May 2008

I’m a man of fairly simple pleasures.  I like my whisky.  I like my Xbox.  I like my iPod.  And every six months, I like to have a Pot Noodle.  A Chicken & Mushroom one.  On a roll.  A buttered roll.

I enjoy my biannual treat … so much so that I’ll buy another one a week or so later, not enjoy it so much, maybe even dislike it, or vomit.  And that’s my appetite for man-made foodstuffs sated for another six months.

So my six monthly Pot Noodle was just about due tonight and I had my roll all ready to accept its noodley goodness and had warned Julie not to come into the living room — for some reason, she finds the idea of eating noodles on a roll repugnant and it kinda makes her want to wash her eyes — and I was all set.

Kettle boiled.  Not too much water … it’s got to be able to stick to teeth otherwise it ain’t right … soy sauce applied at just the right moment … shovelled onto the bap … and it was horrid.

They’ve gone and friggin’ changed Chicken & Mushroom Pot Noodles.  Sure, it tastes like it’s never seen or been within a mile of a Chicken or a Mushroom, but now the sauce tastes like it doesn’t know what MSG is. Or excessive amounts of salt and artificial flavouring. And that’s just wrong.

For shame, Golden Wonder.  You’ve just cost yourself £1.98 of annual turnover.  I hope you feel that pain.  And when you do, then you can come talk to me.

Up until tonight, I hadn’t realised how difficult it was to get your movie certified for release in Malaysia. I know. Crazy, isn’t it? I’m in my thirties, you know.

According to IMDB, there are 222 films currently on their banned list. You can see the list by clicking here. Or here. Doesn’t matter which. You could even click here. But not here, though. That would be stupid.

Anyway, to save you from clicking on any of those links immediately, let me first pull out some of the stranger members of that list:

  1. Ally McBeal
  2. Family Guy
  3. Pokemon
  4. Spider-Man (but both sequels seem to be okay — perhaps a problem with goblins?)
  5. Amistad
  6. Babe (yep — the one with the pig)
  7. Babe: Pig In The City (clearly learned their lesson following the Spider-Man fiasco)
  8. I Know Who Killed Me (presumably on point of principal)
  9. Lost In Translation
  10. This Film Is Not Yet Rated (just couldn’t resist the irony)

Now, I can’t see any theme here. It’s not like every film features a talking pig that masquerades as a sheep dog. Nor is it that every film has a final line whispered in someone’s ear so you come out of the cinema frustrated and a little cheated. So any Malaysian film censors out there, I’m up for being enlightened. And then banned.

Simon Woodroffe, he of Dragon’s Den fame … not the most recent series, I’m talking back in Series One … maybe Series Two … look, you’d remember him, he was the guy with the sideburns who invented Yo! Sushi! or something, well Simon Woodroffe, right … he’s on Question Time on BBC1 just now, minus his facial accompaniments, and when talking about the 10p tax rate and deciding how to tax the rich while still maintaining enough enterprise to generate wealth, he said:

If you look across all the parks in the country, you won’t find a single statue to a committee.

And he’s right. And I think that’s wrong.

So, come on, everyone. Let’s put out thinking caps on and see if we can do something about this staggering statistic. Which committee would you like to see commemorated via the medium of sculpture in one of our nation’s parks? Perhaps the Public Accounts Select Committee gets your vote. Or who can ignore the fine work of the Arms Export Controls Committee (perhaps better known as the Quadripartite Committee). Please note, for the purposes of this unbuilt statue, quangos are ruled out.

Suggestions on a postcard to the usual address. Please mark your suggestions — “Woodroffe’s Sideys”.

When writing a blog, it’s important to be prepared at all times. You never know when you’re going to happen upon something that you later want to tell your Reading Several (ie Steve) all about.

Driving out of Alloa today, on our way to Crianlarich, the missus and I were conscious that something was going on and we weren’t at all sure what it was. There were lines of people outside Asda, groups hanging around on every bridge in town and other bunches of people standing around in fields.

My initial suggestion of a triathalon of Moscowvite-style shopping, mass suicide and, em, standing around in fields was rightly met with scorn. Then we remembered — today is a very important day in Alloa’s history because today sees the reopening of the Stirling – Alloa rail link and to mark the occasion, local dignitaries and some competition winners were making the trip in an Olde Worlde Steame Enginee.

I know. Who cares? Somewhat surprisingly, the answer seemed to be every sod in Alloa. The station is next to Asda, it goes under four bridges and canters along next to a field full of startled lambs and at 1:30 this afternoon, every spare inch was occupied.

The missus and I remained non-plussed until one of us — probably me — got caught up in the hype and decided to spin a you-ey and head back into town.

Because we forgot to lift the camera before we left the house, you’ll just have to take my word for it that driving over one of the bridges while a steam train was going under it was much like being chased by the Smoke Monster in Lost.

You’ll also have to take my word that I got a little excited when I saw the shiny old locomotive and a little more goosebumpy than I thought possible when I saw everyone waving at the train and everyone on the train, leaning out and waving back.

People don’t wave at public transport these days. Fire airgun pellets at it? Yes. Hurl dog shite at it? Yes. Jump in front of it? Well, sometimes. But wave? In 2008?

Seems the sight of an old steam train — such a textbook example of a bygone, simpler time — made the people of Alloa and surrounding environs get all nostalgic and weepy and maybe a even a little jealous of everything it represented.

I’ll keep my eyes open for a video to appear on YouTube or wherever, which seems bound to happen based on the number of people recording the moment, and if I track one down, I’ll post it and if you watch it, I wonder if you’ll get it. I wonder if it was one of those “had to be there moments” where for once, when your hometown goes mental, it was in a good way.

Just a quickie to announce that I’ve added a new Short Story — The Receipt — to the Short Story page. Realistically, unless there’s a sudden upsurge in my readership, I’m telling this to Steve, who’s already read the story and in fact gave me the idea in the first place. So maybe it’s not as exciting news as it first seemed when I tracked down the Pantechnicon link.

Anyway, it’s a nice pdf document and worth checking out, if not for my story then for the interview with Gary Russell, who I didn’t know I knew, but I remember his Dick in The Famous Five and I’m sure I read one of his Doctor Who books when I was trying my hand at that sort of thing.

So there you go. Don’t say I’m not good to you.

A couple of years ago, on a Saturday afternoon in the Summer, I went to Luss, which is a small village on the west coast of Loch Lomond that was used for some of the OB shots in High Road. It was an experience. So much so, I was compelled to write a poem about it. I never write poems. There’s probably good reason for that. Anyway, this is the poem what I wrotted:

The bonny, bonny banks
of aluminium —
disregarded Buckfast
warmed in the setting sun.

Milk white boys in freefall
from pier to loch below,
while Fila clad females
guard the twelve-packs and blow.

Freelander cops watch from
behind the front grille chrome
as the bored and troubled
take the low road home.

So we went back yesterday as it was another glorious day and I’m happy to report that there were no weedgie scumbags there this time and the idyll was left untarnished. Except for this line of bastard ducks that were noising everyone up.

Some ducks.  Yesterday.

So, while I’m doing my bit for the Agryll & Bute tourist office, I can whole-heartedly recommend spending an afternoon in the delightful village of Luss. But be aware that there can be drunken hooligans and menacing aquatic birdlife, but if you’re willing to take a risk, you should have a nice time. Oh, and the tea in the hotel on the main road tastes like chlorine, but the burgers are quality.

And if anyone recognises any of the ducks, please contact CrimeStoppers as police are looking to speak to them in connection with a stolen cheese baguette and several counts of quacking in a public place.

I’ve been wondering why I hate Vernon Kay so much. Thanks to the wonderful age of technology in which we live, the internet was at hand to provide the reason. In fact, it was able to provide 49 reasons. And a bitch ain’t one. Or in this case, it is, because he’s quite pally with Chris Moyles, whose mobile phone address book must be a veritable Who’s Who of the hopeless and talentless.

So there we go. A round 50. Coincidentally, this is also the number of times half-man, half-hair, half-autocue Kay manages to blag his way into the nation’s conscience on a daily basis.

Anyway, this was all triggered by somehow managing to stumble upon this forum which actually features two posters who think Lenny Henry’s funny. Views on Paris Hilton are a little more polarised.

Cobford says:

Of course I also hate Paris Hilton…

While Scouse Soldier disagrees and counters with:

id shag paris hilton.

As ever, in the interests of balance, I’ll leave you to decide.

Okay, so it’s been out of a week and after notching up some-teen hours of play over the last seven days, I’m just about in a position to declare what I think about it.

I’d been looking forward to the release since before this time last year and once the first trailer was released, complete with the Philip Glass score, every time I switched on my Xbox 360, I kinda wished it was being switched on to play GTA IV. So there’s been a fair level of anticipation chez Gav and a shit load of hype everywhere else.

First up, visually, it’s captivating. Liberty City this time round may lack the sheer scale of San Andreas, but what’s there is beautifully drawn and, like the best cherry tomatoes, it’s organic. Plus, everything that lives, breathes and dies in Liberty City seems to add to the experience. Life’s rich, High-Def pageant.

Pedestrians mumble to themselves and each other. Fast food joint counter staff announce, “Welcome to Burger Shot, motherfucker.” Crossing the road requires extra care because these drivers don’t think twice about knocking you over and this time, you can see the health shatter from the gauge with every bounce off the tarmac. The first time I saw the rag doll physics in action, I felt a little sick, much like the first time I noticed blood leak from a random pedestrian on GTA III.

Control-wise, it’s much the same deal as before, except quite notably, the combat system has been tweaked to be more in line with First Person Shooters and the driving has been tweaked to be more in line with actually driving in NYC. No longer can you throw a car round a corner at 120 mph with just a prayer and a yank of the handbrake. In fact, if your right index finger is tempted to apply the handbrake you may just end up doing a passable impression of Doctor Fox on Dancing On Ice. But you can dive out of your car and use it as a barrier.

Both tweaks, I think, suit the less-cartoony feel to the game. So what if driving at speed now relies on you being able to calculate a racing line? It makes it all the more rewarding when you nail that corner and find yourself back in the race or on the tail of the Russian mafia.

The story arc and characterisation of the main story is Hollywood quality. The missions follow the same formula as ever other incarnation of GTA and fall neatly into four categories: kill someone, take something to someone, evade someone, catch someone. There are 90 of them, so prolonged playing is bound to highlight the similarities in theme. Is that bad thing? Well, no, but it’s not necessarily a good thing either. it just is. To make a big deal of this is, I think, to miss the point.

Since when was the main storyline of a GTA game the be all and end all? As was the case with GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas, what you get up to when you’re not on a mission is what hooked me when I first visited Liberty City on the PS2. The living and existing, the choices, the side games and now the MASSIVE multiplayer options are, I imagine, what will keep me coming back to the game long after the final credits have rolled.

So it’s flawless, then, right? Not quite. The draw distance can still be a problem sometimes and I’ve come out of my apartment on more than one occasion to find that the furniture arrives a few seconds later. Plus, the first time you have a scout over the city in a helicopter, you realise that it’s not really that big a city at all. Cars randomly turning right or changing lane detracts a little from the improved realism.

But for every one of these, there are a dozen reasons to love it and at the very least, you’re well within your rights to utilise the free aim shooting method and kill the boy behind the counter at Burger Shot.

Given that it’s a Bank Holiday Sunday in May and it’s raining, myself and the good lady decided to make today the first trip of the year to the East Neuk of Fife which is one of my absolute favourite places in the country.

We’re going back in the summer for the Pittenweem Art Festival, where the small fishing village becomes one big gallery for a couple of weeks and Julie will be exhibiting some work in one of the open exhibitions.  But even outwith the Festival, it’s a very arty sort of place and we’ve made a few friends with some of the gallery owners.

Crail is a gorgeous part of the Neuk and is home to The Crail Gallery, run by Susie Lacome and David Sim.  They specialise in lino prints and silkscreen work and all of it brings a smile to my face.  Susie’s work usually includes at least two of the following elements: a fish van, woman blethering, washing hanging out of the line, cats, gulls and fish creels.  If you’re lucky, you might find one that contains all five.

Anyway, if you’re in the area, well worth a visit.