Friday, 9 March 2018

Kentucky Fried Pigeon (Obviously Fake News)

Following the news that KFC have reduced its dependence on delivery service DHL, relying on previous chicken drop off folks Bidvest for delivering to one-third of its UK restaurants, I offer another backtrack by the Louisville, Kentucky-based company.

In order for its UK restaurants to receive the freshest chicken, company bosses were investing in crossing their chickens with homing pigeons.

A spokesperson for KFC, whose first UK restaurant opened in Preston, Lancashire, said that they “Wished to build on our Northern roots by integrating racing pigeons into our delivery system”. The notion of self-delivering chickens emerged from an employee's family member, “my daughter bought herself a cockerpoo…or was it a labradoodle... anyway, my grandad mentioned that it was a puggle - that was it, a puggle - that had scared his prized fan-tailed pigeon. So I thought what if I could make a crossbreed chicken-slash-pigeon hybrid?!”

Scientists had made a little headway, creating a chicken that could make its way home, but could only fly a few yards at a time. One boffin told us “The thought of hundreds of easily steal-able…is that a word?...easily stolen chickens roaming the streets of the UK was unthinkable - and they’re just so tasty, they'd be irresistible to a passing stag do. And you'd get all the ‘cross the road’ jokes, so we had to go back to the drawing board”.

Refinements in the crossbreeding lead to chickens capable of flying but easily distracted and susceptible to hypnosis, as well as ones who could fly but seemingly decided that they didn't like the thought of being eaten and are currently in the process of buying a small villa in Portugal.

A spokesperson for KFC owners Yum! Brands Inc. said that this article is clearly made up and not intended to besmirch the good name of Yum! Brands Inc., KFC or any of its employees.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Retro Gaming - Mario's Cement Factory; Game & Watch Gallery 4 (Gameboy Advance)

I was a retro gamer before retro gaming was cool. Not out of nostalgia, geekiness, nor a love of preserving the obsolete, merely that you could buy previous generation consoles for buttons and a few games for a £5 note. Recently, there has been one game that has been on my mind; one game that has plagued both my waking thoughts and my darkest dreams. Well, it's a game within a game. Technically a bonus version of a game within a game.

To give a little background for the uninitiated, the Gameboy evolved from Nintendo's Game & Watch series; handheld computer games with LCD screens that contained rather addictive games. This being the early 80s, they were fairly simplistic and you only got one game per device, though usually with a couple of difficulty settings. Later, Nintendo decided to create the Game & Watch Gallery for the Gameboy; it emulated fairly faithful renditions of the original games alongside updated versions boasting better graphics and improved gameplay. Fast forward to the 32bit Gameboy Advance and we have the Game & Watch Gallery 4 (a.k.a. Game & Watch Gallery Advance). It is here the journey begins.

Within the Advance version there is a modernised version of Cement Factory, now set in a bakery. The bakery has two visible employees: Mario (the plumber) and Toad (the toadstool). There's also Yoshi, but we'll get to him later. The factory is split into four quarters, the upper half sees trolleys bring cake mixture* to one of two storage containers, each of which can contain up to three trolley loads of the mixture. A lever releases the cake mixture into an oven which can also contain three trolleys worth of mixture. A further lever releases the now baked and shaped cake into its final destination which is where everything breaks down.

The right-hand side of the factory feeds the finished product to Toad who boxes the cake, complete with red ribbon, and sends it along a conveyer belt, presumably for dispatch. The left-hand side literally feeds the cake to the waiting Yoshi. That's right, 50% of the factory's output goes into the mouth of Mario's dinosaur companion. If that is not bad enough, the insatiable Yoshi has the audacity to cry if he feels that the cake does not literally fall into his mouth in, what he considers, a timely manner. These are not small cakes either. Some are literally the size and shape of his head.

Poor Toad, meanwhile, despite his seeming diligence, seems so under-employed that he is prone to falling asleep underneath those warm ovens. So sleepy is Toad that he doesn't even notice the presence of the ghosts that occasionally inhabit the ovens (presumably attracted by the heat). Why the factory hasn't seen fit to employ the services of a priest is beyond me, given how their occupation of the ovens causes problems for the smooth running of the factory.

Mario, who runs between his four levers, works in some kind of health and safety nightmare. Whether he travels vertically or horizontally, he must use poorly designed platform lifts, with no railings, with no way to stop them and with, seemingly, no pattern that would suggest any regularity of service. The lack of safety of the lifts is reflected by the lack of contingency for the cake mixture overflowing. Should Mario fail to pull a lever in time, the mixture does not enter a reservoir, as one might hope, but rather land upon the head of a surprised Yoshi or a crying Toad.

What kind of place is this that dedicated 50% of its resources to appeasing the appetite of a diminutive dinosaur? That would allow an environment where an employee is so bored that he could fall asleep in the company of a spectre? That would have only one employee to operate four levers on separate levels, and opposite sides, with dangerous lifts as his sole means of transportation? Nintendo make great games, but are truly awful at designing efficient cake bakeries. And don't get me started on their Fire & Rescue service.

*Possibly biscuit dough

Monday, 15 May 2017

As Seen On Facebook

About 30% of the posts I see on Facebook, always written by people that I don't know (but are invariably liked by people that I do) are a variation of this:

I had a profound thought today. I could easily tell you about it in a paragraph. I could actually tell you in a sentence if I was succinct. But no, this is going to be like some kind of novella where the profound thought is only revealed towards the end.

This next section gives context. I have a normal life - I really am just like you. I'm so very flawed that I'm relatable. Flaws humanise us. I use self-deprecating humour to prove that I'm OK with the fact I'm not prefect. I'm the sort of person that you would like to hang out with.

But then I have to tell you of my struggle, it's been a hard-knock life, especially since the birth of my eldest, Belial. It was a difficult pregnancy and I reveal other things that seem a little too personal to be putting on a social media site.

Now it's the happy conclusion where I get to be the hero. I am a role model and an inspiration. I have have discovered that doing things that I enjoy makes me happy. Isn't that amazing? We should all take time out to do nice things. I told you it was profound. Please like and share.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

10 Facts That You Didn't Know About Friends (Clickbait)

1) The role of Phoebe was written for Dame Judi Dench. Unfortunately for us she had already committed to rival sitcom 'As Time Goes By'.

2) The Friends logo was stylised with dots between the letters because FRIENDS was intended to be an acronym for Federal Research Into Enduring Normal Democratic Societies.

3) Getting the role of Monica Gellar meant that Courtney Cox missed out on Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. The infamous 'robotic rhino' scene was written with her in mind and would have seen a hot and sweaty Cox strip to her underwear. Jim Carrey did the risqué scene instead.

4) Joey's first three episodes were written around him being French-Canadian. Writers had not met Matt LeBlanc and simply assumed he was francophone because of his name. Those scenes were hastily re-written in English.

5) Ross and Monica were supposed to be Catholic but writers thought that Jews were funnier. The famous 'holiday armadillo' scene was written three months before the pilot.

6) Chandler's job was going to be the central element of Friends. His job title was so humorously specific (The Under Assistant to the CEO's Assistant in Charge of Finance and Planning), that the writers felt that it would become too much of a catchphrase.

7) Following the success of the 'Rachel' haircut, stylists lobbied the Warner Brothers studios to have complete control over Jennifer Aniston's hair; giving her a new style each week. Negotiations fell through when the stylists wanted to claim 10% intellectual copyright of the Rachel Green character.

8) Ross famously fathered Ben, though you may wonder why we see so little of his son (not even on his wedding day in London!). It seems none of the child actors who auditioned for the later series had the dramatic range or intensity that David Schwimmer demanded. In the end the producers felt that it was easier to give him a baby daughter, who had no lines, instead.

9) When Tom Selleck was contracted as a semi-regular, the intention was that he would play Magnum PI in a cross generational crossover. Angela Lansbury threatened to sue claiming that 'Murder, She Wrote' had exclusive rights to Magnum PI crossovers. The idea was quietly dropped.

10) The Ugly Naked Guy was actually intended to be the seventh 'Friend'. Unfortunately casting could not find a suitable actor in time and he became an off-screen character. It would no doubt have made those Central Perk scenes a little more...interesting!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Tragic Tale of the Candy King

At the risk of turning this into some kind of confectionary-based blog, I am going to write another thing about sweeties.  If you're a fan of pick and mix (do you remember buying Spangles in Woolworths??), then you may well be aware of Candy King, the omnipresent P&M brand.

When I was younger, fairy tales always seemed to feature a roly poly benevolent monarch, inevitably white-haired and bearded who ruled for the good of the land.  As I grew older, these kings were noble and wise, sometimes excellent warriors in their earlier lives and, older still, sometimes the kings were mad or malevolent.  Whichever incarnation of fictional head of state, these kings were older figures, even elderly.  Then there is the Candy King, a seemingly tragic cartoon figure.

The Candy King is primarily notable for his youth.  He certainly appears to be happy, but his position has obviously come of the expense of at least one of his parents.  What awful occurence left this child a demi-orphan and thrust him into power over the realm on non-branded treats (they're not Smarties, they're 'chocolate beanies')?  Yes, he has power, but I bet there is not a day that goes by that he would merrily swap it to have his parent back.  What kind of decisions does the young man make given his lack of life experience and do his advisors truly have his best interests at heart, or are they biding their time until they can claim the crown?

What kind of empire does he rule?  Surely one based primarily in sugary goods cannot be a healthy one.  Without the opportunity to enjoy a balanced diet he is, at best, going to be malnourished, at worst in some kind of diabetic coma.  His young age suggests that this deceased parent was quite young themselves.  It is a mayfly-like monarchy, short-lived and where there is an emphasis on procreation to keep the blood-sugar line going, but what kind of attention is this rotten-toothed king, poor complexion and all, likely to attract.  His early ascendency is likely to give him some level of having an 'entitled', perhaps arrogant, look on life.  His courtship will surely be with someone money-grabbing and shallow.

All he can hope is that he can perpetuate his family's control over this fairly niche retail area.  It is certainly not a life that I would choose

Saturday, 11 March 2017

The Crazy World of M&Ms

I was introduced the chilling world of confectionary adverts by the passing comment of a friend.  We were watching television and during a commercial break there was an advert that annoyed her, "Why do they have to sell everything with sex?".  I looked up to discover she was complaining about the M&M advert which features a woman being caught by her partner, Scott, in bed with the red M&M.  It's not the first advert featuring the two chocolate chums that has bothered her either; she was annoyed when the red dude saw a chocolate-coloured M&M at a social event, "Oh! It's that kind of party of party!" he exclaimed before whipping off his crispy shell, hands behind the head as he danced to "wiggle wiggle wiggle"(whatever that song is called).  It wasn't the sexing-up of adverts that bothered me, though, as weird as it might be for a product that is aimed at children.  No, it is the strange parallel world in which our red and yellow duo inhabit.

Both Red and Yellow (as I will call them) live in a world in which they co-exist with humans, humans who ultimately want to eat them.  The perculiar aspect for me is that fact that the chocolates seem to be aware of the fact that they are prey living amongst their predators and are relatively at ease with their circumstances.  Take, for example, the aforementioned advert with Scott coming home early. "You were going to eat him without me?!" asks an outraged Scott, "Now the biting makes sense!" comments Red.  From this short exchange we realise that Scott acknowledges that Red is more than a chocolate, "eat him", not it.  Red, meanwhile, seems a little peeved that he was merely food for the unnamed woman; not shocked, aghast nor in fear of his life.  Red rationalises his situation from the verbal clues presented to him.  He is sentient, aware, capable of rational thought and capable of articulating his emotions through the use of spoken language.  Vegans are upset at the treatment of 'dumb' animals, how should we feel about communicative chocolate?

There was an earlier advert which saw a man on a date getting some light food from the cupboard, only to have snacks thrown at him by the M&Ms that were living in there.  He commands Red to "Get in the bowl", a defiant Red sarcastically replies "You Get in the bowl!".  Red, who is many times the size of a normal M&M is then seen completely filling the entire bowl as the chap makes his way back to his date.  My concern is what happens after this advert.  Do they have to kill Red before they consume him, or does he continue his defiance until his face has been detatched from his body - as we learned earlier, he does not seem to suffer pain from being bitten.  Do they eat his limbs, which are not a part of a 'regular' M&M?  Do the other M&Ms try to save Red's life and, if so, would this forever change the relationship between humans and the little round chocolate treats?

The world in which our sweet pals live is surely a nightmarish existence, a world in which they seem resigned to their inevitable fate and are making the best of their situation with a gallows humour which would be grim if they were more human-like.  Imagine what it would be like if Hannibal Lecter films/shows were filled with his victims just hanging around with him, being playful even, well aware of what was to come.  Why do the M&Ms put up with it?  Well, probably because they are fictional.  What kind of human mind created these adverts?  A sick and callous one, surely.  Boycott M&Ms, people, it is the only way in which we can ensure the safety of our Red and Yellow buddies!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Three Short Reviews

So, three short reviews of sorts based on my reading and viewing this week with a common theme.

The first is a book by Steve Brookstein, 'Getting Over The X'. I'm not a fan of The X Factor nor of Steve Brookstein. It was recommended by a singer/vocal coach friend of mine and the book promised a glimpse into the world media manipulation. Priced at 99p on Amazon Kindle, I wouldn't feel bad if I hated it.

Brookstein was the first winner of The X Factor with the promise that the winner would get a £1m contract while the loser would go home empty handed. The success of runners up G4 soon proved that to be a conceit. Steve was fairly successful before the X Factor but had been presented as a pub singer having his last shot at fame. His disillusionment with Syco saw him ask for a release shortly after his first album. By the time Max Clifford was finished, of course, he was 'dropped by the label' to return to singing in pubs. This was untrue, however according to the newspapers Brookstein became synonymous with failure.

The book shows the damage that all those reports did to Brookstein's mental health and articulates his frustration at not being able to present his side in the press. It shows the human impact of the dark underbelly of the media. That said, the book is quite badly edited (very repetitive) and Steve is not always a sympathetic character. At times he is prone to whinging, being a tad self-absorbed and far from modest about his talents. There is name dropping aplenty. It is his story and he wears his flaws on his sleeve.

Sitting on the opposite end of the injustice scale is 'World in Action: The Birmingham Six - Their Own Story'. Dating from 1991, and to be found on YouTube, this 24 year-old hour long special loses none of its impact. The six spent 16½ years in jail and were part of a wider group of people from Northern Ireland who suffered at the hands of an *ahem* overly enthusiastic British police force. World in Action conducted the interviews within days of their release.

The injustices that this documentary recounts are almost unbelievable to the modern ear. From flawed forensics to falsified reports, from severe beatings to denied appeals; the past really is a foreign country and that country has questionable human rights. Ultimately, the six were freed to cheering crowds and, despite their mistreatment at the hands of the state, they seemed to lack bitterness and anger; instead holding a desire to fight other injustices. Thought provoking, terrifying and, at times, heartwarming, this is an essential watch; a stunning piece of television that stands out in a world of reality TV.

The final item is a series that I am currently watching - Rumpole of the Bailey. I was reminded of the series when I was watching The Prisoner. Leo McKern played Number 2 in The Prisoner on a few occasions, most notably in the final two episodes. A rather theatrical actor, he has an amazing presence that seems to fill the screen. Despite Rumpole being quintessentially English, McKern was actually Australian. Nonetheless, he is perfect as Rumpole, an eccentric poetry loving barrister who always stands for the defence and for whom pleading guilty is against his 'religion'. The series has just finished on Drama though I purchased the complete series for £20 (sans the BBC Play for Today 'pilot' which can be found on YouTube).

As a TV series, Rumpole shows its age (through references, language, dress and attitudes) but continues to amuse, entertain and remain challenging to the status quo. It is hard to imagine ITV making something this good. Combining witty comedy, moving drama and legal battles/whodunnits in such an intelligent seamless manner seems to be a lost art. John Mortimer created a compelling series and its ability to be relevant almost 40 years later is a credit to him.