Friday, 17 July 2009


Hi. Today I got the results of my first year exams/portfolio work through the post. Goldsmiths don’t appear to want to actually give you a concrete mark, so I deduced that I got a 2.1, which in truth I’m pretty happy with. I was slightly disappointed with the 2.2 I got in the short story module but then again I was pleased with the 1st I got in creative writing. I guess my tutor liked the pretty horrendous story about a Glaswegian summer that I wrote about two days before the portfolio hand in.

Goldsmiths is a pretty media friendly university and yesterdays edition of the G2 featured a four page article on some students who’d just completed their MA in fine arts. Goldsmiths is, obviously, famous for it’s art degree (Damien Hirst, Young British Artists, Freeze, blah blah blah) and it’s one of the things I like about being at the college. Though I rarely look at the work ‘our’ students produce, I quite like knowing that some of it at least will be pretty great. Plus, no WORLD FAMOUS art degree, no Ben Pimlott building.

Ok, this blog isn’t really an advert for London’s trendy Goldsmiths College. Instead I think I want to talk about Super Mario World on the SNES and why very few games made since can match it’s sheer majesty. The 2D plat former is my favourite type of video game. Forget about your hyper realistic representations of WW2, intense strategy games, first person shooters set in murky, labyrinthine bunkers or whatever. Give me a coin-collection, princess-rescuing plat former any day. And preferably one made by Nintendo. I never got on with Sonic, mainly because I never owned a Sega console. I got my SNES for Christmas when I was 5 and joy of joys, it came bundled with Super Mario World, making it the first video game I ever played. This undoubtedly has something to do with why I hold the game in such esteem. From what I can remember, the game came with all the levels already completed. My brother, who would have been 3, managed to delete them all. I’ve never forgiven him for it. I got through as much of the game as I could but eventually other games came into my possession and Mario, Luigi and Yoshi disappeared out of view to be replaced by Kevin Keegan, Captain Falcon and Link. My SNES bit the dust when I was 8 and had moved onto the N64, so it was only mildly crushing when another of my brothers managed to push the console off a table.

Fast forward a few years and I’m playing Super Mario World on my Gameboy Advance and falling in love with it all over again. The learning curve is completely spot on. When I die over and over again, usually on one of the slightly annoying levels where the walls close in on you, I don’t blame the game; it’s my own fault. Playing levels over and over is actually enjoyable. It’s one of those games that actually feels fun to play as opposed to a slog to get from one end of a level to another.

This leads me onto to likes of Grand Theft Auto, which one could argue is the antithesis of the type of game I’ve just mentioned. It’s constantly praised, and rightly so, for it’s non-linear structure, for it’s freedom. But no GTA game actually offers the player any ‘real’ freedom. Locations are locked until you complete certain missions. Initially, a new GTA game does feel as immersive as the reviewers say. I can happily spend hours pottering about, listening to the radio, seeing what’s possible within the context of the game. But, for me at least, unless you can be bothered to trawl through the missions (most of which are awful variations on: drive to location, shoot people, drive somewhere else. Repeat ad nauseaum) the game loses its appeal after a while. I become frustrated with the lack of consequences. Say you manage to set up a situation wherein you cause several cars to explode, you would assume that there would be some lasting repercussions, right? Well, you drive round the corner, come back in 30 seconds and everything’s back to normal. This annoys me no end. But, I guess, it shows how far video games have come. When I’m playing SMW I’m not worried that if I jump on that goomba, then go backwards a bit, he’ll reappear. I;’ll just stamp on his head again.

I’ve lost my narrative thread now, so I’ll wrap this up: 2D plat formers are the most fun you can have with two hands. FACT.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3

This summer I've dug out my Gameboy Advance and it's rewarded me. The DS was a console that I've never really clicked with for a few reasons. I'm left handed and thus the stylus system felt really awkward to use, the 3D graphics are, for the most part, shameful, quite a lot of the games I've played have been too reliant on gimmicks and well, to be honest, the Super Mario Brothers game apart, I've found very little that I'd actually want to play the whole way through, let alone repeatedly. I'm certain that I've missed out on some gems but for the moment I'll stick to the previous gen.

I hammered Super Mario World like I was a 6 year old all over again and it's still the finest platformer ever made. In fact I'd rate it as my favourite game of all time. Everything about it is perfect. But that's for another day. I've also been tearing into my ancient copy of Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening which has been a treat. I've nearly completed it this time without using the cheat that made it so easy (press 'select' just before you move into a new screen to skip it entirely). And yes, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3.

Despite being unable to skateboard in the real world (one of my rare attempts ended with me splitting my knee in half and weeping) I'm a dab hand it at virtually. The second instalment on the PSOne was my entry point to the series and I've been playing that too. But 3 on the GBA is where it's at. It's insanely easy. You can literally complete the career mode with a character in half an hour. I like easy games. I don't like buying a new game, getting that rad excited feeling all the way home, tearing off the cellophane, pouring over the instruction booklet, slapping the CD in the drive, playing the opening level, thinking 'Yes! This is a satisfactory purchase! I am a success,' getting an hour in and then realising you're crap at it and that in actual fact you could have spent the money on something else and sinking into a very mild, but real, depression.

THPS3, for me, is all about button bashing your way to insane 400,00 point combos with Bob Burnquist that basically involve you grinding a plant pot for 2 minutes. It's insanely addictive, to the point that my fingers now hurt all the time, but an oddly hollow experience. I get no joy from scoring 600,000 points or from setting off an earthquake. I get the feeling I'm wasting my time.

Just look at that intense pool of magma!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

I literally can't think of anything interesting to write about (unless anyone wants to read a review of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 on the Gameboy Advance which I've been hammering recently) so you'll have to make do with just looking at pictures of some of my favourite record sleeves. Enjoy.

Arthur Russell - World of Echo (Upside, 1986)

Annie - DJ Kicks (!K7, 2005)

Lightning Bolt - Wonderful Rainbow (Load, 2003)

Various Artists - Kompakt Total 3 (Kompakt, 2001)

Model 500 - Classics (R&S, 2008)

Orange Juice - You Can't Hide Your Love Forever (Polydor, 1982)

Friday, 10 July 2009

Summer update update

So, it's a Friday night in the summer holidays and I'm sat in my room listening to some dubstep/grime/g-funk hybrid podcast really quietly so I don't wake my brothers up. I've drunk all the beer in the house. Damn. Things aren't looking good.

The reason my summer has been a washout so far is the lack of money. I could have tried harder to get a job back at home when I was still in London, but I didn't. So I find myself in the position of having no income and owing the bank money. In fairness, I did handle my student loan pretty well this year, so my debt is quite minimal (£150). Apart from the trip to Barcelona, I rarely did anything extravagant. The Primavera trip was a risk and during the booking of flights, festival ticket and accommodation I didn't look at my bank balance once. So it was quite a nice surprise to see £800 in there when I had a look at the balance at Gatwick. After Barcelona, I was left with just over £500. The trip cost about that too, so I figure I balanced the books quite well. And it was money well spent.

Anyway, back to my point: I HAVE NO MONEY. I didn't realise this until the first time I went out in Norwich after I got back. Casually strolling up to an ATM on Prince of Wales, attempting to get £20 out only to be told I had insufficient funds was a harrowing experience. Going out since has involved borrowing money from the 'rents. Mum is convinced that £20 will cover a night out. It doesn't. But I should be thankful for it anyway. I need the dollar though.

I remember back in the day when having more than a tenner felt like a luxury. Strolling through HMV and GAME with £100 in the pocket of yr H&M jeans made you feel like P Diddy. I found my old copy of Ridge Racer Four the other day (as well as my previously thought lost copy of Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2, which is still as rad as ever. Fuck the soundtrack is good; Papa Roach singing about 'CORRUPTION AND A GOAT - THE SALESMEN OF OUR BLOOD' and that Anthrax/Public Enemy collabo in the same game? Damn son). Cost me £20. Part of HMV's 'budget' range. Fuck was I on? Ridge Racer is shit isn't it? The girl in the game is quite cute though. And the drifitng is good. But yeah, £20 back then got spent on games and stuff. Now it'd cover the cost of the train into Norwich and approx 3 pints of Kronenbourg in The Glasshouse. My dad gave me a tenner the other day as pocket money. I was overjoyed, went into town to buy a stereo/iPod jack, some books and some beer. And when I lost £2 in my room the other day I was properly pissed. Getting angry over £2. Damn. I need money.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Summer update

No job. No money. No fun. Another summer wasted so far.

Monday, 6 July 2009

A Tale of Two Twats

Sometimes I like making myself angry. Not 'smash my bedroom up then beat up a pensioner' angry. More "Oooh, I could crush a grape!" type seething. In the last week I've managed to wind myself up a treat through reading a book and watching a film. The book in question was Littlejohn's Britain by Richard Littlejohn and the film was Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies. Both properly annoyed me but for different reasons.

Now, a blog entry about how much of a twat Richard Littlejohn is hardly rare (probably just slightly less common than an over enthusiastic post about Animal Collective) but I can't help it guys; the man is a colossal fuckwit.

Littlejohn is a columnist for the The Daily Mail and The Sun and as a result, before even reading any of his articles you get an idea as to the type of thing he's going to write. Sadly, he lives up to these predetermined notions. Before picking up his book from my local library, where it was somewhat strangely placed in the 'literature' section, I'd only looked at a few of his columns, one of which was basically (and I'm paraphrasing a great deal here. Makes things quicker) stated that the women killed in Ipswich a few years back deserved to die because they were prostitutes and as a result, no one would miss them. Alarmingly, many of the comments on the Daily Mail website in response to the article backed up his point. Littlejohn's readers are the type of people who describe themselves as 'the silent minority'.

So I borrowed the book knowing I'd hate it, preparing myself for 350 pages of racist, homophobic, sexist twaddle. And that's pretty much what I got. Littlejohn makes efforts to distance himself from the BNP and this is fair enough. However, though he may not align himself directly with the far right, many of the views he puts across in the book sympathise with the facist party. 'Facist' is a word that springs up repeatedly in Littlejohn's Britain, always suffixed with the word 'left'. In his eyes, the loony liberal left' are to blame for all the problems this country faces. The book covers the Blair years and details how/why the UK has, to use the title of one of Littlejohn's novels, gone to hell in a handcart. Too many immigrants, gay and lesbian people have too many rights, THEY'VE BANNED CHRISTMAS, Muslims are taking over. Basically anyone who isn't a white, hetrosexual, working class man is at fault.

Here's some of the highlights from Littlejohn's Britain:

  • His utterly baffling use of the phrase 'Rubber Johnny police' in an article about health and safety GONE MAD. He makes no attempt to explain exactly what a rubber johnny police force is, sadly.
  • I'm going to quote verbatim here. This is RL's thoughts on travellers and why John Prescott loves them - "Every resident distressed by caravans on the cricked village green; every mum in a baby in a pushchair who treads in a pile of excrement; every housewife who's washing is polluted by the acrid smoke of burning tyres; every home burgled, every lawnmower stolen; every local pub terrorised; all these represent another small victory for Two Jags. Errrr, ok Richard.
  • He hates gay people, is oddly obsessed with them and at one point uses the fairly offensive term 'brown hatters' to describe them.
  • I did laugh at the bit when he revealed that the literal real life old woman in the shoe was called 'Mary Buttwhistle'
  • It's apparently 'nonsense' that speed cameras save lives.
In conclusion: this is a book for the type of racist cunt who can't read without moving their lips.

The other twat of the week is GG Allin. GG was born Jesus Christ Allin and grew up in a hut without water or electricity. Things were never going to end well for him were they? Still, he grew up to be a total fuckup who played really, really, really shit hardcore to crowds of complete idiots. He was famous for performing naked, shitting on stage, wanking on stage, attacking his fans, doing lots of drugs, being RLLY RLLY ROCK N ROLL etc. The film Hated was streamed on the Pitchforkmedia webiste last week and as I've got fuck all to do, I had a watch. It was 90 minutes of complete toss. I learned that GG had the worst fans in history, a drummer who was convicted of flashing a young girls and was essentially, a complete and utter dickhead. The 'highlights' were him assaulting a woman at a 'spoken word' performance and trying to get a stiffy by rubbing his hilariously small cock (literally one inch long) with his own shit. It failed.