Sunday, September 30, 2012

Piers Morgan: Literary genius

I have just discovered that this book is An Actual Thing

Piers Morgan: Don't You Know Who I Am?

With the stunning call-out quote from possibly its only decent review: "Every page is gold - Heat"

Every page may indeed be gold, but a look inside proves there is only one page, and the text itself runs to a mere three words, which we reproduce in full below.

Chapter One: Don't You Know Who I am?

"A massive bell-end"

Glad to have been of service.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekend Video: Chemical Brothers - Velodrome

Perhaps the best thing to come out of the Olympics this year. Apart from James Bond and the Queen, all the winning things, and stuff.

Friday, September 28, 2012

"Like a clown car crashing into another clown car - tragic, but it's only clowns"

It is often said that anybody who expresses an interest in running for office should automatically be disqualified from running for office, as the kind of person who wants to be in charge of everything should never, in any circumstances, be given access to the levers of power.

Back in the 1990s when I was some sort of feckless idiot, I was a member of the high-IQ organisation Mensa. I know what you're thinking, but the stark truth is that they know how to throw a good party, and I have yet to apologise to forthright TV critic Garry Bushell-On-The-Box for making off with his umbrella after a boozy Mensa evening in a rainy London.

After several years of membership, I was asked if I would like to take a more active role in running the organisation, and went to a few committee meetings and subscribed to their door stop-sized "internal politics" newsletter.

Now, I've got to be very careful about what I say here, as a few of the people I met in these circumstances could be most charitably described as "precious", while others were - at best - stark raving bonkers, and would write twenty page letters to the newsletter (subsequently published in full) over the choice of biscuits at committee meetings and what would happen to the very fabric of society if Bourbon Creams were ever served again. Minor grudges were held for years, laid out in full-on "He said, she said" fury in the newsletter, which often needed a fork-lift truck to deliver such was its size.

I quickly realised there were three kinds of people at the top end of the group - those who wanted to be in charge; those who had taken a good look at the people who wanted to be in charge, and ran very far away; and those who watched from the sidelines because it was funny. Funny, like a clown car crashing into another clown car - tragic, but it's only clowns. I was in the last group.

Remember, these were people who were in the top two percent of measured intelligence, and have a (quite possibly framed) certificate to prove it.

This brings us back to the original premise: People who say they desire high office not being allowed withing a hundred miles of a committee room. And this also goes for people who say (for example) "I have no desire to be leader of the Conservative Party", when they actually mean "Me! Me! As Orpheus, fair Eurydice and the pantheon of Gods on Mount Olympus are my witness, vote for ME!". Not naming any names.

The only way that this situation can be remedied is by appointing our leaders by lottery (although this gives us an unacceptable one-in-sixty-million chance that Joey Barton will end up as Prime Minister), in which anybody who expresses desire for high office should prove their ambition through a Big Brother-style reality TV show which I shall call "Locked in the Cupboard Under the Stairs For Six Months and Fed on Scraps From the Bins Behind Nando's), where "sudden death elimination" would mean exactly that.

We'll be seeing much less towsel-haired bufoonery if that were the case, and national discourse would be much the better for it, I dare say.

If there's one thing that Mensa had right, it was the written entrance exam. If you put me in charge of the internet, it would be the first thing I'd introduce for anybody who wants to comment on this article. Not that I want to be in charge*.

* Actually, I do.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Like a techno-Ninja, I emerge triumphant as I download and install Apple's new IOS6 operating system on my iPad and iPhone, because I am a smug Apple mobile device owner.
But what's this? Where has the good old, reliable, Google Maps gone? And what's this imposter Apple Maps that has appeared in its place. I am not the only person flummoxed by Apple dropping a perfectly cromulent service for one of their own, especially as reports emerge of - let's be honest - a certain lack of accuracy. Word comes in of apocalyptic images of destroyed cities and death, death, DEATH. Apple's maps are -oh-ho! - rotten to the core!!!

In fact, I'm pretty sure we're all agreed, Apple Maps features some of the worst mapping blunders since some monk sat down in front of a blank piece of parchment and wrote "Here be Dragons" and "Beware of Ye Edge of Ye Worlde" to save himself a bit of work.

Worse, even than those (quite possibly apocryphal) Victorian explorers, who pointing at a mountain and hoping for its name, wrote down the local dialect for "It's a mountain, you bloody idiot" before going off and actually naming it after the man who was daft enough to front the money for the whole expedition.

Jane decided to take a look at her home village, only to discover that not only does it not exist (although a recent nuclear attack you might have missed could be to blame), but neither do many of the roads leading to the place.

Then there is Basingstoke, a town of 83,000 people, lifted bodily and dumped in the middle of a field ten miles to the west, with the tiny village of Wasing (population three blokes and a dog) getting a promotion to the rank of "urban sprawl".

Basingstoke: Somewhere, somewhere in a field in Hampshire. Presumably where the Apple Maps developers left an important part of their brain.

Oh, and that's not Aldershot, that's Farnborough Airfield, where they hold the world famous Aldershot Air Show.

So, the proof being in the pudding, I tested Apple Maps to see if it really IS dreadful with a guided trip from home in Fleet to work in Reading.

All seemed to work well enough until I neared my destination, where I was dumped on my own, in rough end of town, clutching an iPad. So, yes. Personal experience says it is terrible. And a bit scary.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Judge Dredd vs My Head

To Camberley in Surrey for the first time in 25 years, to see the Judge Dredd movie at the local picture house. The town is much as I remember it, except for the addition of a new shopping centre; but I was disappointed not to spot the Camberley Cowboy, a grown man who used to walk up and down the High Street dressed in full cowboy fig, because he (one presumes) liked to walk around the town dressed as a cowboy.

Nearby Reading had (and still has, as a matter of fact) the entirely charming and slightly eccentric Reading Elvis; my home town of Fleet has a genuine political party leader in the majestic Howling Laud Hope of the Raving Loonies; while Camberley had the Camberley Cowboy, who seems to have ridden off ino the sunset and been replaced by a large concrete elephant on the main road into town.

Also, the UK headquarters of Krispy Kreme Donuts. So not all bad, then.

But that is by-the-by, for I was there for the cinema. Dredd is one of the few times that I have paid out cash money to see a 3D movie, essentially because I'm a huge fan of 2000AD (with a much dog-eared, torn and graffitied copy of issue one in a box under my bed), and there are no 2D showings within sensible distance. Three dimensional movies give me a three dimensional headache, invariably leading to very much three dimensional rich, brown vomit in the car park afterwards.

It is usually, seconds after wiping rich, brown three-dimensional vomit from my face with the back of my hand, that I realise I have to drive home with my real-world depth perception well and truly destroyed, and it is time to call a taxi. Thanks, Hollywood. Thanks a bunch.

However, you have to hand it to the makers of Dredd, for they've made the 3D an essential part of the movie, as the illegal drugs that play an essential part of the plot slow down reality, enhance awareness of bright sparkly things floating around, and make people getting shot in the head at close range look all the more sickeningly beautiful. And there are a lot of people getting shot in the head at close range, and I think the sparkly things floating around were - mostly - their teeth.

 Dredd 3D is also the first three-dimensional movie ever made to avoid this scene, required by law of all films of the genre:


Dredd is seated, feet up on his desk. Judge Anderson enters without knocking.

Judge Anderson: "Hey, Dredd. When this case is all over, care to join me for a spot of fishing? I hear they're bitin' down by the Mutie Canal!"

[Judge Anderson waves a fishing rod at the camera for several awkward seconds]

Dredd: "Not right now, rookie. Can't you see I'm busy?"

[Dredd throws a baseball at the camera]

Dredd (cont): "And haven't you got work to do?"

Judge Andseron (sighs): "Yes, boss. Drokkin' slave-driver."

[Anderson picks up a feather duster, and starts dusting. You know, toward the camera] 

...hence the 18 Certificate.

 Movies in 3D are fine for people whose heads can stand the experience without having to spend the next twelve hours in bed with a bucket nearby. For the rest of us, I'd be obliged if the producers offered a near-equivalent alternative where actors are employed to re-enact the film on a stage for the benefit of paying customers.

We could call this new development "going to the theatre". I don't know about you, but I think this could catch on.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Spy Who Loved xXx

Good grief, I haven't lived. There are DOZENS of brainless action movies out there I'm seeing for the first time in my life. It's a hard, gormless slog, but I'm getting there, and seeing these films from a slightly different angle to most other viewers.

One film which I witnessed for the first time recently is the Vin Diesel action thriller xXx, which is surely one of the greatest moving pictures of the modern era. However, coming into it as an xXx virgin, I soon realise that it is a direct cut-and-shut copy of another movie great, Roger Moore's finest moment: The Spy Who Loved Me

Let's compare and contrast

xXx: Vin Diesel falls in love with Russian spy
TSWLM: Roger Moore falls in love with Russian spy

xXx: Vin Diesel's code name is XXX
TSWLM: Russian spy's code name is XXX

xXx: Exciting snow chase sequence
TSWLM: Exciting snow chase sequence

xXx: Escapes from helicopter attack on a motorbike
TSWLM: Escapes from helicopter attack in a car

xXx: Vin Diesel has stars and stripes parachute
TSWLM: Roger Moore has Union flag parachute

xXx: Villain has secret plan to destroy humanity with (a frankly rubbish) submarine
TSWLM: Villain has secret plan to destroy humanity with nuclear submarines

xXx:Vin Diesel's cover is blown almost immediately
TSWLM: Roger Moore's Bond was the worst undercover agent ever

xXx: Lengthy scene in which Vin Diesel is shown unusual weapons
TSWLM: "Now, listen carefully 007"

xXx: American muscle car with loads of added weapons
TSWLM: British sports car with loads of added weapons

xXx: Comes up against bad guy with golden dentures

xXx:Closing scene in which Diesel and Russian spy enjoy passionate embrace whilst being unwittingly observed by superiors
TSWLM: Closing scene in which Roger Moore and Russian spy enjoy passionate embrace whilst being unwittingly observed by superiors
Any discussion on the cinematic delight that is xXx cannot pass without mention of two things:

1. The Russian villain wears his hair in a black curly mullet in a clear tribute to 1980s antiques-and-crime drama Lovejoy.

2. A solar-powered submarine? What kind of useless evil genius invents a solar-powered submarine? A solar-powered submarine (and I don't mind spoilering the ending here) which explodes the second it goes underwater
.My rating: 1 out of 10. A brainless action movie classic.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Socks: Just where do they go?

I have fallen in with many people in my years on the internet, but none more fascinating that the splendid chaps who run Socked, a sock subscription service. You heard. Save yourself the bother of looking for lost socks - or even washing them - with a steady supply on gentlemen's sockery coming through your letterbox. As businesses go, it is either genius or mad. I think it is both.

As the Socked press release thudded into email inboxes the world over to screams of both delight and horror (I myself felt a great disturbance in The Force, as if a million voices cried out "Socks!" at once, then silence...), my eye was drawn to a question they posed in the "Notes to Editors" section: Just where do lost socks end up?

It is a question that has vexed mankind for as long as socks have existed, and the answer - you will be unsurprised to hear - is so much more than "in a corner under your bed, what kind of bloody stupid question is that?" As even the most lax of observers will tell you: Even numbers of matching socks go in the wash, odd numbers of entirely different footwear come out. WHAT IS GOING ON?

We've set our lab rats onto this problem, and, as you'd expect from any delve into pseudo-scientific quackery, the solution involves a mix of chaos theory, relativity, Schroedingers Cat, quantum mechanics and some impressive looking guff with loads of long words we pulled out of our backside.

And the answer we have come up with is this:


That's right. It's still there, and you are just looking at it with a set of eyes that ignores at least eight - possibly nine - dimensions, depending on which version of brane theory is in vogue this week. It has, in fact, temporarily slipped sideways into a nearby parallel version of the planet Earth, and will return when it is quite ready, thank you very much.

You may be surprised that this phnomenon even exists, but it is far more common than you think: It is also the reason the barman never sees you in a busy pub; and also how major corporations hide the small print when you accidentally sign your children into slavery down the salt mines. It has happened to us all at some stage in our lives.

One of the side effects to this, however, may be less than satisfactory. Residents of these parallel Earths are deluged with tens of millions of odd socks to the point that they were willing to resort to coss-dimensional warfare as soon as the technology becomes available. Reports that they have made a planet-killing bomb out of an unlaundered sock cannot be discounted.

Odd socks will be the doom of this society, mark my words.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


There is a body of opinion that Microwave Cooking For One is the saddest book in the world. Up until today, I would have agreed, until I saw this little gem in a local charity shop:

I make no apology to colonial readers who have no idea of the life (and death) of Rod Hull, needless to say there are probably people out there who still think that the bird did it, and this book is all the evidence they need.

Poor, dead Rod Hull. Poor, lonely Emu.

Weekend Video: History Today

I am indebted to Mr Andrew Fanton for reminding me that these sketches exist - Baddiel and Newman as two old duffers hurling petty insults at each other on an otherwise serious TV programme

Here's a few to be getting on with - it always raises a smile in WH Smiths when I see the genuine History Today magazine on the shelf.

See that screwed up piece of paper with the words "Meh meh meeeh meeeeh" written on it?

"I am aware of such a piece of detritus"

That's your MySpace page, that is.

Friday, September 21, 2012

On actually quite liking the Olympics in the end

So, we've had the London Olympics and the London Paralympics, and the spectacular opening ceremonies that went with them. If fact, we've become so good at holding opening ceremonies this year, we really ought to be thinking up other events we can host just so we can have another one.

A Kids' Olympics, just for young'uns under the age of twelve, running round screaming and being sick as dogs. This would be the best Olympic Games ever.

Of course, we'd have to weed out the drugs cheats competing with illegal levels of Sunny D; and not to mention pushy parents, who will be banned from standing next to the running track screaming "Come of Sebastian! Kick the little fucker in the shins!" before punching another pushy parent in the face.

Or, perhaps, an Animal Olympics - an Anilympics, as it were - but only if there is a Dog That Looks The Most Like Your Head Of State competition, which would be walked by Iran's Mahmud Ahmadinejad, whose pet pooch was accidentally spanged in the face with a shovel as a puppy.

Can't help thinking that an Anilympics opening ceremony runs the risk of an overdose of bum sniffing, and some of the smaller contestants getting eaten completely TO DEATH. Such is the way of the natural world, and this must be encouraged.

Or a cynical bloggers' Olympics where... oh, forget it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter - The Long Earth

Pratchett is one of the true giants of British storytelling, and he has written some genuinely brilliant, exciting and thought-provoking books. The Long Earth, alas, is not one of them. It grieves me to say this, as I even once helped to run his fan club before the Internet did away with the need for such things, but The Long Earth really ought to have been called The Really Long Earth In Which Nothing Much Happens To Some Dull People.

The Long Earth, the first in an "exciting new collaboration" (their bumpf, not mine) with epic sci-fi writer Stephen Baxter is a superb concept, which handled with Pratchett's wit could have been awesome. The fact that he forgot - in the main - to write with said wit is an enormous disappointment. I really, relly wanted to like it. But the old spark was not there.

Yes, there are a couple of Pterry woofers to delight the fans, and the first few chapters in which mankind is opened up to limitless parallel Earths through a Stepper device powered by a potato are wonderful. But all of a sudden this terrific story gives way to a lengthy quest in which nothing much happens for 300 pages.

You can count the main characters on the hand of a particularly inept bomb disposal technician, but you'd be hard-pushed to remember any of them. The female lead - whose name I have already forgotten - is Pratchett Generic Angry Yet Attractive Woman, so familiar to Discworld readers, and seemed to be angry at just about anything. Even Lobsang, a Tibetan motorcycle repairman reincarnated as a supercomputer is a brilliant character lost to po-faced storytelling, with a climax that would have put William Shatner's Star Trek V to shame.

The only redeeming feature is the subplot revolving around a female police officer investigating extremist groups emerging from "non-steppers". Criminally underused, excised from the main book this little story would have made an interesting pamphlet on its own. A shame because the entire denouement revolved around this barely-mentioned concept, which was by far and away the most interesting part, deserving of a book of its own.

At best, it's a short story stretched to 350 pages, which promised much and delivered little. I am disappoint.

Hopefully Pratchett's "Dodger", an almost-but-not-quite Discworld crime story set in Victorian London looks like a return to form. Even your idols are entitled to an off day.

If I were still doing the Scaryduckworth-Lewis method of rating things for excellence (which I am not, and I apologise to fans of sexism for my change in direction), this would rate as "Sarah Palin frotting herself against a grizzly bear" - great for the fanboys, but little else.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Alistair Coleman is the best person ever, also something about Emma Watson Kardashian swimsuit buy Viagra Cialis weightloss

I hope you've managed to get past the clumsy headline for this piece, it being my (doomed) attempt to harvest more clicks from the wilds of the internet through the dark arts of what sharp-suited people are calling Search Engine Optimisation. And the Lord above knows how I need to boost my brand, after than nasty business with the bus full of nuns.

Sadly, I've had to throw in a few words which represent the bottom half of the Internet in a vain attempt to SEO myself up, and this is probably the result of this selling of my soul, and why we're not allowed nice things.

SEO - if you don't know - is the business of getting you web content higher up on Google (other search engines are available) through clever use of keywords, placement of links, and other stuff that is certainly not evil, according to my not-evil-at-all pal Mark, who runs the not-evil-at-all Improve SEO agency. And he is certainly not evil, at all.

The most obvious symptom of SEO is the growth of the news headline to almost ridiculous proportions, just to make sure it has all the details for when the Google (other search engines are available) web spider comes to call.

While the print edition of your Super Soaraway may have the simple headline "Sex Pervert Jailed", this will be completely lost in a million billion other news stories about sex perverts. Post not-evil-at-all SEO, the headline would appear on the web thus:

Sex Pervert Vincent Aloysius Volestrangler, 32, of Weymouth, Dorset, jailed for nine years at Woolwich Crown Court for spanking a statue of Winston Churchill with a carpet slipper for HIS FILTHY GRATIFICATION

That just about covers all the bases, and includes a bit of gratuitous ALL CAPITALS for the Daily Mail crowd.

The trouble with is approach is that the entire story is told in the headline, and unless there are particularly interesting photographs of poor, dead Winston being spanked, or sordid details of a doomed marriage to the statue of King George III on Weymouth seafront, the job of the journalist might as well be to write blah blah de blah for 500 words, in the tone of voice usually heard by Charlie Brown's teacher.

As a some-time tech journalist, I've been to enough conferences on making money from the internet to have heard a hundred managing directors of websites that no longer exist say "Content is King". This is clearly cobblers, because we've already learned that it is the headline that rules, with the content itself coming a distant last in the King stakes behind a) Elvis, b) Juan Carlos of Spain, and c) Mark King out of 80s funksters Level 42.

Also, I've been to enough of these things to be high on the hockey-stick curve when it comes to Buzzword Bingo.

SEO, then: It's evil, bad, naughty, out-of-order, BUY VIAGRA CIALIS, but necessary.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Helping the police with their inquiries

Dear The Police

Congratulations on being the best criminal-catching organisation in this country! In terms of catching crims, you'll always be number one with me, never mind the few bad apples etc etc etc.

Here's a tip: Give it a rest with the press releases and trumpeting to the media every time you catch "Britain's Worst Paedophile" or "Britain's Worst Mass Murderer".

To be perfectly honest, we're only really interested if you catch the really good ones.

Anyone can catch the country's worst mass murderer: He's the one in the blood-stained T-shirt, handing out leaflets outside Debehams saying "I've got grannies buried in my back garden". It hardly takes Sherlock Holmes to drag him in, pull his bungalow apart and push him down the stairs at the cop shop a few times until he confesses.

What you want to be looking out for are people who DO NOT dress in blood-stained T-shirts, handing out leaflets advertising guided tours of their top ten shallow graves. They're the ones with something to hide, and you want to be keeping an eye on them, possibly through a network of CCTV cameras, relentless internet traffic monitoring, and a red light that blinks in a control room every time somebody buys a shovel and/or a tin bath from B&Q.

Hope this helps.

Be lucky.

Your pal,

Albert O'Balsam

Monday, September 17, 2012

A post featuring Judge Dredd porn which will only mean anything to fans of a) Judge Dredd and b) porn

With the new Judge Dredd movie in the cinemas, 2000AD comic came up with a challenge: Come up with a new, seventh bullet for the Judge's iconic gun.

How could I - with a very battered copy of Issue One of The Galaxy's Greatest Comic in a box under my bed - let them down?

The Fifty Shades of Gaze into the Fist of Dredd round: Q Division proudly announces the Lawgiver round that inflicts no physical injury, but immediately sets the perp into writing Judge Dredd extreme porn novels whilst serving their sentence in the Iso-Cubes.

(Dredd's domestic housekeeper Maria slipped out of her panties and stood in her naked mature glory in front of the Judge. "Do me Joe," she said, summoning up the courage from somewhere to address the lawman directly, "Show me what you do to the perps, you naughty, naughty man."

His helmet glistening in the half-light of his sparse apartment on the 105th floor of Rowdy Yates block, Joe Dredd managed nothing but a single word in reply: "Stomm!"

This was one thing they hadn't taught him about in the Great Hall of Justice. He would do as Maria requested, but he would think of Judge Anderson.)

Feeding directly onto the Amazon Kindle store, this raises much-needed cash for the Justice Department in times of financial difficulty.
Drokk, I have no shame.

Dredd 3D: Bit of a review

Yes, it's excellent. Yes, the 3D is beautifully shot. Yes, it is extraordinarily violent. Yes, there are enough old-skool 2000AD references going on in the background to keep the fans smirking in their seats. Yes, Jo'Burg looks entirely believable as Mega City One. Yes, Ma-Ma was a brilliantly horrible villain, and this is the first action film for some time not to treat female characters as sex objects.

No, proper Judge Dredd would NEVER have passed Anderson on her judging exam.

Yes, it stands head-and-shoulders above the Stallone version. Yes, go and see it so they can raise enough money for a Dark Judges sequel.

In summary: Yes, mostly.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The office carpet: A beginner's guide

I've worked in this particular office for the best part of four years now, a double-decker aircraft hangar-sized room full of the best journalism money can buy. My, how time flies when you're having fun and you're having hallucinations brought on by the carpet tiles.

But it was only the other morning as I arrived at some unspeakably early hour that the penny dropped.

There IS a reason why the carpet looks like this:

With one square missing in the corner, it's a giant version of one of those sliding tile puzzles you get in Christmas crackers.

Given enough time, and the chance to stack all the desks outside in the rain for a couple of months, I reckon I can solve it. Judging by the lovely colours, it's going to be a sunset. Or the inside of a kitten. Or a kitten turned inside-out during a lovely sunset.

I am not mad. Just having hallucinations brought on by the carpet tiles

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Weekend Video: I Forgot That Was a Song special

From the 'Accidentally Pressed Random Play On My MP3 Player And Finding Songs I Forgot Existed' Department

Nick Cave: There She Goes, My Beautiful World

Midge Ure: No Regrets

Good news! This version features the late and enormously talented Japan bass player Mick Karn. Bad News! Phil Collins on drums, the curse of "...and friends", whenever a musician puts together an "...and friends" supergroup.

Friday, September 14, 2012

SKY MEAT UPDATE (with added nudity)

Regular readers will remember the repeated difficulties we have encountered with Sky Meat Lady, our upstairs neighbour who has a habit of flinging uncooked foodstuffs out of her kitchen window onto our front garden.

You may be pleased to hear that things have gone somewhat quiet on the Sky Meat front, as her evening tend - these days - to involve sitting by her front door drinking cheap cider from a bottle in her lingerie, or by greeting unsuspecting neighbours with the eye-peeling sight of voluminous bum cleavage. Apart from these disturbing habits, she's mostly harmless.

So, it was as Jane and I sat in our back garden of a fine summer evening, enjoying a fine French white and discussing the great works of literature (or the length of the dog's nose - I forget the details), that I catch a flash of pink from the upstairs bedroom window.

I am shaken to my core.

However, on second glance, it appears it is merely Sky Meat Lady folding a bedsheet, which is pink.

Sipping my charming French white, I am no longer shaken to my core.

Then she puts the pink bedsheet down, and she is - to coin a phrase - in the nip. I've seen everything.

I am shaken to my core, and my mind starts to write a "Dear Fiesta" letter as part of its defence mechanism. I pretend not to look, but my ninja skills have let me down. Let me down badly, for I am rumbled.

"Why," Jane asks, "the furtive looks upstairs?"

Why lie? "She's in the nip and I am shaken to the core."

"To the core?"


I yearn for her to start flinging the meat again (not sexy slang).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How many shoes are too many shoes? Shoes

The Great Tower of Shoes

They're quite useful, and some people quite like them. In fact, some people like shoes so much, they will own quite extraordinary numbers.

Of course, there are sensible limits to the numbers of shoes a person can own without being seen as either a bit weird or a cast member from The Only Way Is Essex, a figure which is open to considerable debate.

According to latest figures released by the International Sexist Thought Institute, a Colchester-based think tank dedicated to sexist talk whilst downing large quantities of expensive lager, women own at least (and I quote) "Oooh, an absolute metric shedload of shoes, and they don't even wear half of them."

This is fair enough, some women need loads of shoes, just as men need loads of barely-used bottles of after-shave. I'm no mean after-shave buyer, but I've got enough bottles of the stuff in boxes under my bed to make dozens of wonderfully-smelling Molotov cocktails should the fabric of our society finally collapse into an orgy of anarchy.

But back to shoes, and the whole reason for this train of thought: How many is too many for a man to own?

After an unfortunate bout of footwear buying, I suddenly went from two pairs of shoes (both of which were several years old with soles worn so thin I could feel the cracks in the pavement) to five pairs, which I feel are an extreme limit for one man. One pair cost me £45 from Debenhams, a mind-boggling sum of money that still gives me a nose-bleed when I think about it, even if they were paid for out of gift tokens which could have been spent on at least four pairs of value-brand jeans. People tell me that others are prepared to shell out even higher amounts for shoes. That's crazy talk.

I also have two pairs of carpet slippers - a totally unnecessary extravagance - one to wear about the house, and the other with a slightly harder sole which allows short errands around the garden and out as far as the postbox down the road without looking like I'm wearing slippers in public. Once, at the age of eleven, I accidentally wore my slippers to school, so don't ever tell me that I do not know about what it means to feel cheek-burning shame.

In the cold light of day, my footwear indulgence looks just awful. Worse than my car history should the day ever come that I am the here-today-gone-tomorrow celebrity in Top Gear's Star in a Reasonably Priced Car:

The £45 gold-plated Debenhams shoes
The discount hiking shoes
The old Shoe Zone paper-thin shoes
The genuine antique Shoe Zone running shoes (last worn for actual running on 13th April 2008)
The funeral/job interview/wedding shoes (worn up to twice a year for the last decade and a half)
The slip-on slippers
The going outside slippers
That's seven pairs of footwear, and I fear society may judge me for this.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Tribute to Jaws: The Revenge

"I have never seen the film, but by all accounts it was terrible. However I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific." - Michael Caine

As you know, I'm a big fan of terrible movies, and they don't come more terrible than the fourth instalment of the Jaws series. Spielberg's original film was a masterpiece, but by the time we're a decade and three further movies down the line, the law of diminishing returns has well and truly kicked in and the result is one of the very worst atrocities ever committed to celluloid.

The premise is paper-thin: There's a shark about, and it's taking revenge on the Brody family by killing them all to DEATH one-by-one, through some sort of shaky sixth sense that doesn't actually exist.

And the execution: There is only one star, and that's the huge rubber shark that's gumming people to DEATH with its big rubber teeth after spying them out with its big empty rubber eyes. Absolutely no expense spared on special effects, and hoots of laughter every time it appears.

In fact, you can see where the budget went every time Michael Caine appears on screen, mugging his way through a god-awful script in his mid-80s wilderness years when his quality filter was rather lower than when at the height of his powers. "Rubber sharks! Thaaasands of them!"

Plot written on the back of a beer mat; hilarious continuity errors; exceptionally hilarious facial hair, tight jeans and shoulder pads; and - of course - people getting hilariously killed to DEATH by a comedy rubber shark.

And, frankly, I'm not giving anything away by spoilering the ending. Michael Caine tries - and fails - to crash an actual bloody plane into the rubber shark, before the widow of poor, dead Chief Brody stabs the thing to DEATH with the sharp end of a yacht. Because that is how you kill a shark with a grudge. My only beef is that they cut the evil voodoo witch doctor scene, which is the shark's supposed motivation. And the musical numbers*.

I urge you to seek out and watch this anti-masterpiece, for it is comedy of the highest order that you should experience once (and once only) in your life. It's on ITV4 every other day - you can hardly miss it.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Haynes Manuals: All fun and games until somebody loses their vital organs

"Each manual is based on a complete stripdown and rebuild" the good people at Haynes say of the world-famous workshop manuals. All well and good if you're looking - say - for instructions on replacing the drive belt on a 1997 Nissan Micra, but something from the pit of HELL if you're dealing with sentient creatures. For eg:

Remember: "Each manual is based on a complete stripdown and rebuild". Who - I ask you - is going to tell that to Scoop, Muck and Dizzy that we're taking them to pieces for their own good? And as far as I know, there is no anaesthetic that works on cybernetic organisms, so you'll just have to put up with the screams and pitiful sobs as you ripp out the distributor cap and throw it on the pile with the rest of the hideously bleeding motor parts.

And then the rebuild, hoping beyond hope that you haven't done any permanent damage. All it takes is the good/evil flange to be installed back-to-front and you've got thirty tons of mechanical digger running amok round the town, all fun and games until somebody loses their vital organs.

On the plus side, the under-the-counter version features a full-strip down of Wendy.

There's also a Thomas the Tank Engine version. Each manual is based on a full strip down and rebuild of Ringo Starr. Enduring mental image. Sorry.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dictator Golf

So it turns out that Adolf Hitler Crazy Golf is an actual real thing that exists.

There is - of course - only one rule to Adolf Hitler Crazy Golf, and that is that you only get one ball.

It's an 18 Heil course, and you have to get past the Windmill Hole, based on the invasion of the Netherlands. Avoid the bunker at the 18th. It's a bit nasty.

Other dictator-themed sports may include that giddy Cambodian mixture of snooker and ideological mass murder that is Pol Pot Black; and the North Korean Ping Pong-Il.

Cambodia also has its own crazy golf course: Pol Putt.

I'll get me coat.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Awful pun of the day

I've made a horror movie about a series of bloody murders in a haunted caravan.

I'd tell you about the plot, but it's all in the trailer.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Weekend Video: George Osborne gets booed at the Paralympics

Whatever your political hue, there is no greater sight than somebody in power getting roundly booed by the masses, and in this case, Chancellor George Osborne getting his comeuppance at the hands of 70,000 spectators in the Olympic Stadium this week.

But why is George smiling like some sort of demented lunatic? The reason is simple: Waylen Smithers (just off camera) has convinced him that the crowd was shouting "Os-boo-urns"

I was saying Os-boo-urns.

Friday, September 07, 2012

My plan to defeat the right-wing knuckle-draggers

The news that the BNP's so-called "Truth Truck" got stuck under bridge in Sunderland brought forth gales of laughter from anybody who thinks they are nothing but a bunch of knuckle-dragging incompetents. Which is most people. Confused by a height limit sign that was written in both fiendish foreign metric mesaurements and good, stout feet and inches, the driver took a wrong turn, and the Truth Truck found itself wedged so hard under the bridge that they had to let down the tyres to get it out.

The incident also caused huge delays on the area's Metro system, showing that this bunch of fascists can't even be relied on to get the trains running on time.

But, we hear you ask, what is this Truth Truck all about? The BNP has jumped on the bandwagon of what they see as creeping Islamification of British culture and are seeking a ban on Halal foods in British stores and restaurants. There's no way they're having this Johnny Foreigner meat in good old British Sunday roasts if they've got any say in these things.

While I'm no big fan of Halal slaughter methods (in fact, I'm slowly moving towards becoming a full-on veggie, and any dietry restriction that's based on centuries-old religion doctrine is first-level madness), you don't hear the increasingly loud right wing shouting for a ban on Kosher slaughter, which is much the same. Because, in their way of thinking, that's just not Kosher.

But there is one thing I've noticed, and that's the increased labelling of foodstuffs as "Halal" in supermarkets that isn't even meat, essentially because the big stores know an expanding market when they see one. And I'm all in favour of dumping my anti-religion credentials and giving this policy a hearty thumbs up, for one reason only:

If we label everything in Tescos, Asda and Lidl as "halal", we can starve the BNP and EDL into submission.
I've seen EDL marches, and God knows they could lose a few pounds.

Imagine the confusion when they see the halal logos on their Pot Noodles, Kestrel lager and good, British Vesta Curries. That's the kind of community integration I can believe in.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Camping: Man versus inflatable roof rack

One thing I never thought I'd say in this life: My car has an inflatable roof rack.

No, hang it, these are a combination of words that no person would ever consider, even if they are in the market for extra space in their car when weight and storage issues are both pressing factors.

And yet, I find myself declaring - in public and with no money changing hands - that I have an inflatable roof rack on my car. The fact that my car is a blue 1997 Nissan Micra with one not-very-careful lady owner has rather opened me up to admitting anything about my motor, such that it is.

And the incredible thing is that the inflatable roof rack has been one of our most successful ever purchases, fixing to the car in seconds through up-to-the-minute "string" technology and the putting of heavy things on top of your car that won't blow off as you go along.

Then it pissed down with rain, and we found that the water soaks the straps, comes inside the car and drips on your head. I dare say the makers will tell us that we were doing it wrong, for eg, driving when it was pissing down with rain.

However, his being the 21st Century where we were lied to by The Man about flying cars, jet packs and monkey butlers, I will settle quite happily for inflatable motoring accessories.

Let's hear it for the inflatable roof rack!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Camping: Man versus nature

Camping! A battle between man and the elements since time immemorial, a life under canvas as families go back to basics, living off their wits and whatever the land can provide. Just as long as there is an electrical hook-up and decent wireless reception.

The act of loading one's earthly goods into the back, the front and on top of a Nissan Micra to live for a week under the stars in the New Forest is essentially the 21st Century version of providing for your family through your long-forgotten hunter-gatherer skills. For it is nothing short of Alpha Male behaviour to discover that there is 3G reception near the toilet block, and not tell anybody, particularly not your camp enemy.

A camp holiday is nothing without having a camp enemy. In the loose camping tribe that makes up both yourself and the other tents on your site, there will be the camp smug git who is the enemy to all. He is driving a brand new German car with trophy wife and exactly two blonde children with unlikely names. He will have the biggest tent with a massive awning, which will - of course - glow not with gas lantern, but with portable TV. He will push in at the washing-up station and the shower block, and leave all the gates open.

His will also be the tent where you walk your dog up and down, down and up until you get the required result, because he is your camp enemy. Then, you feel guilty, clean it up, and nod good morning when he uses up the last of the toilet paper in the communal john.

It is, although you don't know it, every man for himself in these circumstances, particularly when you find that the village General Store is actually a Generally We Don't Store Anything Except The Daily Mail And Sometimes Jam, and you arrive at the local cafe to find your camp enemy already there, smugly tucking into the last cream tea for thirty miles.

It is at that exact moment that General Store receives an unexpected supply of fresh, no-questions-asked meat, and you may smugly tuck into the last cream tea for thirty miles, before returning to your empty life of numb consumerism and occasional murder, your unearthly need for Swingball (The true Sport of Kings) well and truly sated for another year.

Such are the trials of the middle classes.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Think Once, Think Twice, Think 'Don't Cut off Your Own Finger'

I chopped the top off my finger the other night.

As blood spurted all over the kitchen, I am sad to say that my first reaction was not to put a stop to the blood that was spurting all over the kitchen; neither was it to contact Jane so that I might take both parts of my still twitching body to hospital. It was "I've got to put this on Twitter."

So I Tweeted it.

Then, my second reaction, as blood spurted all over the kitchen, was "I could get five hundred words of quality comedy out of this."

In what must rank as the world's most middle class accident ever, I rendered my finger in twain whilst not paying attention whilst slicing salad in a mandolin, a hideously sharp kitchen implement much loved by the posh.

There followed a three-hour wait in the A&E Department at Frimley Park Hospital (twinned with Poo), made extraordinarily less bearable by the extended family of somebody who didn't need to be there barging in on the triage nurse every five minutes demanding that she be seen to there and then. They then went on a rampage of assaulting the vending machines, and stomped around like naughty children when told that the Ambulance bays outside were for ambulances, and not their free personal parking. Some of us were dying there.

The information screens were in Comic Sans (The Font of Champions) along with horribly smiley and inappropriate clip art pointing out that they're YOUR emergency services. HELL ON EARTH, I think you will agree.

This is the second time I've been to A&E at Frimley Park, and I now have come to the conclusion that these places need separate waiting rooms for Middle Class kitchen accidents, where we can compare wounds and cooking tips, far, far away from the velour track-suited masses. Separate waiting rooms also for posh older women who were dusting over the sideboard wearing no knickers and fell onto a statuette of Admiral Lord Nelson and I shall sue any man or woman who casts doubt on my story, so help me I've friends in high places.

Call me a snob, but this is the kind of NHS reform I'd vote for. And the other guy who had sliced his hand open with a kitchen knife whilst filleting fish agreed.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Your Author versus The Man in the Black Audi

I've had some ups and downs in my life, but if there is one thing I am proud of, it is the fact that I've never sunk so low that I've had to sleep in my car.

As a worker who routinely finds himself on late night and early morning shifts, the sight of lorries parked in lay-bys - their rear doors open to give the illegal immigrants a chance to breathe - while their drivers sleep the required number of hours that the law allows is a common one. I, for one, an thankful for this particular bit of Eurocrat meddling, as these laws have cut down the chance of my being killed entirely to death by a bleary-eyed trucker, veering all over the A33 with forty tonnes of tractor parts in his trailer after at 26-hour drive from the other end of Romania.

What one does not expect to see is a large black Audi parked in the same layby, night after night, early morning after early morning, its windows steamed up to indicate that there is a person - or people - inside.

Its regular position on a main trunk road just outside Reading gives the lie to my initial assumption that it is a couple in the midst of the Acts of Venus, and it soon becomes clear to me that this is a driver who has sunk to the ultimate indignity: sleeping in their car.

But who, I ask myself, could this be? Who would sleep in a layby on the A33 in a black Audi? Who wants to be near London but not in it? Who wants to be reasonably near his work, but in such a position to get there - or to any other venue under his command - with relative ease? Who, indeed?

Every night I gave him a cheery toot as I went past, hoping that he would show his face, against the glass of his windscreen. Alas, it was never to be.

And then the Olympics ended, and I never saw the car again.

I've got your number, Lord Coe.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Weekend Video: Muse - Madness

The new, entirely cromulent track from Devon rockers Muse, a million billion times better than the dog's dinner they came up with for the Olympics Games.

All we need now is Madness to come up with a song called Muse and the circle is complete.

Speaking of Olympic tracks, I think these guys nailed it:

Chemical Brothers - Theme for Velodrome