Avatar McIver ‘in the know’ newsletter – 2021

Dear all,

Gosh darn it another year has already passed. Where did the time go? What was I doing with my life? If you already knew the answers to these questions then there would be no point in this newsletter. Let me gladly waltz you through the BEST news from the family from the last twelve months.

Jeff, you remember Jeff right? The boxer? He had the biggest bout of his life in February. He was up against Cornwaller “Duck fat” Turner, a man so tall if you asked him for directions he could already see where you were trying to get to. I had a few nagging doubts yet thankfully Jeff took him out in the third round with the old 2-10-4. That would never had worked had he not wore him down with the 8-8-2 and a vicious 1-5-9 to the gut, ouch! I’d hate to be on the receiving end of that. Despite what his sister will tell you, I taught him that.

Uncle Tupperware finally returned from his travels in Vietnam in May. The family hadn’t seen him since mama c-word last made her gingerbread soul soup. He brought with him marvellous tales of lofty mountains, inner wisdom and getting tanked with a bunch of monks for eight weeks.

Cousin Plip-plop was released from prison as July turned to August and then forgot about August so it went back for a second round of July. She had used her time wisely and emerged not only as a free woman but also dragging three diplomas in feminist science studies and a hat made of time. I tried to get her to make one for me alas it was too late as she could stay for a few days before starting a job in Hollywood. I predict big things for her before we see her again.

Little Billy joined the circus because, as we all know, he is the sturdiest stilt walker we know. He is quite the prodigy if you ask me. At that age all I could do was scratch myself and tell jokes about kangeroos whereas Billy can juggle up to eight grapefruit, hang mice from his ears and perform tricks on a unicycle. When they see his piece de resistance, you remember, throwing up into the air and catching it back in his mouth, they will drop their trousers in gasp and awe.

Reuben (or Rude-Boi Throckers as he is known round these parts) finally passed his Pope exam and was crowned grand high Pope of Russia for the next four seasons. We had our fingers crossed for Minsk and thankfully we were not disappointed, with Rome and Doncaster as his (fairly predictable and pretty obvious, I know) second and third choices. On his first day of the job he blessed a crowd of thorns, created three new words and shouted scorn at a cloud until it watered a village’s crops.

Me? Well, there’s not much to tell. I can’t really compete with everyone else’s news. I opened a packet of custard powder, tried a new flavour of crisps, taught a dolphin about feelings, lived in a mushroom for a week, polished some cheeses, stretched some weasels, ate far too much shoe polish and watched two sailors arguing about figs. I know, I know, I should really get out more. I promise I’ll have more to tell next year.

All the best

Ian

Avatar Making Nostalgia

Let me take you back, way way back. Back to when times were a lot simpler and, as it seems, so were the people.

We all know little Ian was a bit of a weirdo. I could tell you right now about half a dozen stories of instances where I did strange and unusual activities. Being the youngest of four meant that half the time all of the attention was on me and the other half was on the other three (I know the maths doesn’t really check out but that was how it felt three quarters of the time). I must have been under ten, possibly six or seven years old.

Following on from my award-winning post about my first mobile phone, let me present you with a genuine attempt to create nostalgia.

This actually stems from something my brother used to do. He would eat a packet of crisps then empty out the leftovers and flatten the packet in one of the many comic book, Beano, Dandy or other annuals we had lying around. It wasn’t really Christmas without some kind of bumper collection of comic nonsense filling up a suitable space in your stocking. Why did he do this? I don’t know, I could message him now and get an immediate response but no doubt he will be feeling tired somewhere given it’s a Sunday.

I decided to do the same thing because I wanted in on these absurd shenanigans. I remember chowing down on a selection of different crisps and then flattening them straight away. About a week later, little Ian went back to his flattened packets and looked at them. “This isn’t the same as John’s,” he thought to myself, “it doesn’t look as good.” I was doing exactly the same thing and yet for some reason my brother was much better at applying pressure to small plastic bags. Clearly my self esteem was very low even at such a young age; Freud would have a field day.

Looking at them now, yes, why on earth was this something we did? I don’t think my sisters were involved, they were too busy making up dance routines to New Kids on the Block and Mel and Kim songs. The pre-internet days are becoming something akin to the wild west where hobbies, interests and general activities were so different to what is the norm now that I personally don’t really know what is considered to be normal anymore. Is there a normal? Probably not, look what counts as music these days (that’s my grumpy man comment for this post).

Dripping in nostalgia and history.

If you indulged in something a little left field when you were a kid please help me out by sharing here. I want to point at you and laugh.

Avatar ABOFB 29: Egyptian Film Club

Its film review time, so don’t tune in this time out if you want to avoid any spoilers. We deliver in-depth film reviews of:

  • The Embassy is in the Building
  • Dr Omar’s Gang
  • The Babydoll Knight
  • Hassan & Marcus
A Breath of Fresh Beans
A Breath of Fresh Beans
ABOFB 29: Egyptian Film Club
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Avatar The Past – Simple and Chunky

Look at you with your big shoes and your empty wallet. How do you pay for things? With your phone? Your watch? Don’t talk to me about witchcraft, sonny, I was around when Timmy Mallet had a music career.

Recycling; you take something old and you turn it into something new. It’s how the world works now and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I would much rather take the rambling notes of a semi-drunk Ian trying to remember an idea from over ten years ago (vanillla scapegoat, shoulder frog bags, ultra finger groups?) and turn it into a leaflet advertising the many talents of a local spiritual healer. Think of the tens of people who would benefit from my sacrifice. It’s a win win for the world.

When I was back visiting my family for belated birthday proceedings I took to the loft in her house to dig out the last of my junk that is cluttering the place up in the hope of either getting rid of it or taking it with me back to Newcastle. What I unearthed will probably form the majority of my posts for next month because December is a busy month. It’s time to phone it in (no pun intended).

I present to you Bob, my very first mobile phone:

Phhhhhhhhwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwooooooar!

Purchased for a mere £30.00 from (I think) an O2 store at the White Rose Shopping Centre circa 1999/2000, I initially refused to get one on the grounds that everyone else was and I didn’t want to be lumped in with the zeitgeist. Whatever it was that made me change my mind is lost to time. Perhaps it was the whopping ten (count ’em) text messages the internal battery of the phone could hold or the two lines of text visible on the 3cm by 1cm screen. Maybe it was the robust handset that, even in my tiny hands, feels as though you could crack open a tin of beans with it.

I am confident that this little wild cherry will be worth a lot of money in the future as over twenty years later it is still dripping with sex and style, much like yours truly. Once I start strutting my stuff down at da club, when I be all up at da club, waving this honey sausage around like a pair of electrics socks (?) I’ll be a local celebrity.

I am Future Retro.

Avatar ABOFB 28: Croquettes

Chris is trying to fill a cookbook he’s inexplicably been given a publishing deal to write, so we quickly brainstorm some ideas. We suggest:

  • Ham Sandwiches
  • Fisted Eggs
  • The Heart of Gammon
  • Croquettes

A Breath of Fresh Beans
A Breath of Fresh Beans
ABOFB 28: Croquettes
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Avatar Mental Note

Dear Future Me,

How’s it going? Did you ever work out what was clogging the bathroom sink?

I thought it was best to leave you a little something in case the old noggin isn’t quite what it once was because, you know, how great you/we are at remembering things in the year 2021 (?) let’s let that sink in a little before moving on. Ahhh! Got it? Okay.

It was in this month of this year that the old Beans got hacked again big time. Poor old man Kevvers had to spend many a-night trying to sweep up the bad vibes. Once all the ju-ju was gone, after probably sneaking in using your password, the security was ramped dry and everything seemed to settle down. The reason when you’ve gone three and a half weeks without any posts is due to the aforementioned security breach and also because you met up with Chris and Kev so you expended all the knowledge and nonsense in person, you drained yourself dry leaving but a tiny husk with which to mop up the remains. You took those three weeks to replenish the stocks and now, brimming with guff, chuff and lots of other undesirable stuff, you’ve come running over the horizon line with a huge grin and a trail of vape ships as long as the eye can see.

So, huddled around with your thirty grandchildren, you can tell the tale of the time a hush descended on the Beans and you utterly destroyed it with the next five days’ worth of tat.

Congratulations.

Avatar ‘Chicken Police: Paint it RED!’ – mini review

“The sun rolled over for the last time of that week. I checked my chagrin; it was sitting on a fence down by the side of the street that I daren’t walk on anymore. The air was crisp and clear, it kissed my cheeks and promised me more than it could ever give. I tipped my hat and headed on my way.

‘Chicken Police’ is exactly how it sounds; it is a video game where you play as Sonny Featherland who is both a policeman and a chicken. These are very important details. Sonny, like all of the characters, has a human body but an animal head. His hands do various non-chicken things like pointing and holding guns. He talks like a character from a detective novel from the 1940’s and looks like a modern day Humphrey Bogart would… if he was a chicken.

At the start of the game you are currently 120 days away from retirement and Sonny has been put on suspension by his hard-hitting police chief. Locked away in his hotel room of an office, he is visited by a mysterious femme fatale who wants him to work a case outside the law for her client. With curiosity gnawing at his mind and nothing much else to do, he recruits his old partner Marty to help him work out just what is happening on New Year’s Eve in the city of Clawville.

‘Chicken Police’ is a very simple point and click adventure game. You won’t find any absurd puzzles here (see ‘the moustache’ from ‘Gabriel Knight III’ or ‘the goat puzzle’ from the original ‘Broken Sword’) as everything is catered to the more casual gamer. You can look at things, pick things up, talk to / ask people questions and eventually interrogate them after a period of time (where you are graded on how quickly and effectively you obtained the information you needed to progress the story). You travel between key locations on the map around the city trying to piece the puzzle together. There is the main plot to follow but you can also visit other places to chat and procure achievements for doing certain things; you know, typical video game fodder.

The visuals are lovely, like a new summer’s morn. All of the locations and characters look almost real despite the aforementioned animal head looking back at you. This is coupled with a moody soundtrack and excellent voice acting by all the main cast. The story is interesting and varied and twists at the right points to lead your expectations into red alleys and dead herrings.

Where it falls down is that it is a little too easy. There are no penalties for failing to ask the right questions (you can even re-do the entire conversation if you want to get a higher rating), you cannot die and when you are trying to assemble the clues into a cohesive structure the game is all too happy to tell you where you are going wrong and nudge you in the right direction. The dialogue is a little clumsy too, where what is being said by the characters doesn’t match the written account at the bottom. There are also numerous instances of double spaces where there shouldn’t be (such an egregious error). Sometimes you’ll ask questions of someone and then press the talk button only to instigate a conversation that was leading up to you asking questions, as if you were supposed to talk first (perhaps even more than once) and then choose to question them. The game doesn’t want to move things along based on what you’ve already done making it a little disjointed.

These are only minor gripes though. For the 5 to 10 hours I spent playing it I enjoyed every moment. It’s more a visual novel with light puzzle sections than anything else. It’s also very funny and I do hope that the developers make a sequel.

‘Chicken Police: Paint it RED!’ is available on Steam, Playstation 4, X Box and Nintendo Switch.