Friday, 19 November 2010

Instant Water, Just Add Water

[Scene: a dishevelled bedroom, day]

Microsoft: Tom! Hey, Tom! Look!!! A shiny, fun-looking pinball game on Xbox Arcade... and it's FREE! Completely FREE!!!

Me: Wow, really? I have been known to enjoy pinball games... Sure it's not just a trial version?

MS: NO!!! How could you suggest such a thing?!? See there, where it says "Full Game", prominently, next to the title? We're GIVING you this game! We're just THAT NICE!!! WE LOVE YOU!!!

Me: Well, OK then... It's free, what's the harm?

[downloads game]

Hey, wait a minute... I have the game, but when I pick a table it tells me to "unlock" it... and to do that I have to pay! I thought you said this was free?

MS: Yes, of course it is!

Me: But the tables cost money?

MS: Oh yes!

Me: So it's free to own the game... but not to play it?

MS: Of course you can play it! Look, you can open the Options Menu... then CLOSE the Options Menu!!! Look how shiny it is! Listen to the funky music! Just like being in an arcade!!!

Me: Right...

MS: Like being in an arcade without any money, to be sure... But you could still walk around watching OTHER people play, or just admire the shininess and.... beepiness of the machines... on an aesthetic level!!!

Me: I've changed my mind. Please go away.

MS: DON'T GO!!! You haven't heard all about our new offer! How would you like... A FREE CAR?!? A COMPLETELY free car! WOW!!! Of course, you'll have to pay £10,000 or so to fit an engine, but the car is free!!! FREEEEEE!!!


[cavernous silence, punctuated only by the sounds of Microsoft HQ quietly burning to the ground]

(picture courtesy of The Honest Car Salesman)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

A Strange Serpent

If you're one of these tedious people who like to go around saying "Shakespeare wasn't actually very good" or, the milder version, "people who laugh when they see his plays just want to show how clever they are"... Kindly read the following extract from Antony and Cleopatra, then add yourself to my ever-growing Fuck Off List:

Lepidus: What manner o' thing is your crocodile?

Antony: It is shap'd, sir, like itself, and it is as broad as it hath breadth; it is just as high as it is, and moves with its own organs. It lives by that which nourisheth it, and the elements once out of it, it transmigrates.

Lepidus: What colour is it of?

Antony: Of its own colour too.

Lepidus: 'Tis a strange serpent.

Antony: 'Tis so. And the tears of it are wet.

Not only is it genuinely funny, but even to a few lines of throwaway silliness, he brings that familiar verbal flourish. Almost annoyingly good, really. Still, a class act.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Hitchens and India: the Moment of Truth

Finally, a perfect test of Christopher Hitchens' good faith, or lack thereof, when it comes to US foreign policy and the Obama presidency:

US President Barack Obama has backed India's ambition for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

In an address to India's parliament at the end of a three-day visit, Mr Obama lavishly praised India's development.

His remarks will delight India, which has been lobbying for a seat at the UN's top table for years.

Analysts say it does not mean India will get a permanent seat immediately; the unspecified UN reforms Mr Obama mentioned could take years.

The US leader also said the Washington-Delhi relationship would be one of this century's defining partnerships.

For years now, he's been whining on in his Slate column about how the West bribes and flatters Pakistan when it should be courting India. I happen to agree rather strongly with this assessment, but unfortunately have to question the motives at work here. His harshest criticisms have, as usual, been reserved for the current administration and not the previous one, as though Obama were personally responsible for instigating our cynical collusion with Pakistan. It's like he feels he has to prove his independence from his former leftist allies by being extra-hard on Democrats and soft on Republicans.

Anyway, Obama has just spent three days in India making Hitch's whisky-fueled dreams come true: establishing trade ties, lavishly praising their economy and political system and now backing them to be a permanent Security Council member. If he's true to his word, we should hear something from our favourite drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay in the next couple of weeks offering, at the very least, measured praise for this development (I'll be generous and let him off this week, as this story probably broke post-deadline). If we don't, or he manages to find a way of attacking the administration on this issue? Then I must conclude, with sadness, that Christopher Hitchens can no longer be taken seriously on foreign policy issues* and should stick to subjects that bring out the best in him. Luckily for us, his loyal public, this includes most other subjects under the sun.

*Many would say this has been the case since at least 2002. I have generally found this view to be unfair, but am finding it increasingly hard to disagree.