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Who needs mod-cons when you can be a superhero? retail therapy /stuff.

Byline: David Cottrell

CATHERINE EARNSHAW, halfway through a wail to Nelly about that incorrigible Scouser Heathcliffe, called the universe a mighty stranger. She must have been to Dixons.

I think it's Dixons, although it might be Currys, but it was definitely somewhere at the top of Church Street.

Either way, the moment you walk through the doors it's distressingly other-worldly, intelligible only to those with a degree in A/V output sockets or, more probably, anyone under the age of 20.

I've come here in lunchtime on the pretext of buying a new set-top box for the telly because if you don't go digital by the end of next year, as far as I can make out, you'll be frogmarched out of your house and, before a mob of baying neighbours, have the word stupid branded upon your forehead in chisel-tip highlighter pen.

But I can't find the set-top boxes. Perhaps they're already obsolete. In between the banks of muted, SUV-sized plasma screens are shelves upon shelves of gadgets and gizmos in shiny white boxes, each one clearly marked "Gadget ZX5000" or "Multi-media gizmo" on the front with a helpful picture of the gadget or gizmo plus a bullet-pointed list of its amazing powers.

Only one man looks more baffled than me.

He's 103 and appears to have mistaken the shop for a bookies.

Apologies to any regular readers out there, I know I've done technophobia in these pages before. But it will keep rearing its PC-incompatible head.

I should just have done with it and open a shop called Luddite stocking things with handles and pedals and stuff, with a spin-off magazine made of papyrus.

Defeated and demoralised, but determined to keep the contrived extra-terrestrial theme going for the purposes of this week's column, I seek refuge halfway up Bold Street in, of all places, Forbidden Planet.

Hang on, isn't this the spiritual home of the computer geek, the X-Box nerd?

Sure, but there's something strangely comforting about its dark, lugubrious interior, its door that you have to wrench open like something from a Hammer Horror movie, and its distinct lack of cables, catalogues and staff in short-sleeved shirts and polyester ties.

And anyway, that's Curtis Mayfield's Superfly playing on some hidden hi-fi behind the counter. bypass the scale models ("action figures") of everything from WWF wrestlers to Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, hardly glance at the Buffy calendars, Lost box-sets and Doctor Who sonic screwdrivers, and head straight for the comics.

The proper comics, not the new-fangled graphic novels. As in the original, vintage Marvel ones, now assembled in neat paperback volumes, with the good old Hulk smashing tanks in his bare feet and Conan the Barbarian cleaving evil wizards' skulls in his Birkenstocks.

Sod that overdue gas bill, if I had fifty quid on me, I'd blow it in seconds.

They say us late 30-somethings are trying to prolong our youth.

In fact, we're merely revisiting our uncomplicated early adolescence where things made a smidgeon of sense.

Dual USB TV stick with free wireless router and optical notebook mouse?

Only if it you can tuck it down your underpants - the ones worn on the outside of the superhero costume, naturally.

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DAVID COTTRELL is editor of Space magazine
COPYRIGHT 2006 MGN Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 9, 2006
Words:541
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