up and Coming Athlete

Charles Middleworth by Guy Portman (that’s me by the way).  This humorous tale of the unexpected is available through Amazon in paperback and on Kindle (£1.96).

Blog Post & Book Review

Adidas are not only an official partner of London 2012 but their motto ‘Impossible is Nothing’ seems to me an apt description for the first week of The Games.
Prior to this week, I would probably have laughed if you had told me that a girl would swim faster than the men and that a small malnourished nation, famous for its despotic nuclear bomb obsessed leaders, would all be it briefly be in fifth position in the all-round medal table. Then there’s the exploits of Team GB; four gold medals in twenty-four hours and the fact that not only has Heathrow not collapsed under the influx of visitors, but our notoriously brittle public transport system continues to survive despite the massive strain placed upon it. What more remarkable feats will we witness during the remainder of The Games?
On another subject I read Tollesbury Time Forever by Stuart Ayris this week. I enjoyed the book and include my review of it below.

 

Tollesbury Time Forever by Stuart Ayris

Simon Anthony, a resident of the picturesque village of Tollesbury is an avid Beatles fan with a history of mental health issues and a dependence on alcohol.  One evening an inebriated Simon staggers out of his local ‘The King’s Head’ and heads off in the direction of Tollesbury Salt Marshes with the intended purpose of bringing his troubled existence to an end.

Instead of meeting his demise in the marshes however, Simon finds himself thrust into the past, to Tollesbury, in the year 1836, where despite the all too familiar surroundings, he finds himself a stranger.  The setting is both atmospheric and believable with a host of interesting and appealing characters.  The sentimental and at times nostalgic narrative allows the reader to reflect on the fundamental nature of their own existence.

This is a highly original work; from the main protagonist, Simon, an unlikely hero with an unconventional lifestyle and complex personality to the quotes taken from Beatles songs.  The author is successful in evoking both compassion and understanding, as he portrays the complexities of what is labelled mental illness within the context of a vulnerable individual seeking his place in the world, as he attempts to come to grips with the turbulent events that have contributed into moulding him into the man that he is today.

Stuart Ayris employs a flawless, flowing prose, which is at times poetic and always compelling.  He has also written another book, ‘A Cleansing of the Souls’ and is currently working on a third novel.

National Lottery Scratch Cards

A little an hour ago I was walking back from the supermarket, a shopping bag clasped in each hand.  One might expect that my thoughts would have been focused on the city’s forthcoming sporting extravaganza; perhaps even the Danny Boyle inspired opening ceremony, merely hours away; but they were not.  Like the greying sky above me my mood was a sombre one; the reason my seemingly ever growing dependence on National Lottery scratch cards.

It had all started so brightly some months previous with my first purchase, a £2 Diamond 7 that had revealed £10.  The act of punching the air with delight and jumping up and down jubilantly seems but a distant memory now.

Since that day scratch card purchases have become a daily occurrence, at first it was merely one a day then two and today that has escalated to a variety of different games played at intervals through each and every day.  Recognising the stupidity of this exercise I had promised myself yesterday that this growing irrational dependency based around ever diminishing returns had to cease.  After all what better time could there be to stop than the start of the Olympics with its promise of excitement, far in excess of that likely offered by National Lottery scratch cards instant gratification.  However as I approached the till assuredly to pay for my food items, I noticed a man stacking a roll of £1 scratch cards into a display case, the cards an abundance of inviting iridescent colour.  I was unfamiliar with this particular game and I stared transfixed at this new prospect of salvation with a top prize of £100k.

Deciding to make an exception to my no scratch card resolution on this one occasion, I purchase fifteen of them plus an additional two Diamond 7’s for good luck.  On arriving home I hastily scratch the cards, desperately pleading for a halt to my recent ill fortune (Last 17 games with no win).  Predictably none of the scratch cards reveal a prize.  I rip them into pieces and throw them in the bin.  There is an increasing suspicion that the promised odds which vary depending on the game from 1 in 4.46 to 1 in 4.9 cannot possibly be valid.  Despite this recent run of bad luck I cannot diminish the sense of excitement that these games provided in the early days, the suspense and promise of redemption in an increasingly predictable existence.   

Picture two is of a scratched Diamond 7 card with a £2 prize (c.f. Bottom row, one 7 & 2 diamonds).   It was apparent from the beginning of this exercise in futility that diamonds are not only a girl’s best friend.  I will miss this game the most.

Countdown to London 2012

London 2012 is merely a week away and it appears that nearly everything is ready to go, including:

  • Venues – completed.
  • Warehousing – UPS is braced to move >30m items.
  • Transportation – special Olympic routes set up throughout the city.

Even the weather is towing the line, for after months of nearly constant rain (including the wettest April & June on record) a warm front is approaching across the Atlantic.

 And then there’s G4S, the world’s leading provider of security solutions, who were awarded the contract for the security of the Olympic venues way back in 2008.  G4S had promised to provide 10,000 staff to secure the games, but merely days from the start of London 2012, they inform us that they have merely 4,000 staff.  Actually it seems that I am mistaken in that figure; my companion sitting next to me is waving yesterday’s Sun newspaper inches from my face whilst pointing animatedly at an article about how two of G4S’s staff members have been arrested for being suspected illegal immigrants.  That leaves 3,998 then.

Days after the announcement of the shortfall in staff, G4S’s deputy boasted that the company could handle two Olympics; this despite the fact that it is glaringly obvious to everyone else that G4S can handle only 0.4 Olympics.  Fortunately the British army will now be providing the shortfall in security for the Olympic venues, so we are all able to emit a communal sigh of relief.  A number of jokes have been appearing on the internet about this.  You may have already have heard them but I include them for those who haven’t.

Q). How many G4S staff does it take to secure the Olympics?

A). An army.

Q). How many G4S staff does it take to change a light bulb?

A).  Six soldiers and a policeman.

With any luck the whole debacle will soon be forgotten and in a week’s time we will be enjoying Danny Boyle’s (director of Slum Dog Millionaire) £27m opening ceremony extravaganza, which will be seen by 80k spectators and an estimated 1bn worldwide.  The Olympic stadium is to be transformed into an English countryside scene, complete with 70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens, 3 cows, 2 goats, 8 geese and 3 dogs.  Let’s just hope that G4S aren’t providing the animals.

Have you had a chance to hear G4S’s anthem, if not here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4pSztQk2_0

Actuaries

The work of actuaries entails assessing the financial implications of future events.  Though their work is conducted in a variety of sectors they are most commonly associated with the insurance industry, where they utilise mathematical algorithms to evaluate risks for insurance policies.

An actuarial career is often voted as one of the top professions in America, based on income, job security, stress etc.  However despite the obvious benefits of the actuarial vocation, actuaries are on occasion ridiculed by others.  This is in part due to the fact that they are often viewed as being geeks; spectacle wearing number crunchers with very limited social skills and perhaps also because we do not understand the complex nature of their work.  Maybe there’s even a little jealously at their high earnings and level of job security.  The actuarial jokes I have come across include:

Q: How do actuaries liven up their office parties?

A: They invite an accountant.

And

Q: What do actuaries use as contraception?

A: Their personalities.

Though the ridiculing of actuaries amuses many, we all surely appreciate that actuaries are universally extremely intelligent.  The actuarial professional examinations are regarded as the most demanding of any of the professions.  Actuaries have even been described as ‘prophets of the future’, for their highly evolved scientific minds are able to offer unique insights into the future based on statistical laws.  These are often fascinating; for example how is life expectancy going to increase in the future and by how much and what are the risks of certain diseases and accidents for an individual with a certain set of behavioural patterns.

It is this unique way of observing and understanding the world, in addition to their perceived behavioural quirks that led me to choose an actuary as the main character for my book, Charles Middleworth.  His name is Adrian and he is highly intelligent, very well educated and well paid, but also set in his ways and some might argue at times rather peculiar. 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/CharlesMiddleworth

Actuaries haven’t generally been embraced in popular culture let alone literature though there a few exceptions.  Preferred Risk, by Frederik Pohl and Lester del Rey (using the pseudonym Edson McCann), describes a dystopian future dominated by the insurance industry.  Manga enthusiasts may be familiar with Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, in which a sinister actuary uses statistical data to predetermine scenarios that will most likely result in certain individuals dying.

The Evolution of Social Media

Social media really began to emerge with the advent of Blogger in 99.  The following decade saw a proliferation of social media platforms (Friendster 2002, LinkedIn & MySpace 03, Facebook 04 & Twitter 06).  Today there are an estimated one billion social media users worldwide and with social media only being in its adolescence this is likely to increase exponentially in the years ahead. Social media has become as much a part of many of our lives as running water and electricity.  Some have even gone as far as to argue that some of us are now addicted to it.  Researchers have warned of the rise of ‘hyper-networking’; which they define as students who spend more than three hours per school day on social networking sites.  Are the adults of tomorrow becoming socially stunted as a result of this affliction; unable to communicate effectively?

Then of course there are the physical evolutionary ramifications of this ongoing transformation in human behaviour.  Close your eyes and picture what a human might look like in the future after innumerable generations of ever increasing social media usage.

Sitting at a futuristic desk in front of a holographic screen is a sedentary creature with an enormous skull; evolved for the purpose of assimilating an endless stream of information.  Beneath the desk the creature’s legs are visible, shrivelled from inactivity.  An elongated thumb extends outwards, effortlessly rearranging the information on the screen in front of it.  An alarm beep signifies that it is dinner time.  Barely a moment later a vacuum sealed bag is deposited on the futuristic human’s lap.  With several unseemly slurps that would have horrified many previous generations of humans, it deposits the processed mushy contents into its mouth and swallows them instantaneously.  It is only now that I notice the receded chin; no doubt a result of humans no longer needing to chew.

Not once during this whole episode does the futuristic human’s attention shift from the screen in front of it.

Perhaps my imagination is getting the better of me and at any rate it is about time I was getting back to Twitter.

The Electric Toothbrush

10:12 – Monday Morning – As I walk into Boots (Britain’s largest chain of pharmacy stores), three Boots related facts appear in my mind. They are:

  • Boots was founded in 1849 by John Boot.
  • Almost 2,500 stores nationwide.
  • 45% of Alliance Boots is to soon be acquired by Walgrens (largest pharmacy chain in the US).

The intention of my visit is to purchase a new electric toothbrush as mine has unfortunately broken after several years of assiduous servitude.  Within seconds I am perusing the electric toothbrush shelf.  My attentions soon fall on one particular item, the Boots Expert electric toothbrush 8000.  For the first time since the England penalty debacle in the football the night before there is a modicum of excitement.  Not only is this Boots home brand toothbrush a fraction of the price of its more illustrious peers (Oral B and Philips etc), but it is priced at a mere £12.49.  After analysing its features and comparing it to the others, I am more than satisfied that it suits my requirements.  Its features include:

  • Mains rechargeable.
  • 8,000 side to side oscillations per minute.
  • Ergonomic grip handle.
  • 2 interdental brush heads included.

I head to the till triumphantly, clasping my new toothbrush resolutely in one hand.

23:25 – I hurriedly cut open the toothbrush packaging and take out the 8000.  Despite checking the box thoroughly I am disappointed to discover that the two interdental brush heads I had been promised have not been included.

Turning my attentions to the toothbrush, I take a grip of the rather unwieldy ergonomic handle and press the power button.  To my surprise the 8000 emits a clamorous whirring noise, more vociferous than any electric toothbrush that has previously made my acquaintance.  The sound evokes a memory from my youth, of the whir of an ailing fan in a dilapidated room in a Third World governmental building, as a heavily perspiring official with bulging eyes stood over me, repeatedly demanding a large cash payment with ever more sinister overtures.  Back in the present, steadfastly ignoring this violation to the auditory senses, I insert the toothbrush head tentatively into my mouth.  The sensation is not a pleasant one, for the head is too large and inflexible for the delicate task at hand.  Contact with the gums proves to be extremely disagreeable.  I turn off the offending device and hurl it in the bin.  The whirring sound is still audible as I am overcome by a powerful lethargy and fall asleep some minutes later.

Thank you to those who bought my recently released book from Amazon.  There are now two very positive reviews on Amazon.co.uk and one on Amazon.com.

Bieber

Justin Bieber is the marmite of Twitter; you either love him or hate him.  For his legions of fans, known as True Beliebers, the very mention of the infant pop star’s name can bring on a frenzy of evangelical zeal, whilst for Non-Beliebers, it is met by a sigh of derision or a foul-mouthed tirade.

Whatever your opinion of Justin Bieber, he is undeniably the King of Twitter.  The young Bieber is the second most popular official celebrity account after Lady Gaga.  One Twitter employee commented that ‘racks of servers are dedicated to Bieber’.

Here are some Justin Bieber Twitter facts:

  • 23,579,427 – Twitter followers (at last count).
  • 322,244 – Identical social media messages for Bieber’s birthday in March.
  • 11,000 – Average number of new Twitter followers per day (not even the bubonic plague spread this fast).

Whilst many of us might begrudge this angelic star, with the immaculate coiffure, proclaimed love of God and clean lifestyle so in contrast to our flawed musical idols of yesteryear, it is not his actions that have caused the most offense, but rather unsavoury elements within the hordes of True-Beliebers.

One example of this is when Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth (of Hunger Games fame) recently announced their engagement.  Within minutes it was the number one trending topic on Twitter.  Yet no sooner had we digested this news when Selena Bieber became a top ten Twitter trend.  For those not acquainted with Selena, she is Selena Gomez, Bieber’s girlfriend.  They are not in fact engaged and at any rate it is a ludicrous assertion, child marriage is illegal in America, even in Utah.  The whole escapade was merely an effort by a large number of jealous Beliebers to steal back the limelight.

There have also been more serious instances, including the case of Mariah Yeater, who after filing a paternity suit against the singer was bombarded with death threats.  And then there’s the incident in New York, where Bieber was recently promoting his fragrance ‘Someday’, when a man clambered over the barriers and wrestled the young Bieber to the ground.  It transpired the man was Tom Petterson, an undercover cop, who was concerned that Bieber’s fans were becoming rather boisterous and that a riot was imminent.  This misunderstanding resulted in Tom being the subject of numerous death threat tweets.

‘I close my eyes and I can see a better day,’ sings Bieber in his song ‘Pray’.  Perhaps he would be better opening his eyes and taking action against the increasingly fundamentalist elements within his congregation.

On another subject I have just released my book.  Click here to find out more about it.

Olympic Trademarks

The Olympic torch is currently on a seventy day, 8,000 mile journey through Britain (+1 day in Dublin); a trip that encompasses some of the nation’s most remote locations, including the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and Lerwick in the Shetlands.  Each day, jubilant, Union Jack waving crowds line the route, eager for this once in a lifetime opportunity to witness the Olympic torch passing through their community.  However these Olympic festivities are under threat, not only from the ever present canopy of grey clouds and the risk of rain they pose, but also from something far more sinister, lurking in the shadows, ready to surface unannounced at any moment.  This peril is trademark infringement.

LOCOG officials have had to be ever vigilant in their efforts to protect the Olympic logo and the London 2012 trademarks from a plethora of unlikely villains.  Prompt action had to be taken in Plymouth, where a chef in a café in the Life Centre attempted to profit from the arrival of the Olympic torch by creating ‘Olympic breakfasts’ and ‘flaming torch breakfast baguettes’.  This was not an isolated incident.  At another Olympic torch location in North Devon, Webbers Estate Agents had the audacity to display Olympic rings in their windows made from Hula Hoops, in addition to a homemade torch.

Nor has this surge of Trademark sabotage been reserved only for the Olympic torch’s route.  Film maker Noel Clarke was prevented from using the word ‘Olympics’ in his new film ‘Fast Girls’, about a British female sprint team, much to his chagrin.  Even the very heart of London 2012 is not immune from these threats.  Merely moments from the Olympic stadium in East London, action had to be taken against the Olympic café (founded in 1980).  The establishment is now known as the Lympic café.

Prior to being warned about potential copyright infringement, Joy Tomkins, an eighty-one year old grandmother hailing from Kings Lynn, had planned on selling one pound dolls wearing homemade shorts and T-shirts emblazoned with both the Olympic and GB2012 logos (see picture 2).  LOCOG please note that this picture has been included for the purpose of warning the public about the hazards of Trademark infringement and not because I am not in collaboration with Mrs Tomkins to profit from any potential sales of these dolls.

Copyright © 2015. Guyportman's Blog

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