Thursday, October 25, 2007

Panasonic And Their Amazing Technicolor Dream Telly

An oft-quoted fact is that the human eye is capable of differentiating 7.5 million shades of colour, which is phenomenal when you think about it.

This pales into insignificance though when compared to Panasonic’s latest telly which, according to their current ad, is capable of displaying 65 billion (billion!) shades of colour. What they seem to have overlooked however is that there’s not a person alive who can benefit from it.

65 billion is very impressive but almost entirely useless as evolution has equipped your average (human) viewer with the ability to only ever see around 0.01% of them. After that, due to our biological limitations, the remaining 64,992,500,000 will be so close to other colours as to be entirely indistinguishable. It’s a grandiose piece of marketing fluff, and essentially pointless.

As long as your average British viewer is able to tell the difference between magnolia and lemon yellow when decorating the lounge, that’s all they need to know (though judging by the horrendous depictions shown on some home improvement shows, even this distinction is problematic).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It’s Better To Give Than To Receive

Christmas is looming, and for all unimaginative morons devoid of even the smallest modicum of anything resembling taste who are currently at a loss as to what to buy their loved ones, thank God for The Bradford Group (fine purveyors of that weird tat commonly seen in Sunday supplement magazines and sub-Betterware catalogues that occasionally flutter through the letterbox like colourful toilet paper).

On offer this festive season for unfortunate daughters everywhere is the Year Of Wishes Musical Jar. It’s essentially a vase with 365 bits of paper in it, each with a special message to “make certain she always knows how you feel”. Presumably the bits of paper say things like “You’re not that special or I would have bought something else”, “I know, I know, but it was almost Christmas day and I panicked” and “You were an accident”.

It’s beautifully crafted out of “…lustrous triple-fired Heirloom Porcelain with hand-applied under-glazes… shimmering platinum accents and simulated gems… with real pink ribbon [I have no idea what unreal pink ribbon looks like]” and if that wasn’t enough, it also plays the melody Have I told you lately that I love you? (and presumably doubles up as a perfect receptacle to hold the average amount of vomit likely to be produced by the recipient within seconds of opening).

For those individuals who find the thought of a jar full of paper a little too mundane, howzabout a dog in an egg? Let’s face it: people like West Highland Terriers and people like faux-Faberge eggs, but it’s taken a Bradford genius to combine them. With 22-carat gold painted thistles and “an expression on his [the dog’s] face that says, 'Let's have some fun!'”, a mere turn of a key in this strange little trinket and the owner is rewarded with a tinkly-tonkly version of Cherish by Kool & The Gang.

Perhaps ideal for the festive period though is the Elvis Presley Illuminated Rotating Tree which is no less than “the first-ever collectable porcelain tabletop Christmas tree to be authorized by the Estate of Elvis Presley”. Quite a coup then for the people at Bradford who no doubt beat off some stiff competition as the estate of Elvis Presley must be deluged with porcelain tabletop Christmas trees of an obvious inferior quality every year.

This must for any festive display features a handcrafted base with "gifts to you from Elvis - a cuddly teddy bear, guitar, pink Cadillac, gold records, and blue suede shoes”, all displayed on a “leopard-pattern tree skirt", while up above, "celestial blue boughs feature soulful portraits of Elvis Presley". Naturally, it’s musical – the song this time is Blue Christmas.

The above are but three examples of an immensely rich treasure trove of worthless shit designed to appeal to the most ardent sentimentalists (with the emphasis on “mentalists”) who, despite the best intentions and burgeoning wallets, have all the purchasing-insight of plankton.

This could have been a much longer post as the above examples only scratch the surface of a collection which includes such gems as: the His Holiness Pope John Paul II Music Box, the Native American Style Shawl Dancer Ornaments and the John Wayne Stained-Glass Panorama. You couldn’t make it up.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Camcorder Never Lies

I’ve recently experienced the discomforting feeling of watching myself on camcorder footage, and wondering who on earth the chap doing an impression of me (and not a very good impression at that) is.

It’s a common cliché that people, on witnessing or hearing a recording of themselves, are surprised at how they look and sound, but when faced with incontrovertible evidence they must uncomfortably admit that the depiction is true. I was no exception when watching myself on holiday; my voice is monotonous, flat and devoid of inflection, while my frame is different to the one I believed I presented to the world.

The most disconcerting thing of all though was seeing that my head isn’t the shape I thought it was (it’s not the profile suggested by the face-on view afforded by the mirror each morning). The back of my head is not a part of my body I generally see, primarily for the reason it’s been positioned by nature in a place inaccessible to by forward-facing eyes. Luckily my wife was on hand to offer words of comfort:

“It’s not a normal-shaped head, but I wouldn’t worry.”
“So you’re saying I’ve got an abnormal head?”
“Not abnormal, no. It just has… corners.”

I now have an image in my (strange angular) head of some kind of Rubik’s cube android or a Picasso portrait subject who can’t turn his head on the pillow when lying on his back.

Spare a thought however for the fabulously wealthy Hollywood elite who must suffer this feeling on an almost daily basis, witnessing themselves on giant screens in virtually every nation on the globe. It’s such a large cross to bear that they feel the urge to command huge amounts of money for the distress this causes.

Little Tom Cruise for example is worth every penny of the £42m he gets for a film these days. That’s around £10m per foot of height.

Four Letter Bonding

According to Yehuda Baruch, a professor of management at the University of East Anglia, it’s good to swear at work. Following extensive studies, she discovered that it’s useful for relieving stress and is highly beneficial for fostering solid relationships among colleagues as well as boosting morale.

Being such a team player (my cliché-riddled CV says so anyway), I can frequently be heard venting my spleen and muttering profanities at my desk, and would heartily recommend it to anyone. Well, pretty much anyone. It may not be suitable for all gainfully employed individuals, notably those who work in retail (“There’s your change sir; I’ll pop your receipt in the bag. Have a nice fucking day.”) or town criers (“Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye you tossers…”), and it should also be actively discouraged for schoolteachers:

“Good morning class 5B.”
“Good morning Mr Griffles.”
“Please turn to page 24 in your textbooks. Anyone got any ideas about Brownian fucking motion?”

With such a build up of classroom tension incapable of finding outlet, it’s a good job teachers have got such long holidays to get over it. I imagine the summertime and festive periods are peppered with the sorts of curses and potty-mouthed phraseology that would make a grandmother’s mouth pucker to the tightness of a canine chuff.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Blogs R Us

I’ve recently had need to look up Toys R Us on and am staggered at the amount of hijacked branding that exists where smaller outfits have leapt on the bandwagon by suffixing the names of their professions with “R Us” in order to promote their own little companies, irrespective of the products and services they’re trying to flog.

A swift nationwide shufty has revealed that there also exists the following: Chandeliers R Us, Inks R Us, Costumes R Us, Plumbers R Us, Parties R Us, Nails R Us, Tickets R Us, Accountants R Us, Housekeepers R Us, Cars R Us, Tyres R Us, Fun R Us (grammatically questionable, given that fun is a singular noun), Boilers R Us, Glam R Us (very clever...), Mortgages R Us, Parts R Us (doesn’t specify what the parts are for – could be a Hoover, could be a space shuttle), Driveways & Patios R Us, Tiles R Us, Phones R Us, Chores R Us, Booze R Us, Childrens’ Parties and Portraits R Us, Grocers R Us, Gifts R Us, Tots R Us (presumably toys and other sundry items suitable for tots as I think the law prevents the sale of babies), Tutors R Us, Cakes R Us, Plumers R Us (I assume very similar to plumbers, except without the benefit of a Speak ‘n’ Spell), Marketing R Us, and Tunes R Us to name but a few…

My favourite though is Marmosets R Us – a Manchester-based purveyor of small monkeys, for all your small monkey needs.

About the only professions without a corresponding “R Us” company are those of pimps and hit men, though if they legalised prostitution there’d doubtless be a Whores R Us megamart within weeks.

Given that McDonalds have successfully sued companies in the past for using the “Mc” prefix in a similar fashion (which is why you never see McBoilers, McPatios or even McMarmosets), Mr R Us could be sitting on a little goldmine. The fact that such a wealth of other people have used the name means that either he didn’t register “R Us” as a valid trademark, or he’s just biding his time until there’s a critical mass of companies he can sue and rake in the cash.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Up In Arms

The art world is once again the subject of controversy after an Australian performance artist named Stelios Arcadiou has had an ear grafted onto his forearm, claiming it’s an augmentation of the body’s form. Apparently he’s hoping to pop a microphone in it to allow others to listen to what the extra ear picks up, though his antics have understandably drawn harsh criticism from those people who regard the lack of medical need for a non-functioning ear on a limb as being ethically questionable.

My beef with it is that it’s such a waste of time, money and surgeons’ expertise. It merely illustrates the great lengths to which unimaginative people will go to execute what is a particularly boring idea. Still, it gets his name in the papers, which given the mundaneness of the premise, you have to assume is his primary aim.

Perhaps Mr Arcadiou can be encouraged to continue his theme and undertake a secondary operation in order to graft a penis squarely into the centre of his forehead.

Jingle All The Way

An annoyingly familiar, though unplaceable piece of music has been repeatedly sung in the house over the past week or so. After much thought and collective furrowing of brows it was eventually identified as the jingle which used to accompany Michael Barrymore as he bounded across to the “top, middle or bottom” board following a successful answer to an inane question by a gormless contestant on Strike It Lucky. (“Deet deet-deet deet-deet, dee-deet dee-diddle-dee-deeeee…”)

It’s testament to the genius of the unsung heroes of musical composition that people are able to recall such jingles years later, having burned their way into the collective memory like a branding iron on a bovine rump.

Who can forget the genius of “Doot doot doodle-doot doot doot doodle-doot” which heralded the entry into the ring of the Going for Gold contestants? Or the scene-setting “Diddle-dee-diddle-dee-dee dee-deet” which played when members of opposing families prepared to lock horns on Family Fortunes?

Today’s gameshow composers are continuing to produce memorable musical Marmite. Consider the menacing “Diddle-did, did-diddle did, did-diddle did diddle-did…” which heightens the tension when a sweating middle-class potential millionaire has broken the thousand-pound barrier and must jeopardise any cash he/she has previously won by answering questions of an increasing value.

For longevity (and indeed length) though, nothing beats the Countdown clock: “Dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee dee deet-dee-deet, dee-deet, dee-deet, diddle-dee-deet, pew”.

For anyone still reading, that’s 28 successive “dee dee deet-dee-deet”s, followed by a “dee-deet, dee-deet, diddle-dee-deet, pew” (tell me if I’m wrong). They don’t write ‘em like that any more...

Missing In Action

We’ve been away on a long-awaited holibob for the last week or so, hence the lack of posts since the commemoration of the Chuckle Brothers’ two decades at the top of their tree (which admittedly isn’t a terribly big tree – more a comedy bonsai than a redwood).

A highly enjoyable week was spent in Newquay (evidently the site of an explosion in a centrally-located pebbledash factory sometime in the mid-‘50s) where we paddled in the sea, sat on the beach in jumpers in the traditional British style and ate enormous amounts of nourishment-free food. Mmm! The sheen was taken off the enjoyment though by the knowledge that despite five of us embarking on the trip, only four of us arrived.

Kermit (also known as Kermy, Mr K and lately, Kerm) – our three-year-old’s favourite soft and cuddly companion – failed to emerge from the Citroen Picasso at the end of the 200 mile journey, having vanished en route. After a mental re-tracing of our steps that afternoon, consensus was that the likely location of the unwitting split was during a routine coffee/urine break (the coffee was drunk and the urine was passed, they weren’t in a mug together) at a Moto service station on the southbound M5.

Enquiries to his whereabouts at the same service station on the return journey proved to be fruitless and we’re now reluctantly coming to terms with the fact that he’s gone for good.

To be fair, Kerm had had more than a couple of close shaves before, having been abandoned overnight in shops and nurseries, left at people’s houses and the subject of a thousand supermarket searches, though he always seemed to emerge triumphant, bouncing back like a green acrine penny. His luck finally ran out however at Bridgwater where he was either left in the loos or unknowingly abandoned in the car park.

While the loss has affected me and Mrs C in a manner akin to bereavement (connected, as it is, to an important part of our son’s childhood), our three-year old seems to have handled the disappearance extremely well. Even a little too well. His mind seems wholly unconcerned about the welfare and whereabouts of his hitherto inseparable green gangly friend and the lavish attentions normally reserved for him have switched effortlessly to “monkey” – another bedfellow who had previously taken second place in the affection stakes.

Maybe a ragged and unshaven Kerm will probably knock on the door in ten years’ time, having successfully navigated his way across the wilds of Somerset subsisting on a diet of berries and morning dew, like that scene in The Deer Hunter where Robert De Niro returns from ‘Nam to find Meryl Streep has moved on (though to my knowledge, De Niro never had to rely on two sticks propping up his elbows to employ makeshift animation to his arms. Or maybe he did and they were just green-screened and lost in the edit).

Fittingly, if Kerm was ever green-screened he’d disappear almost entirely. All except his eyes which would still be capable of producing tears, and his mouth which would still be asking the singular plaintive question – “Why?”

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Score Of Chuckles

This week heralds an anniversary celebration for two bargain-bin celebrities who are so sub Z-list they don’t even register on the standard 26-letter English alphabet, and require the use of the Cambodian alphabet containing 74 letters.

You won’t see them on the cover of Hello magazine, they won’t ever be the subject of News of the World exposes snorting cocaine off the thighs of supermodels (as the moustaches would almost certainly prove too ticklish) and you can bet they travel to personal appearances in a clanking Morris Marina rather than a stretch limo, but famous they most certainly are, having successfully peddled a very particular brand of mirth for two decades (thereby exhibiting a comedic longevity far in excess of most practitioners of the art).

Chucklevision is twenty years old this week (as opposed to Paul and Barry Chuckle whose combined ages are somewhere around 120). Their sprightly comedy has remained unchanged since 1987 when they first bumbled onto our screens.

Paul Chuckle (the slightly better-looking one with the spikier hair) attributes their success to their timeless slapstick offerings: “If you hurt yourself, people think it's funny,” he explained, going on to say that their tendency for physical abuse has been drawing crowds since Roman times (exhibited by Romans that is, not by them).

However, their time in the dim limelight of kids' TV is increasingly finite. There are only so many times an elderly man can slip on a banana skin before he fails to spring back to the vertical, and his rapidly-approaching pensionable age makes the activity more hazardous by the day for Barry (the odd-wrinkly one who either has too much skin on his face, or a skull which has shrunk over time).

For now though, they’re still going strong and bouncing off pavements with aplomb to the delight of children and students alike. And I defy anyone to carry a mattress up a flight of stairs without engaging in a little Chuckle catchphrasery (“To me… to you…”). That’s the true mark of fame.