Posts Tagged ‘massive wastes of time’

Selling Alderaan By The Pound

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

My new favourite blog is, sadly, no longer being updated, but there is plenty of archived stuff there to dig into. Going back to the urban legend beloved of stoned students in the 90s, namely that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was a sort of secret soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz, this is “one nerd’s attempt to find an album that synchs up with Star Wars”. Here’s an article in which the gentleman in question looks back on the “experiment”, and doesn’t even attempt to justify it. None needed. Anything that brings together my two favourite things, Star Wars and (in the case of the album referenced in the above title) “moody prog rock” is bound to get my approval.

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Pieces of Eight

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Well in case you haven’t noticed today is the 8th of August 2008. That’s 08/08/08! How exciting! I’m sure there are all sorts of numerological portents of doom in there but to me, it makes me realise that I can remember exactly what I was doing twenty years ago this very day.

As a precocious teenager I had used The Quill to create a text adventure for the ZX Spectrum (kids, ask your parents!). It was a four part epic that went by the hilarious title Star Wreck. Yes, if any further proof were needed that I was (and am) a massive dork I created my own Star Trek parody. My memories of it are sketchy, but i think there was a running theme about the evil of Stock, Aitken and Waterman. I can tell you, in my mind it was scathingly satirical.

The reason that I know it was twenty years ago today is that I had conquered the piss poor, sub Fergus McNeil text, and had moved onto the loading screens. In those, pre Photoshop days, it was created with an application called (I think) Art Studio, pixel by single pixel, possibly with a Kempston Quickshot 2 joystick. And I vividly remember etching the number 8/8/88 at the bottom of the screen, in one of the eight colours that was available.

Heady days indeed (and an appropriate memory considering this current, 80s inspired storyline), but I am sorry to inform you that there is no copy of this monument of game programming available for you to sample with your favourite Speccy emulator. Never fear though, I ended up recycling most of the jokes at various points for this very comic.

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The Fuckest Uppest

Monday, October 6th, 2008

The Force Unleashed is a video game that?s been in development for some time. It was originally described as “The Star Wars Event of 2007″, which obviously didn’t happen, in fact the game was held back for so long that some wags dubbed it “The Force Unreleased”. However, it has finally appeared, and offers the chance to play the part of a backwards lightsaber wielding badass, who generally slaughters people and smashes stuff up with the force. What more could you want from a game?

The game’s technical innovations include Digital Molecular Matter, which applies different properties for different materials, so that wood splinters, metal bends and glass shatters, the Havok physics engine, and Euphoria AI. This might sound totally awesome and groundbreaking (no pun intended), but the reality is that three different software engines rucking up against eachother can create some seriously funky effects. At one point in the game I became entombed in the gooey gums of a sarlaac, which I’m sure wasn’t meant to happen. It brought back memories of an old Nemesis The Warlock game on the ZX Spectrum, in which the player, on reaching a particular level, would invariably appear trapped in the interface under the screen with no way of getting out. Didn’t anyone playtest that thing? That game sure as hell didn’t have any real world physics simulation (but on the other hand it did allow you to spit acid).

I don’t play a ton of games these days, so the prevailing feeling I get from The Force Unleashed is nostalgia for Dark Forces and the Jedi Knight series. It even features Dark Troopers, which initially gave me cause for concern, but when you look at the timeline (a couple of years prior to Episode 4) it’s not too distant from that of Dark Forces (uh, a year after it?). Hey look buddy, that stuff matters to some of us, OK? The original reason I bought a PC back in ’95 was so I could play Dark Forces (along with the excellent flight sim TIE Fighter), and a few years later I upgraded specifically to be able to play Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight (do I need to tell you at this point that I’m a Star Wars nerd? Really? Did you not read any of the other posts?).

 

Dark Forces

Dark Forces: Nicking the Death Star plans, Part 13

 

 

In Jedi Knight, Dark Forces? central character, the mercenary Kyle Katarn found a lightsaber and gradually learned the jedi arts of pushing people off ledges and jumping three times higher than normal. This game also featured live action cutscenes, which was pretty damn impressive in 1997. The guy that played Kyle had the grizzled, hero with a past look down, but I think I saw him in one of those soft porn dramas that Channel Five used to show late at night. At least I don’t recall seeing him get down to business, because that would have been far too harrowing. Later, in Jedi Outcast, he acquired lots more polygons and an adversary who bore more than a passing resemblance to Barney the Dinosaur. In Jedi Academy you actually played a different character, but seeing as you could finally use the double bladed saber Darth Maul style, nobody was fussed about whether you were still Kyle.

 

The Force Unleashed: I have a badass feeling about this

The Force Unleashed: I have a badass feeling about this

 

 

So anyway, for all its next gen sparkle, lush graphics and compelling storyline (which I liked, although I’m not sure I quite bought the big twist, and was that droid really using the force?), simply put, The Force Unleashed is the latest iteration of the Jedi Knight games, and as I’ve always been a fan of lobbing stormtroopers about and then lightsabering the shit out of them, that most definitely gets a thumbs up from me.

 

 

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Bloody Mary!

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

I haven’t written many blog posts recently. Blame the credit crunch. With Halloween on the horizon, (not to mention Charlie Brooker’s imminent Big Brother Zombiefest Dead Setwhy not check out our own entry into the world of fear, suspense and brain eating, Flying Monkey Comics’ Musical Halloween Spectacular…

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Old School

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

About a year ago issue ten of Hope For The Future was unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. The unsuspecting world didn’t really notice, however, as the only move I made to promote that particular consumer item was to send it to SFX magazine. Fanzine of the Month may be a hotly sought accolade but it certainly doesn’t translate into sales.

So in the interest of Halloween, the credit crunch, and shameless self promotion I have created another animated trailer, featuring scenes from the comic (I use the term “animated” advisedly. Think Captain Pugwash rather than Wall-E). Special mention must be given to the spectacular music composed and created by Rum & Coke. I asked for spooky, rock and big ending, in that order, and that’s what I got (incidentally, the final piece puts me in mind of Ash’s tangentelly Episode Two related angst metal thrashathon?Clones. But I’ve been thinking a lot about clones in general).

The comic can be purchased from our store, or from our American printer Indyplanet.

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FMC! The True Hollywood Story!

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Critics may suggest that today’s post over at our sister site, Flying Monkey Comics, is sour grapes because of that fact that we don’t have a Wikipedia page, and all my contributions to that particular site keep getting deleted. There may be a smidgeon of a shadow of an element of truth in that. But with our appearance at Leeds’ Thoughtbubble Festival coming up, not to mention the credit crunch, I thought it was time to have a look back at the history of this planet bestriding comics collossus.

Of course, in order to celebrate our tenth anniversary of sequential farts, we have already posted up some of our old strips, including this semi fictionalised account of our artistic development. The current strip, however, is the true story, so if you are compiling the definitive story of our rise, fall and then semi rise, this is the place to look. And don’t forget to check back at the site later in the week for the next two parts of the sensational true life story of FMC, featuring celebrities, sex, nudity, scandal, and incongruous resignations.*

 

*Some of this is lies.

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Thoughtbubblin’

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Comic conventions are a peculiar phenomenon. For a start most of the organisers of these events go out of the way to discourage them from being referred to as “conventions”. As an exhibitor, you can go with the express purpose of trying to make money, or to just make friends and get pally with like minded individuals. Here at Flying Monkey International, we are far too idiosyncratic (or possibly stubborn) to do much of the former and way, way?too misanthropic to do any of the latter.

In fact, one of our major directors and creative lynchpins, Mr Andrew Livesey, isn’t attending the forthcoming Thoughtbubble Festival in Leeds at all, instead opting for a weekend of sex, drugs, violence and miscellaneous debauchery. He swung by my house to drop off a stack of his new collection Chimpanzee Democracy, and his legendarily limited Tasty Fanzine T Shirts, with the veiled threat of evisceration if I dared not to sell any of them.

Tasty!

Despite this we shall be in attendance at Thoughtbubble. When someone decides to put on a Comics event pretty much on your doorstep, it seems rude not to show up (except last year, when I waited far too long to order any books, so didn’t have any on the day).

However, if you wish to purchase any of Andrew’s blood money funded merchandise, or any of our wonderful Hope For The Future collections and back issues (including the new(ish) issue 10), or even one of the few remaining copies of the epochal small press anthology Flying Monkey, come on over to our table and say hello. Underneath our irascible exterior we are actually quite friendly, and happy to chat about anything from the new Clone Wars cartoon, last week’s X Factor result shocker, the Credit Crunch, or Instru-Metal.

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Uncool Britannia

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

I have recently been playing Guitar Hero a lot. No, stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this. The game, if you are unaware, involves tapping buttons on a toy guitar, in time with renditions of popular rock tracks. That makes it sound boring, pointless and, frankly, ludicrous, but it’s actually great fun and after a while you really feel like you are, uh, rocking out, no matter how stupid you look.

Listen to that video crowd!

The fact that the Guitar Hero franchise is on it’s fourth release is proof of it’s success. Everybody loves it, even musicians (the original game featured mostly copycat cover versions of its songs, the recent iterations feature mostly original recordings). However, I suspect that if the same game had been released fifteen years ago (not impossible, as it is based on an extremely simple gameplay system) it would not have been half as successful, at least not in this country. This is because, at that time, Britain was in the vice like grip of a cancer, a vile, fetid abomination known as Britpop. And it was not OK to rock under Britpop.

I’m being overly dramatic of course (it’s fun, you should try it). Obviously there is good music as well as bad in every era, and genre. But Britpop brought with it, or at least walked hand in hand with a deeply unpleasant attitude. The movement grew out of indie (as useless a description of a musical genre as “prog”, but you all know what I mean), which was characterised by introspection, a modicum of pretentiousness, and generally low expectations, particularly with regards to commercial success. But indie bands started to sell records in great numbers and became the musical mainstream, and there was an attendant arrogance, and this coincided with the rise of “lad culture”, typified by Chris Evans’ TFI Friday and Loaded magazine. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but the problem with ironic sexism, ironic racism, and ironic loutishness is that they are virtually indistinguishable from actual sexism, actual racism and actual loutishness.

The beginnings of the movement were clearly an attempt to reject the overwhelming cultural stranglehold that “Grunge” had in the early nineties. Hosting a one off TV special featuring British bands at the time, Blur’s Damon Albarn bemoaned the band’s lack of success in their earlier years: “Unless you were Nirvana, or a diet Nirvana, you were nothing”. Presumably, now it was de rigeur to be a bargain Beatles, a cut-price Kinks or a second rate Small Faces. 

I remember a particularly stupid NME review of sarcastic US rockers Ugly Kid Joe’s album Motel California (what wags eh?) in which the writer pronounced that it was useless because “we don’t even have motels in Britain”. Of course, it is only natural that after the hegemony of American music was over, British musicians, writers and commentators would be slightly full of themselves but it annoyed me no end (at the time I remember being late for a night out because I was at home watching Alice in Chains Unplugged on MTV. My indie kid pals were not amused).

The Bluetones: they look like any old mimsy shimsy indie wasters, but they wrote some brilliant tunes

The era’s most memorable, and idiotic moment, was the (largely media created) competition between Oasis’ Roll With It and Blur’s Country House. It didn’t really help that these were both fairly awful, self parodic records (although, it could’ve been worse, it could’ve been Stereotypes), and the “conflict” escalated from being merely about record sales and (supposedly) divided the nation into North versus South, Working Class versus Middle Class, Stupid versus Clever. Blur won the battle, but Oasis won the war by selling more albums. Blur had the last laugh by retreating and changing their sound (ironically, to more resemble the American alt rock that they had earlier affected to despise), while Noel Gallagher bought himself a very big house in the country (true).

For an entertaining overview of the period, check out John Harris’ The Last Party: Britpop, Blair and the Demise of English Rock. Although I can summarise it here: Suede and Blur hated eachother, Elastica took loads of heroin, and Pulp wrote all the best songs. Less comprehensive, but just as enjoyable is Alex James’ autobiography Bit of a Blur, which is full of floppy fringed charm (sample line: “Famous people are just the same as normal people, except a bit more famous”) -and he even remembers to mention Me Me Me.

However, Britpop eventually faded away (I blame Northern Uproar and Cast), and we were faced with the atrocities of Nu Metal. Now, Limp Bizkit are all very well if you’re drunk and Rollin’ is playing at ribcage shattering volume in your local dirty rock club, but it’s hardly music for the ages is it? I think the idea was to ransack the work of Rage Against the Machine and that Judgement Night album, which is as good a goal as any I suppose, but the trouble is you got stuff like Crazy Town (Chili Peppers aping oafs), Linkin Park (anime obsessed whiny rap metallers with “I hate you mum & dad” songs) and Papa Roach (someone shouting over the top of old Iron Maiden riffs).

Fuckin' kick it with a tasty groove!

However, at this point every successful band was keen to point out how brilliant and what a big influence Black Sabbath were. Sabbath were The Beatles of the late nineties. Weirdly enough, up until that point, throughout a thirty odd year career, Sabbath had always been severely underrated. To all intents and purposes, they invented metal, and I suppose critics never forgave them. Now they were being praised left right and centre, and covered by everyone from Elbow to Mercury Rev, and sort of went from being underrated to overrated. And rock gradually became acceptable for mainstream audiences once again. I think The Darkness and Tenacious D are also partly responsible – although ostensibly parodic, both were deeply rooted in a love of classic rock. We even now have bands like The Answer and Wolfmother who appear to be completely without irony. Of course, for a lot of people this meant just wearing ironic rock t-shirts, but rock, proper rock, seemed to be a lot more popular. And continues to be, if all the hoo ha about Zeppelin’s recent reunion is anything to go by.

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