Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Tilt Shift London

London made to look like a miniature. Can the producers at the BBCs drama unit (Sherlock, Luther & Wallender in particular, but no doubt others) have a look at this and realise that "tilt shift" is OK for fun little YouTube videos and then please stop using it?

Cricket Is A Serious Game

Monday, 2 August 2010

LIMBO: A Review

"Hahaha. You just got squashed."

Andrea. She doesn't always get my jokes —it's a language thing, I tell myself—, but when my onscreen avatar has a large box dropped on him she laughes like a drain. I guess among other things LIMBO is good to watch.

Games must have it down, now. A certain feeling of weight, that is. Batman: Arkham Asylum definitely felt like you were moving something like a real, large person and Assassin's Creed II has you feeling like a much more fleet and agile one.

LIMBO has you controlling the silhouette of a little boy with glowing eyes who has awoken in a forest of shades of grey and obstacles and ropes and giant spiders that are just the right size for the boy to tackle. It's a beautiful, ancient forest that flickers like an old movie and even it's horrors have a delicate allure to them.

But there's a nice weight here to the boy. His movements feel right, he moves at a slight jog and only jumps a foot or two in the air. He can't swim, but he's quite strong. Strong enough to pull helpful boxes around, anyway.

It also has any number of creepy, well animated deaths if you don't get everything just right. They are funny. If you aren't me. The games does have a fine atmosphere everything has the slightly off feeling of a dream. It's Kafkaesque, I think, though what I probably mean is that it reminds me of Orson Welles' take on The Trial.

Sound plays a very important part, too. There are clues in the noises of the game, and sometimes the action takes place off-screen, but you do hear it.

LIMBO is not particularly original. It is a puzzle-platform game. There's nothing that hasn't been done before. But LIMBO does it very, very well. It maintains a consistent atmosphere throughout and some of the later "twists" feel that much larger for the relative slightness of the earlier ones. It also doesn't outstay its welcome. You can probably finish it in a couple of hours. Those who feel that a euro an hour is right for a game will be very disappointed, but for those who will pay a premium for a finely crafted piece of art will be well rewarded by it.

Friday, 30 July 2010

If You've Just Got Over You Canabalt Addiction...

...On no account do you want to play Epic Coaster. Especially as it adds things like achievements and a global highscore table...

Friday, 16 July 2010


I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

No, really. I put in the text of the "A Bad Day For My Childhood" post and that's what came out. I suspect shenanigans, but what can you do?

UPDATE: Making Light suspects shenanigans, too, and tries to prove it.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Gaming News

So, Ron Gilbert is starting to take over X-Box Live Arcade.

Last week it was the excellent refit of Monkey Island 2: Le Chucks Revenge. And what a refit it is! New art, new commentaries, vastly improved control scheme and classic, classic gameplay. It's not really as funny as you might remember it — the games have always been warm smile, broad humour than laugh out loud (for the most part) — and some of the puzzles verge on the obscure (especially if you aren't listening carefully for the clues, I'm not entirely sure it's obvious why you need to win the spitting competition, for an example, or why you can pick up certain animals...). Video game writing, though, doesn't get much better than this.

This week is DeathSpank which starts off loud and rather crass and I hope it continues in that vain. I've not played it enough to form firm opinions on it yet, but the art direction and the writing have a unique feel to them from the start and that warm, broad humour is here in spades.

Now if he could get Telltale Games to convert the latest Monkey Island game to the XBox Ron's canonisation would be assured.

Also, Lego Batman was fun, Shepard's new Aegis armour in Mass Effect 2 is funky, and Leliana's Song for Dragon Age: Origins is a good blast of what made DA:O fun in the first place, hopefully I will eventually have the couple of hours needed to finish it.

More Roadzters

For the many Roadzters fans out there wondering when The Roadzters are they going to drop (that's the hip term these days, right?) their next youtube joint (mmm-hmm) here it is:

Friday, 2 July 2010

Homeopaths Get Taste Of Own Medicine

I guess there's some good in everything. An article in the Telegraph looking at a recent vote by doctors to cut homeopathy funding concludes:
And really, homeopaths shouldn’t be too disappointed. In fact, they should be grateful. After all, by their own logic, the less funding they get, the more effective it will be.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

A Bad Day For My Childhood

I just found out that Johnny Ball, who was something of a hero of mine when I was growing up, is a Climate Change Denier. It's all down to spider farts, or something.

It is a little sad that he was booed off the stage by those who were there to hear it, though there is comedy value in the fact that contrarians can use this to show just how close minded scientists and "liberal atheists" are. Why it's almost like they are religious zealots or something. Brendan O'Neill[1], over at the deeply contrarian Spiked mag, has just such a rant handy. That is if you can get past his ultra-smug mug pic at the top of the piece...
The new collective of liberal atheists, of agitated ‘rationalists’, of Keepers Of The Scientific Truth As Revealed Unto Them By Richard Dawkins, can tolerate nothing so intolerable as someone taking the piss out of scientific theories about climate change.

You can tell by the inappropriate capitalisation that he is being satirical and by the arch use of "Unto" he's making a point about belief.

Atheism and science being relatively large churches, it's unsurprisingly easy to find disappointing people among the godless and the supposedly-rational.

The opposite of Atheism is, of course Theism, and most opinion-piece writers would, I hope, baulk at making general comments about Theists. A belief in God, god or gods tells you virtually nothing else about a person.

O'Neill here is hoping that by appending "liberal" to atheist he's narrowing the field. There are atheists, many of them good people, you see, but it's the "liberal" atheists you have to watch out for. Perhaps he could have narrowed it down to "muesli-eating, non smoking, yoga practising, Guardian reading, theatre loving, Volvo driving, liberal" atheists but I'm hoping his editor would have called him on that.

This is all to point up the irony. The liberals aren't allowing free-speech and the men of science aren't rational. How can we expect the other side to be any better?

Free speech doesn't mean having to listen to rubbish, though. And Science doesn't mean having to rehash all the arguments because someone wishes to. Climate change is well accepted now, to change people's opinions you have to do more than hand wave over some spider farts. It's not that they don't want to hear, it's that they have heard it. Many times. It wasn't right the last time and it won't be right now, almost the definition of a false hypothesis. Free speech isn't meant to weaken debate. It's meant to enhance it, at certain times having an opinion is enough (or handy access to Google, it's almost the same thing nowadays) but to change rational people's minds you need evidence.

It does seem, though, that climate change is leading to larger spiders, so Johnny Ball may actually be on to something.

[1] His blogspot url used to be boneill.blogspot.com and I can't help but think of him as "bone ill" for no good reason.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Congratulations To Eamon & Karin

This is late because I was ill. Yes, as always, it's all about me. I even get a mention in the news report.

Totally Old Skool Man

Ice Cube and The Roots drop "Straight Outta Compton" at Late Night.

This is just a blast, if you have ever felt a nostalgic pang for 80's hip-hop this will make you grin like a mother-mother.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

P-p-pick Up A Penguin

I'm not exactly sure if the above is a real product or not. But it sure is cute and I would definitely buy one.

It's related to a bunch of redesigned Penguin book covers created by Amy Fleisher that are equally fun.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

On Writing Near Future SF

I think you can paraphrase this blog from Charlie Stross as: Writing Near-Future Science Fiction is bloody hard because the near future can be so bloody unpredictable.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Why People Are Wrong

A Visual Study Guide to Cognitive Biases
Cognitive biases are psychological tendencies that cause the human brain to draw incorrect conclusions.

I shall be printing this out and commiting it all to memory just to be even more aggravating when you are arguing with me...

Ah, Dunning-Kruger where would my superiority be without you?

Via Boing Boing

Update: Edited to correct a spelling mistake. Obviously I think my spelling is much better than it is and didn't bother to proof-read my article.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Chevrolet performed by the Roadzters

One of my brother's many and varied bands have got a new video on youtube. I like it and I think you will too.

Ps. Word has it that my bad Losenstein gig produced some very good photos. More news when I have it!

Monday, 3 May 2010


There's probably a law somewhere. But I've found my love of something can find it difficult to survive meeting other fans of that something.

A case in point is new Who. Thanks to finally embracing torrents I can enjoy Doctor Who the way it's meant to be enjoyed, in weekly installments. I feel that this has been a great start to a new season and Matt Smith already seems very comfortable with the role. Possibly thanks to some great writing and plotting. The stories have been brisk and exciting while leaving plenty of room for character development. And yet...

And yet if you pop over to SFX you'll find what looks to be a totally disgruntled bunch. It's been said that this last two-parter is the Aliens to Blink's Alien. It even steals the structure, long slow set-up and then sprint to the denoument. Where before you had a small number of statues against unarmed and inexperienced kids now you have a large number against well armed "clerics". Apparently this has defanged them.

I'm not sure whether these people should grow up or give in to their inner child, because I found the whole thing genuinely tense from start to finish. This might be because I was watching the story being told rather than trying to find inconsistencies in the behaviour of a bunch of made up creatures.

Thursday, 29 April 2010


Gillian Duffy is a bigot. It's probably going to be the most truthful statement from Brown in this campaign and he's being vilified for it.

Of course the Labour party was built on exactly that sort of bigot. But, you know, we've always looked away and mumbled something about it being for the greater good. Every so often a Julian Baggini will show up in Rotherham, or somewhere very much like it, and attempt to explain away racism in Labour industrial heartlands and, with some hand waving, insult everybody's intelligence in the process.

There's no apologies for it or any disembling you can do to get round it. The same sort of self-interest that has someone voting for Labour, that is a belief that the Labour of old that had some interest in protecting the working man from the machinations of capitalism still has some vestges in the new party, is the sort of self-interest that spills into lazy racism and quite a few other "isms" too.

What these bigots aren't, though, is what's wrong with Labour. What's wrong with Labour is that it has forgot how to keep these bigots happy while actively seeking to change society for the better, Labour hasn't bothered to do any of that in years. Instead it has been trying to keep businesses happy while taking away the rights of the voters bit by bit.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Videogames ... Art

I don't have anything particularly coherent to say on the "are video games art?" thing that Roger Ebert launched on an unsuspecting internet recently.

Games are made by artists. Certain levels of games are certainly artful, just as individual chess pieces can be works of art. Images of (sometimes imaginary) games decontextualised from the game are art.

It seems to me that a lot of games that are mentioned as art are art only when the user stops interacting with them (Knight of the Old Republic has a fabulous twist that comes in a cut-scene, for an example).

One reviewer, sorry I can't find this, of Lego Star Wars mentioned that he'd played it co-op with a friend and right at the very end the friends had to turn on each other to finish the game. He reckoned this act had more more emotional resonance than the whole prequel trilogy. He may well be right. No doubt Ebert would say "Ah but is it art?" as if he was the devil in the Conundrum of the Workshops. Is Kipling art? Do I like Kipling? If Orson Welles is the one being Kipled then: yes and yes!

Anyway, Bookslut claims to have found a confluence, or perhaps a slight bumping together in Machinima Poetry. To be honest, the example given here does't work, it's three mildy related things shown together in the hope that someone will find the creator "deep" or "soulful" or something. But the page promises more and the examples might get better...

Monday, 19 April 2010

Down The Pan

The Daily Torygraph headlines a story about India thusly: India has more mobile phones than toilets: UN report

The report actually says only one third of the population of India has access to proper sanitation, which is entirely different.

Anyway, if we take the headline at face value and ponder the fact that, according to a Wikipedia page, The UK has 75 million phones for 61 million people I would hazard that in the UK there are more toilets than phones, too.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Low Brow

E-readers[1] are feeding a rise in people reading Mills & Boon, apparently.

Looking at any download chart would probably enable you to draw similar conclussions about people's taste in public and what they really like.

I'm reminded of a letter in a recent issue of Four Four Two wherein a bloke claimed that, because his local team were in a very low division and, anyway, his country's level of football wasn't that great, he could support whoever he wanted. That summary probably has him protesting just a little too much but you get the general idea. Anyway giving himself the freedom to choose to support any team in the world guess who he chose?

Close enough. It was, in fact, Barcelona. Further justification being that, if you are going to watch football, it better be at the highest level.

He was proud enough of his choice, and justification, to write in to a football mag about it. He had the whole of football in front of him. He could have chosen plucky, obscure teams with a rich a varied history. He could have picked, say, Donny Rovers. Or Vorwärts Steyr. Or gone with something like St Pauli or Hibs or Nottingham Forest. He could have got in touch with local fans and turned up at matches and been welcomed as a foreign guest, perhaps. But no.

It's easier to watch Barca as they are good, they are on telly quite a bit, especially with the Champions League, and they have players who you've heard of. Actually, now I've said it, I might support them myself....

[1] Not to get all curmudgeonly and philistine on you but eDisplayer, surely? The person is the reader.

Truth In Humour

If the voters really are fed up with New Labour and believe that the Tories are a viable alternative, don't you wish Labour's admen had the balls to do The Grauniads april fool's version:

It's no "San Serif", but it made me smile...

Also worthy of a mention is Charlie Stross whose deadpan style had me going until about half way through. Looking at the comments, I wasn't the only one.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Damn It, Mamet

I liked The Unit. It was Boys Own stuff you could watch because there was always a chance that David Mamet had written it. A memo from Mamet to the writers of The Unit has been found recently and it is well worth reading, as it is Screenwriting for Beginners but excellently expressed (except for the all caps thing and some dodgy proofreading).

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Visions Of Lesbians

Boing Boing has a small article on how the Florida Family Council used a pic of a lesbian couple as a scare tactic. The FFC thinks that the couple on the left is what a lesbian couple look like. The couple on the right is who they were actually talking about:

The picture below is what you get when you put "lesbians" into a Google image search:

I'm sure this says something. But I'm not sure what. I'll be in my bunk.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Those French

I was talking about this in the pub the other day. So, just for fun, I thought I'd put it up. It's an ad for a French lubricant that is quite subtle until you realise just how filthy it is...

Fry On Catholics

Stephen Fry, mostly in the politest way possible, eviserates the Catholic Church. Make ten minutes for it right now.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Must Have Been A Slow News Day Or Something

Boing Boing link to an Article in the New York Magazine called A History of Obama Feigning Interest in Mundane Things. It's a slide show of the American President dutifully looking at stuff he'd been taken to see in his day job.

I sort of understand why this exists, but it's not to show a man competently getting on with what he has to do. The captions suggest that Obama is bored or, perhaps, not really the man of the people he claims to be and that these photos slowly pare back the thin veneer of his everyman-ness.

It just seems gratuitously mean-spirited with a whif of condescension to random people with boring jobs that New York media types feel free to look down on.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Success Is A Relative Term

Last year in the annual Graz Marsala Indoor Cricket Tournament we, that is ASKÖ Cricket Club Steyr, scored a total of 60 runs. We had a great time and met lots of new and interesting people.

This year we got 169 runs in total and not out in one game, along the way we managed to frustrate a Graz team needing points with some tenacious batting and somehow become the beloved underdogs of the tournament. We also had a great time and met some of the same people as last year (except for the bloke selling spicy potato things, who was much missed) and made a bunch of new friends.

It was a fantastic weekend. Well organised by the Graz cricketers and a great start to the new Austrian cricket season.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

New Songs!

I got yer new songs right here!

Step It Up & Go has been our opener since the very beginning, but I think this is the first time I've been confident enough to upload a version of it. The yelps are a bit of an homage to Doug Macleod.

Vanilla Pudding gets more and more filthy the more I sing it. You'll definitely need a shower after this one, especially the third verse...

99 Secrets is probably over represented in our recordings, but its a song of mine that we do well and is well-liked. This version has a vocal, on the first verse in particular, that is very close to how I envisaged the song in the first place trying to be smooth and then rough to represent the passive-agressive sides of the original inspiration.

Dead Drunk & Naked is a brilliant song by the Drive-By Truckers that we've changed to make more of a sad ballad. I really like what I tried to do with my singing on this one and Hannes gives great Dobro on the solos.

Speaking of the music, it almost goes with out saying that the band are all playing wonderfully with fine soloing throughout.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


At some point I shall settle back in to a rhythm that will add a couple of full(ish) posts every week and hopefully a number of smaller ones (and perhaps a Short Shorts every so often). What I'm saying is, despite me seeming to abandon it for weeks at a time this blog is not yet giving up the ghost. I'm just v. busy and current I only seem to turn my laptop on at home to Skype, play Civ or look up tips on GameFaqs (Batman Arkham Asylum is fantastic and I thoroughly recommend it to everybody).

What with Mass Effect 2 coming out next week don't expect this to change much...

My mum, however, now has a blog. It's currently called Highwaywoman and although she seems to be posting even less frequently than me, there's a bit more to read there.

I Was Not Wrong

The Bluesberries were pretty much on fire. I have mp3s to prove it. Expect uploads soon.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The BluesBerries Were On Fire

I don't think I've done a gig report in ages.

The BBs were back in our second home of Café Adabei in Weyer. We'd cancelled a previous gig because of my near-death experience so this was almost a comeback gig.

After about three songs I told everybody in the audience to phone a friend and tell them to get over to the bar, not because the place was empty (it was pretty full, actually) but because we were playing up a storm and they'd be telling they're friends about what they'd missed for days after.

To be honest the end of the second set was a bit chaotic and, I think, we ran in to the problem of having too much material. We could have finished half an hour earlier and people would have gone home very happy indeed.

A great night though. I had more energy at this gig than I'd had for a while. I was almost bouncing off the walls. A good sign indeed.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Happy New Year

As I said to a friend, if this year is as bad as last year I shall be asking for my money back.

Actually, last year wasn't so bad. My work and weight slowly got better, Steyr Cricket Club managed a few friendlies and my band got about one gig a month. I did, however, nearly die, which colours things somewhat. I still have to take pills, wear a compression stocking and be careful about what I eat and drink (on the plus side of that, I do seem to be sleeping better).

I've started this year with water damage in my apartment (not my fault), a passport that's nearly run out, a bank card that has run out (in that it is no longer valid, I money left in the account) and pills that are about to run out while my doctor is on holiday (I have a prescription for one lot, but not the other). I have a dry tickly cough and a cold -- not quite a flu but annoying never the less.

All of these problems will go away in the next week or so, though, so I can't complain...