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Archive for August, 2008

diskant rewind: Honey Is Funny #9

Posted: August 15th, 2008, by Chris Summerlin

(Originally posted October 2003)

Honey Is Funny by Chris Summerlin

I’m at a loss to what to write about this month.
I feel unusually un-fired up. In fact I feel tired and awkward.
So I’m going to go with it and write about what’s on my mind and see where it goes.

I remember once I was driving with two (female) friends and chatting and somehow the conversation got onto something loosely connected to ambitions. I remember this journey really well because I can use it to pinpoint the exact moment I changed my outlook on things, probably irreversibly. Actually there were two, more of which in a moment…

So, we’re driving and talking about ambitions and the usual thing is being discussed. You know, you’d like to make a great record if you play music or have success and recognition as an artist if you paint etc. I was listening by this point and not really saying much. Phrases like “I’d like to leave my mark on the world” or “I want something that outlives me” were being used in relation to artwork or records etc. It made me think. It made me think where this kind of view comes from. Are we really so obsessed with culture/media that we see the things we make artistically as the ultimate expression of ourselves or our purpose?

It’s true people use their abilities as a crutch. I know a lot of people more literate than me and more academically intelligent to me who use their intelligence as a defence or substitute for something lacking, whether they know what it is or not. Everyone does it. So we’re left with this thing where we constantly try and try to fulfil something that is impossible: to create something perfect within the realm of the world we work in. But do you think Brian Wilson feels good because he made Pet Sounds? Bullshit. I doubt his life is much different. I’m sure he’s proud of his work but I bet he still worries about the same things. Maybe money is less of a concern but that’s a shitty thing to worry about in the first place. Seems to me like an unobtainable goal designed to throw us off the scent.

And anyway, does this mean you have to be some kind of artist to really fulfil man’s purpose on earth? I dunno, I would say because of the opportunites afforded to the wealthy and the education they receive more easily that this attitude is effectively saying 99% of the population has no chance of ever doing anything worthwhile while alive. Perhaps this is where the divide between the famous and non-famous is born. Hmmm. Those who add to the world and those who merely dwell in it. Nice. It’s fact. TV is extraordinary. Music and the world of showbiz related to it is extraordinary. Cinema is extraordinary. That’s why we have so many magazines about these things. And it pushes and reinforces this idea that we (and by this I mean, me, you – those not extraordinary) are incapable of doing anything worthwhile and inspires these ridiculous statements like “I want to make a classic album, that’s my goal”.

Arse.

Continue reading »

Space Invaders Extreme (DS)

Posted: August 12th, 2008, by Alex McChesney

Retrogaming is big business nowadays. For years the the digital antiquarian who wished to play yesterdays arcade games had to either own the original hardware, hunt down a dusty seaside arcade that time forgot, or, latterly, download an emulator and ROM images. Recently, however, the industry has woken up to the goldmine that is its heritage, and now it seems that there are as many compilations and “enhanced” re-releases of classic games available both on the shelves and through online channels such as XBox Live and the Wii Virtual Console than there are original games.

The problem with such freely available nostalgia is that it often disappoints. Certainly, one can still spend many happy hours causing suburban havoc on Paperboy, or having your ass handed to you time and time again by the brutally punishing but still, somehow, enjoyable Defender. Some games have a timeless quality that makes them just as enjoyable today as when they were released, despite their technical limitations. Others, however influential they may have been, are more difficult for any but the determined to eke any genuine pleasure from.

For this reviewer, Space Invaders has always fallen in the latter camp. Released in 1978, it’s widely credited with bringing video games into the public eye, inspiring many, many clones, introducing game mechanics that live on to this day, and causing a shortage of 100-Yen coins when it was released in Japan. Indeed, round our way it became synonymous with video games in general – to “play Space Invaders” or “Spacies” meaning to play any electronic game at all. To the modern gamer, however, Space Invaders can be a frustrating experience. Every bit as difficult as Williams’ Defender, it can feel agonisingly slow and offer scant reward for progressing through its identical waves.

Released to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the original, Space Invaders Extreme is an attempt to update the game for a modern audience, and manages to do say in a way that’s fun and accessible, while maintaining a sense of continuity with the past. Superficially, the classic “left-right-shoot” mechanic remains in place, as are the advancing hordes of invaders which, aside from now being colour-coded, look just as they did 30 years ago. But such a basic framework has given the developers plenty of room to build upon, introducing bonus levels, boss battles, powerup, and varied formations of invaders. Visually, the chunky sprites play over a variety of psychedelic backgrounds that are carefully rendered so as not to obscure the action and can be turned off if deemed too distracting. Rather than slavishly imitate “retro” sound effects, shots and explosions complement the soundtrack, and the overall aesthetic is closest to trippy cult favourite Rez than anything else.

The original Space Invaders was, as all games of its era, all about getting a high score, and though Extreme does have a level progression, and even an “ending” of sorts, it’s still all about racking up the points. Fans of its ancestor know that it’s a deeply tactical game, with various strategies that can be employed to boost your score. Many of these take advantage of quirks of its implementation rather than deliberate design decisions, and its hard to see the modern gamer having the patience to analyse a game in that manner, so Extreme offers a multitude of bonus opportunities both heavily signposted and obscure, making it a game that can be enjoyed for five minutes aimless blasting or as a focus for the obsessive-compulsive, and online leader-boards give the scoring a sense of purpose, though its in the nature of these things that the top spots will have been filled up with ludicrously high scores by teenage boys with too much time on their hands, and the online two-player modes may be more appealing for the rest of us.

Happily, it doesn’t shoe-horn in use of the DS touch-screen or mic, and most of the time the top screen just shows scoring information, with the play area extending into it for bosses and bonus levels.

Whether Space Invaders Extreme has longevity for those of us who aren’t bothered by online competition is debatable, but it’s a refreshing take on the classic, and is available at a knock-down price if you’re bothered to shop around. A PSP version is also available, which I haven’t played but which I understand is virtually identical, minus the online play mode.

Official Site

diskant rewind: Honey Is Funny #8

Posted: August 12th, 2008, by Chris Summerlin

(Originally posted April 2003)

Honey Is Funny by Chris Summerlin

I work in a large office of people. It’s quite open plan so you can see what the person on the opposite side of the office is up to even though they’re quite far away. This has major disadvantages in that, well, people are annoying. Me included, in fact especially me. And living in each others’ pockets for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week means if you have the slightest chance of developing some kind of irrational hatred of someone or something then it will happen.

Since I started doing this column I’ve been dying to write one about my office. I only recently summed up the courage to watch The Office and sure enough it was frighteningly close to my life. But I always held back because, and this surprises me as much as will no doubt surprise you, some people who I work with read this column. And I never told them to either! Hi Christophe Dejous!

But this month I get to do it. You know why?

2 days ago I QUIT.

I have no job to go to and I have a 6 week notice to serve here but after that I will be UNEMPLOYED. It’s quite scary but at the same time so is the information that I have (at last count) wasted 2 years of my life working for a company that wouldn’t even exist were it not for Thatcher’s desire to privatise everything in sight.

When asked for the reason why I quit I said there were too many to list but I simply didn’t enjoy any part of my job. So I’m in a bad mood and therefore my column this month will be about the stuff that REALLY GETS ON MY TITS in my life. A Room 101 if you will. A pet hates list. So you can see what a mentalist I am. It’s not restricted to my working life and I will be adding to it month after month as well.

What are we waiting for? Lets go!

THE COUGHING MAN AT WORK

God. This one is the killer. This man (who will remain nameless) has broken me. I have worked in the same office for 2 years and about 18 months of that have been spent within earshot of this man. His job is to call people at home and ask them to read their gas meter. This means that for 8 hours a day I hear him repeating the same line over and over again. I ask myself if my annoyance is because his voice really is that grating or whether it’s the old saying that familiarity breeds contempt but the real reason he makes me want to cave his head in is that he coughs.

“What?” I hear you all cry. Go on, do it…

Sure, everyone gets a cough every so often. Especially working in a close environment like an office. No problem, cough away. But this guy has had a cough for 18 fucking months. EVERY DAY. EVERY FUCKING DAY. And he coughs in such a pathetic, crap way. And the worst bit is he tilts his head back a few degrees prior to coughing and then like some custom built germ-spreader he lets fly with phlegm. Where are his hands? On his desk that’s where. Now we’ve all seen those film clips where it shows germs flying out of a person’s mouth so I know and you know that putting your hand in front of your mouth when coughing really doesn’t do much. But, at the same time it does cover the gaping hideous chasm in your face and it also stops spit and god knows what else from flying into the air or worse still at your neighbour. Every day at 4pm he walks to the coat rack to get his coat and right as he gets there and is facing my coat he lets fly with the coughs. When I leave I’m going to buy him some cough mixture and a tissue. Or better still just wade over the 2 desks that seperate us and pummel him to death with a Wallis Elite Series office chair. And he’s a twat as well. Last classic quote from him was “I couldn’t really give a toss about the war. How does it affect me?”. If I killed him no jury would convict me.

Continue reading »

Free noise in Edinburgh

Posted: August 12th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

Edinburgh festival? Gash. But some interesting stuff occasionally slips through the sketchshow-pitching oxbridge footlight hordes. See this for the 22nd & 23rd of this month:

Flyer for noise gig in Edinburgh

I’m told “will be somewhat crazy japanese performance with theremin and other unusual instruments,” it’s free and it’s in the very nice Botanic gardens. What’s not to like?

(Well, the press release, which sounds like it came from some grant-awarding body but never mind.) If anyone gets along to this I’d be interested to hear how it was.

Last chance!

Posted: August 10th, 2008, by Marceline Smith

HEY, YOU! Today is your last chance to enter the giveaway for a Wil Forbis book and CD. All you need to do is post any old comment on this post and you could be the winner. It really is that easy.

Also, photos of the diskant party are starting to turn up online – see some by me, Stu and Emma. I’ll be updating the 08/08/08 page with any more photos or reviews I spot so keep a lookout there and let me know if I miss anything.

Thank you thank you!

Posted: August 9th, 2008, by Marceline Smith

YAY. Thanks so much to everyone that made last night a success. It was so much fun and we made a lot more money than I could have hoped for. Enormous thanks to Findo Gask for being both awesome and all-round good guys and to Sunnyvale Noise Sub-element (and Alice!) for driving all the way from Oxford only to be awoken at 8am this morning by the orange marchers. They were also awesome.

Big thanks also to Claire and Jo for manning the Tombola – which went down a storm with almost every prize won – and to Alasdair, Nicolette, Chris, Stew and everyone at the CCA. And of course, everyone who came down, paid their money and had fun. You all rock!

More photos and stuff laters but for now my head hurts. You can still buy copies of the excellent and hilarious diskant zine and the diskant fun badge set so there’s still some fun to be had if you couldn’t make it down.

diskant rewind: Honey Is Funny #7

Posted: August 8th, 2008, by Chris Summerlin

(Originally posted February 2003)

Honey Is Funny by Chris Summerlin

Sorry there was no christmas column, I moved house and was left without home internet access for a month or so and my work situation is a little, erm…fragile so I had to give it a miss.

I’d love to say that the month absence means I have extra fine subject material this month but sadly it doesn’t. I’ve been racking my brains with what to write about and have drawn a blank.

So, I’m going to tell you about The Beech.

Like I said, I moved house in December. Its been a while since I’ve had to move anywhere so I’d forgotten exactly how much money you get screwed for if you rent through a letting agent and also how badly you get treated. I’d also overlooked how much crap we’d accumulated in the old house over the two years we lived there. “We” means a variety of people actually…

The house was originally taken on by myself and Matt (who does Gringo Records), Tom (from Hirameka HiFi) and Neil (who I play in Wolves! (of Greece) with). Over the two years we’ve had people living with us for a month at a time or so and then more recently my girlfriend Claire moved in and then when Tom moved out her sister Amelia took his room.

When we all made the decision to move to Nottingham (Neil already lived there but in a 2 bed flat) we wanted a big place so we could have plenty of room (4 people can get a bit overcrowded) and so when bands stayed it was comfortable. We looked at tons of places, all of them pretty grotty or in a shit area.

By luck we found this old place in an area of Nottingham called Forest Fields. It’s pretty rough in terms of crime but at the same time it’s nowhere near as bad as The Meadows, St Anns or Sneinton. It was on Beech Avenue and therefore became known as The Beech. The house was huge and in a bit of a state (i.e. huge wasp nest above bathroom) but the landlord seemed quite relaxed so we took it on and ended up living there for 2 years.

Towards the end it was a bit of a nightmare as each of us got more settled into the timetable of our jobs and found that even though the house was huge it was impossible to get any quiet time and quite often the house was noisy for about 20 hours a day because people worked evenings and other people worked early mornings.

We started having landlord problems a few months in. The benefit of the old landlord was that he was never about. He didn’t live locally and so he never bothered us. We were free to do what we wanted to the house and he was cool about rent being late etc. However, if something broke we were fucked. The peak of this occurred one morning when I was washing my face in the bathroom on the way to running out of the door to work. I heard a strange creaking noise from the roof just as I walked out onto the landing. I got about 2 steps out of the room and the ceiling collapsed behind me, just missing me. The entire back of my person was white with dust.

We stepped over that pile of rubble every day for about a month.

The landlord’s phone was never on and so the messages went from “Hi, the ceiling has fallen in, this is urgent can you send someone to fix it?” to “Hi. I’m standing on the ceiling. How is this possible? BECAUSE THE CEILING IS ON THE FLOOR”.

Continue reading »

Onion News Network

Posted: August 5th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

Haven’t bothered visiting the Onion for quite a while, it seemed that either the written content was getting formulaic or I couldn’t find the lulz because of the redesign.

However, I’m liking their video podcasts. From the 2 I’ve seen, they’re doing for US cable news what the Day Today did to News at Ten. This one (Beijing Olympics: Trap?) is like a 3 minute primer on Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent.

In other news: beat rising prices by holding a barbecue at your house. Result: fridge full of food.

diskant rewind: Honey Is Funny #6

Posted: August 5th, 2008, by Chris Summerlin

(Originally posted November 2002)

Honey Is Funny by Chris Summerlin

I’m late with my column again. Knackers. So I’m covertly doing it at work which adds to the excitement of my working day if nothing else. The reason I am late with it is because after 2 years of sharing a house with people we all decided to move out, taking each item we own with us. I don’t own the phone extension cord so my home internet access is gone. I also don’t own a sofa so my ass hurts.

Marceline has informed me that my column is for the ART issue of Diskant so I best make it about ART.

Which is awkward.

Let me explain.

I hate ART.

Well, maybe not all art but certainly ART and DESIGN.

In fact, hate is the wrong word. Let’s settle for absolutely fucking loathe with a passion.

I am a qualified Graphic Designer. In fact, I still work as a designer. I just did the Econoline album and a compilation CD with Cat on Form on it (among others). I design and sell posters in Nottingham for gigs we put on here. In fact, if I negotiate home internet access again in the near future I’ll put some of them up here for you to see. I work hard at design (part time) and I never charge much more than my costs to clients I work for because I want to keep it fun. This is one of the reasons I couldn’t do it as a job. The other is that most graphic designers I have ever met are scumbags and the profession is morally wrong and bordering on evil.

MENTALIST

you’re thinking.

You’re probably right. But I blame design for my mentalism. That and Salvador fucking Dali.

Continue reading »

diskant zine action

Posted: August 4th, 2008, by Marceline Smith

As the diskant party approaches, everything is starting to come together. I now have fifty copies of the diskant zine, a 32 page photocopied jaunt through the last ten years of diskant. It’s basically lots of short bits of writing that caught my eye as I trawled the archives but makes for a fantastically good read.

Here’s the content line-up:

Summer 2008 Catch-up by the diskant team (June 2008)
Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis (April 2002)
– Honey Is Funny by Chris Summerlin (April 2003)
– Mild Head Injury by Simon Minter (July 2002)
– Some Kind of Monster by Dave Stockwell (September 2004)
Instal 05 by Marceline Smith (October 2005)
The Owls Are Not What They Seem by Alex McChesney (July 2006)
Magik Markers, twice by Joe Luna (May 2006)
Liquid Blue by Fraser Campbell (June 2005)
Super Quick Primavera Roundup by Ollie Simpson (June 2007)
– “Ladies and Gentlemen, we got him” by Ross McGivern (December 2003)
Slint by Chris Summerlin (April 2005)

The unlinked items are columns which we will be re-posting at some point in the future. However, you can read them NOW (or in a few days anyway) by purchasing a copy right here in my shop for a mere £1. You can also buy copies at the diskant 08/08/08 party of course.

If you’re one of the people involved in the above works of genius, email me for your free copy.