Monday, 31 December 2012

Hey, You In The Future

Well then.  That was the year that was eh?
Him off that film did that thing.  That royal upset that ambassador by saying what he did said.  That sports guy was in court for...oh it's time to 'fess up.

I wrote this 'blog' over a year ago.  Yes back in the halcyon days of talk about dozenth dip recessions and riots I wonder what the world of the future will be like.  I imagine very, very similar to the one we inhabit now.  Lets face it, you're either reading this on an incrementally improved piece of technology or on a piece of Earth, blown out into space because Tesco and Sainsbury's finally decided to settle who is most dominant utilizing price-cutting and thermo-nuclear warheads.

For my part I must apologize if the writing style of this entry is jarringly different to what you have become accustomed to this last year.  I have either improved drastically or have finally become the drunken bum I always suspected I would.  It is quite possible that by the time this post goes out, I have made several rambling early morning entries about whatever is causing my inebriated self to be ageaved before selling my internets and what-not for a brand of cider with the word 'White' in it.

I wonder if the previously aired topic of population is more of a prevalent issue at the end of 2012.  If so 'hello, person 43,465,968,164!

No doubt if everyone isn't a sex-slave on Targon-6 by now, being felt up by a many-tentacled-thing a lot of people will be awaiting the yearly ear/taste-bashing inanity of X-Factor:- Unless of course shop-keepers decided to take to the streets this summer and ransack the homes of chavs, denying them their 'hooman rites' to text vote for their favourite karaoke singer whilst the as-yet undeclared winner of this years show lies forgotten in the gutter or worse, on an Iceland ad.

Anyhoo, that's me, from the past.  Don't forget to save me some moon soup and space pie!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

One Of Our Halloween's Is Missing

Well here we are again.

There's been attempts at terror, explosions and burning effigies.  No, I'm not talking about the Middle-East but Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night here in good old Blighty.

The former there was a bit of let-down I thought.  Halloween would clearly do well to avoid falling on a Wednesday again as this seems to have affected the festivities.  The weekends on either side of Samhain were mostly bereft of costumed parties and on the day itself the only dark and disconcerting haunts I saw were the empty local boozers in my region, spookily empty and not in a good way.

Still, Bonfire Night proved slightly more robust with tyres and old pallets being wilfully destroyed for days on end this year, the UK especially gleefully sticking the V's up to Mother Nature and the Kyoto Protocol in order to celebrate the state sanctioned execution of some chaps over four hundred years ago.

Still, next year good old All Hallows' Evening falls on a Thursday.  This combined with the lack of 'owt down this year and the year being that of 2013 might ensure a decent night of ghost, goblins, witches, vampires and the like next time around.

If we survive that is.  More on that, next blog...

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

New Tech, Old Hat

Here in good old Blighty we have a comic that goes under the title of The Dandy.  Pre-dating the official sequel to 'The Great war', The Dandy was very much a magazine of its time.  Aimed at children it largely features several strips per issue including over the years the lakes of Bananaman, Desperate Dan and Korky the Cat.

The reason this is being told at you is that this year supposedly sees the end of the distributing of hard copy versions of the magazine seeing The Dandy become an on-line digital publication only.

 What new challenges might Dan face?

This seems to have been met with derision by old readers of the comic though I can't entirely fathom why.

It's true that I myself tend to lean towards having a preference for my sequential art in a form I can hold/lend/use as lining for the bird-cage should it happen to have been drawn by Rob Liefeld.  I do however understand that this decision will not have been taken lightly, after all, The Dandy is one of the three longest running comics of all time.

Truth be told, I never really liked The Dandy as a kid.  I seem to recall reading a few annuals of it and The Beano - Dandy's 'sister' comic - and finding them oddly depressing:- make of that what you will.  I also imagine that when told The Dandy was being taken off the shelves many people on your typical high street would say things like, 'I didn't know that was still going'; 'What the f**k are you on bout mate?; or indeed 'Nie rozumiem'.

I guess my point is it is always nice to have choice in these matters - as mentioned I am a thing made of things and like to have my things made of things I can...erm...see? - but I might also proffer the idea that given said periodical's decidedly antiquated/cosy take on the world, the complainers ought to consider themselves lucky that The Dandy is continuing in any format at all.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Darren Not Versus The Olympics

Soooooooo, The Olympics is on...

For anyone following 'the games' you may have noticed some of the odder events that make up the proceedings.  Of course 'odder' is subjective but come on; Handball?

Don't we have that already but know...feet?

I don't actually know if this is a new sport or why I haven't spotted any curling yet.  Could curling have been part of them there winter Olympics?

It strikes me that the events are generally in two camps.  The ones where you either do something or you don't and the winner is clear to all and sundry; or the games where the entrants do stuff and some people at a nearby table tell them whether they did it right/better than the others/made a right tit of themselves.

The former camp would include givin' it legs (running), putting a heavy thing somewhere put returning it whence it came (weight lifting) and barely disguised specialist material for onanists without Internet access (beach volley ball).

The latter camp contains prodding folk a bit (fencing), grabbing someone else's jymjams (judo) and fallin' (diving).

It seems to be the first set of activities that garner the most following (beach volley ball excepted) because it's just easier isn't it?  Not for the athletes per-se (diving excepted here) but for the viewer.  Sit next to your average pub drunk and aside from having to listen to the list of unlikely reasons he's not 'on there, doing that'* and it becomes obvious that if there are simple numbers and targets involved people are fine.  However ask Average Joe or Johnny Six-Pack to declare whether or not a back-flip passed muster and there's absolutely no reason for him to be able to give a sound, cohesive opinion.

Anyways, I'm not actually here to 'diss' the event.  Tto be honest the opening went much better than any armchair cynic expected it to and whilst I feel the same creeping lack of interest as many others with mild, self-diagnosed A.D.D. (or whatever the radicalised term for 'can't be botheredness' is these days) because this thing runs for about three weeks or summat, that's not to say that the Olympics does go on a bit

In fairness, that's fine.  The run-time is completely off-set by other factors such as A) The Olympics comes around only every four years whereas football is FOREVER AND BLOODY WELL ALWAYS! B) There are a variety of sports (Handball yet anyone?  Anyone?!) so there may be something to catch the eye of most people and C) Don't worry if it got in the way of your actual life - as in the case of most Londoners it seems - because we won't host it again for the best part of a century at least!

The truth is whilst I can generally take it or leave it, the Olympics is actually quite well suited to today's telly watching public.  The events are short, simple and if you don't like one, there'll be something else along soon enough.

And if you REALLY don't like the Olympics well let's face it.  Here in good old Greenwich Meantime, unless something is on slap-bang in the middle of good old Blighty, we'll all be asleep when the next one is one anyways!

*The reason it turns out is not because he was a fifty-odd year old soak who's only running experience comes from getting to the dole office on time; nor was it because he isn't and never was a small Chinese girl with years of training behind him;  It was simply that he 'just wouldn't fancy doing that'.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Spiderman Versus The One With The Hair Off Of Friends

Picture the scene; you're outside your local multiplex searching for a flick to spend the next couple of hours and half your weeks' wage on.  Suddenly, from somewhere off to your right some gobby, mouth-breathing Ned says, 'fuuuuuuckin' 'ell.  ANOTHER comic film.'

You try not to look at them.  You grind your teeth at the several levels of ignorance this person wilfully displays in a crowded, public place.  Said moron opts to force his/her 'date' to watch Jennifer Anniston Romcom 12: The Racheling.  A decision said person goes along with in the hope that it will earn them some points in the quest towards a clumsy, unerotic sexual act that will unfortunately lead to this non-too-dynamic duo firing off a similarly low-foreheaded hatchling from the idiot factory that one of them owns without license or permission from a responsible adult.

Off they go and you've missed your chance to point out the idiocy of the statement and the ire-cum-hopelessness that even if you had, these knuckle-draggers would have completely missed the point of your protestations and simply said, ''e'yar!  What yer kickin' off for?  I know the ______ family from the ______ estate.'

Blah, blah, blah.

So, what would you have said?

Well, I'd firstly like to point out that, just like the bilge they have opted to watch, a film - for better or worse - is usually made because there is an audience for it.  Simple economics.  Next I'd point out that they themselves have probably watched many 'comic' films already themselves without even knowing it; something they might realize if they'd ever picked up an item of literature without the sole intention of ripping the corner off the back cover to make a roach.  The main error yonder Neds have made here is assuming that all comics feature classical spandex wearing superheroes and would no doubt be dumbfounded were they to be told that films like, Tintin, Men In Black, Sin City and Road To Perdition all began life as sequential art tales.

Then cometh the kicker.  I might also direct this bird-brained brace that whilst there is indeed a 'comic film' on at the cinema (in this instance The Amazing Spiderman) they have no less than three light-weight romcoms to choose from (also in this instance The Five Year Engagement, Friends With Kids and Magic Mike) so have not only no right to complain but indeed plenty of reason to rejoice.

Of course, as a reasonable and largely private person with more than a modicum of grace and knowledge of how to conduct oneself in public you say nothing.  And rightly so.  To try to educate such 'people' would take more time and energy than it takes to forget they exist for a while and in all likelihood be an ultimately futile enterprise.

SUPERHEROES are enjoying a wee bit of a renascence at the moment.  Quite rightly too.  To the couple from this recounting and their ilk I say, don't worry.  There always have been and always will be low-rent romcoms about self-absorbed people spending ninety minutes navel-gazing their way to an inevitable pairing-off ending...

...without one singular surprise in sight.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Off (With) Their Heads

Hear ye, hear ye.
Here in the UK the month of June in the year of our Lord 2012 sees the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.  For anyone reading this in the colonies this is a celebratory period marking the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty's ascension to the throne.  Anyone out there confused by the notion that crowns and thrones can usually only be found in fairy tales, think again!

Here in England - with its record levels of youth unemployment and rising child poverty - there's always money to spare for an elderly lady in an ermine cape to have a big party to rejoice the day she was born into the ultimate in privilaged lifestyles.

If you found that declaration a little harsh I'll be open and say I'd have to agree with you; to an extent.  The queen herself you see strikes me as a relatively nice and normal person; relative that is to how most people would be having essentially been stuck in the house (no matter how massive) for her entire house and relative to...well...her relatives...

The argument against the British monarchy and their cost is easy to appreciate if you imagine yourself to be one of Blighty's many homeless folk staring across the immense grounds of Windsor Castle and ruefully gazing at the many warm, unoccupied rooms.  An argument for the royals is that they provide an income through tourism.  That may well depend on whether you think England is better off ensuring there is food for its hungry or little plastic flags for American tourists.

Until an actual audit is done to determine whether or not the Windsor's et-al are still remotely relevant, Britain shall remain a land of commoners, knights of the realm and prince and princesses - but sadly not dragons - and nobody, for better or worse, seems quite ready to challenge the status quo just yet.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Mortality's Escape Velocity

Now then...

Having last time waxed lyrical on the topic of food combinations I had to think long and hard about what next to ruminate upon.  After all what could possibly be so weighty a subject that it could invoke the same primal concern as the presence of Philadelphia’s chocolate and cheese spread.

I chose mortality.

I know, I know; not quite in the same ball park but I haven't really speaked my brains about it so far.

A year or so ago I got into a discussion about theory versus actuality and how it applies to real-life subject matters.  Here in the UK at least one is likely to be aware that the Coalition government (tell me that doesn't outright sound like an oppressive title straight out of a speculative fiction novel) is pushing for the retirement age to be pushed higher.

People are rightfully concerned about this, hopefully because the ConDem crew are looking to put this in place whether the public wants it or not.

This however is not the topic at large here though.  Beyond retirement comes death, obviously.  In a recent report on retirement it was noted that many health experts are confident that more than a third of Britons today are quite likely to live to be a hundred.  Aside from wrecking the Queens telegram writing hand this seems to be an area of more concern than it is cause for celebration.  For many individuals the thought of prolonging their life is appealing even if all it means is that they'll have more time to put off doing the things they say they want to do but never would get round to doing given a THOUSAND year life expectancy.

To the world at large it means another mouth to feed whilst more and more get manufactured in them womb things I've heard tell of.

This may seem enough of a leap as it is but more recently it has been said that the first person to reach 150 is already alive and only a number of weeks ago some scientist or other declared there may be a potential three hundred year old knocking about!

Here in good old Blighty the average life expectancy rose from just over seventy in 1960 to just over eighty in 2010.  Now 'experts' are telling us that the bucket kicking age is rising faster than we can actually age.

I'm of the impression that all these scientist and doctors and what-not need to get together to decide how to move on with all this business.  Many deliver the news of elongated life spans with the same underlying dread as when my old ma invites us round for Sunday dinner.  To these white lab-coated miscreants I say, 'if you don't think people should be living longer, stop making it possible!'

Let's not forget that a longer life does not guarantee a good one.  After all, if you've basically spent your youth, young adulthood and middle-age picking fluff out of your belly button, what makes you think you're going to achieve more with varicos veins and an increasingly fickle bladder to deal with on top?

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Chilli Con Can't Take It Any More!

Okay, let me just start by saying I really do like chilli.

I like most food.  I should look like a space hopper with other space hoppers for limbs by all accounts and the only food I truly don't like - liver - can honestly be called offensive on all accounts; I just have one message for food manufacturers out there...


I realize of course that you may feel this to be least important topic you've ever seen thought about, meandered upon and written about but trust me; it's quite likely that you have a similar niggle.

It seems to me that this trend of infusing everything with chilli started with more obvious foods such as crisps and peanuts.  Fair enough I thought.  At the time of writing I am only in my thirties but tell someone just few years younger that we used to only have ready salted, cheese and onion and salt and vinegar crisps to choose from and the reaction I tend to get falls somewhere between disbelief and sympathy the like of Ethiopia has yet to experience.

Spicy foods have of course become more prevalent over the years in Britain with some declaring that our national dish is now curry.  No specific curry mind, which strikes me as a bit like saying, 'our country's flag will be...rectangular!'

So to come to the crux of the matter one might think that my openness to almost any form of grub would allow for the introduction anywhere of one of my favourite Mexican staples.

Not so.

Some time ago I wandered into a shop called 'Hotel Chocolat'.  You may have seen one yourself.  I believe they are a chain of sorts.  Within I found lots of over-priced but interesting looking products.  The place was a bit clinical for my liking and dare I say pretentious but hey ho; horses for courses and all that.  It was here that I first saw chocolate bars with chopped chillies set into them.  They just sat there sticking out of the chocolate, unwelcome as a pubic louse and as unabashed as Gary Glitter at the Vietnam border.

Soon after other companies tried the same combo and it was at this point I realized I didn't have to get a mortgage only to remortgage it for the buying of an example of this 'treat' and lazy comedic purposes.

The results were not extreme.  There was no coughing up a rainbow in sheer disgust; nor was I struck with repentant realization that I'd been wrong all the time and chilli/chocolate was surely a sign of celestial existence.  To be honest, it was pretty ho-hum.

The thing is we will often see T.V. chefs or food manufacturers putting odd things together because they think they're being quirky or are challenging us conventional plebs.  The fact is though that most ingredients available to us now have been around in one form or another since before we came down from the trees/got told to bugger off after a bout of misguided apple scrumping depending on your belief system.

Just as certain insects and woodland creatures know not to go for certain berries so too do we know that certain foodstuffs just should not get together.

Sure one person might like some strange new cabbage and synthesized pterodactyl crisps and his friend might rightly chide him for his uncouth habits but this hasn't stopped companies from giving us the likes of Strawberry flavoured potato chips and squid gut iced cream - both absolutely real, one of which I've been unwise enough to try.

To be honest though, I'm all for innovation.  I don't hark fondly back at the days when it was chips with everything and there were only two kinds of peanuts.

It's just that sometimes...just sometimes...I quite like things to taste the way I'd initially expected them to.

Plus the second you say you like one thing, that's all the missus bloody buys in, no matter what the format!

NB: At the time of writing Philadelphia had recently released a cheese and chocolate edition of their spread.  If you happen to come across this and are willing to take the plunge, feel free to report back on the mental state its taste/texture/concept left you in.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Why Don't You?

Do you ever pause before turning on your television/radio/computer or going outside and wonder should I risk it?  Not because of any inherent danger of what might happen to you but rather because of what you might see or hear...

In your own home there is of course a level of control you have over your environment but going outside can begin to seem as idiotic as flinging one’s self bodily into a volcano.  Personally I feel as though I'm starting to put not only my sanity at risk but also that every time I hear yet another banal conversation on the bus I actually start to haemorrhage IQ points.

On this note, when a banal conversation is being held on the phone, why does it become more infuriating?  In theory, half the verbal diarrhoea should equal half the negative effects.

Anyway this brings me to the motivation behind this article.

Rather frivolously, I went on what is fast becoming a mission as tricky and fraught with problems as any space-walk and went to my local shop.  The in-store radio there had been tuned to what I can only presume was considered by the vendors therein would be most pleasing to the unrefined ears of their typical clientele.  i.e.: one of the many local stations pumping out inane 'R&B' (don't get me started on that one) euro-dance claptrap.

During an intermission in the 'music' the presenters picked up on the topic of the day in forced friendly banter, the subject being digital detoxing.  For anyone with actual problems or concerns in their life I'll explain; a digital detox is the latest trend amongst people who have water-cooler moments and think cup-cakes are worthy of prolonged conversation.  It involves going as long as one can using as little in the way of technology - primarily social networking sites - as possible.

It's telling that the word possible was used here because whether it was the presenters of the broadcast or the source from which they were using, someone out there has a very limited understanding of what possible actually entails.

We aren't talking about eating your own head or crashing planets into one another using force of will here.  Digital detoxification is about not going on Twitter for a bit.  Incidentally, I have not and will not go on Twitter or any of this constant update jiggery-pokery.  We live in a society constantly whining about privacy then spend the rest of the day informing the world of our whereabouts and activities; it's national schizophrenia I tells ya!

Besides, I've 'unfriended' more than one Facebook acquiantance for filling up my notifications with 'Just had a bacon butty.  Mmmm.'

If you feel the need to get away from your computer - insert you own gag here - then great!  If you've come to the realization that social networking sites have understandably, skewered your ability to function in social situations, marvellous!  Walk away from the PC, get a phone that utilizes that forgotten MAKES CALLS feature and little else and go and walk just to see where it takes you!

Just don't go giving it an idiotic, media sound bite friendly name.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The 'F' Word

I was asked recently if I'd like to play football or soccer if you happen to be from The Colonies.  This question was said at me by someone you might - mistakenly - believe to be a reasonably intelligent, free-thinking adult.  He did it with his mouth.

Now at this point you might be sighing and rolling your eyes at the thought of another anti-football rant, irrespective of whether you actually like the sport or not.  Well hold your horses there Captain Presumptuous of the good ship H.M.S. Imperious 'cause here's the thing:- More than my dislike of football I.  Just.  Don't.  Bloody.  Get.  It.

People from all walks of life seem to get interminably upset if 'their team' fails to place a ball in the back of a net during a fixed, measured period of time at a predetermined location.

From what I can gather a team is yours if you were born somewhere in the vicinity of its grounds.  This may not be true of all supporters but is a good rule of thumb.  In other words, a supporters loyalties are rigidly preordained by the GPS co-ordinates his/her mother happened to be located at approximately nine months after his/her fathers' twitching penis spat forcefully into his/her mothers upper vaginal cavity, across the length of her uterus and onward onto his/her mothers' ovum.

Apologies to any football fans that are starting to feel a little bit silly now at this point but these are facts.

Anyway, there is a season that is supposed to have a start and end but I cannot determine when these things happen because football is never actually off the television, nor does is ever stop so I have to assume this is a running gag and football one and only attempt at irony.

Sometimes a team will play at home and sometimes away.  For some reason the latter is seen as some sort of disadvantage but unless the opposing team are allowed to play at the top of a field angles at 45 degrees or plant and memorize the location of mines on the own pitches, I am unsure as to how playing on a steadfastly regulated, standardized that happens to be somewhere else would make a jot of difference to a squad's performance.

The next area of sheer bafflement from my standpoint:-  Why football?

The game itself - to my eye at least - showcases no skills I would consider of any value or worth whatsoever.  Swimming is a useful skill.  Hearing a new athlete has run faster than anyone else ever has is of at least passing interest.  That's because these are relatable practices.  Motions that have been carried out by most individuals and it can be worthwhile knowing your abilities and limits in these fields.  To the best of this authors knowledge, nobody ever saved their own or anybody else's life by tapping an artificial bladder surrounded by thermally-bonded plastic about.

Ultimately though I find myself confused by the double standards and sheer tribal blindness that football seems to nurture.  On the one hand there are the feckless masses who complain unceasingly about rising ticket costs and underwhelming players and their undeserved salaries whilst handing theirs over to shout over their pie-filled bellies at paid sportsmen how to do their jobs and on the other?  Well here you have the multi-millionaire players who wouldn't dream of wearing their team shirt off the pitch and will happily move to and play for the highest bidder displaying all the morality and loyalty of Fred West in a brothel above a D.I.Y. store.
 In the interests of fairness I have, on occasions where the subject has been brought up, endeavoured to find out why certain associates of mine avow to 'enjoy' football.  It only seems right given that most reasonable human beings and many unreasonable ones can happily discuss their proclivities and the reasoning behind them.  Alas, thus far and after many years of trying, I have yet to receive more than a shrug of the shoulders and a primate sounding grunt.

The conclusion?  Football supporters:- If you don't know why you like it, don't deride non-subscribers for showing no interest in what should really be a niche pass-time at best.