August 8th, 2004



This is a question that may have occurred to many of us over the years. I am at a loss to explain. For the first time in quite few months I watched television when at my mother's the other evening. On Channel 4 they were showing Celebrity Place in the Sun - a programme in which Brits lord their wealth by buying a second home abroad. Thus ensuring that local commmunities there also become as unable to afford decent local housing as have their British counterparts. Time was, mon fils, you could go out on a Saturday night, load up on pastis and frites and still have change for an abandoned farmhouse left over. No more.

The celebrity version isn't quite the same however as wealthy people really do seem to prefer enjoy living in each other's company. Do keep out the riff-raff. Last week, Tara Parker-Tomlinson was on the French Riviera and this week it was Anthea and husband Grant Bovey in Dubai. Dubai? I thought. Why the Blue Peter would anyone choose to buy property in Dubai? Is there anything there? Well, yes, there is. Lots and lots. David Beckham has property there as does Robbie Williams. Enuf said.

Grant has business in Dubai and enjoys playing polo so he has an excuse of sorts, but I've been racking my brains as to why you'd want to live in Dubai. Here's all I can come up with:

1. It's hot and sunny all year round.
2. Plenty of other rich and famous people about. [Also, Jim Davidson, I've just discovered]
3. Shopping opportunities.
4. Freedom to drink alcohol.
5. Horses/Camels.
6. You can drive like an idiot and women can drive alone.
7. Tax purposes.
8. Not as scary as Saudi Arabia.
9. I'm struggling for a ninth.
10. Architecture....?

It would be easy to say that Dubai has had a taste-bypass in its architecture. I can see that Dubai is pitched for the moneyed non-U crowd. I quite like the awaiting-Godzilla's-wrath look of it in a way, but not nearly enough to consider moving there. They did mention a few smaller properties on the the show and I realised that I could just about trade this flat in for something modest in Dubai, but I couldn't think of why I would. One day, computer technology should be sufficient that I can tap in the phrase "Dubai-JG Ballard-Hyperreality-Las Vegas-Liminal Space-Blah" and a suitable colour supplement article will be produced. I can't be bothered myself.

Whatever the possible advantages and pleasures of living in Dubai, you can't help but think of the current political climate. Whilst Saudi Arabia isn't that much of an attractive prospect for a Westerner these days, the UAE obviously wants to promote itself as somewhere that is. One thing that impressed Grant about the property that they did choose in the end was its standard of security. If Dubai does succeed in becoming some future-world holiday in the sun enclave [Gordon Ramsay calls it a mini-Monaco. Surely it's bigger?], and they're certainly investing the money in it, the place will become an attractive target. In a cynical metropolitan sense, the chance to cleanse the world of its Hello-inhabitants might be something you could celebrate. Never mind Celebrity Big Brother, Dubai could really become an edgy I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Of course, I wouldn't wish death on anybody at all, but there's something sufficiently biblical about a desert city built with so much money. It's not exactly Sodom, but it might be Gomorrah, the lesser distinguished sibling city.

It's Japanese game time! Hurrah. Whilst the rest of the world is getting excited about other forthcoming 2004 releases (Doom 3, Half-Life 2, GTA: San Andreas, etc), I was pleased to note the release of Animal Crossing in the UK. The Nintendo GameCube has suffered some bad press here for not providing the sort of gut-churning game experience beloved of our youth. For me, it's a postive incentive for buying it. You can play great games like Pikmin, Harvest Moon, Metroid Prime (that's got guns) and obviously various shades of Donkey Kong, Zelda and Mario, etc. Err, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Anyway...

Fortunately, Katamari Damacy (sic - that should read Damashii in the non-Japanese Hepburn system) is PS2. Aside from grey imports, it's not available, but with a US release, a European port is quite likely. It's one game that might have me dusting down the console. In brief, the game has you collecting debris that can be used to build new stars. What happened to the stars? Well, they were destroyed by their creator in a moment of wine-inspired abandon. In the game, you roll a sticky ball around various environments to collect material. During the game the ball grows in size: you might start out with drawing pins and sticks of gum, but as the ball grows, so does its ability to pick up larger objects. By the end of the game you're nicking entire buildings and stadia.

I suggest you have a look at this clip to give you a better idea. The Japanese site has some nice stuff on it, but I never know how easy this is for easy for people to navigate when they don't read Japanese and their browsers might not display the text. There's a strange substory in the game about a Japanese family with square heads and some fun stuff to download and make at home.

What I like about this game is that it has an imaginative take on the idea of simulation. Doom 3? Well, you know what you're going to get there. Bigger guns, bigger sounds, smoother graphics, etc... KD isn't picture realistic. But it takes a child's idea and makes it possible. Mmm, if I rolled this snowball for long enough... It looks great and seems to have a suitably oddball soundtrack - I can recommend the mambo. It's playful. There's very little play in computer games. Obviously you can tell that I'm a frustrated Japanese teenage girl and find it hard to sustain much interest in blasting plasma cannon. What I want is to do is play, not vanquish. That's men for you.

I'm too tired now to continue...