(FEATURE) Alex George: Ten Things
In the first of our Ten Things series, Season 5 SPAMphleteer Alex George gives us ten things that bring him inspiration and joy - from ramen to Oblivion.
Hello friends. My name is Alex George and I’m the author of the Hot Orange Squash Sky. The pamphlet is about making the best out of bad times, and finding something memorable in every day. With that in mind, here are ten things that give me good vibes on a regular basis.
The poems in Hot Orange Squash Sky cover the lockdown period of November 2020, during which time I was living in a house share with four other nice folks. We were all either on furlough and hating it, or still working and hating it. Over in Camp Furlough, I was playing an unhealthy amount of NHL2000, which is an ice hockey game on the Playstation1.
Obviously the puck is in a big cage and never leaves the rink. And you have to hold down the circle button to make the players go fast. Such was the intensity and relentlessness of the gameplay, that the outline of the circle button actually embedded itself into my thumb. Playing it was so stressful that it temporarily pushed out the real life stress of being basically unemployed and not having enough money to buy food. It was good vibes.
2. Crispin Best’s Hello
In retrospect, maybe NHL2000 wasn’t very good vibes. What IS definitely good vibes, however, is this poetry collection from Crispin Best.
All I can say about this is that blitzing it cover to cover is guaranteed to make you buzzing to be alive. Crispin brings joy to everything he touches. He’s an absolute pro at Noticing And Appreciating Things, from the sound of ambulance sirens to the colour of your own socks. My life as a writer was certainly changed forever when I was lent a copy of this by my buddy Dan Power.
3. My buddy Dan Power
My buddy Dan Power secured his place in my league of literary influences when he lent me his copy of Crispin Best’s Hello. However, he is also an outstanding poet and person in his own right.
Dan’s work defines what it is to be a certified rascal. His unique, playful tone and innate spidey-sense for wordplay is, frankly, ridiculous. He can’t keep getting away with it, but I hope he does because I’ve been riffing/ripping off his style for years. Whenever I sit down for Poem Time, I often circle back to one of the lines in his pamphlet ‘Late Morning’:
Reality is yours to play with
I don’t think you can understand just how good a room can smell until you’ve made fresh ramen from scratch. It just slaps. In both preparing and scranning, it is simply the perfect meal.
Making it really helps me to get out The Stress Zone, because there’s not really any time pressure on it. The broth can keep bubbling away for as long as you want. You can also take the time to slice up your mushrooms all nice and neat. Even eating it is chill because it stays hot for so long. 10/10 stuff very good vibes.
The title Hot Orange Squash Sky comes from a poem in the pamphlet about making ramen:)
5. Patricia Highsmith’s Carol
I didn’t actually read this until several months after finishing Hot Orange Squash Sky. But if I had, the pamphlet would have been even better.
Highsmith is one of those writers that makes every single detail of the world feel like the most beautiful thing ever. Like, yaas queen lean that brochure against a sugar bowl. Please tell me everything about chin dimples. Spare me no detail on the shape of this slice of toast.
Add in some good ol’ fashioned Yearning and I am officially out for the count. Every page of this book fucks me up gloriously. The everyday world had scarcely felt more exciting to me than it did in the weeks after finishing this book.
6. The movie In Time
Or maybe just the very existence of Justin Timberlake. Although, I feel like he is at his peak Timberlakeness in In Time.
Let me be clear: In Time is not a good movie. It’s also not a bad movie. I’d go as far to say it’s the most okay movie of all time. The concept, a world where time literally is money, should feel incredibly bait and on the nose. But it does almost work, much in the same way that Timberlake’s 2017 album Man Of The Woods almost works.
It’s hard to explain how exactly I find this inspiring. I guess it’s Andrew Niccol’s insistency to write, direct AND produce In Time - and Timberlake’s insistency to perform in movies like In Time - that reminds me to keep trying new things even when the vibes aren’t quite clicking. Just throw shit at the wall. Something, SOMETHING will stick.
7. The movie From Up On Poppy Hill
This is probably my favourite movie ever, which is funny because generally speaking I wouldn’t call myself much of a Studio Ghibli fan. I think that’s because the big hitters for Ghibli are movies like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, sprawling, magical epics where the imagination has no bounds. From Up On Poppy Hill, on the other hand, is about a bunch of people trying to clean a big house. Personally, this is the content that I live for.
When I do take a tumble into magic and fantasy, I like things to be as slow as possible. Oblivion’s atmosphere is unbeatable. During lockdown, I spent many hours just wondering about looking for nirnroot and dropping flax seeds outside people’s tents.
In the lockdown period encompassing Hot Orange Squash Sky, it was comforting to know I could always visit a world where I could go anywhere and do anything.
9. Wolverhampton Wanderers FC
Football is absolutely terrible. It’s in equal parts painfully slow and panic attack inducing. And as an institution, the sport has never been more of a toxic moral vacuum. However, when the team I like scores a goal, it is very good.
It’s actually quite embarrassing how much I care about Wolves. If we have a bad game, it will literally ruin my entire week. However, following Wolves has been the one constant in my life. Other than trucks, they are the only interest I still share with my six-year-old self. It sounds silly, but I feel like every time I’m having a real rough go of it in life, Wolves pop up with some amazing result. They’re just eleven strangers in gold shirts, but the club motto ‘out of the darkness, cometh light’ is a mantra that I regularly return to when writing.
(In the last poem of Hot Orange Squash Sky (which is predominately about Justin Timberlake), there is a line about ‘the awful way a skull breaks’. This is in reference to the horrible head injury Wolves striker Raul Jimenez suffered in a game against Arsenal in November 2020.)
10. The Sun
On the subject of light, I’d like to give a quick, final shout out to The Sun, creator of all life on Earth. It’s fair to say that, without The Sun, I would not have written Hot Orange Squash Sky.
Most of the poems take place in a setting that is very much indoors. But weirdly, if there’s only one thing I’d like people to take from the pamphlet, it’s to go outside more. Just take a little look around. Really explore the 10-minute radius of your house. I can guarantee they’ll be something out there that’s worth writing down.
The Sun reminds me to slow down and take it all in. Nothing can ever be so bad that the sun disappears. The good vibes always roll back around. The light is always reaching.
Alex's book Hot Orange Squash Sky was published by SPAM Press in November 2021. You can pick up a copy here.