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Jayne --
18 April 2010 @ 12:36 pm


It's election season; can you feel it in the air? Every few minutes the joys of BBC daytime TV is interrupted with various party political broadcasts from all directions, the billboards are going up, the news is going crazy. It's going to be a fun, argumentative spring, I can tell that much.

Doctor Who brought out an episode last week encouraging people to think about the Government and suggesting we question the methods in charge. Although, I don't think this is unprecedented - my TV service was down for the past week so I've re-watched all the 9th Doctor episodes and “The Long Game” had the same kind of ring to it. Don't know if you've all seen it but it's got the same principle, the humans have become sheep, taking what's given to them, not bothering to ask questions about the way everything is being run (which is incidentally by a rather hilarious bleach-blond Simon Pegg and the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe, or ‘Max’). Until, of course, the Doctor and Rose swing onto the scene and shake everything up. The Doctor keeps emphasizing the point that the humans need to think for themselves, find out who's in charge, and question the authority. As it happens, I've just checked and it was aired two days after the General Election of 2005, so not sure if that was a hit-and-miss timetable issue or they really aren't related, but I think it's all a bit close for convenience.

Anyway! The new episode is about a 'Floating UK' - the Earth hasn't survived, so they had to move onto a spaceship and search for new land... or float around forever, I'm not sure. But the way the ship is powered is something that is not mentioned, essentially becoming the proverbial elephant in the room.  The entire thing is run by a Government who hides the truth and avoids confrontation with its citizens. Of course, the Doctor and his new sidekick Amy Pond (who is fantastic, by the way) crash their way in and expose all the lies for what they really are.

It's pretty clear there's an important message there - even the writers on Doctor Who are encouraging us to think a little more out of the box, to make a stand, to take active part in the Government that is, at the end of the day, ruling us.  It’s a good point, and one that is made often, that you can’t really justify complaining about the way your country is run if you have the power to change it and make a difference but you just don’t make the effort.

This has made me really think about this upcoming election. This is the first major one that I can vote for, now that I'm 19. The thing is, I've wanted to vote for years, and I always had a party in mind, but I don't want to make the wrong decision. This country has been ruled by either Conservative or Labour for the last 65 years. This is the year that things could really change.

We've been having the same problems for years, from arguments about taxes and how richer people aren't taxed enough, to the welfare state being in veritable shambles, to the bankers apparently taking all our money, even to illegal immigration becoming a serious problem. I mean, I don't know about anyone else, but I've always felt that the Government, and certainly the Parliament, have nothing to do with me, like this is something completely beyond any modicum of control. And it shouldn't be like that! In a democratic society, the massive organ that keeps our country running should be impacted by the view of the people!

Oh, listen to me, I sound like a Communist.

The Liberal Democrats, then. I've read the manifesto. I've heard a few of the speeches. I've done some research (I've actually read all the manifestos - I don't want to go into this election blind). My aim here is not to sway the masses. If I name the party I'm going to vote for, it's not in the hopes that you will vote for them too. Or maybe it is. But the real point is that we need to look at who is campaigning to lead us into the future. I mean, for my opinion, I’m going to say that only the Liberal Democrats seem to have any kind of original policy, and you can’t deny that Nick Clegg is a man that you feel that you can trust. To me, anyway. But then again he’s also got the advantage that Gordon Brown is kind of stale now, and David Cameron has never been favorable to me, because I’m not rich.

So D-Day is two weeks away. If you can, vote. Make a difference. That’s all I really wanted to say.

However, I’m also going to throw in two pictures that have made me laugh over the election season. Politics doesn’t make you laugh often enough, but these are little gems:

A billboard that I pass on my way to work...
This is possibly a couple of years old but it doesn't make it any less funny.

 

 
 
Current Location: Living Room
Current Mood: workingworking
Current Music: "Starlight" - The Superman Lovers
 
 
Jayne --
21 March 2010 @ 11:49 am

I walked 40 miles yesterday.

Usually this is the moment where I should defend it and say that it wasn’t for fun, I’m not mad, there was a reason behind it. But, in the end, it was for fun. It was for me. I had the thought about halfway through that I probably should have gotten myself some sponsors for the thing, that I could have raised a bit of money in the meantime, but the date was only given to me two weeks ago and what with work and getting all the equipment I needed it just didn’t cross my mind.

The walk is called the Cannock Chase, and it’s in Cannock, unsurprisingly (their website is here), which is in the Staffordshire area of England. It’s the same track every year, varying from trails through forests, to marshland, to suburban streets, to walking along a canal (that part lasted about two and a half hours, and was by far the most tedious), to uphill tracks, to straight across fields full of sheep.  It’s in an area of outstanding natural beauty, and you can understand why.

So I joined up with my old college to take part, as you need to be in a team of at least four, and there’s no way in Hell I’d be able to convince anyone from my work to join. We ended up a team of four girls – an old German friend of mine, Jo, and two other girls who were doing a course in the college. This made us eligible for the Rolling Pins Trophy, which you win if your entire group is female and they all make it from start to finish.

The weather was crap; I’m not going to put it lightly. We arrived the night before, and set up our tents in the foul drizzle, just on time for it to become real rain. We spent the night quite cold, and hoping that it would clear up for the next day, but it didn’t. Awake at 4am, before even the sun had risen, and there was a thick fog coating everything.

Our team set off at 5:30am, ready and raring to go. I’m not going to go into massive detail for the whole forty miles, as we’ll be here all week, but it was good. The beginning seemed promising. Once we hit midday, we were starting to get a little desperate, but we ploughed on. At about 4 in the afternoon, at checkpoint 9 (about 25 miles) we lost the two girls, and it was just me and Jo. We quietly kissed goodbye to the trophy, but to be honest, we didn’t really care. We weren’t there to win prizes, and if they couldn’t go on any further, we could respect that. And one of the girls’ blisters was insane.

 Due to the rules of having to be 4 or more, we waited at the checkpoint for a bit with some soup, and eventually a group came by that was happy to take us in - a group of Scouts ranging from ages about 13 to 40-odd. They were fantastic. They chatted to us happily the entire time, and came up with some seriously odd but entertaining songs for us to sing along the way. They’d done hikes before, although nothing quite to this scale, so they knew how to motivate a flagging team, and it helped to take our minds off the pain.

By the time we hit 32 miles, it got dark. Head torches on, you could hardly see your hand if it was right in front of your face. It was freezing cold, it was wet, and we were getting a little snappy with each other. It was terrifying at one point when we actually got lost, and spent about half an hour examining the map only to find the path had been a stone’s throw away, only we couldn’t see it. However the last 200 yards we sprinted, and we arrived back at the camp at 9:30, just over 16 hours after we left.

The feeling, when we walked into the hall and everyone cheered and clapped, was what the entire thing is about, really.

I haven’t mentioned one of the main reasons I did it – yesterday wasn’t actually my first attempt, but my second. I tried last year, but I had terrible blisters from checkpoint 2, and I was a lot bigger and less fit then I am now. The reason I tried it again this year, despite the sharp memory of the pain and tears and exhaustion from last year, was that I had to complete it. It’s like I didn’t have a choice. When the time came to sign up my name, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be taking part.

That feeling, when we got back, was like pure elation and adrenaline was coursing through me. All of a sudden my feet were no longer sore, my legs didn’t ache, and I had the biggest smile on my face. I have the badge to prove that I completed it, and I’m going to sew it into my jacket with pride.

The thing about doing stuff like this is that it really tests your willpower and abilities. I know that I was able to complete it because it takes me an hour to walk to work and an hour to walk back, and both ways have huge uphill stages. And since I don’t drive (yet), I have to walk wherever I go. I know also that I had a brilliant team, my really good friend Jo has so much determination and also a passion for physical activity that kept me moving, and those Scouts and their high spirits kept us from wallowing in the pain in our feet.

I consider this a great accomplishment, and I’m going to remember it for a long time. But not only that, I’m going back next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. I want to see if I can go any faster. One day, like some people do, I might run it.

I recommend doing something like this, but only if you really think you can do it. You need to learn to ignore what your brain says and just walk. Although I would also like to that the cast of Glee, because their soundtrack kept me going for about 20 miles. That is a group of truly talented people.

Now, I really need some pankillers and a bath...

 
 
Current Location: My bed
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: "Somebody To Love" - Cast of Glee
 
 
Jayne --
07 March 2010 @ 05:31 pm


On Boxing Day last year, I saw my first 3D film.

As you can probably tell from the date, that was Avatar. I saw it in a little crappy cinema in France – the only English one around there, and even then it had French subtitles – and it was actually kinda cool. Although for one thing, the French really, really need to redesign their 3D glasses, because I have never felt like such a dork. I mean here, they’ve kind of got the cool blues-brothers sunglasses shape to them, and they don’t have the weird colours on them or anything, but in France they’re partly made of rubber and don’t fit all that well and I think they were probably styled on flies. There is no way on Earth anyone anywhere could look good in them. Okay, well maybe Karen Gillan. But that’s only because she could wear a potato sack and still look awesome.

Anyway, I’d always been a little bit doubtful about these 3D films. I mean, people always say ‘I thought they were actually going to stab me!’ and all that, and the adverts showed people ducking out the way of fire and Godzilla or whatever the hell else is going on, but my memory as a kid of those green-and-red paper things was always just that... well, it kind of just gave everything a bit of a weird green-and-red tinge. Like everything was suddenly Christmas-themed, or something.

But obviously, it’s a lot different now. I mean, I was a kid in the nineties. We didn’t have wireless internet, and laptops weren’t really all that portable since they weight eighteen tonnes and you had to train for a few days before you were prepared to carry one around in a bag on your back. But I’m making that sound like it was a million years ago, and I know it wasn’t, and I know I’m probably making a lot of people feel really old now or something, but all I’m trying to say is that technology – and especially in this case cinema and film-making – has developed a hell of a lot in such a short space of time. They’ve also developed a hell of a lot in length, since pretty much every film that comes out seems to be three hours long these days.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because Alice in Wonderland has just come out, and it’s very much in 3D. I haven’t had the chance to see it yet – I went to the cinema on Wednesday with my roommate, and we arrived a good 25 minutes before it started, but it was already sold out. Kind of a shame, but then again, I’ve had the impression with a lot of Tim Burton’s films these days that it’s always a bit of the same thing – it’s got Johnny Depp in it, it’s got Helena Bonham-Carter in it, also Tim Burton’s wife, and it’s as trippy and odd as humanly possible. I don’t deny that it’s probably fantastic, and when it comes out on DVD I’ll definitely watch it, or if I get the chance I’ll go and see it, but it didn’t really break my heart when we were turned away. In fact, we just went to the pub.

I do wonder though why 3D is suddenly becoming so popular. I’m sure Spy Kids 3 was in 3D like 7 years ago, and nobody seemed to pick up on it, and there was The Polar Express too, I think, and various others, but these days it seems like everything that’s big and worth watching must be seen in 3D. All the blockbuster ones, and I know the next few Tim Burton ones will be.

A little research into this (okay, well the Wikipedia page on 3D film but come on, Wikipedia knows everything) says that it is considered that filmmakers have regained and interest in 3D film because there are more 3D exhibition equipment, which is probably a strong reference to iMAX cinema – something I’ve also not experience but that I would really, really want to. Also a lot of dramatic films are being shot in 3D, although I’m not sure about that. I mean, I don’t think that The Curious Tale of Benjamin Button would look right in 3D. The idea of wearing such goofy glasses and having to back away when a car goes past would kind of pull the spectator’s interest and attention away from the actul scene that’s unfolding, and from experiencing the emotions that the acting and screenwriting are trying to portray.  

I’m going to quote them here: “One incentive is that the technology is more mature.” See now, mature is probably one of the last words I’d use to describe 3D cinema. If anything, it’s the opposite. It’s fun. That’s why the first films that came out in 3D were more childish: Spy Kids, the Polar Express, Chicken Little, and even some adaptations of Star Trek. It’s all about making the experience of going to watch a film in the cinema that much more entertaining, more of an event, something more memorable.

It is true though that making films in 3D is a lot less limited; the directors and editors can play with the angles of the shot a lot more, since they have an extra dimension to work with, and they can be more creative with how the scene actually affects the audience visually. I noticed when I was watching Avatar that every scene felt like it had more layers; kind of like the layers in Photoshop. Everything sticks out a little more, so even set design can take on a whole new perspective.

But painfully, they’ve added the reason that is not only glaringly obvious but also sadly terribly mundane. 3D cinema has become more popular because the tickets sell better than for films in 2D. I’m sure it’s true, and I bet Alice in Wonderland and Avatar have gotten millions of dollars from the 3D market of their showings, but it’s just depressing to think that something that can give an industry an entirely new artistic license, a whole new frontier of cinematography, is used because people want to get more money.

 
 
Current Location: The Kitchen
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: "Eastern Jam" - Chase & Status
 
 
Jayne --
21 February 2010 @ 04:04 pm

Well really, it never did go right at any point, did it? Instead, it just keeps getting worse and worse as the years go by. Sure, Tony Blair’s popularity waned there towards the end, what with being the leather-clad gimp at the end of America’s leash (or the dog chasing the rubber ball, as George Michael’s video showed wonderfully), but it is true that he did reinvent Labour. You’ve got to give him credit for that, at least.

I am sure that if you asked anyone who can remember, there would not be much of a contest between Blair and what he achieved, and say, the terrible doldrums of the Thatcher era - a time when even the architecture seemed to convey the mood: depressed, dark, angry and outdated.

But this isn't about Blair, or new Labour, it is about Brown. This is a man that these days, has the natural charisma of a woodlouse, and he had to follow the almost impossibly affable Blair. It didn’t seem fair on him, though, that he was off to bad start. Immediately, he had "The Crisis" to deal with.  As good of an economist as Brown is (and it can’t be denied that he does know his way around the British economy), there wasn't much that he could have done, really.  People could see the signs, maybe even he did but it still kicked everyone in the proverbial when the headlines came out. And I don’t know about you, but it hit me in the wallet pretty hard, too.

But we are not here to talk about that, either. This is all just a delicious backdrop to the real story. The garlic bread starter that is the previous few paragraphs perfectly complements the hearty meal that is coming:

Gordon Brown, the abuser. The bully. The rage-fuelled monster.

Now, some people may indeed quake in their boots when they think of Gordon Brown. He is Scottish, which I know from my own heritage brings quite a fiery temper, but the story in question is beyond even that. I think I just laughed. "Come off it", I said to myself, "he was so abusive, some of those around him called on a bullying helpline?" Someone wants to kick this man when he is down, don't they? I don’t want to act like I’m in the know or anything, but I don’t think he’s going to make it out on top again at the end of this years’ election. What’s the point in trying to ruin him more?


That picture is brilliant, though, it has to be said. Gordon Brown, microphone in front of him & retro headphones firmly in place, but something is wrong. It’s the facepalm. The Captain Picard one was great:


but this, what a moment. Right there is the realisation painted all over his face. Or the back of his hand, really.

I wonder if this was the same way he looked, right when he saw the article in the Observer and the Telegraph. Excerpts from the book, "The End of the Party" by Andrew Rawnsley painted a picture of the inside of number 10 that was so ridiculous, it sort of had to be true. He pulled a secretary from her chair because she typed too slowly; he repeatedly grabbed workers by the lapels and shouted and swore in their faces; he stabbed a chair with a pen in sheer anger. The idea of a man like that being in charge of the country is not a bright one, but I suppose that’s exactly the message that Rawsley was aiming for when he wrote the book.

The great thing is, this is just another incident in the long line of brilliant things to happen in the run-up to  this election. It seems that people are actually willing to make an effort to change things, even the politicians.  I am as shocked as you are about it, since we’ve been stuck in a bit of a rut for so many years. You might want to read that again, just to be sure. Or even, I’ll say it again: even the politicians want to change things.

And not just the BNP, the frankly dangerously psychotic people who believe in national supremacy or whatever. These are the ‘sensible’ parties, the ones that we would actually consider voting for.  I think we may have an interesting election this year, and it’s certainly going to be fun to watch them battle it out.

I think the only thing that we can be sure of at the moment is that Brown, untested at the ballot, is highly unlikely to be in charge when all the dust has settled. A man publicized as a ‘bully’ I don’t imagine will gain too much confidence from the people, and though we can respect his knowledge of the political system and the economy, he still hasn’t got enough passion or charisma, or even truly the motivation to change Britain into the country for the future.

I’m not here to sway your votes. Vote for what you believe in. But if people are writing books about how he abuses his staff, Gordon Brown doesn’t really get my vote of confidence.

 
 
Current Location: The Garden
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Current Music: "Hey Jude" - The Beatles
 
 
Jayne --
07 February 2010 @ 12:52 pm


Steve Jobs made an announcement at the end of last month. I was watching the entire thing because it was promised that he would be releasing brand new software for the iPhone that would apparently only cost a fiver to upgrade. However, he spent the entire time with what looked like a Fisher Price iPhone in his hands.

 

As it turns out, this is the new Apple product that's supposed to take the world's breath away. I'm not too convinced, though.

 


The iPad is about 10 inches by 7 and a half, which compared to my iPhone which is only 4.5 inches by 2.5, it sounds pretty bulky. Immediately, I expected it to come with at least all the features that the iPhone has (except the phone bit, obviously), but unbelievably, it doesn't. It doesn't even have a camera.

 

The thing is, I don't want to jump in and start criticizing the iPad and saying that it's not as good as everyone thought it would be, and that Steve Jobs has made a big mistake and all that, because to be honest, I haven't even had a go on one yet. So it seems a bit premature to judge it. It doesn't come out in the UK until the end of May, and even then I know I won't be buying one, because I won't be able to afford it. However, when that day rolls around, I will go down the Apple Store in Swansea and have a little look. See what all the fuss is about, you know.

 

So at this point, it looks like reviewing the iPad might be a little tricky, or at least a little speculative on my part. But then again, it’s not due to come out in the US until March, so pretty much any review you read at this point isn’t going to be based on personal experience.

 

Looking on Wikipedia, we can see there’s been quite a mixed reception to the iPad, and I think it’s understandable why.  For one thing, let’s start with the name. There’s a brilliant quote on Wiki: “after the iPad's announcement, some media and many online commenters criticized the name "iPad", noting its similarity to "pad", the common name for a sanitary napkin. Shortly after the launch announcement, the hashtag "iTampon" became the number-two trending topic on the social networking site Twitter.”

 
That is officially my favourite thing that Twitter has ever done. iTampon? Genius. I was thinking something along the lines of sanitary towel when I first heard it, but the social media community took that and ran with it, and that is just fantastic.

 
The features on the iPad aren’t nearly as diverse as they should be. The lack of a camera is sorely missed, and you still have to plug it in to dock it, which seems a little archaic since devices like the Microsoft Dune have been doing wireless sync for years now. Also, and this is something that annoys me on the iPhone too, is the lack of multitasking! The only thing that you can run at the same time as other stuff is the iPod. That’s it. Any radio apps, the second you hit that ‘home’ button, it turns off. Downloads in iTunes stop and then error if you don’t keep touching the screen to stop it from going on standby. It’s a silly, silly thing, and I thought they would have fixed it by now.

 
Apple have argued that the reason they’ve left the multitasking out is that if they hadn’t the impressive battery life would suffer heavily. And in fairness, it does have a ten-and-a-half hour battery, which is fairly unbelievable. And there’s a new design of processor in it which is apparently lightning fast. I mean, the iPhone is fairly speedy, but apparently is absolutely no match for the iPad. A good start, at least, because everyone loves a gadget that works quickly.

 

They were saying on Diggnation that at least at the beginning, the iPad will not come with an option for a 3G contract. This is the most flawed thing of all. A device like this needs internet all the time, otherwise it is essentially useless. Anyone who has wondered around with a laptop knows that finding a decent unlocked wi-fi signal is pretty rare, unless you happen to live in Starbucks or McDonalds. And especially since It doesn’t have the phone part, I can’t imagine you would be able to do a lot on it without an internet connection. Even a lot of the games require you to be connected.


That’s one thing though, that it’s sure that the iPad is going to excel at.  The games that are going to come out on it are going to be fantastic, and that’s no doubt. There’s some pretty awesome addictive games on the iPhone as it is, like Bubblewrap, and that brilliant one where you have to unravel the toilet paper as fast as you can (my friends have spent a lot of time competing on that for the high score, which is endlessly entertaining to watch). But it is true that it does suffer a little bit due to the tiny screen, so some of the games that are going to come out are going to be fantastic. I bet it won’t be long until World Of Warcraft is available on there, too.

 

But the time when we’re going to really see what the iPad is capable of, when we’re going to really know what it can do, is once it’s jailbroken. It’s only going to be a matter of time. I decided to go ahead and jailbreak mine in the end, and the themes are awesome, but getting the free apps is actually a lot more complicated than I thought it would be. I actually haven’t had the chance to download any paid ones for free yet, ‘cause my installous doesn’t work. And I can’t turn it off, either, without having my computer to hand to turn it back on. This is the tethered jailbreak issue, but I know the dude behind Blackra1n is working on it, and it won’t be long until that problem is fixed. The coolest this that the jailbreak gave me, though, is the Gameboy Color ROM on there – with Pokemon Yellow. I know this officially classifies me as a total nerd but I don’t care! I have a Pikachu! :D


 
So, the iPad, then. They’ve priced it at $399 to start, which is unbelieveably cheap for an Apple product, let alone something like this. I’m actually really impressed that they’ve made the price so reasonable, and hopefully it’ll still be a similar price when it comes out here.


 
But I think the important thing to understand about the iPad is that it’s not a computer. It may have features that a computer does too, but it’s essentially a gaming device, and a device for media consumption. It’s a toy. Okay, so you can check your emails and read the news, but you can also read books, watch movies, play games. It’s not designed to be the most useful thing in the world, because when are toys ever that?

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Current Location: Work...
Current Mood: curiouscurious
Current Music: The sound of silence.....
 
 
 
Jayne --
26 December 2009 @ 12:16 pm


Merry Christmas, everyone!

It’s that time of year again. Marks and Spencers are doing the most sensational food adverts, and the BBC minicuts have sleigh bells in them. Those are the clear-cut signs of Christmas to me.

It’s been a busy year, this 2009. I’ve graduated from college with a modest amount of points that are hopefully going to take me to a decent university next year, I’m an active part of the working sector and I pay taxes, all things are looking to become very mature and sensible.

I’m in France for a week for the festivities, and it is a very odd place to be at Christmas if you’re not used to it. I arrived last Friday and I actually get back onto a plane home later on this afternoon, so it’s been short-lived this year, too. But the French have an odd atmosphere around Christmas, I find. It’s never quite the cozy, familiar chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire that the English so dearly love. There’s a lot more sunshine than there should be, and the meals are a little different, and you can’t get Christmas Pudding or mince pies. It took some getting used to when I first came here, and even now it throws me a little, especially since these days I experience the English run-up to Christmas and then the French event. It sort of contradicts itself, which is odd.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it, of course. Christmas is the only time of year when every member of my immediate family can be found in the same country, let alone the same house. We all bicker and grind on each other’s nerves, but it’s alright really because it’s Christmas, so another couple of glasses of wine and we’ll all cheer up again.

I found it kind of difficult to pick something to write about for this Christmas post, so I’ve  gone for the fact that it’s Christmas means that it’s Doctor Who time, and that time is always awesome.

The episode was the first of two, the second to be shown on New Years’ Day, and I cannot wait. I’ve been a pretty big fan of the show since it was reborn in 2005, and I’m loving Mr Tennant. Although, the new guy, Matt Smith, I know is going to be awesome too. I know this because he was in a BBC drama adaptation of Philip Pullman’s ‘The Ruby in the Smoke’ two Christmases ago and he was sensational. He played my favourite character, the male lead, a photographer, and he was absolutely spot on in how he managed it. So I know a lot of people are fretting about what he’s going to be like, but I’m going to say don’t worry. He’s going to be brilliant.

However, I also think it’s time that someone pointed out that, well, it really is the end of David Tennant’s run as the Doctor. He is a devilishly handsome man, and has made an outstanding performance as the Doctor for nearly 5 years. He’s arguably been the best, including all the original ones, and he’s certainly going to go down as one of the most memorable. Thing is, we’ve all known he’s going to be leaving the show for about six months, so I think we need to send him a message:

Don’t worry, David. We are going to miss you, I promise. We won’t forget you. Now for goodness’ sake, calm down.

I say this, because I have seen that man’s face on nearly every single television programme I’ve watched in the past two weeks. From the top of my head, I can list: QI, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Jonathan Ross, GMTV, This Morning, BBC Breakfast and he’s in the ads to appear on Alan Carr: Chatty Man and The Big Fat Quiz of the Year. And that’s not the end of it. He’s also in the voiceovers of at least three different adverts.

I don’t see why he’s seeing the need to whore himself out so much into the public sector at the moment. I mean, I apprieciate that they want to advertise the new episode of Doctor Who and make sure people watch it, but after 4 years, we’re all kind of used to having Doctor Who on Christmas Day. It’s become a bit of a tradition.

The episode itself was good fun; the return of John Simm as the fabulous Master is always a good time to be had, and naturally, as pretty much all two-part episodes of Doctor Who go, it ended on a cliffhanger that left the fate of Earth and the human race in mortal danger. And that’s always great for Christmas day, right?

I’m sorry that this post is a little more brief than the others have been, but in this holiday season I have actually found it incredibly hard to find something worthwhile to talk about. My main gift was what I asked for Christmas; a pair of sensationally good SkullCandy headphones, and I’m pleasantly tipsy now on a sufficient amount of wine and Christmas food.

It’s going to be a bit odd going back to Swansea tonight; especially going back into work on Monday morning, after about a week and a half off. I hope I can still remember how to do my job...

So Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you all have a good one, and that you’ve all enjoyed the many TV specials that have rolled around this year, for it is each to their own and there is most definitely one for each of us.

Cheers!

 
 
Current Location: France
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Current Music: "If I Had A Million Dollars" - the Barenaked Ladies
 
 
Jayne --
12 December 2009 @ 09:41 pm

I have it! It’s finally here, and it’s so shiny!

Yup, that’s right. On the first of December, like I said I would, I walked right on into the Orange Shop and... walked right back out because I didn’t have any proof of address. But that’s okay, because I went home and got a bill and went all the way back and... Voila! My baby is here!

I got the 3Gs, naturally. 16GB, in white. A lot of people say the white one looks tacky and cheap, but I say that all Apple products should be in white. It’s the Apple colour; it’s how it’s supposed to be. Like Ferrari’s always look best in red and the Wii only looks right in white, too. I need a case for it as soon as I can, though, because my reputation with electronics puts this little device in jeopardy.

The thing about getting something you’ve always wanted, though, is it kind of loses a lot of its awesomeness. Like they say, you should never meet your heroes.

However, I don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of this thing. Even if only for the one reason that it’s a tool at the end of the day, and a tool that I will use all the time. It’s like having a little computer in your pocket. It lets me update Twitter at all times, it’s got a GPS and a map so I’m never going to get lost, I can check Facebook and even chat on MSN messenger with it. I can browse the web and Google things whenever I want to, unlike before where I’d come home from wherever I was with a loads of cryptic notes either etched onto the back of my hand or saved in my old crappy Nokia as draft messages, which I would forget about and never look up.

I think in a way it kind of makes the world more interesting, simply because it provides information. One of the best apps ever is Shazam, where you hold it up to music and it identifies the song for you, saves it in a list, and even gives you links to the YouTube video or the song in iTunes. This has been amazingly useful at gigs. Especially the kind of gigs and even clubs I go to, where more than once I’ve heard songs and had no idea what they are, but because they don’t have definitive lyrics, it makes it kind of embarrassing trying to imitate basslines and drumbeats to my friends.

Not just that, but I can do that thing where you scan the barcode and find out where the product is cheaper. I was in Waterstones the other day look at a book that was kinda pricey, so I scanned it and it was on Amazon for half the price – so, even better, I bought it right there and then with the Amazon app!

Thing is, I know I’m probably preaching to a bunch of people who are rolling their eyes now, but this isn’t boasting. I mean, the iPhone has its flaws, too. The app store is expensive, when you add it all up, and I’m not sure if I’m going to jailbreak it yet because there is a bit of a risk in that. Also the battery life does leave a little to be desired, since I have to charge it every night if I want to have it every day, but then again I am on the thing all the time, so that might be my own fault.

I was a little concerned that 16GB wouldn’t be big enough, with all the stuff I want to put on it, but actually, it fits more music than my iPod, and I’ve downloaded a hell of a lot of app (a lot of them rubbish, to be honest) and it’s still acres away from being full.

The camera quality isn’t great, and it’s already received a lot of shtick for that. IT has no flash whatsoever, so if you’re in anything less than bright daylight you literally cannot see a thing. Although it is pretty cool to be able to take a picture and then upload it to Twitpic there and then.

The main thing that’s really bothered me about it though, and it’s an ongoing problem with Apple that I am aware involves a hefty lawsuit, but the lack of Flash drives e a little nuts. I mean, I know Flash is kind of dying out in terms of web design, as Alex Albrecht from Diggnation said it has a way of making websites look kinda tacky, and it’s a whole lot of fuss and hassle and sometimes kind of slow to load, but a few website that I use on a daily basis use it, and so I can’t access them. The videogame reviewer Zero Punctuation, for instance. His videos are for some reason completely impossible to find on the YouTube app, the only place I’ve located them is on the actual Escapist Magazine website, but it’s a flash player used to stream them, so I simply cannot get to them.

The one other thing, that kind of grinds on my nerves, is the email app. For some reason they haven’t allowed any other alternatives to their email app in the app store, so we’ve only got the option to use the most basic thing, and it really doesn’t like hotmail accounts, either. Only Gmail ones. And you can only imagine what kind of app Google could come up with for the email, if only they were allowed. I’m really hoping they’ll let them do something soon, because it kind of annoys me.

But at the end of the day, I have my iPhone. I’ve named him Cassidy, and despite all these flaws, I love him to pieces. I took out the 18-month contract because I know that by then there’s going to be another iPhone I want, but I know too that I am going to be totally happy with this for that period. It’s brilliant.

Like I said, they say: don’t meet your heroes. Well, I own one of mine, and it hasn’t let me down. Not really.

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Jayne --
28 November 2009 @ 06:08 pm

I have an Irish friend who seems to have a bi-polar relationship when it comes to his native land. The Emerald Isle, for him, holds much frustration and hilarity and in equal measure. My sister went to see him once or twice in Cork, she had a fun time, I saw some of pictures on Facebook, and it didn't look half bad. Talk to him, and he’ll quickly inform you that it is the ninth circle of Hell.

The weather is terrible, the word ‘overcast’ being the most commonly used in the Irish weather-persons’ vocabulary, yet there is also weirdly high mugginess and humidity, which makes for an uncomfortable and certainly unpleasant wetness, a mix of sweat and rain. I'm paraphrasing of course, but that’s the general idea (his own words might be a bit too profane for quoting on here). The long and short of it: he hates it.

Strangely though, there is also affection in his voice when he speaks of the strange stuff that happens. Dancing Dave, for instance, is a man who stands at the end of Patrick’s Street in Cork (which is the main street there, apparently) with big can headphones, rapping and dancing for everyone to observe. An overweight, bald, middle-aged white man, dropping some old school rhymes, to the sounds of Public Enemy. A funny scene to see, you can no doubt agree. I kind of want to see it for myself.

 The Kane building in the University College of Cork (UCC) is the science building, built in the 70's, and you can definitely tell. It’s got that horrible grey egg-crate architecture so well associated with the era. Modern and brilliant for its time, no doubt, and so much so that the city had it listed as a historical building. That’s right, UCC contains a listed building. That in itself I’m sure is not too much of a shock, since most cities have some listed building hidden away somewhere.

The point is that it’s not the part in the quad, which is a converted castle, at least a couple of hundred years old. Nor is it the O’Rahilly Building, which my Irish companion called ‘a curious freak of nature’. Apparently it’s perfectly symmetrical, but completely impossible to navigate. He said room you are looking for might be right next to you, but you really wouldn't know it, because it looks like every other room. Nor is the listed building the glass fronted, rather pleasant Student Centre Building. Instead it is the one from the 70's; a terrible eye sore and nothing can be done. Not even allowed to change the windows. The colour apparently matches the sky most of the time, though:

He also told me two stories recently that fall snugly into his determined image of the Irish ‘crazy’, and they are without doubt a good laugh. He is living in Dublin these days, and while walking up Grafton Street, a very busy, most assuredly completely pedestrian road, he was greeted by a sight that he said brought him to tears with laughter. Parked right across the street, was a nice blue Massy Ferguson tractor. The engine was still running, nobody sitting in the cab, but it’s okay, this is Ireland, and the hazard lights were on. Everything is fair game in Ireland, apparently, when the hazard lights are on.

Or, how he was verbally accosted by a drunk and homeless man when walking to get a pizza. My friend has a penchant for the garish Hawaiian-style shirt. This is a thing you need to know about him. He garners attention. Then add to that he is 6ft 2, a big white guy, he stands out. And he’s pretty loud. Okay, you get the idea: he is noticeable. And this homeless guy was dragged in by the tractor beam. This, my friends, is the exact account of the incident:

“So there I was, walking down Jarvis Street, I was just passing the Luas stop, about to go into Tesco for an awesome ChicagoTown stuffed crust pizza, when I heard the familiar strains:
 "Hey buddy, do you have a Euro?" I didn't have one, genuinely, but do they ever believe you? Not a chance.
"You owe me a Euro, you kicked my dog. HE KICKED MY DOG!"
This dog of his did not exist.
"I’ll sing you a song for a Euro, on my guitar here!"
His guitar also did not exist.
And here is the best bit, the bit that shocked me, the bit that made me laugh hysterically later, getting bits of pizza sauce all over me.
 "Then feck off back to Africa, you big black bastard!"”

Brilliantly weird stuff, I am sure you will admit. It seems to be a strange and wonderful place. Until you get to the ineptitude. I’m going to quote him again on this:

“Oh, how inept is this country? How inept can the poster-child of what joining the EU can do for a small economy be? Well, very. Very very! 500 billion Euros in debt? Check! Most expensive, yet one of the worst broadband infrastructures in the world? Oh, you’d better believe it. At least they have running water. Unless you live in Athone. But that’s okay, Athone is small. Oh yeah, or Galway, but that’s, wait, no wait, Galway is like the 3rd biggest city and county in Ireland. Well, there is an explanation for that right? It’s a good one too, surely? Nope, no excuse. No excuse for why it’s still ongoing, nearly a year later. Oh, well.”

And then came the floods. This didn't affect me at all, so I guess I can laugh. He finds it hilarious. Mainly because he was in France with his family when the flooding happened, and even then, he had moved on to Dublin. But Cork nearly got washed away, and he found it hilariously funny. He escaped just in the nick of time. His college friend told him that the ground floor of his apartment complex had water up to his waist, and pretty much everyone around the southern coast got a bad deal. Limerick too had problems. Businesses were damaged too, which isn’t much good in this economic climate.

Guess that just points out the Irish thing then. There’s a Celtic spirit it seems, deeply ingrained in their hearts. It’s kinda funny, because he paints a picture of a totally ridiculous nation with fairly ugly architecture, and yet after he told me his stories, I want to go there even more. The charm of the Irish, eh?

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Jayne --

I haven’t had the chance to talk about this yet, as I was going to do it last post but then I realized that honestly, Hallowe’en was more important. So, here it is:

I HAVE A JOB!

I mean, I’ve had a job before, but not like this. I worked for my mother for the last 10 years or so, since she runs a villa rental company. So it was all informal, showing people in and out of houses, and mainly doing the changeovers in between. So a cleaner, really. Not something that truly shows you what the 9-5 working life is like. I’ve also done stints at babysitting, and I had a two-month period in Tesco on the checkouts, but I went back to France for three months kind of suddenly after I was hired, so I never got the job back.

The way I got the job is kind of cool, so I’m going to tell you the story.

I’ve started DJ-ing recently. Not professionally, and I’m still pretty rubbish at it, to be honest. But a lot of my friends do it so it’s been really accessible, and I’ve got my friend Dan’s decks at the moment, so I’ve been having a go. So I was in the vinyl shop in town a few weeks ago, called Vinylism. The place is great, it’s above a carpet & vinyl shop, which makes it a bit of a laugh, and it’s such a cozy place, the guys who work there are so friendly. Anyway, the older guy who works there, Tony, asked me why I’m not in there often. I explained that I was on the dole, so I didn’t really have much money to splash out on tracks, and he said, ‘well, if you need a job, I can get you one.’

Turns out, a drum & bass DJ that comes in there quite often works in Human Resources at the Virgin Media call centre in Swansea. So he gave me a number and said to call it, and they should be able to hook me up. I gave the guy a ring and explained where I’d got the number from, which he found kind of funny. Then he said to drop a CV down and they should be able to set an interview up for me.


That settled, I started getting back to my day, but he calls me back about an hour later to say I don’t actually need to drop by a CV, just to give them some details about me, then they asked me a few computer questions online, such as how to connect a computer to the internet, how to find the IP address – which threw me a bit, I wasn’t really prepared for it – but I must have managed okay because they said I had an interview three days later.

It was a bit of a fiasco finding the place, but I made it eventually, and this is beyond anything I was used to. The place is huge, about half the size of a stadium, and full of people. The interview took all day, it was a group one of about 25 people and we had to go through a few stages, one of teamwork, one one-to-onoe thing, and one where we had to listen to the recording of a call and answer some questions, all pretty straightforward. Then, the next day, I get a call and I’ve got the job!

I’ve just finished the training this week, going onto the phones on my own properly tomorrow, and I’m pretty nervous, but it’s going really well. It doesn’t seem too complicated, although it’s a bit daunting because you really don’t know what you’re going to be asked on the phone, and angry customers terrify me a bit. I got one on the phone while I was buddying with someone, and it freaked me out so much I pretty much stuttered to a halt and he had to take over. I’ve called up Virgin about our own services myself before, and I just can’t imagine screaming and swearing, or being rude and angry. It’s hardly the person on the end of the line’s fault that my services are screwing up, and they’re not going to want to help me if I’m rude and insulting, so why bother? The saying ‘a smile gets you a long way’ is around for a reason, you know?

So I’m also experiencing ‘office politics’. Although it’s not really office, it’s still got the politics, with team leaders and managers and Supreme Managers and Emperor Managers and so on. I really am on the bottom rung of this place, and that’s fine with me, but you really have to learn quickly who you can joke about with and who you can’t. In that sense it’s reminded me a lot of school, of some teachers where you can have a bit of a laugh – like Graham and Dave, my history and maths teachers respectively in college – and those that are terrifyingly strict, and you know you better do your homework, or you’re in serious trouble (that fits in with pretty much any teacher I had in France) .

I can see that I’m going to make some good friends here though, and most importantly, money! I can totally see the iPhone on the horizon. I don’t get paid until the last day of November, which is a Sunday, but I don’t start til 12 on Monday, so guess where I’ll be going that morning? That’s right, the Orange Shop! Oh, I can’t wait. Oh, oh, I so can’t wait. I’ve waited almost two years already.

I might have kind of missed the point on this post, sorry about that. Basically, work is like school. You always think, when you leave school, that that’s it. I mean, university is something different altogether, but you never think you’re going to be back in that classroom scenario again. At least, I didn’t think I was, anyway. I’ve been proved slightly wrong though. Only slightly, because dammit, I’m getting paid.

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Jayne --
31 October 2009 @ 11:17 pm

Happy Hallowe’en, folks!

 

I was originally trying to fumble around and find something of interest to write about for this Hallowe’en special post, but for the life of me I couldn’t think of anything to talk about. Then I remembered that a very dear friend of mine, one Gareth Rhys Davies, runs a blog of his own, and perfectly enough it is based on the supernatural happenings of this world. It can be found HERE, and I strongly, strongly recommend you take a look.

 

So my friend Gareth, darling as he is, offered to write something of a ‘guest post’ for this Hallowe’en – something a bit different. Alors with no further ado, I present his work:

----

 

It the most wonderful tiiiiiiiiime of the year.

That’s right, you sexy people. Put grandma to bed and throw on a mask (Gee Note: And then put one on grandma as well. You know, make the old girl feel like part of the process), Hallowe’en is upon us.

It, of course, happens to be my favourite holiday. The time of year we celebrate… um… you know… the great help ghouls were during the First World War. (Gee Note: Okay, so I have no idea why we celebrate Hallowe’en. I mean I could look it up but to be honest with you Jeremy Kyle's on the telly and I'm kinda distracted as it is. It's bound to be something to do with a war though right? That's what all our other celebrations tend to be about. Except Easter of course. That's most definitely about Zombies). More importantly it’s the one time of the year when fat hairy guys like me get the chance to sit in a dark corner of a bar and watch women walk by wearing outfits that would have got them arrested fifty years ago. You can keep your Christmas Jack. Hallowe’en is drunken, playful, and brilliant.

So to get us in the mood, how about an old fashioned ghost story?

In the small settlement of Wallaceburg, Ontario in the 1830’s, a young man named John McDonald bought some land that was highly sought after by various locals. After doing so our J McD-izzle was constantly approached by folks hoping to take it off his hands, most notably an old lady who may or may not have cackled (Gee Note: It turns out historical records tend to be a bit vague in regards to cackling).

Anyway about a month later all kinds of woovy bezerk things started to happen on that there farm. It all started when some of the young womenfolk of the McDonald clan were busy doing what women do (Gee Note: Ignoring my advances probably) in the family home, when a pole fell from the ceiling. This created an awful racket and scared the bejesus out of the McDonald lasses, but they wrote it off as just one of those things and carried on. Soon after a second pole came tumbling down, which really freaked them out. Buy the time the third one hit the ground they were already making plans to go for a nice long holiday to Jamaica while running as hard as they could away from the building.

It wasn’t just the ceilings they had problems with. The family was regularly awoken in the middle of the night by sounds of heavy boots marching through the kitchen, only to find no signs of life when they went to investigate. Stones and bullets were thrown through the windows by unseen persons, to the point where all the windows were soon replaced with wooden boards. A man who visited the McDonalds was hit in the chest by one such stone and angrily stalked outside and threw it in to the nearby river. Minutes later he settled back in to his chair to find the same stone resting at his feet. “Mysterious” fires (Gee Note: One’s that wear eyeliner and fake moustaches. And capes. And do that thing where the creep behind pillars on their tip-toes. Like Dick Dastardly used to. By the way, did you know that “Dastardly and Muttley and their flying machines” was called “Sky kid, black demon king” in Japan and “Satanas Et Diabolo” in France? No. I bet you didn’t. But thanks to me now you can impress people at cocktail parties with your smarty making) would break out all over the shop, even on the roof of the house.

Eventually John had enough of all this hullabaloo and went to see a stone reader (Gee Note: Which if you don’t know is a bit like reading tea leaves. Except with less tea and more stones. Which is also the reason Boris Henshaw-Smythe was voted the “Worst tea maker in Basildon” for five years running. “Well Boris, you’ve definitely improved since last year. I mean, this time you’ve at least remembered to include the water and milk. But see now, where you’ve gone wrong is you’ve used pebbles instead of actual tea.”. “Dammit! So close.”.). The stone reader listened to John’s tale of woe, consulted her wee bag of rocks, and said “Be on de look out fo’ suspicious birds. Ya dig?”

It struck McDonald that recently a strange visitor had been visiting their farm, a goose with a black head. He told the stone reader about this who, after careful consideration, concluded that “You’s need t’shoot dat mutha as soon as possible”. And so John tooled himself up with an AK-47 (Gee Note: Warning. This story may not be all that historically accurate) and, because some random with a mangy bag full of stones had told him to, tracked down the bird and shot the poor bastard.

He only clipped the wing of the bird however, putting a bullet clean through it. This however seemingly convinced the bird to stop going to the farm (Gee Note: And you can’t really blame it I guess. I mean if I was going to a bar on a regular basis only to one night walk in and have a chair thrown at my head by the landlord, I’d probably be thinking it would be unwise to go back. That and I may want to work on my social skills). But here’s the thing. A little later J to the Mc to the D was walking past the possibly cackling old woman’s house when he saw her sitting on her rocking chair on the porch, nursing a broken arm.

Oh yes.

From that day forward the disturbances at the McDonald’s farm stopped, and the family lived happily ever after, going on to set up a successful little burger van that would soon become a multi-national corporation dominating the fast food industry for years to come. Or they all eventually succumbed to tuberculosis. One of the two.

Now you may be wondering why I would have bothered retelling a ghost story that is neither anything other than a wild collection of coincidences or in fact the least bit scary. Well, the things is for me that’s what Hallowe’en is all about. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I find the tale of McDonald’s spooky fowl beyond daft and absurd, and yet charming all at the same time. And that for me that is what Hallowe’en, with all its partying and costume wearing, is all about.

That and the next time you see a goose with a black head throw a brick at it and try not to miss. I mean you never know, right?

 

 
 
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