Monday, December 31, 2012

Salmond and Farage: unlikely kissing cousins but they have a lot in common

A question, although only those of you in the UK should bother trying to answer. Those of you dipping into this ’ere blog who live abroad are certainly entitled to try, but once you know the question, you might well be baffled as to who I’m talking about. So here’s the question: what do the SNP’s Alex Salmond and UKIP’s Nigel Farage have in common? Well, at first blush not a lot, but in an odd sort of way they do.

Let me start on what I perceive as their plus points. In my view both are capable men, politically astute and, crucially, they stand head and shoulders among their party peers. I might well be wrong, of course, but without Salmond the SNP would – and will be – half the force it is now and, similarly, without Farage, the UKIP would – and will be – the same. A few years ago, Salmond stood down as party president and more or less retired and the SNP ground to a rather embarrassing halt. The SNP might well deny that’s what happened, but that’s what it looked like from where I sat at the time. Whatever the truth of the matter, the call went out to Salmond, and the great man returned to salvage his party and, as we now know, lead it into government for the first time in its history.

Something similar happened to UKIP: Farage stood down, the party began increasingly making a fool of itself, Farage was implored to return and now it is riding high(ish) in the polls. For me that matter is pretty clear: without either man the party each leads would wither and die and become nothing more than a footnote in history.

What they also have in common – and again I’m certain both parties would deny the claim – is that they are essentially one-issue parties. In fact, ‘one-party pressure groups’ might be closer to the mark. For the SNP that issue is independence for Scotland. For UKIP its making sure Britain – or the UK or whatever the technical term is these days – leaves the EU. Both claim to be bona-fide political parties whose policies go far beyond the one which is the raison d’etre, but as the saying goes ‘tell that to the Marines’.

If the SNP achieved its goal and won independence for Scotland, it would be only a matter of time before the Scots Nats splintered into left and right-wing factions, which would largely mirror the current left-right split in Scotland of Labour v Lib Dems. (The Tories don’t have a look in up there, and even though the party has elected an out lesbian as its president, I believe that is mere coincidence and not a cynical ploy to try to persuade the electorate that it is now ‘modern’ and ‘good lord, we don’t even mind having a lesbian as our president’.) Once
that split occurred – in a by then independent Scotland – it would be the same old political game all over again, although I do feel, somehow, that the soul the SNP is rather to the left of centre.

That cannot, of course, be said about UKIP. David Cameron once described the party as ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’ and although I don’t accept that they are all like that, it must have been for many uncomfortably close to the mark. I’ve often thought that some of them would throw in their lot with the BNP if the BNP did not so obviously consist of – to use a popular phrase – plebs and oiks you wouldn’t ever want to see in your golf club. As it is, UKIP will have to do.

Were UKIP ever to achieve its aim and see Britain (or the UK – see above) leave the EU, it would, I think, be curtains for UKIP. Yes, they claim to have policies on education, health, the economy, the environment, the Teletubbies and fizzy lemonade, but as far as I’m concerned that is just PR bullshit for the masses, or at least for those of the masses who like to imagine UKIP really is a bons-fide political party and not just a one-issue pressure group in clean underwear and cricket club ties.

As it happens I am no great fan of the EU. I think that what started out as admirable idea has become thoroughly corrupt in far too many ways and, if it is not reformed, could well be the cause of a great deal of bloody conflict in Europe. And that would be ironic given the EU’s proud and all too incessant boast that it has ‘brought peace to Europe’. But unlike UKIP I think it would be outright folly to leave the EU. While Britain is in, it has a sporting chance of shaping and institution which has a great influence on its future. Once out, that influence has gone.

But back to Salmond and Farage: perhaps they should get together for a drink and compare notes. Oh, and both have can be rather funny. Not that it really matters.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Deadwood stage stops here: why after David’s Milch’s Deadwood we should never put up with anything but the very best. (Oh, and hats off to casting directors the world over)

Let me start on a very obscure note. Some people, surely a small minority, stay behind a little when a film has finished and the credits roll to take a look at the names of some of those who made the film possible. Incredible as it might seem to some, the director and his actors - his ‘cattle’ as Fellini liked to observe - aren’t the only ones part of ‘the creative’ process. There’s the role played by the cinematographer (as important as the director in my opinion) and the director really is nowhere if a film’s various producers aren’t up to scratch. But even they don’t exhaust the list: the soundtrack - note ‘sound’ not just ‘music’ - will often make a film. (And by way of illuminating that, you might care to read this entry made after this was posted.)Take away the soundtrack and your average viewer really doesn’t know what to feel. In too many films a scene is only full of suspense because the soundtrack tells us so. So keeping an eye out for the ‘sound designer’ or whatever he or she is called, then looking out for other films he or she has worked on is a good, although means infallible, way of rooting out other films it might be rewarding to watch.

Somewhere on that list of credits you’ll find out who was responsible for ‘casting’. Now, I’ve never made a film and the chances of me ever doing so are in minus figures. But were I ever be required to do so (and I should prefer to be a producer rather than a director), I would make damn sure that whoever was hired to help with the casting damn well knew his or her job and was damn well the best or close to at casting. Each different film will have its own production dynamic, with the director and the producers having a greater or lesser say in who is hired and who isn’t and whoever is responsible for casting is, I should imagine, only able to suggest for and against and give advice. The final decision will rest with the producers, unless the director is so ‘great’ he or she (invariably still ‘he’, but we all live in hope) as to have the final say.

Why, I hear some of you mumbling, grumbling even, is this chap going on about ‘casting directors’ and ‘casting agents’. Is he really so fed up with watching paint dry? Well, no I’m not. I’ll explain why, unusually, my thoughts recently turned to casting directors and agents. But before that I shall point out an irony: we only become aware of casting (or heating a room or seasoning a dish) when something has gone horribly wrong. If, on the other hand a film is well cast (or a room is heated exactly right and a dish is - OK, you get my drift, no need to labour the point) none of us, I’m sure, reflects: well, isn’t this film well cast!
But that’s what occurred to me recently when I started watching Deadwood online. The casting of that was spot on, impeccable.

. . .

Some might have heard of Deadwood, some might even have seen it on TV (on Sky here in Britain). It was the brainchild of one David Milch (no, I hadn’t heard of him either before I started watching the series and stars, among others our very own Ian McShane). You can find out more about Milch here and here. Some might only know it because of newspaper reports of its shameless use of obscenities and profanities, but to judge it according to what our strait-laced Press choose to believe will upset their strait-laced readers would, at best, be wholly misleading and, at worst, a travesty of judgment. Deadwood is, in my view - there will, of course, be others - one of the very best, if not the very best series to have been screened on TV (and it’s no surprised that it was brought to the small screen by America’s HBO).

It deals with life in the small Dakota settlement of Deadwood in the mid-1870s, when Deadwood was an ‘illegal’ settlement established after gold was found nearby. In fact, the discovery of gold was the sole reason why the ‘camp’ Deadwood was established. Naturally every scurvy version of humanity found his and her way to Deadwood in the wake of that
discovery as well as rather less scurvy individual. Deadwood (above) was illegal because it was an ad hoc settlement established in land the US government had signed over to the native Americans under the Treaty of Laramie. You can find out more here. And because it was ‘illegal’, it did not come under anyone’s jurisdiction and was literally beyond the law. Several people were murdered daily and were murdered with impunity. And it Milch’s TV series portrays life in that settlement in gory, shocking, disgusting detail.

According to my reading, Milch, who had made his name with the series Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blues (neither of which I’ve yet seen, but I shall look most certainly chase up after being so enthused by Deadwood) and then wanted to make a series about the gradual establishment of civilisation and the establishment of the rule of law. He had planned to set it in ancient Rome. HBO were interested in such a series, but as they already had a series about Rome in production, Milch was asked to think again and came up with the idea of charting the slow, painful crawl of a society towards civilisation and the rule of law in Deadwood.

But a bland description of his TV series as ‘a society’s crawl towards civilisation and the rule of law’, although essentially true, does not do Deadwood (the TV series) justice whatsoever. If anything, such a description might well turn a potential viewer off, but that would be a shame. Deadwood, the western, is unlike any western you are ever likely to have seen. It is about people, not stereotypes. The camp is filthy, the people are filthy, their morals are filthy. They don’t dress in the way Hollywood’s costume department for so long tried to persuade us ‘cowboys’ dressed, they wear the same clothes as folk dressed in further east, except that everything was filthy and ragged. Mud is everywhere. Death is everywhere.

Milch admits that the way many people use the foulest language in his TV version is not verbatim in that the obscenities and profanities in use 136 years ago were not those we are accustomed to hear today. But, he argues, using their language would sound so archaic as to detract from the dialogue and all he has tried to do is to update Victorian obscenity and profanity to what we - at least, what some of use (guilty, m’lud) use today. But I shan’t carry on. All I can do is to urge the scrupulous among you to buy yourself a DVD box set of all three series or, as I have done, seek it out online. I hope you will not be disappointed. In my experience it is unique.

A postcript: only three series of Deadwood were made and then, inexplicably, HBO pulled the plug. So far I have not been able to find out why. There was talk of two film-length episodes to ‘wrap up the story’, but negotiations came to nothing and there seems little prospect that they will now ever be made. If anyone knows quite why HBO pulled the plug - as far as I know viewing figures held up well and never flagged - I should be keen to find out, so get in touch.

For me not one single performance hit a wrong note and it would be unfair to single out any actor. But I shall be unfair and state that as the immoral, murderous, cynical, sarcastic saloon and whorehouse proprietor Al Swearengen Britain’s Ian McShane (above) is superb. And casting McShane, who I understand was initially reluctant to take the role and had to be persuaded to do so by his American agent, was casting of genius. That’s how and why I first came to consider the role of the casting agent: I’ll repeat that we never really realise how good these man and women do their job when they get it right. It’s only when an actor is utterly miscast (as, in my view Robert Redford was when he played Gatsby in The Great Gatsby) what they come to our attention. By the way, if you like Deadwood, take a look at Justified. It’s different, but it also stars Timothy Olyphant.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What would Christmas be without a heartfelt plea? So here's mine: think of those who aren't as lucky as yourselves

Let me be frank: I like Christmas, though I must add that without children (which, for me is any young person up to and including the age of 23) Christmas isn't all that important. I was brought up by an English father and a German mother in an observing, though not overly strict, Roman Catholic household, and we always celebrated Christmas as the Germans (and many other northern Europeans do) on Christmas Eve. To this day - Christmas Eve, in fact - I would prefer to celebrate Christmas as we did when I was young, but almost all families take their lead from the female figurehead, and my wife is English (well, actually, Cornish and from Methodist stock to boot).

And although I don't regard myself in the slightest bit Christian, religious or denominational, though I do choose - choose being exactly the right word - to believe in God (but don't even think about trying to tease me out on that one, as such a belief is so intensely personal that it might make no sense whatsoever to anyone else and just lead to a colossal waste of time, much of it, no doubt, taken up with unwelcome proselitysing and none of it on my part) I do abhor how in Britain Christmas is all-too-often reduced to a booze and gift fest of the crassest kind. I know that contemporary wisdom insists that December 25 was chosen as the 'birthdate of the saviour' by the fledgling Christian churches (not 'churches', not church) to soak up the demotic 'pagan' celebration of the winter solstice, but that rather misses the point.
When we in the West celebrate Christmas, we are, whether knowingly or not and willingly or not, following a Christian tradition. So I feel we should, at least, do one of two things: either acknowledge the fact or drop the pretence completely. At the moment most of us do neither. We choose to pronounce 'goodwill to all men' and attend decide, in a cloud of boozy nostalgia, to attend a carol service, and then congratulate ourselves on how sensitive we are to the mood of the occasion. And that is that.

As a young RC lad growing up (and who thought he wanted to become a priest for a short year or two before he sprouted pubic hair and discovered girls) our family Christmas celebration more or less started after lunch on Christmas Eve when my older brother Ian and I were sent off to confession at our parish church, as much to get as out of the house for a few hours for our mother to prepare for the Christmas Eve jollitites as to prepare ourselves for taking communion at midnight mass. (A real catholic - sorry Catholic) would write Midnight Mass. I don't.) We arrived back home as it was growing dark after making our confessions (and in those purer, pre-pubescent days I was not yet obliged to think up a working euphemism for wanking as, dear reader, I did not yet wank - that came later) and were exiled upstairs to change into 'good clothes' until we were finally called downstairs for supper and then die Bescherung, which was heralded by the tinkling of a bell supposedly rung by das Christkind to summon us into the living rooms with its Christmas tree and presents.

A casual reader might assume I am trying to make fun of the whole occasion. Well, the casual reader should realise that he or she is quite, quite wrong. I loved it then, as a child, and I would love it now, as an adult attempting to create the same occasion for my children. At the end of the day, Christ this and Christ that, as far as I am concerned one meaning of Christmas is to try to demonstrate to our children just how much we love them. Yet ironically, because we love them so, so much we always fail to convey just how much - it is, children being children and not yet parents, a quite impossible task.

Writing this, I am fully aware that there are many - far, far too many - children out there who will not, tonight, experience the childish joy of Christmas, children who might, instead, experience an unremitting misery knowing that they are, for whatever reason, excluded from that joy. That they exist should not tempt us to deny the joy to others. But we should remind ourselves that they are out there. So as I publish this entry at almost the stroke of midnight (here in the UK, Greenwich Mean Time and all that, of course) I wish you all a happy Christmas, but also urge you to consider, if only for a moment of two, all those children, from the age of nothing to whatever, who are not able to celebrate a loving, warm and familiar Christmas and not to forget that most of us are a damn sight luckier than others. And to remember them not now, on Christmas Day, but every day for the rest of this year, and every day for the rest of your life.

Apart from that, God bless you all.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A gadget queen writes: Not so smart with phones and as a capitalist something of a bloody loser

Not posted here for a week or three, but encouraged by a glass or five of brandy and lovage on ice (my new drink, beats the shit out of scrumpy. And sophisticated? Yes, and then some - I could have sworn Simone de Beauvoir has just walked through the kitchen) I have decided to put digit to keyboard and churn out a few hundred more words while I can still remember my name.

A good joke was made as I was making my farewells from work last Wednesday. As I pulled out the plug of my phone charger from the socket, someone remarked that there would probably now be a power surge as all my gadgets were turned off. An exaggerated claim, of course, but one unfortunately just a little too close to the truth for comfort. I am, I have to admit, something of a gadget queen. Or, to be a little more honest and a little fairer to myself, something of a gadget princess (as in princesses being queens in waiting).

It all started with my penchant for hoovering up cheap mobile phones when and if I ever came across the opportunity to buy one. I like to think, and I often claim, that my collection is not quite as irrational as it sounds, and I can, indeed, recite chapter and verse as to why a particular phone was bought at a particular time. So, for example, a year or two ago, my car broke down in the car park of Asda, Bodmin. And as Sod’s Law always operates on such occasions, I didn’t have my phone with me. So off I went into the store and bought the cheapest pay as you go phone I could find in order to summon the RAC to help me out of the shit.

So far, so rational. But if I count up the number of mobile phones in the house, most of which belong to me, it does sound just a tad wacky. My daughter has a Blackberry, and when I organised it for her - she got a half-price deal on a 12-month contract which was more ‘cost-effective’ than remaining PAYG - she gave her old Blackberry to my son. And because he now has a Blackberry (which he never uses - in fact, I think he has yet to make a mobile phone call in anger as they say), he gave up ‘using’ the Sony Ericsson I had passed on to him. That’s three.

My wife has a Sendo (one of those obscure brands who briefly went into making mobile phones several years ago when the future looked brighter, but quickly lost interest and went back to making wheelbarrows or whatever their particular field of expertise is). I had given it to her for Christmas. That’s four mobile phones accounted for. Now comes the difficult bit.

I own two Huawei G300 Ascends, one Samsung and one Nokia. Then there are knocking about the house somewhere about six other phones, all except one owned by me at some point. The two Ascends are useful (and a damned sight more useful than the Samsung Galaxy Ace one of them replaced) because they are rather fine phones which can hold their own against any smartphone twice their price. I have two because I like to use one hitched to the car radio to listen to Five Live on the net (3G) when I drive home from London to Cornwall on a Wednesday to listen to football. Five Live is still on medium wave and if you don’t live in London reception is bad to atrocious, especially if you are speeding at 70mph on the A303 down to the West Country. On the net it is far better. However, in Britain the Ascend G300 is restricted to Vodafone whose 3G coverage is not as good as 3’s. So I bought another (a snip at £99, honestly), got it unlocked and slipped in a 3 sim card, and now I don’t lose a signal half as quickly.

So you see ‘owning several hundred mobile phones’ isn’t quite as mad as it sounds. But that, dear reader, is not even the half of it. All the above is just a preamble to a confession I am about to make. And I shall be revealing details which do make me feel every so slightly foolish. But get yourselves off and put the kettle on and make a cup of tea before you settle in to Part Two: The Tablets.

. . .

My love affair with tablets has not been going on for long but even in that short time has been decidedly rocky. It’s like falling for a woman who is a bloody good shag, but otherwise a pain in the arse, and you just can’t make up your mind what to do: to ditch or not to ditch, that is the question. That observation, however true, might offend some, so my apologies in advance to all new men and male feminists who feel it is beyond the pale and that I should be ashamed of myself for making it.

Several years ago, I bought an iPad. I rated and still rate them, but I didn’t need it. What could I do on the iPad what I couldn’t do on a laptop and iPod combined? (That is a rhetorical question, so no emails, please.) So I sold it again, and as my timing was, as usual, quite atrocious, I sold it just as the iPad 2 came out and sent prices for second-hand iPads tumbling. But that was it for a while. I managed, quite successfully, to live without a tablet. And even sitting here now, concentrating, I really can’t remember why I bought a 8in Ployer Momo8 IPS.

Somehow, of course, the seed had germinated. I know that because I spent some time ‘researching’ Android tablets (Android being more or less the only viable alternative to Apple.) I settled on the Momo8 because - well, I can’t really tell you why. It is one of what seems to be several thousands Chinese iPad clones, none of which is as good as the iPad, but some of which, on paper at least, are better than others and all share the virtue of being a damn sight cheaper than an iPad (and then some). So I ordered one and a leather case to stick it in from a site called Ebellking and waited for it to arrive. And waited and waited.

Finally, after a week or two, I emailed the company asking whether or not it had been sent off. They said, no it hadn’t, because they were having trouble getting hold of a case to send me. That struck me as odd, but I gave them the benefit of doubt and emailed back saying to send the tablet anyway and either to send the case when they found one or two forget about it completely and refund the money for it. Then I came across a website ‘reviewing’ Ebelking, and it didnt’ make happy reading. So I decided to play it safe and as I had paid for the tablet and case through PayPal, I asked for a refund, pointing out reasonably enough that as nothing had yet been sent, the matter should be simple: just refund my money. And they did.

By now, of course, the bug was well and truly in my blood and I ordered the Ployer Momo8 from another site, iPadalternative. It, too, was based in China. Within days I received a cheery email informing me that my tablet had been dispatched. A day or two after that I decided I wanted to track the progress of the tablet from East to West and asked iPadalternative to give me a tracking number. Ah, they said, we can’t do that because we haven’t actually sent it yet. So I said they had 12 hours to dispatch the bloody thing and send me a tracking number or I would ask PayPal to refund my money. Twelve hourse wasn’t long enough, they said (although they didn’t explain why) so they would simply refund my money. And they did. So I wasn’t actually out-of-pocket, but I didn’t have a bloody tablet either.

To make matters worse, my brother had bought himself a Google Nexus 7 and just couldn’t stop himself from showing it to me and demonstrating just what a fabulous gadget it was.
The third Chinese website I used to get my Momo8 was Chinistore. And to be fair, they were as good as gold. I bought one online on Nov 26 and it arrived in London a week later. And it was not a bad little tablet. The build quality wasn’t up to Apple standards (or for that matter Samsung standards) but it was nippy and did the biz.

Or rather it did half the biz: it came with (this might get a bit technical for the girls, so why don’t you take five and do your nails or something?) Jellybean aka Android 4.1. It is a great operating system, but not all the apps I wanted to use on it - especially BBC iPlayer - yet work on it. What was worse, though, was that the micro USB port (not yet, girls, I’ll give you a shout) packed up rather suddenly. It worked a treat and then it didn’t. I suspect that I had somehow - somehow - damaged it by putting in the USB cable the wrong way around before realising my mistake, but to be honest I was not aware ever of using force, and I rather think the port was just a tad too flimsy. I took a look at it and it seem to have been pushed back a bit. Confirmation, if confirmation were ever needed, of the wisdom passed down from parent to child through the ages then promptly ignored that ‘cheap means cheap means cheap’.

I could, of course, have lived with it, but I didn’t want to live with it. And as I decided the 8in was just a little too small, I sold it again on eBay (and didn’t take too much of a hit as it happens.) So then the hunt was on to replace it and scrutinising Chinistore’s site, eliminating this and that tablet - and believe me there are almost 100 different brands - I hit upon the 9.7in ‘Cube 19UT’, not least because it still uses Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich). I use the same OS on both my Ascends and know that it will work the BBC’s iPlayer. I paid up, received my tracking number, and it arrived last Monday afternoon.

It looked OK coming out of its box, if again the workmanship was not quite up to pristine Apple and Samsung standards. But, dear reader, it was fucking hopeless. The wifi was quite simply bloody awful. If I was able to connect to the router - if! - and if I was able to keep the connection for more than two minutes - if! - the speed of transmission was slower than the worst bloody dial-up connection you have ever had the misfortune to use.

I googled the problem and found an American site which pointed me to a ‘firmware update’ (almost there, girls, promise) on the Cube website. I followed it but found the site was all in Chinese. Needless to say (though I’ll say it anyway as does everyone else who uses that utterly pointless phrase) I didn’t have a fucking clue as to what was what. I mean, you can’t even guess. I like to think that had the site been in French or Italian or, at a pinch Spanish, I might have had a sporting chance of sussing out what was what and downloading the ‘firmware upgrade’. But it was in Chinese. I clicked this and I clicked that, but all I could do was open new windows taking me to either sites selling online games or sites selling online soft porn.

Enough was enough. First, I emailed Chinistore and told them about the problem. They were very understanding - why wouldn’t they be as they now had £150 of my money - and emailed back a link to the same Cube website were I should be able to download the firmware upgrade to make the bloody thing work. But not an hour later I had had enough. I asked myself why, after paying 150 good, honest British pounds, I was doing all the pfaffing about trying to get a tablet to work as it should when it should have worked as it should straight out of the bloody box. And I decided I shouldn’t be doing the pfaffing around. So I applied to PayPal for yet another refund (they must surely by now have filed me under ‘fucking loser, why doesn’t he give up?’).

Chinistore were offended by this (though I understand it ain’t that difficult to offend and East Asian) and said I should have given them more time to sort out the problem. To which I replied they weren’t doing anything to sort out the problem I was. The one slight irritation is that I shall have to fork out between £30 and £55 to ship the bloody thing back to Shenzen before I get my refund, and I also run the risk that some bloody-minded herbert in Chinistore will decide the tablet didnt’ come out in the condition in which it was sent and try to refund less. But what the hell.

There is, however, dear reader, even more to this saga of ‘tablet or no tablet, does the guy have no shame?’
. . .

You see, in the meantime I got my regular emailed newsletter from Lidl (the German chain like Aldi which sells German food and other goods in Britain and elsewhere) that one of its ‘specials’ last week would be a 7in Versus Touchpad for just £79.99. Ooh, I thought, ooh, and bought one. Examining it, I realised that an iPad it wasn’t and would have a long way to go before even using the same toilet as an iPad, but notwithstanding several - OK, many - drawbacks, it was at least useful.

But then came my downfall. I had googled the tablet for further info and come across several sites selling it for between £109 and £129. Why, I asked myself, the stout  little capitalist which slumbers in every man’s heart coming alive, why didn’t I buy up another three and sell them on eBay? If I charged £10 for ‘p&p’ and £99 for the tablet I could make a tidy profit of more than £60.

I hoovered up the three last Versus Touchpads for sale in North Cornwall - literally - I was in Launceston and wanted three, but the only had one, which I bought and they phoned through to Bodmin where they still had another two, so I drove down Bodmin and bought those. I then listed them on a three-day auction eBay. And had no takers at all. Finally, I panicked at reduced the price to £79 and sold two. I relisted the last and that auction is due to end at just after 5pm tomorrow. The way it looks, I shall not make £79. Moral: Don’t Get Clever. And if the stout little capitalist slumbering in your heart does wake up, slip him a Mickey Finn.

. . .

Now the postscript: I have been using the first Versus I bought and, after a fashion, it works. To say euphemistically that ‘it’s not the best’ is an insult to euphemisms. It works OK if you make sure that only one app is running at any given time. But it has a tendency to  go off at a tangent and ignore you, the user, completely. If it were a person, one could even describe it as ‘other worldly’. It somehow drifts off, does its own thing - and you have no idea what it is doing - before it rejoins your company and then carries on as though nothing had happened. It is, in short, a deeply bloody irritating tablet. And that is why, dear reader, I have bought yet another, a brand-new Samsung Tab with wifi and 3G.

The price is quite low and even though the listing claims it is new in a sealed box, I don’t know. At the price I bought it? Once I have it - and have survived the inevitable spat with my wife about why I I keep buying such electrical trinkets when we need the money to feed and clothe the children who are runnng around in rags and are starving (women do go on so, I keep telling her to look at the bigger picture) - I shall kiss the Versus goodbye and sell it, and I don’t care for how little.

 There is just one last lingering concern: once I had bought the Samsung - brand-new in sealed box - and paid through PayPal, I checked my PayPal account. And I found that payment had been made to a ‘Ricky Ching’. Hmmm.

One final point: between us in our household we have (I won’t say ‘own’ as one is from work) six laptops, four of which are ‘official’, that is my wife knows about them. Sounds bad, doesn’t it? But look at it this way: we are living in the 21st century and if it were not for spendthrift fuckwits like me, the electronics industry would be on its knees, thousands would be out of work and, no doubt, the country would grind to a halt. It’s always useful to put things in perspective.