Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Alas through the looking glass

Phil’s reflection of the day: magnified shaving mirrors make you look old. Something to do with the design.

Euston, Scarborough, ironing boards and related matters

I spent Tuesday night in the Novotel near Euston station in London. Nice place, but I can’t help thinking their promise of a “panoramic” view from one of their lifts is slightly hyperbolic. For someone like me who has been fortunate enough to enjoy a number of holidays in Switzerland, the Euston Road doesn’t really count as a panorama.

The other thing is that in a fairly upmarket four-star hotel, there’s no need to attach the iron to the ironing board in the same way that a pen is attached to its holder in a post office. Just a thought. We won’t nick it. It’s at the B&B down the road in Kings Cross that irons need padlocking.

While I’m on the subject, I did once go to a hotel in Scarborough where the wine in the restaurant was kept in a padlocked cabinet. That’s the God’s honest truth. There was also a bloke in a tuxedo who greeted you at reception and then ran round the corner to serve you in the bar.

But back to the Euston iron for a mo. On reflection, the post office pen analogy is wrong. The device is more like those infuriating alarms that are wrapped around leather jackets in department stores. If you drag the iron to the other side of the board, an elastic tension builds up that threatens a catapult effect. On the bizarre injury front, I think that would rate quite highly.

Gentlemen, we have the technology...

A recent visit to my local swimming pool with the mini-Ws revealed the deputy manager to be none other than a Mr Steve Austin.

People my age will remember Steve as a former astronaut who returned barely alive from a space mission. Oscar Goldman had the technology to rebuild him.

Better than he was before.

Better. Stronger. Faster.

I’m hoping to spot him in the water soon. But I won’t be foolish enough to propose a race.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Jack Bauer meets the revenge play

Something rather bizarre occurred on Sky One last night. Mrs W had lined up the latest episode of 24 and it became obvious very early on that we had a cable feed designed for blind or partially sighted people. There was a commentary that ran alongside the dialogue, explaining where the actors were going, the faces they were pulling etc. What made it even more peculiar and incongruous was the fact that the voiceover - which sounded like stage directions from a play - was delivered by someone with a cut-glass English accent. Typical stuff proceeded along the following lines:

"Jack turns his back on Chloe as she picks up the phone. The caller is an unknown man with a grey beard. 2.37. End of part two."

My favourite bit was when one of the actors was described as having "the air of a plotter in a Jacobean tragedy". What a vivid picture that must have painted to the audience of literary academics who had tuned in.

Officers of CTU, here's the duke's signet, your firm warrant,
Brings the command of present death along with it
Unto our brother, Jack Bauer's son; we are sorry

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Latte for your own wedding

Latest spam header offering:

The staged soiling of a wedding dress with a frappuccino is inexcusable.

I couldn't agree more. Absolutely inexcusable.

Have a break... have a darker KitKat

Phil's verdict: very tasty. But then I've always been a sucker for dark chocolate.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

French voicemail

Just encountered a French voicemail system and the lady on the recording was telling me to leave a message after "le beep". You really couldn't make this kind of stuff up, could you? No wonder the government and their academic institutions go into periodic meltdown over the corruption of a once-great langue.

What do they call a Whopper?

I don't know. I never went into Burger King.

Things you think you like, but don't really

Do you ever get that feeling that you'd like to try some food that you haven't eaten in a very long time? A sudden craving to have sardines on toast, for instance? The first few mouthfuls are great. And then some circuit in your brain kicks in and reminds you exactly why you haven't eaten sardines on toast in a very long time. It's because you don't actually like them that much. This is a lesson you remember for maybe six months. Until the next craving strikes.

Another good example would be Earl Grey tea. Nice idea in theory. It's when you drink it that it all starts to go Pete Tong.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A testing time for the medical profession

This story on Yahoo! suggests that regular tests for British GPs are being introduced in response to the Harold Shipman case. http://uk.news.yahoo.com/21022007/325/gps-face-regular-tests-shipman-case.html While the notorious doctor of death is no doubt a handy hook for journalists, the article does rather imply that his killing spree was the result of being a bit rusty. If only he'd kept up to date with best practice in the medical profession, he wouldn't have killed 250 people.

In unrelated medical news, we learn that surgeons improve their performance if they regularly play video games. As my friend the Hoffmeister has correctly pointed out, however, avid gamers shouldn't immediately jump to the conclusion that they can have a go at brain surgery.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Life on Mars comes back down to earth

Amazing what a bit of rest and recuperation can do for you. DI Sam Tyler - resident chrononaut of BBC1's "nick of time" - no longer appears to be plagued by the fits and spasms that dogged his crime busting last week. In fact, he seems completely healthy and almost sane. As a result, we had an episode tonight that genuinely owed more to The Sweeney than to Holby City. No doubt someone has dished out some suitable 70s remedy to him. "A couple of aspirin and a hot water bottle, son, and you'll be fine. You won't even remember you're in a coma in the future."

Generally speaking, the plot did make some kind of sense tonight. Senior bent copper organises blaggings and tries to frame villain. A certain frisson was added by the fact that this dodgy Super was none other than DCI Gene Hunt's mentor. Meanwhile, the officer who is set to guide Sam in his future career makes an appearance as a rookie. Sam teaches him everything he knows, so that he can later teach Sam everything he knows.

If I were being pedantic, I'm not too sure they'd ever have given a woman a gun on a stake-out back in 1973. Not too sure, in fact, that they'd have taken her along full stop. Shooters and post office jobs were men's work back then.

¿Qué se puede hacer por las noches? How to have a muchos fun night out, Mexican style.

I saw an interesting report on the BBC tonight about a theme park in Mexico where you can pretend to be an illegal immigrant crossing the US border. Staff posing as guards chase you in cars and fire shooters at you. All in all, it's a great evening's entertainment.

If you think I'm making it up, this story from the New York Times gives some background info: http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/02/04/travel/04HeadsUp.html

Reminds me of the classic 1973 sci-fi movie Westworld, starring Yul Brynner and James Brolin. In the film, people spend time holidaying in a realistic Western town, picking gunfights with robots. No one's supposed to get hurt. But that's before the robots start malfunctioning.

I'm working on an idea for a theme park in Kent. Unfortunately, the council just isn't playing ball with my proposal to recreate the ferry terminal at Dover. Apparently it's in poor taste.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Wagon Wheels rule as Life on Mars rolls on

Time travel is well known for creating paradoxes. Chief among them is the famous "insanity paradox", whereby a completely barking mad TV programme attracts rave reviews from critics. All the laws of physics and popular culture say that this shouldn't be possible and yet the evidence is there for everyone to see.

The script writers for the BBC serial Life on Mars clearly live on another planet if they think viewers are following all the barmy twists and turns in their plot lines. If you didn't see it this week, I'm afraid it's hard going, so you might want to skip the next para.

Our favourite sleeping policeman, Sam Tyler, feels compelled to nick a bloke he knows will go on to commit mass murder in years to come. So far, so Minority Report. But Sam can't bang this bloke up by the book. He therefore resorts to the same dodgy methods that were previously the preserve of his nemesis, DCI Gene Hunt. When these techniques don't work either, Sam's left with only one option. He gets the would-be murderer to state publicly that he's been arrested by a crackpot, time-travelling policeman. The future crim's story seems so absurd that he's promptly taken away by the men in white coats.

I've given up thinking there might be an interesting ending to this show. Even all the seventies stuff - the period glue that holds this dodgy pack of cards together - is looking increasingly contrived. The love-interest WPC is now name-checking Wagon Wheels in the canteen. Way too obvious, darling. Be a love and go and fetch us another cup of tea now, will you?

Conspiracy spam

A spammer with the street name "Truth Teller" writes to me with ludicrous conspiracy theories about 9/11.

Why exactly does he feel compelled to put three question marks at the end of every sentence, I wonder???

My feeling is that it may be a secret code designed by the people who assassinated JFK and abducted Shergar. In fact, Truth Teller is probably a double agent - working on behalf of the military-industrial complex, while masquerading as an anti-Bush radical.

Wake-up now! Research the above facts for yourselves! Our nation & the world is in peril!!!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Goodnight Sweeney

Column inches galore are being given over to season two of the BBC's award-winning drama, Life on Mars, which starts on Tuesday. Long-time readers of this blog will know that I have a love-hate relationship with comatose copper Sam Tyler.

The show is rich on period detail, with plenty of fag ash and bottom pinching. There's something compelling about seeing my childhood era recreated in such loving and painstaking detail. I can't help thinking, however, that the characters are complete caricatures and the plot is as far-fetched as the Wombles making their way to the top of the charts. As with a lot of British TV over the years, Life on Mars is never quite sure whether its genre is "action adventure" or "classic comedy drama". As a result, we jump between Jack Regan and Gary Sparrow in the time it takes to kick a suspect down the stairs of the nick.

My biggest gripe came with the final ep of season one. The plot was crying out for resolution, but the scriptwriters copped out. The pay packets for the next series were no doubt in everyone's minds at that point.

Provided I get back from my lecturing in time - I teach a creative writing class on Tuesday night - I'll be tuning in. There's nothing on the other side.

Sweet and subtle from the Sugababes

I've just had the misfortune of listening to "Push the button" by the Sugababes. Not being an aficionado of the ladies' musical repertoire, I was a little surprised at the direct nature of the lyric:

"I'm busy showing him what he's been missing.
I'm kind of showing off for his full attention.
My sexy ass has got him in the new dimension.
I'm ready to do something to relieve this mission."

This mission they refer to. Could it be some kind of religious pilgrimage, do you think? I'm presuming we're not talking about special ops in Basra.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

How's my sandwich making?

Purchasing a pre-packed Tuna Sweetcorn sandwich from Londis, I noticed a worrying feature on the packaging from Breams, the manufacturer. I'm actually told the name of the person who put the white bread (51%), tuna chunks, sweetcorn and mayonnaise together. I've seen this done before with farmers and raw meat - herd traceability, organic agriculture etc - but with a £1.69 supermarket sandwich?

The person who had the privilege of preparing my snack is called Bora and there's a number for the quality controller if I'm worried about the standard of sandwich-making involved.

Come to think of it, some of the tuna and sweetcorn was spilling out a little from the bread. It tasted ok, but I'd expect better attention to detail from a product that was set to grace the shelves of Londis.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Nappy talk

There's been much commentary in recent days about the lady from NASA who allegedly chased a love rival across the USA in a nappy.

This column from a graduate student at Yale made me chuckle. The author Michael Seringhaus says: "In all my years of film-going, story-reading and news-scouring, I’ve never before come across an outlaw so intent on the swift commission of crime as to actually don a diaper."

Enjoy.

http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/19803

Take my advice and don't offer me any of your own.



My local Trading Standards office - consulted recently over a disastrous kitchen installation that started in December - has kindly sent me a sticker to display on my door.

Grateful though I am, I really can't go along with this business of not wanting free advice. I mean, who'd turn down something that's free? Accountants and solicitors charge a lot of money, so if someone knocked at your door offering financial or legal advice on a pro bono basis, you'd be a fool not to take it.

Just the other day, a nice man called round and told me I had a few slates missing off my roof. He said he'd have them fixed in next to no time. That's old-fashioned courtesy that you just can't knock.

Fashionista Phil

In a major exclusive, Washed and Ready to Eat will soon be reporting from London Fashion Week at the Natural History Museum in Kensington. I have just a few days to reach size zero. Watch this space.

Bangalore out of order

A company called Advance System of Bangalore writes to me. Apparently my email ID was referred by one of their marketing executives who believes me to be a potential customer. Their business is cutting-edge web design and development, which is demonstrated in sites about Gable Shutters and Pyramid Spiritual Societies.

Saif Shah, their adventurous Sales Co-ordinator, hopes that I am 'genuine' and that I'll get back to them soon.

I hope you're genuine too, Saif, mate. If I'm ever in need of any web design, I can't guarantee that I'll be outsourcing it to the other side of the world, but I'll definitely keep you in mind.

Can Dr. Phil save an obese baby?

That was the intriguing question posed to me this week by spammer Kameska Kunka. Unfortunately, it was just an excuse to sell me FDA-approved authentic Viagra.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Time flies. Or should that be flu?

Thought you'd enjoy these old Bernard Matthews ads. Bootiful.

http://www.bernardmatthews.com/CompanyHistoryTVAds.asp

Just for me? Oh, itunes, you know me so well...

The itunes "Just for You" facility throws up a number of gems on a regular basis. It's telling me at the moment that because I've bought The Buggles, I should try Supergrass.

My current list of recommendations ranges from Squeeze and XTC - late 70s new wave - through to "Build me up buttercup" by The Foundations, which is the tune used in the Pick Me Up magazine ads.

To paraphrase Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson, they know me so well.

Extra olives

I nipped out locally for a spot of lunch (Sunday being a working day for the ranks of the self-employed) and was surprised to be approached by a middle-aged lady on a neighbouring table. She told me that much as she'd tried to like olives, she just couldn't bring herself to eat them. Would I like to take half a dozen or so off her plate? She didn't want them to go to waste. (Just in case I'm making her sound too fussy, the lady had polished off scrambled eggs on toast and the best part of a salad. Only the olives remained.)

Now, I don't want to look like a hypo or a hygiene freak, but you just don't take olives off strangers' plates.

At least, I don't.

I made a polite excuse, but it did make me think. If it was ok for me to eat the olives, then surely they could have been tipped back into the dish on the counter for any other customer to eat?

Would the lady have considered proposing this to the owner of the café? And would the owner have accepted? Answers on a postcard to the Environmental Health office.

Maid Marriott

My mother reports phoning Marriott hotels after seeing some special offer in a newspaper. She was hoping for a couple of cheapish days in Nottingham, but got through to a girl in America who hadn't ever heard of the place.

I told my mum she should have started talking about Rob'n Hood and the Sheriff of Narting-ham and maybe some bells would have started ringing on the other side of the Atlantic. Eventually some computer was consulted and Mrs W Snr was informed that the Marriott in question was 17 miles from downtown. Which kinda ruled it out, you know what I'm saying?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Poetic taxmen

According to HM Revenue and Customs, my trade classification is "Other Artistic and Literary Creation". I like that. Other artistic and literary creation. Has a nice ring to it. I particularly like the "art" and the "literary" bits.

Dodgy cashpoint

The Barclays cashpoint in the tube ticket hall at London Waterloo. You have to watch yourself.

The other day, the girl in front of me left the ATM in frustration and headed off towards the barriers. As I drew closer to the screen, I could see that it seemed to be hanging with the message "counting your cash". I waited a little bit, assuming the thing was out of order and wondering how I was going to fund my Pret habit. Then - blow Phil down with a feather duster - if the machine didn't distribute the £60 that the previous user had assumed was never coming out!

Now, I'm an honest kind of guy. I could have pocketed that money and ordered double-shot americanos all week long. But what did I do? I set off in search of the girl who'd been robbed of her takings. With only the vaguest of descriptions to go on - I'd seen the back of her head - I spotted her at a nearby ticket window. And good Samaritan Phil reunited an innocent Londoner with her hard-earned lolly.

At least, I think it was her.

I thought that she'd offer me a tenner as a reward. But no. Not even a thank you and a peck on the cheek. She just said something like: "Oh, I thought it was never going to come out."

Charming. You do someone a favour...