Monday, 5 December 2011

Buzz! Off

Great! It’s Christmas again. There’s nothing quite like spending quality time with family and friends to forget about the woes and realities of the real world (kicking George Osborne in the shins can wait to the New Year) whilst tucking into shit loads of food and booze. This year is the little man’s first Christmas and whilst I can’t wait to see him open all his presents (sadly Star Wars Lego is not suitable for a one-year old) there are other Christmas matters that need attending to that are of far greater importance. Like revenge…

Let me explain. For the last few years Christmas has been spent round the parents-in-law. Father-in-law provides the real Ale, which makes the piss-water of lager ever more obvious; mother-in-law cooks a mean turkey to keep us all plump and fat; and the remainder of the family are left to watch the Christmas Dr Who special and to play games during the Queen’s speech. Usually, the gaming involves the well-known mechanisms of Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary, but two years ago, whilst browsing this place I had a serious moment of genius:

I’ve got a PS3; Buzz! could be a winner in bringing about extra-curricular family joy and festive cheer to all. And it did. With four players knocking heads together in deadly quizzical combat it brought forth frenzied button mashing, gamesmanship and the odd bit of friendly banter. The endeavour was a hugely entertaining success. Mostly because I was freaking untouchable. No one could get close my fastest finger first. Not even my brother who, truth be told, is a bit of a gaming savant, has defeated me on Buzz! in the intervening period as yet (which I hope still seriously pisses him off). My avatar of the Dark Lord ruled supreme. Jason Donovan continually bowed down and worshipped my amazing skills. Everything was right with the world.

Until the day it happened. I was finally defeated on Buzz! last Christmas by my sister-in-law, who continually likes to remind me of the fact by posting photos of my defeat on Facebook! This would be okay if the Chrimbo tree in the photo didn’t look like it was laughing at me or if my conqueror had defeated me with any kind of discernable talent. The final round, however, consisted entirely of button bashing on sis-in-law’s part in the hope of attaining the right answer as the platforms our avatars were standing on slowly fell towards a bottomless pit of doom and defeat. Except sis-in-law’s platform was gradually starting to go upwards with every answer she managed to correctly ascertain before the other contestants, whilst mine continued to plummet. What in the blue hell? This non-tactic of frantically bashing the buzzer to get the answer right was working. Working, dammit! And before I could accidentally trip over and press the reset button, sis had been victorious. Endless mugging for the rest of the year has since followed.

So, this period of festive cheer is time for revenge and for the status quo to be re-established, as I magnificently reclaim my Buzz! throne. This year I won’t be distracted by the late arrival of the little tinker (due Christmas Eve my arse) and the enforced sobriety, which obviously provided an advantage in your derisory victory. The blue touch paper is lit. The gauntlet has been thrown down. I’ll bring the PS3 and a big bag of awesome; sis, you just attempt to bring it. Sadly, all you’ll be able to do is watch on forlornly as your wretched avatar is crushed into a gormless pulp as my superior quiz skills and answer response outwit your inferior button bashing.  


Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Bear necessities...

Everyone had a favourite cuddly when they were a tinker. Don’t attempt to deny it you soulless goon! The typical teddy bear (or close alternative) was way better than an invisible friend – mostly because they actually existed and didn’t talk back – and were much easier to take to bed and snuggle up to than the stabbing plastic of the Millennium Falcon. My own personal bear was actually a dog cuddly with big floppy ears, which had a top layer of fur you could unzip and remove to reveal a garish pink and black horizontal striped pyjama number underneath. Despite his colour-blindness and piss-poor taste in bed-wear, he was an exceptional listener (teddy bears have to be when you’re a highly demanding attention-seeking niblet) and pretty much went everywhere with me. I can’t remember that damn dog’s name for shit (‘Poppy’ suggested my hippocampus a minute ago – which can’t possibly be true seeing as I’m a gruff man, RAHR!) but just like all of you and your own bear of choice, he was my buddy, my snugly and, most importantly, my protector.

Yes, protector. It’s amazing how, as grown-ups, we quickly forget about all the freaking monsters under the bed, the jism monkeys in the closet and the skunk pussies hanging around outside the bedroom window waiting to pounce on the easily terrified child. When our irritable little ones are having the night terrors or the nap-time creeps we like to think we’re saving the day once we enter their bedroom to give them a big hug; but the truth is bear has already skull fucked the dribbling snot-creature that was looking to feast on the tinker’s soul whilst we were all busy watching The Only Way Is Essex. Don’t deny it. You love The Only Way Is Essex! With his protector job done, bear simply returns to his role of snugly, waiting for the next foul beast to attempt to encroach on his best friend’s room. Mostly so he can knee-cap the muddy-funster…

And for this he gets no gratitude from the ignorant parents (except when it’s plainly obvious that an unstitched arm or a loose eye from the previous nights near death encounter at the hands of an incredibly powerful Wixard requires Mum’s handy needlework skills). He needs not that. The warm hug of his padawan everyday, for the short-time he is required (before being put in storage), is enough to justify any and all night time heroics. My boy has had his own little blue bear now for a fair while, and he loves that bear to bits. I’m sure the feeling is mutual for bear (but he refuses to speak to me – git). So, if any monsters are out there reading, little blue is waiting for you to try it on. Just don’t be surprised when he punches you in the kidney, knees you in the nuts and gouges out your eyes with a knitting needle in protecting all that is dear to him. Teddy bears rock. You have been warned!

There’s a film in that picture somewhere. Perhaps we could call it Toy Story or Monsters Inc? Sort it out Pixar! 

Friday, 18 November 2011

Chuggington Corner!

Chuggers tend to remind me of a sequence from much loved eighties flick The Monster Squad. The Wolfman makes a sudden appearance and seems to have one of the squad cornered (the fat kid, as far as I can recall, who was supposedly this flicks Chunk from The Goonies). The rest of the gang shout for him to kick the Wolfman in the nuts. Fat kid replies the Wolfman hasn’t got any nuts. They all shout out kick him in the nuts anyway (hmm, I don’t recall The Monster Squad being so pantomime) to which fat kid lands his big square foot square between where Wolfy’s plums should be. The Wolfman howls in pain allowing fat kid to make his escape.

Dodging charity muggers involves a somewhat similar gambit. Most don’t have nuts (being female) and success in avoiding their cornering tactics remains reliant on your ability to metaphorically kick their idealistic, transparent rhetoric square in the balls by breezily walking past them with little concern for their plight. Success is usually met with their howls of derision and a look that’s supposed to devour your soul as you continue unmoved down the street. Look, I said somewhat similar to The Monster Squad…

Chugging is a rather pointless endeavour. Not only does it miss the whole point around the concept of charity (giving voluntarily), it also gives chuggers a misplaced sense of self-righteousness. Just because you’ve been given a cue-card to base your preachy sermon around does not give you the right to look down upon everyone else as utter bastards. Perhaps peeps don’t have the time or inclination to talk to you about the charity you’re representing. Some may, y’know, already be particularly generous making various donations to other charitable organisations. Others, as is their prerogative, simply might not care. One thing’s for sure, cold calling on the street is more likely to lead to people giving the charity you’re working for a much wider berth in the future. Typically because chuggers are smug, charmless, insufferable, irritating tits…

Equally annoying are other methods of extraction employed by more shameful charities to help kick your guilt reflex into action. It reminds me of a time, as a piss poor student, where I was donating a fiver a month to the NSPCC from my much needed student ‘beer fund’ loan. A couple of months into providing this regular donation I received what was essentially a begging letter, clouded by emotive language and pictures, asking for a more significant contribution. I cancelled my Direct Debit immediately. The NSPCC have been struck off the list ever since, no matter their worthy agenda. In comparison I’ve never seen a chugger representing or received a contrived begging letter from the MS Society. Perhaps this is why my donation shifted to an organisation that doesn’t harangue those making a regular contribution – they’re actually grateful for the fact people are willing to give voluntarily without coercion.

And that’s what charity is about. Giving to a cause that’s meaningful to you in someway because, sadly, the average person on the street doesn’t have magic pockets stuffed with more money than they know what to do with. We can only give so much too so few. So, my annoying chugger friends, particularly the ones outside the Sainsburys and Boots opposite Holborn station (also rather inconveniently right next to my office), please give up and fuck off. You’re in the West End where everyone’s rather liberal and cool anyway, and likely already give to worthy causes. You’re preaching to people that sympathise but think your methods suck big hairy donkey balls. Let us decide for ourselves and give back the meaning of the word ‘charity’. Otherwise, we’ll start kicking you in the nuts for real…

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Fulham's lucky mascot!

One of the benefits of having a work mate who’s a season ticket holder at Fulham is that he can often get cheap seats for Europa Cup fixtures. Because seriously, who in their right mind wants to be out watching crap football on a dreary, cold Thursday night? Well, me for one thing. Since the arrival of the little man I don’t get out as much and when I do it needs to be 1) when he’s in bed and 2) on the cheap, otherwise I’ll feel a little bad for cutting into my boy’s future Lego fund to sponsor my beer intake. Ten pound a ticket is obviously too good an opportunity to turn down, so last Thursday night I spent the evening in the company of Bobby Zamora, Andy Johnson, Danny Murphy, Clint Dempsey and John Arne-Risse (nice to see a couple of Liverpool legends there)…

This is not the first time I’ve been to the Cottage. I was fortunate enough that said mate asked if I wanted to attend a few games a couple of seasons ago when Fulham marched to the final of the Europa Cup, only to miss out on lifting the trophy due to a Diego Forlan inspired Atletico Madrid. I missed the final (as it was in Hamburg) but did frequent the three preceding matches against SV Hamburg, Wolfsburg and, luckily, the unforgettable knock out encounter against Juventus. It’s not often you get to see a World Cup winning captain being completely bullied and out muscled by a previously much maligned striker. It’s also rarer to see such an extraordinary come back. The atmosphere in Fulham after that game was electric. Conveniently, it had occurred shortly after Chelsea had been knocked out of Big Cup, so the chants of ‘there’s only one team in Fulham’ were even more rousing that night. I don’t think anyone could quite believe what had happened!

Of course, Clint Dempsey's winner looks awesome, but we all know the reality that it was really a rather wanky cross...

Anyway, Wisla Krakow are no Juventus, and as Thursday’s match was still in the group stages of the competition there was not as much riding on the game. Any celebration was likely to be muted. From Fulham’s perspective of course; every Pole in South West London that turned up for the game (all of them then) would probably disagree with that assessment. The normally sedate seated Putney End, normally filled with part-time supporters (such as myself), was instead a sea of standing Krakow fans singing, chanting and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Most Fulham fans looked on bemused (or cowered depending on the root of their xenophobia) but it seemed to charge the players into frenzied activity. Before you could say “fuck me, woeful defending” it was 1-1 inside five minutes. Then Andy Johnson scored an absolute peach – a volley from a corner with the goal slightly behind him. It’s always nice to be sitting directly behind the net when a fantastic strike like that hits the back of the net. And slowly Fulham cruised to another 4-1 victory (although even that didn’t manage to quite pierce the noise and joviality of the Krakow fans). Well worth the tenner!

Anyway, the point of this post: that’s four in four. Four UEFA… sorry, Europa Cup jaunts to Craven Cottage, four pretty outstanding victories. Not a tedious game in sight, goals galore and whilst nice Uncle Roy has evolved into Kojak, the same approach to playing good passing football with the occasional hoof up to Zamora remains Fulham’s bread and butter. So I’ve been declared by my work mate and his fellow season-ticket chums as a lucky mascot. Based on my current attendance to win ratio, Fulham should win the Europa Cup this season. So, if you want to see a decent game on the cheap on a wet mid-week evening in south west London, against quality opposition, where an upset is likely, I heartily recommend visiting Craven Cottage. It’s the better option to watching the forlorn figure of Fernando Torres trudge around Stamford Bridge, miss another sitter, look up to the sky and ask where it’s all gone wrong. How much do you have to pay for that shit?

Sign me up Al-Fayed and European domination is yours... I'm lucky like that!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Stand back – I’m going to try science!

Did anyone else catch Stephen Hawking's ‘Brave New World’ on Monday? It’s the follow up to his British Genius’ programme from last year, which looked at the scientific endeavours of a host of clever bastards, and not just the well known ones either, that have helped make the world what it is today. No, not a cesspit of depravity, disorder and chaos – there is no science in banking and economics – but a world where pre-term babies have an infinitely better chance of survival than they did 30 years ago and with less chance of suffering associated developmental illnesses to boot. And when non-polluting cars driven by perpetual motion machines finally arrive it will mean that said children won’t then be killed off by the cancer-inducing smog produced by the combustion engine. Science – making us more awesome, one slow step at a time!

That’s kind of the concept with Brave New World. Looking at present scientific endeavours and unravelling their future potential benefit to humanity. Whilst it’s not quite as interesting as some of the bonkers science explored by renowned entrepreneur Cave Johnson in Portal 2 – that’s how they need to re-boot Big Brother; get the moronic participants to complete in some of his insane test chambers – it does feature some pretty remarkable stuff. A bit like Tomorrow’s World then, just much less shit, as the science in Brave New World is qualified by the testimonies of proper scientists like Hawkins, not Philipa Forrester.  

Anyway, it’s currently on 4OD at the moment and you really need to watch the following from the 32 minute mark and marvel at the mechanical legs that are helping people paralysed from the waist down to walk again.

I’m not thoroughly versed in the science behind it, but I think it has something to do with the robotics picking up the signal from the brain that can no longer reach the individuals legs and the mechanics carrying out the brain’s instructions on their behalf. Pretty incredible, huh? It also seems to have beneficial additional effects – just the process of being able to stand upright brings pain relief from the compression of the spine when constantly sitting in a wheelchair. It just seems like an incredible piece of hardware. No evasive surgery required, just strap on a pair of these bad boys and all of a sudden mobility has been restored to those it had been taken from.

Okay, so the first girl shown is not completely versed in the use of these robo-legs (to be fair she’s only been using them for a couple of months), but the second girl featured powers through and whilst full mobility is not completely restored, it still remains an incredible feat of science. The final bonus is that the drive of this motion is all generated by the mechanics of the device, meaning the individual using them provides no effort to generate movement and, consequently, suffers no fatigue from their use. Utterly remarkable! And then they show a reel of what these things can do when utilised by the able-bodied. They’re like a more compact version of the power-loaders from Aliens. You can pick up 200lbs with next to no effort. It’s probably one of the single coolest things I’ve ever seen. Why? Because they’re like the freaking power-loaders from Aliens!!

I just hope it’s not a hoax - the American professor narrating and the footage shown do make it seem like one of those inexplicable adverts for a gardening gadget at only £49.99 that subsequently doesn’t work. But if Hawking's has put his name against it, well, this must be the future. Just a shame it won’t last though. If you watch the segment before the robotic legs you have baby faced robot AIs being taught simple tricks by scientists and learning from them with remarkable ease. The guy leading the programme proclaims that in 20 years time every household will have such robots helping with the household chores. Just in time for 2027 and judgement day. I hope the company he works for is not Cyberdyne Systems. Science, so great it has the potential to heal and destroy the world in the blink of an eye. Well, you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth, I suppose…

Friday, 7 October 2011

Decisions, decisions...

If we’ve learned anything from the current Conservative Party conference it’s that Theresa May is an idiot, their political doctrine is pandering to the more vocal right-wing loons in the party and foreigners and the poor are to blame for many of the things going wrong in the country, not the parties cack-handed ability to put their lie… sorry, words into appropriate policy. The banks, meanwhile, are back to burning fivers for chuckles, their moral compass beset somewhat by the lure of making shitloads more money at the expense of their customers. Of course, they’re completely not to blame, at all, for the economic fiasco of recent times either and anyone that says otherwise must be a Nazi. All of which makes being a public servant a right joy at the moment!

Not only do you have to contend with tools like Michael Gove making regular contradictory statements and basing his educational policy on ideology rather than the sound, credible research and data put in front of him, but you also have to suffer a pay freeze (where the bonus culture of banks has not been culled) and a large number of vacancies not being filled (meaning there’s much more work that needs doing with fewer hands). Plus, you invariably have smug-faced posho-twat Cameron regularly beam that we would not be in this mess if it wasn’t for public servants. Sigh! These things are cyclical. Give it another 10 years and when the local authorities are shown to be rather inept, there’s a lack of consistent data on things of the day that are important and need measuring and England has turned into a ghetto infested dump then they will realise their folly at turfing out civil servants and central government.

Still, I do get 30 days holiday plus an extra two-and-a-half bank holidays a year, flexible working hours (including working from home), subsidised gym membership and many other benefits from being a civil servant to make up for the considerable woe. This includes something called an instant recognition voucher. Do a good piece of work, be it simply adding code to an SQL process that makes retrieving data a good deal more efficient and anyone in the organisation can nominate you for a voucher. It’s like an instant bonus; £50 to spend at the likes of Amazon, John Lewis, Sainsburys, etc. Okay, so it’s not a lump sum of three grand in your pocket, but beggars can’t really be choosers.

Anyway, I’ve recently received a voucher – for being awesome no less – but I’m in a quandary about what to purchase with it. It will be a PC or PS3 game of course, as having children is expensive and these vouchers are now the only way to fund my gaming habit. But the question is what game? Consider the titles that have either just been released or will be released in the next month or so:

·        Deus Ex 3 – sequel to one of the most outstanding first-person shooters ever crafted, more so because of its combination with elements of role-play and an awesome plot. However, the second game in the series was shite, so caution required.
·        FIFA 2012 – Electronic Arts yearly franchise update. £50 for some new gloss but few changes under the surface. That’s how EA roll. Bastards.
·        Batman: Arkham City – Sequel to the best game of 2009. Advertised to death and potential spoilers revealed in the huge number of trailers available, but my word it does look fantastic. So long as they haven’t decided to fix the gameplay (which was not broken) this should be made of win.
·        Uncharted 3 – Sequel to the second best game of 2009 sees Indiana Jon… sorry, Nathan Drake looking for more treasure whilst undertaking dare-devil climbing antics and shooting shitloads of bad guys in bonkers plot machinations. Should rock the monkey!
·        Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Fifth game in the Morrowind series and sequel to Oblivion which was just vast. Need I say more?

That’s some supposedly top quality shit there all being primed for the Christmas schedule. I want all of them (who wouldn’t) but balls if I can choose between them. So, I’ve set up a poll to help me in this decision making process. Just pop over to the right, select the game you think I should get and in a few days I’ll order or pre-order the winner from Amazon. Help me Obi-Wan, you’re my only hope!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Ribbit motherfucker, ribbit!

There’s nothing going on in the Megaverse at the moment; well, except for Carlos Tevez’s most recent act of petulance and the Euro going to shit, but that’s well covered elsewhere. So, here’s a quick round up of potentially cool stuff the Man has created to keep us wilfully obedient and feeble-minded in the coming months. Because fun and entertainment are far better than the reality of it all, right?

Black Dynamite

You may have missed the Black Dynamite flick that was released last year. A blaxsplotation movie in a similar vein to I’m Going Git You Sucka! (hmm, no you probably haven’t heard of, yet seen that either) but a little dafter, funnier and featuring much more Kung-Fu. It stars Michael Jai- White (the poor bastard who played Spawn in what remains the worst comic book/graphic novel adaptation to the big screen yet) as eponymous hero Black Dynamite who has shed loads of fun chewing up the scenery, being heroic and kicking arse whilst attempting to prevent The Man’s diabolical plan to emasculate all brothers by having them suffer from Little Richard (think about it).  Can you dig it?

Anyway, the flick was a laugh riot and someone with damn good sense decided that the concept was sly enough to produce an animated series of Black Dynamite’s further adventures. The pilot has been picked up and the full animated series of Black Dynamite will be shown sometime from April next year onwards. For now, the unscreened ten minute pilot can be found on the adult swim website and gives a taster of what gives; a pastiche of the muppet show with Kermit going rogue and pimping out all the children. It may sound bonkers, but it is damn funny. Watch and enjoy the ribbiting mofo try and get one up on Black Dynamite here…

The Raid

At the advent of the VHS revolution, my old man ensured he got a video club card for the local video store (Capricorn Video, RIP) so that every weekend he would rent a couple of flicks to keep me and my brother entertained. You would think this was a great opportunity to use film to enhance our understanding of our own mortality and place in the universe. No. It was the perfect breeding ground to watch daft action movies. Anything with ninjas or Jean Claude Van Damme rocked, Commando was the essence of the perfect film, all else was just pretentious wank, especially if it was in black or white. Subtitles were fine, otherwise how else would we get to enjoy the sheer awesomeness of Hard Boiled and The Killer! It’s an upbringing that means the following trailer for an Indonesian flick, directed by a Welshman, titled The Raid just leaves me creaming in my jeans. Watch, and tell me you’re not salivating at how spectacular it looks as well…

Now, don’t give me any of this bollocks about “what do Indonesian’s know about action movies”. You could probably have said the same about Thailand before Ong-Bak was released in 2004. And Ong-Bak is amazing. This is why The Raid will be amazing. No release date in the UK as yet though (sniff)…

Batman: Arkham City

The follow up to easily the best game of 2008, yet despite this it’s being advertised to death. Seriously, if there’s one game this year that doesn’t need any kind of advertising it would be the sequel to Arkham Asylum. Everyone will buy the game anyway, even if it does turn out to be a complete turd. Luckily, the current trailers (of which there are many) suggest that developers Rocksteady have kept to an if it isn’t broken don’t fix it approach, which means it should be more of the same but with minor differences. The perfect design for a sequel in other words. So what we get are a few new combat moves, the action taken to a less enclosed space beyond the Asylum and shitloads more of Bats’ most fearsome enemies making a proper appearance. So long as they haven’t bodged up the fantastic free-flow combat system, everything should be as before. My only worry is the balance between giving each villain enough screen-time. This was superbly managed in the original, but I really hope they haven’t over done it this time round to appease the fanboys at the expense of gameplay. We’ll find out soon enough as Arkham City is released on the 21 October.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Adventures in Fatherhood

Before the arrival of my little boy I was quite afraid. If the wife’s pregnancy and the upcoming labour wasn’t enough to keep me constantly on edge, then the advice from family, friends, work colleagues, the NCT group and random strangers down the pub about the post-birth after-life was almost enough to send me rolling down the cliff-side. All I had to look forward to from this point to the end of eternity was incessant mountains of poo, sleep deprivation, an end to all social activity and incessant mountains of poo (so important it needs to be said twice). Not to mention that if the little man had colic then I would effectively rise one morning after a month of non-stop crying as something resembling a shuffling brain-eating zombie.  

And for a time at the beginning of this new adventure I thought they would be right. At the birth, my boy came out covered in poo. Typical! He was also fairly ill for his first the ten days in the world, spending a short time in the hospitals neonatal intensive care unit (a really humbling experience) and needing a course of antibiotics to overcome the illness. The antibiotics had an unfortunate after affect. On his third day the little one would plaster my right arm with fiery orange liquid death that was fired like an Exocet missile from his tiny little bottom. It could have been a full-on chest shot except the squeak of a fart encouraged me to take a side-step. Most of the evil just arched across the room instead, destroying the wall on the other-side (a good nine feet away). I’d never seen anything like it. The tiny extra bit he squeezed out for simple chuckles after the main course still haunts me to this day. Walking into the nurses’ ward to ask for help I felt like the guy from Robocop who crashes his van into a tub of toxic waste. “Help me, I’m melting…”

Luckily, such early encounters with unbelievable amounts of baby poo have guarded me well for all future nappy changing events. Rather than freak-out like a complete goof, I made the decision that where the little one was concerned I’d simply suck it in (an intake of breath, not the poo) and get on with things. As such, I’m now a Zen master of nappy changing! More to the point it shows for all the stuff people tell you prior to the birth, you really don’t know how you’re going to deal with things until you’re actually in the danger zone. Thinking about changing nappies during the wife’s pregnancy made me feel icky; post-birth, what’s the big fucking deal!

Yes, he is a rubbish sleeper and my social activity has been reduced to virtually nothing; people were not wrong about that. I originally thought, rather naively, that babies arrived from the womb fully understanding the sleep process. Do. They. Bollocks! No, you have to train them how to sleep, which is pretty much like attempting to train a puppy not to lick their plums. Yet even here there are hidden bonuses. I’ve worked out I can survive through the day on just four hours of sleep and remain effective at work, rather than wander around like a perpetually clueless goon. Likewise, although my social-life has been stunted this has had a great effect on my physique. I feel more energised from avoiding beer, not to mention the weekend hangover has been vanquished, and I’m much thinner and fitter than before.

Which makes me question, why does no one tell you about these benefits before having a baby? Why is it always ‘covered in poo’, ‘you’ll be walking about like a zombie’ and ‘the first few months are hell’? Additionally, why does no one tell you about the wonderful things that happen as your child slowly grows into himself? Perhaps it’s down to the simple joy of letting you find out and experience the more amazing things for yourself, at undisclosed times when you’re least expecting it.

A case in point, the other week I was moving a suitcase which involved raising the metal handle into its full position so that it could be easily pulled along the floor. So, I raised the handle up, got distracted by something and slammed it back down into the hidden position. The little tinker was watching on and decided this was the funniest thing he had ever seen. The belly laugh and his chuckling were so infectious I did it again. And again. And again. In total I did this with the suitcase handle about 20 times and the little man’s uncontrolled joy never ceased; he just kept chuckling away like a gibbon. The action I was carrying out was not in the remotest bit funny, but in a child’s world it was a moment of wonder and sheer amazement. Oh, to be a child again, huh?

So, almost nine months of being a father have passed and he’s already standing himself up and cruising with the aid of furniture. It’s been an incredible journey so far. Here's to the next set of adventures as he grows into a toddler. Although, if at all possible, if you could avoid hosing me down with liquid shit again, that would be nice…!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Where's Wall-E?

There is quite a bit of shit on the Internet. UFO fanatics, conspiracy theory lunatics, anti-vivisectionists with a God complex, vegetarians, creationists, white supremacists, Fox News and similar have caused cyberspace to become a minefield of mis-information, factoids and ignorance. I’ve encountered idiots that have summarised the complex societal and cultural factors that led to the Rwandan genocide as little more than ‘blacks killing blacks’; accidentally found myself on websites that believe Karl Marx’s ‘Communist Manifesto’ is really one of the ten most evil books ever committed to print; and regularly have to contend with Man Utd numpties that cannot deal with the fact that 18+5 is greater than 19+3! I feel sorry for the children that will grow up regularly using this resource without the necessary skill to identify bias and bullshit from the reality. And with fewer young people opting to take history at GCSE or beyond every year, a generation of unthinking simpletons that take the Internet at face value is all the more likely.

Anyway, I digress. Every now and then when trawling through a river of shit, you tend to locate a solid gold nugget of awesome. Cyberspace is no different. For every ill-informed opinion, there is generally something astounding to come across online that makes you think humanity stands a half-decent chance. My first encounter with this phenomenon was a simple online personality test (which, sadly, no longer exists). It was incredible due to its 100% successful hit rate. You simply filled in some details about yourself, answered some easy questions and though a complex algorithm the test immediately identified your personality type. No matter who or the details and answers submitted, the Windows pop-up generated at the end of the test was deadly accurate. ‘You are a cunt’ it would always say. Utter genius.

To this day it’s those little gems that keep my cyber existence sane. Lately it’s been the simple joy of a ‘Where’s Wally’ double page illustration, albeit supplanted with ‘Wall-E’ from the Pixar movie hidden amongst a host of other well known robots. It’s great! For a start, if you don’t like Wall-E then you obviously have no soul. Secondly, once you’ve found the little bugger (not really that difficult) you get the added bonus of attempting to name every single robot in the illustration. It’s a simple and effective yet highly entertaining concept that provides the same child-like endearment the original Wally illustrations provided. There’s Gort, Kryten, Twiki, The Terminator, the boxes from Terrorhawks, Bender, Tik-Tok, evil Bill and Ted, Robby the Robot, R2, C-3PO and many more. Try it. With your inner-child refreshed you can then look forward to tackling the jism-monkeys and skunk pussies of the Internet with renewed vigour…

Sunday, 4 September 2011

LARPing around...

So, what did you get up to over the bank holiday weekend? Pitch up a tent in a wet, muddy camp and stoke the fire-pit into action? Put on some light armour and tool up with a host of sword and sorcery weaponry? Teleport into a nefarious Liche’s tower? Hounded from pillar to post by undead monstrosities and ‘cleaners’ looking to feast upon your soul? Search for a phylactery and make your escape before being turned into a brain-eating zombie? Drunk a shitload of mead and had many a chuckle with like minded people, whilst maintaining a healthy fear of death?

None of the above? In which case the endless rain probably made for a miserable weekend of staying indoors and being bored stupid on the Internet. I pity you. If you haven’t already guessed, I spent the weekend in rather more enjoyable fashion. Investing some quality time with my inner geek! Since the August bank holiday of 2003 said weekend has been the one time a year where I kit out in ranger garb (medium armour, a camp underarm scout bag, latex sword and warhammer, hero belt, etc), forget about the real world and all its associated problems and look to survive the terrors the world of live action role-play has in store for me. 

No, not re-enactment; live action role-play. The difference is your destiny is fixed in re-enactment. In live action role-play you create your own character, make your own choices and decisions, build your skills slowly and hope to live through the weekend despite your own failings and foibles. I’ve been playing the same character for nine years now and am amazed to still be alive (although there have been some close calls). In contrast my brother attended his first event this bank holiday and didn’t survive the second day! Fickle are the Larping Gods (or duck next time you melon). In this time I’ve had a mage-bolt through the head for plastering Life of Brian inspired graffiti all over the white wall of some bastard at The Gathering; owned the only enchanted weapon in the Balrog system at the time – a shorter than short talking short-sword that’s about as much use as a chocolate fireguard when all the monsters use pole arms; and seen my old uni housemate grind out a pole-dance in front of a horny ogre in nothing but a red g-string. The retinas are still burning from that experience.

I also run about like a total loon for some reason. That’s probably down to the leather armour getting tighter and chaffing more each year, telling me that I’m turning into a right fat bastard and really should do something about it. So, faced against a heavily armoured merchant of death, who also happens to be an expert weapon user and has a gazillion hit points (to my five), rather than stand my ground and fight I’ll usually sprint uphill to tire the enemy out. For the exercise of course, not because I’m some kind of big girly wuss. And whilst I did return home thinner the real bonus of this tactic was the point where, just as the nasty beasty was about to finally take a swing with his sword and catch me, he instead stacked it and crumpled to a pathetic heap on the ground, much to the jubilation of my fellow warriors. That I turned around and got a couple of swift low blows in whilst he was getting back to his feet says more for my undead opponent than for my combat skills. Running about is tiring stuff (my thighs were still aching two days later from all the sprinting); when this character is finally killed off I’m going to grow old gracefully and replace him with a mage.

Still another year, another partially successful campaign! Although I entered the portal to escape the tower with my right arm knackered, my armour needing extensive repairing and my lungs lodged firmly in my oesophagus, a hero’s welcome would greet the party on our return to Passegem (a location in Yarm, of course). Except I forgot to think of ‘Passegem’ as I entered the portal. Instead, I was thinking of ‘water’ (all that running about is thirsty work). So, on the otherside I’m expecting to land in either a muddy puddle, the middle of a lake, or worse yet, a large expanse of water known as an ocean. Why didn’t I just think ‘tits’?

Anyway, I got back to work on Thursday and all I could think about is how thoroughly mundane the real world is. Oh well, only another 350 odd days left until I can unleash the full geek again (sigh)...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Dude Abides!

There comes a time in life when you suddenly realise there is something out there that is far better than being a Jedi. This usually coincides with one maturing into adulthood, which itself coincides with watching The Big Lebowski. Now, rather than pretending to use the Force to switch the television channel over, or having light-sabre fights with bread-sticks, you can instead give in to your inner-Dude and drink as many White Russians as you can muster! Fuck it, who cares about destroying the Death Star when you can go bowling instead. Destroying the Death Star sounds too much like hard work and, as an acolyte of El Duderino, that’s just a step too far from the pursuit of idle perfection.

Hell, even watching The Big Lebowski requires too much effort these days. Imagine how much time you could be spending admiring your rug that really ties the living room together instead! What we really need is some smart-arse to compile a short version of The Big Lebowski so that all the eternal slackers that abide to the concepts of Dudeism can dutifully pay tribute to their saviour regularly. And just when you thought one of the fucking funniest movies ever made couldn’t get any better, oh my, it just has.

Here is a version of The Big Lebowski you can watch that only take a few minutes of your time and will still have you in absolute hysterics! I swear my spleen almost burst from too many chuckles, which in all honesty, is very un-Dude like…

The 'fucking' short version...


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Premiership season 2011/12 about to start - Yay!

Right, the new Premiership season kicks off at 3pm. My Fantasy Football team is all ready to kick the bejesus out of all those armchair centurions who know jack shit about football ( - let me know if you have a league in which I can destroy you as well). And where would we be without the regulation commentary on the riders and runners the morning before kick off. Here’s my take on things ahead of Liverpool levelling United in the most number of league trophies won…!

Arsenal – It would be churlish to suggest that if, as expected, Fabregas and Nasri both leave the Gunners that Arsenal are finished. After all, Wenger does have a habit of finding and nurturing precocious young talent and getting them to play football (neat triangles, wonderful movement, etc) better than any other manager in the Premiership. But losing two world class players and regular match winners is likely to hurt any ambition Arsenal have for glory this season. If Wenger can re-invest in defence by bringing targets like Gary Cahill or Phil Jags to the club it would at least shore up their one consistent failing of last season – letting Newcastle score four against them!. In addition, with the likes of Van Persie, Wilshere, Walcott and Arshavin they’re not totally starved of quality. A season of transition, but the likes of Liverpool, Spurs and Everton will look to pounce and take the opportunity to wrestle a regular Big Cup berth off of them. Beware the wounded animal though.

Aston Villa – The loss of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing will be well felt, although the signing of a quality winger in Charles N’Zogbia should be enough to provide Darren Bent the quality service that’s made him one of the most consistent Premiership goal-scorers in recent seasons. Perhaps the real key to Villa’s season is how rusty Shay Given is in goal following a year of bench-warming at City. At his best, he’ll save at least two certain goals per game, but a long time questions whether he remains the best keeper in the Premiership? New manager McLeish has made astute signings, although the strength in depth of the squad suggests they may entertain a relegation battle come next May. And McLeish isn’t very good at those…

Blackburn Rovers – Did anyone else notice Blackburn at all last season? I found them strangely ‘meh’, so haven’t really given them any attention this pre-season. Would it be unfair of me to suggest relegation contenders, despite a lack of knowledge?

Bolton Wanderers – Owen Coyle knows his stuff and has somehow moved away from the Sam Allardyce school of wanky ‘kick them up in the air’ football usually associated with Bolton and has actually transformed them into a decent footballing outfit. The return of Daniel Sturridge to Chelsea following an excellent loan spell is likely to hurt, as is the loss of Lee Chung-yong’s creative influence to a broken leg pre-season and if Gary Cahill is tempted away it would be a further influential gap to fill. But if Coyle can somehow attempt Shaun Wright-Phillips away from his City bench-warming duties, then alongside other shrewd deals (Chris Eagles from Burnley) they should remain a decent mid-table outfit. Plus, there’s always the Kevin Davies affect to terrorise opposing defences.

Chelsea – New manager, new football ideals, same old ageing squad. Whilst things rapidly change at Chelsea, nothing really changes at Chelsea. Despite the ageing squad they still have quality throughout, which makes up for the lack of fresh blood into the ranks. Stingy defending will be their chief weapon and in Terry, Cole and Luiz there are few stingier. Yet Premiership ambitions will really be determined on the formation Villas-Boas employs and how to include Drogba and Torres in the same team, if at all. If Villas-Boas fails to convince Torres that he was once world class, Daniel Sturridge’s return from an excellent loan spell at Bolton could prove decisive. Not the time for fitting square pegs in round holes up front, but does Villas-Boas have the bottle to defy his overlord by playing on form rather than on name? Challengers no doubt, but the chairman/manager relationship could derail any charge.

Everton – The toffees will succeed purely because of manager David Moyes (next United manager, anybody?) Despite the lack of a transfer kitty he inspires his team of decent professionals to go out and get the job done. If Saha can remain fit and provide a regular goal threat and they can keep hold of Phil Jags I wouldn’t be surprised if Everton were challenging for a Big Cup spot come the end of the season. Unless they have an utterly wanky start as they did last season!

Fulham – One of the strangest managerial decisions of recent Premiership memory is Mark Hughes leaving Fulham after 11 months, despite having relative success in maintaining Fulham as a decent Premiership team. Little has changed since Martin Jol’s arrival, the squad looking pretty similar to the one that nice uncle Roy left in Hughes’ capable hands, so you would expect them to maintain that mid-table feeling. Might be ageing slightly in some key positions (Murphy, Duff) but should get the goals needed from the likes of Zamora, Dempsey, Johnson and Dembele. Would be nice if they could go on another good run in Europe (so I can get tickets to watch)!

Liverpool – With Statler and Waldorf finally removed, a chairman that wants to invest in the team rather than needing to repay hideous amounts of debt and the return of the King, Liverpool might actually do something this season. Everything seems in place. Strength in depth (Adam to replace the eternally knacked Gerrard) despite the English player tax, a proper left back in Enrique, wingers to feed Carroll, Aquilani on form and showing the potential that he could be just like Xavi Alonso and some genuine world class players (Suarez, Reina, Kuyt) I’d expect a proper title challenge let alone a charge for fourth and a Big Cup spot. Much will depend on away form and making Anfield a fortress like the tail end of last season showed. Kenny knows his stuff, but enduring a long, hard season burdened with expectation will be very different to turning fortunes around mid-season. Suarez for player of the season though…

Man City – Unlike Jose Mourinho, who knew what to do when Roman Abromovich gave him a shitload of cash to spunk on the best footballer players in the world, Roberto Mancini doesn’t seem to have a plan (or a clue) what to do with his benefactors billions. Mourinho spent wisely on a small squad of (expensive) players to build a team he could fit around Terry and Lampard, which met with immediate success. Mancini on the other-hand has brought in so many players, at hideous expense, but can he really get these individuals to play as a team? Especially with Mancini’s negative ‘back and sideways’ yawn inducing football approach that will stifle some of the best players in the world. And you wonder why talismanic player Carlos Tevez has been attempting to escape Stalag Carrington all summer. Real Madrid underachieved massively during their Galatico period. I can’t help thinking that despite the number of World Class players, City are capable of going the same way. Still, worth a watch just to see what maniacal loon Mario Balotelli will get up to this season and what Rio Ferdinand’s first challenge on Super Mario will look like!

Man United – United will be there or there abouts come the end of the season, every season, until Sir Alex decides to call it a day. Scholes may have retired and deadwood like Obertan and John O’Shea shifted on to make way for new blood like Smalling, Phil Jones and Cleverly, but with a strike force of Rooney, Hernandez, Berbatov and Owen being fed by Nani, Valencia and quality signing Ashley Young they will maintain the belief that they will always score one more goal than everyone else. United’s weakness is the lack of an effective water carrier (even when Fletcher is fit) and Evra seemed strangely out of sorts last season and that’s perhaps where the opposition can best hurt them, yet it goes without saying a challenge for their 20th league title is the surest of sure things.

Norwich – Paul Lambert (one of Scotland’s last great footy players alongside John Collins) has done a terrific job in securing Norwich back-to-back promotions. But are they equipped to stay up? Unlikely. Will be a long hard season for the Canaries!

Newcastle – The easy route to relegation in five easy steps! Sell your star striker for £35 million. Promise your manager that funds from the sale will be made available to rebuild the squad in the next transfer window. Continue to sell your best players (Kevin Nolan would rather play in the Championship than for a Premiership team with limited ambition). Provide limited funds for new players. Bring in Gabriel Obertan! Newcastle will be lucky if they’re not involved in a relegation battle this season.

Q.P.R – Out of the three teams promoted Q.P.R are the most likely to remain in the Premiership next season. Warnock is an old head at this football lark and some shrewd signings, particularly snatching up Jay Boothroyd from Cardiff, and doing his utmost to keep creative playmaker Adel Taarabat, show signs of intent that he doesn’t want Q.P.R to be a one season wonder. But the squad is small and any significant injuries (hello, Kieron Dyer) could spell disaster…

Stoke – The home advantage will likely see Stoke perform as well as they have done in recent seasons. The likes of Huth and Jones will always cause trouble at set pieces and throw-ins and in Etheridge and Pennant they have real quality on the wings to deliver decent ball into the box. The signings of Matthew Upson and Jonathan Woodgate seem a little odd, particularly as one is permanently knacked. Where exactly are they going to fit in with Shawcross and Huth being more than competent at centre-back? Yet the added strength in depth may prove beneficial. Competently mid-table.

Sunderland – Steve Bruce has been a busy bee in the summer transfer market, perhaps in response to the calls for his head by supporters following a dismal second half to last season. But for the quality of Connor Wickham and Craig Gardner he’s had to balance it out with some chaff in the signing of Wes Clown. Clown and Bramble in defence; Premiership strikers must be thinking their in goal-scoring heaven! Bruce will have to hope that Asomah Gyan and Kieran Richardson are on top form at the other end to balance out the goals conceded ratio. And does anyone know if Bruce has purchased a new magic sponge to resolve last season’s injury blight? (Please don’t be any good at Anfield today, pretty please)!!  

Swansea – Who? Sorry, completely facetious I know. Apart from them beating Cardiff to promotion (that likely created more than a few chuckles in South Wales) I really know nothing about them. Looking forward to finding out more though, and hopefully they can be a refreshing breath of fresh air as Blackpool were last season (albeit without comedy genius Ian Holloway in charge – Brendan Rodgers seems a little more serious).

Spurs - Despite their Champions League ambitions it’s strange that ‘Arry hasn’t delved into the transfer market this summer to bolster a squad given the poisoned chalice that is Europa League monkey tennis. Perhaps the fire-fighting he’s been doing to prevent Modric leaving for Chelsea has been keeping him a little too pre-occupied! Still, if ‘Arry has managed to convince Modric to stay, then alongside Bale and Van der Vaart he has three players of different class that can make a real difference, although the lack of a consistent goal-scorer and Gomez’s teflon gloves remain a worry. Sandro might be the player to watch - the water-carrier that the likes of Chelsea and United could both do with. Will challenge for a Big Cup spot.

West Bromwich Albion – Whilst nice uncle Roy’s long ball game utterly destroyed Liverpool’s ‘football’ players last season, at Brom he finds himself once again amongst a team of hard-workers with a hint of quality here and there that are enthused by such a tactic. Uncle Roy will get the most out of his players, Odemwingie and Long will score the goals that keep them in the Premiership and Chris Brunt will bang in the odd 30-yarder. No random Scandinavians signed yet though, which is a shame.

Wigan – Another relegation battle looms, especially with the loss of N’Zogbia to Villa. But I like Roberto Martinez and for that matter think they’ll manage a decent fight of it as with last season.

Wolves – One of the spirited performers last season alongside Blackpool. Will hope to have it a little easier this season and with the quality of the new Premiership arrivals their experience should see them safe again this year despite the obligatory relegation battle.

West Ham United – Oh! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha….

Monday, 8 August 2011

My booky wookie...

An old uni chum recently asked me where I was at with the film script I began writing near the end of university. Well, it’s no longer a film script. They be fuck hard to write! Over-dosing on formatting at the expense of telling the story was too much of a tedious chore for my liking. So, the script is now a book, a much better medium for expressing the images, characters and thoughts that currently reside in my mind. Or it would be a book if I was 1) competent enough to portray the images in my head in appropriate words capable of forming readable sentences 2) not so inherently lazy and 3) not easily distracted by films, music, gaming, football, beer, etc. I’ve only managed to get around 6,000 words written in the last 10 years, meaning I’ve led a largely mis-spent adulthood arseing around playing too many games (nothing wrong with that though, right?).

In all, books are also fuck hard to write, and whilst I’ll dabble a bit when I muster the energy, I’d rather bide my time waiting until scientists create a thingy-o-metre that downloads the content of my book straight from my mind onto a Word document. Can’t be long now until some clever twonk makes an app for that...! Anyway, until such a time where we catch up with the future, I’ve taken the decision to resolve the above and at least attempt to double the content of my book by Christmas. Task number one in this endeavour: buy a laptop. Whilst, I have a desktop PC, it’s more of a gaming machine which, when switched on, only serves as a further distraction from cracking on with any writing. What would you prefer - staring blankly at a Word document for two hours, coming up with nothing but a few crappy sentences before weeping uncontrollably into your keyboard? Or, blowing seven shades of shit out of some Latvian goof on Team Fortress 2? So, my desktop is really to blame for the current situation, not me or my prevailing sense of procrastination at all. 

A laptop, however, presents a new level of opportunity at knuckling down and getting things done. I could pretty much write whenever and wherever I want to. On the toilet, in bed, on the commute to and from work, at lunchtime – sounds blissful. No longer will I devise a scene in my head across Waterloo Bridge and not have a pen to jot down said thought, so that by the time I get home to my desktop the image imprinted on my brain has simply vanished, leaving just a small residue of shit between my ears. That way leads to frustration, a ‘why bother’ approach and the dark side. No, from now on it would be out with the laptop on the train, the punching of a few keys and immediate success; some of the images swirling around upstairs would suddenly stick and to the page no less. The laptop is, therefore, a plan with no obvious drawbacks.

So I purchased one a couple of weeks back (Samsung, 6gb Ram, 600gb hard-drive and on-board Nvidia graphics card) and immediately installed Civilisation 5. I’m such a weak willed workshy tit…

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Pirates! in an Adventure with Aardman

So, hands up who has actually read ‘The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists’? (Yes, that exclamation mark is in the correct place). A couple of goofs at the back and… and… is that all? The rest of you have not happened upon this piece of literary comic-genius whilst browsing the shelves of Waterstones? Have you all been opting for the latest historical fiction bobbins from Philippa Gregory instead? You poor deluded fools! For you really are missing out on the antics of the irrepressible, yet perpetually clueless Pirate Captain and his unconventional crew of nameless wonders, as they deliver the pre-requisite adventure, roaring, shanties and grizzly running through alongside fantastically placed anachronisms and general silliness. It's the Monty Python of the high seas; stupendously daft, yet knowing and insightful. Where else are you going to get a lofty discussion on the best way to cook a ham to ensure the meat reduction is minimal that ends in a punch-up?

The good news, therefore, is those of you with bookphobia will soon be able to catch The Pirates! adventure’s on a big screen sometime around May 2012. The even better news is rather than make it a live-action movie (which I don't think would have worked - look at Carry on Columbus for feck's sake) the decision has been made to make it an animated adventure. And perhaps the best news ever, those plasticine moulding, stop animation geniuses at Aardman Animations (Wallace & Gromit) are the ones in charge of delivering a plasticine shaped Pirate Captain to the big screen. And the creator of Morph is directing! I think I just let out a little bit of wee...

Okay, so the plot isn’t a straight-forward conversion of the Scientists book and seems more like an amalgamation of various aspects of the four title’s already written by Gideon Defoe (the Pirate of the Year competition opens The Pirates! adventure with Napoleon and Cutlass Liz only makes her first appearance in their Adventure with Whaling). So it will be interesting to see what they do with the story machinations, particularly the inclusion of Queen Vic (who hasn’t appeared in an adventure as yet). Likewise, Hugh Grant as the Pirate Captain? Now you know why a live action version would have sucked. Yet going by the voice casting indicated by IMDB it all looks fairly positive. Anything with Jeremy Piven included is a bonus; Salma Hayek will likely produce the sassiness required for Cutlass Liz; and with Martin Freeman and Russell Povey looking like they’ll play a couple of members of the pirate crew (please, please, please let Povey be the albino pirate) all seems well and good. And to top it off, booming voiced birdman Brian Blessed is playing the Pirate King! Yay, this meeting between two fine British institutions cannot fail to be awesome.

Anyway, why take my word for it. The first trailer has been released with a roaring shanty over-laying the action and I really can’t wait for May next year now. Take a peek for yourselves…

Joy! The only thing that could better this news is if any mention of the fifth book is due to be released. A quick scan of Gideon Defoe’s ‘Pirate Captain’ blog reveals… that the next book is likely to be published at the beginning of 2012. This is indeed a happy news day!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Show-boating and football cynicism

Awana Diab is probably a name you haven’t come across in footballing circles before, probably because he’s a United Arab Emirates international, but following this cheeky penalty, hopefully it will become a more recognised name…

Brilliant! A wonderful piece of bonkers show-boating. Totally unnecessary (as is the case with most show-boating), but it does show up the Lebanese keeper for being a gormless twonk from the Robert Green School of clown-handed mishaps, which always makes for a delightful chuckle. However, rather than bask in the silliness of it all, Diab was booked after taking the penalty (presumably for bringing the game into disrepute), his manager substituted him right after and now the UAE FA are thinking about throwing the book at him, owing to the penalty being seen as slightly disrespectful.

Now is it just me, or is that a slight over-reaction? Sure, at 5-2 up it does have all the hallmarks of rubbing it in, but then the jubilant celebrations of someone tapping in from two-yards also smack of rubbing it in. In a sport geared to having winners and losers at any cost one can never get away from the art of taunting your opponent’s by making them look foolish. It’s something that cannot (and should not) be eradicated from the game. Firstly, it’s fun. Secondly, as players you walk off the pitch at the end of the match and shake hands with your opponents all in the knowledge that taking the piss is part of football’s long enduring history. If you boo about it like a big sissy, then fuck off and take up another sport. Like hockey…

It’s a shame as the actions of the UAE FA may curtail the character of a player that seems to have, well, a bit of character. The Maradonas, Valderammas, Higuitas, Mourinhos, Gascoignes, of the game are what frequently make it so entertaining. Alas, there seem to be a lack of such personalities in football at the moment, replaced by far too many stilted automatons programmed to talk shit of the highest order (see John Terry) or to dive at every given opportunity. At least Diab has a little individual flair about him – let’s not persecute him for that!

Did anyone complain about Johann Cruyff’s penalty for Ajax way back when?

Did they bollocks. Because it’s genius! Diab’s goal may not be quite the same level of genius, but have things really changed so much that Cruyff’s penalty should now be considered disrespectful? Because I see no relative difference between either and, importantly, neither break any of the laws regarding the taking of a penalty. These dreadful sensibilities of the footballing authorities, directed by a bunch of money-making shit merchants at FIFA that have more self interest in personal gain that the interests of football, are slowly strangling the game into submission. No personality, no flair, no style. No wonder the 2010 World Cup was a shit awful competition to watch.

Anyway, if the keeper had saved the penalty, rather than doing his best take on a startled hedgehog between headlights, all the above would be moot. The useless waster…

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Prison Break in contrived bollocks shocker!

One of the many great things about parenthood is that you stop going out of an evening and, by that virtue, can finally catch up on all the great TV shows you’ve missed over the previous years whilst out on the piss. Sure, it’s easy enough to bounce in and out of the likes of Big Bang Theory, Family Guy and South Park on a whim, but anything with a story arc has to be watched continually from beginning to end to ensure nothing central to the story is missed. Otherwise what’s the point? So, of late I’ve finally managed to start working my way through the first season of Prison Break, a whole millennia after everyone else has seen it!

Now, I’m particularly chuffed that I’ve managed to avoid any inconvenient spoilers related to the show in the intervening years, as it has ensured the major surprises have so far been pretty shocking. As such Prison Break has made for some compelling and gripping viewing, whilst staying true to its contrived roots. Yes, that’s right; in order to generate the requisite entertainment and tension to keep the audience watching, the plotting has to be a little flimsy at best when it comes to realism. Any prison worth its salt would have found the hole behind the toilet by episode seven, and if you think about it for more than a nano-second you’d be left wondering at how the general incompetence of the COs at Fox River have ensured that no one had previously managed a successful breakout. Its complete bobbins (just look at Schofield’s blueprints for crying out loud) of the highest order, but because it’s so fantastically entertaining you couldn’t really give a hoot about the convenient way everything gradually falls into place. It’s a necessity one just accepts.

Well, except for one scene in episode 13, which almost ruins the whole shebang by being a little too unbelievable. This is the episode where Schofield’s crew attempt their first escape using the tunnel to the storeroom under infirmary, only to be denied by the installation of a new air filter system, replacing the one Schofield had eroded away with his acid toothpaste, making access to the infirmary impossible via this route. Earlier in the episode a cleaner had noted the damage to the vent cover in the infirmary with suspicion. 

So, what’s the big deal? Well, the big fucking deal is what a bunch of incongruous scripting bullshit! Do they really expect us to believe that said cleaner would, firstly, remember to report the damage of the vent to his superiors before taking his next tea break; secondly, that some workshy slacker of a handyman would actually get off his arse from a tea break and fix the damn thing before the end of the day; and, thirdly, that said handyman would do anything close to a competent job? Do they take us for idiots? Look, there’s implausibility and then there’s implausibility.

Back in the really, real world, the disabled toilets on the floor of my office have been out of commission for the last six months, with only a note saying that the part to fix the toilet is waiting to be delivered (my arse). Where in the Megaverse are they ordering this part from that it takes more than six months to arrive? Not only that, there's a constant whirring noise from the air conditioning that our facilities team seem unable to fix. They bang the ceiling where the sound seems to be coming from with a spanner, but that's about as effective as plugging the hole in the Titanic with a piece of band aid. Plus it takes them at least three days to get round to inspecting the noise being made, by which time it's driven at least one person insane that they've blugeoned the rest of the office to death with a plastic spoon. General handymen = inept, workshy slackers!

Look, it's not like I don't appreciate silly, daft and unrealistic things in TV shows and movies. I rate Crank 2, Shoot 'Em Up and Hard Boiled highly as stupidly excessive action flicks, but the suggestion that the facilities team of Fox River Penitentiary could even be close to denying Schofield and chums from excaping is clearly unfeasible. For one thing, Schofield and chums are on PI and would be the ones to fix the blasted thing in the first place! Do you see any other general handmen in the show but for the prisoners? Do you bollocks. In this instance the mind of the script-monkey couldn't think of anything better than a reliable facilities service to help stretch the series out for another 11 episodes of convoluted escape shenanigans. Incredulous, I know and it very near sinks the whole programme.

 Oh well, at least they haven't done a flashback or musical episode yet... 

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Free Speech for the Dumb!

On the way to work this morning I was listening to Metallica’s cover of Discharge’s ‘Free Speech for the Dumb’ which, given the current hacking allegations made against the News of the World, seems particularly serendipitous. Let’s take a look at the lyrics:

‘Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free fucking speech

Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free fucking speech.’

Salient and to the point. Now, it could just be a clever play on words regarding selective mutism, but for the purposes of making a point against shit journalism let’s instead consider that dumb in this context means ‘morons’. Free speech for the dumb could in many ways be the News of the Worlds theme tune, what with three million muppets tuning in every Sunday for its shallow celebrity based gossip, fake sheikh stings and wanky football articles attempting to vindicate themselves as ‘news’. But hey, that’s the rub with free speech. Write about anything or anybody you like, without any basis of fact or knowledge, advocate your right to the freedom of opinion and expression without interference, and let the people that want to read such bobbins buy the paper. Three million people? That’s quite a few morons…

Still, I’m guessing the News of the World also presume such rights and freedoms of the press allow for using any means to get a story, hence the low of paparazzi laying in the gutters to get the best beaver shot or, shock horror, being completely morally repugnant and hacking the phone of Milly Dowler. Sure, former editors and News International are denying all knowledge crying ‘it wasn’t me’ and will likely cough up the obligatory scapegoats, but the real problem lies at the heart of the current practice and mechanisms of the organisation. If fairly reproachable methods to get a story already exist, are frequently used and are encouraged within the system, it’s unlikely anyone would bat an eyelid at the suggestion of using phone-tapping as an acceptable means of acquiring and generating ‘news’. News International and the editors in question may not have sanctioned or even knew about any hacking taking place, but they are indirectly responsible for breeding an environment that generates factoids and encourages free speech for the dumb devoid of journalistic integrity that would allow for such practice to occur in the first place.

So, will News International amend their current methods and act with greater integrity? Fuck no. With the Master of Puppets in control, it’s likely the abuse of free speech will continue to mangle the fabric of reality. Is censorship an alternative option? Alas, it’s not a necessary, necessary evil and encroaches far too much on essential civil liberties that would also be open to abuse. We can’t always just shut-up people we don’t agree with. What is required, perhaps, is a half-way house between the two mutually opposed concepts; tougher regulations on the press articulating the boundaries of acceptability, both in the practices applied to news-gathering and the dissemination of falsehoods, where the necessary hung, drawn and quartering are applied to any twonk that breaks these central tenets. Pipe-dream? Pretty much, especially with David Cameron’s frequent bumming of Rupert Murdoch (so what if it’s not true – let’s Fight Fire with Fire)!

The best we’ll probably get is the BBC doing their best to undermine Murdoch’s media empire and a few good eggs doing their best to scupper Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB until the deal is reviewed by the Competitions commission, like this place:

Until then, the concept of freedom of speech will continue to be bastardised and seen as overrated and harmful by its detractors. Let’s hope at the very least that the current hacking allegations allow for a large proportion of the three million readers of the News of the World to finally wake up and read Viz instead…