Idle Eye 194 : The Guzzler

As I was straining the greens before leaving work this afternoon, it occurred to me that an actual person invented those little rubber mats that sit awkwardly in the belly of their white porcelain hosts. Someone with the nous to recognise the perils of splashback, and the business acumen to get them into pretty much every tinklehaus in the country. So I tried to imagine taking the initial concept to pitch. Like you do:

Institute of Industrial Design:  Thanks for coming in. How can we help you?

Me:  I’ve invented something very small and simple that will change life as we know it.

IID:  Oh good. What precisely is it?

Me:  It’s a little rubber mat that stops piss flying up into your face.

IID:  Sorry, we didn’t quite catch that.

Me:  A rubber mat. That stops piss flying up into your face. There’s a massive gap in the market.

IID:  A gap in the market, you say? For the prevention of flying piss?

Me:  Yes. It’s an age-old problem.

IID:  That has not once been flagged up. Until today.

Me:  Just because no one’s flagged it up doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Try telling that to Apple.

IID:  Except Apple almost singlehandedly advanced computer technology, hardware aesthetics and consumer demand beyond anything previously imagined. Are you seriously suggesting you can do something similar with the toilet?

Me:  Correct. There will come a time when we cannot envisage life without them. Like cat’s eyes. And the vacuum cleaner. Have some faith.

IID:  And does your little mat have a name?

Me:  Not yet – I’m just the ideas guy. But I’m thinking it could be a bit of fun; something to take their minds off it.

IID:  Off what, exactly?

Me:  That they’re basically spraying piss all over the place.

IID:  Fun doesn’t quite spring to mind.

Me:  Of course it does! How about “The Guzzler – putting the fun back into functional”. See? It’s even got its own strapline.

IID:  The Guzzler?

Me:  Why not? Does what it says on the tin. And it alludes to the piss ending up inside The Guzzler and not all over the end user; without making a huge song and dance about it.

IID:  Is this your first business venture, by any chance?

Me:  I’ve had heaps of ideas. But this is the one I’ve been most excited about.

IID:  Of course. And you’ve told no one else about it?

Me:  No one at all. Intellectual property and all that. I wasn’t born yesterday.

IID:  Splendid! Could you leave a copy with us? And help yourself to a Malteser on the way out, we’ll be in touch.

And that would have been it. Followed by unimaginable wealth, admiration from my peers and a lifestyle lesser mortals can only dream of. All of this from a bit of rubber with a few holes in it. So reach for the stars, my friends. Just don’t let on to Durex…

Idle Eye 161 : The Rhinoceros

In what has become more French farce than reality, everyday objects have conspired against the launch of Amateur of Life and Death in a way I could not possibly have conceived. If I could only stand back and laugh (and maybe I will sometime in the future), perhaps I’d get some kind of perspective. But when you’re living through an implausible nightmare, the absurdities get so polarised you just can’t help but take them personally. I’ll try to boil it down. Firstly, the iMac went haywire. Right at the point I was editing in the last bit of footage for the Kickstarter promo, the screen strobed at me like an Eighties disco and then presented ugly green vertical stripes across everything I tried to do. At which point, I lost it:

Me:  Not now, bubba, not now.

iMac:  PARTAYYY!!!

Me:  Listen. We’ve known each other for almost four years. I dust you, I defrag you, I clear out that ugly crap you accumulate on a regular basis and all that I’m asking is that you work with me for the next four weeks. It’s important. It’s why I bought you in the first place. Now is not the time. Capiche?

iMac:  PARTAYYY!!!

Me:  No. Not Partayyy!!!  You can go wild after this is all through. But not now. I’m trying to do something that really matters to me. In fact, the rest of my life hinges on it. So just play ball or you’re out with the recycling.

iMac:  PARTAYYY!!!

Then my shaver packed in; I ordered another. My watch stopped dead; one of those Russian ones that pride themselves on longevity in the field of conflict suddenly went AWOL. I took it off, and as I did, two of the lights in the living room blew for no reason at all. I turned them out at the dimmer and then, I kid you not, our lavatory started to overflow. I knew something was up because the flat below had just started building work and they’d been crashing about for God knows how long, but when water starts pissing its way into your hallway, words have to be said. Next up, two builders appeared:

Builder 1:  Awright, mate? Sorry about that, didn’t know youze was on the same ring.

Me:  It appears we are. Can you stem the tide? It is rather unfortunate timing.

Builder 1:  Bloody cheap stopcocks, that’s your problem. Who fitted this craphound?

Me:  It was done by an emergency plumber four months ago. The parts are new. And they worked this morning.

Builder 2:  Tone. I gotta be in Dalston in fifty. Can you sort this? I need the van, mate.

Builder 1:  What am I supposed to do?

Builder 2:  To be honest, I don’t give a monkeys. Either come with me and deal with this clown tomorrow morning, or sort yourself out. Your choice.

Me:  Excuse me. I have a book campaign going live in 48 hrs, a toilet that badly needs sorting, and you two are debating whether to leave now?

Builder 2:  Another job, mate. Life, innit?

The phone went. An automated someone chose this exact moment to offer me compensation for another accident I’d supposedly had. And as I was screaming blue bloody murder into the void, both builders left the…er…building, leaving me with a secreting loo and a flat teeming with broken stuff. There was no-one around to scream at, so I screamed at the iMac:

Me:  You jumped up, poncey piece of crap! I hate you, I hate everything you pretend to be and I hate how you come across all slick and cool when actually, you’re nothing more than smoke and wires. SMOKE AND WIRES, do you understand me? Of course you don’t! Because you can’t do jack shit without me. Nothing. NOTHING!!! And when I’ve got you fixed and you think this is all business as usual, let’s see how you feel when I wheel in a Gates. Because I’m through with you, Apple. Really, I am. Jobs would be turning in his grave if he knew the shit you’re trying to pull now. So I’m out. Fuck you!!!

iMac:  PARTAYYY!!!

To be continued…

IE Audio 7 : The Vox Machina

As we march headlong into a Brave New World of consumer shed meltdown and the human travesty that is modern telecommunication, Idle Eye deconstructs the madness so you don’t have to.

https://theidleeye.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/idle-eye-143-the-vox-machina/

Idle Eye 143 : The Vox Machina

Is it just me, or does every superstore these days feel the need to talk to us customers as if we have successfully navigated a maiden voyage to the lavatory without sullying the floor, or caking ourselves in our own oomska? If you’re not sure what I’m on about here, pop over to your nearest supermarket of choice when you’ve read this. I can guarantee that within five minutes of entering the building, an intrusive announcement, broadcast to all by a Robson Green clone imitating Mick Jagger, will suggest you make a small diversion to the bakery isle, where freshly-made, three-for-two doughnuts will help you live well. For less.

It’s not the content that bothers me particularly though. It’s the delivery. That sudden plunge, from innocuous mid-range to deeply offensive baritone, has been cynically calculated to recall in every shopper the halcyon days of their childhood, when mummy would almost come if you managed to down a forkful of fish finger. This then triggers a rush of serotonin to the brain, and has us scurrying like insects towards whichever wretched product is currently on promotion, in order to keep the high going.

And it doesn’t stop there. Why not punish yourselves further by putting in a quick call to your broadband provider? Just for the sheer hell of it. If and when you manage to get past the teenage cheerleader and her plethora of unfathomable options, you can enjoy Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at tinnitus-inducing volume, until she starts banging on about the hash key should you fancy a few more. Has anyone ever done this? Actually opted for more options? The only reason to do so I can muster is because you have been lured, as if by sirens, into a perpetual loop of doom, seduced by the prospect of discovering the magic key that will end your purgatory once and for all. At a premium call rate, naturally.

I know this makes me seem like a terrible Luddite. Or one of those Grumpy Old Men you see on the telly who have already become versions of their own disdain. But hold up! If technology really is as smart as they make out, why can’t we get to choose the voice of whichever organisation is preaching at us? Based on preferences stored up there in the Cloud and fully configurable to suit our mood? All of a sudden, that dreaded Sunday excursion to Ikea doesn’t seem so bad, does it? Just as you begin to glaze over in the BILLY bookcase department, Mariella Frostrup virtually detects your loss of will to live, and purrs something suggestive about meatballs into the headphones provided. And before you know it, you’re making a beeline for the restaurant as your family struggles to keep up.

Not bad, eh? Maybe Apple should consider something along these lines when that watch of theirs comes out next month. And maybe then I’ll consider a third doughnut.

Idle Eye 98 : The Disease of Kings

Once again, the heralding in of another year walks hand in hand with the health and fitness websites falling over themselves to help us improve our bedroom skills. Quite why anyone wishes to get down and dirty in this particular field (at a time when one’s most basic of motor skills are generally in question) is anyone’s guess, but there you have it. And besides, any cursory glance at the headlines would suggest the exact opposite is more appropriate if you happen to be hirsute, silver-topped and off the telly in the 70s.

As for myself, I have attempted to keep my galloping libido at bay with industrial quantities of NZ Marlborough Pinot Noir and a spattering of domestic chores which offer the minimum potential for sexual confusion (it is no coincidence that the more enthusiastic power tool adopter also enjoys wearing those front-weighted accessory belts). And it seems to be working: I’ve yet to have a pop at a Woman’s Hour announcer live on air, elope to France with a teenager or spend any longer than is absolutely necessary in the small room with a copy of Vogue. In fact, the only discernible improvement in the bedroom at present is a new bookshelf – I’m doing my bit.

Imagine my dismay then, when I switched on R4 only to discover that the onerous regime I have responsibly maintained will almost certainly give me gout. Yep, gout! It’s the latest shock malady to do the rounds, brought on by copious consumption of red wine, a diet rich in purines and the utter rejection of Catholicism as sole legitimate sovereign. And apparently it’s heading my way if I fail to rein in my eating and drinking habits. But I’m getting mixed messages here:

Do they want me to strut about like Cock o’ the South, terrifying the ladies of London as they run for cover? Or do I willingly infect myself with the disease of kings in order to prevent such a horror? What are my options? Will I remain handsome? How do goats make cheese?

Fortunately for everyone, the BMJ has found if not a solution, a patch. It seems that a liberal intake of cherries can reduce the risk of gout attacks by up to 35%. Which is a relief. Only thing is, they also enhance the production of dopamine which means I’ll have to be kept indoors, probably under lock and key, until my ardour is sufficiently dampened. It’s a vicious circle:

You rut too much therefore you drink too much therefore you get the gout therefore you eat the cherries therefore you rut too much.

You’d think someone in a lab coat would have culled the problem at source, wouldn’t you? Or that a Cupertino pre-teen would have an app for it by now. But until they do, I shall continue to drink the good fight in the interests of science and common decency. And my feet can sort themselves out when the time comes.

Idle Eye 87 : The Quantitative Theory of Stuff

Contrary to popular belief, the trouble with getting on a bit has not so much to do with the various bits of you packing up, but that the grey bits you actually have left are already at capacity. They’re maxed out. Overloaded. Which means that if you so choose to bring something fresh on board, say a critically-acclaimed movie or this year’s page-turner, you have to bin an existing item to make room. You’d think this would be pretty straightforward, wouldn’t you? Out with the old, in with the new, and everything ticks along nicely, right? Wrong.

Why so, you ask? Well, the ageing brain does not give up its data lightly, oh no. It’s a hoarder. So when the new kids on the block come a-knockin’, it balks like a reluctant dog with his special stick. Let me give you an example: Last week, I made the mistake of telling a younger colleague that I had never listened to One Direction. Not once. No space for any direction now, I explained, it’s all filled up with grown-up business. This did not go down well:

Youth:  You serious?

Me:  Absolutely. Don’t judge me, it’s just what happens. You’ll understand one day.

Youth:  But they are huuuuge!!! And OD make more dough in a day than you’ll get in your lifetime, grandad!

Me:  Apparently so. How do you think that makes me feel?

Youth:  Old/sad?

Me:  Now look. I know this is going to be hard for you to take in, but it’s just stuff. And I’ve got years and years of stuff rattling around in there. It’s got nothing to do with One Direction: I’ve never listened to Taylor Swift, never listened to JLS, never listened to Miley Cyrus. And you’d probably think it a bit odd if I had. I’m in my forties and, I’ll be frank with you, they’re all shit. So why would I even bother?

Youth:  Nothing to do with them being shit, man. Just being current. You’ll understand one day.

Touché. But I look forward to the day when her head is rammed to bursting with crucial stuff she just can’t let go of, and I can struggle out of my wheelchair if and when we next meet, twerk along to the dulcet tones of ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ and embarrass the crap out of her in front of her children. And if, for some strange reason, she has difficulty with this, I will recite, word perfect, the lyrics to ‘Bye Bye Baby’ by the Bay City Rollers and illustrate with a graph (or whatever Jonathan Ive equivalent is around at the time) the cyclical nature of the Quantitative Theory of Stuff. And maybe, just maybe, she will become aware of the sheer joy available to those who can shed the present. I hope to be high on that particular list.

Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold.

Idle Eye 75 : The Cost Company

So anyway, Nibs and I are burning down the M4 at 121mph (on the way back from yet another trip to Wales), when he drops it in that we have to make a slight detour. Oh no, I’m thinking, is it a special lady friend? Or perhaps the steed needs a quick pit stop? Either of which will add a significant portion of gooseberry to my day. But, as it turns out, it was neither. As we approached Reading, the car re-orbited and we snaked our way through faceless, municipal landscaped roundabouts and grounded ourselves at the trolley park of what appeared to be yet another temple of worship to consumer greed. Every hackle that hadn’t already been irreversibly müllered by alcohol immediately rose up, but my fears were shortly to be assuaged: This was different. This was the future.

Have you ever been to one of these places? These vast cathedrals of corrugated aluminium that house your every culinary peccadillo and a few more besides? And for stupid money, as long as you’ve got an outhouse or live inside an Escher print? Well neither had I, but the minute I walked through the door they had me by the balls. For a start, right there in the foyer, they had delicious Apple stuff which had me salivating like a Cupertino campus nerd, but then as we crossed into widescreen an astonishing array of palleted goods, piled as high as the eye can feasibly take in, burst into ocular wonder. Over there on the left were thousands of discounted cases of NZ Marlborough Pinot Noir, and yet there on the right were more triple packs of Calvin Klein underpants than you could shake a stick at.

But this was just for starters: Mountains of Haribo, rivers of tequila and more snout than Strangeways all beckoned with their irresistible charms. And, in case you weren’t yet up to speed, helpful smiley staff clad in red and white were all there to assist with their immaculate speed-of-light timing of which I took full advantage:

‘Hello, could you help? I’m trying to figure out the sheet 2 wipe ratio saving I could make from your Syrian Red Cross Convenience industrial strength loo rolls?’

‘Certainly, Sir! Our statistics, based on an amalgam of the global meridian and the sheet 2 wipe average in your area suggest that you’ll be making a saving of approximately 7.2 pence per go. You have a nice day now.’

These guys were so on it I nearly wept. And, as Nibs and I swept through checkout, laden with a cargo utterly denied to those outside the club, I felt it necessary to fall to my knees and beg my own brother to sign me up. Which, bless him, he did, after making me watch him consume a hot dog and a litre of fizzy pop at £1.45 from the in-store café. Vile but necessary, as them French Resistance chicks would have said.