Sunday, December 31, 2006

Year End Round Up

As the year draws to a close we here at the Wildebeest Asylum took the time to reflect on 2006 and remember which books, movies and music best distracted us from the horrifying pointlessness of human existence. Our choices are:

Best TV:
Dr Who

Biggest Downturn in Quality:
Lost (The start of the third season has been a shitfest.)

Best Games:
Oblivion (A review of this will appear when I finish the main story. I anticipate the post appearing while our distant descendants silently watch the Earth as it is slowly consumed by the dying sun.)
Shadow of the Colossus

Webmasters Choice Award For Special Achievement In Gratuitous Sex And Violence:
The only thing that fits the bill of being gratuitous that I played this year is Sin Episodes, and it didn't do a very good job of it. In protest I am giving the award to We (Heart) Katamari.

Best Book:
Lost Girls

Best Movie:

Best Albums (in no particular order):
Tool – 10,000 Days

Runners up:
Isis – In the Absence of Truth (Review coming some day...)
Thom Yorke – The Eraser

Best Album That Actually Came Out Years Ago, But Can Pretty Much Win Every Year As Far As I'm Concerned:
Opeth – Blackwater Park

Best Concert:

Shittest Concert:

Runner Up:

Concert That Was Both The Best and the Shittest at the Same Time:

Concert I Will Forever Hate Myself For Missing:

Biggest Disappointment:
Muse – Black Holes and Revelations

Most Incredibly Overrated:
Justin Timberlake

Runner up:
The Killers

Guiltiest Pleasure:

Trent Reznor Award For The Best Album That Was Supposed To Come Out This Year But Didn't:
Trent Reznor – the Closure DVD and the new NIN album.

Past Years:

2005 Parts 1, 2, 3

2004 Parts 1, 2

My Seduction Style

Seems fairly accurate. (Via Squirk)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

The Wildebeest Asylum wishes all it's readers a very merry christmas, and to get you all into the spirit of the season here's a link to Ruthless Reviews' review of A Christmas Carol.
"The message of this story is that it is okay to use the despicable practices of torture and terror to promote your religious agenda. It is okay for a law-abiding and legitimate businessman to be brutalized for his lack of religious beliefs. It is okay to disregard legitimate business contracts because of your own fiscal irresponsibility and poor decisions. Scrooge provides a much needed service by issuing B-C loans to marginal credit risks, providing much needed liquidity into the economy of his city."

Friday, December 15, 2006


"Don't push the button Locke!" screams Charlie, but it's too late! The lights go out! An ominous hum begins! The woman from Jack's flashback comes riding out on the back of a polar bear! Then the screen fades to black...

A digital clock is ticking down to zero! There are only four seconds left! Jack Bauer struggles furiously with the controls, but it looks like nothing can stop the jetliner carrying four hundred passengers, ten nuclear bombs and a tiger with a rocket launcher from crashing into the Pentagon just as the President reveals his plan for curing cancer! Close up of Keifer Sutherland's terrified face before we fade to black to...

"Are you saying you never loved me?" cries Amanda, tears streaming down her face. Thomas opens his mouth to reply, but is suddenly distracted by a fantail flying into the car through the open window! Their vehicle swerves across the road, right into the path of the minivan driven by Tama and carrying Jenny with her newly born triplets, Tammy and Lisa on the way back from their Civil Union and the vaccine to cure tall poppy syndrome! Close up on the shocked faces of the passengers. Cut to the smoking wreckage of both vehicles, as a solitary, ethnically indeterminate hand reaches trembling outwards. Who has lived? Who has died? Fade to black...

The Wildebeest Asylum will be taking a break for the rest of the year. I hope the suspense isn't too difficult to bear!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Via Making Light and Wired:

World Net Daily: Homosexuality is caused by soy milk.

In case that article disturbs you as much as it did me, here's something nice to distract you from right wing cranks.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I Hope George Bush Drinks The Blood Of Every Last Man Woman And Child In Iraq


I saw this movie over two weeks ago. The fact that I've only gotten around to posting this now is an indicator of how much of a blogging backlog I have...

Anyway, as everyone else has already said, this movie is just fucking hilarious. I'm perpetually surprised at how many stupid clueless people Cohen is able to round up for his comedy. In this movie many of the unsuspecting cast are the same kind of dopes that he picked on in his TV show Ali G, such as a dramatically unfunny humour coach, and the highly strung inhabitants of New York City who respond rather strongly to having a moustachioed man come up to them on the street and attempt to kiss them. Although Borat's driving instructor is actually kind of cool.

Driving Instructor “No Borat! In America a woman is allowed to choose who they have sex with.”

Borat: “You are serious!?”

It's all fun and games until the middle section when the movie goes through a seriously unsettling phase as Borat travels through the southern USA. The appalling racism displayed by some of the subjects is funny in a way but also seriously disturbing. The gun salesman who carries on trying to make a sale after being asked which gun is the best to kill a Jew is probably just a case of someone using their selective hearing to ignore the things they don't know how to deal with. On the other hand the high society diners who laugh it off when Borat brings a turd in a plastic bag to the dinner table, but threaten to call the police when he invites a black prostitute into their home are displaying some seriously fucked values.

There was a lot of slapstick humour but it was far less interesting. Most of the scenes in Kazakhstan were fairly juvenile and mean spirited and Borat's naked fight scene with his obese male companion wasn't funny until they ended up in the elevator with some of their fellow hotel guests. However exceptions are made for every scene with the bear, which are easily the funniest parts of the movie.

Monday, December 11, 2006


An article accusing Al-Qaeda's ideological godfather Sayyid Qutb of occidentalism (via Arts and Letters Daily). Mainly I just think the term is funny, but it's a good article.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

True Norwegian Black Metal

Satyricon – Live at The Metro, Sydney Dec 5th

Unfortunately I must once again inform you that due to a last minute camera malfunction I have no photos of this concert. This is a real pity as, unlike some bands I've been to see recently, Satyricon presented plenty of nice photo opportunities (if little else). This has happened once too often for my liking so this weekend's plans shall include an upgrade of my current camera situation.

This concert was a bit of a last minute escapade for me. Satyricon are, along with In Flames, the most successful black metal band in the world in terms of sales, and as such are despised by the metal scene as lacking trveness (at least they're Norwegian). Never one to merely accept conventional wisdom on these matters I went on a quick Satyricon education program (as currently viewable in the 'Now Listening To' panel on the right). I found their music not terribly exciting but decent enough to justify going along to see them perform live. As it happens the albums I've been listening to are their earliest, and most black metal fans will begrudgingly admit that their early music is, if not actually good, at least less offensive than their contemporary output. If I'd heard their latest album I may not actually have bothered going.

Again I must lament not having a camera, because these guys at least look interesting, with their necro makeup, grimy black metal fashion sense, Frost's enormous drum kit and the obligatory hot blonde chick on keyboards in the background. Black metal is meant to be cheesy, and their presentation certainly delivered in that regard. Their on stage antics made me feel like I was at an 80s hair metal concert. Especially when all three guitarists started whirlwinding their hair around in a synchronised fashion while playing. Satyr, the vocalist, was especially retro with his stage banter: “Wow I think you guys might be going even harder than Melbourne!”, which made me laugh because it reminded me of Mike Patton's hilarious piss takes of that sort of shit.

The crowd was pretty rubbish too. I guess this is what happens when you gather together the subset of people metal enough to be into Satyricon but not hipster enough to know that Satyricon aren't cool. The moshpit was especially bad, at least to begin with, I have no problem with a bit of violence in that setting because that's to be expected but when it's just a bunch of incredibly drunk guys stumbling into each other it's just annoying.

Wildebeest Asylum Moshpit Safety Tip:

When getting yourself thrown high in the air in order to begin crowd surfing make sure you are completely and utterly drunk out of your mind beforehand, so that when the moshpit parts and you smash right into the ground you are relaxed enough so that you only break a leg rather than your back.

For some reason there seemed to be a high number of angry young women in attendance who weren't afraid to try and kick the shit out of any guy who drunkenly crashed into them.

Wildebeest Asylum Moshpit Safety Tip:

Young ladies attempting to inflict bodily harm on drunk angry men in black metal moshpits should be aware that said angry men will probably start hitting them back (hard), no matter how hot they look in that skanky little outfit.

And now we must turn to the sad topic of the band's performance. To put it plainly, it kind of sucked. I won't say they totally sucked, as a few tracks came of brilliantly, most notably the opening song 'Walk The Path Of Sorrow' (the first track off their first album), and the last song of their main set (before the encore), which I didn't know but which fucking rocked out all the same. Most of the rest of their set was uninspiring to say the least. Their new songs were garbage (barely black metal at all) but even old classics from Nemesis Divina such as 'Du Som Hater Gud' and 'Mother North' fell flat. It was worth going to for the sake of going to a concert, but I definitely wouldn't drag myself out on a Tuesday night again to see them.

One last thing. The opening act, Ruins, were pretty good.

Wildebeest Asylum Bonus Moshpit Safety Tips:

Don't piss off the chick in the wheelchair. No matter how ill advised it is for her to be in the moshpit it's not a good look if you knock her over.

Clueless eighteen year olds who stand in the middle of the mosh circle and then looked shocked and surprised when people start slamming into you: please continue doing this! It is greatly amusing to your fellow concert goers!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

You Know You Spend Too Much Time On The Computer When...

...for once you find yourself writing out a whole page of handwritten notes and (a) your hand hurts by the time you've finished and (b) you're not sure how to spell 'contingent' so you write it out and then wait a few seconds to see if the spellchecker picks it up.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

An Unfathomable Well Of Something

Sam and Max – Culture Shock

I have very fond memories of the original Sam and Max adventure game that was released when I was a teenager. Like so many of the old Lucas Arts games it was genuinely hilarious in a goofy cartoony way and it also combined elements of the black but surreal humour of the comic strip it was based on to become a genuine classic of the genre. Fans of the game comprise a rather large cult following, and as a group we were delighted when Lucas Arts announced a sequel a few years back, then disappointed when they cancelled it, then delighted again when it was picked up by Telltale Games. Of course with such a rocky road to production it was possible that the expectations placed on it would be too much and it would turn out to be a disappointment, but I am happy to report that this is not the case.

The new Sam and Max series is being released in episodic form, much like the Half-Life 2 Episodes series but hopefully with a more punctual schedule. In the first episode Sam and Max, freelance policemen by trade, come against a troublemaking gang of mind controlled washed up former child celebrities. The humour doesn't quite live up to its predecessor, but it's very hard for indiscriminate vigilantism not to be funny and there are plenty of laughs to be had. For some reason I couldn't get enough of pulling over random motorists and charging them with nonsense crimes like 'worshipping false idols'.

As a game this first episode is mostly excellent. Adventure games can often devolve into boring scavenger hunts but Sam and Max consistently provides you with puzzles that actually involve logical thinking, while at the same time being quirky and entertaining. One of the best set pieces of the game is taking a psychiatric test and having to emulate the symptoms of a particular disorder in order to proceed. The lateral thinking part of it is fun and there's plenty of absurdist humour to be had in having Sam re-enact his dreams for the psychiatrist. Towards the end some of the puzzles turn into pointless 'go fetch' scenarios but most of the game holds up well. The next episode is out on the 5th of January, but I'm not sure if this is through Gametap (I refuse to sign up to this, it's too easy for me to find time wasters as it is) so I might have to wait a little longer before I can play it.

You Know Working In The Financial Sector Is Getting To You When...

You immediately think this bar sounds like a great place to have work drinks.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Vikings Were Born To Fight And To Kill For Pleasure

Burzum – Hliðskjálf

When I wrote about Mayhem's De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas a few weeks back I made reference to their insane bass player Varg Vikernes, a.k.a Count Grishnackh. As well as being a murderer he also likes to burn down churches (at one point making himself responsible for the death of a fireman) and although he doesn't like being described as a Nazi, he is a white supremacist. Despite such unpleasant attributes he's widely respected in black metal circles, mostly on the strength of his solo project Burzum.

Burzum is often described as 'ambient black metal', which would seem to me to be an oxymoron, but I will refrain from judging until I've heard more of this stuff. Hliðskjálf is completely ambient, without a trace of metal (apparently this is because he's not allowed guitars or drums in prison). This album has more in common with the mellower kinds of industrial than anything metal. In fact it reminded me rather a lot of Coil in their more restrained moments.

The music is very gentle and delicate, most songs are just one or two vaguely medieval sounding synthesised instruments playing over a subdued ambient background. It's quite a nice album, although it has nothing on Coil's Musick to Play in the Dark or Jordan Reyne's The Loneliest of Creatures. I would hazard a guess that it's inflated reputation mostly comes from closeted metal fiends who've never heard it's like before. But it's still worthwhile, even just to make you wonder how such pretty music can be made by such a horrible person.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The CEO Of Seagate Is A Clever Guy

Interview here.

"YouTube is like eBay. The founders didn't know what they were doing. The consumers just took hold of it."
"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn."

Damn You Penny Arcade

For introducing me to Bookworm. As if I didn't have enough timewasters already...

Dr Who

Finished watching the second series of the new Doctor Who the other day. I didn't like David Tennent as The Doctor as much as Christopher Eccleston in the previous series. He seemed somewhat smarmy and winked at the camera a bit too often, I preferred Eccleston's more alien, serious incarnation of the character. Still I love the show as much as ever, even if at times it can be over the top cheesy, but of course that is part of its charm. The first episode, 'New Earth' and a few of the others are a bit stupid, but they're more than compensated for by the highlights: 'The Satan Pit' (Dr Who versus Satan), 'Tooth and Claw' (Dr Who versus the wolf man and a team of ninja monks in Victorian England) and 'School Reunion' (Dr Who versus Giles from Buffy). The season finale is a bit goofy and predictable, but I guess it had to be done one of these days: Cybermen versus Daleks.

P.S. No one has sex inside the Tardis. Maybe next season.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Something Awful

...used to kind of annoy me with its snide sarcasm but I have to admit they come up with some pretty funny shit. I was especially amused by their obnoxious antics on Second Life, the September 11th recreation is particularly good.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lost Girls

by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie

Being one of my favourite writers, Alan Moore is no stranger to these pages. With every project he takes on a different style and puts his own unique twist on it. Political allegory in Watchmen, an esoteric horror story in From Hell and parody in Top 10. Eager to learn what he was going to do next I was very pleased when in an interview with the Onion AV Club he announced that 'for this project I just wanted to write some really good porn' (it's a great interview, read the whole thing). And that's exactly what he did.

Still Moore's 'plain old porn' is a lot more sophisticated than most serious literature. The story is centred around three women, Alice, Wendy and Dorothy, who are real world allegories of their famous fictional namesakes. Over the course of three volumes they retell the plots of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz in flashback as kinky coming of age stories. In Alice's story for example the White Rabbit is replaced a nervous old paedophile who initiates her into a life of debauchery. Peter Pan is the boy who climbs in Wendy's window at night and 'takes her to Wonderland'. Obviously the original versions of those stories were intended to be coming of age allegories (especially Peter Pan), but I doubt that Moore's interpretations are quite what the authors had in mind (except maybe that dodgy bastard Lewis Carroll).

As you'd expect from an explicitly pornographic graphic novel, the art (drawn by Moore's fiancée Melinda Gebbie) is big, colourful and sumptuous. And yes, hot as hell. The books themselves come in a beautifully illustrated hardcover edition (with a nice slipcover to protect unsuspecting eyes from the explicit material on the covers of the volumes inside). I really like it when graphic novelists make nice physical artifacts out of their work like this.

Moore's writing is as good as ever here. Three volumes of just one sex romp after another could easily get boring but Moore presents each chapter with a different twist; the three main characters each have their own panel layout for their individual flashback chapters and other chapters are intercut with intertwining narratives from the erotic fiction that the characters have been reading offscreen, while some chapters show the same events from different perspectives.

Of course, Moore can't just let porn be porn. He stages his story against the backdrop of a world on the cusp of a transformation from the modern to the post-modern eras. The first volume ends with our protagonists attending the infamous May 1913 performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in Paris, which ended in a riot (Stravinsky consciously veered away from conventional rhythms and tonality in this piece, and the ballet as a whole is a celebration of the primitive (he was like a neo-classical Cryptopsy). The riot is very much symptomatic of a change in perspective from the absolutist attitudes of modernism to relativism). The second volume ends with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, obviously a different kind of trigger point for the new age that we now live in. I won't spoil the end of the third volume but it's an astounding passage, both poetic and morbid at the same time. It resoundingly refutes anyone who says comic books or pornography can't be art.

I think this is quite comfortably the best book I've read all year. Not only is it cleverly written and achingly poetic, it's also thoroughly refreshing to read some fiction with a genuinely healthy attitude towards sex, and if we feel a wee bit guilty when we enjoy reading such a lurid piece of prurience Moore placates our Victorian guilt with a monologue that is both eloquent and amusing:

[As our protagonists' host reads aloud from a Victorian erotic novel in which a pair of young twins engage in enthusiastic sex with their parents.]

“You see, if this were real, it would be horrible. Children raped by their trusted parents. Horrible. But they are fictions. They are uncontaminated by effect and consequence. Why, they are almost innocent. I, of course, am real, and since Helena, who I just fucked, is only thirteen, I am very guilty.”

I'm Listening To The Wrong Genre

This is a bit mean of me but:

First three results when you search by interest on for 'metal':

Contrast with 'hardcore':

Expect more Converge and less Cryptopsy in the future.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Phoenix In Flames

Converge – Jane Doe

It just goes to show that there's nothing new under the sun. After raving about how brilliant and original Dillinger Escape Plan are for the past eighteen months or so I've finally clicked on to Converge, the band Dillinger stole all their best ideas from.

Jane Doe is an intense barrage of almost non stop thrashy hardcore, with some of the elements of arrhythmia and disharmony that appealed to me so much in Dillinger's music. If you like one of these bands you're likely to enjoy the other, as they are pretty much of a fit genrewise. There are differences though, Converge is notably more intense and impassioned (the vocalist's sustained screaming is fucking impressive) while Dillinger have better production and a broader emotional palette, as well as being perhaps just a little bit more insane, so it's hard to say which one I enjoy more.

It's a no-brainer as to which one you bring up in a music snobbery conversation though, Converge were doing it first, so of course they must be better.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

1001 Albums – Number 3

The Louvin Brothers – Tragic Songs of Life

I'm pretty sure this is the first country album to show up on these pages.

Like most country music the compositions on this album are quite sparse, and the focus is on the vocal harmonising of the brothers as they sing sorrowfully about unrequited love, untimely deaths and southern American states.

The first couple of songs are twang-mungus paeans to Alabama and Kentucky and their distillation of everything cringeworthy about country music provides a challenge to getting into the album, but once past them it's generally a pretty agreeable listen. 'Agreeable' as in 'good to listen to' not as in 'happy fun times'. These guys sure have a heavy morbid streak, well over half the tracks are grim murder ballads or not much milder tales of broken hearts. The 'tragic' part of the title is well earned, and their maudlin style is a good fit for Nick Cave who covered 'Knoxville Girl' on his b-sides album.

Country music is not the best fit for my temperament, but when the mood strikes this album goes down pretty well. What I wrote about Elvis definitely applies here as well, in that these guys sing like they mean it, and that makes their sad stories (mostly autobiographical I believe) resonate even so many years later.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Warriors Of The World Unite

Thank you Squirk, for bringing to my attention one more stupid website to waste my life away with.

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Crossing Of The Threshold

Mastodon – Blood Mountain

After subjecting myself to Dragonforce's embarrassingly stupid swords and sorcery nonsense it was just as well I had another metal album with similar subject matter to turn to that's actually worthwhile. Blood Mountain is a concept album chronicling the journey of a nameless adventurer as he (or perhaps she) scales the titular mountain. The reason it works where Dragonforce doesn't is that the story is kept very ambiguous. Despite having listened to it quite a few times and read through the lyrics I still only have a vague idea of what the narrative is about as the lyrics are more than a little opaque. For example:

Hunt for ogres and dwarves/
Lion slicer/
Run with death/
Run with death

is a fairly typical passage.

Still, the important thing is that the general feeling of the words and music and the incredibly cool album art are enough to inspire all kinds of fanciful interpretations.

The album's music all fits within the broad church of metal, but changes wildly between styles from song to song. The opening track 'The Wolf is Loose' is almost a hardcore song while 'Bladecatcher's spastic rhythms and gibbering vocals are more than a little reminiscent of Fantomas. 'Sleeping Giant's slow, ponderous riffs could have been lifted straight out of an Isis album. Throughout there's a general restlessness and schizophrenia to the compositions, so that it can be an offputting listen to start with but once it becomes familiar it's very good.

Another comparison with Dragonforce that I can't resist making is that of their guitar solos. Dragonforce's are tedious five minute wankfests, while Mastodon's are short, to the point and inspired. They're also infrequent enough to leave you wishing there were more.

The reason why Dragonforce is lame and Mastodon is cool is analogous to the difference between good and bad fantasy novels. The bad ones (or at least the ones that are only enjoyable when you're in your early teens) are nothing more than escapist fantasies, whereas the better ones reflect the real world, usually through metaphor but also just by presenting realistic issues or experiences in a different light. For example in the song 'Hunters of the Sky' Mastodon recognise that at times during our lives we all find ourselves running away from something, and in this case that something just happens to be a pack of ravenous flying lizard sharks.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Future of Entertainment

Interesting article at Wired about that lonelygirl business.

You couldn't pay me to watch that crap but it looks like the creators are very savvy about the potential of creating what amounts to interactive TV via sites like youtube. It's also kind of sad to see how completely clueless and stuck in their ways the TV executives they bought the idea to were. I think those guys will be kicking themselves in five years time for missing the opportunity to get on board early with this stuff.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My Guitar Solo Will Go On (For All Of Eternity)

Dragonforce – Sonic Firestorm

Dragonforce is my first foray into the unfortunate genre of power metal. Hopefully it shall also be my last. For some reason occasional exposure to Manowar had predisposed me to looking into this sort of thing, and I thought it might make a nice change from 'serious' music. Sadly, Dragonforce is not a nice change from anything.

Sonic Firestorm starts out with its best riff and provides a pleasant fifteen seconds or so of ponderous, brooding buildup, promising an explosion into thundering heaviness. Unfortunately that promise is unfulfilled and the only explosion that happens is, it must be said, one of gayness, when the song busts into the first of many incredibly cheesy and annoyingly juvenile straightforward speed metal riffs while the vocalist (in his best Freddy Mercury impersonation) starts singing about dragons, demons and mighty battles. This is bad enough, but then the guitar solos start. To be fair Dragonforce do deserve credit for the fact that their two guitarists are simply amazing from a technical perspective, and for the first minute or so it seems as if it would be worth listening to the whole album just to hear these guys shred like maniacs. But then the solo keeps going... and going... and going... and even when it's finished you only get a few minutes downtime until they start up all over again. It doesn't matter how incredibly fast you can play, but an hour long album which is thirty percent diddly-diddly-diddly guitar solos can only be a trial of patience.

At times it seems that these guys might be verging on 'so bad it's good' territory. The most appealing riffs are those when the guitar's ultra clean 8-bit sound is at it's most Pokemon, and the uber-cheesy ballad 'Dawn Over A New World' is so ridiculous that I can scarcely believe that it's not intended to be ironic. Try these lyrics:

Across the highest mountains/
And through the endless seas/
I journey ever onwards/
Fight until we all be free.
By the time it reaches the climax and pulls out a truck driver's key change straight out of the Michael Jackson textbook of shitty pop songwriting the listener is unsure whether to applaud their subversive commentary on the shallowness of popular culture or to shoot themselves in the face to escape the lameness.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Shit

The new Fundy Post blog. Keeping an eye on the loonies back home.

Dan Savage's podcast. Great stuff as long as you're comfortable hearing about diaper fetishes or proper etiquette when contacting a transgendered prostitute while riding the bus or walking to work.

Plus this blog just moved to the new version of blogger. If it eats your pets or murders your family let me know.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

American Psycho

by Bret Easton Ellis

A truly great work of art in any medium, be it a novel, a piece of music or a film, can leave you with a feeling that permeates into your day to day life. Most of the time these feelings are happy ones; wonder, hope or belief in the goodness of humankind. Not too many good artists set out to make their audience's lives worse, but some of them do, and those that are good enough produce an experience so unpleasant that it casts an ugly pall over everything you see in the real world afterwards.

And so we have American Psycho, not only do it's unbelievably gory torture scenes pop into your head at inappropriate times (try attending a design meeting at work when images of a woman being tortured by having a car battery attached to her nipples while her eyes are burnt out with a cigarette lighter keep popping into your head), but its whole perspective of modern life as shallow, worthless and without compassion, leaves the reader with a lingering morbid depression.

Of course from an unemotional point of view it's a very good book. I certainly appreciated the clever way it was constructed. Our protagonist, executive and serial killer Patrick Bateman, seems like a normal rich arsehole at the beginning of the book and to start with the story is a goofy black comedy about shallow yuppie idiots. As we make it further through the tale more and more evidence of Bateman's true nature is dropped and the book becomes more and more gruesome. By the halfway point we start getting snippets of Bateman's murders in flashback, and then we begin to see them in more and more detail from a first person perspective. At the same time Bateman's psychosis becomes more and more pronounced, and the novel climaxes in a murder scene so disgustingly gory that I can't even bring myself to mention any of the details here.

All the meanwhile Bateman's idiot colleagues and brainless girlfriends carry on performing the same repetitive running gags (not being able to remember anyone's name correctly, not listening when Patrick tells them to their faces about his crimes) right up to the end. Their unchanging stupidity contrasted against the continually escalating horror scenes makes it seem as though our murderous protagonist is somehow admirable in comparison to them, as he at least realises what a pointless mockery his life is and rages against it (although perhaps killing people in unbelievably horrific ways is not the most ideal way he could have chosen to express himself).

So while it's a very intelligently constructed book it's very hard to read and its bleak theme, that our modern lives are devoid of meaning and that too much leisure and aimlessness is driving us to self-loathing and cruel inhumanity, is not likely to make anyone feel better about themselves for having read it. And yet for some strange reason, I am glad I read it. It made me feel bad at the time but once I'd finished it I felt like I'd learned something or gained something from it. Of course, I fucked if I can explain what that 'something' is...

Behold, The Flying Spaghetti Monster

Sunday, November 12, 2006


I'll never eat McDonalds again:

Oh wait, maybe I will:

Random Observation Of The Day

Kylie Minogue died of cancer over a year ago, but they just kept it quiet and replaced her with computer animation.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lucifer: Mansions Of The Silence

by Mike Carey

Well it's been a while since I read an instalment of this series and it seems that absence has made me less fond of it than I was. The plot still seems to be going somewhere interesting so I will continue reading it, but without much enthusiasm because the details (little things like the characterisation, dialogue, and art) are fairly plain and uninspired.

The set up for the plot arc of this collection is quite promising. In a fit of loose end tying, all the remaining major characters of the series (save Lucifer himself and a few other exceptions, such as the archangel Michael and, to no great surprise, God) are bundled up on a boat together and given a quest. In a Gaiman-esque detail, the boat is forged by Nordic giants out of the fingernails of dead men, and the quest is to retrieve the soul of a little girl from the afterlife. Sounds pretty cool right? Well unfortunately Carey found a way to retell a soul imperiling journey through the godless nether realm between the worlds of life and death and neglect to include any memorable events of note or exciting encounters. If the best you can do is a bunch black bat people and a wall of thorns, it's probably best to leave this sort of thing to the experts.

Still, the overall series story arc, involving God and Lucifer's competing plans for the universe, has me hooked (plus these things are a quick, easy read) so we shall see if future volumes improve.

Lucifer: Inferno

Lucifer: The Divine Comedy
Lucifer: Children And Monsters and Lucifer: A Dalliance With The Damned
Lucifer: A Devil In The Gateway

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Motions That Make Gods Cringe

Dillinger Escape Plan: Plagiarism

Poor old Dillinger Escape Plan. A year or so ago I couldn't stop singing their praises but now, for two reasons, I've gone a bit dark on them. The first is their new EP, Plagiarism. When I first heard about it I was quite excited about the idea of these guys doing a covers album. They have such a fucked up, unique style that I expected them to come up with some interesting reinterpretations of the songs they'd chosen. Sadly, it was not to be.

The EP starts out with the radio edit of their single 'Unretrofied' which is utterly inferior to the album version. It's surprising how just a few small cuts of ambience and interludes can completely neuter a good song.

'Unretrofied' is followed by four covers. Nine Inch Nails' 'Wish', Massive Attack's 'Angel', 'Jesus Christ Pose' by Soundgarden and (for some reason) Justin Timberlake's 'Like I Love You'. There's a lot of potential here. I think all of those songs could have been twisted in interesting ways to match Dillinger's style but unfortunately every version is played more or less completely straight. It is impressive how vocalist Greg Prusciato does bang on impersonations of the voices of Trent Reznor, Justin Timberlake and Chris Cornell, but a cover version that sounds exactly like the original does little to interest me, and it's especially frustrating when a band like Dillinger, whose original material is so distinctive, chooses the easy route.

The last track is a live version of 'The Perfect Design' and it's pretty good. Perhaps they should have released a live EP instead.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Friday, November 03, 2006

Soulfly Video Clip

Soulfly at the gig I attended the other weekend:

Don't you think Max looks kind of tired?
Marc is going nuts though...

The Sun Sets Forever...

Opeth: Blackwater Park

I must admit I'm rapidly running out of ways to say how awesome these guys are. Blackwater Park is by common consensus Opeth's masterwork (at least to date) and, with the caveat that I'm still working my way through their back catalogue, I'm not inclined to disagree. The style and tone is much the same as that of Deliverance and Ghost Reveries; melancholy, elegant and heavy. Once again I'm very impressed with Akerfeldt's vocals, no other cookie monster singer I've heard manages to convey as much emotion as he does while growling. The truth is that I could go on fellating this guy for paragraphs, his guitar solos are always brilliant, and his songwriting is even better. One of the things I find so great about Opeth's songs is the way that every riff and passage segues perfectly into the next. Each song comes across as a wholly conceived piece where every part has it's meaning in the greater context.

Blackwater Park starts strongly and only gets better as it progresses. Every track has something special to recommend it as a candidate for 'most brilliant song ever', 'The Leper Affinity' is a good album opener, and is notable for a beautiful extended piano outro. 'Harvest' is probably the best acoustic ballad they've ever done, 'The Drapery Falls' has a haunting, sad main riff that will stay in your brain for days and 'Blackwater Park', the finale, just fucking rocks out more and more before culminating in one of the most powerful album climaxes I've ever heard. However I think my favourite track is 'Bleak', which manages to pack excellent examples of every style of Opeth's writing into nine too short minutes. Moody gothic passages, heavy metal, quiet peaceful interludes and a surprisingly catchy chorus. It's definitely a good place to start with these guys, and if you've never heard them before then your homework for this week is to listen to this album.

How To Make A Truly Realistic Computer Game

At Curmudgeon Gamer.

Speed Dating

Ever get tired of spending a long time getting to know someone only to be rejected? Ever wish there was a way to simplify and streamline the elaborate social rituals of meeting new people? If so then speed dating might just be for you! Now you can save time by being rejected by up to a dozen people in a few short hours! Recommended for everyone looking to lose a whole lot of excess self esteem.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Random Search Phrases

People have used the following terms to get to my blog:

"balding retaining widow's peak"
"wildebeest catfight artist"
"is there a song called stuck in your eyes?"
"you're still alive of course i'm alive no one can defeat me"
"the great singer jhon cash"
"chloroformed sleep video"
"falling out of my top"
"starfuckers britney comic"
"tequila and gatorade"
"good old fucking"
"buffy his sex slave"

and one that makes me feel this whole blog thing is worthwhile:

"midnight tides review steven erikson capitalism"

...possibly the first searcher who has found exactly what they were looking for (and it wasn't something dirty or inane).

N.B. forgive typos. Been speed dating. Very drunk.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Virgin Whore In A Dirty Wedding Dress

Lamb of God: Sacrament

Smart enough to be interesting and relevant, rock 'n roll enough to satisfy an urge for a good hard munt, Lamb of God are a solitary example of decent American metalcore in a sea of shite. Sacrament, their newest album, is somewhat of an attempt to break into the mainstream (based on its more catchy nature when compared to their earlier singles that I've heard). Even though it doesn't have the more aggressively 'mathy' (there's another term I hate) aspect of their older stuff, there's still enough of it to make things interesting, in a way they're kind of like a poppy Meshuggah. But aside from that twist it's pretty much just straight up, catchy metal.

It's brilliant for the most part, the highlights are 'Redneck' (with its must watch video) and 'Blacken the Cursed Sun' (which I mentioned when writing about their live show), but there's unfortunately some filler to be found on this album and the mood is pretty much monotonic, so it's best to listen to it in small doses rather than all at once.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fables: Legends in Exile

by Bill Willingham

The Fables graphic novel series has been produced for a few years on the Vertigo label, also home to the Sandman and Lucifer series'. Fables has a similar sort of premise to those other titles, only instead of mythological figures the protagonists are the inhabitants of European fairy tales, Snow White, Bluebeard, The Big Bad Wolf and so on. These characters have been exiled from their traditional fictitious homelands by a malevolent evil force (left fairly mysterious in this volume), and now reside incognito in New York City.

In this first collection Snow White (with the help of The Big Bad Wolf) investigate the disappearance and suspected murder of her sister Rose Red. The story is a clever enough murder mystery, and there are plenty of cute uses of the fairy tale setting. However while the mythological inhabitants of 'Sandman' or 'Lucifer' invite plenty of allegorical resonance, it's hard to do the same with fairy tale characters, as they're fundamentally shallower. Unless of course you do something like the Alan Moore 'Lost Girls' route and explicitly modernise them, but that's a post for another time...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Saturday Lesson

Gay dudes don't like it when you move in on their fag hags.

Friday, October 27, 2006

This Is The Place We Have To Go... To DIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!

Mayhem: De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Black Metal? Brutal grimy blast beats? Stupid facepaint? Or a bunch of maniacs running around Norway burning down churches? For most people with a partial knowledge of the genre it's the latter. Now meet Mayhem; the band more or less singlehandedly responsible for establishing this reputation. I recommend their wikipedia page for a run down on their general shenanigans. It's a good read, I laughed all night.

This particular album marks the last release of their 'classic' lineup. The only member remaining in the band after the release of the album was the drummer, Hellhammer, the others being respectively dead by suicide, murdered with a knife and in jail for murdering his fellow band member with a knife.

Although their music is broadly similar to death metal, when compared to the likes of Cryptopsy this album is much slower and less technically impressive and also very low-fi. The vocals too are completely different, rather than a death metal scream stand in singer Attila Csihar's voice (original singer Dead being, uh, dead) is more of a gurgle. For these reasons I wouldn't have expected to like it a lot but for some reason I can't get enough of this shit. Maybe it's just because I get a kick out of knowing that my music is being played by genuine honest to god homicidal maniacs, or maybe it's just because playing with balls to the wall insanity counts for as much as technical wizardry or amazing songwriting.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Gigantic Queue For A Gigantic Tour

Gigantour: Sydney 22 October 2006

This Sunday past I was counted among a fearsome throng of bogans, munters and generally feral metal heads that descended on the quiet Hordern Pavilion for a night of vigorous moshing, guttural screaming and wanky guitar solos. Young and old alike were united in their desire to drink too much beer and get covered in one another's sweat. It was time for Megadeth's Gigantour, not quite as big as the U.S. version (I would have wet myself if Opeth had stayed on for the Australian bill as well), but it was still one of the most metal-mungus nights out I've ever had.

The lineup was Caliban, Arch-Enemy, Soulfly and Megadeth. Due to a long wait in the line to get inside, I only caught the last two songs of Caliban's set. The parts of their performance that I caught were good, although their last song contained some ill-advised misadventures into balladry.


They were followed by Arch-Enemy, who started seriously rocking out immediately with some catchy 80s style thrash but even though it sounded great I wasn't paying any real attention until a song or two into the set, when I finished my important business in the drinks queue. “Ha! Their singer looks just like a chick!” I laughed when I first got a look at the stage. I then performed several consecutive mental double takes as I realised that the brutal death metal grunts were being produced by the little blonde chick on the stage. I don't know if I'd enjoy Arch-Enemy so much recorded, as thrash isn't really my thing, but live these guys rock out something awesome, best set of the night.


Featuring Small But Loud Blonde Chick

Next up, Soulfly! The band I was there to see. Unfortunately I don't have many photos of them as I spent almost the entire set deep in the moshpit excising some existential rage. I have to say that even though they were good, the band seemed to be kind of tired. I suspect that (considering that Prophecy and Dark Ages came out quickly in succession) the Sydney show was the second to last date in a very very long touring schedule. Even though their musicianship was stellar, they didn't quite bring the fire that I was hoping for. Of course they were still great, Marc Rizzo in particular was totally amazing. His flamenco guitar solo during 'Mars' was easily the highlight of the night. It was just a pity that my enjoyment of it kept getting interrupted by a bunch of munters trying to open a circle pit that they didn't even use properly. Some day I'll have to get around to writing a post on moshpit etiquette. Having said that, any lack of energy on the bands part was more than compensated by a what was for the most part a fun, enthusiastic moshpit.

Max Cavalera does this cool thing where he goes all blurry

The setlist was very much a greatest hits kind of deal (Disclaimer: this list is pulled mostly out of my mosh addled arse and is probably highly inaccurate):

Dark Ages
Roots Bloody Roots
Seek and Strike
Chaos A.D.
Execution Style
Arise Again
Back to the Primitive
An Eye For An Eye

Marc Rizzo: Hey, it's hard to take photos in a moshpit

Finally, Megadeth. To be honest, I couldn't have bought to mind a single bar of this bands music before the show began, but within a few songs it was apparent that a passing knowledge of generic 80s thrash is more than enough to make one familiar with Megadeth's music. They were decent performers, handled a competent wank solo or two and Dave Mustaine's intersong banter was at least somewhat witty and went a long way towards improving my opinion of him (at least after putting up with those idiots from Killswitch Engage last week). They also really rocked out while playing 'Holy War'. It's interesting to see how some bands manage to turn their most popular songs into a chore to be gone through at every show and others (such as Mustaine and Cavalera) can still do them justice even though they've had to play them every other night of their lives for ten years. It must be hard to tour for months and months and still bring passion to your music when performing every other night is your 9 to 5 job, so I guess it's understandable when not every set is a scorcher, and when a smaller band like Arch-Enemy outrocks a bigger (and better, at least on record) band like Soulfly.

Somehow it figures that the only decent picture I took all night was of Megadeth

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Wildebeest Asylum Special: Fashion DOs and DON'Ts

Based on my observations at the industrial club thing I went to last night:

  • 40 years of age + somewhat chubby ass + incredibly tight leather pants = Fashion DON'T

  • Pot belly + saggy man tits + tight see through mesh top = Fashion DON'T

  • Incredibly hot chicks + dreadlocks + kinky PVC outfits = Fashion DO

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Concert Clashes

January 24th:

January 25:
Big Day Out
Roger Waters

Does anyone have a cloning machine I can borrow?

Can You Smell The Fear?

Cryptopsy: Once Was Not

I've had this album for a couple of months now and I'm still not sure if it's brilliant or merely good. Earlier (in the context of writing about Rob Zombie's movies) I suggested that Cryptopsy were inferior to Opeth because their music, while impressive in some respects, was shallow and one-dimensional. I'm now prepared to take that statement back; while one-dimensional (they do only do more or less one style of music), it's completely unfair to call them shallow.

The sheer insane assault of their music is enough to confuse even the most open minded of listeners. As well as having the standard death metal full speed thrashing, their spastic, 'technical' (I hate that term) riffs and rhythms take things to a truly astounding level of controlled chaos. The drummer, Flo Mounier, deserves special mention, his combinations of Fantomas-like fills and freaky time signatures, done at typically absurd death metal tempos is frankly face-meltingly amazing. The vocalist, who goes by the title Lord Worm, makes up for having an uninspiring death metal voice by being an excellent lyricist. The subject matter may be standard death metal cheese, but it's very eloquently phrased:

One last
perfect night of Life on Earth,
I saw
a pestilence descend on wings
plague black,
as it rode the ancient Star Wind:
there are
things more horrible than death


Given that I've been on a solid diet of Opeth and Tool for most of the year it's not surprising that Cryptopsy didn't grab me when I first heard them, as they completely lack those bands melody based musicianship. However if you approach them as a band out to make the most completely fucking insane noise imaginable, they can't be surpassed. I expect to grow more fond of these guys, as I'm getting more into the album with each listen, but for now, crazy fucking noise alone doesn't make for more than an enjoyable diversion.

Friday, October 20, 2006

It's Big It's Heavy It's Wood

In a random fit of restlessness I flipped out and paid a scalper far too much money for an Unearth/Lamb of God/Killswitch Engage ticket. The band I was interested in seeing, Lamb of God, were pretty good but overall the show wasn't worth what I paid for it.

Impressions and shaky digital camera photos follow:

Based on the two songs of theirs that I caught, Unearth sound pretty much the same as Lamb of God. I hadn't heard them before and was interested but not as interested as I was in the drinks queue.

Lamb of God rocked out quite satisfactorily. A good mix of old and new stuff (their older stuff sounds a lot more fucked up than their new album, I may have to pick some of it up). They performed with ferocity and got the moshpit fairly intense towards the end of their set. I was stoked to hear them play 'Blacken the Cursed Sun', which is pretty much the reason I decided to go, just for the awesome call and response at the end:

Can we still be saved? (Hell No!)

Does your God hold a place for us? (Hell No!)

Is there time to repent? (Hell No!)

Will we rise from the dead? (Hell No!)

Can these sins even be forgiven? (Hell No!)

I was into it but the response from the audience could have been better.

Then it was time for Killswitch Engage. I honestly couldn't have named a single one of their songs before the start of their set, but thirty seconds in I picked them as the author of numerous shitty second rate nu-metal anthems that I am tormented with weekly in the local metal clubs.

I would just leave it at those few words of disdain if it weren't for their atrociously retarded between song banter. “Dude this stuff you're throwing up on stage isn't like, made of loads of money!” apparently plays well to the brainless 'just graduated from emo to nu-metal' crowd, but to anyone not giggly on account of their being at their first ever concert with actual beer in little plastic cups and sweaty fat old guys with mullets and West Coast Chopper t-shirts it makes you embarrassed to be listening. And I guess that goes double for Killswitch's music as well.

Scary Animal Photo Of The Day

Sorry Bob, couldn't find any truly gory photos.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Saturday, October 14, 2006

There Is A Day That Is Dawning

Opeth: Deliverance

Some bands are constantly changing and progressing their style. Others just do one thing and do it very well. Opeth are definitely one of the latter. In terms of style there is little to differentiate Deliverance from Ghost Reveries or Blackwater Park, it's still the same crunchy heavy metal outside with a delicious prog rock centre. Deliverance lacks the slick production of its successor Ghost Reveries (the first to be released on a major label, the munt-tastic Roadrunner Records) but that's easily ignored because the quality of the writing and musicianship is as stellar as ever.

The acoustic guitars make fewer appearances on this album than on others, due to it being released as part of a two disc set with Damnation, which is in turn almost entirely distortionless. Deliverance still contains one short acoustic song 'For Absent Friends', and 'A Fair Judgement' alternates slow, heavy parts with pretty, mournful ones to relate a sad tale of loss. The opening track, 'Wreath', isn't their best work, but the album ends with 'Master's Apprentices', a perfect example of heavy done heavy, and 'By The Pain I See In Others', in which they exercise their more trippy, moody side (while still remaining loud and growly).

Deliverance is not their best album. It's still fantastic but Ghost Reveries, Blackwater Park and maybe even Damnation are better. Still absolutely everyone must have this album for one very good reason. You may have heard that the end of 'Deliverance' (the song) is something special but it simply cannot be overstated just how awesome it is. The last five minutes of the song, the outro and it's leadup is an example of Mikael Akerfeldt's songwriting at its finest. At about the ten minute mark the song suddenly drops into a monotonously chugging, menacing riff, flies off into a glorious guitar solo and then descends into a peaceful acoustic part, over which Mikael sings “Deliverance, thrown back at me. Deliverance, laughing at me.” It will give you chills when you know what's coming next. The solo guitar riff that introduces the outro is fairly innocuous when you consider just how much it will stay in your head once you've heard the song a few times, but when the whole band kicks in to join it, anyone who's paying attention can do nothing but stand with their jaws hanging open and their underwear growing moister with each bar of glorious syncopated goodness.

In honour of this truly worthy contribution to art, culture and civilisation I am presenting Opeth with the very first Wildebeest Asylum Award for Excellence:

Well done boys. You've earned it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

1001 Albums – Number 2

Elvis Presley: Elvis Presley

Well it's only taken me six months but I finally got round to listening to some more of the stuff in this book. The delay is of course a natural consequence of my extreme and visceral dislike of the first album on the list; Frank Sinatra's In The Wee Small Hours.

Fortunately Elvis has impressed me a hell of a lot more than old Frank. Listening to this record (probably one the of the first real rock and or roll albums) in contrast to Sinatra gives an insight into just what made rock music so popular and revolutionary in comparison to the pop music that preceded it. While Elvis is pretty tame stuff by today's standards, you can still hear in the lyrics many of the techniques used by songwriters in any rock genre from indie to black metal, such as smutty innuendo and threats of violence.

Yes I must admit that I enjoyed this album. It will probably never be a regular feature on my playlist but I do appreciate its upbeat energy as a contrast to my normal musical diet and I was also very surprised by just how more impassioned Elvis is when compared to Sinatra or even to today's kings of the middle-of-the-road snooze-a-thon such as The Killers or Jet. Elvis had more balls in his little finger than either of those bands do in their collective testicles. Even if he does seem twee in some respects by modern standards, he at least sang like he meant it and not like an actor reciting melodramatic bullshit while knowingly winking at the audience the whole time.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What To Do With A Problem Like Korea?

Cross your fingers and hope the Chinese sort something out. (via No Right Turn)

Down The Stairs On To The Street And Into Traffic

Einsturzende Neubauten: Unglaublicher Laern

It's a little hard to keep up with Neubauten releases now that they're using a fan subscription based distribution model, based around two separate websites, which is why it's taken me over a year to get around to this particular album.

I've also somehow managed to miss getting the full story behind the recording of this album, but I do know that it involved an 'installation' in a small room and extraordinarily loud volumes. The album is an hour long continuous ambient noise piece and is almost completely amusical; no rhythm, no structure and only the occasional nod to tonality. But as long as you're prepared to handle that it's another excellent release from these guys. The music is a kind of found sound collage, which ranges in tone from noise done noisy to more gentle interludes. I found it captivating listening, but to someone not interested in industrial it would almost certainly be just another 'washing machine falling down the stairs' album.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Five Things I Hate About Sydney

5. The heat.

4. The poodles with painted toenails.

3. The indie rock.

2. The pink shirts on straight guys

1. The fact that everyone here, whether they are the most dedicated drum and bass nut or the trve-ist black metal psycho loves Kylie Minogue.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Worse Than John Howard

The second thing I've read to cause me to grind my teeth today.

I mean, Tool. There had better be something good on another stage when Tool are playing. Rarely has a band been better named than Tool. Lumbering, po-faced boys' music that lets squares kid themselves they're being edgy, that's what Tool is.

Okay, the Killers will be good, but Muse? Does anybody really like Muse? I seem to recall offering them some advice from the stands when they played in 2004: give up you pretentious bastards, or something of that order.

My Chemical Romance? Undeniably hot. The Violent Femmes? If it's to be rock reunions, I'll take the Lemonheads, thanks: that eponymous new album really is a beaut.

People who listen to My Chemical Romance deserve to be shot. End of story.

This Shit Really Fucks Me Off

By which I'm referring to this shit here.

John Howard is attempting to deflect attention from the fact that committing Australia to the war in Iraq was a stupid and ignorant blunder by attempting to stir up fear amongst conservative country folk about the evil cabal of liberal city dwellers who are going to surrender to Osama Bin Laden, turn your daughter into a lesbian and make you marry a dude.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What Do You Think?

Incredibly cool or incredibly stupid?

Can you even tell what it is without prompting?

That Man's Voice Is Scary

Riders On The Storm

by John Densmore

In a sensible, rational world Jim Morrison would not be nearly as cool as he his. A junkie who was obsessed with death, and dead by twenty seven, and by most accounts a total asshole to boot, he's nevertheless remembered as one of the twentieth century's greatest musicians simply because he was able to skilfully channel his darkness into song. His voice on songs like 'The End' gives chills every time because he evokes the universally human fear and fascination with death, rendered more poignant because now it is coming from beyond the veil. No one seems to be able to explain just why he headed on such a morbid, self-destructive path, but judging from the two autobiographies written by the other members of The Doors he was one of those rare larger than life figures who sucked everyone in with their charismatic aura. Both Ray Manzarek and John Densmore's books are ostensibly autobiographies, but are more about Jim than their authors. It gives the impression that they've lived in his shadow their entire adult lives.

It's interesting to compare the two books. They both tell more or less the same story, with many of the same anecdotes (and no contradictions as far as I could tell, not like those clowns Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and broadly agreeing on their assessments of Jim's character. The books differ superficially in the style of writing, while Manzarek is flowery and pretentious Densmore is sober and succinct, a contrast that matches predictably with their instruments of choice. More interestingly they differ greatly when sermonising on what the philosophy behind The Doors really was. Manzarek offers a predictably hippy interpretation, about hope for the future and 'Breaking On Through'. Densmore's moral is far darker, claiming that The Doors were about death, darkness and the blues, in counterpoint to the prevailing life affirming hippydom of the time. In this context Jim Morrison's decline and demise is the logical conclusion to such a philosophy; the confluence of sex, drugs, general hedonism and death. A warning both to the pollyanna flower children, reminding them of the myopic nature of their beliefs, and to those of a darker disposition, reminding them of the sad futility of a life of nihilism.

Perhaps it's my own myopic nihilism speaking but I greatly preferred Densmore's book. Not only is his message more grounded and balanced but his style of writing is far more personally affecting. Manzarek often seems to be putting a glossy sheen on the story, as if he is more concerned about preserving the legend of Jim Morrison and The Doors than in truly describing what it was like. Densmore's writing may be blunt and workman like but it is also touchingly honest, and although it ends on an incredibly grim note, pairing Jim Morrison's death with Densmore's brother's suicide, the final message is a very positive one, in which he learns from the mistakes of the dead and puts their shades behind him. It's far more genuine and worthwhile conclusion than Manzarek's flower power clichés.

First Big Day Out 2007 Announcement

Well after last years shit fest it looks like I shall be attending the ball this year, on account of must-see headliners Tool and Muse. The rest of the lineup is another train wreck in progress however. Peaches is cool but as for the rest... The Killers, My Chemical Romance, Jet, Violent Femmes, Scribe... could they have picked worse bands? Personally I'm still holding out for Paris Hilton...

What I Did On My Long Weekend Part 2

A pleasant trip to the countryside...

Unexpectedly turns into a life or death confrontation between man and nature!

The result:
Bird: 1

Humans: 0
 Posted by Picasa

What I Did On My Long Weekend Part 1

A day at the races

Lots of wind + lots of beer = bad hair day

Lots of wind + lots of boofy dresses = lots of drunken photos that won't be published here
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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's All About Rolling Things Up

We [Heart] Katamari

I never played the original Katamari Damacy game. It's rave reviews made me very interested in doing so, but alas as far as I could tell not a single copy ever made it to the South Island. Fortunately more recently I finally got my hands on a copy of the sequel, and as it was the only PS2 game I had with me for several weeks I gave it a serious amount of play time.

The first thing that grabs the player about this game is the goofy Japanese style. The art is incredibly brightly coloured and cartoony, the music is infectiously upbeat and the story is goofy and fun, belied only slightly by a few macabre overtones. In the first game the story was that the King of the Universe accidentally removed all the stars from the sky and you had to replace them by collecting items from Earth and rolling them up into a big ball; the titular Katamari. In the sequel the King (a vain and obnoxious monarch) is enjoying all the attention he's been getting since the first game came out (it's all very meta) and sends you out on various Katamari related missions in order to please his fans.

The game is very charming and is made more so by the twisted nature of Katamari creation. To start with you pick up small objects (household waste and insects) and you gradually get bigger and bigger, uprooting animals, people and buildings, until you get so huge that you can pick up entire cities in one go. The seeming disinterest of the King and the fans in the fact that creating a Katamari usually involves the wholesale destruction of entire civilisations is part of the game's perverse charm.

The gameplay itself is incredibly addictive in that way that only very simple games are. The Katamari is controlled entirely by the two analog sticks on the gamepad and this makes for a very fluid, intuitive game. The combination of relaxing, simple gameplay and the sheer glee you get from driving an almighty vehicle of destruction through city streets absorbing everything in your path means that it's easy to spend a lot of time on this game. Still everything wears out it's welcome after a while and I've more or less stopped playing it by now as once you've gotten as big as you can a few times there isn't much more to see. However it's a good 'pick up and play' game so I expect I'll pull it out every now and again in the future.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Always Falling Down The Same Stairs

Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones

Ever notice how solidly console video game controllers are built? It's a tradition left over from the 8 and 16 bit era. Many were the NES and Mega Drive controllers hurled at great force toward the TV screen back in the Travaglia household in the early nineties. The TV might get damaged, the controller cord might be ripped out of the console and cause all of your saved games to be lost, but the controller itself always remained perfectly functional. “Maybe you should go play outside for a while,” my dad would suggest.

“Motherfucker piece of shit cocksucker Ecco the motherfucking dolphin!” I would reply.

The era of two day gaming marathons spent patiently chipping away at some diabolically inclined side scroller is long past for me, but I'm sure many of you still remember the source of all the anguish: the genre known as the fucking platform game. Today's gaming industry has forgotten the traditional platformer, as gamers nowadays don't have the tolerance (or the anal retentiveness) for such titles, so I was surprised when they revived the Prince of Persia series. The first entry in the new series, 'Sands of Time', was a critical success but a commercial failure (an all too common misfortune for good games). The publisher Ubisoft responded by sexing up the sequel, 'Warrior Within', with more mature content (and of course when we say 'mature' we mean marketed towards horny teenagers instead of preteens). As much as the gaming intelligentsia derided this stupid need to appeal to the fourteen year old boy demographic (and the twenty-somethings with the buying habits of fourteen year old boys demographic) it seemed to work. I never played any of the games in the series (except for a very brief go at 'Warrior Within') but the latest instalment, 'The Two Thrones', came free with my new video cards (so I now have two copies, maybe I should have a competition and give one away) and I gave it a whirl.

It turned out to be great fun. The frustrating game mechanics of its old school forebears have been rethought and improved. Platformers have traditionally suffered from a tendency for a single false move to send your character over a cliff to instant death and back to a save point you passed ten minutes ago (if you were lucky enough to have a life left). The new Prince of Persia game still has fundamentally the same game concept: lots of jumping, climbing, swinging, swordfighting and general swashbuckling (only now in 3D), but the obnoxious frequency with which you plummet to an untimely death has been reduced by some nice innovations which also make the gameplay more fun. For example your character will never slip off a platform just because you pushed the controller in the wrong direction. Unless you specifically tell him to jump he will always catch the edge of the platform and allow you to get back on. Maintaining direction while jumping is no longer required, as the game automatically points you toward the nearest valid target and you merely have to worry about the timing and the choice of technique used to get to your destination. It probably sounds like they've made it too easy but it's more that they've stripped away the frustrating fiddly stuff and just left the aspects of platform jumping that actually made those old games fun. You still die often but another nice gameplay gimmick they've introduced in this series is the sands of time, a special power that the Prince has to reverse time (up to a maximum of six times before being recharged), so if you make a mistake a quick button tap pulls the Prince back up out of the bottomless pit so you can have another go. Invaluably handy in a game with arbitrary fixed save points.

The story also warrants a bit of a mention. While predictable, cheesy and full of fun historical trivia (did you know that Babylon was the capitol of Persia?) it is presented much better than the embarrassing efforts of most of it's peers and even contains an interesting plot hook in the form of the Dark Prince. The Dark Prince is the protagonist's evil alter-ego (bought to life by a magic spell gone awry, of course), and as the plot unfolds the Prince periodically transforms physically between his two forms (with different abilities and weaknesses for the player to contend with). It's kind of clever how the protagonist's two identities represent his different personalities in the two games preceding, but to no great surprise the writers naturally avoid any chance to turn this into a compelling allegory and keep things firmly in the 'cackling villain' mould of dramatic conflict. Still, even the fact that a video game contained the potential for an interesting story is heartening.

The game itself is great fun to play and manages to recapture that exuberant platforming fun that us oldies are too slow and decrepit to slog away at for hours and hours any more. Just one caveat. The PC port is jerky and buggy, you're probably better off getting a console version if you can.