Journey through space to the Planet Fabulous, where the Ruler of the Universe will see you shortly.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Computing For Dummies

I hadn’t realised what a rich and varied readership my guest spot here at Glitter For Brains would get. In the last week, for example, I’ve had three proposals. Two of which I could only manage with Yoga training, and the third of which would be impossible unless I grew a third leg and put on a Bacofoil jumpsuit. I’ve been sent a recipe for raw chicken Yum Yums and coincidentally I’ve spent two days in a casualty ward having my stomach pumped. And I’ve been asked for advice.

Well, boys and girls, I’m afraid I don’t have the life experience to help most of you, nor should I pretend I do. Mr H from Clapham, might I suggest you stop pretending she’s just sleeping and call the police. Miss X from EC12, there’s nothing I can offer to help except that facial hair on a woman can occasionally end a relationship but only with the most shallow of men. Unless they’re literally tripping over the stuff, in which case you’ve got no one to blame but yourself and possibly an Italian ancestry. And Mr T of California. You’ve been locked in a garage, there’s an oxy-acetylene welder and four yards of drain pipes. I shouldn’t have to draw you a picture.

However, computer-wise I do have a little history and I’m more than happy to put it at your disposal.

Miss Helen Rolling-Stock of Dumbarton writes to say, “Dear Mystery Guest. Ever since my grandchildren moved away and my poor husband died I have been dabbling in the exciting world of computing, and I now consider myself quite the enthusiastic amateur able to search the web most confidently for knitting patterns, Agatha Christie reviews, and Oriental fisting techniques. But this week I accidentally deleted an image of my first great-grandchild. Can you help?”

Well, Helen, it’s important at first you don’t panic. It has been proven that panic causes cancer. But I’m afraid it’s a very difficult task to get any files back once they’ve been deleted. They go to the Recycled Bin, where they are broken up into ones (known in the trade as “bits”) and zeroes (“pieces”) to be used again in new files. Systems without Recycle Bins are now the main consumers of raw binary (mined solely in Siberia) and if they’re not phased out by 2010 then the Internet may well be unable to keep working.

However, there are a few tricks that we in the know have. If you have an older style Cathode-ray monitor, then leaving a magnet sellotaped to the front of the screen overnight might well drag the lost image out of secondary storage. If you have the more modern “flat screen” then you can always draw the missing image back in with felt tip and it will be there forever. The best thing about this approach is that it’s then impossible to delete by accident. Or deliberately, come to that.

Lastly there’s an absolute sure-fire approach that will help. Firstly, go into File Manager, right-click on your C drive, and select “reformat drive”. Say “yes” to any comments that come up, and don’t worry about how alarming they may seem. It’s just scare tactics: I can confirm absolutely that anyone who’s tried this technique has never got in touch with me again.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On This Day...

Ten fascinating facts to cut out and keep!

...In 1654, Welsh gold mined in Dolaucothi was used for the first time in a royal wedding ring. This tradition has been maintained ever since: same mine, same seam of gold, and the same miner who is kept alive by supernatural means by the Queen Mother.

...In 1284 the battle of Egerton Stanwick took place. Or at least, it was scheduled to do so. Except it was raining, so they had a jumble sale instead. Edward I was reportedly very pleased with a woolly hat he found, and some sausage rolls.

...In 1774 a meteorite struck Tunguska, causing devastation and dust clouds the size of photocopiers. As a consequence property prices in the area rose sharply, as it was unlikely to ever happen again.

...In 1802 nothing happened at all. A small boy in Devon fell over and grazed his knickerbockers, but that was about it.

...In 1880 Alexander Graham Bell received the world’s first telephone call enquiring if he was happy with what he was paying for gaslight.

...In 1959 a research kitchen in Bolton produced the first of the range of cakes sold under the Mr Kipling label. A packet of six Bakewell Tarts cost a shilling. Mr Kipling himself doesn’t actually exist, but is one of the many names given to the legendary “green man” figure. American retail organisations have thus banned any Mr Kipling products from the US market for fear of a connection to Olde Magicke, psychic powers, and Michael Praed.

...In 1964 Doctor Who episode, The End of the Fire was broadcast. It marked the conclusion of epic eight-part story The Reign of Terror. Unfortunately due to the BBC’s deleted tapes controversy, and the Radio Times being on strike for the final two weeks of the story, few even realise this story is the length it was. A poor audio recording was recently recovered, said to include the sequence where the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan tells of how she made the whole thing up about orange skies and silver trees and that the word “TARDIS” is actually Gallifreyan for “sex shop”.

...In 1972 the world’s first iPod went on sale in Bloomingdales, New York. It was a Radiogram, sealed inside a bus, with racks of records tended to by dwarves. Due to its weak fuel economy, and the fact that the dwarves never got anything to eat, the unit’s life expectancy was reckoned to be about 8 months. Apple are still trying to get close to this with their more modern version.

...In 1981 tennis star Serena Williams was born. It’s a little known fact that she and her sister Venus were part of a sinister genetics experiment by the US government to create a super-race born to serve. Sadly no one looked up the work in a thesaurus.

...In 1982 the UK mining industry collapsed. Some blamed Scargill. Some blamed Thatcher. Few realised it was largely due to the efforts of a zombie miner from Dolaucothi who had threated to go on a rampage for fresh brains unless he was given more work.

Trailer for next week's Mouse

(grave voice-over) This week. On Mouse.

WILSON: It's serious, dammit Mouse. We took the laptop from that priest and put it through the MRI.

MOUSE: And what did you find?

Zoom in on:

WILSON: We found a Mass.

Mouse, 8pm this Fall

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fowl Advertising

Ah yes, come in Nando’s. Sit down. I won’t keep you.

Now, it’s about this new slogan I’ve been seeing outside your restaurants this week. Let me see if I’ve got it right. “We put the chic in chicken”, is that correct? Yes? Good to hear I’ve got it right.

Please understand that I’m not angry. You’re not in trouble. No. No, stop crying. No, this isn’t like that thing with MacDonald’s in Form 3B last year. I would just like to invite you to, perhaps, consider what the word “chic” means to most of us.

No, Nando’s, that’s with a “K” on the end. Yes, I know, they’re very fluffy and we all go “ahhhh” at Easter about them, but no, I think perhaps you need some extra sessions with Miss Miningpost in English after school.

I’m just the average man in the street, of course. Which is how I came to be passing your restaurant in the first place. But here’s what “chic” suggests to me. It’s the word you think on seeing a French woman looking at her watch at Waterloo Station as men around her collide into each other. It’s the word suggested by impeccably done make-up on someone sitting on a stool in a bar as she drinks a cocktail you can’t even spell. It is the sunlit-caught tendrils of thin smoke from a Gitanes ghosting around the beret-covered head of a Gallic angel. It’s Juliette Binoche first thing in the morning, last thing at night, or any point of the day between.

No. No, that’s not Juliette Binoche. Do pay attention Nando’s as I know we’ve had this conversation before. Brigitte Bardot is... come on, you remember... That’s right. Not a human being, but a handbag made from a cow who wasn’t quite killed and came back to life. That’s right. See, these old lessons do come back, don’t they? Jolly good.

Anyway, I believe the point I am making here is that what “chic” is not in any way, at all, beyond any exception, is pallet after pallet of foetid damp clammy chicken flesh exposed to flame and slammed onto featureless plates in an eatery that marks a gravestone for the death of Western Society’s imagination.

I mean, I have to ask you Nando’s, what the hell were you thinking? What made you feel anyone would be interested in a deathly-cold slab of bulging puckered pale flesh long past its prime?

Yes, all right. Your point is taken. A lot of people did watch Britney on the MTV Awards. But would anyone want to dowse her in Piri-Piri Sauce and roast her in an oven? Apart from Mr Federline, of course. And Mr Timberlake. And anyone with a sense of humour.

No. I’m sorry, Nando’s. But this will not do. I want you to go home and make some changes. I don’t care if you have just spent one point two million pounds on re-branding. You should have thought of that before you started maligning class and aesthetics for your tawdry shop.

What was that? No, I didn’t “hear you”. Say that again.

Oh. Oh I see, Nando’s. You feel I’m being elitist in mocking your establishment, do you? Oh dear, life is so very jolly unfair isn’t it? Everyone picks on you, do they? Well let me tell you, I visited one of your restaurants a couple of months ago with my lady wife to mark our anniversary. I always like to support my pupils where I can. Of course, this was before all this “chic” nonsense.

When tackled by one of your backwards functionaries about what I wanted, I asked what was recommended. It was a choice between, “chicken, eggs and chips”, “chicken, beans, chips” or “chicken, beans, chips and chicken”. There was also “mystery surprise” which turned out on further investigation to be chicken. Which I would suggest is neither a "mystery" nor a "surprise". There was also “chicken, chicken, chips, beans and chicken”, “chicken, beans, coleslaw, chicken, chicken and chicken” and “chicken, chicken, chips, chicken, eggs, chicken, chicken, chicken, salad, chicken, chicken, chicken” an option which I suspected goes on, only a stag party of Vikings at the next table started singing and I didn’t hear the rest.

Now, I do not particularly appreciate chicken and so I remonstrated with the functionary about these options. I was offered “chicken, salad and chips” because – and I quote – “that doesn’t have much chicken in it”. Needless to say, my wife and I left. I wasn’t going to bring this up as I like my pupils to have a chance in life, but I’m afraid you’ve brought it upon yourself. Now go back to class.

On your way can you show the lawyers for Cleese, Palin, Chapman, Idle, Jones and Gilliam in please? Thank you.

Some Facts Just In...

According to one of the papers this morning, the following fascinating facts are true:

A) If you burst a paper bag near the ear of a Jersey cow, you stop its ability to give milk for up to thirty minutes

B) Spanish researchers found you could improve milk production by 60% if you gave the cow steel dentures

C) Pigs have been found intelligent enough to play computer games

Now whether these facts are true or not is arguable. Just because they’re printed and presented as so in a newspaper that views Diana’s death as the best assassination since Kennedy is a dodgy thing to accept in the first place. But let’s just say that they are. In which case:

A. What sort of paper bag? What sort of bang? Does it have to be a paper bag – after all, with a following wind and a bit of dedication (it’s what you need) you can get an almighty bang out of a crisp packet. Haven’t they tried twisting out little sacs of Clingfilm? And that has the added advantage of being waterproof so you could stop a cow’s milk flow in environments like – to pick a surreal example out of the air – when they’re out in a field in the rain. You don’t want their milk all over the muddy ground do you, but using a paper bag would be impossible. The scientists never think these things through. Plus if a paper bag blowing up can instil enough shock to stop milk flow for half an hour, it’s hard not to imagine the more inhumane effects that further experiments brought on. In the same way that scientists get very shy about why all their captive rabbits have such lovely shiny coats, or why all their beagles look cool in a French 1950s film noir way, not one of them will ever tell you how they know with 100% certainty that if you pull a Party Popper near a cow’s ear, it turns its udder inside out.

B. Apart from “Scientist”, how many other professions can watch a Bond film on a Saturday and then in all seriousness think, “blimey, that’s a good idea, gotta try that one at work on Monday”. Presumably after a nice glass or two of Rioja, and too much Parmesan on their paella, a Spanish scientist has watched The Spy Who Loved Me and left himself a post-it note saying, “explore poss. of making Daisy look lk Richard Kiel on Monday”. Suddenly science-horrors like cloned sheep or ears-on-the-back-of-mice pale into insignificance when confronted with a Friesian with two metal legs building himself a volcano lair out of hay. Or the Jersey in the field next door who’s fed three milkmaids to a pool of goldfish he’s rendered particularly frenzied by taunting them all morning about their inadequacies.

C. This was, of course, on a Nintendo Wee-Wee-Wee-Wee-All-The-Way-Home. Ayethangew.

Pretty Hate Machine

My brother hates David Beckham. It goes so far as to deny the guy any footballing ability (which he undeniably has) or indeed any positives at all, because of the masses of media attention the man and his wife continue to get. Personally, I don't believe they ever started off thinking, "right, we're going to ensure we're in all the papers all the time" and that their lives have become what they are because of the British press' inability to leave people alone. While the Beckhams' life now isn't something you'd turn down yourself, you do wonder if it's the one they'd have chosen had the UK media not pressed them into a mould they'd made for them.

So basically, I'll defend David and Victoria quite some way out of a sense of sorrow for the life they can never lead. I'll argue when anyone says David can't kick a ball. I'll argue that Victoria hasn't made the worst solo-Spice Girls singles. I'll argue that he's doing a lot more for kids' sport in the UK than the Government. I'll argue that she's not the vapid, silicone-filled airhead the media love to portray her as.

And then I see this:

Free Image Hosting at

Victoria, it's a shoe. A fucking shoe. That's why you can't get a ring tone.

Monday, September 24, 2007

So What Do You Do?

We define ourselves by our professions, but as such, define ourselves to no degree. The first question, the absolute first thing you will be asked in any conversation with a stranger is that faux chummy “so, what do you do then?” It’s the first heel crushing on a toe in our 21st Century Conversation Tango. Take your partners please!

Apparently you cannot answer thus: “I stand at parties (or in pubs, as applicable) while someone with a stick of celery for a brainstem cannot even come up with a good opening question”. This is generally frowned upon. What you’re actually supposed to do is then tell some person what you do between the hours of nine to five. Which as you’re no longer there (or else they’d already know) has no relevance. None at all. If it does, then that’s not your job, it’s your life, and frankly you’ve got a bloody cheek going out meeting people. Will it be a better night if you confess to being a secretary, a fireman, a human-sized hot dog in Oxford Street? For as I say, it’s the thing we’re defined by, and yet it shouldn’t be the thing that defines us at all.

It’s long been my least favourite expression in the world (well, up there with “it’s not you, it’s me” and “I promise not to fart while you’re down there”), but in recent years it’s taken on a far darker significance for me, as I become aware that if you don’t have an answer to it, you become one of the Invisibles. Pinochet might as well have whisked you away in the night with a sack over your head because to your correspondent you will no longer exist. There then follows an awkward pause as they realise “they’ve got a difficult one here” and go off to find the onion dip. Which in most pubs is quite a trick.

I am an Invisible at present. Three years ago I just sat at my desk one sunny day and thought, “fuck it, this is just not worth the aggro”. I had some savings behind me. And okay, so I wasn’t going to be buying swimming pools and fast cars, but I simply didn’t have to work. I didn’t have to sit with people years younger who I didn’t get, and who certainly didn’t get me. I didn’t have to try and get excited or proud about my company selling five thousand units of a Z-list non-entity’s exercise video. I didn’t have to suck Woolworth’s cock, in a word. I had other things I’d rather do. Creative stuff I’d always thought, “ooooh I’d love to do that”. And when the money ran out, I’d just do something else. A CV packed with more surprises than Q’s lunchbox would get me back earning when I needed it.

And take it from me, there’s a wonderful sense of freedom when you do this. It’s like that dream where you’re out in the streets in your underpants except – and this is the crucial bit – instead of laughing at you, everyone’s cheering and taking their own trousers off too. It’s like a London parade if Brian Rix were the mayor.

Two weeks later after the Great Escape, I was with some friends, and I got into conversation with someone I was rather interested in. “So what do you do?” came the question (the first one, naturally). “Oh, well if you mean work, I don’t. Really. Work for myself, actually.” And that was the point I vanished. You get marked down as dangerous in the stupidest, laziest of ways. Had I said, “I temp in an office straightening paperclips for 10p an hour and can only drink coffee I’ve made from my own saliva” then I’m sure the conversations that ensued would have lasted the rest of the night. Though obviously I wouldn’t have been buying many rounds.

Dating sites – which as I’m shy and desperate I frequent from time to time – get very odd about not you working “properly”. I do not want to click on “unemployed” as they mean “I stay at home watching Richard and Judy” but similarly all the other categories are wrong too. You end up having to put an explanation in your profile. And as much as you use words like “liberated” and “freedom”, you just end up sounding like one of the more exotic tampon adverts. Incidentally, did you know that a Monsieur Giscard Tampon gave his name to this form of sanitary product? What is less known is that he died after getting his head stuck in a drainpipe. They tend to keep that quiet.

So you slowly become aware that if you can’t answer that opening question, the “what do you do?” then you don’t do anything. What was intended as freedom becomes a rather splendid trap. And then you have a nice empty slot in your CV that marks you down as “difficult customer” so that you can’t even get the simplest of jobs. It’s self-inflicted, which is why I’m posting about it here. A bit of a warning from someone who’s vanished. A two-fold warning actually. For a start, be careful to continually play the game and make sure you can always answer that most banal of questions. And secondly, never, ever ask it of me.

For anyone who these days at a party asks me, “so what do you do?” will get the answer, “I poke unimaginative little twats in the eyes with carrot sticks” followed by, “would you like some Optrex for that? Or possibly just some peas so you can make some soup?”

Though oddly that’s the other thing about the Invisibles.

Because your party invites disappear too.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Down in the Mouth

It seems that the cattle disease Bluetongue has finally reached these halcyon shores (Bluetongue Probe).

Aware of their poor track record in correctly understanding agricultural diseases, the Government have immediatedly cremated everyone using a hands-free phone.

il est mort

Marcel Marceau is dead.

There will now be a respectful two minutes of riotous shouting.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Even Educated Saturday Supplements Do It...

Normally the closest this Blog gets to talking about “culture” is with a “bio” in front of it when describing why James is having to apply yoghurt to his privates. But as it’s Saturday, and the more highbrow newspaper supplements across the land are doing their food reviews, then why the hell can’t we jump on the “free grub” bandwagon? You know, the one where the axles are in very real danger of collapsing. The one driven by Jennifer Saunders and that Lisa Riley out of Emmerdale. The one that that whizzes past the roadsigns of "Kill Your Speed Not a Child" with a rebellious cry of "it's a free country, why can't we do both?"

So anyway last week we went out to trawl Soho (be fair, we’ve all done it) and we ended up at Zksplash on Frorth Street.

This new restaurant is half the normal shop width, and getting to the end of the bar where the loos are situated is an activity more often linked to Nintendos, gold coins, and Italian plumbers. Though from a look at the loos, no plumber, Italian or otherwise, has been near them for a while. A sign at the mirror over the sink suggests visitors, “now burn your clothes”. To the left of the premises is an unlicensed tattoo parlour, and to the right an old fat woman in leather gives singing lessons (probably). The resulting audio mix makes Zksplash sound like they’re playing the Gypsy Kings at full volume, only slightly more tunefully.

The owners are taciturn men who decided on arriving in London to adopt names that might make them feel a little more local. They chose Sandy and Julian and there is absolutely nothing Bona about them. At all. The only way they would ever crack a smile is if you used a chisel. And Julian’s got a big scar down the side of his face where it looks like someone tried. I have no idea what language they use to each other. It is so fast and guttural that if you recorded it and played it back to a 48k Spectrum you’d end up loading JetPac.

Now I don’t wish to be critical of the East Europeans. With the Express and Mail currently demonising them, they just don’t need it. And besides, if it wasn’t for them then fat businessmen would have to pay good old British boys and girls to suck them off in hotels near Kings Cross. And goddammit that sort of thing is unpatriotic. But these guys come from one of those “Bratislaviarimskikorsikov” places that you’ve only ever heard of because the prince from there was machine-gunned at his own wedding. Or was that Dynasty. It’s the sort of placename that would score 800 points in Scrabble if a) you could use Proper Nouns and b) a Scrabble board was 58 spaces to a side.

The question was raised before visiting as to what sort of food they did. As a food critic, one cannot state enough the importance of finding out what the local economy of the country is known for. Anyone who’s ever ordered the speciality in a Swiss restaurant, and then spent the next six hours trying to get through “cuckoo clock in a basket” will understand the problems here. There’s nothing more galling than your main course telling you that it’s past closing time by pecking you eleven times in the eye.

Zksplash as far as I can see adopts a range of fare both traditional and exotic. Try their “muscles ak zoinrim” for the sort of eating experience you won’t forget. However hard you try. My companion has this as a starter, to find that “ak zoinrim” should be capitalised as it’s clearly an Eastern European engine oil. Imagine, “fish avec Castrol” for a local equivalent. I myself choose the “garlic bread done in the juesystkir style”. This is basically a soft dough bread cooked in a used cardigan, and has much to recommend it, namely the very small portion it comes in.

The wine is served in a manner unique to Zksplash: warm and in wide bowls. I have enjoyed a couple of glasses of this citrusy, tart and dry cheeky little number before I discover I’ve been drinking the fingerbowl. Eventually after much remonstration with Julian, the Zkplash staff raid their sparsely stocked cellar to provide a bottle of vintage Kinnjibinji 2005. I am assured by an optician that I will eventually get the sight back in my right eye. And all I did was sniff the cork. My companion accepted the offer to taste it before drinking and is still in the coma. Though I’m hopeful for her recovery as I’ve just received a taped message from Duran Duran to help her wake up.

For the main course there is a choice of two specialities. I decide against the “young lamb cooked at your table” when I spot that on the menu a pencilled correction replaces “cooked” with “shot”. And that in turn has “with an AK47” scrawled in afterwards. Though it does explain what I thought was quite alarming woodworm in the furniture up to that point.

I order the Twice-Cooked Pork. When it arrives, it is clear neither attempt has been successful but that hasn’t stopped someone trying. On my plate is something that looks like part of the evidence file from a fire at an illegal abortion clinic, only without the humanity. A side salad sits disconsolately in the manner of your bedside nail-clippings after bath night. Given its distressing taste of perfume and faint cheese, the comparison is an accurate one. I don’t want to know how they grow vegetables in wherever Sandy and Julian come from but that is a terrible thing to do to a lettuce.

It might appear that I found no saving grace in this apology for a restaurant. That is not entirely true. I recommend anyone order the crepes because in this day and age you don’t often see oil fires of that magnitude. The last time I saw a fireball like that, it had Bruce Willis just in front of it dangling from a water hose. Sandy himself brings the plate to my table, leaving a wistful trail of ethereal smoke behind him as he jumps across three tables and under a moving platform for five thousand extra points. I am the only man left in the place with eyebrows by this point, though it’s hard to tell if the smell of sizzled hair is due to the crepes, or because someone else has ordered a salad.

The reason Sandy is having to help out serving is because of their choice of waitress. She is young and pretty, in a disinterested sort of way. She had clearly come off the coach from Eastern Europe three days ago and was offered either this job or being a hooker in Mayfair. Lying on her back for eight hours sounded like too much work, so she took this job. If she were any less mobile they’d be giving her paycheck to the hat stand and be hanging bowlers and trilbys from her ears instead. Every ten minutes Julian or Sandy come out to check she still has a pulse.

Glad to have survived the entire meal, I pay my bill and get a taxi home where I can enjoy a cigar and a large glass of emetic. If that’s culture, frankly, you can keep it.

Zksplash (1 out of 5): two people, £80 per head, not including personal insurance (though that’s recommended)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mouse - Top American Drama Previewed Exclusively on GFB

We're in a new area of TV creativity.

Not since the mid-80s when the formula "x" + "detective" gave us hundreds of shows on prime time has one format been so abused. It's cool to be a TV misanthrope. And where in the 80s the value of "X" was anything from "raddled crime writer" (Murder She Wrote), "part-time chef" (Pie in the Sky), "whacky old medium dear" (Moon & Son), "shifty foreigner with slug lying in wait to trap bogies" (Poirot), now "X" can be any profession you like as long as it's raised to the power of "dysfunctional people hater". So we've had "medic" (House), "lawyer" (Shark), "surgeon" (3lbs) and now, coming in the Fall on the WB, we have "PC World employee".

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you:

"Mouse" - pilot episode

(Man playing video clip. It works fine. Then he plays a second clip, and the PC crashes. "Not again..." he says in frustrated horror.)

Titles, with music by a band that wants to be Massive Attack, but their Mum wouldn't let them out to play.

Mouse hobbles into the office. "Okay, what have we got?"

Cameron: "Recently rebuilt Windows environment. Suddenly started cold crashing whenever Windows Media was being used. Patient noticed the symptoms first when playing Oblivion."

Foreman: "Oblivion's pretty graphics intensive. Could be the graphics card overheating, causing the cold crash."

Mouse: "Wrong!"

Chase: "We discounted that. The machine was crashing first thing in the morning. It wouldn't have had time to get warm enough."

Foreman: "But it's June. The weather's got hotter. Perhaps that's just enough to tip it over the edge."

Mouse: "Wrong!"

Cameron: "Forget the Oblivion stuff. It could just be coincidence."

Chase: (incredulous) "You've got the same kind of crashing, two different programs, and you reckon it's just coincidence?"

Foreman: (grudging admission) "Chase is right. It's gotta have something in common."

Cameron: "The game system doesn't use any of the Media Player codecs. Hardware's the only common factor. And if that was failing, we'd get other symptoms. Hot air out the back. Irregular crashes just in Windows sessions."

Mouse: "Wrong!"

A put-upon nurse bursts into the office. "Come quick!"

Cameron: (distressed) "What is it?"

Nurse: "The PC. It's crashing!"

Mouse: "Wrong!"

(Ad break)

(Fade back in. A PC is surrounded by text books)

Chase: "It doesn't make any sense. The temp is low here. It can't be the card failing."

Foreman: "Perhaps one of the fans has died."

Cameron: "We'd hear it."

Chase: "But not if the others were still going. It wouldn't be enough change of noise."

Cameron: "The only way to find out would be to do an exploratory."

Foreman: "Open it up while it's still powered up? You're crazy. One slip and you'd short out the whole power supply. You'd kill it. We can't go invasive."

Chase: "Perhaps we could do a case puncture. Right over the fan, insert a probe, see if the fan's still moving."

Mouse: (who has been juggling disinterestedly with a scalpel, and is now popping a Vicodin because he's secretly impaled himself in the leg) "Wrong!"

Cameron: "I'm telling you, it's not hardware."

Foreman: "Then what would you do?"

Cameron: "Order a full set of new Codecs. Perhaps one's got corrupted. That would explain the Media Player failures *and* the Oblivion crashes."

Chase: "But you can't be sure Oblivion even uses those Codecs."

Cameron: "Have you get any better ideas?"

Foreman: (ashamedly shaking his head) "No."

Cameron: "Then hit the web. Find a Codecs package. Transfuse them immediately."

Mouse: (waving at the yellow elephants as they float by) "Wrong!"

(ad break 2)

(The PC seems to be running)

Cameron: "See, it's worked. That's the third video clip I've been able to play. No crashes."

Mouse: "Wrong!"

Foreman: (leaning forward, puzzled) "But you're not using Media Player. You're using another video player package that came with Nero."

Cameron: "Oh my God. I didn't realise." (She closes the application, runs up Media Player. One clip works. A second...)

Chase: "Dammit! It's crashing again. Quick, get clear! I need a recovery disc and a cold reboot!"

Mouse: (Chasing under a desk for a dropped Vicodin, bangs his head on the underside, is laid out unconscious. Before which he says:) "Wrong!"

Cameron (backing away in distress) "I didn't realise, I didn't..."

(ad break 3)

(The PC has reloaded)

Chase: "Perhaps it's Media Player itself. Got corrupted. We should load the latest version, and patch it up to date."

Foreman: "A Player transplant? But if the Player isn't the problem, you'd just make it worse. And this is version 11. It's unproven, man, it's unproven!"

Chase: "You got any better ideas? We gotta risk it. Download the new one. Boot it up."

Mouse: (Hiding the fact that he's accidentally cut his legs off when playing with an electric saw) "Wrong!"

Cameron: "But it can't be the Media Player..."

(Music montage as everyone looks in concern as Media Player 11 is downloaded from the Microsoft site and installed. While no one is looking, Mouse furtively stitches his legs back on.)

(At the end of the music, the computer happily loads Media Player only for:)

Chase: "There, good as new... What the hell?"

Foreman: "It's playing the clip in the wrong ratio... It should be 16:9, and it's 4:3..."

Cameron: "What have you done? Change the settings back!"

Chase: "I have! It's not making any difference!"

(All three look in horror at each other)

Mouse: (Gleefully off his tits on Vicodin) "Wrong!"

(ad break 4)

Chase: "I've checked all the FAQs. There's nothing about this."

Cameron: "Patient is fine. It's all working, except for that the ratio's

Foreman: (aggressively black because the writers have suddenly realised he's African American) "You call that fine? Dude can't go through his life in 4:3. This is widescreen age, bitch, widescreen!"

Mouse: "Wrong!"

Cameron (turning at him) "Then what is it? You've spent the last 41 minutes just saying the same word over and over, and being paid $50,000 by the production company every time."

Mouse: "Well, it beats learning a script each week."

Cameron: (quivering lips) "I'm so disappointed in you. I expected humanity and all I get is a grouchy pill addict with a unexpected accent. You're like a medical Pete Docherty."

Foreman: "Yeah, spill it Mouse. What's wrong?"

Mouse: "It *is* hardware."

Cameron: "Told you."

Mouse: "And it *is* software."

Cameron, Chase, Foreman: "Whaaaaaa?"

(ad break 5)

(Back in on incredulous expressions)

Cameron, Chase, Foreman: "-aaaaaaaaaah?"

(ad break 6)

(Still back in on incredulous expressions)

Cameron, Chase, Foreman: "-aaaaaaaaaah?"

Mouse: "What none of you did was check what sort of graphics card it was. You were all too busy going on about fans and temperature. The card is an NVidia 6600LE. And if you'd checked up, you'd have noticed that this doesn't work with DirectX Video Acceleration in Media Player. The card is only to blame when the Media Player talks to it. And the software is only to blame
when it talks to the card."

Cameron: "The 4:3... Of course... That only happened when the default settings changed back to Hardware Acceleration..."

Foreman: "But the defaults didn't use DirectX, so it wasn't causing the crash, but the Hardware Acceleration was enough to mess the display ratios..."

Chase: "Brilliant! So the answer is to just switch off hardware acceleration!"

Mouse: (starts hobbling off) "Exactly."

Cameron: "But aren't you staying to check the result?"

Mouse: "No. I left my bike parked in Cuddy's cleavage, and I've only got 2 minutes left on the meter."

All of them do a self-conscious laugh then look into the distance in sudden mournful self-awareness. End credits.

"Mouse" this Fall from the WB - Doing more to promote the rep of the PC World techys than the Gary Glitter trial

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Cottage That Changed the World

It's not exactly a new problem. How to seamlessly replace a popular figure for a while, without losing the original fanbase, and yet giving a convincing reason for the transition as you do so.

In Doctor Who in the Sixties, they'd do this by knocking the Doctor unconscious and then having him disappear for four weeks. Yes, William Hartnell was the Madeleine McCann of his day (actually, as a slight detour, does anyone else think Kate McCann looks like publicity bloodhound Heather Mills-McCartney? Is it mere coincidence that the second old Macca gets shot of the good-help-in-the-garden-what-with-that-Dibber-leg-of-hers Columninches-avore, we suddenly get "Kate" in Portugal? Hmmmmm).

But you couldn't just go around knocking people out for the better (allegedly - see The Crown vs Mystery Guest & Rohypnol) and so a more permanent substitution was required. In Doctor Who they came up with the concept of regeneration, where a character can change his physical appearance (and his shoes) through the power of alien science. Thus giving himself a new life, and ensuring that the Time Lord branch of the Clark's franchise went bust three weeks after launching. It's an interesting method of rejuvenation, but it does make you wonder what the middle section of Gallifrey's "Heat" magazine would look like: "Top Ten Failed Regenerations!", "Borusa: Has He Had Some Changes Done?", "Then and Now: Flavia denies renegeration story", and of course, "No Knickers Britneytrelundar shows off her Eye of Harmony!"

Now it's a popular TV industry myth that "regeneration" came about in a desperate planning meeting. This was, of course, in the days way before Facebook where TV writers can now let everyone know they are stuck on a plot point by the simple expedience of the "" function. In 1966, Gerry Davis' page would have been headed, "Gerry Davis is... coming up with a form of alien rejuvenation and has just score 17 points on Scrabulous with "Cybermen" which he insists will be in the dictionary in decades to come, honest".

What actually happened was that there was a big TV producers meeting in a hired cottage in the Cotswolds and some concepts were put up for auction. Innes Lloyd won the bidding on "regeneration" with an offer of eight shillings and Verity Lambert's phone number. He lost out on his original desire for "electrocuted by a hairdryer" to Coronation Street, a bitter blow as he still had the prop from The Web Planet. The First Doctor's last words were supposed to be, "Right, a quick ten minutes with Heat - ooh look, Castellan Spandrell's armpit stains - while this bouffante dries and Yynnngngnghgh!" So that got chucked out.

In years to come, perhaps people will appreciate how much this little Cotswold meeting shaped television. For example, the future creators of Neighbours snaffled the "goes abroad and comes back looking like someone else but No One Ever Mentions This" concept. They then sued Dallas in 1984 to block Miss Ellie's unique entrace. This is true, and not something made up to get a cheap titter over "Miss Ellie" and "entrance".

Of course, the real highlight of this auction went to the moneymen behind the Bond films, who got "cast a new man and just ensure no one ever comments on it". This one's still working today, so that a tall brown-haired Irishman can turn into a stocky blonde and despite existing in a world where everyone spies on each other, no one notices a thing.

But anyway, to sum up, Lee's asked me to help out while he's ever so busy drawing pictures, which made me think about all these substitutions and how I might effect my own change. I discarded at an early stage just pretending to be Lee as I don't know enough similes for "minky". You'd spot the imposter at once.

So join me as I hopefully keep us thinking and chuckling along in the wonky school coach of Life. Will you be the one snogging Millie Badgerhunt in the back? Singing a racuous version of Kool & The Gang's "Get Down On It" with the hilarious insertion of the word "helmet"? Sitting there damp and smelling slightly of chlorine with a verruca plaster currently unseen trapped in your hair? Or getting ever more nauseous with every bump until you projectile vomit over Jane Madden, class goddess?

Anyway, hello. For a brief while I'm stepping into Lee's shoes. I'll be back to post later when I've sawn three inches from the heels and scrapped all the sequins off.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

La Petit Mort

As far as I remember, two kids died at our school while I was there.

The first one was a boy in the year below me in school. Now, to understand this, you have to know there is nothing to do in my home town. These days there's even less - the laughable 'high street' has now almost closed down with every store vacant or turned into an off-licence, nail bar or tanning salon. You can either get wasted or have french tips, those are your two options. At least in my day there was a Kwik-Fit to go and steal tyres from to make a swing over the disused railway line - not that I ever did. I was far too busy learning BASIC for that sort of outdoor shenanigans. But you can understand why kids turned to drugs quite early, though saying that, the budget for proper drugs never really rolled in, and kids had to be inventive, sniffing everything from aerosols to air fresheners. Some would rack up maker pens and sniff them sliding them back and forth, looking like they were playing the pan-pipes. If you came across someone in the changing rooms with a swipes of primary colours under their nose and a slightly glassy expression, you knew you weren't going to get a straight answer to the question "Can I borrow you RE homework?"

Apparently this got more and more extreme: people would spray aerosols into plastic bags and inhale the fumes. Further than that, apparently the fumes from certain melting plastic gave off something wonderfully hallucinogenic, and thusly a spate of kids hanging around fiery, melting bins and snorting became commonplace. Soon the new bus shelters had to be replaced with the old-style metal ones after they went up in flames with a circle of spaced-out teenagers lying around it and proclaiming themselves "The Space Rhinos from Galaxia  14".

Apparently the boy died while sniffing WD40 sprayed into a Threshers carrier. We were all told this in the sports hall, gathered there to have the news broken by uncharacteristically solemn teachers. They told us the dangers of what had happened and how sad they were for the friends of the boy. I didn't know him, and my reaction was to laugh. Not out of cruelty or spite, but because it was the one thing you shouldn't do, and so I did. I had to bury my head in my locker until it passed. I'm really not sure why I did that - I've never been that au fait with my emotions; the only other time I've had such an extreme reaction like that to something that was when my mother tried to get me in a polyester for my third school uniform. Oh man, there were tears then. Oh yes.

* * * * *

The second one who died was over Cannock Chase, a huge bit of parkland where deer wandered and teenage couples conceived their ungodly offspring. Thankfully the two things were separate; there were no antlered children running about the common. Though there were an awful lot of kids with webbed feet padding around the vast council estate called The Avenues due to some blurring of the line between 'lover' and 'family'. Still, they had a natural advantage in the swimming gala, so people didn't give them that hard a time.

Anyway, Cannock Chase. If you were hard, you used to hang around there, so to a swot like myself it seemed like a Woodstock of free love, motorbikes, and girls with easy virtues who ended up screaming down the school corridors "You can't dump me Darren, this is yours!" before dropping out of school early and go and live in Wayne House, an enormous tower block to the south of the town that echoed with the cries of new-born children and reeked of the disinfectant they use to hide the odor of urine.

Clearly my sister was always over on the Chase. She'd embraced the fun at a very early age, often came back reeking of mints at all hours. She told me one day that she'd come back so drunk that she'd been sick in her make-up drawer in the night, and only realised when she'd got up and reached in for some concealer to hide the bags under her eyes the following morning. She was 14 at the time. And spent most her lunch money on Diamond White.

She happened to be over Cannock Chase when the girl died. It was howling with rain and uncharacteristically warm for the midlands, and rather than run for shelter, people were running around in it and having fun. The girl - it's bad of me not to know her name, isn't it? She's only known as The Girl Who Died to swathes of us from that year - she was lying on the grass, laughing and joking with her friends when - POW! - a bolt of lightning came down and struck her. Completely out of nowhere.

The inquest recorded that the lightning had struck the underwire in her bra and killed her instantly. It was a ludicrous death that apparently she would have approved of, so people mourned her with a strange acquiescence. And lets face it, they're a backward lot in my hometown, so most of them were convinced that she'd displeased the Gods somehow and there was talk of sacrificing a goat on the steps of Tesco to appease them.

The thing that always gets me about this story is while The Girl Who Died was laughing her last, my sister was a hundred feet away. She'd decided to take shelter under a tree, a ludicrous mistake in itself, and happened to be holding the aluminium can of cider aloft when the lightning crashed down.

Monday, September 10, 2007


My first kiss was with a girl called Stella Hackett.

We were friends merely through convenient location rather than anything in common; her house was right next to the bus stop, the unofficial marker that indicated the furthest I was allowed to play from my house. Though as time wore on I came to realise that Stella was somewhat free with her affections with any of the local lads who happened to be passing - something that I myself would be emulating a few years down the line. So perhaps it was more a kindred spirit I saw through those pebble glasses of hers at my tender age of six.

I forget how it came about - though Stella was somewhat older than me, and thusly far more worldly wise and knew words like 'pre-cum' and 'mimsy' and so became the authoritarian on all matters to do with sex. She'd probably offered to teach me in order to stop me playing with her Perriot dolls for once. Of course I was instantly resistant and scared of getting something hideous, especially as girls at that age are considered somewhat "ewww!" (a steadfast mantra I've clearly carried on with for the rest of my life). She announced that "Germs was a man who tried to kill Jesus" and that's why they had a bad reputation and didn't actually exist. All in all, it was a somewhat elaborate method of getting the chewing gum I was currently mawling about my mouth. She duly took it in her own, passed it about her misshapen teeth and passed it back.

I don't remember the kiss itself. Clearly I've blanked it from my mind in the manner of victims of assult. But I remember breaking away from her and she announcing "Yes, now we do it with more tongue." More tongue, I thought? As it was she was like an electric eel probing around what were probably my milk teeth. I doubtless made some excuse and skipped off home to rearrange the furniture in my Big Yellow Teapot.

The thing is, while I was up the top of the garden, my sister was down the bottom engaged in similar activity with Stella's younger brother Neil. I'm sure my sister won't mind me saying - and she's even less likely to find out as she doesn't read this dastardly pink website. In fact, she doesn't want to read full-stop; not that she can't, she just doesn't bother. Two Jehovah's Witnesses called upon her once and tried to convert her, trying to hand over a Bible for her to digest. She just looked agog and asked them whether it was on DVD yet.

Anyway. There's the natural curiosity at that age, and even back then at that junior age I seemed to want to see what Neil had to offer more than Stella's tonsil-tickling sessions. The 'You show me yours and I'll show you mine" saying was banded about a few times to Neil and he seemed more than happy to flaunt his wares to me behind their garage, with an interesting caveat: he also wanted to see my arse as well. For some reason this completely befuddled my tiny brain and thought much better of it, shying away from both aspects. Clearly this has completely reversed these days and if any gentleman caller shows the slightest bit of interest I'll present like a mandrill. But at the time, you know, I think I was a little prudish about the whole thing. How odd to think that. I never got to see what Neil was hiding down his bri-nylon school slacks, more's the pity.

About that time, my parents put their first foot on the property ladder and we moved away from Stella, her Pierrot dolls, bus stop and apparent germ-free life shortly after that, and we never spoke again. By the next time I heard her name - in my new school's History class some eight years later - I'd almost forgotten of her existence. Two lads to my right were asking in a low voice who they would shag if they had to out of Sharon, the dumpy girl with the lazy eye, or Madelaine, the outcast Jehovah's Witness who smelled of urine and biscuits. When the poor unfortunate lass was chosen - with the obligatory "ewww!" - they then ranked the 'winner' against her or the apparently more vile Stella Hackett.

My ears pricked up at the name; it transpired that Stella hadn't changed her ways. Indeed, her new mission in life was entertaining lads who would get wasted at the local pub and come a-knocking on Stella's door after closing time to relieve themselves. In fact, she was so indiscriminate and welcoming to more than one lad after the next that her aforementioned mimsy was said to have been like a bill sticker's bucket after a good Friday night. Saturday nights were even worse and I imagine on a Sunday morning the act of her uncrossing her legs was somewhat akin to pulling apart a toasted cheese sandwich.

They caught me ear-wigging, and one of the lads said "Would you shag Stella then, Binding?" with a cruel inflection. I opened my mouth, unsure what to say. If I said no, they'd accuse me of being gay - again. If I said yes, I'd be branded a fool for sticking my member in something that was clearly as safe as a bee's nest. I wrestled this around my head for a while before I was shot down anyway: "Forget it," said one lad, name now lost to me as much as my virginity. "He wouldn't know what to do with it."

Which I thought was rather harsh. And somewhat incorrect: I had been enjoying a somewhat fruity relationship with a boy the year below me for a good couple of months.

But that, my dears, is a whole other story.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Where No Man Was Willing To Go

Star Trek is bobbins, isn't it?

Every now and again, I get this irrational urge to go back and sit through the middling adventures of manly Captain Janeway and her moist crew, but fortunately have instructed all about me to flick an elastic band at the back of my head if I even show the merest whiff of weakness. I'd only get annoyed at the slow pace and the fact that the geeks who write it can't get a woman's characteristics down at all; poor Deanna Troi's sole female trait was a love of chocolate, clearly brought about by one of the writers reading the back of a chick-lit novel in Borders. If only the future hadn't done away with currency lest Tasha Yar be off on a shopping spree each week and flashing her La Senza carrier bags every time she came on the bridge with an incompetent cry of "Ooh, I shall get me hair done, yes! For I am a WOMAN!"

Indeed 'Star Trek' has bored me over the years; scarred me even after witnessing the antics of some gentleman in a Star Trek uniform in a gay barn - yes, barn. Some rickety nest of iniquity that took forty-five minutes of driving down country lanes to get to; honestly it felt like it was the sixties once again and Gentlemen Who Are Good With Colours had to get into secret clubs by going up the back passage and knocking. Clearly nothing we're a stranger to; indeed, most the places were so small that when you wanted to get across the room you simply had to push someone's stool in. No wonder the Police raided the place.

Anyway, this gay barn clearly attracted the local stoop-backed yokels as there was barely a full set of teeth amongst them until we turned up. Which is when, jaws scraping sawdusted floor, did we spot the corpulent ming-mong in the Trek uniform, who proceeded to take a shine to yours truly. Every time I walked by him (he'd casually installed himself between the bar, the toilet, and the 'What The Butler Saw' Mutoscope) he would whip out his medical tricorder from his belt, pretend to scan me, and nod approvingly at the results before trying to give me a wink. I say 'try' as his coordination was such he winked by turning his head, screwing up the winking eye and opening his mouth in a weird 'D' shape. And if you think sexy is someone who looks like they're having a stroke, boy did I find the paramour for you.

This was not his crowning glory, alas. When I did finally give in to nature and go past him to the WC, he followed me in and waited for me to finish at the urinals. And when I turned - picture this in slow motion, dear viewers, as I do when I wake screaming in the middle of the night - he was unzipping his uniform. As my hand flew up in a scream of "Nooo..!" his was pulling apart the fabric to expose his pendulous left nipple, large and
swollen, about which was tattooed a Next Generation communicator badge. He then proceeded to caress it before announcing "Yeah, oh yeah - two to beam up..."

I screamed, dear viewers, I really did. I then ran past him in that special run that's mostly crying, elbows and flat-footed anguish, all the way to my dear friends who were terribly supportive by pointing, laughing, and pushing me towards him again.

And this is why I don't want to watch 'Trek' any more. That and the fans insistence of firing the boring ones into space when they're dead. Why wait, I say.