The News This Evening

It would seem that the main news this evening is that Boris Johnson and his tory mates are a bunch of arrogant, entitled arseholes who think the rules governing the rest of us don’t apply to them. In other news, the Earth is spherical, water is wet and Brexit is nothing but a crime.

Seriously, if Johnson had any sense of honour, let alone any compassion for how much other people have suffered over the past two years, his resignation would be in this evening’s news.

The Offices

I was going to leave blogging about this until I had finished watching all the episodes, but I’m currently on an Office marathon, and it is getting too amusing/interesting not to note here. After watching the first two episodes of the UK version last week, I decided to take it seriously and systematically go through the UK original followed by the American remake; I thought that would throw up some interesting comparisons to draw. I finished the original series on Sunday, and due to the fact that episodes are only twenty minutes long, I’m now up to the second season of the American version.

I suppose the first thing to say is that both series are utterly hilarious: watching the two seasons of the original had me in raptures. David Brent is still an obnoxious tosser – possibly the biggest wanker ever to hit UK TV – yet he is also a sublime comic creation on a par with Basil Fawlty or Victor Meldrew. He is arrogant and repugnant, yet there is a type of naivite to him which is almost tragic: he has no idea how outclassed he is by those around him, and in the end you can’t help pitying him. Watching the episodes in one go, though, it became clear that the program was not just about Brent. The supporting cast – if I can call them that – play a major role. Brent may think he’s the star of the show (which is kind of the joke) but the characters around him play off this repugnant creature, developing their own personalities, backgrounds and narratives so that by the end the program starts to feel like a serious series. While they all still have comic moments, people like Gareth and Tim eventually turn into characters we actually care about, which is ultimately what made The Office so great and influential.

I can already see the same thing happening in the American series. Before yesterday morning, I had never seen anything of The Office (US) but luckily it’s all on Netflix. Having just watched the first two seasons (there’s a lot more of the American version than the British one) I can already see the same dynamic of repugnant, arrogant boss surrounded by the same collection of slightly oddball employees. I find it interesting that this is essentially the same program, but reset and remade for an American audience. It was created to fit American tastes and use American cultural references. Has any other television show been rebooted like that? We thus see references to things like American healthcare and laws which aren’t in the UK original. It has the same initial concept and underlying structure, yet the program has been entirely remade using American material, as if the original program wouldn’t do and needed to be remodelled and presented as American.

That is not to say it isn’t funny: Brent’s substitute, Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) is just as up himself as his British prototype; the supporting cast still bounce off him in the same natural yet hilarious way. The show has just as much to say about office dynamics and human nature. I’ll probably write more when I finish watching the entire series, but it is fascinating to see how America adapted a classic bit of British comedy to suit it’s own cultural norms.

Who Wants To Play Chuckie Egg?

‘Chuckie Egg’ is a name I can’t have heard in well over twenty-five years. It is the name of a game once played on BBC Micro computers. BBCs were very basic machines by today’s standards, but I still have very fond memories of them: in the eighties and early nineties, they were used in schools. My parents bought one for the family, in part so I could learn to type, write stories and communicate. You could also play basic computer games on them too, loaded using thin floppy disks. One of them, I vaguely remember, was called Chuckie Egg, a simple platform game. Every breaktime at school I either used to try to play it, or sit and watch my classmates playing it.

I had naturally totally forgotten about it. On the BBC’s Click program yesterday, it was mentioned that somebody has now created an online BBC Micro simulator. That of course caught my interest, so I just tapped it into Google. I’m not sure I’ve found the full simulator they mentioned yet, but I think this is worth flagging up. Chuckie Egg can now be played online, in all it’s BBC glory. I know computer games have come on a long way since I watched my friends playing this, but you can’t beat a classic.

London Needs More Cablecars

I realise that the Emirates Air Line isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and doesn’t always get the best press, but if you ask me, London could do with more cable cars like it. Now, hear me out: London has one of the most advanced public transport systems in the world. It’s far from perfect, of course – nowhere near enough tube stations are wheelchair accessible, for one – but I can get around the city in a large variety of ways, from tube trains, busses, trams or even boats. Out on my trundle yesterday, I was crossing the river on the cable car, and it occurred to me that it was a great addition to the transport network. While it may be a bit of a tourist attraction and novelty, it nonetheless is an excellent way of getting from the North Greenwich Peninsular to the Excel Centre, affording passengers great views across the city en route. Now that there is more and more traffic on the roads, I reckon London should start building more cable cars like it, perhaps at other points along the Thames, or up in the city centre, say between parks. That way, fewer people would need to use busses, cutting traffic.

Saying Omicron on Star Trek

One of the first things I came across on the web this morning was this Youtube video about how the word Omicron was pronounced in Star Trek. It struck me as quite of-the-moment, although as someone who just goes by how their communication devices pronounce words, I don’t think there’s that much I can say about it.

Saved By His Laugh

I went to a GAD meeting yesterday afternoon. GAD is an organisation of local disabled people, based in Greenwich. The meeting, however, was in Woolwich: some people want to do a podcast made up of people with disabilities talking about their experiences, what they had to go through to achieve their independence and so on. It was quite a fascinating meeting, and I felt grateful to have been invited. I’ll flag up the finished podcast here when I can. I do, however, want to relay a story I heard yesterday: it was told by an older fellow with body deformities, and really stuck with me. He told us that a few weeks after he was born, his mother despaired at having a disabled son so much that she wanted to smother him. She believed his life would be so difficult as a disabled person that she couldn’t put him through it. When she was just about to do so though, he laughed. His laugh was apparently so lovely that she suddenly found that she couldn’t go through with it, and thus his laugh saved his life.

I find this story quite moving, not just because of what it tells us of good luck, but because of what that poor mum must have had to go through. It says something about the kind of assumptions people make about the difficulty of lives like mine. It makes you wonder, too, how many other disabled babies weren’t so fortunate.

Second Thoughts About Busses

I must admit I’m suddenly having second thoughts about getting onto busses or the tube. Before we first heard of the Omicron variant a few days ago, I had grown fairly relaxed about using public transport. As I’ve said before, it’s not really practical for me to wear a mask, but I nonetheless think they are vital if we’re ever going to get over this pandemic. If you can wear a mask, you should. The problem is, these days, everyone seems to have grown so lackadaisical about mask wearing, these days I struggle to see more than two people wearing one on a bus these days. The result is I have begun to think twice about going on my usual trundles, preferring to keep within easy powerchair distance, or not going out at all.

The Office

I was eighteen or so in 2001. I vaguely remember, watching TV in bed one night, catching the end of a program I initially took to be a documentary. It was about people working in an office. I watched a bit of it, but soon found the main boss character so nauseating, so up himself, that I couldn’t watch any more.

I hadn’t watched The Office since then. Even after I twigged that it was a comedy, it just sort of crept under my radar. In the twenty years since it first aired, I had caught clips of it of course; but I’d never sat down to watch a full episode or series properly. Last night, however, I noticed that the beeb were re-airing the first two episodes of the first series on bbc2, introduced by commentary from various celebrities, including Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. What they were saying piqued my interest, so I decided to watch the episodes properly in full today.

My parents paid me a visit today. I hadn’t seen them in ages, and it was a lovely visit. As independent as I like to be, Mum and Dad still have a knack of sorting things out. After a very nice lunch, and after they had said goodbye, though, I settled down to see what The Office was about. I now honestly believe that what I found myself watching was a work of genius: I’ve only watched the first two episodes so far, but they made me laugh out loud harder than I have done in months. The observation and characterisation was sublime. David Brent is still a monster, but what I once found nauseating I now recognised as a great, great comment on human nature and the kind of sickening lack of self awareness we see in so many people these days.

Indeed, it occurred to me that we could detect whiffs of Brent in the pompous prick currently running the country. Both men are hideously un-self aware with grossly inflated egos; both think they are far more popular and likeable than they really are. If that is so, though, then it makes me wonder if the BBC could be repeating this series now specifically to make a political point.

Another Picture Idea

Just to follow up on yesterday’s entry a bit, would it be cool to get a large, framed tube map to hang on my wall somewhere? I rather like London’s tube map: I look at it online when I need to work out how to go somewhere of course, but I also find it quite nice to look at. It’s like a multi-coloured bowl of spaghetti, at once chaotic and logical. I like to look at it whenever I go on the tube, as it kind of reminds me how enormous and fascinating this city is. On the other hand, would having a tube map hanging on my wall be a bit passe? I’ll also need to wait a bit until the new tube maps start including the Elisabeth Line.