You remember Anastacia. She had that massive, powerful voice and a stage persona that was pitched on the borders between sexy and fierce. Her big worldwide smash hit was the super-catchy “I’m Out of Love”, which topped charts of every kind in 2000, including those unrelated to music. Knowing I’d be listening to this album, I’ve had “I’m Out of Love” stuck in my head for several days. It turns out that was from her first album and this is her second. It’s not on this album. It’s still stuck in my head, though.
Modern life sucks. We all know this and it’s reached the point now where there’s no point saying it because everyone knows it. We all need a little humour in our lives to raise the spirits and keep the home fires burning. Given the recent decline in the state of the country, doctors are prescribing laughter more and more for curing most common ailments. I rubbed a chuckle on a bruise the other day and felt much better.
I have been toying around with ideas for sitcoms for years now. Chris and I even challenged each other to write pilots for sitcoms in unlikely places (remember that?) way way way back in the day. Now that I have taken the leap into a brand new place of employment it’s only right to use my skills to aid the rest of the human race. I need to show the world that even though things are pretty pants right now you can forget all your troubles for around 24/25 minutes each week with my sitcom, ‘Iansurance’.
The main character is some berk called Ian. He works as a service agent at the Clifford Makin Insurance company. He’s on the phone most days and, boy, does he get into some hysterical comical scrapes. The thing is that Ian daydreams so the time between phone calls his mind drifts into bizarre places: sometimes he’s a horse flying through the sky, sometimes he’s a clown handing out leaflets to cats about making sure they have a mouse pension for when they retire and sometimes he imagines that every time he speaks rainbows shoot out of his mouth and they explode into chocolate muffins when they collide with solid objects.
His boss, Gloria Cookiesnatcher, doesn’t know about Ian’s daydreaming and continually praises him as the best on his team even though he’s the most lackadaisical of the bunch. The times when he suddenly wakes up to take a call saying, “Eugh, I didn’t know peach trees were flammable!” are laughed off as part of his quirky personality. Tsk tsk, there goes Ian again, he’s such a zany character.
As a strange twist, the love interest is the coffee machine. Ian loves coffee a lot. It’s what powers him, gets him through the day, fuels his imagination. The machine in the corner of the kitchen area doesn’t have a name but he refers to her as Susan with two e’s i.e., Sueesan. He doesn’t remember why he started calling her that nor why he assigned gender to an inanimate object. Ian professes his love to Susan each and every morning for handing him the wake-up juice. She responds by handing him said wake-up juice.
We’ll fill the rest of the roster with some wacky office types, a snidely cleaner, a religious man, two cats that we can hear the thoughts of and, I don’t know, a wise old woman who lives in a cupboard.
I am in the process of writing the first few scripts and expect a lot of attention when I’m done. Best jump on the golden gravy train trip now, guys.
Look at me and be inspired. What have I done for the last 38 years of my life? Good question. Next please.
What I have done is devoted my life to the very simple practice of picking up a thing and playing an imaginary thing on it. Some people have chosen to call these ‘video games’. I refuse to adopt this because I do not believe it accurately describes the thing. I call them ‘gamebopolies’. Only the most hard-core and committed members of the gaming community follow my lead because, yes, I am a leader.
Today’s topic is something close to my heart. As a child I would spend hours upon hours upon more hours playing gamebopolies on this most sacred of systems. What am I talking about? Why, young scamps, of course I’m referring to the Gamestation. Pull up a Tiktok and I’ll spin you a tale:
The Gamestation was released in April 1995 by the Icelandic tech giant, Pony. The Pony Gamestation was released as a direct competitor to Shintendo’s upcoming Shintendo 54 and Trega’s Shattern consoles. Nobody expected Iceland to be capable of manufacturing such a complicated piece of electrical equipment as prior to this they were only known for ice, ice cubes and the DNA double helix (both the physical structure that exists in the human body that contains the information for creating and operating living systems and also the bitchin’ sound system capable of producing 100 decibels of might that has caused the hospitalisation of over one hundred and fifty people).
The Gamestation hit hard. The games were cheap to produce as they used playing cards for games instead of cartridges tat the previous generations had adtoped. For example, if you placed an ace of clubs, you would be greeted with ‘Grand Theft Auto’ whereas a simple three of hearts farted ‘Bubsy 3D’ in your general direction. Shintendo’s choices during this era of gamebopolies was noted as being a little short-sighted and they lost the war for the moment. They would have to wait ten years before they regained the momentum of the previous decade. Trega had already been losing ground for months prior and the Shattern did nothing to persuade the casual gamers of the age to set sail from Pony’s hallowed lake of sweet, sweet goodness.
PC gaming at the time was expensive. Only billionaires could afford a PC and therefore what little gamebopolies were released could only be played by Bill Gates and whatever other billionaires existed back in the mid-nineties. Hugh Heffner? Yeah him. And the two women from the ‘Philadelphia’ adverts, they must have had a giant wad. For example, Doom II on the PC only sold fifteen copies. It was a brilliant game by all standards: brooding, dark, quick of pace and maliciously violent. The only way little Jimmy was playing some Doom II though was if his older brother was a rich Texan oil baron.
I remember coming home from school and reaching straight for my Gamestation control nodule. I would be lost in the realistic 3D graphics, amazing music and tight controls and gameplay. Sometimes my friend Chevin would come round and we’d play two player deathmatch on the Gamestation’s flagship title, ‘Carmageddon’, where you scored points for mowing down civilians and blowing stuff up. Occasionally we’d play ‘Grand Theft Auto’ where you scored points for moving down civilians and blowing stuff up. It’s a shame ‘Postal’ was never released on the Gamestation because it was so wildly different from everything else on the system at the time; you scored points for only moving down civilians, you couldn’t blow anything up.
It was a wonderful time in my life. If you have memories of these gamebopolies or any others, then do let us know. Let’s share and be together as one giant community (with me as the leader).
In May last year, you might remember that I brought a little classical beauty into the lives of my work colleagues when I anonymously gifted the Mona Lisa to the men’s toilets on the third floor.
I was under no illusion that this artwork would be permanently displayed, and so it was little surprise that, after ten or eleven months, it vanished without warning, leaving an empty frame to greet toilet-goers once more. To be honest, I was pleased it lasted as long as it did.
My quest to bring culture to the workplace has not ended there, though. No, it continues, with renewed vigour. Since the Mona Lisa was taken down I’ve chosen to assume that the Toilet Overlords at work aren’t keen on renaissance realism, so my latest contribution is something more abstract.
For gentlemen on their way to their most personal ablutions, I now proudly present Piet Mondrian’s Composition London 1940-42.
Words. The world is full of them. They come in all different flavours and no matter what you need to say there is usually a word or collection of words out there to help you. That is unless you’re trying to spell the word jush… juxch… jgusssh… unless you’re trying to spell the famous word where the letters haven’t been invented yet.
Alicia Keys is a very talented musician and songwriter from the last twenty years or so. A quick look at her wikipedia page is enough to make your eyes spin with envy. I’m not talking about the eight albums she’s released or the glut of awards she’s got hiding on the mantelpiece though, I’m going back to the first single I remember.
‘Fallin” was the first single from her twelve million selling debut ‘Songs in A Minor’. Back in 2001 I enjoyed listening to it because it was sweet and simple. A song that could turn up on the radio at any time of the day and I wouldn’t be turning it off. It had heavy rotation on the music channels. She was labelled ‘the new queen of soul’ by some music magazine based on the hype for the album. ‘Fallin” was an excellent lead single, hand-crafted with love and attention, picked by some record executive because they could hear the sound of money at the door.
I heard the song again recently and frowned a big old man frown. Was this the same song that had enchanted me twenty years prior?
Firstly, the music is perfectly fine and lovely, it’s the words that make me remove the rose-tinted nostalgia glasses and question what exactly I was drinking at the age of seventeen. I did a word count and officially there’s only 227. Short, pop songs are as old as the music charts themselves. There’s nothing wrong with short songs. There has to actually be words in them though.
‘Fallin” is a song perpetually infested with oh’s. It’s so full of oh’s it may as well be a box of Cheerios. You can’t go a few seconds without one cropping up. Not even one but a whole host of oh’s, you’re never too far away from them. You’re not subjected to a Mariah Carey level of insane warbling that would make dogs cry out in pain but it’s still fairly distracting and not pleasant on the ears. Then there’s the repetition.
The chorus is used five times. It makes the cardinal sin of rhyming ‘you’ with ‘you’. The weirdest part is that the officially last word of the song is ‘what?’ which I didn’t even remember and had to go back to watch it on Youtube to check that was factually correct, which it is. She gives a sassy look at the camera and asks the question. Is she asking me this because I don’t like the song anymore? Who knows.
What I do know is that ‘Girlfriend’ from the same album is an infinitely better song and I won’t be going back to ‘Fallin” any time soon. If it comes on the radio at any time of the day, I will be turning it off.
‘Ion Fury’ is the best old new old game I have played in a while.
What do you mean you don’t know what an old new old game is? Isn’t it obvious? Okay grandad, let me explain.
Back in the day, a series of first person shooters were built on an engine called Build. This Build engine powered many a successful game such as ‘Duke Nukem 3D’, ‘Exhumed’ and ‘Blood’. After a while people were looking for fancy shizz that had polygonal roundness and curvy sumptuousness that Build couldn’t handle so it quietly disappeared into the background. Cut to 2019 and a new game using the same engine was released called ‘Ion Fury’. It was a prequel to a game called ‘Bombshell’ nobody could remember because it was bollocks. Thankfully ‘Ion Fury’ was actually pretty good and garnered much better reviews and a smidgen of success as a result.
Now, two years later, I have been playing through it and it’s a spicy meatball of a game. If you still need me to explain the old new old thing I’m going to need some slides and a hammer.
You played as Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison (ahhhh, ahhhh, see why? Ahhhh!). What’s the plot? Is there really one to begin with? You an ass-kicker and you have to pick up some guns and kick some ass; that’s all you really need to know. If you’ve played any of the aforementioned PC games then you’ll know exactly what to expect: chunky graphics, over the top weapons and more explosions than a Michael Bay boxset on fire. It plays incredibly well, smooth and fast, the developers knew what they were doing and squeezed everything they could out of a fairly familiar and well-trodden scenario. The settings are somewhat similar to Duke’s first 3D outing taking in city streets, skyscrapers and malls with alien bits scattered around for good measure. What really sets it apart though is the difficulty.
This game is hard. I played through it on the second easiest difficulty and even then it was an uphill struggle. You cannot gleefully blast your way through the campaign. You will be saving often and you will need to think about the order in which you do things. At times it was more like a tactical RPG where you carefully plan where you move to, what gun to use and when to retreat back to hide behind that soda machine. The enemies are smart and often they are placed in the position that is most likely to blow your face off in that they have the freedom of a large area with a grenade launcher pointed in your general direction and a fuck ton of body armour and you, even with your strongest weapon, will feel like wet cheese slapping them on their elbow.
It does require a lot of patience because sometimes even the silliest error would make you lose half of your health within a matter of seconds. Thankfully there are numerous checkpoints and you can save at any time.
After playing for fifteen hours I was convinced I was near to the end and they practically slapped a huge NOPE across my forehead because I wasn’t. It was a slog towards the end. I would recommend playing in short bursts, kind of like my company; too much is bad for your health. To put it into context I blasted my way through ‘Doom 64’ in-between playing ‘Ion Fury’ and finished that before I’d even gotten two thirds of the way through this. You certainly get your money’s worth.
‘Ion Fury’ is available for PS4, X-Box One, Nintendo Switch and Steam (steam!).