Monday, 31 May 2010

This comic teaches you the dos and don'ts of LARPing

Just a quick link found via the chaps at io9:

Nick Edwards explains Larping, in Comic Form!

Go over there and check it out. Mr. Edwards (who I have to confess I'd never heard of) seems like quite a talented chap!

Well done Nick!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Review: Stone Temple Pilots

Holy shit, there's a new Stone Temple Pilots album?

It's called... Stone Temple Pilots.

Which is odd. I always find it kind of weird when a band eponymously titles an album that isn't their first one. It's especially weird in this case, because it's STP's sixth album (not counting a now obviously premature Best Of), and it's been NINE years since their last one Shangri-La Dee Da (which sucked).

Scott Pilgrim and the Continuing Rise of Geek Culture

There's a ton of movies out there that are based on, borrow heavily from, or reference existing properties that fly under the radar of the mainstream. Some are massively entertaining in their own right and people have a habit of enjoying these without fully realising just how much of these films reference other cult and pop culture properties. Some of these films gain more widespread recognition than all of the properties they borrow from combined. Tarantino films are a good example of these, I know people who watch a lot of movies, but you're going to be hard pressed to find a film geek educated enough to spot all the obscure stuff he's borrowing from. Edgar Wright's films are another example, although his references (i.e. every action film ever in Hot Fuzz) are a little easier to pick. Films have this habit of influencing society, popular films popularise clothing, accessories, activities and a bunch of other stuff. If Scott Pilgrim vs. the World does turn out to be the phenomenal crossover hit I think it will, things are going to happen.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Gaming: Non-PC Platforms

I've had a few notes from people reminding me of certain games, and I've also realised that I left off a few important DOS games from the previous chapters, such as Raptor, Bio Menace, Race the Nags, Cannon Fodder 2, the Lemmings series, Wolfenstein 3D, and the Blake Stone series, amongst others. I do have to exercise some sort of editorial control and unfortunately some games have been unceremoniously cut.

Now on to the next chapter. DOS wasn't the only platform on which I played games. A friend of mine, whom you all know from the Strip Poker II episode, had a Macintosh at home (I can't remember which model) and it was there he introduced me to a new world of gaming.

Glider (1988)

The player takes control of a paper plane and flies it around a room without touching the floor or furniture. Deceptively simple, yet incredibly challenging and addictive. Glider became a bit of a phenomenon in the Mac gaming scene and has had many versions. The author, John Calhoun, has made the latest version, Glider PRO, as well as the older Glider 4.0, free of charge on his website. What a nice guy. For Windows folk, Glider 4.0 was ported in 1994 and is available for download at Theodor Lauppert's page.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Gaming: The Demo Disk Dynasty

Welcome to the second installment of my journey through video games. This period is broadly defined as the era of the demo disk: 3.5" floppies that could be bought at the local supermarket. Sharing demo disks was the early nineties equivalent of P2P file sharing. But legal. Times were so much simpler back then.

Crystal Caves (1991)

I first saw the Apogee logo at the start of Crystal Caves on my school friend's PC. From that moment on, Apogee became synonymous with quality, as Crystal Caves was highly addictive and a lot of fun. I can't remember ever getting frustrated with this game, as there were many levels to play and each one was wildly different. I also loved the addition of an above ground start to the game, before descending into the caves, which gave it a bit more atmosphere - or at least as much as you could get in those days.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Is LARPing Acceptable Social Behaviour?

I'm qualified to write this post because I am a goddamn anthropologist.

At around 1.30pm today, the University of Otago was swamped with a bunch of dudes with cardboard swords and shields bashing the shit out of each other and yelling, while a bunch of girls dressed as nurses looked on. While the nurse thing was a new factor, I immediately recognised this occurrence for what it was: Live Action Role-Playing (LARPing). Sure, this was crude and amateurish, poorly thought out and without any true enduring passion to the *cough* um. Sport(?)... But it was enough for me to pull out the phone and capture it (Ericsson W995, 8.1 megapixel camera, bought specifically for this type of occasion).

What better time than to have a think about its history, gently mock it and then discuss it as if it was some enduringly important social phenomenon?

Gaming: The Formative Years

This is the first in a multi-part series charting my development through the world of video games. In Part One, The Formative Years, I present a few games that got me started on this journey even before I had a computer at home. Let's get started.

Alley Cat (1984)
PC Booter

I didn't get into Alley Cat until much later than 1984, having been introduced to it by a primary school buddy of mine sometime around 1990. I went to a school that was rather advanced in computing technology for the time, and had had plenty of contact with computer games beforehand (some of which I am unable to track down on the Internet), though Alley Cat was my first experience of gaming addiction. I can remember never actually finishing the game, being continually frustrated by the stupid dog that would always kill me. These were the days when I had to give up my seat in order to let my friend have a turn, which was a pain in the ass because all I wanted to do was play again. And again. And again. This was obviously before I developed my incredible impatience with games; back then they were in essence much more difficult to complete than the games of today, many of which went on indefinitely and had no save function. This torture was taken well by my younger self, though nowadays if I pushed myself to install Alley Cat on DOSbox I know I'd last about five minutes.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Ultima VIII: The Lost Vale

I think, as Jay will attest, that the failure to release Ultima 8: The Lost Vale, was one of the biggest let-downs of our combined video-gaming careers. To put it bluntly, it's been a thorn in our sides for far too long.

Ultima 8 was released in 1994. At some point around where our timelines converged, Jay and I realised that we had the game in common, and we both had a blast playing it. The game signaled our introduction to this noble, long-running franchise (not counting Ultima 9. What a disappointing cluster-fuck), a series rich in history and continuity. You play as the Avatar, the paragon of virtue, resident of two worlds, Britannia, the amazing fantasy land of Knights, Magic and mythical beasties, where people say "dost" and "thou" a lot, and Earth, that planet we all come from. The premise is that the Avatar lives on Earth, until some shit goes down in Britannia and you've got to mission over there to sort said shit out. Kind of like with Batman and the Bat signal or the Commissioner with his red phone, but I digress.

dan le sac vs Scroobius Pip: The Logic of Chance

Following up their excellent 2008 debut album, Angles, wasn't going to be easy. With The Logic of Chance they show that they are still up to the game, albeit slightly worn out from the first round.

Their second offering suffers in much the same way most movie sequels do. It lacks the punch of the first and ends up relying more on special effects at the expense of substance. The Logic of Chance is still a solid album, if not as hard-hitting as before.

Angles provided blistering social commentary and introspective narrative which unfortunately isn't quite matched this time around. 'Great Britain' is about the slowly decaying state of society in what was once a centre of culture and colonial power, now reduced to nothing but binge drinking and teenage knife fights caught on CCTV. Youth themes appear again in the memorable single 'Get Better', with Pip simply asking kids to stop knocking each other up and to get some education. It tries hard to be an inspirational song, and succeeds somewhat, though others may criticise Pip's preaching from the pulpit as a tad condescending. 'Stake A Claim', a catchy tune about one's rights in a democracy, is well-timed, with the UK election having just been held. This demonstrates Pip's ability not only to be timely, but to cover a wide range of ground, from telling stories to providing inspiration. However, over the course of the album one gets the impression Pip is becoming increasingly cynical about the state of his nation, as in 'Last Train Home', where he complains about drunks on the train who've pissed themselves.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Imminent Scott Pilgrim

I really pity people who don't read comics.

Comics provide the kind of genre-busting kickass action that you really don't seem to get anywhere else. Comics are trash culture that frequently have moments of literary brilliance that you're never likely to find anywhere else in any other medium. Comics get away with everything. They fly under the radar from asshat Christian groups and other conservative assholes who try the damndest to ban everything awesome in the world.

Brian Lee O'Malley's Oni Press Scott Pilgrim series offices a premise so delightfully simple and unique that it can't help but grab your attention:

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Boy must defeat girl's seven evil exes to go out with girl.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Forgiveness Rock Record

I figured I'd better crank out something so Jay doesn't get annoyed that no one else is writing anything, and so Raoow doesn't turn into the "Czech Experience blog."

I wanted to write a review for Forgiveness Rock Record, the new album from Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene, but I realised that these days, I don't really have the time to sit there and listen to it and think about it, and I also realised I'm probably not equipped with the skill set to just listen to music and really deconstruct it. Not in any short time frame anyway.

So, after preordering it and having a bit of a listen, I thought I'd do a first impressions write-up of the new album instead.

One of the first things I noticed was the major reduction of input from the notable Canadian Indie-Scene ladies (Emily Haines, Amy Millan and Leslie Feist) that have always been involved in Broken Social Scene over the years. On Forgiveness Rock Record they seem to have taken a bit of a backseat to Lisa Lobsinger, who I understand they brought on to fill in for the female vocal bits during live touring when the other girls had commitments to their own bands. It makes sense for them to do this, to keep a bit of consistency between studio and live acts, and Lobsinger is clearly capable enough. I remember seeing Broken Social Scene in Wellington a few years back, but it was just the dudes, and the songs with heavy amounts of female vocals were dropped altogether, except for 7/4 (Shoreline) where they brought some chick from some band called the Teacups on who clearly couldn't handle the vocal component. Maybe she'd been drinking. Or smoking heavily. I don't know. Besides Feist singing the track Chase Scene (which I actually quite like) with Kevin Drew, I think the only song where the three usual ladies sing is altogether on Sentimental X's where Emily Haines' voice pretty much dominates.

Customer Service

I witnessed something fascinating today.

I was in Tesco with a Czech friend of mine. At the checkout the lady started making small talk with us and giggled to herself when I spoke Czech. She even asked for some English to Czech translation. For those of you who've read my earlier post, I don't need to explain that this was totally out-of-the-ordinary. It was a nice change, having someone smile at me and be nice for once.

We left, and I was feeling quite bright and chirpy.

"She was annoying", my Czech friend said.

Monday, 3 May 2010


Just last week, we had 'Bigotgate'. Gordon Brown said some stuff in private without turning off his microphone. First of all, the word bigot isn't a swearword. It's someone who is intolerant of people with differing opinions. And? At least he didn't call her a f***ing b*tch.

But I call to attention the name of the so-called "scandal". For those of us from NZ, who can forget 'Paintergate' and 'Corngate'? In fact, there are many more of them, with names such as 'Fajitagate', the very originally named 'Liegate', and I'mma let you finish, Kanyegate.

The media need to get over the use of the -gate suffix every time there is some kind of scandal. It's not original. It's not funny. It's not good journalism. Most of these "scandals" barely warrant being called scandals, let alone being compared to Watergate. Though in the land of the soundbite and catchphrase, I can see why few have spoken out about it before.

Anyone have suggestions for a replacement?