Farcebook

I haven’t touched this blog in like a couple of months, and even before then it’s been a rare thing. Basically, NaNoWriMo, Christmas, college and the panic that comes with applying for university kept me busy, as well as a few other personal projects.

That and I feel like I’m all out of shit to say for a number of reasons. Largely because things have pissed me off more than cheered me up (and I really don’t want to fill this blog up with endless rants – dammin, Jim, I’m 28, not 82), and a lot of what I have had to say of late tends to fit “comfortably” within a couple of Tweets. Oh, yeah, and I’m currently under a feature block on Facebook right now, and I don’t know the full extent of that, but the extent of Facebook’s hypocrisy. See, as far as I can tell, the block may have been a result of a comment I left on a post made by Real Radio North East, in which they asked their listeners to write three words that summed up the prior 24 hours. My contribution was “Stupid mouse broke” because, well, my stupid mouse broke that day. Overpriced piece of crap that it was. That comment had since disappeared, and I also found that the station has also blocked me on Twitter.

It was either that or the station is taking it out on me because I called them out, when they tried to claim someone else’s image as their own by slapping their shitty logo over the original.

The original image is actually a user card from someecards.

The original image is actually a user card from someecards. And yes, I was understandably pissed that they pulled that shit. They quietly took the post down an hour or two later and then tried to pretend it never happened.

In any case, it’s looking to be the case that I’m going to be stuck in that feature block for a whole month, possibly more, and I don’t even know if this post will go through to my page, or if I am even able to comment on my own page (never really had that opportunity, to be quite honest). Either for doing the right thing or posting something that was about as offensive as breathing. Which might cause a few eye rolls, but let’s face it, if you’re offended by the act of calling an inanimate human interface device stupid, you might want give your life, and your priorities some long hard reconsideration.

And yet, while I am being penalised for the most moronic of possible reasons, others continue to get away with personally attacking someone and calling them the C-word for the “crime” of “failing” to post a link and spouting transphobic shit, to name but a few examples of the bullshit I’ve reported, only to be told that no action had been taken because none of them had been in violation of their community “standards”. Seriously, Facebook? Fucking hypocrites. I wouldn’t be surprised, at this point, if the site’s support “team” was nothing but an army of robotic bros, given this and their history of allowing pages promoting domestic abuse to go unpunished for months.

So, yeah, I went off on a rant. Again. On a lighter note, I’m going to try and give this blog a little more love. I have a few ideas which I might be posting over the next few weeks. So, erm, stay tuned?

Why News?

Dear Sky News,

Why the fuck is the One Direction “movie” even news?

Why do you insist on reporting on this bullshit like it bears the same level of importance to Britain, if not greater, as something like the shit currently being hosed into the nearest fan in Egypt, the bullshit intimidation tactics our own government is employing in the wake of Edward fucking Snowden’s leaks, or the massive dump Russia is taking on its LGBT population?

Who, with even a hint of a sodding clue, gives a toss about this movie? It’s not even a proper movie, not even in the sense of feature-length documentaries like March of the Penguins. It’s a bunch of camcorder footage that might as well have been edited together by an unpaid intern, yet somehow, people are stupid enough to buy a full-price ticket for it. It has nothing on the likes of Spice World or S Club’s Seeing Double, which is saying something considering both movies are still considered crap. At least someone put some effort into writing them and directing them. At least those bands tried to act.

One Direction themselves are an insult to boy bands. Their “music” is monotonous, detrimental to logical thought, and has probably inflicted aneurysms upon a few people. Whenever I hear this shit on the radio, or have it inflicted upon me by way of a pre-video YouTube ad, I feel inclined to hunt down stuff by the likes of N*SYNC or Five just to flush that shit out. 1D’s music is not good music. If you can even call it music.

So kindly knock off with reporting on unimportant crap like this, especially after it damn near bordered on the level of idiocy that surrounded the Royal Baby yesterday. Focus on what really fucking matters right now.

 

Rant over.

Shaken and Disturbed

Am I the only one that finds the whole Harlem Shake fad a bit… shit?

Actually, that’s an understatement. I consider it a stain on YouTube and the Internet, so much so that every time I see someone post a link to a new version of it, I feel myself wishing I had the godlike power to drop an asteroid onto the faces of the original’s creators with such force that not even their Red Power Ranger helmet will spare them.

Seriously, it’s stupid. Not funny stupid. Just stupid. I can’t even see why the original video was considered funny to begin with. It’s a bunch of pillocks in morph suits performing faux-spasms and pelvic thrusts on the spot to a “tune” that sounds like someone attempted to cover “Dooms Night” by recording seals bonking each other and playing it back at a various levels of pitch.

Yet despite this, it has been copycatted more times than is good for my brain activity, with people managing to get themselves arrested or sacked for doing it at a WWII memorial or in a sodding mine.

And no, I am not knocking it because it’s popular. Gangnam Style was popular. I loved it, and still do, but that people actually tried to compare Harlem Shake to Gangnam Style should be considered the Ultimate Insult to Psy. One is awesomely absurd. The other is just nonsensical in the worst possible way. Learn the difference.

Oh, and did I mention that they’re not even doing the real Harlem Shake?

Just STAHP. Let this “meme” die already so that some actual creativity can return to the YouTube home page. Rant over.

Dusty Knee

Any gamer recognises the name Bungie, right? They’re the people behind everyone’s favourite faceless super space soldier, the Master Chief, because most people who’ve fondled an Xbox controller probably won’t remember anything prior to Oni.

Anyway, they’ve been quiet since splitting from Microsoft. Another studio was formed to drag on the Halo franchise while Bungie more or less disappeared without a trace, as far as I was aware. Now they’ve revealed Destiny, a project they’re claiming to be spending ten years and a stupid amount of dollars on.

And it’s a game about “space marines with guns” (in the words of QWOP creator Bennett Foddy, but totally bang on).

Ten years and an insane amount of cash on letting gamers play faceless goons in armour.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, that has pretty much sent my interest down to rock bottom faster than the recent meteor shower over Russia. I mean, aren’t we all tired of this shit by now? Haven’t we gotten more than a little fed up with military shooter after military shooter after military shooter already? Aren’t we sick of the sight of the same shaved-cranium, armoured-up or otherwise faceless soldiers likely bearing some lifelong grudge/dark past/lame excuse to be a whiny little bitch that have dominated game boxes since the arse end of the PS2 generation?

Don’t get me wrong, Destiny looks like it has an interesting – actually, scratch that, pretty awesome looking – universe, but I just don’t want to play yet another space marine or another faceless grunt.

These days, I’m holding out for a hero. If it’s a fixed character, they need to be remembered as fondly as Mario and Sonic, Ryu and Ken, Sam and frickin’ Max. They need to stand out. They need colour and character, and that isn’t going to be achieved with grotty power armour and all the other same-old tropes developers have been tacking on for the past decade. As crass and immature as it was, Bulletstorm felt like a small step in the right direction. If you didn’t laugh your arse off at Grayson Hunt singing badly as he tore up the place with a remote-controlled robot dinosaur, you might want to check your pulse.

If the character is customisable, I sure as shit don’t want to wrap them up in overly bulky armour. Case in point, my norn warrior in Guild Wars 2. Most soldier profession players seem to go for the biggest, most improbable armour possible, wield the most over-compensatory greatsword they can find, and can’t seem to find the “hide helm” option. Then there’s me, who’s taken one of the fugliest top-end armour sets in the game, transmuted the skin of a low-level armour set onto it and hidden the helm. The result is improbable, yes. Anyone wearing it into a real battle would likely be impaled on a spear in seconds, yes. But at the end of the day, it makes my character look more of a hero than even the NPCs, in my opinion. He is not a faceless grunt as far as I can help it.

Does that not look like the chest of a hero?

Does that not look like the gut of a hero?

Returning to the point now. If you had a billion-dollar budget and ten years to devote to whatever the hell you liked, would you really blow it on something people are surely getting sick of the sight of?

Seriously, there are so many potential ideas that haven’t been explored yet, so many potential universes to create, with so many time periods and other concepts you could draw from. Why is there not an open-world sci-fi adventure that isn’t post-apocalyptic, for example?

Think about it: even with a fraction of that cash, you could have had games that put you in the shoes of an adventure seeker on a newly-discovered planet, getting your Indiana Jones on in alien tombs with little more than a grappling hook to defend yourself. You could be an orc policeman rising through the ranks in a city reminiscent of 1970s New York. You could be a space witch travelling the stars helping the less fortunate like you were Robert McCall with a wizard hat.

But this won’t happen, because big-name developers and publishers alike are too shit-scared to take risks any more  Their trousers turn a shade of yellow at the sight of an untested idea. They’re too comfortable shitting out the same old bromance-riddled military crud for £50 to £60 a pop. Reality check, games industry: there will come a time when gamers will grow tired of it all. They will stop buying what they essentially already have in their libraries. They will crave something new.

That time can’t come soon enough. Why it hasn’t arrived already is a mystery.

Power Trippin’

Guild Wars 2 isn’t perfect. It’s got its flaws and annoying little issues that sometimes make me want to slap someone upside the head with a zombie chicken.* Yet I enjoy it for most part. There are some complaints from other players, meanwhile, that I just cannot wrap my head around.

Among these complaints is the level scaling system. In most MMORPGs, if you take a top-level character to an area designed for new characters, you will most likely be able to kill anything that crosses your path with a single poke of your Sharp Pointy Object of OMGWTFAWESOMELOL+9001 or whatever. In Guild Wars 2, however, this is not the case. instead, your character will revert to a maximum level for each part of the map and their power will be brought in line with other players and foes within that area.

This, for some reason does not sit well with some players, who would rather be able to one-shot everything in a starter map and believe that they don’t feel powerful at all because of this system.

Firstly: BULL. SHIT. I can take my Level 80 warrior into Queensdale or Wayfarer Foothills or just about any Level 1-10 area and pretty much steamroll anything that moves in as few as three hits. Some foes even get one-shotted. This was the case back when I wasn’t armed with level-appropriate Rare weapons as much as it is the case now. I couldn’t do this with that same character in his early levels and, additionally, I find it hard to believe other professions have it any worse.

Secondly: Why would you even WANT to have the kind of power you demand? It’s probably fun for about all of three seconds before the novelty wears off and, if you haven’t achieved 100% map completion beforehand, would make getting a map cleared or taking part in an event little more than a chore if all you’re doing is running from A to B while happy-slapping Kryta’s centaur population unchallenged. Yes, I can failtrain low-level mobs in a few hits, but some events bring the challenge of mowing down mobs the size of which can still down you when you’re not careful. It’s also limits the potential for abuse. I’ve heard plenty of complaints about high-levels in other MMOs stealing kills from low-level players, stranding them in single digits for as long as they can’t get to an enemy first. Level scaling is just one of a few systems that serve to nip this problem in the bud, and that’s fine by me.

Thirdly, such a game without level scaling would just be plain nonsensical, fantasy setting aside. You want to explain how it would be logical that an upper-level character can axe-slap a L5 sparkfly to the Mists and back yet struggle against a more level-comparable one?

Thought not. Like I said, GW2 has its failings, but level scaling is so far from being one of them, it’s broken high orbit and drifted away.

* Zombie chickens exist in Guild Wars 2 and, credit to ArenaNet’s ability to steer clear of some of the fantasy genre’s worst and most overdone clichés, exist in a totally non-comedic and actually unsettling manner. Any player trying to 100% Malchor’s Leap may understand.

Gone Potty

While I realise this may come across as pretty inflammatory  the sheer ignorance I am about to describe has truly made my really cranky this morning.

Today a local radio station posted this on their Facebook page:

Yep, that's a potty with an iPad mount.

Yep, that’s a potty with an iPad mount.

Frankly, my eyes fell upon this and my immediate thought was: “Does anyone even buy this?” Otherwise I was pretty indifferent about it. There are, most likely, far worse tablet peripherals out there. Ones that do sell.

Others weren’t so nonchalant about it:

iPottyReaction1 iPottyReaction2 iPottyReaction3 iPottyReaction4 iPottyReaction5 iPottyReaction6 iPottyReaction7 iPottyReaction8

Oh, where do I even start? I know! How about I introduce all you people to a little marvel of the human mind called a

GRIP.

First off: Are you morons even going to buy this thing? No? Well, good for you. You have some semblance of a clue how to manage your money. That makes you a marginally better parent, I guess. But still, why do you even care about it so much? Why do you all insist on wasting keystrokes to repeatedly brand it stupid. This is, in actual fact, a stroke of GENIUS. Why? Because it exploits the lazy and it might just turn a profit for its creators. They know what they’re doing, and genuinely believe it might work. What are you lot doing? Probably grinding yourself into stupid levels of debt because you’ve been binging on credit cards and pay day loans just to get your HDTV or the smartphone you just ranted from, I’ll bet.

Secondly: “Kids shouldn’t be allow computers.” “Kids spend too much time in front of TV instead of out playing.”

This has got to stop. The blaming and animosity towards something that could, no, WILL be part of their future has got to stop. Do you want to know why they’re sitting in front of a console most of their childhoods? It’s because you, the parents, won’t act like damn parents. Here’s an idea for you. In fact, here’s a few.

  1. Stop blaming IT for your child’s lack of development. Stop whining about them never stepping away from the latest Call of Duty carbon copy and never stepping outside on a good day. Your kids should be outside playing whenever that’s possible and the only person that can do that is you. Make them go out and play. Take them to a park once in a while. Take a damn active role in raising your child. Also, stop using excessive punctuation marks. One exclamation mark will do when it’s required. Likewise, one question mark will do. Not fifty to end a sentence. That just makes you look like a rabid loon that needs to be thrown down a pit for the sake of us all.
  2. In the house, give them a few toys with some educational value at the least. Nothing fancy. A few action figures and board games wouldn’t go amiss. Participate in their play.
  3. If you have a free (as in available) computer or tablet, do let them play on it. DO NOT just park them in front of it and forget they exist. Sit with them. Guide them. Teach them. Know when to stop and to pull them away. This is how you teach moderation.
  4. Give them educational software. It exists and it doesn’t need an overpriced and under-specced VTech block of plastic to run it. All it takes is a little homework to find them and ascertain which software is right for your offspring. As they get older, push them toward adventure games that command logic in order to succeed. Give them text adventures like Zork. Give them strategy games that reward maintaining peace and diplomacy over simply blowing shit up and ventilating anything that isn’t American. Again, these games exist. Again, all it takes is a little homework. Again, sit with them as they play.
  5. Ultimately, stop using IT as a scapegoat for your child being an undeveloped little shit with nothing than a future of flipping burgers ahead of them. Use it as a tool for development, and use it the hell wisely. IT surrounds us all. It has become an essential part of our lives in this developed world and it is essential that they understand what they’re dealing with as soon as. Not before some stupid arbitrary age that’s only going to hamper them in future.

Really, sitting there raging about something you’re not even going to buy, blaming the nearest thing that happens to be part of your everyday life and failing to look at yourself and what you could do to aid your child’s development really makes me question the collective intelligence of North East England. That’s not to say everyone here is incredibly stupid, or even at all, but stupid:smart ratio can not be doing the region any wonders. Which, while I’m at it, prompted this tweet tonight:


Rant over. On a lighter note, this one, as crass as it is, was actually pretty funny:

Well played, lady. Well played.

Well played, lady. Well played.

Cover Me

Hands up all those that recognise “Self Control” by the late Laura Branigan:

It’s a song that’s so iconic and recognisable it’s been covered a thousand times over since its release and garnered a few more fans with its inclusion in GTA: Vice City. However…

Would it surprise you to know that Branigan’s version is, in fact, a cover version itself? Woah, put the pitchforks away. Yep, here’s the original by Raffaele Riefoli, aka Raf:

Both versions saw release in the same year (1984), Branigan’s version later in the year, yet it’s that version that everybody remembers and gives the most airplay, perhaps owing to the original probably not seeing release beyond mainland Europe. I don’t know if this is the case.

Similarly, 1982′s Gloria:

…it’s an English-language cover of an Italian-language song from 1979:

I’ll admit to being critical of cover versions, especially since they’ve been shovelled onto us in truckloads over the course of the 2000′s, especially by Universal’s All Around The World label, which I now consider synonymous with half-arsed shit these days, but that’s another story. The point is, I’ve come to have a low opinion of cover versions of late. However, let me make it abundantly clear that discovering that these two songs were cover versions does not instantly make them a write-off in my opinion. Both original and cover sound great in their own right, in the case of either song.

So what’s the problem, then? Well, let’s return to the original question: How many recognise Branigan’s “Self Control”?

Okay, now… how many recognise the Raf original? How many even knew that version existed? Anybody? Nope?

And this is why covers have a tendency to piss me off. People in the US and UK hear the cover, sing its praises, raise it to the top of the charts. The original, nobody knows or cares. It sinks into obscurity outside of its country of origin or perhaps even within that territory as well. Neither label nor artist will make much effort to show that the cover version is, in fact a cover, short of a slight mention in the credits in the inlay. And who the hell reads the inlay? This is an even bigger problem with the advent of digital distribution, where there are no inlays.

And then when someone stumbles across that little detail after being oblivious to it for so many years, like I keep doing on a very regular basis, they feel like an idiot, or that they’ve been lied to. It’s not really a good feeling to have as often as one has weekends, is it?

Branigan wasn’t an isolated case either. Another WordPress blog, Classic Collector, blogged about George Benson’s “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You” which originally saw release in 1984 and then got covered in 1987 by Glenn Medeiros, complete with music video. Guess which version gets all the airplay to this day.

Now that I’ve raised this issue, who’s now looking up their favourites on Wikipedia just in case?

Outfoxed

Oh, Firefox. Where did this downward spiral begin? I’ve sworn by you for many a year, through many a computer. I’ve managed to convince my mum to use you over Internet Explorer.

These days, though, there are far too many times that I just want to rip your gods-damned tail off and force-feed it to you sideways.

You’re becoming a little too unstable these days. You fritz out and lock up at the first sign of Flash, forcing me to minimize you to the taskbar and restore in the middle of a YouTube video or animation, or if all else fails, restart you. Do you see the problem there, Firefox? Do you? These interruptions are unacceptable, dammit. And they happen several times a day.

At one point I’ve had to reinstall you after you decided to crash and burn. One lousy crash doing something that was pretty damn simple, if I can remember correctly, and you keeled over, died and ultimately prevented me from firing you up again. Cue a fresh download (via Internet Explorer, which I would very much like to avoid as much as possible), a reinstall and several minutes trying to remember every frickin’ app tab I had. It was a stroke of dumb luck that you’d managed to remember my bookmarks and history.

Get your act together, Firefox, I’m considering switching to Chrome at this rate. And soon.

Greyscale

Cool your jets, this isn’t another Fifty Shades post. What it is, though, is a more personal gripe about myself. More specifcally, this:

Grey Hair FTLThat is my hair. See how it looks all grey and wiry and like some inhuman genetic experiment between Worzel Gummidge and Rogue’s (of the X-Men) Nice ‘n Easy? That’s because it is grey, it is wiry and it does look like Mr. Gummidge made out with out-of-date hair colouring shampoo and forgot to wash it out properly. And it pisses me off, because this wasn’t what I was hoping for when I finally got the balls to decide for myself that I would let it grow (only took me twenty years of living with short hair that made me look like a thug).

Tell a lie, I expected that I would start greying from an early age. I take after my dad for a number of things, grey hair and a temper shorter than a fly’s genitals included. What I hadn’t counted on was how grotty and unmanageable it would become. I do attack it with a comb, but after half an hour outside it’s all over the place, even on a day with next to no wind whatsoever, and it never stops the strands that seem to be so twirly they will do everything in their power to poke me in my frickin’ eye. I have considered getting hair pins to deal with that, but that might garner funny looks, not taking into account that I’m already considered weird for such things as using different software to iTunes to rip my CDs and knowing who the hell Robert Moog is.

I have also considered getting it coloured, but I don’t want my natural black or brown or whatever the hell it was before it started draining away from my hair. I thought about maybe a dark shade of red, but I’m not sure how my parents would take that. Plus, if I need to seek out part-time employment, that might kill my prospects.

But there’s no way in Hell, Hades or whatever afterlife you believe in that I’m chopping it all off. Don’t get me started on my facial hair. I’ve started shaving it off because the sorry excuse for a beard I had, which was as wiry as my hair, was itching something awful. Only thing is, now the emerging stubble is irritating me and I’m ready to throw my shaver across the village because it takes several attempts before it actually cuts something. For a Phillips, it may as well be Asda SmartPrice for all its effectiveness.

Blown It

Link because the Hartlepool Mail’s player of choice sucks as hard as their video editing.

One of the local papers in my area, the Hartlepool Mail, has taken to posting news videos on their website of late. Trouble is, videos like this one… well, they suck, to be honest. I’m no expert at video editing but, truth be told, you don’t need to be to pick out some of the most glaring flaws.

Let’s start with the audio. Through a combination of the mumbly voiceover (SPEAK. UP.) and a criminal failure to tone down the volume of the demolition video itself, it’s a struggle to understand a single word. And I’ve lived in and around this area all my freaking life. An equal fail was allowing ambient and crowd noise to interfere with the speech that mattered.

As for the video, it’s some sloppy cutting. The attempt to close the gap between the countdown to zero and the actual explosion slaps the viewer in the face with its blatant obviousness. Other cuts are even more disorientating.

Honestly, I’m not expecting Hollywood-grade here, but dammit, Hartlepool Mail, you -can- do better. Far better. Hire freelancers if need be.