volterator: (Smith. Just Smith.)
volterator: (Smith. Just Smith.)

volterator: (Smith. Just Smith.)
I find the idea of listening to music or a particular artist in sympathy with your mood a fairly alien idea. I find the same things appealing whenever I have the least interest in listening to music, and without any significant variation. The idea of music even affecting people's emotions beyond the reaction "this is raaaad" is barely comprehensible to me. I have the whole of Spotify to choose from and what it leads me to think is that I don't have any moods at all. I just thought I'd mention this, as an observation, because it seems contrary to the narrative I see in the media when people talk about their music.
volterator: (Cujo!)


I've been listening to someone's 90s rock playlist all week, someone who had been a teen in the 90s and an American, whom I assume to be my age or just a hair older. I decided that, since that was the era of my teens, and because I've always had buckets more patience with North American music than British, I'd intentionally listen to a massive nostalgia playlist and determine once and for all if there was anything going on during that period. (This is roughly an extension of my policy which was first tested via the 'so what is Batman?' question of November of last year). I've listened to about 90 songs this week, and have about another 150 which I will listen to, and my goodness. I know it's uninformed and incorrect to think of that decade as being particularly worse than every other decade when the top 40 was ever a bag of sodden horseshit, but as someone who can pick out some of his favourite music of all time from within that decade I feel particularly betrayed by it. The 90s is the 70s of the period circa post-'89-2000. We're talking genuine horror here. I have endured. Things you should have been forewarned about:

Hootie & The Blowfish
Everclear
Third Eye Blind
Toad The Wet Sprocket
Counting Crows (sorry Melly, they fucking suck)
Barenaked Ladies (any song not that one)
Goo Goo Dolls
Alanis Morissette
Incubus
Ween
Gin Blossoms
Garbage

That's from the first third of the damn thing. I've not mentioned the half dozen Stone Temple Pilots songs or the endless Sublime songs or Green Day because they were among the more tolerable tracks in there. Consider what I'm saying there. The full import of it. You could have a playlist using just the bands I picked out there, and the end result would be scarcely imaginable. Try it for yourself because I sure as shit am not bound to.

What's disappointing me most is not the wasted promise of Pixies and Nirvana, pissed up the wall of commercial radio by the drunken fratboys of post-grunge alt-rock, it's that someone who writes about music remembers this stuff fondly enough to trawl Spotify to put together a 264 song playlist. Listening to it, not in the order of the playlist itself, but in the order that it's listed on that webpage, has been an exercise in protracted self-flagellation. I feel like it has given my soul internal injuries.

And the week started out so well, with discovery of Fontanelle by Babes in Toyland.

I don't know what can be learned from all this, except that dudes with guitars and bros and feelings about chicks really do love the sound and smell of their own farts enough to record them and their friends and enablers powerful enough and bellends enough to force you to listen to them.
volterator: (Smith. Just Smith.)
These are not really questions about Guardians of the Galaxy, they're questions about McGuffins. For a McGuffin to make dramatic sense it either has be long lost or jealously guarded, and then jealously sought after. Guardians goes for 'long lost' and has the hero sent to retrieve it from an 'abandoned planet'. It's that phrasing, really, that's giving me a problem. Why would a civilisation which has custody of one of the most powerful superweapons in the galaxy leave it behind when they abandoned their planet? It's apparently not even a dead planet, it looks barren, but it is shown to have both rain and a breathable atmosphere. What happened? Did the planet get neutron bombed? Was there a plague? They never say. Even if it was a plague maybe some healthy person on the way out, doing the abandoning, would say "you know, we should take that infinity stone, since it can wipe out all life on a planet." Or you know, if you're going to show it having been left behind on a planet stripped of all life you maybe have a really really satisfying dramatic illustration of the power of the McGuffin in question if you show clearly that it was the thing responsible for killing everything. Just a suggestion, with hindsight. Maybe don't leave it locked up safely in a cupboard. You know, dramatically speaking. Which is where he found it.

Seems to me that if a McGuffin is worth anything where you find it during the first act probably has the most dramatic significance at that point in the story.

volterator: (My very own a The Cheat)
Have just woken up. I have today booked off work because Pixies play Castlefield today and taking time off simplifies seeing them. I did not have yesterday booked off work but had to take it because my appointment came through on Thursday for chemotherapy, which has very neatly fallen between coming back from Sonisphere on Monday and my day off today. I am currently 19 hours post-treatment with carboplatin and feeling a minimum of side-effects so far, presumably due to the injected anti-emetics and steroids they gave me. I believe they're doing something as I've woken up feeling slightly unwell and will be topping up with prescribed ondansetron and dexamethasone later this morning, which I have for a couple of days before they cast me adrift with the cheapo anti-sickness pills. It seems that i'll probably feel worse as the days go on, at least for the next two or three weeks. According to form I could end up anaemic and with a compromised immune system in the next week or so. I'd take that over the tinnitus and bleeding and peripheral neuropathy that become more likely with longer cycles, fortunately this is a one-off treatment for late stage one seminoma, and has been deemed adequate to the task of curing my cancer. The prognosis is positive once the treatment has been survived.

As for whether I care enough to go to the Pixies show depends on how I feel in the afternoon. As of right now it feels like I can get away with it. Ask me again in about 8 hours, as they're unlikely to see the stage before 7.30 this evening. It all doesn't matter that much, it's not like I haven't seen live music before or a massive amount in the last seven days, nor like I've not seen videos of their recent live show. I'm thinking about the prospect and not feeling any emotional need to go, but I also know well enough how these things go with me, and can feel the compulsion to go out there waiting in the afternoon. Still, it's a minor concern. Seeing bands that mean a lot to you is not really a great romantic moment is it? I saw Iron Maiden on Saturday, which made me realise that their music and cover art are the greatest unacknowledged influences on my life from childhood, they played two songs that i hadn't heard in twenty years and both of them were ingrained in my brain, having listened to them around my older brothers and hunted the Easter eggs in the Somewhere in Time cover before I was ten. Making a colour pencil rendering of the Aces High twelve inch cover when I was a kid set in motion my interest in illustration as much as my reading violent Marvel UK science fiction comics with similar aesthetics - half-naked cyborg corpses, both the desiccated type and those with hypertrophied muscles and shapeshifting metal gun arms with skulls showing through taut and shredded faces, grotesque, lithe cyberpunks, space samurais, barbarians, martial jerks of various kinds. Seeing Iron Maiden was not a life-affirming event, no more that downloading a few issues of Deathlok I'd not read in 20 years was, so would be seeing Pixies be anything more than a curiosity either? I'll see how I feel.

I'm told today is when I'll be next updated by my mortgage adviser regarding how the contracts on the house are going, which means that there is a near-symmetry between by treatment and the process of buying the house. I was diagnosed the day after I first met with the mortgage adviser and the last part of my proposed treatment was completed yesterday (everything after here is monitoring, tests and x-rays). Come August these storylines should be well advanced. Also the cat will be nineteen, which makes her one old-ass cat. Granted her fur is getting very matted as her kidneys continue to slowly fail, but her demeanour is otherwise bright. I've been saying that cat would see nineteen for two years and she only has a month to go.

It bears mentioning that Homestar Runner is going back into full-time operation soon too. Things are getting there.
volterator: (Smith. Just Smith.)
It's a fact not generally known that I am currently in the middle of treatment for testicular cancer. Treatment for testicular cancer means the very least they chop one of the fucking things off and I'm two months past that stage. Had a CT scan week before last and am awaiting the results, with chemotherapy to follow. As you can imagine I am stoical and life goes on, albeit with a degree of attendant distraction. Life continues only more so, and I am quite quite busy what with being treated for a serious illness while in the final stages of buying my own house and training new staff at work; next week I am going to Sonisphere at Knebworth and will be away for 4 and a half days. Oh and I'm seeing the Pixies on the 10th. I've been trying to get tickets for the Pixies for the last ten years.

This year can certainly be held up in sharp relief against the preceding two years. 2012 and 2013 where characterized by an unfortunate routine of sleep deprivation, work related stress and habitual drinking. They were thankless and sonorously tedious years, although didn't I tell you I was going to buy a house? Which is thanks enough I suppose. I try to avoid saying I'm going to do anything these days unless I really genuinely am. Things are going according to plan, apart from the pain and uncertainty and possibility not-yet-completely-ruled-out of an early death.

My house is awesome, it has an attic. I've spent the last ten years chasing an attic as well. Could be that the price of the things you wanted when you were half-orphaned at 21 is having one of your two testicles thrown into an incinerator.
volterator: (Smith. Just Smith.)
To be fair to Watch_Dogs though, it's not as bad as my initial disdain implies. The problems with it are that it's a shitty GTA clone. It doesn't do well any of the things that make GTA IV and V good. While the gameplay is structurally similar to Far Cry 3 it has the clear disadvantage when compared to that game of not being an excellent example of its genre (and actually Chicago is a less enjoyable free-roam setting than a jungle island). Whatever else Far Cry 3 was it was a good FPS. The movement, area design, enemy types and AI and weapons were all good. Watch_Dogs has cut features of GTA games that no other clone even thinks to cut. You can shoot civilians but you can't punch them, nor can you fire a gun from a car. Compare with Saints Row the Third where a great deal of thought went into making more of punching civilians than ever before. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is AssCreedification though. Watch_Dogs has two use buttons, rather than one, so it's not as bad as all that, but I still feel that the lack of a punch button or a shoot button when driving were partially motivated by Ubisoft's increasing phobia of having a player need to move their thumbs in needlessly complicated ways.

Watch_Dogs is not a good GTA-type game in part because it's not a driving game. It's lumbered with shit car handling and terrible physics and it's making me prefer to take the train, which thankfully you can. It does have one racing game feature I wish GTA had: in cab view. You can sit behind the wheel and see Aiden's hand on it. They've carried over the option of first person driving from the Far Cry games, but unfortunately haven't done it well - you can only use the camera to glance slightly towards your peripheral vision, there is no way to look out of the side windows. Bizarre, bizarre decision and means that you have to use the rear view to have the slightest situational awareness.

It continues to feel like other companies fail to notice what makes Rockstar so good at the subgenre they invented: it's all detail. You can't populate a city with cars and cops and chattering civilians and call it a day, you need to sell the world a lot harder than that. At this stage you need cracks in a concrete pillar after a collision, and you need independent suspension on all the wheels and peerless interactivity between the characters and the furniture. You need to perfect the way people bounce off stuff after you give them a crack or drive through them. Important stuff that no-one ever does right. The character models don't move right in third person games, not in Saint's Row, not Sleeping Dogs and not this game either. Crappy ragdolls are everywhere. GTA IV and V are quite happy to let you climb up on every single box, planter, table, umbrella, car, boat, train and rock and then spasmodically hurl yourself off any of them like a sex-crazed salmon. These are the very least things that all third person open world games, arguably all games, should contain if they want to build immersion, and should be designed-in before the developers even begin to design any of the other systems in the game.Watch_Dogs doesn't allow anything like enough interaction between Aiden and the people and objects around him to make controlling him a consistently joyful experience. (Saint's Row does something similar to GTA but with a more specific focus - rather than every small piece of furniture being mantleable it makes it easy to throw yourself off or into everything that's guaranteed to fucking hurt you instead and they designed the animation and skills accordingly.) All that said I do need to make it clear that the Watch_Dogs vault key works better than you'd fear it would; it is quite possible to throw yourself off a fifth floor balcony for no reason, thank fuck.

So it's clear enough that the Ubisoft formula of having an open world theme park full of triggerable game modes (i.e. what open world games always do), unlockable skills (distinct from GTA), unlockable areas (the radio tower mechanic) and so on makes for a robust formula and that's why it's not as bad as my initial disdain implies. The problem arises, just as it did with Sleeping Dogs and Saint's Row 2 and Red Faction and Assassin's Creed IV (was right to ignore AssCreed for so long, they're just as rubbish in fact as they sounded on paper) that the games feel slipshod because the actual open world doesn't respond physically to your actions with anything like the verve of GTA, nor is your immersion in it as present as in GTA. I shot a balloon with a gun for fuck's sake and the hit didn't even register, much less trigger a popped balloon. I don't know if there's even a single fucking balloon in GTA V, but if there is I'm going to find the motherfucker and pop it because, provided it exists, I already know I will be able to. What makes a badly realized GTA-clone is when you push against the world to try and affect something in it and the world pushes back a lot harder. That's what Watch_Dogs does.

I'm going to sum up my disappointment with it like this: if you present me with a world that looks realistic then the bigger the gap between my intuitive understanding of what my interactions with the real world could be and the actual interactions possible in the game then the shitter I will find the game. Watch_Dogs has some massive, baffling gaps in it.

And most of all, in GTA V you get moments like this. That animation is procedural, the bloke bounces off the rock because the rock is there. Wig too.

volterator: (Smith. Just Smith.)
Right now my two favourite records of all time are Relationship of Command and Come on Pilgrim.

Beware.

edit: or maybe it isn't, Relationship of Command is an annoyingly adolescent record. Arcarsenal is great though.
volterator: (Smith. Just Smith.)
Despite the fact that almost no-one posts Livejournal still consistently provides the most entertainment of any social network shaped thing that I look at. There's some bottled lightning thing going on with this sucker.
volterator: (Smith. Just Smith.)
So Pixies have a new album. Here is my review.

Pixies have been touring since 2004 off the back of their original output and now they ask us to come with them as they release 12 new songs into the world. No Deal.
volterator: (Smith. Just Smith.)
You know what? The ending might be immoral, irrational, unethical, boring and stupid but... I'm going to rewatch Battlestar Galactica. Because the first 65 episodes are really good.

volterator: (Smith. Just Smith.)
I wish Raúl Juliá was still alive. I seem to have an affinity for the work of famous Puerto Ricans.

Oh yeah! Ds, I owe Livejournal some Ds.

For that matter I wish Christopher Lloyd was immortal. I have not. Had. Enough. Of. You.
volterator: (Smith. Just Smith.)
You know what film is plumb the greatest? The Addams Family.

Yes, that would be the one.

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