Re-FUN-dancy

Close your eyes and use your child-like sense of wonderment and vividly imagine this scene.

You: “Honey I’m home. It’s been a while but I’m back now.”

Honey: “You are a redundant now go away in a month”

How did you read those lines with your eyes closed? Impressive.  Nevertheless, it is a truly harrowing hypothetical situation. But what if it wasn’t a hypothetical? What if it was a hyper-realistic first person sensory experience known as real life? For some this “real life” is a reality, a harsh and restrictive reality that can force a person to transform. Not into a Werewolf or a Dracula, but into a different type of human being, one that examines every single step that brought them to this point in their life. I know you savvy readers may have clued on by now, but I am that ‘some’ that was identified just earlier, like 2 sentences ago. So I will tell you the story until I lose my train of thought.

This is 100% true except for the majority of the details. I didn’t waltz back in after 31 days off and return with a hitch in my step and a smile on my face. Nor did I call anyone at work ‘Honey’, I just never developed that kind of relationship with the weathered dozer drivers or supple graduate engineers. I dreaded returning to work after a month off, I dreaded it so much that I would have preferred to go back to university and study a Bachelor of Law (and arts or some other baloney), become a solicitor for a few years, ace the Bar test, spend another decade as a barrister until finally becoming a Judge. Judge Dread. I was Sly Stallone in those few days before returning to work, I felt lost and started punching various meats.

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So it was to my surprise when I returned that I was cryptically told that I was no longer required. Cue some awkward laughter and confusion, add the weight of the world, a dash of “holy shit I’m losing my job” and a whole heap of “heck yes, I’m outta here”. Those feelings summarised my entire time spent doing that job. Immediate analysis of my reaction and initial feelings lead to a colossal smile on my face.

During this moment of glee I forgot that you need a job to get monies because monies pay for things. For me these things are Pizza Shapes and soap. You can never have enough soap and I like the fancy kind that gives you a fragrant and even lather…..urgh yessss! But the idea of not working scared me. It scared me far more than it ever did before because I almost have responsibilities. All my worries were heightened during the search for a new job. What if I didn’t find a new job? Could I use my fallback plan of being a stay at home dad with no kids?

To lessen my worries I did some good ol’ fashioned soul searching. Granted, I mostly searched through various whiskeys. Whiskey is far better than continually questioning why I was losing my job. Was the answer – because you were shit at it? I never really found that out, probably yes, but I was asking the wrong question.

What do I want to do? I looked at my wife, who besides living her dream of being married to a man-child with a wormish physique; she was also killing it at studying video games design. That leap isn’t easy in the real world; it takes courage and hard work. I drank some more whiskey, ate some Pizza Shapes and was once again inspired by this superior version of Claire Danes. With nothing else to do I can follow my passion and concentrate on what I really want from my life…

 

Pizza Shape scented soap.

 

THIS POST WAS BROUGHT TO YOU BY ARNOTT’S PIZZA SHAPES

BAKED NOT FRIED THE BEST FUCKING THING EVER!

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You’re a Vision

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Eurovision is one of my favorite weekends of the year. I have fond memories of Moldova busting out a sax solo like nobody else, Latvia singing their catchy pirate themed song and Romania having a gay Dracula stuck in a perspex box. This time around it was no different with all its pop glory & political statements served with lashings of cheesy goodness. It was as if someone had shoved an iPod into a block of Gouda, wrapped a rainbow flag around it and thrown it onto a stage. And I loved it. I consume Eurovision cheese like regular cheese, by opening my jowls and inhaling until I get sick.

In my eyes there was one clear winner, the superstars from Iceland – Pollapönk with their smash hit ‘No Prejudice’. You can view the official film clip here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwfGKEIn5xw Image

These gents channeled the Presidents of the USA , added some Yo Gabba Gabba flavours and based it around a core message of tolerance and love. Like Greece’s 2013 entry ‘Alcohol is Free’ the song was never going to win, mostly because it’s kids song written by kindergarten teachers probably for one of their sing-a-longs, but I blame the politics of the judges and their judgmental ways. This is a dang catchy song with lyrics like I may stutter when I speak/ (but) you don’t need to call me freak/ it’s not trigonometry/ inside we’re the same.” It is a welcome break from some of the more snoozeworthy ballads that get busted out over the course of the weekend. I’m talking to you Azerbaijan, not even your trapeze artist could keep me interested.

As I sat there on Friday night, stuffing my face full of pizza with my good friend/sadistic personal trainer and our other halves, I was content. Iceland had blown my mindhole and there were many more highs and lows to come. So here are a few of my personal highlights from the 2014 Eurovision contest.

  • The first song of the contest was Armenia’s ARAM MP3 and props to him for transforming a what would have been another Azerbaijan into a Eurovision hit by adding some rising strings and wub-wubs until it becomes a dubstep casserole.
  • Austria’s bearded lady smashing out her song and proving that beards are, like, totally in right now. Also winning the competition and having the Wurst last name.

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  • Russia’s twins doing their best impression of Disney’s TANGLED whilst singing on a giant see-saw.
  • The folk pop contingent of Germany, Netherlands & Switzerland as well as some others that I forget. 
  • Ukraine for being one of the sauciest entries and having a human sized hamster wheel dancer. (Pictured below, but you’re best off just YouTubing it)

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  • Special mention to Latvia who were knocked out in the Semi Final after their song about baking a cake failed to get them through.
  • Finally, the award for the most cringeworthy performance goes to… Australia’s guest spot. Australia is the drunk uncle of Eurovision who throws out slurred heckles whilst holding a 6 pack of VB and then wonders why he doesn’t get invited to important events. I’m not talking about Jess Mauboy’s performance, which was actually pretty good. No, I’m talking about the intro to it which included a shirtless surfer/skater, Russell Crowe references and leftover Sydney Olympic mascots. All in the true Eurovision spirit.

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I’ll see you all next year in Austria for a weekend of singing, dancing and pissing off Russia. 

Toilet Humour

*Spoiler Alert* 

The following story contains details about my arse. It may cause you to lose your appetite and think less of me.

What makes a man? I’m talking about a fully grown adult man, not some half-baked manchild. Is it a penis? Well, yes (most of the time) but besides that? How do you know you are an adult, and in my case a man?  I recently got married, have a car loan and health insurance. If that doesn’t make me a man then surely the 12 chest hairs I have been cultivating since I was 25 might have something to say about it. If all of this isn’t undeniable proof of my maturity & masculinity I have a wild card, a draw 4+ for adulthood. Haemorroids.

The word itself is enough to simultaneously spawn giggles and winces. So let’s join hands and break down the preconceived notions of haemorroids. The first step is to define them…

 

  1. A swollen vein or group of veins in the region of the anus.

 

Swollen arse veins. Let that sink in for a moment. There’s a renegade group of veins on my butt that are engorged and painful. How are you supposed to react to this news? Recoil in disgust or snicker uncontrollably?

A fully grown adult man takes life in his stride, he laughs at life’s obstacles as he hurdles over them. Even if that particular motion would cause some mild to moderate discomfort, he does it anyway! The journey I have been on since this discovery has been painful yet entertaining and went a little something like this…

Wake up one morning and realise that my butt is sore, think nothing more of it and assume I had an awesome night. Travel 3 hours home in a Navara that has questionable suspension. Arrive home and come to the painful realisation that sitting down is not an option, cautiously think that I might have to stand up for the rest of my life and come to terms with this fact. After a lengthy period of standing motionless the chamber pot called my name. I said some swears as the pain ensued. Now you can probably tell I am avoiding detailed descriptions so here is a visual aid…

 

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 Figure 1. A confectionery description of my butt.

Sitting on a post-war latrine and crying into a toilet roll isn’t the most amusing scenario. The real entertainment comes with a visit to the GP. How do you choose which lucky doctor gets to spread your cheeks apart and look into your big brown eye? A la la la la long, a la la la la long long li long long long. It was a simple choice, a male doctor would be preferable as I am now married and have been off the ‘scene’ for almost a decade. The very fact I thought I could pickup a nice lady doctor when she is looking at my butt speaks volumes of how in touch I am. So a man it is, a man with the most appropriate name I could find. Due to my assumed massive popularity of this blog I won’t reveal his name, but it rhymed with lube (and boob). He was close to my home so he ticked all the boxes.

Having Dr. Lube inspect my butt for lumps was ridiculous, his gloved fingers probed as I giggled uncontrollably. Perhaps my response stemmed from fright and embarrassment, but I can assure you that Dr Lube most certainly did not find it funny.

“Immediately I can see a lump, does this hurt?”

I whimper that it hurts as he finds an effective way to stop my incessant laughter – PAIN. From this point on I have to assume that he is some kind of sociopath that hates laughter, a medical Grinch of sorts. His next move is a textbook play, if the textbook is ‘Scare Tactics: Butt Edition’ and he proceeds to tell me my options.

“Well you could just leave it alone, use some cream and it will get better in time. The other option is the procedure whereby we inject a local anaesthetic directly into your anus (the bumhole); make an incision and drain the fluid. It’s quite a painful procedure, and the recovery time is variable, also there is risk of infection but otherwise it is a safe and recognised procedure.”

I opted for the anus cream. It is more pleasant because it almost sounds like ice cream and didn’t involve sticking a needle directly into my arse.

As I pulled my pants up, Dr Lube’s final words of wisdom were “Remember to eat lots of fruit & veggies and consider using a stool softener or fibre supplement such as Metamucil. Oh and stay away from spicy foods”. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear as my meals in the previous 24 hours included: A non-descript curry, a spicy burrito and some peanut butter on toast. You may think that last one doesn’t sound so bad, but it was crunchy peanut butter and it was on soy & linseed bread. 100% shrapnel. If anyone has the twisted desire to experience this just go abroad and sit down on a landmine. I’m sure the difference would be infinitesimal.

This experience is just a baby step in the ocean of life. A baby who can walk into the ocean is one that, presumably, has no fear of death and probably doesn’t even understand the concept of drowning. I am that baby, all grown up and without fear.

Leisure Sickness

Spring break!!!!1! WOOOOOOOOOOO

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Spring break? It’s autumn and we live in ‘straya ya dickhead. 

You are right to query the opening statement for more than the mistaken seasonal observation. Let me explain why I quoted Spring Breakers. It wasn’t because it stole 94 minutes of my life and turned me off all movies specifically about Spring Break starring James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez. Not at all.

The motive behind such a glorious statement is that I am on holidays for a month. 31 days. 1/12th of the entire year. Wonderful plans and aspirations are in place for this period of time, a period far superior to all that came before it. I can see the opportunity for menstrual and sperm puns in the previous sentence but I will ignore it as I enter this new era of opportunity. With this new time off I can get fit, clean the house and create an insect wrestling league in a Tupperware container. Right?

Not right. Or as they say in Wales, wrong. My delicious alabaster body has joined forces with my weak constitution and they have arranged to give me the gift of pestilence. Sickness – coursing through my body and stealing my sunshine. According to WebMD it is either ‘Leisure Sickness’ or ‘Cancer’. My inner optimist is assuming it is the former but leisure sickness is almost impossible to diagnose or even explain to a person that hasn’t had at least 4 years of professional medical training. To simplify it – it done makes you sick when you don’t at work.

What a wretched curse this is! How will I co-ordinate, view and judge the Intercontinental Championship title between Antre the Giant & Hulk Housefly? Perhaps the answer is in the question…

Eureka! If I keep up a level of stress equal to that of my job then I won’t be sick on my holidays. It seems simple enough; I just have to put pressure on myself for everyday activities.

What if I miss a spot when I am brushing my teeth? I could get a cavity. What if the 5-0 pulls me over and does a cavity search? They would put their fingers in my mouth and it would be freaking gross. What if they did it after they searched my bum? I better brush them again.

As the strain of everyday activities bears down on me I have gained a level of health that only 3 day old pizza and litres of soft drink can provide. My muscles feel tense and my hunch is more pronounced than ever. It’s not just physical improvements either, I am so irritable that the slightest misfortune will cause me to flip out or break down. And therein lies the excitement of this type of treatment, I never know how I’ll react.

There sauce bottle has a crust of old sauce on the lid? “BRAUGHAHE, THIS IS FUCKING BULLSHIT!” I scream at the bottle. Then slowly I crawl into the foetal position when I realise I am yelling at a sauce bottle. Poor Mr Fountain, he just wanted to make delicious sauce more accessible for the people. How was he to know the single flaw in his otherwise perfect condiment dispenser?

Now that I am back to at least 51% health I have a meeting with the one and only ‘Stone Cold Steve Waspin’. He is possibly the greatest insect wrestler of his generation, even if his lifespan is only 22 days. So off I go, crying uncontrollably and singing the theme from Sesame Street. Sunny days, sweeping the clouds away, on my way to where the air is sweet….

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5 tips on the creative process

Since I have started studying again I have learnt a lot about the creative process.  This is the best advice I could think of that I have learnt through experience and advice that has been imparted to me from my peers and teachers.

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Your first idea may not be your best one.  This is something I struggled with for a while.  I would go “eureka!” when I had one idea that fit the bill and just go from there.  Now I know to do blue sky thinking, which means that anything goes.  Write down as many ideas that you can think of, even if they seem ridiculous because this part of the process expands your possibilities and frees up your mind.  That initial idea may still be the best one, but at least you explored other possibilities so you know it.

Think about what you are going to do before diving in.  Before you start the practical application of your idea, have a long hard think about how you are going to go about it.  Often when I dive into a project without thinking about it, I find down the track that there was a much easier way to do it and I had wasted so much of my time.  Now I consider the time I am thinking about a project equates to the time working on project.

Take a break and get some perspective.  When your work is getting to be a grind and you can’t see it clearly anymore, it’s time to take a break.  A ten minute break will suffice to clear your head and think about something else.  When you return you will be able to look at your work critically and notice more about the general feel of it.  My drawing teacher once said to turn your drawing upside-down, take a break and look at it with fresh eyes when your return.  You will see it from a different angle and perhaps see what is wrong or missing from your composition.

Get feedback from others.  Creating something that is your own idea and style is an incredibly personal thing.  Having others critique your creation is one of the hardest things you will probably have to do, but it needs to be done.  I guess this is also about getting perspective, but this time it is somebody else’s.  Whether it is positive or negative feedback, you really have to evaluate it and also think about the person critiquing you.  Try and get feedback from someone that can be honest with you and from people in your target audience.

Write you ideas down.  Ideas can come to you any time and you will often forget them if you don’t write it down.  Most of the time you won’t be able to act on your idea until maybe years later and there is little chance that you will remember that brilliant moment when you got the idea.  Right now I have about six ideas for games and have written them all down in a notebook so when I am ready to actually start creating games I will have those little gems up my sleeve.

How to buy an engagement ring

Alone on V-Day? Well you are probably thinking of proposing and are in need of a ring. You could use the internet to order but know nothing about rings and are far more willing to let the person at the ring store dictate how much additional money you will spend. So go to the ring store. But read this how-to guide first because find the perfect ring can be a daunting experience.

Once in the ring store you should stand around and look at what you think are engagement rings whilst being ignored by wispy women wearing so much jewellery it looks like they raided the Cave of wonders from Aladdin. Add an inch or so of makeup and you have a typical staff member, otherwise known as Blinged up makeup monsters  or  BUMM. After 5 minutes of awkwardly standing around, walk over to the watch section of the store where a polite and incompetent holiday staff member will ask if you need assistance.  Inform them you are looking for an engagement ring. For about half a minute they will look at you with confusion and surprise. Not because you have a girlfriend, but because this is the watch section of the ring store. You should have gone to king of knives.

This is a good time to self-assess your entire life because you think a junior temp is judging your entire existence. The silent stare-off is broken as he tells you he will get one of the makeup monsters to help you with that. He will shuffle over to one of the BUMMs and whisper in her ear while making a deflated attempt to distinguish you from the other plebs in the store. “The gentleman over there in the torn skinny jeans and the t-shirt that says FBI – Female Body Inspector. No not that one, the other guy, with the cheezel stains on his face and the mismatched socks and crocs”. Spend approximately 10 full seconds staring blankly at the lady. (Note: This time you are most definitely being judged.)

After this she will hover over to you and ask you to follow her. The BUMM will ask you what you have in mind for an engagement ring. Your knowledge of diamonds and rings pales in comparison to your knowledge of everything else important – politics, history, the entire discography of Len and how many packets of Mi-Goreng you need to sustain yourself for 1 entire week. Politely reply that you would like to learn more about engagement rings. If you are feeling particularly alert try to spot whether she dies a little inside because she has to spend longer near you, or if her eyes light up because she can give you a ticket to the ‘take all my money train’. Usually it is one or the other, but in rare cases it can be both.

Note #2: If you are in a hurry than this following section can be skipped as it outlines the different aspects and qualities of a ring that makes more money go away.

Colour: Like grades in school they range from A-Z. With a Z grade typically being a premature diamond or in lamens terms a lump of coal. At the top end of the scale is A grade, these are so incredibly rare that only a few lucky people have seen them. And lucky they weren’t! Some say that if you gaze upon a Grade-A diamond that the light is so intense that it turns your eye’s into dollar signs and you are tragically left blind for the rest of your days.

Clarity – How clarit the ring is.

Cut – how the diamond is cut, or, the % chance the wearer has to cut things with it. A well cut diamond has 50% chance to do deep wound damage.

The Rest – Did you actually read this section? Oh man, it was just filler. Just skip to the next section.

Once these have been explained to you and forgotten it’s down to business. How much do you want to spend? (Tip: It isn’t enough). Give the BUMM your price limit and allow further judgement as she raises her eyebrow and shows you one in your budget. It should look something like this:

The next option will be a Grade-Z ring, but as a savvy buyer and boyfriend you know that coal isn’t technically a diamond. The third and often final option is the ring you buy. It is out of your price range, scores well in the quality criteria and it’s shiny. Girls like shiny things, so do magpies. Magpies are birds. Sometimes girls are called birds. I digest…

Sizing time. Now that you have the perfect ring for the significantly other person in your life you should congratulate yourself on being awesome.  The next step is getting the size kind of close so that when you propose it will fit on her sausage finger. The universal law of ring sizes states: One of your fingers is probably the same size as her ring finger. Probably the pinky, that sounds about right.

This information is vital if you want to reduce the time of your next interaction with the BUMM. Her soul piercing eyes will look at you with contempt and resentment as they ask “do you know what her ring size is?” Quickly and monotonously blurt out that it is the same size as your pinky finger while simultaneously moving your arm towards her face with your pinky outstretched. Not only will she be impressed by your knowledge of the universal law of ring sizes, but she will also be terrified of your actions, speech and overall demeanour. This speeds up the entire interaction.

Payment! Now if you recall, you made a terrible decision and have gone severely over budget in the name of a compressed mineral. Actually paying for it will instill a new wave of fear because your card limit doesn’t go that high and ring stores traditionally don’t accept Guzman Y Gomez cards. The best thing to do is make a deposit and over the coming weeks/months you can drop by the store at your leisure to make payments. During these visits you have the opportunity to mentally deconstruct your decision to buy this ring. As well as this you will have many more interactions with the BUMM who sold you the ring. Ensure that you are dressed appropriately for the occasion, you do not want to be under dressed like before. That  FBI shirt did not win you any favours. Try wearing your good t-shirt that says “I’m an Organ Donor – I donate it every chance I get” on the front.

Eventually the ring will be yours and you can start to worry about the proposal. With all this information firmly imprinted in your brain you are ready to go out there and get the perfect engagement ring for that special someone. Remember that a diamond lasts forever, so it will be there long after you are both dead.

But hopefully after a long and happy life together.

Career Change

About this time last year I was seriously thinking of a career change.  I was (and still am part-time)  working as a Medical Scientist in a hospital laboratory as feeling unsatisfied with my career path and repetitive nature of my job.  Fellow scientists would say that “we are saving lives!!”, but because of the lab is behind the scenes, we would never really get any recognition, gratefulness or even any idea of outcomes for patients.  It is a button pushing kind of job, and I know it is a good career for most but it wasn’t enough for me.

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I started looking into courses that I thought I would be interesting in.  I really like watching films, old and new and went through a period for a couple of years where I caught up on watching the highest rated films of different genres.  I though I could get into film and television production and perhaps I could be a camera man.   I knew that this would again be another technical job, but thought if I was filming something creative it would be a better option for me.  The same university that I looked into doing film and television (JMC Academy) also offered games design and when I called to inquire they sent out information on both courses.  I almost rejected the idea of doing a games design course simply because of my gender, looks and how I am not addicted to playing games.  After checking the curriculum, I found that I would be willing to give it a go because of all the interesting and creative subjects.  I was scared but enrolled anyway into the course, thinking to myself “be brave, if you don’t do something out of your comfort zone, you won’t be able to grow”.  That’s how I have found myself studying games design.

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I have now completed two semesters, which I have found so enjoyable and has taught me so much about creative industry that I am kicking myself for not starting this earlier.   There have been ups and downs and I still don’t think I fit the mold for typical games designer or even a games enthusiast but I feel like it is right for me.  I encourage anyone who wants to do something but is scared of taking that leap to think – whats the worst that can happen?  You can try and fail or find it doesn’t work for you, but you will be closer to finding what you really want to do.

The Stanley Parable Review

**** Warning: This post contains a couple of spoilers. 

the stanley parable

I have recently played The Stanley Parable, the highly praised 2013 HD remake version bought through the Steam engine.

You start from a first person perspective, the narrator calls you Stanley.  Stanley works in an office building and he finds that all his co-workers have gone missing.  Your quest is to find out what happened to your co-workers and to explore the environment.  The player is able to alter the story line and will finish with one of the sixteen possible endings.  The story is told from a first person perspective yet you can’t see any of Stanley while playing the game, including his hands and feet, which is pointed out by narrator when Stanley questions his existence.  The player can interact with the environment by opening doors and pushing buttons.

Self-taught, first time, young game designer, Davey Wrenden came up with Stanleys parable using a source mod.  The narrator is played by English voice actor, Kevan Brighting, who delivers his lines with dry wit and style.  Wrenden attributes half the games popularity to Brightings narration.   When coming up with the idea of this game Wrenden wanted to explore how games can change the narrative depending on choices the player makes.  The third wall is often broken and the player is very aware that they are inside a game.  At one point the narrator directly addresses the player by pointing out that you aren’t Stanley, you just control him, giving this game a feeling of self-awareness.

After playing this game for a couple of hours I had finished most of the endings and was left unsatisfied, yet I still continue to think about it.  This game is all about player choice.  I played the first time through following the narrator’s instructions, which resulted in a good ending for Stanley.  I won’t spoil other endings but will talk about some parts of the game that I found brilliant.

During the game in the emotion control room, I was frantically pushing buttons trying to work out how to stop a terrible thing from happening.  I thought I had worked it out and played through again but found that the buttons didn’t seem to be responding.  Wrenden admits that this was actually a design fault as he wanted Stanley to be able to interact with the buttons but didn’t know bind keys inside the Source mod.  This design fault actually made the game even more interesting to players because of what is says about the gamer and their expectations of how games should work.

baby minigame

Another part I was amused by is the baby mini-game.  Stanley is in a room with a cardboard cut out of a baby and has to press a button to stop the baby from crawling into a fire.  The narrator describes the game as an art piece that represents the pressures of parenthood and the constant needs of children.  The sound design in this part of the game is really interesting because the player is told to do one thing – save the baby –  but is ‘rewarded’ with terrible repetitive sound of the loud buzzer and the baby wailing.

I found this game was too short and it left me a bit unsatisfied.  The player doesn’t actually have that much control over Stanley as you can’t even jump of pick up objects.  It did make me question my preconceptions of how a game has to be, which is ultimately with linear storytelling.  As a budding game designer it did make me think about how to incorporate more player freedom in game.  It is a difficult task because the game maker has to include new areas and story lines depending on player choices, resulting in a much bigger game that the audience will only experience a small percentage of.  Yet it does want me to make games with more unexpectedly adaptable story lines depending on player choices or actions throughout the game.

All in all I think it was a really interesting game but not for everyone.  If you are looking for a meaty game for recreation, The Stanley Parable may not be for you.  I would recommend this to non-gamers because there are no complicated actions or controls to master in this game, literary types and anyone who would be interested in game design.