Wednesday, 30 January 2008

BIG BROTHER: CELEBRITY HIJACK

Big Brother: Celebrity Hi-Jack was a twist on the world famous Big Brother format, launched in the UK in 2008 in a bid to distance the show from the Celebrity Big Brother series which preceded it, which had proven to be too racism based for the British public to bear. Its aim was to avoid controversy and it achieved this partly by not listening to any bookers who suggested putting Nick Griffin, David Irving or Jim Bowen into the presenters chair, partly by having ‘Knowing all the words to Ebony and Ivory“ as a fundamental part of the contestant selection process, but mainly by only broadcasting the series on E4, thus ensuring that if any offensive material was broadcast it would either go entirely unnoticed or that anyone who did happen to catch it would be more irate about the fact that the channel wasn’t broadcasting a Friends episode for the umpteenth time that week, which is the station’s raison d’etre after all.

The show, while breaking new ground in the format in some ways - allowing news about the outside world and the public’s perceptions of housemates into the house, letting someone other than the housemates choose who would be up for nomination, having contestants who didn’t make you want to remove your own teeth with pliers, etc - it still stuck firmly to the traditional principles of the series, with tasks, diary room and evictions all present and correct. It even returned to the glory days of Chantelle pretending to be a celebrity by allowing two completely unknown members of the public, who went by the unlikely name of Peaches Geldof and her mate, but it’s nice to see people who are even less famous than the housemates themselves getting to have a shot at playing at being celebrities. Other twists included both surprise and double evictions, even those these are now so much a staple of reality TV that the only way they can be seen as a twist is if you have a very poor sense of perspective which, if you think that going into the Big Brother house is a good thing to do, you probably have.

The 2008 edition was won by John, who spent most of his time wandering around looking sad and confused, before waiting until other housemates were in the middle of a deep and meaningful conversation before going up to them and plonking himself down, between them, ruining any moment that might have been going on, much like a cartoon ginger bear with poor social skills, created by the same people who came up with The Broons and Oor Wullie. John is the chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament and labours under the delusion that not only do people care about this organisation, they actually know what it is. His winning of the contest probably says less about his popularity in the outside world and more about the low numbers of people who actually watched the thing. Although he, as someone interested in this sort of thing, would not doubt find it an interesting, if somewhat depressing, comment on some of the inherent problems with democracy.

Amy was robbed.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

SOCO

On the evidence of the adverts, people up and down the country are referring to Southern Comfort as ‘SoCo’, with you unable to go into a bar without being surrounded by hordes of people all demanding a SoCo and coke, or some other similarly unimaginative combination, with the bar staff happily acceding to these impolite demands, even suggesting this drink to their clientele without any prompting whatsoever.

Of course, as the slightly more reliable evidence of real life demonstrates, this is about as much the case as claiming people around discussing how you never hear much about Britney Spears these days. No-one has ever, outside of the world of marketing, referred to Southern Comfort as SoCo. They call it Southern Comfort, although most people prefer not to refer to it all. In reality going to a bar and asking for a SoCo and coke is likely to result in a confused looking barman asking you to repeat yourself a couple of times before you give the drink its full name and he responds “Oh, why didn’t you say?”. Should a member of bar staff or, indeed, anyone else in the world, offer you a Southern Comfort, in either its full or abbreviated form, the correct response is not “Yes please!”, but “Umm, is that all you’ve got? Haven’t you got anything I might actually enjoy drinking?”

The advert also appears to imply that the experience of drinking Southern Comfort is akin to the kaleidoscopic effect caused by having shards of glass thrust straight into your eyeball. In this respect, at least, they are correct.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

SUPPORT BANDS

The purpose of a support band varies depending on the size of gig you’re at. If you’re at a big mega arena gig the support will have been chosen in an optimistic bid to justify the insanely expensive ticket price you‘ve paid to either the venue itself or HotTix429 on eBay. To this end they will have at least one song you’ve actually heard of and, if you’re really lucky, one you might actually like. As the only thing the audience cares about is hearing from this band is the hit, the time when they’re not actually playing this track will be largely spent desperately attempting to maintain interest by asking the crowd if they’re looking forward to seeing the headline act and demanding that they scream enthusiastically to prove this. In his head the singer will edit out this banter from his memory of the event and will instead remember the excited cheers as following on directly from them playing their forthcoming single, which will strike him as odd later when it only reaches number 62 in the charts and he has to go and ask his old boss at the bus station if there’s still an opening for a cleaner.

At the other end of the scale, at the sort of venues where there’s barely enough room to park a bike outside, let alone a tour bus, the support bands come in a different flavour. And, unless your taste buds tingle at the thought of sucking on unwashed t-shirts, it’s not a flavour you want to linger on for too long. These bands are chosen partly because they can be guaranteed to bring twenty odd mates along with them, which hopefully makes the gig look a bit more packed and more suited for a headliner who were recently named one of the top fifty bands who will definitely, honestly, more than likely, probably, possibly, might well if the wind is in the right direction, be big this year, although to be honest there is no promise of this gang of feral youth hanging around after their mates have played. Or, indeed, once the rider runs out, and it’s the fact that the band are happy enough to be paid in crates of cheap lager, rather than actual money, that is the main reason why they’re chosen to be first on the bill.

These sorts of bands are normally fresh faced, even if their clothing isn’t similarly fresh, and still being slightly na├»ve they happily wear their influences on their sleeves. Well, we say on their sleeves, normally they might as well have “Until recently all we did was play Oasis covers and nothing else” tattooed on their forehead which would save the rest of us having to sit through half an hour of proof of this depressing fact. If you’re unlucky the singer will intersperse the godawful trudge through the derivative furrow that they’ve decided to call home with what he reckons to be banter, but will be nothing more than the witless, charisma free babblings of someone whose destiny is not to be on stage, but who could barely muster up the skills required to be working the merchandise stand. If you’re really unlucky they’ll throw in a cover, which is always, without question, an indiefied version of a pop song, and equally without question, will always miss the point of the original so much that they’d have covered much the same ground if they’d just taken out a copy of the CD, placed it carefully on stage, lowered their trousers and shat all over it like an incontinent budgie.

Some support bands go on to make it big, most return to the obscurity from whence they came, nursing an air of bitterness about how they could have made it, despite only having a vague idea what ‘it’ actually is, but all get to experience the rush caused by playing to a room full of people, all far more interested in chatting to their friends and getting drunk instead of listening to them pour out their heart and soul. Given that for most of these bands even T’Pau’s Heart and Soul contains more heart and soul than their entire set, they should really be thankful that they’re not being paid much attention. After all, if the audience actually gave them the time of day there’d be a noticeable spike in after gig lynchings, and we wouldn’t want that, would we? Well…

Thursday, 17 January 2008

HANGOVERS

Hangovers are nature’s way of telling you that you had a good night last night, which is quite handy really, as given that memories of the night before the hangover kicks in generally end in blissful, ignorant unconsciousness long before you actually manage to make it to bed, it’s normally the only clue that you did get up to anything last night, and also provides a handy indication that you’re still alive and capable of feeling pain, no matter how much you might wish otherwise.

The hangover normally starts in a deceptively normal way. There’s a brief moment of unawareness when all you’re aware of is a slight dryness to the mouth and a fogginess in the head. Savour this moment, it doesn’t last for long, as reality quickly kicks in, and reality has chosen its best steel toe-capped boots to do the kicking with, and those kicks are aimed firmly at your head. At this point you may be tempted to reach straight for the paracetamol. Don’t. Partly because swallowing headache tablets when you have a raging hangover is about as much help as a small glass of water when your house is on fire, but mainly because you will shortly be making a trip to the bathroom to empty the entire content of your stomach into the toilet so it’s a bit of a waste. That’s if you’re lucky, of course. If you’re unlucky you’ll have emptied your stomach somewhere between your bedroom and the toilet. If you’re really unlucky you’ll have emptied your stomach while lying in bed and before you actually woke up. This is unpleasant.

Unfortunately ‘unpleasant’ is going to be the theme for the rest of the day, as you spend what little hours remain after your comatose slumber interspersing dashes to the bathroom, either for water or to expel the water you’ve previously drunk from system in a less than traditional manner, with lying fitfully in your stinking bed, hoping desperately and genuinely for the ceiling above to fall in and land on you, putting an end to the horror you’re experiencing. Unfortunately this rarely happens.

There are some hangover cures which can make the experience more pleasant, in much the same way as being attacked with a baseball bat is a more pleasant experience than being hit around the head with a length of lead piping. Unfortunately most of them rely on you being suitably unhungover enough to actually face getting up and cooking a fry up, swallowing anything whatsoever or actually leaving your bed, so aren’t really much good for a proper hangover. The only one that does work is to perform some DIY brain surgery and, using the sharpest implement you can lay your hands on, slicing out a large chunk of your cerebellum. While extreme, this does work, and does about the same damage to your thought processes as the cast quantities of alcohol you drank to get yourself into this state in the first place.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

BLOGS

If your life was so dull and uninteresting that you had nothing better to do of an evening than sit down and write about the entirely uneventful day that you’ve just had, then you’d probably think twice about putting said banal, naval gazing views online for the entire world to see or, as is more usually the case, ignore. This hasn’t, however, stopped the seemingly unstoppable rise of the blogging phenomenon, which has turned the internet into little more than a collection of self obsessed musings on what the blogger had for dinner and why X doesn’t fancy them, which is clearly not what the internet is supposed to be about: I.e. the world’s biggest and most varied porn repository.

Blogs can, along with their inability to provide anything interesting to the person writing it, let alone anyone reading it, be recognised by the writers’ idiosyncratic approach to spelling and a refusal to grasp the fundamentals of punctuation. Full stops, commas and semi colons appear irregularly, if at all, which is in sharp contrast to the exclamation mark, which turns up everywhere, whether required or not, and such is their enthusiasm for the symbol that it will generally appear in groups of about three or four at a time. The apostrophe can be considered as a lost cause as most bloggers appear to labour under the delusion that the point of it is to indicate that a word ends in an s.

It’s not just the world of teenage angst that has been revolutionised by blogging, however, as many blogs are set up by individuals keen to showcase their expertise and knowledge in certain specialised areas, or by those keen to correct a perceived bias in the mainstream media. For example, many Conservative supporters have launched a number of blogs in a bid to get their side of the story across in defiance of the left wing bias they see in the newspapers and television. The fact that there’s an equal number of blogs set up by Labour party members who want to react against the right wing bias they see in the newspapers and television in no way undermines this argument. These blogs are, however, a godsend for the newspapers, no matter which particular bias they may or may not be displaying, as lazy journalists can happily mine them for ill-informed opinions for which to fill up their papers, rather than coming up with ill-informed opinions of their own.

Most blogs exist for an average of a week before the writer realises that it actually takes a lot more effort than they might have thought to churn out this sort of nonsense. This realisation normally dawns at roughly the point the weather starts to improve. Or they get a boy/girlfriend. This has lead to blogspot being used for little more than a graveyard of abandoned sites, the sort of thing that would be a treasure trove for historians in the future. Or at least it would be if any of them actually had anything interesting to say.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

GIN

A curious beverage, drunk mainly by depressed middle aged women and those who feel the world needs an extra edge to make it that bit more miserable, gin is made by mixing together baby tears, the sweat from Satan’s armpits and industrial strength motor oil. It’s taste is similar to that of desolation and despair or, if you want to be a bit less prosaic about it, like licking the trainer of a top athlete.

Gin can be mixed with a variety of drinks, although none have a strong enough taste to make the mixture palatable. Despite many gin connoisseurs claiming that the most enjoyable way to drink gin is by adding a ladleful of raw sewage to the glass, along with a couple of blocks of frozen urine, most gin drinkers tend to add tonic to the mix, feeling that straight gin just isn’t an unpleasant enough experience by itself. Some will also add a slice of lemon, hoping that the bright yellow of the fruit, bobbing lifelessly in the glass, will add some sort of pleasure to the experience and trick them into thinking that they’re having fun and actually enjoying the experience. They aren’t.

If they’re conscious then gin drinkers can be recognised by their listless expressions, scars on their wrists and constant exhortations to passers by to “Kill me now, end this pain that others call life”, otherwise they can often be found lying in a pool made up of vomit, urine and depression.

Also available, and many seasoned gin drinkers swear by it, although most right thinking people swear at it, is sloe gin, so called because it’s drunk by slow people. Although how this differs from normal gin is a matter for the experts.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

FILM RATINGS

The British Board of Film Classification exists to tell people exactly what they should and shouldn’t watch in the cinema. They’re a bit like Film Whatever host, Jonathan Ross, only with better suits and legally binding powers. Of course, their remit isn’t based on the relative quality of a film - would that it was, as then we could live in a world without Alvin and the Chipmunks, Species 2 and The Shawshank Redemption - but on how much it might offend the potential viewer, a distinction based entirely on age and the assumption that up until the age of 15 no-one has any concept of sex, violence or foul language in any way, shape or form. Despite the apparent simplicity of this system, the number of ratings are many and varied and may prove confusing to some members of the public. To help matters, here’s a guide to the different ratings and what they mean:-

UcGenerally suitable for all audiences, but particularly suitable for pre-school children. However, due to the content should not be viewed by any one with an aversion to poor quality animation, pastel coloured ponies or elves dancing around for no apparent reason.

UEntirely inoffensive, this film is suitable for all ages due to its lack of sex, violence, nudity, horror, drug use, or any particular reason to see the film unless it’s half term and you’ve already taken your kids to see the zoo three times already and just want a sit down.

PGThis rating was named after the angsty female singer-songwriter whose albums, while for a general audience, contain songs that are unsuitable for younger children, PG Harvey.

12Suitable only for viewers aged 12 and above. Not to be confused with films which are only suitable for viewers aged 12 exactly, which is the entire output of both the Farrelly and the Wayans brothers.

12AAs above, only with the added info that the Fonz has seen the film and highly recommends it.

15There are only fifteen minutes of footage worth seeing in this film, most of which you’ll have already seen in the trailer and the remainder you‘ll miss due to needing to take a toilet break thanks to drinking too much coke in a bid to do something to keep you awake during the dull bits where nothing gets blown up which make up the majority of the film.

18You must be seriously drunk to get any sort of enjoyment out of this film.

R18Porn, basically. Although if it was in French then it would be classed as an art house flick and you’d be fully entitled to get your jollies from it under the pretence of culture, although we’re pretty sure the French for “Uh” is the same as the English. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you subtitle it and claim your lead actor is playing “Le Plumber”.