Friday, 12 November 2010

Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in.

There's an advert on the box at the moment for Match.Com, an internet dating site. Basically it features two people, an impossibly good looking man and woman, knocking around in a music store. Then for reasons known only to himself the man picks up a guitar and starts to sing. In a butt clenchingly twee way the woman soon joins in.

Man: I like old movies.
Woman: Like Godfather 3.
Man: They say it's not the best one.
Woman: But that's just me.

They then smile knowingly and, thank Christ, the advert comes to a screeching halt before we are treated to the spectacle of them heading off to teddy bear land and wallowing in an overbearing sea of saccharine, dewy-eyed, nonsense.

Now this advert bothers me on a number of levels. For a start. The Godfather Part III is an unbelievably awful film with an indecipherable plot (Gee Note: Seriously. It's about corrupt monks or something. I don't know. If I'm honest I gave up caring halfway through), a collection of terrible performances, and a running time that would make Orson Welles cringe. It is the worst case of going to the well one too many times. and also happens to represent the official point where Francis Ford Coppola jumped the shark. After this cinematic monstrosity Frankie FC treated us to such wonders as Jack, The Rainmaker, and Youth Without Youth, all of which should be used as a form of torture on suspected terrorists.

So yeah, "Godfather 3" is a bad movie. Bad enough that no one with half a brain would take the time to sing a stupidly cheery song about it. Also, it isn't really that old. Metropolis is old. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is old. Nosferatu is old. The Godfather Part III was released in 1990 which means either Dullard McSingsong is confusing it with another movie entirely, or they have the attention span of a gnat. Which in turn means the message of this advert isn't "Come to Match.Com and meet your perfect partner". Instead it's "Come to Match.Com, and meet someone as stupid as you are". And that's not really a great sales technique, whatever anyone tells you.

Which is why when it comes to matters of the heart and other such important things, I don't leave it up to those chancers at Match.Com. No way Jose, I put my faith in Tara the online psychic.

You guys remember Tara right? No? You sure? She used to be a pretty regular feature on this 'ere web-ma-log. Well for those who don't, a while ago I signed up for an online tarot card reading, and since then Tara has been bombarding me with amazingly crazy emails designed to get me to send her my money. I reposted a couple here and then, thinking it had run it’s course, blocked her mails from arriving in my inbox.

Anyway at the back end of last week one of those blighters managed to sneak through and, rather than delete it straight away, I decided to read it for old time's sake. And then I laughed. And then I decided to repost it here. I know, I know. Really. There's no need to thank me.



Late last night I was stretched out peacefully on my couch, thinking of you (Gee Note: Really? Aw shucks. You'll make me blush) and a few other people (Gee Note: Wait. What? Other people? OTHER PEOPLE?!?!? You… you Jezebel, you. My mother warned me about women like you. And also that you shouldn't stick a fork in to a toaster no matter how much you think it deserves it. Sound advice really.)  who recently asked for my help, when suddenly something very strange happened.

I can’t explain why, but I felt an irresistible impulse to enter into telepathic contact with you as soon as possible, Gareth. (Gee Note: That's OK. I get irresistible impulses all the time. Although to be fair mine are more along the lines of "make bacon sandwich" or " wear hat". Not "mind rape someone". But then each to their own I guess).

I sat down at my worktable and did a psychic session for you. Contact was established almost immediately, and the visions I had about the way your life is unfolding were incredibly clear. (Gee Note: That's what you get when you upgrade to HD. That and an urge to watch boring sporting events on the telly just because you can now see them in crystal clear detail. Seriously the other day I ended up watching lawn bowling for seven straight hours. Lawn bowling. For seven hours. It's like I skipped middle age and went straight in to the "retired and really have nothing better to do" phase).

It was like watching a movie of your life! (Gee Note: Wow, what a belting movie that would be. I can see the promotional pitch now "It was a time of heroes. It was a time of war. It was a time when one man decided to sit on his fat ass all day long and watch old people roll balls on some grass for no good reason". Also do I get any input on casting? Because if I do I demand that Warwick Davis play me and that The Future-Ex Mrs. Davies is played by Jennifer Love Hewitt. The screen will simply fizzle with chemistry).

I could see all the difficulties you’ve been dealing with, all the bad news you’ve been getting, all the disappointments and delays you’ve had to face in the most important areas of your life. I clearly saw the bad choices you made, the errors you committed in the past that today are forcing you to deprive yourself of almost everything, and count every penny. (Gee Note: What the f*** lady? "Bad choices"? OK, admittedly investing the family fortune in a 5,000,000 pairs of clown shoes didn't exactly return a windfall straight away. But when Lady Gaga wears some to the VMA’s and they become a hot fashion item, we'll see who's laughing then). 

But I can say with great certainty that for you, Gareth, the end of the tunnel is near. This is an important moment in your life. You could obtain everything your heart desires. (Gee Note: Mmmm. Bacon).

I have to warn you, Gareth. The harmful environment you’re in now could still bring bad luck, and annihilate the enormous potential that is being offered to you now.  You have to get rid of the harmful presence blocking your Destiny once and for all. It’s been opposing your happiness for a long time now, and I’m sure you’ve noticed it.  (Gee Note: Oh noes. A harmful presence blocking my density. What would George McFly do? Well, he'd punch someone in the mouth obviously. So that's what I'm going to do. Punch the next person I see in the mouth. Problem solved).

A while ago you were on the verge of solving most of your problems, but despite your efforts things turned against you. I can tell you that it was your psychic enemy, trying to make things even worse for you.  (Gee Note: "A psychic enemy"? You do know I'm not a member of the X-Men right? Not that I haven't tried you understand. I even bought myself a full body spandex suit and a cape to wear while fighting crime. Alas the first time I wore it I caught my foot on my front doorstep, which caused me to fall over and scrape my knee. I decided to give up after that point. Super heroes who exclaim loudly "But it really realllllly hurts!" with tears in their eyes are less than impressive it turns out.).

Among the people you know, someone is very bitter towards you, and is sending you a lot of very negative thoughts, full of rancour and pessimism, jealousy and bad luck. (Gee Note: Sigh. I can't imagine why. I mean you wouldn't believe the number of times I've told people not to hate me because I'm beautiful).

A case like yours requires exceptional measures. I’m going to tell you about a secret that will enable you to put an end to your problems and turn things completely in your favor:

The Secret of the "Hand of Power" (Gee Note: Not to be confused with "The Foot of Danger". Which looks like a perfectly normal foot until you feed it after midnight. Then it becomes a right bastard).

I have decided, Gareth, to perform the Hand of Power Ritual for you. (Gee Note: You know the last time I paid a woman to do something with her hand for me was… er… nevermind).

The ceremony belongs to an ancient tradition, and its secret has been kept in my family for generations. The Ritual is transmitted only after long initiation and much effort. My grandfather taught it to me, and showed me many times, and in very concrete ways, how it could really transform the lives of people in trouble. (Gee Note: My grandfather taught me how to putt golf balls. Because, you know, he wasn't bonkers).

Those who have already benefited from the Hand of Power Ritual have all seen their most pressing problems resolved, even those they’d given up hope on. These people were often in very desperate situations. (Gee Note:  "Dear Tara. My name is John and I'm stuck on a raft in the middle of pacific ocean. All my shipmates have been eaten by sharks and I can see their fins circling me as we speak. Could you be a dear and perform a hand of thingy ritual for me. Or alternatively, ALERT THE F***ING COASTGUARD!!! Regards. John". Speaking of which did you know that Dick Van Dyke was once rescued at sea by a group of porpoises? No really. Just like Adam West's Batman. Except Van Dyke wasn't tied up with a young boy dressed in tights at the time. At least not according to the stern letter I got from his lawyers when I self published my book "Dick Van Dyke: What you didn't know". ).

Since my initiation I’ve helped many people, most of whom were in a more precarious and complex situation than you’re in now. I did it by performing the Hand of Power Ritual on their behalf. Almost all of them were surprised to see a "miracle" take place in their lives: in less than a month, their terrible problems had been transformed into incredible happiness. (Gee Note: Almost all of them huh? You mean there were some not surprised by a miracle happening in their life? Now as far as I can work out that means one of two things. Either a miracle didn't happen in the first place. Or it happened to someone for whom a miracle is no big thing. Which, unless you happen to be Jesus, is probably unlikely. Although thinking about it, it would be pretty great if Jesus and Tara had a Miracle-Off. Hell put them in a ring, throw in a couple of card carrying women, add some pyrotechnics, and I'd definitely buy that Pay Per View).

What you need to do now is very simple. When you finish reading, place your left hand on your computer screen to trigger the Hand of Power. 

Now we’re getting to the heart of the secret! (Gee Note: Shit just got REAL!) Here’s what’s going to happen: keeping your left hand flat against the computer screen, you’re going to ask that your three most cherished wishes be granted. (Gee Note: Wish number one. Can I take my hand off the screen now please? I'm in a library and guy sitting opposite is looking at me funny).

First Wish: Think hard about how much money you’d need to solve your immediate problems. Visualize what you’d do once you have it. (Gee Note: Hire a mariachi band to play music whenever I walk into a room.)

Second Wish: Concentrate on your love life. According to your situation (either as part of a couple or on your own) imagine yourself finding true love, or seeing your relationship drastically improve. Feel the happiness it brings you, and know that the skies over your future are clear. (Gee Note: Hmm. Now that I think about it, The Future-Ex Mrs. Davies could do with wearing less clothes around the house. I mean sure it's cold in the evenings now, but is that really an excuse not to wear a bikini to the dinner table? What do you mean you feel warmer in your jumper? Well la-di-dah your majesty.)

Third Wish: Concentrate on a flow of Luck entering your life. See yourself playing money games where you keep winning huge jackpots. Then visualize yourself spending your winnings on things that give you pleasure.  (Gee Note: If I was a recovering gambling addict, I'm pretty sure this advice wouldn't help).

Through the psychic connection between your hand and the computer screen, I’ll be able to pick up your personal vibrations, charged with all the things that are dearest to your heart.  Then, when I perform the Hand of Power Ritual on your behalf, your vibrations will enable me to have extremely precise "psychic flashes", revealing the crucial events in your future in startling detail.  (Gee Note: You know the last time I paid a woman to pick up my personal vibrations I was... er... nevermind).

Think what your life will be like when you’re able to attract Luck like honey attracts a bee, without even having to do anything special!  (Gee Note: Erm. Honey doesn't attract bees. Flowers do. Honey attracts Grizzly Bears. Easy mistake to make though. I've often put out a jam jar out on a warm summer's day to catch bees only to find a bloody great big deadly predator stuck in it).

Although it seems so simple, it will mark the beginning of your new life, and a lead to a180 degree turn in your fortunes. You’ll find the answers you’ve been seeking for so long in vain, and the things you have to do to finally become the person of your dreams: a person who is incredibly Lucky and profoundly happy. (Gee Note: And also a famous rapper. Because I've got great rhymes. No really. “Yo man I'm like a cyclone. I've got an internal skeleton made out of bone”. I'm just waiting for my big break. Simon Cowell should totally sign me up)

Don’t hesitate. Your happiness is there, waiting for you, and the sooner you answer me, the sooner you’ll taste it.  I’ll be waiting to hear from you, Gareth. (Gee Note: You know when you have one of those awkward first dates? Ones where you've had a horrible time and the other person goes “you're going to call me right?”, and you go “Oh yeah. Sure I will” when deep down you know that you'd rather call a baboon with a flatulence problem? Well... sure I'll be in touch Tara).




And there you have it. Now you may think that placing your hand on the screen and wishing for your life to turn around is crazy. And you're right. It is.

But, really, is it any crazier that trying to impress people by singing about rubbish films?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

What do you expect us to use man, harsh language?

There's a lot of things that annoy me. For example, when you dunk a biscuit in to a cup of tea and it breaks in half, leaving a gunky mess at the bottom of the mug. Or people who wear beanie hats indoors. Or that weather presenter on the Welsh national news who finishes his broadcasts by winking at the camera. Or Glenn Beck. Or pigeons. The list goes on and on.

But I honestly never thought I would get annoyed with Cryptomundo.

Now I'm not what you would call a "gamer". Oh sure, I play video games occasionally. And for the most part I enjoy it. But I would say that of all the things I do with my spare time, playing video games would come a distant fourth behind watching television, reading, and sitting down. (Gee Note: Actually it would come fifth if you count "scratching" as an activity).

Part of the problem is I'm not very good at them. There was a time that I was exceedingly competent with a joypad in my hands, around the time of the NES and the Master System in fact. Back then I was nowt but knee high to grasshopper and I, like most of my friends, would spend hours at a time devoted to the flickering images of Mario and Sonic stuttering from left to right. But then I hit my late teens, found other virtues to pursue (Gee Note: Namely girls and beer, neither of which was particularly successful) and by the time I started playing again in my early twenties the entire scene had moved on. For a start video games had become far more complex. Gone were the days of breezily running through a multicoloured landscape jumping on the heads of walking mushrooms. Instead the video game market had become dominated by grimy first person shooters. You'd assume the role of some gun totting bad ass and head off to take on evil Nazis, or blood thirsty aliens, or evil blood thirsty Nazi aliens. Games now revolved around being able to aim accurately, move stealthily, and pull the trigger at a seconds notice.

The thing is none of that has ever struck me as all that much fun. And it's not that I'm opposed to the idea of running around and shooting things. In fact one of my favourite games of the modern era, Mass Effect 2, is basically just that. In Mass Effect you go to a new planet, have a natter with some folks with blue skin, and before you know it your blasting your way through wave after wave of bad guys. Which is great. But Mass Effect differs from most games in that you don't have to treat the combat sections like they're a real life war. In contrast Halo, which has a similar premise to Mass Effect, leaves me cold despite it's universal acclaim amongst the gaming community. Partly because my experience of playing Halo is me running around desperately firing bullets left right and centre, only to find out some sneaky bastard has crept up behind me and is steadily unloading their ammunition in to the back of my neck.

This isn't to say that people who enjoy these video games are somehow misguided. They're not. In fact if I was any good at them I would probably love these games as much the next man. But because I'm pretty much useless when it comes to "circle strafing" and throwing grenades at moving targets, it means I end up looking for other things to occupy my console disk drives. Games like Civilization Revolutions where you have to build a city and stop other world renowned leaders (Gee Note: Including a strangely aggressive Gandhi. No really. A typical conversation with Gandhi in Civ Rev goes something like "Hey Gandhi. How's it going?" "Give me your gold!!!" "I'm sorry Gandhi. I have no gold to give you." "WHAT?!?!? F*** YOU BUDDY!! THIS MEANS WAR!!!!!") from taking it over. Or Heavy Rain, which is kind of a murder mystery with French voice actors pretending to be American and failing miserably (Gee Note: "But Scott don't you realize? Zis could 'elp us find ze killer!").

Or, more to the point, Red Dead Redemption.

Red Dead Redemption is,a cowboy action-adventure. Developed by Rockstar, the people responsible for the Grand Theft Auto games, RDR is set in a fictional Wild West where men are men, women are women, and animals are a good way of generating some cash by hunting them for their pelts. Anyone who has ever played a Grand Theft Auto game will instantly be comfortable with the mechanics. You jump on a horse, ride your way to a place marked out on your map, where upon a cut scene kicks in to move plot along. After that you complete the objective set out in front of you, which generally speaking is "ride over there and shoot those people", before moving on to the next thing. RDR differs from it's predecessors in one key aspect however. While the various incarnations of GTA were often juvenile and tawdry, RDR is a grown up and thoughtful game. Of course it still has a collection of buffoons to gawk at, a grave robber and an elderly work shy farm hand for example, but overall it tells a charming, tragic, and occasionally beautiful story.

Recently an add on for the game became available online. Coinciding with Halloween the developers released the "Undead Nightmare" downloadable pack, a separate mission from the main game in which zombies are unleashed on to the playing field causing havoc in the process. Designed to be a way to refresh the game for players who had already completed the original, "Undead Nightmare" brings with it a host of new features. You can catch and tame the four horses of the apocalypse, ride about on a unicorn, get attacked by a chupacabra, and fire a bullet at a demonic looking goat.

It also features a side mission which has upset some people. The reason? Well if you take a trip to the game area known as the tall trees you're given the chance to hunt some Sasquatch.
Learning of this Craig Woolheater of Cryptomundo published the following video found on Youtube,

Above it he added the following the following statement.

"I am not a gamer and find this somewhat offensive…"

This was then followed by a series of comments underneath from regular readers of Cryptomundo. These included…

"I find it HIGHLY offensive."

"I am a gamer. Have been for a long time. This is not only offensive, but pathetic."

"Disgraceful. Whatever happened to social responsibility and a respect for nature? This game will only appeal to violent morons. This is as bad as the rod and gun club in BC who use sasquatch targets for practice." (Gee Note: One. I've played this game I'm not violent. A moron maybe. But I have weak girl arms and don't really enjoy pain so I tend to avoid any kind of physical activity, fighting included. Two. There's a gun club that uses Sasquatch targets for practice? That's just… confusing.)

Finally some slightly saner voices joined the discussion, and the conversation degenerated in to a very dull debate about whether or not video games are evil. "YES!!!" shouted some people. "NO!!!!" cried others. And all the while everyone missed the point like English soccer players taking penalties.

You see this is what happens when something is taken out of context. It would be like watching one scene from "Aliens" where Sigourney Weaver is running away from a giant slathering extra terrestrial and saying "Oh my God. This movie totally presents women as feeble and spineless.". Well no, if you watch the rest of the rest of the movie it turns out the woman not only succeeds where a bunch of hardened male soldiers fail, but also kicks some serious ass in doing so. But if you only watch that one scene, you'll probably come to the conclusion that either Sigourney gets munched by the raging monster or she gets rescued by some handsome hunk in a tight t-shirt.

Red Dead Redemption is many things. In some ways, such as the use of the Wilhelm scream, it's an affectionate love letter to the Western genre. In others it's a fun action romp in which you get to test your skill by hitting moving targets. But the storyline of the game has one major thematic element that dwarfs everything else. Simply put it's the evil that men do. Even more simply put, people are generally dicks.

Take the game's protagonist, John Marston. Marston is a nice guy. A former gang member who used to kill people as soon as look at them, he fell in love, settled down, and started a family. Refreshingly for a story about a bad man made good, you never see him racked with guilt over his past deeds. In these times where the tortured hero struggling against personal demons has become a tired cliché, Marston is unique because he views his past almost philosophically. Running with a posse, killing innocent folk, robbing banks and stores, whatever he did Marston genuinely believes he is now a different person from the one who committed those crimes.

The problem is Marston is incredibly naïve. He left his life on the run to become a farmer, only to find out he wasn't very good at it. And after his family are kidnapped, Marston is forced by a corrupt law-man to hunt down his former comrades or risk losing his wife and son. This leads him on a quest where, time after time, his good nature is taken advantage of. Whether it be a down on his luck drunk trying to avoid his debts, a two bit hustler selling snake oil, or Mexican general trying to hold on to his lofty position, the universe of Red Dead Redemption is filled with back stabbing shysters.

Betrayal is the name of the game here. The first time we see Marston he gets shot by a friend and left for dead. By the time we leave him he's battling an entire army because he's been screwed yet again. Despite the odd ray of sunshine here and there not much changes for our man.

The reason I bring this up is that the controversial "Bigfoot murdering" fits in perfectly with this scenario. Marston isn't hunting the Sasquatch because he enjoys killing things. Marston is hunting the Sasquatch because he's been duped in to thinking it's a threat by another character desperate to acquire the animal's fur. In essence John is a tragic character, doomed to commit an act of violence against a harmless creature because he is trying to do the right thing.

And really, it amazes me how anyone could find that offensive. It's not even if Bigfoot is presented as a crazed beast prepared to tear humans limb from limb. All the Sasquatches featured run away as soon as you approach them, and the last one even explains calmly that his people are non threatening while bemoaning the loss of his kind. If anything the message here isn't "Hey! It's fun to kill Sasquatches!". Instead it's "Yeah it's fun to shoot things. No one is denying that. But really, don't blow away Bigfoot just because you can. It's kind of a douche move.". 

It wouldn't be so bad if the good people of Cryptomundo weren't used to being on the receiving end of this type of thing. By it's very nature people who are proponents of something like cryptozoology are often scoffed at, much in the same way that ufologists are. By simply saying "I believe there might be large undiscovered creatures in the world somewhere." or "I believe there might be aircraft in our skies that shouldn't be there" certain sections of the community will instantly disregard anything you say and label you a loony.

For example last night I watched an episode of "Solving History with Olly Steeds". Steeds, a British journalist and explorer, had decided to tackle the Nazca lines. According to the TV guide the episode would look at various theories including whether the lines were made for ceremonial purposes, whether they were used as an astrological guide, or whether they were made by aliens. "Awesome" thinks I. "A really good investigative piece about the pros and cons of the various theories sounds fascinating". Except it wasn't. In fact the part of the programme devoted to the extra terrestrial theory was given a measly thirty seconds, and was summed up by Steeds saying something along the lines of "I can see how some people would think that these lines look like runways for alien spacecraft. But that theory assumes the Nazca wouldn't have the intelligence to make the lines themselves. Which I find rather insulting.". For the rest of the show Steeds spent his time getting high (Gee Note: No really he did. On the premise that "this is what the Nazca would have done". I'm surprised he didn't go the whole hog and rent out a hotel room, fill it with prostitutes, and claim it was "what they did back in the day". When in Peru, Olly-boy. When in Peru.) and presenting an opinion that is not universally accepted as if it was stone cold fact.

And it made me furious because at no point have I ever read an "alternative" theory about the Nazca lines that starts with "Yo Nazca so dumb when they hear it's chilly outside they go get a bowl." Because nobody has ever brought up the question of if could they make the lines. I mean if they can build pyramids then I'm pretty sure they could draw in some dirt. The question has always been why would they? What purpose would it possibly serve? Why design a complex picture of a monkey or a shark if no one is ever going to see it? Now a lot of very intelligent people have come up with a lot of evidence to support the idea that they were designed by beings not of this world (Gee Note: Admittedly a few nutters have also joined in the "It was aliens!" chorus. You take the rough with the smooth I guess). To ignore their work just because you happen to think it's a load of codswallop is, well, just plain wrong when you're trying to "Solve History".

Put it this way. Anyone who has read this blog for more than three minutes will probably know that I hate conspiracy theories. Actually that's not true. I don't hate the ones that make sense. Have Western governments in the past lied about the existence of UFOs? Well yeah, they almost certainly have. Are those UFOs of alien origin? I… I don't know. I'd like to think they were. But considering the USA and Russia were looking at each other with twitching eyelids and beads of sweat  dripping from their foreheads for over four decades, I'm guessing most of the famous UFO reports from that era were military devices taken out for test runs.

But things like the 9/11 conspiracy I can't stand. However just because I can't stand them doesn't mean I haven't done my research. In fact it's looking up and debating the various questions about the legitimacy of the terrorists attacks that has formed the strength of my opinion.

Which is why it's frustrating that Cryptomundo should take a different stance. Rather than open up a valid conversation about whether Bigfoot's depiction in the game offsets any negative impact about encouraging players to hunt a sasquatch, or whether Rockstar the company has made a misstep when trying to present an obviously emotional story of a sentient being losing it's loved ones, we instead get “I know nothing about this. But I hate it”. It's amazingly closed minded.

And considering it's a website about animals mainstream science doesn't recognise as real, Cryptomundo is the last place you'd expect to find closed mindedness.