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The PC Spy
A Softer World
Dinosaur Comics

January 11th, 2011

05:36 pm - Democracy and Monarchy
(x-post from Write Angry)

Democracy and MonarchyCollapse )
Current Music: Rise Against - Blood To Bleed | Powered by Last.fm

(6 parts for the wolves | Ignorance is bliss)

January 10th, 2011

11:22 pm - A Statement of Intent
I'm drifting away. This will not be my last post here but I have started a new blog, with a different purpose. I'll probably cross post everything to here anyway. You can find me at http://jtudball.blogspot.com

Write AngryCollapse )

(Ignorance is bliss)

December 12th, 2010

01:11 am - "The things I want to say to you get lost before they come."
There's a weighty moral issue I've been grappling with these past few days. Around five, maybe six years ago, I set up a monthly donation to the NSPCC. Back then I was a poor student. I mean, not poor as students go, but poor as people in general go. I'm still poor as people in general go, but less so.

Actually no, I don't consider myself poor. Legally, like from a "any persons earning less than x per annum is officially poor" perspective, I think that yes, yes I am definitely poor, but I am 25, renting a room in a good house, I've got a good job providing me with enough disposable income to buy DVDs on impulse and as soon as Harriet has bills sorted so I know how much I owe her, I'm going to buy that lovely TV I keep telling you all about. That's going to set me back, sure, but I'm going to buy it outright, no monthly payments at x billion per cent interest rates. I don't like owing money to anyone. I don't have any dependants. I'm not trying to raise a family. I don't even have a girlfriend wanting expensive presents. I am not stressing over money at all, thus while I am not wealthy, I don't consider myself poor.

So my initial monthly donation was not a lot. I know that tesco or asda - I can't remember which one, your marketing has failed - would have me believe that every little helps, but I really feel my gesture was token at best. I am better off now and thought it was maybe about time my donation reflected that. It's still not great, I'll admit, but now it at least covers the cost of all the junk mail they send me.

My feelings and attitudes towards religion have been changing recently. As a teen my opinion was "it's stupid you're stupid" because even as a teen I could use "it's" and "you're" correctly. Then I grew older and my opinion became more of a "as long as you're not hurting anyone, do whatever you like" kind of thing.

Today though, I am frustrated. There's a term I read a lot, 'New Atheism', to describe the polemic of authors and journalists such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins and I'm not sure I go that far, but I'm borderline. Hitchen's book God is not Great is, along with AC Grayling's What is Good?, next in my reading pile. I've got two fiction and one creative non-fiction on the go at the moment, so a complete break from fiction is planned next. Back when I did that one module on philosophy at university that I enjoyed so much it made me regret my choice of course, Ethics was one of the sections I found most interesting. So many of the laws of Western society come from the teachings of the bible and the role of the church, how do you build a just, fair and ethical system of laws when you take all the God out of it? It's actually kind of hard. But then, it's just as flawed, if not more so, when you put the God back in.

Plato describes an argument between Socrates and Euthyphro. Socrates was tried for Impiety (found guilty and sentenced to death, choosing to accept the judgement rather than flee he became one of the first martyrs for the cause of Free Speech). Euthyphro was a deeply religious man so Socrates asked him to define Piety, thus he might better form his defense. The resulting conversation has burrowed it's way inside me and clings to the core of all I dislike about religion: the Supernatural aspect gets in the way of the good it (sometimes) promotes.

After some definitions and challenges to them, Euthyphro declares that a Pious act is one that pleases all Gods, an impious act is one that all Gods dislike. This was ancient Greece. They had a whole bunch of Gods back then. It can equally be applied to monotheistic religions like the Abrahamic ones. An act that is Good is one the God approves of. An Evil act is one God disapproves of. The question Socrates then asks is this: Do the gods like this act because it is pious, or is it pious because they like it? The first assumes piety to be independant of the Gods. Their existence defines it, but it would be equally good without them. The second makes the system arbitrary: This thing is Good, this thing is Evil. There's no rationale or logic behind it, it's merely the whims of a fickle God or pantheon.

I believe people are good. I believe people, generally speaking, want to do good and choose to do good things. I believe they choose to worship God because they think he is good and it is good. Thus we can discount him being fickle and irrational. These aren't stupid people. I feel this whole post is very one sided and if you're religious you might see it as an attack on you, and that's not the intention. These people aren't stupid. You're not stupid. If God's wishes were irrational at some point you'd stop and say "hey, just what's going on here?"

And since you haven't and since billions of people now and for the past thousands of years haven't given up, we are left with the first definition, that God says these things because they are Good, and they are good regardless of his existence or not. And if we as humans can use our logic and our reasoning to tell what is good and what is not, then Good must be Logical and Good must be Rational. Good must be something that we, as thinking, debating, logical, reasoning, passionate, creative, curious, majestic and beautiful human beings can reach out to on our own. Something we can carve on our own stone tablets and hold up to the world to shout "This is Good. This is not something we believe, this is something we know."

I love America. Not all of it, but there's two things enshrined in their constitution that I absolutely adore. Well, there's many things, but two that I want to talk about here: Freedom of Expression being the first, Separation of Church and State being the second. In the United States of America you can believe anything you like and you can stand up and tell people "this is what I believe" but you can't make them believe it too. You can't even make them listen. How well that works in practice is something of an issue, but on paper it's fucking marvellous.

That's how I'd like all society to be. Faith being something entirely personal, with no reward or punishment for being of one faith or another or none at all. No state sponsored faith schools. No tax breaks for religious institutions. No Creationism taught in science classes, no Intelligent Design taught at all, no calls for bans on Harry Potter, Catcher in the Rye or my own personal favourite book, third on the American Library Association's list of the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2009: The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Just a society where everyone is free to read what they want and think what they want and give their own time and support and personal wealth - not the State's - to whatever charity, church, or organisation they choose.

That's how I'd like all society to be, but that's just my opinion. As you might be able to tell, it's something I feel quite strongly about and so I'd like to take my personal wealth and give some of it to an organisation that is working towards my perfect society: The British Humanist Association, a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. You can read their philosophy here, the Amsterdam Declaration 2002. It's a wonderful sentiment. A while back I was thinking of getting a tattoo on my wrist, I only didn't because I couldn't think of a design I liked that I knew I'd like years later. Right now I'm thinking the Humanism logo, the Happy Human. It'd be like an anti WWJD bracelet, because every time I looked at it I'd think "What would I do? What is ethical and just and right because there is nothing else: I have to make this decision and I have to live with the consequences."

Since this post is ultimately about Charity, let me say this: One argument I've seen many times in defense of religion is the charitable works these organisations call for from their members. Fuck that. People do charity because people are good. I've never done anything in the name of God, so what is it when I give to charity, a fucking accident?

So now that weighty moral dilemma I promised you about two hours ago when I started writing this: Charity is about sacrifice for a greater good. Charity is about taking your own stuff, be it money or time or whatever, and using it to Make Things Better for everyone. As firmly as I stand by humanism, as much as I do believe a diminished role of religion in society will Make Things Better, isn't that money better off going to a more worthwhile charity? And so: what makes a charity worthwhile?

The NSPCC do good work. If you're not aware of them, the NSPCC are a British charity, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. One of the many wonderful things they've done is set up Childline, a number (0800 1111) any child who is a victim of bullying or abuse or any form of cruelty can dial to speak to someone who will listen and who will help. I don't care who you turn to to define right and wrong: God, Kant, whatever, I think we can all agree that child abuse is capital 'w' Wrong. It's Bad. It's Evil and seeking to prevent it is good, it Makes Things Better.

I can't say the same for Secular Humanism. Sure I think it's good, sure I think it'll Make Things Better but despite the many atrocities religious dogma is responsible for, I can't say that religion is Evil. It may be wrong, but it's not Wrong. Can I take a portion of this money I've set aside to Make Things Better and give it to a political force, an opinion, an ideology? There's Child Abuse and Animal Cruelty and AIDs and Cancer and Heart Disease. There's Oxfam and Amnesty International. There's mental and physical disabilities, there's victims of wars and famines and natural disasters and I think all those things are undeniably worthy causes yet despite all this it's God, who I don't even believe in, that's pissing me off.

Even though either way it's a selfless act, am I being selfish choosing the BHA?

Here's the plan I'm going with at the moment, and I think I will actually put values to my donations because I read in an article somewhere recently that people are more likely to give to charity when they know how much other people are giving. I'm going to up my donation to the NSPCC to £10 per month. I'm going to give £5 per month to the BHA, and then I'll give £5 to a different charity each month. I will gladly accept recommendations.

Now I'm going to go watch the rest of the Intelligence Squared debate on whether the Catholic Church is a force for Good, Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry versus Ann Widdicombe and Archbishop John Onaiyekan. I don't know anything about John Onaiyekan, but Widdicombe vs. Fry and Hitchens? I almost feel sorry for her. Check out this great article Victoria Coren wrote. I've seen her on panel shows, read her column from time to time and had her tell me how stupid I am over and over again on that BBC flash game Only Connect. I'd be far more willing to listen to the pro-religion side if it came with humour like hers. Of course wikipedia tells me she's a poker champion and used to write porn reviews, so I can't see the Archbishop of Canterbury putting her forward as a role model any time soon. Shame.

I couldn't find a way to sneak it into the main body of the post, because that's all religion and charity, but here's some religion and science for you: I have, I'm sure, said a number of times that religion gets in the way of science. I was being silly then, it's not true. What I actually feel is that the deeply religious' opinion of Science is much like my opinion of feminism: I think it's great. I think equality is absolutely essential for the betterment of humankind. But regardless of that, I still enjoyed American Pie 1 and 2 when I first saw them, I still like action movies where we get to see men kicking ass and taking names to save the damsel in distress (Taken, I love you) and I still think The Social Network is a flawless piece of cinema. Anyone know any good pro-feminism charities for my January donation, to balance that out?

In his opening statement, Hitchens mentioned that the Catholic Church would not welcome Stephen Fry into it's ranks because of his homosexuality. I'm not saying everything Stephen Fry thinks is right and I'm not saying that Stephen Fry not joining means your organisation is wrong, but if you've set up a bunch of membership rules and you've banned Stephen Fry from joining your club, clearly you fucked up.

(10 parts for the wolves | Ignorance is bliss)

November 30th, 2010

09:51 pm - The silence should be nice but isn't
Harlequin is ill today, so we have cat sick on the carpet and cat drool everywhere else. She's currently on a shelf halfway up my wardrobe getting thick, stringy saliva on everything except the tissues I've put down to protect my things. No worries, though. I still love her.

Zombie VIII ran over the weekend and guys, we are getting seriously good at running this stuff. Somewhere between 60 and 70 players this time I think; a fair few couldn't make it because of the snow. Lots of respect to the Southampton guys who drove up that afternoon just to act as crew. Fortunately, because of all the drop-outs they got to play anyway and seemed to enjoy themselves.

As GMs, we all wore red boiler suits with creepy masks to distinguish ourselves from players. And then we spoke in tiny childlike voices saying stuff like "This one is my favourite. We're going to play and be best friends. If any of you let him get hurt I'll tear off your fucking faces and make you eat them." It was so much fun. It's slightly odd how much you feel you can get away with from behind a mask.

I'm going to go cook some food and watch some film now. I think maybe Blood Diamond. We've got a DVD sale on at the cinema at the moment to get rid of old stock, all DVDs for £2.99. I bought Blood Diamond, American Gangster, The Transporter 2 and something else I can't remember. And from Amazon I bought Pride and Glory, Matchstick Men and Inside Man.

Pride and Glory is one of those really great films that I don't think anyone else likes. It has some fantastic acting from - amongst others - Ed Norton and Colin Farrell as well as some really brave pieces of film-making. There're a couple of scenes with long conversations in spanish without subtitles and it works really well, plus there's that horrific scene that I'm not going to tell you about, but it's really powerful and serves the film well. I'm not telling you about it because the shock of seeing it on screen, something so horrifying and unexpected, gives it its power.

It's really bugging me that I can't remember which the last DVD from the sale was. I watched The Transporter 2 the night I bought it. It's better than I remembered. I love all those action films Luc Besson works on. The Transporters, the District 13s, the Pierre Morel stuff. It's exactly what I want when I just want something fun. I might watch Leon tonight, actually. I haven't seen that one in years.
Current Music: Andrew W.K. - She Is Beautiful | Powered by Last.fm

(Ignorance is bliss)

November 12th, 2010

01:05 am - I love the world for being strange
I was so excited when I heard the Lightning Seeds were releasing a new album, and of course I bought it straight away. I liked it for nostalgia's sake, but the only song I still listen to from it is I Still Feel The Same, though listening to it feels a bit of a lie, since I don't still feel the same.

Now there's plenty of songs I can't relate to and still like but this is a little different. The Lightning Seeds were my first favourite band. Before Jimmy Eat World, before Brand New, before The Appleseed Cast, Funeral for a Friend, Hell is for Heroes, Feeder and Cast. The Lightning Seeds are the very first band where I took the lyrics and fit them to my life, the first time music became personal.

It's a very bittersweet song to me, I Still Feel The Same. On the one hand there's no clearer sign of separation from youth and there's definitely a sense of loss there but on the other hand noticing the change I see that I am much happier with who I am now than who I was then. I'm still not where I need to be and sure I still feel a little disconnected - particularly when it comes to what I'll optimistically term my love life - but I'm getting there.

Monday night gaming is now alternating between James' Geist game and my own dark fairytale Robin Hood game. You would not be entirely incorrect if you were to accuse me of staying up until gone 2am the other night writing backstory for my Geist character. I know far more about him than I do about Robin Hood. I've got this fairly rich setting in my head, but I haven't yet worked any stories into it. To begin with it'll be quite simple while we all learn the rules and I try to remember how to run a game.

No, you know what, I'm not going to change topic. Let's go with analysing my lack of girlfriend and explaining what I mean by disconnected. I might delete this paragraph before posting, but usually when I write a sentance like this it means I won't. I'm not even sure many people still read this. It's so much longer than twitter and I update less than half as often as I used to. Not that I really post to twitter that much either (follow me @Novander).

Right, so I have had two actual proper definite girlfriends, one relationship that fell apart after two weeks and one girl I got drunk with and kissed on a sort of nightly basis for three weeks or so. In between these I've flailed between two extremes: 1. Aching loneliness when the girl of my dreams, my true love, the one, is seeing some other guy who is invariably not good enough for her. 2. Aching loneliness when I have no crush and I look at my life, my work, my hobbies, my social circles and realise that I am not only alone now but will be so forever more.

This is not melodramatic, over the top, stereotypical whiny it's always raining and I love My Chemical Romance emo livejournal crap. These are the two absolute extremes and I do flit between them but 99% of the time I'm somewhere inbetween where it's warm and comfortable and I don't mind that I'm currently single or maybe that girl I like might like me back I just haven't asked yet. Also, I do love My Chemical Romance's first album and selected other works by them and listen to them in many different moods.

Right now, for the record, I'm down on the alone now and forever more end of the scale. Not right at the extreme, just hovering around that end. I don't want you to go away thinking I'm depressed or down or even a little bit sad at the moment. My love life is the most disappointing aspect of my life but it's not currently an important part. I lie awake at night worrying about job security, what I'm going to do when the last of my friends leave Norwich, why don't I even try writing anything anymore? Could I actually win a fight with a bear? Would losing said fight be okay if by doing so I saved the world or at least the life of one tiny child carrying an ironic teddy bear? Who was that guy from that film and where do I recognise him from? The one that keeps me up most often is "man what is that song I used to listen to that I can't remember the lyrics to or how the tune goes but I know the feeling it evoked?" I really want to listen to that song. Anyway. I don't lie awake thinking about the distant girls.

I don't want to go out with anyone that works at the cinema. I mean, there's no one specific but also more generally I'd prefer to meet a girl outside of there. However, I hang out with non-Odeon people less and less and my only real social group outside the cinema are my gaming group and through them, the messed up crazy world of Gamessoc. Also my biggest passion these days is film, and you'd think a cinema would be the right place for that.

I returned to not going out so much. It's not a state I like. One of the things that drew me to Carrie, looking back, is that when we were friends there were parties all the time or we ate chinese and watched films or whatever; there was always something happening and I liked that. But we wanted different things: she wanted a boyfriend and I wanted a girlfriend. Clearly it was never going to work.

I've got this box of mints lying on the desk next to my keyboard. It is full of billions of the smallest, strongest mints in existence. I'm tearing through these like some sort of addict. I bet even the neighbours can smell how nice my breath is right now.

Disconnected. I can be a bit of a loner. I don't avoid people but sometimes, for example, I'll get home from work and see all the lights are off and it's like awesome, house to myself. And then of course I get in and there's these two cats there treating me like the best person in the world until I actually get around to feeding them but I'm not becoming a crazy cat lady I'm not, I'm not, you can't prove anything. But no, forget the cats, I just mean I find it easy to relax when there's no-one else around and sometimes I want it that way. Wake up to an empty house and pssh, meh. Come home to one and it's great.

I have trouble forming medium-distance friendships with people because I have trouble being interested in their interests, especially if their interests aren't interesting, and I feel bad about that. I don't want to fake an interest, I want to be genuinely involved. Close friendships I'm fine with, up to a point but with that sort of second layer of friends, the invite to the reception but not to the wedding layer, I have problems. Aloof is a term I've heard a lot. I almost wrote "term I've heard alot" but then I remembered this. It works, Allie, whoever you are. I like your About page.

But yes, aloofness and whatnot. I think that's a major hurdle in this whole alone now and forevermore business. If I can't handle small talk how would I ever move up to big talk.

With Raymond Terrific.

This doesn't feel like an end to my soliloquy but it's late, I'm tired and I want to watch an episode of something before I fall asleep so I'm going to leave it there. I'm happy with this post. I've used long, smart-sounding words, got some nice rhythm going in places and expressed some feelings in a not entirely lame manner. Sometimes I wish all my posts were like this. G'night.
Current Music: The Lightning Seeds - I Still Feel The Same | Powered by Last.fm

(2 parts for the wolves | Ignorance is bliss)

November 3rd, 2010

01:49 pm - My prints all over the smoking gun
Harriet's friend Emma has moved in with us now. Emma and I don't talk. I mean, I don't know her that well and everything's polite and everything's friendly and there's no issues but I have always been terrible at small talk and I don't think she really wants to know why it's a good thing that Andrew Dominik and Casey Affleck are teaming up again or why Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is an important videogame even if it's not strictly speaking a good one. I get the impression that she's not really in any sense a geek, and I don't know how to deal with that. So there's awkward silences and then she'll go off and smoke and I'll stare at an Xbox.

At the screen, I mean, not at the Xbox itself. It's not that interesting. Once I have enough money that screen will become the one I use for this computer and I'll be buying some big and fancy TV. We're talking 40" minimum, LED screen. Plasma ones are cheaper but having seen them side by side I can see why. Plasma makes the picture look so much duller. LED has a much sharper contrast, much better brightness.

I managed to go another Halloween without dressing up. Go team me. It really is the worst holiday. I don't like fancy dress and I don't like that every year people look down on me because of that, as if somehow I am spoiling their fun by not joining in.

If I survive the first orange wednesday of Saw 3D then tonight I'm going to be watching Jackass 3D. I never liked the TV show and I don't want to like the movie, but there was one bit in the trailer that made me make a weird surprise laugh explosion sort of noise, and I'm sure more things like that will happen in the film. So at least I'll be watching it in a print check with no members of that damn public in there to spoil it for me. They're so strange, the public. There's regulars at the cinema who complain about the prices of food all the time, like they'd forgotten since last time, like they hadn't been coming here for at least three years knowing there's a Morrisons right round the corner.

I thought I had a can of left coke in the fridge but apparently I don't, so now I have to restructure my entire day around obtaining coca-cola. I think this will mostly just mean stopping at the co-op on the way to work but it might get a little more involved than that. Tomorrow is film day with Jeremy and Sarah, but before that I'm being woken up early by the Tesco delivery man who is, in fact, bringing me Coca-cola. Ordinarily I'd be able to just wait for that, but now I have this craving. I've got a bit of a cold so I won't even be able to taste it properly, but I know I have to have it.

Grant and Mary left Norwich today, after spending two nights sleeping on our sofas. They've moved to London as if that place was somehow better than Norwich. Fools. We'll miss you. And then when we've had enough missing you, we'll stalk you. This is your only warning, and you don't have internet access for a couple of weeks, so ha.
Current Music: Saves the Day - Banned from the Back Porch | Powered by Last.fm

(Ignorance is bliss)

October 13th, 2010

01:42 pm - Suit up!
Just before I started university my mum took me shopping. Buying me clothes for the last time, she called it. The goal was a suit and a mobile phone. Two things: First, my mother and I are both aware that mobile phones are not clothes. Second, this was way back in 2003 when only almost everybody had mobiles.

So I got a suit and two shirts, one plain white, one striped. The suit was first actually needed in 2007 and has only ever been worn for two purposes: Odeon Oscars nights and in character at Zombie. The plain white shirt is now covered in fake blood, the striped one is being worn for the first time today, simply because today is International Suit Up! Day, a wonderful How I Met Your Mother based holiday. I'm looking pretty good. I would look better if this shirt had been ironed some time since it was bought seven years ago but still, pretty good.

I've been watching The Big Bang Theory again. I went off it for a while because when I first moved into my last house I had to inflate my bed every night which took about 15 minutes, so I'd do so while watching an episode of Big Bang Theory. Oh man, that's weird: it appears the memory of that is tinted with the smell of sawdust, the taste of mild curry super noodles and flashes of Fable II. That sums up that first month there pretty well I think. Oh, and I also went off the Big Bang Theory because it's not really that good, but mostly because I watched it too much. I stopped after season 2 and over the past couple of days have caught up to where we are in Season 4. It's still not that good.

Sheldon is the issue. Raj, Howard and Leonard are all socially inept and broken in ways that are funny but the Sheldon character is a step too far for me. If we were doing Friends character comparisons, which is the way to go when discussing sitcoms, Sheldon fills the same role as Phoebe: the quirky one that brings in conflict where there shouldn't be any. Just like Phoebe centered episodes were the worst of Friends, Big Bang Theory is at it's worst when the action focuses on Sheldon being different to everyone else, rather than it being amusing background detail.

Here's why: Comedy comes from many sources and you're not wrong if you think Sheldon is the funniest character though I am wrong for saying that. Surprise and absurdity are two of those sources. When Sheldon is not the focus, it's something of a surprise when he acts in an absurd manner against social convention. You forget how odd he is and are not expecting him to act like that. When Sheldon is the focus, the surprise is gone and to counter that they increase the absurdity of his actions, which does not appeal to my sense of humour.

I'm liking the new Jimmy Eat World album. I've got it playing while I write this and honestly I haven't paid attention to most of it but every time I get sucked in I think "Hey, this sounds pretty good." Except Littlething playing at the moment. Can't say I'm too keen on this one, but I'm sure it will grow on me. It's the only thing on my mp3 player now though, so I'll get to listen properly on the way to work.

Enslaved! Let's talk about that before I go bathe/shave/eat. New Xbox game set as a Sci-Fi version of the classic Chinese novel Journey To The West. It looks beautiful. I mean, the graphics sure, but the acting and writing are great. There's a fair few games with good writing. Anything BioWare have ever done, for example, but it's nice to see some good acting to go with it. Andy Serkis - probably the most well known figure in the field of Motion Capture - plays the lead role of Monkey. The whole game is one long escort mission, but it's actually good. I mean when the character you're escorting, Trip, gets in the way it's for gameplay purposes, not a hinderance to. Plus she has a great relationship with Monkey and the motion capture and professional acting let it shine through.

Compare it to something like Fallout 3, which I've also been playing a lot of recently. Bethesda hired Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean for Oblivion and Liam Neeson for Fallout 3. These three are all great actors who provided great voice acting but the animation could not match it so the whole thing felt flat. I hope Enslaved does well just to show game developers what a good cut scene looks like.

The gameplay itself I find somewhat disappointing, but this is one of the better films I've ever played.

The gameplay problems: Monkey's animation is so fluid but the movement controls don't match it. A lot of the game is spent scrambling up walls and through abandoned buildings, but it's very restrictive as to where you can go, which ledge you can climb, which you can't and worst of all which you can climb if you're standing in exactly the right spot but can't if you're a fraction to the left. It really breaks the flow. Combat is pretty similar: Monkey's attacks look great but quite often he'll be swinging at empty air while the enemy is standing just off to the side.

The camera can be a little frustrating when the cinematographer wants the scene to look epic but I want the scene to look like I can see where I'm going.

None of this is gamebreaking and to its credit it does at least try to keep things interesting, with many different mini boss fights littering the path to freedom. I'd recommend it if you want a game with good writing, not so much if you tend to skip cut scenes.
Current Music: Jimmy Eat World - Invented

(Ignorance is bliss)

October 2nd, 2010

07:59 pm - The past is only the future with the lights on
I love the film Kingdom of Heaven. Most people don't. I really don't understand why. The theatrical release was maybe a little disjointed but the director's cut is one of the finest pieces of cinema. The biggest complaint, generally, is Orlando Bloom. I get this, I understand why you might be put off seeing a film he's starring in which doesn't feature Johnny Depp. But you're wrong. He can actually act in this one.

At work we all have our favourite films on our name badges. Next time I get a new one, I was thinking maybe I'd go for Up, but I might pick Kingdom of Heaven Director's Cut instead. It's up there, certainly, but probably not actually my favourite. It's just that one day Ridley Scott might walk in and I'd like him to know that someone cares about it.

I've said all this here before. I repeat it now because I'd lent both my copies of KoH to a friend many moons back, and just recently had them returned. Watching it again made me realise how much I'd missed it. I'm going to attempt a top 10 at the end of this post. They won't be in order. It's just I'm sure I've written this at least twice in this journal before and it's nice to see how things change.

I saw the new Ryan Reynolds film, Buried, a couple of days ago. He plays Paul Conroy, a contractor working in Iraq who's taken hostage, buried in a coffin with a cell phone and given a couple of hours to call around and get his ransom paid. It is so intense, the whole film is set inside the coffin. It's really clever with the lighting, the pacing and while Reynolds delivers and Oscar worthy performance, I don't want the voice actors at the other end of the phone calls to be overlooked. It's great acting all round and none of them (HA HA) phoned it in. What I really liked though was the lighting. He's got four light sources in the coffin with him and they all produce a different coloured light, which all give a different atmosphere. There's the cold blue of the cellphone, for example, or the savage flickering of the lighter. It's not fire as warmth and comfort, it's fire as dangerous and destructive. The glo-sticks prodcue an unnatural green and the torch produces the most natural white light but it's almost fierce in it's intensity. You may think I'm getting a little too overexcited by the lights here, but they play such an important role in this film. I think one of the scenes that's going to stick with me for a while is quite near the start, when Conroy's captors refuse to let him out of the coffin. He gets off the phone with them and starts panicking, shaking and screaming and hitting the coffin and then the phone light goes out and we're left in a pitch black screen and can still hear the panic.

This is not a film you go to enjoy, it's one you endure, but I cannot stress enough how well it is done. Highly recommended.

Something else I've been enduring recently is the TV show Breaking Bad. Bryan Cranston (the dad from Malcolm in the Middle) plays a chemistry teacher diagnosed with incurable cancer who turns to cooking up crystal meth in order to pay the hospital bills. I'm six epidodes through the seven part first series and so far nothing at all has gone right for anyone in the show, and what's gone wrong has all be dragged out and made worse. It is fantastic. I'd say that everyone on the cast deserves all sorts of awards but TOO LATE THEY ALREADY GOT THEM. Bryan Cranston got the Emmy for Lead Actor in a Drama Series three years straight.

(I thought it was two years and checked on wikipedia to make sure I got it right which was a massive mistake because you can't tell but I just spent twenty minutes learning about who got nominated for supporting roles on the West Wing and that's information I'll have forgotten in another twenty minutes)

I don't know how much longer I'll be a projectionist. I don't know what I'll do when they tell me I'm not needed up there anymore.

Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut)
Gone Baby Gone
American Beauty
Reservoir Dogs
Pan's Labyrinth
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Fight Club

Except this isn't right at all, because Up could easily be Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3 or Wall-E, Reservoir Dogs is on a level with Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds. Inception could be switched out for Memento or The Prestige or The Dark Night and oh my fuck aren't we all glad Nolan's confirmed he's doing the third Batman film?

And now if you'll excuse me, I think the first two episodes of How I Met Your Mother series 6 have downloaded.

(Ignorance is bliss)

September 10th, 2010

11:40 am - I watched some horror movies
Yesterday I saw two films, Resident Evil: Afterlife and The Last Exorcism.

Afterlife is terrible. So bad we were laughing the whole way through. It wants so desperately to be the Matrix and doesn't try to hide this at all. Characters run along walls in bullet time, Mila Jovovich discards empty guns mid fight because Trinity showed that was the cool thing to do and there's a whole fight scene which is just Wesker - dressed as Neo - dodging bullets at Agent Speed. The writing is clichéd and the script poorly thought through. Guns still work fine after taking them swimming and mindless zombie horrors seem to have a good sense of direction when it comes to tunnelling.

What I really don't get, though, is the Umbrella Corporation. I mean in the games, which admittedly I've only played a little, as well as the films. Umbrella seem to be evil for the sake of evil. It's not power they're after, or they'd be researching a cure for the T-Virus rather than constructing science facilities on boats in a post apocalyptic world for the sake of more biological weapons research, despite there being No-one Left To Rule Over.

The Last Exorcism is much better, but the end really annoys me and I'm going to talk about why under a cut because of the giant spoilers. I mean seriously. I'm not just going to mention the end, I'm going to spoil the whole film here.

The Last Exorcism is filmed in the style of a documentaryCollapse )

(Ignorance is bliss)

September 7th, 2010

09:51 pm - We were the kings and queens of promise
I never liked World of Warcraft, for many reasons. I don't like grinding, I don't like MMOs, I don't actually like the graphical style of it that much and I don't like WarCraft being popular. It's like when your favourite band makes it big and suddenly they're not yours anymore. I can't accuse Blizzard of selling out because World of WarCraft is the most popular MMO for a reason: it's probably a very good game.

I also can't accuse them of selling out because while there's probably never going to be a WarCraft IV, they just released StarCraft II and they're bringing out Diablo III next year. I am loving StarCraft II. I am terrible at it, but that's not the point. It's part one of a trilogy and the storytelling is great. That's not to say the story is great, but the way it's told is. The story is perfectly satisfactory, it's just nothing new and it's not trying to be anything new. Blizzard made their name taking generic concepts and doing them well.

The 30 Seconds to Mars album, This Is War, is just perfect for playing StarCraft to.

There is a moth under a glass on my desk. She'll get released once I'm done writing this, but she's a moth and moths are evil so I don't feel bad about making her wait.

I've been updating my Interests on Facebook. I deleted them all a while back when they changed the way they were presented. I started listing my favourite films in the 'Movies' section but realised that no-one expects you to list songs in the music section, you list the artists there. That's the convention. So why list films in the movies section and not the writers, actors and directors that made them. Certainly it's easier for me to list Ridley Scott instead of Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven and Alien seperately. And I'd need to put down five out of Christopher Nolan's seven.

Books is the odd section. I'd rather list Neil Gaiman than Sandman, Neverwhere, American Gods etc., but as much as I love Sophie's World and The Perks of being a Wallflower, I've no desire to read anything else by Jostein Gaarder or Stephen Chbosky so better to list the works than the authors there.

I've always hated the Activites and Interests sections. Well, not so much the Activites. My only problem there is that I personally am not active. It's the Interests bit. Maybe it's because I'm also not that interested, but mostly I dislike how many people list things like "Drinking" and "hanging out with my friends" and what the hell people. Those are just things you do, they're not interests. Also I find it odd how those are seperate. I identify as a Gamer. Does that make Gaming my activity or my interest? It's active, sure, but I also enjoy theory and discussion of it as well.

Did I mention on here before that I'm not buying any more books? Well I mean it for serious this time. Like every time I say that I end up getting more books, but not now. Until I've read or actively given up on all the fiction I've got currently piled up under my bed, I'm not buying or borrowing any more. And in the case of House of Leaves, I'm not allowed to actively give up on it. This doesn't count for Non-fiction. Reading Fiction and reading Non feel like very different activities for me. And that's regular activities. The sort of thing that everyone does, not the sort of thing you list on Facebook. That's why they've got a seperate section for books. It also doesn't count for comics, because they take like what, a couple of hours to read? Doesn't count.

Actually, I've got nothing planned for thursday. I might set that aside for finishing Handling The Undead and finding where I've put House of Leaves. Which reminds me, I also need to find out where I put all my bookmarks.

(Ignorance is bliss)

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