I am tempted for your offer.
I am tempted for your offer.
I like to draw comics of dumb jokes.
Hey! So I was in the paper twice this week, check out my articles if you like! One’s on books I like, the other’s on video games that people like, even if they’re bad!
Edit: I realise there is a picture of Goldeneye for the ‘bad games’ section. While I mention it in a different context to the ‘so-bad-they’re-good’ games, it appears the editor did not pick up on that…
NEW FAN-FILMED BLOC PARTY VIDEO
This official video for, Truth, the best track from Bloc Party’s latest album, was filmed at the band’s recent Earl’s Court show. It uses footage from more than 200 fans using the Vyclone mass filming app. That’s a lovely idea, but it just doesn’t really make for a great video in this instance. In fact, it all just leaves you feeling a bit seasick with all the wobbly camerawork. A pity. CS
Hey, I was there for this!
My Aliens: Colonial Marines review in the paper! Advertised on the front page and all!
So I tried out writing ‘automatically’. Comments as ever, appreciated.
Gently the night sleeps
The bass of artillery
Out fly the dogs
To their masters’ beds
Or clubbed to death
For a studded collar.
Scattered with shattered snow
Worn thin with footsteps
Gently the night sleeps
So here’s a poem because it’s been a while, and I was, as they say ‘feeling it’. As ever, comments very welcome.
In Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut takes the reader on a whirling journey through historical fact and science-fiction, questioning whether literature that regards history can ever appear truthful.
Vonnegut addresses the idea of truth in historical texts by satirising it to an extreme. His protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, suffers so badly through World War Two that when he attempts to piece the fragmented memories together, he comes to believe that he is travelling through time and being abducted by aliens.
Pilgrim’s surreal encounters with the tralfamadorians are as blackly comic as they are symbolically resonant. Vonnegut uses the inability of Pilgrim to convince the world of his abduction as a parallel to the alienated feeling he experiences, as well as the way society will fail to truly recognise the horrific truth of his time during the war. Vonnegut’s metafictive first-person framing chapters, directed directly at the audience, plus his use of Billy Pilgrim as the focus of the novel, recognise this as well, with Vonnegut’s own experiences mediated through a pseudo-realistic character in order to avoid questions of his truthfulness. This results in the novel oscillating between fiction and reality, much as Pilgrim does, with the author’s presence leading the reader to recognise elements of truth. By doing so, Vonnegut makes the reader consider whether somebody’s recounting of their experiences during World War Two (such as being abducted by Nazis) could ever be perceived as ridiculously falsified as of somebody being abducted by aliens.
Vonnegut’s black humour is rampant throughout the novel, with the recurring phrase ‘So it goes’ used after each mention of death one of the novel’s most famous features. The phrase is loaded with socially-critical resonance, as it appears after the death of individuals, thousands of people and even after the death of bubbles in a water-glass. In such a manner, Vonnegut again satirises the view that war leads society to see of war-related death, in that it is just like normal death - something that cannot be helped.
The concepts of fate and free-will are heavily discussed in the novel, with Vonnegut both condemning the controlling power of war and celebrating the realisation of post-war freedom. However this freedom comes at a price as Pilgrim, a synecdoche for those who took part in the war, cannot be free afterwards, hurtling backwards in time not just to relive the horrors of war, but to question whether his very existence was predetermined to lead him to such horror.
The book’s wit and tenacity for detail create a paradoxical novel, a narration that forces you to both laugh and cry. Vonnegut blesses the reader with realisation of their freedom and quality of life, but juxtaposes it with the merciless facts of war.
Vonnegut brings the reader to understand that, through elements both in and out of their control, they are fully human to keep carrying on, to laugh at the glacial unstopping of suffering and cry at that which they could’ve changed, if only they’d known. ‘So [life] goes.’
TUMBLR EXCLUSIVE: THIS BOOK IS HILARIOUS AND GREAT AND YOU SHOULD READ IT.
Or y’know, read the review, then comment and tell me what you think - then do the above!
Mills’ debut novel The Restraint of Beasts is a darkly comic tale that questions the ideas of freedom and work, while capturing the mundane day-to-day life of manual labourers.
The narrator in Restraint has his apparent power as the new foreman of a fencing firm undermined by his crew, who work when and as hard as they want, and his boss Donald, who presents a thinly-veiled allegory of totalitarian control.
Mills presents everyday life as recognisably dull, while twisting the stereotypical fantasy of a labouring grunt of killing their boss into a series of “accidental” murders. While the narrator, Richie and Tam can’t regain their power over the constricting forces of work completely, the suggested unconscious desire to kill those who restrict them (Mr McCrindle constantly observes and Mr Perkins complains when the group pursue more than one job at once) is obvious. The presentation of these murders as a latent rebellion against controlling forces is then juxtaposed near the conclusion of the book, as Donald’s blasé mention of the death of another worker shows a suggestive contrast in which death is used to retain power over others.
The simplistic style of writing throughout the novel is used to great effect, with repeated symbols and actions expressing to great effect a continuous grind of labour. The slow churn of the plot not only sets a realist foundation for the more obscure happenings, but also shows the slow evolution of the narrator as he comes to realise the enjoyment in being a bit more laissez-faire. Mills keeps his positive portrait of freedom fairly balanced however, as a less-than-subtle suggestion that what you keep buried eventually catches up to you.
Mills’ wit is extremely dry and the no-frills writing accentuates the dark comedy, as murders and death are treated with the same straight-as-a-post approach as menial tasks such as building a fence. This black humour also creates a sheen of strangeness over the story, and as characters become more and more suggestively dark – such as the butcher who asks for a seven-foot fence to restrain ‘beasts’ – the use of plain language and colloquialisms keep the novel funny, but with a resounding depth. One could even read an anti-statism message into more analytical readings of the novel, with Mr. Hall a possible representation of a controlling state establishment, or ‘Town Hall’.
All in all, Restraint is a hugely enjoyable read. Unsettling, hilarious and relatable, Mills succeeds in both observing the state of labourers (particularly with suggestions of foreign workers, albeit a tad further away than Scotland) and subtly mediating his criticisms of the system that employs them. The groundwork concerning issues of freedom, rural social hierarchy and the restricting force of labour is laid here, and can be seen clearly to flow into Mills’ next and perhaps best well-known novel All Quiet on the Orient Express.
Mills is at once clever and simplistic, allowing a novel that builds its fences in perfectly straight lines of social commentary with solid grounding in symbolic and realistic resonance. You just don’t have to work yourself to death to get there.
Trying to give writing like a madman in monologues a go. Considering narrating it then posting as a clip. If you have any opinions, please comment!
The atmosphere is a grey expanse, as if somebody had been painting it white and had forgotten to clean their brush out from blackening the night sky and hearts of racists. I draw the curtains, patches of which fall out and leave shafts of light bladed through the dim dust. I leave the patches on the floor, so that the mice can tog up their hole behind the VCR.
The armchair sits in the corner, and I sit into it. The seat grumbles like a great sack of leathery stomach, and I wonder if it’s hungry. Remembering that yesterday I split some beans into it, I figure that it must be me that is hungry and stop trying to ram a Jammy Dodger under the armrest. I take a bite of the Dodger, immediately recognising the taste as being a misplaced replacement urinal cake instead, and throw it onto the carpet. It crumbles and bubbles amongst the fibres.
I extend a leg from my boxer shorts. The shaft of my cock is pasted against it with sweat, and reveals more of itself from my underwear as I straighten the limb, like some sort of bizarre James Bond gadget. What’s this Q? A hidden knob end, Bond, and for God’s sake try and return it in one piece this time; don’t go playing around with it for no good reason.
My toes fondle each little nipple of the television’s control panel, before caressing the power switch. There’s an ejaculation of light and sound into the room.
On the television frame a man has mistaken his tongue for a tumour and removed it. The Daily Mail told him too much Oxygen causes cancer. He hyperventilated and fell terminal. The microphones poking from the gathered journalists bruise his cheekbones. He waggles the stump in a red fleshcave of chokes. The translator next to him communicates that the man has started a national campaign to end the sale of newspapers spewing filth. There is a pause, while the man furiously gapes with an empty mouth. The translator stares down his throat, before turning back to the crowd. His story will be in The Sun next Tuesday, he explains.
Growing tired of attempting to tonsil-read the man, I playfully suggest to the television to show something new with a stroke of my protruding big toe. It complies, with a suggestive little fizzle as the screen flickers over. The nature channel shows monkeys picking fleas from the teeming hair of other monkeys and giving piggybacks to their defenceless young. Wiggle wiggle. An elderly lady in judicial robes mediates a mother and daughter who are bloodying each other’s faces with swings of glued-on nails. Tweak tweak. The politics channel shows politicians squatting up and down as they fling statements and statistics at the onlooking opposition, who respond by enthusiastically searching with one hand through the F-section of the thesaurus and tippex budget spreadsheets with the other. Prod prod. A romantic film in monochromatic shades, a man gently undresses a woman. Her top is removed, her white breasts with solid black nipples hanging, and he begins to rub his tips down her back. Not masseuse massage tender strokes instead ape peeling orange scratches and tears.
Exhale. Hand slides down edge of chair. Rip. Slice. Crust. Cold metal.
I bring the barrel around, and stare down it. It stares back, hollowed eyes that run back to two glimmering pupils. Oo, it says, with awe. O, O, for the love of God. Oh, for the love of not-God, just do it already.
I feel a heat in my mouth. Mistaken toothpaste tube for Deep Heat taste. I pick my brain for ideas on how to describe the feeling, finding it hard when my mind is everywhere. Everywhere on carpet ceiling cracks in leather chair. I pick my brain from seams, crumb-speckled.
Barker’s penchant for language and the flowing (often hyperbolic) ramblings and observations of her teenage narrator are both the strengths and weaknesses of Five Miles From Outer Hope.
While Barker writes with a zany, often hilarious style – discussing vaginas in terms of potatoes and incorporating usually cliché teenage crushes on pop stars as an obsession with a mass murdered instead. However, the focus on digressive details and over-usage of adjectives, while excellently written and wonderfully fresh, clog up a story that feels as though it would’ve been much better served in a shorter format.
Despite this, the plot itself is as inventive as Barker’s idioms and similes, again taking a normal teenage romance cliché and translating it into a pseudo-reality of nicknames, plastic centipedes and (sometimes questionably) eloquent adolescents. The real world isn’t completely deserted, with the teenage narrator’s obsessions with pop culture references juxtaposed with political struggles of the 1981 setting, and helps to encapsulate the teenage mindset Barker excels at expressing.
It is quite disappointing then, that the story ends as weakly as it does, falling back upon cliché that the rest of the novel does such a magnificent job of averting. Regardless of this, the novel screams with an acute sensibility of teenage psyche, and is great fun to read - it just needed to end seven pages earlier.
Review one of two for this coming week, slightly shorter due to two texts for one seminar. Tell me what you think, please!
For my module seminars this term I have to submit a book review of each week’s reading. I thought I may as well post them here too because I like writing/attention/so they don’t go to waste/to serve as a portfolio of work.
Please let me know what you think - agree/disagree/other!
Book Review: number9dream by David Mitchell (2001)
David Mitchell is an intruder to my psyche.
His blending of Japanese culture, The Beatles, videogames and living without a father seem to have been lifted from the past two decades of my life and dropped straight into the mind of his protagonist, Eiji Miyake.
It is through a blending of cultural escapism in Eiji’s mind that Mitchell’s excellent ink-eye for detail comes into play, with a wide cast of engaging and crisp characters populating both the fantasies and realities of Eiji, from human-head-pin-bowling Yakuza bosses to budgie-swallowing pizza-delivery magicians. Mitchell’s detail expands to Eiji’s Tokyo and rural Japanese surroundings too, with a breadth of knowledge about Japanese videogames, manga, WWII kaiten and Yakuza woven into Eiji’s coming of age story as he searches for his father, and discovers much more.
In these varied characters Mitchell also demonstrates his talent for voice, combining tragedy and comedy into the believable inner and outer struggles of a twenty-year-old. While a few of the surrounding characters dip a toe into cliché (for example, the pro-hacker recruited by the government after breaking into their own databases), they are pulled through by sheer invention of character and clarity of description, with Mitchell displaying a fetishist level of detail, down to specifics of cigarette brands and the internal workings of a kaiten manned torpedo.
This level of detail makes Mitchell’s use of Eiji’s escapism even more poignant, as dreams are rendered as closely as true life and the preference of dreams over reality is questioned. Each of the eight chapters oscillates between a reality and fragmented fantasy trips based around a coherent theme, whether they’re an action-movie storming of a lawyer’s office complete with puns and firefights, visions of Eiji’s own death, his great-uncle’s wartime diaries or the tragic recollection of his sister’s death. While the initial 50 pages spent flitting between fantasy and reality can be disorientating and irritating, Mitchell reins the use of the escapism in just in time to retain its importance in the over-arching plot before it becomes tiresome.
Eventually Mitchell pulls all the threads together, the final chapter a typhoon of information as the previous fantasies and memories wash over Eiji’s mind. The importance in the construction of the novel as a tale in eight sections (the ninth dream left blank, as Eiji triumphs over his need for escape and enters a new reality) becomes clear and Mitchell’s long-game pays off excellently. In a modern world beset upon on all sides by constant information, Mitchell presents a stream of consciousness for the technology and pop-culture generation that stands up alongside classics such as Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson, communicating with the stylistic invention and panache that the development and experiences of youth provides.
Boy it’s been a while since I wrote anything. I guess that’s because I spend all my time writing and reading at university so it’s nice to have a break and not feel the pressure to perform.
Anyway, as it’s customary I figured that I’d do a very brief run down of my top 10 (or however many) things from 2012. Mainly for my own nostalgic benefit, and if you consider my opinion worthy then I guess you can go check this stuff out for yourself, too. (Let me know if you agree/disagree as well!). I’ll start with a top 10 of games today, and hopefully get onto films/TV shows and albums soon.
10. Far Cry 3 - I hated FC2’s horrible handling, clunky shooting and overall dullness, despite the potential. Fry Cry 3 realises this potential, giving a great jungle sandbox to drive, paraglide, wingsuit, swim, shoot, hunt and scavenge in. FC3’s main issue is it’s story, which begins promisingly with one of the most original and engaging videogame antagonists in years, Vaas, but falls into cliched and ultimately disappointing cop-outs. For once, the side missions in a game are worth playing more than the main story missions, but after the fun of hunting tigers and sharks and capturing outposts (all of which are very enjoyable, for what it’s worth) wears off, the story fails to deliver. Oh, and the graphics look incredible, even on a modest PC.
9. FTL: Faster Than Light
A Kickstarter success story, what FTL lacks in depth of definitive plot it more than makes up for by the organic creation of unique and enjoyable stories via randomised encounters, choice of weapons, crew and tactics. The game looks and sounds great, with the ability to pause time and calculate the operation of your spaceship building gameplay that is both rock-hard but fair, with each battle giving a new story to tell your gaming friends, whether you succeed by slowly suffocating the enemy ship via disabling their O2 supply, or go out in a burst of glory, your crew attempting to fix your ship as fires spread.
8. Mark of the Ninja
Another game that comes as a successor to a game I disliked, Shank, Mark of the Ninja is a gorgeously stylistic ninja-side-scroller with fluid combat and stealth. The controls are tight, the plot simple but interesting enough to keep you going, but the real success of MotN is the abilities your ninja character wields in each level in order to evade or brutally assassinate the enemies. Definitely worth playing, even if it doesn’t seem like your usual choice of game.
An unexpected surprise, Syndicate appears at first to be another vaseline-smeared first-person corridor shooter. Instead, Syndicate creates a great cyberpunk world with exciting powers and on-goings (such as the ability to hack enemy soldiers, causing them to shoot themselves or pull out their own grenades and take their allies out). There’s enough tactical consideration added to a standard FPS run-and-gun setup to make the game so much more than a boring sci-fi shooter. The co-op expands on an interesting (though at 5-6 hours, blisteringly short) campaign to allow four players to slide, shoot, hack and stab together, which provides tonnes of replayability and a hell of a lot of fun. If only all shooters were this fun…
6. Borderlands 2
….which brings me onto Borderlands 2. The first Borderlands was one of my favourite games this generation, my friend and I sinking hours and hours into causing bloody chaos in the cell-shaded world of Pandora. Borderlands 2, while not advancing the formula overly, polishes out BL1’s issues and creates a game that is absolutely made to be played with friends. The bad guys are overly ridiculous, the jokes a mixture of lame and hilarious (pop-culture references abound) and the shooting tight and as fun as ever - the randomised gun creation allowing weapons that explode on reload, or fire a single devastating shot only to take 20 seconds to reload, or simply shout at you every time you use the gun. (No, really). While it won’t be to everyone’s taste, and some will be sick of seeing midgets with shotguns, for me I haven’t yet had my fill of developer Gearbox’s madness.
A PSN-only title, I didn’t know what to expect of Journey. What I got was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in a videogame. Journey should be played by everyone. Make sure you have an internet connection and 2 hours to play it in its entirety. Your nameless wanderer and its environment are presented in gorgeous style, with the simple controls and revolutonary multiplayer (you are randomly connected with an anonymous stranger, and you may only communicate through chirps) progressing you through a surprisingly moving story and an amazing landscape of lost civilisations, cloth monsters and sun-lit sand. Journey is a real example of just how effective games can be when treated as an experience, rather than an amusement.
4. Sleeping Dogs
A game I only recently played, Sleeping Dogs is a spiritual successor to the True Crime series, which I played to death as a young teen. Sleeping Dogs takes a standard open-world crime game, adds the fluid combat of Batman: Arkham City, the fun nonsense and freedom of Saints Row The Third and tops it with a story that is actually enjoyable to play (having hated Grand Theft Auto IV for repetitive escort missions, the high-speed gun fights and parkour chases of SD are a welcome reprieve). Sleeping Dogs is a game full of delivery, and if you can play it, you should.
3. Hotline Miami
A game that came out of nowhere for me, Hotline Miami is a videogame prayer to one of my favourite movies of 2011, Drive. With a soundtrack that recalls 80’s electro and trance, graphics that give a stylistic nostalgia of the 8-bit games of the period and a story that questions the brutal violence of the gameplay, HM is one of the few games this year that I literally couldn’t stop playing. By the end of each play session, you will be sweating, buzzing and shaking. And you’ll want more.
2. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
XCOM is hard. Like, really hard. To the point where I stopped playing for two months because I didn’t want to risk losing any of my highly-trained squad after the disaster that befell my 20-mission veteran Heavy. But the depth of the research, the feeling that comes just before each risky maneuver, and after each successful hit makes a game that is just so much fun to play that you’ll always want to come back eventually. Until you try it on Ironman difficulty.
1. The Walking Dead
I love The Walking Dead. The graphic novel is one of my favourite series, and up until the second season, the TV show was very high in my favour too. Where the TV show abandoned emotion and action for people sitting around on farms shouting at each other and/or sobbing, the point-and-click game of Telltale Studios takes the torch. Never before have I felt such emotion at a videogame. The multiple outcomes of your decisions, which can result in deaths and suffering, immerse you into the game like no other game has really done before. Throughout all five episodes, the emotional states are high, but are never offset by a lack of action or a toning-down of the brutality of a post-zombie outbreak world. You should really play this game.