Archive for September, 2003

Spirited Away

Sunday, September 14th, 2003

You should go and see this. Really. I’m not mucking about here. It’s one of the most magical, incredible films I’ve ever seen. I’m a sucker for all things Japanese at the best of times, and this is the best of all things Japanese. Leave your cynicism at the door, allow your imagination to kick in and prepare yourself for an engaging, beautiful journey into Japanese mythology and folklore.

(That’s two astonishing animated features in a single week; what have we done to be rewarded so richly? Hurrah for films.)

That day again

Thursday, September 11th, 2003

There will be many thousands of entries in many thousands of blogs today pontificating on war, terrorism and other generally bad stuff. This, you will be please to hear, isn’t one of them. If you want to commemorate the occasion, go and read some Noam Chomsky or John Pilger and have a good think about things.


I went to see Belleville Rendezvous (Les Triplettes de Belleville) last night. It’s a very heavily stylised, very funny French/Belgian/Canadian animation, and it’s very good indeed. I did have a nice, long wordy review written, but I managed to accidentally delete it, and I can’t be bothered rewriting it all. If you fancy something a bit different to your usual sanitised, big budget Disney/WB animation, pop along and catch it. There’s very little dialogue, so you don’t even need to be able to speak French, it’s only 81 minutes, and it’s got the best animated dog you’ll ever see.

Apparently, you can now tell things about the state of our mental health by looking at our discarded kebab wrappers. Whatever.

This may just be the strangest lawsuit ever filed.

Videogames are evil. Again. Not the parents who let their kids play a game which was explicitly marked as being suitable for adults only, or who let their have open and free access to deadly weaponry. Yes. This is clearly the fault of an evil and manipulative entertainment industry who want nothing more than to warp the minds of our children and to cause them to go on mindless killing sprees. Naturally.

I registered the other day, purely because I live in, uh, flat 3, and I fancied pointing a domain at my house. There’s not much there yet, and I have no idea what to do with it, so if anyone has any good suggestions, leave them in the comments.

Not fair

Sunday, September 7th, 2003

So, anyway. It’s nice and windy this afternoon, so I drive over to Trafford Watersports Centre with the intention of hiring a windsurf board and having a bit of a blast. Except that when I get there, the biggest sail they have is a 4.5m, and whilst the wind is nice and breezy, it’s not that strong. So, I disappear, come back two hours later – this time there’s plenty of sails. Hurrah! So, I get out on the water and the wind promptly drops, leaving me sat out in the middle of a lake, immobile. That said, I got some freestyle practice in, which is always useful.


Friday, September 5th, 2003

Do you remember the game “British Bulldog”? Repeatedly banned for basically being an excuse to beat the crap out of the slow, fat kids under the pretence of healty playground activity, it went by several names at our school as each preceding one was banned (“It’s not Bulldog, miss; it’s Rottweiller”). Sessions invariably ended up with one or more participants reduced to tears, blood, or a crumpled pile of limbs, some of which may have bent in more places than they did when the game started. It was the kind of thing that people would write letters to the Daily Mail about these days (“Horror in the Playground!”) and we loved it.

The precise rules often varied, but the premise was always the same. There’s a bunch of ‘catchers’ in the middle of the playground, and the players basically have to run from one end of the schoolyard to the other without getting caught. Depending on how malicious the catchers were feeling, the definition of being caught varied between simply being ‘tagged’ (the nice, teacher-approved version of the game that, naturally, was no fun whatsoever) and being pinned flat to the ground, wrestling style; the usual compromise was “hands and knees on the ground”, which provided a nice balance between skilled gameplay and bloody-minded violence.

Anyway. This particular tale of pain and humiliation involves the game of bulldog – but with one important difference, which will become evident as my tale progresses. Let me take you back in time…

I spent a large part of my teenage years in Norfolk. Norfolk is an odd place. It tries so very desperately to keep up with the latest fashion trends, but usually the news of what is currently in style everywhere else is delivered via a series of chinese whispers, and tends to arrive several years too late and be almost, but not entirely, unlike what was originally intended. So, whilst the rest of the country’s teenagers were making fake IDs and trying to get into bars and clubs, in Norfolk, we went rollerskating. But not just any old rollerskating. We went to SuperSkate.

Imagine, if you will, the bastard offspring of a 1970s rollerdisco, a school disco, and a shonky, el-cheapo nightclub. Put it in the middle of an industrial estate in Norwich, add early 90s dance music, a non-alcoholic bar and fill with hormonally imbalanced teenagers. That’s SuperSkate. And I was there, every saturday night without fail, for far too many years. That’s how cool I was. Yes.

Most of the time, you just skated round and round the rink; the slower skaters on the edge, clutching desperately to the barrier in an attempt not to fall over and make a tit of themselves; the faster skaters in the middle, showing off and looking far too cool for their own good. This was all well and good, but it got a bit tedious after a point, so the staff started to introduce ‘specialist’ sessions – five minute breaks from normal skating where other things happened. There was a speedskating session (always my favourite), a backwards session, a chariots session (pushing other people around, basically) and, highlight of the evening, British Bulldog.

Yes. British Bulldog. On rollerskates.

I’ll just wait a minute whilst your brain processes the full potential horror of that. The most bloody and violent of playground games. On rollerskates. With the staff as the catchers. It sounds like a recipe for pain, and it was. To this day, I don’t know how they escaped without a lawsuit. But they did, and we loved it.

The games usually panned out in the same way: first off, all the slow skaters were caught. This usually happened with a minimum of fuss and pain, and they were removed from the rink before any real violence occurred. Next up, the catchers would try and eliminate the few really good skaters, so they didn’t cause problems later on when things got nasty. That left everyone in between – myself included – the people who could skate well enough to evade capture most of the time, but not well enough that dirty tactics didn’t stop us. And heaven help you if you made it down to the final three or four. Boy, were you in for a pasting then. And my particular tale involves the one time I made it to that exalted position.

There were four of us left on the rink. There were four catchers. One each. Mano-a-mano. We faced off. The rink was lined with cheering crowds, all egging us on, and all secretly hoping for something really nasty and violent to happen – fortunately, they weren’t going to be disappointed tonight. The DJ started the countdown, we tensed, ready to dash – and then we were off.

I darted forwards, towards my catcher, then suddenly dodged to one side. My catcher had anticipated this, though, and followed me. As we came close to our inevitable point of intersection, I switched direction again. He hadn’t anticipated it this time, though, and couldn’t get there in time. I was going to make it! Yes! Unfortunately, my catcher had other ideas – he wasn’t going to let me go that easily. As he struggled to change direction, he stuck his arm straight out in a desperate attempt to grab a hold of me. I noticed it only too late. **BAM**. Clotheslined. My face and his arm connected with a combined impact force somewhere around that you might expect between a fast-bowled cricket ball and the stumps when England are in for bat – and the inevitable result was curiously similar. My nose exploded – blood went everywhere. A veritable fountain of the stuff. My best t-shirt and jeans – ruined forever.

Conclusively out of the game, my face experiencing pain the likes of which I had never known before, and with more blood than my body could possibly have contained gushing out from my nose, I made my way off the floor, and to the first aid room. As I was leaving, I the DJ came on the PA to give an announcement.

“Well, folks – we’ve had bruises, we’ve had broken bones, but that’s the first time we’ve ever drawn blood! A big hand for our valiant contender!”

It was the best game of bulldog ever. Same time next week? Damn right.


Wednesday, September 3rd, 2003

Yes, I went to see Pirates of the Carribean last night. It’s very good indeed. I mean – it has a monkey, a midget and pirates in it – how could it fail? On top of that, it has Johnny Depp in his best role since, well, ever, it has skellingtons, a lovely lady in the shape of Kiera Knightly and Orlando Bloom for the laydeez. Top, top stuff; I haven’t laughed so much in ages.

In related matters, I really, really hope the new Coen Brothers film isn’t as hideously awful as the trailer makes it look. They’ve not managed to put a foot wrong so far, but a romantic comedy? Hmm.

How well do you know me?

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2003

This FriendTest thing seems to be doing the rounds at the moment. So here is mine. Up until now, no-one has got the band question right…


Tuesday, September 2nd, 2003

I’ve not been to ECTS before; on the basis of this year’s show, I don’t think I’ll be bothering to go again (although I may not have a choice next year – we‘re probably showing product).

ECTS is the biggest video games and electronic entertainment show in Britain, and used to be of crucial importance to the games industry. These days, it plays very much second fiddle to much larger shows like E3 or the Tokyo Games Show. Very few publishers had actually bothered to spend out on big stands, with companies like Capcom, Sega and Activision preferring to have a blank door and a private meeting room (by appointment, and for media, only) rather than openly touting their wares. The biggest stands were held by UbiSoft (whose FarCry won game of the show, presumably on the basis that it was the only game on show, as opposed to any actual gameplay merits), the entire Korean games industry (no, seriously), and Nokia (and yes, the N-Gage really is as bad as you thought it was going to be – at first glance, the stand looked busy – until you realised all the people playing on the test units were actually wearing N-Gage t-shirts themselves). There was a Half Life 2 movie on show, but it was exactly the same as the one nearly everone in the world downloaded shortly after E3. The chances are, if you could be bothered to look, there may have been one or two other things worth seeing, but frankly the general showing was so pisspoor, it was utterly demoralising and we ended up just sitting in the developer’s lounge, drinking free coffee and reading the many free magazines thrust upon us.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom – on the Thursday night (despite the national grid’s attempt to ruin my evening by closing the whole tube and preventing me from meeting up with a friend I hadn’t seen for a long time) we made our way to the pub my employers had hired out, and made the best of the free bar they had there, and Doug and Mike had meetings with several large hardware and software companies and we should now have some graphics cards and other loveliness headed our way.

In other news, I just picked up “Vehicles and Animals” by Athlete and it’s really jolly good.