Friday, December 23, 2005

Target: 2006

I can't believe it's 2006 in a week and a bit. This year is to a lot of British people more or less my age even more significant than when 2000 came along with its unprecedented amount of noughts. Because next year will be the year that a whole generation look at the calendar and think "it surely can't really be 2006? That's the future! The distant future, with Galvatron and Unicron and Death's Head and all those lads!"

For the benefit of those readers who are too young or too foreign or had too deprived childhoods to know what I'm talking about, I should point you in the direction of Transformers: The Movie. The normal Transformers cartoon was set in the present day, you see, but for the big feature-length special cinema version, they did a story set twenty years in the future, with lots of new giant transforming robots, lots of the ones we knew and loved being killed (and only partly in order to force children to buy the new toys - there was genuine drama there too) and a really great soundtrack. Americans will tell you that the movie was set in 2005, so I should have been saying all this last year, but in the eighties there was a real time-lag for things like that to cross the Atlantic, and by the time we got the movie over here, it was 1986.

Also, Americans wouldn't understand about the British Transformers comic. In the USA, the cartoon series was super-cool, and the comic book was okay. Over here, the cartoon suffered from being chopped into five-minute instalments and shown on the otherwise unexciting Wide-Awake Club show on Saturday mornings. But the comic was something else.

Transformers were really, really, REALLY, popular, you see. People tend to forget that now, but EVERY child loved Transformers. So naturally, everyone wanted to read a Transformers comic. This left the publishers, Marvel UK, with a problem. They normally just reprinted American Marvel comics, and while there was an American Transformers comic, it was monthly, like comics all are over there. British kids couldn't be kept waiting a month for each issue, we were used to weekly comics. At first, Marvel UK compromised, and produced a fortnightly British comic, each issue containing half an American issue with some of the usual British filler (letters pages, reprints of three or four other American comics with vaguely robot themes, dull text pages about robots in the real world, one-page or half-page comic strips in the more traditional British style, competitions, fact files, readers' drawings, all that crap). That way as few as six pages of Transformers could still fill a whole comic. And kids would have bought (and indeed did buy) any old rubbish with that shiny logo on it.

But then the American comic stopped publishing for a couple of months after the first four issues. In desperation, Marvel UK decided to create their own Transformers material - it was that or put out a Transformers comic with no actual Transformers comic strip. And one of the writers they called on was a guy called Simon Furman. Furman's stuff was GOOD. Much better, in fact, than the 'real' American comic ever was. Rather than losing interest, the British comic-buying hordes got more into Transformers than ever. The British comic went weekly, dropped most of the backup strips and alternated between American issues chopped in half to spread over two weeks, and Simon Furman originals brilliantly fitting in between American stories so well that you couldn't see the join.

Which brings us to 1986. The American comic, for some mad reason, hadn't done anything to cash in on the movie's success, so Furman was told to come up with something. He came up with an epic called Target:2006, in which the characters from the movie travelled back in time and messed with the present-day characters. It was a masterpiece, and the talk of the playground every week (I was nine years old at the time). It led to a lot more stories set twenty years in the future (a lot easier than slotting them in between the American issues, which continued to drag down the quality of the UK comic every now and then), and fixed the year 2006 in the minds of British youngsters as 'the future'.

I just never thought it would actually happen. I could just about see the year 2000 coming to pass, I'd worked out how old I would be with an amazing BBC computer program that only took two or three days to type in out of a book, but I never considered that one day it would actually be 2006. I'm going to have to get hold of a time machine next year and go back to 1986 (for some reason you could only ever travel back in time exactly twenty years - apart from that time something went wrong with Unicron's time portal, but that's another story). I still just can't believe that it's going to be the future next year. My mind can't get to grips with the idea.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

No more teachers' dirty looks

Hooray for the holidays! Now all I have to do is buy cards and presents for everyone...

But enough about Christmas. On the yahoo memory group, there's some discussion about 'the Ben system', that technique for memorising numbers and playing cards that I dreamed up a couple of years ago. You might have noticed the name attached to it - it's a little-known fact that I was the one who thought it up, and played a large part in popularising it, because I did it in a very subtle kind of way. I've spent a lot of time in the past explaining at length that it's only a modification of the Major system, rather than a real system in its own right, and that in any case 'the Ben system' is a silly name and I wish people wouldn't use it. I tend to emphasise this so loudly and frequently that nobody could be left in any doubt that 'the Ben system' is the accepted name for it, even if they didn't know that beforehand.

I've got a bit of a reputation in memory circles for modesty, which I've acquired essentially by going around saying "I'm modest! Look at how modest I am!" Frankly, it's kind of surprising that it's worked as well as it has. There are very few things in the world I like more than having someone say I'm great, and any time I say otherwise it's only because I know it will prompt even more adulation and praise. Does this make me a terrible person? And should I care if it does?

Also, should I make a Christmas cake? I've got half the ingredients sitting aroundthe place. Or I could try my hand at a home-made Christmas pudding, so that I could get one without nuts in for a change. Nasty things. Or on the other hand, I could just do that extensive Christmas shopping like I really need to, and stop coming up with more exciting things to do. Why is it so difficult to find appropriate presents for relatives? Even cards are difficult - I have to find one that matches the person it's being sent to, because there's nothing worse than getting a generic Christmas card with a robin on it.

I had to check the cards I've received so far then, just to make sure there aren't any robins. I'd hate to seem ungrateful to the people who went out of their way to buy me a card. But it's okay, they're all good ones. Ah, the joy of receiving.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ooh, I could crush a grape!

Aargh! I just typed a long blog entry on my shiny new laptop and accidentally deleted it! Well, I'm not typing it again, I was already getting fed up with this keyboard. In fact, the last line was a decision to stick with the old computer for everyday computering, and just use this thing for CDs, DVDs (when I get round to buying some) and when I'm on the move, like the young go-getter I am.

The rest of the post revolved around saying that while I'm starting to like the new job, and could quite happily stay working there, I don't want to either commute or move to Burton, which seems like an insurmountable problem. None of the solutions I came up with are very practical, although becoming rich and famous and never having to leave this comfortable little rut of mine is always an option. Anyway, I'll go into more detail another time, I'm annoyed with this machine now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

All work and no play not good for zoomies. But that's the last late night I'll have to work for a while, and it's nearly Christmas, and the weather's quite nice at the moment. Possibly I'll have something to talk about tomorrow, who knows?

Monday, December 19, 2005

What a way to make a living

Working nine to eight is no fun at all, even if it is in return for getting the day off on Friday. Which I'm sure a lot of companies would give you anyway, what with it being the 23rd. Still, everything has its good side, and in this case it's that coming home late tonight, I saw a fox crossing the road and skulking into the yard two doors down. This is very cool, because I've never seen a fox around these parts before. I'll have to keep an eye out for him in future.

Still, all this work gets in the way of the other stuff I like to do of an evening. Christmas really gets in the way of memory training, and I was on such a roll with that too. Bah humbug.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Santa came a week early

I've got a new toy! A shiny new laptop, and it's great! I even treated myself to a new scanner/printer/copier thing, seeing as I haven't had a working scanner since I trod on my old one about six months ago. Spending money on myself is fun. I don't seem to have done it for ages. The new laptop is so cool, in fact, that I'm almost considering getting rid of my trusty desktop (which I'm typing this on right now), the only computer I've ever owned. I've had it since June 1999, which makes it really quite elderly by computer standards, and it's fair to say it's not as quick or properly-working as it was. But apart from the sentimental attachment, I'd have to work out how to transfer all the junk on it over to the laptop, which sounds like more work than I'm normally prepared to put into anything.

I still haven't actually bought presents for anyone who isn't me, but never mind. It's late-night shopping all this week, so although I've got to work late tomorrow and Tuesday, I'll still have plenty of time to buy cards and get them in the post at the last minute, maybe buy a few presents on Amazon, seeing as they emailed me to say the 20th is the last day to order things for Christmas delivery, buy a turkey and whatever else people are supposed to eat at Christmas, get some decorations, a tree or two and some kind of dancing reindeer or the like, clean my flat up a bit and get ready to celebrate the birth of our saviour in the appropriate style.

I need fairy lights. I've never had fairy lights before.