Thursday, August 30, 2007


Ketchup, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Charm Offensive

Another crack in my "sorry, I'm not available, I'm writing a book" armour has been found. I was a guest on Armando Iannucci's Charm Offensive yesterday. The show will be broadcast on Radio 4 at 6.30 this afternoon and then in its special 18-hours-less-topical format, it will be repeated tomorrow at 12.30.

The other guests were Jo Brand and Will Smith which makes for about as polite and civilised a bunch of comics as you could really hope for. It was one of those lovely recordings where it didn't feel like work at all, just an evening spent in good company being silly.

At one point I found myself ranting about daytime telly, making mention of the Car Booty episode I discussed here a few days ago and the use of music in Homes Under The Hammer too. Thoughts that were only crystallised because I'd written about them here basically. Which is an interesting side effect to blogging that I hadn't foreseen. Whether it will make the edit or not I don't know. Nor does it really matter... it's just interesting (to me) to discover that thoughts that would previously have floated through my brain unchecked were instead digested and turned into something vaguely useful because of this outlet. Who knew?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Afternoon Teas

Afternoon Teas, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Wheel, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.

With apologies for what promises to be a dull and self-serving post...

Here's the thing... the photo you see here has apparently been selected as one of twenty pictures (from eighteen different photographers) to be exhibited at the National Media Museum in Bradford this autumn.

It's part of an exhibition called Britain in Pictures which is connected to a BBC project of the same name. I'm slightly confused because, while I submitted a few photos to the project, I didn't realise that this exhibition malarkey was a possible consequence. I know that sounds disingenuous but I really didn't.

The thing is, I like photography. I also like the photography website, flickr and I have an account there. Flickr contains groups for all sorts of different interests, themes, styles of photography and so on.

I read about a group for photos of British buildings and seeing as I have a fair few of those and it only takes a few clicks of the mouse to join, I did so and submitted a few photos. I knew it was connected to some BBC4 photography project but I obviously didn't read the small print or I'd have known about this exhibition. But I didn't. Until I received an e-mail telling me that the judges had selected their favourite twenty photos and that this one was amongst them.

I'm told that when the exhibition has finished they'll send me the framed photo. Which is nice.

I'm not sure when the exhibition starts but you can see all twenty photographs on the BBC website here.

Here ends the photoboasting. I told you it was dull.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Kinder vs Ülker: Egg Wars.

I can't be the only person to have noticed how Kinder Eggs have got worse over the years, can I?

It's not like they started off great. It always seemed like a dodgy sales pitch in the first place when they had the advert in which - if memory serves - a badly dubbed child asked their mother for "some chocolate, a toy and a surprise."

I always thought it was a bit cheeky of them trying to make it sound like there were three things involved when in actual fact the toy was the surprise. It wasn't some chocolate, a toy and a surprise... it was some chocolate and a surprising toy. But I'm quibbling. And this has nothing to do with my complaint.

This is the thing. I'm pretty sure that in the beginning a Kinder Egg toy was something that needed some building. You built it and when it was finished it was normally bigger than the plastic yolk that the parts had come in. That was the point of the Kinder Egg... they'd ingeniously put inside them, toys that shouldn't have been able to fit inside.

But then it all went wrong. In my recollection it started with the Smurfs. The toys started being small little molded bits of plastic that you didn't have to build... and obviously that means that they were all small enough to fit inside the egg in the first place. The first time I opened a Kinder Egg to find a small plastic Smurf I felt cheated. I mean what was the point?

Recently I've noticed that one of my local shops sells a different brand of chocolate egg; the Ülker Toto. I think it's a Turkish brand but wherever they're from they have renewed my faith in the whole chocolate-egg-containing-a-toy genre. Let us compare and contrast.

The first major difference is that the Kinder variety has milk chocolate with a white chocolate inner lining:
While the Ulker is just milk chocolate:
Personally, this doesn't bother me either way. If you're a chocolate connoisseur I don't think the chocolate-containing-toy market is really for you. What's more interesting is that the plastic yolk inside the Ülker is clearly larger than that from the Kinder:

But what they contain is more instructive. The Kinder Egg contains a small plastic Smart Car. It's already been built so there's no fun construction to be done.

while the Ulker contains 12 different parts - including an elastic band - promising a world of fun.

Put the parts together and you have a small purple dinosaur on wheels. There's no way you could put the completed toy inside the yellow plastic container. More exciting still, the elastic band powers a small motor. When you push the head down towards the ground, it stretches the elastic band which is connected to a gearing system. Let go and the band contracts, the head rises and the whole thing scurries forward on his wheels.
Surely a purple dinosaur that has elastic band power built in and who is bigger than the egg he came in, kicks the arse of the pre-built tiny toy car. More importantly, the dinosaur is precisely the kind of toy that I remember getting from my first forays into Kinder Egg ownership.

The Ülker Toto appears to have all the qualities I used to admire in the Kinder Surprise.

Thank you Ülker Toto, whoever you are.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

What do you mean you haven't...!

There are certain things that I haven't done that I enjoy telling people I haven't done because people seem so shocked. For example... "I've never taken a holiday."

This is true. Kind of. I went on holiday when I was a kid, obviously, but in my adult life I've never actually gone away for a week's break. I've done the odd weekend away and I've travelled a lot with work and I've gone awol with a break down... but not a break.

Now obviously, doing a run at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, say, equates pretty closely to a kick arse holiday but that's just spoiling a fact with, um, another fact.

Most of the things I enjoy telling people I've never done fall in the pop-culture category. The things that people assume everyone has done. I've never read any Harry Potter or seen any of the movies... which is even more fun to reveal to people if I also get the opportunity to slip in that I have met JK Rowling. (Edinburgh 2001, she was lovely.) Similarly I've never seen or read anything of the whole Lord of the Rings hoo ha... although I have never met JR Tolkien.

I've never seen an episode of The Sopranos, The West Wing, 24, Lost, 6 Feet Under, Deadwood, House or Desperate Housewives. Which I know is nonsensical especially when you consider that yesterday, while gearing up to start writing, I watched a whole episode of Car Booty with Lorne Spicer. (She wasn't watching it with me, she was in it.)

In the episode a family put loads of their stuff into a car boot sale in order to raise some spending money for a holiday they were taking to Morocco. They raised the sum total of £36. Thirty six pounds! That's it. Just over a pound for every minute of the resulting show. Thirty six measly sodding pounds! To spend in Morocco!

I've been to Morocco. Twice. Lovely holidays. I was a child at the time so it doesn't count.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Spam Economy

We all know that spam works because the evil spammers send out millions of spam e-mails - at almost no cost - and a tiny, teeny-weeny percentile of those who receive it fall for it. Even if 0.01% of people fell for it that would be 100 people in 1,000,000 and that would be worth it to them. Quite how anyone ever thinks, 'hmmm... I don't remember contacting this company to ask about a mortgage but that rate is pretty tempting...' is beyond me but it matters not.

Because I have an e-mail address in the public domain where anybody (and any bot) can find it I get a lot of spam. Over 1,000 a day. Almost all of it is successfully filtered into my junk file and goes unread but some inevitably slips through to my inbox. Where it goes unread because, while my computer hasn't spotted it's spam, I have.

Recently, I've been fascinated by one particular brand of spam that is getting through the filters on a regular basis. As you can see:
It seems to me that by sending the same e-mail to me 5 times in the same minute (and then again, 2 minutes later) they don't help their cause. Presumably they think that by sending it so many times (and with slight variations in the content) they are increasing their chances of getting through people's defences and having at least one e-mail land successfully where that 1 in 10,000 idiot might send them some money. But surely when they all arrive at the same time like that, even the 1 in 10,000 idiot is going to think something is up.

I mean, what are the chances of 5 different Corine OLearys sending me 6 almost identical e-mails in such a short space of time? And then 3 different Catalina Spicers doing the same thing 37 minutes later. By sending 9 e-mails like that they haven't made it 9 times more likely to succeed... surely they've just made it 9 times less believable.

In effect, they've done more work but reduced their hit rate from, say, 0.01% to 0.001111% (recurring) which is a dreadful thing to do to their profits. If they were making $1,000 a month by getting 1 e-mail through, they'll reduce that to $111 by getting 9 through. Which means that with a hit rate of only 0.001111% (recurring) they'll need to hit 9 times as many people in order to make the same amount of profit as before.

So to get the same return out of sending a million people one e-mail each, they'd have to send 9 million people 9 e-mails each which is 81 million e-mails instead of 1 million e-mails. That's 80 million more e-mails for no increase in return. What ridiculous goons they are.

Of course, to get through the filters what they do is change small variables in the content (not just the middle initial of the apparent sender) so that the anti-spam programs can't spot a pattern. When you see the variables they use you start to realise that they're reducing their options even further:

I mean... while it's a stretch to imagine anyone falling for any of it... if I accept that somewhere there's a chap falling for the 'Girls always laughed at me' pitch, surely even he wouldn't take the 'Baronesses always whizgiggled at me' pitch seriously. Would he?

Is there anyone in the world thinking, 'damn those baronesses. And those gars with their whizgiggling, I'm never using a national comfort station again. If only my putz was more preponderant than civil... then I'd have the last smile.'

Saturday, August 4, 2007


Old Skool, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.

The first of my two appearances on Just A Minute is scheduled for this coming Monday, August 6th. Witness my inability! Feel my shame!