Friday, December 21, 2012

The world doesn't end (to anybody's surprise)

It also predicts delicious creme filled biscuits

Well that's another ancient apocalyptic message debunked it would seem. At 11.11am GMT on the 21st December 2012 precisely nothing happened, despite the wisdom of the sacred Oreo.

The most confusing thing about the whole circus is that the news has got itself on edge and dedicated time and space to something not happening (I appreciate I too am doing this). It's amazing how you can talk so much about nothing isn't it.

To be fair if there was an impending apocalypse the signs would have appeared already, unless of course the economic crisis is to do with that but somehow I don't think so.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tablet blogging

To try something a bit different - also a gimmick can be fun every now and again- I have written this short blog entirely on a tablet. A Google Nexus 7 to be precise (There's your plug for this blog Google).

This is also a bit of an experiment to see how easy the process is before I set off on a new adventure entirely - more on that later. This will involve a whole host of new blogs, hopefully using this handy tool.

As far as first impressions go, using a tablet to write with is easy than it would appear. Don't get me wrong, it does feel slightly alien and I think it may yet take some getting used to but its not too time consuming during the first attempt and is aided greatly by quite intuitive predictive text.

So in conclusion, writing on a tablet is possible even for a clumsy handed fool like me, but may take  few attempts before it stops feeling weird.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cosy wosy mind slurry for the proles



*Disclaimer: If you haven’t already guessed David is not a very positive person. He is not able to just sit back and enjoy things and finds ways of needling criticism out of even the nicer elements of the world. He has come to terms with this and admits this is curse and not a blessing. If the following offends you please don’t read it.*

I found myself watching Surprise Surprise the other day - another sign that ITV has given up on innovation entirely and is desperately trying to turn back to more prosperous times in the early 90s (funnily enough when advertising revenues for TV had no competition from the internet). For those of you who have never sat down to watch it before, it’s very simple TV. Unsuspecting do-gooding members of the audience are taken by ‘surprise’ and rewarded for their positive work in the community. It’s got a nicey wicey tone, is presented by the cuddly auntie-like Holly Willoby (I’ve been giving her a lot of stick in the last couple of posts, it’s not intentional) tries to lull you into cosy self-satisfied oblivion.  A bit like this.

The show’s biggest crime isn’t even that it’s contrived and cheap TV. The biggest problem with Surprise Surprise is that it’s a bit dull; it lacks punch. The people rewarded on it do good things but it feels like a scattergun approach to celebrating the selfless people in society. So you reward one cancer nurse, or one social care volunteer. Does that then absolve the viewer from not rewarding the others? Not only that, but the gifts the people on the show are given are a bit limp. One lady was given a life-time subscription to Love Film, which isn’t a bad prize but isn’t really all that impressive in the scheme of her unselfish work. A couple of the guests get holidays but that’s about it.

Let me just emphasise, I want to believe in the world of Surprise Surprise. I want to feel rosy and warm inside; satisfied that the world is being run by the right people, with the kind and selfless being rewarded appropriately for their good deeds. Unfortunately that’s not the world I see.

The world I see contains recessions, war, signal failures, corrupt leaders and gloom amongst other things. Don’t get me wrong these aren’t the only things but they do suck a lot of the niceness out of existence and that can’t be undone by saccharine do-gooding celebrations.

I wonder if Surprise Surprise exists as an antidote to the grinding misery of papers like the Daily Mail. I have a feeling a lot of the people within the Daily Mail’s demographic watch this programme. It uses that same kind of lowest common portrayal of good and bad in the world.

Worst still it makes the person watching it feel good about themselves and their position in the world despite not doing anything. The viewer can feel like everything is right with the world and that people who perform thankless tasks no one else wants to do are being taken care of by the faceless mass of the community at large, whilst they shed tears of self-gratification and absolution.

I can’t get behind it personally.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Mini Analysis: Cameron's coffee morning hell


This is my serious face
Paedophila has become a very hot issue again, as the allegations squared at Jimmy Saville threaten to open up another Paedogeddon. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if we were close to appointing a Paedofinder General. However, for the first time the child abuse finger pointing has now reached the government.

This came to the fore today for the Prime Minister David Cameron, who during a surreal ‘gotcha’ moment on the cosy daytime TV favourite This Morning - fronted by doddering uncle-like Philip Scofield and dippy auntie-like Holly Willoby - was presented with a list of suspected Tory paedophiles. Not even Paxman pulls those kind of punches.



Obviously, the PM wasn't too pleased with this sudden attempt at guerrilla journalism. He probably came on the show thinking that the worst case scenario would be that the runners wouldn't get the biscuits he liked. His response to the question was interesting given he had little time to prepare a response, saying:

"There is a danger, if we're not careful, that this could turn into a sort of witch-hunt, particularly against people who are gay and I'm worried about the sort of thing you are doing right now - giving me a list of names that you've taken off the internet"

To me it seems that Cameron is skirting around the matter. The issue of paedophilia in politics has been a long time coming and it could be the final nail in the coffin of government trust. We’ve had scandal after scandal. First expenses, second Levinson and now the situation in North Wales, which is easily the most reprehensible abuse of power possible (just look at the Vatican after all).

In Mr Cameron’s favour, he’s right to warn about a witchhunt. Presenting a list of suspected paedophiles to the Prime Minister seemed eerily similar to something Joseph McCarthy would do. We’ve seen before what can happen in the midst of a full blown mob and the results are usually messy with innocents getting caught up in the hysteria. However, Cameron playing the gay card to justify the situation probably wasn’t very wise and does look like he’s desperately trying to divert one sensitive issue away with another.

If he is covering up something to that extent within his own party after the many crises he’s had to face then he should start penning his resignation now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

On today's news...

I'm just going to say this: May the Force have mercy on all our souls.

The sad fact is this is the second time I've accidentally predicted a new film (which I didn't think would ACTUALLY be made) which has then subsequently been produced. First Yogi Bear and now this....

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Another year another F1 console game – A review of F1 2012 on XBOX 360


Every year I contemplate not buying the new Formula One game. Yes, I am a F1 fanboy but I always wonder if I’m slowly accumulating a collection of games with last year’s models that I won’t play once the new season edition arrives. Do you ever wish they would just release a basic definitive game and then just release updates every year with new cars, drivers et cetera?  (If anyone in the games industry is reading this then please consider it. I’m running out of room on my games shelf.) I doubt it will happen given the massive success of yearly FIFA titles but it’s a thought.

So, what does F1 2012 have to offer to racing fans?

To start with you are introduced to the gameplay and feel of the car with Young Driver Test mode. Now, whilst this is a nice edition to newcomers and people getting to grips with the handling changes from 2011, it does feel slightly patronizing.

"You can drive a real F1 car only when you prove you are responsible!"
You buy a new game with the intention of getting your hands dirty with a quick race as your favourite driver and after realizing you don’t know your arse from your elbow in F1 terms you run with your tail between your legs back to the tutorial pleading forgiveness. Instead you are met with a mandatory half hour segment (at Abu Dhabi one of the least popular tracks amongst drivers and fans!), where you are taught how to turn left and right at one point. Don’t get me wrong it’s a good edition and it does add a level of F1 world immersion to the game but it feels heavy handed.

Once you get past F1 101 however you can dive in and explore the main game modes which include favourites such as Quick Race, Career Mode, Time Trial and, new for 2012, Champions mode. This  addition is actually a really good idea and adds an element not seen in an F1 game since Challenge mode in F1 World Grand Prix II on the N64. The task is to race each of the respective champions racing in F1 today and to beat them, for instance against Kimi Raikonnen you have to race and beat the rest of the field on a new set of tyres. It’s a nice touch that shakes up the formula of what is often a case of going through the motions with each new title. At least Codemasters seem to be trying to innovate.

There are a lot of other little tweaks to be found in F1 2012. For one the tyres, which have over the last couple of years proven to be a crucial factor for race victory, really make a difference and by god does the game punish you if slip a wheel off the track onto the grass as you get an immediate loss of grip for about half a minute following. The graphics also seemed to have been turned up noticeably since last year with the cars gleaming like their real life counterparts.



Whilst F1 2012 does have a lot to offer there are still a couple of minor gripes. Firstly it seems as if the developers have removed some of the driver reactions that were in F1 2011. Now if you retire or are disqualified we are no longer treated to the driver shaking his head in disgust whilst talking to his mechanic as segue between loading screens. It’s a pity they decided to slot that in only one game as it added a nice feeling that you were participating in the sport for real and your actions had consequences. Additionally the brilliant paddock-based menus of the game’s predecessors have been replaced with a much more conventional style text menu. It’s curious to see Codemasters abandon their immersive tone in this respect.

Perhaps it’s because this is the third in a growing list of games but something feels a little limp about F1 2012. This is a shame because it’s no poor effort. Codemasters are still one of the best racing developers out there with unmatched interaction with real fans. You also get the impression that an enthusiasts hand is behind the creation. However, there’s something missing and maybe it’s that the room for innovation is growing cramped. Also you increasingly feel that the makers are trying to pander a little to newer fans to avoid alienating them from the franchise.

As long as the game is not prohibitively difficult there is really no reason to fear that person new to F1 won’t get what’s going on. In fact, that’s how I got back into the sport back in 1997 with the brilliant Formula 1 97 on the Playstation. Hopefully it’s just a one year blip.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Red Dwarf X: A welcome return to form

You may remember I threw a bit of a hissy fit the last time a new episode of Red Dwarf hit our screens. Back to Earth was nothing less than self-indulgent meta-humour, although its greatest crime was that it really wasn’t that funny.

Thankfully, the newly revived series Red Dwarf X has been a relative breath of fresh air. The boys from the Dwarf are back and, despite the odd wrinkle, it’s as if they’ve never been away.


Much of the first episode Trojan felt right and on form. Rimmer is as dorky (his new life slogan is "Hey ho pip and dandy!"),  weasley and resentful as ever, to the point that he even crashes his holographic hard drive due to a huge bitterness data jam. Lister is still meandering pointlessly through life, filling it with whatever distractions he can – in this case spending a majority of the episode impatiently on hold to a phone-in shopping channel. Kryten still appears to be on 24 hour wipe alert and The Cat is still screeching around the ship and getting into inane conversations. It really was like a reunion with a group of old friends that you had forgotten how much you had missed.

Gone however were the horrendous late 90s CGI scenes of Red Dwarf VII and VIII and back were the spaceship models. It’s been commented elsewhere and I have to agree that the show probably suffered from trying to be too big budget and the back to basics approach has really made the series come alive again.

Fans should not be disappointed with the attention to detail that the writers and producers have put into the new series, such as photos from the early series appearing in the background of the bunkroom scenes.


The key thing that the series seems to have rediscovered though is the comedy. Despite a slightly weak opening couple of minutes there were consistent chuckles throughout Trojan and two or three real belly laughs in the mix. There were also several well timed recurring jokes throughout the 20 minute run and all with a decent pay off. In short the humour was sharp and it is an encouraging beginning to the new series.

What can I say except for I can’t smegging wait until the next episode!

A controversial topic

The debate surrounding abortion has again been appearing in the news. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has openly stated that he believes that abortions should no longer be carried out after 12 weeks of gestation (instead of the current 24); although the government has been quick to point out that there are no intended policy changes.

Obviously this has awoken voices on both sides of the pro-life and pro-choice fence and as usual the pro-life crowd are using it to try to use it to hammer home the message that any abortion is wrong, no matter whether it was within the 24 week allocation. This argument I always find somewhat jarring and I shall explain why in detail.

Let me nail my flag to the cross right now. I am pro-abortion. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t a nice way to go about birth control (nor might I add should it be anything but a last resort) but it is a necessary evil in a world where we have mastered nature and face a very worrying future of over-population.

To state it bluntly: WE DO NOT NEED MORE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.

Religious arguments always crop up around this arena of discussion and this is actually quite counterproductive. I don’t like the idea that someone with a different religious view or moral view as the case may be, has to enforce their opinions on someone else in this way and especially in such a sensitive and loaded matter.

Quite frankly if one does not want an abortion than one doesn’t have to have one, such is the beauty of choice. Taking away that choice because of your own moral objections isn’t just wrong, it’s pretty evil (I'm not going to even start on the implications that would have on scenarios where an abortion is sought out due to rape or for the risk of medical complications to both mother and child). Being a parent is not everyone’s ideal situation. In fact many would consider it their worst nightmare or alternatively are just incapable of being a parent in the first place.

People often argue (included a good number of women who have undergone abortions) that abortion leads to psychological trauma, which I fear is an unavoidable factor and demonstrates that abortion should be a last resort and not as a form of contraception. On the flip side though, imagine the psychological trauma of an irreversible unwanted pregnancy. Worse still this resentment can be passed on to the child, so by taking away the choice of abortion you are potentially multiplying trauma rather than avoiding it. Simply put the psychological trauma argument is too inconsistent. Still, as long as you and your god are happy, who cares about human suffering?

The problem with this debate is that a life is being ended. Not technically ended, but actually ended. There is no way it can be defined as anything else; if so you are just euphemizing the situation.  However it is one thing to take a life away from someone that rather likes being alive than taking away a life that really doesn’t know it’s there. There’s a sense of tragedy in the former and in the latter there is only speculation as to who or what the foetus may be. Despite the difference, the murder angle can be applied and that’s where sensible debate on the subject often flies out of the window.

I find it especially interesting when the case is argued emotionally and someone states something to the effect of:

 “So, you like abortion? So you support your mother’s right to kill you and prevent you from experiencing life? How would you feel if that had happened then eh?”

 Firstly I’d answer that by pointing out I wouldn’t have an opinion in that scenario as I wouldn’t have existed and therefore would be unable to form one. Secondly I find this position very egoic and even selfish. To be completely honest I don’t think I’d have minded if I had been aborted. If my parents had so wished then why would I be so selfish as to deny that option? I’m not driven by my own self-importance in the scheme of life itself.

Not everyone is happy to be alive. Many view life as a miraculous experience and I congratulate them on that. However, that view is not shared by everyone and should not be universally enforced. Not everyone wished to be born and some people may not want to be here. Once again here we see this debate loaded heavily to one side by individual who are just enforcing  Why enforce a lifetime of suffering just so moral absolutists can try to avoid unpleasant facts?

I suppose the whole thing boils down to Sigmund Freud’s summation of religion as a symptom of our “fear of death”. A fear of death is natural and is probably the most natural impulse associated with life itself. It is the great opposite and a great unknown. None of us like people dying but it is an unavoidable facet of our existence. If everyone lived forever AND kept reproducing we would be in trouble very quickly.

You need to keep a delicate state of balance otherwise matters spiral out of control. It can be seen already as the birth rate proportionally increases as more people live longer and reproduce. This system is unsustainable and unfortunately for anyone particularly religious, contraception and abortion may be the only way out.

This is probably one of the darker posts I’ve written. I hate to say it but the pro-life argument is almost totally driven by wishful thinking, emotion and the ideal that a foetus is the finished product before it has even begun to form a personality, not a consideration as to whether a life REALLY needs to exist or not or whether someone would be better off for it happening.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The problem with supporting England

There's an explosion of sport this summer and at the moment it's currently football's turn to hold the spotlight with the Euro 2012 championships.

To tell you the truth, International tournaments are one of the few times I take an interest in football - the rest of the time it seems over hyped. But at least when the Euros or the World Cup comes about I pretend at least to understand football.
There's a joke involving light bulbs in here somewhere...
It's not always easy to support the England team though. The players themselves are mostly a bit bland and at worst the kind of attack dogs you'd like to set loose in the House of Commons. That would be acceptable if they played interesting football but sometimes the matches can seem to last an eternity. There are occasional flashes of brilliance but it often fades very quickly and all too frequently everyone seems to latch their hopes onto one player (a look at the number of column inches dedicated to him today I'd say it's currently Rooney). This doesn't stop the complete loss of sanity when England do win a match and the pundits begin screeching about how we can now win the whole tournament.

There is also the problem of the England supporters band. This collection of drum beating fat men with brass instruments make the matches torturous with their four track playlist which comprises the Great Escape theme - Seriously? They play this at every match. It only works when we're playing Germany and even then the war ended over 77 years ago. Move on - Carnival De Paris (which is French), Rule Britannia and God Save the Queen. Interestingly however, the band was not allowed to play at England's first match in Ukraine and this received a more positive reaction from the fans than I was expecting.

The national anthem itself is another issue. All rise for the most droning and dull national anthem ever written. Don't be fooled by the patriotic chest beaters, not even the insanely proud Englishmen actually know the second verse of the national anthem (we just put it on the UK Citizenship test to scare off immigrants). Even the other home nations of the UK have better national anthems. Scotland has Flower of Scotland, Wales has Land of My Fathers, which are both superior to the monarch fawning bilge we have.  Watching the players sing it is also a grim experience as they either mumble it like they are tripping over their own lips or bark it like an angry Sergent-Major.

Advertisers love to really get behind "our boys" too. During this time we often get bombarded with brands that love to emphasize the passion, bravery, glory, pride and other nauseating cliches that are carted out for nationalistic purposes. For some reason though any radio advert following this form has to be voiced by a dull sounding middle aged London cabbie, who'll probably be croaking out more emotion about the English football team than on his wedding day. Men are strange like that. It's no surprise the Welsh and Scots get utterly sick of us for the duration (although this could just be annoyance at the fact their teams never qualify for tournaments) as they are bombarded with English propaganda like this.

Supporting England isn't perfect. I know it but I'll still support them in world tournaments, why not eh? Maybe one day we'll even win something.



Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Saying it with sausages

As many of you have noticed there is a new kid on the block when it comes to talking dogs. Joining the hallowed prestige, alongside the likes of Scooby Doo and Goofy, is Alan the Walls Sausages dog.

"Alwight! I'm here to save you blokes from yourselves."

Alan is best described as a cross between Droopy and Mike Skinner from the Streets. He brings an interesting, if blunt, message that men love sausages to the point of emotional speechlessness.

Our new friend takes on the tricky role of expressing male emotions when sausages are served for dinner. As the blokey receivers of the meaty feast puff their faces up with tears and joy, Alan springs into action and saves the day with a rap.  

I suppose it is at the other end of the emotional scale to when men become hyperactive with joy when confronted with a room full of beer. Sausages are obviously associated with more stoic male emotions (possibly proving a lot of extreme feminist theories true in the process).

Perhaps I'm just coming to terms with my own identity - I'm just a bloke really after all - but I was left asking myself: is that it? Stick a plate of meat in front of us and we well up with emotional inarticulacy; assuming of course we had any articulacy to begin with. Is that what masculinity boils down to? Perhaps it's sad fact we don't have handy helper like Alan in real life? It would at least save the embarrassment of having to express ourselves by blubbing into a bacon sandwich once in a while.

In all fairness women haven't had the best portrayal in adverts (this is an intentional understatement before anyone gets overexcited) over the years, to the point that some are laughable when viewed today. Maybe it's man's turn to receive this belittling treatment. WKD certainly set a high watermark with their sketches about bantering pricks.

Is it just me or does anyone else miss the dog who used to infuriate his master by saying 'Walls' instead of 'sausages'? It involves less reflexivity about my identity our identities as men for sure.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rebrand

After a lengthy hiatus I've come back to blogging and have decided to make a few changes.

First of all I feel a new title was due as the blog has always been an outlet for my own frustrations in day-to-day life, so I thought the name "Is the world Crazy or am I?" encapsulated that well. It also makes it a little less personal in some ways, after all does anyone care what Dave thinks? The answer to that is probably no, followed by the obvious questions: Who is Dave and why should I care? Also I reckon this name makes the blog feel a little more "bloggy" too.

I've also decided to play around a bit with the design (not least because my day-to-day job seems to have me fiddling with HTML and I fancied a bit of a challenge). It's far from complete but it does look an awful lot better than the tired design of old.

Is the content of the blog going to change? Well... probably not. I remain as unfocused and confused with my life as ever so I don't see why a new tone is needed.

Anyhow, the new era of this blog has begun and hopefully there will not be many more posts dedicated to self-conscious explanations like this one.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mainstream madness

David Cameron is known for his political hyperbole and love of the soundbite but his comment today that UK film needs to be more mainstream had me worried. The big chief himself is turning his eye towards an industry he has little to no understanding of and also one that I happen to like.

Worse still here he was making misguided and poorly thought out generalisations about it. It is hardly a secret that it is notoriously hard to tell what film productions will turn a profit. Many Hollywood films make spectacular losses despite the mainstream appeal.

I’m far from the only one to be riled by the PM’s comments, veteran indy film-maker Ken Loach has vociferously argued against the idea and the twittersphere has exploded with suggestions of Cameron themed film names as a result.

Let’s make no mistake - the Conservative government has had it in for the arts since they got their hands on the country. Jeremy Hunt the culture secretary has been hacking away at the BBC for the past year or so and has overseen the abolition of the UK Film Council; The quango that gave us the multi-Oscar winning The Kings Speech, which is one of the highest grossing UK films to date.

The fact remains the British film industry has been a triumph over the past couple of years turning out several high grossing and well made films.

To think under Cameron’s vision we would have traded in great non-mainstream films such as Attack the Block, Looking for Eric, Touching the Void, This is England and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - to name a few- for pap like Love Actually.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Fabulous Blokey Bloke Brothers

The boys often compete against each other. This battle is to see who can be the biggest windswept douche

I really didn’t know what to think about the Fabulous Baker Brothers. At first I was a little dismayed that here was yet another cooking show; one that no one asked for and worse, one that didn’t bring anything new or exciting to the table.

We’ve seen it all before, a chef or two hovering around a perfectionist’s cavernous kitchen that you could never in your life afford. That’s right look at the beautiful and fashionable kitchen and weep. Look at the delicious food they’re making in it! You could never cook that, unless of course you watch every week, check the website, buy the book and then maybe after a couple of decades you could make something minutely close to this. You really are rubbish without this show!

So, what is (or should that be ‘are’) the Fabulous Baker Brothers. The first impression is that the females of Britain now have their own Nigella Lawson-style food porn show. And by lord! There must have been a fantastic January sale on at the food porn show wholesaler as they got two for the price of one. The lads make all manner of comfort food such as sticky chocolate doughnuts, home-made chip butties and other food that is probably ‘too naughty’ for the January dieters, that I’m sure will have the ladies drooling – that is if the boys themselves haven’t achieved that themselves with all their hair swooshing and doughnut fisting.

This sandwich will make you feel like an inadequate man  
Despite this however, the audience that the guys are attempting – or pretending at least – to appeal to is the average bloke, not least because they keep saying how blokey they are. Nevermore is this the case when the boys go head to head in their ‘weekly Pie Wars’. This honestly couldn’t be more blokey then if it tried to swill beer, whilst at a football match in an action movie. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s a genuinely good way to capture the heart of the cooking man; we all love a good pie deep down.

However, there is a problem. It feels like it is too much. For all their fopping around going after the male audience, it is the females who will probably get the most from this, as men despite their love of attacking huge steak sandwiches with axes and constructing massive meaty pies, are a catty, insecure and jealous bunch and may soon tire of their charming – to the ladies - kerfuffle. Still the show on merit is actually quite good and the food they make is worth trying at home so perhaps the Baker Brothers (their last name is really Herbert, but then The Fabulous Herbert Brothers does sound a little bit gay) manage to man-wrestle their way into the hearts of the public after all? I guess if the public can learn to love Gordon Ramsey, then I’m sure we can tolerate these baking bastards.