Saturday, November 30, 2013

Crossing The Thin White Line

I've written frequent posts about Nigella on this blog. Originally because I quite like the cake-making queen of tease and then later because I was quite happy to acknowledge that she was good for my stats. Even now "Nigella Lawson hot" is one of my biggest referral terms and with her name once more in the headlines I'm receiving more hits than usual.

Are these new visitors seeking edification and information? Or just a nice picture of the curvy brunette spilling o-er her cups? I suspect the latter but that's by the by.

I kind of feel I owe Nigella's current predicament some kind of comment even though I'm sure she would rather I kept my nose out of it (no joke intended) as at the end of the day the accusations of cocaine abuse are nothing at all to do with me.

But of course this hasn't stopped the world and his dog offering a multitude of opinions on what are as yet unproven accusations by her embittered and estranged husband. Do you think he might be biased in his attempts to discredit her?

Part of me thinks that this story is not at all in the public interest. What goes on behind the closed doors of a marriage should stay behind those closed doors. But then I daresay Mr Saatchi would like to have used the same argument when the infamous throttling story hit the headlines. Though of course he did this in a public place not in the privacy of his own home. Or should that be "allegedly as well as"? And to be honest, domestic violence should never remain hidden away in the dark where it can be allowed to grow and spread like a virulent fungus.

But being a public figure, of course, makes almost anything at all that happens to a celeb "in the public interest". For me the idea of "public interest" has long taken on a moral dubiety but we'll leave that aside.

I hope the accusations of Nigella's cocaine use are false. I haven't read them, I must admit, or even watched the news. And yet somehow, via social media and gossip, the gist of the story has spread. I find it hard to believe that a ten year cocaine habit could have gone unnoticed and gone uncommented upon for so long. Mr Saatchi claims he has only just found out. What a truly dreadful husband he must be then. (1) Nigella turns to drugs (I surmise) to make life with him more bearable, (2) he's so dreadful he doesn't even notice and then (3) he increases his dreadfulness by bringing it to the attention of the tabloids and throws the kids into the mix at the same time. What a wonderful husband and father he must be. Even if we could waive aside the sundry acts of domestic violence.

Cocaine is a distasteful drug. It makes arseholes out of all who use it and bigger arseholes out of those who are already arseholes. Nigella has never struck me as being an arsehole. Of course, I could be wrong - I don't know her after all - and chasing the white rabbit could validate the myth of Nigella's constant munchie-runs to the fridge for midnight snacks as perpetuated by her many cookery programmes.

But I'm hoping Mr Saatchi just can't tell his icing sugar from his Esnortiar. Despite being married to Nigella for years he doesn't strike me as the kind of man who spends much time in the kitchen but would certainly have seen talcum powder being smudged across a glass topped coffee table from time to time. Any white powder at all is going to produce a big knee-jerk reaction from him.

Personally, next time I would recommend he try Tetramethylenedisulfotetramine.

After all, if Nigella has a rat in her kitchen, what's she gonna do?

Friday, November 22, 2013

I’m Gonna Text You Up

So. New phone. Nokia Lumia 510.

My first ever smartphone. Email. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Skydrive. All in one place. I’m loving the sense of centralized connectedness. All these different ways of communicating with people literally at my fingertips.

Decent contract too given my traditional parsimonious nature when it comes to mobile phones. I get 500 minutes, 750mb of date and 5000 texts all for just £10 a month.

The data I might use – browsing, downloading apps, updating blogs and feeds, etc. The 500 minutes… hmm, doubtful but you never know when you might need to have a long conversation with someone.

But 5000 texts?

I must admit that had me rolling my eyes.

5000 texts per month?!

Who sends 5000 texts a month? That’s (on average) 166 texts a day! What can you possibly find to write about so frequently on a daily basis? Apart from sending someone a novel a line at a time?

“Hello, just sending you a text.”

“Hi again. Just me. Just another text.”

“Did you get my last text?”

“Not my last text but the text before that?”

“This is just a text to check that you’re getting my texts.”

“Please text a reply.”

“If you’re able. If you want to.”

“No pressure.”

“Have you run out of texts? You really ought to go to Tesco. They give you 5000 a month.”

“That’s 5000 texts.”

“Which is a lot of texting.”


“Actually my finger is really hurting now. Do you mind if I just ring you instead?”

I don’t think I have ever sent 5000 texts in my entire life. Let alone in a month. And now I have an allocation. I kind of feel morally obliged to honour it. To share the minutia of my life with some as yet unnamed other in my address book as frequently as possible until they get so sick of hearing from me that they stop acknowledging my very existence.

Rather akin to blogging.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Before you start sending bouquets of flowers and high class hookers to my hospital bed can I just point out at this point that I am not, in actual fact, having an MRI scan, I am not hospitalized and as far as I am aware I am pretty damned healthy?

That being said I am sure there are a great many of you who would be glad to accompany me to the hospital should an MRI scan ever be called for purely out of curiosity to see what the hell showed up on the results.

Some TV science programme earlier this year (actually, scrub that, it might have been The One Show) pointed out the startling fact that MRI scanners need helium to work. And helium is a very limited resource on this planet. It is incredibly finite and compared to other resources available to us helium is pretty darn rare. Worst of all, once we have liberated helium from the planet's core (or wherever it is hiding), if we don't make careful and painstaking attempts to contain and hold onto it, it tends to float up and up into the upper atmosphere and then free itself from all bonds of gravity and drift off into outer space where it is lost forever.

Forget oil, we are going to run out of helium pretty darn soon.

Now, I was in a greeting card shop the other day and like most card shops, the entrance was festooned with helium filled balloons. Loads of them.

And I couldn't help but feel a sense of chagrin at the foolishness of the human species.

MRI scans are a great technological leap. We finally have a non-invasive method for diagnosing whether invasive surgery is necessary without having to undertake invasive surgery to prove or disprove it. MRI scanners need helium to work. As a planet we don't have much helium in the universal scheme of things. And we are pumping tonnes of the stuff every day into little rubber bags that are then batted about at children's birthday parties or inhaled so that unfunny dads and uncles can perform a brief and unconvincing Chipmunk impression in the vain hope that their peers will see them as being on a par with Jim Carrey.

This is madness, surely? Stupidity, even.

So I did the only sane thing I could do.

I bought all the balloons. And then I moved onto another greetings cards shop and bought all theirs too. I'm going out again today. Quite where I'm going to store them all, I don't know, and the cats are already freaked out by all the bloated Mickey Mouses that are currently bobbing their way around the living room.

All I know is, when you or someone close to you needs an MRI scan in the (hopefully distant) future and the helium has all run out... you will know where to come. Sure, I'll charge you for it. I hate Disney so I'm paying a high price here for your future medical insurance. And, of course, I'll hold back my own personal supply.

And when, one day, I have my own MRI scan and you accompany me to see what is bubbling away inside my head, well, you'll be blown away by the sheer amount of business acumen.

That's if you can't see it already.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Knight Rider 2013

It is a well-known fact that the average domestic washing machine has more processing power than NASA’s Voyager 1 space probe. And it struck me the other day as I watched my boys play on their Nintendo DS’s that it must surely follow that there is probably more computing power in those annoying little games consoles than the original producers of Knight Rider could have ever envisaged for their crime fighting super car, Kitt, in the 1980s.

And then my own internal CPU got to working… What would happen if we brought Kitt bang up to date with modern computing technology (and conveniently ignored the fact that some daft producer in the US actually already did that in 2008)? Would Michael Knight and Kitt actually benefit from modern social networking and broadband Wi-Fi?

“Kitt, I need all you got on Mr Big – prison records, Interpol logs, all known connections to any terrorist cells!”

“Sorry, Michael, I’m playing Angry Birds on Facebook. How about if I PM him and see if he gets back to us?”

“Goddamn it, Kitt, I need that information now!”

“[Sigh] OK, Michael. I’ll Poke him.”

Or what about:

“OK, Kitt, let’s get Mr Crimelord down to the precinct. He’s gonna be banged up for twenty or my name’s not Michael Knight!”

“Sorry, Michael, I refuse to help you arrest that man.”


“He’s one of my connections on LinkedIn. I need him to endorse me for crime fighting and high speed car chases.”

“So in his case you’re not going to fight crime so that he can endorse you for fighting crime?”

“That does not compute. Screw you, Michael. I’m going to Tweet that you’re a pedantic, crime-ist asshole.”

Or what about during a high speed car chase and Michael presses the much loved (and completely over used) Turbo Boost button?

“Come on, Kitt, let’s go – Turbo Boost!”

[Nothing happens]

Michael presses the button repeatedly and furiously. “What’s happening? Turbo Boost! Turbo Boost!”

[Still nothing happens]

Michael starts hammering the Turbo Boost button with his fist. “Jesus – the bridge is out! I need that Turbo Boost now Kitt! What the hell’s going on?”

“Sorry, Michael. Please be patient. I’m buffering.”


The imaginary world of my teen-hood would have been so disappointingly different if I knew then what I know now.

Tune in again next week when I’ll pitch an idea to bring Baywatch bang up to date utilizing spy satellite technology…

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Giff Guff

I really loathe mobile phone companies.

Which, given the ubiquitous nature of the mobile phone and mobile phone technology, is pretty much akin to announcing that I loathe modern day life itself.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my departure from Vodafone when they essentially cut me off without a by-your-leave or thank-you because I hadn’t deigned to make any chargeable calls within a strangely random 3 month period. This despite my original purchase of a £90 phone precisely so I could go onto their  ”pay as you go” service plan which, to my mind, means it’s entirely up to me whether I make any calls or not. Stuff what is says in the small print.

Due to Vodafone’s subsequent offhand treatment of my plight I decided to take my custom elsewhere. I won’t say “valued custom” because, if I’m honest, no one is going to make a million quid out of me if I only make one call every 6 months but that’s not the point. I’m an occasionally paying customer and no business in its right mind should turn down the opportunity to make even a little bit of dosh.

The question was where. Vodafone was the only devil I’d known for the last decade; how did I choose amongst the others?

The recommendation came back: GiffGaff.

It looked promising.

Someone even gave me a GiffGaff SIM card. All I needed to do was activate it online, choose my payment plan and away I could go to not make as many calls as I wanted.

Only it’s been an epic fail.

GiffGaff won’t accept any of my credit cards. Payment is refused every time (I have made 9 attempts to date). There is money in my account. Everything seems hunky-dory at the big banking end. There is no reason for the refusal.

I have left messages online for the gaffers at GiffGaff (ironically there isn’t a phone number to call them on) but their electronic response has been hugely disappointing: “unresolved”.

That was it. That was their response. Unresolved. Well, I could have told them that. What I was looking for was “resolution…”

I put it to you that after 9 attempts to give someone my money and have it thrown back into my face I am within my rights – if not my sanity – to give them the finger.

GiffGaff you have fallen at the first hurdle. Goodbye.

I’m off to Tesco instead.

I’ll bet they take my money and say thank you for it with a nice (but knowingly avaricious) smile.

But that’s OK. That’s good enough for me. That does the job.

As Tesco say: every little helps.

Because at the end of the day they wisely know that it’s the little bit that doesn’t help that can and will cost you somebody’s custom.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

When Will They Ban Facebook?

I used to loathe Facebook.

I'd sneer at it. Snarl at it. Use it sparingly, use it begrudgingly and know that I was being a hypocrite.

It seemed to embody the worst of social media: aggrandizing the trivial; making monoliths of minutia. It encouraged its users to market themselves as "social product" whose worth was tied into the value of their status.

I saw it as evidence of society's degeneracy; proof that any promise of revolution was being bought off with the sop of funny pictures, in-jokes, soft porn and distracting memes while Rome burnt beyond the little bubble of our individual internet connections.

Maybe though that was just me? Maybe I was only seeing the pretty lights on the surface; the Angry Birds, the Photoshopped pictures of celebs, the wool over my eyes?

Frequently when I log into Facebook now I am pleasantly surprised at how politicized it is. My updates are rife with international satire, news of causes, plights and global injustice. There are petitions. There is shared outrage. There is a sense of movement and speaking out. Of things not being allowed to be swept under the carpet. Illegal evictions in Kenya appear alongside stories of dodgy banking deals in the UK and the yet further developments of Operation Yewtree.

Somehow Facebook has become a news source.

Again, maybe that's just me?

Facebook, like anything I suppose, can be as trivial or an meaningful as the individual makes it.

I can't believe I'm going to say this but, thanks to Facebook - or rather thanks to those who use it - I feel a little more world-aware than I have been for a long time. I'm not saying I'm suddenly an activist with a balaclava and a wine bottle filled with petrol... but that little bubble of my internet connection seems wider and a little more all-encompassing than it once was.

As clich├ęd as it is: I feel connected. Connected with people who are as dissatisfied as me.

On Facebook we snarl now at a politicians. Take our celebs to task. Castigate lazy and misinformed (and misinforming) journalists. Share the traumas of people in far away countries that we will never meet but whose trauma touches us. People are speaking out. Shouting. Demanding.

Maybe society isn't as degenerate as I feared?

But I worry.

Despite the appalling behaviour of our journalists the conclusions of the Leveson Enquiry are, nevertheless, a blow for freedom of speech. Yes, there need to be checks and balances but the press also needs a certain amount of freedom to pursue those in power who are doing us wrong. I worry that as the gags start to be applied, where will it end?

Social media - our voice - is already no longer as free and unfettered as it once was. People have got into legal trouble on Twitter and elsewhere.

How long before the censors start carving up what we can and can't satirize on Facebook? How long before they stop us sharing information, our stories, our opinions, our Photoshopped pictures of David Cameron morphed into Iggle-piggle?

How long before the powers-that-be ban Facebook altogether?

Do we really want to go back to a blinkered life playing Angry Birds while the politicians and corporations stalk the streets outside armed with fire brands and petrol?