Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I have been trying new things lately, a pursuit in which I only rarely indulge, set as I am in my ways. It's more a duty, actually. As a writer one should always be ready to throw onself into somebody else's life, even if you think it's stupid and dull, and find something useful or interesting or beautiful in it.

I started with an easy one: playing Gears Of War 2, sequel to a game I hated. GOW was massively hyped by Cliffy B, who is either a passionate product evangelist or an arrogant tosser depending on how much coffee you drink, and lauded by the press despite being little more than a bloody and vaguely homoerotic version of Whack-A-Mole. I found it irritating, hard to control, overly reliant on context-sensitive controls which I have never enjoyed (I don't like computers trying to second-guess what I am thinking - it's the reason I always turn off the spelling and grammar checks in Word, relying on my own sense of composition rather than being constantly prodded and overruled by a machine that doesn't get it) and infinitely brown. I like a good shooter, even a mindless one, as long as it's fun. GOW was just overblown and miserable, and I didn't get on with it at all.

The sequel exceeded expectations, though: the controls seem a lot tighter second time round, the levels more diverse and even the characterisation less, er, absent. I honestly enjoyed it, enough to look forward to a third instalment, though not enough to find Cliffy B less irritating.

Next, Sarah Silverman. I admit to some prior experience with Big S, having seen her in a Star Trek: Voyager two-parter years ago, but thought no more of her until I saw her on (I think) 8 out of 10 Cats or the Big Quiz Of The Year, I forget which. Something with Jimmy Carr, anyway. She was funny, whatever it was, and not in a quoting-bits-of-her-standup-routine sort of way as many comedians are on TV.
So I gave her show on Comedy Central a shot, which turns out to be a strange mix of Monty Python, Spaced and South Park - surreal, filthy and strangely warm-hearted despite Sarah's horrifying onscreen persona. I would marry her. The arguments would be amazing.

To be honest I thought I might have bitten off more than I could chew with Hannah Montana. There is little in life that is so diametrically opposed to everything I am and stand for, and while I do rather like Johnny Cash and the Dixie Chicks I am not welcoming enough of Country to find Miley's oeuvre readily palatable. That and it's among the most poorly-written shows ever broadcast. But The Monkees was manufactured bubblegum TV and still somehow holds a place in my heart - that show was brimming with optimism and good intentions, so much so that it was enough, really: HM is much like that, daft as a brush and marketed rather than written but somehow joyous. Being British, my body cannot secrete its own joy and so regular injections are needed from elsewhere.

I was surprised to find that Jodhaa Akbar had won a ton of awards, as the very few Bollywood epics I find myself able to sit through without falling asleep tend not to be lauded so much by the core audience. I caught that film late on Channel Four one night and was mesmerised. I always enjoy a genuinely good foreign-language film, for that warm smug feeling one gets for enjoying something others might consider too much like hard work. Fuck you, I'm an elitist and proud.

It is very hot, which offends me. Britain should be cold and rainy like everyone says, not fucking tropical and sweaty... I despise people who bitch about the heatwaves being too short, as if heatstroke is something desirable to normal humans. In America there's aircon pretty much everywhere: here it is still considered optional, proof that very occasionally the Colonials have it right.

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