Posts tagged: Beeb

The State Of British Comedy

When did British comedy hit such an all time low? I am unsure of the exact moment of this decline but it has continued for several months. I feel very disappointed in the quality of recent brand new comedies on television. Now, I do not have Sky, so perhaps I am missing out on the top quality material (such as the return of The Kumars at No. 42) but I refuse to shell out a big fat subscription fee every month. Particularly as my viewing habits are actually limited to a set number of shows and channels. Back when my parents had the service, we still watched a minimum amount of material and even that was when there was something available. In most cases, even with hundreds of channels available, sometimes there was nothing worth watching and we would switch back to free-to-air terrestrial.

Before I got any further an honorary mention must go out to Citizen Khan which broadcast last August on the Beeb. The trailer was cut well but the overall comedy value was low. Extremely low. It was like being taken back to the 1970s. The world has moved on a great deal since the time before I was born! They had to bring in housewife favourite, Kris Marshall from recent BT adverts and BBC sitcom My Family as a Muslim convert just to appeal to Middle England. Proof that a Muslim comedy could not apparently perform without some kind of outside ‘established actor’ help. I did not want to watch any minute beyond the first episode, however we decided to revisit and watch the entire series. Give it a chance, was what my wife, Michelle said was the best option. We had another reason, as we had seen one the stars, Maya Sondhi (who plays daughter Shazia) perform at The Tara Arts Centre with Ali back in December 2011. The BBC have renewed Citizen Khan for a second series, which I am willing to give another chance. However, this is the exception to the rule. I am just not sure if the original Citizen Khan shorts featured in another programme, Bellamy’s People was the ideal avenue for Adil Ray’s talent and a full blown series was too much too soon.

Plebs had been heavily trailed on ITV2, so I watched first episode. However, please note I watched the first episode, several weeks after it aired on television. My wife is a big fan of Celebrity Juice and we have recently started watching The Only Way Is Essex. As these are jewels in the crown of the channel, we were bound to get a great deal of exposure to Plebs. I was extremely disappointed in the comedy. Maybe I am a little outside of the target demographic but that does not mean I am banned from watching. The plot was limited, the jokes were poor and the overall taste was extremely low. This was comedy for the brain-dead generation. I could not stomach watching another minute, so gave up. If you are going to heavily advertise a new British homegrown comedy please please ITV ensure the quality of the writing is up there with the best comedies on television. Even with guest stars such as Danny Dyer, I believed this show was flawed from the start. Transferring modern day twenty-first century life into Ancient Rome, with the ultimate of socially awkward guys outside of the in-crowd trying to meet pretty girls. Sure not much in modern day Britain has changed and most boys of a certain age, are attempting the same thing in bars, pubs and clubs in towns and cities across the country.

I did not know that Ben Elton was working on a new comedy until I read an article in The Guardian one lunchtime at the office. I was looking forward to catching The Wright Way when it finally aired. However, due to my work life balance, I am usually in bed at 9:30pm. I would record the show on my Humax PVR and catch the following evening. I did not watch any further than episode two. While I really love David Haig as an actor, I am sure even he appreciates that we have moved on from 1996. He appears to perform this new role, as Health & Safety Council Office, Gerald Wright in a carbon copy format of Inspector Grimm from The Thin Blue Line. Ben, surely you have honed your technique over seventeen years. Try new ideas, formats and even actors. Do not get me wrong, I loved The Thin Blue Line, it was my favourite comedy when aired, but that was in the previous century and we have moved on a great deal since.

Back to ITV with their late night comedy, The Job Lot. The situation here is a job centre in the Midlands. This proved for me a little funnier than the other comedies I have mentioned. Mainly for the inclusion of a larger talented group cast and the fact that in this environment you can have many different characters appear to sign on the dole. In particular I was looking forward to seeing Zahra Ahmadi, whom you may recognise as Shabnam Masood from Eastenders. However her part was relatively minor and after episode four, I gave up once again. While it began well and did have some funny moments, the comedy fell back into the comfortable rhythm of type. Routine, we all enjoy but not from comedies, particularly those that are supposed to be fresh and brand new. I enjoyed seeing Sarah Hadland step out of the shadow of Miranda Hart and perform a comedic role in her own image. She was good but it was not enough to keep me hooked. Far too quickly the characters returned to type. Look out for one of the actors from Four Lions.

People constantly ask me why I watch some much US imported television. I rest my case. I just hope this is a minor blip and better talent is in the pipeline.

Timing Is Everything

Just back from a fantastic weekend in Birmingham. I know, for some readers that phrase alone, sounds like something completely crazy. Sure Birmingham does have a few negative aspects (a few which I will touch on in this post) but the City is much improved and this was my first visit since late August 2007. A great deal changes in three years. Before I get to the Birmingham segment of my Rock & Roll Weekend, let me start with my Friday working day and then my antics after the close of “play”. Friday is a critical day for me at work and I made a major effort to get into the office for 7:15am, to ensure I could kick off all the processes required for an extremely important report. I wanted to leave at 4pm (although the reality was, I could only leave once the report was ready and released!). Around 4:11pm, I finally was shutting down my laptop and could look forward to the weekend. The pressure had been intense but I had not let it phase me. Instead, I had just focused on the task (or rather multiple tasks) at hand, one at a time. I have to be honest though, it was the thought of the weekend that was keeping me sane! It was going to be great. A complete contrast to my feelings at 07:26am when I quickly updated my Facebook status before cracking on with work.

On the drive home, I blasted the stereo. I could relax, unwind and focus on all the things I had planned for the next few days. You know me though, this was not going to be just your average weekend. I had places to go, people to see and things to do. I got home around 5:30pm and quickly got changed, showered and my Mum gave me a lift to the train station. (There was no freak traffic event in Wycombe, like on Friday 11th June when I ended up jumping out of my Mum’s 308 and rushing into town on foot.) I bought my ticket and headed to the platform, I was perfectly on schedule, I had planned to catch the 18:25 (only two stops before the final destination of London Marylebone). I plugged myself into my Zen and zoned out, I was on my way! I text Niko to let him know I was still coming. It was supposed to be very different, I would normally have been working from home and headed into town on the bus around 5pm or 5:30pm at the very latest. Never mind, those were minor details. I was on my train, I had my music and I was on my way into London. I text Niko to let him know I was on the way and should make it to the pub in time for around 7:30pm. He response was just two words: “Good lad”. At Marylebone, I had to queue at the cashpoint before finally heading onto the tube. I had considered walking around to Baker Street, but then realised I had planned my Oyster Top-Up for the Marylebone Underground station, so that was not going to work. I made my way down the stairs (the escalator is being repaired or refurbished). I took the Bakerloo Line to Baker Street (one stop, I know extremely lazy) and then the caught the first Circle Line train to Liverpool Street. It was here I had originally planned to catch a District Line to Mile End and then the new(ish) London Overground to Haggerston and then walk over to Engelfied Road. This plan was broken, when then train driver explained the District Line was part suspended all the way to Barking. I had to take another option. Coming out of Liverpool Street, into a busy, but pleasantly sunny Friday evening in London. The pubs around the station were spilling out into the streets and after I got some bearings I decided what mode of transport to take now. I called Niko to get the bus number that would take me to the pub. He had sent it across as a message on Facebook to all those attending the affect but I had forgotten the number. It was 145 and I rushed around the bus station (which is adjacent to the train station itself but could not find any sign with that number or heading in the direction I wanted to go. I asked a few people but they were as helpful as a tin of sardines, so I made the executive decision to get a taxi. Although I made a circuit of one of the office blocks, searching for a taxi but they were all already taken. Eventually I find a guy with a free cab and showed him my Google Map print out and he told me it would be between £12 – £15 depending on traffic. The fare came to £8.80, as we had a clear run, unheard of on a Friday night but he still needed to consult my map to ensure he got to the right place. I thought all black cabs had to have an extensive knowledge of not just the main streets but these little hidden gems as well. I arrived and headed up stairs. It must have been coming up to 8pm as I said hello to Niko, gave him my card and started to be introduced to his friends. Then it was time for a well earned drink or two!

Rupa, Dani & Niko

Whenever I go out with Niko, he tends to show me parts of London that are off the beaten track. Although when I started speaking to his friends, they thought I deserved a medal, going from being in my office in Swindon around 4pm, and then being in North London (technically N1) before 8pm. Most of them were locals and the most tedious journey had been two stops on the East London Line.

I had been completely out the picture in terms of the World Cup Quarter Finals, not listening to the radio on my drive from work, or putting on the FM frequency on my Zen. I had asked my taxi driver, but he could only tell me that Holland had beaten Brazil which was a surprise. At The Talbot, the projector had been showing the Uruguay – Ghana match as I had walked it, the first half had been goalless up to that point. After some delicious food (it was a help yourself buffet, rather than the sit down and order individual meals as I had expected and it worked a treat). The projector was switched back on and they showed the penalties, although as I was outside on the terrace, I could not see the screen and let Niko’s friends relay the successful or failure of the penalty taker to me. It was a little while later I decided to call my old work colleague and football nut (he is now player manager of Henley YMCA) to get a full update on the football. He did not pick up his iPhone, but at 23:53 he text me to apologise and ask, “What’s up?”. I immediately called him. At this point in the evening, we had already been told to go downstairs, lack of space, meant we went outside but we then told due to residents, we would have to go inside and use the rear garden area.

It was here that I started to actually take some more photos and noted that Katherine (Niko’s gorgeous girlfriend) had changed into more comfortable flip flops from her rather impressive high heeled stilettos. Girls, will be girls, so they had to get me take a few photographs to explain that this was very much a case of practicality over fashion.

Lan examines that high heel!Lan, Katherine & One Designer Shoe

As we were about to be thrown out of the pub, Niko invited me back around to his flat a minute’s walk around the corner for the after party! It was at this moment I decided to call Chris back and get a full update on the football. Some analysis, not just the name of the goalscorers but details of talking points in the games. This conversation was perhaps the only thing that was going to keep me going until sometime on Saturday afternoon. (The next opportunity I would have to sit down and catch highlights either on TV or PC.). It was great to hear from him again and I was glad he was better after a spout of bad health (although his friends do say his is stuck together with sticky tape).
At the after party, Niko’s brother Toby and his girlfriend Rupa, gave them their present. A photo of Pete Doherty kissing some other band member. I am sorry, I have to confess my lack of musical knowledge in this area, but am sure someone will point out who the guitar player is. (Just leave a comment!)

Present UnwrappingPete Doherty

Niko’s parents, whom live in Chorleywood, up the road from High Wycombe, so offered me a ride home. Otherwise, my Friday night would have ended quite prematurely at 11pm (my last train home was at midnight ten, but I needed to get to Marylebone from deep North London, perhaps another taxi ride). I had a really great time and it was great to meet Niko’s family and friends. He has always been good fun, particularly when we worked together. There are plenty of stories I could upload to this blog but I will leave them for another time.

We left around 1:30am and drove through London (which as you can expect at that time on a Friday night at the height of summer, was extremely busy. I fell asleep, it had been a long tiring day and I knew that tomorrow was another adventure (I was already almost two hours into the day). Niko’s Mum woke me up, asking for directions as we got to Handy Cross and I directed them to the bus stop closest to my house, thanked them gratefully for the lift and then headed home. It was around 2:15am and my weekend had just began.

I woke up around 8:30am on Saturday morning, I was buzzing. It was a mixture of a great Friday night and the promise of a weekend in Birmingham, meeting old friends and perhaps even catching a few moments of the World Cup action. My friend had originally planned to pick me up around 10:30am, and I was all set for this,b ut they were delayed, so were going to pick me up around 11am instead. While I watched, I put the Chris Brown MJ Tribute from the BET Awards (which had been screened Stateside the previous weekend). It was an amazing tribute and surprisingly different. I have had the privilege to see Chris perform Thriller at the World Music Awards back in November 2006. You can see how much he has improved as a performer and entertainer. Sure, I agree that he has done some bad things, but seeing him be so emotional when attempting to sing Man In The Mirror, I can only hope he is trying to make that change.

I had two albums for our drive up to the Midlands, I had got out from the garage (while getting my Cystal XBox) Teg’s a-ha H&D (Headline & Deadlines) Collection. This was one of the first albums that Pav had burnt for me, a personalised greatest hits of the Norwegian trio and included all the case artwork. My other album was a mixture of new songs I had recently heard on the radio and had been playing pretty much non-stop in my car. The drive up the M40 was uneventful, we stopped at Warwick services to get some water and I bought the T3 magazine. It was at this time, we decided that I should take over the driving, although maybe I made the decision more myself. The weather was amazing and apart from the humming from the roof rack (which was costing us an increase of two percent in fuel) I was enjoying the journey.  We put on Drake – Find Your Love and Nicki Minaj – Your Love (which takes a sample of Annie Lennox’s No More I Love You’s). We got to Birmingham just before 1pm, and after dropping of my friend I headed to find Sippy’s yard! I had my sister’s TomTom with me and knew from earlier Google Map searches that I would only have to travel a few miles.

As I entered the area, I came to the realisation that this was very much an Asian heartland, with the takeaways, corner shops and ethnic stores. It reminded a little of Green Street. No, not that Green Street in East London (which I have never been to) but Green Street in High Wycombe, which is the defacto Asian area in my home town. There were cars parked either side of the road and it was very difficult to get down the roads, so being the courteous driver I am, I let other drivers pass by first before attempting to head down. In only one instance did I get a wave of a hand or the nod of the head (the international driver’s code for thank you). As I headed down St. Paul’s Road, I called Sippy. He walked out of his house and met me outside the park. There was a massive community event taking place and the whole area was heaving. I had parked the car up at the end of the the road and followed Sippy to his gate and then he stayed there to ensure I could get in when bringing the car back down the road. Once I parked outside Sippy’s house, I took a long sigh of relief. Then I realised, that perhaps in a few hours I would have to go through the whole thing again!

When was the last time I saw Sippy? Well we tried to remember but it was sometime in late May 2004. In those interviewing six years, Sippy had got married and had a baby girl. It was great to see him again and we shared a Pepsi, (for the record Sippy had a Diet Pepsi) and I handed over the Crystal XBox, to a very happy new owner. Then it was down to the business at hand, transferring some avi files. I got Sippy to transfer over the MTV Movie Awards so he too could see Les Grossman save the awards ceremony. After it was time for some serious work, so we had both the MacBook Pro and iMac burning some DVDs. It was a geek paradise, as you will be able to tell from the photos over on FlickR. It will only be a small percentage of readers and I’m afraid to say the majority of them will be male that will be interested in the contents of Sippy’s network cupboard.

It was great to catch up with my old Uni friend. It had been too long, but then we do tend to get very busy in our own lives and forget some of our friends that in reality are not actually that far away (eighty odd miles). It was just a shame his wife and daughter Zahra were not around, as I was really looking forward to meeting them. However, you can imagne how stupid people must consider this blog post. The hottest day of the year, but instead of being outside enjoying the sunshine, I am inside getting copies of movies. Our time was soon up, I had only been granted a window of a few hours as Sippy had important places to be. I was thankfully for any time, particularly after a gap of over six years. Before I went, I had to work out how to take a self timer photo. The first two attempts I didn’t press hard enough on the shutter release (yes I know I’m sure you have heard it all before!) but third time lucky, I got the shot!

Teg & Sippy

It was coming to quarter to 3pm, as I left Sippy and headed onto the busy streets of Birmingham. I was taken a slightly different route by TomTom, so ended up driving through ford. (Yes the irony, a battered old Ford Focus, driving through a ford). There was a young girl, perhaps about four on the bridge with her Dad and she waved as I drove through the river, so I slowed the car down and waved at her as I then made my way up the bank back onto the main road. I got my bearings instantly and parked up before knocking on the door of my friend’s house.

To my surprise, they were watching the football and as I walked into the lounge, Germany scored! However, it was when I sat down on the sofa, I realised that even though there was a Sky+HD set-top box on, the channel was BBC1 SD, so I got them to change the channel to BBC HD and began to watch my first World Cup match in high definition. (Okay, there was one HD screen at Yates for England Germany the previous weekend, but I had been watching the big projector, so that does not count!)

After some delicious food, prepared by our hostess, I was able to settle down to the football. The man of the house had arrived and the ladies made themselves scarce (into the garden). Match 59 of this World Cup was turning out to be a classic. Germany turning over Argentina as if they were not there. Could it be an all European affair for the final?

We left pretty much at the final whistle and drove into the City Centre, first to New Street to drop off some friends at the stage (whom just made their train by the skin of their teeth, obviously they had not read my recent train related blog post.) We then drove around to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express which was on a one way system, but eventually we navigated to the car park. After checking in, we decided to go into town for a bit before grabbing some food.

As we entered by Tesco Metro to grab some desert and drinks, Spain scored against Paraguay. Luckily there were big screens showing the game live (only SD mind). I saw the replay and realised it was David Villa, top scorer now and odds on for the Golden Boot you would say.

Today was rather a relaxing day actually, a relatively late ish start after breakfast, heading into the Bull Ring, getting some clothes shopping done. I was surprised at how busy the shopping centre was at 11am, just as it had opened. Primark too, had been very busy during the “browsing” time, from 10:30am, even though the tills would not be active for another half an hour. While in H&M trying on cheapish sunglasses, I heard a beautiful song. I took note of just one word from the song, which I believed was the title. Listening to the song when I got home, I realised that this song was special. You get these songs from time to time (or maybe I just look too deep into the songs I listen to and it is all in my head). It was a song I felt was written for me, for my particular circumstances. This is not the first time, I have noted this and written about it on my blog. (With the band Sister Hazel from an entry from early April 2003.) The song is by Charice featuring I.Y.A.Z. and the title is Pyramid. (Check it out on YouTube. Oh and yes, she will be appearing as a guest star in the next season of Glee. I better get a wiggle on and watch the season finale.)

A light lunch at Bella Italia before cruising back down to Wycombe. I got home around 4pm. Rather than collapse on the sofa as I should have done (I could not have in any case, as both my sisters Julie and Natalie were lying on the sofas). I headed straight out to hoover my car and then give it a quick jet wash before, re-fuel and then get back home to relax. It had been a wonderful weekend and I was actually looking forward to the reality of work tomorrow morning.

Four walls and love, packin’ more than enough
Holding on to one another, be the cover when it’s rough
Mother nature or disaster
Won’t stop our happy ever after

Sunday 3rd August 2008

Yesterday was a rather lazy day, I did not do much really. Even though it started with so much promise. I got up very early and went to the Esso garage to check the pressure on my tires and then went over to ASDA to buy some toasties. I bumped into my old school friend Ryan on the George stand, putting out new stock of jeans. I had bumped into him a year ago and we had arranged to meet up but never got around to it. So I promised to text him when I got home and arrange something for the end of the week. When I got home, I watched TV for a while (Sonia Deol on BBC News) before jumping on my computer at around 10am. By midday I was tired and decided to have a little afternoon nap. I did not get up until 2.30pm and then in a mad panic, decided I had to get ready and actually make up for doing nothing for most of the day. I watched episode four of John Adams and then afterwards remembered that it was the weekend of the second ever Emirates Cup. I switched on the television to see Van Nistelrooy score the opening goal for Real Madrid but decided to come back later for he Arsenal match. The last match I had seen on the television of my beloved team was against Everton (the final home game) on the penultimate weekend of the season. It had been a long wait. You can read the match reports over on ArseBlog or Arsenal.con.

Before the game finished, I had to get ready and head out the door. I wanted to leave by 6pm and I was a few minutes past this deadline. I drove across to Reading and parked in The Oracle. I then walked across to the Hope Tap (when I eventually worked out where it was but was surprised to find no one in there). So I text Pav and decided to wait for him to arrive before headed up the road to Xen. He text me that their ETA was three minutes and twelve seconds, how more precise can you get than that? Everyone else was already there and had even ordered their meals and had been served their starter. We had the long table to the side of the restaurant and the only seat left for me was at the end. Next to Nicola’s twin brother, Dan and opposite Toni. My first time in this triple header restaurant (they do Indian, Thai and Japanese food) and it was a very good experience. Prompt, attentive but discreet service, that is how a restaurant should be run. I hate to be over pestered. After the wonderful meal we headed downstairs to the bar. We had a few drinks here before headed over to Bar Mango. As we walked past Bar Risa, they tried to get us in with the temptation of free entry. Andy (quite drunk already at this point) said, “Sorry, on the guest list at Mango” and we all burst out laughing! There was a bit of confusion in the queue when we did get over there, we left Eddie to deal with the bouncer. We were on the guest list and pay only a fiver to get in. They could hardly turn us away, the place was dead. Eventually after a phone call, mobile phone with text message confirmation and explaining that we our birthday boy with us. Once this became clear, that we were a birthday party, we were allowed in. At the bar, Eddie was very generous, he bought two bottles of champagne and we headed to the side of the dancefloor. We were here for awhile before venturing outside onto the terrace bar area. I had never been here during the summer months and the area is quite restricted in window as the smoking area. However, now there was a bar and small dance area, with tables and chairs. Plus an area on the side for a barbeque. It was like I had come into a new club with a new room. It was here we spent the rest of the night. If I am honest, I was not hoping to make it too much of a late night, but the tunes just kept getting played. Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics was a particular highlight. Every moment I thought I would leave, another cracking tune was dropped by the DJ and I had to stick around for a little dance. I eventually left at around 1.30am and got home at 2.15am. Great night out, just a shame I had to rush off but I knew I had so much to do on Sunday.

Somehow I dragged myself out of bed and got to the gym around 7.40am, I was the third person through the doors and spoke to Matt briefly before starting my program. The issue with the dedicated news channel has changed once again back to Sky News. Not sure why they have done that but never mind, perhaps they just fancied a change for a week. My weight programme is hard but I am slowly getting used to it, particularly the new machines and the new routine in terms of the order, to make sure I do not work all my upper body muscles too quickly. My next review will be in about a month but I think I will just increase my cardio programme but leave my weights as they are and perhaps add in a free weight programme.

Have you seen the Sky Sports trail for the new football season featuring Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalists eScalla? My friend Terry has a big crush on one of the blondes. Must say it is one of the better adverts in recent years, just consider the recent cast. Rachel Stevens, with “More More More”, Elton John with “Are You Ready For Love” are the only two that come to mind instantly. Can you remember any others recently?

I watched Vantage Point tonight (I was not in the mood for Wall-E but perhaps made the wrong decision). It was a good movie but I expected more. It was similar to the movie Go, which I saw during my first year at Uni. Interesting and a good way to burn away my Sunday evening. The plot was clever to begin with but then eventually you realise what is going to happen and then you do not really care for the ending. In fact you do not really care about the characters that much either. Plus, it was annoying to have scenes in Spanish with no subtitles. Come on people, sort it out! I remember seeing the trailer at the cinema, earlier this year and although the action scenes looked impress the story was pretty pathetic. (They should not have revealed the main twist in the trailer, big no no Mr. Director and Mr. Producer!)

I got a lift back home with one of my colleagues in his black 55 plate, Mazda RX8. It was my first time in this type of vehicle with the unique rotary engine. I was extremely disappointed, yes it was quick but when my colleague put his foot down, it sound tinny electronic and fake (even worse than the V-Tec you find on Honda Civic Type-R. In fact, I was more impressed with the digital dashboard display, the LEDs shown the speed. I have something similar, but far less elegant with my Micro RoadPilot.

Development continues to bring streaming option to the iPlayer script on XBMC. RMTP support is available on XBMC on Linux and Windows but not yet the device the media centre was designed for. I keep a regular, almost daily check on this thread to find out the latest news. While I wait for that to be released, I found a Windows based application that enables you to download iPlayer video DRM free to watch at your leisure (beyond the thirty day limit). It can be found over on the fantastic blog Po-Ru. I have tested the software and it is quite reliable, you get the Programme ID from the iPlayer website, enter it into the dialog box and hit download, set the file location and job done. The files are saved as mov (QuickTime) and the quality is acceptable, after all the files are designed to be viewed on an iPod or iPhone. I think this will do nicely while the geeks and nerds sort out the script or plugin for the XBox.

Wednesday 9th April 2008

I have been using the BBC iPlayer since launch on Christmas Day but had a request. A killer script for the XBMC (the product formerly known as Xbox Media Centre – great new web site) to enable the programmes to be downloaded (or streamed) to my television screen. I had a hunt around on the various forums and although there was a lively request thread (started on 28th June, during the beta testing) nothing had materialised. I thought I would check again today, during my lunch hour and low and behold, a genius has created the script and put it live for anyone to download. So, of course I downloaded the zip file and loaded it straight onto my machine when I got back from the gym tonight. It works a treat! Sure, you have to wait for the video files to download (4 odd minutes for a 15 minute episode of Torchwood Declassified) but it is worth the wait and the quality is not too bad (although nowhere as good as Apple Quicktime trailers.) The video quality from Albert Square is never something that will bother me, even when I watch catchup episodes streamed on my PC. The king is making sure you follow the plot, not the sparkle on Pat Butcher’s earrings. Check out some screen shots a lovely chap has uploaded to FlickR. On a similar topic, the Nintendo Wii now can stream content from the iPlayer. I am sure it will only be a matter of time, the XBMC community work out a way to take a look under the hood of this avenue and port it over to the Xbox. Apart from the delay in waiting for programmes to download, this has to be one of the best scripts to have been released for XBMC. Now, when I miss a show, I can get my XBox to download it and watch it later.

What else have I been up to? Well it is week two in my new get fit routine. It is going well, not too bad. I feel a bit better but I believe the dramatic improvements will come over time. Particularly as my programme will be reviewed every two weeks. It was quite scary this evening to see a big bulky guy spend over thirty minutes on the rowing machine at level 10, while I was set to level five and struggled to complete my ten minutes (still a few meters short of breaking the 2000 barrier). Then, while on my final piece of equipment, the treadmill, I looked across at a guy wearing the Arsenal away shirt (very brave considering last night) and his time was ticking past fifty-five minutes. I just about manage fifteen minutes, I do not think I could stomach a whole hour of running (at quite a high speed). I am a long long way from reaching the physical peakness of these fellow gym users but I am on the right track. Just remember, making it to every session is a victory in itself. I have another session tomorrow night and then a fitness test Sunday lunchtime. Based on my performance, my programme will be adapted. Then I think I will have to spend a least a month building it up. Beyond that, I just do not know.

My weekend plans did involve Tazza coming over from East London and spending the day in Wycombe with him but he has to attend a TA weekend. It is a shame, as I have not seen him in over a year as we both have been really busy. No trouble, I think it will be a quiet weekend, I will get a few books from the library and also enjoy watching Doctor Who. Oh, and then I get back from the gym, there is the small matter of a football match in the North West.

Thursday 20th March 2008

The Beeb have been doing a fantastic series charting the build up to the Iraq war in ten minute episodes on BBC2 over the past week. They take the view point of variety of different ‘characters’ with time running out before the actual invasion begins. After being screened, they are debated over on Newsnight with Paxo on excellent form! If you have missed any, you can catch them on the godsend that is the iPlayer. Right, where is this all going? Well the fact that it was five years ago this week that Tony Blair appeared on our television screens to inform us Allied troops had cross in from Kuwait, made me wonder. What was I doing five years ago? Well thanks to the magic power of this blog, I can easily find out. I can go back to this week, in 2003. So let us take a trip down memory lane and see what I was up do (did I even mention the war?).

I was in Milton Keynes on Tuesday, linking in to what I was doing five years ago (in a strange way) as I would commute to Bedford during my placement year. My journey back was cross country and tonight I redid that journey and relived all those memories. I was coming up to junction thirteen on the M1 but heard on the radio (thank you Traffic Announcement) that both the M25 and M1 were busy, so I opted to take my old drive home. It is quite a scenic route and I think I should pop over to Google Maps and actual detail the extent of my journey. As you can imagine, this will not something I can do very quickly. I have started, I just need to finish it off, please bear with me.

On Wednesday I tried to get tickets for Arsenal versus Reading (a match I went to last season). However, even though I logged into the box office a good hour before tickets went on sale at 9.30am, I was unable to secure any tickets. Even late last night, speaking to Terry via MSN, I was unable to purchase tickets via the TicketExchange service for Everton, Liverpool or Reading. Even though there were seats up for grabs. I give up. I suppose going back to being an arm chair fan is not such a bad thing. I suppose I will have to wait for next season, but even then I think Red membership has become far too oversubscribed and only a handful of members are getting access to tickets. It really is a sorry state of affairs when I cannot get a ticket against Reading (effectively my local Premiership team).

One of my colleagues had arranged to take a look around a local gym, sorry health club and asked if I wanted to come along. We had talked for the past few years about joining the gym and getting fit. (More so for him, as the alcohol and cigarettes are likely to send him to an early grave.) I need to get fit, particularly if I want to live to see seventy three when I can finally become a season ticket holder at Ashburton Grove. So after work we drove down the ten minutes to Castle Royle on the Bath Road. It is a place I drive past regularly when heading to Reading and have always been curious to take a look inside. We arrived a little early but were greeted by Becky and taken around to the cafe area. We were given some forms to fill in before our tour. We declined being shown inside the men’s changing rooms and headed down the corridor, looking through the window at the pool. Then up some stairs to the entrance to the gym. Before we entered we were shown charts detailing the peak periods for each work day. A busy period was about thirty members using the gym, when my colleague and I had estimated it almost twice that at peak periods. As Becky continued to explain various benefits of memberships, an old man walked past me and Becky opened the door for him. I did not see his face, just he back of his head. When the door was closed, my colleague smirked that it was ITV Sport’s one and only Jim Rosenthal. Although, as he was dropped from Champions League coverage earlier in the year, he will be spending plenty more time in the gym! Becky then went to explain the other celebrity members, Debbie McGee and Becca (local Windsor girl, Ali Bastian) from Hollyoaks. This truly was the hard sell from The Club Company rep, having to let us know the other members we were likely to bump into. After our tour we were taken back to the cafe seated and the negotiations began. I think my colleague worked Becky down to a good bargain, plus there are some relative good get out clauses in terms of any contract. As we left, my colleague could only do one thing. Light up some roll up tobacco! Classic! Talk about start as you mean to go on. We discussed the deal and I said I would get back to him tomorrow, after I had looked over the literature we had been given.

Pav was busy last weekend, very busy. Want to know what he got up to? With plenty of graphic detail and photograph evidence? Go ahead, knock yourself out! Yes, there is just over a week to go until I drop my car over for my detail. Preparations have been made and a full list has been made. The beauty this time is Pav has a year’s experience under his belt but also better tools, particularly a new rotary polisher (I do not know the full details, but I am sure he will remind me). So expect another write up on Monday 31st March, including a full paint reading chart or print out!

What is your favourite super hero movie? I am sure I have asked the question before and given my own definitive answer. For me, there is no question, it is Superman II. However, until very recently I was unaware of all the controversy that surrounded the production of this first sequel. It was only a few years ago, perhaps one Christmas when I watched the DVD that I noticed a goof towards the end. In the Fortress of Solitude, it was clear it was not the actor Gene Hackman on the screen but a body double plus terrible voiceover. It when I was reading up online about the release of The Ultimate Superman Collection which would included, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. I did not get the collection for Christmas or my birthday and have never got around to buying it myself. Last year sometime, Pav mentioned he had downloaded a DivX rip and that it was a completely different movie to the theatrical release. He promised to past it on to me, but for some reason we never got around to it. It was on his FTP at one point but I think I was too busy leeching down Heroes or Bionic Woman to get around to it. So this week, I bit the bullet and decided to download a torrent myself. It took me most of this week, with the final 12% taking over eight hours with an average download rate of 0.4kbit/s (I kid you not!) However, I did eventually get the file and decided to watch the movie tonight, straight after Eastenders. (Although originally I had been hoping to save myself until tomorrow evening but the excitement was too much).

The Donner movie is far superior to the Lester version, even though it is a patch work piece using screen tests and archive footage. Sure, to complete the movie there is still twenty percent Lester footage in this cut but it is more true to the original director’s vision. I do not want to give away too much, you will just have to get the DVD, watch for yourself and make up your own mind. If you are a true movie buff (like me) you might even go and read an essay of comparison. However, I cannot finish without mentioning my favourite moment. (A Donner scene which survived the cutting room floor to make it into the final theatrical cut).

Clark, now with his powers restored as Superman, goes to the diner and confronts Rocky, who is more than willing to pick a fight with him. Much to everyone’s surprise, this strange, young man handles the bullying customer like a little child, eventually felling him across the counter and sending him crashing into the pinball machine, knocking him unconscious. Clark then offers to pay the owners of the diner for the damage. With those around wondering how the stranger was able to beat the bully, Clark simply replies: “Oh, I’ve been… working out.”

Sunday 30th December 2007

Went to see I Am Legend with my cousin-in-law yesterday evening. I booked two tickets for the Empire up the road, opting to walk rather than trek over to Reading. While we could have caught a later showing I preferred to go before the crowds begin to gather, so chose the 6pm screening. (This was the first time I had been to my local multiplex since watching the final Star Wars movie, Revenge Of The Sith on Friday 20th May 2005. That is 953 days or two years, seven months and nine days. After the screening I remembered why I always drive twenty odd miles to Vue.) The film is good and at times very good but we cannot expect too much with just a solitary, survivor on the screen for so long. Nevertheless, well worth going to see. Will Smith gives a great performance and it was good to have the story told in flashback, rather than the story being told right at the beginning as an explanation for the story. While I am not a fan of the horror genre, this is more suspense and jumpy than anything else. The ending and the third act for the most part is quite poor in relation to the first half of the movie but even so, it is a good movie and I would recommend you go to the cinema to watch it.

The movie makers can have fun with the audience because unlike many other films (such as I, Robot) the story takes place in the not to distant future (2012). The highlight in the movie for me, is Will Smith driving through Broadway and all the posters around. One in particular has drawn a fair share of blog postings. They may put it down, as complete fiction but reality is, there are a big fan of movie goers that would love to see The Man of Steel pitted against The Dark Knight.

I downloaded the iPlayer in the early hours of Saturday morning. I had missed the Friday visit to Albert Square so thought I would catch up. Rather than stream the soap online, I opted to download the iPlayer download manager and watch the episode offline. It took only ten minutes or so for the 160mb to download. Although on one page it was listed as 300mb download. After watching the show, I realised I no longer need to watch live television apart from football on Sky. I can download episodes from BBC or Channel 4 (they use similar software) and watch later. A little searching around the web, you discover how bad the iPlayer (then called myBBCPlayer) was during the beta testing phase earlier in the year. In the summer, there were generally positive reviews as most of the bugs had been ironed out. I of course would love to see the iPlayer integrated into the XBox Media Center, the guys are working on it. However, there are some major draw backs. There is no news or weather, which I am not that bothered about. I have a FreeView card, I can watch BBC News 24 and Sky News whenever I like. Sport is the real loss. This is due to some complicated rights issue, so no Match Of The Day or Football Focus. While I have Sky Sports News, it is not the same as listening to the Alan, Alan, Gary, Lawro and Manish in the studio. However there are more sinister powers at work here. The software is close to spy ware as it leaves a process (KService.exe) running in the background (even with you exit the download manager) so you are still uploading any content in your download folder. You can eventually, with some hacks stop this from happening (killing the process once only works until you reboot). If you want to learn more you can go and read the buzzing thread over at Digital Spy. A more balanced and positive review is over at Andy Hollyhead’s blog. I agree with his summary, a good catchup service in case you miss any programmes you watch on a regular basis. For me, this will be the visit to E20. I occasionally miss the odd episode when there is football on the other side or I am out at the cinema on a Friday night.

Final planning for my ski trip this week. Off to Portsmouth to get my final bits on either Thursday or Friday (undecided yet). Then party Friday night, no time for sleep, load the car and head over to Gatwick. However, I must end with a quote from the 6-0-6 message boards over at the Beeb. “The Gunners went through that Everton team like a spoon through soggy Weetabix”. Classic!

Tuesday 18th December 2007

I have been a fan of blogs at the Beeb for a while (look back to late March last year). However, I am totally addicted to the BBC Internet blog as it celebrates ten years of the corporation web services, giving an insight into the development hurdles faced to bring the Beeb online. The most interesting article (so far) was posted today by the man that registered the BBC dot co dot uk domain name. Funny how you do not think that the site which I use as my homepage (as I am sure millions of other people do across the planet) actually did start somewhere. Only occasionally do I go back and look at old pages that I linked to from 2002 in my blog but the Beeb web presence, started long before then. The BBC Internet Blog is a fantastic read and I must say for the true techie, it is reverting. The added weight of having contributions from all the big hitters from the Future Media team.

Typical, just as you get into a television series (okay, a few months late) and spend a whole week playing catch up, you discover that the show has been cancelled and the thirteen episode stint maybe the last. I watched episode twelve tonight (after the football) and it was fantastic. Such a shame there will not be a second series, most likely because it is not macho enough and the body count is low!

Tuesday 4th December 2007

Would not normally be having a race with Pav on a Tuesday morning. I would normally be pestering him to put the latest episode of Heroes onto his FTP site ready for me to download. This morning however, I decided to leave him alone and downloaded the avi file myself. Although it took me a while to find a genuine copy available. We used the same torrent, and even though he started forty-five minutes after me, his download finished over thirty minutes before. I had an average transfer rate of 60kbit/s, where has he has 300k. Bubble alerts in XP can be very annoying, but this bubble from uTorrent confirms the torrent file download is complete. Just a shame I had to wait some forty minutes later for my bubble!

Download Complete

When I got home from work that evening, around 6.30pm, I had an e-mail in my Hotmail (correction, MSN Live Mail). This was strange, an e-mail from Pav, with the subject “One for da blog”. There was an attachment, two in fact. The body of the e-mail was short. Three simple words. These arrived today. If I ever thought I was not going on holiday next month, that illusion was shattered with the delivery of these tickets. In fact in exactly one month’s time, I will be at a birthday party at Island Bar in Caversham, before then at the end of the night, getting ready to drive down to Gatwick for the flight to Innsbruck Airport, while of course I wish we were landing at Salzburg Airport which is named after the city’s number one son, Mozart.

Ski Tickets

That links us to the topic of music. On my drive back from Guildford this afternoon, I was pondering what to listen to. As I pulled out of York Road car park, the traffic was quite heavy, so I had time, while sitting there to choose my album for the stereo. For some reason I decided I was in the mood for some garage. I had last really spoken about garage music on the phone to Dave. It was making a come back of sorts but under the re-branding of UKG (please, who thought that one up?). I bought the Pure Garage Platinum album back in April 2003 from HMV in Slough if my memory serves me correctly. I converted the three disc album into a single MP3 CD and gave the box set to my sister, Samantha. Listening to the songs and aided by a scrap of paper (which lists my favourite track from each directory (effectively disc) it brought back some fond memories of 2000. My first year at University. My favourite song is Imagine by Shola Ama, but I also found a new song Something by Amar featuring MC Rankin. Also it was a great opportunity to test out the power of the new sound system. Amar performed at the BBC Electronic Proms two months ago and is featured on Timbaland’s album Shockvalue.

BBC Electric Proms: Amar

My route home, was relatively cross country up to Bracknell. Here I joined the A329(M) before heading onto the M4 towards London (westbound). As I took the exit to get onto the M4, I noticed the heavy traffic at a standstill underneath me, but it was too late to change lane. I had to bite the bullet. It was not too bad. We were stationary for a few minutes, then made steady progress for a mile before stopping again. Then a few minutes later we started moving again. There was no evidence of an accident, so I just assume it was ‘sheer’ wait of traffic as we constantly hear on the radio. (Apart from Teg because he cannot get any reception on any band!) While on the motorway, I switched to one of my drive time CDs. I have been burning music albums for myself for the past eight years, but to date, I have only ever created one complete album. This album I call, “Drivetime” and spans two disc. The idea behind this album was two fold, firstly predominately music to listen to in the car, secondly (and here is the clever bit) to have a song from three decades. I stuck with 80s, 90s and 00s. This worked perfectly and enables for a track listing that just works and does not conflict. One of the tracks on this album, was Walking Away by Craig David. The perfect song for the way I felt and memories of the music video, as David walks out of his 4×4 and walks through the traffic on a busy road in London. (Readers Stateside might be a bit lost as they had a completely different version!) However, the song was right for the moment, not for right now. So this time around my posting ends with lyrics from another song, which I listened to at least four times this evening.

Imagine If I Told You That I Want You
Imagine If It All Came True
Tell Me What You Would Do With Me
Would You Tell Me That You Feel The Same
Imagine If I Told You That I Need You
Would You Say Baby I Need You Too
No Matter What You Do
I Know You Should Be In Love With Me

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