Classic Game: Tetris

In a recent issue of Retro Gamer, Stuart Campbell wrote with great nostalgia of the era when games magazines would simply take photographs of television and handheld screens, producing ethereal optical effects. So, the image above isn't a bug, it's a feature. In other news, I now have a headache and a few dozen really blurry photos of my old Gameboy.

I never really notice Halloween, so I didn't think to swap this entry with Resident Evil 2 earlier, but even if I had, is there any terror quite like that of Level 9, High 5?


Happy Cat

This cat is happy.


Classic Game: Resident Evil 2

"What's going on in this town? "
"I don't have a clue, darlin'. By the time I noticed something was wrong, the entire city was infested with zombies!"

Well, it's a classic to me.


Attempt yawn capture!

Yawn capture fail.


Classic Game: The Chaos Engine

Sometime in the last century
an experimenter with
time, space and early computers
created a bizarre machine...

I was never any good at this game, but the strong aesthetic had a big effect on me. There'll always be a part of my imagination labelled: 'inspired by The Chaos Engine'.


Friday Uniform Blogging

El uniforme de la Guardia del Congreso Nacional de Chile.


Classic Game: Wing Commander

A scan from the famous 'Claw Marks' manual. My copy now smells strange, probably because the staples are rusty.

I'm wondering whether Maniac was my least favourite wingman. He was at least my second least favourite, always biting more off than he could chew and often ending up dead, but at least he didn't turn tail and run at the first scratch on his armour like the mind-bogglingly inappropriately nicknamed Knight.


There is a cat on my feet

Also, what is that on my shelf?


Classic Game: UFO: Enemy Unknown

Lyudmila is the best soldier in my latest attempt at this game. You really would think I'd have finished it after playing on and off for over 11 years. The (SS) suffix, I should add, is my way of highlighting my best sharpshooters, rather than denoting any relationship with the Nazi Schutzstaffel.



It now seems certain that England is the second best nation in the world. Yes, second after South Africa and Finland. At this point I think it's important to remember all the other, rubbish countries there are out there, who shall remain nameless, but basically consist of everyone except England, South Africa, Finland and, to a lesser extent, Grenada.



You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here, and what the question might mean. I might think about it a little bit and if I can't figure it out, then I go on to something else, but I don't have to know an answer, I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is so far as I can tell. It doesn't frighten me.

Richard P. Feynman in The Pleasure of Finding Things Out.


Friday Mime Blogging

This mime is breakdancing.


Run, Fatboy, Run

Run, Fatboy, Run is a peculiar, but ultimately satisfying romantic comedy, marking the second collaboration (that I know of) between star/co-writer Simon Pegg and director David Schwimmer. Schwimmer surprises by achieving an evocative, naturalistic tone for most of the film, but still can't resist occasionally slipping in some dehumanising Hollywood gloss.

There's a point in the middle of the film where Pegg's character sits on a hill, having a quiet moment with his son. In the background is a sprawling view of London that would never make it on any postcard: grimy tower blocks, age-blackened redbrick houses, an eroded Gothic church. It's a landscape of the kind I find deeply moving in its uncompromising display of life, warts-and-all. Of course, later on Schwimmer has to treat us to an oil-painting perfect view of Tower Bridge that made me want to projectile vomit across the cinema, but I'll let it slide.

Despite the odd bit of unearned sentimentality, Run, Fatboy, Run still manages to be funny, touching, and occasionally even understated. There's a strong supporting cast in the form of Thandie Newton as Pegg's jilted bride, Hank Azaria as the slick American character who is actually the bad guy for once, and comedian Dylan Moran in typically unkempt and misanthropic form. This is also a film that acknowledges the flaws in a story about a man trying to 'win back' his ex, making this a story more about someone trying to improve himself than about any kind of macho pissing contest over a passive woman.

In a perfect world, Run, Fatboy, Run would eclipse the less-obviously but more insidiously Americanised British rom-coms with Hugh Grant (you know the ones I mean), but I won't hold my breath. Anyway, go watch it if it turns up in a cinema near you.


B-Game Competition Ends

Poizoned Mind places 9th out of 29 entries with 15 votes. I was telling myself, "I'll be happy if I get higher than 20th place!" Mission successful. Outside the competition, PM has also acquired some vocal fans here and here - even appearing on indygamer.blogspot.com courtesy of that last writer.

Now let me just link back to the Poizoned Mind page and my monstrous B-game mosaic, before discussing my own favourite entries - all of which you can find in the competition thread. First up, here's the three games I voted for:

Cottage of Doom (1st Place)

B-movie inspiration, B-game implementation, Cottage of Doom is certainly unbalanced and buggy, but it's also enormously fun. Re-enact the end of Night of the Living Dead as you barricade windows and doors in a vain attempt to keep out an endless stream of zombies. This absolutely deserved to place first in the competition - it's the only entry I just can't stop playing.

Hickbilly Bride (5th Place)

A retro-style offering with pixellated graphics and a low frame-rate. You control a gun-toting redneck out to stop his sister marrying his cousin, facing rabid possums and chomping crocodiles en route. Weirdly, Hickbilly Bride turns out to be a puzzle game of sorts, where it's never immediately apparent what you need to do to reach the other side of the screen, but always fun to find out.

Dump Jumper (Joint 17th Place)

A game which in many respects can be considered pretty much broken, it's also got a strong, provocative concept and lots of neat little touches that show the author was really interested in fully developing the idea of pooping on things. To me, that's what this competition was all about (big ideas roughly developed, not pooping - although there was plenty of that too).


I was pretty sure that I'd be voting for Cottage of Doom and Hickbilly Bride, but picking out that third game to vote for was really hard. In the end I chose Dump Jumper for its pure B-gameyness. But here were the other games I almost voted for instead:

Betasuppe (8th place)

A platform game controlled by text. A brilliant idea, implemented with a lot of character; it manages to be relentlessly cheerful even when the main character is dying over and over again. There are only about three puzzles to solve, though, even if they did seem to give some people trouble.

Toadzilla (Joint 17th place)

A mutant toad is destroying the city, throwing people into the air, eating them, demolishing their homes... You are that toad! Great fun, well done, but in the end, not quite my cup of tea.

Mario Inna Space (Joint 13th place)

The only fan-game of the competition, this is also strangely the most beautiful. Or perhaps that should be 'the most strangely beautiful'. Iconic video game character Mario is on the moon. Unfortunately this means that his incredible jumping ability is now an enormous handicap, and he spends almost all of his time off the ground, floating through space and (apparently) listening to "Across the Universe" by Fiona Apple.

The combination of music (especially the way it reacts to your actions) and visuals (including a lovely NASA image of Earth) is, well, strangely beautiful, as I said. The incongruently typical Mario-style game over is the icing on the cake. Still, it's almost more a screensaver than a game, and completing it would require hours of trial and error.


Once again, you can find all these games here, and my own entry here.


Happy Birthday Cassini!

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Image source

Cassini rode into space Oct. 15, 1997, atop a U.S. Air Force Titan IVB. Its mission: to orbit and study the Saturnian system for four years and to put the European Space Agency's Huygens Probe in position to parachute down to the frozen surface of Saturn's Earthlike moon Titan. Since entering orbit around Saturn, Cassini's scientific instruments, powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators, have returned immense amounts of new information via NASA's global Deep Space Network to the international team of scientists working on the mission.

Read the rest.

Presumably as a birthday present of sorts, the Cassini team have released quite a number of colour images onto the Photojournal, in particular this gorgeous portrait of the Saturnian system as it appears from out by Iapetus (click to enlarge):

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Image source with more information

The little (and not so little) specks around Saturn are, from left to right, Dione, Enceladus, Mimas, Rhea, Tethys and Titan. Quite the family portrait. No Iapetus, because it's on the wrong side of the camera. (This image is a surprisingly small file size for such a huge vista (~75kb), however Blogger has seen fit to shrink it down a bit. Blogger, you cheeky monkey! Click the source to find the 3400 x 1000 version and answer the question, "Where's Mimas?")

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

This one's a view of Saturn from 'above', with the rings appearing slightly dim in order to avoid over-exposing the planet itself. It's an image that's big on both beauty and file size, so, once again, click the source for the high-resolution version if you like it.

Finally, as a reminder that Cassini is our robotic photographer out by Saturn, often as interested with art as science, here's a little optical effect it sees from time to time while looking at the rings:

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Image source with more information

The effect is 'real', which is to say that if you were orbiting Saturn yourself, you could see it with your own eyes, however the variety of colours it shows here are a byproduct of the way Cassini takes colour photos: by taking red, green and blue images in quick succession and then combining them. Here this process has turned a mere spot of light into a beautiful rainbow smear. (The optical effect itself is explained here.)

Time was nuclear-powered robots were only figments of our imaginations, and usually fearful ones at that. Perhaps atomic automata will one day stride through our cities blasting us with their death rays. If it comes to that, I hope we'll remember that one of the first of their race was the quiet sort, mostly interested in pretty pictures and scientific measurements.


Synthetic Facts and Mild Illness

It's always the same when I get a cold. First I have a ticklish throat, just a little. Then I start to get a headache. Then my stomach starts to get grouchy, often conspiring with my throat to make me nauseous. And then all the symptoms explode at once and all that is left of me is a pair of smoking slip-on shoes.

In more interesting news: the BBC, along with several leading British newspapers, recently published a piece of nonsense in an obituary which obviously resulted from using Wikipedia as a primary source. The Register wrote about it here.

As every smart-arse in the Western Hemisphere has been pointing out, Wikipedia does now have a reason to tell us that composer Ronnie Hazlehurst, at the age of 72, wrote a tune for a manufactured teen pop group. The open content encyclopaedia, as we are told ceaselessly, does not care if things are true or not.

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. "Verifiable" in this context means that any reader should be able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source.

Reliable sources such as Reuters, the BBC, the Times, the Guardian and the Independent. It seems that Wikipedia has lead to the invention of the synthetic fact.

Wow, I'm grouchy today.




Don't think I'm going to attempt NaNoWriMo this year. Too much on my plate, for one thing. For another, now that I've had a taste of actually finishing a substantial project, I definitely want more. I'm going to keep plugging away at this mute cowboy game until it's done. And I need to watch The Good, the Bad and the Ugly again sometime soon to try and kick-start my brain into nifty execution/rescue scene producing mode, as that is the main thing that has me stumped.

So far the finale looks like this in my head:

Only the evil sheriff will also be there, but I am too tired to try and draw him right now, and it will all be in text anyway. I see a three-way shooting kind of puzzle, where you can shoot the sheriff only to lose Elias, or save Elias only to be shot by the sheriff, so cleverness will be required to live happily ever after. Or 'ride into the sunset' as cowboys call it. (Except I guess it'll actually be noon at this point in the game, so I can't do that.)


Walnut Crescent

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Image source with larger version

And here, also in enhanced colour, we see Cassini's view of Iapetus as it approached for its recent, closest and final flyby of the moon. Since the other side, as seen in the previous post, was fully lit, that means that this side must be shrouded in darkness - a peculiar property of these space orbs that you may have noticed from the one you live on.

As before, you can find a high resolution version at the image source.


Iapetus in Colour

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Image source with larger version

Well, enhanced colour. The brown parts of Iapetus are in reality that kind of very dark brown that seems black if you don't look closely enough. (Click the source of this one if you like it, as there's a 4100 x 4100 pixel version available from the NASA photojournal.)


Saturnian Greyspace

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Image source with more information

I don't often post monochrome images from Cassini, but something about the lines, shadows and banding in this image lends it a noirish, sci-fi atmosphere. Or perhaps a dark chocolate, liquorice deliciousness, I'm not sure which.

Rhea transits the disc, while if you click for the full view, Mimas is a small speck visible over the edge-on rings towards the right of the image.


50 Years of Orbits

Orbiting a planet is about falling so that you miss the ground. It's strange when you think about it, and not all that surprising that we haven't been doing it ourselves for long - though the big ball of rock we live on has certainly been in an orbit of its own for billions of years.

Anyway, Sputnik, the first human-made object to orbit the Earth, was launched on this day, exactly 50 years ago. Celebrate by messing around with Orbiter, why don't you.


Type 4


I love these things, of course. Ask me questions about myself, and then tell me what I'm like! That would never work, surely? Been tempted by this one in Lulubunny's sidebar for ages, finally figured out where the free test is. I scored 7/8 for 'Type 4', a numerological appellation explained thusly:

The introspective, romantic type. Fours are self-aware, sensitive, and reserved. They are emotionally honest, creative, and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious. Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective, they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity.

Key Motivations: Want to express themselves and their individuality, to create and surround themselves with beauty, to maintain certain moods and feelings, to withdraw to protect their self-image, to take care of emotional needs before attending to anything else, to attract a "rescuer."

Yeah, that sounds about right. It would be even righter if I'd only pay them money, they assure me, but that's okay: I already have a pretty good idea what I'm like. I do have to live with myself 24/7.

I thought it was interesting that this one highlights a desire to express my individuality, alternatively described as a fear that I 'have no identity or personal significance'. One of the reasons my books and DVDs (and blog) mean so much to me is because I want to create something that accurately reflects my personality. One of you also suggested that identity is a recurring theme in my stories, although I would suggest that 'rescuers' are more obviously numerous.

I am sure that I have already attracted my rescuer anyway. She is probably approaching in her pirate zeppelin right now to abduct me to a life of adventure in the skies. On which note I am going to leave and stare out the window at the overcast night sky...


Begin Cat Feet-Protect

I can always tell when it is getting cold at night, because my furry cat starts sleeping on my feet, obviously purely with the selfless intention of keeping them warm.

I can also tell when it is getting cold at night because, uniquely, I have been born with the ability to feel hot and cold.