Friday, August 10, 2007

Please allow me to introduce myself

Well, I know it’s been a long time since I last wrote on here but I’m not sure introductions are completely necessary, given I’m on first name terms with my small, yet loyal readers of these pages. Of course, there may be a few new people visiting here for the first time. If this is the case, pull up a virtual chair and be prepared for some random musings, rants and general rubbish. And remember, this virtual experience can be recreated in person at your nearest pub for the low, low price of a few pints (travel expenses not included).

So, as you can imagine by my absence that I’ve been somewhat busy of late. That and suffering from terminal laziness, so this place has been a little neglected. Still, a quick spring clean, a throw and a few cushions will make it look as good as new. Sorry about the smell.

I’ve been at a loose end this week, which reflects the end of a game project. After some hectic weeks and late nights, everything is pretty much done and dusted bar the odd bug. The least satisfying part of ending a project is the sense of anti-climax (no pun intended). Projects tend to just fizzle out. Often there’ll be a handful of people left ironing out the last few problems while you’re moved on to your next game. By the time the announcement is made that it’s officially over, you’re left shrugging your shoulders since as far as you are concerned it finished weeks, if not months, ago.

So, stuck in the limbo of not quite finished but next to nothing to do this week, boredom finally pushed me to do something that I’d resisted for a long time.

I joined Facebook.

Of course, it wasn’t just boredom that precipitated this move. I was bribed/blackmailed into it with the promise of pictures of female friends wearing very little at Pride last weekend. No problem, I’ll sign up, have a quick look at the pics and be on my merry way, thought I. But no, it wasn’t that simple. My friend, like a pusher giving out a free rock of crack, knew that once I’d had a taste, I’d be back for more. I should have just nicked his camera instead.

My profile was diligently filled out, pictures added and friends searched for and duly invited. Add-ons added, quizzes taken and games played. I could see what music friends were listening to, At That Very Moment!, films that they were watching, books they were reading, places they'd visited and trawl through the many, many photographs that they had added. Once bored of all this, I’d still be clicking on my page to see if anyone had sent me a new message or done anything interesting in the 10 seconds since I last checked. Even sat in the pub I’d be tempted to have a quick browse on my phone and see what other people were doing. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve checked while writing this.

Oh, someone’s just added ‘Princess Mononoke’ to their favourite movies list.

The ‘wall’ feature is an easy way to chat to friends by adding a comment to their profile page. If you want, you can also make the comment appear on your wall. Of course, no one bothers to do that so you always end up seeing only one side of the conversation. Anyone checking my page yesterday afternoon would have read a series of insults, expletives, outbursts and threats from the same person. Without seeing my replies it appeared to be a virtual form of Tourette’s.

I’ve no idea what the appeal of Facebook is but it’s sucked me in. Maybe it’s just a good way to see what your old friends and colleagues are doing or for quickly and casually organising a night out. Maybe it’s a way of stalking your friends and vicariously living your life through them as you discover the fun they’ve been having while you’re stuck at work in front of a PC. Or maybe it’s just a massive multiplayer online game where you try to convince everyone else that you’re having a better time and have more friends than them.

Anyway, I think I'm winning.

One final word of warning, though. If you’re going to do quizzes that compare your friends to each other and you really must answer questions like ‘Who would you rather sleep with?’ then make sure that you un-tick the box that says ‘notify the winners of the results’.

It tends to be less embarrassing that way.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Take the money, open the box?

There are many great mysteries in life. Why do boilers only break down at the coldest time of the year? Why did it take some racist comments before people realised Jade Goody was an intolerable witch? Why do people who play music on a crowded train have the worst taste? Just when exactly is Jimmy Savile going to die? And for us men, what do women keep in their handbags?

Most men know better than to ever invade a woman’s leather inner sanctum but, despite this, I’m pretty sure that amongst the myriad of bizarre items that they cannot leave the house without, a balaclava, dog biscuits, Rawl plugs, false teeth and rubber bands are not amongst them.

However, these items were some of the answers listed by ITV’s Quizmania when they asked viewers to call in and name 13 things you would find in a woman’s handbag. I don’t know which woman they had in mind but it suggests a dog-loving, ninja OAP with a talent for DIY.

I’d never watched these late night quiz shows, given that I regard them as the preserve of drunken idiots, but over Christmas while flicking through the channels in the early hours, I stumbled across Five’s offering. Seeing anything on Five is always a bit of a surprise as it just does not register on my TV radar mostly because, let’s face it, it’s a bit rubbish.

Their late night quiz was no exception but it was strangely compelling, especially after one too many nightcaps. The presenters looked like rejects from an ‘80’s US soap with grins and tans from the planet Perma. The camera work was straight out of a bad porn film, all Vaseline lens and gratuitous close-ups, as the presenters would play with their hair, stare into the camera in what would be a seductive manner bar the fact that they appeared slightly cross-eyed and whisper, nay implore, the viewers to phone in with the answers in the kind of voice you pay premium phone rates to hear.

Then there were the questions. Or rather question, as one would seem to be enough to last for hours without someone finding the correct answer. Prize money would go up and down throughout the night and soon I was screaming at the TV in frustration as the same wrong answers were repeated over and over as more and more drunken idiots phoned in.

One question seemed innocent and simple enough. It showed a picture of a jumble of notes ranging from £1 to £50 and asked the simple question ‘How many £’s?’ Now did they mean the total monetary value? Did they mean how many £ symbols were visible or even how many £ symbols were on the notes in total? Should the £1 notes be discarded as they are no longer legal currency? It was incredibly confusing and despite working out every permutation, each one was given as an answer and proven to be wrong. Sleep came before an answer was revealed.

So for several nights, well, early mornings, I found myself tuning in, hooked by the surreality of it all. It was like a dirty secret, an addiction to hide. Until the night I drunkenly introduced Jon to the show. At first he was sceptical but, as with me, the show slowly reeled him in and soon we were arguing over the question.

Appropriately enough it was some maths problem involving monkeys and between the two of us, after several wrong attempts, we were absolutely positive that we had the right answer. Next thing we knew, Jon was trying to phone in, convinced we were about to win £20k. Of course, despite several calls and a small fortune in premium rates we never got through nor discovered if we had the right answer.

As I said, these things are the preserve of drunken idiots.