Friday, August 31, 2007

Unsmooth Criminal

I nicked my first car stereo on the weekend (I believe it’s called “twocking” in current street vernacular).

I took it out of a white Rover 200 parked in our driveway. (The fact that the car actually belonged to us and I was “stealing” it from ourselves didn’t make it any less exciting.) It was a race against time before the outrageously miserable man from the RAC arrived to pop our vehicle (which was written off in an accident some hours earlier) on the back of his lorry and tootle it off to a compound somewhere.

Rather than ten seconds flat, which I believe is roughly the time you should be aiming for while twocking car stereos, the whole operation took around ten minutes which, if ever there was a Krypton Factor style ‘practical round’ for juvenile delinquents, would probably put me in last place. (Fellow contestants would probably also cane me on the obstacle course as they’re quite used to leaping over garden fences and such like. I like to think I’d have probably made it up on the Boeing simulator and general knowledge rounds though, so I’m not too disheartened.)

It’s certainly not as easy as these talented young criminals make it look. Rather than effortlessly sliding it out of its housing in the darkness of the night and running away with it tucked under my arm in the traditional manner, I wrestled with it for about ten minutes with all the lights blazing, employing a selection of Ikea cutlery (probably not the tools of choice for your average delinquent) to try and winkle it free from the dashboard, ultimately emerging triumphant holding a slightly battered item which may or may not work in another vehicle. Time will tell.

Friday, August 24, 2007

No Way José

The man in the picture is José Luis Hernández, president of luxury Spanish property purveyor, Polaris World. Not that you’d know this by the way he introduces himself in their current TV ad (with robotic delivery and with an accent so thick you could spread it on a slice of bread).

He represents one of the cardinal sins of TV advertising, where the head of the company wants to get in on the act by appearing on screen. This is almost invariably a bad idea. Victor “Remington” Kiam is the obvious example (“I liked it so much, I bought the company!”), but at least he had a bit of spunk about him and a bullish enthusiasm that only American entrepreneurs can muster. José however, is a bit of a spanner and quite visibly, spunk-free.

Colonel Sanders is another example, though the persona created by the advertising agency (a recent ad showed a cartoon version of him breakdancing which I’m sure the real colonel never indulged in) bears little resemblance to the crusty finger-lickin’-chicken-frying ex-military man.

Unlike Victor and the groovy colonel, José has less personality than an ameboa, and is so unpresentably skinny and wooden that every part of him stands perfectly perpendicular to the ground as if he’s been positioned in front of one of his little Lego-style complexes with a protractor. A tall man of disproportionate height and width, his physique is so flat it looks like his immaculately crease-free clothes were ironed while he wore them, and you get the uneasy feeling that if he turned to the side he’d vanish, making him the only two-dimensional individual known to mankind.

“Make sure you pay for your property a fair price” he intones flatly at the end of the ad. I can’t fathom whether his twisted English is ironic scripting suggested by the ad agency to imbue continental personality, or just pisspoor grammar. Either way, I’d be more inclined to give my money to someone who approached me in the street and shouted “My name Crazy Juan and I invitation you to buy one my used cars pliz.”

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Posh Publications

“The Nice Guy Inside Jimmy Carr” reads the unfortunate (and I can only assume unintentional) double entendre on the front of this month’s edition of Reader’s Digest. I’m not sure who this “nice guy” is as I can’t be bothered to read it, let alone digest it.

The August ‘07 edition, along with a dozen dog-eared older ones, are the sole reading material in the break room where I work. This break room is peopled, thrice daily, by the largely Polish workforce who perform the more menial tasks for the company. Bizarrely, someone has felt the need to affix large, homemade and somewhat threatening stickers bearing the legend “DO NOT REMOVE!” to each cover.

Personally I don’t think even the most kleptomaniacal bibliophile (or bibliophilic kleptomaniac) would feel the urge to pop one of those diminutive little publications under their coat and exit the building nervously sweating. I harbour a pet theory that the reason Readers’ Digest print to such miniscule dimensions is that they're very easily stealable, and that they’re reliant on such thievery to expand their readership.

As these are the only magazines available, the Polish employees are no doubt soon going to be talking with home counties accents, regaling each other with less-than-amusing anecdotes about odd-sounding placenames or ‘the funny things children say’.

As for the “nice guy” inside Jimmy Carr, I can only hope that he’s a seven foot, violently amorous and exceedingly well-hung cellmate with a penchant for posh boys. Couldn’t happen to a nicer chap.

Model Village

We went to a Postman Pat exhibition the other day. The village of Greendale was faithfully recreated, not quite life-sized (assuming Pat and his neighbours, if they were conscious beings capable of cognitive thought, would be of average human proportions), but certainly big enough for you to amble around.

Press a button on a small stand and Pat waved mechanically at you from a doorway. Press another and the hapless Ted would slowly saw away at a piece of wood in his workshop, while another button resulted in the industrious Mrs Goggins stamping a parcel for the eight-hundredth time that day.

Why can’t everywhere be like Greendale? Everyone was smiling; there was no litter or graffiti or boy-racer cars with those peculiar flashing blue lights underneath. One of the younger residents (a small boy named Bill Thompson) does have a hoodie, but a smile adorns his wooden face, not a scowl, and you can bet that his pockets are full of recently scrumped apples, not firearms.

Among the “Patular” paraphernalia which illustrated the scope of Greendale’s appeal was a collection of themed merchandise and educational material from all around the world. Apparently, Postman Pat is called Postmann Pat in Norway. You learn something new every day.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Primal Taste Buds

Like everyone (except ladies) I am a man of man of many parts, which strategically arranged, form the organism that is me. (Ladies are made of special lady-parts which Mother Nature picks out of a different box.)

Some of the parts that collectively result in the sentient being that I am, include slender wrists and ankles, myopic eyes, a bit of a chinny-chin and the occasional mole. Thus assembled, I stand alongside three-and-a-half billion or so other chaps as a sophisticated product of millennia of evolution and genetic splicing.

The least sophisticated part of me however is my palate which has a Neanderthal, one-dimensional quality. It knows what it likes and it likes what it knows. Posh nosh like caviar and quail’s eggs isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I’ll cheerfully push aside most good-quality food to get to a plate of cheesy pasta. My favourite meals are to gastronomy what Robson Green is to Shakespeare.

I was pondering this as I sipped warm Moet from a plastic flute in the middle of a nightclub recently, wincing like a girl at every mouthful due to its foul taste. (For clarity, my good lady wife and I are not in the habit of quaffing bubbly, or even venturing into nightclubs, but it was a post-wedding bash and the little man buying the champagne was trying, and subsequently failing, to impress my sister-in-law by flashing a rather large wallet and dancing in what can only be described as a very “European” manner.)

I’m not a philistine, I’ve been in fancy restaurants and nibbled at artistically arranged plates of nouvelle cuisine, but I’m not a bon viveur. I’m not even a mechant viveur (hooray for English/French online dictionaries). Give me a generously pepperoni’d pizza or a bowl of Super Noodles any day though, and I’m as happy as a sandboy. I’m sure my ancient ancestors felt the same.

Friday, August 17, 2007

All Change

Why is it that elderly shop assistants remain the only people who still count out change? An example from around midday today: “That’s fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, five, seven and nine makes eighty-nine pence change.”

I’d exited Sainsbury’s, jumped in the car and was halfway back to the office with a bagful of lunch before poor Gladys had finished handing me fragments of monetary shrapnel and I could finally wind up my window, sending her tumbling back down the street towards the checkout she’d left unattended.

Come to think of it, she looked a bit worse for wear when she started serving me and I can therefore only assume the previous shopper had done the same. She must dread working on the ten-items-or-less till.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Little Big Man

We went to a wedding on the weekend which gave me an opportunity to don my one-and-only suit (which is a less-than-ideal thing to don in the middle of August, even considering the Britishness of this year’s summer).

My suit’s emergence from the confines of the wardrobe is an infrequent event, and each time I hang it on my frame I find it fits me even less well than it did when it was hauled out for the previous wedding/interview/funeral. Time’s winged chariot is in the constant process of reshaping my thirtysomething physique, and various bits of me which have in the past been inflated in a succession of gyms, have now deflated a little in size. Nonetheless, my lovely lady wife was gracious enough to tell me I looked like a film star.

“This suit really doesn’t fit me anymore. Does this look alright?” I asked.
“Yeah, you look like that kid from Big,” replied my little turtle dove.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Flying Hairy Peruvians

Police are questioning a man at LaGuardia airport in New York after he managed to smuggle a monkey onto an international flight under his hat.

Apparently, the chap (and his primate chum) boarded a plane in Lima, Peru and managed to remain undetected, even during a several-hour stopover in Florida. Their luck ran out however when the little fella, probably aware of the hazards of deep-vein thrombosis, emerged from the titfer mid-flight, and clung to the man’s ponytail.

When fellow passengers noticed the animal, they had to ask the man "if he knew he had a monkey on him”. The answer should almost certainly have been yes because the monkey – a marmoset – which was fist-sized, would have weighed (you have to assume) around as much as a fist-sized marmoset. Admittedly this is probably not a lot, but you’d think it’d be more than enough for someone to notice if it was swinging from their hair.

However, the fact that passengers felt they had to alert the man to the monkey on his head indicates that, in between the moment the hairy little traveller appeared, and the time it took for his fellow passengers to become aware of him and venture a tactful enquiry, the man must have pretended it wasn’t there, no doubt whistling nervously to detract attention from himself and then feigning surprise when his miniature companion was pointed out.

“’scuse me mate, do you know there’s a monkey on your head?”
“Aaargh! How did that get there?”

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Quentin Crisps

My lovely lady wife has pointed out to me twice in the past few weeks that I eat crisps like a girl.

She’s absolutely right. Though I’d argue that it’s not so much that I eat them like a girl, as once they’re in my mouth I’m sure I’m the very picture of masculinity, pulverising Wheat Crunchies between my grinding molars with Schwarzeneggerian aplomb and swallowing with such gusto that the movement of my Adam’s apple can be measured on the Richter scale; it’s more the action of plucking them out of the bag and transferring them to my face that reveals an effeminate side.

There is a good reason for this. I love crisps, but I hate touching them. The intention therefore, is to transfer them from pack to mouth in such a way as to ensure that a minimum of flavour, grease and fragments of potato/maize/corn touch any part of me. To achieve this, I subconsciously employ the following tactic:

1) Open the bag wide to ensure the best access to the contents (the bag can be gently manipulated at the base to move the contents nearer the top. This ensures minimum digit insertion)
2) Carefully remove a single crisp from the bag twixt the tips of thumb and forefinger with the lightest of touches
3) Ensure neighbouring fingers are well clear of the item, to avoid contamination (unfortunately, this looks like the potato snack equivalent of holding a little finger aloft while quaffing champagne)
4) Open mouth extremely wide and place crisp on tongue to avoid flavour touching lips; retract like miniature fleshy conveyor belt
5) Repeat

Monster Munch are the worst because loads of greasy flakes fall off them as you transport them tongueward. I can’t adequately convey the horror I feel watching our three-year-old work his way through a packet, thrusting a tiny hand already covered in soggy flakes and saliva into a crinkly bag, and emerging triumphant with a fistful of crispage which he then rams in the approximate area of his face where his open mouth waits.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Brain Draining

I’ll probably sound like a right old granddad here, but I can’t be the only person in the world who thinks that, while the interface of the new generation of games consoles is revolutionary, some of the gameplay is a load of old kak.

I like computer games a lot. My favourite involves controlling a raccoon-like creature through a multitude of imaginary worlds, solving complex puzzles while simultaneously exterminating a gaggle of bizarre adversaries with laser guns – tremendous fun. However, a popular application for the Nintendo DS is Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training, which includes such “fun” games as noughts and crosses, against-the-clock addition and Stone, Scissors & Paper.

Hmm… feel free to accuse me of having a lack of vision, but playing Stone, Scissors & Paper with a collection of circuitry personally holds about as much appeal as dragging a stick through shit. Just because some microchip is able to recognise you’re saying the word “Paper” (and not the words “Stone” or “Scissors”) in no way makes it exciting.

An advert on TV last night for another application for the same machine trumpeted the ability to talk to (and hear) other users in real time (I believe there’s a similar device called a telephone which does much the same thing), and allows users the thrilling opportunity to swap Pokemon characters. Woo-bloody-hoo! Engaging in such endeavours is a criminal waste of human life.

Similarly, the Nintendo Wii has a very natty, and entertainingly physical, control system which is probably a right old laugh when playing tennis or something as it requires the user to swing his arms around just like you would on a tennis court (except on a tennis court you’re not surrounded by armchairs and Royal Doulton), though some of the “games” involve skipping, sawing logs in half and flag raising, providing literally minutes of fun. This is all achieved by repetitive hand movements, which is something the geeks who made these games were no doubt abundantly familiar with.

And another thing: music is all just noise these days; you can’t even hear the words. During the war… etc.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Human Pillows

The latest example of madcap Japanese innovation is the Boyfriend’s Arm Pillow – a slightly creepy product which bridges the gap between functional nighttime head support and human bedfellow. This is supposed to mimic the curves and contours of the male body (well, half of it anyway) and creates a realistic, if slightly squidgy, sleeping companion.

I’m not entirely convinced of the realism. I know Japan can often be a brutal culture, but I doubt there’s a substantial percentage of native women with boyfriends who are comprised of no more than a headless torso and a singular arm. If they’re aiming at being true to life, then they should develop the range to include a deluxe version that snores incessantly, or one that spends the morning scratching its little pillow balls and farting under the duvet.

The product is proving successful though, and a thousand have already been sold, retailing at £40 a pop. One happy customer, Mrs Suzuki, said “It keeps holding me all the way through. I think this is great because this does not betray me”. These are clearly the sad words of a woman who has been wronged by a human equivalent of the Boyfriend’s Arm Pillow, probably with a full complement of limbs. And a head.

Chin up Mrs Suzuki, there’s plenty more fish in the sea (though sadly not a great deal of whales as your fellow countrymen insist on harpooning them).

“Bear Shits In Woods”

A headline in the UK’s best selling newspaper today shouted “Doherty Back On Crack”. This tired old saga is of equivalent newsworthiness to “Pope Catholic” or “Henman Knocked Out Of Wimbledon”.

I couldn’t give a hoot about Pete Doherty. It may sound harsh, but with any luck he’ll be dead soon – not because I find him particularly objectionable, but just so the people who write about him can turn their tired pens to another topic, and the people who read the articles by the people who write about him can turn their vacuous curtain-twitching focus to something else. Probably involving Robbie bloody Williams or Charley from Big Brother or Paris Hilton or something…