By Andrew Westcott
INDEX OF TOPICS I'M CURRENTLY RANTING ABOUT:
Celebrities - Or Not As The Case May Be
Brainless TV Programs
The Timing Of The TV Watershed
Cats And Their Excrement
Starting Christmas Too Early
Unnecessary Salt In Food
Huge Off-Road Vehicles - On The Road
Squealing Women On TV Soaps
Talent-Free Pop Music And Falling Singles Sales
Pile-Up At The Supermarket Checkout
Computer Animation Facial Expression Overload
Teenagers' Silly Shorthand
It has been suggested that life begins at forty, and for various reasons I believe this could be true. It represents a stage in one's life where there is possibly no longer a swarm of young offspring to tend to and feed, and a chance that one has settled down into a reasonably secure financial rut. However, it also represents a time during our personal development when we perhaps start to become a little less tolerant of some of the more stupid and annoying features of our society, and the stupid and annoying people in it.
I've reached the age where bits of me are starting to fall off or are simply refusing to work - heck, I can't even hear grasshoppers anymore! A variety of situations, habits of the general public and the media have really started to annoy me, and I have decided that it might be somewhat therapeutic (to me, anyhow) to vent my spleen and write down some of my opinions on these things, as and when they get to the point of warranting such a measure. I am fairly certain (and this has been confirmed by friends and work colleagues) that I have prematurely entered the 'Grumpy Old Man' phase of my life, and as such, have decided to age completely in keeping with my new-found status by allowing myself some rants and a bit of a moan at some of life's more ridiculous offerings.
This rant was congealed many years ago by hearing that a certain program was to be screened here in the UK yet again: "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!"
My wife, the bearer of this horror, then proceeded to assault my sensibilities by giving me a run down of the so-called 'celebrities' who were supposed to be appearing in that particular series, and sad to relate that yet again, I hadn't heard of anyone on that list. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate had the producers renamed the show "I'm A Hasbeen, Get Me Out Of Here!". OK, I'll admit that I do find the program moderately entertaining for brief moments, due entirely to the presenters, and this rant isn't really directed at the program itself, rather those appearing on it. What I find tragic is that these people know they are being televised, and yet continue to act like prats.
Now, do any of these people deserve celebrity status - indeed, what qualifications does someone need to become one? All too often these days we hear of someone being described as a celebrity when all they've done is appear on some silly reality show for a few minutes or failed their driving test a few dozen times. Another scenario is where an entertainer was once in the public eye, but has since disappeared from the TV or radio suggesting that celebrity status must have an expiry date, and many of those put forward from this category are certainly way past it. Brian Harvey is one such case, as is Sheila Ferguson, both having been well known and successful as entertainers in the past, but can they now be considered household names, if ever they were? Paul Burrell represents another category: He's never been an entertainer and presumably had no intentions of appearing on TV, but since the publicising of the court cases, suddenly he was regarded by some as a celebrity! Next we come on to Vic Reeves' wife who appeared on "I'm A Celebrity" some time ago. I'm afraid I don't even recall her name, but I understand she had a successful career as a model although it is no doubt her association with Vic Reeves himself which landed her with that throw-away celebrity title.
Perhaps the problem isn't with the people who are unfortunate enough to be saddled with the 'celebrity' millstone, rather those pathetic journalists and TV producers who are charged with trying to keep the attention of the reading and viewing public by forever inventing fresh streams of celebrities, or resurrecting long-forgotten personalities to fill the inevitable gaps. Personally, I think the expression 'celebrity' should be ripped from the English language and buried at midnight in an unmarked grave.
You must have seen them - those utterly stupid reality programs or those hideously unfunny comedies. Now, perhaps I am the only one who feels this way, and when sharing my views with others it certainly seems that way most of the time, but I really don't see how anyone could consider this entertainment.
The best example from the first of those two categories has to be Big Brother. Flippin' heck, talk about a cop-out for the producers! All they have to do is find a handful of jumped up dicks willing to make complete pillocks of themselves, bung them in an arena designed to ensure close contact and there you have it - an apparently highly successful TV show. Unfortunately, to me, all it demonstrates is just how far the human race has failed to evolve and if by any chance these signals have been intercepted by an alien intelligence, it may explain their absence.
The second category of brainless shows, the unfunny comedies, has to include such gems of cranial excrement as 'The Office' and 'The Royal Family'. Can anyone honestly say that they found any of it remotely funny? I spent some time watching various offerings of 'The Office' in the hope of seeing something clever or funny, because I had been informed by other people for whom I had respect, that this is what I could expect. All I could see was a program where the skill of acting was obviously not required, and where I had to cringe in embarrassment at the lunacy of a certain Ricky Jervais passing through a period of self-indulgence. This series has apparently won awards!!
Yes, 'The Royal Family' was another classic of nothingness, as was 'Early Doors'. Once again, these programs are something the avid actor spotter need not get too excited about, and the story lines are equally uninspiring. I have had to endure both of these programs on several occasions as my wife freely admits to enjoying watching them. I don't understand how anyone can call this entertainment - I consider it to be an insult. Both are fine examples of really cheap-to-make programs, supported by an audience who have been brainwashed into thinking this is good TV, or those afraid of being ridiculed for telling the truth about what can only be described as utter tripe. The Emperor's new clothes springs to mind.
Finally, I feel I must have a prod at 'Gogglebox'. What the heck is that all about? Apparently a cross-section of society on television, being filmed whilst watching... television. Evidently heavily scripted and as fake as heck, I had to work extremely hard not to slit my wrists. Not much more to say about this one, other than thank gawd for the remote control.
A bit more serious, this one:
This rant concerns what we in the UK call the 'watershed'. This is a bloody silly name for 9:00pm, and has to do with the content of the programs shown on TV. It would seem that some board of idiots with an undeserved official capacity has determined that every child in every house everywhere within the UK will be in bed before 9:00pm and be unable to view a TV after that time, and therefore it would be quite OK to allow the screening of unnecessarily detailed scenes of violence, human copulation and the usual tirade of foul-mouthed dialogue typical of an inept script writer trying to fool people or himself that he really has some talent. Reflecting reality? There's enough of that in the real world, thankyou.
Although I'm sure that most responsible parents try to get their kids off to bed at a reasonable time, it is inevitable that there will be times, especially over the weekend or during the Summer, when that innocent nine year old daughter of yours will still be up and watching TV after this 9:00 watershed. I feel that swearing, bad violence and explicit sexual scenes are unnecessary in a well written program or film anyhow, but I certainly don't want any of my kids seeing this kind of rubbish - do you?
The simple answer would be to move the time of the watershed to 11:00pm, as this would mean the majority of youngsters would be tucked up and out of harmful TV's way. As for those that aren't, they probably experience adequate doses of 'reality' directly from the adults they live with anyway.
Here's something that really gets my goat. I have no objection to people keeping pets as long as they are well cared for and indeed I have pets of my own, including a scabby cat. He knows he's a pain in the ass because I tell him so, especially when he sticks his anchors into my leg and begins to climb it in search of a morsel of cheese. Anyway, I digress: What I object to are pets that adversly affect other people. Some may include dogs in this category, but it's lazy owners who refuse to clear up the inevitable deposits who are to blame in this instance.
No, it's cats I have a major issue with. Irresponsible urbanites with little or nothing in the way of a garden buy, steal or adopt these tapeworm ridden flea busses, and then in the majority of cases let them roam the neighbourhood to freely dig holes in other peoples' gardens and leave disease and parasite ridden excrement anywhere they care to; Anywhere, that is, except their own territory - their owners' house. Modern cats seem to be particularly bad - at least when I was a lad the cats had the good manners to bury the stuff rather than leaving it on full display as they do now. My cat refuses to go outdoors and prefers to use the litter tray, so no hypocrisy here, but even if he did, I'm surrounded by fields, not a city centre.
In my opinion, some cats have become little more than common vermin, but what can we do about it, apart from nothing? I have several young kids, and in the Summer the two boys in particular like to play in a large excavation at the end of our garden destined to possibly be a carp pool one day, but all too often we have to stop them because of the presence of cat turds laying in the earth. Cats are therefore a danger to my children, and I don't see why I should have to put up with their shyte all over my garden.
Oh dear. They do it every year, don't they?
"Do what?!" I hear you cry.
I'll tell you what, starting to advertise Christmas on the telly way before time, that's what.
I wouldn't mind if the adverts were simply for items suitable for Christmas presents and so-on, but do they really need to adorn the screen with tinsel and multiple Father Christmasses in sodding October?
The big problem for me is that by the time Christmas eve arrives I'm sick to death of the whole thing, and the day itself is a bit of an anticlimax compared to the massive publicity during the run up. Of course, it is all commercially driven which is another thing that annoys me tremendously because as far as I'm concerned, Christmas should be all about assembling the family and celebrating this most Christian of events together, with loads of nuts, drink, crackers, bellyache and all the rest of what makes Christmas time the occasion it is.
Perhaps there should be a firm restraint put on anything remotely Christmassy until at least December, and ideally it should only be allowed during the last week before the 25th, because at least that way, we can make the time a little special without all this commercial dilution we currently have to endure.
This concerns a major health issue:
The ridiculous amounts of salt added to our food. Most of us are now aware that the human body doesn't need additional salt in our diet as we are able to obtain all we need through normal foods; indeed too much can have negative effects on our health, the best known problem being elevated blood pressure and all the nasties that go with the untreated condition such as kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes. Our bodies are able to recycle salt, and in recent years the armed forces have realised that they no longer need to distribute salt tablets to combat the previously assumed salt loss due to sweating, because quite simply it doesn't occur - when all excess salt has been lost, the sweat no longer contains any. Get yourself all sweaty and have a taste if you need proof.
Food manufacturers add salt to various foods as a taste enhancer, but the amounts added are really beyond a joke and in many cases the final product may well be even saltier than sea water. My real concerns are with bread, tinned beans and tinned spaghetti, because there is really no need to add the amounts they do. A tin of cheap beans may well contain over two grams of salt per tin - I would challenge anyone to swallow that amount of salt whilst keeping a straight face. Along with many other people I have a medical condition which dictates that I should keep my salt intake to a reasonable level and finding suitable foodstuffs can be very frustrating.
But here's the real niggle: It is possible, if you look hard enough, to buy baked beans with 'reduced salt', but guess what?? They cost more! How the heck can anyone justify charging more for a product which actually involves fewer stages or ingredients in the production process? Isn't it high time the manufacturers were forced to stop this practice and offer food which might actually be considered safe?
Maybe someone could start the ball rolling and consider litigation against one of these companies for damage they've suffered to their health, in much the same way as tobacco companies are now at risk of being sued for similar reasons.
Many of you might have already experienced this: You are driving down a country lane when suddenly you are faced with an enormous four-wheel drive vehicle. Now, common courtesy dictates who should reverse, but if it falls to the other driver to do so, all to often they are unable to, and if they attempt it they often end up in the ditch, glaring at you as if it's your fault. Another scenario is where there is ample room to pass, and yet the idiot in his or her oversized car seems afraid to get close to the hedge for fear of scratching their pride and joy.
Now come on!
If you are going to live in a rural area, at least learn to drive these bloody vehicles, and better still, accept that on these narrow roads you might just get a sodding scratch or two!
And then there's the school run...
Most of these huge vehicles, the ones with four wheel drive, huge ground clearances and filthy great steel bars across the front have never been, and never will be, driven off-road. Various excuses are given for their ownership but whichever way you look at it they are unnecessary if they are only ever to be used on a sealed surface.
Increasing the road tax charge will do nothing to stem the flood of inept 4X4 drivers on the roads, but my solution is clean and simple: Create some new vehicle classes and introduce an additional, more advanced driving test for anyone who wants to drive a vehicle either with a huge power to weight ratio, or that occupies a cubic volume over a predetermined size. It has long been accepted that lorry drivers have to prove their driving ability this way as have motorcyclists, and I strongly feel that these outsized four wheel drive vehicles should be subject to the same restrictions. That way, maybe one day I'll meet someone driving an off-roader who can actually handle the machine and be able to reverse into that gateway eight feet behind them.
I live in what can best be described as a lively household as I have five children and most of them are at their most vocal from around the time I come home from work up until the younger ones have been safely deposited in bed. We regularly experience the inevitable squabbles and shouting matches which can and frequently do test my patience to its limits. Sometimes I lose ground and shout back...
As if to add to my aural torture, there seems to be a constant stream of soaps on telly during this time, including such gems of creative talent as 'Coronation Street', 'Emmerdale' and 'East Enders'. OK, I'm being facetious here.
Right, I understand these programs are supposed to represent real life, but is it really necessary to repeatedly show these stupid characters yelling and screaming at each other and dramatically smashing household objects in overblown demonstrations of fake rage? It must be bad for young kids to see adults behaving in such a way, and seeing it so regularly on TV can only result in these young people growing up believing that this kind of behaviour is not only normal, but socially acceptable.
For goodness' sake, can't we have drama without all the drama?
There has always been a fair bit of rubbish offered up in the name of pop music and this holds true no matter what decade you look at, but in recent years the sheer quantity of crap seems to have broken all bounds. The worst offenders are those numb-skulls who cannibalise a classic pop track, cut out a small interesting sounding portion and then loop it ad nauseam to create some pseudo-dance track or rap crap, and those wailing female "R&B" singers howling along to an electronically generated backing track. I think part of the problem is the ease with which a nobody can now make 'music' in their bedroom using equipment which simply wasn't available to the general public twenty years ago.
This brings us on to the issue of falling pop singles sales: Look at it this way - if you ran a factory and decided to manufacture a poor quality item, would you be surprised if it failed to sell well? Chances are you wouldn't. The same goes for falling singles sales. If these talentless twits were removed from the scene and the A&R guys did their job and introduced real talent to the arena, the quality of the product would go up, followed by that inevitable rise in sales. It's no good them harping on about loosing sales to illegal mp3 downloads and filesharing as this is a very poor excuse, and can be easily disproved by looking at some of the recent success stories which have managed to sell over half a million singles despite the illegal downloaders. Ever since the advent of the audio cassette, people have illegally copied songs for themselves or others, but because the musical standard used to be higher it didn't cause a noticeable problem. Offer a good product, and it'll sell. It's so simple it hurts.
To illustrate my point, would you have bought Eric Prydz's 'Call On Me' for 4 quid a few years back? I know many people did, but I fail to see why and can only assume most of them were young kids, as it was a very poor rip-off of a classic Steve Winwood track - 'Valerie', and technically the sound quality was atrocious. And did you happen to witness the latest vomit to encompass samples from Boney M's "Gotta Go Home" back along? If not, you are fortunate. The pair responsible for assaulting the human race in that manner should be castrated with a spoon, and an eagle instructed to lay open their wounds afresh at each sunrise for the rest of their natural lives.
You've probably experienced this one before:
It has become necessary, for whatever reason, for you to go and do the shopping on your own which you have dutifully done, and now find yourself at the checkout. You've managed to load everything onto the belt before the checkout assistant has finished going through a stack of declined cards with the previous customer and feel quite pleased with yourself for managing to keep ahead of things up to this point, as well you should - this is, after all, not an area males excel in. Right, now it's your turn, but despite your solitary status, the checkout operative seems intent on whacking your stuff through as fast as is humanly possible, with blatant disregard for the condition of your eggs or that bottle of whiskey. There you are, frantically trying to open those unopenable carrier bags in a futile attempt to keep abreast of the barrage of groceries but you are ultimately fighting a losing battle, and the best you can do is try to dodge the tins of beans as they get hurled at you with the poundage of an 76mm cannon.
So why do they do it? I would fully expect that the performance of checkout staff is monitored in some manner, so that slow performers can be weeded out or given further training, but it seems no-one realises that no matter how fast they push the stuff through, you still have to pack it and get it off the counter before they can turn to the next customer, and given the way some of these idiots pile it up, it actually takes longer to accomplish as you try to sort through for appropriate items for a particular bag, quite apart from being plain bloody rude.
Surely, if the staff kept an eye on the your progress and scanned items at an appropriate speed, keeping just a few items ahead of you, things would go a lot smoother, faster and with less stress?
I was sitting with some of my younger children watching a computer animated cartoon when I found myself becoming extremely annoyed with the grossly over-emphasised facial expressions many of the characters were displaying. The eyes and mouths would change shape to an extraordinary degree, and eyebrows would sweep over vast expanses of head as they spoke. If I let my attention become deflected even for a moment, I found myself subconsciously mirroring these silly expressions, which I found a little embarrassing even if no-one else noticed, which I hoped was the case. It worries me somewhat just what effect all this is going to have on our kids - are they, after years of immersal in this falsely overly-expressive world going to fail to notice real but subtle expressions on real peoples' faces? The two worst offenders from our own collection of animations have to be 'Finding Nemo' and 'A Shark's Tale'. The flexibility of the characters' faces in those two would put a champion gurner to shame.
Why can't the animators, who are quite obviously highly talented people, simply tone down the facial expressions a little to something closer to reality? Do they honestly believe they have to do this to capture the attention of the under-fives? If so, perhaps their time would be better spent making the content a little more engaging. I, for one, would then find these productions a little easier to watch.
I have a brace of daughters, and they are now of the age where they wish to keep in contact with their friends. One of the preferred ways of doing this is by using one of the instant messenger programs available to run on a computer, MSN Messenger seemingly being in vogue at the time this was written. Now, I don't have a problem as such with this, apart from seeing these young people glued to the screen typing for all they are worth when I would prefer they just went outside and engaged in real conversations with the same people...
My real gripe is with the language they use. It appears initially to be a form of shorthand, but after careful investigation I consider much of it would be almost as quick to type out in full, given the time taken to translate and the relatively small number of typed characters actually saved. Where text messages on the older mobile telephones are concerned I can see a benefit in shortening certain words as there isn't a keyboard as such, but abbreviations on a proper keyboard? I don't see the point, and I put it down firmly to peer pressure and the need to demonstrate the same characteristics as the rest of the group, no matter how silly.
Here's a piece of 'conversation' from one of my daughter's MSN Messenger's recorded history, exactly as written:
A: omg tom has got a girlfriend
B: i no thats wat i was sayin :(:'(
A: yer i no but i asked im nd he sed th im gonna go on bebo nd split em up 4 u
B: kk nd thnx
A: yer n e fin 4 u
B: hehe lol
B: his girl friend will c da comment
B: av u cn it
A: no will do tho
Says it all really, doesn't it?
The saddest thing about it for me is when I see notes written on paper to or from various friends in exactly the same language. I have a serious concern about these young teenagers' ability to construct a sentence in wot is gud ol' english innit lol, and indeed it is well known that personnel staff at various companies up and down the country regularly receive letters of application interspersed with the same silly shorthand, suggesting that the applicants have become brainwashed into believing that this form of communication is acceptable outside the boundaries of text messaging, which it most certainly isn't.
When I was younger, we had the use of such delicacies as CB radio. This form of communication had its problems, but at least you were able to hear a real human voice complete with inflexions rather than having to resort to such expressions as 'lol' to indicate humour. I'm trying to impress my views on my daughters but up to now my complaints seem to have fallen on deaf ears...
Let's get some facts in the bag before I begin:
I used to ride a push bike, and I've spent several years on motorcycles, small and large.
I now drive a car.
I have probably learnt little on my journey through life, but one thing I have learnt is that you are extremely vulnerable on a bike, and in the interests of keeping your spleen safely where it was designed to be, you need to be on a constant lookout for other traffic.
It worries me greatly when I see cyclists riding dangerously on the roads, and I do wonder quite which plane of reality they reside upon. For example, I was recently in a line of traffic slowly passing a cyclist, when for some unfathomable reason he suddenly, and without the merest glance towards me, stuck his right arm out and headed for my front nearside wing. Quick reactions on my part meant he stayed on his bike, but had that been another driver or even a lorry, the outcome could have been far worse. The stupid twerp didn't once look over his shoulder, and was probably totally unaware how close he came to an accident as he blissfully headed to the centre of the road.
Unfortunately, this level of road sense is very common and it is seldom I see a cyclist who is actually looking around to see where the other traffic is and what it is doing. It seems they expect the other traffic to look out for them, which of course we do, but they have to take some responsibility for their survival! Sensible cyclists seem to be few and far between, but stick out like a prick at a wedding on account of the fact that they are constantly looking about themselves and are very obviously aware of what is going on around them.
And another thing!
Why is it that at night, cyclists like to dazzle oncoming drivers with lights so bright they could rival wartime searchlights for intensity? I'm all for cyclists ensuring they can be seen, but point those lights at the road, not the oncoming driver! I have to have a dipped beam on my car, how come cyclists seem exempt from this? And while I'm at it, wearing black lycra at night is not an aid to being seen!
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