almostwitty: (monkey)

Red clip on a lanyardI was idly browsing through the website for the forthcoming Nine Worlds convention (no idea – I only know four of the guests listed!), when I came across their Communications Preferences System.

This basically means you can opt to wear a different coloured clip on your convention lanyard if you don’t want anyone to start a conversation with you (red), or if you want only people you know to start a conversation with you (yellow). Which would make sense for some people with particular social issues.

However, there’s a different colour for those who want to indicate that they’re happy for other people to initiate a conversation with them. Logically, I’d have thought that colour would be green for go – after all, cars move on green, pedestrians move on green, green is the logical action colour for most human endeavours.

But nope, it’s blue. I wonder why that is?

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)

So it’s been twenty-five years since the mass shootings of civilians by soldiers from the Chinese Army. 25 years since I saw the strange footage on the news. 25 years since I was naively asked by my secondary school science teacher if I knew anyone in Beijing.

You’d have thought that having TV cameras and eyewitness accounts would be enough to ensure that some version of the truth would remain.

But no. The Chinese government doesn’t really talk about it, while keeping a very close eye on who goes into Tiananmen Square today. There’s a constant “disagreement” over whether those protesting were students hoping to change the way China worked, or counter-revolutionaries determined to overthrow the state. However, you’d have thought there was a general consensus that those protesting wanted to change *something*.

Unless you’re this Tumblr blogger, who asserts that the students were “resisting their country ‘modernizing’ in the age of Reagan, the godfather of neoliberalism”. Which is an explanation that seems to come so out-of-left-field for me, it beggars belief.

So much so that I had to blog about it, without actually having anything to say. Which is very bloggy, really.

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)

Google are proudly trumpeting their new Stories feature, which basically automates the tiresome thing of organising your photos – assuming you’ve let Google+ upload all your photos to the cloud for you. And it’s a pretty nifty automatic feature.

Perhaps too automatic. Because left to its own devices, this is what it trumpeted as one of my more recent stories…

What Google+ Stories did with one of @almostwitty's photos What Google+ Stories did with one of @almostwitty’s photos

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)

It’s sometimes joked or cited (especially by Buzzfeed) that this is the most British thing of all… Stephen Fry walking a corgi outside Buckingham Palace.

The most British thing? Stephen Fry walking a corgi outside Buckingham Palace The most British thing? Stephen Fry walking a corgi outside Buckingham Palace


Indeed, it is the most British thing of all, in the sense that they pretty much all originate from outside England.

Stephen Fry, is one of the finest examples of populist intellectualism that Britain has ever produced. His maternal grandparents were Hungarian Jews.

Buckingham Palace was re-modelled by King George  III. His grandfather was born in Germany.

The Union flag was probably made in China, and was created to celebrate the union of England and Scotland.

The corgi originates from Wales.

The road was possibly originally paved by the Romans.


Now, obviously, as the son of immigrants who nevertheless feels so British that I have to work at the British Broadcasting Corporation, I don’t see this as a bad thing in any way.

But if ever some pig-headed nationalists start saluting to this as a reason to keep immigrants out or to persecute “foreigners” in any way… well, they’re even more idiotic.

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)

Quite big, it would seem.

Areas of the UK with as many people as London

Areas of the UK with as many people as London

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)

I was at my local Tesco’s lunch queue, patiently waiting with 30+ people ahead of me in a long snaking queue that goes right across the store. Then a little old lady walks up and down the queue, holding aloft one of those new Tesco tablets, going on about how they’re cheap as chips at £60 and great toys.

A few huge problems with what’s happening:

  • You already have 30+ customers waiting patiently to be served. Instead of trying to sell them something they’re NOT going to buy casually in their lunch hour, why not put your resources into serving your existing customers, before they get fed up of the queue and go somewhere else?
  • You can talk about the new Tesco tablet all you like – it’s NOT something people are going to casually buy while waiting to buy their sandwiches in their lunch hour.
  • The little old lady, bless her, has zero idea what a tablet is. She is obviously just repeating the selling points by rote

The list of failed big companies is littered with examples of where they went chasing after a new product, while in the process totally forgetting about or taking for granted their existing customer base (Blackberry etc.) Looks like Tesco are going the same way.


* Well, ok, not EVERYTHING wrong. There’s the fact that rampant consumerism is burning up what’s left of our planet’s resources while we’re simultaneously still in one of the worst economic recessions ever, while the 1% are still well-off… but hey ho.

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)

The second-best latest Pet Shop Boys song, Thursday, has just had its video published. Which essentially consists of static footage of the Pet Shop Boys singing mocked up onto billboards in Shanghai.

While the venn diagram of people who love the Pet Shop Boys songs, critique videos and have a vague understanding of Chinese culture may well be just me and Ian Fenn, I would like to point out one (in my mind) flaw:

- There is no Thursday in China. Or Wednesday, Tuesday or Friday for that matter. (You just count days of the week in Chinese – or at least, I do. So when we say Thursday, the Chinese equivalent is “the fourth day”)

Also. Really? Gawping at Chinese billboards and Chinese urban people doing their thing? Aside from it being creatively lazy, didn’t everyone do that in the 1980s with Blade Runner? Why aren’t people bored of this by now?

The same argument goes for Skyfall, which has an entire section set in Shanghai for no real apparent reason other than it’s so “now”. Daniel Craig didn’t even shoot any scenes there…

However, let it be known that the song is many shades of awesome, and should be listened to, loved, and cherished. Although anyone who says that this song is better than Love Is A Bourgeouis Construct needs their ears examining… and why they didn’t make a video for it, is anyone’s guess…

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)

I was outside my local food shop the other night when a woman came up to me and thrust £5 in my hand.

Alas, it was because she wanted me to go in and get her some organic chicken – with a strong emphasis on the word ORGANIC. She couldn’t go in as it would apparently mean tying her yapping dog up.

So being the nice chap that I am, I took her money, verified with her that the chicken was suitably organic, made my own purchases, and gave her her chicken on the way out. (How often do you get to say that?)

And as is always the way when one stranger in London reaches out to another, she had to justify and explain the whole thing. Apparently it was because her boyfriend had inconveniently invited someone round for dinner after a gym session, so she needed more meat. But then, she said, she was a veggie anyway… Why she didn’t tell her boyfriend to pick up something on the way home, I’m not sure.

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)

TARDIS power isolator

After all, any device that, when blown up, destroys the universe should be treated with care.

So it’s very good to see the BBC are taking their responsibilities very seriously.

(Taken courtesy of the BBC, who invited me to a preview of their actual TARDIS studio tour, which you can now take in Cardiff till the end of August.)

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)

A poster reminding BBC staff about the closure of BBC Television CentreAnyone who loves Britain’s televisual heritage will not have let the closure of BBC Television Centre go by without at least one sad thought of glorious days gone by, lamenting how the creative engine that kept the BBC going will now surely be lost, and how they will no longer find a home or see their friends and colleagues at the bar.

Forgive me for interrupting the nostalgia fest – and none of this is meant to dismiss the great work that went on there – but the two BBC chat’n'compilation programmes that look back at the great days of Television Centre have reminded me of one thing:

As a current BBC employee, there is no way I – or many people I know – would have even had a chance of a job there back in the 1970s. That’s not down to my skills or experience, but simply because my face would not have fit. The two programmes that looked back at Television Centre didn’t feature any non-white people on its various panels, and hardly any women compared to today’s television schedules. What, no room for Floella Benjamin or Lenny Henry on the comfy sofa?

To be fair, this in itself was symptomatic of 1960s/70s Britain, an era where any thought of diversity (by today’s definition) was a sci-fi dream as alien as anything from Doctor Who, but in the mass rose-tinted view of a simpler life where everyone was friends with everyone else, this seems to have been forgotten.

A similar delusion seems to have befallen some people as they realise our television heroes back then were as flawed as their British society counterparts. It’s apparently a shocking revelation in a new Doctor Who behind-the-scenes expose book (ironically written by the man who directed/produced one of the Television Centre tribute shows) that William Hartnell was racist, and senior members of the production team would sometimes use their oblique power of promise to extract sexual favours from fans.

Forgive me if I’m not shocked at the thought that a white British man in his 60s in the 1960s would not have been entirely comfortable with people from other races. Or that the casting couch phenomenon was alive and well in 1980s/90s Britain. As the Seventh Doctor once said in one of the spin-off novels: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

None of this is written to denigrate the creative genius that created moments of joy and laughter for millions of people (or indeed the distress of those on the wrong end of the power equation), but let’s not pretend it didn’t happen. And isn’t happening now.

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)

Disney characters starvingOne of the many many reasons for living in London is that it’s meant to be a world-class city, the place people flock to.

Well, I hope they don’t want a simple takeaway delivered on a Saturday night because it seems nigh on impossible.

Our first choice was Sufi – a Persian restaurant round the corner rated by Jessie J and Time Out, amongst others. We’ve ordered from there before without any problems, but of course that was on a weeknight. We called them tonight, to be told they don’t deliver on a Saturday night.

Next stop, another Persian restaurant called The Piano in Chiswick. We ordered it via Hungry House seemingly without a problem – thirty minutes later, with our hunger pangs getting ever more desperate, we get an email only to be told they rejected our order without any explanation as to why. I really should have checked the website earlier – they manage to spell Persian wrong on their homepage. Seriously.

Ditching the notion of such exotic cuisine as Persian altogether, we thought we’d retreat to the safety of Chinese food. So tried to call the Drunken Tiger restaurant (great name, amiright?) in Shepherds’ Bush. After five minutes of them not answering their phone, we gave up.

We finally resorted to the tried and tested Seven Stars takeaway round the corner – really, we should have stuck with them from the start, because they took our order without any problem and it’ll arrive in thirty minutes. Fingers crossed.

And now we’re starving and ready for bed at the same time. Not a great combo!

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)

Back in the 1980s/1990s when I was very very interested in British comedy, I used to collect the odd scrapbook of newspaper/magazine articles of anything related to Blackadder et. al. This was mostly because this was pre-Internet, and I was stuck in mid-Wales and thus very much out of the loop. (Although ironically, I’m now living in West London, working for the BBC and still as out of the loop as ever. Who’s this Miranda woman?)

Fortunately, some kind person has seen fit to share their collection of articles from that time with the world by scanning it all in and posting it to that there Internet. So if you want to revisit articles about comedy gems from Absolutely to Whose Line Is It Anyway (by way of Alan Davies, Ardal O’Hanlon, Ben Elton, Blackadder, Comic Relief, Eddie Izzard, Frank Skinner, French and Saunders, Fry and Laurie, Harry Enfield, Have I Got News For You, Ian Hislop, Jack Dee, Jo Brand, Julian Clary, Monty Python, Paul Merton, Peter Cook, Private Eye, Rab C Nesbitt, Red Dwarf, Reeves and Mortimer, Richard Curtis, Rik Mayall,
Robbie Coltrane, Rory Bremner, Rowan Atkinson, Ruby Wax, Spitting Image, Steve Coogan, The Fast Show, The Mary Whitehouse Experience, The Young Ones / The Comic Strip Presents, Tony Slattery and Victoria Wood), pop along to this list of scans from tourmaline1973.

(Really ought to revive my British Comedy Library site one of these days)

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)

A long time ago, I made a mental note to myself to try and formulate at least one joke a week. And as with most mental notes, promptly forgot about it. But I’ve come up with a rather geeky joke this week, and am inordinately chuffed by it. So, here goes:

Everything Everywhere are now to be called EE. When they diversify into tasty chewy snacks, it’ll be called EE Buy Gum.

Thank you, I’m here all week, do try the fish.

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)

Asylum of the Daleks – fantastic great episode, and couldn’t sleep afterwards. But I can’t help thinking Moffat’s written a great mainstream-friendly episode that would have been better placed in the 2013 50th anniversary season instead.


Spoilers ahead! )

Mirrored from almost witty.


almostwitty: (monkey)
Me in costume at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony
Me in costume at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony

In the best tradition of every sports story, my moment as part of 10,000 performing volunteers (1,000 in my sequence alone) in the Industrial Revolution sequence of the Opening Ceremony was merely the climax to a very long journey, way back in the first auditions last Autumn, through to tonight’s moment.

Along the way, there’s been heartbreak (my dearest wife was also accepted, but had her offer withdrawn due to visa restrictions), struggles (rehearsals every weekend since early May, mostly in a Dagenham car park), pain (my muscles seized up during one particularly intensive rehearsal to the point when it hurt to type for a week, and I’ve caught colds standing in the rain), stamina with 4 mile-walks back and forth across the Olympic Park, disappointment (my role in the ceremony amounted to lifting fences and turf in style!) and surprises (the turf we move get twice as heavy after it rains – and it’s rained a LOT during rehearsals!) not to mention a preview of the transport chaos.

It’s tested my patience with the constant changing of plans in the early days, and stamina with all the physical activity that’s been involved from the very beginning of the auditions – I’d never had to “walk with sass” before! There have been weeks when I’ve barely seen my family and friends with my work and Olympics commitments, and missed my son’s first steps as well as a friend’s son’s christening (sorry Matthew!) 

The constant travel across London to the rehearsal venues has been a little wearing – although I stopped complaining when I realised a fellow volunteer had to fly in from the Falkland Islands every week! I’ve also missed out on opportunities to enhance my skills by volunteering at work for some of the Olympic duties, which has been annoying.

All this for an Oyster card, daily sandwich lunches – oh, and the chance to squeeze my theatrical performing urges in front of an audience of 60,000 and a TV audience between half a billion and four billion or so (depending on who you talk to).

County Essex!

Some of the County Essex performing volunteers

It’s been an amazing journey, and one I’d do again in a heartbeat if I could. I’ve made friends with a totally random selection of fellow volunteers of the great British public, from 18-year-old students to retired PE teachers. We have a sense of purpose and unity that’s not often found in everyday life. We’ve laughed in the middle of the Olympic Stadium, cheered people on as they went on an impromptu run around the track, and cried at key moments of the Ceremonies – even when we’ve seen it three times already.

Waiting to go on stage at the Opening Ceremony…

And that’s not to mention the indescribable feeling of walking on “stage” into a stadium filled with flashing cameras – a feeling that I am very unlikely to ever experience again.

Tonight, we feel a sense of elation that our families can now finally understand what we’ve been working towards for the last twelve weeks, tinged with a sense of sadness that this will be it for some of us. We’ve been given the opportunity to take part in other ceremonies, but personally, I think it’s time I came back to normality, and saw my son a bit more often.

But at least I can have a lunch that doesn’t involve Pringles crisps and crunchy bars!

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)
At the dress rehearsal for the London 2012 opening ceremony

A crowd of 60,000 people at a dress rehearsal for the London 2012 opening ceremony (via @2012govuk on Twitter)

So as you may not have noticed, I’m one of the performing volunteers for the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, in front of a total of 200,000 people in the stadium over three nights, and one billion TV viewers worldwide. Which, oddly, isn’t that daunting – probably because I’ve got a relatively small role.

You won’t get any particular spoilers from me (unless you want to know precisely where I’ll be, in which case just ask!) – but you may want to carve out 90 minutes of your life on Friday to watch the ceremony. I’ve seen most of it four times, and there are bits that still manage to either draw out a small tear. Or have me playing air synth with gusto.

So get in front of your TV just before 9pm UK time (or 4pm New York, 1pm California time). You’ll love it, I promise.

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (monkey)
The Shard and Nineteen EIghty-Four

The Shard and Nineteen EIghty-Four

Mirrored from almost witty.

almostwitty: (Default)
You may have read about the European Commission's ridiculously ill-conceived video trying to persuade girls that science is a good thing -mainly by suggesting that the kind of girls who love Sex And The City will also love science because, y'know, it's glittery and pink!

Here's a rather fab rebuttal video response.

Of course, it's from [ profile] bijziend ;)


almostwitty: (Default)

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