Thursday 27 December 2007

Dr Who Christmas cash-in

Doctor Who - Voyage of The Damned
Every year I watch the Dr Who Christmas special and every year I am left gob smacked at the fiendish misuse of the word 'special'. Terms such as 'cash-in' or 'rip-off' would have been more appropriate. The trouble is I know that Dr Who, despite occasional moments of brilliance, isn't really that good. I might have been tempted to blame David Tennant consistently gurning at the camera; but Christopher Eccleston did exactly the same thing in his turn as The Doctor and he's a brilliant actor. The problem lies in sloppy direction and some really inconsistent writing. The good stuff is good enough that you forgive the dross that is all too frequently meted out. However Christmas episodes of Dr Who are rather like the entire first series of Torchwood (I'm a software developer so I had to watch it all); they take the worst bits of Dr Who and put them into an extended episode cunningly timed for just after the evening meal.

Think about it; it's Christmas day and those people with a social life will by that time have consumed enough alcohol to view the whole thing through rose-tinted spectacles. Those with their critical faculties intact, and therefore without a social life, are going to watch it regardless. I suppose it's quite clever but just once I'd like a Christmas special that lives up to the name; an episode with original characters, without the usual clichéd dialog. This episode, just to rub it in, indulged in visual clichés that even Jerry Bruckheimer would have been ashamed of. At least next Christmas I know what to ask for from Santa.

Thursday 13 December 2007

Magic numbers

Broken promises
I try so hard, I really do, but then those magicians we fondly refer to as the Government attempt one sleight of hand too many. The latest Gordon Brown inspired wheeze is to reduce the value of morally binding pay settlements by delaying paying up. Don't try telling me this was all the Home Secretary's idea. Work out how much you want to pay and then delay implementing the agreed pay increase for a calculated number of months; so that by the time the increase is implemented it's only worth the amount you wanted to pay in the first place. The Government, true to form, have thrown a large number of red herrings our way.

Principal among these are pointing out the need to keep public spending low and the relatively good pay increases of police officers over the last ten years. These are good points, however they are completely irrelevant. Whether we believe the police do a good or bad job, or perhaps have some personal grievance against the police, is also completely irrelevant.

The only relevant detail in this case is that an employer and the employees used arbitration, and have done for the last 27 years, to decide on the pay rise. An amount of 2.5% was agreed upon. If the employer couldn't afford this they should have said so at the time. What they shouldn't have done is agree the rise and then subsequently renege on their agreement by delaying implementation. In this case the Government have delayed the pay rise so that the actual value is only 1.9%. Those in the Government that still claim this is a 2.5% pay rise need to take remedial lessons in mathematics... or they could learn to stop lying.

This is important regardless of whether you think the police are doing a good job or are paid enough. If the Government are free to treat employees in such a manner it’s a green light for all employers to use equally duplicitous methods to cheat their own workforce.

Thursday 6 December 2007

Learning their lesson?

Learner plate
I was never a great fan of the Blair administration, though at the start he did at least represent something new and for a while I was taken in, seduced if you like, by the new style. The alarm bells should have started when he trebled the number of staff at No. 10, but the real pointer was the Alastair Campbell influence. The former Director of Communications had little regard for the niceties of democratic debate, and more than once those people brave enough to question the Prime Minister in public were on the receiving end of a hatchet job a few days later in the press. I never quite understood why Tony Blair allowed this to happen. Perhaps he thought this was a robust defence of his policies or maybe he didn't know it was going on. Either way it soured my opinion of him permanently.

Gordon Brown should have been a refreshing change, being less enamoured with the sound of his own voice and giving the appearance of someone who might actually give you his opinion before consulting a focus group. However he'd been waiting so long for his predecessor to hand over the reigns that during his time as chancellor he developed a reputation for an autocratic style of leadership. This can make for great newspaper copy but such powers come at a cost; huge levels of bureaucracy and inefficiency in all levels of government. Delegation is not one of Gordon's strengths.

It was inevitable that someone would screw-up; the only question was how bad would it be? HM revenue and Customs answered this challenge spectacularly by managing to lose discs containing the personal details of 25 million people. They didn't lose them within the building, though the fact that copies of the data could be made so easily is disturbing, the details were lost when they were posted to another department. It would appear the government's idea of keeping the data of its citizens secure is to put it in a brown paper bag and hope nobody looks.

If you believe the government, though by now I'm finding it hard to think why we should, this happened because people weren't following the correct procedure. Lessons must be learnt, we were told, only they weren't. The trouble is that this kind of incident has happened several times before, though not on such a scale, and each time we were given the same promise. The biggest pointer however to the government's culpability is their mistaken belief that this happened because people weren't following procedure. Not true; this happened because the system allowed people to not follow procedure. If you create an IT system on the cheap, one that requires more manual processes than is necessary, and then run it in an overworked department that has faced savage cutbacks in staff, this kind of calamity isn't just possible, it's inevitable.

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Ode to Air Conditioner

Air conditioner on the wall
So tall
Imperious up high
Though outside the sky
Is Grey
Freeze you say
And we do!

Sunday 18 November 2007


A brief bright light
Smothered by cloud
And with it the fight
Left me

My attempts to do right
Were easily bowed

A disjointed excuse

That's all I ever was
Or could be

Saturday 17 November 2007

Objective or subjective?

The appreciation of any film is always going to be highly subjective, or perhaps it will become so if it's any good. I sometimes think a truly great film should have the kind of emotional impact that leaves you unable to view it objectively, and paradoxically leave you wondering if it's as good as you think. Does that make any sense?

Fearless film
Nevertheless, on browsing the IMDB website I am surprised when I discover that a film such as K-PAX is rated more highly than Fearless. K-PAX is a fair film but on a second viewing it's hardly a classic. Fearless on the other hand is one of the best films I have ever seen. With the exception of Tom Hulce, whose role of a money grabbing lawyer is a gross caricature (who'd have thought that was possible?), it's better by any measure, including narrative. The story of how a survivor of a plane crash comes to terms with, and whose personality is changed by the event is more challenging (and rewarding) than yet another tale whose backdrop is set around the wacky inhabitants of a mental institution.

K-Pax film
So why is K-PAX rated more highly? It's not the Kevin Spacey affect. There's no doubt he's a fine and popular actor but The Shipping News, also featuring Spacey, is a better film that again achieves a lower score. I believe it's the setting that swings the vote. I think audiences are comforted by portrayals of slightly odd or even strange people, who are at the same time often endearing and never threatening. It's not grounded in reality, in some ways it's insulting, but this is a film whose primary purpose is to entertain. Since this isn't in itself a bad thing I'm not going to be too harsh. K-PAX isn't a bad film; in fact it's quite good. It redeems itself with an ambiguity that is preserved right to the very end, which is always a good sign. Fearless on the other hand is much more.

Friday 9 November 2007

How to lose votes and influence no-one

When I was in the sixth form my school was visited by each of the major political parties and the Liberal party. I can't remember much of what was said but I do remember that they didn't exactly cover themselves in glory.

As befits a Liberal party spokesperson I can barely recollect what they said. I do vaguely remember a comment about proportional representation but that's rather par for the course. Given that I like our parliamentary representatives to be true representatives of, and directly accountable to their constituencies, the Liberal party was always going to have a hard time winning me over.
The Conservative party spokeswoman rather embarrassingly replied to a question on unemployment by saying that it was "the price of freedom". Oh dear! I seem to have air-brushed the rest of her presentation from my memory, which is probably just as well.

The Labour party spokesman was young, good looking and very cool. Brad, as I shall call him, could relate to the kids. We knew this because he wore jeans. He started out quite well but inevitably tripped himself up over the question of Mrs Thatcher (even now I have a hard time calling her Margaret). Maggie was such a bête noire for the political left that it was impossible to debate any subject without socialists of the time (and even today) bearing their fangs. Brad's mistake, when asked why his party hadn't produced any female leaders, was to make a number of originally light hearted sexist comments doubting the femininity of the prime minister; even questioning whether she was a woman at all. Unfortunately he didn't stop there, though I confess I did ratherCall to action - Vote! enjoy the uncomfortable look on the face of each teacher present. Even the teachers wearing corduroy jeans (a dead giveaway) looked shocked. It's just as well I don't resort to such stereotypes…

I was reminded of this visit recently whilst listening to a political commentator on the radio. The basic gist was that the makeup of the electorate was roughly the following; 30% would always vote Labour, 30% Conservative, 10% Liberal and the remainder would be undecided. As a result, he argued, political parties had become savvier in targeting those precious floating voters.

So I wondered; had there been an outstanding spokesperson all those years ago would it have made a difference? I'd like to think so. Though the representations were uniformly bad, they were from people who at least gave you a flavour of what their party represented. Back then there was a little less nous which made it a lot more honest. Nowadays there is more shrewdness, voters are more cleverly targeted but with the unfortunate consequence of a homogenised offering from parties that have all turned a lighter shade of beige.

Monday 5 November 2007

A softer heart

In the Spike Jonze film Adaptation Nicolas Cage plays Charlie Kaufman, a screenwriter with writer's block, whilst also playing his less talented but soon to be more successful twin brother. It's a great film that provides a clever literary conceit to its screenwriter (of the same name) and also to a previous film from the same director, Being John Malkovich.

I would love to be able to write something as funny and cerebral as Malkovich or Adaptation but, if I were to push this fantasy, I would wish for something more traditional. John Irving described it best when he said of The World According to Garp that he hoped it would "break a few softer hearts". Alas I am not a writer. Like the fictional Charlie Kaufman I haven't a clue what to write; though unlike Charlie Kaufman, when I finally have something to say I won't know how to say it. I suspect that if I had the aptitude my dreams would be more earthly bound.

Wednesday 17 October 2007

Just when I thought I was out...

Vader and Obi Wan
People often deride software developers for having an unhealthy obsession with science fiction and lacking the necessary social skills to communicate effectively with the outside world. A gross caricature; in our defence we're a sensitive lot. It's true. I still shed a tear when I think of poor Obi-Wan cut down by his old apprentice, but then don't we all?

One thing we certainly share with the real world is that nagging fear that the skills that once made us necessary are no longer of value. Hence the constant urge to work using up to date technology, including the latest programming languages; god forbid you should have to revisit earlier versions. Strangely enough though, whether you are allowed to work with the latest tools might seem to be in inverse proportion to your level of experience. Personally however I'd rather have an experienced SQL developer loose on my database; an exposure to the latest version of SQL Server doesn't make you immune to bad database design.

In IT knowing too much can sometimes appear detrimental to your career. That old application you thought you were shot of? Guess what? You're the only person who knows how it works and something needs fixing. Even when it's an application you've had nothing to do with, because you have experience of working in the Jurassic period some sly colleague manages to cut you down with this dubious information. But in cutting you down you'll become more powerful than he could possibly imagine...

Thursday 11 October 2007

Three-quarters of a day in the life

My alarm goes at 6.15am. After a number of "snoozes" I finally wake up, get out of bed, and drag myself to the bathroom. It takes a while for me to focus but perhaps that's just as well. Make my way downstairs, straight out the door and into my car. It's peaceful at that time in the morning. It's quiet most of the time and I like it.

Not so keen on the drive. Around 30 miles but the route I take and the time at which I travel mean it's rarely a drain, except those occasions when the motorway is closed and then it's somewhat less than pleasant. Today I'm starting a new regime. No comfort snacking, a good bracing walk midday and exercise in the evening.

I drive off around 7am, through the empty town centre and along the twisting back roads until I reach the old Severn crossing. I make a conscious effort at a cheery "hello" to the person manning the tollbooth before crossing the bridge into Wales. The rest of my journey is motorway; first the M48, which has little traffic, followed by the ever busy M4. I miss the days when I could journey by train.

Arrive at work early. Car park is empty. I'm feeling a bit run down so I make a detour for Starbucks. Finally sit down at work, coffee one side and chocolate muffin the other, "snooze" the less important task reminders and read my e-mail. IT strategy life cycleI've set myself a goal for what I want to achieve today so open up the project on one screen along with various database tools, and on the other I display the design. Decide I'd better answer a few of those e-mail queries and then it's heads-down and code away. If I can avoid looking anyone in the eye I may remain uninterrupted for the morning.

Several interruptions later and lunchtime arrives sooner than expected. Despite enjoying the work I'm already behind schedule so skip lunch and pop-down to the snack machine. Pretty sure a diet of Doritos and a Mars Bar isn't good for me but it could help the schedule. I have a quick browse on the BBC website to keep up with what's happening in the world outside (apparently there is one) and then it's heads-down and code away. If I can avoid looking anyone in the eye and crouch low enough in my seat, hiding behind my two monitors, I may remain uninterrupted for the afternoon.

Several interruptions later I notice a number of people packing up and going home, the office is half empty. I weigh up whether I should work late again, whether my schedule was realistic or whether I should just write it off as "one of those days". Either way I can't see myself doing any exercise this evening. I look around the office to see who's left and catch someone's eye.

Monday 8 October 2007

Raggedy Man

Once time was kind
You looked the part
Although most missed
Your healthy heart

Still work you do
Now fit and trim
Won't stop the time
From reaching in

Your greying hair
The aches and pain
You've worked too hard
For little gain

Arthritic bones
Weren't in the plan
Can't hide the truth
You're a raggedy man

Thursday 4 October 2007

Bad sport

East European countries of the old Soviet bloc could be distinguished from the rest of Europe in three key ways.
  • First was the use of the word 'democratic'; as in 'German Democratic Republic'. Was it irony or were they just taking the piss?
  • Second was their love for the colour grey, putting aside the issue of whether grey is a colour.
  • Thirdly was the highlighting of any sports related triumph to mask their own failure.
An obsession with sporting success has been a feature common to all manner of unsavoury regimes so it's somewhat unsettling to find organisations in Britain fixating in the same way. Whatever happened to the belief, dare I whisper it, that winning isn't nearly as important as 'being the best that you can be'. This noble ethos has long since been corrupted to 'being the best no matter what'; a belief that leaves many feeling impotent in their ability to effect a worthwhile change in the lives of others.

Sport used in such a way, instead of inspiring people to lead more active lives, pushes them further back into their comfortable sofas whilst they no doubt bemoan the lack of sporting success.

What time's the football on?

Thursday 27 September 2007

Pictures, Places, People

Pictures in my mind
the memory jars,
Re-opened scars
you'll find

Places I have seen
reduced to waste,
With teargas laced

People talking who
the soul now wear,
That once I shared
with you

Sunday 23 September 2007


My previous visit to the cinema was to see Harry Potter and whilst it was an enjoyable enough way to pass the time it was good to finally watch something that had me thinking long after the film had ended. Atonement is such a film.

Atonement film
Reading any review is a dangerous undertaking when planning to see something you hope may turn out to be a classic. Those few I read were split in praising the film for it's dream-like first half followed by a more traditional (weaker?) narrative in the second part, or a strong finish to a slow and confused beginning. But it seems to me this mix in style is deliberate and represents the situation and state of mind of the characters, or perhaps the central character of Briony, at particular points in time.

Perhaps the film was a little unbalanced with too much of the story focusing on the people sinned against when, personally, it was Briony's attempt at redemption that held the interest. This is not a love story though it contains a love story as a backdrop. It is a story of how lives are destroyed by the imagination of a 13 year old child and it says much for the quality of the film that we come to care as much for the perpetrator as we do the victims of the crime. It was thoroughly depressing and I loved it.

Friday 21 September 2007

Pride comes before a.... whoaaaaaaa

Swimming badge
When younger I was occasionally witness to parents of obviously unsound minds praise their offspring for completing the most mundane of tasks. It was I suppose inevitable, the moment I became a parent, that I would one day join this assortment of crackpots. Last weekend my daughter unexpectedly swam the width of the pool, and in doing so achieved her five metres swimming badge. I am so lacking in any sense of proportion I'm going to include a picture...

It's strange and wonderful that something like this could make me so happy. I've replayed the moment over and over in my mind and it still hasn't lost it's impact. I'll be wearing V-neck jumpers before you know it...

Tuesday 4 September 2007

Soap, cop, cook

I once heard Germaine Greer describe the Australian soap Neighbours as crypto-fascist - at least I think that was the description. At the time I dismissed it as another barking mad comment from one of those not-quite-in-touch-with-reality lefties that used to give me so much enjoyment. Subsequently I've realised there was some validity to this point which suggests the possibility that I'm an idiot. I'd like to think it takes a big man to admit he was wrong though it's more likely an indication that it's me who is not-quite-in-touch-with-reality – assuming I ever was?

Anyway, in the words of the song, it's my blog and I'll write rubbish if I want to. I've not watched Neighbours since I was a student (what is it about students and crap television?) but I do believe Ms Greer's comment could now be applied to the detective drama CSI:Miami. This is another in a long line of American cop shows with impossibly good looking (in a suspicious way) detectives and an almost religious regard for the possibilities of science; which as portrayed in the show is more fantasy than reality. I'd condemn the show outright were it not for the comic turn of David Caruso as Horatio Caine. Once you twig it's a comedy it's a lot of fun.

Nigella Lawson
Though I've a new-found, albeit misplaced, enjoyment for said show it has already been supplanted by the all-new Nigella Lawson cookery program in which Nigella continues to be impossibly good looking (but in a good way), wears outfits wholly unsuitable for the kitchen (not that I'm complaining) whilst travelling to the supermarket by taxi (I particularly liked that bit). I know what you're thinking. The link from Neighbours to CSI:Miami was pretty tenuous but from CSI:Miami to Nigella Lawson it's frankly unbelievable. Is this just a flimsy excuse to plug (if you'll forgive the expression) Nigella?


Monday 3 September 2007

Drying out

Center Parc
Due to circumstances beyond my control I found myself travelling by train into work this morning. Thankfully I actually like travelling by train; until recently it was my regular mode of transport for many years. The journey may have taken twice as long compared to my car but somehow it was more… civilised. It might also have proven cheaper had I learnt to resist my early morning coffee (£1.75) and danish (£1.40ish) - the breakfast of kings. It was certainly safer than driving since concentrating first thing in the morning isn't one of my stronger points. So despite a heavy work load ahead, which truth be told I prefer, I enjoyed the journey in; I even managed a smile when I saw my train was running late – it was like old times.

I've come back from a weekend break in Center Parcs. It's hugely overpriced and the antithesis of thinking for yourself. However there were two aspects that appealed to me; it wasn't too far to drive and... I didn't have to think for myself. But I digress; I had a really good time and since I hadn't been looking forward to it at all it was a pleasant surprise. I'm still drying out from the endless time I spent in the pool with my six year old daughter, and I must be getting soft because when she told me she'd really enjoyed her holiday I couldn't stop myself from grinning.

Smiling after holiday and smiling on the way to work… now there’s a puzzle.

Wednesday 29 August 2007


If I can set my expectation at the appropriate level, or to be safe just a little lower, I always enjoy a film more. Of course the best experience you can have with any film is to come to it with no preconceptions at all. Such was the case the first time I saw Memento. Nadia Comaneci Time MagazineNever having read a review everything about this film, even the premise and the way in which the story was told, was new. I have since seen several reviews of this film that have only confirmed a long held belief that there should be a special kind of hell reserved for some film reviewers.

You would think that setting expectations for life, that mundane thing that exists outside the world of film, would be easy in comparison. Somehow however I always end up disappointed.I can't pinpoint an exact moment where it all went wrong but I do believe the fault lies with Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci. When you're nine years old the simplest of things, such as a smile, can have the most unexpected impact. I didn't have the slightest interest in gymnastics but I was so captivated I made a point of watching Nadia just to catch a glimpse of that smile. Wow!

And from that point onwards it was all downhill.

Thursday 23 August 2007

Thursday is the new Friday

It's my last day of work this week. Tomorrow is my daughter's sixth birthday and I'm taking the day off. I've managed to avoid any large scale event and instead we will be visited by my in-laws during the day, when we'll walk to the local park, and then a meal with my own parents in the evening. This is about as much socialising as I can manage nowadays before suffering a meltdown - in my defence I do at least recognise this flaw in my character though whether I'll ever do anything about it is doubtful.

Despite the disappointments during this time - not the least of which is TWO World Cup failures - my daughter has never failed to put a smile on my face, which after that Ronaldhino fluke is no mean feat! God only knows what I'll do with myself when she leaves home or comes to realise what a boring old fart her father is, so I'm determined to make the most of it.

Worry about tomorrow when it happens.

Friday 3 August 2007

Stealing from the poor

Fraud definition
I've had to endure a proud tale of fraud more often than I'd like; the 'clever' thing to do is claim for much more than has been lost. One of the more famous stories was that of Ernest Saunders of Guinness, the only person in medical history to recover from Alzheimer's – presumably as a result of being let out of jail. In his instance it was insider dealing.

In both cases the excuse offered for these actions was that they were 'victimless crimes'. In both cases this was bollocks.

Insurance fraud raises the cost of insurance for everyone. Insider dealing results in pensions of a lower value than they otherwise would be. In both circumstances the people who are hurt the most aren't the rich or even the middle classes; they just stump up the extra cash. The people who really get burnt are the poor, those who can barely afford insurance as it is and end up getting less cover then they should, who contribute a bare minimum (if anything) into a pension fund that leaves them destitute when they reach old age.

So why do we tolerate it? I can think of only three possibilities:
  • There are many more anarchists in this country determined to bring down the system than previously thought.
  • People are stupid.
  • People don't give a shit.
I've only ever met one true anarchist; he lived in London and somewhat annoyingly didn't conform to the stereotype. He was also one of the most polite people I've ever met - bear in mind this was London! So that leaves either "people are stupid" or "people don't give a shit"; which one gives you the most comfort?

Tuesday 31 July 2007

The crime of Rosemary & Thyme

Rosemary & Thyme
There is a scene in Invasion of The Body Snatchers where a dog is run over in the street but the inhabitants of the town, now alien, show no emotion. Watching Rosemary & Thyme is a somewhat similar experience. Our heroines set off on a gardening assignment, witness some intrigue, someone dies, you don't care who, it's not important, it's really not important, puzzle is solved, everybody has tea... Agatha Christie looks like Ian Rankin in comparison.

There are many shows that follow this same formula but rarely have I seen any quite so banal. Judging from it's rating on IMDB it would appear to be quite popular, a score of eight out of ten is more than respectable. Looking more closely however you realise that this is the result of just over 100 votes, and thus about as reliable as those beauty advertisements that tell you 83% of women noticed an improvement. Perhaps it's dullness is what has enabled it to survive this long. The chloroforming effect of watching an episode ensures plenty of viewers for whom the advertisements really will be a wake up call.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

The juice of half a lemon

Nigella Lawson
Cookery programs.Normally I'd say they rank alongside golf, horse racing, gymnastics and 'reality' television as programming to avoid. So why did I watch an entire hour of cooking programs on the UK Food channel recently?

Was it the food?

Was it the presentation?

Was it the interesting new recipes?

Or was it Nigella Lawson dressed in a silk nightgown whilst gently squeezing the juice from half a lemon?

Friday 6 July 2007

No "high-fives" please, we're British

And another thing I find disturbing about volleyball players is their need to perpetually slap each other on the back and high-five each other at every opportunity. I was playing badminton last night and witness to a gratuitous display of affection on the volleyball court next to me. Unfortunately none of them looked like the lady in the picture.

At one point, in the middle of their game, somebody must have discovered the secret to harnessing fusion power as they suddenly began to circle each other, like Nike sponsored Morris dancers, "high-fiving" each other as they went. I'd have said something only I don't like to complain.

Forgive me for mixing my sports, but give me the Bjorn Borg approach any day. Yes, I know women prefer the McEnroe type but isn't it the silent ones you have to look out for? Admittedly after forty years I've yet to see this theory proven.

Friday 29 June 2007

The artist as hero

Why do people find it so difficult to separate art from the artist? Shouldn't it be possible to admire the art in isolation to it's creator? I understand the desire to know more but this aspiration often seems to result in a need to wrap the subject into one perfect package. Are we afraid that in acknowledging the artists faults as human beings this will reflect on the art itself?

I was going to write "creating great art is not heroic" but I can see that in some ways it might be regarded as such. Some art is only achieved after overcoming many obstacles and I concede that this process can be regarded as heroic. Yet I can more easily think of any number of musicians in the recent past who, whilst their music may have been beautiful, were textbook narcissistic examples. Are such people really to be regarded as heroes?

Thursday 28 June 2007

The match

Rocky Marciano boxing poster
Last year in a freak occurrence I managed to pull a muscle in my shoulder by sneezing - no really. This morning I managed to do the same again and having lost the ability to easily turn my head left and right it made driving into work a painful experience.

More painful is the thought that I may have to withdraw from the badminton showdown with my younger brother this evening. It's time to exact revenge for all those 'old man' comments. Unfortunately this sad spectacle will, if last week is anything to go by, be sandwiched between a volleyball match populated by loathsome (I.e. fit) people in their twenties/thirties, and another badminton match played between a couple of teenage girls who make my brother's 'old man' comments seem more than appropriate.

Concentration could prove to be the key.

Thursday 31 May 2007

Barbarians at the gates

Big Brother Logo
I loathe Big Brother. I hate that it's so popular. I wouldn't mind if the audience demographic consisted solely of mindless idiots, who would otherwise be "out with their m8s havin a larf" before going home to watch (and probably enact) Armageddon. What astounds me is how many supposedly intelligent people also watch it. They even talk about it at work, as if it really matters. Some of these people are my friends!

This is a program that makes human life itself another cheap commodity. A program that perpetuates the insidious notion that privacy is not only to be ignored but something of which we should be suspicious. The sole "entertainment" is in watching a group of useless people in anticipation of an argument. It's the equivalent of that schoolyard phenomenon where children gather around to watch a couple of their peers batter each other senseless.

To add insult the program makers like to suggest we're witnessing some kind of social experiment. To do so insults the intelligence of any sane person, though not it would appear that of the viewers.

Sunday 27 May 2007

Why is she wearing a moustache?

Shakespeare In Love
This was the first question my daughter asked upon coming into the living room to find me watching Shakespeare In Love. Not bad, and considering that somehow none of the characters in the film had yet figured out she was "in disguise", pretty perceptive for a five year old.

Daughter: "Are they going to get married?"

Me (non-committal): "They might do.."

Daughter: "But they are kissing a lot."

Me: "Yes that's true, but I think she might have to marry someone else."

Daughter: "Why?

Me: "Because in those days some people were told who they had to marry."

Daughter: "Why?"

Me (already getting desperate): "That's just the way it was."

Daughter: "Why?"

(continued ad infinitum)

Thursday 24 May 2007

Loser talk

Liverpool lose Champions League finalAfter watching Liverpool FC lose the Champions League final last night I reflected that they had at least made a game of it and done themselves proud. At times like these I believe it's perfectly acceptable to indulge in a little clichéd football talk. Actually when it comes to football it seems any time is O.K. The other week for instance I was discussing the merits of Garcia with a Spanish colleague of mine and mentioned, without the slightest hint of embarrassment, that the "trouble with Garcia is he does blow hot and cold". My English isn't the best but when it comes to football my brain does seem to take a vacation for the duration.

I remember one meeting with admin (rumour has it work is more important than football) the day before a crunch match where my mind went wandering; only to be brought back to the real world when the manager said "what do you think Phil?". Fair play (there I go again) I did manage to side step the question brilliantly with a "hmm..." and a slight shrug which seemed to do the trick.

All of which rather detracts from the main point that terms such as "gave a good account of themselves" and "they did well to get that far" are apparently, my football loving brethren inform me, "loser talk". It turns out I'm not showing a level of maturity or perspective at all. There I am worried that I may be getting a little slower (a lot slower if my recent football performances are anything to go by) and, dare I say it, old, and it turns out that all I am is a "loser". If you'll forgive one last cliché... result!

Monday 21 May 2007

An infinite number of monkeys

Michael Caine in The Quiet AmericanShould I wait until I have something that may be of vague interest to say or, given how long I'd have to wait for that to happen, just write any old thing that comes into my head? Trouble is, I find other people's lives far more interesting than my own. Either that or I'm just nosey. Think I'll try and adopt the Michael Caine approach. Hopefully there'll be the odd The Quiet American alongside The Swarm, Jaws: The Revenge and numerous other aberrations.