Monday, 28 November 2011

The run-up to Christmas

The following is an extract from the English-to-Retail Cretin Dictionary:
The run-up to Christmas (noun): any time after the end of the Back To School! promotion, typically mid-September.
Of course, for most of the rest of us, the run-up to Christmas has a slightly more reasonable start date.  Some favour the middle of November, whilst others of us try our hardest to hold out until the first week of December.  But all of this just compounds the problem, as I see it; Christmas shouldn't need a run-up at all.

Things which are difficult need a run-up.  If you need to jump over a particularly wide gap (for whatever reason that may be!) and you're not sure you're going to make it, you take a run-up.  Sportsmen need a run-up to try and maximise performance.  We use a run-up to gather momentum, when we know we will really need to exert ourselves.

Christmas shouldn't be like that.  We should be able to relax, at Christmas - to spend time with family and friends.  It should be a time to unwind, and enjoy ourselves.  We shouldn't need to take a run-up, before entering the fray, eyes wide, arms flailing, hoping only that we emerge unhurt at the other side.  We should be able to enjoy all the great things about Christmas - and there are many - without letting it get on top of us.

Personally, I feel it's much easier to enjoy Christmas - Christmas as it should be - without all the retail hype.  Without the run-up.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Heatwave decorum

So, I gather it's quite hot at the moment?

Unusually, for Britain, we are having an exceptionally warm Autumn, at the moment, with temperatures in excess of 30º at the end of September, and beginning of October.  Quite remarkable.  But let's not lose our heads, please…

Hot weather - at any time of year - is no excuse suddenly to act or look like a slob.  In the heat, people cease to care how they look, how they come across to others, what impressions they give.  And they are not ashamed; they do this with brazen impunity, and with barefaced disregard for all conventions of decency.

Nobody wants to see people walking down the street in revealing clothing which manages somehow to be both shapeless and far too tight, simultaneously.  Topless middle-aged men, their sweaty beer-guts gleaming in the sunlight, hair plastered to their chests with a combination of perspiration and cheap lager, waddling through town-centres in the middle of the day.

In winter, people retain some sense of style, and decorum.  They wear clothes with gravitas - coats, scarves, gloves.  But when the sun comes out, there is a wild notion that it has suddenly become acceptable to walk around with acres of ruddy bare flesh on show.

If the heat is making you uncomfortable - no one cares.  Please dress normally, and learn to bear the discomfort, rather than subjecting everyone else to your hideous summer wardrobe.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Christmas Song Sweepstake

I am thinking of running a "Christmas Song Sweepstake" this year.  Anyone interested in playing can contact me, and they will be randomly assigned a high street shop, and a well-known Christmas song.  (I am hoping that enough people will sign up to cover all the major high street chains, and the main Christmas "favourites".)

Then, everyone who's playing has to listen out for Christmas songs when they're shopping.  The first time you hear a Christmas song being played as background music in a shop, make a note of which shop you're in, and which song they were playing - then email me the details as soon as you are able.

The first instance of Christmas music being played in shops that I hear of will be posted on this Blog.  There will be a prize each for the person whose shop it was and the person whose song it was.

If you're interested please get in touch, with your full name, and email address.  (In an effort to prevent cheating, fraud, identity theft, and other scurrilous devilry, you will not be told which shop, or which song, you have been given.)

So...  Who's in?!

Terms and conditions apply.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Hot drinks

I drink a lot of coffee.  I may have mentioned this before.  But I would never have coffee as my drink with a meal...

I've never understood how people can drink hot drinks, with savoury food.  I know a lot of people do do this (particularly at breakfast - a cup of tea or coffee with a savoury breakfast) but I'm afraid I just don't get it.

Hot drinks are a sweet thing; I'm quite happy to have a coffee with biscuits, or with cake, or with a croissant.  But the flavour of coffee doesn't work with, say, sausages.  Or a roast dinner.

The general rule is that you should only drink a hot drink as an accompaniment to food if you could happily dip that food into said hot drink, without it creating something truly disgusting.  And, I'm sorry, but if you'd be able to dip fried eggs and bacon into a cup of tea or coffee, and then eat it, there's definitely something wrong with you!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Breaking sandwich news

I stopped by at Waitrose today - it appears they have stopped selling the Beef & Stilton sandwich which I mentioned in my last Blog post, in comparison with a Tesco sandwich that has the same filling.  Disappointing, I thought.

Also, in relation to the previous post: when I said "I would definitely eat this sandwich again", I wasn't talking about the particular sandwich I ate yesterday - that would be horrible!  I meant that I would buy the product again, because I enjoyed the sandwich.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Sandwich review: British Beef and Stilton, from Tesco "Finest" range

Having not seen this on the shelves before, I can only assume that this is a relatively new product for Tesco.  The recipe (sliced Beef, Stilton cheese, caramelised onion chutney, and green salad, in wholemeal bread) is identical to that of a sandwich that Waitrose have been selling for some time.  I have enjoyed Waitrose' version on a number of occasions, so I was interested to see how this one from Tesco would stack up.

Having identical components, the two sandwiches are very similar.  The combination of the Stilton and the green salad is always a pleasant surprise.  I was, as I had said, eager to see whether the Tesco sandwich would be as good as the Waitrose one - and I was pleased to discover that, on the whole, it was.  The only area where the Tesco sandwich loses out to its Waitrose counterpart is in the matter of the caramelised onion chutney - Waitrose' sandwich uses better quality, and therefore more flavoursome, onion chutney, which gives a slightly tangier edge.  Whilst there was nothing wrong with Tesco's onion chutney, it was a touch blander than I had perhaps been used to.

Having begun two paragraphs with the word "having", I will now begin a third in like fashion.  On the subject of price, the Tesco sandwich cost £2.50.  It is a little while, now, since I have indulged in the Waitrose variety, and therefore I cannot remember how much it cost.  I would imagine it to be a little more expensive than the Tesco one, but I have no evidence with which to back up this assumption.  However, I did not think £2.50 an unreasonable price, for the Tesco sandwich.

Overall, I enjoyed the Tesco sandwich - the minor issue of the caramelised onion chutney aside, I thought it was a jolly good effort by the Tesco Sandwich Chaps.  I would definitely eat this sandwich again.

Friday, 12 August 2011

F*ck you, I won't drink what you tell me

Sidenote: the RATM-esque title is due to the fact that, as I discovered recently, eighteen months on from the bizarre campaign to get "Killing In The Name" to the UK Christmas Number One spot, nightclub DJs are still shoehorning this nineteen-year-old profanity-filled metal anthem into their sets between heavily quantised numbers by Akon and Lady GaGa.

One of the reasons I can often be a little dubious about going for a "night out" is because I dislike being pressured into drinking drinks that I don't like.

If I'm drinking, I will generally have whisky - straight, with no ice.  (This is another contentious issue, but not something I shall go into now.)  Ideally, a decent single malt Scotch is preferred, but on the whole I will drink most whiskies.  Very occasionally, I like a glass of wine.

Unlike a lot of men (if I can call myself that), I don't really drink beer.  And I certainly won't go anywhere near those lurid "alcopops" concoctions!

This isn't simply snobbishness - it's about personal preference.  Some drinks I like, other drinks I don't.  All I'm asking is that other people respect these likes and dislikes - as I will always try to do for them.

What I dislike about the whole "night out" culture is the complete lack of discernment, in regards to beverages.  The idea that you will throw anything down your throat, providing the alcohol content is high enough, and not give a fig what it actually is that you're drinking.  I like to drink drinks that I actually enjoy - not just any old muck that happens to be around.

What's really silly, though, is the way someone will offer to buy a round of drinks, and then get the same drink for everyone.

I don't want "a pint" of something.  And I most definitely do not want to "do a shot" of anything.  And I never so much as hinted that I did!  People just assume that everyone's taste in drinks is as vulgar as their own.

This most commonly occurs with a drink called the Jägerbomb.  Comprising a shot of Jägermeister submerged in a glass of Red Bull, the mere smell of this vile brew is enough to make one feel nauseous.  Yet people persist in buying me Jägerbombs - despite the fact that I cannot stand them!

I have a friend who doesn't like olives.  I wouldn't buy him something - say, a pizza - with olives, just because everyone else is having that.  It ought to be the same with drinks.

If you want to buy me a drink, that's very generous of you, and I really do appreciate it - but surely, you'll first check what it is that I actually like?  Otherwise, you're just wasting your money, buying things that no one wants.

Recently, I decided not to do this any more.  No longer will I screw up my courage, and force myself to down these rancid potions, purely because of social pressure.  Some people will construe this as rudeness, no doubt.  But if someone is going to take offence because I don't enjoy drinking cheap tasteless lager, then that person probably wasn't that great a friend of mine anyway.  My real friends, I am sure, will be as considerate of my tastes as I will always be of theirs, and will make sure to ask who would like what, before ordering a round of drinks.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

#TheApprentice - Melodic Interpretations

I have a lot of respect for Lord Sugar, and he clearly has excellent business instincts, and a larger-than-average helping of common sense.  There have been a few occasions in the past when I might have questioned his judgement on The Apprentice - but rarely have I disagreed with him so vehemently as I did during last night's episode.

(For those who haven't seen The Apprentice from 22nd June, I strongly recommend that you watch it on the BBC iPlayer.)

The task involved the candidates picking two British products, out of a range of ten presented to them, and travelling to Paris in order to sell their chosen inventions to French retailers.  None of the products were available in Europe at the time, so it was up to the teams to help these British designers break into the continental market.

The result was a landslide victory for Team Venture, and a new Boardroom record for Executive Assistant, Helen Milligan, who has won every task on this series, and must surely, by now, be the favourite to win overall.  For Team Logic, and Project Manager Tom Pellereau, there followed a Boardroom grilling by Lord Sugar.  But when Lord Sugar asked, as he always does, "who is responsible for the failure of this task?", for me there could only be one answer - Melody Hossaini.

Melody, in my opinion, single-handedly ruined the task for the whole team, and should have been held accountable for her actions.  Throughout the episode, she was rude, selfish, conniving, manipulative, disrespectful, dishonest and insubordinate - none of which are qualities which any good businessman (or woman) should display, and I cannot bring myself to believe that Lord Sugar would ever want a business partner who could be described in such terms.

The first mistake that Melody made was to take an over-romanticised view of the city of Paris.  When selecting products to take to France, she was adamant (despite not actually being present at the selection process) that high-end designer items would go down best, and when Tom suggested a more practical item (a child's rucksack, which could turn into a booster seat for use in the car) she shot him down, saying "we're going to Paris, not Manchester, or somewhere up North - this isn't a car-boot sale!"

It is true that Paris is home to some haute-couture fashionista types - but not everyone there is like that!  As in any big city, the population of Paris is a cross-section of humanity, and many of them are busy, working families, with exactly the same priorities as busy families in Manchester - or anywhere else, for that matter!  Assuming that everybody in Paris looks and acts like the models in a Louis Vuitton advert is akin to judging the entire population of London based on Made In Chelsea.  This was foolish of Melody, but it was, I think, an honest mistake - and it was nothing, compared with what was to come…

Upon arriving in Paris, Melody and the other member of that sub-team, Leon Doyle, embarked upon some market research, to try and ascertain which products would have the best chance of selling well in France.  Ignoring a call from Tom, asking her to find out more about the important meeting Lord Sugar had set up for the teams the next day, with French retail giant La Redoute, Melody instead carried out her own "market research", consisting of accosting random strangers in a railway station and describing the products in faltering French - "err, it's a teapot, with a light inside it." - and then totally disregarding their answers anyway, making up her own facts and figures to feed back to Tom.

She confidently told Tom that the child's car-seat/rucksack item had not been a popular product, as "people here don't use cars very much - they all take the Metro instead, even families" but that the Teapot Lamp (another designer product the teams had to consider) had received a positive response overall, despite the fact that over half of the people she spoke to (of the ones shown on the television anyway) said that they wouldn't buy the Teapot Lamp, but they thought the car-seat that turns into a rucksack was a good idea.

Throughout the market research/product selection phase of the task, Melody ignored the express instructions of her Project Manager, and went her own way instead, before lying to Tom, and the rest of the team, feeding them false data, and manipulating the product choices, just because she didn't like one of the options Tom thought would be a good idea.  Based on Melody's falsified information, Tom went against his own instincts - he was very much in favour of the car-seat/rucksack - and ultimately lost the task.  It was later revealed that it had been that very product - the car-seat/rucksack - which had scored Helen her record-breaking deal of over €200,000.

But the melody doesn't stop, at this far-from perfect cadence.  Leon and Melody had also been charged with fixing appointments at various retailers, for the team to pitch their products the following day, alongside the pitch Lord Sugar had laid on at La Redoute.  As the better French-speaker, out of the two of them, Melody took the lead on this, and she succeeded in making eight appointments for the next day.  At a team meeting later on, though, she insisted on keeping all of those appointments for herself, leaving Tom and Natasha Scribbins (the fourth member of Team Logic) with barely a thing to do the next day.

Tom and Natasha floundered in the La Redoute pitch, because the research Tom had asked Melody to do about the company had not been done, and they were left vulnerable and unprepared, while Melody ran her own show, completely irrespective of the fortunes of the rest of the team, and of any strategy Tom might've tried to outline.  This lack of team spirit backfired on her later on, when, running late in the Parisian traffic (yes, it turns out the French do use their cars, after all!) she realised she would not be able to keep all the appointments she had made, and phoned Tom and Natasha, asking if they would take one for her.

It is true that Melody sold by far the most, out of the four members of Team Logic.  But this is largely because she unfairly hoarded the appointments she had made with the small independent retailers, and sabotaged (intentionally or unintentionally) Tom and Natasha's pitch at La Redoute by failing to supply the information they needed, and had specifically asked her for.  But, however she came by them, Melody's €8,000 of sales meant absolutely nothing, compared to her despicable attitude, and absolute lack of decency.

It is easy to blame Tom, for his leadership style - it is easy to point him out as weak, and unable to control Melody.  But Melody shouldn't have needed "controlling" at all.  She should've pulled together with the rest of the team willingly, and the fact that she didn't is, in itself, grounds enough for her to be fired.  Added to the insubordination and lack of respect - Tom was her manager; he asked her to do something, and she failed to do it - the decision should've been fairly easy for Lord Sugar.

I was disappointed that, not only did he let Melody stay, Lord Sugar actually praised her for those very qualities - what he called her "ruthless determination" and "hunger to win" - which, in my opinion, make her completely unemployable.

"Wanting to win" is one thing - and we all accept that the word of business is, and should be, competitive - but rudeness, selfishness, lack of respect, and downright lies are unacceptable, in any context.

Monday, 13 June 2011

#TheApprentice - a rather late analysis

Last week's episode of The Apprentice produced a record result in the Boardroom.  The task - to collect rubbish from homes and businesses, and somehow turn it into profit - was a fiendishly difficult one, and in the end the winning team were ahead by just £6.

Six quid!  That was it.

All this is very interesting, but what I found even more interesting was what happened after the results were announced.  The ecstatic victors were whisked away to a luxury spa treatment (presumably to exfoliate the skin of their teeth) while the hapless losers were left to face the wrath of Lord Sugar.

But why was he angry?  The team who lost this task floundered about on the first day, it is true, and they made some very poor decisions (although it is always easy to say such things, with the benefit of hindsight - the winning team's choices were described as "a massive gamble" before we knew they'd won, but "a brilliant strategy" afterwards) but on the second day, they rallied together, worked very well as a team, and more than made up for that disastrous day one.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no cause for anger here - no cause for anyone to be fired, just yet.  Both teams returned a reasonable profit (and to be making a profit at all, on such a hard task, is a triumph, in my book!) and that tiny six-pound margin proves that both teams, in the end, were evenly matched.

But the rules of The Apprentice say that Lord Sugar has to be angry - and that he has to fire someone.  Even if there is no cause for anger.  What surprised me more, was the behaviour of the losing team…

As I mentioned, they did start off very shakily - but by the end of the second day on the task, they had completely turned things around, and were working very well together.  They had a camaraderie, and a rapport - they actually worked like a team, rather than a group of individuals thrown together by circumstance.

Then, as soon as they heard that they had lost, that team spirit evaporated, and they turned on each other in the Boardroom.

At the time, this seemed worse, to me, than hearing that the team had made a loss.

Lord Sugar asked them, as he always does, "who is responsible for the failure of this task?"  I was willing them to say "no one!  There was no 'failure' in this task - we were just as good as the other team, and we were unlucky to have lost by under a tenner.  No one should be fired this week, because the task was not a 'failure' at all."

But no!  They behaved in the way they have been led to believe is "expected", and instantly scrambled to bitch about each other, and apportion blame.  Each candidate was sickeningly eager to smear the other team members in front of Lord Sugar - when mere hours ago, they had been supporting each other, and pulling together for a common cause.

I do, of course, realise that the very nature of The Apprentice is that it is, in the end, an individual competition - and that even your team-mates are, therefore, also your rivals.  But I felt it was a shame, in a task like this one, to see attitudes change so quickly.

I wonder what Lord Sugar would have done, had they not acted so - if they had stood their ground together, as a team, and refused to accept that anyone was responsible for the supposed "failure".  After all, having fired two candidates in one episode the week before, he surely had the luxury of letting them off for one week?

I guess, now, we'll never know.  I just think it might have been interesting to see what would've happened.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

No news is good news

I've been reading the recent Tweets and news articles about Ryan Giggs' affair, and consequent super-injunction, getting a little fed-up of hearing about it.

But then something occurred to me.  What I find far more annoying than hearing about the Ryan Giggs and Imogen Thomas scandal all day long, is seeing other people pouting and posturing, sneering "this isn't news. Why do the media report this rubbish?"

Do these people expect that they should choose the news?!

It's not the fact that some people feel that the "celebrity gossip" style news might be less important than other types of news - wars, current affairs, world politics, economics, etc - that gets to me.  In fact, I have been known to express that opinion myself, on occasion!  But I have never been so arrogant as to suggest that newspapers and television should stop reporting the "celebrity gossip" news items, just because they may not interest me.

People who believe that the world's media should change to suit them, and their interests, irritate me ten times more than news articles about sexed-up Premiership Footballers!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

#F1 - tyred of pit-stops

As a big Formula 1 fan, I avidly watch every race of the season - and have done, for some years now.  However, I am beginning to get slightly exasperated with constant changes to rules and regulations, (which make it almost impossible to compare any two F1 seasons with each other) and with attempts to make the sport more "exciting".  Especially, this year, with the move to Pirelli tyres.

I have nothing against Pirelli as a company, and I am sure that they make very high-quality tyres.  But for this F1 season, they have specifically been asked to produce tyres which degrade quickly, and don't last very long.  The result of this is many more pit-stops per race than we have seen before, to change tyres which have worn out after only a few laps, and a need for very different team strategies from in previous years.

Now, as I mentioned, this isn't the first attempt by the FIA to make F1 more "exciting".  I've never really been in favour of this concept at all (you don't "design" excitment - that's like trying to plan spontaneity) but I think this new move, with the short-life tyres, is taking things too far.

In today's Spanish Grand Prix, choice of tyres played a big part in the teams' strategies; in my opinion, too big a part.  I'm no expert - just an F1 fan, watching on my sofa at home every week - but it seems to me that the high levels of tyre degradation are, in fact, stopping the drivers' true skill levels coming into play.

Maybe I'm just becoming sentimental in my old age (of twenty) but I seem to be missing the days when a second-place driver, in a faster car, would work hard to catch the car in front, wearing down his lead by maybe one or two seconds a lap.  Or when a driver would have to build up a lead over his rival, in order still to be in front after his pit-stop, maybe over a period of ten or fifteen laps.  This year, you'd get half-way there, then you'd have to stop to change your tyres, and all that hard work would be lost!

I think that today's Grand Prix illustrated this particularly well, with the two Renault cars showing us just how much difference new tyres can make.  Nick Heidfeld failed to qualify, and started from the back of the grid, in 24th place, while team-mate Vitaly Petrov qualified 6th, in an identical car.  The two drivers have seemed reasonably well-matched in terms of skill, in previous Grand Prix, but Heidfeld gained 16 places during the race, to finish 8th today, with Petrov dropping back 5 places, and finishing in 11th.

So, why such a difference, between two closely-matched drivers in the same car?  Tyres.  Having not done a single lap of Qualifying on Saturday, Heidfeld had six brand new sets of tyres available to him during Sunday's race - in contrast, Petrov had used some of his tyres already, getting into the Top 10 in Saturday's Qualifying, and so had fewer sets of fresh tyres at his disposal the following day.  Petrov's hard work and brilliant Qualifying drive all went to waste, while Heidfeld was (in my opinion) rewarded unduly for his lack of Qualifying performance.

In essence, it seemed to me that it didn't matter a whole lot how good a driver you were, how quick your car was, what grid position you'd managed to achieve in Qualifying, or anything - the only thing that mattered was having fresh tyres.

This was also, I felt, borne out by something BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle said -
"As we've just seen, it doesn't matter what position you have - you're going to get nailed if you're not on the right tyre!"

So, to sum up, I seem to be missing the old days of F1 - whether this is pure sentimental nonsense, or not, I cannot say, but I certainly can't help but feel that these new tyres, and the changes to strategy that have come with them, are not an improvement.

Perhaps Pirelli can make us something that lasts a little longer, for next season?

Friday, 29 April 2011

Two more things about the Royal Wedding

I just can't help myself, can I?!

Firstly, I would say that whatever your views on the concept of Royalty, or on the media's extraordinary "hype" over this event, anyone who would actively wish a couple ill on their wedding day is absoultely out of line...

And secondly, to the braying fools on social media today, if you really believe that "patriotism" and "racism" are synonyms, then it is you who are ignorant and misinformed...

Good day

Thursday, 28 April 2011

I promised myself I wouldn't Blog about the Royal Wedding...

...but now look what's happened!

I am noticing a certain amount of anti-Royal Wedding sentiment floating around, and, if I'm honest, it's making me rather uncomfortable; I don't feel that William and Kate deserve the kind of stick they've been getting from some quarters...  I don't want to sound too cheesy, but I think if two people who love each other get married, that is something to be celebrated - whether they be Royal or not...

This post is somewhat inspired by a Tweet by comedian Chris Addison (of whom I am normally a big fan) about the wedding, which said -
Seriously, if people whom I actually know and like gave me this much info on their wedding in advance I wouldn't go.
OK, fair enough...  But I'm guessing that if people you actually knew and liked told you about their wedding, and you reacted in such a surly and ungracious way, they probably wouldn't be your friends for much longer!

Yes, I understand that this particularly item of news may not interest everyone, but is there really any need for this persistent moaning?  In my opinion, it's unnecessary, and actually quite disrespectful...

So, enjoy the wedding celebrations tomorrow - or ignore them, if you wish - but for goodness' sake, keep your whingeing negativity to yourself; it is of no benefit to anyone!

Monday, 25 April 2011

D'you know what really parks me up the wall?

This is most infuriating...

I drive to the shop, and turn into the carpark, to see only a few spaces remaining...  I find somewhere to park, but the person who's parked in the next space along unbelievable halfwit who can't manage to place his Renault Clio in the generously spacious gap between two easy-to-spot white lines on the ground...

As a result, I also have to park taking up more than one space, because this moron's cretinous parking is forcing me over too much to fit just in the space I selected...  I'd love to go and find another space, without all these problems, but the shop and its carpark are very busy today, and there aren't many others to choose from...

All-in-all, the situation looks a bit like this -

Then, no sooner have I locked the car, and walked away (hiding my face as best I can, deeply ashamed of my parking, but knowing there's very little I can do about it!) the guy in the car to my left comes and puts his shopping in the boot, and drives off, leaving everyone else thinking that I'm the idiot who can't park a car properly!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

This item is not suitable for Tumblr driers

I'm rather afraid to say, Tumblr annoys me no end!

Some people spend hours and hours on Tumblr, posting things…  Mostly it is something "funny" (the inverted commas here are crucial) and it has been "reblogged" from a hundred other Tumblr users who all saw it, sniggered, and decided to post it on their profiles too…  The result being that the same "funny" posts (again, please note the inverted commas) appear on many different people's Tumblr pages…

But that's fine…  If you want to spend your time re-telling other people's jokes, please, be my guest!

What's not so fine is when people link their Tumblr to their Twitter, or their Facebook…  Every Tumblr post is automatically added to Facebook and Twitter, with a link, and it clogs up the feed…  People are posting genuine Tweets, and Facebook Status updates, but they get lost amidst a sea of Tumblr posts…

And yes, I realise that I, too, have things which post automatically to Facebook, and to Twitter, which some people may not be interested in - but these are things like my 365 Project or Dailybooth (and this Blog, actually) which is a mere one or two posts a day, and can easily be ignored…  Some of these Tumblr people are posting ten or twenty things every hour, for hours on end - it is a bit different!

Seriously - if I wanted to see all that stuff, I'd follow you on Tumblr!!  But I don't…

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Guess the glasses advert

I've started playing a new game, when I'm watching television…  It's called Guess The Glasses Advert…

I thought the point of advertising was to make your company stand out from the competition…  This doesn't actually work, though, if all the major competitors in one field seem to be using the same advertising concept to sell themselves!

There are several major chains of opticians in the UK, and these days, all their adverts seem to go along the same lines…

They go something like this -

  • People in a normal situation
  • Comic confusion obviously caused by myopia occurs
  • Embarrassment and awkwardness ensue
  • Optician's logo and slogan appear on screen

If you can guess whether the advert is for SpecSavers, Boots Opticians, Vision Express, or whatever, before you get to Step Four, you win eleven points!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Check your jokes

It is my belief that a joke can only be funny if it is also factually accurate...

Allow me to share a joke which I feel illustrates this point rather well -

Why did the mushroom go to the party?
Because he was a fungi!

(This joke was particularly popular, I remember, when I was at high school...  Something about it bothered me, even then - now, I can explain what, exactly, that is...)

So, initially, this seems like a nice idea...  Y'know, fungi - mushrooms, etc - and fun guy - a pleasant, sociable chap who'd probably enjoy a good party...  Could be good, right?

But there's a problem with this, isn't there?  The problem being that "fungi" is a plural, while "a fun guy" is a singular person...

In order to make the joke work, you'd have to say -

Why did the mushroom go to the party?
Because he was a fungus!

Now, that would simply draw blank looks and bemused hand gestures, because it simply isn't funny...  "A fun gus"...?  That would only work if the name of this fun guy were Augustus - or Gus, for short!  And for that to be apparent, you'd have to point it out beforehand, which would rather ruin the joke...

On the other hand, you could say this -

Why did the mushrooms go to the party?
Because they were fungi!

Again, that's not funny!  "Because they were fun guy"...?  What tosh!!

So yes - in my opinion, unless a joke can be accurate, it simply isn't going to amuse...  If you're trying to write a joke, and you end up in a situation like this, please, just give up!  It was a lovely thought, but it just isn't going to work - so try to forget it, and move on...

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Karaoke ring of DEATH!

This is my first time participating in a fun game - sorry, a MATTER OF LIFE-AND-DEATH - devised by my friends over at 20 Something Bloggers...

Everyone who enters makes a video of themselves singing a song, usually on a theme - this time, the theme is "Love or Anti-Love" - then each Blogger posts a different Blogger's video on his or her Blog...  D'you see?

It is my delightful task to post a video by the lovely Coyote Rose, performing Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Were Made For Walking", complete with full dance routine - so, here it is!

(I have also been ask to apologise for the behaviour of Steve - Rose's hair - in this video...  I am given to believe he was "being a bitch"...  Steve, how could you?!)

So, as the lady said, don't forget to check out the other Karaoke Bloggers from this month!  If you want to brave my rendition of Porcupine Tree's "Pure Narcotic", you can view that here on Neal's Blog...  A full list of all the Karaoke Blog links is available now on Sara's Blog - and HERE IT IS!

Hope you all enjoyed that - we will now return you to your regularly scheduled programming of cynicism, misanthropy and pedantry!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Inappropriate suffixes 1: "athon"

The suffix -athon comes from the "marathon" - these days, anything deemed "epic", or especially large, or time-consuming is known as a "something-athon"…

Often, although not always, for charity, these can include "knitathons", "drumathons", "boxathons", "quizzathons" - and you know from the name that the event in question is going to involve an awful lot of people doing an awful lot of knitting, drumming, boxing, or quizzing…

Unfortunately, though, this doesn't work - otherwise the real marathon would actually be called a "runathon"!  (Either that or it would be a twenty-four hour event to mar someone, or something!  It's not - it's people in lyrca, running a lot…)

Why people have assumed that -athon just means "epic, tiring thing", I don't know...  Although it does shed a new light on anyone called Jonathon!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

The dating switchboard

I'm thinking of having a switchboard system fitted to my phone, for when I call girls I've met to ask them on a date...  It must get very tedious for these poor young ladies to have to think up reasons to say "no" all the time - much better for all concerned, I think, if everyone's favourite excuses are easily available, at the touch of a button!

A 'phone call would go something like this...

Hi, I'm Kit - we met at a bar in the city on Saturday?

When she responds to this opening gambit, an automated voice takes over...

If you already have a boyfriend, press 1

If you have recently been through a break-up, and "just need some space", press 2

If you thought I "seemed really nice", but you're "not looking to date anyone right now", press 3

Press 4 if you're busy on any or all of the dates I suggest

Press 5 if you're in a "complicated relationship"

If your job and/or degree doesn't leave you any time for dating, press 6

Press 7 if you "don't think it will work" (for whatever reason)

To change the subject and just avoid the issue all the time, press 8

Or if you actually want to be honest with me, press the # key to hang up

See?  How much easier is that?!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

BBC Radio 1 - seriously, just shut up!

Having no iPod connector in my car for two weeks has forced me to listen to the radio again - something I haven't done since the days when I got the bus to school every morning, and the bus driver chose which radio station we all had to listen to…

So, picking up where I left off nearly six years ago, I am, once again, a Radio 1 listener…  And yes, it's every bit as terrible as I remember its being!

Music…  Isn't that the main point of Radio 1?  Well, I thought so - but, there simply isn't enough of it!  I am only listening to the radio because I can't listen to my iPod - I want to hear songs, for heaven's sake!  There is far too much air-time spent on non-music activities, and that annoys me…

I don't want to hear the presenters' thoughts on the last track they played - I can make up my own mind!  I don't want to hear them playing childish word games and larking around in the studio - if that's what I wanted to listen to when I was in my car, I'd offer my teenage sister and her friends a lift to college!

And I certainly don't need to be subjected to the views of other "members of the public"…!

They'll play a track by, say, Lady GaGa…  Then at the end of the song, it'll be "and we've had a lot of texts coming in from you about that song…  Jacqui in Devon says she loves Lady GaGa - but Algernon from Clydemouth says he finds Lady GaGa nauseating…  And Juan - listening to us online, all the way from sunny Cadiz - is certain that it's actually pronounced 'Lardy GaGa' - thanks Juan!"


So, Radio DJs - less talking, more music!  And that goes for all radio stations I've tried…  There are radio stations which don't play music, and which are dedicated to talking shows, and that's great…  But for a station like Radio 1, which presents itself first-and-foremost as a "music station" - "playing the best in new music" - the ratio needs to change dramatically!

Oh, and one more thing…  Is it just me, or do all the DJs on Radio 1 sound the same?  They all have the same voice!  I'm sure that the BBC just hires one male DJ and one female DJ, and then they have to be all the different "characters" presenting the different radio shows throughout the day…  (They can't get much sleep, either, I'm thinking!)

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Politics and comedy - 10 O'Clock Live

Last night, I finally got around to watching a new programme on Channel 4, Ten O'Clock Live, which has been advertised quite a bit lately...  Channel 4's website describes it as a weekly, live comedy and current affairs show hosted by David Mitchell, Jimmy Carr, Charlie Brooker and Lauren Laverne - so I was looking forward to it...

Comedy and politics are two big interests of mine...  I love Charlie Brooker and David Mitchell, I like Jimmy Carr as well, and I'm fairly ambivalent about Lauren Laverne...  Naturally, I had high hopes for this show!

So, did it work?  Well, not as well as I'd hoped, I'm afraid to say...

Some parts were good - most particularly, Charlie Brooker's Newswipe-style break-downs of current affairs topics such as Sarah Palin...  However, I felt other parts of the programme didn't really come off...

In particular, the debate on bankers' bonuses was something of a flop, with very little content, and not enough time spent to do much more than gloss quickly over the main points of the issue...

Like other news and politics programmes, Ten O'Clock Live had brought in three interviewees to debate this issue, from contrasting perspectives - these three people were meant to bring their differing views to a round-table debate on "bonus culture" in modern banking, chaired by David Mitchell...  Although I am usually a big fan of Mitchell (as I've already mentioned) I didn't feel he did a good job chairing this debate, as the "host" of the show - I thought he was more concerned with playing to the crowd, as a comedian, than talking to the three guests as a political broadcaster...

The topic is a contentious one - and rightly so - and this means that a good, strong debate could be had...  Unfortunately, the public mood in this country at the moment is very anti-bank and anti-banker, and Mitchell decided it would be much easier to jump on that bandwagon, and cut across the guests as they tried to make their points with cheap jibes at the bankers than to let all sides of the argument be heard equally...  I felt this was a shame - it turned what could have been an interesting feature into an uninformative, populist banker-bashing farce...

Contrast this with Jimmy Carr's interview with an environmentalist academic with some unusual ideas about solving what are commonly referred to as "green" issues - Carr managed to be clever, entertaining and funny, without preventing the professor putting his points forward...

On the other hand, Carr's piece about the Tunisian unrest, in which he tried to sell Tunisia as a holiday destination, in a daytime TV-style pitch, felt strained, with many of the jokes seeming rather tired and predictable...

So, on the whole, a mixed reaction to the first broadcast of Ten O'Clock Live...  I think I probably will keep watching, over the next few weeks - but I will know, now that this a comedy and current affairs show with the emphasis very much on the comedy side, and I will know not to expect serious political commentary to take precedence over getting a few cheap laughs out of a typical studio audience...

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

"Foibles" part one: banknotes

So, I figured people might be getting a little bored of reading my curmudgeonly musings on roadworks, and buses, and television advertising...  So, instead, I thought it might be fun to give a little insight into me, and how I live - through a short series of posts about the weird little quirks and foibles I seem to have...  (You might not think it's fun, of course - but if you don't, why not just go away?!)

Anyhow, this first post is going to be about how strangely obsessive I am, when it comes to storing money...

Obviously, coins just rattle around loose in one's pocket, or in the glove compartment of one's car, and there's very little anyone can do about that!  But when it comes to notes, I am very pernickity about how I put them away in my wallet...

Firstly, I cannot stand it when banknotes are creased and folded over at the corners...  Some older notes' corners are folded several times, but I hate putting them away like that, and always insist on unfolding and flattening every note, before putting it away - even if that means holding up a queue of people waiting to pay for something, while I'm unfolding the corners of my change!  (Yeah, sorry about that!)

Of course, different denominations of banknotes are different sizes - but when I put several notes of different values into my wallet, I have to line them all up by the bottom right-hand corner...  Like this -

And of course, it goes without saying they all have to be the same way up, and facing the same way, with the Queen facing backwards...  (I don't know why I always have the Queen facing backwards - it's nothing personal!  There's no logical reason, that's just the way I always do it...)

Anyway, that turned out to be duller than I thought, so tune it next time to read more boring stuff...

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

"Lush" and other drugs

This is something that's been bothering me for a little while now, and I had to write about it, in the end!  Although I know they are very popular at the moment, and the founders even got honoured in the New Years Honours List, I simply cannot stand those Lush Cosmetics shops!

Why?  For two reasons - allow me to explain…

Firstly, the aroma…  The smell of these shops is quite nauseating - the combination of dozens of different varieties of bath bombs, bars of soap, novelty shower gels, and fizzy foam that makes your hair sparkle, oll available in a range of flavours and scents, in close proximity, creates a fug of unpalatable gasses liable to cause asphyxiation to anyone lingering too long near the open doorway…

This problem is particularly bad, it is worth noting, in my own hometown of Norwich…  In Norwich, we have a branch of Lush Cosmetics, and it's situated right opposite Norwich Market…  Time was, you could walk the length of Norwich Market, inhaling the beautiful scent of a rich variety of fish'n'chip stalls cooking glorious Two Star Chips all the way…  There is no greater aroma, I am sure you'll agree, than traditional British fish'n'chips cooking, lingering tantalisingly on a very slight breeze, tempting even those who have just finished eating to order a portion…  Now the wonderful smells of the chip stalls on the market are gone forever - masked by the overpowering pungency of the Lush Cosmetics shop opposite!

The second reason, though, is the kind of people that these places attract…  Without wishing to offend any of my readers who might patronise such establishments, the Lush Cosmetics shops do seem to be populated mainly (although, it is worth pointing out, not exclusively) by hordes of a particular breed of waif-like, beret-wearing, hippie-stroke-indie teenage girls who think they're too damn good to look at you!

So please, for goodness' sake, let's get rid of these terrible places, and replace them all with banks, or fish'n'chip shops, or strip clubs, as soon as possible!  (Or some crazy, wild combination, with a strip club inside a fish'n'chip shop, perhaps?  How would that work, exactly?  It's a genius idea, there's no denying - but probably a topic for another post…)