Category Archives: funny

Great Scotts! DC’s Closet Come-out Cop-out

So after weeks of theorising, posturing and conjecture among the comic-book community over which DC stalwart was going to come out of the fictional closet the answer has finally been revealed. James Robinson, author of DC’s new Earth 2 book, has momentously announced that the “major” and “iconic” previously straight character is……Alan Scott!

You know…Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern!

THE Alan Scott!

Of course you fucking don’t.

I only know who he is because of late-night wikipedia binges in my early teens, living in rural Ireland with nary a comic-book shop in sight and the joys of downloading them still a mystery to me so I had to rely on simply reading about them. Reading anything to sate my appetite. Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, was created during the super-hero Golden Age of the 1940s and whose powers came from a magic Chinese Lantern full of mysterious Oriental energy that he found down a subway, or something.  As the super-heroes’ popularity began to fade during the 50s the character started his first trip into obscurity and was eventually replaced by the Silver-Age reboot; the slick, daring fighter pilot/intergalactic beat-cop Hal Jordan – the Green Lantern that we know and love. That is if audiences even know of Green Lantern. After being replaced Scott’s stories were relegated to the parallel continuity universe of Earth-2, a retirement home of sorts for the super-people of the Golden Age where the characters were actually allowed to age, reproduce and die (sometimes indefinitely) with the Justice Society of America. Though I think this is a neat concept any and all of these events have been wiped from the multiverse canon by numerous Crises, each more permanent and infinite than the next, culminating in Superboy punching the Universe so hard it stopped making sense. I’m not kidding.

Find dead horse. Flog. Rinse. Repeat.

Ok, so DC’s chosen bastion of equal rights is a sort of awkward first-try at a Green Lantern that they’ve kept around for shits and giggles and hasn’t fronted his own comic-book for at least sixty years BUT this is the New 52 right? DC comics latest reboot (after the Flash ran so fast the universe…yeah…I don’t even…!) which sees the characters’ slates cleaned and clocks reset. We see Batman and Superman meet for the first time, again! No one’s wearing silly underpants! Aquaman’s got his own comic! So in this universe anything can happen. Could the newly outed Scott be this universes Green Lantern proper, an upstanding citizen, guardian of the Galaxy and serving member of the Justice League?

LOL NO!

Yep, that’s right. He’s not only an ancient, obscure super-hero but he’s been relegated to a parallel universe once again, Earth-2, nicely tucked away under the radar of anyone who isn’t an avid collector of overpriced comic-books. Let’s revisit DC’s Editor-in-chief Dan DiDido’s comments that the hero would be “major” and “iconic”. The Green Lantern is iconic, I guess – but he isn’t Green Lantern. And I’m really not interested in hearing about whatever amazing adventures he’s had in some parallel universe stories from the 80s and how he became a character in his own right because that’s not important. What’s important is DC’s cynical decision to sneakily use the confusion of their continuities to garner tonnes of media interest whilst not actually having to make a truly controversial change. Making Hal Jordan gay might have been something as he’s the most famous Lantern, or Kyle Raynor because who cares? At least he exists in the mainstream continuity – at least he “exists”. Or they had an opportunity to craft a new character (God forbid) as the Lantern role can be passed on the different people. And by people I mean men. DC has no problem doing it when they need to fill their racial diversity quota, as evidenced by Jon Stuart or the ginger Guy Gardener.

This guy’s allowed in the mainstream…Carrot-top, popped-collar, shit-eating grin and all.

So DC can bathe in the publicity as every news outlet, refreshingly out-of-touch with the brain-pulpingly over-complex history of the Green Lanterns and the DC Mulitverse, reports that Green Lantern is now gay, thinking that Ryan Reynolds may have to readjust his relationship with Blake Lively when Hollywood inevitably farts out a Green Lantern 2 that nobody asked for. And from the outside it looks like DC wins the Equality war with rival Marvel Comics who just recently featured their first gay wedding between Northstar, the first openly gay superhero in American comics, and his boyfriend. Both could be said to be cynical sales moves, designed to cash in on a hot-button issue, garner attention and to move product but Marvel’s is arguably a more natural evolution for their characters and is more consistent given that Northstar is a mutant and X-Man, a group constantly fighting to be equally represented in their universe.

Marvel’s track-record is a wee bit better on the equality front with Northstar (though he was, at one point, a literal fairy) but they also featured major and iconic characters changing sexual orientation in a parallel universe ten years ago with Colossus in Ultimate X-Men. But it wasn’t a publicity stunt, it was just this Peter Rasputin’s sexual orientation sans bells, whistles and press releases. His being gay was secondary to the fact that his skin could turn into steel and he could punch buildings.

They did, however, give him a wee earring but this was like 2002 so it was all very Justin Timberlake back then.

What would have been preferable? Well, at the very least someone who exists in the mainstream continuity and who is a member of the flagship Justice League. To be honest, most of DC’s heroes are pretty gay. Clark Kent’s bumbling, awkward attempts to fit in as “normal” hide is rather fabulous alter-ego; Wonder Woman, raised in a Matriarchal, women-only island, surely must have a few teenage crushes and relationships before her lesbianism was “cured” by meeting her first man, Captain Steve Cheesepants or whatever. Or Batman? Billionaire playboy with a secret nightlife, a dungeon full of bizarre toys, gadgets and rubber suits, with a penchant for collecting young men. Ok, so those were rather easy targets but what of the simmering bromance between the Flash and Hal Jordan? Yes, yes all too obvious. It seems DC’s heroes are too straight and proper to be given any sexual identity whatsoever, hetero or homosexual – it’s like acknowledging your grandparents have (or had) sex. Ew.

Back in my day I ate guys like you for breakfast!

DC already has a gay lead character in the form of the current Batwoman, which is great, but it’s always been easier to introduce lesbian characters with oversized breasts to a community largely made up of men. What they need is not to ham-fist a change but pick a character whose homosexual identity would gel or bolster with their character already. With Alan Scott, they picked him because his son was gay in the other unimportant universe and they must’ve felt guilty deleting one of their few gay heroes and changed Scott to make up for it. After the announcement many fans theorised that the gay character might turn out to be Tim Drake, the third Robin, due to his string of failed relationships. However, I believe this is only due to the fact that Drake’s a pretty boring straight edged character and writers lose interest in his story with regularity. No, the next gay character should be Batman’s son and current Robin, Damian Wayne.

I love this guy.

Damian was introduced in 2006’s Son of the Bat storyline by Grant Morrison, initially to quite a bit of fan-hate. Son of the world’s greatest detective and a leader of a group of eco-warrior terrorist-ninjas Damian was raised as a child prodigy ninja assassin genius and stirred quite a bit of shit in first few appearances. Basically he’s a nasty condescending little shit who’s hiding a wee bruised heart and a desire to be good much like Artemis Fowl, who gets a name check in Damian’s début issue. He’s a joy to read due to his vitriolic distaste for everyone around him and he’s quite camp – think an older, more violent Stewie Griffin, but he’s also completely bad-ass. He’s only 10 years old but he has such a strong identity and character if he were gay there would be no bones about it, no excuses or awkward realisations. If you had a problem with it he’d detach your jaw with a crow bar. He’s great. As he grows into the role of being a hero, a good guy, he can also grow into his sexual identity, because he’s a very rare thing: a new, popular character who has shown the capacity to change.

All-in-all I’d put DC’s latest bid for attention from the mainstream media along with the “Dumbledore is Gay” event in terms of hollow offerings to the LGBT community. Both were last-minute cop-outs designed to appear as progress but are really just there to satisfy the guilty consciences of authors too afraid to take a chance within their main stories and so make concessions after the fact. I’m a breeder and I find this crap offensive in its banality.

Discuss!

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I Just saw Prometheus

Just out of the 00.01 showing of Ridley Scott’s latest sci-fi offering in the BFI IMAX. And may I just say wow. That is a huge screen. It lurches one’s stomach rather like the feeling you get when you stare up a large tower or grounded sailing ship from the very bottom and feel as though it may just slowly fall on you. Its sheer height actually makes you a little emotional for some reason – I found myself strangely moved by the trailer for the Dark Knight Rises which I’d already seen and been pretty indifferent to.

Anyway, onto the matter at hand; Prometheus. Caution, fellow travellers, thar be *SPOILERS* ahead.

 But I must confess to something first: The first Alien film I ever saw was 2004’s Alien VS. Predator. This didn’t stop me from becoming the avid Alien fan that I am or appreciating the subtleties and horror of first two films or from developing that special place in my heart for the much maligned Alien Cubed. It acted as a doorway into a wider, more satisfying universe and thusly, I have to say I’m glad I saw it. Every Alien fan should.

Seminal

I wish Ridley Scott had. Because then he might not have accidentally remade it.

Ok that might be a bit harsh but seriously Prometheus is full of “haven’t we already done this?” moments and leaves the audience with so many unanswered questions that one wonders why there was any merit at all in making this film only tangentially refer to its progenitor. Why Lindelof and Scott thought there was anything so new and original in this story that it required its own spin-off is beyond the reasonable mind.

Let’s get the AVP similarities out of the way. The plot similarities, both based on nut-case Eric Von Daniken’s “God is an Astronaut” theory, are excusable (AVP isn’t exactly the apex of its genre here) but the way in which it’s introduced –  a lecture delivered to a group of hard-case experts, in a hanger of their vessel which is heading toward the point of interest – is identical. In both cases it’s absurd that these professionals would hop on a ship heading toward uninhabitable landscapes with no foreknowledge of what they were there for but in Prometheus we’re told they’ve been in Cryo for 2 years and they only get briefed when they reach their destination?

Oh and the reason they’ve spent a trillion dollars and  relinquished two years of their lives? Some paintings…you prolly saw it in the trailer. There is literally no better reason given for their expedition . At least in AVP there was a fricking pyramid heating up in the Arctic to justify their adventure. Also, in AVP they had a heat-signature to locate their future tomb –  in Prometheus the crew flies their star-bug down to the planet and just happens upon some Nazca lines and Alien-God jackpot about a minute after arriving. Pretty lucky. Other comparisons are slim but no less irritating including the “No guns; this is a sciencey trip?” “Whatever you say, lady” exchange between strong female expert and gruff worker character and having two of our underdeveloped fodder characters getting lost in the maze-like alien tomb. Oh and dying member of the Weyland family who bankrolls the venture, inadvisably tagging along only to be killed off by a gargantuan extraterrestrial.

But let’s get onto the real meat. Music sets the tone. Alien is famous for its restrained use of any orchestral score only appearing intermittently during transitions or as the creature attacks. The infamous tagline “In Space no one can hear you scream” accurately evokes the bed-shitting silence at the end of the film when Ripley is left alone with the Phallic nightmare. Conversely, Prometheus is underscored with a grandiose and uplifting motif akin to the Aaron Copland American sound which is more at home in the Star Trek series than a grotesque space-horror. The score tends to displace the mood, and moments which in the trailer seemed ungodlily creepy and horrifying can blip past without evoking a simple jolt or shudder.

But perhaps you’re normal and don’t even notice the music unless it’s terrible. The dialogue is pretty worn. None of the characters seem to ask any reasonable questions and consequently, the audience isn’t given any satisfying answers. Moments which should be great literally fade before you as there is never much fuss made out of anything that happens. **SPOILERS** They discover the first sign of alien life, they discover it looks just like us, they discover that it shares our DNA, they discover that they made us, Naoomi Rapace gets impregnated and removes a giant horrific squid from her guts and NOBODY SEEMS TO CARE. Not even the director. And then, how are we to?
There’s far too much cod theology and many many empty exchanges which tend to drag the story around its ankles.

The whole story, thematically, is about parentage, and it’s about as subtle as a chestburster. Dr. Lizzy can’t have babies, Holloway, Vickers and David clearly all have daddy issues and they occasionally “reveal” these insights in choice moments that I presume were intended to be plot twists. **SPOILERS** Theron’s dramatic turn around to Wayland toward the end with the immortal “Father!” was particularly loll-ful. **END**

What was good? Well, what was good was great! I loved the Engineers. Ever since I laid eyes on that dead Space Jockey in Alien they had transfixed me so getting to see them fleshed out and move in all their lumbering glory was a treat. There was something very LOST about their introduction. The Black goo, the loin-cloth…probably the loin-cloth.  But they were gorgeous; their statuesque form, marble skin, Roman noses and their loin-cloths evoked classic gods but somehow managed to gel seamlessly with the Alien universe. Their motives, however, do not sit so well.

We are told they have been to Earth previously and instructed primitive people to find them, “inviting” them to this nearby stellar constellation. We learn that they create biological weapons. Devastating, resilient, biological weapons of mass-destruction. We learnt that these weapons turned on them, hence there being no Engineers left. We learn that they created us. We learn (through just about the weirdest last minute piece of exposition I’ve yet seen) from the Cap’n that the planet isn’t their home but a place to store their super-dangerous weapons. We learn that their ship was bound for Earth, full of weapons, presumably to destroy it.

So, to recap…They make weapons, they make man; the most dangerous weapon. They decide to destroy man. They teach primitive species the directions not to their home planet but their weapon stash? A weapon stash they were going to fly to and dump on Earth eventually anyway? I…whut?

Then there’s Wayland who finances the whole trip based on cave maps and secrets himself on-board, with a vague plan of achieving eternal life granted to him by creatures he doesn’t yet know to exist? And he makes David infect Holloway…because…? and tries to sedate Dr.Lizzy why? and they all seem to forget about it immediately because…the…plot…and…The pace is simply to choppy and fast to accommodate any answers to these questions.

David, however, is a joy to watch. Fassbender once again steals the show with his curious, captivating, open face and dubious, self-righteous malice. With the leads being so dissmissable/dislikeable you almost cheer when he tries to do them in. Rapace fails to ignite any sympathy – hackneyed faith in the face of insurmountable evidence plot drew a yawn or two. Vickers was far more interesting a character and the moment she stepped up and refused to let the infected Holloway on-board I saw flickers of Ripley there and thought Scott had out-clevered us again; making us think Rapace was the strong woman who survives when in-fact it’s the by-the-book Vickers. But no-dice. She gets squashed. I really though Shaw deserved to bite it, like all mad scientists should, when their follies cause the deaths of everyone they know and love. It’s uptight “bitches” like Ripley who should get to survive.  But no, Shaw has her faith rewarded. Humbug.

The HORROR!

So, all in all, I enjoyed it, of course I did. The first half is fantastic, raising question after question and genuinely creates an interesting mood. But it just kinda falls apart. I think the disappointment you’ll feel with this film will be measured by how high your expectations are. And mine were unfortunately pretty high. And I don’t think Ridley Scott’s promotional campaign helped that much. The ads promised creepy, shock, grotesque alien body-horror, eerie atmosphere, the unknown and deliberately harked back to the original Alien trailers so it is completely fair to compare them and to say that yes, it did disappoint – yes it failed to satisfy not just my expectations but also the expectations it itself raised.

For me the final insult is it’s having nothing to do at all with the ship found in Alien which would have given the whole affair a kind of reason for existing.

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Seriously, Fuck Bed Bugs

The  the mahogany flat, the crimson rambler, the heavy dragoon, the chinche bug, and the dreaded redcoat. Though these may sound like the codex cognomens of a fleet of roguish pirate ships they refer instead to another terrifying plunderer of booty, the bed bug, whose treasure is paid in blood and the sight of which can instil more terror than that of the Jolly Rodger. It’s fucking Jolly, for god’s sake.

I'M OWN EEEH CHEW

I ended the last post with Girlfriend and I abating our unease with our room, coming to terms with it and finally being able to call it home. Then suddenly, FUCKING BEDBUGS. And it’s not funny. Everyone I’ve told gives a cursory “That’s terrible,”  or “lol sounds bad” completely unaware of the enormity of the problem.

On Girlfriend’s birthday (last Wednesday) I started to notice small red dots on my arms and feet which later began to swell and itch. Then, she too began to suffer the pinprick plight. Google told us they were hives and then told us that hives happen for pretty much no good reason at all.  So we were resigned that they’d eventually go away. Then, on Saturday, waking up in the middle of the night after an essay-nap we caught the scarlet night-time visitor, this scuttling Santa of Doom. And, just like that moment you spot an ant on concrete only to realise you’ve just spotted the patch of concrete in between the ants so too with our bedsheets, as we started to see more of the Crimson Cunts scarper about in satisfying contrast to our sky-blue bed-linen. We spent the night mostly awake with the light on to dissuade them  from emerging again. They mostly come at night, you see.

..Mewstly

We knew what we had to do. I said we should take off and nuke the entire site from orbit at which point Girlfriend started shouting “Fucking A, man, fucking A!” in agreement so we called a 24/7 exterminator to get a quote. Usually it’s around 150 squids but because of the Easter holiday it’d be closer to 350. What a stupid fucking holiday. This meant the problem wouldn’t be dealt with till the following Tuesday, as we knew our landlords would have their pockets, and not our health and well-being, at heart. The next day first thing we black-bagged every last item of clothing and called the landlords. It was around 2 when the landlord’s son came out to us, bringing with him what we thought to be only a temporary solution; an insecticide bomb.

"It's the only way to be sure...right?"

I tore the pin off the top, threw it in and jumped out of the room in slow-motion, cascading to the floor. We took off for a well deserved Easter Cream Egg McFlurry while we imagined our enemies choking to death underneath our mattress and after 2 hours we returned, only to find the bomb was a dud and failed to ignite. Landlordson appeared again, this time with a can of ACME Bed-Bug-B-Gone. Heaving up the mattress I located some soon-to-be Red Dead BaBedbaBugs, took aim and shot a jet of carcinogens in their faces.

and they just KEPT. COMING.

We took everything we had to a laundrette, washing and drying for 2 hours and at one stage occupied every single machine. We rang the landlord, demanding fumigation and a new bed; the new bed they could get (by Tuesday) but they seemed reticent to call in the professionals.

This is what made the entire thing so horrendously stressful. The bugs are horrible, scuttling nightmares who’d been feeding on us for some time, and we had marks from our feet to our faces and forced us to fleer our home but they’re still neither inherently good nor bad.

Girlfriend's arm. Each Bed bug feeds for 10 Minutes before they become engorged. Seriously, fuck them.

It was not knowing whether we could trust the people who’d caused this mess to fix it, to believe them when they said they would bring in an exterminator and the lengths they’d go to save themselves some dosh. It was this that made Girlfriend burst into tears outside King’s Cross station as we headed to a mate’s house to escape. As Ripley put it in Aliens:

 “I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage. “

That night we stayed in our friend’s living room which we had to share with their new pet rabbit. A strange Easter treat which gave our bizarre weekend another spin of the absurd. After two days of stressful displacement and with essay deadlines looming we finally got a call from the landlord saying they’d thrown out the bed and paid the man who’d fitted the new bed £100 to spray the room. Real encouraging. After surveying the room we headed downstairs and caught the landlord on the landing. His puffy face swelled with guilt and behind his glasses he wore the expressions of a child who’d been caught.

“Everything was new when you came and now I’ve gotten you a new bed too! You should appreciate what I’ve done for you!”

He implored. We were having none of it, our demands strengthened by our position at the top of the stairs.

I told him the whole house will have to be fumigated or we’re getting our deposit back. The nerve…chyeah, we really appreciate being the bloodmeal for the parasites of a rapist drug addict. With our ultimatum he winced his wet, piggy eyes and scarpered back downstairs, corkscrew tail between his little legs.

Fuck Bed bugs.

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Fundazing

He was huge. His vast, expansive girth somehow managed to exceed his tremendous height, peeping down at us, as he was, from behind his glazy spectacles with a head that tapered to a point like a cartoon bird. Sliding a layer of sweat from his brow with a clumsy backhand he entrusted the nearest bench with his arse, landing with much huffing and puffing.

“Them stairs…”

This is how I met Daniel, and the rest of the motley Charity fundraising team, as he broke the comfortable ice we’d let crystallise in the waiting room before our induction day officially began. Located in an old factory building in hip, trendy Dalston, there were admittedly many stairs but also, it seemed,  a collection of contrived “characters” who’d turned up for training. This job attracts and rewards the confident and the eccentric. More’s the pity as it wasn’t long before Daniel was telling us yet another “funny” anecdote in his nasal Essex drawl, replete with Sylvester the Cat Thpeech impediment.

“That’ths juth’t hith way, moi mayte, like’th to have a laugh, ooh e’s a funny one. Thith one time…”

He was a writer, by trade. And by trade I mean unemployed. It was actually sublime, really, to start one’s day at 9:30 in a renovated factory, having an enormous, verbally unstoppable man-child regale an awkward gathering of inductees with his own terrible poetry. My own Vogon.

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"The third worst in the Universe!"

During the training another character managed to stand out, by the name of Z. Z was 27 and an Indian salesman through and through and I had taken note of him earlier due to his snappy dress sense, waist-coat and gold watch. He had been let go from a sales company that’d just gone bust and was just using this job to float. Despite his formidable resume, he stood out as man-child #2, constantly whining about undertaking simple tasks, refusing to listen and asking the question “When we are[sic] getting our break?” every ten minutes in the patois of a six year old boy who’s had a very long day.

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"When we are going to get paid?!"

With every new person who came to give us a new skills workshop or pitch training I delighted in seeing the moment they twigged something just wasn’t quite right about these two and having to resort to tactics of control I’d not seen since primary school.

There’s no such thing as stupid answers, just stupid people.

I was the odd one out in the room as being the only male not married or engaged. Andre, a delightfully sane Canuck had just married a girl he’s known for about a year, Z’s set to move to Poland to be with his pregnant, 19-year-old Bride to be (which has never stopped him from gathering as many girls’ phone numbers on the street as he can) and Daniel, well Daniel met his fiancé online, possibly in his Star Trek role-playing group. That man gives a bad name to Star Trek role-playing groups.

The funny thing is, despite their glaring inadequacies as normal, rational human beings and their inability to hold a conversation with someone without wearing the other party’s patience thinner than Bible paper they still manage to get leads out on the street. Z does especially well with his wheeler-dealer, sleazy salesmanship raking in the sign-ups with aplomb. And I still manage to flounder somehow.

Lol.

Perhaps I’m just not heeding the advice of my Team Leader, who’s name I shan’t disclose- suffice it to say he’s named  himself after a geological formation. Imagine, if you will, Simon Pegg’s character from that episode of Black Books; “Yeah, hey, guys just want you to have a good time out there, bounce around, talk to people in the sun,enjoy yourself but you really need to get thirty-five sign-ups today to make up for yesterday’s performance.” He consistently manages to raise you up for a fall in a one-step-forward two-steps-back management style so that your self-esteem flatlines by the end of the day. And he even sounds eerily like Simon Pegg.

“Imagine that in one hand you have the sign ups that you’re collecting and in the other you have all of the charity’s money, and it’s blowing away in the wind. You need to get as many as you can to make up for the blown away money.”

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Cheers.

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Long time, no see

Weeeeell, it has been some time since my last post. In that time I lost my house, my job and my laptop charger decided to pooter to a stop. It’s been going pretty frickin’ swell I can tell you. That and my lack of human contact contributing to a wee bit of stress and strain with my main source of human contact. I’ve been quite hard on her and it’s not really fair. BUT I’m moving to foggy old London town and received a part in The Importance of Being Ernest in the Brighton Fringe so praps things will start to look up!

Home? Cake? YES

Now I’m going to share with you yet another strange going on in the Old Stein. Walking toward the bus stop at around half nine in the evening I had to pass through a wide alleyway that connects the Lanes with the Stein. It was already quite dark and when I glimpsed two black clad figures loitering awkwardly by the wall I felt a touch of apprehension. However, as muggers their demographic was all wrong; a man, mid-thirties and an older woman, portly both wearing black wind breakers. Their conversation halted abruptly as I passed, furthering their suspicious nature and the long, awkward silence was suddenly broken by the bleep and crunch of a police walkie-talkie. The pair wore their best poker-faces and made no move to answer it.

So, presumably I’ve been witness to yet another act of terrible police surveillance in the Stein. Maybe they’re onto me. Maybe I’m not as paranoid as I should be! I;d rather think they were criminals who’d pick up tips on theft after watching Drive.

Anyway, I’ve got to go move house again. Toodles.

I think we both need the toilet.

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Hybrid Space: The Final Frontier

Recently, I had this fantastic idea for a video game. Upon reading about various Alternate Reality Games (ARG) and with a vague grasp of recent Augmented Reality applications, which overlay real, physical images captured on 3G mobile devices with digital information, I thought why not combine the two? Create a Virtual Augmented Reality game which blended the the real landscape with a parallel fantasy one? Over diminishing pints I outlined a version of Pokemon to my friends (and anyone within earshot) where one’s own geographical location formed part of the narratives, where special items or Pokemon could only be obtained in certain locations, forcing the player to trade and explore. I was sure I was onto a real money-spinner.

The only downside would be how horrendously long it would take you to walk through a field.

However, like all things, it turns out I’m about ten years behind. In her essays “Playing Life and Living Play” (2008) and “From Cyber to Hybrid” (2006), Adriana De Souza e Silva talks extensively about such Hybrid Reality Games (HRG) which have emerged from the convergence of applications and media to mobile, internet-supporting  platforms and ones which simultaneously use physical space as well as digital space. These games, and mobile technology generally, create a new space which reconfigure users relationships both geographically and socially.

Essentially, the ability to carry the internet around in your pocket fundamentally changes one’s relationship with the various social spaces we inhabit, be they physical, digital, work or play, continually blurring the lines between them. You may answer work e-mails while you eat, tend to your cabbages on Farmville while you commute or map your urban excursions on some 3G gadget (I would probably still be wandering around Whitechapel in the dark if not for my girlfriend’s shiny iPhone). Silva correctly asserts that far from disconnecting people from their physical environments, as has been widely suggested, these new technologies instead enrich and expand one’s connection to the physical realm.

While the majority of people in 3rd wolrd nations rely on farming for subsistence bored white kids can get addicted pretending to.

While the majority of people in 3rd world nations rely on farming for subsistence bored white kids can get addicted pretending to.

I noticed a funny example of this dramatic shift of spaces, personal, public, physical and private on the bus to uni the other day. A fellow student sitting beside me flipped open his iPhone and began to use the gay dating/social networking application Grindr which allows the user to identify fellow gay users in the vicinity including such detailed information as how far away a fellow user is in metres. Naturally, I assumed he was just trying to see f I was on it, of course, but it still struck me as a notable shift in perceptions of space and privacy. Mobile applications allow us to be completely private in public and vice versa.

Yes of course I'll trust my personal information and exact location to an application that seems to be using a bondage hockey-mask skull as its mascot.

Play or game space has always been one that’s been considered an alternative space, “outside” of reality. HRGs shatter this distinction via their ability to transcend confined game space (such as a board, or video-game level). The main tenets of these games are that they merge these spheres, they are collaborative, usually requiring group action to progress, and require a development of trust. As in all play space the “fun still derives from the assumption of interacting with another and specifically from the potential of interaction” (Fink, 1974), so the attraction is social and social engagement. The creation of social spaces requires three elements: the material, physical practices, representations of space and the spaces of representation (Lefebvre 1991). These games satisfy each, the physical urban environment the game takes place in, its digital representation and finally the constructed, fictional narratives that blur with the ordinary space of the city (Silva, 2008).

Example of Hybrid Reality Game

Silva talks about how these games, such as I Like Frank (2004), Botfighters and Mogi, forces the player to re-evaluate the physical space they inhabit and can promote exploration and discovery of physical spaces through location based objectives. But the games also force personal and socio-spacial renegotiations also.  The anonymity granted by the user allows for “a safe environment for experimenting with one’s identity” (Silva, 451) and thus the blurred boundaries between digital and physical spaces may extend to personal ones. Also, in order to be part of the game and interact with other users, tracking their movements, etc., one must allow oneself to be tracked, which requires an act of trust in the other players. They must have the interests of the game at heart and must enforce each other. Although trusting online teammates can be tricky business as the anonymous and consequence-free nature of the art can allow users to simply leave instantly if they become frustrated.

LOL RAGEQUIT!

We see here in this video the Augmented reality creating Hybrid space by overlaying the real image with new digitalised data, mediating reality through technology into a narrative. I believe that as gaming tastes and trends continue to expand further than repetitive first-person shooter nonsense and into the more lucrative markets of iPhone games and apps we’ll probably see more diverse and engaging HRGs, which will connect users through their negotiation and exploration of this new hybrid environment.

There is, as ever, potentially a dark-side to the seemingly innocuous fun. To engage in the Hybrid space you must connect using a variety of social media tools and applications which continually gather data on the user in order to function. Take an iPhone’s GPS orFourSquare’s grotesque “checking-in” function. HRGs run the risk of joining the aforementioned applications as agents promoting the normalisation of surveillance culture. It allows private firms to collate inordinate amounts of data on users, allows them to track not only our tastes and behaviours but also where exactly we are at any given time and as usual, the user gives this to them on a platter. As ever the users will be complicit in their own exploitation. The hybrid space allows for many interesting, innovative and unprecedented social interrelationships and is undeniably shaping the ways in which we negotiate space, physically, digitally and mentally but it may come at the cost of true privacy.

De Souza E Silva, Adriana. “Playing Life and Living Play: How Hybrid Reality Games Reframe Space, Play, and the Ordinary.” Critical Studies in Media Communication25.5 (2008): 447+..

De Souza E Silva, Adriana. “From Cyber to Hybrid Mobile Technologies as Interfaces of Hybrid Spaces.” Space and Culture (2006): 261-278

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So, This is England

I got a distinctly Shane Meadows vibe as I walked home today. Coming into the Avenue estate I passed by a rotund boy in a shell-suit who sheepishly pulled a chocolate-ship cookie from his pocket and aimed it mouthwards. Just then I heard a shout from the drive-way to my left. A huge, thick-necked man in a tracksuit shoved violently against  another balding man.

“What the FAHK did you just say to me?!”

Two large ladies ran into the scene to break it up with much flailing and wobbling. I turned my eyes from the scene, not wishing to draw attention. The heavens opened in an act of cliched pathetic fallacy and the estate was tinted with a Kitchen Sink grey. The young boy then hobbled at top speed past me, short of breath and wimpered a little as he ran. His cookie dropped to the ground in front of me as he turn desperately into the next house, shattering into a pile of crumbs. Seriously symbolic and that. Then two decidedly larger ladies and another tracksuited roundy kid ran breathlessly pass me toward the action. Then another two sizeable maidens. Then an old, leather-skinned man in a denim suits, handlebar moustache and a ponytail. I had a serious case of FOMO, lads.

And speaking of Shane Meadows I’ve been inhaling the follow-up series This is England ’86/88 ON 4OD and quite loving it. I do, however have a few niggles and quibbles with it. Like how they just forgot Banjo and Meggs were violent racists. Full review later on but for now I’ll leave you with this startling revelation:

Kelly from Misfits, Harvey from This is England

They’re only bloody brother and sister!

Enough, off to bed, big day ahead. Many gorgeous people to see. The first person to guess where I’m going gets a prize! Here’s a clue:

Yes, you're right! It's Hull!

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More Observations to evoke Awe and Lol

Observation 1: I have never seen an Oriental Asian woman smoke. And a quick google for a suitable image here turned up way too much porn.

Observation 2: Preparing for a Musical Society fundraising night in the Pavilion Tavern, known colloquially as the Chav Pav Tav, my Tipperary friend and I were playing a choice selection of CHOONS from my tinny speakers as we hastily downed our cans. It was 90s night but our tastes steered chronologically toward the millennium and we rediscovered this gem:

And we decided that it just doesn’t sound right not being blared from a mobile phone.

As we eventually wandered into town, tummies fizzy with lager, we were approached by an older gentleman asking for a light. His skin was tanned, accent vaguely Eastern European and he was smartly turned out, replete with a fedora and broad moustache. He kindly offered us a pre-rolled cigarette for the use of my friend’s lighter and, smiling, he wandered off on his way. It wasn’t until he turned that I noticed the amber light reflecting off the tears on his cheeks.

90s night was an occasion of awful fashion, warm glasses and absolutely fantastic music. I’ll take Haddaway over your Rhianna everytime, society. And what with hipster trendy dress sense starting ironically adopt hideous 90s dress sense I wasn’t quite sure who’d come for the party or who was just a bell-end.

what I don't even..?!

I ended up losing my mate, finding myself on the beach by the pier having a sing-song with some kind of band(?) and being plied with beers, fags, group hugs and heartfelt promises to meet up for coffee the next day. Richard if you’re reading this then you’ll already know I missed our date. There were also Frenchmen. So, yay, FRIENDS.

Just a picture wot I took in Brighton

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Observations and Overheard Conversations

Growing up in Ireland as an English kid with chip firmly attached to shoulder I always expected moving back to Blighty would in some form feel like coming home. After shouldering the guilt of 700 years of oppression, rape and imperialism I spent my misinformed teenage youth using Morrissey lyrics to express my complex dual heritage, and pretty much, any other state of being I was feeling (intensely) at the time. I think I even once told a girl that she was the one for me, “fatty” (she had rather chunky calves).

Truly a fitting spokesperson for my mind

Upon arriving in this strange land, replete with its chunky, randomly sized currency, its busy, buzzy pace and politely curt attitude I realised for the first time that I wasn’t of this isle either. London is still magic, just less magical once the tube becomes just the way to get home rather than the rollercoaster of your memory. It feels as though I’ve being playing Life on Easy Mode, living in Galway. Easy Mode is fun but your achievements always seem worth more when the difficulty settings are raised a dash.

Relocating to the city of Brighton, on the south-most tip of the UK has been illuminating. Hipsters. Many hipsters. I immediately felt underdressed for catching the bus to uni and was just gobsmacked by what seemed like a parade of Urban Outfitters models. One difference I’ve picked up here is the value placed on buying tons of shit. There’s a real focus on high-street clothes and a fixation on brands I’ve not encountered before. I always thought this whole “materialist, valueless generation” thing was invented by the media to have something to complain about but these kids would really nick trainers in a riot. Also, no one needs glasses that big. I’m just jealous, really.

Not all it appiers to be

I’ve come across some odd little things in my short time here. The strangest of which I put down to having consumed the last four episodes of BBC’s brilliant Sherlock on the gorgeous iPlayer (Nationalist independence cost us this valuable asset, for shame). Anyway, I was wandering down St.James street with my girlfriend toward the Old Stein when we spotted a seemingly homeless man begging outside of Sainsbury’s; our intended destination. Hands in pockets I puffed up my upper lip and pulled a sheepish gurn, planning to avoid eye-contact: the universal gesture for “Really sorry mate I am a really socially conscious liberal guy who feels your plight and others like you and would love to help you in anyway but I’m really skint right now and the money in my pocket is purely for the Coke can I desperately need, really sorry I’m not evil don’t judge me”. Coming against us was a rather smartly dressed man, suit/tie and expensive jacket and when he passed the beggar he pulled from his inside pocket a small, black object (a mobile, mp3, something electronic and glossy) and tosses it to the weary vagabond. The homeless man, unperturbed swiftly dematerialised the object within his own tatty jacket and continued to beg visibly. The two never shared eye-contact or acknowledged eachother in any way. So I’m all…

The homeless man is young, mid to late twenties, piercing on the left nostril, well kept, his hair is short, and though his clothes are tatty and worn there appears to be a considered colour palette of browns, oranges and faded yellows that would fit our expectations of a beggar and my sandy-haired virtual Watson of a girlfriend points out that he looks very clean. That’s what I need, you see, a “normal” perspective and my unparalleled mind misses all the sappy human elements! The “spy” is similarly aged, dressed businessman like…and…er…he…um…SPY….that’s all the Sherlocking I can do. And it leads me nowhere. But I can tell you one thing. They were crap spies.

The Royal Pavilion was a strange place indeed. Go there for the opulence, the grandeur, the tearooms, but most of all go there for Dragon.

Other points of interests include the three mass evictions I’ve witnessed from buses through town, along derelict buildings on the Old Stein. Loads of bailiffs and specialist coppers running into squats and dwells taking on their elemental nemeses, hippies. I imagine it must be like a Star Fleet officer finally getting to fire  phasers at Klingons for these baton-happy bobbies. Why do these damn hippies hate freedom so much? Why can’t they be happy with the myriad choices and freedoms they already have? And if they can’t afford it they should chose a loan! Dirty commie, hippies. The best part was the running commentary from the two wiggers in the back of the bus.

“Look at dem cops, look at dem run, bruv,”

“Rah, bruv! Rah!”

I ended up following their conversation the entire way home, trying in vain to decode its complex, hybridised lexicon.

“I was on my onesie, yeah, and I spotted a berserker and I said ‘yeah sexy momma, get on this coal train!'”

“No way, did you say that, bruv”

“I did!”

“Is it like one on one?”

“Yeah, twenty ones. One on one on one on one.”

All I conclude was that they must have been part of the same network as the Homeless Spy and knew I was onto them. Their back and forth was a mixture of secret MI6 speak and genuine interest in sexy mommas.

Some more of Brighton's Best

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