04 December 2006

Soldat

Sometimes shooting games are much more fun in a simple 2D format, and don’t need to look realistic to be good. Soldat fulfils my expectations for an excellent shooter that gives each round capabilities for tactics, skill, or just brainless murdering sprees. With equally enthralling single player and multiplayer games, both of which contain several styles of gameplay, Soldat should occupy the even the gamers with the shortest of attention spans.

Select your weapon, soldier.

In any game, you must pick a gun, and a secondary weapon (you have grenades as well). Then you set off and try to achieve your objective, which involves killing as many enemies as possible, or running around chasing flags. When you die, you respawn again and repeat, until the end of the round, just like any decent shooter game. It’s very simple stuff. But here’s where the fun begins. There are 7 different styles of game, each of which can be tweaked for maximum fun, with different maps, modes, bots, and even the delightfully fun Weapons Mod.

The flamethrower is one of the powerups available in the boxes that get scattered about the map.

The game comes with 51 maps, designed for the different Game Styles, and 3 modes. Personally, I don’t use any of them unless I’m in multiplayer, but many people prefer Soldat with Realistic mode. There’s also Survival mode, where everybody respawns at once, and Advance mode, where you start with secondary weapons and fight for random primary guns. The bots, which are only really used in single player, all have their own favourite weapons, for example Boogie Man is a chainsaw-wielding maniac who fares surprisingly well for somebody who doesn’t use missiles. For advanced users, there is Weapons Mod, a text file that can be edited to create crazy and powerful weapons, that are there to mess about with – unless you turn into a real Soldat nut! I’ve personally only used them to create ridiculously destructive miniguns…

Weapons mod is a hoot!

The only way to go about describing the gameplay is to describe each Game Style in turn – each is a new type of tactics, but the same manipulation.

  • Deathmatch is the standard brainless killing spree. Kill anything that moves. Some will find this the most fun, a simple distraction, but I prefer tactics, and a proper goal.
  • Capture the Flag, the most popular style, is a variation on the classic tag game – with guns. Steal the enemy flag and return it to your own.
  • Hold the Flag is rarely used; your goal is to keep the flag with your team.
  • Pointmatch is also rare, and uses the flag again, it’s like Deathmatch but with a point system for different types of kill.
  • Teammatch is Deathmatch with teams.
  • Rambomatch is again similar to Deathmatch, but players seek a magic bow, and only when using this can they score points.
  • Infiltration is the most tactical, Alpha Team must captue Bravo Team’s flag, but Bravo’s only goal is to defend it for as long as possible.

Customise your character, and watch his head get chainsawed off.

Your soldier moves like a dream. The mouse and keyboard-based combat works really well, if after a bit of practice. You’re treated to a jetpack, which makes moving around that much more fun. And maybe the best part of all: all guns are equal. This ensures true variety in weapons, I’ve never been in a server where everyone is using the same gun. They help more in different situations, which is why I treasure my Barret, Desert Eagles, and AK47 for their differences.

The graphics aren’t a masterpiece, but why should they be? In 2D, the blood and guts aren’t thrilling, but they do the job. Everything is small but compact, to maximise gameplay. And they have the sound effects roundabout spot on!

Soldat can automatically take end-of-game screenshots, making bragging on your blog much easier.

Multiplayer is the reason I have been playing Soldat so much recently. There are some servers that take gameplay to whole new levels. There is one called dodgeball, in which teams throw knives across the arena at each other, separated by a wall. Last team standing wins. Or decaying zombie, in which legions of zombies with bad AI swarm around their flag – your mission is to clear them and take it. Or how about Snipe & Slice, a server where the only weapons available are the Barret, chainsaw, and knife. Multiplayer for me is the reason Soldat is lastable, the AI gets old and predictable (after a long while), but multiplayer lives on!

Why not try sticking 20 bots in a tiny arena to see what happens?

Overall Soldat is amazingly compact, with so much different gameplay it’s unbelievable. Considering the fact that it’s freeware (technically shareware, but the shareware doesn’t really add a lot to the game), the game is definitely worth checking out. And give it a chance, check out all the stuff I’ve mentioned if it takes your fancy. I’m sure there are a heck of a lot of details that I’ve not even looked into. Get some headshots for me, young soldier.

27 November 2006

Björk - Post & Debut

To pause from the recent articles of indie sensations and what could be interpreted as "trying to be cool" (indeed, I do my best), I'm going to take a pause and write about a shameless pop artist. Björk really does have an amazing voice, and in her first two albums she used it in fairly formulatic dancey pop numbers, that were all over MTV 10 years ago.
Firstly, after an interesting background of weird Icelandic punk bands that several biographers describe in great legnth, Björk settled down into solo work and released Debut - a pop album. It's like modern electronic disco pop. There's nothing quite like it, but I know from the thumping rhythmic timpani of the opening, and standout, track, Human Behaviour, that it seriously makes me wanna dance! Sitting here in my computer chair it's all I can do to stop myself nodding my head and tapping my feet. This dancey feel is built up in the next track, Crying, which features a catchy bassline, and layers of unindentifiable sound - is the bass played on a piano? Is that pan-pipes? Could this be vibraphone? The singles stick to the classic pop structures. Such is Venus as a Boy, which features dense strings, but none of the dance rhythm. Then comes one of the most noteworthy tracks, "There's More to Life than This". Recorded live, Björk apparently runs off, with the microphone, into a toilet halfway through the song, emerging back out as the band 'crescendo' again. But of course the album shows its flaws. Like Someone in Love is simply boring. It's a cover of some ballad, set to a harp, which could have worked, but it's just slow and repetetive. It doesn't work with the upbeat mood of the album at all. Even Violently Happy, a single, shouldn't really last 5 minutes, again it gets rather tedious. Although she insists: "I'm driving my car too fast with ecstatic music on", you wouldn't really guess it from the poor tune. The repetition is my main problem, which recurs a bit in all the tracks, really, which I guess is to be expected in pop music. The 2nd half of the album is a little disappointing - until, that is, you hear the fantastic Play Dead. It almost didn't make the album, almost didn't boost its popularity, and almost left it completely obscure. Björk recorded it for a soundtrack a few months after Debut's release, and due to its astounding popularity, she re-released the album with Play Dead on the end. And, with a link to the other single (Big Time Sensuality), I leave Debut to discuss the similarly different Post.

Post is, unfortunately, remembered for It's Oh So Quiet, a fact which most Björk fans (including me, and Björk herself), resent. It's an unoriginal cover of a broadway song that really grabs attention with the tumultuous brass, and wide dynamic contrast from "sshhh", to "You fall in love - ZING BOOM! The sky up above - ZING BOOM! Is caving in - [B]WOW! BAM![/B]", literally screamed. Anybody who listened to the album, however, remembers the wide range of songs, from Enjoy, a dark trip-hop beat, to Isobel, a cryptic song about a very mysterious woman. I can't fathom it at all. It just goes to show: the lyrics are much deeper. Hyper-Ballad (live version is fantastic) in particular is thought-provoking, the story of a woman who throws trinkets off a cliff is one day overcome by the thought "What if that was me?" The songs are frequently darker, and more grungy-sounding. First single Army of Me
shows this perfectly, it pounds through your head and is infectious as hell! Another one of my favourites is I Miss You, which slowly adds instruments, eventually creating a percussive, animated work of genius. The songs can be more subdued, for instance Possibly Maybe, but I much prefer the lively or moody songs. The final track, Headphones, is a quiet but penetrating vocal tapestry that achieves perfection yet again. It's very hard to pick a favourite track. Overall, it's clear that Post is a much more varied album, one that I much prefer to Debut. The problem of repetition is fixed, and Björk explores new territory, most notably trip-hop, which shapes much of her later career.

If you've read all this, given Björk a chance, and not found Debut and Post to be your cup of tea, I fully understand. So can Dawn French. Even if you're with me, this parody is hilarious!

Wikipedia articles: [1] [2], Amazon Pages: [1][2], professional reviews: [1] [2].

20 September 2006

Pavement - Wowee Zowee

Wowee Zowee musically defines the term "grower". At first the eclectic scrapbook of 18 inconsistent songs is interesting but not really musically pleasant, just a swirl of strange, angry little songs merged with slow, melancholy ballads. But as soon as you realise that each is, in its own right, a work of genius, Wowee Zowee as a whole sort of gels.
The way we are greeted with a slow guitar chord and piano note repeated unevenly doesn't exactly set the tone. Most people will have worked this out by the first line "There is no castration fear!". So that's alright then. After this oddity, we reach the classic Pavement single Rattled by the Rush, a near-perfect indie song, as well as the only one I could find on YouTube. Rattled by the Rush is the only song that really could make a decent single, but I'm sure I watched Father to the Sister of a Thought - a more folksy indie song - on YouTube a month or two ago. TO add to the already inconsistent tracklist we then hear Black Out and Brinx Job, completing the slow lapse into a weird vocal track and general Pavementish insanity and noise. After this there are no patterns. Grounded's peaceful lull is somewhat interrupted by Spiral Stairs' addition to the album, Serpentine Pad - basically a punk song, which ends, to a Pink Floyd-like (sort of) intro to Motion Suggests. From then on the songs don't flow in any way, but fit together in an antiflow... it just works.
But of course in an album as weird as this there are flaws. Western Homes is a terrible song to bow out on, but does keep the experimental feel with the interesting vocals, which waver like a hot atmosphere. If only they could be paired with a better song. Best Friend's Arm, while being a funny little addition, is really just Pavement trying to play another Slanted and Enchanted song, and failing. Otherwise, it's hard to pick out other failings, but the collection still seems to have an unfinished air about it.
Of course, the best thing about this album is the experimentality. It built on the strange noises that Pavement had already started using previously, but using them much more effectively. Bob Nastanovich's keyboards, sound effects, and percussion are all used to maximum effect here, unlike the other albums, and of course this is a good thing. It still doesn't stray far from the guitars, drums, bass setup, but there's enough variety of techniques to make it sound original.
If you do wish to invest in this album, I recommend the remastered edition that is due in November. If it's anything like the other two remastereds it'll be well worth the money. I am buying it again, as well as the upcoming (if not confirmed) rereleases of Brighten the Corners and Terror Twilight, which will effectively complete a collection of all Pavement songs. Fantastic news.

Wikipedia article, Amazon page, a professional review.

EDIT: I've changed my mind, Best Friend's Arm is an awesome song.

PS: Sorry this couldn't've come at the regular time of Sunday night (a time I wish to stick to in future). Also sorry it's more Pavement. Still to come I have Björk, Bright Eyes, Beck, and Massive Attack; possibly more. Then it'll be back to standard goings-on.
Other stuff going on: Links bar to your left. Much cool stuff. If you do play N, join the forums. Most of what I do on the internet these days can be traced back to there. And I'm on the IRC channel (as linked to in the forum) pretty much all the time I'm online.
Also a hit counter. I needed one, badly.

10 September 2006

Pavement - Slanted & Enchanted: Luxe and Reduxe

Before Slanted & Enchanted, Pavement were a small band who really weren't recognsised further than a few friends and audiophiles who were lucky enough to have attended a gig, where they may have been presented with a cabbage by former drummer Gary Young. Young, Stephen Malkmus and Spiral Stairs were not the 5-piece band that split up in 1999, but just 3 guys who were practically jamming in their garage, recording the results onto cassette. The 50-page booklet that comes with this reissue explains the process in more detail. "We'd set up a few small amps, no bass, with just the guitar played through a bass amp". Crude as the setup is, it actually works. Young had to run around the house starting and stopping the tape machine. Luckily they got the album together. It's maybe the most lo-fi thing I've ever heard, but the songs are fantastic enough to make up for it.
This album is often cited as one of the best and most important of the 90s. Spiral Stairs modestly comments that it "launched a thousand Weezers (in addition to Weezer)". If that's true, I appreciate this album just for that. The original 14 album tracks are, for me, the bulk of this album. Of course. There's not a weak song. Even the punk-ish shouting of 'Two States' and 'Conduit For Sale!' (in which Malkmus scream "I'M TRYING!" 16 times in a row for each chorus) are fantastic, even for me, an often electronically oriented music lover. Over half of these songs are real standouts, there's no point in listing them. It's not all angry screaming either, we get the thoughtful 'Here' and Zurich is Stained, adding an extra dimension to the album. The songs all flow, particularly 'Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite at :17', which has has a near-perfect chorus melody, as well as Perfume-V. But they also contrast to singalong "ooo"s, in In the Mouth a Desert.
I haven't even got to the bonus tracks yet - a whopping 34 of them! After a second reissue (Crooked Rain Crooked Rain) Pavement look to be releasing pretty much every song they've ever made - fantastic news for people like me. There are some songs here that didn't make the album, thankfully they didn't fade away, or we would have missed some great material. We get 2 sessions with the late John Peel, with 7 surprisingly good songs and a version of 'Here'. The 'Watery, Domestic' EP and its outtakes aren't really anything extremely special for me, but you can't help but like Shoot the Singer and Greenlander, even if you won't be humming them on your way to school/work like Slanted & Enchanted's original works. To finish the 2nd disc there is an awesome concert of 13 songs, which includes a couple of new tracks.
I truly think that this is an essential album. Pavement haven't been noticed by today's youths, who think that Nirvana were the band of the 90s. If some of them heard Pavement, they'd be blown away. This is a good place to start.

Wikipedia articles: [1] [2], Amazon Page, a professional review.

03 September 2006

Guillemots - Through the Windowpane

With Arctic Monkeys and Thom Yorke favourites for this year's Mercury, I've decided to review new artists Guillemots's debut album, one that for me is better than either of them. (Yes, even The Eraser.) After a few EPs and singles earned the Guillemots a few fans in late 2005, but now have widespread respect after some video and radio airplay, and of course the priveliged Mercury nomination.
The main problem here is inconsistency, it's just so hit-and-miss, for me. There are precisely three fantastic songs on this album: Made Up Lovesong #43, Trains to Brazil, and Sao Paolo. I love all three. The happy little Made Up Lovesong #43 got the publicity, complete with joyous lyrics and lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield's trademark wailing at the climax; and Trains to Brazil's similarly jubilant instrumentality would provoke me to make the comparison "A Happy Arcade Fire." For me, the true musical genius shines through in the epic Sao Paolo, a huge song with a full orchestra, climaxing in the middle with the sort of music that deserves to be screamed from the top of a mountain.
Meanwhile, we get one or two incredibly drab songs. Blue Would Still be Blue may have a nice vocal track... but that's all it is. And a few broken chords played in a staccatoed sound effect. Later, the almost silent And If All thankfully lasts under 80 seconds.
The Björkesque Annie Let's Not Wait is a small joy on this album, as is Through The Windowpane. We do get quite a bit of synth-ey pop backing to Dangerfield's dynamic vocals, creating some catchy little pop songs, but they can so easily bring in a whole orchestra wherever they like. This is the sound of a group commanding the studio and creating their record exactly how they wanted it.
I don't totally love this record, as I've explained. But it has its moments, and certainly shows more brilliance than the generic indie bands of this day and age.


Wikipedia article, Amazon page, a professional review.

30 August 2006

Stephen Malkmus: Stephen Malkmus

When Pavement broke up, every member went in completely different directions. Bob Nastanovich owns horses, Steve West is a stonemason, and Stephen Malkmus, Pavement's driving force, is doing what he was born to do: make music.
The stereotypes for solo albums like this are inevitable - it's only for fans of their band, it won't be as good as the band... and although it's definitely not in Pavement's league, Malkmus has turned in a new direction with new band the Jicks, with a new take on songwriting. He seems to want to write songs properly for a change. No nonsense, like on 'Type Slowly' (Brighten the Corners) "One of us is a cigar stand and one of us is a lovely blue incandescent guillotine". Another example is Stereo. Contrarily, in the singalong 'Jenny and the Ess-Dog', Malkmus narrates a simple love story of a couple who can't make up the distance between their years, as he poetically puts it, showing perfectly understandable songwriting. In a couple of other tracks, such as the insane 'Jojo's Jacket', we get a taste of Malkmus simply going wild, focusing of the catchiness of the tune more than anything else. Malkmus uses things like percussion, effects pedals, and vocals more creatively in this album, but it just doesn't quite hit you in the same way as Pavement. Of course, it works... in 'The Hook', we have cowbell, shakers, and a drumkit; when you're singing about pirates anything goes. Later, in the slower 'Vague Space', probably the album's highlight, we get wah-effects, steel drums, and keys.
The album does have its letdowns, the boring 'Trojan Curfew', and album opener 'Black Book' fails to excite in any way.
I'm glad I decided to show interest in Malkmus' work, after he abandoned Pavement to basically do it all himself. Some songs just wouldn't've worked with Pavement, fans will know what I mean. (An example of something that really belongs on a Pavement record is 'Discretion Grove'). And is it just for these fans? I think not. Many people will prefer this coherence to Pavement, but personally I'm not one of them. This is the sound of an artist trying to do something new, but struggling in these new surroundings. Only slightly, I hasten to add.

PS: Handy linkage. Wikipedia article, Amazon profile, and a professional review.

12 August 2006

The Duke of Ediburgh Award

First off, here is a link to an interview I conducted for Cube Magazine, about the Duke of Edinburgh award. (You may have already heard this.) This will tell you all you need to know about the award. Incidentally, I hate the sound of my voice as well... (and the picture). I know that this is rather long. 17 minutes long. If that's too much, you could also look at the Duke of Edinburgh Award website.

However the point of this entry is really to document my experience in the Silver award. I've finished 3 of the sections: expedition, skill and service. I have to do physical for a year. For my skill I played violin (nothing new there), and neither did I have to change my lifestyle to do Badminton for my physical, so I really had it easy in the award. For my service I did Environmental work, which was actully rather fun. All my friends in the award did this with me as well. And then we get to the fun bit: expedition.

Expedition is where you get shoved out in the wild somewhere. We visited the Dark Peak, then White Peak, then the Yorkshire Dales. All 3 are of course obnoxiously hilly areas, usually painted with heaps of bracken and heather and stuff. The odd small town (except in the Dark Peak, our first practice, as we started off fairly near our home town. Whilst you're out in the wilderness you can't use other people to help you to reach your goal. Simply put, you can't use shops. (This did in fact go out of the window on our 2nd practice, but we got away with it.) But it also means you have to sleep in a cold tent, cook your food, and not get lost or tired. And we had to walk 16 kilometres each day, for three days.

1st practice:
This was very easy. I was nervous of screwing up somehow but since we camped in our Group Leader's back garden, things went fine. We were allowed a huge camp-fire - slightly more pyromanical than ones boy scouts make - and we messed about with that until midnight, for some even later. We all regretted it the following morning of course. Walking got much harder, my muscles ached. At that point I was thankful that this was only a two-day practice as opposed to the three-day 'real thing'. We did have it easy. Despite this we got lost and ended up walking a couple of K further than our route, but more unfortunately we detoured through a cow field. I reckon our pre-expedition training was to blame for the irrational behaviour of two of our campers. Cows are not, contrary to their reactions, scary. And there were legions of them on the walk. In this particular field the cows seemed especially interested in our troupe. There's one of us who you'd expect to do something stupid in this situation, and he didn't let us down. He started running, startled the cows, and caused someone else to panic and attempt to jump over a barbed wire fence. He tried to clear it. Needless to say it left his legs worse for wear, especially since it took us a couple of minutes to get him down from there.

2nd practice:
Think of the most horrible weather conditions you could have to do the expedition in. You immediately think blizzards, thunderstorms, horizontal hail... but it was the sun was never going to submit on this practice. It was boiling. It made us way slower. We had enough water and such but walking in that heat was draining. At least it was only 2 and a bit days... Our route wasn't great; lots of uphill struggles. But we still managed to beat the other 2 groups to the campsites each time. Not a lot happened on the walks, to be honest. We ended up going to several shop we saw, and stopping in a children's park at one point (great fun), but otherwise it was all about making it to the next checkpoint. The most inspired thing that happened was when we took a shortcut (which we had been allowed, actually) and ended up at a tranquil green at the edge of a little village. We were there for over an hour, playing cards and... talking about the ducks. (That was actually pretty funny.) At the campsites we were pretty damn bored. It was during the World Cup, and we missed England getting knocked out. However there were people in caravans who watched it and told us the score. It's unavoidable, even in the middle of nowhere.

The main expedition:
This turned out to be trickier. I had definitely got myself dressed for the occasion though. The weather was supposed to be even worse than #2. It wasn't, but it was still rather hot, and we had the full 3 days to cope with. In fact, we set off a day before we set off walking. We slept in a youth hostel that night, the advantage being something along the lines of 'not having to get up early to catch public transport into Skipton at 4AM, not as if it'd set off at that time, because we can't get a damn lift'. Yep, we caught a bus, 2 trains, and theoretically another bus - but half of us (me included) were stuck at the bus stop waiting for a lift from our group leader when it turned out that the bus only accomodated about a dozen people, most of whom were citizens. So maybe we were annoyed by then, but for me the youth hostel was alright. The food was pretty good and we got a good night's sleep, I reckon. Also we'd gone on a walk up to a cave, which was awesome. There were some great plunge pools and perfect climbing rocks. It wasn't such a bad idea in terms of wearing us out, even if the cave was a couple of kilometres away. Well worth it. The next day we proved our awesomeness. We had to get ourselves on top of Malham Cove. There are 2 ways, shown in this diagram. Guess which we took... The first day did indeed go well. So did the second. We were used to this now; the practices were well spent. And actually, the next campsite was where we had most fun. It was quite hot, but we coped fine walking this time. However it gave us a fantastic excuse to go and throw ourselves from a fantastic rope-swing we found into the river. Good times. In the third day we rushed to the end, taking a few shortcuts that we were apparently encouraged, by the group leader, to take. This was because we'd done 2K extra on the first day. There was fun to be had yet, however. Even after we'd found another set of ducks (these were after bread), even after we'd walked, we visited the train station. In Leeds train station, we had... problems. My friend had the ticket, and 4 of us (out of 16) went into the ticket-only conveniences bit. 20 minutes later, we realise that the others are stuck outside. Ah well, it was altogether an amazing experience, I definitely recommend the award to anybody with an award group in their area.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share your camping, or D of E, experiences.

30 May 2006

Q: What is for dinner? A: A yam.

Thankyou to http://www.marriedtothesea.com/

Thanks to http://www.toothpastefordinner.com/
Thanks to http://www.nataliedee.com/

Explanation. So it is all because a yam is for dinner.

Also I am working on a blog about work experience, I can't avoid that one. It's a biggie. But that was seriously great, at Cube magazine, and incidentally my voice is on the internets now! Seriously, check it out. (Make sure you're using Internet Explorer unfortunately.) My main one is here, and I lent my voice to discussions here, here and here. And all other Cube interviews etc. are here. Enlarge some of the pictures because they have the people who I was with at the Cube, some great guys, hopefully we will all meet up again soon.

One final thing is another member page. Sorry about all these. If you are interested in music and want to broaden your horizons check out http://www.last.fm/. I have a member page here, it has all my favourite music and it should keep expanding. Anyway here is my picture with all my top bands by amount of plays. As I said, it will change, currently I've been listening to a lot of Pavement, but that was just before I got the plugin thingy. I trawled through 4 whole pages of styles for this box, but these are cool.



Those are recent songs of course. Here are my top all time bands... so far.

Check it out, comment if you get a station and stuff and I'll take a look at your music.

21 May 2006

Another website, sort of

I have another website. It is all about my favourite pages on the internet. It's really more of a members' page but you can view it on Internet Explorer and Netscape even if it is really part of a Firefox plugin. I should mention this first really. explains it. Download it (and Firefox if you don't already have it) and start clicking Stumble. Over half the time I get something boring/stupid, but sometimes I get a real gem. Recent favourites include this strange piece of art?? or something, this fantastic game, these spaced out backgrounds, and a half-decent blog for a change. On my page, you can go on the drop-down list for more pages I like, by category, or something.

Some more organised linkage:
Get Firefox! My StumbleUpon page. The StumbleUpon homepage.

10 May 2006

What I did on my holidays

OK I finally got round to this. School just takes my writing ability out of me (ironic, I know).
We set off to East Midlands airport at about 4am. 4AM! That meant we had to get up at 3am. It was quite bad. And then I didn't manage to go to sleep during the 2 hour car ride to the airport. At this point I would have expected the airport to be courteous towards me for having to get up at 3am. But no it was the most boring airport ever. We hung about watching BBC news 24 on big screens until they called us to the plane. However I did have a new mp3 player (and a book), so I wasn't bored, but ordinarily I would have wandered about the airport, but I lacked a motive, and also I had next to no energy for obvious reasons. The flight too went without andthing interesting occuring. I mean, we could have, like, nearly died or something. I was stuck in a dirty seat looking at the safety instructions that had been smeared with jam. Well, that's what you get for flights that cost about £4. Well, something like that. But when we finished the flight it was quite funny. There wasn't an arrivals building. There was an arrivals tent. Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us We were in Bergerac and were greeted by 4 painted steel walls topped by a tent roof. And a set of rollers which our baggage hurtled down and landed with a crash at the bottom. Or sometimes they just got stuck at the top. But at least it didn't take long, we hit the road in 20 minutes. In this car. Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
The gite we got to was quite cool. It was BIG. I mean bigger than our house, even if it was only one floor. It took 17 seconds to walk from one side of the house to the other... so yeah. Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us There you have it. The latter is where I slept; I made short work of it. There were 2 dogs there, one turned out a bit camera shy… Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us but the other was a big poodle. It tried to bite me once because it had proved quite bad at catching Frisbees, instead it was startled and ran off. I went round the corner, and it tried to bite me! It wasn’t very good at that, either. Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
So then we set off on the typical (at least in my holidays…) car drive about the village. On the way back it was around dinnertime, and it was Sunday. Apparently, absolutely nobody in France is alive on a Sunday. Until we went to this one place. It was a cafeteria. It was a strange little place. Reminded me of the cafes in Ikea – the service was the same. However the food wasn’t Swedish meatballs… it was even more obscure. It was kind of played up like a fast-food place. Except with different-ish food. There were chips… but no conventional meat to go with them. I thought they had chicken, but alas, it was not a chicken that wielded this meat, it was a duck. They also had veal, and something I was unable to identify either from the blackboard with the names or by the look of it. So I ended up with just chips. It wasn’t the greatest meal ever. But then, as I was eating, my eyes wandered to the huge TV at one side (kind of flanked by aquariums and games consoles for some reason). Chuck Norris was on TV! This was the first time I’d seen Chuck Norris outside the internet. It was quite awesome. The first thing I saw him do was strangle a rattlesnake in front of some scouts. Later in the programme I even was lucky enough to see him roundhouse-kick some punk, and leap from a helicopter onto a plane about to take off. Good old Chuck. We all came back tired. I was the only one awake, reading Sourcery and listening to my mp3 player. Then when my sister got up I so totally pwned her at Monopoly. It was cool because the last blow was when she landed on the Hotel de Mayfair. My picture of the moment was deleted… but it was like this. Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us I was pretty good at Monopoly during that holiday. To finish the day, I went to bed trying to ignore/kill the bugs all over the place… Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us LOOK AT IT IT CAN’T EVEN SPELL OMG! And there were lizards, but as far as I know none of them got in the house.
Next morning, I wasn’t too surprised when I was woken up at about 10am. I should have slept on the plane or something, but what are you gonna do. Not a lot happened really, we drove to some towns. Interesting thing is the trees and crops in this region. I’ll start with the trees I guess.
They were big and stumpy. By stumpy… I mean… imagine an oak tree with no branches.or twigs or leaves. It had boughs, but there are only about a dozen boughs on each tree, and they look like the trunk but a bit thinner. Now imagine that the trees are painted white. Did it look like this? Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
And the crops. France is a wine-growing land, everyone knows that. You probably have mental images of great rows of lush green vines, with little purple gems nested among them. Well… actually they don’t quite look like that during April. Maybe around June to early July they will look like that. However on holiday there were entire armies of little stumps about a foot high in immaculate rows, like “special” soldiers. It looked really stupid. You wouldn’t believe how much land had been devoted to these plants; neither of my pictures manage to convey this. They have tried. Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Tuesday, and we decided to visit a big dune. It was the biggest dune in Europe, and it was quite amazing. How the sand had all managed to get up there was a bit clever. It was very windy and the sand began to attempt to bite into your skin. On the other side it wasn’t too bad. Just a hell of a lot of sand still! There were some mental people there. Foreigners! There were some French boys who were chucking themselves down it. I would have done that if the sand hadn’t already gone in my eyes, clothes, and really anywhere else you could think of… Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Anyway, that night there was a pretty awesome storm. Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us It’s quite lucky that I got this picture because lightning is, you know, fast, so this picture was dictated by luck more than anything else. Also the exposure was longer in the dark. Anyway, this raged on somewhat. It wasn’t raining too hard but the lightning seemed to be coming from all different directions. During the time we spent in the car coming back from a restaurant, I took these three pictures. Arty! Now where can I use them? Anyway, it lead to a powercut in the end, which happened while I was administering some more Monopolownage. So we had had enough by then, and went to bed (shortly after the several minutes I spent emptying sand out of my shoes into the vague direction of the bin).
The next day was a day in which the pictures seem to do the talking. We went here Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us where we were greeted by someone who didn’t really look like a troglodyte, but he was barbaric enough to balance horizontally on his index finger. Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us I have no clue why we went to this place. It was just a bit of a carving out of a cliff, really. Apparently these ‘troglodytes’ lived here and… fought battles, I guess. They probably wouldn’t have allowed this rickety staircase in England. I didn’t give a damn. Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us When we got up there were lots of rocks all over the place. It just made me laugh. It was like “and here is a cave! There are rocks in here. Here is our prize artefact, a HOLLOW ROCK! Do not touch” Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us And here you can see the warriors’ footsteps. Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Educational! And that night we didn’t have a proper tea because my sister is vegetarian, and French people wonder what a vegetarian is. We went, and asked if anything was meat-free. After explaining that fish, chicken, beef, and pork (in that order) did in fact constitute meat, we went home, since that place was the only one open in miles. But we did have stuff in the fridge.
On the last proper day we went to a market. This isn’t Barnsley market, it’s a French market. Although it did have a Paella stall, and an English book stall. It was a good stall! I got my Discworld Companion, so I was happy. Most of it was weird plant stalls, African traders’ stalls (Get your elephants here! A choice of straw or some igneous rock type!), fresh food stalls, and a clothes shop in the square which had dragged half of its stock outside. Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us When we had done, we wandered around the place, and I met some geese. Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Sideways! Later we visited a chateau, and went around there. I wasn’t interested since it was all about wine, but the pictures are nice. And we saw a rabbit! Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
I had time for one last camera spree while I was supposed to be packing. Here you go! Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
And some stuff I left off: Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
And voila! I hope you enjoyed that, thanks for reading it all and having a look at my very amateurish work with a camera.

15 April 2006

Rincewind SW??, Radiohead, Stuff.


Rincewind SW --

[noun]:

A master blogger



'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at QuizGalaxy.com


Or as I am known in places where spaces are banned:


RincewindSW --

[noun]:

A real life muppet



'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at QuizGalaxy.com


By the way I'll be blogging the events of my trip to France... soon... I promise...

And another thing, I just posted this in the Metanet forum. Thought it was blog-worthy!

I simply must do my top 10 Radiohead songs now.

10: Myxomatosis: Whuu whuu whuu whuu whuu wom whuu whuu whuu wuuu wuu! whuu whuu whuu whuu whuu wu whu whuu whuu whuu wu - etc. That is my interpretation of the fantastic fuzzy bass.
9: Kid A: This is the RH song I dance to most. At first I thought it was too weird but now I appreciate why the vocoder was used, it really works. Makes it soung vague and dreamy, like the keyboards.
8: Karma Police: A great melody and lots of excellent polyphony going on behind it.
7: Pyramid Song: Yes, it is beautiful.
6: Just: An awesome solo. Probably Radiohead's best song without any keyboards in it.
5: There There: The percussion is well used and the vocals at the finale are sufficiently scary. Great, simple arpeggio solo at the end too.
4: Talk Show Host: Best B-Side I've ever heard. A really simple riff and more spooky vocals.
3: 2+2=5: More rocking guitars. The second part always blows me away. It has a subtle keyboard right at the end... which is why Just won that title!
2: Paranoid Android: Just kickass. The movements are all different but the 2nd is just amazing. Jonny's 2 solos are perfection.
1: Idioteque: The Laptop-produced percussion rolls around your head as you listen to Thom Yorke's driving vocals "Ice Age coming Ice Age coming", "This is really happening", Global Warming is on its way. It's an excellent song, even better live.

Doing that list was so hard! How do you compare Just and the Pyramid Song??
Finally: What almost made the list - Morning Bell, Morning Bell/Amnesiac, You And Whose Army?, Life in a Glasshouse, A Wolf at the Door, A Punchup at a Wedding, Climbing Up the Walls, No Surprises, Kinetic, The Amazing Sounds of Orgy, Everything in its Right Place, The National Anthem... I'll stop now.


ANOTHER EDIT??!!

Stumble Upon Toolbar
Yes they have some more cool stuff there. Including Daily Cyanide and Happiness! Also maybe the funniest Toothpaste for Dinner happened today.

And no more edits. I will probably blog up my holiday at the weekend. Fingers crossed.