Ever watched any of those TV ads, which always seem to feature a young and good-looking guy in a white shirt and tie, sitting on a train with loads of space around him? The ones where it’s sunny outside and the train is passing through some beautiful countryside, which the guy in the shirt glances at contentedly whilst he works away on a laptop, looking happy and in control, as he drinks his complementary and delicious cup of coffee and deals with his important but achievable workload? Well that’s total bollocks. I’ve spend a lot of time recently sitting on trains trying to work on a laptop and its had about as much in common with that image, as someone sweeping the floor in an aircraft hangar has with Tom Cruise in “Topgun”. So here’s a reality check.
1) The trains are always over-crowded and no one looks happy.
2) You always have to chuck someone out of the seat you’ve booked, who’s always the person most genuinely in need of a seat on the whole train; typically a heavily pregnant but exceedingly fray old lady, who’s often from a Black or Asian community too, so that everyone else on the train can brand you both a bastard and a racist.
3) You can never plug your laptop in anywhere; there either isn’t a plug, or someone else is using it and will defend it to the death if need be. You’d have more chance of negotiating a peace treaty between North and South Korea.
4) The tables are too narrow to have the screen at the right angle or the keyboard in the right place; and there’s always some other poor sod sitting on the other side of the table trying to use a laptop too; and the nightmarish possibly that the backs of the lids might accidentally touch one another, would feel not unlike experiencing your best mate suddenly touching you ‘inappropriately’ and declaring he’s always loved you.
5) You’re always stressed out because you’ve got too much work to do. Internet access costs nearly £5 for an hour and at best is annoyingly intermittent and slow, so you end up having to close and reopen Outlook loads of times in an effort to send or receive any e-mail. And don’t even think you can use a mouse, as the train’s movement will result in your clicking on everything but what you wanted and a screen full of usless boxes and windows that you’ve then got to try to close, an equally futile exercise that just perpetuates the nightmare. And if you saved the link your mate sent you last week for that comedy bestiality gay porn website, you can be sure you’ll accidently click on it and everyone in the carriage with hear your tinny laptop speakers blare out the fact, confirming in their minds that you’re a social deviant as well as being a bastard and a racist, and probably a paedophile too. Your only defence against all this is that the chance of you actually finding a suitable space in which to move a mouse around, is rather less than that of the Earth suddenly exploding right now… nope, we’re still here. (And here’s a friendly bit of advice; don’t bother trying to use your mouse on your thigh, it doesn’t work and after it’s fallen on the floor with a loud clatter a few times, everyone will be adding stupidity to your growing lists of crimes.)
6) The person sitting opposite you always has a better laptop that makes you feel like a Luddite and failure, as you look at your scratched Dell with its broken bit of trim in the corner; whilst his is miraculously in pristine condition, despite its apparently nomadic existence; they’re nearly always Macs too; does Apple pay people to travel on trains just to make it look like it has a bigger market share than it really does?
7) The weather is always wet and horrible; or really bright and the sun shines directly onto the screen of your laptop, rendering it unreadable.
8) The person next to you acts as if he’s Beelzebub’s cousin and insists on staking his claim to every square nanometre of his allotted space; even using his bag and jacket to build something akin to the Berlin Wall between you and him. The unspoken threat this leaves hanging in the air will lead you to prefer the option of wetting yourself, rather than ask him to move so you can go to the toilet.
9) If the person next to you is a woman, she will continually use body language that strongly suggests the world’s most evil-smelling pervert has just sat next to her. Unlike Beelzebub’s cousin, she will attempt to curl up in as small a space as possible, mathematically as far from you as she can, whilst texting her mates non-stop to tell them of her ongoing trauma.
10) The coffee is mediocre, costs £2.20 and comes in a paper cup.
This film is set in 1972. Before laptops existed. (And I really actually like trains.)
1991 – Certificate: PG – USA
Before I watched this film I couldn’t remember anything about it or why I’d bought it. Neither the overview nor the trailer suggested that it’s going to be anything other than a fairly crappy, 90s, mainstream Hollywood romantic/family comedy with a precocious, ‘Hollywood-style’ kid in it. An evening of British stoicism beckoned, as I looked forward to 98 minutes of mediocre averageness. But when a film starts with an 11-year-old girl speaking directly into the camera, claiming to have caught haemorrhoids and explaining how her breasts are developing at different rates and that means she’s got cancer, does suggest that it’s going to have more balls that it ought to. (Sorry if that all sounds a bit Jimmy Savilley, it’s not meant to.) For a PG rated film, I bet that freaked out a few parents in the cinema! It’s basically a film about death, a suitable depressing topic that probably explains why I bought it in the first place. In the end, it still turned out to be a 90s, mainstream Hollywood romantic/family comedy with a precocious, ‘Hollywood-style’ kid in it, but at times it’s also a genuinely touching and powerful bit of drama. The adults are more or less cardboard cut-out characters, but the kids make the film come alive and the script’s surprising subtle. It’s got a good soundtrack too. (Problem is, I still can’t get used to Dan Aykroyd not hunting ghosts, or Jamie Lee Curtis not fighting Michael Myers.)
Recommended for people who want to revisit the experience of losing someone they love.
No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.
Top badass moment? Vada sulking in the supermarket and throwing can after can from the shelf into the trolley. Am I the only one who thinks doing this without looking at the shelf or fumbling any of the cans, whilst the trolley is moving, was pretty clever? It’s hard to make sulking look cool, so managing to do so is badass.
Today I’m thinking a lot about bananas, “Britain’s favourite fruit”. Admit it, when was the last time you ate a really nice tasting banana? I bet it’s a long time ago, if ever. Is it any wonder that banana favoured things don’t really taste like bananas at all, because if they did, no one would buy them. Other than they’re conveniently packaged and you can made rude jokes about them, what have bananas really got going for themselves? Most of them are supplied by just five companies and only 4% of the sale cost of them makes its way back to the growers. The whole bent banana system is abused and controlled by the large supermarkets too. Basically you’d be much better off buying yummy oranges and their smaller, delicious relatives. Oranges even have a colour named after them, that’s cool; bananas are just, yellow. Bananas, at best, should be squished up and hidden away inside smoothies; oranges deserve pride of place as the centrepiece of any meal. Not only that, but every time you eat an orange a small child somewhere smiles. Bananas just make people slip over and break legs and things. What an underhanded and mean fruit the banana is. Bananas hang about in big gangs (which they euphemistically call ‘bunches’) too, waiting to pick on little strawberries and raspberries and things. What a cowardly fruit. I haven’t checked this, but I’d image that more ASBOs have been issued to bananas than any other fruit; and I’m pretty sure the prison fruit population reflects this too. And don’t you just hate it when you peel a banana and the inside has either turned into a disgusting slime reminiscent of an oil slick, or its split and half of it falls to the floor as soon as you open it up? No one is going to tell me that something that turns into a vile, black goo that wouldn’t look out-of-place oozing from a zombie’s eye socket, is going to be good for you. This film is about someone who’s suffered from a botched, sex change operation. (See, I said that’s all bananas are good for.)
2001 – Certificate: 15 – USA
When this film first started I thought, oh God, this is going to be one of those ‘musicals’ that makes no sense and has awful American Adult Oriented Rock all the way through it. The sort of music that ineffective, male, middle-age managers in large corporations who like to pretend they’re 18 when no one is looking, think is kiss-ass rebel music that still has some relevance these days; it’s not and it doesn’t. (Yeh, go get on your Harley-Davidson’s gents; oh, you don’t actually have any? How surprising!) The first song in the movie seemed to confirm this. But then a really weird thing happened. It turned into a very good film with okay music (and two genuinely great songs), a decent plot and great (if a bit over the top) characters who are worth you caring about. The music performances are top stuff, very genuine. Follow Hedwig and her band as they tour local eateries, shadowing her ex, Tommy Gnosis (the G is silent), who stole all her songs and is now a big star. Listen to her sing about the aforementioned operation, the fall of the Berlin Wall and how fucked-up her life is. A black comedy-drama with a genuinely touching ending. Good stuff, go watch.
Recommended for fans of American proto-punk; and films about outsiders fighting back and discovering who you really are.
No cats and no decapitations.
Top badass moment? The band’s performance of Exquisite Corpse. 90 seconds of musical anger.