Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The ability to speak does not make you intelligent.

Dammit!

So with my last post I thought I was being all witty and clever when it turns out that... no... not so much. I'd linked a report of some woman meeting a Scandinavian chap who claimed to be an alien in the late 1980's to our good friend Ultimate Thor (Gee Note: And I was feeling all kinds of smug in doing so), only to find out that Naveed had done the exact same thing a whole three days earlier. Tsk, I don't know, your laptop gives up the ghost and you’re reduced to unwittingly stealing other people's material.

On the "double dammit" front, I still haven't come up with a way to review the Iffyton T-shirt. Which is weird as it should be relatively easy. For a start I really like their website, finding it fresh and innovative if slightly confusing initially. Also despite the limited range of the t-shirts compared to, say, Red Molotov for example, the majority are well designed and would be something I'd quite happily be seen in while gadding around town (Gee Note: It should also be noted that at the beginning of the year a friend of mine who I hadn't seen in, oh gosh, ages told me I had the worst dress sense of anyone they knew. I claimed this was due to having lost 70lbs recently and not having any clothes that fit me, skilfully side stepping the fact that the rags I was wearing at the time were ones that I also wore quite happily during my "Staypuft" phase).

Delivery was amazingly quick as well, literally the day after. Having been used to ordering a lot of stuff from play.com (Gee Note: Because I enjoy watching DVDs and I also enjoy spending as little money as possible) and therefore being accustomed to my order leaving a warehouse in mainland England and going on a magical journey via the Philippines and the Horsehead Nebula before arriving at my door, next day delivery for no extra charge is, well, astonishing.

And trust me, I am thoroughly chuffed with the shirt itself. Even my possibly misplaced optimism in ordering a size XL (Gee Note: Even though I'm 6'5'' and tip the scales at a smart 217 lbs I still have problems bringing myself to click on the XXL option. I don't know, I have visions of a bored receptionist chewing absent mindedly on some gum while calling out "Another fatty wants a shirt!" in a thick Brooklyn-ese accent. For some reason that single mental image is enough for me to move my mouse up one category) has turned out alright as the shirt fits nicely enough. In fact considering I ordered this one:



Which is A) a cool image and B) rather apt I thought, it can be considered a rip roaring success and I have no problems giving Iffyton a hearty thumbs up.

So with all that in mind writing this review should be easy. But, for reasons I can't quite understand, I'm struggling to get it down. I think I need some help.

Which got me thinking again about Ultimate Thor. In one of his more recent blog posts UT, or Maggador IX-777 to give him his "chosen" name, teaches us a way in which we can shoot lightening bolts from a hammer contact our spirit guide. See Maggador is a bit odd in this respect. He appears to believe in both angels and devils as well as claiming to be possessed by the spirit of an alien. Which, you know, is kind of a contradiction in terms. I mean if you believe in God, then aliens can't possibly exist, right? Otherwise the question of how life would have evolved on another planet might cause a sticky problem for creationists.

Regardless I can't help but think that a spirit guide is just the ticket I need right now. And so after much deliberation I decided to follow Maggador's advice. First he suggests one performs an "Invocation of God and Cleansing of your House" and a "License to Depart" before performing the ritual to contact your spirit guide. These are supposed to chase away all negative spirits from your surrounding area. Being pushed for time however I decided to skip this step and replace it with me lightly dousing some holy water around the living room while shouting "Alright ya wee little buggers. Out you get. Go on. Beat it. I've got someone coming round".

Confident that this had done the trick I moved on to the next step. Maggador advises that you'll need complete silence to be able to contact your spirit guide, possibly by using ear plugs. Well, having been recently banned from using any type of drilling or sawing machinery in the household after an attempt to put up a picture resulted in me flooding the kitchen, ear plugs are not to be found in Casa Del Davies (Gee Note: Neither are drills, saws, or electric screwdrivers. Manual screwdrivers are still allowed, but I have to be supervised should I wish to take anything apart. Which is fine by me. Means more sitting down time). And so with nothing to stuff in to my ears and being way too lazy to take a stroll down to the stores to buy said ear stuffing material, muting "Monster Truck Carnage 3000" on the television set will have to do.

Following this you need to relax yourself. Now depending on your own personal preferences, this can be achieved in many different ways. Maggador suggests you take deep breaths and hold them for as long as you can. Me, I suggest drinking a couple of glasses of wine and singing sea shanties at the top of your voice. You know, whatever works for you. It's important that whatever you do you become completely at peace with yourself, as next up is the difficult part.

Again according to Maggador you need to clear your mind of all thoughts. Now if you're anything like I am this is almost nigh on impossible, as I constantly find my mind wandering in random directions. Thoughts such as "How did Joss Whedon manage to screw up Alien Resurrection so badly?" and "Ooooh, you know what you haven't done in ages? Made pancakes. Yeah I know, you love pancakes. You should make some. Now" are pretty much always popping in to my head. For example here is a list of stuff that went through my mind whilst trying to sit in silent contemplation.

"Monster Trucks are cool."

"My that Eliza Dushku is a fine looking woman."

"Penguins are funny."

"Ham"

"I wonder if Eliza Dushku likes red heads?”

“Does Ben Linus ever take a day off? You know, to chill out and relax? Maybe wear some short shorts and grab a beer. “Nah I can’t move it now Jacob. I’m chillin’ man. Catch me tomorrow”.”

“Dude, my hands are huge”

“Mr T. Pities the fool with big hands”

And that was all in thirty seconds. Seriously my mind has a hard time switching off. But by some miracle I managed to keep my mind clear for a couple of minutes, especially after I had moved this weeks copy of the Jennifer Anniston weekly National Enquirer out of eye line. Phew, on to stage 4.

At this point Maggador suggests that you say out loud “Is someone there?" or "Dear Spirit Guide of mine, I love you, are you there?" (Gee Note: I went for the former. I make it a point not to mention the “L” word until at least the third date. I ‘aint easy, no siree. I need to be wooed. I mean at least with dinner and a show. I’m kind of an old fashioned girl with a modern, sassy attitude. Someone should write a book about me). So I did. I also added “Bro, how the f*** am I going to write a review of a t-shirt?”.

Now the answer can come in many forms apparently. It can simply arrive in your brain like some kind of sudden knowledge. Or your spirit guide may appear to you in a vision. Or maybe your eyes will be drawn to something inexplicably that will give you the answer you seek. Or maybe... nothing will happen.

Because I waited and waited and waited and got, well, I got nothing. Not a sausage. No visions. No sudden knowledge. No coincidentally noticing something that had been staring me right in the face the entire time. Nothing. If I do have a spirit guide it turns out he’s a mute. Just my luck.

Mind it wasn't a complete waste of time, as upon looking back at the earlier part of this post it turns out that my waffling about why writing a review should be easy is, er, kind of like an actual review. (Gee Note: Ah success by accident. It’s like the ending to The Phantom Menace all over again. Me. Anakin Skywalker. Peas in a pod baby).

Weird thing happened though. I ran in to a friend of mine later on in the day and, I swear to God, the first thing they said to me was.

“Hey. I want to give you some free t-shirts.”

Turns out they had decided to start up a clothing company and wanted to throw a couple of designs my way so that “People will look at you and go “Hey man, that’s a nice t-shirt. Where did ya get it?”. And then you could tell them. Cheap advertising man”. (Gee Note: Obviously this poor soul is under the mistaken impression that I hang out in groovy bars and clubs as opposed to, say, my sofa).

Now this could all be a massive coincidence or it could be my spirit guide getting in touch. I have no idea. What I do know is that if it is my spirit guide then his message regarding t-shirt reviews is pretty clear.

“Dude. You need more practice.”

Thursday, 26 March 2009

If this isn't an insanely beautiful woman, I'm hangin' up.

Man, it's not been a great week so far.

For a start one of the guinea pigs passed away yesterday. We found Thor, the more outgoing of the two, stiff as a board in the late afternoon. He hadn't shown any signs of being ill previously and the other guinea pig Loki appears perfectly healthy, so as you can imagine it came as a bit of a shock. Only a couple of days before I had been feeding them some dried food when Thor nudged himself against my fingers, wanting me to feed him by hand. He was bright, bubbly, and would seemingly enjoy irritating me by standing on the dustpan and brush while I was trying to clean his hutch.

I know it sounds daft but I'm going to really miss that little guy.

It seems to be the week for it. About six days ago my laptop decided to pack in, having gone from "barely serviceable" to "doorstop" in one swift motion. I mean it didn't even explode or flash up a sign saying "Warning!!!!! This laptop is dangerously close to severely narking you off". It just stopped working, to the point where it won't even boot up anymore. The good news is it forced me to buy a brand spanking new laptop with, get this, an inbuilt webcam. Having never owned a recording camera of any description before, words can not describe how excited I am by this. Seriously, I've been walking around like Howard Hughes for the past couple of days (Gee Note: By that I mean bellowing about making movies while striding around my house, not locking myself away for four months in a screening room, wearing no clothes and urinating into milk bottles. I don't really need a webcam to do that). I'm playing around with the idea of doing an "I Saw Elvis" video cast. Or Vlog as they're apparently called. I don't know, we'll see what happens. I was once told that I have a face for radio and a voice for mime, so it might not be that good an idea.

The bad side to all of this is that I've lost everything stored on my laptop's hard drive. Now being a man who, despite claims to the contrary on his C.V., is about as organised as a stampede then it's not that big of a deal. I mean there really wasn't much on there in the first place. Well that was until two days before the laptop died when a wonderful woman by the name of Bonnie Fairbrass sent me an email completely out of the blue. Contained in said correspondence was a picture of Elvis in the woods. Well ok, not really. It was photo of a tree stump with something vaguely resembling the face of Elvis carved in to it. Regardless it was pretty groovy, and I planned to send a thank you note to this benevolent soul and enquire if she would mind me using it on the blog. Sadly when the laptop went down it took both the picture and Bonnie's return address with it. So Bonnie, if you're reading this, then thank you for the pic. It was very much appreciated and succeeded in making me chuckle.

Another not so great thing due to the above mentioned hardware failure is that I'm behind on everything I should be doing. For example, a clothing company called Iffyton sent me a t-shirt at the start of the week, the idea being it would be free and gratis if I reviewed it on the blog. The reason I offered to do it? Well one, I'm a sucker for the word "free", and two I have absolutely no idea how to review a t-shirt. A television show sure. A movie maybe. But a t-shirt? Not a clue (Gee Note: My initial idea. "Dude, look at this T-shirt. It looks pretty cool right? Well it looks cool in real life as well. Go and buy one." Somehow I don't think that's going to make the grade). So I kinda looked at it as a challenge, and after I've caught up with everything I'll post whatever I come up with here. Hey, maybe I could turn it in to a regular feature? Come to "I Saw Elvis" for the questionable reports on aliens, stay for the reviews of men's slacks. Perhaps not.

Speaking of aliens, the British Ministry Of Defence recently released it's third batch of UFO reports over the weekend in line with the Freedom of Information Act (Gee Note: Which is amazing when you think about it. I mean of all the things that could have been requested, such as "Who's the bastard responsible for the credit crunch?" for example, what do we get instead? Aliens. It's like a large section of our beloved nation's public collectively went "Screw priorities. I want to know what they know about UFOs". I don't know, I think that's kind of magical).

Ever since the government started releasing the official MoD UFO reports two things have become painfully obvious. One is that the MoD really couldn’t give a toss as to what exactly is flying around Britain’s skies. Honestly, they don‘t care. You know that bit out of Independence Day where that nervous technician spies the Alien spacecraft heading towards Earth on a radar, a promptly wakes his superior up at 4 am to tell him? And the superior rushes out of bed and down to the office, alerting the President, the FBI, the CIA, the National Guard, the Marines, the East Brooklyn sowing circle, and everybody in between? Well here’s how that scene would have happened if it was the MoD.

Phone rings

Nervous Guy: C’mon, c’mon pick up. C’mon please pick up.

Superior: Hello?

Nervous Guy: Sir, you have to get down here. Now!

Superior: Have you lost your mind Jenkins? It’s 4 in the morning.

Nervous Guy: Sir, you don’t understand. We have contact with… with… with extra terrestrials. And they’re heading this way.

Superior: Oh. Hmmm. Say have they blown anything up yet?

Nervous Guy: Ummm no.

Superior: Abducted any livestock?

Nervous Guy: No.

Superior: Have they sent a threatening message in anyway?

Nervous Guy: Sir I really do think that…

Superior: Have they?

Nervous Guy: No.

Superior: Well then be a good chap and hang up the phone would you?


Seriously, out of all the reports released so far, even the most interesting ones were simply recorded and then ignored. The MoD, after ruling out either a war plane or a terrorist missile, just mark it down as a UFO and move on.

The second thing to note is that the British public are as mad as a sack full of badgers. No really take the following account as reported by the BBC.

In November 1989 a "completely terrified" woman contacted RAF Wattisham in Suffolk to report her close encounter with a man claiming to be an alien.

She said she met the fair-haired man with a Scandinavian-type accent as she walked her dog on a sports field.


He told her crop circles were caused by others like him who had travelled to Earth and that the purpose of his visit was friendly.

He then said he had spoken to her because he felt it was important to have contact with humans even though he was told not to.


Hmmm. Scandinavian? Fair haired? Claims to be an alien? That sounds familiar…





With the same report was this picture, drawn by a person who claimed to have spotted the object in Hemworth, Yorkshire, in 1988.



Is it just me or does it look like two screwball ice creams glued to a cheeseboard?



(Gee Note: It’s just occurred to me that I haven’t had a screwball since I was about six years old. This must be remedied as quickly as possible). Now one would assume that with all this talk and media coverage about these MoD reports Britain would be the talk of UFO world for a couple of days at least. But, alas our cousins across the pond have trumped us yet again.

Rob emailed me this morning. Apparently Generation Minus One’s other creative force and Rob’s fiancé Jenny sent him a link from the states instructing that he should, and I quote, “send this to Gee IMMEDIATELY”. It turns out Jenny had been looking up recent news items from her hometown area when she found this little nugget in, of all things, The Daily Torygraph Telegraph.

Google Earth seems to be rather popular at the moment. So you would think I would actually know what it is. But to be honest I haven’t a clue. It must be good though, as my sister sent me a text message the other day telling me she was fascinated by it. All I know is it’s something to do with satellite imaging where you can view relatively detailed images of Earth from the comfort of your own office or home.

Well it turns out that if you go and visit the town of Berkley Heights in New Jersey using Google Earth you’ll find this.



That’s right folks what you see is… a turkey holding a lightsaber. Or it could be Gonzo from the Muppets with a laser pen. Or it could be an alien, as is suggested by the numerous ufologists asked to comment on the picture.

And that’s part of the problem with pics like this. They’re so grainy and inconclusive that you are allowed to see what you want to see. You want to see an alien? You’ve got it. But if you want to see a ghost, a child wearing a blue jumper, or a reflection from a window, you’ll see that too. My guess is this won’t be the last time we see something like this from Google Earth. And woe betide us when Google Earth updates and an image that’s been pimped on websites as being an alien, or a dinosaur, or Jimmy Hoffa gets removed. I can hear the shouts of “government cover-up!” already.

But the question I guess is, “Would an extra terrestrial being really be found in New Jersey?”. Well NJ is sure as heckfire an odd place, what with the Gates of Hell in Clifton, the Devil of the Pine Barrens, and people who will tell you quite forcefully that New Jersey was home to the first recorded Baseball game in history. But an alien?

You know, for once I’m going to say “Sure. Why not?”. I mean if there are extra terrestrials on Earth, then NJ would be as good a place as any for them to be. It would actually explain an awful lot.

And to be honest, with all that’s gone on this week, I’m starting to think that anything’s possible.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Why a spoon, cousin?

I was asked a question today that I've never been asked before. The question was "are you a royalist?". And honestly I didn't have an answer.

See one of the things that separates us Brits from our cousins across the pond is the royal family. It gives us something to hang our hat on when feeling patriotic, something we can identify with. They're kind of our version of the American flag (Gee Note: Although as far as I know nobody has ever set fire to Prince Charles in an act of protest. Which is surprising really. I mean generally speaking organised protests are the most tedious things on earth. No really, it's all slogan chanting and standing around making polite small talk, while every once in a while a car will drive past and honk at you. Trust me I speak from experience here, civilised protests are beyond dull. Now if you were to protest and flambé a monarch at the same time then maybe the day would pass a little quicker. Or, you know, perhaps not). But in reality the British monarchy have absolutely no impact on my day to day life.




The thing is that in these modern times the Royal family are more like Paris Hilton than anything else. As in they don't really do anything, they're just kind of there. Once in a while a member of the house of Windsor will surface in a news report talking about how we should do more to save the environment or help third world countries. And everyone will go "Yes they're quite right" before promptly forgetting all about it and carrying on regardless.

Because of this the Royal family are, well, they're kind of boring (Gee Note: Not that I can say that with any authority of course. For all I know our dear Queen could spend her evenings drinking Jack Daniels out of the bottle, snorting cocaine, and trashing hotel rooms, all while listening to The Sex Pistols at ear bleed volume. But if she does, she must do it very discreetly, as the most exciting news we've had from the old girl recently is that she uses "Tupperware" sometimes instead of fine china). In fact, with the exception of the Duke of Edinburgh, I can't think of the last time I even thought about a member of the royal family for more than three seconds.

(Gee Note: The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, is the exception to the rule. For our overseas readers Philip is Queen Elizabeth's husband, of Greek descent, and kinda looks like a stretched version of Dobby the house elf. He is also a publicist's nightmare, as inevitably not a year goes by without the jolly old Prince making some kind of faux pas. For example, on a trip to Scotland he asked a local driving instructor "How do you keep the locals off the drink long enough for them to pass the test?". On a trip to Budapest he ran in to a British national and exclaimed "You can't have been here that long, you haven't got a pot-belly". When asked about what the key problems facing the nation of Brazil were the Duke replied "Brazilians live there". After being "entertained" by a Jamaican steel drum band on a visit to the Welsh Assembly, the Duke was introduced to a group of local deaf children to which he announced "Deaf? Well no wonder you're deaf with that bloody racket going on". In short the guy is comedy gold, and by far and away my favourite British public figure).

However Royals weren't always a bland shade of grey. On the contrary, previous generations of Royals have been a motley crew of hell raisers, war mongers, drug addicts, religious fanatics, and nymphomaniacs. For example, take a look at Richard the Lionheart. Unlike the Scottish King Richard that graced our screens in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (Gee Note: Man, would I have loved to be on that film set. "Umm, say, shouldn't we tell Mr. Connery that King Richard wasn't Scottish?". "Dude, we've got a Robin Hood with a Californian accent and an Afro-American playing a Muslim. Don't you think we've got bigger problems to worry about?"), Dickie was a native of France and could barely speak a word of English. This didn't stop him almost bankrupting his adopted country by trying to teach chaps with a different colour skin how to properly worship God. Except when I say "teach", I really mean "beat the hell out of them with an army the size of Africa". Or Queen Mary, who decided that the best way to display religious tolerance was to burn anyone found practising the protestant faith at the stake. Or James I who, if scholars are to be believed, would pretty much have sex if anything that moved. Seriously, male, female, horse, all the same to this guy. Or Queen Victoria, who dined on opium as if it was going out of style (Gee Note: Which, er, come to think of it, it was). Honestly, one would want to party with any of those guys.

Sadly by the time George V took the reigns as head of state the hedonism of the previous incumbents had started to wane. The second son of Edward VII, George was born on the 3rd of June 1865. Upon the death of his father he was crowned King in 1910 where he reigned over Great Britain until his death in 1936, surviving the 1st World War in the process.

Now George by all accounts led a simple life. Indeed during his time as the Duke of York George pretty much kept to himself, content with spending his time hunting, fishing, and, er, collecting stamps. In fact if you had pin point an exact moment where the royal family went from being wild party animals to terribly sensible sorts, the crowning of George V is probably it. So it may come as surprise to hear that George V is my favourite all time Royal.



Why? Well it's simple really. George V once had a run in with The Flying Dutchman.

Ah The Flying Dutchman, arguably the most famous ghost story of them all. The legend has it that the Dutchman was the captain of a ship that ran in to a terrible gale whilst trying to round the Cape of Good Hope. Rather than turn back he decided to plough on through the storm, fuelled by either madness or drink depending on who you believe. At some point during this escapade the crew and passengers decide to stage a mutiny, the leader of which the captain killed and dumped overboard. This apparently narked off God, or the Devil, or some other form of vengeful deity as the captain was immediately doomed to spend the rest of eternity sailing the seas on a phantom ship with other lost souls. Over the past 200 years The Flying Dutchman has been reported numerous times by sea faring folk, and is either a portent of impending death or, you know, just something to talk about before lunch time comes around.



Back to George V. Seeing as only 15 months separated George from his elder brother Albert (Gee Note: Who, in keeping with tradition with the rest of the Royal family was involved in a rent boy scandal in later life before a premature death which has been the talk of conspiracy nuts for years. Some even link him to the infamous Jack the Ripper murders. Meanwhile his brother collected stamps. Makes you think) the decision was made to school the two boys together.

In 1880 the two lads were in their mid teens and on a three year journey around the world under the tutelage of Rev. John Dalton. One fine day while sailing on the HMS Baccante while off the coast of Australia, where the spied the infamous Dutchman in the distance. According to the Dalton's log:

"At 4 a.m. the Flying Dutchman crossed our bows. A strange red light as of a phantom ship all aglow, in the midst of which light the masts, spars, and sails of a brig 200 yards distant stood out in strong relief as she came up on the port bow, where also the officer of the watch from the bridge clearly saw her, as did the quarterdeck midshipman, who was sent forward at once to the forecastle; but on arriving there was no vestige nor any sign whatever of any material ship was to be seen either near or right away to the horizon, the night being clear and the sea calm. Thirteen persons altogether saw her...At 10.45 a.m. the ordinary seaman who had this morning reported the Flying Dutchman fell from the foretopmast crosstrees on to the topgallant forecastle and was smashed to atoms."

“Ooooh nasty!” as Hugo Myatt would say (Gee Note: Man I love Knightmare. Does anyone remember the episode where that kid was like two doors away from the end and sidestepped from left to right when there was no earthly reason to do so, falling down a hole in the process? And his team mates were all like “What the hell did you do that for?!??!”? And Hugo Myatt was struggling to keep a straight face. That was ace. Also it had a great theme tune. Daaaaaaah daaaaah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah daaaaaaaaaaah. Fantastic. You know they should really bring that show back. By the way Rob from Generation Minus One was almost a contestant on it once. I think. I don't know, he's told me story like a thousand times but I keep on forgetting it. You know, if it's not about me or a rock climbing Werewolf or something then I have a hard time caring).



Now many an explanation has been given as to how a boat load of reasonably sane people could have spotted a ship in the waters that for all intents and purposes doesn't exist. The most common is that the ship is a Fata Morgana, or a Superior Mirage to give it a less complicated name (Gee Note: As opposed to those inferior mirages I guess. If I could be bothered I would find out the difference between the two. But it's late and I've got a chicken stuffed with mozzarella to eat. So I'm just going to guess that a Superior Mirage is when you see something brilliant like a ghost ship, and an inferior mirage is when you see something rubbish like a small toad. Who knows? I could be right).

Fata Morgana is caused when in calm weather, warm air lies on top of cold air. If the area between those two remains undisturbed it creates a refracting lens, creating a heightened imaged of an object way off in the distance appear bigger in the foreground. Fata Morgana of Venus is often sighted as being responsible for UFO sightings.

So could it be what the future King of Britain spied at the age of fifteen? Well it's certainly possible that Fata Morgana has been responsible for sightings of ghost ships previously, and The Flying Dutchman's reputation as a forewarning for disaster could be due to the fact that superior mirages are most prevalent in the calm airs just before a storm.

But here's the thing. Dalton wasn't an idiot. Fata Morgana had been a known phenomenon since 1818, some 62 years previously. And Dalton's job was to make sure that the young Princes were given the best education possible. So upon discovering something that you wouldn't be able see in, say, Hampshire on a chilly Wednesday afternoon then he would've made sure the boys knew what they were seeing. For him to write in his journal that what he saw was undoubtedly The Flying Dutchman makes this all the more interesting.

And thinking about, if George V really did come across The Flying Dutchman when he was fifteen, is it really any wonder he took up stamp collecting? I mean running in to the World's most celebrated nautical ghost would be enough excitement for anybody, Royal or not.

Monday, 16 March 2009

They say you are a man of good... taste.

This is an advert for a chocolate bar.



No I don't get it either.

Adverts are becoming progressively stranger. For example the above advert was created for the Cadbury's chocolate company by a group called Fallon. Fallon's previous work for the confectionery giant includes an ad depicting a Gorilla playing the drums along to the tune of an old Phil Collins record. No really, that was it. An ape banging on some bongos in slow mo while the man who wrote the soundtrack for Tarzan warbles in the background. (Gee Note  How this is supposed to inspire you to buy some chocolate I have no idea. It would be like a tap dancing bat dressed in a little bow tie advertising frozen fish. Actually maybe I should pitch that idea to an ad agency. "Hey guys, you know how most adverts for frozen fish have, like, a family or something sitting down around a dinner table enjoying a meal going "Mmm, that's a tasty fish"? Well don't you think that's a bit old fashioned? I mean what are we, stuck in the 80's or something? How about, now think about this, but how about we have a drunken tap dancing bat singing "My Darling Clementine" for thirty seconds and then… BOOM we flash the logo up. Frozen fish drives you batty!!! Whaddya think?!? Guys? Guys?").

See advertising is a curious business. Despite the fact that an advert's primary reason for existence is to shill a product to the unsuspecting masses, there's a constant war going on within ad-land between the need to sell and the artistic desire to create something fresh and innovating. In recent times it appears the former has come a distant second to the latter. Take a look at Goodfellas pizza for example. About ten years ago Goodfellas released an advert where an Italian American family were shown enjoying a good old pizza pie at a wedding. About as subtle as a brick, the advert managed to say the product name about seven thousand times in the space of 30 seconds, while employing the oldest stereotypes with characters using terms such as "Badda Bing!" and "Forget about it!". Now compare this to Goodfellas' recent sponsorship of light entertainment Saturday evening fluff "You've been Framed". Instead of say, oooh I don't know, a three second shot of some dude chomping on a margarita, we were treated to a wooden puppet popping out of a freezer. The puppet, designed to look like the late Barry White, would then stare at the camera with it's lifeless eyes before spitting out the line "It's goooooood" (Gee Note: I swear I'm not making this up). It's stuff like this that makes one think that those marketing folks in London should really lay off the cocaine for a bit.

It was car adverts that actually started this trend. And in all honesty it's not the advertisers fault. In the UK the government has an irrational fear that if driving fast is made to look sexy or exciting in anyway, then an epidemic of people hurtling themselves in to inanimate objects could be upon us. So, in an effort to avoid this apocalyptic scenario, the government has banned auto mobile adverts from mentioning speed in any way shape or form. Which means that instead of giving those good people in ad-land the chance to go "Buy our car, it’s fast and it also comes in orange!" they now have to think of all sorts of weird and wonderful ways in which to sell their products. And so we've had robots serving tea from Honda, knitted puppets shouting "C'Mon!!!" from Vauxhall, and for some reason a kung fu fight between a balding engineer and several of his clones courtesy of Volkswagen. But my favourite over recent years has to be this one.



To revisit the underlying message from this ad in case you missed it the first time around: If you think that feeding off other humans blood and being unable to take a trip to a Mediterranean shore to enjoy a spot of sunbathing is something to aspire to, then this car is for you. If on the other hand you want to be able to enjoy a stroll through a park on a sunny afternoon or, you know, actually like the taste of garlic then buy a Toyota or something.

But then, hey, you can't blame the media men for thinking this would sell more cars. After all, vampires are cool right? If Stoker is to be believed vampires are suave, sophisticated, charming, and are probably ace racketball players to boot.

Except, and here's the thing, I'm not sure I'd enjoy being a vampire all that much. Firstly I actually love building sandcastles on the beach during a warm summer's day. (Gee Note: No really I do. I try and make them all fancy with towers and stuff. I mean it never quite comes off as planned, and I always end up with something more akin to a jellyfish than an actual castle, but dammit I try). Secondly I wouldn't want a brick shoved down my throat after I'm dead. I mean obviously I wouldn't know about it if it did happen so I guess it doesn't make a hill o' beans here or there, but when I'm gone I want future generations to know what the score really was. So a 500ft statue of me wrestling a buffalo to the ground is fine. But my corpse wearing a cement block between it's gnashers? Not so much.

Allow me to explain. Last week Reuters reported in their “Oddly Enough” section that a female vampire had been dug up in Venice. According to the report anthropologist Matteo Borrini (Gee Note: Who's name is really fun to say out loud) unearthed, um, well, this



Apparently this sexy beast was found during an excavation of a mass grave for the 1576 Venetian plague. It's a female skeleton which, as you can plainly see, has a bloody great big brick in it's mouth. Now the first question anyone will ask upon seeing this should be (Gee Note: Man I'm hungry. Is there a KFC around here?) why is this woman's lifeless body trying to make a snack out of a rock? Well, stick with me on this because it might take some explaining. Basically the theory is that grave robbers used to crack open these caskets and find, well, dead people. Except there was something very odd about these folks that had shuffled off this mortal coil.

There's an urban legend that after you die your hair keeps growing. While that's true to a certain extent, it is only for a couple of hours after death at most. Instead what actually happens is that as the fat and moisture seeps from your recently deceased mass, your skin starts to shrivel. And as it tightens the hair on the body appears to grow.

Now if you think that's gross, then you're quite right. But wait there's more. As you decompose gas builds in you stomach area causing it to bloat. And blood, being a liquid that's kind of surplus to requirements at this point, starts trying to escape from any hole it can find thanks to the pressure caused by the above mentioned skin shrivelling and gas building (Gee Note: I've changed my mind. Screw the statue. When I go I want to be tied to a massive firework and blown up somewhere over the Atlantic. To hell with being buried, my sorry ass better be well and truly scattered).

So imagine yourself in medieval Venice digging up a grave only to find that, for all intents and purposes, the dead body inside had a bloody mouth, a full tummy, and striking new hair-do. Couple that with the fact that bacteria had eaten it's way through the ceremonial shroud that covered the deceased's face and you have to admit it would be enough to freak anyone out. And so it's not surprising then that folks put two and two together and came up with twelve.

According to religious and medical journals from the time these corpses were in fact “undead” monsters that would actually be responsible for the outbreak of plagues. They would, apparently, spread the disease and then suck the remaining life out of those struck down by it until they regained enough power to go back to hosting gameshows stalking the streets looking for fresh meat.

And so our ancestors came up with a fantastically practical way of stopping these “Nightwalkers” by, er, stuffing something inedible in their gob. Which is really kind of clever when you think about it. I mean admittedly if you believe in vampires in the first place your probably not going to win any “Brain of the Year” prizes anytime soon. But, you know, if it was me I'd still be there scratching my head on how to tackle this gosh darned blood sucker problem.

Which I guess is the moral of this story. Despite the fact that medieval Venetians came up with an ingenious and relatively sensible way to stop plagues way back when, they never actually accomplished it. Simply because the “known truths” they based their theories on turned out to be, well, nonsense. One can't help but think that our modern day societies could benefit in learning a lesson or two from that.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to buy a car.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The future's not set. There's no fate but what we make for ourselves.



How great is that? I must've watched it about five hundred times now.

Well Watchmen has finally been released. And so this weekend I dragged my sorry self out of bed and took my place in the line of excited comic book geeks that snaked it's way outside of the cinema. An hour later I'd only just made it to the the front of that line. Three hours after that I was wishing I had stayed in bed.

Because, as much as it pains me to say this, Watchmen is really not that good. Now I should probably mention at this point that I love the comic book. No really I do. In fact two years ago I actually forced my girlfriend to read it cover to cover while on vacation in the South of France (Gee Note: Sadly I do things like this all the time. "What do you mean that you've never seen Star Wars?!?! Right that's it, sit down on the sofa and don't move, I'm going to warm up the DVD player. No I don't care if you've got other things to do, this is way more important". I once made a girlfriend watch both Braindead and Bad Taste back to back in an effort to prove that despite the ho hum Lord of The Rings movies, Peter Jackson is actually quite a talented film maker. I'm not sure she really appreciated it though. I don't know, maybe comedy zombies aren't the way to a woman's heart). But the Watchmen movie left me feeling completely underwhelmed.

It's a problem with trying to cram too much in more than anything else. In the comic book Alan Moore throws the reader in at the deep end of an alternative 1985 where Nixon is still President, costumed heroes have been outlawed, and nuclear war is a very real threat. From there Moore builds the story backwards, using flashbacks liberally in order to flesh out his characters personalities and motives. It's kind of like Lost in that respect. The story of Lost kicks off with a plane crash on a mysterious island in 2004, yet chronologically the plot dates back to the birth of John Locke in 1956. Watchmen's story goes all the way back to the formation of a group of costumed heroes known as the Minutemen some 40 years previously.

And the movie does it's gosh darnedest to stay true to all that. The problem is that it fails to get the balance right. We get scenes which feel rushed and forced and scenes that never seem to end all at the same time. For example, at one point a lead character shoots his pregnant mistress to death in what should create a "Wow! What a complete scumbag!" reaction. But it's thrown in there with so little build up that you end up just shrugging your shoulders. Somehow they've managed to make the death of the movie's most vulnerable person a "meh" moment. Contrast this with an amazingly boring conversation that takes place between a giant blue naked guy and a female model in skin tight yellow PVC on the surface of Mars (Gee Note: How could this be boring I hear you ask? Well by the time it rolls around the novelty of watching both the model struggle to construct a simple sentence and the blue guy showing off his birthday suit has worn a tad thin) where ten minutes feels like half an hour, and you realise that pacing is crucial to great story telling. Had they spent less time on one and some more on the other the result would have been far better.

Now if only they had someone behind the camera who knew what to do with time. Like John Titor for example.

Every once in a while something that's supposed to be low key catches on and becomes a hell of a lot more popular than it was ever meant to be. Like, for example, Slumdog Millionaire. Slumdog was supposed to be a small British project that would have limited release in the US before going pretty much straight to DVD. Somehow enough people saw it that the limited release turned in to a nationwide release, and the nationwide release turned in to an Oscar winning entertainment juggernaut. Or like the term 4:20, which was used by a group of ne'er do well students from San Rafael High School in California circa 1971 as a code word for meeting up after school to smoke-a da reefa, and somehow managed to become synonymous with cannabis counter culture the world over ten years later.

Well John Titor is kinda like that (Gee Note: He's a poverty stricken Indian who likes to get high. Nah, I'm just kidding. Actually for all I know he could be. It would explain a hell of a lot actually). Titor became an internet sensation in 2001 after posting a couple of messages on some bulletin boards. Seriously that was it. The guy wrote some stuff on a forum and became a celebrity on the web.

So what the hell did he write? Was it a lurid story of a night of passion with an A-list celebrity (Gee Note: I mean who hasn't done Colin Farrell)? Or some kind of vicious parody depicting the country's leading politicians? Or did he post a video of himself getting attacked and beaten by a hamster?

Well it was none of those actually. Initially posting under the name TimeTravel_0, Titor claimed to be a visitor from the year 2036, a time traveller who was thrown back through the ages by a machine hoisted on the back of a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette. (Gee Note: Obviously he couldn't find a DeLorean).

Yep that's right, Titor claimed to be the real life Future Boy. Appearing at first as just your regular crackpot random internet user, John showed up on the Time Travel Institute forums on November 2 2000. For those of you who never knew there was such a thing as the Time Travel Institute you're not in the minority. Apparently it's a website dedicated to discussing ideas about crocheting and cross stitching time travel. Anyhow, TimeTravel_0 started off small, talking about how to build a time machine by using glue, sprinkles and macaroni. Probably. Actually he came up with a laundry list of stuff you need to build your very own flux capacitor.

Two magnetic housing units for the dual micro singularities

An electron injection manifold to alter mass and gravity micro singularities.

A cooling and X-Ray venting system

Gravity sensors, or a variable gravity lock

Four main caesium clocks

Three main computer units

And fiiiiiiiiiiive gold rings.

OK so I made that last one up, but the rest of the list is genuine. People started asking questions, such as “how does it work?” and “what the f*** is a caesium clock?”. According to Titor it would produce a "standard off-set Tipler sinusoid". Which is a bit like saying a toaster makes a maillard compound of yeast, flour and water. Or toast if you prefer.

It didn't stop there however. TimeTravel_0 soon revealed that his name was John Titor, and that he was an American soldier sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor pick up an IBM 5100 computer from the year 1975. Apparently this was to help cure the 2038 Unix problem (Gee Note: Which is kind of like a Unix version the millennium bug, except without the wide scale panic and people freaking out because they think planes are going to fall out of the sky or something), and Titor was specifically chosen because his paternal grandfather was directly involved in the assembly and programming of the original IBM 5100. Although why this would make a difference I have no idea. Surely choosing someone who could pick up and carry a computer to the back of a car and not compromise future events by blabbing about it all over the interwebz would have been more appropriate? I mean you'd have thought whoever was in charge of this mission would have ordered a psyche profile or something. (Gee Note: "OK John, first question. If you were able to go back in time, would you be able to keep the fact that you're from the future a secret?" "Hell no!" "Hmmm, I'm going to put you down as a 'maybe'").

Eagle eyed readers will have noticed two things from the previous paragraph. One is that despite what would have surely been significant advances in technology 30 plus years in to the future, it appears that the world's best and brightest would need a 60 year old computer to help them avert all sorts of technical malfunctions, and sent a man back in time to pick one up. Rather than say use their own computers. Or, you know, build an IBM 5100 for themselves. I don't know, it just seems like an awful lot of effort to obtain a PC with a whopping 64 KB of memory.

The second is that if Titor was sent was back to 1975, what the deuce is he doing posting on a message board in 2001? Well according to the man himself he travelled back to the future (Gee Note: Man I love that movie. Great theme tune as well. Daaa daaa daaaaaaaah da da da da daaa da da da da da da daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Magic)  to catch up with some family members and retrieve some photographs that had been lost in the civil war.

Ah yes the civil war. According to Titor at some point in the not so distant future Skynet will become self aware the United States will tear itself apart after civil unrest due to the Presidential Election results in 2004. This will lead to "A Waco type event happening every month" before erupting in to a full scale war in 2008. John himself fought in the war as a thirteen year old in 2011 on behalf of the "Fighting Diamondbacks" who were based out of Florida. The civil war would carry on until 2015 apparently halted by a Third World War (Gee Note: Ah, there's always a bigger fish). When the dust has settled America will have divided itself in to five separate regions. John also predicted that the Olympics will cease to be staged after 2004 and that the European Organisation of Nuclear Research would be able to create miniature black holes by some point in 2003.

So does anyone else see the problem here?

It's OK though, Titor had a built in excuse for being woefully inept at predicting the future. It turns out that according to him time travel is only possible between parallel universes, so therefore Titor's future may be completely different from our own. The parallel universe theory is something that has been debated by Quantum Physicists ad nauseam and is based on the idea that every action has an infinite number of reactions and each of those reactions spawns a separate universe. For example, this morning I decided to wear odd socks (Gee Note: I say decided, it was actually more along the lines of "with bleary vision grabbed the first two items of clothing that vaguely looked like socks"). However I could have quite as easily chosen to wear matching socks instead. At the point where that decision was made the universe splintered in to two, one with me wearing matching socks, one without. The idea being that in the non matching sock universe I'm currently writing this post, but in the matching sock universe I could be having the time of my life flanked by a bevy of bikini clad beauties. Or, as is more likely, trapped in a cupboard somewhere.

So if Titor couldn't predict the future, what exactly got folks excited about him in the first place? Well outside of the fact that people are crazy (Gee Note: No really they are. Hell even Ultimate Thor has people believing in him, despite the fact that he's obviously a fruitcake. He does have a monkey though. Which, you know, is kinda cool I guess. Also, how the hell has this guy, the dude that claims he's a freakin' reincarnated alien, have more followers on his blog than I have? Oh wait. I get it. A Swedish guy with long blonde hair and a silly beard is cool, but a Welsh guy with long ginger hair and a silly beard isn't, right? That's it isn't it? Jeez, it's like being in high school all over again), it was mostly a couple of pictures. Namely a laser pointer beam “bending” due to the woovy berserk powers his time machine had over gravity, and a pic of the time machine, both of which are hardly distinguishable due to the poor quality of the photographs. Still it got them nerds buzzing apparently.







And, um, that's pretty much it. On March 21 2001 John Titor announced that he was hanging up his boots and making the leap home. And as he disappeared off in to the sunset, a breathless world was left wondering, “just who was that masked man?” (Gee Note: By the way my dad shouts at the television whenever Zorro is on. “How stupid are they?” he yells. “He's the only man in the village with a bloody moustache. How could they not know?” You have to admit, the man's got a point).

So was Titor a visitor from some other universe's future? Were a few souls lucky enough to pick the brains of a time traveller via the wonderful world of the internet? Well probably not. Titor had contradicted himself in his posts so often that by the end his credibility was shot. And most believe him to have been a hoax.

But to this day there are still some out there who think John Titor was the real deal. And you know we can always hope. I mean that way there may be a chance to go back in time and fix the Watchmen movie.

Either that or someone could go back and tell me to save myself the effort and stay in bed.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Presume? How you like I presume to throw you in the river?

I was reading Generation Minus One this morning and discovered that Rob had posted an item about how I once went round to his groovy pad to play the new Zelda game, and in doing so discovered the joy of throwing pixelated pigs in to rivers. What he didn't go on to say was that I repeated that process about 16 times in a row, and chuckled heartily every single time I did so (Gee Note: Oink. Oink. Oink. Splash. Ahahahaha... Oink. Oink. Oink. Splash. Ahahahaha). Sigh. I swear I'm like a child sometimes.

Thing is I was watching an old episode of Destination Truth last night (Gee Note: Or "The Monster Hunter" as it's inexplicably called in this country. Why I have no idea. What bothers me is that someone obviously thought that nobody in this country would watch the programme unless they changed the name. "The public don't want the truth. They want monsters!". What's even sillier is that they don't really hunt monsters in the show. Instead they travel to different parts of the world looking for possible evidence of cryptozoological specimens. It would be like acquiring the rights to broadcast "Friends" and instead calling it "Deathzone 3000". Actually thinking about it that would be kind of cool. I mean I'd definitely watch David Schwimmer and Jennifer Anniston armed with chainsaws fighting to the bitter end. It doesn’t matter who loses, the rest of the world would be winners either way). During the show the crew, lead by Josh Gates, travelled to the Amazon to look for giant snakes.

Now big snakes are big business at the moment. At the beginning of the year fossilized remains of a snake the size of a school bus were discovered in Columbia. Slithering in at 43 feet long and weighing an estimated 2,500 lbs this thing is a certified monster. No really, if you've ever seen the movie Anaconda (Gee Note: You know the one where Eric Stoltz spends the entire film lying down while having his forehead stroked by Jennifer Lopez. He's gotta have, like, the best agent in Hollywood) then picture in your mind that freakin' big snake that tears a path through Jon Voigt and friends. Got it? OK well the Columbia beast makes that Anaconda snake look like an earthworm. In fact in honour of it's enormous size the snake has been named “Titanoboa”. You know I wonder how many frat boys have already appropriated that name as a euphemism for a certain part of their anatomy? I'm guessing way too many.

And then last week this photo starting doing the rounds appearing in, of all things, The Daily Torygraph Telegraph among others. Amazingly some people even took it seriously.



Now who really looks at that and thinks “Wow, that's so not fake!”? I mean forget the fact that it comes from “an unknown source” (Gee Note: A dead give away for a hoax if ever their was one. I mean if you took a photo of something as incredible as a 100ft long snake, wouldn't you want people to know who you were? I sure as hell would. Heck I'd get t-shirts printed with my name on it. And then wear them on every talk show in town. “Yeah that's right, I'm Gareth Davies” I'd say. “Lover, fighter, photographer of big snakes. Remember that name ladies. And anyone who just wants to throw money at me because of how great I am. Gareth Davies. Me. The snake guy”). What's more important is that it looks like a strawberry lace with some wavy lines around it. Like a picture a child would draw. How do we do splashes little Jimmy? That's right. We make little wavy lines.

So the photo of big Amazon snake is faker than a very fake thing (Gee Note: I've put that in their so that I can come back to it after I've finished writing this post and think of something better. If you're reading this then I either forgot about it, or eventually gave up and opened a bottle of wine instead). Which is a shame as there may very well be a great big serpent kicking it in them there jungles. Just ask Percy Fawcett.

In 1906 the British explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett made his first trip to South America to map a jungle area on the border of Bolivia and Brazil. Apparently the Royal Geographic Society felt that the natives could not be trusted to map it themselves without bias, and so Fawcett was sent on his merry way.

Fawcett was, by all accounts, one hell of a guy. Born in Devon in 1867 he joined the Royal Artillery at the age of nineteen. Despite being thoroughly bored of army life he worked his way up to the rank of Colonel before moving on to a stint in North Africa working for The Secret Service. After that had finished Fawcett was looking for a new vocation and decided to try his hand at surveying. The Royal Geographic Society, impressed with his resume, contacted him in regards to giving them a helping hand in trying to quell tensions in South America by defining the disputed borders between countries. Feeling this could lead to the excitement he craved Fawcett jumped at the chance.

During his stints in Brazil Fawcett wrote many reports on the local wildlife. While the area had been documented relatively extensively by that point, a lot of the animals found there were still considered wondrous and exotic. And Fawcett pretty much made it his business to note down everything he saw. For example, during one night sleeping out in open in the jungle the Colonel tells a tale of how he climbs in to his sleeping bag only to find a "hairy and revolting" apazauca spider sharing it with him. The spider, whose bite is venomous, latched itself on to his hand and a spooked Fawcett spent a good while trying to shake it off, in the process inventing the dance known as "the hand jive". Probably.

Fawcett's notes are full of stuff like this over the years. Companions lost fingers to piranhas. Vampire bats and mosquitoes would feed off them as they slept. Wild bulls would charge at them as the travelled. A Texan named Ross was bitten by a poisonous snake only to discover that the fangs had failed to penetrate the tobacco pouch that had been nestling in his pocket (Gee Note: Tobacco saving somebody's life. Ah the irony). In fact Fawcett's friend Arthur Conan Doyle used many of his reports as the basis for "The Lost World", arguably Doyle's greatest work.



The most interesting of Fawcett's encounters with the wild probably occurred in his very first trip to South America however. According to his diaries, he and his homies were sailing down the Rio Negro when out of nowhere a great big snake appeared in front of them. Of course being a lover of nature and friend to the animals Fawcett, er, grabbed his rifle and shot the poor thing, mortally wounding the creature. The reason? Well this snake wasn't just big, it was the Shirley Crabtree of snakes (Gee Note: For all you overseas readers, Shirley Crabtree AKA Big Daddy was a wrestler here in the UK who at one point was arguably the most famous man in Britain. Alas he had to retire from the ring when, one tragic evening, his opponent suffered a heart attack and died whilst wrestling. In fact the unfortunate soul's ticker gave way the very moment that Crabtree delivered his signature move, The Daddy Splash. No really, for all intents and purposes it appeared to the world that some dude had actually been killed by Daddy Splash. It would be sad if it wasn't so funny). Fawcett didn't have anything to measure the creature with but estimated it at a good 62ft in length. And considering the guy was a surveyor he probably made a decent fist of it.

However when reports arrived back in Blighty of Fawcett's discovery, the scientific community threw up it's arms. Indeed, I imagine there were plenty of exclamations of “I say!” and the dropping of monocles along the way. Believing him to be either mistaken, or simply making it up, Fawcett's name became a bit of a joke amongst zoological folk, with much nattering along the lines of “that's what happens when you send an amateur to the jungle”.

But then the same thing happened when Fawcett reported coming into contact with a pack of dogs with two noses in Bolivia at some point in 1913 (Gee Note: Which sounds like someone screwing up a joke doesn't it? “My Bolivian dog's got two noses!” “How does he smell?” “Er...”). Again the scientists scoffed. Oh that crazy Fawcett with his tall tales they said.

Except that's exactly what Colonel John Blashford-Snell discovered in, wait for it, Bolivia in 2005. And then again in 2007 when he found the original dog's offspring. Seriously. Dogs. Two noses. In fact here's a pic.



So if Fawcett was right about the dogs, how about the snakes? Well talk of huge serpents crashing through the trees of the Amazon has been going on for years. Indeed Fawcett wasn't the only person to claim to have spied a massive belly crawler. In fact reports regularly trickle in of snakes ranging from 35ft to 100ft in length from the deepest darkest corners of the rainforest.

Which is what I assume brought Josh Gates there. Of course outside of the usual night vision jiggery pokery with something that might be a snake's eye or might be a shiny penny off in the distance, and a completely hilarious “hero” shot of Gates standing at the front of a travelling speedboat as music swells in the background, the Destination Truth team found, er, nothing. Wait that's not really true. They did find a 15ft boa constrictor that for reasons only known to himself Gates felt the need to wrestle to the ground. Seriously he just leapt on the bloody thing like Jessica Simpson on a cheeseburger. And really if that's what you have to do to search for proof of larger than life snakes then you can count me out of it.

Honestly I'm happy where I am, throwing video game pigs in to a river.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Are you man enough to fight with me?

I went bowling last night. No really I did. For two glorious hours I laced up a pair of slippery shoes and threw a ball down a greased lane trying to knock down as many pins as possible. And, as expected, I was rubbish at it. In fact if I close my eyes now I can still see a flashing red "Gutterball" sign burned in to my retina. You know, it's nice that my athletic dyslexia includes sports that even obese people can play. Hey you maybe fat, but be content in the knowledge that you're bound to be able to whup my sorry ass at any given contest. Seriously I can't even win at rock, paper, scissors.

Bowling alleys are strange old places. They're almost always full of those novelty machines you find at fairgrounds. You know the ones with flashing lights that offer you the chance to win a stuffed Pikachu by grabbing the poor yellow sod with a metal claw. Our local one is no different in that respect. It has air hockey, a game where you shoot a basketball through some hoops, and enough one armed bandits to satisfy even the most hardcore gambler. But most importantly it has about three or four arcade machines.

Arcade machines were a staple of my childhood. Before the explosion in the home video game market, arcades were where the kids went to get their pixel fix. Sadly, after Sony successfully introduced the Playstation to home owners offering near perfect arcade graphics in the comfort of your own living room, arcades simply became outdated. Nowadays you're more likely to find an Amusement Arcade choc-a-block full of slot machines rather than video games.

Which is a massive shame really, as it means that today's kids won't get that fevered sense of anticipation knowing that they are only two months away from the next big release. Or join an informal queue cheering on someone hammering away at a set of buttons while secretly hoping they fail so that your turn will be that much closer. Or the sweaty realisation that if you can just twist the joystick anti-clockwise at the right moment then you'll beat the game, only to slump away defeated 30 seconds later. Seriously these were the magic moments.

My favourite all time arcade game has to be Street Fighter II. It's premise is simple enough. A bunch of martial arts experts, tough guys, and ne'er do wells travel around the world fighting each other until there's only one left remaining. But despite it's simplicity it had all the elements that, for me, made a video game great back in the early 90's. Wafer thin plot? Check. Badly written dialogue? Check. Characters performing impossible physical accomplishments as if it was as easy as breathing? Check. Really it's all there.

And it also had my favourite video game character of all time. Ladies and Gentlemen allow me to introduce Blanka.

Blanka was a remarkable creation. For a start he was green. And I don't mean like a “rookie” green, I mean “his skin was the same colour as that of a sea sick leprechaun” green. Not only that but he had razor sharp teeth, vicious claws, and massive arms. Having apparently stumbled out of the jungles of Brazil for reasons unknown, he would scratch instead of punch, cut a back flip instead of kick, and leap on to his opponent and bite their face and chest instead of throwing them to the ground. He wouldn't speak, instead he would roar and growl. He wasn't a man per se. He was a monster. And in a video game genre dominated by clichéd character types such as the karate kid, the army guy, and the wrestler, Blanka was a breath of fresh air.

Frustratingly they ended up dropping the ball with Blanka. For the sequels to Street Fighter II, Blanka was re-designed to have a less “ferocious” look. They revealed a convoluted back story where Blanka had been lost in the jungle as a small boy, grown up in the wild, and was now searching for his family. He was given a voice, a real name in “Jimmy”, and even worse a personality. Blanka, it turns out, wasn't a wild and savage beast just wanting to carve up anyone who got in his way. Oh no, he was a sensitive, simple soul who simply wished for peace and harmony in the world and to be reunited with his loved ones. In short Blanka went from this:



To this:



But I'll always remember him as he was in Street Fighter II. A berserk monster from Brazil.

Speaking of monsters from Brazil (Gee Note: By the way my new book “How To Seamlessly Segue” is on sale now and available at all good book stores. And some really bad ones as well) werewolves are back in the news again. According to reports a woman by the name of Kelly Martins Becker was attacked on January 28th this year by a big dog in São Sepé. Now what makes this interesting is that according to Becker the dog was bloody huge, and walked on it's hind legs like a man would.

(Gee Note: Or as Yahoo's Babelfish tool puts it when translating the original Portuguese report in to English - “According to description of the victim, creature was similar to great dog. Policy looks for suspicious that it would have used fancy to attack woman.”. Doesn't “using a fancy” sound like something Jane Austen would write? Oh Mr. Werewolf, you have indeed caused quite the scandal with your fancy!)

According to the police reports the dogman scratched at Becker's face and arms, injuries that were noted by the police. And then somehow she either escaped or wolfie got bored and took off. I don't know, I can't actually find a report that lists anything on what happened after the attack. If I did it would probably translate as “lady did run away from dog strong in the back legs” or something. Actually there's not much else to report on this because, as far as I can tell, a woman turned up at a police station claiming a strange beast attacked her. That's all. Nothing else to see here.

Becker did have the good sense to draw a sketch of the said creature. And showing artistic skills that would rival Christopher Davis, she produced this:



Which, if you study it closely, looks kinda familiar:



You know, I wonder if Blanka likes to Disco?