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What was I thinking? – My old PC monitor

12 Apr

Buy cheap, pay twice. And I did.

When I first bought my PC, it was inevitable I’d end up having wallet cramps if I wanted to run games on it. Therefore I cut costs everywhere else: the speakers, the mouse, the keyboard, and indeed the monitor were either a gift or the cheapest type in the Argos catalogue. Everything but the latter in that list has since been replaced with something better, more shiny, or with more buttons. I’ve recently been sitting on slightly more money than I really deserve at the moment, so I trumped up some reasons to upgrade the screen as well (except I didn’t need to exaggerate the weird, perfectly circular speck near the top left corner. That was plain irritating. Might have been glue) and ended up with this sparkling LG beauty I’m using now. The Optiquest (I’ve never heard of it either) is now sat in my hallway, facing away from my open door, as if it was filled with regret and shame. Which I now know to be entirely justified.

The Optiquest was the kind of monitor you could safely use in the dark (don’t ask) because whatever hamster on a wheel that makes the pictures appear was being fed on nothing but shredded bits of the News of the World, so even the harsh whites of Wikipedia and MS Word appeared dull and lacklustre, like the “before” t-shirt in a Daz advert. I think I can fit one more analogy in there. It was like it was MADE IN SLOUGH. The gorgeous colours and glorious brightness that my new model has quite literally brought to the table (and has breathed new life into the likes of Just Cause 2, a visual miracle of a game that really didn’t deserve the old one) just wasn’t there.

Plus, I don’t know how they managed to make a flatscreen that looks like it’s older than me, but there you go. Every aesthetic feature of this monitor screams, by which I mean half-heartedly mumbles, “Ehhhhhhh”. Even the power button looks inferior to the sexy curves of the one on the LG.

I wish it had racing stripes to make it turn on faster.

Finally, I guess I should say something insulting about the aspect ratio. Um. 16:10? More like shitsteen ten! You heard.


What was I thinking? – Black band T-shirts

5 Nov


Looking good champ, I hear the ‘breadstick half-dipped in marmite’ look is in, and has been for the several years you’ve worn little else.

What’s that you say? Conversation piece? You live in Swindon, you jackass. Most people here think a Biffy Clyro is some kind of special bong. You’re considerably more likely to be scorned for liking a band that sounds like Queen if Freddie Mercury was a cat on heat than you are to strike up conversation with a friendly stranger over similar music tastes. Face it, the only discourse you got out of those things was a “When did you see Wolfmother, James?” out of your Economics lecturer. An economist? Knowing who the hell Wolfmother are? Don’t make me laugh.

But hey, at least you don’t waste all your money on posh high street brands. Sorry? £18 a shirt? Hahaha. You’re a dick. That must be some kind of posh thread in the stitching, ‘cos judging by the way the colours have faded and the print has worn off after five washes it sure ain’t premium cotton.

Oh sure, it’s a mememto of a good gig. It’s got the date on the back and everything. But then why the hell did you buy that poster/lithograph/sticker set? Stickers?! Old enough to drink, drive, get married, rent pornography, and get into that bar/club place that a friend of a friend had a decent party at but you’re not really fussed about going again, not old enough to stop playing with stickers. Hit Steve up, I hear he’s got a spare Frank Lampard he wants to trade. Jesus.

What was I thinking? – GCSE Food Technology

14 Jul

As the summer edges closer and the exciting prospect of University becomes a little bit more like reality for those not stupid enough to opt for a third year of college, I’m tempted to cast my mind back to what seems like eons ago – my GCSE years. Then I grimace a bit, swallow distaste with myself and try to pretend that didn’t just happen.

Whilst not as bad as the sciences (to a liberal arts layabout these are the academic equivalent of being kerb-stomped) or as menial and futile as P.E., Food Technology is the one that stings the most when I hopelessly wonder if I can claw back my life aged 14-16, simply because it was me who chose to do it.

To this day, however, I will play the ‘Misinformed’ card until I get papercuts – during the period where we had to pick and shoose subjects to do at GCSE level, at no point did my younger self hear anything about designing lasagne boxes or watching videos (sometimes more than once) set in the greyest, dullest sandwich factory in the UK (at one point some guys get free sandwiches to eat, which sounds like a pretty awesome job, but the mere experience of setting foot in the place has swept away their happiness and aspirations, leaving broken shells of men who can muster nothing more joyful than “Yeah, that one’s good”). I’m a human. I need food. Can’t sponge off parents forever, so need to learn to cook. My motivations for joining the course couldn’t be simpler, and yet they were expertly dashed under a false pretence of actually doing some cooking.

Actually, that’s a lie, I did cook. I cooked a fairly edible lasagne, but that’s how they got me – I had been lured into a layered, meaty trap, forced to bake the bloody things right up until the exam. And then in the exam itself. For about four months I made nothing but lasagne, each one very slightly differentiated (I sprinkled cheese on top of one, for instance) like that would justify this ridiculous one-man assembly line.

And now a brief interlude for a joke.

A Scotsman, and Englishman and an Irishman all walk into a bar. They each order a beer and then are instructed by the barman to note and compare each of the qualities of each beer, and then analyse the glasses they came in and write down a list of required features on the kegs that they were delivered in. They are then told to design their own pint glass, with the promise of an ultimately useless qualification if they design it quite well.

I didn’t take the nearest thing to a cookery class to do graphic design. Ask anyone who creates packaging for foodstuffs if they did a Food Tech GCSE and they’ll look confused before going back to sobbing over the inanity of their career as you awkwardly try to back out of the door.

Ultimately, this is a subject that – to me – has absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever. I still don’t know how to cook, I’ll eat my own skin before I apply for a job that involves the design and manufacture of boxes, and most of the people in my class were dicks. Which isn’t the course’s fault, but it’s nice to bitch retrospectively.

What was I thinking? – The Italian Job game

14 Jul

I actually quite liked the remake of the Italian Job – with the original, after the first time I saw it the first hour and a bit were spent thinking “Get to the damn heist already”, whereas the 2003 version was more “Get to the da – ooh, Jason Statham, he’s badass”.

The PS2 game of the 2003 film had no such Statham. The best you got was a Mark Wahlberg kind-of-soundalike who never actually appears. The only moving objects in the game are the shockingly blandly rendered cars. It’s been a while, but even the damn flags wouldn’t move.

Of course, I lapped up the chance to drive Minis off tiny ramps (I always chose the old-style Mini because it made a slightly less uncool noise), but then I was still at the stage where £40 for a game was untold riches, and I’d enjoy one new game every three months or so, during which time I’d have to save my pennies – if I started thinking something I spent that amount of money on was actually kinda bad, I’d stay in bed all day, weeping and eating Fondant Fancies.

In fact, it wasn’t just ‘kinda bad’. It was dreadful. Every car other than yours looked like a box with tinted windows drawn on in crayon, and when you crashed into them in a vain attempt to wring some fun from this damp, oily rag of a game, rather than flipping over into a million pieces they’d stop dead and bounce from side to side, as if they’d installed those Pimp My Ride-style hydraulics which had just become sentient and angry. A bit funny the first time. Depressingly lazy design the next.

Normally I’d have a picture here to liven things up, but I want to convey how dull this game was.

Besides the story mode (where the mission ‘drive here, drive away from these guys, drive back here’ was repeated seventeen-odd times, slightly differentiating where you had to drive to and from. Except the last three missions, where it was exactly the same but with three different coloured Minis) and the Free Ride mode, there was Stunt Mode. If I am ever angry, when I should be simply ‘annoyed’, it’s because Stunt Mode pushed up my rage threshold and it stuck. -The aim was to drive a Mini along a stunt course, so over ramps, along impossibly narrow bridges made of magic unbreakable timber, and up over impossibly narrow ramps made of magic unbreakable MDF. It was a joke. Fall off (likely. It’s a car) and you had to start again. Finish outside the time limit and you had to start again. Try turning the game off so you can play something less infuriating and it would extend a shoe on a stick from the back of the console and kick you in the neck, and you had to start again. Imagine Mirror’s Edge where you play as Jabba the Hut. It’s kind of like that.

What was I thinking? – Franz Ferdinand

14 Jul

A feature where I pathetically despair over the misguided loves and interests of my youth. Today: Scottish, sexually ambiguous indie band Franz Ferdinand.

Maybe I was just dazzled by the box art.

I remember the day – hell, the four minutes – where I stopped enjoying Franz Ferdinand. I’d stayed up until an ungodly hour to watch the first video showing the first single of their second album. I’m fairly sure it was called Do You Want To (because the core refrain consisted of nothing else), and as the ridiculously twee verses morphed into dreadfully camp choruses, I watched my first ‘favourite band’ crumble into pedestrian dance drivel which thought the line “I love your friends, they’re oh so arty” is acceptable. I didn’t buy the album.

Whilst the third (or there abouts) single had a smidgeon of rocky charm, nothing I heard since had topped the best handful of songs from the first album. Which is especially sad since, looking back, they weren’t up to much either. Sure, I may have geekily air-guitared the ‘solo’ in This Fire but now I’m older slightly less dumb I can see that this was a solo which tries convincing real solos, such as the badass one in Tenacious D’s Master Exploder, of its true greatness, but is met with sighs of “I hate it when this shit happens” and is pitied so much that the solo is put to work in Exploder‘s kitchen, where it eventually invents This Fire Cake.

What else? How about the half-arsed mumbled vocals on Darts of Pleasure? The total forgetability of all the songs that I haven’t mentioned or were singles, hence why I haven’t mentioned them? The guitarist’s Tetris-square head? It looks like it was rendered for the original Playstation. His head’s so square it’s sometimes confused for Oxo stock. Need some storage for moving house? Look no further than, um, Franz Ferdinand Guitarist’s box head. I mean, Jesus.

The sole redeeming feature of this unbuttered watercress sandwich of an album is the third track, Take Me Out, which has achieved fairly I Predict a Riot-like karaoke potential if you fancy a singalong and have literally have no other music with you whatsoever, or have somehow slipped into an alternate universe where remarkably unremarkable soft-dance-post-punk is all that exists. Though if that happened to me I’d probably go lick a railway track.

So, here’s to Franz Ferdinand’s Franz Ferdinand, by Franz Ferdinand – I hereby wash my hands of the first album I bought with my own money. But hey, we all do stupid things when we’re young.