28th June

So obviously it was unwise of me to take at face value the assurance that last Wednesday was the end of my secondment to the Dark Side. The goal posts were moved again, more bleating from those charged with running things and so I was back there today. Only for two days - allegedly - because their POS* exit system comes in at the weekend and this will make everything run more smoothly. The only downside is that it has been coming in "at the weekend" ever since I was first sentenced to the Dark Side and probably won't come in until George Bush comes out. So after one day - one single day - upstairs doing what I am there to do I am sent back downstairs to do a job that a vacation worker with half an hour of training and a page of notes could do. I go from a fascinating (and relevant) techno-philosophical discussion with ITguy yesterday to pressing a few buttons in order today. And it will never end. We've reached the point where every night I'll be thinking "Will it happen again tomorrow?" and every time SharksFan (our project team manager and the only person involved in this fiasco that I like or trust) speaks to me I'll be fearing "I know it's not what you'd like but..." There will be no feeling of security because the precedent has been set - the Dark Side fuck up and I end up paying for it. And they fuck up a lot.

*POS is a nice, technical sounding term which means "Piece of Shit".

I've mentioned their "incentive" scheme before - the one where you jump through hoops and get a special title and slightly more money. I've now seen what is involved at first hand and I know what it is all about now. They say it rewards the "best" and most "hard working" employees but it doesn't. Everything they have to do, everything that earns them brownie points simply proves that they are willing to be abused. Mentally, verbally and (in terms of stress) physically. It isn't simply "working hard", it is proving to a panel of managers that you are willing to take any abuse they are able to give you. You will humiliate yourself, you will conform absolutely, you will break yourself mentally and physically to the point where no managerial order is too absurd or too far removed from your job description. And ultimately, when you've suffered enough, you will be like Winston and you will love them.

The worst part about it all is that I had this nice little warm, glowy thing going on after my unexpectedly good birthday weekend deelybob. "Had" being the operative word. It has made me realise that happy is a bad place to be because I am unable to stay there long and it just creates a more painful frame of reference. That's why I've spent most of my life suppressing pretty much all memories of the past. The bad memories hurt, the good ones hurt even more. And a knife hurts less than either of them.

 

26th June

Last night's Ultimate Fighter Finale show was fantastic. Five fights, all of them great in their own way. Bisping is the real deal and we can look forward to seeing a helluva lot more of him as the UFC makes big strides into the UK market. But watching the show also made me realise how far the UFC has come over the past thirteen years. How it evolved from an ugly and awkward show in Denver which was introduced with an unwelcome burst of digestive gas.

This coming straight after he'd introduced us to the "Ultimate Fighting Challenge". He didn't last long.

Speaking of things that are long, the award for best name in the World Cup undoubtedly goes to the Dutch striker whose shirt reads Vennegoor of Hesselink. Not only does it barely fit on the back of said shirt it also has a grandeur that would fit a character in a historical drama. A mysterious nobleman of the low countries whose armies could decide the future of Europe. Kings and Queens, Popes and Princes would seek to earn the favour of Vennegoor of Hesselink.

Even better is the Wiki fact that "of" means "or" in Dutch so his surname is actual "Vennegoor or Hesselink". The product of indecisive parents perhaps.

 

25th June

I have balloons. Actual, real, birthday balloons. And cake. And there is much photographic evidence that my little nephew had a splendid time letting off party poppers. It was another warm and fuzzy chapter of what has been a fantastic extended birthday weekend thing. My niece was fascinated by my furry jumper, the doting grandparents doted in a way that almost redefines the word "doting", my brother shocked the world by being really good at actually making (not just buying) pizza and there was the small matter of watching England eke out a victory. But enough of that.

Though it does bring me to my main thought for the evening. Penalties are a rubbish way of settling a match. Everyone agrees. But no one ever suggests anything better. I'm here to advocate the simplest and most effective solution - judges. A panel of FIFA appointed judges who score the match and decide the outcome after 120 minutes. You may scoff but it is fairer than The Lottery Of PenaltiesTM. FIFA already appoint the match officials who have as much say in the outcome of the game as any player so why not let them agree a set of guidelines with which three or five or seven officials can score the match? Wouldn't you rather see 120 minutes of effort rewarded than a few high pressure kicks? You can't do it purely by stats - it has to be real people judging the whole match in context. Will they always be right? Of course not but penalties aren't always won by the best team. It would allow cheats to be punished straight away and it would reward high quality play over negative football.

It is a brilliant idea and as such has no chance of ever happening. I am a visionary - some would say a prophet - and such people are rarely listened to. Oh yes.

 

24th June

Fear Her was pretty much what would've happened had a Sapphire and Steel script mistakenly landed on the desk of the Tomorrow People production team. There was something vaguely unsettling buried beneath a made-for-children veneer. It was further hampered by this season's Bad Wolf - the abusive father - and a sequence which was perhaps the worst couple of minutes ever recorded. It was bad enough to hear a wooden Huw Edwards verbally fellating the Olympic torch (symbol of love and hope? More a symbol of a corrupt sporting junta presiding over an increasingly pointless festival) without the Doctor picking the thing up and running with it. It was unspeakably, indescribably, painfully awful. It could've been worse - William Hartnell could've tried it in his day and the games would've been over before he'd reached the plinth - but not much worse. Which is a shame as the opening gag with the Tardis door actually made me laugh and I thought we were in for a good 45 minutes.

The trailer for next week promises much - the unveiling of the Cybermen (and the use of a telling effects shot) suggests the real surprise is yet to come. I fear fanspunk is going to be shed by the bucket load next Saturday evening. Certain parts of the internet will literally squelch as you pass through them. So wear wellingtons or a couple of plastic bags on your feet or you will regret it.

I may regret having bought all four seasons of BUGS on DVD. A decade has passed and what was once a stylish, fast paced, exciting and futuristic series now looks cheesy and old fashioned. I mean, Ros had a laptop in the first episode and it reminded me greatly of Elton and the paving slab from Love and Monsters. As for the end of episode joke scene, the less said the better. Maybe it will improve or maybe I'll file it away for now in the box marked "The Past". Which really ought to be "Past, the". Damn my filing system. Anyway, each set has three discs but somehow each box is a different size. That offends my sense of order and method.

Speaking of offending, this song - from one of the many fine listeners of F4Wonline's audio shows - makes me chuckle and is bound to offend a whole bunch of people. Which makes me chuckle more.

I'm not however chuckling about our world cup fantasy league. My mid-table respectability has crumbled and I'm in free fall. They may have to create a second tier just for me. I suck at predicting any sport which doesn't allow knees to the head.

Speaking of which - tonight's TUF3 finals - I'm picking Bisping and Ginger Ed to win with Bisping winning by KO/TKO in the second round against Blue Haired Josh/Jesse and Ginger Ed getting a decision over Tall Kendall.

 

22nd June

I feel unusually good this evening. Full of parental pizza, amused by some comedy football, glowing with praise received for last night's update (especially the Ellis-Bextor-Pertwee-tastic video) , eager for Perks who is on in half an hour on BBC 4 and, most importantly, HUMBLED~! (thankfully not in the old country way) by everyone being so terribly nice to me on what is unavoidably my birthday. I never make it easy for people to be nice to me but I went out of my way to make it extra specially hard this time and yet people managed it. So thank you everyone.

I've been celebrating my aging with a dose of nostalgia - I managed to obtain Star Fleet on DVD and so far it is brilliant stuff. I remember it from what must be twenty years ago - Look In comic strip and all. Watching it now it all flooded back - big things as well as small. It was a real folding back the years moment. I feared, as I always do when watching some thing from my youth, that I would have a similar reaction to Alan Davies when he saw Starsky and Hutch as an adult.

"I seem to remember it was a work of genius when I was nine. Turns out my brain was only half grown."

I may have 23 out of the 24 episodes still to watch but I am not disappointed. Terrahawks this is not.

Today's bonkers news story -

Insurers have withdrawn the cover on their virginity taken out by three sisters in the event of the second coming of Christ.

Essex-based Britishinsurance.com confirmed it had provided the £1m policy, but said it was reviewed on Thursday following complaints.

The firm said the women from Inverness had renewed the policy since 2000.

The cover was meant to pay for the cost of bringing up Christ if one of them has a virgin birth.

Mr Burgess said: "The people were concerned about having sufficient funds if they immaculately conceived. It was for caring and bringing up the Christ.

"We sometimes get weird requests and this is the weirdest we have had."

The burden of proof that it was Christ had rested with the women

I am now off to watch my future life partner be terribly witty on BBC4 and eat chocolates. It is hard being an old person but I'll muddle through.

 

21st June

Today we said a fond farewell to HalfPastThree. The old codger is hanging up the towel and is, at the youthful age of 65, free to live out his dreams at last. After a career in the meat industry, capped off with five years in insurance, he can now stay at home and listen to Dean Martin LPs until he learns how to potter about correctly.

He is one of those people you think you've known for years but it is only since January that I've actually seen him regularly. He was stationed with us for around three months and then was whisked away again. But those three months felt like years. A fine chap and very much like cocaine - great in small doses but too much can prove fatal.

So in honour of his passing retirement I give you ten unforgettable HalfPastThree-isms -

  1. You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be lead.

  2. My father had twelve chickens and a lazy cock.

  3. My mother was a little tall chap.

  4. Who? Boo? Don't try and frighten me.

  5. I've told you once, I've told you twice, if I tell you again it'll be the third time.

  6. If there's any difference they're both the same.

  7. What? Hot? It is a bit warm in here.

  8. I say, Ashley...

  9. Oh shit!

  10. Half past three.

But he wasn't the only one celebrating a departure today. Ok, so he had flowers, cards, bottles of wine, presents, chocolates, good wishes, vouchers, handshakes, kisses and biscuits so he wins on that score. I however simply walked out of the Dark Side and hope never to be sent there again. Most of my energies today were spent trying to find out who a particularly interesting temp was. Every time I thought I'd finally worked out her name, some other piece of info popped up to cast doubt on it. Like memorising lists of customer names it was simply a means of not being completely and utterly bored out of my head thing. I could just've asked someone I suppose but where is the fun in that? I mean apart from getting the answer.

I did do one good thing though - I persuaded a thoroughly nice chap who is horribly unhappy working there to apply for a job on the IT help desk. Hopefully he'll go through with it and get out of an environment which seems to be eating him alive.

Speaking of things that kill you on the inside, this story about illegal cigarettes confused me somewhat. I get the idea that cigarettes are a great source of tax revenue and the government wants to get as much of that as possible. What I don't get is this bit -

He said a campaign highlighting the health risks to the public could reduced the demand for fake cigarettes.

Brilliant - stop people smoking the wrong kind of cigarettes by telling them they are bad for their health. Your actual smoker - a noted taker of government health advice - faced with paying a fiver for a pack from Tesco or (say) two pounds from a bloke down the pub will obviously weigh up the pros and cons before saving himself a few quid. What kind of weird parallel universe have we slipped into where MPs are advocating a campaign which basically says that heavily taxed cigarettes are better for you?!?

 

19th June

I'm pleased. We had good news piled upon good news from the RT today. Firstly, "Stone Cold" Steve Roberts announces,

Number of release slots is up from six per year to ten per year. Six 'Special Edition' releases as per normal, plus four 'vanilla' releases

Which is nice. And then, without even pausing for a full stop, goes on to say,

except they aren't really vanilla. At a minimum they will have the full RT picture and sound remaster, commentary and production text notes

So a "vanilla" Doctor Who release gets more extras than special editions of most other television shows. With commentaries my favourite of all the extras this is splendid. It also cuts the projected finish date from 2019 to a slightly more agreeable 2014.

Further bonne joy came from the confirmation that The Invasion is out in November - complete with animated missing episodes - and the Traken/Logopolis/Castrovalva arc in January. That is a lot of DVDs and we aren't even considering what (if anything) will be great about the Series Two set.

These are good times for Doctor Who on DVD. And all this comes on the day Inferno is released. Mine came on Saturday and I've already enjoyed two commentated episodes. Uncle Barry, Uncle Terrance AND the Brig, all at the same time. T'riffic.

There was, however, this moment when something odd happens. I can't be sure but Nick Courtney either burps or makes a very strange noise while Barry Letts is explaining something technical.

 

18th June

This page has been open, awaiting editing, for most of the day. I don't really know what to write. I feel wretched and pathetic and miserable. The week ahead should be a big one - the end of my time in the Dark Side, the end of my twenties, killing myself around midday on Thursday, the finals of The Ultimate Fighter 3, a five day weekend and the end of England's participation in this year's world football championship. But of those six two are inevitable as time is irreversible, one won't happen because certain departments are so poorly run, one has been scheduled but could suck if the season's fights so far are anything to go by, one might see the lads pull a famous victory out of the hat and please everyone but fans of decent football or the Scotch and one won't happen because I'm wretched and pathetic and completely unable to complete a task properly even if it is important. If inspiration strikes then I could be on the slab by Friday but I don't have much hope.

To clear up one tiny, trivial, irrelevant little detail, it isn't being thirty that makes me want to kill myself. It is simply being. If you could take away the noise and the pain and the silence and the shadows and the fear and the hopelessness and the consciousness then I'd be fine with living. But you can't. 

 

17th June

So, Love and Monsters. Love and Monsters. Love and Monsters Love and Monsters Love and Monsters. That was my Tennant impression by the way. I thought it was rather marvellous myself. The episode not the impression. The impression was merely impressive. The first thing to note is that I don't like Peter Kaye. I am one of the few who doesn't find anything he does in the least bit funny. I've tried to like his stand up but I can't. He's not unique in that regard - I've tried many times to like Lee Evans and similarly failed. But I'll give Kaye his due here - he was fine in both roles he played. His playing of the "ex-eee-ma" gag was commendable. Yes, he was stunt casting but it worked out.

This episode seems, by online reaction, to have been somewhat polarising. A lot of people - a lot of loud and possibly dangerous people - hate it. They hate the story, the acting, the comedy, the monster, the everything. Which is fair enough - people that now get treated like shit by society fought a war so we can all have our own opinions. But, and this is a big but, they are missing something obvious.

Everything we saw outside of the camcorder footage was being relayed to us by Danny Elton. Which means it wasn't real. It may have been based on real events but it was Elton's story and we all know that anecdotes are embellished, altered, misremembered and made funnier than they really were. Case in point - the chase near the beginning of the episode. OGers hated that sequence. But it was just as you'd describe a chase if you were trying to make a story more entertaining. We don't even know if anything that was shown actually happened. The only apparently tangible evidence was the paving slab and we didn't see the face side of that on the camcorder. Only what may have been an imaginary shot of her talking to him. The voice could've been a friend off camera, an MP3 on his computer or some other trickery. He might've been nothing but a delusional geek or an online hoaxer. So those that loathe it, those who want it expunged from the Canon forever, can take solace in the fact that it is as real as you personally want it to be.

I liked it - it was a fun 45 minutes, there was nothing that I hated, the framing device meant everything worked in context and even Jackie was good for once. Hurrah for nerds who spend most of their time in their bedrooms, geeky brunettes with glasses and scenes with pizzas in them.

This is a quite remarkable piece of footage. Someone has hacked the Raw vs Smackdown video game and... well just click for yourself. It is fairly safe to say you won't see this happen in real life (or even WWE's version of real life).

 

15th June

Tesco annoyed me today. I bobbed in there on the way home on the grounds that people would be at home watching the football. For the most part I was right as there weren't many people in compared with a normal weekday at that time. Sadly, those that were there were (a) stupid or (b) women doing a weekly, monthly or in some cases, seasonal shop. So the normal checkouts were occupied and I had to go right to the end and the baskets only one. There were three in front of me and they were all stupid in their own way. First we had a big dumb looking guy buying several small shirts. I couldn't tell how many there were - it was just a sea of off-white polyester - but the total was a shade under a tenner so I'm thinking double figures. Then came a woman who evidently didn't understand how to use a basket. She was stood with over a dozen items clasped to her bosom. No trolley, no basket - just carrying things in her arms. She somehow managed to get them all onto the little basket rest thing (I don't know the technical name for it as I'm not an expert) and as she was unloading it seemed never ending. Just when you thought she was done she fished another bottle of shampoo out from nowhere. Finally, we had the man who seemed perfectly (well, relatively) normal until he got his wallet out to pay. He opened it, fished around as if trying to decide which of his solitary note to take out. He opted for the twenty. He was then asked if he had a Club Card. "No" he grunted. But I could see it. His wallet still hung open and I could see a Tesco Club Card in there. People are idiots. He could've had a couple of points worth almost nothing had he handed his card over. More fool him.

 

14th June

We got emails from ShirtGuy this morning inviting us to pick a "team" of eleven of what he described as "ladies of the very highest calibre". Obviously, such an exercise was straight out of the 1970s and no one who purports to be a citizen of Y2KVI could possibly consider joining in. On the other hand I was bored and the Dark Side sucks and I like pretty ladies. It was a tough choice but I gave in in the end.

Playing a standard 4-4-2 formation we have -

That's James, Moss, Garofalo, Bextor, Silverstone, Deschanel, Gyllenhaal, Hannigan, Parks, Perkins and Walker.

The post match bath is going to be fantastic.

Actually, the whole thing was harder than it looked (though perhaps not quite as hard as Carrie Anne looks in the above photo). I realised when I'd reached a blank number three that I just don't seem to fancy many famous people any more. This may be because I don't really watch television, I never go to see movies, I have no interest in popular music and I'd sooner fill my stomach with pig's blood than buy a "celebrity" magazine. The three shows I do watch are not fertile ground - I don't think there has been a single woman on The Ultimate Fighter (except perhaps a bimbo with a round card), HIGNFY has maybe one attractive person every three years and Doctor Who has Billie but she's really not my type. Certainly not from the front anyway. So I'd written down the perennial Perks and the always lovely Nicola and that was about it. But, as I say, the Dark Side is painfully boring so has plenty of scope for figuring out complicated problems.

Speaking of football, it has taken all of until now for me to lose interest in the World Cup. It was all fine and large over the weekend but since then I've watched very little. Monday was out because I had the ECW pay per view to watch, yesterday I got side tracked by another Are You Being Served? DVD and tonight I frankly fell asleep and missed all but the last half hour of the Germany game. But at least I am right in my reasoning why England mustn't win the World Cup - this and this give just a small taste of what will happen if it all goes right over the next few weeks.

 

11th June

I must say, England aside, this World Cup is great so far. Not that I'm at the stage of having to watch every game - I'll put it on in the background if there is nothing else to do (and being utterly tragic there is seldom anything else to do) and if it sounds good I'll watch it. I was glancing through a list of games trying to see the absolute least attractive sounding fixture and settled on Angola vs Iran. That is why the World Cup is so great - British TV will be showing Iran vs Angola. One country that looks set to start the next world war and one country that a lot of people probably think is in south east England. Then I happened to see when this titanic struggle was being played out. It is the game that will be on when I get home having finished - the fuck - my sentence in the Dark Side. Suddenly it became the most eagerly anticipated, the most wonderful, the most exciting prospect in this whole tourney. There is always the danger that I'll be double crossed and have time added for good behaviour but if that happens I will, like Kalib on this week's Ultimate Fighter, be unable to continue. Add one new twitch, a strange looking rash and thirty seven new cuts to my running total.

This is the story that most annoys me at the moment. How can anyone seriously announce to the world that the suicides of three men who have been held prisoner illegally and tortured for several years is "an act of asymmetric warfare waged against us". Why does the most powerful nation of Earth have to twist everything so that America is the victim? Three men who simply couldn't take American sadism any longer end their own lives and they brand it an act of war. What is wrong with the American administration? Every time you think they cannot get any lower they manage to. They have followed up this new concept of "asymmetric warfare" with the claim that the men killed themselves because it was a "good PR move to draw attention". So now they have claimed the men were attacking America and that they were only interested in PR. That's two of the three buttons guaranteed to get ignorant Americans on the President's side. Watch for tomorrow's press release which reveals that all three men were lawyers.

The Satan Pit didn't disappoint last night. Though not quite at the level of last week's it was still excellent. I liked literally everything about it except the bit where the Doctor ran down a random tunnel and happened to bump straight into the Tardis. The pan up was nice and you can always explain it by saying that the Tardis chose to materialise there because that is where the Doctor would need her but it came across as just a little bit of a convenient escape. One that can be forgiven and explained away by a determined fan but to the casual viewer (if there were any on so warm and boozy a day) it must've looked like a bit of a cop-out.

Which reminds me of the reason I hope England don't win the World Cup. It is simply that the English don't know how to celebrate a triumph. Instead they will drink too much and go on a drunken rampage in the early hours of the following morning. Oh there will be a million lining the streets of London to welcome the team back and that will be good natured but there will be millions more smashing up cars, starting fights and abusing anyone who looks a bit foreign. It will be a messy conglomeration of all the things that bring out the worst in this island race - football, alcohol, pseudo-nationalism and a lack of respect for anyone who isn't behaving exactly the same as them.

Today's bargain tip - courtesy of someone at Rhubarbs - is the 90s classic "BUGS" for £5.99 per season. A splendid £19 off and well worth a punt for those of us with fond memories of Birdsall, Griffiths and McLachlan.

 

10th June

It's days like this that make you proud to be English. No, I don't mean the football where our national side did their usual trick of underperforming in the first half and not performing at all in the second. Where the whole is significantly less than the sum of its parts and where the myth that we will do well in this World Cup is shattered by the utter lack of depth in the squad.

No - I mean the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter. The prediction I made last week that deaf Matt wouldn't return has come true and they needed a replacement. Fuck Noah wasn't coming back (so called because that was Dana White's infamous comment when Noah quit the show), tattooed Mike had a broken nose so it was down to tiny beard Tait or weird Kristian to fill the vacant light heavyweight slot in the semi finals. Paraphrasing slightly, this was what happened when each man was brought into a room and offered a second chance at stardom.

Dana: Do you want to come back and fitht again?

Tiny Beard Tait: There's no way I can fight again right now - my head is in the wrong place.

Dana: Wow. I'm shocked.

So he had another go.

Dana: Do you want to come back and fight again?

Weird Kristian: I don't think so man - my head is still sore and I don't want to lose again on TV.

Dana: Fuck me - I don't know what to do.

Cue cut away to grinning Dana saying "I do know one guy..."

Dana: Do you...

English Ross: Yeah man.

Dana: Would you be willing to fight again?

English Ross: Let's do it man.

Dana: You'd have to go from middleweight up to light heavyweight.

English Ross: Yeah man.

Dana: I love this guy.

So English Ross - who isn't a good fighter and who sounds as dumb as a pile of coats - gets to fight English Mike in the semi finals and ensure that En-ger-land will have a place in the final of TUF3. All because he had balls and no one else did.

He won't make the front page of the Sun - unlike the moribund national team - but he's a real English hero.

 

8th June

On the one hand I've developed two new twitches since I've been down there, every waking moment is steeped in misery and boredom, I crave the company of people who get me, the women are somehow less attractive on the Dark Side, I miss all the funny things that happen to or around m'colleagues and there doesn't seem to be any air conditioning down in the basement.

On the other hand I got to write to my childhood hero today. Not just someone with the same name - the date of birth matched thus proving it was the actual person in all his flesh and blood. In no way did it make up for even a minute stranded in that toxic environment but...

It was Bryan Fucking Robson and he used to be the man.

 

7th June

They are so obsessed with micromanaging every second of their employees lives that the high priests of the Dark Side have decreed that all staff must log into their phones with a unique PIN whenever they are "on". The not at all surprising side effect of this is that staff who are "off" now ignore phones that ring because they know they won't get any credit for it. Worse, they might actually make someone else's stats look good. So phones are left to ring until those who are "on" are able to answer them. Another brilliant step along the road to eradicating colleagues working together like a team. Another brilliant step to making every employee so utterly self-obsessed that they are too afraid to help anyone else because they effectively cease to exist for those few minutes and this fact will be held against them. They certainly won't take the extra time to direct a phone call to the right place or index a scanned image to the correct team. Because that would rob them of "productivity" and lead to a monthly bollocking. Which is a shame as there are still good people left down there who want to do a good job. They just have it beaten into them that it is better to do a bad job quickly than a good job more slowly.

I cannot wait to get out of there. It is making me ill. It's also making me sad for the people that are stuck there. I sit with three and none of them deserve what they get day in and day out.

On a happier note, tomorrow is 20% off day* at the HMV website. Fill your boots.

* as a sidebar, it really annoys me when certain people post online bargains and don't make any mention of where they got it from. They want all the praise themselves and like to give the impression they toil long and hard to bring good tidings to their followers. So whenever I can I give props, other times they really are things I've stumbled over. Mind you, some people just like copying other peoples work and passing it off as their own. One bargain "expert" has even been known to post plagiarised Phil Collins reviews on websites. Which is embarrassing on so many levels.

 

6th June

Do you want to know about me? Do you? Well this will tell you everything you need to know about me. I've been subscribing to a partwork magazine series for nearly four years now. I've been meaning to cancel it for two of those years after it flew past its supposed finish date (issue 100) with no end in sight. I finally get round to emailing them to cancel my subscription this past weekend and get a reply today - the guy says there are only two issues left before it ends and do I really want to cancel now? Even though I haven't actually opened a package from them in about a year I might as well continue until the bitter end. The email was poorly written and he might've been lying but if you can't trust a magazine salesman with a writing age of nine, who can you trust?

I've started reading Mel's new book. It picks up where her first one left off and, with a baby in the family, I am a little better at empathising with her than I would've been at any other point in my twenty-plus years. It is a damned enjoyable read and I feel the same way I did when I read "From Here to Maternity" - Melons has a storytelling style which would make her a Victoria Wood for the new millennium if she wanted to to back into standup. My only quibble is (as it was last time) her decision to change the names of every person in the book. Now, I understand why friends and colleagues and other people they meet should be disguised out of respect to them. But she only has one husband - there cannot possibly be any reason for changing his name. It is still off-putting. She has also changed her baby's name from Flossie to Jo. Again, there is no need to do this - if the "memoir" is a shoot then we know exactly who "Jo" is and if it is a work then why try to claim otherwise and not simply publish it as a novel? As if to confuse me further, there is one bit where she refers to herself as "Mrs Morris" - her real married name. It makes my brain hurt because I'm a devotee and know stuff like that already but the book is written for people who don't. And I still haven't spotted anyone in Mel's semi-fictional world who might be Sue. Apart from one woman with gayish leanings but she's far to pretentious and humourless to be Perks.

And speaking of parents, I've finally solved the b****day present problem. They kept asking me what I wanted and I was never able to bring myself to say "nothing" (even though that's what I want). In the end they threatened me with a cheque (which would mean going into a bank and shit) so I hit upon a moment of inspiration - Amazon vouchers. Gift vouchers for the high street are increasingly out-dated because everything is better online. Of course, knowing my parents I'll end up with a cheque with a Post It note attached saying they couldn't understand how to get Amazon vouchers so would I get my own?

 

4th June

The Impossible Planet was awesome. Not only the best of this season but the best of The New Series full stop. Not because it did anything especially innovative but just that it did everything so well. People can nitpick the contemporary references, the quantity of humour, the science of the thing; people can stress over the ratings or whether the beast is or isn't Sutekh; people can cite reams of movies that it ripped off / paid homage to. But to me it was damn nearly perfect. It was to Doctor Who what the 1997 Steve Austin-Bret Hart feud was. It told a simple story in a simple way but everyone involved was so at the top of their game that what came out was brilliant.

Of course, there hasn't been a two-parter yet that has been consistent. Some have fantastic first episodes and disappointing seconds (such as The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances). Others have poor first halves and great finales (the recent Cyber story or Aliens/WWIII). The only one that doesn't fit the trend is last year's climax which was one really good episode padded out to two with all the robots and shit. So next week's will be a massive let down. But then I'm expecting a let down so if it isn't that bad I'll be pleasantly surprised. Though if I'm expecting a pleasant surprise then I'm more likely to be disappointed. Et cetera.

I went out this morning to get my new glasses tweaked. I am absurdly fussy about them and tiny little things bug me. Which is odd as I hardly ever clean them and yet that doesn't bother me. I went there first, a lady twiddled with them for a few moments and I was unconvinced. A bit of shopping made it clear that they were slightly worse than before. The thing about reacting lenses is that when they go dark they make tiny imbalances in the position of the lenses that much more obvious. The right side wasn't quite right so I had to go back. And I'm glad I did - a gorgeous assistant did some very satisfying finger work to get them right and I left a relieved customer.

That's the Are You Being Served? influence coming out. I can feel it. I have an overwhelming desire to tell you that all the birds this morning got my pussy quite excited. I should stop leaving nuts in the garden as it only encourages them. Or nail the cat flap shut overnight. And that the sleeves will undoubtedly ride up with wear, that I was late in to work because my crippled mother's hearing aid battery fell in her soft boiled egg and I had to fish it out, and that Mr Grainger requires an urgent glass of water. Oh and you've all done very well.

Today's bargains are pre-orders of Inferno, Hand of Fear and Mark of the Rani for £10.89 each. The online world seems determined to win the custom of Doctor Who fans at any price.

 

3rd June

It is fair to say that The Ultimate Fighter is my favourite programme of the week right now. HIGNFY is a close second but I get the feeling it is perhaps entering its final decade and lacks a little of the splendour of past times. But the Friday night double bill (with all important half hour gap) is a good thing. Except last night I turned over just before ten and found that TUF had just finished. Bah! What was this toilet? It turns out they'd moved it forward so Lee Sharpe (former dynamic winger and treatment room favourite) could host a documentary celebrating Britain's most violent football hooligans. I say "celebrate" because this is trash TV and any condemnation of their actions would be done with a wink. Nuts. Missed it. Then the burden of idiocy passes from them to me as it was a full eight minutes before my tired head thought "plus 1". I waded through about three hundred channels and finally found Bravo+1 (ntl's numbering system is incompetent even by their standards) and saw most of the show. What I did see was actually rather depressing.

The original field of 16 fighters contained three who people were high on - ginger Ed, Britain's own Bisping and deaf Matt. The latter - an Olympic calibre grappler who everyone in the house was (if they were man enough to admit it) a bit afraid of fighting. The final was surely to come down to Bisping vs Matt and Matt would win. Tito said as much from the beginning. He sees Matt as the new Tito Ortiz. There is just one problem with that - we've seen it before and last night we saw it big time. Matt doesn't like being hit. Now, not many of us do but if you are a professional fighter you can't really avoid it. He got caught a couple of times in training and it affected him badly. Then, during his victorious fight with tattooed Mike, he got hit some more. The show ended with him feeling sick, unable to walk and being taken off to hospital in an ambulance. Like gold medal winning wrestler Rulon Gardner, Matt has learned that wrestling isn't enough to dominate MMA and you're going to get punched, kicked, kneed and elbowed. We may have seen the last of young Matt - I fear it has broken him mentally and he'll go back to his farm, his family and wrestling his cows.

The fight was crappy too - the wrestler didn't want to go to the ground because he had a bad arm and the BJJ guy didn't want to go to the ground because he was scared of the wrestler. So they both tried to stay standing and punch each other. It looked like two drunken tough-man fighters sloppily slugging it out for two rounds.

And while we're on the subject of UFC, the next show - Ortiz vs Shamrock II - takes place on 8th July. Which would normally mean a 9th July showing over here. But that is the World Cup final so it's been pushed back to the 10th. Boo! That's not good. Which has made me realise I really don't give a rat's ass about the World Cup. England could be in the final and I'd still be grumbling "I should be watching the Arlovski-Sylvia title fight fight now".

Speaking of the World Cup, the managers in the Dark Side held a draw yesterday and each team was allocated a World Cup side. No one knew what it was for or what would happen to the team with the winning country but I suspect it is an attempt to motivate people. Which, if history follows its usual course, will mean that by July the teams who were given losing countries will be disciplined for their side's poor performance. They believe in the stick and carrot approach but only when the carrot is actually stick that has been painted orange.

 

1st June

I have a vague feeling I wanted to get angry about something but I can't remember what it was. Probably something important like flags on cars or people who think putting URGENT at the top of every single letter they send means they get done sooner than the rest. I know I was angry when I got home but I soon beat that out of me. Now I'm just limp.

Which is a set up for talking about Are You Being Served? - the series currently keeping my DVD player warm. I got series 1 and series 3 from Borders last Thursday and, having gone through them with all the dedication of Mr Humphries at the arched end of an inside leg, I went back tonight and got series 2. If you're wondering I got 3 rather than 2 because 3 has nine episodes and 2 only has five. Both times I was served by my favourite Borders assistant so all is well.

Unless of course you are cursed enough to work on the Dark Side for real. A year or so ago they introduced an exciting sounding reward-slash-incentive scheme with a rubbish name. The idea was to reward good performance and send a clear message that those who work hard do get treated better than those who don't. A year on and the targets, measurements and structure of the new scheme has meant that almost no one has jumped through enough hoops and achieved this uber-status. The management are now considering the two solutions which they have come up with. Firstly, revise the targets and make the scheme more user friendly. Or, secondly, formally discipline anyone failing to be rewarded by the scheme. The latter fits much more snugly into their overall management ethos. Not to bore you with details but they believe the best way to get people to work harder is to utterly break their spirit and then have a line manager bully them into justifying every minute of the working day. Then, in place of thanking or acknowledging their successes, they publicly humiliate them by dwelling openly on their failings.

The people managing that place don't need extra staff or resource or new computer systems. They need souls.

On a happier note it is the first anniversary of the F4W Poderoso Empire~! today. Almost certainly my favourite site on your actual internet. As one of the original subscribers to the site I am frankly staggered at how it has grown since myself and thirty seven other people joined an email version of a newsletter that was simply too expensive to get sent over from the States each week. So big up to Bryan, Vinny, Nailz, Granny, Brent "As a Jew..." Kremmen and everyone else who has made the site not only great but great at the same price it was a year ago for an emailed newsletter. PODER~!

And I really can't not post this. It is the best spelling mistake I've ever seen. Not that it is necessarily a spelling mistake - things may be different in his country - but AussieGuy drafted a letter and asked me to look it over. "Conches of the £3000 fine..." he said at the birth of a new sentence. I think we should do a Webster and make that the official spelling of conscious. More funds for eccentric spelling.