Sunday, 24 November 2013

Poetry Corner : Seth Putnam

Don't say I'm not cultured.
(Pic : aux.tv)
It's been more than two years since transgressive performance artist, Seth Putnam, was cruelly taken from us by – what he would've almost certainly considered – an exceedingly "gay" heart attack.

A talented narrative poet, Seth fully appreciated the open-mic format. He was keen to put his all into each and every performance in a manner which was - ironically - inducive to poor vascular health, as demonstrated in the above photo.

His use of the microphone as a physical, as well as auditory, weapon signified a firm belief in the power of the spoken word, expressing a deep concern and pent-up anger at the state of modern America.

This clearly inspired others, as demonstrated in comments left across the internet which act as a backhanded tribute and memorial, displaying the same remarkable, wide-ranging vocabulary of insults, circular reasoning and hyper-sensitive "gaydar".

In addition to being a gifted musician, Putnam was a keen historian, taking what many might consider a more revisionist approach to the Third Reich :

                             

If I could pull off that look, I would.

I digress. It's characteristic of his fearless determination to have asked probing questions on the big issues, exploring the wider issue of tolerance and the social upheavals of the 20th century, including :

animal welfare :

                            


violence in society :

                           

women's rights and the power of love:

                         

....children, sexual identity (a recurring theme), race relations, and popular culture. An eclectic mix.

Some people say his lyrics are just, "the Twitter feed of the worst internet sociopath."  I'd contest that, and say his group's postmodern deconstruction of "the song" prompt you to ask not only "is this music?" but "what is music?" and "who buys this?"

Sunday, 17 November 2013

From the makers of Sim Sandwich....

No words necessary.
(Pic : i-am-bored.com)

Do you ever lie awake at night dreaming of being a binman?

No? How about a street cleaner? Or part of a road construction crew?

Have you ever had an uncontrollable urge to know the magic of cutting your own grass and growing your own plants?

We have the technology, Excalibur Publishing have the games – or, what most people would call "jobs" and "chores". These games are incredibly popular, especially in Germany and Scandinavia, and are taken very seriously indeed. They're also unintentionally funny.

Farming Simulator is perhaps the most famous series of titles, having inspired many parody videos on Youtube. We have simulator games for buses, lorries and trains, so I suppose tractors and cows are a logical next step. I somehow doubt the game encapsulates the realities of farming – like the fact almost everything on a farm can kill you, CAP paperwork or the comparative benefits of Ferguson over the Case IH.

How does gaming cater for the casual surgeon? The sort of person who has the enthusiasm for slicing into flesh, but no knowledge of anatomy or surgical techniques? Most amateur attempts to simulate surgery would result in an extensive police investigation followed by a lengthy prison sentence. Excalibur provide the answer in the form of Surgery Simulator. Considering it takes about 10 years of intensive training to become a surgeon, I question the authenticity of this product - I doubt a cataract operation takes less than 3 minutes.

Street Cleaning Simulator 2011 is clearly a hit with the internet. "It swept into my life, and into my heart."

                  


I think the stand out one for me though is Garden Simulator.

                  

The first time I saw that lawnmower, I lost it in a hysterical manner. I did one of those laughs where you stop breathing, and I wanted to pull my own head off and kick it down the street. The smiling green face above the plants is the kind of face I'd expect the players to have, while going "hurr, hurr, hurr".

Some people might get excited - to the point of a chemical addiction - about games like Football Manager. You can understand that because being a football manager has an understated complexity to it, and limitless possibilities that you can only re-create on a computer.

Anyone can tend a garden.

I just cannot put myself in the shoes of anybody who wants to spend their spare time with a virtual hedge trimmer, or grow virtual pansies, or shout at their virtual dog for shitting on their virtual lettuces. What terrible thing would have needed to happen in someone's  life for it to take such a turn for the worse? 

Coz that would just be stuuuupi....oh.

Ignoring the silly ones like : Demolition Company Gold Edition, Digger Simulator (Only THREE left in stock! Hurry!), Forklift Truck Simulator (Original STILL forklift trucks!) etc. I can see why some of these games would have value, like the aforementioned Farming Simulator, Surgery Simulator....Bus & Cable Car Simulator (San Francisco Edition), Underground Mining Simulator, and Woodcutter Simulator : Lumberjack Time!.

But aren't these the sorts of things toys were made for? In order to stimulate the imagination and creativity as well as introduce children to the practical realities of life.

Nobody would laugh at kids playing with Tonka trucks, a train set or using a Lego crane. The thought of grown adults - let alone children - doing all that on a computer is both incredibly funny and incredibly depressing.

It's good to know that the public image of gaming is well served by such visionary genius.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

What does BT Sport's European football deal mean?

"...Arsenal versus Barcelona. We now join our commentators Michael Owen and...."
No...No!...NOOOOOOOO!
(Pic : Radio Times)
BT Sport recently "sent shock waves" through the football world when they secured an £897million, three year deal for exclusive rights to the UEFA Champions League and Europa League from 2015-16, ending coverage on ITV and Sky.

I'm too young to fully remember pre-Sky days, but views on Sky's/TV's involvement in football is like reminiscing about the Soviet Union – anyone who doesn't miss the old days lacks a heart, anyone who wants them back lacks a brain.

As a result of the billions Sky pump-primed into the league, too much money has been spent on wages instead of making the game accessible and affordable to supporters. This often sends clubs to the wall when they're relegated and has created generations of spoilt "talent" who pick up large paychecks but don't do much.

But it's also meant : better stadiums, better training facilities, larger transfer budgets and it's attracted some of the best players in the world to the Premier League, dramatically improving the quality of the football itself (in most cases).

I don't really care that ITV lost their rights, as ITV usually only show Arsenal in Europe once in a blue moon. I also loath Clive Tyldesley, and that fucking night in Barcelona. I just don't get the Adrian Chiles hate though.

Competition's supposed to drive prices down. As we all know, that doesn't work in practice.If it means people have to pay two subscriptions for what they used to watch for free or under one subscription, it's hardly a great deal for consumers.

It's almost certain Sky will have to cut, or at very least freeze, prices to retain customers, while they've already taken a hit on the stock market. They could hit BT where it hurts and slash their broadband prices, as BT could put prices up in order to cover the costs of their deal if they can't nab as many new subscribers as they would want.

In Sky's favour, the Premier League is still a massive draw and is synonymous with Sky Sports despite BT's encroachment. In the long term though, their God-given right to most of the live game packages could be under threat. BT Sports are a genuine challenger, not a pretend one like Setanta and ESPN.

If I'm honest, the Champions League (and Europa League) isn't the be all and end all of football anyway. Group games are often dull, with the competition(s) not really coming into life until the knockout stages. This could turn out to be a massive dud.

BT Sports also gainfully employ Michael Owen as a co-commentator, who's as lively as a cream cracker and makes Alan Shearer look like Rinus Michels in terms of insight. So they still have some way to go to be taken seriously.

With the nauseating prospect of more Michael Owen and other ex-Scousers and Mancs finding work as pundits, I predict the real winner from this deal will be radio, pubs and "extralegal" live streaming sites....the latter of which I neither confirm or deny my knowledge of.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

We interrupt this programme....

If you ever saw this, it meant something serious was going down
....probably a plane.
(Pic : via Youtube)
Eee! When I were't lad, every few months, a caption would appear on television, accompanied by a voice over "We now join (insert newsreader here) for a news report."

If it were very serious, it would break into programming itself. Your blood ran cold, because it was usually the first public notification of some sort of disaster. That ranges from train and plane crashes, right through to history-changing events like 9/11.

Earlier this week, ITV's Newsflash : Stories that Stopped the World documented newsflashes from the perspective of those who issued them.

Since the advent of 24-hour rolling news, absolutely everything is considered "breaking news". But the term "newsflash/news report" made you sit up and take notice. These were stories that were - often sad, rarely happy – but important enough for the public to be informed of immediately.

For example, if you were unfortunate to live in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, they apparently had something called a "Police Message" which interrupted programming and warned shopkeepers to check buildings due to bombs or bomb scares.

Newsflashes usually stick in the memory too if you're there to see/hear them.

9/11 hit hard, because it broadcast the death of thousands of people, similarly the Boxing Day and Japanese tsunamis. Then there are various plane and train crashes or major disasters and emergencies like the 7/7 attacks. Going back further, with the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination coming up, that was perhaps the first time a "newsflash" was used in any meaningful way.

Diana – Martyn Lewis & Dermot Murnaghan. Lockerbie – Nicolas Witchell. Bet Windsor's Mam
– Peter Sissons (and his red tie). 9/11 – Kirsty Young.

When you think to how/when you heard about major news stories, you usually remember the name and faces of the people who broke it to you.

The newsreaders that appeared on the programme were criticised by some for appearing too over-excited, as though they revelled in the carnage. But you can understand why being the first person to break a major, possibly historic, news story is a main reason television journalists do it in the first place.

As the years have passed, and as the meaning of "breaking news" and "newsflash" have become conflated, maybe it sometimes goes over the top. There's no better way of highlighting that than deference to the Windsor family - especially when one of them carks it.

When Diana died, the coverage was so sober, and so formal ("This is BBC television news from London") I initially thought Boris Yeltsin had decided to lob a few ICBMs into Europe and America. I distinctly remember channels cancelling all adverts or redirecting you to news channels.

Then, when the Queen Mother kicked the bucket, there was the fuss about Peter Sissons; his "disrespectful" burgundy tie and stuttering delivery. The irony there being that the BBC has rehearsed the announcement weeks, if not days, beforehand.

You can understand why the BBC would rehearse things like that, but it seems a bit ghoulish and morbid. You wonder if they've rehearsed things like asteroids hitting the earth, nuclear war breaking out or zombies.

Diana's death will probably be the last time we see those levels of focus, and schedules cleared to that extent, for one person. The only occasion you could see those levels of coverage making a return is when Bet Windsor becomes an ex-Queen.

Of course, newsflashes have to compete with social media nowadays, although it's a far from perfect medium due to the number of hoaxes.

Newsflashes will also likely become a less frequent feature of the "main" television channels, as people can easily be directed to rolling coverage on news channels.

But that also means that if/when there's an interruption of a channel like BBC One, or ITV, you know it's going to be serious. You'll still stop what you're doing, your blood will still run cold, and you'll remember the name and face of the person telling you that news whenever that event is mentioned in future.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Your crisp horoscope : What does it say about you?

A completely unbiased assessment of what your
favourite crisp flavour means.
(Pic : aba-design.co.uk)


Ready Salted



You're a waste of good potatoes. You think you're a traditionalist with refined tastes, the rest of us think you're dull.You like Antiques Roadshow, while that time you thought you were having a stroke from all the salt you're eating was the most exciting moment of your life. You probably drive a Volvo and think the Keane album you bought when "walking on the wild side" was "really heavy".I would take every pack of Salt n' Shake I can find, filling them with eight tablespoons of rock salt and a cup of malt vinegar in order to make true believers out of you.



Salt & Vinegar

Every good pack of S&V should have one.


A bucket chemistry experiment in your mouth. The undisputed king. A good salt and vinegar crisp should forcibly open one's sinuses, and to test for quality, should turn litmus paper red from the fumes alone. Some companies are better than others. Walkers have gone downhill. Golden Wonder and Pringles are probably the flag bearers, but they're still not strong enough. The correct colour of the packet is BLUE – no debate. Only true believers can traverse the Road of Pain. Walk tall, and keep being awesome.


Cheese & Onion

Another person trapped in the horror
of cheese & onion.
The Internet Explorer of the crisp world. We all make bad choices, but you're pretty consistent. You probably order steaks "well done". You've bought a French-made car at some point. You buy books that you never finish and enjoy complaining about your constipation to co-workers. You like Emmerdale and secretly like Beyonce, even though you were a Linkin Park fan when younger. You cry for no reason and probably support Tottenham or Liverpool. After you've finished a packet you spray crumbs from your mouth when you talk. You may or may not have an under bite and have a passion for cats. You have many layers, but they all make people gag from the stink.


Pickled Onion

"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the Monster Munch began to kick in." You aren't afraid to experiment, whether that's a backbreaking sexual position or a nice bit of heroin. However, pickled onion is a mere gateway crisp; an acceptable first step on the Road of Pain to hardcore salt and vinegar. Monster Munch still hold true to it when others have cast it aside. The best part was finding a massive clump of flavouring in the bottom of the bag, or even a whole "toe". That's flavour country.


Cheesy Flavours (Wotsits/Quavers etc.)

Wotsits and you

The antisocial choice. Admit it, you eat them with your mouth open too. You're perhaps 6 years old, bought something from the Spar by your mother to shut you up. You're either American, or wish you were American because of your cheese fetish. You're the egg sandwich that makes whole canteens smell like a bus toilet after a rugby club tour. No cheese smells like these abominations, and I bet you haven't eaten real cheese in your life. You're the crisp equivalent of a passive smoker, who should be banned from all forms of public transport, made to live in a special village under a flyover made out of polystyrene. You might end up in trouble with the police and have a haircut like Tintin.



Meat Flavours (Smokey Bacon/Chicken/Beef/Lamb & Mint etc.)

Technically, he's not eating meat either.

There's something about wanting to "eat meat" without it actually being meat that would've interested Freud. If you're a woman, you probably regret not being able to grow a handlebar moustache. You're perhaps a cheating vegetarian/vegan, curious about ripping apart an animal carcass and let it slowly rot in your gut, even though crisps taste ten times stronger than the real thing. Having said that, Frazzles are a sign of a more sophisticated palate. The Tesco rip-offs make your pee smell like bacon though.


Hot Flavours


You think you're the life of the party, but everyone's tired of your childish stunts. No, the short Goth girl with the massive tits won't sleep with you because you triumphantly downed the "Big Eat" Flamin' Hot Monster Munch. Instead, she noticed your belly – product of hundreds of Hobgoblin ales - protruding from beneath your Dragonforce t-shirt. If you really want to impress people, and improve the gene pool, you should eat Ghost chillis in the same way you envelop Spicy Nik Naks with the black hole you call a mouth. I'll put the "fun" in your funeral, singing "Hot, Hot, Hot" as your coffin burns.

Seafood Flavours (Prawn Cocktail/Scampi Fries/Skips etc.)

Stink in the pink



A endangered species. The un-favourites of the multi-pack. I picture the seafood crisp eater as either a Barbara Cartland type who chose them for the colour of the packet, not the quality or taste; a fisherman who like to take his work home with him; or an excessively fake tanned hairdresser who names her car and has tiger print dice on the rear view mirror. You keep wondering why every time you eat a packet, you're taken back to that one night stand in Ayia Napa, and the STD you contracted as a result.





Unorthodox (Tomato Sauce/Marmite/Hedgehog)

I'll have the Branston Pickle
flavoured crisps, please?


Pretentious, much? I realise salt and vinegar are too mainstream, and you liked Frazzles before they were cool, but there's just no reason for "ironic" crisps.You have a haircut straight out of The Fifth Element and listen to bands purely because nobody else has heard of them. You own at least one Apple device, paid through the nose for it, and subsequently resent everyone else having one too. You've failed to finish at least six screenplays and studied the arts at university. You would eat twirly moustache flavoured crisps if you could, just so you could be seen eating them at Starbucks.

­