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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Punked Folk

If like me forty is a distant memory and fifty is still a black cloud on the horizon you'll remember those heady days at the end of the seventies when punk rock was king.  And you should have realised by now that you just can't pogo the night away anymore (boo!).

Well luckily for us that nice man Ade Edmonson has formed a great band called The Bad Shepherds where he and his compatriots have blended those punk anthems with wonderful folk music stylings.  I like it, so should you; here are some Youtube clips of the lads giving it some wellie!






Albums available here:


Thursday, 12 May 2011

First Time Mobile

Well it's been a bloody long time since I posted anything on here so I thought something from my new cell phone would be fun.  In fact I may just do a review of this device, but not today.

Anyway it's been nice talking to you again, don't forget to visit my gaming blog at http://albatrossrevue.blogspot.com

Friday, 17 December 2010

Some Books You Must Read


In Skinheads, John King takes us inside skinhead culture today and explains how it never really went away.

Skinheads is the story of a way of life, told through three generations of a family: Terry English, original ska-loving skinhead and boss of a mini-cab firm; Nutty Ray, street-punk skin and active football hooligan; and Lol, son of Terry, nephew of Ray, a fifteen-year-old kid just starting out.

Terry is sick and not sure he’s going to make his fiftieth birthday, but is kept going by his music, his lovely mod-girl assistant Angie, and his discovery of the abandoned Union Jack Club, which he decides to clean up and re-open. Ray, meanwhile, is out driving mini-cabs and struggling to control his anger; his only release — days out with Chelsea’s finest. But when he takes the law into his own hands in an explosion of righteous violence, his future starts to darken.

John King’s seventh novel draws on nearly forty years of evolving British culture. The skinheads didn’t die off: the look went mainstream and their music was accepted and reinvented, while the boys themselves keep misbehaving in the traditional ways. Challenging society’s fears and prejudices, Skinheads shows us a group of truly humane characters driven by passion and honour and the culture they love. This is their story. 

As Trafford Sewell struggles to work through the usual crowds of commuters, he is confronted by the intimidating figure of his priest, full of accusatory questions. Why has Trafford not been streaming his every moment of sexual intimacy onto the community website like everybody else? Does he think he's different or special in some way? Does he have something to hide? Imagine a world where everyone knows everything about everybody. Where what a person "feels" and "truly believes" is protected under the law, while what is rational, even provable, is condemned as heresy. A world where to question ignorance and intolerance is to commit a crime against Faith. Ben Elton’s dark, savagely comic novel imagines a postapocalyptic society where religious intolerance combines with a confessional sex-obsessed, self-centric culture to create a world where nakedness is modesty, ignorance is wisdom, and privacy is a dangerous perversion. A chilling vision of what’s to come, or something rather close to what we call reality?

Meet Dexter Morgan. He's a highly respected lab technician specializing in blood spatter for the Miami Dade Police Department. He's a handsome, though reluctant, ladies' man. He's polite, says all the right things, and rarely calls attention to himself. He's also a sociopathic serial killer whose "Dark Passenger" drives him to commit the occasional dismemberment.

Mind you, Dexter's the good guy in this story.


Adopted at the age of four after an unnamed tragedy left him orphaned, Dexter's learned, with help from his pragmatic policeman father, to channel his "gift," killing only those who deal in death themselves. But when a new serial killer starts working in Miami, staging elaborately grisly scenes that are, to Dexter, an obvious attempt at communication from one monster to another, the eponymous protagonist finds himself at a loss. Should he help his policewoman sister Deborah earn a promotion to the Homicide desk by finding the fiend? Or should he locate this new killer himself, so he can express his admiration for the other's "art?" Or is it possible that psycho Dexter himself, admittedly not the most balanced of fellows, is finally going completely insane and committing these messy crimes himself?


Despite his penchant for vivisection, it's hard not to like Dexter as his coldly logical personality struggles to emulate emotions he doesn't feel and to keep up his appearance as a caring, unremarkable human being. Breakout author Jeff Lindsay's plot is tense and absorbing, but it's the voice of Dexter and his reactions to the other characters that will keep readers glued to Darkly Dreaming Dexter, as well as making it one of the most original and highly recommended serial killer stories in a long time.

This hardcover features the first 12 issues of the hit series along with the covers for the issues in one oversized hardcover volume. Perfect for long time fans, new readers and anyone needing a slightly heavy object with which to fend off the walking dead.











"Wake up, sir. We're here." It's a simple enough opening line--although not many would have guessed back in 1991 that this would lead to one of the most popular and critically acclaimed comics of the second half of the century.

In Preludes and Nocturnes, Neil Gaiman weaves the story of a man interested in capturing the physical manifestation of Death but who instead captures the King of Dreams. By Gaiman's own admission there's a lot in this first collection that is awkward and ungainly--which is not to say there are not frequent moments of greatness here. The chapter "24 Hours" is worth the price of the book alone; it stands as one of the most chilling examples of horror in comics. And let's not underestimate Gaiman's achievement of personifying Death as a perky, overly cheery, cute goth girl! All in all, I greatly prefer the roguish breaking of new ground in this book to the often dull precision of the concluding volumes of the Sandman series.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Assassin's Creed II - Review


Plot

Just as in the original Assassin’s Creed this, the second, outing sees us playing as both bartender and assassin’s descendant Desmond Miles and one of his ancestors, in this case Ezio Auditore de Firenze apprentice assassin and man about town in Renaissance Italy; the game begins where the first instalment ended with Desmond escaping from the Templar run Abstergo Industries with fellow assassin Lucy Stillman.  

We soon move on to the assassin’s hideout where they’ve managed to build a version of the animus machine used in the first game to let Desmond access the memories of his ancestor AltaÏr ibn La-Ahad only now we’re living in Ezio’s Renaissance era Italy.  This first part of the game sets the scene and storyline for the rest of the game as well as reacquainting us with the game’s mechanics and controls.  During this introductory sequence we see the Templars frame Ezio’s family and have them executed.  This leads young Ezio to seek help from his uncle in the mountain stronghold of Monteriggioni where his assassin’s history is revealed to him.  All this leads young Ezio to a life of revenge and destiny to defeat the Templars lead by Rodrigo Borgia, in these goals he is aided by the Medici and  Pazzi families, the Doge of Venice, a young Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolò Machiavelli.

Review

Assassin’s Creed II takes all that is great about the first incarnation (free running) and effectively drops the bad (flag collecting) and down right silly (joining bands of roving scholars to hide); these refinements make for a much smoother game with improved gameplay in the massive world of Renaissance Florence, Venice and Rome along with many other places in Tuscan Italy. 

The mechanics for the free running are much more fluid with your avatar’s movements looking very smooth and a little faster than before.  I think it helps this style of game to use the third person view as a first person or top down view would make for some very awkward jumps.  The stealth part of the game move well away from those designed by Hideo Kojima in the Metal Gear Solid series and therefore appear much more intuitive; if you want to hide in Assassin’s Creed II you simply move into a group of passing citizens or hire a group of courtesans to distract the guards.  

Your interaction with NPCs doesn’t stop here though: you can pickpocket passers by, buy art from galleries, loot the corpses of the dead, buy improved armour and weapons from tailors and blacksmiths and while completing side missions away from the main storyline beat up errant husbands, race cocky young bucks, intercept Templar couriers throw handfuls of coins on the ground to slow pursuit.  It’s these side missions and interactions along with the stunning visuals in the enormous sandbox that Ubisoft have given us to play in that make ACII stand out from other stealth assassin games.

As you move along through the game you are rewarded with buyable upgrades to your equipment and all of it is kept in a beautiful museum styled inventory room in your stronghold of Monteriggioni.  Upgrades to this stronghold earn you the coin to buy these upgrades along with whatever you manage to loot from your victims and get paid for finishing side missions.

As with the original there are many of these side missions all unlocked by climbing to the highest point in any given area, and there are lots in each region, they then show up as icons on your map.  While the main quest line is engaging and the journey to each final assassination is as much if not more fun that that final attack it’s the multitude of side missions and other goals and challenges, like the inevitable collectibles, that made me come back for more.  I particularly liked the, more platform game style, Assassin’s Crypt inside areas where skill and timing on your movement were far more important than your fighting skills.

Onto the weapons and other kit; da Vinci acts as your private armourer supplying Ezio with a variety of weapons such as the miniature, six-shot pistol and a working version of his famous glider design.  In the games mechanics and physics the new weapons and kit fit in very well with nothing appearing out of place or too fantastical.

In the Xbox 360 version I played the achievements were mostly easy to get through general gameplay though some of the side mission related ones and the feather collecting especially took a little extra time though I must admit much of that time was either spent free running through the various cities and just gazing at the stunning views from the top of some very vertigo inducing buildings.

Assassin’s Creed II has many things to recommend, the visuals are stunning, the free running is amazing and the side missions and main quest line are engaging. The character of Ezio is much better realised than AltaÏr was in the previous instalment.  The player feels that Ezio actually has more going for him than simple  membership of a shadowy organisation and as such has a life outside of the events told in the game.

Unfortunately  there are a few downsides to this game too.  Sometimes the camera angle doesn’t help while free running and you will without doubt take far more damage falling from high buildings than you will ever take from NPC guardsmen.  While I’m talking about guardsmen, and by extension combat, some of the combo and reaction moves in combat seemed to need split second timing which I felt was a touch unfair on the older (and slower) gamer or those with a little less skill.

To conclude I would happily recommend Assassin’s Creed II to a friend, even one I wanted to keep, which leads me onto the ratings.

Ratings

·         Story               9/10
·         Visuals           10/10
·         Gameplay      910
·         Overall           9.5/10

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

How to Invite all Friends on Facebook?

Not actually written by me but lifted from here very handy never the less.

This is really frustrating for not being able to suggest or invite a facebook group, fan page or application profile page to all your facebook contacts in one click. How do you feel about selecting 500 friends with 500 mouse clicks?

The javascript code from John P’s blog http://onemansblog.com/2009/08/30/how-to-invite-all-facebook-friends-to-a-group-event-or-page/ worked well when I used it a week back back but tomorrow I noticed that the trick is resting in peace!

I was very much frustrated when I saw the code not working anymore. I decided to resurrect the trick back to life and I was successful in doing that. But I don’t know when this trick will get murdered again by evil Facebook .

There are two ways by which you can do it.

1. By Javascript Code


Click “Suggest to friends” on application profile page or “Invite to friends” on group, fan page or events page.



Right click on any friend and click “open in new tab”


You will land on a page which will only show suggestion window
At this point, paste the following code on to the address bar

javascript:elms=document.getElementById('friends').getElementsByTagName('li');for(var fid in elms){if(typeof elms[fid] === 'object'){fs.click(elms[fid]);}}

[or]


javascript:fs.select_all();



And there’s an even easier way to select all friends.

2. By using chrome extension known as Facebook Invite All



VIDEO:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJABucRb7I0

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Friday, 26 November 2010

The Simpson's Game - Review

Game Cover

Plot

It’s a bit hard to pin down what the plot of The Simpson's Game is.  On the one hand we have Bart trying to get his grubby little paws on a copy of the new “in” game Grand Theft Scratchy while Marge is trying to rid the world of video game violence.  Then we have Lisa’s ever present environmental crusade.  

The game is actually split into sixteen missions with a sandbox style Springfield holding it all together.  Each of these episodes feature two of the Simpsons characters, Bart, Homer, Lisa and Marge, who each have a role to play in that episode.

Review

I suppose if I had to categorise this game I would call it a 3D platformer but that doesn’t really do it justice.  There are elements from so many other games and genres including nods to old school games like Space Invaders and Frogger.  The Simpsons game isn’t exactly made for hardcore gamers with hints and tips a plenty, maybe too many, though the inexperienced or non-gamer may like that.

The graphics are true to the TV series and movie, especially the cut scenes and FMV.  The camera angle can make it hard to judge some of the jumps and things like that as it doesn’t automatically track the character though this can be fixed with a click of the right analogue stick.

Lard Lad Chases Bart


Gameplay is fun and engaging with each character having two special attacks as well as a standard punch, for instance Marge’s specials are a megaphone to call NPCs to help and Maggie to crawl through small spaces to activate doors and switches.  Each episode has two of the characters in it and needs the special skills of both to complete.  Unfortunately this is where the game falls down a little.  While it’s easy in single player to switch characters with the D-pad in co-op mode one of the characters will often find themselves hanging around waiting for the other player to complete a set piece action.

The self aware characters and cultural references add something to the game’s depth.   As do the character specific collectibles and gaming clichés (or which there are thirty one).  While the visual gags are firmly aimed at the younger player the voice over more than makes up for the lack of mature content with some quite risqué gags for Mum and Dad to chuckle to.

Conclusions

I enjoyed The Simpsons Game, but then I have been a fan of the TV series.  There is enough gameplay to make it fun for others, just, but the shoddy camera work and lack of a central story really let the game down.  The co-op seemed to me to be an after thought mainly due to the endless hanging around waiting.  I don’t think there is any real replay value in this game unless you’re the kind of achievement junkie who just has to get his 1000GS.

Bartman Escaping the Lumberjacks


While I may sound overly negative I did like the game as did my daughter who isn’t a big gamer.  This alone made it worth the purchase price as opportunities for father and daughter to play together shrink with time.  Would I buy this game, well I did get it not long after release and nothing has changed my mind about it.

Ratings

·         Story               6/10
·         Visuals           8/10
·         Gameplay      7/10
·         Overall           7/10

The Simpson's Movie - Review

DVD Cover

Plot

The Simpson's Movie has the citizens of Springfield fall beneath the behemoth that is the ineptitude of Homer Simpson in spectacular style.  We start with a wonderful Itchy and Scratchy short followed by a great self referencing Homer rant bemoaning paying to watch something you can see on TV for free.

The movie’s main environmental theme then kicks off when we see Green Day performing on a barge that is being swiftly dissolved by the pollution in Lake Springfield.  After Lisa shames the town into cleaning up the lake Homer dumps a silo full of animal waste into it causing an environmental disaster.  This act makes the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) react and place a huge dome over the town.  The rest of the film documents the Simpsons escape and return to Springfield to rescue the populace after the EPA decide to use Springfield as the site of the new Grand Canyon.

Review

The Simpsons Movie gives us everything we could expect from the (then) eighteen year old franchise.  All the regular characters are there, tons of in jokes and cultural references which is great but I can’t help feeling that the movie is nothing but an extended episode from the series.  Don’t misunderstand this is an enjoyable movie with lots to laugh at but (and there’s that word again) no-one could go into the movie cold with no prior knowledge of the Simpsons.

A Cast of Thousands


The set piece scenes are well written and executed though some of the filler seems a little rushed.  I also noticed that the CGI parts, mostly crowd scenes and long shots, were obvious and didn’t quite integrate into the standard animation of the rest of the film; I found these changes from one to the other to be a little glaring.   Over all the look of the film is true to the TV series and immerses the viewer into the town of Springfield very well.

Conclusion

The Simpsons Movie is well made and a good, entertaining romp for the whole family to enjoy.  With gags a plenty at all levels there is enough adult humour to keep Mum and Dad involved while still having loads of slap-stick for the kiddies.  The environmental story-line was engaging without being preachy though I would have liked to see more of the secondary characters.

Escaping the Mob


Would I buy it on DVD?  Well I suppose the answer is yes as I already have it at home.  Would I have gone to see it at the cinema?  Probably not, it's just not worth £8.00 or more to see.

Ratings

·         Story               8/10
·         Visuals           7/10
·         Set Pieces     8/10
·         Effects            7/10
·         Overall           7.5/10