Monday, 29 November 2010

Tribe Twelve - The Young Pretender

Having looked at the family tree of Slender-fiction, its obvious to see the original thread at the top, and branching down you have a number of "where's Wally?" type photoshops and then branching into the ARG community you see Marblehornets and then underneath, attached to the spindliest of twigs, is the sea of Slender-blogs/video fictions which we seem to be swimming in today.

Few stand out above the morass of near identical stories. But when one does stand out it can blow up fast, EMH stands at just over 3.5 thousand subscribers, Marble Hornets is at a whopping 31.6 thousand. Tribe Twelve is comparatively fledgling in status to these two behemoths in terms of age but has still managed to rack up an impressive 2.5 thousand subscribers on youtube. I'd like to look at why I think this series is gained popularity in an already saturated field.

Tribe Twelves tells the story of Noah Maxwell, a twenty something living alone in Florida. It begins with Noah explaining how he had a close relationship with his cousin Milo, how they grew apart and how strangely Milo acted in the few weeks before he was found dead in his home of an overdose on prescription medication. Each of the first few videos (described as "Layers") depicts Milo's final visit to Noah, as the videos progress we realise that Milo is being stalked by Slenderman. When Milo dies, Slenderman seemingly stays behind. Noah is thrust into a freaky world of mysterious packages, disturbing phone calls and cryptic messages.

One of the things which makes TT stand out is the technical ability of its producer, the latest Layer "Hello There" has a slick nature to it. It uses a two-tone filter to give the whole message an eerie feeling, images are sometimes too dark to make out until the filter shifts through a spectrum and you can make out the subject for a split second before it becomes too light. This "there and yet not there" approach is indicative of the thread I feel which runs through this whole series - claustrophobia and loneliness.

Once Milo is gone, Noah is alone and facing his demons. Unlike MH and EMH, where the subject is a group of friends, Noah has no support - even putting out a request to fans for somewhere to stay over Thanksgiving. I believe this sense of isolation has built quite a connection between Noah and the TT fans, you feel his pain because he has to share it with you, you believe he has no one else to share it with and so you feel more part of the story.

Tribe Twelve feels more akin to Marble Hornets than EverymanHYBRID. Jay has become increasingly isolated in the latter part of the MH story, and the epic use of silence which MH employ is similar to the cloyingly quiet scene where Noah is pursuing a stalker around his house.

Recently, Noah has been to see "Sarah" - the fan who accepted his request for somewhere to stay over Thanksgiving. They did a live stream and had some laughs but in the end Noah had to leave early with the tweet:

left early. some shit went down. dont know where im headed. fuck this. sorry sarah.

7:21 AM Nov 27th via Twitter for iPhone

So, there has been shit! I know I'm not alone in my curiousity as to what this shit was. I think Noah should just bite the bullet and stomp out to the tower again, alone, at night. Whats the worst that could happen?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Misfits: Best thing on the Telly


There, I said it, I firmly believe that the E4 series Misfits is the best thing on the telly in the UK at the moment.
Its a very Brit-pop show to rival the epicness of the US hits Lost and Heroes, but it retains it's UK grit and tongue in cheek sense of humour - there aren't many shows that would have a character scream "I want to piss on your tits!" in the first episode. Short story synopsis: 5 youths are sent to do community service, crazy storm hits and they are all struct by lightning - they all gain superpowers: anyone who touches Alisha will immediately fall into a lust filled frenzy, Kurtis can turn back (and, as we discovered in recent episodes, forward) time, Simon can turn invisible, Nathan is immortal (omg Season1 ending spoiler) and Kelly can read minds.

What is so good about this series is that they don't go to flashy locations, there aren't a tonne of big explosions or expensive special effects - its all about the characters. At first they seem to be exactly what everyone thinks they are, just gobby youths who don't give a shit, but as the series progresses you realise each character is far deeper than that. Alisha (played by Antonia Thomas) is beautiful but struggling with a deep seated insecurity which she fills with sex and parties, Kurtis is riddled with guilt because he's thrown away a bright athletics career, Simon has issues with social situations, Nathan uses humour and insults to keep people away and Kelly has serious anger issues (so much so that she stamps her probation worker to death in the first hour).

All I can say is that the first series is AWESOME! If you haven't seen it I would highly recommend hopping over to 4od and taking a look. Even though if you've reached this far in the post then you've learned most of the twists for the end, but its worth doing anyway! The comedy is dry, often blue to the bluest degree (Nathan in particular) and hilarious. Similarly, it deals with some very dark issues such as sexual aggression, murder, drug abuse, religion, race and age.

If you've seen season one and you've missed the past few weeks of the new season, then you HAVE to head over to 4od to watch them. I have just watched the lastest episode and HOT DAMN is it good, lets just say that our masked man has just blown my tiny little mind.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Bill Bailey: Dandelion Mind

I think I might need one of those burgandy smoking jackets for this evening. I'm looking forward to it so much I feel like I might grow a moustache through sheer force of will. My better half has gone to babysit for the night, and I've just bought the new Bill Bailey stand up DVD "Dandelion Mind":

EEE! say that its a return to form akin to Part Troll - this pleases me greatly. I saw his last tour "Tinselworm" a couple of years ago and it was a bit "meh", which was a real shame - I've been a Bailey fan for a long while and this was the first chance I'd had to see him live, it was a little bit forced and as say: "confused". I'm thoroughly looking forward to this one though. High hopes Bill, don't y'all let me down now.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

EverymanHYBRID: Murder is a Dirty Habit

Having spent the last post talking about the latest Marble Hornets info, I thought I'd focus on the other big Slend-romp of the moment - EverymanHYBRID.

As I was saying in the last post - although the subjects of the two Slenderman stories might at first seem similar, group of friends, Slendy-goings-on, and stuff "goin' down" - in fact the way the stories are approached and presented to the viewers are quite different. Take, for example, the latest offering from the guys over at EverymanHYBRID:

The video comes after a torrent of excitement from the followers over at UnFiction when we heard in the last entry that one of the characters, Ryan, had been in a car accident (it seemed). Vince threw us a small bone stating "I heard that noise"...
Most of the latest video shows the crew over in what appears to be a field, they are dimly lit by candles - presumably they are at the scene of the accident. Before this, we hear Jeff telling Evan to slow the car down so he can get a shot of a mutilated deer by the side of the road - uh oh, I smell the work of a particularly gougey garden-utensilly named foe (although, Slendy has also been known to mess with animals). The camera then cuts to laughter and a darkened interior location, we hear a sneering voice talking loudly in the next room, the place appears to be lit by lots of candles. The camera cuts again to the guys in the field. Vince tells us that Ryan was in an accident and passes on to Jeff to describe the rest of the story. Jeff describes to us how he was asked by Ryans Mother to help identify the body, how he had been mutilated with scratches all over his body and a broken neck.

The EMH crew doubt this is a car accident. Using their super-power detective skills they summise that as most of the glass was inside the vehicle it means something smashed through from the outside, rather than Ryan going through it from the drivers seat. The guys then go on to describe how Ryan recieved a strange email from a person known as HABIT (see here for a description of this character) asking for information, Ryan pressed him for his identity but also provided the information. We see the address come up on screen and the screencap of Ryans reply is linked in the description:

In the final scene in the field the guys describe how they have now sent their info to this guy and are so similarly "signed up". Almost everyone in the world has now also done the same! Some have been provided ID numbers for this "contest" already, I'm eagerly awaiting my reply!

The final scene is back in the candlelit house, the camerman moves closer to the voice in the next room and we see that it is Evan, talking to someone across the table - weilding a butcher knife. Evan describes how he has brought these "little fishes" for this person. Finally, as the cameraman moves further into the room we see the seat opposite is empty - finally the cameraman speaks and we hear that it is Jeff. He asks Evan what he's doing, as Evan gets up and advances on Jeff he turns and immediately runs into the ghastly figure of what appears to be Slendy - accompanied by his signature audio/visual distortion:

I really liked this episode - it was fast paced, it had a slick feel to it - with events seemingly occurring simultaneously until we realise who the characters involved are. The camera always cut away from one scene just as it got juicy and left you wanting to go back.

Feels to me like the guys really stepped up the game in response to the new season of MH coming out. I can't wait to see how insane Evan is going to go, how long Vince's beard is going to grow and where they are going with the whole Rake-in-Alex's-bedroom dealio. As always, the best place to follow the debate is over at UnFiction - I'd definately suggest getting an account over there and getting involved. I'd also suggest heading over to YouTube and Twitter and subscribing to both EMH, Marble Hornets and also Tribe Twelve - who I will do a post on tomorrow.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Marble Hornets Season 2: Entry #27

Squeeing like a schoolgirl.

This video is very similar in format to the "Introduction" video we saw at the start of the first season. There's a lot of debate over at UnFiction as to whether we see The Operator (Slenderman) in this vid, and I'd have to lean more towards the no camp. It would be rather crude of them to stick him in the first video, it would ruin all the suspense and tension which goes hand in hand with Marble Hornets.

One of the things that did strike me is how quiet the whole thing is. Having spent the past few months watching EverymanHYBRID and then yesterday watching TribeTwelve, you forget how the Marble Hornets crew use silence as an effective tool to really ramp up the tension. EverymanHYBRID and to a lesser extent Tribe Twelve are quite noisy and fast paced series', EMH introduced Slendy early on (although, we've learnt it was just them playing a prank) and when he showed up the first time it was accompanied by loud distortion and video cutting. When we first see Slendy in Entry #1 of MH, he is silent, and Alex is running from window to window - all we hear is his restless breathing.

People are complaining about how this is too boring and slow paced, but what you must realise is that this is how Marble Hornets has always worked. EMH is fast paced and, at times, very busy. They introduced their Slendy character and Evan reacts early on with violence, we see bags of blood and dead bodies - they even introduced a second monster: The Rake. Its racy, bolshy and exciting.

Marble Hornets is an altogether different beast. It builds the tension slowly, Slendy lurks, you barely see him move. He just... lurks. When he first turns to look at Alex in E#1, I about crapped myself. The Slenderman in MH is slow, he eats away at your subconscious, if the MH Slendy was at the Ashen Waste in EverymanHYBRID land, Evan wouldn't have got within 20 feet of him, let alone get him with the bat. There is a creepiness which is totally different to the EMH creepiness. Then before you know it; your friends are missing, your apartment is burnt down and you're bleeding from your forehead, convulsing on the floor and coughing like a trooper.

Entry #27 is slow paced. It is a set up for the coming happenings. Jay has been out cold (or at least, thats what he thinks!) for 7 months. He has woken up with a camera strapped to his chest, in a hotel in the middle of nowhere. Talk is of him being the new "Alex" - on the run, with his own months of screwy tapes to go over, only this time he will be the focus, he is the one being stalked.

Oh yeah, and what happened to Alex and the smokin' hot blonde in E#26?

Don't get my wrong, I love EMH and also I've really got into TT recently. But they are different kinds of scary - I'm loving where EMH are going with The Rake, and TT has a real sense of claustrophobia and loneliness.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Its a Family Game

Finding myself infinately amused by this which I found on the Machinima Respawn Channel:

Do you have small children with busy hands? Why not give them control of a high powered top of the range assault rifle? Watch them while away the hours popping the heads off n00bs and making friends the old fashioned way!

Crowdsourced Stories

I had an idea a few weeks ago whilst reading this article over at Lifehacker, taking inspiration from NaNoWriMo and my own lack of motivation to do any writing over a few pages, I thought about different ways of sharing and recreating new information and narratives. I'm a big fan of grassroots internet-lead creations, which is one of the reasons I like ARGs so much and I love the idea of bringing disparate minds together to throw up something new, shiney and hopefully not too covered in puke.

So, I decided to crowdsource a story. Crowdsourcing originated in business, where, instead of outsourcing labour to third parties, the company would spread the labour over a group through an open call. I am hoping to use a similar technique to see what we can create in terms of narrative.

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be writing the first two or three paragraphs of a story. I'm not 100% on what it will be like yet, I'm not a very talented writer, but I hope to just introduce one maybe two characters and set a scene. Then I will upload this story to a USB drive in a word document, and include another document with instructions. Then I will place the USB drive in a clear plastic folder, include a paper copy of the electronic instructions and then I will leave it in a public place.

The instructions will ask the indivudual who finds it to contribute their ideas to the story and tag them onto the end of my first few bits. I will also ask them to check in here, tell us a little bit about themselves and what they will be writing. When they are done I hope they will again put the USB in a plastic folder with the note and put it back out into the world. I am hoping that eventually we will have a decent story going and at some point we may be able to judge the narrative to be finished, have reached a decent conclusion and we can look at what we have.

If nothing happens, noone finds it or the trail just goes cold then so be it. But I'm excited about it! I'll announce where I've dropped it on Twitter and on here, with a hope that this will stimulate someone to go and pick it up. More news to follow!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Crazy Hand-Foot Shinanigans

 Found on Geekologie: This is equal measures of insane and genius.

"Nine-year-old Ming Li is just like any other little Chinese girl. Except she has to walk to school uphill both ways and still got run over and her hand cut off by a tractor. At the time, her arm was in such poor shape reattaching the hand was an impossibility. Thankfully, quick-thinking doctors were able to graft it to her foot while her arm healed, and successfully reattach it 3-months later. MODERN MEDICAL MAGIC!"

Friday, 19 November 2010

Argh! Porcelain Bees!

I've mentioned in a number of my posts that I am an avid gamer. However, what I haven't mentioned is that I also like to indulge in a bit of ARG-y goodness now and again. ARGs or "Alternative Reality Games" are games in which the player can get totally involved, the story unfolds in front of them through a number of different mediums and more often than not the puzzles are solved through community collaboration. I've mentioned my interest in online communities and their composition, evolution and cohesion in previous blabberings.

One of the most widely known ARGs is the horror/thriller game Marble Hornets (although, it is often seen as more of a chaotic fiction). MH tells the story of a group of friends who are haunted by the ghostly figure of Slenderman, as well as a number of other unsettling characters. The story revolves around the character Jay who is given a bin bag full of old videos by his friend Alex and told to destroy them. Instead Jay watches the tapes, originally meant to be film from the budget movie they and a few friends were filming, and sees Alex's sanity unwind as his is stalked by Slendy.

The story is mostly told through youtube and Twitter (@marblehornets) posts, with updates coming in the form of "Entries" - beginning with The Introduction and culminating in Entry 26. I don't want to give too much of the story away, just in case you are interested in getting involved, but its certainly worth watching from the start - also keep an eye on the video responses!

The main reason for this post is that "Season 2" appears to be starting, with Jay's Twitter being updated with 3 new mysterious and cryptic pictures - the ARG forums are furiously attempting to decode them, check out the action on unFiction here. I would thoroughly suggest getting involved in the forum and contributing, they are all very friendly and the community spirit of solving each problem as a group is really rather thrilling. There are tonnes of other viral and grassroots ARGs to get involved in on the unfiction forums, it was a big part of my life in the early part of this year and I've lost contact with the group of late, I'm hoping to get back into it with the new season of Marble Hornets.

Just.. erm, watch your windows, do not start to film yourself and, whatever you do, don't go into the freaking woods...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Terribly Faithful

Faith is at once a beautiful, inspiring and terrible thing.

I don't object to Christians, the majority of them are friendly normal people who get on with their lives. What I do object to are the militant Christians who feel it warranted to be unnecessarily aggressive and unflinchingly blind to evidence to their contrary. This stubbornness is the worst (or best) kind of argument to pit against an intellectual mind - even the most well thought out and sturdily constructed argument can be ignored, this causes more and more frustration to those who only want their point acknowledged.

Case in point: @JoeCienkowski I don't like to name names, but having stumbled across this particular Twitter feed I found myself quite perturbed by a total lack of understanding of the importance of rational thought, even to a deeply religious mind. The faith Mr Cienkowski has is unflinching and without doubt, and is admirable in that sense, however, arguing against him does appear to be a rather painful and pointless exercise. When the argument pitted against him is deemed stupid, they are told they are "foolish and ignorant" and "I am so tired of calling you people stupid", one such post is finished with the cyber-typical flourish "LOL". But when the argument is deemed to be well thought out, systematic and often (in my opinion) right, it is met with something along the lines of: "There is no doubt there is a God; no doubt Jesus Christ is that God (second person of the Trinity) & no doubt about resurrection". My feelings aside, this is just bad theory proving. Intellectual roadblock.

If you understand scientific theory, you must understand that validation is a pointless exercise. You can observe your white swans for over 1000 years and say that it is provable that all swans are white, but a single black swan will tear your argument down. You must, then, seek to falsify your argument, you must constantly seek to test your theory and strive to prove it wrong. You must accept your refuter's arguments as at least valid and explore the possibility that they might be right.

Ultimately, arguing against faith is hopeless. The very point of faith is that it believes in spite of. However, how about we play Mr Cienkowski's game for a bit - lets seek to validate shall we? Show me empirical evidence (not a logical argument such as "this ISN'T true, therefore this MUST be true" or some derivation of teleological logic) of the existence of a higher power.Then these arguments would begin to hold more weight with me. Until then, unfortunately I declare the arguments of Mr Cienkowski to be childish "no, but, no, but, shut up"s.

Finally, if "The Bible is 100% accurate, 100% God's word" then maybe you should take a read of this:

2 Kings 2:23-24:
"And he [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them."
Maybe you should hold back on the verbal abuse from now on, eh? Wouldn't want to be mauled by bears.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

International Hope for a Day off Sometime Next Year.. Day

I know I am not the only one who is interested in the Royal Wedding simply because we might get a day off work? If we do get a day off, I will fill my Twitter feed with Tweets such as "Omg, look at Kate Middleton in that dress - how lovely!" and "Oh, how I wish I could be there..." whilst secretly playing video games and eating pepperoni pizza.

I'll probably have it up on the net in the background so that I'll know if I'm Tweeting: "My doesn't Prince William look handsome in his suit?" if half the congragation have been blown apart by a shoebomb. That would be embarressing.

ps. If you reveal my cleverly laid plans to anyone at work, I will hunt you down, paint you black and throw you to Prince Phillip.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Living with Yourself

I've broached this subject with a number of coworkers and friends and a lot of them seem to come back with completely the opposite response to the one which I would give; do you like spending time alone? I relish the chance to spend some alone time just quietly getting stuff done or relaxing. However, some people say that they outright cannot stand their own company, that there is something fundamentally annoying about themselves which means they'd rather blank themselves out with the company of other people. So, I thought I'd post the top 5 tips for spending time alone:

1) Mentally plan your day. I find that if I don't give myself tasks to do then I will probably spend the whole day melting further and further into the sofa - sure, I'd get a lot of headshots, but would I get stuff done? Hell naw. When I know I have a day of leave coming up I set up a little timetable in my brain: 9-10 get up, breakfast, eat cocopops in front of the news, 10-11 do the washing/dishes, 11-12 dance around in my pants... etc.

Note: that's not to say that you shouldn't set aside time to unwind and chill out. Time to get your head around what is going on and just sit and scratch yourself is very important. Having time alone is just as much about relaxing as it is about getting the dishes done.

2) Get "out there". When you've got extended time alone, one of the obvious problems is loneliness, one of the easiest ways to combat this is the engage in some online networking. One of the great things about meeting people online is that you can have social interaction in tasty little bitesize pieces. Start a blog, get on twitter, play a MMORPG, join a forum - whatever takes your fancy. The beautiful thing about the internet is that each of these little facets of society interlink, the more you post in a forum the more you meet likeminded people, maybe you find them on Twitter and you sign up, you follow a few interesting people and in turn are followed by others, in time you will stumble over their blogs and maybe start one yourself. For me this is fascinating, its social interaction at the very basic and pure level, relatively little geographical or aesthetic restrictions, just plug in and go.

Note: that is not to say you should rely on the internet 100% for social interaction, there is no full substitute for human interaction. So, by "get out there" I also mean, go down the shops, go to Twitter organised events, attend Flashmobs, do some Geocaching etc etc. 

3) Be childish. You are alone, do whatever the hell you want - if you'd like ot take your clothes off and dance around your flat to Miley Cyrus then go ahead and do it, you crazy diamond. Go and watch Spongebob Squarepants, you'll enjoy it. As adults we rarely get a chance to revisit the world in which we existed as kids, I believe that to have a healthy mind you have to embrace your inner kid. So, put on your furriest slippers, watch Alladin - its awesome. There is no-one around to judge you.

Note: don't do a MJ. You don't have the space to look after a fully grown chimp.

4) Don't watch the clock. Although I've said that you should have a plan for the day, I don't believe its good to watch the clock for every second. If your favourite TV show isn't on until 5, dont sit down at 4 and wait, go and do something else for a bit - set an alarm for 5, and if you find an interesting enough activity then you probably won't notice the hour fly by.

Note: I am incredibly bad for this. Like now, I've had to write this post as I'm alone in the office and I'm watching the clock every 5 minutes hoping that 12:30 will come around and I can go for my lunch. *Check again* Damn 12:08.

5) Don't be afraid to mentally (and sometimes, physically) slap yourself. One of the biggest traps which I often fall into when alone is that there is noone around to tell me that I am being silly. Typical train of thought: "Hmm... I should make lunch... wish someone else would do it... WHY AM I SO ALONE?!". You need to be able to go "Oi, stop that. Get a grip", otherwise you won't survive past the first few days. Be realistic about your circumstances, but also be realistic about what you do have. Take an honest stock of who and what exists in your life and its likely you will see that there is more than you think.

Note: having a strong online community to go to for advice can help with finding perspective when no-one else is around.

The experience project has some interesting tips from anonymous people on spending time alone, check it out here: Experience project.

*Checks again*
12:10, Dammit!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Mad Situation for JB

Look at that face. Stiffest of stiff upper lips, casually open t-shirt as if to say "hey guys, I'm not that port out starboard home", tousled Hugh Grant hair. Now, look into the eyes of the man who stopped WW III.

This story is odd, I knew James Blunt was in the army, there's a clip of him on Blue Peter or something and he's wearing a very smart red uniform and showing some people round a castle. But I didn't know he saw combat. I've never liked his music, his singing voice is quite annoying, and he was cursed with a cockney rhyming slang name, but this story has at least bumped his respect level up to "normal person", from "annoying person".

Blunt refused to fire on Russian troops who had taken an airfield, even disobeying a direct order from a US General (reminds me of Hugh Grant in Love Actually). From the BBC:

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 live, broadcast on Sunday, he said: "I was given the direct command to overpower the 200 or so Russians who were there.
"I was the lead officer with my troop of men behind us...
"The soldiers directly behind me were from the Parachute Regiment, so they're obviously game for the fight.
"The direct command [that] came in from Gen Wesley Clark was to overpower them. Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as 'destroy' came down the radio."

Blunt goes on to say:
"Fortunately, up on the radio came Gen Mike Jackson, whose exact words at the time were, 'I'm not going to have my soldiers be responsible for starting World War III', and told us why don't we sugar off down the road, you know, encircle the airfield instead...
"There are things that you do along the way that you know are right, and those that you absolutely feel are wrong, that I think it's morally important to stand up against, and that sense of moral judgement is drilled into us as soldiers in the British army."

Makes you bloody proud.

Still, I don't like "You're Beautiful". Sorry.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Absolutely Thackered

Taking a look at this post at, I thought I'd give my two cents on how the Guild Wars 2/GW:B is shaping up.

As pointed out by Ravious at ktr - there has been a bit of a dry spell regarding info on GW2. Whilst I agree with him that we should remain patient for GW2 info, for me, this doesn't pose too much of a problem because, as an avid 5 year GW player, I am still dining on all the Guild Wars 1 updates which are flooding in. I mean, theres the Gwen/Keiran wedding supposedly coming up before Wintersday (Christmas) - as indicated in this interview snagged by Massively during the Paris Games Week convention. Theres the "Cantha - Winds of Change" update to come (the sister to the Tyrian based "War in Kryta" quest series, I anticipate CWoC to be even better than WiK - mainly due to the way that Anet has handled the feedback they received through the post-game survey they had players do a while back. On top of all this there is the developing story of the Mad King and his foray into the real world which began at Halloween - this is a real interesting one for me, the Mad King has always been a character which existed external to normal lore, he was just a character which showed up at Halloween and had fun little quests for halloween type rewards. Now, however, he is making a bid to return to the mortal world, which means bringing him into the story of the changing lands of Tyria - its going to be very interesting and I can't wait to see what happens.

What I'm finding at the moment is that with the Hall of Monuments changes, GW has been sparked back into life. Its really nice for me to see the game that I love getting the attention it deserves. The lead up to GW2 will only strengthen the community in my opinion, people will want to get more and more involved in GW1 so as to go into the next game with the best advantage and the best knowledge of how we got to where we are, and the best way to get "close" to GW2 will be to play GW1. The Anet team have done a great job of fostering this interest, with WiK, CWoC and the assumed existence of the Elonian campaign.

As indicated by my review of the Guild Wars crossover book; Ghosts of Ascalon, I am very interested in how the teams involved in both games are trying to tie the lore together. I am looking forward to the next book "Edge of Destiny", and I hope that GW2 is all its hyped up to be.

Until then, I'll just keep hugging the walls hoping to scrape out another 0.01% for Elonian Cartographer, and chugging Dwarven Ale like there's no tomorrow.

Friday, 12 November 2010


Despite its often tech-ie mathmatical outer coating, the center of the online comic xkcd has always felt quite warm and squishie. It is consistently funny, clever and thought provoking - right down to the alt text when you hover over the image. That is why its extra saddening to see the latest post regarding a family illness which the writer, Robert Monroe, openly admits to his readers as possibly hindering the posting of further comics over the next few weeks.
The frankness of this post on what is ordinarily a light hearted if not humorous comic strip is shocking, but it also seems to reflect a personal investment Monroe has in the strip, his fans and the wider web community. It is at once refreshingly real, whilst saddeningly heartfelt.

I wish Monroe and his family all the best dealing with whatever it is that is ailing them. I hope that the same vim and vigor we see throughout xkcd helpss them through this difficult time.

Metaflex - A Real Life Invisibility Cloak

"It makes sense that this sort of development would come out of the U.K., considering that Harry Potter has an invisibility cloak. A team of scientists at St. Andrews University in Scotland have developed a polymer, Metaflex, which could be used to create fabrics that bend light, rendering an object invisible."

Dreams: fulfilled.
Hopes: centered on hovercar.

Full text of the article to be found here: New Journal of Physics

Petulant Children Ruining a Good Cause

With whats recently been happening in the capitol over the past few days, I thought I'd try and deconstruct how I feel about the whole student protest debacle. I say deconstruct because as I set out in this post I actually don't know for definate how I feel about it, my feelings are mixed for a number of reasons and I'm hoping that going through them will help me work out how I feel:

1) I did a three year Sociology degree followed by a one year postgraduate Masters in Social Research Methodology. Although I received a loan for the first three years, I funded myself for my postgraduate studies - this was before the rise in tuition fees of a couple of years ago, and way before this proposal of a £9000 limit on the fees. I struggled to raise the funds to study for that extra year. I worked over my summer, scraped and saved, and then still had to borrow £5000 from family members. Knowing how much I struggled, I can't even comprehend how it must feel to be 17 years old with the prospect of possibly having to pay £9000 each year to study. I have come out of University with £20 000 worth of debt to the Government and £5000 loan to be paid back to the family, students going to one of the 9k Universities can expect upwards of £30 000+ worth of debt when they start their working lives.

2) On the other hand, I have friends who work in London. One of my University friends works in a building which overlooks one of the epicenters of the violence. Having spoken to her over the past couple of days, she told me how scared she was, how the violence erupting below was so unlike what she thought the protest was supposed to be like and how she has "no sympathy for students after the way they acted...".

3) The general pretention which surrounds even the most well meaning student protest kinda grinds on me. It ground on me in the years at Uni and it grinds on me now. My job takes me to the local University for a number of days each week, and one of the main things I notice each day (aside from the seething jealousy I feel that they are living the life I was naught but 12 months ago) is the idea that somehow being in the University environment empowers these people with knowledge the lay man just doesn't understand. At the protests on Wednesday, apparently one student was quoted comparing their plight to the anti-war protests of the 60s and 70s! No. Just no.

In general, I think the students have shot themselves in the foot. The protests won't be remembered for the cause, but for the actions of those few teens who took it too far. The UK press have slaughtered them (and, now the lecturers who support them) - whilst I wouldn't think twice about wiping certain parts of my body on the Daily Mail, I believe there are a great number of people who put a lot of stock with the rag. If there were fence sitters before these protests I believe now they may be lost to the Conservative garden. I think now I realise that whilst I support the cause, I believe it may now be lost, and without the cause there can be no effect, the protests were for nothing. Violence for violence sake.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Journalspace Revived - Riiiise from your Grave!

I was very happy to discover that the loss of JS wasn't just something which I mourned, but there was still a rag-tag group of bloggers from the great blowout of '08. I came across Dorrie's blog whilst searching for some old names who I used to blog with back then. Just thought I'd say I really appreciate the effort you've gone to for the community. Here is a picture of a mouse with a hat on as compensation for your efforts:

Why I would mollycoddle a Moleskine

Sometimes I despair at the ghastly objectophile I have become. Not the fall in love with fence posts, marry the Golden Gate Bridge kind of objectophile - but I have this odd sensation that buying a Moleskine notepad will solve many of the problems in my life.

They're just so pretty, tightly bound and sealed with care. I imagine the paper to feel like it was hand crafted from Nile-side reeds, and each page to be crisp and new like a blank sheet of possibilities. I could use it when a blog post springs to mind and I'm not near a computer to note it down, on the bus, or... or when... hmm... it appears thats literally the only time I'm away from a computer. What a excrementally dull life I must lead.

The fact of the matter is that I couldn't have such an item. There are a number of reasons, but primarily, I would feel that I wouldn't have anything worthy of putting pen to Nile-side-river-reed-pressed paper. I'd only write silly things, or draw pictures of my bus companions with devil horns or riding a camel. I'd never tarnish the pages of my precious notepad with such squalid utterances, it would be like the best silver - never taking it out of the cupboard when you have guests lest there be a more important guest next weekend.

Taking a look at's favourite notebooks, maybe I should go for one of the cheaper options. Then I can draw fish and mice with hats and write about the Universe and other innane things.

Amazon E-Readophilia

Taking a look at this article over at Quick summary from BBC:

"A self-published guide giving advice to paedophiles that is for sale through online retailer Amazon is stirring up controversy on the internet, with some threatening to boycott the website.
The availability of the Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct has led to questions over scrutiny on the site."

Now, I'm not sure where to stand on this. In no way can you condone the actions of paedophiles, however, the little liberal in me wants me to stand up for free speech and fight against censorship. I think in the end the little liberal, let's call him Colin, will win out. I can't mentally justify support for Amazon censoring this author's work, its a very rocky road and I dread to think where it would lead.

The fact is, must all abide by the laws of free speech otherwise the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.

Ghosts of Ascalon

In yet another tangent, I'd like to give a short review on a book I've just read: "Ghosts of Ascalon" by Matt Forbeck and Jeff Grubb.

Its a book which I have had mixed feelings about right from the start - for reasons as follows. I love fantasy hack and slash literature - dragons, swords, spells, bows, elves, orcs and goblins and all that. Its great. I am convinced that I would be far better off if society crumbled and I was left with nothing but a makeshift bow and arrow constructed from my guitar strings and the bendy bit of plastic which holds my telly together. I also love Guild Wars, and am eagerly awaiting Guild Wars 2. On the other hand, I am deeply deeply ashamed of my geekiness. I think only my girlfriend truly knows how deep the nerd-hole goes, and I work very hard to keep it that way.

With that in mind, a fantasy fiction novel bridging the gap between the game I love and its sequal is something which I lust after and fear in equal measure.

Having finished the book, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am a huge GW fan and there were so many moments when I could go "LOL I KNOW WHAT THEY MEAN!" and clap enthusiastically like Stewie does when they say the name of the film in the film. The book does a great job of reconciling the tensions between the two major enemies in GW1 - the charr and the humans. Both sides are seen in a light which the first game just doesn't quite capture (primarily because you see everything from the view of a human, in the book you see the dark side of the human empire and the very human side of the charr legions). And has so many twists and turns you really get to feel for the characters.

Another nice thing is that the writers don't fanny around with undue description and flowerly language. There are no Tolkeinesque passages of "and then they sang the song they always sing, when they did the dishes" bloody Tom-Freaking-Bombadill, man, never even got halfway through that book. GoA really just gets stuck in from page one.

What is one of the greatest assets of the book, unforunately could also be seen as a criticism. Sometimes events can seem rushed, as if they are only there to fill the space between the beginning, middle and end. Perhaps, to slip in a character who might induce squeeing amongst GW fans such as myself.

However, on the whole I enjoyed it. I got a bit worried when I was 10 pages from the end and all seemed to be lost - I could see a very bleak start to GW2 when it comes out next year *fingers crossed*, but the writers Matt Forbeck and Jeff Grubb did a great job of really rounding it all off nicely. It guaranteed that I will be literally gnawing at my desk in about 6 months squeeing myself into oblivion about the prospect of playing GW2.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Blag Blogging. Blug Blibbing. Blub Blubbing.

So I was advised to sign up to Technorati to get my blog noticed. This whole experience has been rather confusing and there are a lot of things I'm not sure I totally understand yet - but, as you will learn, I feel like I probably should understand. Let me give you the lo-down on my past blogging experience:

Start off small. I used to have a blog on Journalspace, back when blogs were first starting to break it big. In my opinion I thought I did pretty well! I only started keeping it because my friends did, and we just used to talk about little things that happened and gigs we were going to and stuff. I got into it a little bit more than my friends, and at one point I was getting a pretty good daily hit count! Honestly, my little experiences even made the local paper! Leicester Mercury, Feb 11th 2006 - Look:

What do you mean you don't see it? LOOK:

Not sure where they got the name "Distilled Space".

Anyway, I think what brought people back was that about 2 weeks after I started the blog, my sister was diagnosed with cancer. The blog became a diary of what it was to be 16 and having a family dealing with a chronically ill younger sibling. The blog basically became about that, about me being angry and scared, and how my family coped and how I tried to cope, about the sacrifices we all made and with my life strewn liberally in between. Thing was, when Kate was declared in remission I kinda lost contact with the blog and I stopped posting. I became one of those guys who blogs only to tell people "Sorry I've not been posting, been totally busy. I'll tell you later. Bye".

However, my interest in online communities stayed. I got into online gaming and when I was at University started perusing blogs again. I didn't start one myself as I didn't feel like I had the time, although I wish I had, I think I would have benefitted from 3rd party input to tell me how much of a dick I was being in certain situations. Still, shouldawouldacoulda. Anyway, riding on the back of this interest my Masters dissertation was on Blogging and Online Identities - I discussed how bloggers create an online identity which is seperate from their real identity, totally incorporeal and therefore without boundaries. In my eyes it was interesting stuff, in the eyes of the examiner it was toilet paper. To be honest, it probably was pure bilge, I was trying to hold down a full time job and write a postgraduate dissertation at the same time and it probably wasn't working.

After this I decided to pick up my journalspace blog again and see where I could go with it. Unfortunately, JS had been taken over by some evil overlords or something and everything I had written over those years had poofed out of existence. It was kind of a blow really, it was a relic of a particularly emotionally charged time of my life.

So, my life isn't totally devoid of bloguration. I have blogged before! And I shall blog again! Help me blog viewers, I am awash in a sea which I'm supposed to understand! To a level at which I should be able to write a paper which could hold up to a review by my peers! Help!

Your Honour, I can cite precedent

I am such a terrible hypocrite.

Tactical Header!

So, Black Ops. I went into Tesco yesterday on my way back from work fully expecting to find empty shelves, lathered with the grease from Doritos bags and the cold dew which forms on new cans of coke. To be honest, thats exactly what I found - a great black display with nothing but a few copies of the Wii version and a rather sorry PC version, not a PS3 one in sight.

Its probably for the best, I've mentally invested the next few months into maxing out my Hall of Monuments for Guild Wars. That won't stop me checking again on my way home today.

Lo' and behold the oldest of old video game chestnuts was wheeled out this morning on BBC news. Do video games make children violent? And, furthermore, are they addictive? Now, I must tell myself that these are the kinds of stories which are rolled out every once in a while and that they rarely hold any purchase amongst those with half a brain. But still, theres the niggling little bit in my mind which goes: HOLD UP!

These arguements see gamers as braindead slaves to colourful objects, twitching in the corner of a darkened room with a can of red bull in one hand, and a strangled kitten in the other. Now, I'm not saying this isn't the case for some - but what I am saying is that isn't it rather patronising to assume that people cannot make the fundamental separation between what is real and what is virtual? Between what is right and what is wrong?

For the most part, I believe that games are escapism, they allow you to live lives which you would never be able to live in the real world. It is behind this veil of anonymity that a lot of people find the release they would not in real life and it is something they enjoy. So, having escaped from the real world - why on earth would we want to drag our pure online lives into real life for them to be tainted and spoiled by "reality"?

You do not see Mario fans going out and jumping on turtles, or getting themselves lodged into drainage pipes. Admittedly, often gamers will grow facial hair like Mario, but more often than not it will migrate south of the chin rather than forming a manly mo'. Video games are an easy target for people who do not understand that it takes more than a few pixels exploding in red to make a person into a killer - it takes social degradation, alienation, emotional distress and neglect. If we find a rise in violent crime, perhaps there is something more fundamental to examine in society, rather than the games we play?

One of the most infuriating of all the statements made against video games is that kids "waste their life away in front of the machine" - I say, if you enjoy something, then do it, and who are these people to tell their children what they should and shouldn't enjoy?

But yes, I must remind myself again of the hacknied nature of this arguement. The dead horse is well over-flogged, chestnut well old, etc. Just a quote for your interest:

"Dancing, is, for the most part, attended with many amorous smiles, wanton compliments, unchaste kisses, scurrilous songs and sonnets, effeminate music, lust provoking attire, ridiculous love pranks, all which savor only of sensuality, of raging fleshly lusts. Therefore, it is wholly to be abandoned of all good Christians.

Dancing serves no necessary use, no profitable, laudable, or pious end at all. It is only from the imbred pravity, vanity, wantonness, incontenency, pride, profaneness, or madness of man's depraved nature. Therefore, it must needs be unlawful unto Christians.
The way to heaven is too steep, too narrow for men to dance in and keep revel rout. No way is large or smooth enough for capering rousters, for jumping, skipping, dancing dames but that broad, beaten, pleasant road that leads to HELL. The gate of heaven is too narrow for whole rounds, whole troops of dancers to march in together."
Histriomastix (1632), Puritan William Prynne

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Revolving at Nine Hundred Miles and Hour

Sometimes I feel I have to remind myself how terribly unlikely is my continued existence. Just the plonking together of so many chanced variables to create me. The same applies, of course, to you... and to Jimmy Carr, and my boss Alison, and Robert Mugabe and David Attenborough and everyone else on this Earth. Let me see if I can illustrate what I mean:

Here is a picture of the Universe:

Its not a very exhaustive representation, they don't make webpages big enough, but I think you get the idea. As far as I understand, the Universe contains a finite amount of matter - lots of different kinds stuff and crap which comes together to make other stuff and crap. Planets, Stars, asteroids, bicycle pumps, sellotape, coffee mugs, anchovie pizzas, cotton wool - everything. It just so happens that matter had formed to produce our solar system, just the way it is. Look, here it is:

Look at all the happy planets (I have included Pluto - whatchagonnado?) all whizzing around, and the big shiney Sun in the middle. Brilliant.

Now, the right matter has come together in just the right places to produce this working solar system, each planet is exactly where it is because of a number of cosmic forces working together and against each other to produce this dazzlingly complex system which just kinda works. In the vastness of the Universe, I think thats kinda cool.

And (yeah, I'm starting this sentance with AND, whatchagonnadoaboutit!?) ...and nestled somewhere near the middle is Earth:

Its just the right distance from the Sun, not too cold, not too hot. If the interplanetary calculations were off by the slightest bit, we would be an arctic wasteland, or an arid desert of noxious gasses - but nope, its just right, and then... BAM - toasters, marker pens, Tesco Clubcards, wineracks, staplers... everything! Although when compared to the vast Universe shown at the top of this rambling post, the Earth might seem like a speck on the shoe of existence, it is still pretty fricking big. And being so big (oh look, I did it again), it houses a great number of people. Last headcount I did we were around 6-7 billion. And out of those 6-7 billion it just so happens that two people met and did the sex. EW. I know, I thought I'd slip that in there nice and fast and hope you wouldn't notice (just like they did, eh? eh? Urgh, dirty Distilled). But the fact remains - thats pretty unlikely isn't it? That these two people, shown below...

...would find each other and make a baby, out of all the other people they could have (and may have!) made babies with, they made a baby with this particular partner and that produced you. Yep, thats right, out you popped. Ask your Mum, she probably won't say you just popped out, but she will probably confirm that the expulsion of you from her nether regions was as a direct result of the bumping of uglies betwix herself and your Dad. But, its not as simple as that, there is yet more unlikeliness and chance involved. Not only is it terribly unlikely that these two very particular people would meet and "make-a-de-babby", but it is also terribly unlikely that in "making-de-babby" the mixing of their respective mojos would produce exactly - you. Here you are:

Humans have 23 pairs of Chromosomes (drawing on A-Level Biology here, bear with me... RAAA!), and when we reproduce the sex cells contain a set of these chromosomes and half are drawn from the male sperm cell (go Dad!) and half are drawn from the female ovum (woo Mum, yeah!). But there are numerous combinations which could be produced from this super sexy sperm/ovum chromosomal love-in, there are recessive and dominant genes to take into account, and environmental factors, random mutations and unforseen complications. You could have turned out like this:

or this

or this

What I am trying to get at is that the likelihood of producing you is nothing short of a miracle. That all the matter in all the Universe converged on one particular spot and then you were brought into the world. I'm not saying its Divine, or the work of some creator, merely that there were so many chances over the millenia leading up to your creation for the whole plan to be derailed - the Earth could have been hit by an asteroid and blown up, we could have been just a few feet further from the Sun and spun out of orbit crashing burning and screaming into Mars, your Mum could have been at a different party in the 80s, wearing different leg warmers which didn't match your Dad's frightful 70's throwback moustache in both colour and texture - you could have so easily not existed.

Then again, you could also have so easily been born with LASERS FOR EYES.

Swings and roundabouts, really.


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