Thursday, July 31, 2008

RTCW and the art of FPS

Read all about how Kong and his outdated laptop spend their 5 days vacation together...

I recently had a week off work, which was marvelous. I thought I would download a game to keep me occupied, so I got me Return to Castle Wolfenstein. But that's soooo old, I hear you cry. It is old. The age of a game isn't important. Half Life remains the best single player experience I have ever had, which is closely followed by Quake 1. Engines have improved over time, but it takes a lot more than purdy lighting to impress this old man.

So, as you have probably already guessed, RTCW failed to impress, or I wouldn't have bothered writing this.

I hate it.

RTCW plays like old people fuck. Slow, steady and in the missionary position. It should be in every highschool as a tool for teachers to explain intercourse to a bunch of thick teenagers. It seems to be doing its best to be as white bread as possible. It doesn't push the extremes of any particular direction. It feels like a demonstration of a perfectly standard FPS suitable for a public school textbook. In all fairness, I haven't played the MP, and I won't have the opportunity because my weird ass net connection is quite selective as to who it copulates with. I knew the MP wouldn't work before all this, so I was looking for a single player experience, and RTCW was what I chose..

First of all, I was a big Wolfenstein 3D fan back in the day. It was the first FPS I played and it started a love affair that lasts to this day. I had high expectations attached to playing it's sequel. Perhaps a little too high. If you are going to attach the Wolfenstein name to a new game you had better be sure it is a damn good game. I don't mean revolutionary. Revolutionary usually means they took an FPS and stuck in some gameplay elements from another genre, for example Dues Ex with its crazy character point system. Those kinds of revolutions I can do without. I am an FPS purist, don't fuck with something that isn't broken. But I do like innovation. Innovation is Tribes 1. That game added a whole new concept of gameplay. The jetpacks were a simple addition, but it would take years to really master the possibilities they presented. I don't mean to suggest I want flying Wolfenstein. The way I see it there are two paths for an FPS to pursue. One is the skills path. This was quake 3 all over. No silly little story (well there was a little story, but one gets the feeling is written just to beef up some press releases), it was all about developing the skills, reflexes, prediction skills etc. needed to play it well. The opposite was Half Life, which needed very little skill to play. This was a story / puzzle game. The story was very smart and so were the puzzles. Everyone remembers the big tapping monster that reacted to sound. That was very cool. How many of you drained a load into it before realising you just had to lob a grenade to wherever you didn't want to be at the time?

RTCW is not a difficult game to play. No quirks in the physics to master. No lightening guns to baffle you. The best I can peel off the bottom of the barrel is that you needed circle strafe on one occasion, but the years when that was considered a 'skill' all started with a 9. In fact, if you can't circle strafe you are a degenerate human being and you can get off my site right now. The enemies get progressively bigger, badder and less intelligent as the game plods through. You don't need to outwit or outmanoeuvre anything. You just have to pound away at it with your big guns and step to the side or run away when it throws something at you. A case in point is the final boss. He sometimes throws some little flying skulls at you, but otherwise he sticks to melee. You simply run circles around him sticking panzerfausts into him and prickling him with a gatling gun until eventually he dies of boredom (unless you die of boredom first). As the final boss he leaves a lot to be desired. There is no sense of elation at kicking the poor old resurrected king down. You can only take solice in the knowledge it was for his own good. Imagine if the poor old guy got sent to the eastern front? Those starving Russian conscripts would have eaten him alive.

So you don't have to be a master of the WASD to get through, nor do you have to strain the brain. I had one small "oh" moment when fighting some undead knights (yes, plenty of undead around these parts... more on that later). Your bullets ricochet off their shields and hit you, I'll leave that to you to figure out. There is no real interaction with the environment, you simply run through linear levels blasting at things until you get the end. I suppose when it comes to stomping a bunch of Nazis at the same time you could try to take advantage of quirks in the AI, but most of the grunts in the game are so easy to kill you won't be bothered. Head shots are the name of the game, so if you have ever played CS this will be a cakewalk. In addition to this, the hit zones are just enormous. To snipe you aim in the general direction and let off a round, and something will die, guaranteed.

There was one sequence I enjoyed. A stealth mission where you had to get from A to B without the Nazis seeing or hearing you. Lots of angles to be considered and patience while guards walked their rounds. Not a new idea by any means, but well done and enjoyable.

Back to the bitching. RTCW does the secret thing. I don't suppose it would be Wolfenstein without secrets. Secrets either get you some supplies or some treasure that achieves absolutely nothing. It does increase re-play value of the game, but there is little motivation for finding them other than the ego stroking. If you actually NEED the secrets for ammo and health, I have some better advice;

learn to aim and stop getting shot.

Secrets increase the sense that you are just playing a game. This can be quite cool. Quake 1 was so fantastic and ridiculous that the secrets sat very well with the overall vibe. Most importantly, Quake 1 was consciously a game. You were immersed in what was a conspicuously man-made world. You could sense the fun the designers were having when putting the whole deal together. There was also more motivation as the secrets sometimes lead to new levels or easter eggs. Half-Life had plenty of secrets (though never named). Secrets lead to the usual ammo and health, but also shortcuts and the like which were significant for the progression of the game. You were more interested in where the new way might lead, not the act of just finding it so you could tell your friends. RTCW secrets feel like there were stuck in with the usual odd-coloured wall clues as a generic necessity. Like the cumshot, you have to see it to complete the experience, but you have seen so many they leave you cold.

And then there is the zombies, resurrected kings, mummies and tooth fairies. RTCW runs the gauntlet of popular victims. There are the standard Nazi grunts that only a little less fun to kill than American grunts. In addition to the supernatural and the grunt-ish we also get the sci-fi with some frankenstein like "super-soldiers" and others like that. I guess in a way it all fits in a primitive way with our stereotypes of Nazi mysticism and science (which are melded seeeeeeeamlessly in the game).

The absence of the dogs is conspicuous. The farcical protest against killing dogs in Wolfenstein 3D would have been laughable if hadn't been real people expressing it. But it was real people. They exist all around you. They are you nieghbours. They could be in the apartment next door. Feeling paranoid yet?

look at the tattoo then read comment 7.

What the fuck is wrong with the world? I'm glad somebody slapped him / her down, though I don't think a comment that retarded really deserves a serious reply. German Shepherds are one of the few breeds of dog I actually like. I had them as child so I have a serious soft spot for them. Now I live in Bangkok I am surrounded by hundreds of thousands of stray, starving, limb-missing, fur-missing soi dogs. Be damned if I can think of a humane solution, but I really don't like seeing any living being in that condition. For you see, I am a reasonable human being.

A reasonable human being would also expect that in the new Wolfenstein game he would be doing some serious dog fragging against some seriously vicious dogs, and fuck "Moonchild" for getting in the way of it.

It's like the Linux penguin turning up as a Q3A skin. Who doesn't want to put a rail between it's cute little eyes. This is how Kong expresses his love, with rails. And if the Penguin Liberation Front has something to say about it, I will rail their teary little penguin loving eyes as well.

So I don't like pixies and elves and never played Diablo. I could have coped with it, though. It's NOT like you ARE a bondaged clad sorceress with +3 magic and CBT power and 30 litres of manor juice up your airport saddlebag. You are an all-American bag of steroidsand go pills doing the business (or all-English, it is diplomatically vague, it would be very unfair to credit just America or England individually for a victory that was made a little further east...).

I'm not a tall man, and this is loaded with many an unspeakable insecurity. One of them is an inherent dislike of steroid using jocks like the protagonist of RTCW. Gordon Freeman, he was a skinny hero with PhD. and a quickly developing taste for morphine. There is someone we can all relate to. There is only one thing more popular than sweaty football captains, and that is nerdy opiate addicts. Best of all, Freeman isn't fighting to save the world anymore than he saving himself. The grunts trying to kill him aren't bad people, if anything they are also trying to save the world from hordes of alien misunderstandings and Freeman is making that job a little more difficult. The ambiguous ending will most likely leave you working for the g-man, and something tells me he is far from wholesome.

I have just got into the downhill slope of the latter half of the twenties and feel as if I might be getting just a bit too old for the goodies and baddies thing. Gamers are getting older. I'm not done with heroes, nobody will ever be done with heroes. But I can't get off on being a jock fighting all the evils of the world with one hand. I'm sick of killing Nazis, Russians, Arabs, Persians and whoever else is deemed bullet worthy. Part of me would like to be tearing through corporate office buildings using those headshot skills to take care of ivy leaguers who have lives I will never know, all on the way to putting a crowbar in the back of a CEO's skull. I perish to think of beatnik who would write a game based on those objectives, though. Tearing through the office converting people with vegan love and the breaking down of emotional barriers.

I want an anti-hero.

The reality of vulneralbility, of not always wanting good things and the lack of happy endings does appeal to me. To be the hideous Marv smashing your way through cops to avenge the death of your one-night freebie prostitute's honour, killing the corrupt priest behind the party only to be executed for murdering the whore in question. This is the anti-hero. A man so ugly he could have never gotten p4p, drinks day and night in strip clubs and is probably schizophrenic. That's pure gold. Gaming is fantasy world. The reduction of the world into black and white, goodies and baddies isn't the fantasy for me. It is not even a fantasy appropriate for children. Presenting the world as black and white to a child is probably the greatest crime imaginable. It's the stuff of propaganda. I don't think anyone here is fooled by the presentation of terrorism as a goodies vs. baddies thing. Yet, when it comes to consumer entertainment, that's exactly what we want.

Some of you will tell me it's already here. Pull out Vice City or Manhunt as recent titles. No, these aren't good enough. These are horribly one-dimensional characters for rebellious white teenagers in the suburbs. These games are as black and white as taking on the Wehrmacht and SS single handedly. These games dumb us down. They don't offer something more, it's something less. Don't get me wrong. I want a bloodbath and If I'm in the mood some Q3A will do nicely. When it comes to a good single-player, though, I find the world sorely lacking. We have had the technology for years, games like Half Life (as I keep on saying) really had something going. FPSs have the potential to be more. If am to look at my screen through into the eyes of someone else, put me somewhere half way interesting.

I suppose this is always the problem when you have a bunch of binary tech heads writing your storyline. The skills school of FPS has seems to have reached new heights with things like the DeFRag community. I think it's great, but I don't have the time these days now that I'm a working man. Age seems to have mellowed my competitive streak as well. So I want things pushed into the other extreme. More of the thinking man's FPS. It's a spectrum of the genre that the deathmatch thing and multiplayer technology sort of killed. I like deathmatching as much as the next man, but would like to see the humble single player element have a bit more effort put in.

I also wouldn't want it to go the other way either. I don't want a storyline by some coke frazzled tinseltown types. All this talk of hero's it is inevitable that this whole new Batman film will come up. I don't want that kind of meaning in an FPS. The kind of meaning where every beatnik walks out of the theatre feeling high and mighty because they "got it" more than the next man, itching in the pants to get drunk or sped up and have long cliched conversations with their similarly high and mighty chums. I want it to BE something of meaning, not to be told it is something of meaning with clever dialogue delivering it like a subtle jackhammer through the skull (God forbid anyone would walk out of the theatre without having "got it" repeatedly - incidentally I haven't seen the new Batman film, I'm basing this on the ad nauseum conversations around the office from people who 'got it'). A world where FPS turned into the abstract mess that's called art these days would be bad enough. A world where FPS becomes hollywood trying to imitate an abstract mess but in such a way that every chump will understand, that would be much worse.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A few anime mini-reviews

Staylight and I have been watching quite a bit of anime series lately.  I want to start with the best one 'cause I'm most excited about it: Claymore! 

Claymore is set in a medieval period, but not in feudal Japan as you'd expect.  Instead it appears to be set in medieval Scotland (at least I assume so given the Scottish title "Claymore"), which makes for an interesting crossover of styles, because it obviously has quite a Japanese anime feel to the animation, but they are running around in "western"-style medieval villiages and wielding chunky claymores instead of katanas. 
Normally I would go for the cyber/futuristic/post-apocalyptic aesthetic over the "fantasy" schtick, but Claymore is executed so well that it's now one of my favourite animes.  The main enemy is a demon-type creature called a Yoma, which can disguise itself as a human and when in human form is only able to be spotted by a Claymore.  The story is based around the Claymores (named after the Scottish Claymore swords they wield), which are a hybrid of human and Yoma, and as a result are super-powerful, and are identifiable by their silver eyes and white hair.  And oh yes - the Claymores are all female! 
So yeah, the mainstay of the series is foxy silver-eyed anime chicks with big swords busting up demons, but there is a surprising amount of depth explored.  Mainly in the relationships, with the main Claymore character "Clare" forming a tight bond with human "Raki", resulting in a running love story that you will want to see through to the conclusion. 
Only 1 season of Claymore was made with 26 episodes, so you'll be savouring the storyline knowing that it's going to end succinctly.  Overall it's quite dark and violent, and I really like the intro themesong too, which is a much heavier and darker shade of rock than most anime themes. 

Bleach is a modern-day, Japanese-set anime series.  We buy the Bleach DVDs as and when they're available on the shelves, but in the meantime stream them from various online sources.  I liked the first season alot (the first 26-ish episodes), which was where the first characters were introduced.  When Ichigo was introduced as a school kid who got into fights and could see ghosts, and then Shinigami (aka Soul Reaper or Death God)Rukia showed up in his bedroom, saving him from a Hollow (demon), whereafter Rukia transfers half her Shinigami powers to Ichigo and lives in his closet teaching him to be a good Shinigami - this was the best part of the story.  There are now in the vicinity of 180 or so episoes, with a new one airing each week, so a vast amount of depth and lore is introduced over the series.  With a show that runs this long, you can expect characters to be introduced and replaced, which can be disappointing when a particularly charismatic enemy that you want to see more of gets his or her ass vanquished. 
This really is a taste of pop-culture, and isn't particularly dark at all, with the darkest aspects coming from main character Ichigo's brooding moodiness, and the rest of the series feeling like a breath of fresh air.  Although having said that, it is quite violent and some of the various types of Hollow are pretty frightening.  The themesongs, especially in the outros, are sheer pop though, asserting this as a show primarily for a  mainstream audience. 
The storyline is strong enough to keep you interested as the episodes roll along, but the main impact is there in those first episodes. 

Ghost in the Shell - Stand Alone Complex.  I'll admit, I wanted to like this series a lot.  The first GITS movie is one of my favourites of all time, and is a perfect depiction of the cyberpunk atmosphere I love.  I sampled this movie and used the samples on various Crystalline Effect and Plague Sequence tracks.  It's one of those movies, like Blade Runner, that has so much sheer atmosphere that you can just go through periods of leaving it on repeat in the background while you do other things. 
Anyway as I was saying, I wanted to like the Stand Alone Complex series, but I really couldn't.  The series follows the same characters as the movie, but is more focussed on Section 9's activities, so has a bit more of a detective-vibe, which I don't care for.  The setting, technology and lore are, of course, superb, and it's a franchise that's worth expanding, but I won't be following it particularly fervently and will simply remember the movie for what it was.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Eve Online: at first glance

I go to The Escapist website each week to check out the latest episode of Zero Punctuation, and each time I am assaulted with ads for Eve Online inviting me to play online for free. 
Eve had also been recommended by some friends as an alternative to World of Warcraft in a cool space-setting. 

Straylight and I played WoW for a few months when we first moved to London.  The problem was that it was horrendously addictive, but it was also a bit dull for me.  Combined with this, the PvP aspect was completely, unforgivably biased against anyone on their first characters.  Seriously, if you didn't have a Twink, you were in for an entirely frustrating time.  The only alternative being to spend actual Great British Pounds on virual Gold to buy special equipment for your character, which is fine for some and all due respect to them, but that didn't fit into the scope of what I wanted from a video game. 
The final straw was that in April of this year we had a string of gigs including a Plague Sequence gig in London, 2 Crystalline Effect gigs in Holland and 1 in Budapest, which required alot of rehearsal and preperation.  So we stopped playing in order to prepare.  After the tour was over, we realised that a month or two had gone by and we hadn't even logged into WoW.  It was out of our system, and we took the opportunity to cancel our subscriptions and uninstall the game. 

Anyway back to Eve.  I recently succumbed and followed the links from The Escapist.  After an easy sign-up process the exe started downloading.  It was a total of 600ish-mb and was coming down at a steady 240k/s (I love English broadband), so was down in about 40 mins.  After a quick install, and my free 14-day trial account being successfully set up automatically, I was in. 
I'm mentioning how easy it was because I was merely curious about the game and if it required any more serious effort I may not have bothered. 

Unfortunately I had a bad feeling straight away.  Character creation felt incredibly long-winded, with the only thing to guide me being thumbnails and long text descriptions.  The character attibutes were mostly arcane and there was no real sense of what set my choices apart and what impact they would have in the game.  The long, un-animated, slideshow-style intro had my hand hovering over the escape button with tedium, but I stuck with it, and was eventually launched into the game. 

I was looking at a ship hovering in space.  This was me.  You'd think space would allow a sense of freedom but the movement system is based on a series of tedious menus.  After a lengthy tutorial I learned that I can't just move around, I have to find an object and double-click on it to approach it.  I can't circle-strafe a target, but must right-click and click on the "orbit" sub-menu and then select in feet the distance from which to orbit my target.  To then stop my ship I must right-click on the ship and select "stop" from a menu.  WASD is clearly for the unevolved, i.e. me. 

At this stage I was hoping to see other players zipping by, to give me a sense of community, as this was an MMO after all.  Not once did I see another player.  I was just stranded in space, struggling with a clumsy ship, with only the promises of long-winded transits, extended mining sessions, and dull battles ahead. 

The game looks reasonably stunning, and given the cool, futuristic setting I can understand why it's the 2nd biggest MMO after WoW.  But I found it so difficult to get into and felt so unwelcome in the Eve Online universe, that I get the impression that after the amount of hours I'd have to put in to make the game start to feel rewarding, I'd want to move onto something more familiar and accessible like WHOnline, which comes out in a couple of months.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Microdermals and 42

I feel the urge to get it out for air and share an opinion or two, so I am going to let y'all know what I think of microdermals. I have no microdermals, nor will I. I'm not 100% anti-microdermals. I would never be down on someone for getting some (providing they educated themselves first), but I am going to share my opinion anyway, because that's what I'm here for.

No idea what I'm talking about? Ok, NOW you know what I'm talking about. They are the latest and greatest thing since VST and it seems to be the thing to get for the fashion-conscious young go-getter. They first became popular a year or two ago, and since then every man, his dog and local piercing celebrity has gotten some. They look similar to transdermals, but are a lot safer. Transdermals can have horrific consequences for chumps who don't seek medical attention when they go wrong. Potentially microdermals could have similar consequences, such as inward traveling bone munching infections. Thus far I have not heard of this happening, most probably because it would difficult to place them too deeply. Microdermals also don't seem to reject nearly as often either. I think of microdermals as being more akin to surface piercing than implants, especially when you consider how they are put in. You very often see horrible pictures of rejecting messed up surface piercings (and the vast amount of surface piercing pictures you see in grayscale haha). I only remember seeing one case of seeing rejecting / messed up microdermals. They seem to work out well in the short term. Nobody can really be sure of the longevity simply because they have not been around very long.

So all is well? Well my dislike isn't risk or questionable longevity. Microdermals seem to carry a minimal amount of risk. People can do what they want, I really don't give a toss. I don't like big silicone implants either, but as the saying goes, I would defend to the death somebody's right to get them. The only time the risk element really shits me is when the practioner gets blamed. There are dodgy ones out there, but it is equally the fault of people who use without checking them out first. These things can go horribly wrong despite the best of work. The human body is a fickle thing, there is an amount of risk in anything you do. Nor is my dislike of microdermals related to the aesthetics of them. They don't really move me one way or the other. My dislike stems from the culture that has lead to the development of the micro-dermal.

This is a scene where often it is all about having something different or unique at the expense of all other concerns. . The problem as I see it is that it has become a culture where the freak-ish-ness far too often outweighs the quality of the work. Think about this in your own lives. If someone you know gets their labret pierced, you pay no attention, you might not even notice when you see them again. Do you think about the placement? Does it compliment this persons face? The choice of gauge? Are they looking after it and is it healing well? This all makes the difference between a good practitioner / consciences client and a hack / a chump, but not many people seem to care. If your friend got some microdermals you would all be coming in your panties to have a look. We are so busy looking for the next best thing that simple quality gets left behind.

To be fair, I am just using microdermals as an example. I don't really mind them. There are many good practitioners doing them and the amount of time and effort that has gone into developing them is admirable. Medicine struggles to heal anything like this, and while modders draw on medicine, it could even be vice versa. The fact that the more reputable high quality jewelry companies (e.g. IS and Anatometal) are producing them for general consumption is a vote of confidence in the procedure. It is the attitude that has led to their development that annoys me. The greatest criticism of piercing has always been that it is just a fad. A sick little narcissistic phase in life that most people would grow out of as long as they didn't do anything too permanent. Once, my tattooed brother said to me in confidence how great piercings were compared to tattoos (he think he may have regreted getting his) because piercings were easy to remove hence good for the kiddies. This was a long time ago before I started stretching things. All the people removing their little eyebrow piercings when they 'grow up' and get a real job helps prove their point. Microdermals prove them right in a different way. Pictures started turning up on the net along with stories the numerous advantegers over similar looking work. They could be done by your local family piercer. Overnight they were everywhere. Everyone who was anyone had to have some. People who were itching for something new but were bored with the current possibilities got their answer. If you are looking from the outside in, the explosion of micro-dermals proves just one thing. This is a fashionable scene. It's not always a scene where people think long and hard about their mods. It is a scene where I WANT IT NOW. It sort of reminds me of ear scalpelling. If you need the piercings repositioned, it's great. If you are getting them scapelled because you cant get wait to stretch them the old school way, perhaps you are missing the point a little.

It proves to the naysayers it is just fashion, nothing more. Britney says "I don't want to pierce anything. I think it's outdated. Belly rings and all are, like, old.". She's right, a well done piercing is so 1990's, lucky we have micro-dermals instead. For anyone to take the scene seriously we have to all stop being such children and rushing into things just because it will oooh and aaah everyone at the local watering hole. The explosion of microdermals in the scene makes it most look like fashion. The next shade of the yellow car, perhaps my least favourite analogy.

Even the I WANT IT now attitude I do understand to an extent. I have been stretching my ears for nearly 3 years now and sometimes I wish I could magic myself up to my goal size (though it is an undefined goal, I just don't feel as if I am finished with them yet). Skipping back in time, before micro-dermals were everywhere. Why were they developed in the first place? It is the urge to be different. This is a natural urge, and it will be here as long as people are here. There is something very cool about the experienced modders who tinkered away after hours to develop what we have today. Far be it from me to criticise them. It is more the primer for the main charge that gets to me. The first people to rush out and get them. The people who were thinking about how this will make them different, special, a stand out in the scene. This is a shit attitude. These people are only thinking about their actions relative to the community. People who can't see the forest for the trees.

It is an attitude that pisses me off way beyond the confines of the body mod scene, and especially so in the goth-industrial-whatever scene. Going out of your way to be different is just about the most retarded thing you can do. If you're defining yourself as being the antithesis of the mainstream, without the mainstream to define you, you're nothing. In the case of micro-dermals it is a situation where the piercing community is the mainstream, and this is a way that individuals in the scene score scene points. And so it goes until micro-dermals become old and boring. Everyone has one so your one seems a little less cool. In the industrial scene you can also find numerous examples. That fake hair thing immediately springs to mind, though I had abandoned the country before I got to see the end of that story.

This became most apperant to me when I moved to Thailand. I pretty much have zero contact with any form of any alternative scene here. Like I have said before; I work, sleep, program and share my opinion about things. Here I am white first, everything else is misinterpreted or not even noticed. Some of the misinterpretations are really kind of amusing, but I'm too lazy to get into that right now. As a white person many parts of the culture are closed to you. I have no idea what the inside of a Thai family home is like, and probably never will. In a way you live in this odd other-world. So I don't have a mainstream to rebell against. I don't have locals to impress. If you are a teenage Manson fan whose existence is built upon fighting the blandness of the american suburban dream, you would be completely fucked when thrown into a place where it never existed. Nobody here is going to be impressed or even all that interested by my heroic struggles against all manner of adversities in the quest to stretch my septum. Nobody really knows what to think. For the most part they just don't care. It is a good feeling to know that I'm doing it with no external input.

It also feels good not to be judged so much by people. Here I'm more of a curiosity. I strongly suspect that a lot of the scene queens (of whatever scene) wouldn't like it. Even the negative reactions of people get these scensters off. They are sent into a spiral of self-rightous indignation at the afront do their scared individualism and revel in it. No reaction would mean no revelry. What are you going to bitch about on your blog now? Back in the old country I know people sometimes percieve me as being a bit of a messed up human being, and I hated it. Not because it was afront to my right to be an individual. I hated it because people would be assuming that I was doing whatever I was doing to assert myself as an individual, or worse, to be offensive or a rebel. I'm not trying to do that at all.

I see myself as a perfectly rational being for these times. It seriously blows my mind that there are not more people like me.


It reminds me of the "why do you [blank]?" question. I would always like to answer with "why don't you [blank]?", but good manners always dictates I should come up with a more accessible answer. Something about spirituality or self-exploration would probably be the socially acceptable answer in the current generations popular choice of meaningless terms... and if I said something like "I'm just trying to have my own style, ya know wha' I mean?", it would go down a treat. But that is all lies. I'm not trying to be unique. I'm normal. It is all you financial office workers in your new man pink dress shirts and the world's thinnest ipods that have serious fucking issues. Every year the shirt is a little pinker, to prove you are that little bit more sensitive and unworried by innuendo regarding your sexuality. Every year that ipod is a little thinner to prove you are a little more [blank] than the next man (I'm not sure what it proves, but it is obviously important). And if you're laughing... think for a moment. Are you so much better? Or did you just choose the blue-print that dictates your shirt must be a little blacker and your boots a little bigger than the next mans.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

London 003

Some more shots of London.  This time over the river Thames, with a shot towards the city and one of the London Eye

London photoset Summer 2008

Photos by Virul3nt & Straylight

Monday, July 21, 2008

Shiv-r initial press

The unveiling of Shiv-r has already resulted in some great press so methinks some shout-outs in return are in order. 

Our song Fractured Light is included on the latest installment of Real Synthetic Audio.  RSA is "the most listened to industrial radio show on the net" and has been updated weekly for the last 10 years.  DJ Todd is a long-time supporter of my other projects and I've been listening to RSA since 2005. 
Check out the site above for the playlist, or download the show directly here.

Other long-time supporters of our projects, Side-Line Magazine, put up a kind word in their News section, and included the announcement in their wide-reaching newsletter. 

Dark Asia helped with promotion as well, being one of the main authorities on South-East Asia's dark scene. 

In the first 2 days of announcing the project, we received within the vicinity of 450 plays between Vampirefreaks and Myspace, and the various forum threads on Shiv-r returned some really cool comments. 

Not a bad launch at all, then, but we can't kick it in the Carribean just yet.  The remixes for our maxi-single are all but done (and are sounding bangin') and we're talking with mastering engineers to give the disc a pro treatment.  At this rate we'll still be ready by the end of the month.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wholesome DIY fun: Blood

For our debut maxi-single, we will be relying on ourselves to create the cover-art.  I'm all for supporting professional designers, but I'm also a believer in digging in and getting things done yourself in order to keep momentum going, and in this case a DIY approach is called for. 

I like the way this website turned out, as a combination of Japanese flowers and blood, and wanted to keep this theme for the single.  Straylight (my wife Wendy) was the one who came up with the concept and collated the images used for this website.  Some elements were scanned in from a Japanese design book, but some (such as the blood spatters) were images found through google, which while fine for the web, aren't high enough res for print. 

So I decided we should make our own blood spatters and take some photos with our 5 megapixel camera.  I went to the local Tesco's and picked up some Liquid Glucose and Red Food Colouring (a recipe I think I picked up from an episode of Dexter), and took them home. 

Straylight and I mixed the ingredients together, laid out some A4 sheets of white paper on our kitchen floor and spattered the mixture around with an old toothbrush, then took some photos on the Macro setting. 

After some processing to neutralise the background, the results look great already.  Final artwork will be posted soon. 

Blood Montage 001

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Maxi-single: Progress update

As mentioned, we're working on a maxi-single for release very soon. 

What we have planned is a 5-track single.  This will contain the 3 tracks we debuted with, as well as 2 "alternate" versions of tracks.  Kong and I will both create an alternate version of 1 song each, which should highlight our roles in Shiv-r. 

Anyone who's fairly familiar with Kong and my other projects should be able to recognise which parts in our tracks are done by whom.  As a general rule, Kong is responsible for the melodies, strings, theramins, sound design and general atmosphere, whereas I am responsible for the beats, basslines, structuring and vocals.  These highlight our strengths as my own melodies tend to be a bit light & fluffy, but I've spent enough time DJing, etc, to know what works in terms of beats & arrangements. 

I'm currently working on a simplified, beat-driven version of Parasite.  This will be instrumental and with very little melody, and is based on what can be heard in London's Club Slimelight at 3am on the kerosine fog-filled upstairs powernoise floor.  What I'm struggling with is how to bring the track in.  Normally I would rely on a melodic intro before bringing a beat in, but that is the antitethis of this track.  The track should be a usable DJ tool, so a percussive intro might be the order of the day.  I'm also intending the structure to have very little in the way of breakdowns, and to be a continuous audio assault. 

The hypothesis is that each of our tracks will sound complete on it's own, but if you figuratively overlay the elements of each, you get a Shiv-r track. 
When we're done, the maxi-single pressing should occur soon thereafter.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I'm Rich, Bitch.

So rich I don't know what on earth I can do with all these dollar bills...

When I lived in Australia I was a poor motherfucker. I took the bus the work. Most of you probably still take the bus or train, but unlike your poor ass, I moved up in the world. I have never caught a bus in Bangkok... and I never will. Big American man gets to work in a taxi. I'm not a big American man. I am more daring and go to work by motorcycle taxi (which is a another story in itself). At all other times, however, I'm in a taxi. Sometimes the security guards at work even open the door of the taxi for me. Sometimes they even salute me. Now you have to understand how out of control my ego is.

But, now I'm not on the train / bus bandwagon there are side-effects. Anyone who has visited Bangkok will know the supreme pain in the ass that is 1b coins. Most thais use them to catch a 7b bus. No buses for me means no way to rid myself of change. I could count them out when purchasing something cheap from the 7-11, but seriously, there isn't enough time in the world for that nonsense. So now I have a pile of about 300 1b coins sitting on my cabinet...

So what in the fuck am I going to do with growing collection? Seeing as I seem to be getting into the habit of writing lists, this is what I spent my 500b per/hr day at work thinking about.

- give them to poor people... though I'm sure a bag of 1b coins would just be patronising.

- dish them out to students as a reward for doing something right. Just like Pavlov's dogs. I have tried this already but rather than performing better, they just asked 10b coins. Little spoiled cunts, Pavlov chose dogs because he could slap them around without losing his job.

- Put them in a bag, tie it to the feet of the scottish asshole at work who always asks me if I have PA. Throw him and the bag into the Chao Phraya river, hurl the Chao Phraya into space then obliterate space and time with a ray gun powered by my newly found ego.

- Take them to the bank (the voice of reason). I hate to think of what kind of person takes their loose change to the bank, but I'm sure as hell not one of them.

- Keep them as a kind of war chest. There is always the possibility the army will come back and do a proper coup, rather than the muppet show the last one was. I'm thinking there is enough there to get me at least half way to the airport.

- Melt them down and sell the metal on ebay. Like the equally useless penny, I'm sure the metal used is worth more than the coin itself.

- Throw them off my balcony at the guy who rides the ice-cream cart. If I were still recording vox, that fucking inane tune would be in the background of every take. I don't know why they come here. I live on a deserted soi. That means some fucker in my building is buying the ice-cream, otherwise he wouldn't come. I have a lot of these coins...

- Use them for tipping. There has recently been an influx of Americans where I work, meaning service people in the building who were never tipped before are now getting tipped. This is setting a dangerous precedent and making me look tight.

- Save up for a hooker. I should have enough in about 4 years.

- Start catching buses. bahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

London 002: Winter

These photos were taken earlier this year while it was winter. 

London in Winter

At this point in the year the sun rose at 8am and set before 4.  I'm incredibly glad we snapped these photos at the time though because the persistent fog was quite beautiful.  I particularly dug the effect of looking at a bridge over the Thames and not seeing the other side, or office towers disappearing vertically into grey. 

London is a modern city but it doesn't have much in the way of skyscrapers.  Canary Wharf is the closest thing I've found to a high-rise area, but the buildings seem capped at about 20 storeys.  Canary Wharf is also more of a dedicated business park than a Central Business District, and it's also under heavy construction and is very new, so there's no sense of culture or being lived-in. 
For that sense of inner-city culture where you feel a mix of business, entertainment, residents and the grime of street-essense, Soho fits the purpose nicely.  I'll post a photo-set of Soho soon.

London in Winter

Canary Wharf, London

Photo credits: Virul3nt & Straylight

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Shiv-r is born

So here we are in July 2008, ready to unveil our new project. will not only serve as the official website for the band but as a daily blog documenting our lives and interests as well as the production of Shiv-r material.  Check back often for updates, or subscribe via the RSS feed.  This site is also a hub connecting to all the relevant networking sites; you will see icons linking to major sites to the right. 
Please post a comment or leave a note in the Guestbook with your thoughts. 

We are completing work on a maxi-single which will go to pressing in the coming weeks.  In the meantime we have 3 songs placed on Myspace and Vampirefreaks, which can also be acessed in the Music Player section. 

Stay tuned....

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Real Men Have 3 Pee Pee Holes

Ok, I am cheating, one of them was given to me by God so I could blurt out his name whenever putting it to good use. The other two were done later in life, as an unintentional affront to God, for which certain more fundamentalist folk would most certainly chop off a hand or nail me to a fence (if only they knew what a chastity device it has worked out to be).

A lot of people talk about Apadravyas and Ampallangs being the "ultimate" in male piercings. I don't buy into it. I can think of much more painful procedures, pain being a relative thing anyway. I actually rate my PA as a more traumatic experience than my Apa. In brief, it is a piercing that goes horizontally through the glands of the penis in which usually a barbell. They hurt like a bitch because a) it is a sensitive place b) it is a tough place and the needle goes through slowly c) there is a lot of tissue to get through and d) if you are full of bravado, like me, you get it pierced and tapered in the same sitting. For those reasons they also take between 6 to 18 months to heal, though that doesn't mean abstinence in the interim.

I will write up the story later but for now I will throw down a list of pros and cons of having an apadravya.


- The look on a someone's face when they see it (also see cons).

- The knowledge that you would be accepted as a man if you should wash up on Borneo after a shipwreck (if you don't have one you would probably have to get it done quick smart with a dirty piece of bamboo, that or become the village bitch).

- Anytime somebody is boasting about having their wing wang pierced, chances are they have a PA or a frenum piercing. Men with apadravyas don't boast. They do, however, stab thier member into the eye of any fucker who is boasting about their PA.

- When the offensive scottish asshole at work asks if you have a PA, you can also stab that fucker in the eye.

- That's about it. The Borneo issue should have been enough to convince you by now.


- The look on a prospective partner's face when she sees it. the negavtivity comes in when I can't help but launch into a comprehensive history of apadravyas and complete personal account of having one... the mood somewhat dissolved after that little history lesson.

- The mood can only be recovered by offering to take it out during sex (isn't he sweeeeeeeet...).

- I like stretching my thing, but women don't like stretching their thing. I have downsized mine to 4ga as a result. A more intelligent option would have been to put smaller balls on the post back when I was at the heavier gauge, but Kong doesn't think, Kong DOES... so now it has shrunk a little and be damned if I'm stretching it back up after spending 1500baht on a new piece (that and I'm a wuss).

- The peeing thing. Especially since I have downsized this is a challenge in liquid physics.

And more:

- As far as I can tell this does nothing for the pleasure of the man. If you want urethral stimulation, get a princes wand, or simplier get a PA or dolphin... though if you get the PA don't let me catch you boasting about it lest you get wanged in the eye.

- Piercing the corpus cavernoseum won't cause you to bleed to death. Mine has an unusally high placement for astethetic reasons, hits the corpus cavernseum and I'm alive. There are men out there that hammer nails straight through for a nice afternoon of self pleasuring. This idea is up there with eyebrow piercings causing paralysed faces. It probably started with a hemophaeliac who should have known better.

Real Men Have Big Septums

I have a big septum. Big septums are not for everyone. Even as I write this mine is hurting like a bitch. It's hurting like a bitch and you can't even see it. It kind of begs the why question, but this a question I will never attempt to answer.

But before I start the bitching and moaning session that represents my septum, let me first tell you why they rock. First off, all things should be permanent, and big septums certainly fit that criteria. To those who don't know; a septum should be pierced in the soft bit between the hard bits (fear my vocabulary), and once you start stretching eventually the space between the two hard bits gets filled up.  Once you have filled up the space and continue stretching a whole world of interesting things happen. For most people the upper cartilage starts to die / compress or something along those lines (it doesn't get pushed back into your head, unlike what some naysayers might have you think). Some people seem to stretch more on the lower part, and hence there tunnel is more visible. That isn't what happened with mine, so I care not for those people. So now I have a nice semi-circle shape in my upper cartilage... I'm pretty certain it's there forever more.
So its permanent. Two is it is difficult to do. Earlobes are easy, they stretch themselves. I doubt I will ever write up my earlobe stretching, despite them being the thing most people ask about. It is easy, people with fucked up lobes are morons with no patience - som num na. Septums, on the other hand, don't like being stretched so much. They do loosen up over time, but you will sure as fuck know it when you buy an organic piece which is 0.5mm oversized. Suffice it to say, they are a challenge full of sleepless nights and a new found terror of catching colds. In addition, they never really 100% settle from what I gather. Back when I was at 0ga it was actually quite nice. Since then no matter how long I leave the thing alone, it has always been a little sensitive. I suspect it actually has most to do with oversized tunnels digging into my relatively small nose, the hole itself is fine. More about the woes of my own septum later... my point is anything this difficult has to be worthwhile.

Finally, it is a great party piece. The children love nothing more than someone who can get a pencil through their nose and write with it. Women find it attractive in the extreme, especially when she kisses you, bumps you nose after a fresh stretch and you fall over crying like a little girl. Your parents will enjoy the novelty. You should make a point of it on your resume. Enjoy the looks of bewilderment from pretentious assholes at parties who have a pinhead full of piercings but cannot comprehend why anybody would go through it just to have something that can't be seen 99% of the time.


Virul3nt let me have this section because I have little else to write about it. I will be honest and tell you I don't give a much heed to music news or gear. I could write about Bangkok, but the reality is I work, program and occasionally sleep - I could be any place (though I will write about the odd thing that comes up). I do other things, but I'm not going to tell YOU about it. Although not heavily modified, it is one of the few things I have an opinion on outside what is in my immediate surroundings. I'm going to tell you all about what I am currently working on (mainly stretching), living a modified life, future modifications and my opinion on whatever I feel like relating to body-modifications.

To kick it all off I will write about my more interesting piercing experiences, and from there go into other things.

The City of Angels

Yes, the city of angels. Not L.A., BKK is really known as such...
As introductory post in this section I thought I would spend some time dispelling some of the common myths about Bangkok.

1. 'Bangkok is a good tourist city'. It's not. A great city to live in, but not much to visit. Like most big cities, you can get a feel for it after about 2 days. You go see the big dirty river which looks a lot like all the other big dirty rivers in other major cities. You go to Wat Pra Khaw, get your pants pulled down over the price and get disappointed as none of the machine gun toting guards actually have magazines in their guns (no sissy sub-machine guns here though). Get ripped off by a taxi driver. Walk down Sukumvhit and marvel at all the scantily clad women who seem to like waiting for the bus all night. And if you must, go to Khao San and behave like the drunken backpacker you really are. You have done Bangkok. Perhaps the most striking thing is the uniformity of this city. When people visit me here, I don't know what to do with them except take them to nice restaurants I couldn't afford except for that they are paying with their big farang (whitey) wallets.

2. 'Khao San is the bomba'. I fucking hate Khao San. Khao San has nought to do with Thailand. Do yourself a favour and don't go there. It's a little world that backpackers created in the image of what they wanted Thailand to be... it is so culturally removed (and geographically... its a bitch to get to) from Thailand that among expats it's a bit of a joke.


3. 'The sex industry is the bomba'. Yes, it's big. Yes, it's cheap. If you're into whores, go nuts. Thailand wants you to waste your big american dollars on B-grade sex. Thailand has changed my attitude towards the sex industry, it's not the sleazy toothless HIV ridden streetwalking thing it is in some other countries. The biggest revelation is that although the industry is huge for westerners (it is sort of racially segregated), the western part only accounts for a very small proportion of the actual industry. Every night the innocent streets in the nice part of town I live in transform into karaoke bar after karaoke bar (and if you don't know what that means, you never understood karaoke). Nobody loves whores more than Thai men. Some people call banging whores the national past time. Before you get on your moral horse and start bitching with your western liberal shite, remember this. Prostitution was here before American GIs, and will be long after your big american dollars are used for wallpaper. This is how the world is. Grow up and accept it.

4. "They love westerners, inside every *blank* there is an American trying to come out". No, it's a difficult pill to swallow, but most of the world doesn't like us. They like our money, they used to like our technology until we were surpassed by just about everybody, but as people westerners are often viewed in a dim light. We brought it on ourselves. Thai families often object to their daughters dating Western men for obvious reasons. Women are still expected to be virgins. Men are still expected to pay 'dowries' or look after the girls family. It's old school. I can see your foot sliding into the stirrup of the western liberalism saddle again. Stop right now. What makes you think they don't like it this way?

5. "Don't spend too much time in BKK, get out and see the rest of it". This is probably true, but I wouldn't know because I'm a CITY man.

Finally. People are much the same wherever you. It's all the same lying, stealing, cheating and so on as every place in the world, it's just done in a different way. I don't try to understand it. I have a vocabulary of about 20 Thai phrases which are either for telling taxi drivers where to go or offending people. I should learn more (especially for food so I don't have to do everything with pointing, that and it is kind of rude to live here but not take any major effort), but I'm too busy writing bangn' tunes for you. Don't get me wrong, I love Thailand, just not for the reasons most think I do.