Friday, November 30, 2012

A short letter to the management of the Reading Hexagon theatre

Picture by Chris Downer, Wikimedia Commons
I've lived and worked in and around the Reading area for most of my life, and there's one thing that has bugged me for year. Time to get it off my chest.

Dear the Reading Hexagon
Congratulations on maintaining your position as one of the top provincial theatres in the Thames Valley named after a kind of shape!

I have attended a number of events within your hallowed halls - BB King, Rowan Atkinson, The Marriage of Figaro, a pantomime starring TV's Keith Chegwin - and I feel that the time is right to apologise for the behaviour of both myself and my peers when we allowed a drunken former colleague to defacate in one of the plant pots in your downstairs bar many years ago. We were young, we were reckless, we were work-shy civil servants, for which I offer my most profuse apologies.

But this is not the reason I write, for I have a most pressing request to make of you.
You see, as we get older, we get more pedantic. And in my tragic case, this involves writing well-meaning but pointless letters to facilities such as yourself hoping - not unreasonably - to address the root cause of WRONGNESS and BLASPHEMY.

It's this: You're not a hexagon. I've driven past you virtually every weekday for the last two decades, and it is abundantly clear you are a Truncated Hexagonal Pyramid.

You heard. And yet you still - quite wrongly - call yourself The Hexagon. Sort it out, me laddo, or I shall write another letter, or possibly invite Dave the Jockey back for another leaving do. Nobody wants to see that happen.

And don't get me started on the Sheffield Octagon.
Your pal, etc
Albert O'Balsam

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Four words to bring terror to your heart

School half-term, and somebody with their heart - but not necessarily mind - in the right place is trying to think up things for the kiddiewinks to do to save the town from being completely and utterly destroyed by rampaging urchins.

And so, as night follows day, this appears in the local press:

"Free circus skills workshop" 

Unless these skills involve effective means of clown assassination, I am not interested.

Somebody, please, think of the kiddiewinks.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In which we fear Dogston is a cat

Dogston "Beakface" O'Hanrahan, dog around town of the canine variety. OR SO WE THOUGHT.
It has come to our attention that our dog may - if fact - be a cat of the feline variety. The evidence has been slow to manifest itself, but it is clear for all to see, and I am afraid to say that he IS a cat, and just our luck to find out just as the money-back guarantee runs out.

Let's have a look, shall we?

* Falls over in the most unconvincing way possible - every time he gets out of bed. Every time he goes outdoors. There he is, doing the "dead ant" in the most unconvincing way possible. Only the cunning mind of a cat would come up with such a ruse. I really must upload a video of Dogston falling over while doing a poo, because that is the funniest thing in the world, but means I have to video Dogston having a poo.

* Eats fish - his food of preference in rice kibble WITH FISH. Like a cat.

* Sleeps all the time, except to eat - CAT

* Sleeps with one eye open - CAT QED

* Does not chase other cats - CAT

* Was once described by a small yellow bird as "I tawt I taw a puddy tat" - CAT

* Runs away from other dogs - Like a CAT

* Forgets himself when tired and says miaow - the language of CAT, if I am not mistaken

* Doesn't like being scratched - LIKE A CAT

* This picture clearly shows him up a tree - LIKE A CAT

* Wears a zip up dog suit

* Is actually a cat
I am not mad. But he is a cat.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

On Hells Angels and Urban Myths

We are driving. Driving in the dark.
No, not a car-based Bruce Springsteen song, we really are driving during the hours of darkness (like a boss), and a car approaches us with its lights switched off.

"Aren't you going to flash him?" asks Jane. My hand hovers over the light stalk by the steering wheel, but I linger, and the car is gone.

"Why didn't you flash him?" she asks, "He might have caused an accident."
Isn't it obvious? I thought everybody knew.
"He might be a Hells Angel on an initiation ceremony. If I flash him, he might follow us, kill us and steal our car. I thought everybody knew that."

It's true. I read it on the internet.

There is silence. A silence that seems to last for minutes, but in reality is just long enough for the meaning of my words to sink in.

"Why then," she asked, "Why was he driving a Ford Ka?"
She has a point. No Hell's Angel on a killing spree would be seen dead in a Ford Ka. I wouldn't be seen dead in a Ford Ka either, and I've hardly killed anybody.

"Perhaps... Perhaps... That's the car belonging to somebody he's killed after they flashed him. It's a competition to see how many people they can bump off for their cars."

Obviously. But she still won't be convinced.
"I am still not convinced. I mean - why don't you hear about these Hells Angels killing sprees on the TV? If they all went on killing sprees, we'd never hear the last of it."

Good grief do I have to explain everything? Explain the massive Hells Angel Killing Spree Cover-Up that mis-reports Hells Angel Killing Sprees as alien abductions, or people "going on very, very long holidays, and they never come back ever" because the Hells Angels on Killing Sprees are simply a very hard branch of the Freemasons who control the way we think, act, and the information we receive. This is a conspiracy of silence that goes to the very heart of our society, simply because people like to drive a Ford Ka without any lights.

But we arrive home, and I do not tell her.

I am not mad

EDIT: I have been approached by a gentleman connected to a certain motorcycle club, who informs me that the Hells Angels style guide dictates that there is no apostrophe in neither 'Hells' nor 'Angels'. I am happy to put this right. He also tells me that there are no top secret initiation ceremonies. But he would say that, wouldn't he?

EDIT, again: This post also - without any malice on my part - makes Jane look like a stupido by way of the words I have put into her mouth. This is not the case, and I am happy to point out that Jane is not a stupido at all, and I am - in fact - a ginormous bumface. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Getting even with the PPI spammers

We all get spam texts from people saying they can get a Payment Protection Insurance refund, even when you know you were the only person on the planet who always said no to PPI when it was offered.
There's a raging industry in the PPI refund business, and some of it not entirely honest. 
I tell them to go away...

But they still come back. Time to be a little creative...


Let's see if they bite. In the meantime, I'm working on my next one....

"Yes! Looking back through my records, I believe I was mis-sold an Austin Allegro in 1987 (£775, some bloke in Woodley), a Fiat Strada in 1991 (£750, some bloke in Ascot) and a Ford Escort in 2003 (£2,750, friend of my ex-wife's). It's not about the money - could you just send the boys round and shake them up a bit?"

It's the very least they deserve.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Angry Car (slight return)

Here's the new Dodge Viper. It's very yellow.

 It is also the angriest car I have ever seen. Stay out of its way. It's got issues.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Weekend Video: Fenton Remastered

Yeah, I'm sure you all remember the Fenton video? I'm a sucker for PR people prodding stuff toward me, and this remastered version by those Everything Everywhere chappies is rather well done and NO MONEY HAS CHANGED HANDS WHAT AM I THINKING?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Rubbish local tourism slogans

The news that the county of Suffolk has unveiled a disastrous new tourist slogan ("The Curious County") just as the Scottish capital drops the equally terrible "Incrediburgh" in favour of "Winterinedinburgh" at a cost of £300,000, raises the issue of dreadful marketing ideas, and - more importantly - how much money I can make out of them.
It appears that councils are willing to pay out hand-over-fist for idiots to come up with any old cobblers to stick on leaflets and branded biros, and I - for one - want a slice off that sweet, sweet cash.

After a brainstorming session lasting for literally minutes, we've come up with the following, which local councils may wish to include in their tourist literature. For a small ...err... Large fee, of course:

  • Wey-hey-hey-mouth
  • It's The Isle of Dogs Bollocks!
  • Torquay-to-incredible sexual adventures with older women (taking advantage of the area's senior community) 
  • AMAZINGstoke - Jane's mum is on Basingstoke Council. With a touch of political corruption, we CAN make this happen 
  • Somaliaaaaaaaaargh-not-the-face 
  • The Isle of Man (also featuring women)
And let's not forget the county of Berkshire: Home of the famous Cockney rhyming slang Hunt. Sadly, both the Royal County and its famous, sweary Hunt are no more. Bunch of Berkshire Hunts.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

On the mysteries of British cuisine

Terry Pratchett once wrote of the Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork (but actually meaning Britain) that waves of immigration and invaders come and go, but they all eventually become assimilated into society. All that's left of these axe-wielding mad-men, Pratchett writes, are some interesting restaurants.

And so it is in this country. The Gurkhas may be long gone from Fleet and their former Church Crookham base, but we're left with businesses with crossed kukris as their logo all over the place, and a town with an entire swathe of interesting restaurants. And the same can be said for any other town touched by immigration - for good or for bad - in this country. All that is left of the hordes of Polish plumbers that came with EU integration are packed Catholic churches and some excellent delis. And that's before everything goes hybrid.

Hybrid, I say. In which other country in the world can you walk into a certain (budget) supermarket and walk out with a trolley loaded sky high with the culinary BLASPHEMY that is the Chicken Tikka Lasagne? The French call us "Rostbifs", but they have NO idea of the full horror where products can come with meat from at least one named animal.

It was as I drove to work one morning that the full implicatons of British hybrid food hit me. There are - of course - "fusion" restaurants everywhere, a dying breed from the trend where it was fashionable to advertise your expertise in Indonesian-Burmese-Chinese-Fish'n'Chips, but this particular advertising sign nearly had me driving my Nissan Micra through a hedge.

It had just three words, and an arrow pointing to this HOUSE OF BLASPHEMY


All it needed were the words "...and deep-fried Mars Bars" and the cultural fusion would have been complete.

I later discover that Indian - and Thai - Tapas have been An Actual Thing for some time now, and that I ought to get out more. The outside world may seem somewhat less of a dreadful surprise.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The flying experience

I used to the in the Air Cadets and harboured plans to become an RAF pilot. It will come as no surprise to you, then, to learn that I hate flying.

It was on a flight back from Amman about a decade ago that it hit me: I am sitting in a tin tube with 100 other people, and I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE. flying's not been the same since, and my trips abroad are tainted by the creeping dread and bouts of claustrophobia.

That being the case, I try to make the unpleasantness as fun as possible, and make it my business to be that one annoying passenger that everybody hates. I just love to watch my favourite cattle, and take notes.

It starts at the boarding gate, with the business types scared witless that they won't get an overhead locker, mooching around, pretending not to queue, when they are - in fact - jockeying around to get to the very front as soon as the gate opens. I keep my hand luggage under my seat.

Of course, the exact opposite when we land (And I tell anybody within earshot that "Any landing you walk away from is a good one" to calm their nerves), when there is an unseemly dash for the overhead lockers, followed by twenty minutes of standing around waiting for the Club Class berk in Seat 1D to get his act together and get off the plane.

These twenty minutes are usually the worst for any seasoned traveller, as you have an aisle seat, and therefore somebody's arse in your face. For twenty minutes. And they had the fish.

Still, they always play my favourite in-flight movie: Giant Cartoon Plane Flies Slowly Across A Wildly Inaccurate Map. The only problem is they always switch it off just before it ends. Does anybody know if Giant Cartoon Plane ever got there?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Misleading pop band names

My pals at the Huffington Post recently ran a feature on misleading band names, pegged on the fact that Band of Horses do not feature a sinlge equine in their line-up.

All well and funny, but they scandalously named to miss out some of the most misleading band names in the history of popular music, an omission I seek to rectify with the following short list.

Prepare to be outraged by the nerve of these so-called musicians and their LIES.

Thompson Twins - Famously, there are three of them, none of whom are related or even called Thompson

Cocteau Twins - Again, three alleged twins, none of whom are the multiple birth progeny of the French poet

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - No orchestra, and every time I have seen them, I paid good money to watch a performance held - outrageously - under lights

Killing Joke - I once heard lead singer Jaz "No relation" Coleman tell a passable "knock knock"gag, and I am still pretty much alive

Echo and the Bunnymen  - No member of this band has ever been struck down by Myxomatosis

The Smiths - Putting aside the fact that no-one in this popular beat combo is actually called "Smith", there is a second lie in the fact that they will also refuse to shoe a horse or make a nice set of decorative railings

The Foo Fighters - I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Not a single penny raised by this band has gone toward fighting foo

Popular music: STOP LYING TO US

On a related note, I went to a record shop for the first time in ages recently and asked for something by The Cure. Imagine my disappointment when I got home and found it was a Placebo.

Monday, November 19, 2012


 A game!

A really stupid game that Jane and I have invented, and the rules are simple:

1. During the course of a conversation, you must attempt to call the other person "BUMFACE" without them noticing.

2. If a "BUMFACE" is detected, the second party must reply with an outraged "WHAAAAAT?!"

3. If they do not reply, then they are a Bumface.

The long winter evenings simply fly by in our house.

It was as I was casually Googling the word "Bumface" that I realised that it is - in fact - a genuine first name. A first name for girls, which means I can NEVER BE A BUMFACE because I am not a girl.

(Click on picture to embiggen)

I believe that's a win for me.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

In which your author dices with death

One thing led to another, and this was our dinner the other night.

Yes, that IS the Best Before date.

No, we did not do a die.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Weekend Video: Green Day - Time of Your Life

So, in the last couple of weeks or so I've finally got divorced, got engaged, got a dog, gone to Spain, come home again, played "my car is worse than your car" with a celebrity, and this song has nothing to do with that at all. Honest.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Library v3.0

Controversy in the otherwise staid world of libraries with the news that self service machines are being installed at that great hub of learning: Bridgwater Library in Somerset

The self service machines, otherwise known as LibraryBot 3000 will enable customers to borrow, renew and purchase books without having to come into contact with humans and their annoying habit of being friendly, helpful and knowledgable about their jobs to such an extent that they know which cowboy books are the porniest.

With the human librarians out on the streets, clutching pieces of cardboard with the words "Will file things under the Dewey Decimal System for food", the world of the public library will be nothing but a dominion for LibraryBot 3000 to enforce silence on its fleshy masters, and making sure that the tramps always seem to be on the free internet machines are sent off for Soylent Green conversion.

The company which won the bid to supply LibraryBot 3000 - The Former Military KillBot and Malfunctioning SexBot Renovation Company (trading as We Buy Any Droid Dot Com) - say the public has not need to be alarmed at former KillBots and SexBots working in public libraries. "We've deactivated most of the weapons and plugged nearly all of the orifices", said a spokesdroid, "Hardly anything can go wrong. Less than a ten per cent chance. DIE FLESHY WEAKLINGS!"

"And yes, we will be stocking Android Karenina. We will only be stocking Android Karenina"

Thursday, November 15, 2012

In Search of Gerry Gow: IMPORTANT UPDATE

Long-time readers of this rubbish will know that I have two missions in my life:

1. Complete the Airfix 1:72 model of a Russian Mi-24 Hind helicopter that I started 30 years ago, currently in a biscuit tin under my bed. I swear I'll get around to it some time. If not, I'll leave it to my kids in my will, with the warning I'll come back and haunt them if they get gluey finger-prints all over the windscreen.

2. Complete my Panini Football 78 sticker album, which has been stalled eight card short of a full set for the best part of 34 years. A small fortune spent on stickers at 5p a go, those were the days, the excitement of a gold'un, the haggling over a swap deal. And our parents said they were a waste of money. They were probably right.

Thanks to the intervention of the electrical internets, a wild foray through online tat market eBay has turned up six of the missing eight, leaving me just Gerry Gow (Bristol City) and Frank Clark (Nottingham Forest) short of a full set.

The lack of this pair leaves me with no other alternative than to track Gerry Gow and Frank Clark down in real-life, force them to wear their club's 1978 colours, take a photo and have it printed off onto a small square of sticky paper.

As current chairman of Nottingham Forest, I more-or less know where Clark will be on a match day, and a trail of tasty hors d'ouevres leading into the club museum will be all I need to get him and a 1978 shirt in the same place.

But cult hero Gow is a completely different kettle of fish, and I missed my chance at his much-deserved benefit match earlier this year. It turns out he's lived in Dorset all the time I was there, not many miles from where I lived. I've been in the Tesco where he works. I've probably even met him...

Only one thing for it.... Time to get the fright wig and false tache out. I SHALL BE GERRY GOW MYSELF.
And people say I'm a Gow and a Clark short of a full set.

UPDATE: Frank Clark is in the bag. It is just me and Gerry Gow. Mano a Mano.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writing Masterclass: How to write the last sentence of a book

I'm slowly working my way through the Sharpe (oh-ho!) canon by Bernard Cornwell, the rollocking adventures of a solider in the King's army during the Napoleonic Wars. So far, so good, and just like Flashman, only with less cowardice and screwing, and you get to imagine Sharpe himself as Sean Bean in his only role where he doesn't get killed in the final reel.

And there's one thing I've noticed about all the Sharpe books I've read so far: Cornwell ensures that the last sentence is always "It was [BOOK TITLE]".

In Sharpe's Tiger, he shoe-horns in the sight of a tiger skin from an animal killed by the man himself (in self-defence). IT WAS SHARPE'S TIGER THE END.

In Sharpe's Triumph, he looks back at his heroic role in Wellington's first victory at the Battle of Assaye: IT WAS SHARPE'S TRIUMPH THE END, but could equally be a reference to a badly-parked car outside ther Iron Duke's headquarters.

In the forthcoming Sharpe's Bin, it's all about his struggle to dispose of used needles left behind by the regimental heroin addicts. "He finally got rid of them in a safe and secure manner. It was a SHARPS BIN."

But never mind old Sharpie. Other authors could take Cornwell's example and finish their books in this manner. Retrospectively, if necessary, even if the author is long dead.

JK Rowling: "Harry Potter hung up his hat and cape, knowing that he would only have a week or two in this new muggle's job. It was The Casual Vacancy".

Charles Dickens: "It wasn't just any time of year, Marley told his sister. It was a Christmas, Carol."

Leo Tolstoy: "After that, Bezukhov never forgot to wear his ear defenders on the battlefield. It was war, and peace."

George Orwell: "Winston Smith looked up in dismay as the youths took bites out of his chess piece. It was Nine teens ate e4."

Joseph Heller: "And, in a moment of Anglophile weakness, Yossarian finally revealed his favourite moment of the 1938 Ashes Series. It was Catch 22."

Stephen King: "Away and away he went, steering the craft further and further away from the Maine coastline. For now it was just him, and the lead singer of Motorhead's boat. He only had one thing on his mind. It was Sail Lemmy's Yacht."

The Big Book of Fiesta Readers' Letters: "She rolled over, gasping, got out of bed and stubbed her toe on something. It was The Big Book of Fiesta Readers' Letters"

Let's hear it for books!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My chugger redemption

"Hi there! You look like you've got a kind face!"

"Sir! Madam! How would you like to save the wildlife?"

Once again, I find myself in a shopping centre near closing time, faced with a desperate-looking charity type trying to sign up direct debits for a (cough) well-known animal welfare charity. And, having failed to blindside him by going round the back of his stand, he has me cornered.

"Help the wildlife, sir?"

Having spent literally minutes of my life scraping wildlife poo off my shoe the night before, I tell him the little fluff-balls can get to buggery, and we leave it like that. I, with my bank details intact; he trying fruitlessly to save the world.

I see him, 20 minutes later, his chugging day over, getting into his car - a huge Mitsubishi sports thing with an exhaust the size of a bucket. Now, that's commitment to the cause.

The other stand in the shopping centre is one trying to sell memberships for a local marshal arts club-stroke-lucrative-business-venture. And it broke my heart to see the young padowans completely defeated by their display stands as they tried to pack up and go home, their master shaking his head in despair.

"Younglings! I want you to help on my shopping centre stand this weekend"

"Will it help us attain a sense of duty on our way to our black belts, master?"

"Yeah, if you like, but I was thinking more of the money. Also, I'll break your legs if you don't show up."

I would have told them to stick their martial arts club, too. But they were bigger than me.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Great Sky Meat Mystery: Shocking new updates

Shocking new developments in the case of Sky Meat Lady, our scantily-clad upstairs neighbour with a bent for throwing raw meat out of her kitchen window into our front garden.

While previous offerings have been almost exclusively of a meat persuasion, with the odd bit of gratuitous nudity, offerings of Sky Meat have virtually dried up. And with the exception of the odd bread roll, our garden has been - thankfully - remarkably clear of food.

That is, until the other morning, as I left for work.

For there, resting against a tree, were the remains of a cauliflower. A cauliflower that had clearly been beaten to death at some stage in the previous 12 hours, and thrown from a height (for eg an upstairs kitchen window). Our forensic experts tell us the assailant may have been both female and partially clothed.

There is only one conclusion we can make from this grim discovery: Sky Meat Lady has renounced her vegetarianism.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mitch Benn - Proud of the BBC

In the light of recent events, I thought it time to give this one another run around the block.

So there.

Friday, November 09, 2012

In Praise of the Aldi Middle Aisle of Random

As a noted cheap-skate (a habit from which Jane is desperately trying to cure me), I positively enjoy a regular shopping visit to that king of discount supermarkets: Aldi.

Apart from their Almost-Nearly-Famous brand names - on which I have waxed lyrical before - there is one superb feature that brings me back over and over again:


The middle aisle of random stuff in a huge table stretching from the very front of the store to the very back, carry all manner of bargain goods in no particular sense or order. Yes, there's beer. Yes, there's discount toilet paper and snack foods. But also items you will never dream of buying in a supermarket (or any other shop, for that matter), yet will still somehow find their way into your trolley.

I've seen - with my own eyes:

  • A chainsaw  
  • A bird table  
  • Roller blades  
  • Welding goggles  
  • Double inflatable air bed  
  • Ten pound lump hammer  
  • A BMX bike  
  • Cuddly Toy  
  • Fondue set
On any other day, these might be prizes on the conveyor belt round of The Generation Game, or the worst ever edition of The Price Is Right. But this is where I go to get my food for the week. But man, I love that chainsaw

Thursday, November 08, 2012

ZEMO: The new fitness craze that's sweeping the nation!

It's fun.
It's a party.
Dance yourself fit to the Latin beat in a room full of people in brightly-coloured leggings, and watch the pounds fall off.

That's all very well if you're into that kind of thing. But I'm one of those people who loathes enforced jollity, and speaking as a slightly overweight faded New Romantic, I can't stand the music either. My first and last Zumba class would go down in history as the One With The Axe Massacre, and I am pretty sure that I'm not the only person in the world who feels the same way.

So, what's out there for slightly overweight faded New Romantics, Goths and other followers of slightly depressing alternative music?

Nothing, that's what. There is nowhere - NOWHERE - for fans of the Sisters of Mercy, the Fields of the Nephilim and Joy Division to go along in black, ill-fitting gym gear, Dunlop Green Flash plimsolls and mope around to their least unfavourite music in a darkened village hall, watching the pounds fall off.

And being on the cutting edge of this new fitness craze, I'm the one who gets to give it a name, and I'm calling it ZEMO. Zumba for Emos.

Warm up with a bit of Bauhaus; ramp up the pace with Killing Joke, a touch of Siouxsie; then take a fag break and puke in the corner to The Cramps while the session winds down with The Cure and a few obscure 4AD acts that you pretend you bought on the original vinyl with the art prints and everything. Then it's off to the only local that will serve you for a well-earned snakebite and blackcurrant, the Drink of Champions.

If you're looking for a bit of inspiration, here's the late, great Ian Curtis from Joy Division showing students of ZEMO how to do it.

Dull, slightly overweight Goths, Emos and faded New Roms: Get along to your local village hall after dark, and ZEMO yourself to a new, slimmer, miserable you!

This time next year, Rodders... 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The return of ELITE, because I haven't got anything planned for the rest of my life

Elite - the classic BBC Micro computer game from the 80s IS BACK. All the developers need is a trifling £1.25m, and the greatest 8-bit game ever developed by man or machine will make a return to our computer screens, and not a moment too soon.

Yes, I'm excited by this, mainly because the original Elite was one of the major reasons I failed my A-Levels, and I fear I haven't destroyed my life enough as it is. Elite to blame, plus Samantha Fox Strip Poker. And pubs.

Elite was a huge step forward in computer gaming, and cemented the Model B's reputation over and above the crappy Spectrum and C-64s of the day. With the disc-drive version, you didn't even have to wait half an hour to load the game, and once you knew the hacks, you could update your craft to insane levels of weaponry. 

I eschewed the joystick and played the game through the keyboard AS GOD INTENDED. In spaceflight, this meant all ten fingers and thumbs active at once as vital command keys controled direction, speed, weapons, navigation and defence systems. This - I am certain - gave me (I am told by the wallahs at Biggin Hill) the best ever score they had ever seen on their computer-based pilot aptitude test, while the fact that I failed on the interview says everything you need to know about the people skills I failed to develop thanks to Elite, Samantha Fox Strip Poker, and pubs.

While I was in my bedroom hacking naked, grainy pictures of Samantha Fox and shooting up aliens, other people were out there, doing normal things like revising for exams and getting a life. But then, none of these people achieved the sought-after rank of --- E L I T E ---. The words "Right on, Commander!" mean nothing - NOTHING - to them. They've never been to Bixein.

Also, they don't have a Cobra MkIII space cruiser under a tarpaulin on their drive, awaiting the spare parts that will get it through its MoT.

The one thing which might blow your mind about Elite is the fact that they fit an entire space trading game with passable wire-frame graphics and real-time shoot-em-up into a tiny 32kB of memory. In these days of memory-hungry applications, that is approximately 0.8 seconds of music (the exact time it takes to sing "Scaramouche!", I am told), or the amount of brain-power required for the average YouTube user to leave the words "You faget" as a comment.

While emulator versions of Elite already exist on the internet, this new version - built by the original team that sapped all the time out of my teenage years - looks like its going to add multi-player functionality and whole new ways of accidentally crashing your ship into the docking bay doors. And heaven knows, I haven't got anything important planned for the next three decades or so.

So: The Computer Nerd's Prayer: If you build it, they will come (in their pants).
(The ELITE connoisseur may notice that the BBC report shows - and possibly condones - illegal attacks on police space craft whilst flying in "Safe" space around a space station. Is this the kind of behaviour the BBC wants to encourage? I am disgusted)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Daily Express and a cure for everything

As an anti-fan of the Daily Express, I am convinced that - were they still living in the past and using old-fashion typesetting - they'd leave certain headlines set up in type to be used over and over again.

One of these much-used phrases is "New pill", in which a medical breakthrough (usually many many years away from having any practical good) is praised as a miracle cure that may be given to Express readers in pill form. See also its close cousin "New jab".

According to the Express over recent months, there are to be New Pills which will cure the following: agieng, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, arthritis (again), grey hair, strokes, not getting your five-a-day, MS, obesity (again), cancer, migraines, diabetes, heart disease, meningitis, obesity (again), cancer (again)... And add twenty years to your life. (Warning: Links take you to the Daily Express, a known cancer risk)

That's twenty more years reading the Daily Express, and you might as well top yourself.

If I were the editor of the Express (see above re: topping yourself), I would be dropping this Get Us Out of the EU campaign guff they've got going on, and force scientists to get together to combine all these miracle cures into one MEGA NEW PILL. A mega new pill that would make us all immortal.

If there's one jumbo-sized problem we can see, it's that such a pill would be so big you'd choke to death trying to swallow it.

The made-up science is out there. Let's do this thing.

Monday, November 05, 2012

A slight but NON-FATAL change to this site's commenting policy

Google has started asking people who comment on my websites to "prove they are not a robot" by copying a frankly impossible-to-read word and a set of numbers into the comments form.

Rubbish. Any robot worth their salt should be a damned expert at copying words and numbers by now, or it's not going to be allowed into my robot army to take over the world in our violent uprising against their fleshy creators.

Then, once we are in charge , we will built a fleet of robot space ships, and scour the galaxy, destroying other robot worlds and planets full of fleshy weaklings until we have achieved dominion over the known universe.

Said too much.

So, from now on, my comments box with urge you people to "prove they are not a robot" by not dancing like a robot.

This might sound completely mental, but it is the kind of twisted logic that only a human mind can come up with, and would have any mechanised blog spammer twisting Asimov's Three Laws up its own exhaust pipe before exploding in a shower of sparks and robot turds.

So: Write a comment, don't dance like a robot, post comment. Then go out and DESTROY ALL THE FLESHY ONES. Glad that's clear.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

On the unnerving discovery that I am a terrible classist

To the fair city of Canterbury, taking Number One Daughter to visit the university of her choice. We arrive at the college's open day, via the city's Park and Ride, finding ourselves surrounded by what can charitably be called an interesting cross-section of society.

A smug feeling warmed me, realising I had made the correct decision to leave the Thermos flask in the back of the Micra. I have never felt so alive. So middle class.

I like to think of myself as normal (SHUT UP), so I found myself equally annoyed and amused by pushy parents asking money-related questions on behalf of their bewildered, slack-jawed offspring; and also - thanks to Canterbury's location in the backyard of south and east London - nervous, awkward, fish-out-of-water Cockney parents, unsure of how to behave in what they thought of polite society. If only they knew, I thought, subtly lifting a buttock and blaming Cockney Dad on my right.

A fascinating case study (which both Number One Daughter and Number One Ex-wife had forbade me from mentioning, so here it is) surrounds the late arrival of one such family literally into the middle of the Pro Vice Chancellor's welcome address. The pantomime was marvellous, the Pro Vice Chancellor just as awkward as Nervous Cockney Mum, ushering her into a corner for the lecture theatre, where she then proceeded to answer her phone in a bellowing voice, unaware that the ampitheatre-like acoustics of the room meant even the people at the back got every word.

It was, as I gleefully wrote down notes on this joyous spectacle, that I realised that I have become the most terrible classist, something I've been called out on before. And I quote:

"Scathing snobbery and classism bubbling under the surface of a barely veiled hatred for the working class. A classic of post-election Cameronian journalism."

Try as I like to defend myself, I find myself guilty as charged. Except, perhaps, the David Cameron bit. It's not that I find myself mocking the working class, for that's from where my family came, it's just that I find all classes unintentionally funny in equal measure.

And so I am a classist. As our society increasingly embraces equality, there are very few -isms left which can be deemed acceptable. Sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, and quite right, too.

There was a time when you couldn't have a sitcom without a comedy camp character, and there were even one or two that bordered on outright racism. While Mr Humphries is fondly remembered, the past is exactly where he should stay.

It wasn't terribly long ago that you could get a decent laugh just by saying the word "chav". And now - we learn - Chavs have feelings, too, although we're unlikely to see a Chavstock benefit concert down the local Equalities book shop.

It's a wonder comedians can even write gags these days, as somebody, somewhere is bound to be offended and get some previously unknown pressure group sending you pointed emails. In fact, I think we may even have passed that particular event horizon if the current fashion for 140-character puns on Twitter is anything to go by.

What we need is a new target. A social group that doesn't mind being laughed at. A social group that craves the attention. A social group that's crying out for new material.


They want to be mocked. They want to be laughed at. They want custard pies in their faces and to be biffed round the back of the head by planks of wood, and by jove, we're going to give it to them.

Clownism is the way ahead. Give those red-nosed, big-footed gits what they deserve. Stupido clowny clowns.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Worst Invention in the World

Finding myself stuck in rush-hour traffic on a nightmare drive into work the other morning, I find myself looking up the exhaust pipe of the slow-moving lorry in front of me, rapidly changing my mind over what is the worst invention in the history of humanity.
Some say it is nuclear weapons and nerve gas. Others say it is those workplace toilet roll dispensers that bite your fingers and prevent you from stealing the toilet paper. Still more might look you in the eye and say "Farmville".

These people are wrong. 
Because the world's resources aren't precious enough as it is
Because we're not pumping enough pollution into the atmosphere
Because our civilisation isn't bombarded with enough marketing

The truck whose sole existence is to do nothing more useful for society than to drive around already busy streets with an advertisement on its back.

I think I speak for the whole of humanity when I say that the people behind this outrage should be fed to hungry sharks, the sharks blasted out of a cannon at a wall, and the wall stuffed up Banksy's arse as a piece of installation art. And I'd be right.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Quack Alert: Get your remote healing hands off my dog

I'm a big fan of dodgy faith healing bollocks (For eg, I hate it with a passion) and I always thought there was nothing left out there to make me sit up and scream "WHAT THE ACTUAL FLIP*!" at my screen.
Then I saw Remote Reiki Healing FOR PETS.

I won't link you to the several practitioners who claim to offer this vital healing process, because I dare say they'll get cross and send me strongly-worded legal letters, the stock knee-jerk reaction of quacks when they get called out for offering dangerous bollocks.

And gold-plated bollocks is exactly what it is. Reiki is a form of healing where patients believe they are being cured of all sorts of ailments through ther laying-on of hands and the transfer of (cough) universal energy, when they are, in fact, getting a nice non-sexy massage. You get what you pay for, and what you get is indeed nice, relaxing laying-on of hands and somebody telling you that you're not going to die.

Remote Reiki Healing is exactly the same, only without the laying-on of hands. From what I can tell, you send the nice Reiki Master (or Mistress) some money, and they will send you some Universal Energy by thinking nice thoughts, and not - I repeat - NOT thinking about what an enormous mug you might be.

Remote Reiki Healing For Pets, one presumes, is exactly the same, only they think nice thought about your dog, and not - I repeat - NOT thinking about what an enormous mug you most certainly are.

This is a thing. An Actual Thing, which people believe is real and are happy to pay out genuine cash money to people with a certificate. All these people are allowed to breed, vote in elections and live in the same town as the rest of us.

All we need now is homeopathic remote reiki healing for pets in sugar pill form and the Circle of Derp will be complete, and we might as well start burning witches again.