the wrestler double bills

films that the wrestler would make an excellent double bill with:

this jumps off the screen at you - beat up, middle aged northern americans who are past their former glories and... their are plenty of differences (for instance, anvil are continually trying to get back into the mainstream, whereas the bulk of the wrestler is what he finds himself doing instead of wrestling), but it's the feel of the two films; primarily, bad jackets in the cold. living after the lost golden age. heroes who have rubbish jobs.

taxi driver
both films are about someone with too much time. when the ram has wrestling taken away from him, he tries and nearly succeeds to sort his life out; travis bickle takes the job as a taxi driver because he can't sleep. both films have tragic relationships with two women - and in both cases, one is a professional. in the first case, the relationship between both travis and betsy and between randy and his daughter, while of a different nature, go to show how estranged the man is from society; however, while travis tries to redeem himself through rescuing iris (a working girl), there's a lot of differences here with the wrestler. there's more to this, but i'm getting bogged down in the detail.

taken is a rubbish, laughably bad film; and there's nothing like watching a so-bad-it's-enjoyable film alongside a genuinely quality film. but there are similarities too. both are the story of a man, paid to hurt people, whose job means he never sees his daughter. in both cases, we are watching things unfold after the event: the estranged father trying to fix his relationship after years of neglect. of course, taken projects liam neeson's character as ultimately being right all along - it's *good* that he was never there, see, because when they didn't listen to him about how dangerous paris was, he can use his 'unique skill set' to track down and rescue her - while the tragic core of the wrestler is randy realising and admitting he made mistakes, but not being able to stop making them.


in media res

two weeks of unpublished link dumpage:

the unity of maths, music, and architecture: i've never heard of this guy before, but it's a great example of how maths is really all about proportion (ok, there's algebra too).

hahahahahaha: is this the new 'human species may split in two'?

random wikipedia article of the week: Lined_pocketbook

this post represents, for me, the point where i've finally recategorised david macandless from 'insightful and inspirational statistician' to 'nathan barley':

why i love larry elliot: writing economics articles framed around david bowie songs

an excellent summary of the mess we're in; i agree with nick (robinson):


a pretty good comic, perhaps badly translated, but sufficiently wierd and creepy.

johan hari, being brilliant, writing about prohibition of alcohol and narcotics

because anything that starts with a quote from philip 'prison experiment' zimbardo is going to be great.if you want to know where we would be without ethics comittees, it's 50s-60s american psychology experiments.

and finally: my home studio:

and going all the way back to 2002 (or 3?): dovedale joints is now online.


random nerd thoughts

how do you know you're a nerd?

is it when you come across this picture on the internet:

... and you think, didn't larry ditillio used to write he-man?

using the internet used to be enough to be considered geeky. going on it to look at crummy d&d monsters is fairly geeky - maybe not as much as my intended destination, the knowledge of what the most deadly d&d creature is. draeden, by most accounts.

i don't even like d&d, because i always thought wfrp was better - and how nerdy is *that*?



the video for single ladies

is here (embedding disabled by request).

i watched this in order to sample the if you like it you shoulda put donk on it.

not that i'm interested, but two points:
1: they're trying to do the okgo 'one take' thing, and failing, because if you're actually concious, you notice the jumps in camera work you might have missed if you were just watching the video without paying attention to it.

2: it's sped up. those moves might be possible, but if even beyonce, who's song this is, can't dance in time to her own song, what hope have we got? the impression of her doing these moves elevates her to superhero status, since they're actually impossible.

this is important, because it shows how much beyonce is 1: reacting to, and aping popular trends and 2: faking it in order to do so. ok go never sped up or cut up their routines. where is beyonce's integrity? if she's going to copy someone else's style, in her own way, that should not involve using editing to make it appear like she's a better dancer than it is. the more i write about this, the angrier it makes me.

not to say the video is not stylish; not to say the song is not simultaneously bouncy and threatening (that bass is terrifyingly sinister - and i don't mean left handed! [keyboards have the bass register on the left, so synth bass lines are often played with the left hand, which is also the origin of the word sinister]); but there's some


in media res

i was researching how to fix my guitar twanging problem, and came across this gem of a wikipedia page:
Though rarely discussed, one of the most distinctive aspects of Van Halen's sound was Eddie's tuning of the guitar. Before Van Halen, most distorted, metal-oriented rock consciously avoided the use of the major third interval in guitar chords, creating instead the signature power chord of the genre. When run through a distorted amplifier, the rapid beating of the major third on a conventionally tuned guitar is distracting and somewhat dissonant.[citation needed]
Van Halen developed a technique of flattening his B string slightly so that the interval between the open G and B reaches a justly intonated, beatless third. This consonant third was almost unheard of in distorted-guitar rock and allowed Van Halen to use major chords in a way that mixed classic hard rock power with "happy" pop. The effect is pronounced on songs such as "Runnin' With the Devil", "Unchained", and "Where Have All the Good Times Gone?".
With the B string flattened the correct amount, chords in some positions on the guitar have more justly intonated thirds, but in other positions the flat B string creates out-of-tune intervals. As Eddie once remarked to Guitar Player:
A guitar is just theoretically built wrong. Each string is an interval of fourths, and then the B string is off. Theoretically, that's not right. If you tune an open E chord in the first position and it's perfectly in tune, and then you hit a barre chord an octave higher, it's out of tune. The B string is always a bitch to keep in tune all the time! So I have to retune for certain songs.[27]

eddie van halen is now my favourite guitarist, just for mentioning just intonation. fuck knows i'll never listen to his music, but it completely nails why that major third is such a problem when distorted: because it's out of tune, which is exacerbated by the distortion.

tv go home is being re-printed, to cash in on brooker's more recent fame, although it will also expose his more recent self-plagiarism

ex-band father of boon, whom i saw supporting mclusky about 5 years ago in brighton and *loved*, have got their post-humous album out for FREE on otter recordings: it's really good, fun, angular indie.

victoria coren on stephen fry on sex

I quite enjoyed escape from the underworld, and it's soundtrack, although i'm completely stuck on it. i swear i've not heard the 'word' 'metroidvanian' until this week. but it sums up that entire line of games - i think zelda should be thrown in there too, even though it's not a platformer - well it's really just got gravity turned off, like echo the dolphin, with a fake perspective thrown on top. i really enjoyed watching my roommate at uni play through super metroid, i really loved all the back tracking and exploring. it was like... a bad sorting algorithm. every time you get something new, you need to check everywhere you've ever been in case you find something hidden. you really had to know your territory. maybe it's just a logical way to get the most out of a game, but i like how it's zeitgeisting atm. maybe zeltroidvania is the new jrpg?

gosh, i'm struggling with this shit already. maybe a weekly thing wasn't such a good idea after all?

the week in media

i thought, fuck it, i've got enough links to do a rockpapershotgun.com-style sunday papers read once a week. it'll save all those hideous link-tweets and actually get me commenting on stuff i'm reading.

excellent article on how impossible touring is if you're a jobbing band, especially when you're 10 years down the road and you've got a life.

i was investigating midi-chlorians out of star wars, in an effort to understand quite what lucas was thinking, and see how quickly they were dropped (they're only mentioned in one official source, you know). i came across something much more fascinating: midichloria mitochondrii, a bacteria that infects mitochondria in ovaries of a species of tick. so you've got a parasite of a organelle of a cell of an organ in a parasite of mammals. is that not completely brilliant?

florence is always brilliant, but i particularly loved this weeks article on how to host a board games night. sample quote:

You visit each of your friends’ homes in succession. And you kill them all, in a board game style.

Friend 1: you roll dice down his throat until his stomach ruptures.

Friend 2: You hack him up and bury his parts in two shallow graves, one marked “Draw Grave” and one marked “Discard Pile.”

Friend 3: You strip him, cover him in wool and take him to an abattoir. You find the conveyor belt carrying lambs to the slaughter and swap him in for one of the animals. You watch as he is killed and hung, having successfully traded him for sheep.

Friend 4: You throw him into an incredibly elaborate and enormous Dice Tower you’ve built, letting his body tumble to the bottom, his bones smashing in a satisfyingly random manner.

the kermode uncut blog is always great - kermode responding to comments, setting homeworks, and being even more of a personality than his review show allows. he's recently started doing 'instant reactions': his thoughts outside the cinema immediately before and after seeing a film. here's his reaction to aronovsky's next film, the black swan. based on this, i cannot wait for this film, despite only having missed everything by aronovsky except pi (which, despite it's bollocks maths, i loved). dr k's reaction "i don't know whether it's good or bad, but it's certainly interesting" is so... me. gillen once said of his own work "i don't know whether it's good, but i know that is clever" which was a bit self-indulgent, but let me tell you this: i'd rather be 'interesting' than 'good'. but, oh, to be both...

the news in me:

continuing my self-indulgent cultural theft of history, i'm re-releasing my 'cloaca' ep from 2003:

it's andrew's birthday this weekend, and so here's a happy birthday andrew mix:



frank oz really is under-appreciated as a director. the ten year stretch of:
The Dark Crystal (1982) •
The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) •
Little Shop of Horrors (1986) •
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
What About Bob? (1991) •
HouseSitter (1992)
and latterly, bowfinger (1999), is incredible. but we could only stand 20 minutes of death at a funeral (2007).

this is the same pattern as anyone good, isn't it? so celebrate their heydays; forgive them for wanting to keep making films/books/albums when they've lost their way; find the new heroes.
co-incidentally, i'm rereleasing my 'heyday' on www.totheboats.bandcamp.com. next month: cloaca.


otter hunting

so, this summer, we went up to stay in seahouses for two weeks, hoping to see otters.

seahouses, in northumberland, has a unique smell; a mixture of harbour (a smell slightly different to just 'the seaside', harbours have their own slightly-off smell of rancid seawater), coal fire (every cottage was black with soot) and chips. three smells i've never experienced in the same place. it's a very handy little village - not quite a town - for a couple without a car. there's loads to do (although we missed the farn islands breeding season by a week), well when i say loads, i mean, that's considering we wanted to do nothing.

so we went on an otter safari one day, which was a lovely jaunt around various locales and haunts. otters are making a big come back, spreading down from scotland and already making a nuisance of themselves, wiping out whole areas of wildlife rather than spreading themselves thinly and letting the indigenous fish and ducks recover. so we traipsed over hill and around reservoir, but to no avail; we saw plenty of fine sea-birds, waders, lots of gorgeousness, but no otters. our excellent, knowledgeable guide gave us a few more tips, but the trail seemed to be cold.

I wasn't going to let it stop us. at the national sheep dog trials at alnwick castle, I found the local wildlife charity stand and put the question to them: where can i see some otters? they wittered a little, but gave me some very good advice; there's a hand-reared wild-living couple at eyemouth, just over the border past berwick, who are very easy to get to see, but that was a bit far for us... but they also mentioned the river till, between ford and etal, was an easy drive from seahouses (rachel's mum would be coming up with her car the second week), where they themselves had seen an otter previously.

I got really excited about this. I went and bought a map:

look at that river. have you ever seen a more otter friendly river - the straight bit, the curve... imagine the river banks! i got very excited.

so i convinced pam to drive us over there for a picnic towards the end of the holiday; it was the last chance for otters. we got there mid afternoon and began exploring; it turns out there's a miniture railway between henslaw and etal, operating out of a disused mill. a mill! with a water wheel! what could be more ottery? it was fairly late by the time we settled down, laying picnic materials out on the river bank in a cowy field; in feverish restlessness i tracked the river down to ford alone. it looked perfect; quiet, plenty of bracken and undisturbed river banks, exposed roots for otter holts, everything you'd need. but no otters. at the bridge at ford, there were canoeists and private fishing, enough to make me turn around and trek back.

at the end of the day, i decided that i alone would walk up the river in the other direction, and meet rachel and pam at the pub in etal.

View otter hunting in a larger map
you can see the diversion i had to take, due to the dominance of footpaths; the footpaths there were, were in terrible shape, and the path to the main road was only the begining. as i got into crookham, a man with a dog noticed my 'i heart otters' badge and seemed to get the measure of me.

here's the rub: he saw an otter, at exactly this bend on the river, yesterday. a month earlier, he'd seen a couple (probably a mum and pup). but he couldn't let me go down the footpath incidated on the map that led exactly to the curve of the river because a) he owned the land, and b) the footpaths were overgrown and inaccessible.

could both those be true? or do i remember it wrong? nevertheless, even though i didn't see any otters, i had found exactly the spot i was looking for, through a combination of careful questioning, dress, and map-reading ability. the latter is not something i'm known for, but i just knew that the area looked perfect for otters, just from the map. the wildlife folks pointed it out, sure, but if it hadn't looked so perfect, i wouldn't have followed it up.

so anyway, the landowner (such as he was) advised me to take the next path onto the river, which is what i did, hence is indicated by the blue line. the path along the river here was still massively overgrown, and it took me four times as long to reach etal as i'd estimated. i got some views of the dramatic meander below etal, and i've never seen such a calm river, such a high bank, such a poorly walked path... i was furious about the upkeep of the riverside path, and considered writing to the countryside agency about it, but if it were more used, would the otters flee?

shit i had to walk through:

anyway, ultimately, after many phone calls back and forth about my lateness, i found myself across the river from etal, and discovered that there was no bridge as such; there was a shallow weir, and no dry way across, since the stone thing there, some sort of dam, had broken through.
(looking back down the river till)
(the crossing to etal)

and so, i wandered into the bull at etal, damp, barefoot, and otterless, looking for a pair of ladies. it had been a good jaunt, and worth it. we'll get them next time.



btw - did anyone notice how gillen wrote some of his best and most forward-looking articles ever, just before quitting games journalism? or is that just hindsight?
narrative via mafia 2
mechanic spoilers
torment (which is old, to be fair)

computer games

various thoughts on computer games:

firstly: fuck yahtzee crosshaw. i do love zero punctuation, in spite of the laddish overtones, in spite of the air of negativity, but saying "Oh, apparently XKCD beat me to that joke. Well done, you smug cunt, now learn to draw." on twitter is unforgivable. xkcd can draw you schmuck:

calling someone a 'smug cunt' because they said the same thing as you, but earlier? that just makes you the same smug cunt, but later.

so, that's that out of my system. what i kind of really wanted to write about was inspired by something crosshaw was writing about, and walker was writing about, but mostly by the fact the gillen quit games journalism today.


it's more of a game-changer than he let's on. he's the most cross-cultural of any games writer i know. but anyway.

i want to write about game difficulty, and save games.

i think save games have ruined computer games. and i think the two things are inextricably linked.

crosshaw was saying that games should have difficulty levels that are adjustable on the fly. i can think of a few games that have done this, none of which he cited.
the earliest was dark forces. complete a level on any difficulty setting, and you unlock the level for future play on any other difficulty setting, earning a bronze, silver, or gold medal (if memory serves me right). these days, getting all silver or gold would unlock goodies, but back in the day, it was it's own reward. each level was thus, in the doom tradition, a stand-alone experience.

thief had a similar thing: at the start of each level, choose your difficulty. however, it would have really benefited from the same 'replay' feature.

the other game i know of which adjustable difficulty was sw:kotor. this let you change up instantly - since it was a D20-system based game, adjusting the difficulty simply meant adjusting the odds stacked against you. this is the most brilliant way to affect the difficulty, but only applies to random-chance based games. incidentally, playing it through on easy meant i never had to engage with the card game or drag racing mechanics of the game, because i didn't need the extra cash to buy the extra healing packs and armour i would have needed, so despite the convenience, it did affect the story arc of the game. i spent less time investing in my characters.

the other thing is save games.
let me tell you about doom. again.
doom is a game that works whether you play it through or you play it as a series of puzzles. i still relish what i call the 50-bullet challenge: start any doom level with a pistol and complete it. any good doom map should be do-able like this: the second weapon should be able to be acquired before you run out of ammo/health with the first one, and so on. the latest and otherwise best iteration of the doom engine, skulltag, has completely missed the point of this craft of level building, and if you die, you restart the level with what you had when you joined. the level becomes a save point, not an experience.

i think this is tragic. often you'll finish a doom level with a good supply of weapons that you've just built up, but physically in tatters. hitting the exit button, or falling into the final teleporter, should be a massive relief. having the opportunity to reset yourself, get 100% health back, but have to work up a new arsenal, is how i've always felt the game should be played. and they've removed that key mechanic.

but the problem here is just an extension of the increasing tendency to let people save wherever they like. it's not good for games. it turns people like me pathological - i might complete a sequence of an action game having taken a couple of hits, and then, terrified that this will put me in an impossible situation in a few rooms time, where i don't have enough health to simply survive, i feel the need to load, and redo the section perfectly. x-com: terror from the deep was ruined by missions so long that without saving and loading, all your people would die from simple exposure to statistics. which ruins the game: the time i've wasted taking a risky shot again and again until it hits home...

then i played doom: the rogue like. saving here is reserved entirely for quitting the game and coming back to it. there's no other way to load. it solves all the problems i had with thief, which are:
1: running round a corner, getting caught, then loading and sneaking round it to black jack the guard (which is basically using the save game as some sort of psychic power)
2: not being able to play the game again, since most of the fun is in exploring the level for the first time.

not being able to save would have made me actually invest in my actions. yeah, i got caught by a guard; i had to deal with it, rather than just loading from a few seconds earlier so i could get a better score at the end. it turns players into habitual f6ers, who can't stand to lose any health at all, in pursuit of the perfect run. it becomes an obsession, and it can be fixed by regular 'forgiveness' points, where the player gets back everything they need. a level should be an evening's entertainment, able to be played through in one sitting, easy enough to beat, tough enough that the player has to invest their skills in it and use up some of those special items they're hoarding.

and then random layouts are brilliant. the challenge is now not to memorise what's around the next corner and pretend to react to it, but in actually playing skilfully. i wish dead rising had had random layouts to the shopping mall - dead rising, the roguelike would be amazing. it also handled save games fantastically, but i can't be bothered to write about that anymore.

oh yeah, and planescape:torment re-invented saving and loading with the whole immortal character thing, but then your companions kept dying, so it kind of worked out the same. but enough said about that game, which is brilliant.

bed now.


disappointing albums revisted 1: through my dog's eyes.

over the last few years, all of my favourite 'loud' bands have tanked. most recent albums from 'such luminaries' (wevertf that means) as the locust, dillinger escape plan, and ephel duath left me cold, so, so cold. so i'm going back now and looking at these others, and seeing if i can at least try and appreciate what they were trying to do, if not actually like the music.

so: ephel duath.

I remember exactly where i was when i first heard ephel duath's 'the passage': at my dad's, playing with my half sister, listening to an earache records compilation, possibly 'extremity experiment' i'd picked up on the front of a magazine. dillinger escape plan's 'monticello' from their first e.p. had just been on, which had slightly disappointed me; and then there was this quiet guitar intro, awkward harmonies and timing, and then that eruption of distortion and hot trumpet playing, seguing into break-metal paradise: it was the song i had always wanted to hear. I got hold of the album, 'the painter's pallette', as quick as i could; it did exactly what an album with 'the passage' as an opening track should have done. and with every album, they were doing something entirely different, with a swiftly rotating line up.

[well not really rotating; they started as a synthonic black metal two piece; one left, and davide tiso got in a full band: drum, bass, two vocalists, plus guest electronics and trumpet/trombone. clean vocalist left and was not replaced; bassist left and was not replaced; drummers came and went. when the growly vocalist finally quit after 'through my dog's eyes', davide packed the band in. he started playing with karyn crisis, and formed another 2-piece (parched) who recorded an album of ambient guitar.]

so after the painter's pallette, came the immensely satisfying and progressive 'pain necessary to know' and it's companion record 'pain remixes the known'. then: 'through my dog's eyes', which i have listened to all the way through maybe only twice.

it's a bluesy, grungey mess of an album that doesn't have any memorable parts until the the third act opener, 'guardian'. 'pain...' was a very difficult album, with very few discernible riffs, but what makes it a difficult, labyrinthine listen at first is what made it eventually become in my top two favourite albums of all time, alongside gorky's' 'bwyd time'. while '...dog's eyes' also feels riff-free, but not in a good way; just clanging chords without respite or much dynamic range.

rather than the usual lyrical approach of opaque mystery (one t-shirt proclaimed the passage's refrain, "are you coming to poison my remarks?"), 'dog's eyes' takes its subject matter, as the title suggests from davide tiso's beloved hound, who added insult to injury by dying soon after the release of the album, adding to his personal crisis with record companies and loss of his band, culminating in his moving from italy to america. so the album has some quite legible sequences, all from the dog's perspective: "i'm wagging my tail so hard, my whole body seems to be dancing; I wonder if he knows i'm trying to imitate his face?". it's certainly brave... but... like the rest of the record it kind of falls flat, a directionless, uncaptivating ramble. you can't tell where one song stops and the other starts, and not in a good way. i think that kind of sums up the album; all the things that are usually so great about the duath fall flat here. there doesn't seem to be any substance beneath the noise. every so often, a vocal refrain or hook might emerge, but the underlying guitars just carry on with their detuned sludgery. maybe part of the problem is the huge number of guitar overdubs here - there are so many guitar sounds at any one time - slide guitar, various shades of distortion and chorus-clean, at any one time. other than this army of overdubs, one track has a wierd sax improv, another has synths added, and the finale has glitchy drums courtesy of dillinger escape plan's ben wienman. there's a nice mellow moment - very reminiscent of later work with parched - at the start of spider shaped leaves, which should probably have been plonked halfway through the record rather than towards the end.

davide tiso always hated the 'jazz-metal' label that was attached to his band, but at least it was somewhat accurate. but there's no jazz here, and i use the term jazz very loosely indeed, basically as far as including everything interesting. listening to this again as i write this up, i have been getting more out of it, but it's a struggle. it's hard to dis such a brave musician, but i still just don't find the music on this one interesting. there seems to be too much going on, and also at the same time, not enough really happening.

despite this, the recent announcement that tiso is forming a new one-man band (makes me wonder why he doesn't stick with the ephel duath moniker, since he's now the sole member, or his davide tiso moniker that he went under on the 'better undead than alive 2' compilation) called manuscripts don't burn, out of studio outtakes from his sessions with karyn crisis, is great news. he's even gone all twittery to promote it.


shadow of the colossus

my next door neighbour bought a playstation 2.

i figure, great, this is my chance to re-live my love of shadow of the colossus through somebody.

i own the proverbial SOTC tshirt, and by coincidence, i am wearing it the day i go into hackney's video games shop to see if they have a 2nd hand copy, and by actual real coincidence, the same day yahtzee croshaw posts this video as his weekly game review:

to sum it up, i would describe sotc something along the lines of moby dick meets black beauty.

so the shop does have a copy of sotc: it costs £25, about 15 - 20 quid more than any of the other games around it. a quick search on my nerd device says this is not too much more than the going rate, so i pick it up, along with a copy of soul calibur III which is much more reasonably priced.

the problem with second hand shops, you see, is that they're always full of the stuff people don't want anymore; this is why they're always full of jeffery archer books and celion dione singals. and everybody who has a copy of sotc wants to keep hold of it forever. how much do you think planescaqpe: torment is going or these days? logic says a ten year old game should be peanuts by now, but there's surprisingly few hard copies of the game available for re-circulation. it's precious to people.

so i hand over the two games to my neighbour, letting him know that due to the cost, i have to let him have them as 'extended loans' rather than gifts. then we set off for two weeks to seahouses, northumberland.

two weeks later, i knock on, to find him playing PEGGLE.

this is how i feel.


fumito u

this is my new single, first solo release since on benefit. stick it on all your summer playlists...

<a href="http://totheboats.bandcamp.com/album/fumito-you">fumito you (electric) by To The Boats</a>

now with added remix!


this is what twitter actually looks like

{ "users": {}, "#pagination":"more", "#timeline":"
  1. \n \n \n @mattleys thanks, man! yes, he was very funny!\n \n \n \n about 9 hours ago\n via Echofon\n \n in reply to mattleys\n\n\n \n
  2. \n
  3. \n \n \n @mattleys think it went very well!\n \n \n \n about 9 hours ago\n via web\n \n in reply to mattleys\n\n\n \n
  4. \n
  5. \n \n \n Hopefully! We've just done a pilot for his new series RT: @shongum07829: Is Count Arthur Strong going to be on our tv screens ??\n \n \n \n about 9 hours ago\n via Echofon\n \n \n\n\n \n
  6. \n
  7. \n \n \n @carrieob dunno! Sorry\n \n \n \n about 11 hours ago\n via Osfoora HD\n \n in reply to carrieob\n\n\n \n
  8. \n
  9. \n \n \n @_NSL thanks for those! I dimly remember Merlin too...\n \n \n \n about 11 hours ago\n via Osfoora HD\n \n in reply to _NSL\n\n\n \n
  10. \n
  11. \n \n \n RT @davidwearing: Israel forced to confront an international boycott gathering momentum http://bit.ly/ccRfWV\n \n \n \n about 11 hours ago\n viaOsfoora HD\n \n \n\n\n \n
  12. \n
  13. \n \n \n @neillockwood thank you!\n \n \n \n about 11 hours ago\n via Osfoora HD\n \n in reply to neillockwood\n\n\n \n
  14. \n
  15. \n \n \n @kirstenin @divinecomedyhq hurray! It's the gift that keeps on giving!\n \n \n \n about 18 hours ago\n via Twitter for iPhone\n \n in reply to kirstenin\n\n\n \n
  16. \n
  17. \n \n \n @threefromleith my favourite one!\n \n \n \n about 19 hours ago\n via Twitter for iPhone\n \n in reply to threefromleith\n\n\n \n
  18. \n
  19. \n \n \n @shotbykim I played that myself on an iPad app!\n \n \n \n about 22 hours ago\n via Twitter for iPhone\n \n in reply to shotbykim\n\n\n \n
  20. \n
  21. \n \n \n @claire_murray92 I actually had a no profanity rule for this series. Sorry!\n \n \n \n about 22 hours ago\n via Twitter for iPhone\n \n in reply to claire_murray92\n\n\n \n
  22. \n
  23. \n \n \n @akamrlazy that line came out of total desperation\n \n \n \n about 24 hours ago\n via Twitter for iPhone\n \n in reply to akamrlazy\n\n\n \n
  24. \n
  25. \n \n \n @boosegoose they grow on me\n \n \n \n about 24 hours ago\n via Twitter for iPhone\n \n in reply to boosegoose\n\n\n \n
  26. \n
  27. \n \n \n New York Review of Books is on Twitter! @nybooks\n \n \n \n 8:44 PM Jul 10th\n via Twitter for iPhone\n \n in reply to nybooks\n\n\n \n
  28. \n
  29. \n \n \n @ChicaLolita hurray!\n \n \n \n 7:48 PM Jul 10th\n via Twitter for iPhone\n \n in reply to ChicaLolita\n\n\n \n
  30. \n
  31. \n \n \n @chrislindores it's Serafinowicz!\n \n \n \n 4:41 PM Jul 10th\n via Twitter for iPhone\n \n in reply to chrislindores\n\n\n \n
  32. \n
  33. \n \n \n RT @ebertchicago: Final report: There was no Climategate. The global warming scientists were correct. http://j.mp/achTHH\n \n \n \n 4:30 PM Jul 10th\n via Twitter for iPhone\n \n \n\n\n \n
  34. \n
  35. \n \n \n @Fezzy_Bear thank you!\n \n \n \n 4:06 PM Jul 10th\n via Twitter for iPhone\n \n in reply to Fezzy_Bear\n\n\n \n
  36. \n
  37. \n \n \n @Bleekster like both bands, but Richard is the real Pivot fan\n \n \n \n 4:05 PM Jul 10th\n via Twitter for iPhone\n \n in reply to Bleekster\n\n\n \n
  38. \n
  39. \n \n \n @realdannys very kind of you to say, thank you\n \n \n \n 3:37 PM Jul 10th\n via Twitter for iPhone\n \n in reply to realdannys\n\n\n \n
  40. \n
\n" }


it crows

i love it crowd, so it's a bit of a disappointment to realise we're already halfway through this series. friday's it crowd wasn't as fun, and neither was the second one actually, as the first one - where d&d is the solution to everybody's problems.

it crowd, for me, is a sitcom for people who love sitcoms; while it's so important to have it filmed with an audience, it's also important to have the three protags acting like people who've watched lots of sitcoms, and do what we think we would do in their situation. there's a 'knowing' element to it crowd - so many of the jokes are so ludicrously set-up that they gain another level of humour, yet still work on the base level. consider the friendface episode; when faced with a situation where the lies are becoming insurmountable, rather then screwing up their faces and going 'god, this is madness! how did we get into this awful situation?', the protags play along with it, make the lies even bigger, and eventually escape.

writer and director graham linehan was tweetering about rapid last-minute script re-writes - his 'apollo 13' moment. it's pretty obvious to me where it's going wrong - the lack of cohesiveness in the plots.

the best it crowd episodes have a perfect structure where each protag gets their own plotline out of a single concept and it ends in one scene where the storylines converge. 1 intervention (in the above example, social networking) - 1 plot line for each character - big denoument at the end where all the plotlines are reconciled and everyone agrees not to do intervention x anymore. nice, tidy, sitcom writing. problems that seem awkward slot in naturally and cancel each other out - 'we fit together like two halves of a badly cut bagel'. proper seinfeld/larry david stuff, and i know glinner would take that as the high compliment i intend it as.so what's happening this series?

in episode 1, the intervention is: twenty sided dice. jen has a new job entertaining clients, roy is heartbroken, and moss is eager to get people into roleplaying. three separate storylines, that all merge and in doing so everybody's problems are solved. jen's clients end up loving d&d, and moss roleplays roy's ex, and helps him work through his despair.

episode 2 had a great premise - moss gets involved with an illicit countdown winners' club. his story was brilliant, but roy's and jen's felt like weaker, filler stories, that didn't tie into each other at all, except that they were sometimes in the same room as each other. they both felt painfully short.

friday's seemed to go wrong again because of the same reason - the plots hardly crossed over at all, and it's good to read that they were totally meant to, even though that plot was junked. originally, so i read, roy becomes sweet billy pilgrim's manager, jen dates the keyboard player, but moss has to take over managing when roy is kissed on the bum by his masseuse and trips out on downers (and thus i imagine moss sacks the keyboard player, leaving jen to realise she only liked him because he was in a band). whatever was wrong with this (too much setting up, allegedly), it was obviously worse than what we ended up with, but the it crowd is at its best when everything ties together.

i'm not saying things need to be formulaic - well, i'm saying they're better when they are. part of the appeal of it crowd is how pure a sitcom it is, and linehan knows how to put together a good traditional sitcom. i just hope he doesn't continue to forget the golden rules.


thoughts on interactive art

so it's half 11, i went to bed, and then thoughts happened and i couldn't sleep so i'm going to bash this out, see if it makes sense linearly, and then maybe try to rearrange some paragraphs and de-obfuscate anything that's too... obfuscated.

so all art is interactive. yes? any artwork is interpreted by the viewer automatically and they form thoughts on it. two people can experience the same piece and 'see' entirely different works based on their own culture, personality, experiences, whatever. what the intention was is important, and perhaps the only working definition of the quality of a piece of art is that the artists' inention is communicated to the audience. we don't need any more essays on interactive, artist-audience collaborations, accompanied by mediocre illustrative artworks, like a jigsaw puzzle where the audience can rearrange the artwork as they see fit, to drive the point home. that's fine if that's what you want to do, but making an artwork that 'explores' the relationship between the artist and the audience is liking making an artwork that eplores the relationship between a canvas and some paint, i.e. it's so bloody obvious that it doesn't need saying anymore, ok?

while we are on subject of 'good' art, a definition of art i like to play with is 'knowing when to break the rules'. craft, on the other hand, is easily appraised - a good table is one that doesn't tip your dinner onto your lap. anything beyond this - a table with an inscription, a painting, or even a table that deliberately spills your dinner into your lap, is art.

contrast this:

with this:
and i think you'll see what i mean.

so. as i said, all art is interactive, in that you have to interact with it to do anything with it.

so what's different about computer games, since being interactive is nothing new to art? they are different and i think what occurred to me as i lay me down to rest just now is i can think of one other medium of art that is interactive in a similar way: sheet music.

for years, sheet music was the dominant form of transmission for music before recordings became widely available. you could see live, community music just about anywhere, but most places had some form of instrument and scenes like this were commonplace:

(admittedly, it's less likely to have been a baby grand in a newyork penthouse)

sheet music isn't like a recording of music, that you put on and it plays through and entertains you, or helps you dodge the void for another half hour or so. sheet music doesn't do anything on it's own. you need to pick it up and play with it for it to come to life. it tells you what to do - it tells you how to use your hardware in a unique way to experience a particular work of art (or maybe the sheet music is the art itself? like a said above, if the sheet music is a good work of art, you should be able to experience the music as intended. now, whether that is a good work of art is another matter). if you want to practise the piece to get good at it, make mistakes at it, improvise on the piece, skip a bit out, do one bit over and over again because you like it - you're free to do that. and you have the same freedom with computer games.

linear games, like rail-shooter operation wolf or click-fest monkey island, have a set number of things that need to be done in a set order for them to be done 'right'. sandbox games give you the freedom to improvise - the much-discussed deus ex (10 years old this month), meaning you can play it your way if you want to. games tell you how to play the game right, but then give you the freedom to mess around if that's what you want to do. the freedom to express yourself. no one would claim that a dixie-land jazz musician, improvising on 'when the saints go marching in' is not expressing himself, just because s/he started with a set tune. so why not with computer games?

so the game itself is like the sheet music, and the console is like the instrument. of course, it is much, much harder to separate the game from the console, as one simply does not work without the other. but there is a strong analogy here.

where the analogy breaks down is that computer games not only let you play your own way; they respond to you, artificially intelligently. the game that made this notion jump out at me was street fighter 2; the game gives you opponents that try to avoid your attacks. it becomes recursive and reflective. this is in someways merely a simulation of a multi-player match, like this one (shit gets real 4 mins in):

or competitive dancing:

but in other ways, it represents an entirely new direction and innovation. not just a static puzzle like the towers of hanoi, or solitaire; not just the rules for a randomised card game you can play yourself, something that takes what you're doing, and feeds it back to you. or at least, appears to, or has the potential to. think i'm loosing the thread here.

and what i love about computer games is that dying (when you can die) is just as valid an ending as completing the game - no game illustrates this more perfectly than planescape: torment, for reasons that it is famous for. this game also illustrates the other potential perfection of computer games, which is the overlap they have with interactive fiction; multiple potential storylines, all perfectly justifiable, just like the potential interpretations of a tune. of course, the rare times we have been offered environments with truly emergent gameplay are much closer to musical freedom, but we're only just starting out here. the question is whether games will continue to give us that opportunity.

however, my worry with games is that while the call of dutys and the halos of this world fulfil the role of action-packed-blockbuster films, we get works of subtle quality too; the game equivalent of 'tilsammens', that gives you the depth and charm of a film like that. or maybe some works of art are suited to different media?

i think that's a train of thought for another night. and so is 'computer games are more like tv shows than films, and should be structured accordingly'.
so yes, in conclusion or something, i reckon computer games are more like sheet music than traditional works of 'linear' art. do i need a conclusion?

7 - heartwyrm

it's mixtape 7!*
download heartworm.mp3

or stream it here:

Grilly - Help The Disabled 1
Euros Childs - Like This Then Try This 2
The Bobby Mcgees - A Masonic Youth 3
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Circumstances 4
The Prophecy - Adrift 5
Naked City - Reanimator 6
Amon Tobin - Reanimator 7
Mothboy - Beg 8
The Soundbyte - Til Ungdommen 9
Mclusky - The World Loves Us And Is Our Bitch 10
Sparks With Eskimos And Egypt - Angst In My Pants 11
Carcass - Heartwork 12
The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - Embers 13
Euros Childs - Harp I A Ii Ar #2 14
Iw Rawes - Please Help The Disabled 15

nb, both the kilimanjiro darkjazz and the mothboy track come from the same ad noiseam compilation (also, they came out in mono, like all the genghis tron remixes, because *audacity doesn't understand joint-stereo mp3s*. neither do i, but then i'm not a computer program whose sole role in life is to facilitate digital audio).

i love it when different bands use thet same track name - i might start making that a 'feature' of these mixes. i'm not going to go down the '12 songs called love' route though, because i don't want any constraints on what i'm putting down in these.

sparks and mclusky are endlessly entertaining, i'll try not to throw too many of them into these mixes. they could be in danger of becoming default punctuation marks.
i previously mentioned adrift a few posts ago, thought i'd include it here because i'd managed to listen to it enough to calm my outrage at it's amazingness.

*6 is a magic number and not available for use of mixtaping, due to being the title of the second-best album of the 90s.



just a quickie:

watching 'anvil: the story of anvil'
laughed so hard i nearly choked on my pappardale
it took so long - it took for my mum to recommend it - for me to watch this. why?


i'm quoting tolkien here

"here, we have the same mechanism again resorted to - and i think deplorably: for the mere repitition is distasteful, these drinks of grimhild are too powerful or too powerless: why not give one to atli too, and make him forget about the hoard!"

commentry on lines 17-28 of the lay of gudrun, in the legend of sigurd and gudrun.

jrr tolkien writing in the "if you could do that all along why didn't you just -" mode, about the over-powered forgetfulness potion that grimhild used to make sigurd forget about brynhilde (so that he'd marry gudrun), and to make gudrun forget about sigurd after he'd died (so that she'd marry atli [aka Atilla the Hun, who apparently existed contemporaneously with fafnir, loki, odin, &c]). thus he justifies removing the second use of the forget spell in his adaptation of the lay, replacing it with gudrun entering the marriage willingly but unhappily.

I love that he's complaining about this, the same issue that still riles the nerd community today. but as i've written before, tolkien's heroes get around having overpowered abilities by having powers that are poorly defined, and hardly ever used. he even uses a similar 'forgetting' spell cast by the dragon glaurung, that caused a similarly tragic marriage. is he being hypocritical, or is he just trying to write in the style of his heroes?

there are of course two responses to tolkien's rhetorical question: firstly, to counter it, it's a cursed hoard, and andvari's magic probably outranks grimhild's witchcraft. the second is *some other reason why, you can always just invent one in fantasy*.


splendid aftereffects

so, the doctor who finale."Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a completely ad-hoc plot device"
—David Langford, "A Gadget Too Far", as a corollary to Arthur C. Clarke's third law

in order to start this post off, i googled 'only fools and horses rodney centurion' and found a picture of 'rory' from the ending couplet; fortunately, they're different, so well done bbc costumes dept.

as i was saying, i find it hard to emotionally connect with a series that simply makes no sense. having a two part episode brings in another problem; how do you try to predict what's going to happen next episode?

take for example, an agatha christie story. poirot might be investigating something, and something doesn't quite add up, and you think "hmm, maybe there's something to that not making sense." it piques your interest, it stimulates your imagination.

but what about when nothing at all makes sense? take for example, all the hints dropped by the doctor that amy's house was too big. this turned out to be because amy's parents had been erased from history by the crack in space - so why was amy still there? surely this is paradox number 1 in time travel stories. but it's not where i wanted to go with this.

someone went to amy's childhood home, and copied her memories and used them to lure the doctor to the pandorica. but pandora's box was a memory from her childhood too - but they'd only arranged to lure the doctor there, because that's when the pandorica opened... or the paradoxica as it might as well be called. the 'not making sense' here isn't a sci-fi fudge, it's a properly careless script that makes no sense at all. it must have been made up as it went along, because you can't start writing a story like this with the end in sight and have it make such little sense. it's entirely wrapped up in it's own bollocks.

still fun though, and i love the asynchronous doctor song character - that's a really good attempt at portraying the chaos that two people skipping in and out of time and each others' lives at different points would experience. i've not read the time traveller's wife but i imagine it's along the same lines.

so there's something else in 'the pandorica opens' i want to relate - 'the perfect disguise, they actually believe their own cover story'.

this is an idea from the 1953 pk dick short story 'imposter', which was also borrowed for terminator salvation (spoilers ahead!). as a trope, distinct from ridiculously human robots, the 'unconscious infiltrator' was probably best used in grant morrison's the invisibles and the filth, where cover personalities are water tight are layers deep. like in the who's tommy, there the revelation of one's true character coincides with enlightenment; in imposter, the main character is hunting down, believed by the authorities to be a walking bomb. the protag is convinced he is not, and just wants to go home. brilliantly, realising he is in fact a robot - finding his original's body - is the very trigger that blows him up. (end spoilers)

so this trope has taken 57 years to wind its way from astounding magazine to prime time, saturday night, bbc1. this is the world we're living in; i don't think pk dick won the ideas war, but it's quite nice that fairly lame versions of his stories are commonplace, 50 years later.


mixtape 5: insight to violence

blimey, i've not blogged my great new mixtape. it's my favourite one so far too - here's the mp3 for hoarders, and here's the stream, courtesy of mixcloud.com

i actually regret putting jabberwocky on there, other than that, i love it to bits. something for everyone on this one. btw, i neologenesised the word 'epiclectic' to describe this mix, and the neologenesised the word 'neologenesis' to describe the creation of a neologism. which i'm also happy about.


shoehorn: the musical

this is an idea i've had for a while, inspired by the insipid torrent of west-end musicals based on increasingly scrape-worthy bands. the challenge: can i write a plot outline for a musical based on a random artist from my collection.

so i hit random and off we go (doing it this way ensures it's weighted by how many tracks of theirs i have), and the dart hits... Nick Drake.

well this should be easy enough...

'Lilac Time: a musical based on the songs of Nick Drake'
Joey is a poor boy who lives in a shed. He's in love with hazy jane but doesn't know how to woo her so he goes to see the river man, and tell him all he can. the river tells joey about the plan for lilac time, so at the chime of a city clock, joey plants a fruit tree. this summons the things behind the sun which fly down and give him a free ride along the way to blue through the saturday sun. it takes three hours. then the day is done and it's sunday. in the blue, joey finds a way to read people's minds so discovers the thoughts of mary jane and how he can find fame. unfortunately the fruit tree withers, and the things behind the sun vanish, leaving joey plummeting towards the ground, where he splats into a road. the end.


acoustic covers

when i was mixing K, i got out the old soundcard to try to play it through with autocross fade on (basically plugging more memory into the machine, like in the old days). it didn't work, for some reason the crossfade got munged up and i had to redo it by hand, but what it did tell me is that plugging the headphone socket into the line in socket is a valid method of getting around the fact that you can't just hit record and expect it to record the noise it's making.

what it also told me was that my little soundcard still worked (just the line out doesn't) so i stuck my mic into it and recorded a couple of acoustic things i've been playing around with. both open tuned - first in d major, second in d minor. hope you enjoy them.


The Prophecy - Adrift

i wrote about a track from the code 666 compilation 'better undead than alive 2' which sent my mind reeling. there's something about extreme music that puts your brain into a different state, i swear.

there's another track on the album which gave me quite a reaction. i'm posting it here, because it's just too 'big' for a mixtape. i'm not going to write much about it - you simply have to hear it, i'm sure you'll have the same reaction i did.

i've not heard such a serious genre splicing since sparks' 'dick around', although the two songs are nothing like each other.

i implore you to buy the record, which i hope justifies this infringement - sometimes the only way to tell you is to show you.


mixtape 4:K

here's mixtape 4, entitled simply 'K'

not as in kula shakur, but as in justin k. broadrick, who features on this mix twice, and death cube k, who also sticks his beak in. justin started out in napalm death, has played in all sorts of bands, including scorn and godflesh, and will be working with alan moore in some way soon. i didn't end up putting any scorn tracks on, because they didn't fit in the mix, and that's more important than sticking to a theme regardless of the flow. but it's pretty much built around the two broadrick tracks, colony collapse and pulp. there's a definite theme there. pulp is a peel session track which came up on random on the tube, it's brutally forthright even though it seems to say not very much.

this mix isn't for everyone. it's pretty brutal, and slow. it's a weird one. it's music that's like music that people have told me is a bit how you feel on the drug K - a sort-of-coincidence. it features with a pallette cleansing gorky's radio 1 session track. enjoy, if you can.

help the disabled remix 5
Death Cube K - Watchers
Zan Lyons - Warring Factions 1
The Mad Capsule Markets - Jag [Exclusive Version]
Genghis Tron - Colony Collapse (Justin K Broadrick Remix)
Godflesh - Pulp
Necro Deathmort - Hurt Me I'm Bored
Sonic Clang - E1M8
Cult Of Luna - Curse
Gorky'S Zygotic Mynci - Cursed Coined and Crucified
IW Rawes - Please Help The Disabled