Friday, July 25, 2008

Sunglasses, Cynicism and Terrorism

How nice to find that there are honest people in London. I drunkenly dropped my sunglasses in Potion on Maple Street last night and only figured out that I was missing them this morning. When I popped up to Potion, someone had handed them in AND none of the staff kept them for themselves. I suppose that the vast majority of people are honest, otherwise society would simply break down. My cynicism level is now officially reduced to ‘substantial’.

Incidentally, the Home Office’s national security threat level is currently ‘severe’, which means ‘an attack is highly likely’. Wonder if it ever gets lower than that?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Carphone Warehouse Woes

From my cursory online research, it seems that few companies are as reviled as Carphone Warehouse. Having had dealings with them over the last few weeks, I can see why. It’s been a while since I’ve felt an entirely rational desire to petrol bomb the headquarters of a major UK Corporation (since my Virgin Media vendetta last year), but I’m definitely getting the urge right now.

It started with 2 faulty phones (the apparently extremely unreliable Sony Ericsson C902) and a desire to cancel my upgrade contract within the stated 14 day cooling off period. I haven’t got time to go through a blow-by-blow account, but my experience has so far included dishonest salesmanship, woeful customer service, misinformation both deliberate and through sheer ignorance and lack of joined up IT infrastructure. Individually people have often been helpful, but the Carphone Warehouse system seems designed to block anyone wanting to take money back out of it.

One thing to bear in mind – once you’ve put the SIM that comes with the upgrade into your phone, that’s it – the contract is impossible to get out of. They don’t tell you this anywhere in their literature, but if you’re at all unsure of the deal being offered do your homework BEFORE you upgrade. If I’d done that, I wouldn’t be stuck with a fault-prone blingphone and an 18 month contract I don’t want through a company I hate.

GTA4 3 Leaf Clover Guide for Crap Gamers Like Me

I feel an enormous sense of achievement today, the quiet shit-eating satisfaction of a job well done.

Bank job that is.

Last night, aided by an Irish-American cokehead gangster and his IRA-supporting heroin-addicted brother, I robbed a bank and shot dozens of police in a pitched battle before making my escape with a cool $250k in cash.

Yes, you’ve guessed it – this isn’t the blog confession of a psychopath (I tend to define myself as merely sociopathic), I’m playing Grand Theft Auto IV and managed to complete the ‘3 Leaf Clover’ mission.

Now, I don’t mind admitting I’m a bit of a rubbish gamer, frankly. It took me at least 20 attempts to complete this mission. The Xbox360 must be a robust thing, as it survived being repeatedly thrown down in disgust as I died AGAIN or one of my fuck-witted AI cronies jumped onto one of my grenades.

So here’s my guide to the 3 Leaf Clover bank job mission for crap/elderly gamers like me:

  • Buy body armour before the mission – the fire-fight with police is merciless and you’ll need it
  • Be careful with grenades, as Packie and Derrick tend to get accidentally blown up
  • Use cover as much as possible and follow your AI buddies rather than leading the way
  • Go for headshots on the police by shifting your right stick up slightly when locked on with auto-aim
  • Pick up as much combat rifle ammo as you can from the weapons left by dead cops
  • There’s a bulletproof jacket to pick up from the left of a police car as you run through Chinatown and a health pack down a corridor at the bottom of the stairs of the Subway service tunnel
  • When you’re making your getaway in the hideously bouncy Chelsea Tractor (it’s conveniently parked near where you emerge from the subway), drive north and ignore the satnav route. The police have barricade the bridges, so it’s better to lose your wanted level BEFORE leaving Algonquin

Now I’ve completed the mission, I’m not sure how I’ll spend my cash – although the combat sniper’s rifle looks tempting. Oh, the morality-free entertainment that is GTA4! No wonder our teenagers are stabbing each in the streets…

Friday, July 18, 2008

I Dreamt a Song Last Night

I can still remember some of the lyrics. I was improvising with a rock star while interviewing him outside the ruins of my old university building in West Ham. We were both riding those big black bikes you find in Amsterdam. What does that symbolise, I wonder? Any psychoanalysts visiting?

Here are the words I can still recall:

There was a road,

And along that road,

There was a field,

And through that field,

Ran a river of blood,

It flowed,

Deep and wide,

No one knew where

Along that road,

Along that road

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Horror of Genoa

I was disturbed and angered by a report of the police brutality during the 2001 Genoa G8 summit in this morning’s Guardian. It’s written by a reporter named Nick Davies and is based on evidence gathered by Italian public prosecutor, Emilio Zucca. I was, at the time, vaguely aware that the Italian police had been violent towards protesters, but I was unprepared for the unremitting horror described in this account. It reminded me of 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade with act after act of viciousness and humiliation in a world where morality is replaced by brute force. No doubt I’ll get back to trivia in my next post, but in the mean time I urge you to read this story…

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Scurrilous Cbeebies Theories Ahoy!

Cbeebies kind of dominates the morning at our house. Stan demands it by repeatedly saying ‘Beebies pleeeeease’ almost as soon as he’s downstairs and we’re happy to oblige so we can get on with getting ready. This is possibly the worst kind of parenting, but at least Cbeebies is wholesome and advert-free. One does, however, become strangely fascinated by the chirpy rollcall of presenters – Pui, Chris, Sid, Andy, Boogie Pete and Justin – who must spend every blighted day pretending to be both enthusiastic and mentally subnormal. They’re a regular topic of conversation in our house, spawning a wide range of frankly scurrilous theories about them. These include:
  1. As Chris sings the good night song he looks so pained around the eyes as he smiles. Could it be that a sadistic director is twisting his testicles and pointing a gun at his family with the explicit threat that he doesn’t keep smiling despite the pain the bollocks will come off and his folks will be executed?
  2. Did the same sadistic director take ‘the gang’ out to film the summer song segment on the coldest, greyest day of the year, so they got pneumonia by splashing each other in the sea, then added some unconvincing lens flare and filters in post-production to make it look like it wasn’t actually buttock-shatteringly freezing?
  3. Has Pui (formerly the actor inside the Po suit on Tellytubbies) had a nosejob and is she getting it on with Chris? Was it HER twisting his melons after she caught him fluffing Sid in the men’s toilets?
  4. Is Andy really so simple that he can’t tell whether you use pliers, a screwdriver or a hammer to bang in a nail?
  5. Are the ‘Green Balloon Club gang’ part of a nihilist conspiracy to put us all off conserving the environment? The woman and kids in it are so sickly-sweet and fake that every time I see it I step on a hedgehog’s head and burn a 300m high pile of tyres.

Any Cbeebies theories from other parents out there?

(c) BBC 2008

Monday, July 07, 2008

Recession Boxed Set

Like most of the world, I’ve been thinking about the prospect of a recession. I suppose having experiencing three recessions so far in my life (the early 80s, the Lawson boom-and-bust, and the dotcom crash) I’m pretty philosophical about the present economic meltdown.

That’s not to say I’m not feeling the pinch or oblivious to the possibility of joblessness. The rewards in advertising are reasonably high, but you’re always insecure during a downturn. Marketing budgets are always the first thing that businesses hack back. And copywriting is the first thing that’s lopped off project budgets as marketers think they can do it themselves.

What has struck me each time a recession has arrived is the speed with which things go sour. It’s always a matter of weeks between everything being cool, with a few clouds on the horizon, to full-blown economic typhoon.

I remember being made redundant during the dotcom crash – just before 9/11. It was scary – two kids, mortgage, no job. I had a surreal day watching the twin towers come down on live television from my sofa. My friend Louis (who had also been laid off) was watching it too and I remember us talking to each other on the phone as we took it all in on Sky News, stunned by what was going on. It felt like I was living in a Godzilla movie.

Of course, the dotcom crash was a localised storm in a sense. Sure, investors got their fingers burnt, but it wasn’t the huge global crisis that we’re experiencing now. 9/11 proved to have a more lasting impact. Possibly contributing to the economic problems we have now.

So, having lived through a few, recessions do not surprise me. They do however always seem to surprise governments and big business. Now as much as I’m unsurprised that another recession has arrived, I wouldn’t have predicted it. You would, however, expect a better performance from the super-intelligent policy wonks and economic analysts who control our lives. The majority of these masters of the universe seem to get caught up in their own hubris until it’s too late. Every single time an economic crisis hits. Now that really is fucking scary…