Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tour de Brother

I haven't mentioned Big Brother this year, I am watching it, kind of, in passing, when there's nothing better on. Its just its not really been interesting enough to comment on, I suppose.

I'm also watching the Tour De France; the parallels between the two are remarkable - especially when you can think of nothing better to write about. Firstly, it's a competition of backbreaking longevity and it doesn't pay to go out too hard - an excessively exuberant Big Brother contestant is likely to be voted out early whereas a Prologue specialist is unlikely to complete the first week.

Both competitions have their specialists - the Tour has sprinters, climbers, and domestiques whilst Big Brother has Charley, the specialist hate figure, the good old-boy, Liam, the future Nuts model; Chanelle and the odd-ball - Tracey (who uses the phrase 'Ave It' when she can't think of anything else to say - like a blank tile in Scrabble).

These people spend most of their time anonymously cruising through the competition. Overall victory is never likely but they will have their day; either in a public vote, or a moment of comedy, or a barnstorming argument. This is what the tour would view as a stage win.

They're both compelling viewing because they weave a intriguing story that you don't really want to miss, yet the overall winner becomes obvious from fairly early on. The winners tend to be good at everything without being spectacular at anything. Brian, for example, is not particularly witty, clever or entertaining, he's just a decent bloke. Victory can be secured from some way out - this year's Tour winner is pretty much decided with a week and a half still to go; the Tour winner cruises into Paris, whereas Big Brother winner cruises into a Davina interview and China White's. In many ways, the competitions are very similar.

Plus, of course, they're all constantly cheating and probably on drugs.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

These are your friends

I've recently registered on Facebook. I've accumulated fourteen friends; which I thought was quite good until I found out that my 23 year old assistant has 188 because apparently everyone at Uni was on it.

As part of the original Internet generation, my comprehension of it was basically as a big unwieldy largely inaccurate book. Social networking was limited to a bit of email and the odd message board. I'm probably missing the whole point of Web 2.0, but apart from accumulating friends, I just seem to spend most of my time finding out that my friends are making friends with people I've never heard of and that this person has dropped a sheep on the other person's head. It's like a giant Vic and Bob convention.

I also recently had a tootle around Second Life. I went to a club and stood like a dork in the middle of dancefloor trying to work out how to activate my 'dancing' mode. At one point a naked man with glow stick bangles on skimmed across my screen, so I went and stood in a corner so I could try and work out the basic controls. One of the quick keys is to take all your clothes off, which explains much of Second Life's purpose, I suppose. Whilst standing in the corner, I managed to 'overhear' a conversation which went something along the lines of:

"U have gr8 boobs"
"Thnx lol"

They didn't seem at all embarrassed 'talking' like this in front of a man walking in circles and occasionally flying into walls (me, trying to work out the controls still) but I was embarrassed listening to it. I logged off and am probably still standing lifelessly listening to endless trance music whilst the, *shudder*, cyber-flirting goes on around me.

My fundamental issue with all this is that its unnatural. I do not make complete strangers ('randoms' according to my 23 year old assistant) my friends just because they ask in real life and can't get my head around doing it on the Internet. Nor can I quite get into the idea of telling someone they have "gr8 boobs" when that person is probably a fat trucker from Albuquerque called Derek. Above all, Second Life, as one person put it, is men pretending to be women having sex with women pretending to be unicorns.

Quite frankly, if I wanted to have sex with a unicorn, I'd just go out and do it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sky+ kills the video star

I vividly remember the first video my dad bought. It was not a VHS, it was not even Betamax format; it was a Grundig with big clunky keys and tapes as big as house bricks.

He brought it home one evening, Nationwide was on the TV and he tested that everything was working by recording it; a car driving over a bridge. Like all major technological breakthroughs the sheer mundane nature of the subject made it more special.

Emma’s parents’ first video came much later; Emma assured me that it was state of the art and the most expensive one in the shop. It probably was, a purchase born out of fear of the technology. Despite this, it didn’t have a timer function – I was told. So you couldn’t preset the video to record; you basically had to put a tape in at least four hours before the end of the show you wanted to record. So they had tapes and tapes of rubbish in order to catch the Eastenders Omnibus. It wasn’t until, some five years after they bought it, I found it did have a timer; they just didn’t look at the manual, probably for fear of being seen to doubt the machine’s omnipotent power – if angered it might have had their souls exhumed.

My Grandpa also couldn’t get to grips with his video; he was convinced that you had to have the TV on and tuned into the channel you wanted to record. His basic understanding was that somehow the video was recording directly off the TV screen and if the TV was off, then it would record a blank screen. He was worried that if he left the TV on when he was out it would blow a fuse and burn the house would to the ground.

SKY+ came this week; a technology from another planet. The temptation is to use all the functionality all the time, but I figured it should be introduced naturally, y’know, when something significant comes along. So what have we christened this new wizard with? The release of a political prisoner after 30 years? Capture of a long chased Saudi dissident? The winning of a major world sporting trophy after many years of hurt?

Nope, the first thing we’re recording is Neighbours on series link.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Global fawning

I'm in two minds about Live Earth. On one hand it seems churlish to ignore the issue, but on the other; there's no denying the hypocrisy and flaws in its concept.

Live Aid, upon which all these things are based, was unique, had a simple principle - the biggest bands in the world play music and you give us your fucking money, a charismatic iconic leader who did the politics so the dumbo popstars could focus on the bass solos and it had a few moments of legend: the career reviving Queen set, that video with the music from The Cars, and a career defining set from U2.

All this has been lost in the slew of political concerts staged in the intervening years. I didn't see much of yesterday, but it seemed to be a hotchpotch of bands which pandered to American audiences as the day progressed (Pussycat Dolls on third from last?), it was a series of short record company driven showcases; for example, who the hell is Terra Naomi and how come she's billed higher than the Red Hot Chilli Peppers? Above all, it wasn't entertaining enough for long enough to hold the attention.

Secondly, the simplicity of the Band Aid concept has been replaced by the more nebulous 'awareness building'. Success, therefore, can't be measured in money terms, so it compels the artists to go on about 'The Issue'. With no charismatic leader (sorry, Al Gore) it's left to Madonna to tell us to 'jump up and down if you want to save the world' and Kasabian to 'save the polar bears for our children's children, or at least give it a try, yaknowhatimsayin?'. Snow Patrol justified the criticisms of hypocrisy by saying they weren't there to preach, they were there to learn... about how to put gigs on of this size in an ecologically friendly way. Then there was bloody Hollywood-addled Joss Stone rambling on about 'Saving the world being really important and global warming being really bad, like'.

I'm certainly older, and probably more cynical than I was in the days of Live Aid, so its not really a fair comparison. It did strike me that I didn't hear a single piece of practical advice about the issue. Which, when you think about it, could have transformed the thing - what about a call for governments to pass a law that says in 5 years time only energy efficient light bulbs can be sold, or that no new appliance can have a stand-by light, or even that every car built is hybrid fuelled?

It seems odd that the government can't achieve this when it has managed to successfully ban smoking, insist that every TV goes Digital and has, in the past, banned lead from petrol. None of the three suggestions above would be a perceived attack on the UK way of life, it wouldn't even effect big businesses particularly. Instead, we have a concert whose effects are unlikely to last beyond Tuesday.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

HAFL - Hooble As a Foreign Language

Millie is just starting to become aware of the television as a source of entertainment. Previously she just saw it as a source of flashing colours and spent many hours with her nose against the screen taking it all in.

This morning, The Hoobs were on, which she seemed to be enjoying. It had someone signing for the deaf in the corner. Goodness knows how they sign ‘Tiddlepeeps’ and ‘Hoobledoobledoo’.

For non-connoisseurs ‘Hoobledoo’ is how the Hoobs say hello to each other. They say it all the time. Eventually, on about the sixtieth ‘Hoobledoo’ Emma pipes up; ‘So, is this the Hoobs then?’

It would have been a bit weird if it was said by a Fimble.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Orange ordered

So, to update; I buy a new Orange phone; it breaks through no fault of my own, there follows a brief border skirmish with Orange, in which they won't fix it without a receipt and I retreat to lick my wounds. Then I find the receipt to the phone and arm myself ready for battle. At this point I lose my SIM card somewhere between here and Poland rendering the whole phone fixing onslaught largely redundant.

Then Millie hides the controller to our Freeview box upstairs leaving us with just four fuzzy analogue channels. Then our Sky box downstairs packs up leaving us analogue downstairs too. This must have been what it was like for medieval peasants.

I decide to draw a line under the debacle; I order SKY+ and choose to simply cut my loses and buy a new phone. I head for the Orange shop, I get as far as checking out a new phone. I don't like it; the buttons are too small and it has rather unpleasant orange lights, I decide to think about it.

We walk home via Sara's; they switched to SKY+ a few months ago and it turns out they've got a spare box that we can borrow to tide us over. Emma then goes to Tesco and buys a new digibox for upstairs.

Then, and here's the miracle, I do what I always do when preparing to sit down in front of the TV. I take my shoes and belt off and empty my pockets - leaving small piles of change all over the house. Out comes my wallet and for no apparent reason I decide to have another route around for the Sim card. My finger finds a particularly ragged bit of my particularly ragged wallet... and... I feel the SIM card. I FOUND THE SIM CARD. I can't explain why I decided to have another look or why my finger found the nook for the first time. I have only one explanation - the baby Jesus put it there.

I am now fully subscribed to digital TV once more, I have my SIM card and my broken phone with it's receipt. I am making progress in my battle with technology; I feel like Mace Windu fighting the Clone Wars.

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