advent is here

Advent is here. We have 24 days to trick that Christmas Spirit into our hearts. But what is the best way to do it?


I picked this up for a quid yesterday. I’d planned to get a slightly better chocolate calendar than this but as I’d left it till advent eve the selection was pretty dire. They had half a skip of these left. You can easily trick a three year old’s Christmas Spirit with a pound (a three year old’s Christmas Spirit tricks itself for nothing) but a thirty year old’s? I think probably not. Peppa Pig is rad though, so it might work.


DPD Santa bought this for Cecy today. It costs eight Peppa Pig calendars. Cecy was overjoyed. She immediately insisted that because my calendar contains chocolate I have to share it. If we’re sharing then we’re sharing both calendars. Because that’s what sharing is.


We’ve also made advent candles. They cost a few Peppa Pig calendars plus some quality craft time. The quality craft time has already piqued the interest of the Christmas Spirit.


As well as being three dimensional the Eric Carle calendar has a large and exciting extra door for Christmas day itself.


A gull-faced Father Christmas closely monitors the tree.


The doors contain tree danglers. There is no picture behind the danglers. It doesn’t matter how fancy the calendar is, this is poor show. The numbers are also in number order, which means you don’t get to have the very fun where-is-the-number game.


Needing to be flat, the calendar demands its own chair. Cecy was so enraptured by the calendar that she sprinkled S shaped packing insulation over it. The S stands for snow.

Cecy’s first impression of the calendar

“Very excited about that it is pop up. I like the um sort of slightly childish drawing style and pretty lights on the tree. However, Father Christmas is scary, the numbers are in order and the tree isn’t symmetrical. I would give it eight out of ten. It doesn’t have chocolates. Yours get two out of ten only because it has chocolates.”

Sadly Cecy doesn’t get to say what mine gets because it’s mine.


Mine starts off with a threat. I haven’t sent my Christmas list. I haven’t started a Christmas list. The chocolate is the smallest that I’ve ever seen in an advent calendar, it barely hides the picture. The chocolate has a tiny reindeer on it. I only know that it is a reindeer because that is the only bit of festive iconography that it resembles. The picture is Peppa Pig. She is not looking particularly festive.

My first impressions of my calendar

It is just as good as the pop up calendar. I give my calendar 8 out of 10.


The candles emit the cockle warming glow of controlled indoor fire. Having to wait for the number to melt away means that for a short amount of time you have nothing to do but contemplate a candle. It is peaceful and nice.

What Cecy thinks of the candles

“Now that I know that they’re not replacement advent calendars I like them very much. I enjoyed that there was a making element.”

I like them too. They are better than Cecy’s calendar.

We’ll return to these later in advent to see how they’re getting on with summoning Christmas.

standard supermarket birthday cake

fbcakePreliminary research showed that ASDA would be the best large supermarket out of the two closest ones for me to get cake from.

sainsburys cake

asda cake

ASDA is part of the Wal*Mart family and birthday cakes are special to families. The selection in the shop matched up pretty well with the online list. The twenty quid Disney Princess Birthday Cake was there.


It looked pink. It contained an edible model of a bronze age round barrow, the remains of three of the princesses interred within. The Peppa Pig cake looked pretty rad and it weighed very much. However, it was much more cake than I wanted so I chose the cheapest, most plain and typical birthday cake that was there. It is the quintessential supermarket birthday cake.


I get supermarket birthday cakes. They are totally necessary and important and so it is natural for people to be interested in them. They are for children at birthday parties mostly.

Children are unable to appreciate effort. This is because they have learned that as soon as something becomes difficult they can give up and if it is important someone else will take care of it. So effort is stupid to them. With this in mind you can understand why only an insane person would put effort into making a cake for a whole party of children. Children also absolutely love mass produced garbage. The mutual love of junk is how they form peer bonds. Anything home made is more likely to provoke a hostile reaction. Some adults still think this way (although that lady is learning the error of her ways) and that is why the more grown up cakes exist.

Back at the ranch I had become excited to eat cake. I made a bunch of coffee and took some photos.


The bars of health are surely a problem. They should all be red. This is a birthday cake not a Eucharist cake.


The ingredients are absolutely fine.


This was a major problem. I had definitely not anticipated an activity. Now I was bound to host a lone birthday activity party for myself.



By the time I’d finished I was completely wired and had tripped right through morning cake time and into lunchtime. I was going to have to wait until the second cake time of the day, mid afternoon, to eat cake.

Not sure who that activity is for really, apart from someone in my kind of situation I guess. The cake won’t be out of the box until birthday and by the end of birthday the cake will not exist. It is an unfortunate child that spends its birthday making card bunting for its own cake. Not that a child would do it. It was effort.

Birthday cakes date from the Romans.

By mid afternoon the sun was out and it was party time.


The first candle I lit immediately burned through the bunting I’d spent all morning making.


I wished that I would now eat cake.


I replicated the serving suggestion as best I could. If you copy the serving suggestion you will struggle to get the 10 advertised servings out of the cake. I’m not sure if that qualifies me for a refund…also, whilst not completely satisfied I was still in the exact mood that I had expected to be in when it came to eating the cake. And also besides, I’d already cut the box up. What if you’re not 100% satisfied with your bunting? Notice that the saturation and contrast has been turned up on the box photo. The grain of the cake is more coarse in real life.


The cake is sweet and it hurt my teeth. I didn’t finish my icing. The balloon didn’t taste very nice. The sponge area is fine. It is the quintessential supermarket birthday cake.

done a painting

I don’t really have much of an idea of how to paint and yet I have come up with a story idea that involves doing about 20 paintings. I have done the first one and it has turned out okay so I will now continue and begin the next. In a very long time something may be achieved. Below are some photos that I took during the painting. I won’t call this post a “process” post (because the way I did it isn’t a way that I would want to promote e.g. probably not a good idea to start centre foreground) but I’m hopeful that in a few more painting’s time I will be in a position to do a process post.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10



uk singles chart rundown

It’s about time for another blog post. I was going to do another real-time album review but I didn’t know what album to review. It has to be something interestingly rubbish but interestingly rubbish is hard to find. I turned to the album charts hoping for a winner but I don’t know what that stuff is…it’s certainly nothing. It’s especially nothing that I want to listen to 12-16 tracks of.


Fun Music Fact: Singer Adele has two albums in the top 50. They’ve both been in the album charts for three and a half years. This is because no one knows what else to get their mum for her birthday.


Maybe the singles chart will work? Let’s see. I’m going to start gently and do only the top 10. If that works next time we will do the top 100 singles and the top 10 albums.

10. Focus – Ariana Grande

I’ve heard of this person. Pressing play.


Immediate handclaps indicate why this is a hit. Beat is stompy. She is singing now and it isn’t very good. Her voice sounds like pâté being spread on plastic. The lyrics seem to be about how she doesn’t want any attention. Oh, I see. There’s some sort of attitudey man rap grunting noise in the chorus to contrast with the generic pop singing. In the chorus Ariana sings “focus on me” over and over again just to clarify that she doesn’t want any attention. There are brass instrument parpings now. That’s it. Stompy parpy pâté.

9. Runnin’ (Lose It All) – Naughty Boy / Beyonce / Arrow Benjamin

Three people in this one. Must be good.


This one is less than four minutes long so that’s extra points. Starts with under watery noise. Beyonce is singing like Beyonce over piano chords. Now she’s flexing those lungs. Projecting. Here comes the goodness…uh…hmm. There’s a weak tinny amen break type beat, like drum’n'bass for babies, over a few major piano chords. There’s a man power-singing now. Presume this is the Benjamin. Think Naughty Boy may be the producer. I reckon Naughty Boy’s thing is piano and beats. You’re not fooling me Naughty Boy, Robert Miles was doing this before you were born. It’s quiet now before the end so we can appreciate the emotions that piano with beats has given us. Beyonce and the Benjamin insist that you’ve not just been tricked.

8. Turn the Music Louder (Rumble) – KDA Ft. Tinie Tempah & Katy B

That is not a promising title.


There’s a nice clean house beat starting this one. Pretty good. Definitely going to be the best bit.


It’s actually fine. Sort of catchy. Boring. It has the classic Man Rap / Lady Sing / Man Rap thing.There’s a buzzy electronic noise going up and down some notes and an “ey oh ey oooh” singalong type bit in the middle to reengage the audience. It’s boring. The video has less than five million views.

7. Never Forget You – Mnek & Zara Larsson

Ah! no. I thought they were related but the dude is just “MNEK”. I wanted them to be brother and sister singing about never forgetting each other. Oh, god. That would’ve been so good! Right, what’s this nonsense then.


The video has a short silent intro which means it is going to be a serious melodramatic song. Zara blurts her face off immediately. Actually nearly made me jump. Her singing is pretty electronic sounding, think the production robot has put quite a lot of effort into embiggening it. She has the electrogirlie sound that the dismal CHVRCHES peddle. Now there is a baby dubstep thing. It’s going to be like this the whole way now because that’s what the kids like. MNEK is doing R&B singing. They will never forget you. But who cares.

6. What Do You Mean – Justin Bieber

This should be like the “It Wasn’t Me” song where Justin is Shaggy and a foreign person is Rikrok. The foreign person would sing in foreign and then in the chorus Justin would pop up and say “what do you mean?”

Let’s see how much like that it isn’t.


Oh gosh. The video is starting like a Drive type crime thriller. This is going to be very bad. Bieber has the cash. We know this to be true. He gives the cash to a shady man and makes him promise not to hurt “the girl”. The shady man gives him a lighter. There is an overly attractive and under dressed young lady in a motel. This must be “the girl”. Justin must sing to her. The piano has started. Ticking clock in the background turns into a plucky bouncy 4/4 beat. Seems to be some sort of electric pan-pipes too. It is a jolly, spineless and fairly catchy song about Justin not understanding what “the girl” means when she says words. The video is very misjudged. Justin has paid for a fake kidnapping of himself and “the girl” so he can rescue her, which will delight her so much that she’ll finally sleep with him willingly rather than reluctantly. After they escape from the fake kidnapping using the lighter they end up at a skate park party where they dance to Justin’s song.

It was very much not like “It Wasn’t Me”.

5. Hotline Bling – Drake

I’ve heard this song. I’m not listening to it again.

4. The Hills – WEEKND

WEEKND seem to be one of those artistically interesting / commercially successful anomalies. I’ve never heard a WEEKND song. This one is at number 4 so it is probably the best one to start with.


Big electronic fuzz noise cut with moaning vocal noise. Man is singing in a dreary R&B way. Big electronic fuzzy bass line. Screaming sample. Higher pitched dreary R&B singing. He is singing about being mean to a lady. Well. If he’s this successful he should just pay for her to be fake kidnapped.Then she’d be so erotically engaged that she wouldn’t give him any cause to be mean to her. Dreary and grotty song.

3. Writing’s On The Wall – Sam Smith

This is the Bond song so I’m marking it down for that. The only acceptable Bond song is Die Another Day by Madonna.


Strings. No surprise there. Piano tinkling. Dreary Singing. His voice is not that good. It sounds muddy even in the falsetto. There’s too much falsetto. It’s too dreary. It’s boring. It’s the kind of music James Bond would listen to.

2. Sorry – Justin Bieber


Okay. I guess. Is he apologising to “the girl”? He really should be.


This one is 4/4 perky bouncer like that other Bieber one but without the grot. It’s fine. It has the Tropical House sound. It has managed to get to number two because of an electronic sighing vocal sample that is in the chorus. It is a C grade song.

I’m marking this one down to D- because youtube went straight to Hotline Bling afterwards.

1. Hello – Adele

Is this one that Bond song from the last Bond film?

No. No it’s not. Could’ve been though.


It’s a piano ballad.

Well. That’s the chart reviewed. It was actually a lot better than doing an album. I see why people listen to the radio now, it’s lots of fun listening to a song of one artist and then a song of another artist. I might do it again but it will have to wait until this lot have cleared out. To finish I’ve done a portrait of Adele’s famous new face that everyone is so pleased with. It will look great next to this blog post on social media.


five old science fiction arcade computer games

Since my Pac-Man and Oregon Trail blog posts have proven how good I am at reviewing and playing computer games I thought I’d better keep it up. No one else seems to care about computer games. Here I’m going to look at five from the late 70s / early 80s because if I’m going to get through them all I’d better pick up the pace a bit. It’s more of a summing up of what they are about than an actual review but I’m sure there will be qualitative implications hiding in the words.

Note: Because these games are old they tend to look awful (even worse than old television) but that doesn’t mean that they are bad games, it just means that you don’t want to play them. Fortunately I am here to play them.

Missile Command (1980, Atari Inc.)


Missile Command is a horrifying interactive apocalypse experience. A continuous rain of fire falls from the sky above several cities of which you are the sole protector. The antagonist remains unseen, are they of this world? With limited resources you can do nothing but delay the inevitable obliteration of thousands of people.


The onslaught is irresistible, the consequences final. On the other hand perhaps this is the answer to the prayers of those that have to scratch their miserable living from beneath the desiccated landscape. Who is the enemy here? Why not take your fingers away from the controls and gift those lives this awesome relief.


Play Missile Command.

Berzerk (1980, Stern Electronics)


Berzerk is interactive purgatory. You are a humanoid figure in a landscape of electrified walls. The electrified walls hide electrified robots that shoot electrified bolts. They move slowly but purposefully towards you, intent on your demise. You can shoot the robots and they are easy to destroy. Maybe suffering for your sins is not so bad after all. A smiley face suddenly appears, jumping in a jolly fashion towards you. Your heart jumps in a similar fashion as it seems as though you are to be rewarded for the great job you are doing killing robots. But then your heart takes a turn like old milk, the smile is looking more sinister the closer it gets. You shoot at the face. Your bullets do nothing. You turn and run as fast as you can. Your legs whirl round but your progress is a slow crawl. This is a nightmare. That fixed grin is gaining on you but fortunately you are nearing the edge of the known world. The face is all but upon you when your foot touches the edge and you are mercifully transported away, far away from that place to a landscape of electrified walls that hide electrified robots.


Play Berzerk.

Tempest (1981, Atari Inc.)


Tempest is a hectic, epileptic trip deep into a neon void. Scuttling around the edge of a tubular precipice you fire wantonly down the hole until, satisfied that your deranged electric nemesis has been forced to retreat, you plunge in after it. After a brief free fall through the boundless beyond you arrive at the next front line. To your delight, your enemy has reinforced. Caught up in a blind hysterical joy tornado you grasp the trigger. White knuckled, you will never let go, you have an insatiable appetite for destruction.

Play Tempest.

Lunar Lander (1979, Atari Inc.)


Lunar Lander is a terrifying moon landing simulator. When you begin you are just regaining consciousness after an incident to find that your lander is angled to a disorientating degree and the thrusters are at full burn. The surface is rushing vertically past the window as you descend. Once you have physically assaulted your fellow astronaut and shoved them into a corner away from the controls you attempt to rectify the situation. To your dismay you discover that, in their mania, the idiot has maneuvered the capsule over mountainous terrain. You calm yourself and the capsule and focus on the task of pinpointing a suitable landing spot. You find one but it looks too easy, you desire a greater point score. Once you’ve located the landing site with the greatest associated point score you adjust the angle and speed of descent accordingly. You’ve burned off most of the fuel getting there but you don’t care, you really want those points.


The landing site is a small ledge half way up a gigantic cliff face. It is just as wide as the capsule. It has excellent points. A few tens of metres above the surface you fire the thrusters, almost draining the fuel tanks in order to attain the slowest possible descent speed. You land perfectly. You are congratulated. You get points. You regain consciousness to find that your lander is angled to a disorientating degree and you are descending rapidly towards the lunar surface. Is this some sort of dream? You check the fuel gauge. The tanks are still almost drained. You crash into the side of a mountain. You are dead. You are chastised by the space agency for breaking the lander. Your family owes the space agency 100 Megabucks.


Play Lunar Lander.

Robotron: 2084 (1982, Williams Electronics)


Robotron: 2084 is like Berzerk gone berserk. I imagine it is what it would be like to live inside the brain of a schizophrenic person who is having a migraine.

As Robotron: 2084 requires two joysticks I cannot recommend trying to play a port of it.