Thursday, 28 February 2013

When I'm 64

I'm 31 on Monday. Where does the time go? Fair enough, 31 isn't exactly old (note the tenuous link to this post's title - and there's more to come further down, oh yes!) but I still feel exactly the same as I did when I was, say, 13 or something. I don't have a bad back, no creaking limbs, no wrinkles, grey hair or liver fact I still get asked for ID when I buy alcohol. Some may say this is a bit of a blessing, but I see it as a bit of a piss take - especially as most of the time I'm a good deal older than the cashier asking for said identification papers. I don't really have any answer for my relatively youthful appearance, especially when most of my contemporaries generally look pretty haggard in comparison (sorry guys, but its true), but I do know one thing - it fucks me off when I get called 'young man.'

Don't ask me why, but that moniker really grips my shit - even more so when (as above) the term is dished out by some cunt who's younger than me. It's like a put down, as if calling you 'young' means 'less worldly' or something. I know this is all a load of bullshit that I'm spouting here, and I shouldn't spend my time wondering what some random dick means when they call me 'young man,' but what winds me up even more is realising that not only am I usually older than them, but I've (probably) seen and done a hell of a lot more in my time than they could ever imagine. When somebody calls me 'young man,' I want to grab them by the sides of the face, touch foreheads and perform a goddamn mind-meld info-dump on the fucker and let them know all the shit I've been through; all the places I've been too and all the experiences and sadness and joy and strife I've been subjected to - all while they were either wondering at their first pubes sprouting or having their Findus Crispy Pancakes warmed up by mummy. Cunts.

Just wanted to get that off my chest. So yes - I'm 31 years old (young?) on Monday. I'll be celebrating this momentous milestone in true British fashion by getting well and truly ringbolted (tipsy) on Saturday night. Excellent.

I went to watch Manchester United play against Reading in the FA Cup last Monday night. It was a pretty dull game in all honesty, but on the plus side I found £5 on the pavement on my way into the stadium. We were sat up in the top tier of the Sir Alex ferguson stand, and while it was a pretty steep incline, the position offered us a sterling view of the pitch:

Other than that, there hasn't been much of interest or import happening. I've decided to start looking for alternative means of employment, as the job I was offered still hasn't started and the recruitment department are still dragging their asses over a start date etc. I've been waiting the best part of two months now and the sheer boredom of being off work is starting to drive me insane (there are only so many Archfiend/AVGN/Irate Gamer bitching Youtube videos one can stomach in one day/week/month), so I think I'm just going to have to cut my losses and look elsewhere for a way to earn a meagre crust.

Speaking of boredom and ways to quelch it (thanks Tenacious D), I recently went to my mum's house to retrieve some more of my random boxes of shit I'd been storing there.

One of these boxes contained my old Nintendo 64 and a handful of games (post title? eh? yes it's true - I'm a genius!), and I was pretty stoked at the thought of being able to hook the old girl (the N64, not my mum) up to my massive plasma TV and play Golden Eye, Mario Kart 64 and (shiver) Mission Impossible in all their anti-aliased glory. Imagine then, my world-ending disappointment when I hooked the N64 up and threw the switch only to be confronted with a blank screen. I tried all the channels and a whole host of different cables/inputs only to be met with the same 'no signal - check connection' message floating around the screen. I thought there may be something wrong with the TV so I tried it with the other, smaller Samsung LCD we have - no joy, same thing. I did a bit of Googling and discovered to my abject horror that no, the N64 will not work with most of these new flatscreen LCD/LED/Plasma screen TVs due to the maximum resolution output (or some such shit) of the N64 console. Goddamn archaic Nintendo hardware architecture! When I think about it though, the N64 looked pretty awful on the old CRT TVs of yesteryear (well, the 1990s) so blowing the lo-res crap up to HDTV proportions would make it look even worse, so its probably for the best: rose-tinted specs with lenses the depth of jam jars wouldn't have made them look any less horrible. Although, I wish I'd known that before I went and splashed out on Jet Force Gemini, World Driver Championship and Perfect Dark. Harrumph. My only option is to go and get an old portable CRT telly from somewhere, but not having a car could make that a little tricky.

Watch this SDTV space.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Failure To Launch

Hands up if you stayed up late on Wednesday night to watch the much-hyped PS4 reveal. I did, and I can't help but feel a little disappointed. I'm no Sony fanboy, but I have to admit that the prospect of the next wave of consoles being heralded by Sony kind of excited me. The last two Sony machines left me cold - the PS2 destroyed my beloved Dreamcast's chance of ever reaching maturity (who knows what kind of creativity we could have seen had Sega's last console been given a longer lifespan?); while the PS3 left me wondering how it offered anything that the 360 didn't already. But by having this super-secretive press release/reveal thing, it sent out a message that Sony were ready to really show the world something special. Not since the first screens of Super Mario 64 started appearing in magazines in the early 90s have I been as excited by a new console launch, and it made me feel like a kid again...but that was until I actually started watching the live-streamed event. I watched it via Giant Bomb so that I could also hear the views of the editorial staff, and while those guys seemed to be fairly excited by the whole event, I was just left wondering 'eh?!'

There was absolutely nothing that told me I was looking at the next generation of gaming. All of the tech demos that were shown looked pretty much like graphics look now, on the current generation. Granted, games on the PS3 and Xbox 360 still look pretty stunning and I'm not really sure how they can be improved (the improvements are most likely to come in the shape of larger game worlds etc), but I was expecting a lot more. One game shown (and it was rumoured to be actual game footage up on the big screen, rather than a mock-up),  titled Knack, looked no better than anything I've played on the current generation, yet there were gasps from the audience. Did I miss something? Here, look:

See what I mean. The rest of the stuff shown just looked like rendered mock-ups (and not very impressive ones, either), although the Capcom demo of a new IP called Deep Down piqued my interest, if only because it featured an armour-clad knight fighting a dragon, and I can dig that shit. Elsewhere, I was left completey stunned by the complete lack of any hardware on show - where was the console, Sony? Sure, they showed off the damned controller (which is basically a Dual Shock with a 'share' button and a coloured light on top) and also a bit of the social media-type stuff that the console will support, but what we really wanted (and I think I speak for most people interested in this shit) was a glimpse of the goddamned hardware. When I think 'PS2' I see the black oblong and blue highlights; when I think Wii I see the little white box up on it's side; and when I think N64 I visualize the bizarre art-deco stylings....but when I think PS4, I don't really have an image of the thing because nobody knows what it looks like! Sure, Sony probably want to keep their final design away from the prying eyes of Microsoft, and that's quite probably the reason they didn't reveal any technical specifications either...but this was billed as a 'reveal,' and surely these are the important things that people who are interested in this kind of thing need and want to know.

So what do we know about the PS4 after the event? Well, there are a few franchises that will continue on the new platform (Kill Zone for example), along with a few new ones (Driveclub was one, but it instantly conjured up images of Driving Emotion Type-S from the PS2 launch), and the joypad will have a share button. Oh, and social media will be high on the priority list and you'll be able to use your PS Vita (who even owns one of those?) as a sort of Wii U knock-off controller. Er...and apart from that, not a great deal to be honest.

Speaking of the Wii U, I almost bought one a few weeks ago, even after my complete destruction of the thing in a previous post. But then I looked at the games available for it and also the release schedule for the next few months. I kept my money in my pocket. Just a little side note for you. I almost-but-didn't buy a PS Vita for the exact same reason: no games.

It'll be interesting to see what Microsoft offer up in the form of a reaction, but I can't help but think that Sony jumped the gun a bit in order to just be 'FIRST!' when it came to showing off their next-gen machinations. On the subject of the next Xbox (or whatever they end up calling it), there are quite a few hideous rumours floating around the net at the moment, and I hope for their sake they turn out to be just that - rumours. The most worrying of these is that the new machine will not allow used games to run, so that would effectively kill the second hand games market. And as a gamer who primarily buys used games (as they're y'know, cheaper) I'd have to think long and hard about whether I was prepared to pay £50 for a new game every time I wanted to play something else. Actually, no I wouldn't - I simply would not buy the console in the first place. Think about that for a moment. Every single time you got bored of a game, you had to go and buy a brand new game to replace it. No more trade-ins, no more selling your old games on Ebay or giving them away to friends or family. A game would be locked to the first console it was used in. How fucking shit would that be?!

Another rumour is that it will need to be connected to the internet at all times, and come with a Kinect as standard, that needed to be plugged in at all times too. Now, I'm no crackpot conspiracy theorist (allegedly), but doesn't that sound a bit creepy? An 'always on' console, with a camera peering into your living room? George Orwell, eat your heart out. Fair enough, if you've got nothing to hide, then why would you have an issue with that? Well, maybe you wouldn't...but what about if the camera could identify how many people were watching a rented movie or something, and block it from playing until the allotted number of people only were in the room? That's the scary shit right there. Our own technology telling us how we get to use it. Who is playing who, exactly?! OK, so that's a bit far fetched, and I only heard about it listening to a gaming podcast, but it's a real possibility that this kind of limitation could be introduced to our next generation of games consoles. And if they do, I think I'm going to have to either find a new hobby, or just go back to playing my Dreamcast and wondering about what could have been. Hmm.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Circle

Hello. It's been a little while since I last updated, but it really hasn't been my fault – honest. Since I got the fuck out of that dump Gloucester, I've been relying on the free wi-fi offered in places like Wetherspoons and Starbucks to get online. I suppose I could have written blog posts about all the shit that's been going on in my little bubble and then uploaded it once I was connected, but to be brutally honest – I just couldn't be fucked. And to be fair, quite a lot has happened since I last posted just before Christmas.

As alluded to in a previous sentence and/or paragraph, I have indeed uprooted and moved away from Gloucester and back to my home town Manchester. It was a pretty simple move seeing as I only have a relatively small number of belongings – a few cases of old games consoles and a couple of black bags of clothes (most of which I've since chucked out due to never wearing more than about three or four different outfits) was all I lugged up the M5 with me. I was initially staying at my mum's house while I sorted out my apartment, and of course it was Christmas too, so I just kind of slobbed around for a few weeks and drank way too much. To counteract the less desirable effects of all the ale and gin (yes, gin) I was swigging, I also managed to crank out some fairly impressive long-distance runs over the festive period – which was nice. 

So Crimbo came and went, I somehow managed to co-erce a letting agent into letting me sign a tenancy agreement, and then I moved into the new gaff in mid January. In hindsight there was quite a bit of stress involved - lots of viewings, lots of cancelled viewings, some irate telephone exchanges (by which I refer to the conversations had over the telephone, not the actual telephone exchange building...can buildings be 'irate'?!), sleepless nights and a couple of pretty heated arguments too. It all seems to have come together in the end though, so I can't really grumble. One thing I do feel the need to grumble about is my employment status. 

Now, I don't want to go into it too much on here as I can't afford to upset anyone (yet), but when I left my job in Gloucester, I was assured that i'd be 'in post' by the end of January. It's now almost the end of February and I'm still waiting for a fucking start date. The recruitment department at my new place of work are blaming the delay on the return of my CRB (criminal records) check from some arcane and secretive government dept (The Laundry?), but I blame that age-old blight on progress: human laziness. Sigh. So life at the moment is pretty dull for me. Yes, I'm back home and yes I've got a whole flat to exist in (as opposed to just a room), but the novelty of being off work starts to wane after a few weeks. I'm keeping myself busy/sane by going for lengthy runs and cycling (and using the cross trainer I recently bought off ebay – more on that in a future post), getting busy with the HS30 EXR uber-camera, and reading books. And now I've got the internet back in my life (no thanks to Plusnet who kept me waiting for a goddamned MONTH to get it switched on) I'll be blogging again, too. Lucky you!

On a slightly depressing note, I had my motorbike stolen a few weeks ago and it sent me into a bit of a downward slump. The insurance cunts, sorry, company wouldn't pay out either because I hadn't updated my address details after moving so I was left with nowt but a snapped chain, a broken disk lock and an empty space where the Goose had once so proudly stood. Oh, and a fucking £1000 hole in my finances. The story doesn't end there though. 

When I discovered that the bike had been nicked, I obviously rang the police and reported it. To their credit, the cops turned up pretty soon after to take some details and stuff. And the day after another patrol car stopped off at the flat to let me know that they hadn't found the bike yet. It was nice to know that the cops were actually giving a toss, to be honest. And even if it was just for show, at least they were doing that. Anyway, a week went by and I just accepted that the Goose was long gone, either sold on or burnt out somewhere in a ditch (which, ironically, is the fate that befell my CG125 a few years ago). It was on the following Saturday that I took a bus ride to the near by town of Bolton (also the town of my birth, fact fans!). On the return journey, I was sat on the upper deck of the bus and messing with my Blackberry when I happened to look up and to my left. What do I see parked down a side street but my Suzuki Goose! I got off the bus at the next stop and went back to where I'd seen the bike, and there she was...albeit in pretty bad shape. 

The little fucks who'd stolen her had ripped off the mirrors and indicators, prised open the petrol cap and pulled the body panels off the sides to (I presume) hot-wire it. Mecanically, the bike was still in good condition, and there was no other damage, but by that point I was sick of the whole incident so I resided to getting the bike back to the flat in the back of a mate's van and sleeping on it (the subject, not the bike). Next morning, I concluded that the damage done by the worthless scrotums who had pinched the bike was probably easily repairable by someone with the know-how and resources, so I sold it as 'spares or repair' to a motorcycle enthusiast for £300. Silver linings and all that. It didn't give me my transport or freedom back, but that money did go some way to softening the blow of having my vehicle stolen by some retarded, pathetic waste of human skin. I can only hope and pray to Cthulu that those responsible develop an extremely aggressive form of cancer and die a horrible painful death. Not now, but later in life. The circle will then be complete.

Next up - how laminate flooring and ignorant lesbians in the flat above can DESTROY your short-lived happiness.