Talking of Found Footage... I'll be premiering a compilation of clips from the series on March 4th at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge. It'll be part of a geeky, retro comedy night - with contributions from YouTube star Ashens, and a peerless line-up of stand-up comedy talent. Apparently, I'm hosting the thing - which was as much a surprise to me as I'm sure it'll be to you. Tickets are only a tenner, proceeds go to charity, and you'll also have access to the museum. Please come along.
The weekend before, you can head down to the Centre for two days dedicated to all things teletext, with demonstrations from the likes of Dan Farrimond and Horsenbureger.
More details on both events here.
But look: it is time for the letters. If you would like to appear on next week's page, or you've something you'd like me to give some attention to in our occasional Plug Zone - please send your emails for next week to this place here: firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been very underwhelmed by the Nintendo Switch so far. Can you remember a major console launch that was so low-profile? I cannot believe that people are pretending that Skyrim is a big deal.
That's not meant as a criticism per se - they can do what they want - but the tone and tenor of the defence of Nintendo from some suggests there's something more going on under the surface there.
I mean, you used to see it back in the Sega vs Nintendo days - the sort of fingers-in-the-ears shouting down reality and selecting which facts to match their interpretation of it. I dunno. Is it a concrete belief in a worldview where Nintendo can't be anything other than top dog, and a need to cling to that?
Anyway. Yeah... despite all that, I'm kind of looking forward to the Switch. I just wish there were going to be more games to play on it at launch, and I don't have an enormous amount faith in Nintendo to keep those games coming.
Press reveal to crack open a fortune cookie on Nintendo's behalf:
I once saw Keith Chegwin having an irate phone conversation in the middle of a busy London street. I didn't approach him as I felt it would antagonise him further. Thanks!
And me and my mate Jesse saw Bobbie Gillespie sat in the window of a Pret A Manger having a sandwich. That was only last year. Good times.
Dear Mr. Baffle, 1980s cartoon detective.
It's Saturday afternoon as I write this, because I thought I'd buck the trend this week and get my letter in early. Hopefully this meaningless gesture will earn me the Star Prize! Actually, why don't you have a Star Prize? If Jim Bowen was prepared to stump up for a speedboat every week, surely you could manage, I don't know, some crisps.
Anyway, I was curious to know if you had any favourite magazine/website letters pages during your own formative years, and if you think they influenced the way you do things now?
Me, I was a devotee of T'zer and Matt Bielby on the Your Sinclair letters page (and to a slightly lesser extent Lloyd Mangram's antics in Crash). I may even have written in to Smash Hits once or twice, to express my alarm that the world had become dismal enough for piss-weak bands like Brother Beyond and Big Fun to achieve actual chart success.
Thank God we don't have worries on that scale any more.
Letters pages! Talk to us about letters pages on your letters page! Please and thank you.
Your Sinclair is, I think I've said before, probably the biggest influence on me in terms of games mags. That was really the only one I could say I was a "fan" of. And, as it happens, Smash Hits was a big influence - just that general sense of flippancy and disrespect, and not really taking the subject seriously. I read Crash, and all the Emap mags. Though it's only the latter whose letters pages I really remember, mainly due to the regular correspondence slagging off Digitiser.
Get this for a happy ending though: I talk from time to time with former Mean Machines editor Steve Merrett - with whom Digi had something of a feud (albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek on our part at least). He's a very nice and decent human being.
You see? Getting old isn't all bad. Press reveal to see what the fortune cookie has to say about ageing:
Just found the Digi200 site and feel all warm in my elastic comfy indoor trousers.
I used to read Digitiser on Teletext religiously back in the early 90s. So much so that I think it influenced my mad un-PC ramblings in the office to this day, but sadly no one gets the jokes and HR don’t see the funny side either.
Anyway, back in the day I wrote you a few letters, I can’t remember under what alias but I recall I spent a lot of time typing them on my dad's typewriter, maybe there were cut out pictures of penguins and things? And crappy late teenage attempts at being abstract and weird.
I remember a few of my letters being published on Digitiser and feeling a warm glow of satisfaction, but as no one I knew read it, I just hoped someone found it amusing. Thinking about it, was my alias Mr Giotre? Fuck knows, there’s been a lot of drugs and bottles of wine downed since those days.
But anyway, I loved Digitiser, really loved it. And there were days i just thought you were gonna get shut down for the total madness of it all but you never did. C4 hosted you and JAM, my two most favorite things of all time, but we'll never see the like of you again. Good times. Love you!
Dear Uncle B, have you ever worked with/spoken to/hid in the garden of Marcus Berkmann? He's a video game writer turned hilarious funny man.
Biffo, Berkmann, Brooker.
3 funny men.
You see? Getting old IS all bad. Let's see what the fortune cookies have to say about it.
It's about time you upped your game! Digitiser has fallen behind the times and you aren't giving the kids what they want. What do they want, I hear you cry?
Why, type-in listings of course! I therefore submit this listing for any Amstrad CPC owners who read this here webpage:
10 MODE 1
20 INK 0,0: INK 1,26
30 PRINT "MR BIFFO IS ACE AND SKILLE"
40 GOTO 30
I demand a prize for being the type-in of the week. Thank you.
And don't even get started on the brown soup of emotional baggage which comes with writing those po-faced political articles I've been doing. I wonder if the fortune cookies have any advice about guilt...?
As previewed below last week's Letters page, I wish to write with regards to my delight at seeing letters within this month's Retrogamer magazine from both Stuart (N?) Hardy and D(es?) O'Connor.
The warm nostalgia of seeing their names in such an appropriate journal is tempered only by the fear that given that you, Mr Biffo, have a regular column therein, Hardy in particular might be subtly stalking you having become less obvious in recent Digi.
Nothing spotted so far from Christian Ward, regular corresponder to one of your paper-based rivals (Something Power I think), whose name I recall them once cruelly anagramising to "Rancid Raw Shit".
I can't criticise. I got a letter printed in C&VG taking the piss out of "tipster" Ed Lomas' name once. Must've been a quiet letter week.
Have any other readers got any videogame magazine correspondence-based memories?
As far as I know, I never wrote to a games magazine. I probably would've done if there had been email back in the day, but my handwriting is sufficiently bad that to write an actual letter would've meant writing something that they never would've been able to read anyway, or spend half an hour on each word trying to make it legible. No thanks!
A few years back I did write an email to BBC Focus magazine to ask them how many worm skins you'd need to make a coat, and how many bees would it take to pull a sled. They never printed them.
Your recent reference to the former Robinson's mascot got me thinking. When I was small, I remember being slightly apprehensive and intrigued by his appearance. Though this was at most a 1.5 on the Ronald McDonald Scale of Childhood Trauma.
Recently, I saw him again in a stream of old animated advertisements. Part of my cultural heritage, for better or worse, selling marmalade with a calm demeanour. A small part, paling in comparison to the disembodied head of Cab Calloway pushing potato snacks, but a part of it nonetheless.
I didn't see malice in a caricature that wasn't mocking behaviour. That came from the kind of people who would just as readily make your life hell for looking like the Milkybar Kid.
Though I'd rather that appearances didn't matter, some things are worth retiring to minimise upset. I'm more for the Spitting Image approach to equality, skewering everyone without fear or favour, but understand that rejecting caricature is another way to get there. Constructive conversation is more urgent than the preservation of quaint mascots, which we can all laugh about later.
If I were small again now, I would probably be learning that it was normal to mock someone for their skin hue, hair style, and manner of speech. None of which would affect me, unlike their actions.
My kids - and now my step-daughters - went to schools with wide-ranging diversity, all had friends who were Muslim, or Hindu, and I honestly don't think they bat an eyelid when confronted with someone who's different racially or culturally.
The Robinson's Jam feller wasn't - as you say - used with malice. It's just a result of a less informed era. We sort of can't help our prejudices - but we can try to understand that we're not born with them. One thing I learned when I did my stupid psychotherapy training is that fighting them doesn't overcome them, but acknowledging them does.
Press reveal to see what the fortune cookie says about prejudice.
Genuinely from an old French school text book:
This is Grandma. She is in the kitchen making dinner. What will she be having for dinner? Chicken? Potatoes? Why do you care? She's living in abject squalor, in a dingy flat struggling to make ends meet. Whatever she's eating will have come from the discounted produce shelves in Morrisons. And why is she living like this? Because instead of using her savings to provide her with a dignified life in her twilight years when you were given power of attorney, you squandered all her cash in a fast car, booze, drugs and prostitutes in Acton.
In your esteemed comedic opinion, would adding a tube of Anusol to a shopping basket already containing a cucumber and KY Jelly make it more or less funny? I mean, what we’ve got here is a veteran or a forward thinker. It’s unlikely to be their first rodeo; they’re wholly committed and showing great resolve.
But is it just adding clutter? Too sophisticated?
How about: A cucumber, KY Jelly and a smaller cucumber?
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I've recently moved house and I'm bored out of my mind in my new place - it's just too quiet. I miss arguing with my smack-head neighbour about his 72 hours of full-on jungle playing as loud as possible. I miss the sound of the traffic of my old place which was right on the pavement of a main road.
I miss the cold and dampness of the place. However, the one thing that I miss the most is the constant problem with ants, no matter what time of year it was. Oh, those were a good nine years.
Anyway, with this boredom in mind I decided to draw you picture on the back of an envelope; it's Mario throwing a Pot Noodle at a wardrobe. I'm sure that in someone's mind, somewhere, this is their ultimate fantasy.
I am fit and strong and that is all.
Biffles, in celebration of having a week off work, my body has decided to be ill. Not wanting to waste valuable gaming time, I still intend to spend as much of it as possible in front of a screen. Are there any games that you feel helped you while you were under the weather?
Bonus question: Have there been any games that impressed you with their portrayal of illness or physical impediment to the character you play, like that bit where you crawl around after being nuked in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare?
Warning; the previous sentence contains spoilers.
I'm very excited because I am getting a new boiler fitted. The old one kind of sucks because the hot water doesn't really work, it cuts out before I get more than a sink-full. A working timer is nought but a distant memory.
I just wanted you to know I think I've found my calling. I've been doing live streams where I drive trains on Train Simulator and swear a lot and last time I did one I had six people watching at the same time, which must be some kind of record. Once I have a sustainable business model to monetise these idiots I'm quitting my well-paid job in IT for a large multinational.
Do you ever wonder if you'll find your niche?
Love and hugs,
P. S. About the vegetables - I've been eating a lot more while recovering from my comedy illness but I'm finding myself being a bit constipated. What's that all about then? Cheerio!