VSX, A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist: Starbuck Powersurge - a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of Viper Squad Ten, a long-disbanded group of stranded timetravelling troubadours, formed to help finance repairs to their time-machine. Now very much stuck in C21...
All text is copyright the Viper Squad Ten blog team 2003-2006 unless otherwise quoted or credited. If we've not credited you properly, please let me know. Throw us a link if you're desperate enough to use this guff...
The good news is that there is a simple fix that all Windows users can apply straight away to ensure a safer existence on the web: Stop using Internet Explorer. A short download of a rival browser should futureproof you somewhat in terms of security, and you'll probably find that its faster and more flexible than Microsoft's shanty-browser. Personally I find Firefox is a pretty fantastic replacement (and the IE View extension adds an option to the right-click menu allowing you to open a link in IE, should you stumble across a poorly-written incompatible page. Such as this one.) Should you decide against anything Mozilla because of its stupid name (you might, for example, have an aversion to Morrissey), you could always try Opera.
I'm serious. Do it now. Choose choice. Having myself been the victim of malious code on an innocent website, I know how nasty it tastes to get unexpectedly hit like this. Its like being mugged - it feels even worse if you weren't foolishly waving your wallet in the air. And I was lucky - I was safely sitting behind my Zonealarm firewall, my security patches were obsessively up-to-date, and my brave antivirus-monitor kicked in to trap the wee beastie that was trying to squeeze through the kicked-in cat-flap. Or something. It still "hurt my feelings", however. Thank frack it didn't just sit in the background, watching my every keystroke, as I planned World Domination. Mwah hah hah haaagh!
I was less lucky at work the other day, when Backdoor.Rbot.gen crept stealthily onto my unpatched machine. It scared the living bejesus out of me; not the worm itself, but Kaspersky AV's response to it - SCREECHING like a hunger-crazed banshee in order to alert me to its discovery! It made me jump halfway across the room, quite liderally.
In fact, don't just ditch IE. I say, ditch computers full-stop. They're evil. Choose the abbacus.
The Joy of Insects
After my ant blogging extravaganza the other day, Susan had Commented about how she used to hit ants with a hammer as a child. Shaken up by reading about this orgy of insect cruelty, I was spurred on to look for a similar web game to work these recurring horrific images out of my imagination. As well as it surely being such obvious gaming material.
Lack of time has curtailed my efforts today. Not even the delightful Orisinal has come up with the goods this time, although a fairly close concept is their extremely fun Hungry Spiders game (it has always well satiated my insect abusing instincts - even better than sucking them up with a Real Life vacuum cleaner!)
The first ant-based game that I stumbled across in my minimal ant-game-search-window was Ant Run (not Firefox-compatible). Rules so basic that my nan could play it - guide the ant through the tunnels by rotating the square tiles on the grid by 90 degrees (tip: the grid wraps around) - but its pretty fun, all the same. You'll have seen it all before, no doubt, but hey - this version's got an ant in it. Fantastic! No boiling water, however. And no hammers.
Still, I'm after something with a little more longevity. And that something may just be my second lucky ant web-game discovery, AntWar. Its verily an ant colony simulation game, albeit "simulation" in the very loosest sense. Idiots unable to cope with complex resource management may prefer to keep to the original AntWar. But they'd be wrong. Idiots!
I started out, not exactly disliking the current crop of housemates, but more downright HATING the lot of them.
But now I have to admit that my good intentions have crumbled, and I'm more hooked than ever before. I may even consider voting, perish the thought.
I realised the seriousness of the situation when BB Stuart made a guest appearance in one of my dreams the other night. For those of you who're not acquainted with Sheriff Stuart, he's so flickin' laid-back that he's not only lieing down but his cowboy hat has gone through red-shift as well. Until recently I'd thought of him as a bit of a berk, but in my dream says otherwise - he'd even become a part of my "gang" of former school mates, for pity's sake (the scenario: having been trapped in a submarine berthed in a fjord off Disneyland, we'd somehow managed to escape; however we'd accidentally left our shoes on the sinking vessel.)
I'm so rubbish! Rubbish televisual habits, rubbish dreams. Let me off!
Great drama from the BBC
I've been quite enjoying match days this European Championship. I've been quite enjoying heading out to the sparsely-populated pubs & restaurants which aren't showing the matches, and soaking up the unusual atmosphere - watching excitable staff members running into the kitchens to watch bits of the matches, or trying to read the backgrounds of the patrons who, like me, haven't been bothered about the most important thing in too many people's lives right now.
But tonight, I've just caught the tail-end of the match, from Sol Campbell's woefully-disallowed last-minute goal onwards.
Damn it, it was fantastic - incredible drama. This always happens - I'd caught the bug again!
There are three things that I most enjoy about Summertime:
1 - The sun
2 - Sunny dispositions
3 - The antics of ants
I have always had a love-hate relationship with ants, the hate part often involving copious amounts of boiling water. Although they make me squirm like a big girl, their societies and colonies do rather fascinate me.
I guess it all started as a child growing up in the city of Antchester, when under the influence of Sandy White, I took to hand-grenading the little bastids (play Spectrum Ant Attack HERE).
In my later years, whilst living with an equally-ineffective bunch of students, I developed a rather one-sided symbiotic relationship with the family Formicidae - they invaded our house and trooped across the kitchen table with impunity, and I, erm, I had my crumbs carried away.
Nowadays I tend to have a more hands-off approach to the Order that scientists juvenilely know as Hymenoptera. But what absolutely captivates my imagination come late Spring and Summer, is when I catch site of their "earthworks"... the piles of dry clay-brown dust that you see resting on so many paving slabs, each heap crowned by the pin-prick mouth of a colony's tunnel. I'll be walking along, mind adrift, and then I'll see the evidence of their excavations and my mental framework will transform. I'll no longer be striding over the solid banality of the "floor", but instead I'll be treading on the crust of a world where humanity is but a small part. Part of my self will dissociate from myself, floating down throughout the networks of the nest, merging with the hive mind in my mind's eye. We are all but atoms. Or something.
Yup, ants turn me stupid.
Five Ant Facts:
1 - Ants communicate the positions of food using the trail of pheromones that is left by their tiny feet. The trail left by a successful forager will be followed by other ants, whose pheromone trail will further reinforce the route, and so on. When the food is exhausted, they will no longer reinforce the trail, leading to its eventual dissipation. Other pheromones also play essential roles in their activity - the pheromone produced by a crushed ant will attract other ants, and in high concentrations will send them into an attack frenzy.
2 - Ants are particularly close relatives of the vespid and scoliid wasps. Which makes them gits in my book.
3 - The derivation of the word "ant" can be traced to "anterior", meaning toward the front; this is because ants have some front, the way they stomp around the world like they own the place. Which to all intents and purposes they do, having first appeared sometime during the Cretaceous period (65-135 million years ago). This fact may not be true.
4 - Ant Music is a type of music performed by Adam Ant.
That's me on the left! Portrait Illustration Maker allows you to piece together gif portrait icons of yourself from the parts provided. Looks to be especially useful if you are of South East Asian appearance. (Link from Nice Guy UK)
PopupTest.com has, wait for it, a popup test - interestingly, the Google Toolbar for IE does let some of them through. Firefox, however, seems secure against all of the techniques used. (Link spotted a while back at Evil Robot Maffy's place)
New to the blog-roll is Random Acts of Reality, "a blog based in London, England, written by an E.M.T working for the London Ambulance Service". An interesting read.
And whilst I'm blog-rolling, I've now finally added to the list Richard Herring - officially the Worlds Funniest Man to have starred in This Morning With Richard Not Judie and Fist of Fun. Apart from Stewart Lee. And their cohorts.
That's enough pleasure portals for now.
20 June Update: I take that last innuendo back. Further links also immortalised on the site: Mr Biffo, World of Stuart, Kieren Gillen's Workblog, and The Weekly. These people are indirectly responsible for the Title of yesterday's "column", though I won't get into that now. (If I was a bandmember of hairy rockers Monster Magnet, I'd probably say that "its a Satanic drug thing, you wouldn't understand"; crazy mofos.) Whilst my finger is still removed from the link funnel, and since I unexpectedly seem to have been mining the strata of former computer game journalists for precious hyperlinks within this paragraph, I've also etched Way of The Rodent onto the template. And not before time.
This Summer the top of my head has been really feeling scorched by the sun. I'm suffering even on a day like today, when direct sunlight only fleetingly escapes past the big dollops of cloud that are floating through the heavens.
Prior to this year, I've never suffered from anything like this. And I had convinced myself before now that I still have a fair head of hair up top, but no, you can't argue with the feel of cranial radiation - my rug must be thinning; my thatch is losing its insulation; my pate will soon be skyclad.
Still, this sudden onset of Summertime-susceptibility to an overheated belfry has been quite interesting. There must exist some finely-defined critical mass of hair fibre density - drop below the requisite number of follices per unit surface area, and feel that scalp burn...
Now for the Science bit.
k = n/A
where k is the individual's scalp-hair fibre density constant
n is the total number of hair follicles
A is the surface area of scalp
if kA < n, then a nociceptive neural response is innervated
"Look at football worship. All those people gathered in an unroofed stadium is not unlike what must have gone on in pagan sanctuaries. The goalkeeper is the ultimate shaman, guarding the gates to the underground, wearing the No 1 jersey in a different colour and not seeming to be part of the team. We've never lost it. Modern beliefs that we are at the tail end of a culture that is killing itself is just bollocks."
Maybe if I can just supress my eschatological concerns about the culture of watching a ball being kicked around a field, then I'll be able to properly get into Euro 2004 after all...
Do the right thing
Sometimes its hard to do the right thing...
My regular reader(s) will know that I am betrothed to be married. Of this I am very excited.
The more observant reader will also be aware that I do not have belief in a God, or the supernatural in general. Those who believe otherwise should accept that this does not make me a bad person; personally, I know that this has made me a much better person than I would otherwise have been.
Very astute readers will also have an inkling that I am a procrastinator extroadinaire.
So it is with much relief that the wedding plans are now beginning to move along a little more naturally.
I'd had some difficulty over the whole "church" thing. The church which we had considered was the one in the village where my parents have lived for most of my lifetime on this planet, and their home is my second home. That church has seen a lot of my life pass through it - family weddings, family funerals. And although I'm not religious, it seemed natural to want to get married there rather than any other location; tradition and ritual dictated it - it was just a part of my family's heritage, I suppose.
Furthermore, my family are on the whole religious souls, and I guess that a part of me wanted to do what was best for everyone, especially considering the difficult year that they have been through.
It was nothing to do with it being a beautiful early-Norman building dating from around 1100, complete with groovemarks worn into the walls from medieval times, when bow-men on Sunday archery practice would sharpen their arrows against the church walls, and of course there was no connection with its equisitely beautiful riverside location... gah! Just check out the venue that we're missing out on...
But no, since we've decided to hold strong and go with our hearts, everything feels so much better. We'd have been lieing to ourselves and to our guests if we had a church wedding, and I personally felt pretty uncomfortable about the prospect - we'd have been starting our married life together on a deception, from a position directly opposed to my own strong viewpoint. And it would make a mockery of the true faith of those in attendance who do believe, and thats not something I want to do.
Deciding to hold a civil ceremony has removed the stumbling block, and hesitation has turned to anticipation... roll on next Springummer!
Starbuck's coming home
Being an intolerant unpatriotic old duffer, the toxic outbreak of England flags that are fluttering from every other fracking car's windows has been raising my blood pressure somewhat of late.
So it was with great pleasure that myself and Unit 5 drove back from Bristol this evening, having spent the weekend there chez Unit 2 and Unit 3 (and their wonderful toddling toddler Unit 4). BECAUSE THE ENGLAND-FRANCE EURO 2004 GAME HAD SWEPT THE ROADS CLEAR OF ST GEORGE'S CROSSES! Sweet bliss.
I'm not averse to a bit of national pride (though I'm even less averse to inter-national pride). Maybe the problem is that, for me, it still feels stained with nationalistic sentiment. But its probably just that I don't like football much.
Whatever, I must sign off for now. I've got to go tar and feather myself. I'm not a proper man, you know...
Fake Call Challenge
Lunchtime yesterday, I found myself walking by the lake at work, mobile phone in hand. I saw someone that I recognised sitting on one of the benches that was looming out of the heat haze ahead, and suddenly felt very self-conscious and insecure, incapable of even attempting any interaction.
So I started talking into my telephone handset, talking to myself, the phone not connected to any other number, but myself not feeling able to connect with my colleague.
And I felt liberated! I started with smalltalk - "yes... you're right.... me too... can't wait.... I'm not sure where to get that..." - just enough to get me passed my associate.
Now, there are benches all along the lakeside, and on a fine day like this, not only were they were all occupied, but there were people sitting along the bank as well.
And I found myself unable to stop speaking to the dead ear of my mobile - it had started as a stupid diversion from a potentially awkward situation, but I was now enjoying this, ramping up the silliness of my snippets of dialogue in the hope that someone might overhear and wonder, tantalised, wtf that bloke can have been talking about - "yes... and then we jumped on their cakes... I know... she rubbed it all over them... and her mother... and then the tortoise came out... you should have seen it fly over the fence". Et cetera.
An incredibly, pointlessly, enjoyable activity. Its lunchtime again as I write, and I think I'll step up to the Fake Call Challenge once more... Try it for yourself today!
Shameless Cross-Promotional Plug
Are you wondering what CD to buy today and want something VERY COMPACT AND BIJOU to give you an idea? Rushing off to the Multiplex and need a very quick review to digest to give you inspiration? Do you have less than FIVE MINUTES to read a review and then rush to the bookshop below your flat to buy a book, otherwise your puppy will be killed?
It's quick, it's easy, you can even contribute your own!
Erm and someone with the same name as me has written lots of CD reviews...
Oh I can't pretend any more. My lovely industrious friend, Cara, who set the baby up, asked me to help out, and so it came to pass. But my stuff aside, it's a very brilliant site, so get there and start reading! And contributing! And everything!
Do you remember around Christmas time I made an impassioned appeal for people to buy Mad World rather than the Darkness? (if I had my leader's powers of blogness, I could attach a link to that post HERE but I don't and can't)
WELL I find myself doing the same here today in relation to that much-loved genre of record, the football song. Yes, we all love a good football, or football related song, don't we? Who can forget that Terry venables song during the last championship? Or the one by the girls from Page Three? Erm...
Okay then, Gazza doing Fog on the Tyne. NOW we're talking!
ANYWAY, so this time, the official song is more even execrable than usual. It is a reworking of that "baggy" "classic" All Together Now by the Farm. "Remixed" by DJ Spoony, so that it's "down with the kids" presumably. "Remixed" means that he's put the obligatory cheering noises and commentators' comments all over it along with a tinny drum beat. How to make an already s*** song even s****er.
ANYWAY (AGAIN), there is another way. And I don't mean "Come on England", the re-working of "Come on Eileen" (unfortunately, I kid you not, that was released this week too).
NO, the OTHER WAY is Twisted X, with their song "Come on England". I would be lying if I said this was much further up the food chain, as frankly it IS only another football song which will sound REALLY embarrassing when we go out in the second round, BUT it has the following points going for it:
1. It is only £1.99 (official song is £3.99)
2. All proceeds go to charity
3. It's a sort of indie song, with people like the Libertines and the Delays on it
4. It's was created by and is being championed by the best DJ in the land, Christian O'Connell on xfm
Points against it are:
5. As it's xfm, no one oustdie London has probably heard it (hence this post)
6. It's got nasty James Nesbitt on it too.
Anyway, there you are. Use this information as you will. But I would particularly draw your attention to my point 2, and also to the fact that the FARM COULD BE NUMBER ONE! IN 2004! WHICH WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE!!!
#I'm Your Venus#
I took an early lunch today in order to sit under a tree, hoping that the canopy of leaves would create an effect similar to a pin-hole camera, thus allowing me to catch the transit of Venus with retinas intact. And lo, due to a lucky bit of difraction through the mosaic of foilage, I was able to focus this image onto some photo-sensitive paper that I just happened to have handy...
The secret of good web design...
... is the positioning of the "fold" - the horizontal level within the browser window where the immediately visible text ends. Ensure that the top of your web page grabs the reader's interest, and keep it clear but enticing, as to keep on reading they're going to have to make a concious effort to click on the scroll bar (or stroke the mouse wheel, or right-click drag the page down, or whatever floats their web-browsing boat). You probably wouldn't bother watching a film if you had to swap DVD's after thirty seconds of a slow-moving title sequence suggesting that the viewer is going to be watching the actor not doing much. In a foreign language. Without subtitles.
With this in mind, I look to the current visual state of the VSX website. Top third of the screen - Google ads & greyscreen. Next third - the Viper Squad Ten banner (plus that ridiculous scrolling effect that only works in IE). Post date, title and author comes next. Which leaves me with just FOUR lines of content to really sell the rest of the site to you, the casual reader.
And if you're still here after all that, there's probably something wrong with you.
So to the hardcore with persistent eyes, I bade you, oo welcome; Oo vudge welcome. In VSX.
Rest in peace
The commemorations taking place this weekend to remember the sixtieth anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy have put me in a very thoughtful place. I have always had the utmost respect for what those extraordinary ordinary people did on that fateful day, the turning-point in what many people call the last "just" war. And seeing the history for myself in northern France - visiting the memorials, the cemetaries, the museums, even just visiting the beaches - has always made me feel incredibly humble and insignificant within my own life. I suppose that I may feel especially emotional about these things due to a small but significant amount of personal attachment - my beloved Grandad was involved in the War. I have tried to put myself in his shoes, but its so difficult to imagine the terror of that day. Though being unable to swim, my grandad, weighed down with equipment, was probably more terrified of the deep water than the Germans as his landing craft approached the beach at Utah...
My grandad died on New Years Eve (my tribute to his memory can be found by clicking HERE) And with the anniversary commemorations taking place this weekend, I've been finding my mind continuously drifting to my own memories of him, and to what I can only begin to imagine he went through sixty years ago, along with the hundreds of thousands like him.
I've been finding myself thinking about the last time I was in France with him, celebrating my Uncle's birthday in L'Escale. Grandad and Nan joined the family for the weekend, before embarking on another of their extensive jaunts driving across Europe. Unfortunately Grandad was taken ill, suffering what we feared may have been a stroke, and they had to cut short their holiday; despite everything, he still managed to drive the car back, right across Europe in one uncomfortable journey.
When his illness was properly diagnosed around Christmas time, we had hoped that he would still be with us right now; who knows, that he may even be able to travel to Normandy with the other veterans. Unfortunately this was not to be - unfortunate, in that some of the family were not able to say goodbye properly.
So this weekend I am remembering my grandad Frank, and I am remembering all those who fought to liberate France from German occupation, and I am remembering those whose lives are still being shattered by the politics of hate.
I can only hope that my Grandad's doctrine of forgiveness, understanding and reconciliation might one day be shared by the whole of humanity.
Oh no it's him again
DJ Tim [03:38]
Yo peeps it's DJ Tim 'ere, long time no see. Just been doing the summer season down under but I'm back now. I could carry on with this obvious lie (which would be fun) but I won't. Instead I will quickly say (since this is not my blog) I have been some what side tracked with work that has kept me busy during the day and not wanting to touch a computer during the night. If you have Digital satellite or freeview just tune into channel 4 and then press text and you will see what I have been doing.
What I really want to say is that there is a film called Jersey Girl coming out on the 18th of June that I think you should all go and watch. It's written and directed by a firm friend of Radio Redland - Mr Kevin Smith (of Clerks, Dogma et al. fame). It's more of a Chasing Amy type fick than his other stuff so get you gilrlfried/boyfriend (or boyfriend/girlfriend if you are of the Banky/Alyssa persuasion) to go along with you and enjoy.
This is DJ Tim signing off...click....burb....burb...click
I'm pleased to say that this time round, Big Brother 5 has pretty much failed to capture my interest. There's been too much water under the televisual bridge since BB4. Although no-one seemed to actually watch it, Five's Back To Reality was miles better than Endemol's efforts - interesting "famous" housemates (they may have been fairly C-list in the celebrity stakes, but that's still 23 lists ahead of the BB lot) made watching their nightly "antics" a whole lot more enjoyable, helped out by their already-defined characterisations and backstories. Or something. Big Brother's bunch of attention-seeking juveniles (to use Kitten's own self-assessment) are just making me angry.
But its not just the celebrity aspect - Celebrity Big Brother also paled in comparison. Big Brother as a concept is just too tightly-constrained - it doesn't flow on screen - and you get the feeling that the production team consists of a bunch of coked-up teenagers down their local pub. Its the televisual equivalent of Bush-Blair's Gulf War 2 plans - badly thought through - "lets try this, see if it works" - lazy television.
Its too painful watching the results of the editors desperate attempts at trying to spin an interesting story out of the previous 24 hours' arseholeitary confinement. If these people were at all interesting, the editors could, like in BTR, just broadcast uninterrupted acres of conversation, and we'd be still wanting more. Christ, the Big Brother lot are so damn annoying that I'll be left wanting as much Davina McCall air-time as possible on the Friday night show. And that's something I'd never thought I'd say...
I'm still probably going to end up accidentally watching every episode, however.
I never got round to writing about Derren Brown's Seance last night (I had to comfort the slightly-freaked girlfriend), but whilst writing a Comment about it over at the Final Broadcast, I felt compelled to compose something about it on my own site. But not that compelled - its late and I'm tired, so I'll keep my thoughts minimal.
Yes I knew how it was done right from the start (being a clever old sceptic), and indeed, the Psychological Illusionist Formerly Known As Darren didn't shy away from showing his Evil Hypnotist powers over the assembled volunteers - he was very up-front about it. But despite my own knowing constant commentary throughout of "look, he's hynpnotised them to do that, and ooh, he'll have already implanted the seeds of the correct person in their heads, and right, although we're curently doing the ouija board at home, and indeed, although our own glass is moving without our concious control, this has been documented as some (mutters incoherently to cover his lack of knowledge) motor effect, now wait for that poor hypnotised girl's eager-to-please subconcious to trick her into feeling possessed, and oops, there goes the psychic ball..."
... despite all that, it was still genuinely pretty scary, and a fantastic bit of television. If he'd given away all the secrets it wouldn't have been as effective, likewise if he'd kept it all to himself. And it just goes to show how effective those pertaining to be spiritualists could be, whether they knowingly do what they do, or whether their minds have tricked them into believing. I just hope this goes some way to debunking such nonsense, at least for some of the population out there. I know what damage this stuff can cause, having been the collateral damage to an ex-girlfriends manipulation by a "fortune-teller" as a kid.
And don't get me started on astrology. I mean, its brought us Russell Grant, for faff's sake...
My content on this site is in theory bolstered by my two Sub-Editors, fellow ex-Radio Redland star and Best Man-to-be DJ Tim, and hot-shot (or something like that) legal eagle Stu, providing you, the valuable reader, with a "balanced" range of views.
And although Stu's posts have been a semi-regular and much0loved VSX fixture, DJ Tim's output has fallen below parr somewhat - I figured that he must've felt he couldn't top his last incisive, in-depth essay from a whopping 4 months ago. I had reckoned that he'd burnt himself out on that one...
Now that ridiculous scrolling marquee message at the top of the page doesn't work in my browser of choice, Firefox, so this might have been done a long time ago without me noticing.
But firing up the site in Internet Explorer at work today, and what do I see up there - subliminal references to RR and Watford Football Club. There can be only one...