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!


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.

Offspring rat out parents on social networking sites

It’s like the end of Fatherland all over again. If you’re not familiar with the Robert Harris book or the TV adaptation staring Rutger Hauer, basically the Axis (the real one, not the George W. Bush one) won the Second World War. The Nazi’s have surpassed themselves in oppression. A detective discovers a plot that could cause Hitler quite an upset on his 60th birthday. I’m sort of spoiling the end but when it looks like our hero might succeed, his own son reports him to the secret police.

That’s one end of the jackboot (the pointy end) but the other is happening right now. More and more parents albeit in the US mostly, are finding that what their children say on social networking sites is coming back to stamp on them like the other end of the aforementioned jackboot.

“Many families are getting hurt according to internet safety expert Parry Aftab.

‘I've represented a lot of parents who've come to me when they have been fired, they've been demoted, or they've been called on the carpet because of what their kids posted online,’ Attab said.”

If I were you, I’d get your children to implement all the privacy options available; otherwise it’s the knock at the door in the middle of the night for you.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

GPS Jacket or do you know where your kids are? You do now.

Blade Runner, not only the name of the genius neo-noir, Phillip K Dick inspired film but also the name of a clothing manufacturer, that specialises in threads for the feds or something to that affect. They’ve just test run a jacket that has a built in GPS tracker. It’s built for parents who are obviously so over-protective and paranoid of the outside world that, one has to question their suitability in raising a functioning human psyche in the first place.

For all you certifiable parents, it costs £250 with an extra £80 for a gangland, slash proof, Kevlar lined version. If your going to shell out on the jacket in the first place, you may as well convince your child that there is a high probably that they’ll get stabbed at some point, maybe by an irate postman.It’s £10 a month for a subscription which is the same as playing World of Warcraft and at least that way you can guarantee they’d be at home the majority of the time without infringing on their human rights. For all you ‘soccer mums’ and ‘road warrior’ dads, you can check on the location of your offspring anywhere, anytime, via mobile, laptop or crackberry.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

TV Links shut down, a pirate lord falls

'Flicking,’ mindlessly going through the hundreds of channels available, searching hopefully but ultimately in vain, for something half decent to watch. This is our collective sin.

The time wasting, life-sapping habit had finally come to an end when I discovered the now debunked TV A new world had been opened up. Shows that friends had recommended like Deadwood and The Wire suddenly became available in all their well-written glory. No longer would I be denied for having the wrong TV subscription or not living in the U.S.

It’s a great loss. Despite having a disclaimer and not actually hosting any copyrighted material on the site per say, the pirate lord behind it has been taken into custody. The question is why has he been prosecuted and the chief executives of YouTube, Mega Video, Tudo etc haven’t? If you’re a big enough fish, can you avoid being caught? In any case, we salute you pirate lord, whoever you are.

Monday, 22 October 2007

One set top box to rule them all.

I don’t know which one to choose…to play or not to play. The choice for many today is one between consoles (you can forget actual meaningful fulfilment.) Do I go for a ludicrously expensive PS3, a chunky Xbox 360 with a predominantly testosterone driven game library or the oh so trendy, occupying granddad and child alike, Wii?

It’s a tricky question, especially with vastly different online, media and game options. But if it’s tricky for you and I, the gormless buying public imagine what a nightmare it must be for developers, working things out for three different models. Mind microwavingly hard.

That’s probably why senior executive at Electronic Arts Gerhard Florin has said, "I am not sure how long we will have dedicated consoles - but we could be talking up to 15 years." A call to arms perhaps?

He goes on to predict the importance of sever based games and or streaming content direct to set top boxes. I quite like the idea of having just one box in my living room vs. the five or six some people who have too much blood money seem to accumulate. The concept of Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo channels on your set top box has my seal of strudel.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Facebook and Myspace or the tortoise and the hare

Which network will ultimately win? Does it matter, and can there actually be an all out winner? Can you be better at one than the other? I had a friend say to me, all be it when they were a bit pissed, “I’m winning at Facebook.” We're no longer friends.My bias lies with Facebook as of now, the interface is simple and slick, they’re not owned by an evil entity…yet and allowing third party developers to build applications from the off, resonates very strongly with me.

I read today however, that Myspace still has more users than Facebook globally, (I have to wonder how many of those are active users) and that they’ve announced third party application development too. The fight goes on here and here.

The Witcher (Vizima according to Geralt)

Xenophobia, religious fervour, moral hypocrisy, segregation and lynching, no I’m not talking about the Confederate States but the world of the Witcher. It’s unnerving to think some of these aspects still apply today in our own world let alone in the Witcher’s, which is set in a medieval fantasyland, all bit it a grim one.

There are no Tolkienesque ‘Grand Alliances’ between races; there are humans at the top and then everyone else. Bigotry is rife and the other races are forced to live in squalid ghettos. Geralt, the Witcher in question, is a sterile mutant who can pass for being human, just one that needs to spend more time in the sun. He’s been trained to be a monster hunter, a sort of other worldly pest exterminator.

The Witcher, which is now being turned into an immersive game, started off as a collection of short stories by the Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. The parallels with our own world converge again if you were to ask most middle Englander’s if the knew any Poles who weren’t currently fixing their plumbing, looking after their brats or building their new home.

Take a look at the trailer below for some of Geralt’s inner monologue as he explores a human town. Oh and look out for the creepy munchkin at the end…

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

GT Retrospectives

There are certain achievements that deserve accolades and praise: Sequencing the human genome, the discovery of penicillin, the prose of Shakespeare etc. Achievements are fantastic things but it’s their recording, contemplation and analysis that allows these great works to trickle down into the populace’s consciousness. Game Trailers has done just that with they’re remarkable digital tomes: GT Retrospectives.

A short coming of my biologicals was that I didn’t exist when the first versions of these epic series were created. I didn’t, until recently, have any real perspective on how revolutionary each of these series were, not only to the gaming industry but also to the cultural zeitgeist. OK, I got a bit carried away there, the last bit was an exaggeration but even if you’re not a games fan I’d implore you to watch at least one episode from each retrospective, if only to get some idea of the creativity and innovation that went into combining storytelling, music, art and game play together in these true classics:

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

The Sopranos, Bada Bing

*Ambulance siren*

Dr: What’s he taken?

Nurse: He’s ODed on Sopranos.

And it’s true, I have. I’ve consumed series two to five in the space of a week. When the Sopranos first aired I watched it more for the violence, the bada bing antics and occasional nudity that were key interests at thirteen years of age.

The numerous allusions were lost on my feeble young mind. Despite my recent revelations concerning the series, I don’t want to go into why the Soprano’s is great, that’s been covered ad nauseam on the blogger sphere and beyond. Instead I wanted to list some of the stranger thoughts and feelings the Sopranos conjures up:

a) The Sopranos makes me hungry. They’re always eating. I’ve never craved spaghetti and lasagne so much in my whole life.

b) Body image: Watching these overweight, middle-aged men makes me feel hopeful for the future. As long as you’re a ‘wise guy’ being fat or going bald doesn’t necessarily equate to becoming unattractive to the opposite sex.

c) Being a ‘civilian’ is infinitely more attractive than being a ‘made man.’ Despite the vast sums of money, women and power, the betrayal, violence, incompetence and stupidity of being a gangster is as appealing as swimming with the fishes…in the Thames.

Customization sensation

I’ve never understood the customization impulse, at least not when it comes to physical objects. Below is a series of modded consoles and PC ‘rigs.’ I can understand the drive to stand out, to personalise, to outwardly express ‘who you are’ to the rest of the world but aren’t there better things to spend your money on?

I’m not denying that cars, coffins, consoles can all be made to look cool with a bit of imagination and customization but maybe I’m just too lazy or not aspergers enough. That being said, I’ve easily pissed away hours of this mortal toil ‘levelling up’ characters in computer games, so maybe I am aspergers enough. Pass me a soldering iron!

Monday, 15 October 2007

Bridge Art Fair London 2007

Swanky hotel, just off Trafalgar square, which meant dodging the seething tide of tourists all wanting to ride the big lions. Showed our press tickets to the bored attendant and took the lift to the first of five floors of pure artage.

Each hotel room still retained all the normal furnishings but the walls, ceilings and sometimes bathrooms were jammed pack with different kinds of art. Of the five floors and various artistic mediums there was one constant. Each room had at least one representative from the gallery that was showcasing.

We would sometimes be greeted with a polite, “hello” or “hi” or even “howdy.” Then things would go either two ways: the attendant would be laid back and genuinely happy to have someone to talk to or they would pretend to be completely oblivious to our existence and form a face like someone just farted. Lucky for us, most were friendly and more than happy to discuss the various pieces.

I’m unconvinced by the hotel room format for show casing but with a little imagination (the gallery from Antwerp recreated the room like a mini squat rave, banging bass et al) these crampt confines can be made ideal for fobbing off frescos.

I crawled out of the Bridge Art Fair, eyes bleeding and brain pounding. Taking in thousands of images and styles in the space of a couple hours is truly a unique experience.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Bridge Art Fair London

I'm going here today. Expect full philistine reviewage.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Red, wet and white

People bleed white. Apart from sounding dangerously like a National Front or BNP slogan; in this trailer for Wet, you’ll notice that anyone who gets shot or maimed generally bleeds white goo. You could make a joke about the game being dubbed ‘wet’ and the connection with the white viscous goo but I’d like to think it hasn’t come to that.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Orange Box better quality

The amount of times I’ve posted about this, you could be forgiven for surmising that I am in the employ of Valve (if only; please Valve take me away in a rapture of cool logos and electronic music) but it’s actually because I found a better quality version of a video that was posted before.

SimCity Societies, Green or Carbon utopia?

Just when you thought cities were old masonry, SimCity Societies appears on the horizon. I used to love the first Sim City game, there’s nothing quite like it to teach you the fundamentals of human nature, all be it in some very simplistic terms.

Got a problem with crime? Build police stations everywhere. Don’t want a stuuuupid populace? Build universities. People protesting? Send in the army to crush them. And so it goes until you have a statistical utopia. Then you can destroy it with floods, earthquakes and even a giant alien eye. All of life’s lessons in one place.

Now we live in more complicated times, apparently. The methods of old simply don’t apply anymore. That’s why SimCity Societies lets you influence every aspect of your simmy Sims. Want a complete 1984 totalitarian society? A crazy fun loving society with carnival buildings? Or maybe mix and match and have jackboot clad police with a smiley face like a Banksy painting.
The trailer below shows the difference between a thriving but ultimately, environmentally choking, industrial complex or a green powered wonderland. No plastic surgery prizes for guessing which system the developers favour.

Portal end song

I feel like a proper person after writing *SPOILER* for the first time.

Below is the ‘ending song’ of the ‘brain melting – off beat genius’ that is Valve’s Portal. The song appeals to my mild tourette’s by using the loveable, synthetic robooootz voice. The roboootz sings a charming song about being blown up, thrown into fires and the benefits of science. Turn your speakers up. *SPOILER**SPOILER**SPOILER*, bloody tourette’s.

I'm the same wherever I go

The unimaginative and lazy rejoice for IBM and Linden Lab are creating a universal avatar design system. The system will enable the creation of one virtual avatar that can transcend the walled boundaries of online spaces such as Second Life and WoW.

They claim the avatar will change between these different online worlds but will maintain it’s basic characteristics and personal information.

I’d like to know the finer details on how much similarity the avatar would retain between worlds. A character in Second Life might look just like you but crossing them over into a fantasy game where they suddenly grow horns or placing them in a sci-fi game and finding they’ve suddenly become a glob of goo seems pointless.

It’s an interesting idea and seems similar in principle to the Metaplace software. I’m not sure of the net gain of having a character with the same characteristics for every online world you might like to visit will be. Surely, the enjoyment comes from playing completely different characters both in physical appearance and characteristics from game to game or within the same online world.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

City 17 vs London

Is London becoming City 17? Here are some startling similarities to the oppressed metropolis:
The proposed Shard of Glass skyscraper bares a striking resemblance to City 17's own Combine Citadel.

City 17’s Civil Protection units that could easily be mistaken for our own CO19 armed response units enforce Law and order.

And I'm pretty sure I even saw a Strider the other day.

Delusional paranoia? Yes, probably. Here's something that isn't fabricated, from the Guardian:

"George Churchill-Coleman, who headed Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad as they worked to counter the IRA during their mainland attacks in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said Mr Clarke's proposals to extend powers, such as indefinite house arrest, were "not practical" and threatened to further marginalise minority communities.

Mr Churchill-Coleman told the Guardian: "I have a horrible feeling that we are sinking into a police state, and that's not good for anybody. We live in a democracy and we should police on those standards.

He added: "I have serious worries and concerns about these ideas on both ethical and practical terms. You cannot lock people up just because someone says they are terrorists. Internment didn't work in Northern Ireland it won't work now. You need evidence."

Blogger's Block

So until I can think of something decent to write about, here's Edward R Murrow on the future of television...

"We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

To those who say people wouldn't look; they wouldn't be interested; they're too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter's opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost. This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. Good night, and good luck."

Monday, 8 October 2007

Louis Bourgeois and Doris Salcedo exhibitions at Tate Modern

Louis Bourgeois, French lady, obsessed with sex which is a pre-requisite for being an artist, so it's a good start. What struck me more than the overt sexuality of the sculptures and paintings that make up the show was the crowd it pulled in. We had press passes and missed the film crews but I did catch a glimpse of Phillip (I’m so soft spoken you have to strap a microphone to my larynx to hear my gasps) Glass, the culture correspondent for Channel 4 news. The assorted press seemed undead, well, that’s a bit unfair but I did think I’d accidentally stumbled on a pensioner’s day out. Everyone seemed bemused by our presence but we gave them all a mental ‘piss off and check your colostomy bags.’

Sex plays big parts in Bourgeois’ work but my favourite pieces were, possibly the least sexed up. I found ‘Spider’ a giant iron spider outside the Tate (those of you who aren’t smug enough to get press passes or simply want the cheap option, you can just go and stand outside the Tate. There is however a prototype version inside the exhibit that is more impressive. Spider looks like it just walked out of a Sci-fi B-movie which is probably why it resonated as strongly as it did for me, even in a high art environment I can’t help regressing into juvenile geekness.

‘Experiments in Nature’ was more ‘t3h s3x’ than Spider but apart from its remarkable, ugly beauty, it reminded me a lot of Michael Renouf’s, ‘Man’s best friend.’ I wouldn’t put a secret love of sculpture past Mr. Renouf, so maybe it was all an homage after all. ‘Experiments in Nature’ or Hell Hound as I dubbed it in mind, looks just that, some weird chimera, abomination. It could definitely pass for Cerberuses bastard offspring. The smooth marble finish makes you forget or at least suppress what it represents and it takes on a Lovecraftian attractiveness.

Doris Salcedo’s, Shibboleth was the second press packed event we wrangled our way into. Earthquake. That’s what first popped into my philistine, media saturated mind. Salcedo has cracked the floor of the massive Tate Modern Turbine Hall across its entire length. Taking the sight in from the first floor is impressive enough but it isn’t until you walk the length of the Tate, does the effort involved actually sink in. I was just starting to get my thoughts organised about the engineering, materials and how it was making my synthetic feeling centres react, when I was ambushed by a journalist from LBW radio or something like that, who wanted to know what was happening in my empty cranium. Three minutes and a stream of consciousness, (which is equivalent to me actually taking a shit out of my own mouth) later and she’d obviously clocked on that she was faced with a moron. The interview is on tonight or tomorrow on the LBW Radio afternoon news, apparently.

The excitement didn’t end once we’d left the bowls of the Tate. The trip home was delayed as the announcer informed us, ‘emergency engineering work is taking place’ which in actuality meant that three guys with a hammer were bashing away at the track right in front of a dumbstruck crowd. I’ve made my feelings on the Tube clear before but this visual metaphor sums it up: Three men, one hammer, bashing the rail. Then if that hadn’t blown my excitement box already we saw a washed up actor from Hollyoaks. Hollyoaks is a soap opera for teenagers in England that helps to pasteurise their brains in an attempt to stop them being the most drugged up, drunk and STD radioactive teenagers in all of Europe. It doesn’t work that well.

Friday, 5 October 2007

illegal file sharing or fighting for louis harkell's soul

I saw this story today on the BEEEEB about Jammie Thomas, who was fined £109,000 for illegal file sharing. Apart from making the record industry look even more reactionary than usual, it reminded me of a story in the Guardian. This was a few years ago and to my surprise there in inky print was the name of my good friend Louis Harkell:

“Louis Harkell was fined for downloading music from Kazaa.”

“The last email I expected from my parents while teaching in Thailand was one saying I'd been fined £2,500 for downloading music from Kazaa. I had roughly 1,000 tunes, which I had made available for upload. Uploading is what turned out to be the illegal action. Yet never does it say on Kazaa that what you are doing is illegal.”

Liar, liar, digital downloads on fire. Not about Kazaa failing to mention the legal ramifications but he certainly had more songs than that. Teaching? Teaching what, how to steal?

“Having broadband and Kazaa meant I had hundreds of thousands of tunes at my fingertips. I'd write a list of tunes I wanted, queue them up before I went to bed and have a whole new section of music in the morning. I totally re-educated myself musically. When you compare that to slogging about a music store to buy an album which costs £12 and which has only two or three tracks on that you like, it's hard not to see why so many people do it.”

Walking around the neon lit racks of a Virgin Megastore is certainly an experience I don’t miss. The few legal tracks I have bought in the past couple of years have been from i-Tunes. But their policy of only being able to authorise a track five times is insane and impractical.

If you truly want to fight piracy you have to provide a viable alternative. Sites like Last FM and Pandora Radio are indicators of where the big players should be heading. A service that is usually quite accurate in determining similar songs you might like based on complex algorithms is a good idea. Anything with algorithms is a good idea; think how scientific the word sounds, A-L-G-O-R-I-T-H-M-S.

“I certainly won't be downloading music again. I know my friends will be less sure too. I've been burnt badly. Yet this does not make me look kindly upon the music industry, who dominate the production of music, feeding us glammed-up dross and getting upset when people go looking for something different.”

I haven’t learned anything. I still sail the seven digital seas, looting and pillaging, arrrrr. But Louis is quite right; your time is over record companies. With the advent of digital distribution and marketing that can be accomplished by the band/group themselves, what place is there for you in the future, unless you innovate?

Thursday, 4 October 2007

The state of the Benunion

Why no love, Russia? If I talked about Putin or the fact that a William Gibson novel was partly based there, then would you change your mind?

Too much democracy for you China? I know, it's because of all the talk of 'firewalls' and such, isn't? Well, I'm not sorry, so there.

Why the cold shoulder Iceland?

Any suggestions on how to make these countries green, both on my google map and in the environmental sense, please comment below…

Beowulf, Folklore and Fables

“Don’t look at me, I ain’t gonna tell ya.” Is the parting shot from Ray Winstone about whether to eat some generic cereal, as it contains more fortified vitamins than another brand. If he uttered the same sentence as Beowulf, when asked how to take care of the Grendel problem, it probably would have gone down just as well.

The story, or should I say epic poem, of Beowulf (I only know this thanks to my comprehensive school education) is about a warrior from the Geats tribe (Germans) who goes to Denmark to stop the people of Heorot from getting repeatedly done over by a monster called Grendel.

He kills him, there’s something about nailing his arm to a door (they were hardcore back then) which antagonises Grendel’s mum to no end. She comes to settle the score but Beowulf, the original action hero, dispatches her too.

He becomes king with a throne very much like that of Conan the Barbarian’s. Years later a dragon comes along, Beowulf a little bit passed it, like Steven Segal is now, decides to give it a go. He manages to take out said dragon but is mortally wounded in the process. Phew.

The film version is co-written by Neil Gaiman, who did the heavily folklore influenced Sandman series. He’s also got another film out, Stardust which again is big on the monsters, pirates, princesses, magic etc shtick.

All this leads conveniently to the recently, magiked into existence game, Folklore. As the name implies, it’s about Folklore or rather, just ‘Folks.’ You play either as Ellen whose issues over her mother’s death lead her to the seaside town of Doolin, or as Keats (not the poet) who is a paranormal journalist (I want that on my CV).

The ‘Folks’ are spirits that can either be captured by Ellen for use against other folks or simply absorbed by Keats to modify his journo brawling style that I’m sure many on Fleet Street will be familiar with.

The last verse in this folk song is Fables, a long running comic strip by Bill Willingham. It follows the lives of famous folk story characters such the Big Bad Wolf, Prince Charming, Snow White etc living in a residential building in present day Manhattan after being exiled from ‘The Homelands’ by Gepeto (Pinnocchio’s dad) posing as the totalitarian Adversary.

What’s interesting about Fables is how all the characters are the polar opposites of what you’d expect; The Big Bad Wolf now goes by Biggy and is the resident sheriff, a kind of film noir detective character, that constantly has to smoke to keep all the modern day scents at bay. Prince Charming is a complete cad and constantly tries to seduce someone new, so he has a place to sleep for the night and Goldie Locks has matured into a gun toting, animal rights revolutionary with more than just a platonic relationship with youngest of the Three Bears.

I couldn’t leave without mentioning ‘The Storyteller.’ Everyone likes John Hurt and what better vehicle for him, than to tell old folk stories with the help of Jim Henson’s unique puppets. Here’s a link to one of the many interesting tales. Beats the Hogwarts out of Harry Pothead any day. So, with all this folk about, it’s probably a good idea to get yourself a fire place

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

David Cameron conference speech (Facebook groups)

A second ago he mentioned how he cruises Facebook and found two groups: one called, 'Who else thinks David Cameron is a hottie?' had a few members. The second group, 'Am I the only one who doesn't like David Cameron?' had many more.

Oh, David, you've won me and all my yoot friends over with your talk of social networking and the Facebookness.

I suppose it's marginally more likely than Gordon Brown downloading the Pirate vs. Ninja's application...Stay out you dirty politicians with your 'down with the kids' buzzwords! I'm going to vote for the MCP this time round.