Death To Kazaa Users!

The RIAA continues in its absurd attempt to put college America behind bars. Meanwhile, a competitor to iTunes launches. Amazingly, it manages to completely misjudge what makes iTunes great; Buymusic doesn’t offer consistent pricing (prices range from 79¢ to $1.79 per track), or a consistent usage scheme (some tracks can be burnt to disc, some can’t, some can only be burnt a number of times, and oh, you can’t use an iPod with the service, as it’s based around Microsoft’s WMA technology). It’ll be interesting to see how well it performs: Apple sold 275,000 songs in its first 18 hours. Buymusic has a bigger selection of tracks (300,000 vs. 200,000), plus as it’s PC only, it should have a potential audience of 95% of the consumer computer market, opposed to iTunes’s 5%. So it should be much more successful, shouldn’t it? Hmm…

(Incidentally, CDBaby now has a contract with Apple, so the independent music artist now has a way to profit from iTunes without having to be signed to a major label. Seems to be a Factory-type arrangement: the label receives 9% of the profit from any music sold, and the artist retains all rights)

currently playing: R.E.M. - Fireplace

Eschaton Gaming

Wario Ware is many things. It is the latest attempt to milk the Mario franchise. It is a cynical rehashing of old NES games and crudely-drawn Game & Watch rip-offs. It is a witty and biting satire on the state of video games. It is also this: Excellent.

The slim plot revolves around Wario's attempt to break into the games industry, after realising he can make a quick buck like everybody else currently in the business (Wario is some evil relation of Mario, I think). The player's duty is to defeat Wario by beating his games. And there's a lot of them. 213, in fact. They only have one thing in common: they last five seconds. You can be picking a persons nose, racing in F-Zero, cutting steak, jumping sharks, saving penalties, and fighting WWI planes all in the space of thirty seconds. It's completely insane.

The game is broken up into several different stages, each of which have their own peculiarities; one will chide you for not having bought a Gameboy Advance SP yet, while another is set inside a toilet. Completion of a stage will allow you to play the games you have unlocked at any time, and may also reveal hidden features such as two-player activities or extended versions of particular mini-games. You probably won't unlock all 213 games when you first complete the main game, and The Grid will taunt you by showing a series of question marks. You will play, and play, until all those marks have been removed.

Your life will soon devolve into a series of simple verbs:





It commands you. A quickly barked order. A reaction test game. Then another. Then another. And another. You die. You reach the BOSS STAGE! You start again. Jump! Catch! Bounce! It's the greatest video game since, well, Tetris.

currently playing: Al Green - How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?

For The Benefit of People In The Aisle Behind

  • Ali G impersonations ceased to be funny in the UK three years ago.
  • Thank you so much for throwing popcorn in my hair.
  • Couldn’t you have sat outside and talked? It would have saved you £6.20, and we might have been able to hear the film.
  • There’s a special place reserved in hell for people who use their mobile phones in cinemas. A special place.
Anyway, Hulk. A bit of a disappointment: not enough exciting action moments for it to be a good summer blockbuster, and the much-talked about depth is little more than a few repressed memory scenes and Nick Nolte’s incoherent rantings during the rather dull final fifteen minutes. (Also, it may just have been that I’ve reread Animal Man again recently, but the continued animal experimentation scenes were a little unsettling) Everybody performs reasonably enough, and the scene transitions are quite innovative, but it feels dull and lifeless. Rent The Ice Storm or Crouching Tiger instead.

Laura: have a good time in Cuba! You do realise that this will put you on John Ashcroft's List? ;-)

Lisa: I've taped the first two episodes of Dawson's Creek for you. Hope you had a good holiday...

currently playing: New Order - Love Less

Well you don't get a town like this for nothing

Tonight I feel like my brain is desperately trying to break free of its shackles and head off into the ether, so I apologise in advance if today’s entry is useless (and your excuse for the other days? — Ed.).

Listening to the New Order documentary at the moment. It's quite funny in places: "We made a fortune off the back of the Greatest Hits, and of course it was all swallowed by the Haçienda"; the attempts to get the English football team to rap (there's a reason why John Barnes is the only one of the team on the record), and how they slinked off to Ibiza to spend Factory Records' money.

"We thought: we'll just go to the club tonight, come back at twelve and work on the record. We'd come back twelve the next day..."

Bah. It's making me miss Manchester now. Even if the Haçienda was closed by the time I got there. Ah, we're now getting to the obligatory band breakdown bit.

"We still don't know to this day how many records we sold; Factory Records could never tell us."

At this point, I'd like recommend 24 Hour Party People again. It's a completely fictional retelling of Factory, but like all stories, it's all true.

Time for the happy reunion. I'm going to lie down. See you tomorrow...

currently playing: TX - New Order

State of Mind

The Flaming Lips - Fight Test
The Clash - Train In Vain
The Waitresses - Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?
Electronic - Getting Away With It
Saint Etienne - 4:35 In The Morning
Kate Rusby - I Wish
Kenickie - Robot Song
The Go-Gos - Head Over Heels
Sleater-Kinney - A Quarter To Three
The Pogues - If I Should Fall From Grace
Beth Orton - Whenever
New Order - Run
The Flaming Lips - Fight Test (reprise)

currently playing: the above, natch.

UNC Bats For Two

Heh. The university enjoys stirring things up, doesn’t it?

Hello to Parthe, who discovered my site yesterday. Look forward to seeing you in September. Apologies to everybody who comes to this site searching Johnny Unitas pictures (and yes, there are quite a few). May I suggest that you go here instead? You're welcome to stay, but I doubt I'll be talking about American Football at any length.

Continuing today's university theme, the International Center sent me an email yesterday, telling me that they've completed my new I-20 visa form, and could I tell them where to send it to? This was a little surprising; by failing last year's courses, I should be out-of-status and thus illegible for the visa. Not that it does me too much good, as an I-20 isn't valid by itself; you need a letter of enrollment plus evidence of financial support to get through Immigration. I'd better tell them I'm not going to be coming back in August though, as it might cause problems with my arrival later in the year.

Kill Bill! Out on Oct 10th! Yay!

currently playing: Saint Etienne - Sylvie

Feels Like Summer

Too hot to do anything, so here’s some pictures.

currently playing: Badly Drawn Boy - Once Around The Block

Stanley Loomis Would Be Proud


Howard Dean starts his residency at Lawrence Lessig's weblog today. I'm in two minds about Dean at the moment. He sounds like a wonderful candidate: he's passionate. he wants to investigate the reasons why America went to war, and would dearly love a form of *gasp* universal health care. While the other Democratic candidates are staying firmly in the centre, daring only to attack the current Administration on a few issues, the Dean campaign is as diametrically opposed to Bush as McGovern was to Nixon in 1972.

But we all know how well that turned out.

Like McGovern, Dean is reportedly unhappy with the structure of the current Democrat party; he also seems to be tapping into a new demographic, the Internet generation, just like McGovern initially attracted the support of the Freak Power generation. The lizard brain of the Democrats will probably react in the same way as it did thirty years ago, so expect some interesting primaries, followed by an intense convention. Can Dean beat Bush? I don't know, but they tried fighting Bush on his own terms last time around, and that didn't work out so well (granted, there's the Florida affair, but Gore didn't even manage to win his own state...). Perhaps a clearer distinction between the two candidates will lead them back to The White House. The danger is that they may end up with just Massachusetts once again…

Anyway, enough politics for one evening. Digiworld opened its doors today, and jolly nice it is too. You have to register to actually read the magazine, and if you're American, you may not have a clue what it's going on about, or why it looks the way that it does. A short explanation: in Britain (and most European countries), normal TV signals also carry extra pieces of information, known as teletext. A TV fitted with a teletext decoder accesses this information to provide extra services, e.g. news headlines, the current weather, travel reports, and subtitles.

Back in 1992, a magazine started on the ITV/Channel 4 teletext system. It was called Digitiser, and it was about video games. Which sounds relatively boring, but it was intelligent, funny, and unmissable . It quickly became one of the most popular features on the service, providing witty commentary on games, comics and anything else they felt like discussing. Plus A Man With A Long Chin. After nine years, it was still going strong, but a series of editorial changes at the end of 2001 reduced it to three-times-a-week updates instead of daily, the humour was removed, and the weekend columns were axed. Digi wandered on, arms chopped off, but brief flashes of its former brilliance still crept through every now and then. The magazine was now down to one writer, affectionately known as Mr. Biffo. He announced at the start of 2002 that he was quitting, just as an Internet campaign saw the full return of the Digi experience. In March, Digitiser broadcast its final edition; Mr. Biffo became the more sensibly-monikered Paul Rose, and started writing for Edge Magazine. The UK was enveloped in shadow, mourning for its passed love (note: might be slightly exaggerated).

But a secret cabal of videogame journalists, led by Rose, began to plot a comeback. Together with Stuart Campbell, a controversial games journalist (currently the brains behind the FairPlay campaign) and Kieron Gillen (quasi-goth, Kenickie-lover and ex-deputy editor of PC Gamer)*, he's back with an all-new incarnation of Digitiser. It's teletext. On the web. PRESS REVEAL.

* Oh, and Jonathan Nash**. ** Everybody else is doing it.

currently playing: Mint Royale - Don’t Falter

Catching Up II

It occurs to me that it’s been a while since I talked about what I’m doing at the moment. So, if you’ve come here for more naîve, idealistic political commentary, or pictures of Domo-kun, you might want to come back tomorrow.

There's not a lot to talk about, though. I submitted the draft of an article to a computer magazine last week; they liked it and didn't want any changes, so it should be published sometime in the next six/seven months (the deadline was for September). I have a few ideas for other pieces; if anybody wants a 2,500-3,000 word piece on the UNIX Systems Lab vs. University of California Berkeley lawsuit and how it relates to the current SCO vs. IBM case, I'm your man. I finished the first draft of one of my scripts back at the end of June; I'm now working on another idea, and I'll hopefully get those both finished before the end of August.

The Chapel Hill withdrawal symptoms are in full effect, and I expect them to get worse when August finally rolls round, and everybody goes back to UNC. Still, my visit back in September/October is now organised, so I only have to wait two months until I'm back there, if only for a few weeks. But, if anybody wants to chuck me a H1-B visa, I wouldn't complain…

currently playing: Tori Amos - Another Girl’s Paradise

"Oddly enough, we're about even"

Random links for today:

Jon Stewart on the current state of the America Media.

Mark Radcliffe chronicles the history of New Order.

A collection of Swiss posters.

The long-awaited Cassandra Project.

It loses me somewhere around step 4.

Yes. Well. Words fail me…

currently playing: Radiohead - Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box