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7/4/2004: Here We Are Now

I'm exploring a love for television that I seemed to lose while I was in England. I seem to place a lot more importance on viewing endless repeats of the Simpsons than I used to. I'm following American Idol, if only because I want to see how far that lanky ginger fellow can go before he realises how totally, totally out of his depth he is and collapses on stage in a weeping pile. And I never miss that delightful Queer Eye For The Straight Guy to watch all the funny little queens act like five year olds, although admittedly that is the kind of mentality that would see homosexuals placed in zoos to caper for our pleasure.

However, there are some programmes that really make me want to jump on the nearest piece of furniture and hoot like a baboon, which is a negative reaction in case that wasn't clear. I wrote some time ago about how much I hate the smugness in those new-fangled American cop shows like CSI and NCIS (useful life rule: never watch American detective programmes that has a title composed of four letters or less, unless it's Monk).

I never thought anything could be even more infuriatingly smug than those shows, until I discovered Charmed. If CSI was smug, then Charmed has enough smug to choke the Smugosaur to death. If you're not familiar with it, it's about a trio of pretty girls with wholly unspecific magical powers, who spend most of their episodes vomiting out dialogue that I suspect is supposed to make us lust after and aspire to be them. In practise, however, I end up wanting to hit them all repeatedly in the face with a frying pan. In a room full of mirrors. And I would record it all and send copies to all their friends.

I just hate the way they treat magic with complete lack of respect. I mean, any D&D nerd can tell you that, when you're dabbling in the occult, you have to think about the threefold law of return, and all the other bollocks. You have to draw pentagrams and mess around with sacrificial lambs and skulls with dribbly candles on top. Then, if you invoke the right demons and pronounced all the latin properly, and the demons in question are in the right mood, and if you cast all the right failsafe spells beforehand, and given the demon the right offering, then, and only then, you can have another fifteen years of life, or move a big rock a few inches to the left. If it was as easy as pointing your finger, there wouldn't be a fucking Earth anymore. I'd really like to see those Charmed women try their little pointy finger thing in a proper magical universe. They'd be consumed in the flames of damnation before you can say 'whatEVER'.

Damn the television listings. Okay, I know I don't pay anything for the service they provide, but I did pay to buy a television. Well, actually, Sarah's dad bought us one, but I still pay the electricity bill. Well, half the electricity bill. And I do watch all those advertisements that the TV stations rely on for their funding. So stop infuriating me and bring in more televisual equivalents of hand jobs!

And while I'm ranting about the entertainment industry, what is the dealie with that Cat in the Hat film? There MUST have been intelligent people involved in production at SOME point. You need some smarts to be able to work a stage lighting system, or even the microwave in the catering van. If not ONE of these people raised their hand and pointed out what a stupid fucking idea it is to make a film based on that particular book, then I pray that every single one of them makes friends with someone who considers mixing broken glass in the lunches of his mates the zenith of impromptu comedy.

3/4/2004: On The Buses

Why is the seat next to me on the bus always the last one to be filled?

I only really noticed the phenomenon this morning, on my way into the city for another delightful data entry assignment (I prefer to call them 'assignments', because, pathetically, it makes me feel like James fucking Bond). Being car-deficient and too lost in my own little fantasy world to pass my driving test, I have to get the bus, and you know how people complain that they always have to sit next to the weirdo on the bus? I have a funny feeling I AM the weirdo.

I can't understand why. Let me try to describe someone else I saw on the bus today. She, for I presume it was female, had a shaved head but for a forelock at the front. She wore eyeshadow to such a degree that it looked like Cleopatra had tried to clumsily apply her make-up with a black permanent marker while drunk. She had on a spiked dog collar, and I don't mean the sort priests wear, and her ears were so stuffed full of bits of metal and plastic she could probably qualify as a Dalek. Her wrists were buried in bracelets, ranging from studded metal to the sort of plastic thing you get in Christmas crackers. She wore a black t-shirt with a red Anarchy symbol. And just to round off the whole ensemble, a goddamn fucking Bob the Builder backpack. I estimated her age at around 30.

My point is, when the option came up to either sit next to her or me, oncoming passengers went to HER first. Now, let me describe myself. Handsome English fellow in tan dress shirt and black trousers, with perfectly normal, unadorned black rucksack. Girly haircut. Looks kind of pale and undernourished. Very tall. Full, womanly lips.

You know, going over that description, I have realised the answer. Other passengers clearly think I am the vampire Nosferatu, who will pounce and devour their precious crimson as soon as we go into a tunnel.


There seems to be some kind of unspoken etiquette when sitting next to a stranger on a bus. I can only presume this has gone on for many many years, since the time when all the cavemen would climb aboard a big mammoth and ride to the caveman commercial district.

If you are sitting on the window seat and a stranger sits next to you, you must immediately take a lively interest in the scenery going past outside. Similarly, if you're on the other seat, you must discover that the floor is suddenly a wonderful world of discovery and magic which you must watch earnestly. This is because, as is well known, looking at someone who is sitting next to you instantly means that you are in love with them and want to bury your face in their delicious buttocks. If you do accidentally glance at them, glance around at the rest of the bus, too, so they either assume you are glancing around idly or that you are a total whore.

Secondly, never allow your knees to touch. Always make sure both of you are sitting at angles away from each other, because when your knee touches someone else's knee, it means you are gay. Unless the other person is of the opposite sex, in which case it means you are a rapist.

Thirdly, no talking. You can talk to the people you sit next to on aeroplanes, because you're all on a magical voyage of discovery. Talking to people on the bus in the morning on the way to work is not allowed, for the same reason that French aristocrats did not make conversation as they were carted up to the guillotine. Conversation with the stranger sitting next to you is permitted only under the following conditions:

1. You have to get off the bus and he/she is in your way.
2. You suspect the stranger to be an old school friend, long lost relative, celebrity, or the Scarlet Pimpernell.
3. You have just noticed a gremlin on the side of the bus, gleefully removing rivets from the hubcaps.
4. The bus has been transported to the magical land of Narnia, and both you and the stranger have been assigned to the scout party. Even then, your conversation should be limited only to expressing a sudden urge for Turkish Delight, and pointing out how strange it is that all the animals are talking perfect English.
5. The stranger has mistakenly sat in your lap.

30/3/2004: Metal Gear Stolid

So... yeah.


I want to write an update, but I can't think of anything worth saying. So I'm just going to sit here and keep typing until I start getting onto a topic.


Sarah's playing Metal Gear Solid as I type this. She's at the last bit where the Metal Gear proves not as solid as the title indicates. You know, Metal Gear Solid is a funny old game. It is funny in so many ways. It is funny when the nerdy fellow Otacon falls in love with some evil chick who barely says two sentences to him, and both of those are her demanding he fuck off. Then she gets killed, and he spends the rest of the game moaning tearfully about how their love will live on forever.

You know, if she had lived, I doubt the two of them would have had any kind of meaningful relationship.

"What's for dinner, darling?"

"Fuck off!"

Silly man. Oh yes, and another funny thing is the little mobile phone thing you have in your ear which allows you to make idle conversation with your mates. It's funny how they'll talk your fucking ear off about how smoking is bad for you and about the mating habits of Alaskan field mice while you're skulking around a terrorist base snapping the necks of all and sundry.

What's even funnier, however, is that you can pause in the middle of a gun battle, ring someone up, and natter for an hour while your enemies stand there, presumably fidgeting and shifting from foot to foot as they wait for you to finish.

Perhaps it's down to the whole 'fighter's etiquette' thing. It is dishonourable to kill a man who is wounded, or who has surrendered. I guess there is no honour in shooting a man who is busy talking on his phone. If that is the case, though, I know what I'd do if I was due to go on a stealth mission: I'd get a mobile phone and spend the entire time talking to someone, while walking nonchalantly through the amassed forces of darkness.

"Come on then, you slags!" Ring ring. "Oh, hold on, I've got to take this. Hello? Oh, hey Steve. No, I'm in a terrorist base. A TERRORIST BASE. Nah, it's crap. Lots of bombs and stuff. Yeah, really. No, I didn't see that last night. Really? Shit."

"Shall we kill him, master?"

"No! Let him finish his foolish phone call."

"So we'll meet... yeah, round the back. Yeah. Anyway, I'd better go now, 'cos some people are about to kill me. See you then. Bye."

25/3/2004: Crichton 2X4B 523P

Hey, kids! Have you ever been out on probation and gone to your local book store? There sure are a lot of books by Michael Crichton, aren't there! Jurassic Park, Congo, Timeline, and a whole bunch of others that haven't been made into films and are as such safely ignorable!

Every single book Michael Crichton brings out is a bestseller. It's as inevitable as the tides or frumpy underpants. He must be a most rich gentleman by now! Haven't you ever wanted a slice of the action? It seems to me that any book that rips off Michael Crichton's formula will surely be just as successful! Let's go through the process involved in writing a Michael Crichton book.

Step 1. Find your subject matter

Buy the nearest scientific journal and flick through to find out what the boffins are currently slapping their baldy heads with glee about. Will it be nanotechnology? Time travel? Cloning? The psychology involved in being seduced by your boss? All these topics have already been taken, so don't use those.

Step 2. Research

While you've got that scientific journal open on the article that you've decided to write about (let's say 'cross-breeding human beings with wombats' to give an example), note down the names of all the scientists involved in the research. Then approach all these people and demand that they hand over all their research because you're writing a book about it. Saying you're writing a book about something is the adult equivalent of saying you're doing a school project about it; no-one with any shame at all will withhold the information when it's in the name of higher learning!

If your chosen target still won't comply, and furthermore demands that you stop calling him at three in the morning, it's time to camp outside his house. Stand completely still in the garden, then, when someone inside sees you through a window, stare at them with a blank yet oddly foreboding expression on your face. Do the same thing outside the office where they work, and the playground where their children go. If they still ignore you, start stabbing people in the throat with a screwdriver.

Step 3. More research

Think you're ready to start writing your book? Think again, sailor! You still haven't read every single book on the subject and badgered all the authors of the books in the same way as in step 2. If you find yourself writing your story and find a gap in your scientific knowledge, immediately ring up all your victims and demand the appropriate information. Using your own imagination is for sissies!

Step 4. Build up your characters

Remember, this is a Michael Crichton book, so always populate your book with characters on the assumption that it's going to get turned into a major Hollywood movie, which, let's face it, it no doubt will at some point. So, you're going to need lots of incredibly handsome men and beautiful women. Ugly nerds are only useful as comic relief, but even then they're only considered ugly because they wear spectacles. Also, you're going to need a villain, so pick one of your characters at random and have him or her do occasional evil things, like say things a total jerk would say or wring their hands.

Step 5. Exposition

You want to show off all that research you did, right? So take every opportunity to explain all the science in terms the average American retard could understand, assuming said retard was a graduate of a few major scientific universities. Don't just leap into it, though; remember this is fiction! Always start your exposition in a way like this:

"Hey, Bob," said Fred.
"Hey, Fred," said Bob.
"So, how does this cross-breeding humans with wombats thing work, then?"
"I'm glad you asked me that, Fred," said Bob, putting on a mortar board and drawing everyone's attention to a whiteboard and overhead projector he had set up in the corner. "Cross-breeding humans with wombats is-"

...and then just cut and paste stuff from scientific textbooks for the next twenty pages, occasionally pausing to have a character ask a pertinent question, like the school-age assistants on children's science programmes did.

Step 6. Pad, pad, pad

Remember, you're writing this book for the American market. 70% of Americans who buy books do so to fill up space on their shelves and impress visitors, not to actually READ them or anything. So, make sure your book is good and thick enough to stand proud next to the Stephen Kings and the John Grishams. To achieve this, pad your little heart out. Keep adding scenes to the beginning and end, such as scenes in which your main characters go on a shopping trip or go on holiday to a waterslide park. Add some more characters just so you can write about them getting killed. And don't forget to add more of that lovely scientific exposition! Perhaps you could pause at one point to explain how doorknobs work, or why people eat food.

Step 7. Sell the book to publishers

Publishers are a wary lot, and usually only accept books from established authors. So, when approaching them, call yourself Michael Crichton and wear a lifelike Michael Crichton mask, like the ones in the Mission Impossible films. Oh, and in order to reap the rewards and royalties, kill the real Michael Crichton and assume his identity.

Step 8. Watch the money and women roll in

That's how all my plans seem to end, isn't it.

22/3/2004: I Love Surprises

You know, in between all that emigrating business, it kind of slipped by me unnoticed that I moved out of my parent's house and have set up an independent life. It comes to me every now and again, generally when I'm about to do something boring. "Hey!" I think to myself. "I don't have to do anything I don't want to ever again! Gyee ha ha ha ha ha hya!" Then I run off and squeeze the toothpaste from the middle until my girlfriend yells at me to do the washing up.

I lived in the same house in the same town under parental supervision for twenty years. I even slept in the same bed for that period with the same Snoopy pillowcase. Moving suddenly to the other side of the world after that is a bit of a lurch, but I'm pleased to say I have managed it, and haven't even felt the need to suck my thumb for several hours, now. It's a mixed blessing, of course; I no longer have a convenient safety net, should I run out of money and become scabby and destitute, but on the other hand I can have pancakes for breakfast. And occasionally, we send out for pizza, tasting sweet independence with the stale crust and burnt cheese.

The weird thing is that now I have developed, Norman Bates-like, an imaginary parental voice in my head. Think back for me. You know during your childhood, when you were out on the town with your mum, you would come across an ice cream cabinet and demand your mother buy you one, and she would say 'no, we have ice cream at home', and you'd think of her as a boring old prig and scream the place down? Well, get this: The other day, I was in town, and considered buying an ice cream, but then, COMPLETELY INDEPENDENTLY, I thought to myself 'no, we have ice cream at home'. The weirdest thing is, we DIDN'T have ice cream at home. Spooky!

But most of the time I fritter away my hard-earned dosh on whatever sweeties they have chosen to place shrewdly near the cash registers. For instance, I have rediscovered my childhood love for Kinder surprises, those neato chocolate eggs with self-assembly entertainment inside. Remember the adverts? They went on and on about how a Kinder surprise has three surprises all in one. Let's just count them, shall we?

1. Chocolate
2. Toy

That's TWO! TWO! Not THREE! Can ye not COUNT, stupid European advertising agencies? Gah.


You take something of a gamble, buying Kinder surprises. Because, while half the time the toy is way kickass, like a little signpost that bobs up and down, or a little pair of Middle East fellows on magic carpets you can spin around really fast, or a fully functional Scold's Bridle shaped like a hippo, the other half of the time you get really crappy stuff like a shitty little car, or a fucking miniature jigsaw puzzle.

And then there are toys that just defy comprehension. Once, I got this... well, how shall I describe it? It looked like a little blue kettle with three extremely long, white spouts, each ending with a sparkly yellow disc. I think it had wheels, but they refused to move. Nobody I showed it to could offer me a reasonable suggestion for what it was supposed to be, and the entertainment value was limited to slipping it into someone's milk, hoping they will think for a few seconds that it was some rare breed of spider that Mother Nature apparently designed with her eyes shut.

Kinder surprises aren't called Kinder surprises in Germany; no, they're just called Kinder over thar. 'Kinder', in German, also happens to be the word for 'children'. So, if I were to say "Die Deutscher habe Kinder gegessen" (the Germans have eaten children), I would be ABSOLUTELY CORRECT.

So, to summarise this article:

1. Germans eat children,
2. They also can't count.
3. They wonder why they lost the war.

All material not otherwise credited by Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw
Copyright 2002-2004 All Rights Reserved and other legal bollock language