TWENTY-TEN

Here We Go Again.

And so it begins again.

On the most part I really enjoyed 2009, I kept active, had a roof over my head, didn’t go hungry and was loved. I didn’t see my friends quite as much as I’d have liked to but it seems that we all share a similar modern condition that I don’t think has been officially named but I would label ‘Chronic business’. Life is full on and there’s always so much to do. If I have one resolve for 2010, then it will be to balance being social a little more.

December 2009 was an enjoyable month in spite of the seasonal madness that gets filed under ‘Christmas’. In adulthood I have found that  I have to define to myself what it is all about in preference to either being told that Its:

  1. A season to be fucking jolly.
  2. To celebrate the birth of Barry Christ into the world.
  3. To spend,spend,SPEND!
  4. Show good will to all men.

ALL MEN ?!            Jesus…

The true meaning of the mad season (to me) Is to celebrate the good fortune of having friends and family, the love we have for each other, the gesture of giving gifts that we hope each other will like whilst the year draws to a close and we punctuate the occasion with a gathering. I count these and other blessings, I know how fortunate I am to enjoy such things in this life.

This year the gathering was at my Mother’s house in Romsey, where we spent a very enjoyable three days with Mum, my sister and Mum’s fella. We had a lovely time and consequently the trip was over as quickly as It had begun.

 “Oh HIAB-X You can be so disgustingly vague!” 

I know, I know, dear reader, but you ARE the Internet and you COULD be a bloody looney toon or the stalkery type couldn’t you! Still, I don’t want you to feel completely excluded, this is a blog after all. Here’s a little clip of my family’s Christmas shenanigans.

Now, onto something I can talk about without much self censorship.The circus! :

Firstly, I’d like to briefly gush about James  Cameron’s cinematic 3D extravaganza that is ‘Avatar’ the movie. I didn’t want to get my hopes too high as much hype surrounded its making and release. Ordinarily, with such pre-release ‘Bigging-up’ many movies have only managed to disappoint their audiences when they finally make it into the bloody arena of public consumption. I’m happy to say that ‘Avatar’ lived up to the mountainous volume of hype that surrounded it.

The story itself isn’t particularly mind blowing, in many ways it made me think that it was Disney-movie-esque, insofar as it was a simple tale of *Spoilers start* damaged soldier-boy working for dodgy nasty  interplanetary deforesting company, gets sent to beautiful alien world to trick spiritual aliens into giving up their wonderful habitat. In the process, soldier boy finds his heart, realises that he’s working for the bad guys, falls in love with the pretty female alien love interest and becomes a heroic butt-kicking corporation-bashing eco-warrior who saves the planet and gets the girl and is finally healed. *Spoilers end*

Actually, although the plot was riddled with well trodden plot devices, it was thoroughly enjoyable and designed to please a universal audience. The film really transcends  the average movie blockbuster experience by delivering truly jaw-dropping 3D visuals from start to finish. Believe me dear voyeur, I’m reasonably hard to impress as far as gasping in amazement goes, yet at times during Avatar, I did just that. This in turn lead me to grin from ear to ear throughout most of the film. Cameron’s vision of a tropical, living, alien world is absolutely stunning and so rich in colour and detail. Combined with the best 3D cinematography I have ever seen, I felt that the movie was probably the closest I will get within my lifetime of experiencing another habitable planet.  Avatar goes beyond being a movie, it is equally an experience. If you haven’t been to see this film at the cinema yet, do so now!

Much to my surprise, my wife had expressed a keen interest in getting a Nintendo Wii console at some point. I say ‘surprise’ because I’d taken it that she just wasn’t into gaming as a form of being entertained. I’d tried to indoctrinate her into the world of Playstation on several occasions and found that my efforts were rendered useless

as she failed to come to grips with using the controller.It might as well have been a football.

Christmas came and went, Santa dropped a popular gaming console beneath the Christmas tree for the Lady Miss T. And now, I must take my metaphoric hat off to Nintendo for succeeding in every area where Sony and myself failed, for they have made a console that really does convert the female, non-gamer demographic. Alright, part of the success must be attributed to the whole concept of what is now known as ‘Wii Fit’. It stealthily slips under the radar as being a ‘Fitness package’ that can be used in the home as an alternative to spending a shed load of hard earned cash on an annual gym membership. What It also does is introduces the casual/non-gamer into the realm of identifying with an on screen character whilst using a sublimely designed game controller. Ah you cunning Nintendo people!

So, Miss T was suddenly getting into switching on a console and using virtual environments to frolic in the name of fitness. I’d previously looked down on the Wii as a gimmicky games console that couldn’t match the technological power-houses that are the PS3 and Xbox 360. I now know how mistaken I have been with this ill considered opinion. For a start, I can now appreciate how the Wii encourages a significant degree of physical activity in its user participation. The titles I have played so far: Wii Sports, Wii sports resort, Wii fit, Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles and Dead Space Extraction all require a fair degree of arm waving, knee bending body movement to control and therefore cause the player to be physically engaged in the business of having fun.

I also have to admit total amazement at how the Wii has created the appropriate conditions where I can now sit and happily play something like Dead Space with my wife being a willing co-op player helping me dismember hordes of Necromorphs. I’m feeling the need to pinch myself whilst typing! 😉

This neatly allows me to briefly mention games I’m currently enjoying. You’ll have to excuse my briefness on these at the moment, I’ve only got so much time to blog…

Batman Arkham Asylum                                         PS3

Beautifully rendered, sublimely designed for ease of play, great character acting, sprawling gothic environments, puzzle, combat and exploration mechanics all wrapped up stunningly in the Batman universe. What isn’t there to like about it? (Unless you don’t like Batman!)

Modern Warfare 2                                                     PS3 

High octane, High Definition, Realistic FPS combat, raising the bar on what can be achieved on the current generation of consoles. Superb story, co-op and multi player modes offer a worryingly addictive gameplay experience. It really gives me high hopes for what the inevitable Killzone 3 will be like.

Dead Space Extraction                                               Wii

The original 2008 ‘Dead Space’ became a console defining, gaming experience for me. It was richly detailed, seamlessly  cinematic in its delivery as something you can take equal delight in watching as you can in playing. Oh and it was bloody terrifying at times too. So I must say, when I heard that Visceral Games were going to create a Wii prequel, I was initially disappointed that non Wii users were going to be missing out…but then again, It was only the Wii wasn’t it!

WRONG!

Dead Space Extraction is an on ‘Rails’ shooter, which for those of you who have no idea what that means, is rather like being on a ghost train with machine guns mounted on the front carriage. You have no control over where your character travels but you DO have ultimate control over how they fight and ultimately survive the horrors that await them.

This is what Dead Space Extraction is all about and it succeeds admirably. The story is great, the action/combat is beautifully designed to make the most of the Wii controller system and the icing on the graphical cake, is that it is a visually awesome game considering the hardware limitations of the console it had been designed for. Here’s the trailer…

Roll on Dead Space 2…

Moving onto the iPhone.

My app of the month has to be ‘Vintage Video Maker’ (3GS only) from MacPhun. At £1.79 , this is clearly the most useful and enjoyable addition to my camera app collection so far. It does pretty much what it says it does, It converts video clips into something that looks far more rustic and quaint. The majority of the Christmas movie above was created using ‘VVM’, I used iMovie to add titles, soundtrack and join the clips together, other than that, the whole Super 8 effect was added in-phone by the application. I particularly like the way that it can make an otherwise mundane looking clip of everyday life suddenly look dynamic and charming like the old Cine-cams of yesteryear. The settings in VVM allow you manipulate the film speed (Regular to 3X speed) and also choose between black and white, 1920’s movie or 1960’s home movie. If you have an iPhone 3GS and are generally underwhelmed by the character of your video clips, Vintage Video Maker will give your filming sessions a whole new lease of life. Its great fun and so easy to use.

Anyway, enough of this reviewing business for this entry!

I hope that what I’ve mentioned here is of interest to those who are in touch with their inner geeks 😉 I’ll have to write a blog in ASCII some time…

Just Kidding.

OR AM I ?!

At some point in time, maybe next entry, I’m going to have to rant a bit. Lots of people all over the world vent their spleens about this and that so I think I’m going to as well. Come back here in a week or two and watch me go all HULK over your ass, shudder as I open a tin of whoop-ass, I’m going to explode, it’ll be terrifying. You’ll probably need counselling afterwards…perhaps then you’ll decide to ditch this modern life with all of its stresses and opt to join a commune of hippies instead. But beware of hippies, they should not be trusted, they make me angry and then you and I are back at square one again.

Think about it, OK? Just THINK about it; that’s all I have to say for now. Hmmm? Hmmm!