Monday, 9 December 2013

Past/Present Identities

Would there be stagnation with no past identities? Or are past identities constructs that determine our own present identities, rather than our present identities being built purely on actions and nothing else?

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Who is the You?

My face is blue from all the lying I did for you,
My tongue is tied from all the crying I did for you,
My lips are parched from all the sighing I did for you.

For who is the you in love with the blue,
That closeted the hope in love with the dreams?
And who upset the path that saw the light,
Screening down walls to blend with the night?

My tears are true from all the falling I did for you,
My hands are raw from all the lifting I did for you,
My chest is tired from all the breathing I did for you.

For who is the you that speaks of the true,
That dares to call a foul on the broken seams?
And who denied the chance to leave behind,
What wasn't ours but always abides?

Sunday, 6 October 2013

I am the Local Atheist: Sample

If I hadn’t known any better I would have thought that God was washing the streets of Invercargill down, or at least, making a valiant attempt at it. Sometimes I admired God’s resolve to wash as much crust off the earth as possible in one foul swipe, but here it looked like rain had been an afterthought without any enthusiasm. The gutters, on the other hand, ran their streams of water down the street like there was no tomorrow. For them judgement day had arrived far too early, so they had filled up and put as much effort as they could muster into their man-made purpose. The bus stop was left to fend for itself, giving as much shelter as it dared without encroaching too far onto the footpath, as though that was dangerously close to feeling the wrath of the gutters in all their pleasure. And I was left to sit on its light blue bench with my feet being spat at from above. Thanks.
I tried to tuck them under me but the seat had been attached just low enough to make it uncomfortable. So I just sat there looking out at the rain, noticing the swaying of trees under the weight of their saturated branches in the park over the road, the falling of droplets from the cross beams framing the bus stop. It was unusual to see them fall like that – like I had never paid attention to such a simple thing before. Each droplet that fell transferred itself from one place to another – in this case, from the bus stop to the ground – and forever changed its very nature.
It was suicide.
Just as the newspaper had reported: “… girl kills herself by jumping off the overpass into oncoming traffic.”
A year later and that headline still made me feel sick.
I looked up the road to see if the bus was in sight. Nothing but tired bursts of rain pelted the streets. I sank back into the shelter.
It was so strange hearing about suicide in such a small tight-knit community, especially when God was supposed to be watching over those of us who were in His care. The shock-wave passed over at least half the town’s population, not just a small segment of family and friends like it might have in a larger city. Mum had told me that the churches were “praying together” though she didn’t actually see any of them get together: “I guess it’s the thought that counts,” she said, blowing smoke and looking sideways out of her kitchen window.
I was completely unaware of what anyone else had to say since much of the details had remained behind closed doors – doors that had been closed to me for as long as the article had been burned in my memory now; longer in fact. It had quoted an outspoken congregation leader who was more than happy to pass the blame onto the girl’s failure to attend church (“a lack of faith”), peer pressure and drugs as though that was all that was needed to explain it, as if one person’s crises could be condensed into a few catch-phrases. But one person’s transition from a natural state into a falling fragment of a larger issue could never be understood if blame and finger-pointing were all that was required to assert some kind of resolution.
I hated the way church leaders got themselves up on a pedestal once a microphone had been stuck in front of their mouths.
I didn’t like thinking about it either: It reminded me too much of the crises that Lisa had been through a year earlier and the attempts I had made at trying to help her.
The splashing of tyres ploughing puddles out of the way brought me out of my reverie and I stood up to attract the bus’s attention. The drains flooded over and washed ever closer to my feet as the bus slowed down to a sneak, almost as though the driver wasn’t sure about who they were picking up: a standard passenger? or some crazy hitchhiker waiting to take out his vengeance on a world that had deserted him?
The doors opened and I tried to keep my head low, eyes staring at the ground.
“Art Gallery please.”
I placed my coins into the dish of the ticket dispenser. I hated those damn things – I could never tear the tickets off properly. And this one didn’t do me any favours. I tugged at it, but it didn’t rip, so I twisted it and tried to tear it sideways but it only pulled more ticket out instead.
The bus driver got impatient and reached his hand over to help but I said “I can do it”.
He didn’t care and replied “Here, do it like this…” but I was too concerned about proving that I could do it that our hands began competing for the pull of the ticket.
“Just let go, kid!”
Fuck him. “I can do it!”
“Just leave it.”
“It’s alright!” Both our voices were nearing shouting level.
“Y’ fuckin’ ruining the machine – leave it!”
I let go and took a step back. My heart was beating a strong thud that echoed in my ears. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t care y’ little shit. Just take the ticket and sit down.”
I took the extended ticket from his fingers, feeling as though his eyes were about to throw fire-balls at me.
I moved down the aisle as faces turned away in quiet astonishment, a few eyebrows raised as attention wandered elsewhere. I sat as close to the back doors as possible so I wouldn’t have to move past anybody when the bus stopped to let me out.
The steel bar that separated my seat from the doors was still cold from the morning’s frost, as though an afternoon that was supposed to warm everything up had nothing to say for itself. I placed my arms down on it and buried my head in the folds of my jacket trying desperately to calm the thoughts that wanted me to get off the bus and just go back to my bedroom where I would be safe again, unmolested by a world that constantly demanded answers from me.
I found solitude and silence, but once my thoughts became quiet, the world outside began to rise into recognition and conversations took the place of my abandoned thoughts:
“Where you off to today?”
“Heading to town for food. So cold in the flat.”
“So sick of being cold too.”
“I know, Chris was gonna steal some wood from the neighbour’s wood pile because we ran out and our student allowance doesn’t cover warmth. Tertiary education? Yes; Food? Yes; warmth? No!”
“The government is way to stingy to provide that kind of help. New casino? Yeah totally, we’ll help pay for that…”
“That store is the shit man, they got the best games at cheap-as prices.”
“Dude I don’t know man, I got some pretty cheap games off the net. And most of those cheap-as games are second hand.”
“Yeah but postage is crap, especially from overseas – I ain’t payin’ for that. I’d rather just walk into town just to warm up and have something to do than sit in my crappy uninsulated student flat ordering online and trying to coax as much heat as possible from the computer’s processor…”
“The gallows, of course, were originally designed to be an example of punishment being met and justice prevailing, but as Dickens was quick to observe, those who turned up to watch were only there for their own perverse viewing pleasures and the gallows were no longer about punishment but about propagating a system of belief. The gallows lost all their ability to become a deterrent from crime after seeing so much of it: if you got caught you got caught, if you didn’t you were lucky and could live to thieve another day.”
“Dickens was a pessimist.”
“No, he was the supreme optimist, who believed in the good of man prevailing. Not only does A Christmas Carol show this but practically all his other novels in one way or the other.
“I can’t be bothered with old fat books that do nothing but exemplify nineteenth century attitudes…”
I couldn’t be bothered paying attention to a discussion that exemplified people’s opinionated beliefs. I wanted to be in my bedroom wrapped up in blankets, staring at the wall – doing anything but facing a world that hated me; that I hated for hating me.
Though I knew it was near, the gallery seemed too far away, occupied by people that I had to hide from, make myself inconspicuous and not draw attention to for fear that they find out who I was. I had thought that there would be consolation knowing that Lisa would be there, someone I knew and had spent valuable time getting to know, someone whose life I knew I had had a positive effect on and helped bring light that had lifted her out of darkness, but thoughts of her and our quiet estrangement over the past year and a half only created more anxiety that I had to deal with.
The bus lurched sideways and screeched to a halt, knocking several passengers against the walls. I stood up and got off as quickly as possible without bothering to thank the driver, as I used to so often do, thinking that they would appreciate it. Did they care? I don’t know. I didn’t care – and that was all that mattered.
No one was entering the art gallery when I got there. No one had gone in as I had crossed the road and walked up to a building that loomed over the street corner with the scars of age peeling from its pale exterior; I had the feeling of complete emptiness surrounding me – a dead town with a ghost walking the streets.

The entrance was a subtle corridor of steps that raised the level of the building above ground zero; paintings had been hung to each side – simple pastel portraits that did little but diminish the inner glow of their subject (too many greys). The inner room opened up to me with a deep red lining the wall behind the hung paintings. Numerous bodies shuffled about on a light brown carpet, dodging the occasional painting that sat on the floor or leaned against a wall as though it were too cool to be hung like a martyr for everyone to stare in wonder at.
I let myself disappear as best I could behind a group of people, slowly making my way around to the wine table of which was just a wooden barrel off a farm that someone had attached a round plank to. A large bowl of grapes centred the weight allowing the glasses to sit precariously round the edge and the wine bottles inside of them. I kept my head low, not daring to meet any eyes as I filled a glass to the brim and returned to my place against the wall behind the same group. The wine was very smooth, almost palatable enough to appeal to a wide range of tastes – hardly a drink to offend people with or cause any winces of distaste. I winced as it slid into my empty stomach and highly regretted not having something to eat before I left the flat.
My attention turned to a number of paintings that hung close by, each exhibiting random collections of shapes that left trails of black dust behind them. I wondered what the artist had been thinking. Random shapes? Black dust? The painting said nothing; perhaps abstract expressionism had betrayed the artist this time around and shown what they lacked instead of what they were trying to bring forth from deep within. A larger painting was nothing more than colours smudged into each other – and not even colours that stood out or attracted the viewer towards it. How it ended up on a wall in a gallery was anybody’s guess.
The paintings were boring. The rest seemed to meander in defining the artists’ abilities rather than invoking a sense of the paintings’ subjects. I did not care for these works. Even the angels frolicking in their wispery garden couldn’t let go of their own self-righteousness to portray anything beyond human grasp, anything worth striving for, anything worth believing in: serenity, peace, happiness; they did none of this, merely danced and held each other’s hands in the light of watercolour desperate to show something but failing to portray anything. I hated this town!
I moved along the walls among the rest of what the gallery had to show for itself, trying not to edge too close to the special ribbon that marked off the area where the new artist’s exhibition was to be unveiled. I ended up in a corner, peering down at a collection of small amateurish-looking paintings that seemed to be gathered in their very own space – why I don’t know, I can’t even remember the stupid things; perhaps they were trying to absorb the conversations that drifted by, a means of becoming something that they simply weren’t. I became the corner too.
“Very impressive detail.”
“I like the subtlety of light that exemplifies the structure of the building.”
“Yeah, I was actually talking about the snacks on the table here. You know I didn’t come for the art, right…?”
“It is true though, he was avoiding the meeting. I tried to convince him to change the time but he’s so stubborn. I’m glad though, it meant he got to spend time with his son some more, and I’m cool with that…”
“There were some paintings I saw in New York once – did I tell you that I went to New York…?”
“Art today seems so void of inspiration, true divine inspiration. For me, it’s just one big nod towards the loss of piety in the world.”
“In other words, the world is going to the dogs?”
“Yeah, and Art along with it. Atheists can pretend to be good all they like, show virtue and respect, but at the end of the day, good will towards fellow human beings won’t guarantee them an escape from the afterlife.”
I looked for a way to move myself away from the nearby voices, but couldn’t get out of the human trap of surrounding bodies that I had cornered myself in.
“Pessimists and free-will advocates will always try to tell you that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are merely human judgements and nothing more, yet our redemption through the saving power of Jesus is proof that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are real concepts that exist as part of God’s great plan.”
“Bad day at work, Jim?”
“Huh. Just sick of atheists trying to pretend that good will represents some kind of be-all and end-all of behaviour. I respect them for having that moral code, but not trying to lord it over the rest of us as a defining good.”
“Are you implying that atheists are inherently bad?”
“Well, if they have chosen to ignore the call of Christ, and allow their souls to perish in hell, then yes, that is bad. Would you dare let your son grow up without Jesus in his life?” There was a round of “No”s from the rest of the group – the women clasped themselves in astonishment, as though the unthinkable had been spoken. One of them seemed to get up enough courage to say “No. Then I think that would be bad of me, and unfair to not allow him that opportunity of knowing Jesus – it would be bad to deny any of my children that opportunity.”
That would mean that my mother and father had been nothing but good, as they had insisted that I be at church every Sunday morning getting to know Jesus. I wondered though what that made me. Had I deserted Jesus, or had Jesus deserted me? I wanted to believe that it was the latter, but knew deep inside that it wasn’t. Knowledge of this made me feel terrible, so guilt-ridden and ashamed. I hated Jesus for making me feel this way.
The woman, on the other hand, was obviously feeling quite righteous as she let go of her husband’s arm and began taking a stand for her own opinions. “It would be nothing short of immoral, degenerate!”
“That is right. Atheists are handicapped from living a full life because they have no support from a higher being, no one who will love them unconditionally. Putting faith in Jesus allows us to live the greatest human experience without fear of falling. And without Jesus to lean on, atheists fall. A long way. They fall into the never-ending spiral of moral decay, and it is only Jesus that can ever save them from that.”
“Why, no wonder there are so many young people on drugs, so many homeless…”
I stopped listening. Some conversations can’t help but reduce themselves to displays of ignorance. Not knowing Jesus had nothing to do with why people did drugs, or why there were homeless in the streets (I had no idea what she was talking about in the latter case – she must have been thinking about the homeless in other cities, other countries…); but knowing Jesus had certainly given me focus and something to believe in outside of myself.
But where was that now? I felt like I had nothing. Handicapped and unable to bring myself out of this hole that had been dug for me.
A streak of wavy light brown hair caught my attention: it belonged to a girl standing amongst some fellow companions. And all of a sudden my heart raced. The head began turning; I knew who it was: Lisa. She saw me; we both turned away.
When I had stood in the same place for long enough staring at the same painting without any recognition of its artistry, I glanced back to where she had been standing but there were only strangers there. I thought I was as far into the corner as you could stand, but I felt a finger tap me on the shoulder. It could only be one person… and she was no longer standing where I had last seen her.
I turned – ever so slightly – remembering everything as they came into my vision: the shoulders, square with a woollen jersey casually hanging from them and falling down to a large waist; feet firmly planted on the ground in loose fitting sneakers – the shoelaces hidden under the ends of casual slacks.
“At least you’re not staring at my breasts.

Saturday, 28 September 2013


They call me a musician,
But all I do is philosophise on ideas.
They call me a painter,
But all I do is rape the canvas.
          I burn the body
          to raise up new standards.

I wanted to create, to make, to build. But it was all destruction, a seasoned professional turning into a fool. I sympathised with losers like it was a winner's game, but nothing was so perceptive as the hours disintegrating.

They call me a saviour,
But all I do is retrace old footsteps.
They call me a delinquent,
But all I do is summarise my feelings.
          I burn the temple
          to heighten the senses.

I wanted to share, compare, and fill. But it was all emptiness, a burdened excuse for realising the truth. I distinguished the difference when all of it was the same, and nothing was so deceptive as the hours disintegrating.

  - 27/09/13, Auckland

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The only wrong choice is the one you can't commit to.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Artrant 2: From the mouth of the unlearned

“In Péguy’s time, the time of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, the visual arts had a kind of social importance they can no longer claim today, and they seem to be in a state of utter convulsion. Did cultural turmoil predict social tumult? Many people thought so then; today we are not so sure, but that is because we live at the end of modernism, whereas they were alive at the beginning.” (p. 9)
The Shock of the New: Art and the century of change (Robert Hughes)

Space art (space environments, its ships and its people) is a form of projected realism that harks back to classicism – a time when form and the portrayal of classic themes (more often than not, representing reality) were paramount.
When art, or culture, is done and dusted with realism within the natural or man-made environment, it absolutely has to project forward and beyond in order to cover new ground of some sort, if only to avoid regurgitating the past. Abstract art and surrealism was the result of this need during the early 1900s, but now art is done and dusted with those forays as well and is asking itself “where do we go from here?”
What I see, especially on deviantART and the artwork of video games, is art projecting into the fantasy realms, not in the abstract, but through realism. Abstract art and surrealism were born from the known reality as a way of twisting it and trying to uncover the unknown; but there is little known in outerspace to begin with so most space art is a manifestation of the known – you could almost refer to it as practicalism, as many tried to understand space as environments that humans can fit themselves into and survive within, therefore realistic of our current environments. I see the work of Jim Burns as a great conveyor of this sense of realism in space, and much space art has followed on from his work. Ian Miller and John Harris are good examples of the abstract needing to express the unknown - Ian Miller’s work is where fantasy fornicates with reality; the work of John Harris is a dream state that provides little trinkets of knowledge about a far greater unknown.
What’s weird is that what I see is most space art moving away from any sense of surrealism like in the 1960s and 1970s (exaggerated spaceships of Chris Foss), beyond the abstract impressionism of Harris, and back to projected realistic environments in an attempt to grasp some kind of concrete acceptance of the unknown.

“Many people think the modernist laboratory is now vacant. It has become less an arena for significant experiment and more like a period room in a museum, a historical space that we can enter, look at, but no longer be a part of. In art, we are at the end of the modernist era…” (Hughes)

 It’s actually funny that someone can (potentially, if they haven’t already) have an art exhibition called ‘the history of space’ because of their chronicled paintings of a projected space age.
The future is a museum.

-         26/06/13, Gisborne

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Any Father

There’s this man who exists and he has done nothing to get to know his own son on the son’s terms, instead of just how he sees that son through his own eyes. It does not occur to him that this son is so different from the eldest that he simply can not approach him in the same manner. Eyes to see this son’s activities will only reveal a cursory glimpse of a human being trying to stay alive - somewhat unsuccessfully you can imagine his interpretation being - whereas observation of the eldest reveals immediate stimuli that can be engaged with.

The youngest son’s world is not open like that, but that is not to say it is closed. Far from it. The youngest son’s world exists behind layers you must traverse and become acquainted with not through observation or action, but through listening.

That is all it takes. Listening. Simple. Any father can do it.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A Scene: I See Her in a Wetsuit Now

I see her in a wetsuit now. Day in and day out, sometimes with a t-shirt covering her top half like she was a surfer donning some modesty over her beautifully crafted body, most days like she had just stepped off the beach, but with dry curly blonde hair framing her smiling and lightly freckled face. A dream that walks the sand, the halls and doorways, the bed... and deposits itself in the only real-world memory I have of her: sitting next to me at the car warrant of fitness testing station, a knuckle scratching her forehead, sand lightly sprinkling the floor beneath her worn out, loose-laced brown boat shoes.
“Hi. My name’s Cale,” I say turning to the wetsuited woman next to me.
She turns he head slightly, eyes casting their gaze at me with some humorous suspicion.
“Let me guess,” I say. “A surfer.”
Her voice gently sails back at me, “No”.
“A wetsuit designer then.”
She smiles, cheeks creasing underneath her eyes. “No.”
“Well, you must be a wetsuit model then.”
She laughs quietly and shakes her head.
It seemed pretty obvious to me at this point, but I didn’t want to give up the game.
“Umm, how about a scientist designing the best clothing for all weather purpose.”
Her teeth were beginning to shine through her curved lips. “It gets pretty hot inside these wetsuits.”
“So the design’s not working out?”
Her eyes rolled towards the man walking into the waiting room who stretched the Warrant of Fitness sheet out to her. “Car’s all ready to go. Bit of rust around the edges, but you’ll be okay ‘till next time.”
She stood up accepting the Warrant. “Oh cool. I work near the marine reserve so I’ll definitely keep an eye on it. Thanks.”
“No problem.”
She gestured a thumb to the seat behind her. “Sorry about the sand.”
He put up a hand. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll grab the dust-buster later. Just enjoy the rest of your day.”
And she was out the door before I had a chance to even raise a hand to ask for a name... a number... a date... something.

Monday, 13 May 2013

How Many Enterprises Can We Destroy?

Star Trek: Into Darkness has everything that both an action fan and a Star Trek fan could want: space battles, fist fights, Klingons, canon characters, aliens, a baddy who is truly threatening and Kirk giving every woman who walks past ‘the eye’.
What more could you want?
Well, for a starters, a storyline that doesn’t end just as it gets going.
One of the great failings of Hollywood producers and writers is their inability to trust an audience with more than just one thread of story – one single thread. Into Darkness was written as though the producers saw the secondary storyline they had presented us with – that of an Admiral wanting to start a war with the Klingons – as too much of a hassle to try to flesh out and incorporate further into the film so decided that it was far easier just to kill it. What we get left with is a bad guy story so standard that you could take out all SF trappings and it would be, at the most, just a second-rate action film.
Warstub, you’re being too harsh. Didn’t you enjoy it?
I certainly did enjoy it. It was action-packed with a story that kept pushing forward, that is, until I realised that it wasn’t pushing forward any more and had settled for the action sequences to wrap everything up with. ‘But, but, what about the Klingons? What about all the death that the bad guy caused while Kirk was on the Klingon home-world? Shouldn’t they be blaming humans for this and deciding to retaliate?’ Heck, with that scenario, the Admiral barely even needed to show up to try to ‘fix’ things and start the war he was after; the Klingons would have been so pissed off that they should have been gathering all Birds of Prey together and initiating a battle in space regardless of what the humans were or weren’t doing. There was this feeling throughout that the writers felt like they needed to fall back on using a canon character to draw in our attention and interest. ‘What else you got writers?’ Well, they said straight back at me, wanna see us destroy another Enterprise? ‘Gee, I don’t know. There seems to an abundance of Enterprises going down in feature length films that it almost seems old hat’ I say back at them. Oh, in that case, we’ll save it then. But just in case, here’s a really, really, big Federation ship crashing into the sea causing a massive wave of destruction and then skidding onto land and ploughing through tall buildings and killing lots of good innocent people!
And it’s not even the fall-back technique in the end – Christopher Pike, Kirk dying for dramatic effect and motivational drive, the attempt at learning human emotion through Spock and Lt. Uhura having a relationship; it’s the fact that none of these things moved together in a fleshed out storyline. Into Darkness did little more than present characters and a bad guy fighting against each other as if to do nothing more than justify itself as back-story. And don’t even get me started on the inconsistencies to canon that seemed to get thrown right out the window for the sake of dramatic effect!*
For the first half, if not even three quarters, this film was really enjoyable and actually quite strong, one I recommend but with serious reservations; and the critique that I’ve bombarded it with is really aimed at the writers and studios who never seem to balance good story with original characters and original plot. On reflection,1 I’m actually disappointed in how much the film falls back on old characters, because if anything, that’s just a sign of not being able to come up with their own wonderful and original script. I find the story parallels to previous Star Trek films and canon actually souring my original enjoyment of Into Darkness.
I guess less Trekkie, more action might be the short story,” Anthony Marcoly told TheWrap.2 And when you look back on the story, it actually does feel short – even at a full two hours!
What is ultimately disappointing is that the writers had an action-packed bear-bones script that could have still remained faithful to canon instead of sacrificing characters that appear later on in The Original Series just for the sake of drama. That’s just poor writing as far as I’m concerned.
Is it too much to expect more in Science Fiction?
Is it too much to ask for better consistencies in extrapolated universes?
I don’t think so.

1This paragraph was written the following day.
*Yeah, yeah, I know... "It's a different timeline" I say flippantly "whatever!" The use of TOS canon characters is what is so souring - they are only being used for dramatic effect, not as potential storylines. Pike being killed off is proof of this. NO ORIGINALITY! 

Monday, 29 April 2013

You can point your finger all you like at one person's bad habits, but it won't change the problems that already exist within the system.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Hello Morning

Hello morning once again,
I’ve come to wrap you in my arms again.
I brought you flowers for your windowsill,
So you could gaze
Upon them now,
And bring your light
Into their world.

Hello my darling once again,
Do you still dream or do you just pretend?
That all your troubles are so far away,
But you don’t have to
Worry now,
Love will never
Let you down.

Hello my cobblestone path,
I’ve come to hold your hands in mine again
I thought you’d like this company I give.
So you don’t have to
Walk alone,
Love will never
Let you go

Hello starlight once again,
I’ve come to look upon you as my friend.
I brought telescopes and observant eyes,
So I could gaze
Upon you now,
And let your light
Into my world.

- 09/04/13, Gisborne

Sunday, 7 April 2013

An Aversion to Music in Films and Video Games

So have you ever watched a film and wished the music wasn’t so cliché, wasn’t so persistent, wasn’t so in-your-face, and could just give the characters and action some breathing space? I barely watch films at all these days, and am far more interested in watching a film with little if no incidental music, so that I am in no way ‘influenced’ in how I should be feeling about what is happening on screen. It is unfortunate that some directors rely heavily on music to support their scenes, as though they don’t have enough confidence in themselves to film a scene that expresses it’s own emotions without the assistance of music; of course there are some who are very good at using music and that’s cool. One film I really dig for allowing important scenes to exist without music is Haywire by Steven Soderbergh. The following is one of the best fight scenes in the film and not a single shred of music - until, that is, the very end when the fight has ended.

It’s just such a great example of not relying on music as a crutch to enhance a scene, allowing the action to exist on it’s own, and to very much speak for itself. I find the culmination of this scene far more shocking without music, because I am forced into this reflective position of How am I supposed to feel about this?, instead of being told by the music just how I am supposed to feel according to Western Musical conventions. More often than not, the stylish soundtrack in Haywire is used to segue scenes together, as happens prior to this scene when Mallory and her companion set out for the night.
I got over music scores in video games very quickly after having to hear the same generic string section repeating the same themes over and over for 20 hours or more. I think I can trace it back to car racing games when having to hear the same song within a certain time frame over and over just kills it for me and I’d much rather listen to my own, and far more extensive, selection of Hard Rock and Metal songs while I attempted to ram other cars off the road for days on end. Imagine putting over 100 hours into an Open-World RPG while being forced to listen to a 79 minute soundtrack over and over and over... I get that there are people who do just that, but for me this is how music gets killed. It’s also how my experience of a video game gets killed.
I think I reacted negatively to the soundtrack in Bioshock: Infinite within the first or second major fight when I heard a specific percussion thumping that I immediately recognised as ‘the combat music’. I was in the menu screen shutting that off instantaneously! The Halo games really annoy me because the music is on the same track as the dialogue track, but at least the moody music of ODST was a welcome change.
I realise that music is supposed to be part and parcel of the entertainment factor, but to be honest with you, when a game is trying to immerse me in its world, an orchestra playing in some ethereal realm is really off-putting.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Bioshock: Infinite - Linear gameplay trapped inside a non-linear story

*End of game theme and story spoilers below*

Any story that has to wrap things up with extended scenes that explain what you have never taken part in (as a game player), hasn't done the job properly.
Spec Ops: The Line wrapped things up by explaining the reality of what you had played through and thought you had experienced, whereas Bioshock: Infinite merely takes you through from A to B and there is very little that you can do or have an opinion on about any of that. In all, if not at least some, of the scenes used at the end, there was opportunity for the player to play through those scenes as part of the developing story rather than take you through them briefly at the end as a sequence of explanations. This game could have had instead Booker and Elizabeth going backwards and forwards through time trying to understand what was happening rather than just experiencing straight forward linear action sequences.
It would have been really interesting as a player to have been able to utilise the vigors to open up special tears that thrust you into gameplay that extrapolated on the Rosalind and Robert Lutece influence and separate involvement in the creation of Columbia. Some might say "but that interrupts the separate realities of Booker existing with him appearing in the same time-frame as himself", but in Infinite that happens anyway - Booker appears in the revolution where he was killed and became a martyr. So what we have is a character who infiltrates different realities that he already does exist in or has existed in, but much of that is mere framework, or even wallpaper to some extent, rather than strong narrative building.

Other things I have and had issues with:
  • Daisy as a strong female revolutionary character was reduced to 'crazy black female'
    • I really hated the moment when Elizabeth killed Daisy. I sat there with my controller in my hand thinking 'yip, the white folks save the day again...'
    • Sure, if you put it in context of Booker being the racist Comstock, then it makes a lot of sense, but at that point, you're actually supposed to sympathise with the revolution. I mean, that universe's Booker is a flippin' martyr for crying out loud!
    • Or are you supposed to sympathise? It's certainly a discussion point, I guess.
  • Gameplay aspects like Elizabeth not opening any doors or pulling any leavers, waiting for you to do it instead even after she has just said “are you going to open the door or am I going in alone?” at which point she waits forever for you to open the door. Nice one!

  • Bullets having a physical effect on ghosts.
    • Okay, so if a ghost can have a physical effect on you, why can't you have a physical effect on a ghost? That's good reasoning, but it still seems really silly in terms of gameplay when a ghost is supposed to be able to move through walls but takes direct damage from bullets.
    • Using vigors exclusively, or combined with ammunition (like transferring shock jockey to your gun), would have made that fight far more interesting and less of a recycled combat moment.

Actually, there's nowhere near as much to gripe about as I'd like to think. My 'exploration with sky-hooks' has been covered.
Overall you could look at both Bioshocks as extrapolating on the pitfalls of idealism and the downfall of civilisations or societies based on exclusivity. And those are good things to discuss, but Infinite, however, left me with my alternative title: Bioshock: The virtues of suicide*. Because, even though there was revolution going on, the player was constantly fighting both sides of the revolution just to stay alive, and was reducing the concepts that could have been exploited in that idea to triviality, or 'not important', because the player has to get from A to B (constantly), and then finely discover his own role in the whole sordid mess.
But is it worth all the discussion going on over at Paul Tassi's two articles? I think any multiverse story can generate that kind of speculation if there is no closed loop or specified number of universes; Infinite spreads its net wide, though traverses only a few of the extended possibilities within the narrative. My general answer to that question is 'no, it's not worth it' but that's personal more than critical, as I would rather have a story teller be definite within their framework of multiple possibilities. As an example of this statement, a novelist may never state a character's age thus allowing the readers to speculate on the moral ambiguity of their actions within a clearly defined framework. It allows discussion to open up on the act itself and whether age actually is relevant in discussing [that] act. Infinite merely opens up discussions on possibilities.
Not to deride that in itself of course, after all, many people find that a fun and rewarding task. And that's fine. Bioshock: Infinite just might become a classic for the ending alone.
But I'll still want a prequel to the original Bioshock!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


"I am convinced that no one loses anyone, because no one owns anyone. That is the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the World without owning it."

- Paulo Coelho

The only thing a person can ever – truly – own is themselves.
The idea of ownership is based on possession and means towards possessing, but the two are very different qualities. Possession is to acquire from without and to have a means of physical control over it, though that control may be tenuous depending on the object; ownership is to have full control and to relegate all influences to a lesser position. In this respect, you can never own me, because I relegate you to a lesser position; your law, your rules, your ideas are nothing but words that I choosethat I choose! – to allow to have an influence over me – nothing more.

A person may acquire material objects through financial means, they may say "I own these because I paid for them," but this is no different than a thief re-acquiring the same objects and saying "I own these because I stole them." In both cases, possession is this 'thing' that is referred to as 'ownership'.

True ownership has no acquisition. It simply exists. "I own this because I have absolute control over it, and nothing will ever change that." You can take all my possessions away from me, you can take me hostage, you can deprive me of my identified rights, but I will always have full control over the self, over my thoughts – free my hands and legs from these chains and this mind will determine what is done with them.

This even extends to what is called 'under duress' for it is still I in ownership of myself that makes the decision to carry the crime forward. Many would face death than commit the crime, others are little concerned with the crime and value self preservation first.

I guess there are those who would say that this is all self-evident and nothing to get excited about, but I still meet many people who cling to ideas and grievances that rule their world as though they are afraid that by relinquishing control over what they cant control, everything will fall apart. But control is so fickle and only ever subject to its own subjects, which seems self defeating in the long run. Control of the self is a given, and subject to itself is filled with its own choices.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Some verses I just stumbled over

What do I dream when all dreams have come true,
When love has bridled the rage of disaffected youth?
Where do I run if home is was is the goal,
And the shelter that was sought is no longer known?

- 26/12/12, 10:34 p.m.

Who tends the field when all mouths are fed,
When hunger no longer demands worker's legs?

- 26/12/12, 11:46 p.m.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Bored with Combat: Part 2

The tedium of combat in a world that you can't explore via the new sky-hook mechanic has turned what could have been a wondrous exploration of both narrative and world building into a boring task of objective completing. The sky-hook works great as a melee weapon – gloriously violent – but that is a secondary use and its main reason for existing is never fully explored. I find myself bored every time I reach a new area and have to fight my way through it just to open a new door, only to be greeted with more combat – which I have to fight my way through just to open another door...
In such a world where everything is floating high in the sky and there are rails that connect certain sections, I wonder where the ability to use those rails to explore and travel between areas is. This great new mechanic has been completely underutilised in favour of combat and action. What we could have had instead was the challenge of finding the right rail to land on and not be swept away from the target by the wrong rail, using the freight hooks to swing between buildings with more of a fun free flow effect that could have been part of a puzzle that unlocked the next area – rather than having to constantly battle through enemies to reach the next area.
There's just no genuine fun in this game.
There's no genuine exploration in this game.
There's no genuine character development because all the characters ever do is fight their way through enemies, as though that alone is going to develop them. I could see both Booker and Elizabeth having greater development if they were allowed to genuinely argue, or at least disagree, on a path to take using either the freight hooks or rails, having them part ways, end up in the same place and then challenging the other to go back and try the other route. When the player completes both routes and gets through the obstacles in their way (not combat obstacles!), while also collecting collectables via the alternative route, there would be genuine appreciation at the end of it, a genuine feeling of "Oh, okay, so you can do it. Maybe I have a bit more faith in you now ...oh hey, what did you find?". There's always an opportunity for some great banter in interesting situations that video games seem to completely miss.
The linearity isn't stifling, because good narratives have linearity, but the ability to explore and have a fun and wondrous time exploring is stifled through not allowing sections to breath without combat, not allowing characters to get to know one another outside of combat; and what seems most important to me at the moment: not allowing the narrative to be developed without the constant interruption of combat.
The tedium of combat has made Bioshock: Infinite boring.

Bored with Combat: Part 1

Bioshock: Infinite may be the last action orientated game I play. I seem to be far more interested (but not distracted) by the sky-hooks that take you around the place, while all the shooting is just so par-for-course that it's become boring. I still remember fondly the intense action scene in Dead Space 2 when Isaac is riding on top of the giant drill and having to fight off a constant barrage of necromorphs, but that was kind of a special moment amongst quite a lot of action that probably wasn't necessary, but was still fun. In such a visually impressive environment, I wish Bioshock: Infinite had taken the Prince of Persia (2008) route and delivered a more relaxed journey with less frequent combat.
But the sad fact is that most video games are specifically built around combat. Game mechanics may be first on the list, and these may vary from travel mechanics, to weapon mechanics, to puzzle solving mechanics; but invariably they are melded with combat to create action.
Of course, it's not my goal to disparage combat, only to question whether it should be so prevalent. We know it's prevalent because of the amount of 'war-shooters' that continuously are made at the same rate that barrages of enemies are launched at players in-game, and also, because that's about the same rate that they get purchased on. There will always be a market for that. I think, due to younger players requiring action to constantly feed their rate of imagery intake, whereas, perhaps, us older generations don't need to feel hammered over the head constantly by gunfire and explosions. The younger generation will always have the numbers.
But when will game designers make the games that they want to make and nothing else? No publisher breathing down their necks demanding that the game needs to reach a wider audience, therefore needs to be simplified... Obviously I'm no longer talking about Irrational Games, since apparently they were given free-reign by 2K Games.
Hopefully with the intervention of Sony aligning the PS4 with Indie developers, games will become exactly what the developers intended. That would be a grand old thing to see.

Saturday, 16 February 2013


I confess I have sinned, for I have not heard for so long now some of the greatest music ever recorded:

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Best Words

I laboured for many years under the idea that I needed other people to make me happy. I realised one day that only I could make myself happy by accepting that I didn't need others to make me better or 'more' than what I was - I have and always will be what I am. My happiness is my own, and through that I can choose to accept the joy and happiness that others might bring to me.

Posted as a comment at, Feb 13, 2013

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Beauty has Depth, Haydn doesn't.

"I am listening to the second movement of Haydn's London Symphony for the tenth or so time preparing for a paper, and for the first time it has struck me how incredibly beautiful the piece is." - Alex DuBose

I seriously question how beautiful a piece of music is if it takes 10 listens to recognise it as that – even with the distraction of study, to not be somehow enthralled by a sound on first listen. There are definitely songs I haven't 'discovered' until later on down the listening-track when the more immediate songs have worn out their welcome. In fact, Welcome to Sky Valley by Kyuss is an album of such songs; heck, even the Graffin songs from Bad Religion's Stranger than Fiction. But I remember waking up from a nap once in the middle of the second movement from Górecki's 3rd Symphony after having left the radio on, and I was held motionless by the beauty of the work. 'Andante Festivo' by Sibelius is another such example that upon hearing on first listening I was mesmerised.

Now, I'm not saying a piece of music can't hold it's secrets secret until such a time when my willing ears are willing to listen and appreciate, but there is a magical beauty about being stunned into silence on first listening, something that no other music can match, and that does raise that piece of music to a loftier height. And I will stand by this even when other ears tell me that the Graffin songs on Stranger than Fiction were the songs that held them in awe long before the Gurewitz songs. It is not that the music works need to be the same for each individual, only that the various works appear to strike a demanding presence upon first listen.

So is the second movement from Haydn's London Symphony as beautiful as other works that I have raised to loftier heights? I want to argue 'no'. Most definitely not. What if another listener had been stunned into silence upon first listen by this work? I would argue that they have not valued the examples of greater works such as the second movement (what is it with second movements?) of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21, as a common (and somewhat cliché) example. It is not just that this is my opinion, but the fact that Haydn never reaches the emotional depths, nor the fecundity of compositional imagination that Mozart extends his abilities to. In Haydn, stateliness seems to always compromise the emotional grace, therefore diluting true depth, and true beauty to last the ages. The need to explore every aspect of his craft always seems lost on Haydn. Even if it was his craft that inspired Mozart to greater depths, it is that craft that gives us the example of lesser beauty in which we strive to raise ourselves above – that, in my opinion, is what Mozart did.

So, no, I don't see how the second movement to Haydn's London Symphony could even be viewed as 'beautiful', especially after a tenth listen of that mediocre composition.

My view is that a work of beauty captures the heart immediately, that the senses are antagonised in a way they have not been experienced before, or in a way that only harks back to a similar experience, but reshapes and recasts that experience in a completely new mould.