Friday, March 27, 2009

Removes Limescale, Skidmarks And All Traces Of Irony

What on earth’s happened to Mr Muscle lately? His depiction in the new advert is a bit of a sad departure from its predecessors.

There was something quirky though comfortingly British about a nerdy, badly-dressed middle-aged superhero cleaning a toilet with undoubtedly sub-super powers. You got the impression that he shared a house with his mum, drank weak lemon squash and routinely cried himself to sleep in a bedroom plastered with yellowing Star Wars wallpaper – the donning of an ill-fitting costume being the only release from days filled with ridicule and drudgery. Still, you knew where you were with him

However, all trace of irony has now been removed with his recent reinvention. He’s been transformed from an emaciated geek with NHS specs to an individual of rippling Schwarzennegarian musculature, a jaw you could stack books on and thighs of an overtly thunderous nature. As if this wasn’t indicative enough of an all-conquering hero, he’s also been given an American accent. (As an aside, I can’t help but notice that Barry ‘Cillit Bang’ Scott has calmed down a bit lately. Maybe the two are connected.)

Despite being beefed-up bigstyle though, I don’t think I’d like the new Mr Muscle wielding my loo brush, even though he’d be well-equipped to administer a bit more purchase to shift the more stubborn traces of excrement. Bring back the skinny fella. I wouldn’t even mind if he missed a couple of skidders.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Game On

I must confess to having a weakness for computer games and my thumbs can occasionally be seen waggling across the front of a PSP of an evening. I don’t own many games, but I’ve realised that for some reason a disproportionate amount of these require me to adopt the persona of a small mammal such as Crash Bandicoot, Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter, Sly Raccoon (then there’s the variants of Ratchet & Clank: Locked & Loaded, Daxter etc.)

While Sly Raccoon is obviously a raccoon and Crash Bandicoot is obviously a bandicoot, Daxter – according to the accompanying notes – is an ‘otsel’ (a biologically impossible hybrid of an otter and a weasel) and Ratchet is some kind of space-travelling creature, clearly based on a small weaselly/ottery/bandicooty/raccoony type mammal. There seems to be a proliferation of these games which I have such a penchant for, which is a bit puzzling.

Another favourite, and not dissimilar game, is Ray-Man, who doesn’t really resemble an animal of any sort, but embarks on similar adventures in a cutesy platform cartoon land. The first time this game was suggested to me I mis-heard it as Rainman, which I remember thinking was the worst idea for a computer game ever. It’s difficult to imagine what a game about an autistic savant would entail. Counting probably. In that sense it’s probably not dissimilar to that that Brain Training rubbish that Ronan Keating and Captain Jean-Luc Picard are always telling me to buy, which looks about as entertaining as watching grass grow. Give me small mammalian cosmonauts any day.

Friday, March 06, 2009


I gave up coffee last week. I would say it was the longest week of my life, but that’s not strictly true as without the benefit of caffeine coursing around my bloodstream, I spent most of it asleep, which made the time between giving it up and resuming it again mercifully short.

Its temporary replacement (which was more down to a [probably misplaced] belief that it did me good rather than because it tasted nice) was herbal tea. This came in a variety of hippieish flavours, which sounded more like an explosion in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s garden than any palatable, or even drinkable beverage.

One cup and one teabag is all you need. After a few minutes soaking, the lucky drinker is rewarded with unspectacular brew which looks like the sort of water you find in the toilet when a stubbornly unflushable turd, produced by the previous visitor, has been allowed to steep for several hours.

My main problem with it though, is not its appearance; it’s the fact that although it smells really flavoursome, it tastes like weak squash (the sort of squash that old ladies used to make you when you were a kid). Despite your nostrils being assaulted by the tangy odour of echinacea and elderflower, the taste is pretty much that of water. It promises so much and then completely fails to deliver.

Also, as well as being almost entirely devoid of taste, the absence of a glop of cold milk (which is such an integral part of other hot beverages) means it’s delivered lipwards at temperatures approaching that of the surface of the sun, causing the drinker to look like a post-surgical Leslie Ash by the end of the day.

Apparently, it takes two weeks for caffeine to leave the system of a regular coffee drinker. My self-imposed one-week sentence was up on Saturday and I’m back on the good stuff. What’s more, I’m awake enough to appreciate it.

Heston Services

Is it me, or is the gimmick with Heston Blumenthal wearing a bit thin now? Yes, yes, yes… he’s a ground-breaking chef who turns snails into porridge, uses liquid nitrogen in a mad-professor type way and pushes the culinary envelope (I’ve never understood that metaphor – why do envelopes need to be pushed?) further than any balding bespectacled chef has done before, but it’s starting to border on sensationalism.

In his show on telly the other night, he recreated Victorian feasts like mock turtle soup (real turtles are extremely expensive and ever-so-slightly endangered), deep-fried insects, and an Absinthe jelly with dildos embedded in it like some deviant Desperate Dan cow pie.

Strangely, as the credits rolled, the announcer announced (as is common with most announcements at the end of cookery shows), that all recipes were available on the Channel 4 website.

Somehow I don’t think many mums will be recreating Heston’s dishes in the little kitchens of their semi-detacheds up and down the land. Or maybe I’ll be proved wrong and the sales of vibrators will increase tenfold, like when Delia started cooking with eggs a few years ago and their sales subsequently rocketed.

Also, call me repressed and overtly English, but I think I’d find the presence of a sex aid in my dessert a little disconcerting.

“Err… sorry Mum, but I’ll just have mine with ice cream thanks.”

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Every Cloud...

More gloomy news today as ITN announced that they’re the latest to feel the bite of the economic downturn. They’’ll shortly be making around 400 staff redundant in Leeds and London, with further cutbacks in programming (the production on many regular shows, such as Heartbeat, has already ceased).

The lack of advertising revenue in recent months which funds the organisation has resulted in the need to reduce its programme budget by a substantial £65m, and it’s feared there are more job losses to come in other ITN offices around the country.

Still, good news about Heartbeat though.