We've covered before how I talk to strangers. If you have to interact with a real live human being rather than a touch-tone menu then savour that rarity. Life is so much more pleasant when you make an effort with people. Friends call me either naive or a big flirt for this.

Yesterday I got a customer service call from Virgin Media, who have moved into the technology convergence market and taken over my broadband supply. Kitty's job was to get me to add cable to my package for an extra three quid a month but I've got too many rentals, downloads and Freeview recordings to watch already. Plus, Rupert Murdoch vs. Richard Branson has been all over the news: Virgin won't pay Sky's new price for their premium channels so I wouldn't get 24 or Galactica anyway. (Shig tells me Sky One via Virgin Media already "went dark".)

Kitty joked that calls were recorded so she couldn't say what she really thought of Mr. Murdoch. I didn't upgrade but perhaps I brightened her day for a minute or two. Before ringing off she told me that, if I called 150 to complain, they might agree to put me on the cheaper tariff for my existing services that they use to entice in new cutomers. I did, and they did. Kitty gave me this tip because (she said) I was "so nice". I just saved £72 p.a. by being friendly! Now that's what I call validation.


Fella Could Use A Time Machine

"Captain Jack says, 'It's time for Thunderball!'"

- Actor/presenter/singer/dancer John Barrowman takes time off from Doctor Who, Torchwood, Strictly Come Dancing, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, This Morning and covering Elaine Paige's radio show to present last night's National Lottery Draw.


Read It And Wiip

No matter how hard I try, when I think of the Nintendo Wii I associate going number ones before I think "we". Look, I'm not trying to be puerile. I didn't name the darned thing. Apparently the lower case 'i's are suppposed to signify two people coming together to play or two Wii remotes side-by-side. It just occurred to me that companies pay good money for such bullcrap concepting. Where do I sign up?

Nintendo is in the middle of a free strap replacement scheme for morans [sic] who let go of their controllers when they shouldn't. There's much hilarity, much of it probably faked, at the Wii Damage blog.

I wonder if we're meant to like Microsoft Hotmail more now that it's called Windows Live Mail and Bill Gates' oft-criticised company name doesn't stare you in the face when you use it? Or was the re-branding designed to extend the use of 'Windows' to an umbrella term that encompasses now e-mail and soon more online activities until one day the word is so synonymous with turning on a computer that we'll say, "I Windowsed today" the way we already say "Hoover" when we mean vacuum clean a room? It's one strategy for Microsoft to gain final dominance of the home computing market.

Another, more bandwagon-esque, method would be the Microsoft Pu: the eighth generation console with the dodgy name...


Superman Retards

Time passes slowly when you watch a Bryan Singer film. With Superman Returns it passed super-slowly. I liked the old school music and title sequence. I liked Kevin Spacey and Brandon Routh. I didn't like Lois one bit. The action sequences looked C.G.I.-gorgeous but, with the exception of the pan up from the baseball game to the falling aeroplane, failed to provide much in the way of genuine shock or surprise. 154 minutes felt like 1054. I thought my watch was broken.

The references to the first two Christopher Reeve films - such as Lois smoking and spending the night with Supes - were neat. They gently ret-con the later sequels out of the series by simply ignoring anything that happened in them, to position Returns as the third movie proper... though I fail to see how a love triangle with super-powered offspring jumps the shark any less than Richard Pryor in Superman III.

Now I need to send the disc back to LOVEFiLM and cancel my account. I joined to watch the second series of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex but I got the opposite of help when the fifth disc in the series refused to show up. One particular form response from their customer service people ignored my question and stepped me through the process of cancelling my account instead, which should tell you all you need to know about these e-tards.

I trialled a membership from amazon.co.uk and it's cheaper, it has more copies of new releases so they arrive faster and you get an additional 10% off your D.V.D. purchases too. Try it yourself!


Top Five Games Of 2006

Phil brought his guitar controllers over on Saturday for my first experience of the legendary Guitar Hero for Playstation (using my new Eltax floor-standing speakers). The fella who sits behind me at work raves about it and it's inspired Dr. Heimlich to learn REAL guitar. I see now what the fuss is about.

It's like one of those dance games where you have to stamp the pads in time with the music except you have to hold down one of five buttons on the fretboard (with only four fingers, unless you have undergone a rock mutation) and simultaneously strum at the right moment. You get a "whammy bar" to waggle on long notes but that was one piece of co-ordintion too much for me and I forgot to strum whenever I attempted it.

Still, for an hour I was the leather clad hair-mountain Lars Ümlaüt, jumping around my flat with the neck upright (it can tell) when in Star Mode and playing bum notes to Killing In The Name. Those special controllers are worth every penny of someone else's thirty quid each.

5. Outlaw Golf 2, Take Two Interactive.
Strippers on the golf course reminds me of this guy I used to work with. In spite of the silliness, it's a darned good golf game.
4. Midnight Club: Dub Edition Remix, Rockstar Games.
Super-fast and arcadey street racing with lots of jumps, boosts and four famous cities to abuse. Unbeatable for adrenaline.

3. Hitman: Blood Money, Eidos Games.
This requires stealth, not brute force or a spray of bullets. In the previous game I poisoned a target in Japan by infiltrating his kitchen and mis-cutting his fugu fish. I'm currently in disguise at Mardi Gras in New Orleans dressed as Big Bird.
2. Guitar Hero II, Activision.
1. Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, LucasArts.
As much as I hate to pay George Lucas' piper one measly groat, this is just too much fun to be denied. Six famous scenes per movie have been expanded into full levels where everything is made of Lego: C-3PO's limbs fall off and Chewie can carry him; you can fly as minifigure Boba Fett and use the Dark Force as the minifigure Emperor; Leia's close combat attack is a slap to the face - useful when Lando's nearby and not under player control. You know you want it. But don't buy it - borrow mine.

I highly doubt those all came out last year but count the Platinum Edition re-releases and maybe... maybe. I think I only played five games last year. I forgot Ratchet & Clank 3! Well, hey. I'm not re-writing this.

The next biggie for me is Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories because the devolved gameplay of Liberty City Stories, like, sucked, man. I don't care about bicycles but I hate drowning. Two people are still with me.


Top Five "Specialist Short Film" Actors Updated

While the subject is still vaguely hanging in the air somewhat:

5. Roxy DeVille
4. Haley Paige
3. Gianna Michaels
2. Joanna Angel
1. Sativa Rose

Apparently my taste changes as often as my girlfriend. D'ya think there's a correlation to be made? (Criticism will only encourage him. Better to say nothing at all and he might go away.)

Update 2007-03-07: Harmony Rose is out and Haley Paige is in, making an all-brunette line-up. This is tougher than Desert Island Discs!


Yesterday In The Life

0645: Woke at my "old time" for a day in the office. Rolled over.
0715: Got up, made coffee, took the cup back to bed.
0730: Re-filled my cup. Moved to the sofa. Watched the end of Our Hospitality while the caffeine kicked in.
0750: Set the D.V.R. and cranked up eMule to work while I'm out today.
0815: It's bathroom time! Still no need to rush.
0845: Left home an hour later than I'm accustomed to. I was awake already and there was little traffic on the road between Bristol and Reading. Listened to the Panic At The Disco! album until the singer's voice annoyed me halfway through the first song.
0945: I was early for work for possibly the sixth time ever.

1030: Sales meeting. Two hours. I made my to-do list for the week.
1300: Everybody else took lunch but I felt like I'd just arrived. It was quiet while they were away from their desks.
1430: Sainsbury's was dead on my break. Read Brad's A Day In The Life post and decided to borrow it. Put Panic At The Disco! up for sale on amazon Marketplace.
1530: Work work work. You don't want to read about that.
1600: Sold Panic At The Disco! already. Apparently they're popular with Da Kids and I asked the lowest price.
1730: Everybody else went home so my last hour was distraction-free.
1830: The News Quiz was starting as I got into m' wheels.
1945: The roads were crazy less busy after Newbury. I know where the cameras are and managed 90 m.p.h. most of the way from there. I was home forty minutes later than I am when I leave the office an hour earlier.

"Late shifts" are so much easier on the constitution!

Overheard Regarding Porn

"I wouldn't object to watching sex per se but I think I'd need to read a biography of each of the performers first... to know how they got into the industry and be sure I agreed with their reasons for doing it."

"Everyone says your boss used to be a porn star. Is it true?"
"Of course not. He just looks like that."

"Amy Winehouse is the spitting image of Roxy DeVille!" (N.S.F.W.)

"Look at me! I'm such a whore!"


Old Enough To Re-Paint But Young Enough To Sell

It was getting tricky logging in here without upgrading. The words promising a wonderful new life on the other side got bigger with time; the log-in field shrank and moved around the page. Today I switched to New Blogger.

Wise old Shocho warns us about upgrading all the time. I just lost the image toolbar by installing Internet Explorer 7 - it became a footnote in the Help file with no hint of warning to the end user. So guess what? Everything seems fine with Son Of Blogspot.

There's loads new you can do with the layout. The Search Blog function works now, instead of just pretending to. I can give my posts tags though I probably won't because - did I mention? - the Search Blog function works now and I rarely write about a thing without mentioning it by name! So just search porn (or another likely Ford Prefect tag) and you'll get the same results - nay, better.

Suggested searches: galactica, doctor who, hitch-hiker, album, film, game, book, feeling, crush, America, Britain, overheard, top five.


Digital Versatile Disarray

Last week wasn't so much fun. I was burned out from the travelling, the long days, my pal Joeri switching my phone to Turkish for a laugh at every opportunity and the general filth on show at Nurnberg Toy Fair. I couldn't drag myself to the office on Thursday and I got ticked off for it on Friday.

But I'd lined up the laziest weekend ever to set me right again: Alice's smiling face was coming to town for the first time in a small age and she was bringing a feelgood movie that I hadn't seen in years: Sam Raimi's Spider-Man (2001). Like Raimi, I was a Spider-fan as a young boy. My gran bought me The Incredible Hulk comics because I liked Bill Bixby on the telly and, when poor sales forced Bruce Banner to become the back-up act in Peter Parker's comic, my admiration switched too.

Civil War is coming soon to bookshelves and Spider-Man 3 to cinemas. You bet I was looking forward to some webslinging! But when Alice went to borrow the movie from her friend, the disc was not in its case...

Moments like this, you can either admit defeat, get mad or get even. I messaged my neighbours to see if they had a copy we could borrow. I messaged my other Bristol friends in order of proximity to where I live. Tone replied to say he was in France but he'd seen it for four quid at Asda. We drove to Asda and Asda was closed. We drove to Tesco but it wasn't in stock there. We eventually borrowed a pirate copy off a family member and ended our evening's detour at around ten miles.

My Playstation rejected the pirate disc when the Green Goblin showed up. (It must know he's a crap villain.) So finally I bought the damned film even though I own it already (in storage in California.) When we were done we gave it to the nice man who was going to lend us his copy in the first place, to replace the one he'd lost.



"Hello and welcome to the podcast. I'm Ronald D. Moore, executive producer and developer of the new Battlestar Galactica. And tonight... the smokes are Shermans, the scotch is Glenroth, and the episode is Taking A Break From All Your Worries."

- Ron Moore's official commentary for said episode (2007).


Spanish Humour From Germany

Socialising through work can be a royal pain in the rear. I'm talking about when you take a client to dinner after a busy day at a trade show and your colleagues tease you about your free meal at a fancy restaurant when all you want to do is take your game face off and have a little personal time before you have to go to bed and do it all over again.

But Nuremberg Toy Fair is an exception for the British and French sections of our company, who both just proved their worth at a major show in their own country. Last week the pressure was on the Dutch and German teams while the rest of us - MZ, JH, ES, MD, CP, SM and LH in particular - laughed.

I had time to look out some new trend items at the show, like Gelli Baff and the Ugly Dolls (of which my favourite is Ice Bat.) We hosted a party with a live band and dancers. I fell in love for about fifteen minutes until I discovered someone else had had the same idea and married her already. I asserted myself a little in my relationship with one of my superiors and it didn't backfire. I danced like a bastard.

The best joke I heard all week was told to me slowly by a Spanish colleague. I dream of being this funny in a second language:

"A man hates his girlfriend's dog so, one day, he puts it in the back of his car, drives 100 miles from where they live and leaves it by the side of the road. But when he arrives home and opens the front door the dog is there, looking up at him in the usual way.

"The following day the man drives 200 miles and again leaves the dog by the side of the road. But again, when he gets home, he finds the dog already there! He can hardly believe it.

"On the third and final day, the man drives 300 miles of the most contorted and convoluted route he can think of: up hills, around mountains, through forests, left, right and all over the place. He throws the dog out and begins the journey home. Shortly, he decides to call home and his girlfriend answers. 'Hi, honey. Is the dog there?' She replies that it is.

"'Could you put him on the line? I'm completely lost out here...'"