Posts from April 2013
Just a quick urgent note to say that Freaky Trigger’s esteemed CHEESE CORRESPONDENT Marna made this^^^ — and that the closing date for pledge contributions to fund a printed edition is Friday pub-time.
(For details run film, and then go here).
After a run of mostly charmless number ones, it’s easy to rate this record: its vigour; its momentum; its status as a memento of good times people were having not as a marker in an album sales plan; its simple reminder that away from the charts the story of rave was still playing joyfully out. “Let Me Be Your Fantasy” was two years old – something people were sniffy about at the time – but history has a habit of squeezing such gaps. It now seems to have the stuff of life about it in a way little else in the 1994 list does.
New series! Recently I have been suffering from insomnia, and to give a sense of routine to my bedtime (which should help) I’m trying to read a short amount before I go to bed every night. To get me into the swing of things I’m reading one Canto per night of the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, in the Oxford World’s Classics Edition translated by CH Sisson.
Because I am a pie-eyed narcissist incapable of having an experience without wanting to blog about it, I’m going to write about this. The only rule is that I have to wait until the next day to do so, and I’m not allowed to check the book. So only the memorable impressions will get through. You can follow the individual posts on Tumblr but I’ll post “digest” versions here too – with comments! I already know I’ve got some completely wrong impressions about Dante and Beatrice (for instance) though I’ll get a chance to correct those.
And that ends the introduction.
The Guardian, aware that we are living in a country down to its last thruppence ha’penny, is thinking about the finances of the poor gig going kid. Look, they have a video and everything to tell you how to save money:
As you can see the secret of cutting the cost of gig tickets is to go to gigs that took place nineteen years ago. If you fancy seeing the Manic’s in Hull in 1994, or Mansun at the Kilburn National, well – you’ll be quids in. I am sure this is excellent advice, otherwise why would you advertise the piece which such out of date tickets. Of course back then I too had my own methods of getting into gigs for free, which I can shamefully reveal now…
My earlier Skylanders post – about the parallels between the smash game’s Physical-Digital interfaces and the ongoing vinyl revival – was written without having actually played much of it. I heard the excitement of my two sons and – cue swell of music – that was enough for me.
Also, as it turns out, there wasn’t much of it to play. By the end of our holiday they were on Chapter 14 of Skylanders Giants, at “25% complete”. Naively I imagined there might be 50 or so chapters. Not so! This is a platform game, and “complete” means that you’ve collected and unlocked every last gewgaw, not that you’ve got through the story. In fact there are 16 chapters and that’s your lot. A dozen hours gameplay, I’d guess, and that’s with a 6 year old at the helm.
So, the Friday before last was the day that Popular died. Not in terms of its updates – feeble though they’ve been again – but it saw the end of the backbone of Popular, an ancient and unbacked-up hard drive which housed the corpus of MP3s I’ve been writing about, downloaded in a great gobble ten years ago and rarely updated, save when wrong. When I bagged and tagged this horde I had barely heard of torrents or streams – so their loss (and the vanishing of all my other music) is an irritation, and a liberating one at that, more than a tragedy.
But apt, I guess, that this should happen as it’s time to write up a song about materialism. Not in its original, Equals form, but Pato Banton’s scene-saving guest spot here puts a wicked spin on the song’s one-track narrator.
This is a project gradually to read and discuss the hundred or so books for children written between the mid-50s and his death in 2010 by disgraced author William Mayne, starting with a rereading of the 30-odd that I own or know. I talked a little about his downfall at the close of this post from last year, and will likely touch on it again. I’ve now re-read a further four, including his very first.
Follow the Footsteps (1953)
(cover image: William Stobbs)
“It doesn’t matter if you get it wrong,” said Caroline. “If we ask Daddy something he always tells us the long way round, which isn’t interesting at all. But he does try.”
“I can’t understand him sometimes, even,” said Andrew,
“That’s something” said Mr Feaste. “Intention better than fulfilment–net result fulfilment. Strange, what?”
As of the early 50s, the genre — established by E. Nesbit, developed by Arthur Ransome, routinised by Enid Blyton, Malcolm Saville and literally dozens of others — was quite tired and predictable: the middleclass children of a family, a dated shade of perkily bland, and often curiously under-examined, all RP and private schooling, arrive in a rural or otherwise characterful locale, and find a treasure, foil a crime or solve a puzzle. Mayne’s first published book for kids doesn’t much break with the pattern (certainly less than you’d expect if you know his later work), but the beginnings of the break are visible.
Tree Rex. Eye Brawl. Scarlet Ninjini. If you’re the parent of a small boy there’s a good chance you know these names well: the ferocious cast of Skylanders, a computer-game-meets-action-figure franchise which has become my son’s first honest-to-goodness playground craze.
“Meets” here really means “versus”, in the way a mash-up is “versus”: the gaming and collectibles elements are fused to a fiendish degree. You play the game by placing a physical figure on a “portal of power” – presto! There he is on the screen, stomping around a pretty standard 3D platformer thing. The more figures you buy, the more characters you can use; the more characters you can use, the more game elements you unlock, and the more money Activision makes. There is very little Skylanders merch – no TV show yet, no comics, none of that paraphernalia – because why should there be? The basic collect-and-play mechanism has plenty of financial life in it.
This physical-digital fusion is the heart of Skylanders’ appeal, and it’s innovative in several ways, not all of them so fun. Playgrounds have always been hothouses where peer pressure and parental income brutally intersect – Skylanders rewards wealth (if not thriftiness) like any collectible fad. No novelty there. But successfully importing this mechanic into a console game is setting a precedent. The virtue of console and PC gaming used to be its completeness: buy a game and you’ve bought the whole game. Not so Skylanders: to my knowledge it’s the first really successful application of the “in-app purchase” model of mobile gaming to the big-ticket console mainstream.