Tag Archives: unbelievable

Cooper “gutted” at being passed over for “Wave”

One of the UK’s most influential technology people this afternoon described himself as “gutted” after not receiving an invitation from Google to participate in the internet firm’s exclusive new Wave product beta.

“I signed up to take part in the beta months ago,” complained Richard Cooper. “I didn’t hear anything after that, and then this morning I read on the BBC website that Google were sending out invitations from 4pm UK time.

“It’s now nearly five o’clock and I’ve heard nothing. I’m gutted.”

The web content manager went on: “The Daily Telegraph listed me this week as Britain’s 23rd most influential technology person. You would have thought that if anyone was going to be invited, it would be me.”

A spokesperson for Google commented, “We would love to have invited Richard but unfortunately we only had 22 invitations and they all went out to the first 22 most influential people in UK technology. Richard was unfortunately just not influential enough on this occasion.

“Nonetheless, each of those invitations allows the user to invite five friends, so hopefully one of those recipients will be kind enough to ask Richard to take part in our beta trial.”

Richard Cooper is 38.

Stay sharp

This article from last Sunday’s Observer on razor blade technology caught my eye, as I’m one of those blokes who never seems to get shaving right somehow. I generally feel as if I’ve got a five o’clock shadow the whole day long, which wouldn’t be so bad if I were some hirsute hunk of mediterranean persuasion, but in my case it’s simply because I can never get a very close shave without either using a new blade every time, which would cost a packet, or going so close I’d lacerate myself. Or, more likely, break the razor, not on my steel-strong stubble but against my jaw from over-enthusiastic pressure of the handle. Attempts over the years to grow a proper beard or even some designer bum-fluff leave me looking simply as if I haven’t bothered to shave rather than in any way cool.

The article incidentally covered the issue of grip, Gillette seemingly having an entire department devoted to the way men hold their razor and how this has supposedly changed over the years as new ‘thumb skills’ have crept into everyday behaviour with the advent of texting and gaming. Personally I think this is bollox, along with most of the other stubbly issues discussed such as blade angle, sharpness and inter-blade clog factor which Gillette claims to be researching on an almost 24-hour basis, as if shaving were an emergency service rather than the daily chore it actually is.

Further, in a comment almost worthy of doublespeak, the company maintains that the reason modern blades created with technology to rival NASA’s go blunt so quickly is that they’re just so sharp – more so, supposedly, than a surgeon’s scalpel. Brilliant. My beard may be that bit tougher than it was when I started shaving a couple of decades ago but in those days you could rely on a blade to last at least five shaves, if not six or seven, thus a packet of four would last you a month (your honour). These days a packet of four Titanium Quattro blades (admittedly for a razor by Wilkinson, who mysteriously declined to take part in the Observer feature) costs £5.85 and you’re lucky if you get two decent shaves out of each one. I put my reflections on the risibility of Gillette’s claims in a letter to the Observer, which they have published today (under the heading ‘Sharp practice’). Then again, I suppose you have to hand it to Gillette for adverts which have taken the dullness off the edge of shaving (even if not the razors themselves).

The reason I can rattle off the price of a packet of blades, incidentally, is that a couple of days ago I went out to Sainsbury’s and bought some. I hadn’t bought razor blades from them before and went firstly to the bathroomular accessories section. While this might seem the obvious place to go, a while back my regular supermarket, Waitrose, in an uncharacteristic fit of kowtowing to some new mad health and safety standard, suddenly took all their razor blades off their shelves and replaced them with funny little laminated, emasculated versions of each brand, which you put into your basket in place of the real thing. That really did lack an edge, I thought, but when you got to the till the cashier would ring their bell to summon a colleague who would scurry off to retrieve the real blades. All of this seemed rather a palaver, and clearly Waitrose felt the same way, since a couple of months later the authentic items were back on the shelves again.

Thus I thought, optimistically, that Sainsbury’s and all other supermarkets had probably followed suit; however, they had not, or at least this branch hadn’t. Shaving foam, after-shave and moisturisers were there in front of me, but no blades and not even any laminated bits of card in their place which I might bring to the till. Weirdly, there was no sign saying anything helpful like ‘For safety reasons, razor blades can now be found wherever’ or ‘Please direct all enquiries about the purchase of razor blades to our Razor Blade Manager Mr George Whittle’ or whatever, so I wandered around for a bit, unsure of where I might find them (cleaning products? feminine hygiene? delicatessen?) before spotting them behind a counter with other controlled substances such as cigarettes, spirits, CDs and batteries. There then followed several minutes of toing and froing as a supervisor had to be summoned, not to verify my age (even though the signs ask you to ‘please be flattered if we think you look younger than you are’) but to actually ring the bloody things up properly. I mean, honestly… the youth of today may be up to no good but I can’t seriously see a Gillette Fusion presenting a menace to society. We all know how ‘sharp’ they are.

An open letter to Woody Allen

Dear Woody,

As regular readers of Thoughtcat (which I imagine you probably aren’t) will know, I rarely manage to discover something for myself less than about two years after everyone else has written the bible on it. In keeping with this, despite being intrigued by your movie Match Point from the time it came out two years ago (mostly because it was the first film you’d shot in London, my home city), I’ve only just managed to rent the DVD.

I’m very sorry to tell you that, far from being worth the wait, Match Point is pretty much the worst film I’ve ever seen. And that’s saying something, since I’ve seen Meet Joe Black. Match Point was the only Woody Allen film, and one of the very few films full stop, that I’ve felt had robbed me of two hours of my life. Here is a selection of my disappointments.

Firstly, London. You may as well have shot the film on the moon for all the use you made of this great and varied city. The Houses of Parliament and the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace are very nice, but you could hardly have picked more unimaginative, picture-postcard views of the place. The Saatchi Gallery was about as edgy as you got – and that’s just a bunch of pretentious, overrated arse of the sort that you used to debunk so hilariously in films like Manhattan. Even if you’d walked a few hundred yards to the South Bank Centre you would’ve found something more interesting, genuine and vital than any of that.

Secondly, the characters – the supposed tennis pro, directionless after retiring at the age of about 12; his boring pupil, dabbling in a sport about which he clearly gives not a shit in between earning a stupendous amount of money in some high-flying job about which we know nothing and knobbing a beautiful but hopeless actress; his sister, the pretty-but-dull filly, perfect wife material and a bit of posh totty to boot; the rich father-in-law with the Country House (someone actually says ‘come and stay in my Country House’ at one point, but we’ll get on to the excruciating dialogue in a moment) and the basement full of hunting rifles… these were either cyphers, insufferable idiots or English stereotypes unrecognisable from (modern) life. Some were all three. Woody, you’re a massively creative person – a writer, director, actor, musician, a career artist. What could possibly attract you to these antiseptic ‘people’ with not an original thought between them? And how many ‘Brits’ have you ever actually met? No wonder Kate Winslet pulled out of the film at the last minute. Johansson’s character only had any depth because she was American. Moral – one of the first things they tell you about writing: stick with what you know.

Thirdly, the acting. This was mostly terrible, due in large part to the characterisation. Talents like Johansson (the only really watchable figure in the movie, and then mostly for the wrong reasons) and Brian Cox were left flailing around, desperate to find something realistic to say or do, or at least say and do what the script demanded without looking utterly crap about it. I suppose Jonathan Rhys Meyers did have a fleeting moment of thespian credibility near the end, falling apart in the back of a cab, but that was only after he’d gone completely out of character and shot a couple of people, which might conceivably have that kind of effect. Apart from that he was practically unwatchable, and certainly unlistenable. I don’t know if that was his normal accent or if he put it on for the film, but two hours of it made my ears bleed.

Fourthly, the dialogue. One of the reasons Rhys Meyers finally managed to look halfway decent in the scene I just mentioned is that he didn’t have any lines in it. I mean, Jesus, don’t get me started on the script. I could have done better with one wordprocessor tied behind my back. Much of it sounded like a bad parody of a Noel Coward play (‘Darling, have you seen my Strindberg?’); a scene involving two policemen discussing the murders was the most unlikely ever written (‘I’m torn,’ says James Nesbitt, without feeling, to his sidekick Ewen Bremner, another couple of excellent actors woefully underused here); and people simply don’t say things to each other like ‘You do realise we haven’t made love for a week?’ and ‘I have to meet my wife at the Tate Modern in ten minutes.’ You’re telling me you’re a 70-year-old auteur, with such classics as Annie Hall, Broadway Danny Rose and Hannah and Her Sisters behind you, and those lines were the best you could muster? It all just sounded at best like a first draft you’d scribbled down over the course of a few evenings with one eye on the telly, and at worst like you simply don’t have a clue how to convey story without getting the characters to say things they’d never say in real life.

Fifthly, said ‘story’. I sat there for almost the whole film waiting for something to happen and when it finally did, it was so far-fetched I couldn’t believe it. We are supposed to believe that Rhys Meyers’s dull, anonymous tennis pro-turned-I’m-not-quite-sure-what-he-does-in-his-father-in-law’s-firm is so pissed off that his beautiful mistress has got herself knocked up that he borrows said father-in-law’s rifle and shoots her? (This is a man with access to pots of money – couldn’t he have just paid her to go away quietly somewhere?) And then, to insult us further, he gets away with it? And then, to completely take the piss, he claims some kind of philosophical disaffection with life because he’s got away with it, citing Sophocles and Dostoevsky? Those guys must be turning in their graves. It might not have been so bad if you’d made Rhys Meyers’s character even slightly sympathetic, or at least interesting, but he was neither. You can quote the greats all night, but it makes no difference if I couldn’t give a damn what happens to the protagonist.

Finally, the ‘message’. This was a film about a man literally getting away with murder. Astonished at how poor this film was coming from a film-maker as great as yourself, I could only charitably assume that you deliberately set out to make a terrible movie to demonstrate exactly that – that Woody Allen got away with murder on a whole other level, by taking someone’s millions and going through the whole palaver of writing, casting, directing, editing, distributing and, finally, charging people to watch a piece of utter tosh.

In writing this for public consumption I did try not to give away too much of the plot in case any readers still hadn’t seen the film; as a personal standard, I always recommend people make up their own minds about something rather than take someone else’s word for it. But such is the crassness of Match Point, I feel it would be a dereliction of whatever duty a blogger has not to discourage anyone who may be reading this from wasting two hours of their life watching this film. Really, I beg you, dear reader – find some long-overlooked corner of the house and clean it with a toothbrush instead, as that would be both a more enjoyable and more constructive way of spending an evening.

Unbelievably, Woody, this was your first movie since Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) to make a profit in your home country. If this is what you have to do to make money then I beg you, go back to making a loss – that’s what you’re good at. I won’t make any cheap jibes about how that statistic illustrates the cultural and geographical bankruptcy of American audiences, but I will close by saying this: although it’
s long been the case that your films fare better in Europe than the US, if the UK-set Match Point was the best thing you could come up with to honour the loyalty and enthusiasm of audiences on this side of the pond, then can I please request that you stay at home next time?

Lots of love,


From nuclear looting to Annie Hall via Maggie Gyllenhaal’s bum

Call me naive if you will (I suppose it’s at least better than being cynical), but I was astonished to read in the Guardian about the looting of radioactive material from nuclear facilities in Iraq as US troops stood aside. Given that it’s not quite as easy to do this as to nick a bag of rice from a food shop, isn’t this tantamount to just handing the stuff to the same terrorists the US is allegedly “at war” with? I suppose next we’ll be hearing that the Ministry of Oil was the only government department left intact after the bombing of Baghdad, or that Jack Straw and Donald Rumsfeld will say it doesn’t really matter if no weapons of mass destruction are discovered after all…

* * *

To the Odeon for the second time this week, this time to see Secretary. Both my wife and I used to be secretaries in previous lives but neither of us remembered it being quite like this. Maggie Gyllenhaal was magnificent – a really gripping, intense performance; she sort of became the part, without taking herself seriously for a moment. Apart from that I can’t say I enjoyed the film exactly, but after the dazzling spectacle of Matrix Reloaded the other day, it was refreshing to see that small, intimate films about offbeat people and curious relationships can still do well at the box office. Plus, it was great to hear Leonard Cohen sneaking onto the soundtrack with the exquisite I’m Your Man (“If you want a lover, I’ll do anything you ask me to / And if you want another kind of love, I’ll wear a mask for you…”) It was also good to see James Spader again, who doesn’t seem to have aged a day since he made White Palace, one of my all-time favourite films, in 1990.

* * *

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports on a new biography of Sylvia Plath by Anne Middleton, which will controversially claim that the poet was not “the downtrodden victim of feminist legend” after all. I’m glad to hear it; despite Ted Hughes’s reported philandering, which obviously didn’t help, it always seemed obvious to me from her writing that she was a very strong personality and character who was simply besieged by mental illness. There’s no rationalising with that, whether you’re a feminist or not.

Thinking about Plath put me in mind of this exchange in Annie Hall:

ALVY (picking up copy of “Ariel” in Annie’s flat): Ah, Sylvia Plath – the poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college-girl mentality.

ANNIE: Oh, I don’t know – I just think some of her poems are neat.

ALVY: Neat? I think “neat” went out sometime around the turn of the century…