Musical Guilt

We’ve got a new Radiohead album. It’s good. Everyone rejoices, very happy. Good good, what what, carry on, carry on.

By the time my fifth playthrough came about, a familiar feeling began to sink over me, a malaise of the mind, some heavy fog of guilty pleasure, knowing that I’m engorging myself like some sluggish audiophile, every beat driving my aural belly to new gluttonous heights. My ears have become noise-mouths, every moment another chew, another swallow. Over indulgence was about three or four listens back. This, this is just sick.

Or at least, these are the thoughts that start to seep through my consciousness like a syrupy venom. It’s the kind of guilt that’s warm and comforting, but only in the most sickly sweet way possible. It’s a stifling heat, not the comfortable heat of a whiskey in your stomach. No, this is a slow burn, causing damage without you really knowing what it’s doing. It’s one of my more irrational moments, but it seems to happen with an alarming regularity.

You see, I feel bad if I listen to one artist/album for too long. I feel like, to the detriment of all music, everywhere, I’m passing up all the good stuff to listen to this one good thing. I’ll leave an album on for days, I’ll listen to an artist all but non-stop for a week, and then I’ll burn out and spit them out like gum I’ve been chewing for far too long, all flavour long gone, just this sticky, habitual mess to be disposed of. Over time, the flavour comes back, but it’s not a healthy treatment, this isn’t me exercising musical moderation.

Or at least, that would be me if I didn’t exercise musical moderation. I’m getting better, I’m forcing myself to branch out when I start to feel that familiar numbness to the new music I’m listening to. King of Limbs is starting to need a break, because otherwise I’m going to ruin it for myself. This is what my LastFM page is for, really. It’s not there as a monument to the sheer amount I listen to. It’s not there for people to judge my musical tastes, and it’s not really there to show me an interesting timeline of what I liked and when. Instead, it’s there because, at the back of my mind, there’s some imaginary person that’s sitting there monitoring my page, looking at what I’m listening to, and if I start mainlining one band or another, with no deviation, they’re going to make a sound somewhere between a cough and a sigh, like they’re choking up their disgust, and they’ll turn away.

I don’t want that. So I stop myself before I’ve had my aural fill, and listen to something else. It probably means I listen to a wider variety than I would otherwise, and it certainly means I don’t get bored with music nearly as fast as I would otherwise. Music listening is a lot like resource management, y’know; you’ve got to give it some time to replenish, otherwise you’re going to drain it dry.

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Manipulation and Evocation: Exploring The Dead Island Trailer

I’ll give you a moment to recover from the gut punch. I know how they can wind you.

Better? Ok.

That was yesterday. Since then, this trailer has gone viral. It’s ballooned, popped, and carried on being filled with air, despite having no more rubber to expand. It’s been a phenomenon. I’m sure the guys at Techland (developing Dead Island) are celebrating like motherfuckers, because pretty much everyone just saw a trailer for a game they probably hadn’t heard of, or at the very least thought was cancelled, and everyone’s talking about it. Regardless of the game itself, that kind of interest is undoubtedly going to pay off.

It’s not been universal praise though. Not even close. Despite a huge amount of people praising it as the best trailer ever, there’s been others decrying it as a vile manipulation that’s plucking heart strings with no purpose other than to get you interested in the game, and suck you into the narrative of the trailer. A trailer that could, as far as we know, be nothing like the game. In fact, there’s every chance that the only thing that the trailer and the game have in common is zombies. Which raises the question: why bother?

Well, that’s an easy one. Just look at the past 24 hours. Tuesday, Dead Island didn’t mean anything. Today, Dead Island means that trailer. Pretty good, right?

The morality of it all, of a trailer so woefully unrepresentative of the final product, is the more interesting thing to look at. What that boils down to, after you’ve stripped away the zombies, removed the stirring music, the slow rewind telling a story in reverse, and the family photos, is the dead child at the center of it all. For some people, that’s a step too far. If you look at games in general, the only relatively big game that I can think of that even approaches children in danger, or child death, is Pathalogic, and even that had to pretend they were midgets to get under the rating boards. More than sex, more than blasphemy, the issue of child peril in games is completely and utterly taboo.

It’s not even particularly clear why that is. Bioshock notoriously backed out of showing you harvesting Adam from the Little Sisters, which took all the impact out of the act. It just became an binary choice between harvesting now or harvesting later. There was no involvement, no real gutwrenching moment when you made the choice on whether to harvest or not because you were thinking about how the experience itself would affect you, rather than whether you wanted to wait for the big Adam payout later on, or the little one now. Imagine that; a game making you make a real, personal, moral choice, rather than something from a mechanical perspective.

I guess it’s RPGs that run into the issue more than others. Fallout had Little Lamplight, known for the fact that all its denizens were strangely invulnerable. Of course they were; Bethesda couldn’t get allowing child killing through the publishers. Maybe they didn’t even try. That so many people actually tried to kill them might be a little worrying, though.

GTAIV’s streets are devoid of anyone under the age of 20. So many places in gaming where you’d expect to see children, there are none. It’s jarring, at first, but it’s becoming a gamer’s reflex, now; there’s just a blank spot in our heads when we play games, the question ‘where are the kids?’ just isn’t asked any more. It’s an accepted norm. Maybe that’s one of the reasons this trailer is so divisive and shocking.

There’s a pretty major exception to all this, though. Heavy Rain’s entire plot revolves around a father losing a son, and having his other boy kidnapped, only to be forced into a series of increasingly sadistic puzzles to get him back. Say what you like about the writing, the plot itself, or the handling of the characters, the game itself treats the relationship with the father and son respectfully, and, perhaps more importantly, puts the responsibility for saving him in your hands. (Not to mention there’s only one ending where Sean dies, and about 15 where he survives. It’s really, really hard to screw this one up.)

Maybe it’s a case that we’re just not ready for something this powerful. When you’ve got player autonomy, and most of that autonomy is dealing with where to point and shoot, placing children into the mix is a recipe for disaster. The director of a film can make sure that children are safe, that when they are placed in danger, that danger is handled with respect and aplomb. A game designer? They can either include children and have them invulnerable, or leave them there, hoping that the player doesn’t do the same thing to these digital representations of kids that they do to a stranger in Halo.

That’s probably why using a child in your game trailer is a bad move. They’re probably not going to make it to the game, so why put one in a trailer? What point are you trying to make? There’s plenty already written about the Dead Island trailer that decries it’s use of the little girl. It isn’t, however, something without precedent, at least outside of games. Just keeping to zombie horror, both the recent Dawn of the Dead remake and The Walking Dead introduce zombified children pretty early on, using them to create a confliction within the characters as they defend themselves, and also to make the audience empathise with the villain of the film. Let’s not forget that there’s a reason that zombies are so incredibly popular at the moment.

It’s because of a few things. Firstly, they’re a great situation to explore. Alone, they’re almost comical, bumbling around and slow, easily avoided. But they’re infectious, and there’s a lot of them, and so they create an atmosphere of constant danger, manageable so long as you keep your guard up, but as soon as you relax, you’re screwed. It means that relationships are strained between friends, people are forced together, from all ideologies and backgrounds, and you get a sort of pressure cooker situation where the bigger threat isn’t so much the undead as other people. You’ve got a bunch of desperate, armed, tired, hungry people stuck in a small space together. Drama is conflict, after all.

They’re also empathetic. They were people, not so long ago, and they still look like people. The trailer would be undoubtedly less upsetting were the little girl to suddenly transform into some monster, instead of merely become reanimated. And, when defending against them, it’s impossible not to think ‘I’m hacking up the busboy’, or ‘I just saw her the other day’. It’s distressing. Genuinely so. That’s part of it.

At the heart of all this is the relationship between father and daughter, though. The trailer is interspersed with flashes of prelude to the rewind, of the little girl fleeing the undead. She’s running for her parent’s room, only to fall short and get bitten. We, as the audience, know that’s a death sentence, that she’s worse than gone; that she’s coming back. But they pull her inside, because that’s what parents do, and try to defend.

It’s what happens next, the reanimation and attack of the girl against the father, that really hits you hard. Fundamentally, he’s powerless; he can’t hurt her, because that’s his daughter on his back, biting at him. But she’s on his back, biting him, and so she’s inadvertently flung out of the window, to her second death. He did that. It doesn’t matter what happens after that in the room, because she’s the focus, right here, falling a dozen storeys.

The main issue raised with all this is that the use of the girl is unnecessary, that she doesn’t add anything beyond a shock factor to the trailer. I’m inclined to agree, but only to the extent that she could have been replaced with a wife, or a husband, or an adult who was similarly close to the father in the trailer. That relationship needed to be there for the trailer to work, because otherwise it doesn’t have the impact. The reason it’s so effective is because it taps into our empathy; we all have a relationship, someone close that we can substitute into the daughter’s place, and so we can feel a little of what the father is going through. Obviously those with children empathise more, and the strongest negative reactions I’ve seen seem to be coming from those people.

So, in a way, perhaps it would’ve been a wiser choice to pick the wife. Maybe that way they’d have tapped into a larger nerve and gained a stronger reaction. Objectively, sure, that makes sense. But it wouldn’t have. Because the relationship between husband and wife isn’t the same as between father and daughter. It’s not even close. Your wife is an adult, your daughter is vulnerable, she’s your responsibility, you’re the one who’s supposed to take care of her. She dies, and you’ve failed, you’ve failed and you’ve lost a child. That’s why it was used, that’s why it’s got such a strong reaction from people, even those without children. But we’ve got that fortuitous buffer, that wall that is ignorance; we don’t know what it’s like to be a parent, and so we’re shielded from the worst of it.

The trailer doesn’t matter, not on its own. At the moment it’s pretty much the only knowledge we have on the game, beyond a sterile feature list and some knowledge of the developer’s previous work. Right now, all it is is a Damaclean presence, ready to serve as vanguard for a truly remarkable game, or something that lifted hopes and cheaply manipulated people to gain interest in something purely pedestrian. That’s the crux of it. That’s why people are really getting pissed off at the trailer, because they’re using their considerable past experience of hyperbolic game trailers and over the top CGI demonstrations to fill in the blanks themselves. When has a game really lived up to the impressive displays of graphical wizardry? When has a game even approached its own cutscenes? The reason they’re used is because the games themselves have such a limited interaction. That’s the worry here, that’s why it’s such a grand, frail thing. It’s undoubtedly powerful, but if it’s completely irrelevant because the game is nothing like that trailer, what on earth is the point of it existing apart from to be a cynical marketing stunt?

But, and that’s one of those hundred foot tall, muscle-bound don’t-fuck-with-me-or-I’ll-eat-your-conjunctives Buts, if it does pull of the mood of that trailer, if it can actually evoke such a powerful emotion by creating flawed, strong, believable characters and having their morality down to you and your actions, relying on you to succeed and not fuck up, then this trailer will really be something impressive. It’s not enough to be a great trailer; you have to have a great game to trail, and, more than film, we’ve been betrayed by marketing again and again. We had no Mad World moment in Gears of War. We’ll probably not have a moment remotely like the Mass Effect 2 trailer. Dragon Age certainly didn’t have a This is the New Shit moment. It’s probably telling that I can’t think of any other good trailers.

Techland have a lot to live up to. They’ve set their own bar way high, and now they’ve got to clear it. Anything less and they’re going to be the guys who did that trailer and didn’t make the game of that trailer. They don’t even need children in the game, although that would be a bold step. They just need to evoke that sense of loss and vulnerability, of the responsibility of someone who has power to protect those who doesn’t. And that doesn’t just mean some crappy escort missions. They need to be looking at the likes of Far Cry 2, because that’s the only game I can think of that made me care for the characters in that way, put their vulnerability in my hands, had my mistakes impact them. Do that? Do that and they’re golden.

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RAMming Speed

(It’s a pun.)

My computer is starting to creak. The caulk is all gone, and there’s water seeping in through the bilge into the bilge and it’s all getting really bilgy. By which I probably mean dusty, and worn out, but my metaphors are growing more and more nonsensical, and I’m losing grasp of my own meanings. Either way, it’s about time for an upgrade, and the first order for the day is RAM. It should be simple. I have some RAM. I want more RAM. I buy more RAM.

It’s not that simple.

I have a motherboard, and that has four RAM slots. I have two RAM slots being used, which leaves me two RAM slots to fill. Or, potentially, I could swap out my current RAM for better RAM, which will let me RAM more until I’m an unstoppable RAM force. That was the plan; buy four 2GB sticks of RAM, and have an overpowering 8GB of RAM, enough to survive me through the apocalypse.

Except I need to know that my motherboard will accept the RAM I want to buy, which are a pair of 2GB DDR3 sticks, to swap out my current pair of 1GB DDR2 sticks. I do not know what DDR means, but apparently it’s something to do with the shape of the sticks. And apparently, because I’ve got DDR2, I’m not allowed the numerically and technically superior DDR3. Which sucks, because that’s both cheaper and better, apparently. So I’m stuck with DDR2, I guess I can live with that.

Except I’m not only stuck with DDR2, but apparently my motherboard is weak like a blind, sickly kitten, and can only take 1GB of RAM per slot. Which is shit. And so now, after about three or four hours of messing around with a torch in my mouth and the side of my computer off, I now know a few things. They are as follows:

1. My computer is dusty enough to feed a family without functioning tastebuds. 1. is now rectified with the aid of angry, compressed air and a Dyson.

2. Computers have lots of slots, only some of which are for RAM. Initially, I was gleeful. ‘I can have 64 gig of RAM!’ I exclaimed, startling the cat and causing the dust to explode into my face and up my nose. This was before I rectified 1. I now know I only have 4 slots.

3. There is no way to check the make of RAM you have without opening up your computer, no matter how hard you Google ‘What kind of RAM do I have?’. Doesn’t matter how you phrase it, either.

4. I have a weak, crappy 32-bit OS. This means that even if I get 4GB of RAM, I can’t use all of it, because my OS hasn’t taken off its stabalisers yet, and it’s worried it might fall over. I am rectifying this by taking it out behind the Power Supply and applying Format to Hard Disc.

5. RAM is actually quite cheap, especially when it’s not the best. Which is a bit of a consolation prize, but at least now I can justify spending the better part of £100 on a second monitor. It’s the little victories.

So here I sit, slightly covered in dust and a little bit more knowledgeable about my computer. Who’d have thunk it?

I also have a blister on my toe. It hurts.

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TV Wot is Good

I watch a hell of a lot of tv. It sits there in my procrastinator’s toolbox, the most powerful of the bunch. It’s power wasn’t quite as omnipotent when I had two working monitors, but now that I’m down to just one, it takes up a good few hours every day, a sizable chunk of my day. But I don’t just watch for watching’s sake (well, not entirely); there’s actually a lot of really good tv out there, and so I’m going to run through a few of my favourites, in alphabetical order, because while this may be a list feature, I don’t want to pick a winner. You’re all winners, in my heart.

These might not all be currently mid-season, but they’re at least not quite cancelled yet, so you can jump on the bandwagon if you like.

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Being Human
Sometimes a little sketchy, Being Human is a monument to what happens if you don’t go the True Blood route and ruin it all with teeny angst. It’s a similar sort of attitude taken by Misfits to superpowers, only not done quite as well, addressing vampires/werewolves/ghosts and the like. It’s usually pretty funny, and it seems to be getting a bigger budget with each season, letting it try more and more interesting things with the space they’re exploring, so here’s hoping it doesn’t degenerate into something barely above Twilight.

Californication
I’d say this was a guilty pleasure, but only in so much that it’s about a writer in California having a lot of sex and generally being highly dysfunctional and often awesome. It seems like David Duchovny adores the role, which is a little surprising taking into account he’s a recovering sex addict, and the show revolves around sex about 90% of the time, but them’s the breaks. It’s relentlessly funny, too, in the darkest way. Well, not quite darkest, but it’s rarely altogether happy.

The Cape
Some people think it’s just stupid. They don’t realise that it’s intending to be stupid. Guy escapes death, everyone thinks he’s dead, and so he decides to become the superhero from the comics he read with his son? Really? As if that’s not enough, the very first episode has Vinnie Jones with scales for skin, called fucking Scales. That’s a giant poster, right there for you, saying ‘We’re silly and we love it!’. Last night’s episode even had the line ‘You want a piece of me? Any time! Just not right now.’ It’s hilarious, and funny, and good entertainment.

Community
If there’s ever been a comedy that’s been even close to as creative as Community, then no there hasn’t and you’re a dirty liar. What other show can have parodies of Goodfellas, Apollo 11 and then a stop motion episode, all in the same series? They had a pillow fort that was a pillow city. They had a mini zombie apocalypse. They had… they have everything, and they’re still coming up with brilliant episodes. It’s a giant big bird, being flipped in the direction of every other comedy that exists and ever will exist. Up your game, lads.

Fringe
For the longest time I watched Fringe just because I’d invested a few hours of my life into it. Naturally that few hours turned into full on days, and I couldn’t back out. I’m glad I didn’t, because it’s getting more ridiculous and entertaining with each consecutive episode. It’s no longer even a procedural, because there’s so much essential backstory tangled up in every episode that you’d be lost if you came at it cold. There’s two alternate universes that are switched between regularly, one that has zeppelins and a bronze Statue of Liberty, and a red title sequence, and the other one, that’s boring and our’s. Boo.

House
Everyone watched House, because House is great.

In Treatment
I don’t know if you’ve ever paid attention to theatre, or ever been interested in conversational acting. Just two people, on stage, talking about something for the length of the production. It’s mesmirising if done right, and completely catastrophic if not. It’s one of those things that has to succeed, otherwise it’s an awful failure. In Treatment is a half hour show about a therapist and his patients. Each episode is a session, each episode a different patient, cycling through five. And they just talk. For half an hour. No music, no visual embellishments to elaborate on stories. Just two people, talking to each other. The scripts are insanely well written, and the acting is hypnotic and devastating. It’s almost painful to watch, and it’s almost like having a therapy session yourself. Phenomenal.

Louie
Louie is the dark twin of Community, if they were the only two comedy shows worth looking at, which they very nearly are. It’s Louis CK doing comedy, which is something he does very well. Bookended by standup, he then has a story, maybe two, that tread a fine line between reality and absurdity. And they’re dark, and they’re unpredictable, and they’re brutally honest. And yeah, they’re fucking funny.

Outcasts
It’s probably a little early to recommend this just yet, but three episodes in and it’s one of the more interesting dramas that the BBC is putting out at the moment. The premise is that Earth is overcrowded, drained of resources and fucked. We’ve got one colony on a distant planet, five years travel away, called Carpathia. But things are so early on, the settlement so fragile that they’re little more than frontiersmen. The issues they’re facing are pretty compelling, and (so far) they haven’t introduced any aliens, so thank fuck for that.

Supernatural
Ok, so this is my major guilty pleasure. But it is still pretty great, even if there are pretty hefty homoerotic overtones, but they referenced that in one of the episodes, so I think that makes it ok. The writing is very often very funny, and the stories have pretty good plot arcs over the season. Although now that they’ve defeated Satan, things are drifting a little bit. Oh, and it seems to be one of the only major US tv shows to be so openly blasphemous and have no one care. God’s abandoned the world, the angels are in a civil war and are generally dicks, and the demons are quite often the most interesting of the bunch.

Treme
From the makers of the Wire, so it’s naturally going to be good. But it’s not just good, it’s brilliant. Concerned with Post-Katrina New Orleans, I’ve never seen a show get so in depth with their subjects. There’s a little crime, but this is an entirely different beast to the Wire. Music is at its heart, and the highlighting of some of the darker sides of the government efforts to fix things is morbidly fascinating. Repulsive, too, when you give it a little think. One of the reasons it works so well is because New Orleans is so interesting itself, with so so much culture to pick apart. If I was going to pick, I guess this is what I’d pick.

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Me and Procrastination

These daily posts aren’t really all that daily. They’re more nightly. There’s a very good reason for that, most of which isn’t the fact that night is the time when I can relax and think about getting something like this done. No, it’s mostly because I’ve put off doing it most of the day, and it’s only now, with two hours to go before deadline, that I can actually force myself to closing whatever thing is distracting me right now, and bang out a few hundred words.

I treat procrastination like a drug, a mild narcotic that I can use and abuse as I see fit, taking the highs (hur hur) with the lows, and come out on the other side like a semi-functioning human being. There’s a pretty great article on it here, that basically outlines the pros and cons, in general terms, or at least what we suppose. I think that’s the majority of it, right there, but like any experience, my treatment of such a thing is subjective, and thus worth me indulging myself for a day’s worth of writing. So there.

The basic principle being, procrastination is an internal Grolsch guy holding up a hand and going ‘Stop, it’s not ready yet’. At least partly. It’s your brain kicking in and saying ‘I’d like a little more time with this idea, I want to mull it over, let it ferment on my tongue, see if anything interesting pops up’. And, being a freelancer at the moment, I’m only as good as my ideas, for the most part. I can only pitch so many reviews, after all, so when an idea for an article that isn’t just a passing fancy I can lob up on here comes along, I need to let it mature properly before I commit it to page, at risk of it all falling apart in a sea of waffly half baked concepts and pitiful arguments. And, for the most part, that’s how I like to see procrastination. Because if I saw it as an enemy, I’d be on a fast track to self-loathing, because I’d say a good 60% of my time is taken up with the activity, if you can call it such.

My saving grace is that, when I write, I write fast. All I need is a little time with the basic sprout of an idea, and when I finally get around to writing about it, I just need to make sure to get out of the way of myself, let my fingers and my brain become some sort of detached being that I have little involvement with, and just hammer out whatever it is I want to do. I might, at the most, think up a nice intro, but that’s about all I’ve got for high concept cleverness. Unless, of course, I’m setting about to do some high concept cleverness. I’ve yet to see it truly pay off, however. In time, in time.

The flipside is two-fold. Firstly, there’s the fact that I spend far too much time not working. Messing around online just bored, when I know full well that I’ve got multiple article ideas that I can put together with a little effort, ready to be done and shipped off to prospective buyers in less than an hour. It’s infuriating, and the more I think about it, the more frustrating it becomes. It’s partly why writing this daily has been so useful to me; it’s proved that with the right rigorous self-restrictive scheduling, I can get a hell of a lot done, it’s just whether I can bring myself around to doing it. Give me a deadline and I’ll definitely meet it, but when I’m required to be the pro-active one, suddenly that discipline saunters out of the window to spend a day in the sun.

The other thing is that sometimes, those ideas don’t ferment, but sour and turn to vinegar before I can do what I want with them. They fester, sitting in my list of ideas like the one moldy fruit in the basket, threatening to fuck my shit up if I don’t fix them pronto. But the incentive to cultivate them into something more is disappearing fast, and the longer I leave it, the worse it gets. My little to do list on my Google Desktop has had one article idea on it for about five months, constantly bumped lower and lower as I add new things to it. I’m sure I’ll get around to it someday, but somehow it already feels like a failure, despite being nothing but a five word task.

But maybe that’s all part of the process. Maybe it reall is a bad idea, and leaving it for a few days/weeks/months was the best thing to do, letting me slip out of the moment of its conception to realise that yeah, I don’t really want this baby after all. Maybe I should abort the ideas that don’t stand the test of idleness, that my brain can’t file away and grow something proper and impressive from.

It’s an interesting thing, isn’t it, procrastination? Irrational, yet eminently useful, despite us not really knowing what it’s for or what it does. But we deal in vagueities, uncertainties, because if everything was concrete then we’d only have use for the scientists.

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Sunday Music: Relax, Bro

For all those times when you want to hear something that sounds as tired as you feel. Or at least, just doesn’t give a fuck about putting the effort in. The songs below aren’t necessarily relaxing, but the voices in them are relaxed. The attitudes towards the sound are a little more loose, slightly more liberal with their placement of ‘talent’. I make that sound like it’s a bad thing, but it’s really not; no, in fact, these are some of my favourite bands, with sound that just seems to come easily. So easily, in fact, that they can sort of let it happen without getting in the way. Giant Drag and The Blow, in particular, are masters of getting a girl with a delicious voice just treat the vocals with derision and the kind of nonchalance that you look for in a woman who you have no intention of having a relationship with, if you know what I mean. Hur hur.

Grooveshark playlist here.

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1. Little Yellow Spider – Devendra Banhart

2. Life Being What it is – Kaki King

3. Girl Singing in the Wreckage – Black Box Recorder

4. Life – Chocolate Genius

5. A Night Full of Open Eyes – The Blow

6. Everything’s Worse – Giant Drag

7. Tears in the Typing Pool – Broadcast

8. Sailing By Night – Department of Eagles

9. Silent Time on Earth – Candy Claws

10. Our Angel’s Ululu – Deerhoof

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Reverse Holiday

To say that my life wasn’t a cushy, get-up-late go-to-bed-later kind of thing, where the idea of pressure beyond the occasional missed deadline or time sensitive pitch, would be pretty ridiculous. I know this, I’m pretty sure most know this. Obviously I’m not firing on all cylinders, but regardless, even if I do make a go of it freelancing entirely, working from home, at the very least, breeds a calm workplace, at the very least.

This, also, breeds a steady, monotonous rhythm that forces each day together, each one clumsily grafted onto the next, until you’re faced with a giant, floppy behemoth that is the past few months, and you realise that you’re just throwing wood onto the pile of blobby days. They’re undefined, formless, amorphous, and oh so fragile. Like a hundred water balloons taped together, it only takes one needle to have the whole thing go from unwieldy structure to cascading freedom.

And so, when I’m asked to leave my house to cover a game, suddenly I’ve got something that, while definitely still being work, is so much more so that I can look forward to it almost like I would a holiday, should I be part of WorkoBot 925, for a few reasons, and they’re all going to make me sound like the pasty, antisocial recluse that I so desperately don’t want to be. But needs must, I suppose.

Firstly, it gets me out of the house, out of this middle class to a fault village, and out of this Conservative with Caps Lock firmly held down county, and into London, where I can just waft through the underground like a bad smell, belched out at the nearest station to spend the day in the company of PR and other journalists. My people. Or, at least, the people I want to be my people. Rub shoulders, settle into a social-friendly open bar stupour, and write feverishly into a notepad about whatever game it is that I’m there to look at/play/sigh about. And that’s pretty great.

There’s little more useful in a motivational sense than to spend some time around other passionate people. Isolated as I am on a day to day basis, it’s often difficult to get that positive feedback loop going, when all you really need is a little push before you fling the stabalisers off into the nearest bush and wobble your way onto independent thought. We’re parasitic creatures, really, and a bit of creative cannibalism is often the best medicine when it comes to requiring a little inspiration, some fuel for your writing fingers. They’re not very economical, really, and they break a lot.

So this is why I’m looking forward to Wednesday, when I get to elope for a day, and recharge my batteries before facing the ever-depressing face of living at home, rent-free, no hours, playing games all day and writing about them. I know, life really sucks, and I appreciate your sympathy.

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