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...
Well, its been exactly 366 days since I posted my first blog entry, a desperate attempt to contact Commander Aardvark, one-time leader of our crack band of musical timetravellers. And a full Leap Year on, Viper Squad Ten are still in limbo, with no funds raised to rebuild our space-ship-cum-time-machine.
I seem to have strayed away from this blog's manifesto somewhat, as I get more and more entwined within early 21st Century life. I've adapted as best I could - I guess it's not such a bad thing being stranded within this dismal Century after all. And an awful lot of good has happened to me over the last year. If the Squad were ever to return to our proper timeline, I'd certainly have to risk the wrath of the Van Damme's as they are known (aka the Time-Cops) by yanking the girl I've fell in love with back to the future with me...
Rain down on me.
I couldn't crawl out of bed this morning. Not due to tiredness - I managed to get a much-needed early night last night - but due to wonder.
Regular followers of my sleeping arrangements will know that the bed is situated just below a sky-light, set in the sloped roof of the house. I love to just lie there, watching the weather from the safety of the room.
This morning a blitz of fat raindrops were falling on the window pane. I lay there, transfixed, hypnotised by the staccato impact-sounds of water droplets against the glass, watching the liquid remnants of the thousands of individual collisions coalesce, the progenitors of miniature streamlets weaving and winding down the pane.
It transported me 20 years back in time, sitting eating sandwiches in my Aunt & Uncle's car - we were parked overlooking the coast somewhere in Wales, the windscreen being battered by the elements, the wind mixing together the salty spray from the sea below with the rain plumetting down from the grey skies above.
These are the best sort of memories, I find. Memories of nothing much in particular except atmosphere.
I am Jack's complete lack of sleep
I hate it when I can't get to sleep, as happened last night, hence the languid nature of my writing today.
I'm not a chronic insomniac. It only happens every now and then. It's not like it's causing any severe mental short-circuiting. I know this, because Tyler knows this.
I get so wound up, I end up seething within myself, climbing the walls of my skull, and most of it is my fault. I end up not even giving sleep a chance to take hold. I could easily tick off the Starbie sleep-aid boxes - drink some hot milk, have a crafty whisky, tuck into some sandwiches, take a dump, put my Walkman on, wrap a pillow round my head - all proven to send me to the land of nod.
But no. It turns me into someone I don't like, as I throw blame everywhere apart from where it should reside - within myself.
I always feel that my proudest virtue is my consideration for others, but as my poor, sleep-deprived girlfriend could attest, having had to put up with my whinging last night, I can be a selfish twunt at times.
Nice to see you, to see you nice.
Ah, what a fine weekend its been.
Myself and Mrs Forsythe have managed to track down missing-in-action VSX sub-editor DJ Tim and his one-lettered beau, J, hiding out in the borough of Ealing; we wasted no time in setting up a new London base there. In fact, I'd say that all their base is belong to us, except that would be horribly net meme-y stoopid and geeky, so I won't. And we reached the heights of geekiness today, as we competed with the Heathrow flightpath airspace of their roof in a very enjoyable game of Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit.
I may be stating the bleeding obvious here, but it's always so good to catch up with my old friends from "elsewhere", especially now that I see them so infrequently. And Saturday afternoon was just that opportunity, with the chance to bus in ten London-heads (copyright comedy Brumme-London geezer Mike "Streets" Skinner) plus one Coventrian and one South Korean, to the newly-refurbished and no-longer shite Strand Pitcher & Piano. Its a shame that, despite being in the pub for a good 7 hours, there still wasn't time to catch up with everyone properly, but thats life, I guess. It was just rather lovely to see familiar faces face-to-face with fellow friend's familiar faces (not wanting to mince words); to see people you care about deeply come together, to see the sparkle on those rare opportunities that their friendship sets overlap in the Venn diagram of life. Or something. It made me feel very loved and very loving, but not in a naughty way.
The other VSX sub-editor Stu was also in attendance, though his memories of the evening are apparently not so in attendance, the old boozer. Just to spite us he'd just been to see Kill Bill Volume 2, and just to spite us even more, he's given Me & Mrs P a Kill Bill Vol. 2 poster as an engagement gift... the swine! Just to let the wind out of his inviteable review, he "didn't reckon it was as good as the first one." Hah, take that, sub-editor!
Talking of engagements, I am pleased to announce that my old Bristol muckers Sarah & Alex have got engaged. Sarah had already informed me of this without me even realising back on 26 February, when she left a Comment on this blog... I had no idea the "Sarah" in question was "my Sarah", not thinking that my "normal friends" would be reading my musings, let alone Commenting on them. The result: a slightly muted and awkward "Congratulations" as I wondered who the hell this "Sarah" (who hadn't filled out the blog field) was. Starbuck = berk.
And whilst I'm congratulating fellow engagees, I don't think I've electronically congratulated Matt & Miok yet, so three cheers to you also.
Jeez, if I'm not careful, this will turn into some sort of horrible dedication section for all the Lovers out there. My faithful core audience will be clicking off in droves. So I'm out of here, all you sweet and lovely people...
As an active Blogger user, so my Blogger front page tells me, I have been selected to trial Google's new GMail service.
Now I've not blogged (on my pages at least) about this before, which is odd, because when I first heard about it, all the way back on 1st April 2004, I started dancing around like a mad thing, I was so excited. FREE 1000 MEG OF WEBMAIL, IN THE TRUSTED HANDS OF THE GOOGLE-GUYS! YIP YIP YIP! I duly signed my name on the dotted line from Google's website, and that was that.... nothing more.
I vaguely followed the supposed furore of the privacy implications of targeted ads ("woah, I'm so frucking scared" he thinks with his fingers with a sarcastic flourish), and listened endlessly to uninformed media idiots bigging-up a story that they thought would grab the techno-savvy "young audience" by the balls, but the whole thing pissed me off somewhat, as I didn't give a flick about these so-called "invasions of my privacy". Who should I trust - the Google behemoth (even taking into accounts its imminent stock exchange listing), or those Hotmail charlatans (who once listed EVERYONE by default in a spam-magnet directory, unless they chanced upon the option to change it)? Not much choice there. Still, I heard nothing more...
Until now, that is. Nothing to do with my registration from their site, I presume, as the trial is probably something that any half-arsed Blogger user is being offered, but I'm in all the same, and once again I've been dancing around the house like a mad thing, much to the bemusement and amusement of my girlfriend. Cue air-trumpet.
Its got a nice format - not so strangely enough, it looks pretty much like the rest of the Google branded websites, especially since the recent redesign - lots of white space, a few slabs of blue, quick and easy, unintrusive and intuitive. I've done a quick test sending mail to and from one of my Hotmail accounts - took a few minutes for my Hotmail to pick up the message, but the reply to GMail was fairly instantaneous. Externally-hotlinked images were disabled by default, but appeared in a millisecond at the touch of a button. Another nice little touch (for stat berks like me) is the way it tells you exactly how long ago the message was sent. Plus, I'm early enough to get a decent account name. Sorted.
Hopefully, some day soon my Hotmail accounts, always so close to being toppled over their capacity by friends' "comedic pictures", will be a thing of the past. I've now just got to look into, or look for, or maybe wait for, an email client that'll allow me POP3 access to it - I cherish being able to check my mail archives in Outlook.
And, G-sus, 1 Meg of storage... that's as much as a sixth of the free storage space I've got left on my OWN computer! Niiiiiice.
A quick splurge...
Quickly I type, but slowly I think... the end of the working day after the end of the weekend, and my brain is devolving to primordial levels...
a varied weekend... a double birthday party for my niece and brother - her first, his thirty-something, allowed me to stop pretending to be an adult, and revert to my true mental age (about six, I'd guess)... oh the fun of doing rubbish magic shows and rubbish impressions for non-judgemental... oh the fun of not trying to be anything but a senseless stream of conciousness... pre-maturity - its where I'll always be most comfortable.
What else, whilst I'm rambling. My girlfriend's current status as a phlegm-factory? Not that she ever reads these words, but I'm sure she wouldn't want the world to hear about the rumblings in her lungs, much as she wouldn't have wanted me to regail you with stories of me helping her puke into bin-liners the other week after not being slow enough with the sloe gin. So I'll leave her yellow and green rafts well alone.
More ramblings... What Lies Beneath on the telly last night... I know Sub-editor Stu always says how scary it was, and I'd have to agree... not because of any ghosts or whatnot - oh, OK, up to a point, but even more so because you'd nevery expect DELETED to have DELETED the DELETED he had DELETED and to suddenly DELETED DELETED in such a scary style. Indiana DELETED as DELETED - it shat me up big-time!
(Some of the above paragraph has been masked on behalf of those new to the film, not wanting to deplete their enjoyment when DELETED turns out to DELETED.)
And now, as my workday comes to an end, I run out of the building to get to the cinema in time, so as to see yet another film 6 months after everyone else, Elephant.
I used to be a scientist, you know. And in my time I've done a fair amount of manipulation of genetic material (and not just my own!)
So I was naturally drawn towards gene sequencer, a fairly-fun little web game that's programmed out of that flashy stuff. I tell you, molecular genetics was just like this in real life. But with better music.
And as a gift from Uncle Starbuck to celebrate the rapid approachment of a much-needed weekend, I shall point you in the direction of the self-same coder's Connect 4 game. A good way of wiling away a few slack moments.
In the Gents Toilets of Operating Systems, as found in Ye Olde Personale Computery Public House and Bar, Microsoft must be the ones who built the urinals - they're always taking the piss...
5 red cars
If, like me, you find you never actually get round to reading that small forest of books that have been piling up on your shelf, then you really need something easy to read but utterly captivating in order to drag your eyes across the page.
Well, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was one such book. For those that have been trapped in Dimension NoBooks for the last year and who don't have a habit of reading press-releases, "its a murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator, is Christopher Boone. Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger's, a form of autism. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He hates the colours yellow and brown and being touched. He has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds a neighbour's dog murdered he sets out on a terrifying journey which will turn his whole world upside down".
And, personally speaking, I thought it was rather wonderful. It was very well crafted, with the book being written as Christopher narrating his own "detective" book, and as the author let you into the workings of his character's mind with such naturalistic flair, it was an utterly convincing read. As well as witty and moving and thought-provoking, to name but a few superlatives.
Its strange, but viewing the world through the mind's eye of a 15 year old kid living with an autistic spectrum disorder, I recognised a hell of a lot of myself in there, and it's very different perspective made me think about the way that I view the world. And I learned a whole lot of interesting new pub-facts along the way...
"Ooh, he's got an arm off"
Well, I thoroughly enjoyed my Bank Holiday break. And the highest of high spots was a visit to the cinema to watch Shaun Of The Dead. Very fresh and funny, in a Spaced-kind of way, as you'd expect from a film coming from the quills of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, scribes of the aforementioned Channel 4 classic, and as you'd also expect from a film starring all of the usual Spaced suspects...
In fact, it could have been a high-budget episode of Spaced (but enhanced with zombies) - until it got nasty. Well, these guys do always have reverence to the things they are referencing, whether its Robot Wars, Star Wars, or zombie wars, and as such, this one is splendidly authentic in places. God knows how it got a "15" certificate, when it is by all accounts (or by one account that I read on the net, anyway) more violent than the 18-rated "Dawn Of The Dead" - and as the tension built up towards the end, and the gore levels (and the hopelessness of the situation) went through the roof, I was getting more than a little bit nervous... as was my previously-fearless-to-zombies girlfriend, who took a few hours to recover afterwards. (But then, she did get fairly scared by Bruce the Shark in Finding Nemo later on in the day, so maybe she'd got out of the scary side of the bed that morning.)
But don't be scared, boys and girls, get yourself to the cinema when/if it opens in your part of the world, and decide for yourself if dogs can't look up. Its a comedy, with some real, identifiable, likeable characters. But to paraphrase that bloke from Greece, its got chills and their multiplying. You might say it's zombie-flicking funny. But don't say the zed word. 'Cause its... ridiculous!
And Brit-com fans can fill out a whole stellar warehouse of boxes in this fun check-list chart of celebrity cameos:
League Of Gentlemen
Black Books (Dylan Moran doesn't count) The Office (neither does Lucy Davis) TMWRNJ
(bonus lucky dip!)
Click here to submit:
Not that it's programmed to do much at present. Still, it pushes in nicely. And its the thought that counts, after all.
Eggstremely bad title pun required
Because, dear Readers, it is Easter time, and Easter was the time that little baby Jesus arose from an egg (or something), my Easter present for you is Subservient Chicken (I think there's a festive link there, somewhere).
Go on, kids. Tell the BK Chicken just what you want him to do! Slightly terrifying...
After a long wait, as of a couple of days ago, I have finally seen Touching The Void at the cinema. Typically its just after the DVD/video have came out, but I'm very happy to have seen it from the front row in front of a big screen, as part of a reverential audience.
Very powerful, very beautiful, very inspirational. Awesome and awe-inspiriring. Breath-taking and affecting. And some other superlatives.
And it was incredible to see the human instinct for survival autonomically pushing a man beyond normal levels of endurance, beyond what it is to be human, and to come out the other side. Maximum respect to all concerned.
It must've left an indelible mark - in quiet moments, my mind drifts to that mountain - I see it, I feel like I know it like the back of my hand, or like I know the back-bowls of Vale, Colorado.
And given the recent zombie-emphasis of this website, I am happy to say that EVEN a drama-documentary about the tragic circumstances befalling two British climbers on the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes has a ZOMBIE MOMENT IN IT (you have to be there...)
More Zombie stuff
Like Astolath, I was well disappointed by 28 Days Later - it was indeed Ecclestone by numbers (see my previous comment on that - see there is some consistency to my ramblings) and very derivative - chained up zombie? Day of the Dead anyone? The remake of Dawn is damn fine, by the way - recommended.
BUT the main thing is Starbuck being scared and Mrs Starbuck not being scared. This proves my oft-made point to Kathryn, who always says that for a horror lover i get very scared watching things when she doesn't - for instance (and this is a bit sad) i was round the rafters watching What Lies Beneath and she sat there calmly yawning and tutting.
I say to you - that's the WHOLE POINT! Girls (spot sweeping generalisation coming up) watch silly rom-coms to have a good boo and realise that they too might one day marry Richard Gere/Brad Pitt. Horror fans watch horror films to be scared stupid! your crying when tehy get together at the end against all the odds is OUR screaming when the car alarm goes off!
And as for Crimson Room-type games, I’m always directed to Logan's Mystery of Time of Space which is here
#I wanna Parsec you up#
OK, you 'orrible lot, so The Crimson Room wasn't quite hardcore enough for you? Bit short, somewhat lacking in punch, disappointing ending, or crudely visualised? Pah, some people are never satisfied. Fair enough, though.
In that case, you hardcore lot, you deserve something alot more frenetic, packed with literally endless action, something approaching a billion on-screen sprites, some silky-smooth neon-lit retro-modern visuals, a pounding techno soundtrack. You deserve a brand new old-school shoot-em-up in the style one of Treasure's classic top-downs...
You deserve Parsec47. You'll need a Windows box, and its a 4.7 Meg download, but its fricking fragtastic! Its so hardcore that once you've got in the zone, it'll scorch a phospene glow across your retinas, and imprint its own Central Pattern Generators throughout your brain.
(Note: VSX cannot guarantee the veracity of all of the statements made relating to Parsec47)
"rrrr krrrrkt mrrrrrr prrrrrrrnz"
Not wanting to make any sweeping generalisations, what is it about the fairer sex and Zombie films? I watched 28 Days Later on DVD last night, and was utterly bricking myself. One of those films that stopped me from getting to sleep afterwards...
My girlfriend was tired last night, and was planning on having a nap on the sofa whilst I watched it. However, possibly kept awake by the high-volume screams and shrieks (coming from the speakers rather than from me, I hasten to add), she ended up watching, and enjoying, the film in its entirety. AND SHE WASN'T AT ALL SCARED! (Apart from the eye-gouging scene.)
I would put this down to it just being me being a lilly-livered wuss, but I got an email from Fat from the Dieticians the other day - he'd been to see the Dawn of the Dead remake with his girlfriend. She found it funny, because "she doesn't believe in zombies", he found it terrifying, and it gave him nightmares (though so did Jurassic Park when that first came out, I seem to remember, the big Elvis-impersonating wimp!)
So its not just me being a chicken-shet, then. My in-depth survey covering a representative cross-section of the world's population (i.e. me in the UK, him currently in the US) can confirm it - men are scared of zombie films, women are afraid of getting things in their eyes. QED.
The premise - you wake up, hungover, in a mysterious room, not knowing how you got there, or why. Using a point-and-click control interface, its your job to get out. However, the door appears to be locked...
Now I like this sort of thing - I like the feel of underused neural pathways being fired up, that delicious sensation that kicks in as the dusty shrouds of cobwebs get swept away from my problem-solving circuits. I thrive on each small victory, each progression, each small step as you attempt to resolve the puzzle.
However, I've got myself stuck at a part which I can't elucidate on for spoiler purposes, but its a problem similar to one I've faced in sections of other games, and which usually involves me either tearing the plug from the wall or looking up the solution on the internet (I've now found another form of stuck-in-game catharsis - writing about it on VSX, you lucky people).
I'll let you know how I go. But in the meantime, I urge, ney, implore and beseech you, to go try it yourself (click HERE to play it in an approximation of English, or HERE if you are fluent in Japanese, or if non-Japanese speakers want to make it unnecesarily difficult for themselves.)
My work has recently involved the preparation of a report for which we wanted a nice attractive cover, and so I got hold of some digital photographs, and set about arranging them as best I could to make it look "professional".
One of the photographs would have been perfect, it being a nicely-angled shot of the building the report was based around, apart from the people milling around it, the cars and bicycles lining the road, and the road-signs obstructing the view.
A light bulb started buzzing above my head - wait a minute, I thought, there's a continous flow of people submitting comedically-manipulated photos to B3ta - just how hard can it be?
So I dug around in my dusty hard drive, and found an installation of Paint Shop Pro 6. I couldn't believe how easy it was - within minutes I was brushing away the ugly reality of the original scene, painting over items with textures from the background. Deleting people and objects from existence.
First of all I basked in this incredibly bizarre feeling of all-consuming power - removing objects, eliminating people, eradicating them from reality, from this archive of history - it felt scarily exhilerating. This must be how serial killers feel, I thought to myself. This was a peek into a very damaged mindset - I could imagine how they were driven, I could imagine the adrenaline, and the power that they would feel they welded, and it made me shudder.
Still on a fairly scary tip, I then got thinking about what "good" you could use this power of elimination - removal of those "world leaders" who are holding the world in a dangerous state of flux, keeping us in the dark ages with their outlooks and attitudes, from the uneducated desperation of fanatacism, to the arrogance and selfish self-importance of corporate bullying. Might is right? My arse, to the lot of them. But then, if I wielded the power to edit these people away, what could fill the void, and for how long? As they say, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But I digress.
Then I pondered, on a slightly more positive tangent, that making special visual effects in films, such as removing the wires from wire-work, must be a utter streak of urine nowadays. If I wanted to remake T2 for example, for that scene when Arnie's motorbike came crashing over a bridge into the sewer channel, in a drop of a hat I could delete the cable actually responsible for dropping the bike safely down from above. More problematic would be getting the services of the Governor of California for my cheapo remake, but there you go. (Untruthful diversion: Arnie only really got into acting when he got sacked from his day-job as an usher at his local cinema - ke kept directing every cinema-goer to "aisle B, back". Ho hum. But I digress, again.)
And since doctoring those photographs, upon walking past these scenes in real life, I've been looking at them in a whole new light, crystal-clear and resolved, beautiful even. It all looks too real.
Its strange how something so trivial can cast your mind adrift.