Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"I Write Like"

For a bit of a laugh, I used the website I Write Like to see - using their algorithm - which famous author I wrote like. Not wanting to risk that they do, in fact, keep the writing you submit for "analysis", I submitted my previous blog post about Halloween in Australia. This is what it gave me:

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

That's actually a pretty huge compliment, especially given that it was just a blog post. Give it a whirl, it's a hoot.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Costumes, Candy and Jerks

I've noticed, in the past couple of years, that Australia has taken a bit more notice of Halloween as an event. Being Canadian, this made me happy because, ever since I was a kid, Halloween has been my favourite holiday. It doesn't have any religious significance for me, it's fun and it involves a lot of candy. Also, as an actor, any opportunity to wear a costume is a win in my book.

When I first moved here, there was hardly any kind of discussion of the holiday - people barely knew what it was other than vague references from American film and TV - but I had a bunch of friends who were disappointed at the lack of it in Australia. It's a holiday that's whole purpose is fun, so why wouldn't they want it?

Now, sixteen years later, I see Halloween decorations being sold at every dollar store and almost every pub doing some kind of Halloween special - big Halloween balls, Halloween parties that are more than just five people I know - like the real Halloween that I used to know.

Recently, though, along with Halloween's rise in popularity in Australia, have been the people who have been saying things like, "This is 'Straya, we don't do Halloween, that's fuckin' American". And to them, I say, "Shut the fuck up".

This. I hate this. This is a friend's Facebook profile picture right now.

What's it to you if you don't do Halloween? If other people want to, why do you want to shit on their parade? We do Valentine's Day and that means arguably less and is less fun than Halloween. If we have the literally made up by greeting card company holiday, why can't we have the fun, dress up and eat candy holiday? It's not a day off work, it doesn't interrupt your life in any way and people enjoy it. So, you might get some people coming up to you and saying "Happy Halloween" - so what? Are you one of those people who, at Christmas, says "I don't do Christmas. Happy Holidays!" with spite on your face? No? Then shut up! Just wish it back, like a regular human and go on with your day.

I'm Jewish and I don't celebrate Christmas but if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas I'm not going to ignore them, I'll wish it back to them. It's a holiday to them, so why take that away from them? Just to be a dick? Please.

If you don't want to "do" Halloween, then don't, but don't take it away from the rest of us, you Halloween Grinch. Enjoy the candy, enjoy the costumes and shut up - it doesn't mean a thing.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Stand Back Up

I feel weary tonight. Weary and angry. If you're keeping track of how the Australian Federal Election is going, then you'll know why. If you aren't, then that's because the Australian version of Rick Santorum is currently being elected Prime Minister with what appears to be a frightening lead. The man who couldn't discuss the "technical details" of his own (very poor) internet plan. The man who opposes gay marriage. The man whose constant refrain of "Stop the Boats!" spewed from every media mouth. And the people listened.

This day is a sad day and we should mourn. Shame on us. Shame be on our heads for what we have wrought.

But tomorrow, we will stand back up. We will go on as normal. And we will fight. We will sing angry songs. We will write angry words. We will make angry art. Put on angry theatre. Make angry films. Shout with angry voices. And we will be heard.

This man has bamboozled people into letting him run our country. And we will be the laughing stock. But if this greasy prick wants any power, he is going to have to fight us tooth and nail for it. We will not just give it over to him. He has to take it. And I vow not to just let him.

I have my enemy and his name is Tony Abbott.

Sleep well. The fight is ahead of us.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

These People Don't Represent Us

While I don't believe Anita Sarkeesian - the pop culture blogger for Feminist Frequency - is a flawless crusader, I certainly don't believe she deserved the nastiness thrown at her. She fights a battle the deserves as much traction as it can, and that's female equality in video games. While I don't believe, necessarily, in the retiring of certain storytelling tropes - see Damsel in Distress, Damsel in the Fridge - as I believe they are important for some gamers to live out hero fantasies, I understand what she is saying and I support it.

Recently, at E3, there were more presentations for the Xbox One. The internet is still underwhelmed with this new beast for many reasons that aren't for this article. If you want to see some critique, it's literally all over the web. Have at. Sarkeesian had a problem with the fact that, once again, there were no games with female lead protagonists for this next generation of gaming. What followed was an onslaught so nasty it would make anyone cringe. Tweeters told her to "shut up", that she was a "cunt" and that "what did [she] expect, a cooking and cleaning game?" - are you fucking kidding me?

No, really, is this some elaborate ruse that I'm not in on? Because fuck.

She's right, you know. Sarkeesian's right. While we may have games with playable leads such as Lilith, Maya and Gaige (Borderlands, Borderlands 2), the unceremoniously named FemShep - short for Female Shepard - from the Mass Effect trilogy, Samus Aran from the Metroid series, Lara Croft from Tomb Raider and Sarah Kerrigan from Starcraft, who are unabashedly awesome characters in their own rights, there are by no means enough. Most of them are over-breasted, frighteningly-skinny-waisted ridiculous creations in games with titles like Wet, DoA Beach Volleyball and Lollipop Chainsaw. DoABV is an obvious fan service game that helps to perpetrate that gaming is a Boy's Only club and that ladies aren't welcome, while Wet assures us it's titled as such for the reference to an assassin doing 'wetwork' but let's face it, there's no way it would have a male protagonist, would it?

Now, there are some new ones coming out, like Mirror's Edge 2, Dreamfall Chapters, Beyond: Two Souls, Remember Me and Sanctum 2, but let's not delude ourselves into thinking that the default video game hero isn't still a roguishly handsome, hulky, straight, white male with a bit of stubble and longish hair and a gruff voice. It's terrifying how many games' protagonists that represents. That does not take away that those games are good. I am not saying that. But we need to mix it up a little. Maybe the fact that we have a "default" hero at all is the problem.

Where are the gay heroes? The black heroes? Native Americans? Jews? I would sure love to play a gay, Jewish, black lady.


Special thanks to Caitlin Welsh for reading this and sub-editing it so I didn't sound like (too much of) a jackass.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Back From The Neverhood: Armikrog

I've been playing video games for a long time. Since our family first got a household computer, my brother and I have been playing games on it. We never had a console until Christmas 2001 saw my parents give in and buy us (me) an Xbox. However, I will always look fondly back at those days spent playing those games on the computer, installed in blocks of anywhere from one to six floppy diskettes. Commander Keen, Treasure Mountain, Gizmos and Gadgets, Operation Neptune and many, many more.

Then there came the CD games. Wow. CD-ROM's. They were something else. The games got bigger, better, more intricate. One game that I will always treasure for its oddness and its beauty is the 1996 release The Neverhood, from the creator of Earthworm Jim, Doug TenNapel. This game was a claymation, point and click adventure game that was funny, bizarre, beautiful and difficult. It was a puzzle solver with as much humour and challenge as the first Portal installment. We spent hours on that game, playing it over and over again because the characters like Klaymen, Hoborg and Klogg were so much fun.

That is why I practically screamed with excitement when I saw that the creators of The Neverhood had started a Kickstarter campaign to make a "spiritual successor" to The Neverhood. As if Skullmonkeys hadn't happened.

If you watch the Kickstarter video - and I highly recommend you do - this game looks just as fun and even more bizarre, using the same wonderful claymation techniques that made The Neverhood so awesome. And the voice talent! Veronica Belmont! Jon Heder! ROB PAULSEN! COME ON!

There are some really great rewards on this one, including copies of the game, t-shirts, art books, comic books, soundtracks and - if you've got the dough - a credit in the game as either a thank you or "additional animation". Because they teach you how to animate and then let you animate on the game!

I've pledged and I hope you will, too. Let's get these guys up and rolling!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Streetlight Manifesto Will Have the Last Victory

Streetlight Manifesto probably isn't a band a lot of people have heard of unless they're into ska-punk. They are, in my opinion, one of the greatest bands of all time. Their lyrics are wonderful stories, poems, dreams set to melancholy music that is at the same time both sad and uplifting. I can soundly say that I love everything about them. That is why it breaks my heart when I see all the terrible things they go through.

In 2005, they were robbed twice, the first time in October where $80,000 worth of gear was stolen, and then again in November in Paris, France where they lost, "the one expensive piece of equipment that wasn't stolen in last month's debacle, a 24 track hard drive recorder we've been using to document our live shows".

Since they first signed with Victory records, there had been problems. These problems are well-documented and if you're interested in the history, go to those links and enjoy being saddened by a broken music industry machine. If that's too much reading for you, to sum it up: Victory is being so hostile to their artists, namely Streetlight in this case, that Streetlight is asking people to boycott their music unless bought directly from them. This includes - allegedly (gotta keep things legal) - withholding royalties from the group as well as putting a stop to music releases they have no right to put a stop to. Again, this stuff is well-documented by the band and also RISC Store organizer, Dave.

If you go to the RISC Store right now - the band's personal merch store - you will be met with a friendly pop up window informing you of all the latest troubles. This is only following this one which informed us that lead singer Tomas Kalnoky's 3-piece acoustic trio, Toh Kay's, accompaniment album to Streelight's new record, The Hands that Thieve - entitled, appropriately, The Hand that Thieves - had been cancelled.

I once had faith in the necessity of the music industry; had faith that there was a ladder and prestige in place for a reason. Now all I see are bullies and I can't stand it. If you like the music that these guys are putting out, or even just some of the awesome t-shirts and art prints available at the RISC Store, or if you're a dedicated creative content creator yourself, please, I implore you to support them. They could really use it. I am.


Monday, May 6, 2013

A World Where Nothing Can Go Right, And No One Can Be Happy

That is a really depressing title. It's something we've all often thought about of our own world. Maybe just of the worlds we create if we are creators of fiction. We throw massive obstacles in the way of our characters to advance the story, sure, but sometimes just to make them suffer. I am a malevolent writer-god and I know it. Am proud of it.

It may surprise many when I say that I only recently (this year) have started watching - and am some ways through - cult classics Veronica Mars and Battlestar Galactica (2004 version). I was late to these two parties, but I am drunk and having a blast, screaming at the top of my lungs.

I didn't think much of the idea of Veronica Mars when I was in high school - it seemed like a show a boy shouldn't watch and I was embarrassed by what others thought of me. High school was pretty easy for me most of the time, but I was just as susceptible to my peers' opinions of me as the next emotionally unbalanced teen.

Having left the profound dumbness of all that behind, I dove headlong into Veronica Mars and am loving the ride. I've just started season 3 and love it still but it's confirmed something I felt from the start with this show. Nothing can ever go right and no one can be happy. This is never more true than the continuing story of Eli "Weevil" Navarro. Just goddamn. Lift up, crash down.

Season 2 was incredibly dour if but also exceedingly well-written, with a final episode that really punches you right in the gut. It just plays for keeps this show.

I get the same feeling when I watch Battlestar. This show doesn't fuck around. The reason I wanted to start watching it was actually because of the strategic board game - which is amazing and I highly recommend. At the end of every person's turn you must take a "Crisis card" wherein something impossibly awful happens to the crew or the ships - keeping in mind that up to at least 3 of the players can be Cylons.You keep through these 'missions', jumping in Faster Than Light (FTL) until you finally reach New Caprica (8 jumps).

When I started watching the show, I realized how accurate this was a representation of the life of those unfortunate enough to exist in the show's universe. Nothing good can ever happen. No one can be happy. You get a brief reprieve when something minutely good happens - someone didn't die! something got fixed! people are drinking and laughing! - before the show just gut-punches you again.

Again, this show is exceptionally well-written and cast and I can't recommend it highly enough. It will certainly keep you guessing. I'm in the middle of season 3 and I left myself at a massive cliff-hanger and I just want to skip work, go home and find out what happens!

It was just interesting for me to notice that a lot of the shows I absolutely adore contain - more often than not - awful things happening to good people and the seeming endlessness of their suffering. This applies to Game of Thrones too, though it has significantly more victories in it - and if you watch the show, you know that that's saying something.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Defiance: Welcome to the Fold

I just finished watching the series premiere of the new SciFi program Defiance that takes elements of Firefly and Farscape and pushes them together to make something just as awesome. The Farscape influence is not only clear but definitely not accidental as one of the developers was none other than Rockne S. O'Bannon.

The show is a nice mix of post-apocalyptic war, sci-fi and Western with Dexter veteran Julie Benz as the Mayor of the town of Defiance and Australian-grown Grant Bowler as Nolan, the Han Solo-style ex-marine turned lawman. The first episode introduces you to the new Earth in 2046 where alien races have arrived and, after a long war, a shaky peace has been established. In the new frontier-style world everyone must fight to survive where of course the races don't necessarily all get along. The world is very much a character in this show, too, which is wonderful.

The characters are full and, although not complete yet, I expect them to be people to be reckoned with. There is already a family feud, a sassy brothel-owner, a wise-cracking doctor, a traveling ex-marine and his alien daughter - it promises to be quite a ride. This pilot episode is even remnant of the first episode of Firefly with its fighting and Farscape in its creative alien make-up.

Most interestingly is the idea that there is a video game of Defiance which ties directly into the show and things in the show affect the game and vise versa, so it will be intriguing to see how the experiences mirror and change each other.

My only fear is that this will become another wonderful one season show if not enough people watch it - so please get out there and check it out!


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Old Devil's at it Again

"I'll fix it so you get cheap drinks," the woman at the bar said. "What band are you with?"
Before I could stop myself, I was saying, "William Elliott Whitmore."
"Oh, of course," the woman said. She sold us our drinks at five bucks apiece was gone, disappeared into the back room.
"What just happened?" I turned to Omar.
"Ticketed people get cheaper drinks, I think," he said, sipping his Jack and coke.
"I don't think that's right," I said. I turned and looked at the poster of punk rock, bluegrass artist William Elliott Whitmore. "I think she thinks I'm in the band with him. Because I sound like an American."
"Oh," Omar said. "You might be right."
The woman emerged from the back room and handed me the owner of the Annandale's card, "Show this at the bar and all your drinks will be at the special price," and she was gone again.
"No, this isn't right," I said.
"You're probably right."
We waited for the woman to return and when she did I said, "Excuse me, I think there's been some mistake. We're not with William Elliott Whitmore, we're just here to see him."
"Oh, oh my goodness," she said, taking the card back as I handed it to her.
"It's just, I'm Canadian, so," I started.
"See, this is me being racist," she laughed. "Thanks for being honest."
"It's all right," I said. "It would've eaten at me all night. And you would suspected something when I didn't go up on stage tonight."
"I'd have found you and hurt you," she smiled.

The night promised many excellent things. The drinks, the excited buzz of the crowd, this was going to be good. So it was such a disappointment when, at 8:30, Nick van Breer went up first and was terrible. He awkwardly introduced himself and his song and began playing. The way he sang sounded like two things. One, as if he'd never been near a microphone before and two, as if it were still breaking at the age of 25. The writing of said songs was as if he wrote them at the age of fourteen and had never bothered to rework them. Over the din of the crowd that was ignoring him sailed the words, "she walked away" and "we can take on the world/like we always wanted to".
Sufficed to say, Omar and I were done with him, too.
Even when he brought up banjoist Dave and they dueled on banjos for a while, it was unimpressive and dry. The banjos were too quiet and the vocals too boring.

When his set finished at 9:15, we were not confident about the second opener.
"Let him be up and done," I said. "Bring on William!"
"Who knows," Omar said, finishing his Jack. "He could be really good."
"I doubt--"
And through my doubt blared a sound. The sound of passion striking a guitar with force and a blazing harmonica solo. A tall man, thin and bearded, was Lincoln le Fevre. He wore a sailor-style cap and beat on that guitar, brow-beating the audience into silent admiration. Then, after a blissful moment of passionate playing, he sang the song a Capella, right into our hearts.
"We're so bored, we're so bored of this," was his passionate cry.
And the audience sang it back.
The man knew what he was doing. This was what confidence looked like.
With power in his belly and fire in his heart, he sang to us stories of lost loves and drinking and home. Everything he said resonated. His meter and words were outstanding.
"All right," Lincoln said. "Here's the point in the show where I try to break your hearts."
"What have you been doing up until now, buddy?" Omar said next to me, his face a mask of awe, like mine.
"I haven't played this one live before," Lincoln said. "So it could be shit. Or not. Cool story, Lincoln, shut up."
People were listening to what this man said and for a reason.
When he finally finished up, Omar rushed like a speeding car out to the merch table and bought us each a copy of his CD Resonation. I recommend it.

"I met him at the bar," Omar said when he got back. "He's really nice."
"Hey," a voice from the stage said, "How's everybody doin'?"
After only a few minutes of wait and setting up his gear himself, there he was - Mr. William Elliott Whitmore.
"Can I start early?" he seemed to be asking us. "Or should I just go ahead backstage and get stoned?"
The bar staff seemed to say that he could start whenever he wanted.
"Well, all right then," he drank from his beer. "Let's do this then."
Then began a wonderful hour and ten minutes of musical joy. His songs were either played on guitar, banjo or just a Capella. He had a bass drum with which to add beat and force when needed.
He played with mirth and hunger and violence and passion. It was magical.
"I don't really like to do a set list," he said after the first three songs. "So just shout out what you wanna hear. I'm happy to oblige."
Although my cries of "I'm Diggin' my Grave" went unanswered, the set list was amazing, including "Hell or High Water" and "Old Devils".
"Getting arrested is one of the worst things ever," he said at one point. "As soon as those cuffs go on, it's the worst feeling. You feel like an animal. And they make an inventory of all the stuff you had on you at the time. One beer bottle, one dirty handkerchief, one empty chip packet in pocket. Why did they write that one down? Why did I even have it?" he drinks from his beer. "I told them it was for sentimental reasons. Anyway, this song's called Johnny Law."
He kept playing and we kept begging for more.
At one point, the man was handed a shot from the bar. Someone had bought him a drink.
"Why thank you," he said. "What's your name?"
"Well Josh, I'll pay you back," he said. And he meant it. "I'll sip this like a gentleman."
He shot the shot back.
"I'm so happy to be here," he said. "This is feeling so good. So close. I'm just happy to be anywhere. To be alive. Thank you all so much for coming out. Really, from the bottom of my heart, thank you."
The experience was beautiful as his songs washed over us. At the end, Omar and I went up and shook his hand. He was so genuinely pleasant and affable that it only added to how wonderful it all was.
I stopped by the merch table and said thank you to Lincoln.

Our buses had run out so Omar and I walked to Central station and then took the train home. It was one a.m. when we got to bed and we'd be tired for work tomorrow. But we didn't care at all.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Just a Recommendation

I wrote a rant not long ago about how video games don't cause gun violence. If you're still interested in the topic of gun violence and video games, I would highly recommend this article, also from Cracked, that illuminates some of the points I made and extends on them - especially the "video games as living out fantasies".


Monday, March 18, 2013

Stop it! Stop. It. Stop.

This can't wait anymore. I've been trying to avoid writing this for a long time, having just sort of skirted around it in polite conversation, but now I can't. I just freaking can't and it's because of a tabloid article I found through Buzzfeed.

I'm going to say this and I'm going to say it once; video games do not cause people to become more violent. Gamers are not some horrible, sadistic group of murderers just waiting for their chance to spring into rage-murder action all over the nightly news. We just simply aren't.

This topic has been breached time and time again and I think it was best summed up by Cracked columnist Robert Brockway.

"Americans are, and always have been, an incredibly violent society," Brockway writes. The first school shooting in this country happened before there was a country."

After Sandy Hook, Joe Biden sat down with a council to try and work out gun legislation and the "role guns have in today's society" with a bunch of video game designers. And now, the New York Daily News is on that trolley. This argument was put forward after Columbine and Virginia Tech. Worse is that Anders Breivik said he used Call of Duty 2 and World of Warcraft to help train himself. Luckily, the rest of that article is condemning the use of video games as the reason for mass shooting is unfair and in fact is being called racist. I recommend checking it out.

Here's the inside scoop, people who don't understand video games: we like them because they are fun, not because they are training us to murder people. What they can do is provide an outlet for rage fantasies.

And don't jump all over me for that because we all do it in our heads. Everyone had had that fantasy of pushing the slow-walking person down the stairs or punching the annoying person so hard in the face that their skull explodes or any number of other ridiculously-over-violent-for-the-situation fantasies. And anyone who says they don't have them is a liar. Video games allow some of us to act out those rage-fantasies in the safe confines of non-reality. Many times after a long day have I said to my roommate, "Excuse me, but I have to go shoot some stuff for a while." And proceeded to kill many, many faceless bandits in Borderlands 2 or zombies in Left 4 Dead and after about an hour of that I feel so much better.

In this vein, you can't have it both ways, America. You can't use video games to help train/recruit for the armed forces and then turn around and say that video games are evil and are making people more violent. People said it of violent films and yet look at films today! They aren't making people more violent, we just appreciate the pretty explosions or stylized violence or excess of blood splatter. Do you know why? Because we know these are fantasy and not reality.

You can bet your ass that if we were to see something that violent in reality it would make us sick. It's one thing to fire a fake gun in a game, it's quite another to fire one in real life. It's one thing to beat up on dragons with your fists (thanks, Skyrim, for that opportunity!) but it's quite another to watch someone being actually bullied and beaten. The internet and the gaming world can sometimes be filled with jerks - like any other world such as sports or business or acting - but we're not full-fledged demon spawn.

Video games don't make us violent. Stop making us villains. Learn what correlation and causation is. Just because they played video games doesn't mean that that's why they did the things they did. It only alienates us and makes parents more worried for their "gamer kids". My folks' only worry for me was that I didn't play outside enough - but that's because my skin is so pasty that I burned so easily!

We're not aliens. We're not monsters. We play them in games but then we come back to reality. We will not become killers because we play video games. We are not violent. More often than not we're the kids who are bullied. And don't argue that this causes us to snap and take out our violence on innocents. While that has happened, doesn't make it a characteristic of all gamers.

Don't let one bad apple spoil our very interesting bunch. We have a lot to offer and we are no different from you except that we have a hobby you don't understand.


Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm

In the week since it's release, I have seen surprisingly little from my friends about the new Zerg expansion to Starcraft 2, the Kerrigan-focused Heart of the Swarm. Probably because they're all so busy playing it. If you know any Starcraft franchise fans, you know that they're probably knee-deep in empty Coke cans whenever the newest game comes out - especially when this one has been so long in the making.

This new installment in the well-beloved series revolves around Sarah Kerrigan, freshly rescued from being the Queen of Blades by our well-known and lovable hero Jim Raynor. She wakes up alone in a cell under the scrutiny of Valerian Mengsk. They want to make sure she won't return to the Swarm. That she really has become human again.

First, let me just say that this game is beautiful. We've come to expect this from Blizzard - and games in general now - but still, it is definitely worth noting that this game is gorgeous to look at. I wish they made animated films that looked as wonderful as this. Dramas, action-thrillers, westerns - anything could look good with the animation they use in this game's cut-scenes.

What I also very much like is it creates more characters within the Zerg swarm, such as those on board Kerrigan's ship. Abathur, for example, who is the resident Swarm editor. He is terrifying and robotic and familiar and wonderful from his dialogue to the voice acting to the model.
And not to mention the veritable bevvy of named Hive Queens that Kerrigan meets.

What's even more interesting, is that by having these characters, it humanizes the Zerg somewhat, which I suppose was the point - especially in Kerrigan's "re-education" of a certain Hive Queen.

One thing that I fear is that the game will be all too short and perhaps even a little bit too easy, but then again I haven't reached the final missions yet, being too distracted with that time-consuming and money-providing endeavour called "work". 

The price was also right for this game, set at a nice $44 (AUD) which marks it as an expansion in the same vein as the old Brood War. If you liked Wings of Liberty, you'll like this. The only bad part so far, is they haven't fixed the whole "we don't do LAN anymore" thing. And also, the annoying thing that buying the game in hard copy doesn't mean you get to install the game from the disc, it just has the downloader on there so you don't have to download it. It still installs the game by downloading it from online. You've been warned.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Traildust Season 2 Part 1

He left the man bleeding in the mud. It had been a long chase but in the end, the fight had gone out of him. Thornton couldn't blame him; his horse had died and he'd run outta bullets. Not many would that would fight on after running two days through the desert and then still have it in them to grapple their pursuer. Thornton stood up and wiped the mud from his boots on the man's pants. The knife came smoothly out of its sheath and Thornton bent down to cut off the man's head.
No head, no proof, Thornton said. Ain't nothin' personal.
He always found it funny how easily a knife could cut through a man's flesh. Fragile creatures. Like to think we're invincible but a fella with a well-placed punch and kill you. The head made a sickening crack and squish as Thornton pulled it away from the sinew and bone. Thornton put the head into a hessian sack. He looked down and admired the corpse. The man had been fitter than hell. Big arms, broad shoulders, legs as strong as a horse's. At the end of them shone some nice, shiny boots, almost looking new.
Bad luck to take a dead man's boots, Thornton said. Shame to waste them. The buzzards'll have a hell of a time with ye, though.
Thornton climbed up on his horse and rode off. A heavy, hot wind was setting in and he knew that soon a sandstorm would make this ride impossible. Up a ways he remembered there were some caves set into a small outcropping of rocks. If he could just make it there, it would be fine. Then he could wait the storm out, hand over this man's stinking head and get his gold.
Just as the wind was picking up, driving the sand hard into his face and making his horse rear up in discomfort, he found the cave. He rushed inside, dragging the horse in through reluctant whinnies. He set the horse to eating its grain and made himself a small fire, cooking a small pot of road stew.
I wonder what ye did, Thornton said to the hessian sack. It sat opposite him across the fire.
Not many men, he said, could piss of a county as much as ye gone and done. A hefty fee fer bringing you in, y'know. Hefty even for a murderer.
Sorry fer killin' ye, he said as an aside, quietly as if not to rouse the man's ghost. They said they really wanted ye alive, but that was so they could hang ye in the streets. And to be honest bringing ye back alive was just too damn hard. If yer head's anything to go by, you'd have been a heavy bastard to carry back. That and all the flailin' yer sure to have put me and my horse through. And what would I have done with ye tonight? Putting ye over in the corner, hopin' ye don't escape, not gettin' any shut-eye. No, it was easier to kill ye. Better than hangin' in front a' all them people, all the anticipation and such.
Thornton took a spoonful of the stew and slurped it up.
Good, he said. Good stew.
The storm would die down by morning but for now it rung heavy and musical across the mouth of the cave and soon it lulled Thornton to sleep.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Stories from Nothing: The Spies

This one actually got its inspiration from a Cracked article about games you should give a shot playing in your own head to make life more interesting. One of these was to have a look at people on the street or train platform or bus and figure out which one of them was a spy or assassin and who their target was.

She stepped down onto the platform and took up her place next to the air conditioning vent, to the right of the small conductors' office. Her mark was already standing there, as was her second sent by the Agency.
She threw a casual glance at the two of them. After a day or so of not being up close to him, the mark was much fatter than she remembered. And the agent was a short, handsome man with small glasses. Like they had organized, he was reading that free gossip newspaper they hand out at train stations.
The rumble from underneath the platform told her that the train was almost here. She put her bag down onto the air conditioning vent and dug around and found her black day planner. She opened it and began writing. Hopefully the Agent would notice. This was the signal that everything was a go. A chattering group of school children passed her and she watched them go. Made eyes with the Agent. She turned away. On the bench, the Agent put the newspaper into his satchel bag and took out a small black book of his own and had a look at something, nodded, and replaced it in his bag.
The train pulled up to the station. The Mark checked his watch. It was late. The doors opened and the Mark went on. She followed and right behind her, the Agent stepped onto the crowded train.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Are You Freaking Kidding Me?

Microsoft and really the whole gaming anti-piracy thing has finally crossed a very creepy, very 1984-y line. For a while, the story on everyone's lips was that the next Playstation and Xbox consoles would block used games but it seems that this may have been thrown out; which I'm thankful for because it just made already greedy-appearing companies appear even greedier.

I'm a dedicated gamer. I buy the games I want, used or new. I buy DVDs, too, rarely going in for downloads due to an obsession with physical copies of things lest the Internet collapse in on itself and my computer simultaneously explodes - at least I know I'll always have the hard copy.
And like anyone who owns a console, I use mine to watch films. Sometimes - shock! horror! - with more people than just myself and my girlfriend.

Well, looks like Microsoft is putting out a new patent which is going to make viewing films with 'too many' people more or less impossible, without buying an extra license. Yeah, that's right. In case you didn't click on that there link (you should), the article basically informs us that, well, here's a quote:

The abstract describes a camera-based system that would monitor the number of viewers in a room and check to see if the number of occupants exceeded a certain threshold set by the content provider. If there are too many warm bodies present, the device owner would be prompted to purchase a license for a greater number of viewers.From the abstract: “The users consuming the content on a display device are monitored so that if the number of user-views licensed is exceeded, remedial action may be taken.”
 This. Is. Ridiculous. While I may understand that copyright states I can't show a DVD on a jumbo screen in the middle of the city center, it is a whole different matter for it to tell me that I can't have a big group of over to watch it for a movie night. Now, admittedly, it doesn't say how many people is "too many" but still, I can't help but feel that this is just further shoving down our throats that we do not own the content we buy, we are merely renting it from the copyright owner, despite spending the money and being given a physical copy of the product.

On top of the legal mumbo-jumbo that's involved in this - which would make someone buy numerous licenses for one film/game/whatever as if it were a highly guarded piece of software like AVID or Adobe Creative Suite - I just simply don't like the idea of Microsoft having a direct camera into my living room without me knowing if anyone is watching at any given time.

Also, what's to prevent me from unplugging the damn thing when I watch a film? Will it not work? Will it be compulsory? Even worse. If it is, they sure won't be getting my business.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Year of Doing Things

A lot of people make New Year's resolutions. They make decisions that, in the new year, they will better themselves by quitting smoking, working out more, getting a girlfriend, losing a boyfriend, anything that they truly believe will shift the course of their lives. And to those people who stick to them, I salute you.

I don't like to make resolutions because I find that I don't really have anything to say other than "be better than last year". This year, however, is different. I've given my year a progress bar and a name. The Year of Doing Things. I am going to do things this year. All of them. All the things.

In the past, I've been either too lazy or too discouraged to go out and make the things I want happen. This year, I want to do things. I want to make at least two short films. I will post more music of my own creation to my YouTube page; maybe even poetry and spoken word readings. I will finish screenplays and work towards getting them made. I will get a literary agent. I will start acting again. I will go out to open mics and story nights and tell stories. I will become better at art. I will get my comic started up again.

I need to do these things or I will become lazy and fail. This will not happen.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Another Soundtrack Rant

If I may, I'd like to return to the blog-verse with another rant about how awesome some soundtracks are. As I've discussed before I think that the soundtrack people are unsung heroes of video games. Well, I'm going to say it again.

While I'm back at a job that I hate - even more than I remember! - it's been made more bearable by some pretty great music. Admittedly, I've also been listening to the outstanding William Elliott Whitmore as well as video game soundtracks, but there's one in particular I'd like to mention here.

The Skyrim soundtrack is a goddamn masterpiece. Composed by the amazing Jeremy Soule, it's the right mix of relaxing, exciting and passionate. Ranging from the thundering highs of action chanting in true Norse form to very delicate ballad-like pieces designed for wandering about nature, the soundtrack makes working a menial job a lot more bearable.