All entries for September 2004

September 30, 2004

"University Challenge

Just a quick note to say that Warwick is on University Challenge against UCL on Monday, 8:30pm, BBC 2 and given that I'm on it, I suppose I should make some slight effort to get people to watch it.

'The Office' – comedy gold

5 out of 5 stars

This is partly a test of the review section of the blog; however, if there are any benighted people out there who haven't seen The Office yet, I strongly recommend it.

If you're looking for slapstick or puns à la Blackadder, The Office will not really provide them in any significant number. However, the genius of these series is in the observational aspect which, in some instances, is entirely too close to reality to be comfortable. The show is a very subtle, adult type of comedy which is evinced by the verbal torture of the monstrous yet surprisingly naïf Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) by Tim (Martin Freeman) and Dawn (Lucy Davis), the only half-way normal people in the place. The main supporting cast is completed by the quite spectacularly crass and boring Keith (Ewan Macintosh), the egregiously offensive Chris Finch (Ralph Ineson), Dawn's chauvinistic fiancé, Lee (Joel Beckett), and the overall boss, Jennifer (Stirling Gallacher).

However, the star is undoubtedly the outrageous grotesque, David Brent (Ricky Gervais) who manages to be simultaneously larger than life and scarily realistic. The nature of the comedy is such that at some times, the show is actually almost unwatchable due to the inescapable desire to cringe at Brent's antics: his dancing for Comic Relief, his singing on staff training day, his 'motivational' talk, and his bumbling attempts to show that he isn't racist after he tells an ill-judged joke about the genitalia of black men. However, the genius of this series is that just when we believe we have the measure of Brent, Gervais, in his role as writer, shows us a new side to Brent; he manages to make us feel sympathy for Brent when the emptiness of his life is exposed and even introduces a love interest in the Christmas specials (not included in this set).

The Office will not be to everyone's taste; however, for people who enjoy darkly comic observational humour with a few off-colour jokes thrown in, the series comes highly recommended. The overall storyline centres largely around Brent's struggle to cope with changes in the company and Tim and Dawn's very obvious pining for each other. However, it is not the story which drives the series forward – this is a character-driven show with characters so well-drawn you would swear you knew them from elsewhere.

September 29, 2004

Cursed internet access

In the spirit of my earlier blog entries (which all seem to revolve around me moaning about something), today you get to view the edifying and interesting spectacle of me impotently ranting about my internet connection being unreliable this morning.

In my accomodation this year, I have been blessed with a wi-fi connection to the wonderful world that is the world-wide web. However, having never used wireless web access before, I'm still getting used to (and frustrated with) it. What is the difference between 'signal strength' and 'signal quality'? Why does the speed seem to vary so much? And most importantly, why does the thing not seem to like me? Why does it keep complaining about the network connectivity? Why does the connection keep going down and having to be reset? Why have I spent most of the past paragraph asking rhetorical questions no one will ever read?

Anyway, I suppose I should say, before I start sounding churlish, that I do appreciate internet access; indeed, I've lived with it for so long I suspect that I would be hard pushed to survive a protracted interval without. However, whilst I enjoy the benefits of technology, at the same time I sometimes have Luddite urges to shout, swear, and throw the computer out of a second-floor window.

September 27, 2004

A quick rant re. politicians and the railways

I'm just watching the coverage of the Labour conference (I was bored, okay?) and they've got Steve Norris of all people defending private ownership of the railways. And to hear him talk, you can tell that the last time he was on a train, Dr. Beeching was a mere glint in the milkman's eye. Anyone who has been on the railways even a few times in the past few years knows how utterly crap they are, and the best they can do to defend this utter balls-up is shagger Norris? There should at the very least be someone's bits and pieces hanging from London Bridge for the state of the railways. Apparently, under the Queen of Darkness (ie. Thatcher), the railways cost the taxpayer £200m per year. Now, they cost £2bn. And the idiots still think that having them under private ownership is cheaper. At least if they're under public ownership, we can blame someone we can get rid of, rather than some bearded, jumper-wearing, hot-air ballooning business-man whose fitness for the job seems to rest solely on the fact that he has a lot of money.

And breaking news, the Secretary of Transport is late because of delays to his train. Oh, the irony. :D

Why does it take so long to get settled into somewhere?

I moved into my off-campus accomodation on Saturday and am still living out of boxes. Part of this is down to my natural indolence but it's also down to the fact that everything takes an amazing amount of time to sort out. Sorting everything out with regards to the bank (Nat West scum), TV license (to stop the continuous hounding you get otherwise), and all the other minutiae, not to mention packing and unpacking, getting my computer sorted out, etc., etc. seems to be taking about ten times longer than I anticipated. I also mysteriously seem to have acquired so much stuff in the last year that I have more possessions than space to put them in. Can someone please reassure me that having 8 boxes of books and DVDs doesn't represent some sort of freakish acquisativeness? I'm going to have to have a tidying blitz before I run out of floor space, however, I crave reassurance that I'm not the only one in this position.

September 22, 2004

Have the Murdstones taken over?

Okay, first rant here.

Is anyone else struck by how every single politician seems to want to outdo every other politician as to how 'tough' they are? Ever since the Dear Leader said his piece on being 'tough on crime; tough on the causes of crime,' being 'tough' seems to be the Holy Grail of politics. Can we next expect Micawber-esque speeches on the necessity of avoiding pecuniary embarassment to grace the pages of Hansard (although they would probably be an improvement on the pathetic sophistry which currently seems to reside there)? Or politicians to spout platitudes on being 'umble'? Perhaps small danger of the last one. We're already told that everything the government does it does for our own good (which, of course, it knows far better than we do), will we next have signs hung around our necks saying 'take care of him, he bites'?

However, why do politicians have a limpet-like attachment to the shibboleth of 'toughness' over all else? Will their interminable speeches proclaiming their own toughness and decrying the softness of their opponants actually achieve anything beyond reinforcing the impression that the only people politicians are talking to are other politicians and assorted other denizens of the Westminster village? Perhaps 'toughness' has become a substitute for the desirable qualities none of our senior politicians seem to possess; 'never mind that we don't have any vision, ability to work together, ability to listen, to remember the meaning of "Democracy," or even to speak in coherent sentences, we're tough!' If we were being honest, we'd remember that it was Tony Blair's obsession with being perceived as being tough yet strangely soft-hearted which got us into the current mess in Iraq (to quote just one example). Perhaps if there were an end to indescriminate 'toughness' and politicians were to put a little more effort into thinking about things rather than spouting pseudo-philosophical platitudes on anything where 'tough' responses are required, people would have more faith in them. After all, has trust in Tony Blair increased since he showed how 'tough' he was?


I've been tempted by being able to Blog via Warwick and given that I can never resist an opportunity to rant about things which annoy me, I signed up. You can expect rants about money, the trains, the government, the weather, how crap TV is, and 1001 other things. I doubt there'll be much about what I've been up to because I don't seem to do very much. However, on the off chance that anything interesting might happen, I'll write about that too.

September 2004

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