Sunday, January 31, 2010

Even Better Than That!

A few years back there was a program called The Fast Show, a kind of quick-fire comedy sketch show that featured dozens of characters and spawned just as many catchphrases, some of which were even funny as opposed to teeth-gnashingly irritating when repeated ad infinitum by every man and his dog.

Anyway, amongst the many characters on The Fast Show was 'Mr Even Better Than That', a man whose long-suffering wife would send him out on simple errands for some staple of modern living only to have him return with a whole host of random items.

'Did you get the eggs I needed?'
'Even better than that! I got a Victorian toilet roll holder, some brass bicycle clips and a small bottle of squid ink!'

And of the eggs there would no sign.

And this is what came to mind when I went for my regular wander round the warehouse of marvels that is Bunnings. I like Bunnings very, very much indeed.

I like the staff, who are both knowledgable and helpful, I like the layout which is logical and spacious and I like the fact that my mum got a kick out of walking round there munching on a hot dog, something which she found as absurdly satisfying as I did.

Now originally I only went into Bunnings to get some 4mm ultra-drippers and barbed tee pieces as I was running out whilst converting our existing jetspray irrigation system. And that's another thing I like about Bunnings; you come away educated, if not actually capable. But it's a start. Where we used to live, the idea of me tackling the (well screwed up) watering system was as likely as the good people of Tooradin learning how to bloody tip.

But now, in our super McMansion with it's 6 zone holyshithowmanysprinklers??? system, it's, well, no worries. She will, indeed, be apples. Thanks to Bunnings, who not only have all the thingummys and doohickeys you need but also have someone who can tell you how to use them. These people can even deal with that most dangerous of creatures, A Pom With What He Thinks Is A Good Idea using nothing more than a timely application of a little "Well, yes, you could do that. Or..." followed by introducing said Pom to the bits actually designed for the job and steering him away from the assortment of ill-suited gubbins he was planning on using.

And the most unnerving thing is that they do this even though you were going spend more doing it your way. And this is where The Fast Show comes in.

Because they lull the likes of me into a false sense of security by looking out for me, dispensing sound advice and generally seeing me walk the DIY straight and narrow. And then, when they've endowed me with a sufficient amount of shallow knowledge... they let me roam.

'Did you get the drippers and tee pieces we needed, dear?'
'Even better than that! I got a whiteboard, some superglue, a small plastic box and pencil made entirely out of pencil! Oh, and yes I got those other things, too. And I nearly brought a box set of 19 screwdrivers for good measure.'

And yes, I did buy a pencil made entirely out of pencil (7 times more pencil than other pencils!). I wanted something to just make a nice clear mark on a surface before I started drilling for live cables. Chalk? Marker pen? Liquid paint? Ooooh, what's this. Bendable! Almost unbreakable! Writes on almost every surface! Every part of it's pencil! Sold!

And now I have one of them and, truth be told, it does write on almost every surface but it doesn't do it very well.

But the screwdrivers... Now I did like the look of them. All I need is an excuse to go back and get 'em...

Hmmm... Wonder if Bunnings sell eggs?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

PES 2010 vs My Ego

PICTURED: Awesome Me pursued by rubbish Everton players.
NOT PICTURED: Useless Liverpool teammates. Yes, even Stevie G.

I'm a huge soccer fan and, like most fans, I can not only manage a team better than any coach, but I can also play the game better than any footballer. I believe this can be said of any follower of any sport. In fact, as a Liverpool supporter, I would actually have done a better job than the fekking chairman; I wouldn't have sold to those American shysters, for a start.

Anyway, in Pro Evolution Soccer games you take control of the whole team which means that not only do you get to sign the great players you also get to play as all of them, passing from you as Ronaldo to you as Gerrard to you as Torres etc etc. But PES 2010, though, goes one better with it's Become A Legend mode.

BAL mode sees you play as, well, you. And only you. You pass to team-mates controlled by the computer and they pass back to you if they want to. You can wave frantically for the ball like an Aussie in fly-season (Jan to Dec fly-fact-fans) but even then you might not get it. You can go great long stretches of the game without seeing the ball, while your teammates stuff up, lose possession and let the oppposition run past them at will.

Now this is surreal enough when you're used to controlling everyone in your team, but BAL goes one better by allowing you to name your player AND assign him a commentary name. What this means is that if you share a name with almost any professional footballer (which I do) then the voice commentary in the game has that name stored. You find the name and assign it to yourself and, lo and behold, when you do anything of significance the commentators (either the tedious Jon Champion or the ludicrous Mark Lawrenson) will mention you by name.

Add that to the fact you can create, from boots to haircut, your own, if you will, soccer avatar, it can become a heady brew for any soccer fan as knowledgable and skillful as every soccer fan is. And as a footballer, I am, it must be said, something of a veritable Adonis, tall, muscular and with a much, much nicer goatee. Put it all together, and if you're the shallow, self-righteous type this can all easily go to your head.

And so it proves with me.

Because when you're controlling the whole team, if you stuff up it's your fault. But when you're controlling just you, it seems like everyone else stuffs up. For instance, being a full England international (as I am) and having, at the tender age of 26, won both the European Championships and the World Cup with England (as I have)AND the Champions League with Liverpool (which I have) AND being the Premier League top scorer AND assist provider (which I am) you'd think that when we go 1-0 down against France in the current World Cup because David Bloody James in goal has obviously been using his gloves to spread butter (no change there) and, in the 75th minute, I equalise after a huge solo run because none of my team-mates seem able to pass more than 5 feet (which they can't), that I might get some token of appreciation from the clueless monkey in charge of the team.

Perhaps a knowing wink, telling me always had confidence in my ability to turn it round. Or maybe the bench applauding me as I run by, pursued by admiring team-mates looking to give me nice, manly hug (that happens in football alot). Hell, even a thank-you note and a book token for Borders or something would be nice.

Instead, he substitutes me. And with me gone, France score again. And again. And England buckle like a belt. And this happens when I restart the match so that me not winning against bloody France, an obvious oversight by the computer, can be corrected. I restart again. And again. It only stops when I score two goals and then basically run around hogging the ball so nobody but me can touch it because half of them are the opposition and the other half are England and I'm not sure which mob does most to make us lose.

And what all of this does is give me a genuine insight into what it is to be a world class footballer. Not because of the trophies (of which I have many) or the Footballer of the Year accolades (yup, got them too) or the many, many Man of the Match awards I have (can't move for the things), but simply because of how you feel when you're by far and away the best player on the pitch.

It gets tiring to look for a pass from a teammate with all the vision of Ray Charles. It's depressing to arrow yet another incisive ball through the oppo's defence, only to see the teammate take off after it like a particularly leaden-footed cart-horse. And most of all it's exasperating when the manager thinks he knows better than you and takes you off.

So what PES 2010 does is make you painfully aware of exactly why Ronaldo left Manchester United for Real Madrid. And why Gerrard and Torres might sod off from Liverpool, for that matter.