EDitorial ± 26-Feb-2001

Yes, Mr President

I'm hooked. Not on prohibited substances, you understand, though the caffeine consumption can reach dangerous heights, but on The West Wing, Channel 4's latest top-notch US drama series. If you've not been good enough to yourself to catch it yet, it's about the daily goings-on in the White House. Yawn! Doesn't sound too inspiring, does it? But the characters, the ideas, the machinations, the dialogue are all fantastic.

Over twenty years ago Francis Ford Coppola made a film called Apocalypse Now, starring Martin Sheen as the man ordered to go find Marlon Brando. Since that time Sheen senior has often been eclipsed by his boys, Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez, and not always due to their acting roles. But in the West Wing he's back with a vengeance, playing a very credible President of the United States. Apparently there are a number of American citizens who'd much rather have the wise & compassionate fictional president installed on Pennsylvania Avenue in preference to that scary Dubya guy who (eventually) won the last election.

PotUS and Toby

As with all US telly, you can also test your knowledge of popular American culture by simply trying to understand the quick-fire references in the writing. Last week's episode mentioned trying to buy a copy of the constitution from amazon.com (should be interesting to see how that citation stands the test of time), and one of the aides referred to the president as Knute Rockne. I also learned about the fourteen types of punctuation mark used in standard English. Watch and learn.

So, every Thursday, 10pm (actually 10.30pm this week) on Channel 4. Make a date with your VCR. This week's VideoPlus number is 695642. Now you've no excuse.

Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 19-Feb-2001

Holding Out For A Hero

Watched X-Men on video last night, part of my most recent order from amazon.com. And yes, I am a dinosaur, this was a VHS tape in NTSC format rather than one of these new-fangled VDVs. While we're here, ain't the packaging of US videos so much better than over here? One thin cardboard sleeve is all you need, not a clunky plastic case.

Where were we? Yep, X-Men, featuring a couple of fine British actors (step forward Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen), some fab effects, and directed by Brian Singer. He also helmed The Usual Suspects, which you must see. If you did see it, watch it again. Soon.

But X-Men is really a film about superheroes. In this case see Wolverine, Cyclops and Storm battle the evil Magneto and Mystique. Daft names, obviously, but what else would you expect?

Me and my best mate Bob were avid fans of American comics when we were kids. Never went in for the Marvel variety, home to Spiderman and X-Men, but always for the DC label, where you'd find Superman, The Flash, and Batman, to name but three. We were endlessly trying to outdo each other, in search of special editions or new titles (I'm the proud owner of Superboy #1, I think). At school I even went as far as bribing Alan Muncey, who worked as a paperboy in town, to look out for new stuff in the DC box at his newagents. Happy days.

The Dark Knight Returns

The appeal wasn't entirely due to the tales of fantastic powers and cliff-hangers. A big part, at least for me, was the adverts inside, which sounded incredibly exotic back then. I could only dream of beef jerky, sea monkeys and Twinkies.

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else
Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Dr Fate:

  1. is that Spiderman film ever going to be made?
  2. everyone needs a secret identity
  3. never did get that middle part of the Untold Legend Of The Batman
Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 12-Feb-2001

House Of Windsor

Chambers, the king of dictionaries, defines this week's mystery item, none too succinctly, as:
A band of material passed under the collar of a shirt, etc. and tied under the chin, esp. one having one end wider than the other, tied to hang down the shirt front with the wider end overlying the narrower, worn by men, or as part of a uniform
Can you tell what it is yet? Of course, dear readers, it's the tie. Much like the appendix and the left-hand indicator on a white van, it's an item with no apparent purpose.

Since I started my brilliant career back in 1987, I've worn a "band of material" pretty much every day, because...well, it's the done thing. There ain't no other reason. Lately though, I sense a change in the air. After the successful introduction of casual wear on Fridays, my place of work, like one or two others, has declared that "smart casual" (whatever that is) is now an acceptable form of dress. Could the tie be on its way out?

Kipper Kipper Kipper Kipper Kipper

Why ties are stupid:

  • discomfort (an obvious one, this): they're worn tight around the neck
  • labour: hate to dwell on the hours I've wasted putting them on
  • unhygienic: they attract splashes of food and other debris
  • inconvenient: tried playing pool or ping-pong wearing one?
One last thought: novelty ties. Please, please, no.

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else
Silk, leather, cotton:

  1. if you have to wear one, leave your top button unfastened
  2. go on, be a devil, leave it at home tomorrow
  3. don't worry, it'll soon be Friday
Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 5-Feb-2001

I'm Late, I'm Late

Over to the marvellous Evelyn Waugh (English novelist, 1903-66):
Punctuality is the virtue of the bored.
If my personal affairs were likened to a website, it'd be lastminute.com. My lips rarely utter the phrase "in good time". I'm not big on tasks with attached time-limits. Get the message?

An example: self-assessment tax returns had to be with the Inland Revenue no later than the end of January, else they might impose a fine. My long-suffering accountant finally had everything he needed from me to complete the forms on Monday 29th January. He then had to mail me the paperwork to sign, and was good enough to include a stamped pre-addressed envelope for me to pop the stuff in. It would have arrived with the IR on the last day of January. Was I concerned? Well, fractionally, if truth be told.

Got The Time Time Time Ticking In My Head

When I see a deadline, I instinctively work back from it, automatically building in any necessary delay for postage, etc, and that day or date which pops out of the calculation then becomes the day for action. At school or college most people worked like this, to my knowledge. Some of us never broke the habit.

Perhaps the worst thing about this behaviour is that I seem to get away with it. Whether going to a meeting, or "doing" lunch, or playing table tennis, or even filling in forms required by the government, I always get there...eventually. The meeting takes place, lunch is partaken, ping-pong prevails, and the accountant gets paid. Everyone's happy.

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else
Hours, minutes, seconds:

  1. bear in mind other people, so always have an excuse ready
  2. don't follow this advice if catching a plane
  3. now where did I put my latest VAT return?
Be seeing you!