Thursday, 20 December 2007

I'm not dead but in chile



The loyal is alive/I’m not dead fan base may have noticed a bit of a decline in the output of this blog. I haven't done as many irate bloggers do and gone off due to boredom or lack of discipline, I’ve been and still am in the desert planet Chile. Lots of adventures: jawas, stormtroopers, ships, alien life and food is all being recorded in my grey box and I’ll be posting it all soon enough. Stay faithful, stay blogued.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Top ten of 2007

December is the time of year when TV channels, due to a lack of ideas and hibernation, tend to flog off top tens. I've succumbed...below is a list of the most visited 'is alive/i'm not dead' posts:

1. Portal end song
2. Create your own psp theme
3. Louis Bourgeois
4. Wild Gourmets
5. I am Legend
6. Starcraft, Warhammer 40K
7. Art of catching lobsters
8. TV Links shut down
9. Synetics top ten
10. Matthew Barney

Alternative X-mas message

And he said on to his son, “You must be the very best, like no one ever was. To catch them is your real test; to train them is your cause. You will travel across the land searching far and wide. Each Pokemon to understand the power that’s inside.”

Guerrilla consumerism

I went to Brent Cross yesterday which is the equivalent to an American ‘mall’ I suppose. I don’t know if it was all the shiny Christ-mass decorations or all the shiny sales people but something overcame me and I wrote on the screen of a new Imac, “Please buy me, I’m lonely and they abuse us at night.”


I sneaked off behind the ridiculously, oversized, compensating for something, HD TVs. They acted as a sort of epileptic camouflage. There I watched like, well, a weirdo, as innocent shoppers went up and read what was on the screen. Some looked amused, others looked genuinely distressed.


If you wish to join me in this vain attempt ala Project Mayhem, to strike back at the consumerism heat wave that is the run up to xmas, please find yourself a local electronics shop and write something witty on the screen of any nearby computers. You can even send in pictures if you like.

NASA mission to Mars and the Ministry of Space

Mars is further away than Scotland. Further even than the North Pole. According to NASA we won’t be going there for a while yet. Had things taken a different turn as speculated in ‘Ministry of Space,’ which sounds like a governmental department for interior decorators, we’d have been to and settled upon Mars ages ago.


The ‘real’ mission to Mars isn’t likely to launch at the earliest until 2031. In Ministry of Space we’d have been there by 1969! The underlying theories behind the advanced developments in space flight explored in Ministry of Space, are underpinned by the notion that in the last days of WW2, British soldiers got to the scientists at Peenemunde before the U.S or USSR and, especially, they brought Dr. Wernher von Braun and the plans and pieces of the V-2 rocket bomb back to England. The story unfolds that the Ministry was funded by a ‘black budget’, which ultimately turns out to be gold stolen by the Nazis. The driving force behind the Ministry is Jack Dashwood (he’s got one of those thin 40’s lip moustaches and everything) as he acts as a sort of Steve Jobs character, relentlessly pushing the Ministry as hard as possible.


In the alternate 2001 the U.S are about to launch there own space mission and Dashwood is summoned to an orbiting space station, imaginatively named, Churchill Station. He justifies his obsession to his escort, “we moved too fast, of course. But we had no choice. The Ministry of Space was leading Britain out of the Second World War. Our country could not afford to get involved in brushfires and posturing, which would surely have happened.”


Ultimately, when the U.S threaten to reveal to the world where the funding came from, Dashwood replies, “If I am a monster, then England is too. See if England cares, with her free electricity and cheap food and her glorious, unchanging aspect.” It wouldn’t be a ‘ripping yarn’ if there wasn’t some moral to the story and at the very end you see that the black woman who has been acting as Dashwood’s escort in 2001 is changing in a ‘non-white’ staff room, implying that for all the leaps in technology, socially England was still stuck in the 50’s. Despite the heavy handed moral lesson, that feels tacked on, Ministry of Space really captures the spirit of what a ‘British empire’ in space would feel like. It’s the closest you’ll feel to being on the red planet until 2031.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Green judgement by Greenpeace

Sky tells me, through the use of an analogous red chameleon, that if I leave my set top box on standby, it’ll save enough energy to power Birmingham for a month. So, if I turned it off at the mains would the resulting surge of energy melt Birmingham? I’m confused but Greenpeace aren’t. Their ‘Guide to Greener Electronics,’ names, blames, shames and maims all the big electronic companies’ green standards. Nintendo might be winning over young and old alike with their meta-human software but as they’ve been ranked last, we can only conclude that killing off your consumer base via toxicology is a bad move.

Child Prodigies

Usually just mouthing the words, ‘Robin’ and ‘Williams’ is enough to trigger a biological meltdown, causing neurons to simply shut down rather than deal with the memory of any of his prior films. However, in Toys, I distinctly remember a scene where an army of children are raining down virtual death upon unsuspecting digitmits all under the guise of gaming.



When I was an amoeba I used to play Crystal Quest on my Macintosh II (before they got all shiny) and I think it’d be fair to say I was pretty ‘bad ass’ at it. Even so, I don’t think my skills reached the ‘hardcore/nerdcore’ levels of these gaming prodigies:



Friday, 23 November 2007

Shoreditch, pain.

Shoreditch: trendy start-ups, artists, stupidly named bars and idiots. The idiots as seen here:



With all these idiots wondering about you have to wonder what happened to the more traditional types:





Idiots:

Amazon Kindle sells out…everyone

The Amazon Kindle is a wireless; electronic book reader that can store over 200 books in its memory. As well as selling out itself, it’s sold out you and me. How, you scream impotently at your monitor? It’s going to destroy the delicate eco-system.


My mum always used to tell me that piles of newspapers would lead to spiders. This I have taken, as gospel for it is Chilean logic. So, the Kindle will lead to a decline in books and newspapers, which in turn will mean no more spiders, which in turn, means the end of the world. Don’t buy it. Protect the spider.

Striking writers in Hollywood

Which means I should swoop in and steal all their jobs. Judging by some of the more ‘creative’ video protests featured in this beeb article they should spend more time writing and less time striking. And now to keep the ‘is alive’ reputation for objectivity we’ll talk about the ‘suits.’ If you wear a suit, you are a suit.

Chowder

The theme for today is my alcohol blood level and the effect it's had on my motor-functions and cognitive reasoning ability. It's taken me five hours to write that last sentence and I don't understand what it means.


If you’d like me to come and talk at your brothers, sisters, son’s, egg’s etc school about why drinking is neither big nor clever but always has the effect of making you feel both simultaneously, I will. Anyway, I thought this was funny:


Sociotown

Is a new browser based MMO for, you know, people who like to see other people online and not shoot at them, or swing an axe their way which sort of defeats the point. I don’t think it’s solely down to being hung-over but I thought the ‘socio’ in Sociotown was short for sociopath.


An MMO where you all play characters a bit like Patrick Bateman ala American Psycho, and do all the pretend shopping and dinning you would do in say, Second Life, but every now and again you have to kill another player preferably while your player is completely naked except for some tennis shows and wielding a chainsaw.


You’d also have a ‘disgust’ bar that you’d need to keep topped up by talking to other players but secretly typing how much you despise the place they’ve brought you to eat or how unfashionable their clothes are.

I’d call it, Psycho Life.



Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Strange Correlations

Zeppelins have been a big no, no since the Hindenburg disaster in 1937. Watching a hurtling inferno, streaming towards the ground with a man solemnly uttering the words, “oh, the humanity” would be enough to put most people off. That being said, Japan are going ahead anyway with an improved, none explodey version. For £550 you get a 90 minute journey around various sites in the land of the rising coy.


At the same time I was reading this, I was watching a trailer for , Turning Point: Fall of Liberty on another tab, an alternate timeline where Churchhill died before the outbreak of the Second World War. The Nazis were unopposed in Europe and are now a fully-fledged super power. They choose to launch a Pearl Harbour style attack on the good old U.S of Arrrrrrh in 1953. You play ‘an average Joe’ working on a skyscraper when the bombs start dropping and the Statue of Liberty starts to resemble the Burning Man.


Most prominent in the trailer are the Axis Zeppelins raining down flammable death on the unsuspecting citizenry of the Big Fruit. Zeppelins, axis, Japan, modern, zeppelins, pearl harbour. Ahhh, we’re all doomed. Maybe not, but Zeppelins look dangerous at the best of times, you only need to watch Indiana Jones to give you a permanent complex.

TED for a global government

The general apathy I and many of my generation feel with the current political system is evident everywhere. The three major political parties are so similar that you have to wonder if choosing between three flavours of chocolate, chocolate hazelnut and chocolate caramel politician, really warrants the term, democracy. Yes, you can choose but choosing between, as South Park put it, ‘a douche and a turd sandwich’ is negligible.


I’ve always held the conviction that those who least want power should be those that are handed the reins. I also believe that people with imaginary friends and a blatant lack of EQ (sometimes they are mutually exclusive) shouldn’t be allowed to command vast treasuries and or extensive militaries.

One group who seem to be the polar opposite of many of our current world leaders are the attendees’ and speakers at the annual TED conference. TED personifies everything that is worthwhile about being human. If an alien species were to invade and ask in a b-movie kind of way, ‘why should we spare your monkey species?’ You could confidently point them towards the TED site and ask them to pick any lecture at random and they could see first hand what Aristotle meant about leading a eudemonia/good life.


I propose that the members of TED are appointed to a global council with the entire wealth, manpower and any other resources of the planet at their disposal. The council would split these resources between the topics found on the site, Technology, Entertainment, Design, Business, Science, Culture, Arts and Global issues. Each representative would be elected as president for science, culture, whatever and would then appoint a Ministry to cover the global needs for that particular topic.

In a single TED lecture you’ll hear something more inspiring, informative and hopeful than you will have heard in the last ten years of pan political speeches. One of my favourite lectures can be found below. All bow before the TED.


Monday, 19 November 2007

Digital Messenger Pigeon

To elevate some of the massive guilt I feel for, in the words of Ben Folds, "y’all don’t know what it’s like being male, middleclass and white." I’m a member of charities, that sort of, broadly cover the major err, bad things of today. Covering my environmental guilt, I’m a member of Friends of the Earth. They don’t want to be my friends though, they just want my money and my name as it happens. I was contacted about some critical, climate, chaos and asked to type my name and email address and send it to my local MP, Lynne Featherstone.


Pressing send is probably the least amount of effort for the ‘I’ve made a difference’ feeling you can get. I thought nothing of it until today when I received a reply from Lynne Featherstone. Not bad, I thought, democracy isn’t the over bloated, bureaucratic beast, I thought it was until I realised the message from Lynne was automated. Automated! I feel dirty even typing the word. They may as well have automated phone voting, which incidentally they do in John Brunner’s, Shockwave Rider which I’ll write about, as soon as I can get this accursed infantile mind around the complex concepts found there in. But for an abridged version, check out what the old man had to say about it:

‘…But Brunner has also given us another, more optimistic image: the Shockwave Rider, surfing the waves of change, exhilarated by the ride. It is this image, I hope, that will have a still greater resonance. For it is the very turmoil we see around us, that is the grounds for my optimism. Amidst the destruction and disruption of the patterns of our daily lives, new possibilities are being created, if only we can sense them. A new landscape of human being is waiting for us to nudge into existence, if we so choose.’

Anyway, the whole experience has left me feeling like a bird brained, carrier pigeon, glancing stupidly at the text tied around my leg but with no understanding.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Mass Effect: In the distant future there is only strip bars and lesbian lovin’

Mass Effect is an epic, sci-fi love-in, for the Xbox 360. And ‘lovin’ is exactly what has ignited the interweb with geek drooling and at the other end of the universe, moral outrage.


Geeks haven’t been this excited since the infamous ‘black coffee’ mini game hidden in GTA4, where the player character could interact with women, of questionable morals, in a sex mini game.

The controversy surrounding Mass Effect is the reputed alien, lesbian, sex scene. A key component to Mass Effect’s gameplay is the development of relationships between the player’s character and other beings strewn throughout the galaxy. One branch will lead (if you choose to play a woman) into a lesbian sex scene with a blue alien. Like I said, geeks are wetting themselves. However, I read this, indicating that the party pooping, Singaporean government, are to ban the game on these same ‘lovin’ grounds. No stellar surprise there.

I think both sides are missing the point, why is it that only lesbians are allowed to have sex in the future? Also how would one interact in a futuristic strip bar? There would be too many languages to know how to shout, ‘Ooooh she’s got nice ones, she has, hrrrrrrrrr.’




Resident Evil: Extinction in the style of an infomercial

Hello, hello and welcome to the Extinction Hour. We have all kinds of crazy deals, whether you’re a grizzled survivor making the best of it on the arid surface, an Umbrella exec with nothing but time and money on your hands and even the vegetarian challenged, zombie masses.

Let’s start with the high rollers first. With human civilization as we know it, wiped out after the T-virus overran the planet, you smarty pants Umbrella employees are looking pretty smug in your vast underground research facilities, but wait, what’s that you say? You have a wad of cash burning a hole in your pocket worse than a zombie bite itches on your skin? What have we got for them Tammy?


Well John, any highflying Umbrella executive can’t be seen dead, or should that be undead (fake laugh) without this season’s sinister black suit. Strike fear into the lowly, worker bees with this stylish combo of an ultra black suit, blacker than even the most successful corporate heart and these sizzling black shades so the windows to your black as night soul don’t give you away in those all important board room meetings.


For all you deranged Umbrella scientists, we have a limited offer on mostly intact zombies, frozen for freshness. We’re also offering a vast range of children’s toys so you can test that all important serum on their newly found motor skills. Back to you John.

Now, if you haven’t got a regular income since the collapse of all markets worldwide, never fear, we’ll except any fuel, tinned food and of course, weaponry. Versatile trench coats are at a premium, all you survivors out there but we’ve got a couple left in stock for low, low prices. You can look sexy and dispatch zombies at the same time. Bang and his head's gone!

Have you ever woken up, only to find you and all your survivor friends have been surround by a murder of crows and realise this scene has been unashamedly stolen from Hitchcock’s, The Birds? No need to panic friend, you have one thing the lovely Tippi Hedren didn’t have and that’s a giant flamethrower. At a bargain price this versatile armament will not only keep the little buggers at bay but also act as a BBQ flame. Mutant birds, that’s finger lickin’ good.


All purchases must be collected at the last bastion of mankind in sunny Alaska. See you soon and happy shopping.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Collective Coronary

I just saw a report on a South Korean reality TV show entitled Space Idol. This puts into context the sheer mediocrity of our own light entertainment situation. The US aren’t best pleased about South Korea having missile launch sites but I’m less worried about the arms race and more concerned with the light entertainment race.


South Korea already has a thick fiber optic infrastructure delivering, obviously, far superior light entertainment at warp speed. LG, one of the world’s leading technology companies build’s smart homes like we build council estates with faulty plumbing.

The BBC pisses away TV licence money on, Can Fat Teens Hunt and Strictly Come Dancing (for washed up TV journos, soap stars and whatever other dross) and ITV, when not robbing the viewing public through phone competition scams is spewing out X Factor 30, (which is XXX in roman numerals incidentally) South Korea, instead of combing their nation for the last vestiges of plebs that haven’t already been thrown into the reality TV coliseum, to be a once cheered and then thrown to the metaphorical lions, are training them to go to space. Space! Launching them into the great unknown not the front pages of Heat, Spam, Idiot or whatever other mags have taken the mantle of opium of the masses.



That’s where we’re going wrong: got a shortage of teachers, Teacher Idol. No doctors, Doctor Idol. Instead of brainwashing the next generation into thinking that they can become famous and therefore worthwhile, let’s show people actually using their grey goo for practical purposes.


That’s right; people win awards for actually doing something, you know, to further the advancement of the human race, yeah. The collective coronary the next generation are prophesied to have from fast food and faster dreams both inevitably evaporating and leaving congealing lard in both their bodies and minds, needn’t happen.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Adam Curtis and David Leigh on the history and future of journalism

Fast and cheap like the future of journalism apparently:

Umbrella Corporation up there with Unilever

Most corporations seem to be up to no good, some might say, evil. Despite this, I’m safe in the knowledge that when I use Dove shampoo to eradicate the infestation in my hair, I have no fear of contracting the T-virus. Tragically the citizens of Racoon City (genius name) weren’t so lucky. The Resident Evil or Biohazard series as it’s known in Japan, which strictly speaking is a more accurate title for the oozing subject matter each game is occupied with. Only a couple actually take place in a residence as such.

“Don’t mind him in the top flat, he’s the resident evil, deary.”

Imagine, now you’ve got to contend with a potentially monstrous neighbour and a dyslexic landlady. Anyway, in brief, like the amount of time it takes to turn into a zombie once bitten, Resident Evil follows some hapless characters, usually members of an elite police team known as S.T.A.R.S.

“Mum, Dad, I’m a star!”

“We never doubted it hun.”


However the characters are never the driving force as lurking in the shadows of the stock exchange is the Umbrella Corporation. The characters take on the role of lambs to the slaughter in the style of your usual horror pulp, except being S.T.A.R.S makes them slightly more adept at taking out giant snakes, spiders, frog men, zombies obviously and even a giant moth. Working for a corporation can be deadly especially when said corporation is prone to testing biological weapons on their employees. I always knew there was something wrong with the coffee machine.


The plot and dialogue of most Resident Evil games resembles the dregs of a B-movie archive but still manage to be genuinely scary a bit like George Wubya, you might laugh at his ineptitude but he’s still got a finger on the red button.

Covent Garden and the Covenant

Covent Garden brings on a fit of vivid memories: overpriced food, a suffocating miasma of tourists and usually silver painted twits pretending to be robots often scaring small children.



As part of Hellgate London’s replay-ability factor, the game randomly generates a version of famous London locations. One of these is Covent Garden, which you can tell from the video they managed to get rid of two out of the three annoyances. The hell spawn are actually buskers adapting to a new demographic.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Jericho and Dr Bloodmoney

Jericho is the unfolding story of a rural town in Kansas. The town is cut off after a series of nuclear explosions knock out major cities across the U.S. The concept resonated in the dark catacombs of my mind, responsible for memory, as similar to a Philip K (I took the GDP of a small country’s worth of amphetamines but it’s ok because Sci-Fi books didn’t sell for that much back then) Dick, title, Dr. Bloodmoney.


The citizenry of Jericho spend most of their time trying to discover the cause of the attacks and plan for basic survival. whereas the inhabitants in Dr. Bloodmoney are in no doubt that things can never go back to the way they were.

Dr. Bloodymoney definitely veers more into the traditional Sci-Fi vain. There are paranormal characters some as a direct cause of the radioactive fallout. By far one of the most unnerving characters is a small girl who wouldn’t be out of place as the star of a shock documentary, something like, The Girl Who Could Kill Things With Her Brain. She houses the embryo of her unborn twin who can communicate with her and has the ability to psychically project himself. The way Dick describes the latter ability made me think of a small white turd hurtling through the air. See, unnerving.Survival also extends to preserving the idea of civilised society. Those educated with engineering or foraging skills are regarded as first class citizens. As a result of the deterioration in infrastructure and supplies of luxury items, one character even sets up a small factory where he employs people to find discarded cigarette butts and masterly remake them. This sent a shiver down my spine as I realised, once when inebriated, I too had done the cigarette butt scrounging method, even without a mushroom cloud shadowing me. Truly, nuclear Armageddon and alcohol are the twin evils of our time.

Dr Bloodmoney plays out like a soap opera, with a few paranormal characters thrown in. It's as if one of the characters in your favourite soap overhears the details of an affair with their mind! It's that good. The plot explores what it would be like when a society has to contend with both its most base impulses whilst trying desperately to hold on to a sense of civilization. A bit like now really. I’m only half way through Jericho but it’s playing out much the same albeit with sci-fi lite elements.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Spanish for Everybody or how i let my son go to Tijuana with his irresponsible aunt

When I was younger, I was bilingual. Some would say it’s criminal that I didn’t keep it up but what’s even more criminal is lending your Nintendo DS to someone and them not giving it back! Such a crime is perpetrated against the protagonist of ‘Spanish for Everyone’ DS.





I especially like the line, ‘You’re the son of my favourite brother in law right?’ You’re the one who pulled up to him remember?! Then she offers her nephew a ride to Tijuana where, ‘I’m sure you’ll find lots of clues.’ Yes those and probably some other stuff too. I’m going to have my children tagged.


What they’re trying to imply by having the father of the Spanish child appear as a set of shady eyes and then being chased by the filth I don’t know but the intro does remind me of the point click intros of yore. Good times, esse.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Become a meta-human the DS way

The new Royal Navy careers campaign has the tagline, ‘Life without limits’ but this isn’t strictly true, it’s life with quite a lot of limits otherwise you might be responsible for starting WW3 or sinking your own battleship. It’s like saying to a newborn, behold, your life has no limits! Which may well be the case but more likely, depending on the geography, ethnicity and creed of the newborn, I’m afraid it’s going to be tricky and some might say limited.


That’s all a bit bleak but fear no more as with the new Nintendo DS, Touch Generation set of games you can become a true meta-human. What’s that, a bit thick you say? That’s ok friend, try new Brain Age or Big Brain Academy and you’ll soon have grey matter, which er, matters.

Tired of people shouting, ‘oooh eee specko, yo four eyes!’ No problem with the new Flash Memory game that trains your eyes to be like a proper person’s.

‘I like you but you just can’t dance.’ Hear this all too often? Shake your money maker with Elite Beat Agents and you’ll soon get a good beating from the rhythm stick.



Wow, you’re better than ever which means you’ll be doing all sorts of crazy, glamorous shit, no time to look after a pet, even a novelty one. Nintendogs to the rescue, no pooper scooping or expensive vet bills here.

Congratulations you’ve evolved into a meta-human, Nintendo be with you.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Teenager hires hit man after parents take away playstation

"In Leonardtown, Maryland, a 17-year-old boy admitted in court Friday to trying to hire a hit man to kill his parents after he reportedly became angry at them for confiscating his PlayStation.”

First I need to write, ‘only in America.’ Now that my digital tourettes has been sated, what more is there to say? This apparently: I remember when I was younger someone telling me that Mcally Culkin had divorced his own parents. This concept was incomprehensible to my juvenile mind; who would make him dinner, where would he live, who’d go to his parent’s evening at school? Still, he never tried to actually kill his parents, only to maim robbers with household items.


Even my apathy-encased brain thinks there are probably better reasons for offing your parents but not just for a Playstation 1. Playstation 2 maybe. Playstation 3, I’ve got them in the cross hairs already.

Halo 3 makes you a suicide bomber

One of my biggest problems with online games is the time spent, to the how good you are ratio. As I’m no longer a child, physically at least, I have neither the time or drive to become an ‘elite’ player at anything, even at life. I’m the very personification of the ‘casual gamer.’ It’s a better way of being, probably.


An article written by blah blah from Wired magazine talks about this same, Time x Eliteness = Bragging rights ratio, except to get around being constantly humiliated by thirteen year olds, he adopts the tactic of a suicide bomber/kamikaze pilot.

He draws parallels with the ‘economy’ of Halo and equating the same futility of going against hardcore players as akin to going against a western army. This is a bit of a stretch. I’ve made more surreal connections in this blog before but I’m hoping for my mental and physical health that you and more importantly the storm trooper authorities have taken it as jest.


With the time issue in mind, I’ve always been an advocate for a tiered gaming system. At the moment, for most MMO type games, you have the option to either enter a world where you’re predominately playing against computer controlled bots or a world where you play against other players.

I think there should be servers with names like: ‘Yes, I do have a job or if I play too long my loved one will leave me or I’m in full time education therefore this is my life or I’m twelve and therefore totally l33t etc That way, people like me can be grouped much more fairly and our general lameness will be disguised through sheer force of numbers.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Britz

“Hey, are you a suicide bomber? Me too! I just wasn’t very good at it.” The concluding part of Britz aired last night, note the ‘Z’ at the end cos it’s like all modern and dat init. The web or rather the bit that’s constructed with virtual fibres of irony and complaint that makes up the British Isles segment must be aflame by today.

Considering the subject matter, I think it was a pretty fair portrayal of both sides up to a point. The brother’s indoctrination into MI5 seemed plausible due to his natural ambition and sense that his country of heritage, Pakistan was still a bit backwards. The sister Nasima's story I found a little harder to mix household products and detonate it in the ‘good plot devices’ section of my brain.


It all started out well enough, young medical student, politicised against the injustices, and there are many, against what she considers to be her Muslim brothers and sisters. If I could list the keys events that turn a modern, moderate, Muslim woman into a suicide bomber, according to Britz it would go: police harassment, draconian laws, and persecution of best friend, friend suicide, radical meeting, and suicide bomber. It’s not exactly the strongest case. Regardless, both parts were exceedingly well written, no cheesy anglicises, a very well paced, topical drama.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

The Stars My Destination and Jumper

Jumper is about a group of people with the ability to ‘jump’ to any location on the planet. Useless geek knowledge: It’s a similar ability that both Nightcrawler and Blink have in the X-Men universe. More than anything, it reminds me of, Alfred Bester’s, ‘The Stars My Destination.


The Stars My Destination is like the drunk grandfather of what would become the cyberpunk genre. It’s one of the earliest science fiction novels I’ve read that deals with a dystopian future that includes: biological and technological enhancement, mega corporations and tribal sub-societies.

In Star’s, the jumping ability is known as jaunting. Since every person on the planet has the ability to go anywhere it raises some interesting socio-political issues. There is no longer a permanent work force; therefore projects tend not to make their deadline unless employees are part of an industrial family, imagine the Murdoch or Trump dynasty reaching far into the future; it’s the same depressing concept.


Living spaces no longer need to be centralised. One of the characters lives in a high-rise building in the middle of a forest. Tramps, drug addicts and vagrants can now bust-a-move, no longer restricted to street corners; large tribal migrations are common.

Jaunting is only one ingenious facet of a truly remarkable story. Despite being written in the 50s, The Stars My Destination can jaunt in, slap around any contemporary narrative and jaunt out again before the author can look up another word for 'ouch' in the thesaurus. Go read it now, look there’s even a link!

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Small or large scale?

And so it was that the young farmer boy left town and took his first step into an epic adventure. But why does he have to leave town at all? There are still things to do. I can understand the need for narratives to build into all encompassing, epic adventures, where people, the planet and sometimes even the universe hang in the balance but I’ve always been a big fan of the small scale.


I never wanted to lead my men from their patrol of the small towns in the beginning of Myth. I didn’t want to step outside Kakariko village as a young Link in Zelda Ocarina of Time. Why’s everyone forcing this, ‘you are the chosen one’ in every Final Fantasy game on me, why can’t I hang out in the starting area indefinitely? Damn you story arcs!

Speedrun

I’m training, I’m training hard. My muscles are taught like steel cables, my eyes blurry with concentration, and my heart pounds with exertion. I’m beating my best time and then, the console dies. Obviously, I’m not training for the marathon, what with athletes relieving themselves along the roadside. I’m talking about the much more hygienic exertion that is ‘speed running.’ Speed running involves so much practice and OCDness that I’m sure if you rounded up the best speed runners in the world and hooked them all together, they would create a geek singularity.


Speed running is an attempt to get the fastest possible time for completing a game. This is either done by running a game so many times that every short cut is as memorable to you as Mickey Mouse’s sinister face or by a process known as ‘sequence breaking.’ Don’t be fooled, I thought the term sounded cool too, like it had some proximity to ‘hacking’ or ‘code breaking’ but in fact it’s more to do with utilising glitches within a given game. Lame. I’ve put two examples below but please lets try and isolate these people as much as possible less we suffer the geek black hole of doom.



Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Story driven: MMOs versus single player

I like conclusion. Finality. That’s not to say a story has to have a definitive ending but if something happens, I take it to have happened forever. That notion extends to films, TV, books, games etc once I’ve watched, read, played it, it’s happened. Defeating the enemy, the death of a character, whatever, once it’s been fused into my grey matter it becomes as permanent as the stain near the cat litter box.

Every single player game I’ve ever played has been resolved. I can talk to others and they can confirm these virtual events, like two mental patients finding something tangible in a world of shadows. Most of the time, when you’ve killed the evil aliens, monster, king and the game gives you the option to carry on playing, it’s sometimes to comply to the OCD completists amongst us, other times it’s included for those with low self esteem, who can be congratulated over and over again by mindless non-player characters, singing their praises for saving them and the virtual world they reside in.


The idea of people/players experiencing narratives together is demonstrated strongest in MMOs. In games such as Battlefield or Quake Wars the story acts simply as a motivation, beyond the base human need for competition and destruction. A game like World of Warcraft or Tabula Rasa rely more heavily on the narrative to move the gaming world forward, that and people’s need to get the best ‘loot’ for ‘bragging rights’ purposes.

What’s jarring to my irrational need for conclusion, is the idea of ‘respawning.’ It’s an essential game mechanic in MMOs that allows all players to attempt to kill the same end of dungeon boss or pick up object a) and take it to place b) but because of this very mechanic there can never be a sense of completion.


I’m all for replayability but only in the full knowledge that I know what happens at the conclusion of that game. I enjoyed playing Myth II over and over but I was always aware of what was going to happen next and how ultimately the villain was going to go down. It seems odd that a game like WoW can bring out new expansion packs with impressive trailers, that have villain x taunting, now it’s my turn, blah, blah, blah, when you and anyone else can retrace your steps and every bastard you wasted so many hours, gathering the right equipment for, mastering your skills etc can still be there smirking a pixalated smile. You can’t talk about a dynamically changing virtual world when so many aspects are so blatantly static.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Synectics’ top ten most genius people alive

The global consulting business Synectics’ top ten most genius people alive today…what makes them qualified to compile this list…dunno:


1= Albert Hofmann (Swiss) chemist (genius factor 27)

1= Tim Berners-Lee (British) computer scientist (27)

3 George Soros (American) investor and philanthropist (25)

4 Matt Groening (American) satirist and animator (24)

5= Nelson Mandela (South African) politician and diplomat (23)

5= Frederick Sanger (British) chemist (23)

7= Dario Fo (Italian) writer & dramatist (22)

7= Stephen Hawking (British) physicist (22)

9= Oscar Niemeyer (Brazilian) architect (21)

9= Philip Glass (American) composer (21)

9= Grigory Perelman (Russian) mathematician (21)

Matthew Barney, Drawing Restraint, Serpentine

Matthew Barney is a fawn but as well as that he’s a 2nd renaissance man, delving into the mediums of film, video, installations, sculpture, photography, drawing and performance art. I went to see his exhibition ‘Drawing Restraint’ at the Serpentine this weekend, mainly due to it being a nice day and the Serpentine’s free to boot.


I had no idea who Matthew Barney was other than he had some romantic connection to Icelandic, cyber, snow queen, Bj√∂rk. I’d unwitteningly come across Barney before, on the cover of my girlfriend’s modern art book, looking like you’d imagine the devil might, if he were a metrosexual. The image was unsettlingly and if the book were left out in the open I’d do my best to ignore it.

Within the exhibition you can’t swing a hoof without hitting fawns galore. Photographs capturing a Greco-roman (or for the rest of you, WWF) type match, between two such mythical creatures are everywhere.


From what I gathered Barney spent a lot of time on a Japanese whaling boat. Apart from showing off his artistic skill, hanging off said boat and still managing to churn out some very good sketches, he must have seen the process of whale hunting in all its unpleasantness.

The installation pieces are large intimidating things, like the deck of a large vessel. He’s recreated the whaling deck covered in pristine white wax, harpoons and all. In another piece it looks like an unfortunate whale has just been carved up, large slabs of animal fat are rolled out like rotten garden lawns. It’s a great exhibit and highlights what someone with natural talent can achieve when they’re twisted mind is allowed to play with an assortment of materials. Just don’t tell Moby Dick.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Lord Puttnam: we need more moral virtual worlds

Opening a London conference about virtual worlds, Lord Puttnam, oscar-winning, film-maker said:

That all children will learn from these virtual spaces is that they are first and foremost consumers. He urged creators to build more moral virtual worlds that instill children with the values societies need.

How can someone with a lordship talk such utter Monkey Balls. Need I remind you that the strictest moral body around, the Vatican gave the ok to Pokemon and their ilk years ago, stating that it promoted responsibility and friendship.


There will always be the Bratz, Barbie’s and Webkinz etc, who lack the imagination and or are actively trying to extend their advertisements into the virtual space that children are increasing choosing to spend more of their free time in. But for every shallow tie-in there are genuinely fun and moral fiber building games.


Lego Universe the planned MMO based on the famous block building toy will give children the choice of taking on various civic roles within that world, such as a fireman, policeman etc. Viva Pinata encourages children to nurture fantastical animals and to be weary of the ‘bullies’ that will randomly trespass into their world, destroying what they’ve built. I believe if you look beyond the established brands that have promoted shallow values since their creation, a plethora of moralistic worlds exist within the virtual domain.