Thursday, November 24, 2011

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A whole bunch of dumb

Too long ago in this very galaxy I attended a junior school where it was deemed acceptable practice to torture the kids. The teachers were the worst; one technique was to force us to memorise dozens of the most common collective nouns for no greater purpose than being able to regurgitate them under test conditions. There are literally hundreds of weird and wonderful (and often counter intuitive) combinations so this was no mean feat for a ten year old.

The upshot? I still know to this day that when locusts call an AGM they gather in a 'plague', lepers communally crumble and disintegrate en masse in a 'colony' and kittens were playing with 'kindles' long before Amazon adopted the term. Joking aside, it did teach us that there is poetry and art to be found in the quirky nuances of the English language. If it sparked a passion for literature in just a handful of us it was time well spent.

Fast-forward to 2011 and even the most mundane collective nouns have been eradicated from the language. Why trouble yourself with all that tiresome thinking when you can just lump everything together in bunches? A bunch of friends, a bunch of fun, a bunch of information. Even a bunch of water! Another US-driven nail in the coffin for the English language. And you - like - thought things couldn't get any - you know - worse, or whatever.

Saying that, it does dovetail very nicely with the recent, politically correct trend to steer clear of labelling pupils as failures by banning grades, or even testing. Dumb down the language to mindless 'duckspeak' and you take away the opportunity to get something wrong. In cahoots with the 'bunch of' is the technique of re-branding ignorance and laziness as colloquialism, thus making, for example, "I could care less", 'Legos' or using 'England' to refer to any location in the UK, perfectly acceptable. How cute. The trickle-down effect is to reduce all pupils to imbeciles, who no longer feel inadequate, yet remain imbeciles. I think they call it equality.

Friday, July 15, 2011

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A monkey in sheep's clothing

Have you ever wondered how Monkey Island II might have looked if Bill Tiller - Curse of Monkey Island's lead background artist - had been let loose with a paintbrush six years earlier?

A heck of a lot like this imagines 21 year old web developer, Jennifer Gleu from Hanover, Germany.

In cahoots with a handful of volunteer programmers and story-writers, Jennifer, or BlackBat as she's known on the Point & Click Dev Kit forums, aspired to create a kind of up-styled Monkey Island II renaissance, for no loftier a reason than her own amusement. Regrettably, however, the project has been shelved to free her to collaborate with a small team of developers from the Telltale Games forum who are currently working on their own Monkey Island inspired fan game. 'Carnival of Monkey Island' will be released as an episodic 'what if?' scenario sandwiched between the events of 'Curse' and 'Revenge'.

Nevertheless, you can feast your eyes on more breathtaking stills of the envisioned Monkey Island II/III mash-up here and once again ponder how much wood a woodchuck could potentially chuck, assuming a woodchuck could, should and would chuck wood.
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Twitterers' tweets are twaddle

The winners of the 161m EuroMillions jackpot were today identified as Colin and Chris Weir of Largs in Ayrshire, proving that paying attention to anything said on Twitter is strictly for the birds.

Largs is actually 500 miles from Clacton so I wouldn't even advise - dubiously anonymous Tweeters - to hold their breath waiting for a close guess rosette. As wild a suggestion as this is, next time, maybe Metro could try asking someone from, oh I don't know, Camelot?

Today's 'random Twitter nuggets featured in Metro' include, "rip-off Britain" in response to a story entitled, 'Apple users are un-appy as prices rise', strangely enough also penned by Fred Attewill. Somehow I suspect he's been studying the Metro's regular 'From the Department of the Bleedin' Obvious' column without entirely grasping the concept. Did he truly expect "disgruntled app users" to do anything other than "vent their dismay"?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

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Why dead-tree newspapers need an unfollow button

Far more predictable than death and taxes is the likelihood of a story alluding to the opinion of some random, uninformed Tweeter featuring in commuter's choice (because it's free), the Metro newspaper.

Below is a prime example...
Does EuroMillions winner come from Clacton?
Twitter abuzz with rumours

Twitter users have been speculating that the mystery British EuroMillions winner comes from Clacton, Essex, as the £161million jackpot remains unclaimed.

The new multi-millionaire – if he or she is a single ticketholder – has been catapulted to 430th place on The Sunday Times rich list, just behind the Beckhams on £165million.

Rumours were rife on Twitter yesterday about where the winner or winners were from.

Some tweeters claimed they lived in Clacton or Jaywick in Essex, while others named the north-east as their home.

Others took to the social networking site to express their disappointment.

‘Really regretting my optimism yesterday – hope I can find the receipt for that Bentley,’ said one tweet.

The huge win dwarfed the previous record in Britain, held by an anonymous winner who scooped £113million on EuroMillions in October.

A National Lottery spokesman said: ‘This is amazing news. We are absolutely delighted that a UK ticketholder has scooped the entire jackpot.

‘This is the biggest winner this country and Europe has ever seen.

‘In addition, three UK ticketholders in the next prize level down won £1.7million for matching five main numbers and one Lucky Star.’

The lucky winner - who has scooped as much money as the previous 76 UK Lotto jackpots put together - is already losing interest on their winnings at an alarming rate.

According to Coventry Building Society's Poppy Online Saver, the winner is losing interest at a rate of £9.49 an hour - that's £13,673.97 a day, £95,717.79 a week and a staggering £4,991,000 a year.

The winning numbers in the draw, held on Tuesday, were 17, 19, 38, 42 and 45, with Lucky Stars 9 and 10.

If the big winner so chooses, he or she could splash out on six £24.25million Bombardier Global Express XRS executive jets.

They could secure the services of £80million Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo and still have enough for Picasso’s record-breaking work Nude, Green Leaves and Bust.

Fred Attewill - 14th July, 2011
I passed three tramps on my way to work this morning. One of them said, "ssshpur c-c-change mate?", punctuated with a foul-smelling, booze-saturated belch. Why didn't this hit the headlines? Maybe if he'd Tweeted it from his iPhone it would have. Nothing like pushing 'an unnamed source revealed...' to new heights!

All I can suggest is that this is what happens when the chief executive of a newspaper doesn't pay their journalists to 'hack' into the phones of celebs, grieving families and murdered kids.

It's almost as redundant as some grouchy nobody whining on his blog about arbitrary text-speak posted on a gimmicky web site being hailed as newsworthy.
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Don't phone, it's just for fun

Is it just me or are the 'blink and you'll miss it' disclaimers you find sandwiching TV shows often more entertaining than the actual shows? This one is taken from the seminal episode of the Irish version of Dragons' Den.

That the producers have gone to the trouble of pointing out that "no offer is being made to or solicited from the viewing audience" suggests to me that in previous shows, someone, somewhere in the world has been sitting at home in their spag-bol stained string vest, can of Stella in one hand, novelty banana phone in the other with a wad of Monopoly money poised on a TV dinner tray waiting for the host to turn to them for their verdict.

Do they actually phone in when they can't get the Sky remote's interactive buttons to register their investment or decision to opt out? Consider my mind well and truly boggled.

The Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmare small-print is prime fodder too; "what you are about to see is entirely fictional, cobbled together by an out of work, two-bit scriptwriter for the purpose of salvaging Gordo's floundering restaurants". I'm paraphrasing, but that's the gist.

Saturday, July 09, 2011



A lot like throwing up when you're exposed to the music of Justin Bieber, sneezing is inextricably acknowledged with a knee-jerk 'bless you'. The sneezer - for reasons which escape me - is expected to be so grateful they feel obliged to say thank you. If someone sneezes and you let it go without reacting like a puppet, oh I don't know, maybe because it's an absurd and irksome archaic leftover from the dark ages, people take um-bridge at your rudeness. Likewise if you don't thank the vacuous blesser for their gesture they shoot you a black look that should really be reserved for someone who has just run over your pet cat.

What if I don't want to be blessed? Why don't I get to opt out? Why should I be made to feel awkward for gritting my teeth and pretending I haven't heard? They haven't redeemed my soul, exorcised the devil or warded off the bubonic plague. What they have achieved is to draw attention to the fact that an autonomic reflex has occurred in my nasal passage in response to the presence of an environmental foreign body in an attempt to expel it from said area. Well done, have a gold star.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

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Migraine aura

I'm so grateful to ABC News for screening Grammy Award reporter Serene Branson's on-air 'stroke' episode because now the condition I've been suffering from for the last 13 years has spontaneously become real. Before now I must have been delusional.

As news correspondent David Wright says in the clip, that's the "medical mystery solved and a happy ending for this news reporter". That's that done and dusted then. It was 'just' a migraine and she can get on with leading a normal life. No doubt she'll have to pop a magic pill from time to time to make the woozy hurties go away, but since knowledge of the condition is so advanced it will be just a minor inconvenience.

If anyone knows on which planet this fairytale idyll can be found I'll be waiting with my bags packed.