I discovered for the first time that a particular building has a large domed roof. It's at an angle where not the sort of thing you'd see from a car on the road - I only saw it from walking along the opposite pavement. The building in question used to be a cinema until 15-20 years ago (indeed, a bus driver still referred to it as "the ABC cinema" to me within the last year), then had a good spell as a bingo hall, and within the last three years or so has been turned into a pub in the "It's A Scream" chain. Apparently its large capacity does make it a good place to go and watch sport, but I wonder to what extent this is symbolic of trends in taste for entertainment at large over the last 20 years or so.
Walked home and had a long, sad daydream which I might write into a story some day. (90% chance I won't, though.) On the way, I passed an advertising billboard which was apparently blank white, but with a black line across the middle and "Where do you draw the lines" below, all as if spray-paint graffiti. It was unusual and so thought-provoking. It would be lovely if some of the advertising hoarding companies decided to fill unusued hoarding capacity with stray pieces of art, but almost as lovely if this is the first ad in a teasing, thought-provoking campaign where all is eventually revealed. If it really were just a piece of graffiti on a blank billboard then it would still be quite nice, but it would be hard to believe as the final letter s "went off the page" without being sprayed onto the frame surrounding the billboard.
Does anyone else ever feel that it's harder to read a piece of writing, especially fiction, when you know the author beforehand than it is when you don't? I'm starting to feel this from time to time these days and so a lot of lovely people's fiction is going unread - quite possibly even yours, for at least four of you. I guess I must hate the possibility of reading something and finding that I'm disappointed by it simply because I don't want to have to tell the writer that I didn't enjoy it so much, but I wouldn't not want to give them true feedback.
The syndicated oblomovka points to easyCinema opening in Friday in Milton Keynes. As Stelios says, it's Stelios does cinema. You can book seats at a Friday night peak-time showing of something for as little as 20p if you book far enough in advance. Unfortunately you can only book a week in advance right now, not least because film availability changes so much from week to week whereas companies need to decide where they're going to operate their flight routes months in advance. I don't think the web site is nearly finished yet - Stelios mentions that "you can come to the site with a budget of, say, 50p, and find all the shows that you can see for 50p or less" but this isn't possible yet. (I note with amusement that the advanced search lets you restrict the film selected by genre and that one of the genres available is "Adult". Some might say that's taking easy too far.)
The strangest decision he has made is that he isn't going to be selling popcorn and hot dogs there; I always believed that this was the major money-maker for the cinemas, not the ticket prices, so it'll be interesting to see if he can make this work after all. I understand that easyInternetcafe has turned out to be a money-loser, so I fear easyCinema might be as well. All the same, I hope that he can make this work, not least because easyBus is under consideration, which would seem to be a Very Very Good Thing Indeed for frugally-bottomed domestic travellers like me. easyTrain can only be a matter of time. (Here's a thought: easyTube. Hmm.)
Other big news of the day is the announcement of some new national lottery games partly to support London's bid for the 2012 Olympics. Unfortunately, Camelot haven't released the details, apart from:
- A weekly draw with cash prizes between £20 and £200,000,
- a twice-yearly "Olympic Mega Draw",
- a daily game six days a week with prizes from £5 to £30,000,
- a lottery game where entries will cost a penny each and
- a European game held in conjunction with French and Spanish lottery games which will have jackpots of up to £30,000,000.
My analysis here is that I'm particularly worried about this twice-yearly "Olympic Mega Draw". The "Millennium Millionaire Maker" started disappointingly and has become even more disappointing every year since when they repeated it as the "Christmas Millionaire Maker". Now they can make this work in Spain with El Gordo (full explanation in my entry about it from last December) but I think this is more due to tradition and historical accident than anything else. It was nice to see and identify a clip of the El Gordo draw on the BBC News, for what it's worth. It's also interesting to see that there was mention of the UK/Spanish/French Euro-Lottery even back then and that the plan looks like it will come to fruition, with an even bigger jackpot claimed than before. (Perhaps there's a difference in measure - average jackpot quoted then, peak jackpot quoted now?) I do hope this Euro-Lottery won't be a jackpot-only game like Lotto Extra - I really don't think that that would be at all popular. I also have worries about what the lottery show is going to look like to watch and whether it's going to turn into a trilingual nightmare or it's just going to have three sets of national commentary dubbed over automated, human-free visuals.
The BBC had a Professor Ian Watson on to speak about the Lottery; he said that he thought that offering so much choice would start to confuse the punter and that they need to concentrate on the single main weekly draw once more in order to stop the decrease in sales. I have to say I agree with this point of view. Camelot don't; in fact, they predicted that "the main Lotto draw will only account for 49% of overall sales by 2005, with other games taking its place". Wrong, wrong, worryingly wrong. Sir Richard Branson must really have cocked his lottery bid up a second time in order not to wrest the franchise from this bunch of clowns. Or maybe they're right and I'm wrong after all; who knows?
I can say one thing in favour of the official National Lottery site. They offer scratchcard-like games which you can instantly play online, and a particular favourite of mine is the 25p Pluck A Duck. Your odds in winning are better than 1 in 3 (actually, 1 in 2.87), but the chance of you actually making a profit from playing are 0.062952, or a faint shade better than 1 in 16. Still, you can have all the fun of playing - minus the profit and loss, which aren't fun - for free like so. Strongly recommended just for the sound effects, and who can resist a game whose rules include the phrase "If the Player clicks on the frog at any time during the Game, it will jump from the lily pad. No value is attached to the frog, and clicking on it will make no difference to the outcome of a Play."?