Posts Tagged 'Mark Littlewood'

Questionable Time #86


questionable time 86 david dimbleby ken clarke dancing

Good morning Lemmings and are you feeling it? Are you feeling the warming glow of economic recovery and the promise of a better future? No? Why ever not? Oh, that’s right, because we’re still in a January that’s refusing to end, the sky appears to be falling in and all your carefully laid plans for smoking heavily in cars full of children have just been kyboshed by the busy bodies in their ivory duck houses. Gah! Truly it is the cruellest month! Right – lets stop all this moping about and get on with it. Onwards, to a very IT-orientated Questionable Time…

 

I feel like I’m writing this on Ken Clarke…

Remember back in 2008-ish when netbooks were the next big thing? Well I was one of the suckers who bought the hype and here I am 6 years later, tearing my hair out at an uncooperative oblong of cat hair clogged keys, unresponsive scripts and a rebooting process that takes around half-an-hour. In fact, it’s not even like I have to do this as I have a perfectly good desktop that doesn’t feel the need to constantly play silly buggers and even my phone is now quicker (by a factor of several million) than this hunk of wanton awkwardness – yet every week I go through the same ritual of starting the damn thing up, waiting for it to complain about something, closing it down again and then screaming as some piece of irremovable bloatware demands to be updated. Why? Why do I do this to myself? Because despite (or maybe because) of all its failings, this machine has personality and not just any old personality. No, this netbook is in every respect – except form factor – the silicon-based equivalent of Ken Clarke.

 

Let’s start with the booting up process: I press the on button, it makes noises that suggest it doesn’t take kindly to being woken up before arriving in that weird netherworld between the login and the desktop – just like Ken in the opening shot. Icons slowly start materialising on the right hand side of the task bar and fire off little pop ups to herald their arrival: ‘Windows has detected that you tried to change tax settings and isn’t very pleased’ says one and you immediately double-click the Firefox icon in the hope of resolving this issue only to find that the system was nowhere ready for such a strenuous activity. The egg timer appears, everything freezes and more pop-ups demand attention:

 

‘Unidentified pundits detected. Searching for drivers’

 

‘You are running low on patience, please save all unsaved work’

 

‘You appear to be trying to be trying to connect with the general public – Please check your connectivity settings’.

 

Ahh! Enough already! Eventually though things start to settle and the browser window finally springs to life. You open a few tabs on foreign crims, fire off a few emails about dredging and start to feel that you are actually in control of things. But then you get cocky: You click a link about smoking in cars and it opens a new window with a massive Flash banner in it – it’s Emma Smurthwaite and she’s just done the old switcheroo on your point about lobbyists. It’s all too much to deal with, the keyboard becomes unresponsive and the screen turns blue. Good night and God bless.

 

So that’s my netbook and it’s also Ken Clarke – a tired yet functional collection of idiosyncracies that you can’t easily reformat but have grown to love in a very counter intuitive way.

 

MS Thornberry: The OS that could have been…

I was going to compare Emily Thornberry to one of those massive Acer lappies that came out around the time of Windows Vista’s release but then thought ‘No, that’s not entirely fair’ because Vista was just plain bad and Thornberry is at least half-way competent. However, there is one thing that she shares with Vista and that’s her innate capacity to rub people up the wrong way – like when she got hoist on her own petard by refusing to have a firm opinion on a case study of her own making. In fact, that was a pretty reasonable thing to do as the very point of the case study was to highlight how difficult it is to have a firm opinion on delicate judicial proceedings but that didn’t matter – something about the way she said it just riled the crowd and they gave her a right old booing. Actually, maybe she’s more Windows 8 – a technically ok bit of software that will never be loved because it took away our Taskbar. Ok, Windows 8 she is.

 

IBM Oakeshott…

There’s no way Matthew Oakeshott is anything other than a giant corporate mainframe, probably originally built in the 50’s and programmed using some arcane language (‘Social Democracy’ I think) that no-one knows how to code in any more. There he sits, relentlessly churning out data on why we should tax wealth and I hope he continues to do so until his magnetic tapes degrade to the point of unreadability for it is a worthy endeavour indeed.

 

HP Littlewood…

‘Drudgery’. That’s the word that always pops into my head when I see Mark Littlewood – drudgery like using a locked-down Dell or HP on a corporate network. Sure, it can sync calendars and book rooms anywhere in the building but what if I want to play a cheeky round of Solitaire at lunchtime, eh? No, it’s just all a little grown up and unsmiling for me thank you very much. Now then, where’s my proxy list?

 

iSmurthwaite…

So then, what’s this shiny new array of bells and whistles that have the crowd all a-clapping? Why it’s iSmurthwaite, the latest bleeding edge iteration of cloud based synergistic solutions for all your current affairs needs. Like all the other iDevices, iSmurthwaite has much to offer – like high performance and a snappy UI – but I can’t help thinking that we’re probably paying just a little over the odds in order to look cool when there are much more functional alternatives about. Maybe I’ll upgrade when Ken finally calls it a day.

 

Tl;dr

 

Clarke: 5/10

 

Crashed

 

Thornberry: 4/10

 

(Had hopes) Dashed

 

Oakeshott: 6/10

 

(Probably has a frighteningly small amount of Level 1) Cache (Memory)

 

Littlewood: 4/10

 

(Would look interesting with a) ‘Tache

 

Smurthwaite: 6/10

 

(Did) Clash (much with Ken)

 

The Crowd: 7/10

 

(Sounded like they’d been on the) Lash

 

 

…And so our story ends. Oh wait, no it doesn’t because I forgot to work in this week’s pshop. It’s Ken and he’s adopting his usual position in the Commons (see Fig. 1).

 

ken clarke sleeping

Fig. 1

Right that’s it from me expect to say go check and out this t-shirt I designed – it’s GTA Coalition and I’m more than a little stoked with it.

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #57


questionable time 57 david dimbleby viking york

Good morning Lemmings and brace yourselves because we’ve got a slightly different flavour of Questionable Time this week. Had this been just another Thursday, 10.35pm would find me arranged in a supine position on the sofa, mouthing obscenities at a flickering screen and berating the cats for their obvious lack of interest. This Thursday however, was different. Instead – thanks to a mixture of bluff, guile and Twitter-stalking – I somehow managed to scale the walls of the QT fortress, negotiated my way past the guardhouse (“This isn’t the obsessive dork you’re looking for…”) and found myself watching the show in the all-too-horrible fidelity of real-life. I saw things Lemmings, things no man should see… Allow me to explain.

The holding area is a people-watcher’s dream…

Having been in the audience before, I am no stranger to the holding area (the place where the audience assemble prior to filming) and I know well its terrifying power. If I cast my mind back to that first encounter I can feel my stomach turning all over again, remembering the awful sensation that comes with the knowledge of a) you’re about to be on telly, b) you might actually have to say something and c) there’s every chance that you might make a pig’s ear out of it in front of an audience of millions. It’s buyer’s remorse writ large. Luckily for me, that wasn’t the case last night as having blagged a guest seat (the out-of-shot row off to the side) I was well and truly out of harms way. Instead, I could just kick back and take long, deep breaths of other people’s fear. And oh, what a heady scent it is.

There are two distinct groups in the holding area and their anxiety plays out in different ways. For the first group – the loners whose friends were canny enough to turn down an invitation to tragedy – it’s a quiet but visible terror, one which makes the legs jiggle, the eyes dart and the palms sweat while for the others – the team-handed – it’s a more vocal display of nervous laughs and high velocity yammering. Most of the loners busy themselves by endlessly going over the question they’re going to submit but every now and then you see a pair of them gravitate towards one another, gingerly at first but then all of sudden looking like they’ve known each other for years. This pairing-off quietly cascades across the room and as it does, you can feel the tension easing… That is until the Big Man arrives.

Time to pay Dimbleby his dues…

It’s been a solid Questionable Time rule that aside from applying his face to the ludicrous, I don’t do much in the way of Dimbers. This law stems from a mixture of the practical (it’s somewhat challenging to write about the same person week in, week out) and the judicious (he holds all the cards and that just doesn’t seem fair in a weekly death match format). This week though, I’m saying to hell with the rules and finally giving credit where credit’s due: Dimbers is damn good at his job.

The first time the audience meet him is in the holding area and the sight of this angst ridden rabble suddenly going weak at the knees is another one of those things that makes the whole process so fascinating to watch. On this occasion the Antechamber of Doom happened to be in a lecture theatre and given that I was loitering near the lectern I was treated to a grandstand view of a twitchy gaggle suddenly melt into a slush of dreamy eyes and blissed-out grins.

So how does he do this? Well, part of it is that he just looks mischievous but it’s mostly down to his ability to make you feel like you’re in on a secret. For example, this week we were treated to an anecdote about how a Question Time crowd got inadvertently swapped with a Top of the Pops audience (oh the money I would give to watch a QT crowd being made to get down and boogie), a frighteningly good Tony Benn impression and the tale of an audience member who claimed to have been murdered. More than that though, he manages to convey a sense that no matter what, no matter how slippery or evasive the buggers are, he’s going to make those poor saps on the panel pay and he needs your help to do it. Again, the change is visible: The crowd’s mile-wide-smiles take on a more fangy, savage edge, their nostrils flare and you can almost hear the chanting in their heads: Kill the pigs! Cut their throats! Kill the pigs! Bash them in!

So the show itself?

I have to admit that I didn’t catch much of the show last night as my seat was so tucked away that I couldn’t actually see what was going on but I will say this: Despite my usual fear of Gove, he actually did rather well last night. Of course, York – a stud of deep blue on that belt of red leather that keeps the nation’s political trousers from falling down – was always going to be a benign climate to operate in but his use of the Yadda-Yadda Play marks a first in QT history. In the interests of full disclosure, this uncharacteristic charitability may also be down to seeing him in an overtly humanizing context later that night: I witnessed him agonizing over snack choices in a very, very cold York station. Feeling his pain I forced a Questionable Time sticker upon him whilst muttering that I thought he did well on the show. He took it kindly enough for me to feel bad about the Gove .gif I made early in the day.

As for Thornberry, I thought she got a tougher ride than she deserved. I know the Red Team aren’t that popular in York but at least she managed to go the whole evening without blowing chunks of One Nation and Squeezed Middle over everyone (something that’s been a particularly annoying habit of Labour panelists recently).

And what of the noobs? Well, not a bad first innings for Bennett (although she’s got big shoes of hemp and sunbeams to fill following Lucas’ departure), Horowitz seems to know what he’s doing in a very crowd pleasing sort of way and Littlewood is stone cold crazy but assertive enough for that to come across as So Crazy That It Might Just Work. And that’ll do for me.

Tl;dr

Gove: 6.5/10

Pob

Thornberry: 5/10

Rob(bed)

Bennett: 5/10

(Is new to the ) Job

Horowitz: 7/10

(Has an eloquent) Gob

Littlewood: 6/10

(Is probably a free market heart) Throb

The Crowd: 5/10

(Enjoy) HobNobs?

How’s about that then? Will that keep the wolf from the door until Question Time returns in April? Well it bloody well had because I’m knocking off for two weeks. Anyway, here’s that Gove .gif I was talking about (see. Fig. 1). Yeah, I know… It’s petty and mean but in my defence, who wouldn’t want an oxygenating and animated Gove ornament in their aquarium? No one, that’s who…

michael-gove-goldfish-gif

Fig. 1

Three weeks Lemmings, three weeks…


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