Reunions are all the rage these days. First Take That did it. Then umpteen other 90s bands tried to escape that lonely town called Dumperville, with various degrees of success. TV shows have tried it too, rebooting themselves years after they were first cancelled and bringing back key members of the cast (again with various degrees of success). Another reunion I hope to be enjoying fairly soon is that with my once thinner body (and how much success I have with that remains to be seen). But that's another story.
The big reunion show that everyone seems to be talking about at the moment is the aptly titled "The Big Reunion" on ITV2. Somewhat taking its cue from the Steps documentary which re-launched the group last year, The Big Reunion follows the stories of no less than seven reformed groups from the 90s and noughties, as they rehearse for a comeback gig. Secret "feuds" between group members are revealed, alongside cringeworthy (but nonetheless fascinating) anecdotes and other "shocking" facts (such as Kerry Katona could/can barely sing a note). Tickets for the Big Reunion concert literally sold out in five minutes, a full UK tour was announced, it's been a gargantuan ratings hit for ITV2 and a second series is already in the works.
Well, dust off your old Custard Shop hats kids, because one of the names that is in the frame for series two is none other than Bad Boys Inc. It's been a long time since I have written about Bad Boys Inc on this blog (well, to be fair, it's been a while since I have written anything on this blog) but that does not mean I have forgotten about them. No, dear readers, let me make myself clear on this subject... I will NEVER forget them, alright?
The thing with Bad Boys Inc is that, even though they were one of the more successful boy bands of the time (well, I suppose it was the decade that also gave us Upside Down and the travesty that was Optimystic) they still didn't stick around for as long as they deserved to. There was a bunch of singles and an album and that really was it. But the length of time they stuck around really is inversely proportionate to the amount of awesome they were.
I tell anyone happy to listen to me that the early 90s were such an exhilarating time for pop music because, back then, pop music was completely unafraid of being pop music. It's true that numerous pop bands arrived in a flourish of glory, only to be claimed by the dumper five minutes later, but that only meant that the charts were super exciting for a while. And whilst there was nothing particularly cool about Bad Boys Inc's musical output, being cool wasn't really the point. Instead, to me at least, Bad Boys Inc was simply about four lads being young and gorgeous, having the time of their lives, leaping around in their videos [in one of them, they do a routine where it looks like they've stuck springs to their shoes], getting high on life and the knowledge that they were as fit as anything - all for our listening and viewing pleasure. Add a bit of sexual ambiguity into the mix and you had a killer formula. (I used to call them the most-gay not-gay pop band of all time, until I found out that at least one of them is gay.) Think Take That back at the beginning, before they got modest and started wearing clothes, and you've pretty much got the picture.
I don't know about you, but I get a bit worried when I haven't seen one of my unrequited love interests for a few years. Will they still look fabulous, or will their stunning looks have degenerated into averageness by now? Well, I am happy to report that all of the Bad Boys are, yup... still stunning (!!!) as the photo below proves. I for one, am supporting the boys' reunion all the way, especially if it means we'll get the chance to witness them doing their "springs in shoes" routine live on stage sometime soon...
Yesterday, the USA Today newspaper picked up a story about a research study carried out by a team of clever clogs at Cambridge University.
It seems that the study, which used data gleaned from 58,000 Facebook users in the USA, was able to predict certain things about the people who "liked" certain things on Facebook. In actual fact, it turns out that they were able to accurately predict personal characteristics such as race, age, IQ, sexuality, personality, substance use and political views based on their Facebook likes alone.
At first glance, it's pretty alarming stuff. That is until you remember that marketers have been socially profiling people in accordance with their likes and dislikes since... well, since marketing was invented. The difference, of course, is that in the past, people elected to complete surveys the size of telephone directories to tell marketers all about their personal preferences or, indeed, they elected not to. On Facebook, there are literally millions of people clicking on "like" buttons every single day and those actions are building a very pretty picture of what makes them tick.
To be honest, it's only natural that our likes and dislikes help to define us, so the fact that the researchers have been able to predict our characteristics so accurately probably isn't too much of a surprise, especially given the numbers of users they've effectively surveyed. On my Facebook profile, for example, I've already liked Kylie Minogue and Andrew Christian underwear and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out my sexual preference from those two likes alone.
What is more interesting - and infinitely more spurious - is the claim that people with certain IQs are predisposed to like certain things. In a hilarious quote, USA Today reported:
"The study notes that likes which are the best predictors of high intelligence include 'Thunderstorms,' The Colbert Report', 'Science' and 'Curly Fries'. Low intelligence was indicated by liking (Facebook pages for) 'Sephora', 'I Love Being A Mom', 'Harley Davidson' and 'Lady Antebellum'. Researchers gave no further explanation of these findings."
Ha! So, it's official... brainy people like curly fries and thick people like Lady Antebellum. Amazing! Just think of the next customer survey carried out by McCain: "Studies have shown that intelligent people like curly fries. Do YOU like curly fries? Please answer honestly!"
I also hope Lady Antebellum get to read this survey. It might wipe the smug look off the lead singer's face.
If you don't ever do your grocery shopping at Asda, you might want to start doing so... like right now.
At least five years behind the rest of the world, Coca-Cola has finally launched Cherry Coke Zero in the UK... exclusively at Asda, of all places. Call me a goofy Coke nerd if you like but, for me, this is literally a dream come true (the launch part, not the Asda part). [Go way back into the archives of this blog and you will find a post where I tell you I dreamed they'd launched it in the UK, only to wake up heartbroken to find they'd actually launched it in America.]
Allegedly it's a limited edition, but how limited it actually ends up being is anyone's guess. After the successful trial of Pepsi Max Cherry at Asda (limited to 2 litre bottles only), Cherry Coke Zero (or "Coca-Cola Zero Cherry" to give it its proper name) comes in 2 litre bottles and brilliant 8 x 330ml can packs. There's no sign of a 500ml bottle yet but I guess that all depends on how successful the launch is. And if those yankee candy stores which seem to be popping up on every street corner these days selling imported cans at £2 a pop are anything to go by, there's obviously a market for it.
I forever wish Coca-Cola UK would be a bit more daring with their product range. In the states, for example, there are countless variations to their core products and it seems like they launch a new limited edition version every other week. Not to mention the Coca-Cola Freestyle drink dispenser, which is a concept so unbelievably awesome it makes my brain hurt. [A Cherry Sprite, anyone? How about a Cherry Vanilla Coke Zero?] This launch seems like a step in the right direction.
Now, how about a Vanilla version next, please?
Hello! As you can see, a quite good-ish blog just refuses to stay dead!
Actually, I have been promising myself that I would return to Blogger for literally months and too much has happened during that time to tell you about it in a single blog post so I won't even try. (I will tell you, however, that the above zombie look was created for last year's spooky Halloween shenanigans and was achieved by glueing toilet paper to my face.) That's not to say I won't ever tell you some of the things which have happened during what will forever be known as "the lost months of blog" but, for now at least, I want to focus on the here and the now and the what's coming up.
So... welcome to v6.0 of The Blog from a Newplanet! I hope that you like the new look. I wanted it to look a bit cleaner than before but also be a bit more, y'know... pulp sci-fi at the same time. Other than that, it is business as what-used-to-be-usual around here. Indeed, if there are any of my old readers lying at the side of the road who haven't been pecked to bits by crows by now, you'll all be delighted to hear that the blog's raison d'être is pretty much the same as it has always been - to bring you commentary on anything and everything which is amazing, quirky, fabulous, fascinating, geeky, peculiar or just downright crazy.
So, if you fancy a trip back to the Blog from a Newplanet, I suggest you grab your spacesuit NOW because this rocketship is getting ready to depart.
If you so happen to be around my age (i.e. pushing 40) and/or your specialist subject on Mastermind would be The collected works of Geekery and Nerdery, chances are you'll know that the team at Fighting Fantasy are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the franchise this year.
That's right! It was 1982 that Puffin books first published The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone's first title in the series of adventure gamebooks. Over the next decade and a half, the series grew and grew to a grand total of 59 titles, selling umpteen million copies worldwide.
There were a number of spin offs from the main series of gamebooks, too. Out Of The Pit was the definitive monster reference book, providing in-depth detail on the hundreds of beasts lying in wait in the pages of the books, ready to pounce on young adventurers. Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World was essentially a bible based on the world in which most FF adventures were set. Steve Jackson's epic 4 part adventure, Sorcery!, was designed for older readers. Clash Of The Princes was a two-player adventure, whilst Fighting Fantasy, The Riddling Reaver and the Advanced Fighting Fantasy series were multi-player roleplaying games. There were three novels and two board games. Make no mistake, Fighting Fantasy was HUGE.
I still have all of my FF books to this day and most of those I purchased first time around are in remarkably pristine condition, in spite of being nearly three decades old. That's not because I haven't read them but rather because I was a somewhat precious child and I simply liked taking good care of them. That meant my best friend was a bookmark, I didn't ever dare write on each book's adventure sheet and would end up devastated if ever opened a book wide enough to crack the spine, so I hardly ever did such a thing.
Since that time, I have tried supplementing the collection by way of eBay and charity shops. It's an expensive exercise - some of the more scarce titles regularly change hands on auction sites for ten times the £5 cover price - and, inevitably, they've never been so eagerly cared for but I am still determined to own all of them. Luckily, I have about seven or eight to go and the collection will be complete.
The wallet is hurting a little more than usual right now since Fighting Fantasy is currently experiencing a revival like no other. Spurred along by the three decade long anniversary, Ian Livingstone has penned a brand new adventure, entitled Blood of The Zombies (see photo). Some of the books were re-released a few years ago with new (but not great) artwork, but Blood of The Zombies has gone for a delightfully retro design approach - as delightful as flesh hungry zombies set on tearing you limb from limb can possibly be, of course - complete with the legendary green coloured spine and classic FF dagger logo reintroduced. It is properly joyous and properly gruesome at the same time. It is amazing.
Top top it all off nicely, Ian Livingstone will be promoting the new book at the Edinburgh Interactive event this weekend. He'll be giving a talk on "30 years of Fighting Fantasy" and also signing copies of Blood of The Zombies. Later on in the day, he'll be giving a similar talk at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I'm quite nervous about meeting him, as it happens - seriously, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone are to me what JK Rowling is to Potter fans - and I am concerned that any intelligent commentary of mine will be reduced to nothing but crazy inane babble.
"Ian, please don't think I am (too) weird" I tweeted yesterday.
It amazes me how the internet brings out the best and the worst in people. Mostly the worst. The Twitter adventures of Reece Sonny James (aka @Rileyy_69) in the past 24 hours are an excellent case in point.
Yesterday, James was just another idiot shit-for-brains teen, acting the hard man and spouting cack on Twitter and on YouTube. Less than 24 hours later, James is Great Britain's new national hate figure and, if news reports are to be believed, he's been arrested for it.
It all kicked off yesterday afternoon when James decided to take a pot shot at Tom Daley, after his attempt to secure a synchronised diving medal at the olympics went awry. Clearly not one to send expressions of sympathy (or pay attention in English class), James instead opted for:
"@TomDaley1994 you should be ashamed of yourself you let out country down just fuck off"
When that didn't get a reaction, he opted to push even bigger buttons.
"@TomDaley1994 you let your dad down i hope you know that"
In case you don't know, Daley's dad died of a brain tumour earlier this year. James has since claimed that he didn't know this, but it's an obvious lie. The words were designed to hurt like stabs to the ribs, and Daley was clearly not in the mood to ignore them. Minutes later, Daley retweeted the message to his thousands upon thousands of followers.
And, quite literally, all hell broke loose. Within seconds, Team Daley were on the offensive. And, charming as ever, as punctuation shy as usual, James stood his ground.
"@TomDaley1994 sit your ass back down tommy and don't get on a diving board again my little brother could do better absolute waste of space"
“@TomDaley1994 hope your crying now you should be why can’t you even produce for your own country your just a diver anyway a over hyped prick”
However, as though an alternate personality had just become dominant, suddenly there were expressions of remorse for what had just happened.
“@TomDaley1994 I’m sorry mate i just wanted you to win cause its the olympics I’m just annoyed we didn’t win I’m sorry tom accept my apology”
“@TomDaley1994 I’m really sorry :("
“@TomDaley1994 please i don’t want to be hated I’m just sorry you didn’t win i was rooting for you pal to do britain all proud just so upset”
By this point, the name @Rileyy_69 was spreading like wild fire across Twitter. And, believe me, the world was definitely in the mood for a witch hunt. Most of the vitriol was as equally hateful as the bile that James had been spewing. Some people compared his picture to Gollum from the Lord of the Rings movies. Some laughed at the thought his belt may have been bought in Primark. It got worse. “I hope you don’t wake up tomorrow” said some. Others openly wished that he would be burned alive. I’m not saying that James didn’t deserve a kicking, but as the mob mentality grew, things definitely got ugly.
Before long, Sky News caught wind of the story. “What the hell i’m on sky news” tweeted an increasingly desperate James. But as the attacks on him showed no sign of abating (and his followers swelled to over 40,000 – by way of contrast, I have around 70) the meaner personality became dominant again and apologies turned into threats.
“@SkyNews you fucking report me on the news again i’ll have you done for harassment and a law suit you get me final chance you cunts”
“@_OllyRiley shut your dirty little mouth you cunt i’m going to kill you when your back trust me”
“@_OllyRiley i don’t give a shit bruv i’m gonna drown him and i’m gonna shoot you he failed why you supporting him you cunt”
This type of threat is laughable, of course. I mean, would *you* be scared of a 17 year old who looks more like 13, has no idea who you are or where you live and clearly doesn’t have the brainpower to work it out? He strikes me as the kind of idiot who would act the hard man until you effortlessly gave him a proper and well deserved pasting.
Nevertheless, these days, when a man can end up in court for joking on Twitter about blowing up an airport, the Police take this stuff more seriously than you or I probably do.
When I did a bit of digging this morning, it turns out that James has quite a colourful internet footprint (unlike myself, whose most shameful piece of internet history is some dreadfully written Jem and The Holograms fan fiction) and YouTube is littered with his unintelligible gangster style ramblings. In particular, his ongoing cyber war with an equally stupid rival:
There’s quite a bit of this kind of stuff on YouTube so it would seem – you know, twelve year olds filming videos of themselves, goading their arch enemies and hilariously promising to slaughter one another’s entire family – which suggests to me that Britain’s youth have been watching one too many episodes of EastEnders. And indeed, you might be right for thinking that Reece Sonny James deserves everything that’s now coming to him, but I wonder *why* such things are happening in the first place and what can be done about it.
I’ll leave the final word to someone called Dreadnaught, who left this comment on another blog recently and I thought I would repeat here. I think it summarises everything quite perfectly, no?
“Would this tit-head have had the balls to say what he said to Daley's face - I think not. Would said tit-head attempt to show Daley how it should be done - I think not.
The internet has spawned legions of castrated keyboard warriors who dish out abuse anonymously under the illusion that they are exercising their right to freedom of speech. Anonymity has empowered gutless sneaks and trolls to delude themselves that they are safe within their own delusions and multiple personas to act with impunity.
Daley was right to report this abusive cretin.
With any rights there comes responsibilities - some people, however, insist on learning this lesson the hard way.”