Google Street View have been busy - they have re - photographed all of Erith recently, which is just as well, as the original photos from 2007 were starting to look rather out of date. The photo above shows Google's view of McDonald's and KFC from James Watt Way - more about them both later.
New BBC sitcom Citizen Khan is supposed to have stirred up much controversy in the Muslim community – or so the Daily Mail (never the most measured of media commentators) would have us believe. Personally I think it is quite an old fashioned show. The central premise is the daily life of a working class British Asian family in Birmingham. Dad, Mr. Khan is opinionated, slightly pompous and a self appointed community leader. He’s also a skinflint, and a keen social climber. Mother is house proud and really wears the trousers in the relationship. There are two daughters – an older one about to be married, and a younger one who is the apple of her Dad’s eye, but is secretly rebellious. Local mosque manager is an English convert to Islam, who is the moral compass of the show. Personally I cannot see how anyone could be offended by the comedy – it is little more than an updated version of “Terry and June” or "Desmond's" set in the West Midlands amongst a British Pakistani family. My personal take on the show is that it is doing what television should – showing Muslims like any other religious or cultural group by subjecting them to a gentle, warm hearted sitcom. The running jokes about religious beaurocracy, parental hypocrisy and teenage cunning have a similar look and feel too many previous BBC offerings from the sixties and seventies – hence my initial comment that Citizen Khan actually feels somewhat old fashioned. See what you think about this clip below:
Once again the local press get onto a story just after I have featured it on the Maggot Sandwich. The Bexley Times is running with an article about Bexley Invicta football club, that I wrote about last week. Although they will be undertaking training sessions in Danson Park, their home ground is at Erith Town’s football ground in Avenue Road – part of Erith Sports Centre. You can see the Bexley Invicta website here
The Olympic and Paralympic games were meant to be the cause of a great surge in large screen and smart TV sales in the UK. This simply has not happened. There was a small rise in sales, but nothing like the expectations of the economists. I think the reasons are several fold; firstly, many people don’t have much in the way of disposable income, and a “big ticket” purchase like a TV is not their priority. Secondly, fewer people watch television on a TV than in the past. With online services like the BBC iPlayer now supporting mobile devices such as tablets and mobile smart phones, the requirement for the family to sit together to watch “the haunted fish tank” are no longer there. People watch TV on the move, and time shift programmes to watch them when it suits them. The other hold – off for technically savvy people is that we have been told for the last couple of years that a new generation of screen technology is just around the corner. OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode - thanks JustJon!) screens have been touted by the industry leaders – Samsung and LG – as being the next big thing. OLED screens need no back light; the pixels generate light internally. This means OLED screens can be almost impossibly thin, whilst also being extremely bright, and having an excellent contrast ratio. Promises have been made, and last year Samsung promised commercially available OLED televisions in their range “by September 2012”. These promises are starting to look hollow. The reason that even now you can only see prototype OLED screens at trade shows and the like is simple. They burn out quickly. Because they don’t have backlights, the individual pixels have to effectively burn themselves out in order to give a vibrant, dynamic picture. This is a form of controlled self destruction; the problem that the OLED manufacturers have encountered is the one of the usage model. You can get away with a limited screen lifespan in something like a smart phone – when even the most goggle – eyed user won’t have the screen on for more than a few hours a day. This approach simply does not work when applied to televisions. Plenty of people keep their TV on all of the time, even when it is not being directly watched; they use them as a form of background noise / companion for the dog whilst they are out. At the moment OLED technology is just not up to this level of utilisation – the screens burn out too quickly. LG have announced that they have a 55 inch OLED TV undergoing testing prior to commercial release, with a specific focus on quality and longevity. One other problem is that as the pixels age, the quality of the image they generate degrades, so that well before the screen is at a point of end of life burn out, the image quality is greatly degraded. There are also considerable production problems, such as the level of error tolerance limiting production runs (who can forget the “dead pixel” problems some of the early plasma TV’s suffered from?) The sets are plain difficult to mass produce. Both Samsung and LG have poured vast amounts of cash into OLED TV design and manufacturing, and they will both be keen to recover their investments by actually getting OLED products out and into the market place. For now though, OLED HDTV remains an unfulfilled promise. Rest assured, when they eventually hit the market, they will cost a King’s ransom.
London Borough of Bexley. The fact that no independent takeaway or restaurant gets more than two stars out of a possible five – and the minimum recommended star rating to make a place relatively safe to eat is three out of five stars. This means that the only places in and around Erith that are safe to eat in, are chain fast food outlets including KFC and McDonald’s. A depressing thought. It may be technically safe to eat in either place as they are kept clean and hygienic, but one has to wonder about the long term health risks from consuming the kind of food both places sell. I have been in the KFC twice since it opened around ten years ago. I find their fried chicken extremely oily and packed with salt. Their special gravy is undeniably delicious, but it contains enough additives that it is a wonder diners don’t glow in the dark afterwards. The chicken meat KFC uses does not strike me as being of particularly good quality either – it tends to be stringy and full of gristle. I did some research into the kind of chicken that KFC use. To be honest, if you like eating at KFC, then please don’t do a Google search on the subject, as the results do not make comfortable reading. The information I read was relevant to KFC in the USA, not the UK, and was compiled by PETA, so it was hardly an unbiased view. Nevertheless KFC chicken is about as far from free range as it is possible to get. I won’t go into grisly details, but it is not as healthy and all American as the company and their advertising agency would have us believe. McDonald’s (in the UK, at least) have made a concerted effort over the last few years to improve the quality of their ingredients, and are pretty open about the nutritional content of their offerings. I still find their food bland and quite often indigestion inducing though. I have to say I do like the Filet of Fish, though I fail to understand why they need to make the bread that makes up the bun so sweet. To be honest, it is just a commercialised version of that paragon of quick, tasty and healthy eating – the classic British fish finger sandwich – yum! McDonald’s alter the content of their menu depending on the customs and tastes of their target market – no pork in Muslim countries, more fish in Scandinavia and so on. In fact the company have just announced that they intend opening a chain of purely vegetarian outlets in India. After poking around the web, I have discovered that the Indian McDonald’s already sell the McAloo Tikki burger (see the photo above - click for a larger view), which I have to say does sound quite appetising (providing they have not made it taste bland, as they are wont to do in the UK). I wonder if they will bring this burger to the UK, bearing in mind the love we Brits have for all Indian food?
I have never really been much of a computer gamer; my reflexes and timing were never really good enough for me to excel at arcade style shoot –em – ups, and I don’t have the time or patience for something like World of Warcraft (which I have tried, but did not like). I was always more of a role playing gamer, and for many years I played Dungeons and Dragons. Back in the late 90’s, not that long after my local role playing club broke up, I latched onto a version of Dungeons and Dragons for the PC. It was called Baldur’s Gate. The graphics and technology were no great shakes by modern standards, but it did adhere closely to the rules and game play of the paper based version. Baldur’s Gate quickly became a bench mark for computer based role playing fantasy adventure games, and I have to admit that I spent hours playing it, though I never did actually manage to finish it. I recently discovered that the game has been rewritten for modern hardware, improved and expanded, and is due to be released as Baldur’s Gate – the Enhanced Edition. It is going to be available for Windows, OS X, iPad and Android by the end of September. You can see the game website here. I will be buying the Mac version as soon as I can.
Bexley Council are once again provoking the ire of their residents. They have repeatedly been in hot water over their secretive and conspiratorial undertakings in the past, and this unfortunately does not look like it is going to change any time soon. They have announced that they are “considering” new changes to the law to make local government more open and accountable to their residents. This is from a council that has repeatedly ignored a directive from Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles that all council decisions, including those affecting budgets and local services will have to be taken in an open and public forum. Bexley Council ban the use of video and audio recorders during council sessions – despite this being contrary to the Government guidelines. Local Blogger John Kerlan (also known as Olly Cromwell) challenged this last year, and ended up in court on trumped up charges that eventually were dismissed on appeal. You can read all of the details of the complex and convoluted case on the Bexley Is Bonkers website – the account there is far more cogent and well written than I could attempt. Suffice to say that Bexley Council have a very poor reputation for openness – which is strange. Personally if I were leader of the council, I would stream all meetings on YouTube, have all council decisions fed on an official Twitter site and generally make all goings on as public as possible. I think that when the general public saw what a tedious event an average council meeting was, they would soon find something far more interesting to take up their time. Coincidentally Bexley Councillor Peter Craske has been in court again this week; he’s accused of misconduct in a public office. To be fair to him, no charge has yet been formally made – and he’s been re – bailed to appear in court again on the 16th of October. I have a hint of a suspicion as to what is going on, but I am going to say nothing until he’s brought to trial and his guilt (or indeed otherwise) is determined.
The video this week is a minor and now much overlooked classic - a full length made for television movie I recall seeing on Channel 4 back in 1984. It is called "Countdown to Looking Glass" - it is covers the fictional breakdown in relations between the USA and Soviet union in the mid 1980's, leading to outright warfare between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in the Middle East. The whole thing is shown through the news broadcasts and interviews of a New York based rolling news station. Although a work of fiction, it is well written and acted; what makes it all the better is that some of the interviewees on the station are real people playing themselves - a very young looking Newt Gingrich is one such person, as is Eugene McCarthy - see who else you can spot. I recall seeing it and wondering how it was received in the USA, as it was along the same lines as the infamous Orson Welles' radio version of "War of the Worlds". It all looks pretty laughable now, but I recall that everyone was petrified at the thought of a nuclear war - many had not long before watched the accurate and horrific documentary - drama "Threads". The film starts abruptly, with no opening credits or music - it is as if the viewer had just switched channels to find a news programme already in mid flow. Do give it a watch and let me know what you think. It looks somewhat dated nowadays, but when I saw it back in '84, it was cutting edge drama.