Pick of the week II

This week, I think I’ll recommend the very thing I’m writing this note on. No, not my sofa (although you’re all welcome to come and try it out), not even my poor ancient 1st generation iPhone. Nope, my big up this week is for the WordPress iPhone app. It’s just so handy to be able to jot down a note, or even just the idea for one, whenever one pops into my brain, because that tends to be at totally random moments. The ones I get in the shower or sitting on the loo in the middle of the night are still safe, however, as contrary to common belief, I do sometimes put my iPhone down and leave it alone.

I guess I should also toss in something that everyone can use and enjoy, so I’ll recommend a site and a company that are really very cool. moo.com is a site that will print you out the coolest cards, stickers and other really nifty little things. They are fast, friendly, great quality prints, and really good value for money. What’s more if you have your pictures on a site like flickr or facebook, you can just drag and drop pictures straight from there into moo’s great little interface and start creating in a couple of clicks! They also print on Eco-friendly paper using non-toxic inks and all! A perfect example of how a company with the right attitude can make a customer experience really enjoyable. Go Moo!

Oh Potter!

Anyone who knows me at all will at some point have had to put up with me going on about how fabulous my dear husband is. But I would now like to address two specific qualities of his. First of all, he is one of the few, the rare few, the happy few, dare I say, who have not read the Harry Potter books. Yes, I know it seems unbelievable, but there it is. Not that he doesn’t like that kind of book, he just doesn’t get much reading time.

The second thing to be noted about my other half, is that he still has that fabulous innocence that allows him, like other young children, to ask what other people may consider to be a silly question. Usually in a nice loud voice so “that lady over there” can clearly hear the question about that hairy mole on her upper lip.

Anyhoo. These two facts may seem unrelated, but they suddenly become terribly relevant when we go to see a new Harry Potter movie. In fact, as the films go by, the ensuing question session becomes more and more intense. It’s not just me, is it, they are missing out more and more really important bits that were crucial to the plot, right?

Friday last, we went to see “HP6”. I was kind of excited, it had been a while since the last movie and I was impatient for it to move on. Before the film had even begun I was pissed off. First, one of Hubby’s colleagues had invited himself along, and he turned out to be the world’s most annoying and boring guy. Seriously, it took him about 2 sentences to make me want to punch him. Then, once we were settled in our uncomfortable seats in the sticky-floored cinema, we were subjected to yet another example of dickery. The guy next to us was listening to his iPod so loud we could barely hear the trailers/adverts, I mean who *does* that kind of thing? No-one, that’s who.

The film started up, and our delightful neighbour finally stowed his headphones away, narrowly escaping being strangled with them. Two and a half hours of sighing and facepalming on my behalf, and spousal grunting about his numb-bum, and we were out of there, wading through the sea of empty bottles and strewn popcorn. We ditched the world’s most annoying man as quickly as possible and headed home. And that’s when the questions began.

Don’t get me wrong, the film was enjoyable, it was good fun and I had a good time. But I just keep wondering how they’re going to follow on from some of the changes they’ve made, because some of them just make no sense at all to me right now… As Hubby was asking all his painfully pertinent questions, I realised once again that if you haven’t read the book before seeing the movie, there are quite a few things you really don’t get, or miss out on completely. And if you have read the book, you’ll spend half the film wondering why the hell that bit is different, where that new bit came from, or why they haven’t mentioned that particular key plot element at all. It’s all very annoying. Obviously you can never adapt a book to the screen without a certain amount of rewriting, but in the case of the Harry Potter franchise, I really get the feeling that they’re just missing out too many important bits for it to make any sense.

Still, it could be worse. They could make a film about Gary Potter.

Who researches the researchers?

It’s happened again. I shouldn’t even notice by now, I should just take a deep breath and accept it. But I can’t. It just gets to me. I had another attack of foot-in-mouth disease. And at the doctor’s as well, o irony most foul.

As we were chatting away, he asked me if my husband was supportive, and whether he was a patient man, to which I blurted the response “he has to be, he loves me”. Which rather sounded like “I, Helga Heffalump, am thoroughly enjoying  abusing my poor devoted wee husband’s love for me by making him endure all this shit on purpose. Ha ha.”

Of course, what it should really have meant was: “I’m aware that putting up with me on a daily basis already requires so much patience – and a mild form of insanity -that my husband is, by definition, the most patient, sweet and understanding man on the face of this earth and I am very lucky to have him by my side…” Of course by the time I realised how corrupted the message had become between my tired brain and my hyperactive voicebox, the moment was long gone and my doctor was firmly convinced that I’m some kind of horrible oppressive husband-beater.

Then, just to complete my day of bumbling, on my way downstairs (or rather downlift) from the doctor’s office, I helpfully prevented a woman from getting out at the wrong floor. She had pressed the 1st floor button when we got in, and the lift stopped at the 2nd floor to let on a young Asian lady. The other lady was about to leave the lift when I said “Hang on, this is the 2nd floor”, to which she smiled and said “Oh, so it is, thank you.” And I could have left it there, and all would have been well.

But no, I had to add “Well, they do all look alike, don’t they!”.

This, of course, was greeted by a very frosty stare from the Asian lady, despite the fact that all the floors of that building do indeed look very much alike, with only a very tiny sign to tell you what floor you’re on.

And that kind of thing happens to me all the time. Literally all the time. In fact most of my waking hours are spent thinking about what I should have said in hindsight at such and such a moment. Some of my sleeping hours too in fact. The examples above are actually fairly mild ones compared to some of the catastrophic cock-ups my ramblingly random lack of brain-mouth coordination has gotten me into.  Surely there must be some way – short of chopping out my own tongue and eating it with a nice Chianti and some beans – of preventing this?

Honestly, with all the money poured into medical research every year, why is there no work going into finding the cause and the cure for this terrible, terrible and relatively widespread illness? Surely it must have caused many deaths, conflicts, international incidents, even whole wars, over the years? Once again, scandalously only the sexy diseases are getting a share of the limelight.

Maybe we should get some fellow sufferers from the world of celebrities to organise a charity concert or something. I’m sure Geoff Lloyd would support the cause, at the very least…  In fact, we should probably be able to get at least half the British Royal Family to endorse it, after all, they were the first to prove it was hereditary…

Any old iron!

Wendi Aarons’ famous rant about the Always slogan “have a happy period” is now one of those bits of Internet culture that are so well known they make Those Who Know groan and moan if some poor unsuspecting Net Newbie sends them on in an email. “Duh, like, that’s sooo 2007!”

But that slogan, as irritating and ridiculous as it may be, is far from being the only poor piece of marketing judgment. In fact, given some of the crap we’ve had to put up with lately, I’m fairly sure that somewhere, the Marketing Copywriter Fairy is sitting in a corner, rocking back and forth, muttering to itself. It would seem that anyone with a remedial grasp of the English language is allowed to write for advertising nowadays, it doesn’t matter what it means, or what cunning or amusing wordmongery could have been wrought around the subject, nope, just throw some random affirmation and some lifestyle photography in there, shake it up and you’ll have an advert.

One of the sillier taglines I have seen lately was written for a SIM card backup service. “Losing your phone is like losing everyone you know” No it isn’t. It’s very annoying, admittedly, but “losing everyone you know”? Hey, sorry about that, while you were visiting that conveniently radiation-protective cave over there, and wondering whether those were stalactites or stalagmites, a freak explosion occurred and every human on Earth was immediately disintegrated. But hey, aren’t you glad you backed up your phone!

And then, there are advertising concepts themselves, they just keep getting dafter and dafter! We all know no real kid is ever going to want to go do a poo at Paul’s because of the deodoriser. No, he probably wants to go poo at Paul’s because Paul’s dad hides his naughty magazines in their bathroom, and he can go snigger at the ladies showing their titties.

Oh, Meerkats are African, by the way. Not Russian. Nope, sorry, definitely not Russian. Just because they bear a vague resemblance to Vladimir Putin does not make them Russian. You might as well stick a Jamaican accent on a polar bear.

Also, Iggy Pop is not selling time. In fact he shouldn’t even be selling car insurance. Like many other insurance companies, Swift Cover refuses to insure performing artists. Besides, people who are that interested in things like car insurance are probably not the biggest fans of Iggy Pop, I’m sure they would be more easily convinced by a man who could actually wear a shirt and didn’t continually sweat like a sumo wrestler’s groin on a hot day.

I know this is nothing new, there have always been terrible adverts, in fact, there are a few of them here that really put my ranting into perspective (check out the text on the Lysol one ladies, painful!) but lately I just seem to notice more and more of them. Maybe I’m just turning into a grumpy old woman. Yeah, that’s probably it.

Oh well, back to work, those Shreddies aren’t going to knit themselves.

The red-head scares me...

No Bucket Whatsoever.

The first time I met Emma Kennedy, she fell over onto a bucket and ended up covered in pee. That was in the first few pages of a book suitably entitled The Tent, The Bucket and Me, about her childhood memories of her parents’ catastrophic attempts at holidaymanship, and it made me laugh, cringe and gasp from beginning to end. Sometimes all at the same time.

So it came as quite a surprise when she announced her new book on Twitter, and it turned out to be a “children’s book”.

I have always disliked that phrase, it sounds so demeaning, so down-putting. I have always enjoyed books for kids, ever since I was litt… Ok, yeah, but still. No, seriously, among the books I have happily read and re-read over and over, there are quite a few Roald Dahls, Arthur Ransoms, Monica Edwards, J.K. Rowlings and other such “kid-litt”-branded works. So I thought what the hell, and once she had assured me there were no buckets involved this time, I ordered E.K.’s new baby there and then.

The first thing I liked about Wilma Tenderfoot and the Case of the Frozen Hearts, on opening my bubble-wrap envelope, was the cover. Not just the funky illustrations, but the fact that it included little panels of heat-sensitive ink that let you uncover hidden clues. I felt like I was 10 again, and played with it for at least 5 minutes. That’s about 3 months in ten-year-old time.

So what’s the story? Well, Wilma Tenderfoot is an orphan, with a bit of a stalker-thing for the famous detective Theodore P. Goodman. She lives on an island that no-one has yet discovered, and you soon realise, as you sink gently into the story (or it sinks into you) that things are rather different there. I won’t spoil it for you, but the whole of Wilma’s universe is full of that slightly insane sense of fun you’d find in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That fantastic sense of humour I had discovered in that first autobiographical book was just perfect for this colourful, funky fantasy world.

Actually, it doesn’t really matter what category a book is filed in – and believe me, my inner librarian is just cringing at the fact that I just typed that – because sometimes they are just so much more than that. The Tent, the Bucket and Me was filed under “Travel books”. Seriously. So don’t let the “children’s book” label fool you. It’s a great read, you will enjoy it, I promise. (Terms and conditions apply)

Oh, and there’s a beagle in it. Emma Kennedy has a beagle called Poppy. Anyone who has a beagle can’t be a bad person. So I’ll even forgive her for her Twitter-obsession with Big Brother. I guess nobody is perfect.

Pick of the week

So hey, here’s a thought: how about (in a desperate attempt to provide some interesting content for this blog), once a week, I pick some of the best things I’ve seen on the web (or off the web, does that still exist?) and post them up here for all (!) to see? How does that sound?

I guess this week, I would have to start with Cake Wrecks, as that site alone really has cost me quite a bit of my productivity this week and a few laughter-induced belly cramps as well. Seriously, if concentrating on your job is at all critical, like, say, if you’re a security guy in a nuclear power plant, don’t even think about it. Save it for home. No, really.

In fact Cake Wrecks brought me more than just a lot of laughs, it also led me to the “awesome” Unnecessary Quotes “blog”. Another masterpiece in taking the piss of other people’s poor thinking. Or should that be “thinking”?

And to conclude what seems to have taken on something of a theme here, I will add the genius that is Awkward Family Photos. Wonderful awkwardness.

So there you are, your week at work is now completely ruined. And it’s not even Monday morning yet. Well, it isn’t now, it may well be by the time you read this, but that’s hardly my fault.


“Morning lovelies!” Jacqui greets me with a jolly wave. Stephanie is up and getting ready for school, she has hockey today, I hope her recently-injured shoulder will be ok. Damo is still a bit grumpy from lack of sleep, his daughter lost her Eeyore at Tesco’s and has been inconsolable ever since, poor thing. Emily is getting dressed to go meet her ex, she wants to be sexy so he knows what he’s missing and asks me for advice: tights or not? Zena is working on her new house, the water is still not hooked up, but things are coming along well…

In the distance, the “celebrities” wander by, some of them dash past on their busy schedule, and I just watch them go. Others take time to stop and chat, and that always makes me smile and feel a bit special, no matter how “minor” the celebrity or how random the chat… The day begins.

Twitter is a strange thing. Like many “tools” of the web: chat rooms, message boards, community sites; it’s pretty much exactly what you make it, in fact even moreso with Twitter’s very simple design and I’m beginning to really like what my Twitter has become. It has turned into a village of sorts. I don’t know all the people who live there, far from it, and some I know better than others. As in any village, there’s that guy who lives down the road and always says hello but you never found out what his name was, and then there are the people you actually get to know and who will pop round for a cuppa and to moan about the kids and the price of fish. And some of them I actually know in “real life” too.

That’s my Twitter world at the moment, and the only thing I dislike about it is that it makes all these lovely people seem so close, and yet I can’t *actually* pop round for a cuppa, because they’re in some strange foreign place half way across the world. Or worse, London. It is often said that Internet has shrunk the world; it hasn’t. The world is still big, massive in fact. What the Internet did was make us realise how nice it would be to be in 1000 other places pretty much all the time.

I have seen some people advising Twitter users to follow plenty of people; “1500 is a good start”, I once read. Then there are those who regret that Twitter changed its options so they can’t see other people’s tweets to people they don’t follow. Oh well, each to his own, in Twitter as in life. As for me, well, I only follow people I find interesting, and I try to keep the numbers low, I must be following around 50 people, and only a part of them provide the bulk of the content. That’s all my puny brain can take, any more and I would miss stuff, I probably already do, so I can hardly imagine a flow of 1500 people constantly chattering away, riddled with bits of one-sided conversations… Let alone the ocean of tweets that someone like Stephen Fry must be swimming in!
The only advice I can give to those who want to enjoy Twitter is: play with it, try stuff, find out what suits you best. There are as many ways of using Twitter as there are people using it. Just do it your way. Make yourself at home.

Parlez-vous blog?

About 5 years ago now, I started a blog. A blog in French. Because I was in France, living among the frogs like a very small wolf in a green wetsuit, trying to blend in. So most of the people I knew were French, and since they were the only ones who could be guilted/pressured/blackmailed into reading my drivel, in French it was.

I haven’t been a very prolific blogger, I must admit, my updates have been rather random, sometimes several in a week, sometimes nothing for months. I’m guessing that will pretty much be true here too. Not that (m)any people will read it anyway… That’s the thing with blogs, you see, unlike Twitter or facebook or other such stat-driven social network tools, unless people leave comments, you never know how many have actually read your ponderings…

The thing is though, although it is always nice to get feedback (preferably positive) on what i’ve written, I don’t really care if no-one reads it. In fact the same goes for Twitter, I hardly ever check how many “followers” I have, and I’m nearly always astonished when I do that there are still more than 3 people on that list! No, you see. I just have to write. Something, somewhere, whether it gets read or not. And most of the time, it’s pointless crud.

So why this new blog in English? Why not just continue to take it out on those 3 poor frenchies who still read the old one? Well, that one will continue, but I find that since moving back to civilisation – albeit the Irish version of it – most of the things I want to rant about are pretty Anglophone-centric. Stuff on TV, current affaires, food, all that…

So, though it may not be as jet-settingly exciting as Perez Hilton’s or Stephen Fry‘s, and although I do not intend to use the word “cunt” anywhere near as much as Michael Legge, I bid you welcome to this pat-ridden field of musing, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll run now and never look back.

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