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Lost Yoot

Entry 1538 posted in: 3. Gamebits

I honestly thought that I already wrote an item about SimTower on this place, but as Google can’t find it back who am I to contradict that? Google doesn’t has it, ergo it doesn’t exist. The Matrix is closer than you think.

SimTower was a game devised in 1994 by Yutaka ‘Yoot’ Saito and published by Maxis as a kind of spin-off of their popular SimCity series. As a matter of fact the game didn’t have anything to do with the SimCity brand name and its successors (such as SimHealth, SimCopter and Streets of SimCity). Originally Yutaka designed it as elevator simulation software with additional eye candy and released it in Japan before Maxis acquired the rights for the rest of the world.

Because SimCity 2000 was one of my favourite games (this was before I discovered Transport Tycoon, I guess) I needed to have the tower version as well. The trailer looked very promising, but what a bummer it was when I first opened it. The 2D graphics were poor and cheaply animated and all in all the game only had about half a dozen of different rooms to choose from.

What a difference with SimCity that had nine different power plants alone, elaborate residential, commercial and industrial zones and a quite sophisticated budget control system. SimCity 2000 used fake 3D (some called the axonometric viewpoint 2D and a half) that you could turn around to get a better view of things. It contained train stations, airports, harbours, libraries, schools, prisons, army camps… and so on…and so on…

SimTower had none of that all, you could only watch one side of the tower and control the elevators in order to keep the masses moving up and down as fast as possible. And that is were the fun was. This game proved that graphics don’t really count when the concept behind it is daring and fun (a golden rule modern game makers seem to have forgotten).

Despite its simplicity SimTower was (and still is) very addictive and apparently I am not the only one who has the same opinion. There are still several fansites around (for over a decade now) that still attract visitors. It can be downloaded at several places as it has reached the grey area called abandonware.

Yoot Tower

Just like Chris Sawyer did by upgrading his Transport Tycoon to Transport Tycoon Deluxe Yutaka Saito tried the same and released Yoot Tower a couple of years later, but now distributed by Sega games. Yoot Tower didn’t do a lot in the shops; most reviews found it ‘more of the same’ and the initial concept of releasing expansion packs (containing extra locations, alternative towers and rooms) had to be abandoned, although the Japanese release had some extra Towerkits that could be purchased. One of the never developed ideas were a ‘moonbase’ and a ‘cruise ship’ template that could be stuffed with rooms, and of course, elevators…

Yoot Tower websites (and downloads) are harder to find, although last month a rather detailed (and very funny!) playing guide appeared to celebrate the game’s tenth birthday.


Every vintage game that has a small, but dedicated, group of followers has its 21st millennium open source counterpart. OpenTTD and Alien Invasion are amongst the most popular and active ones, other games, like the different incarnations of Open Theme Hospital, start with a lot of enthusiasm, but fail to deliver a playable beta version of the remake. I am a bit afraid that this is the current situation of the open source SimTower as well. The community has a website, a wiki, a forum and, not one, but two games in development: OpenTower Classic and OpenTower 3D. Needless to say that, apart from a downloadable preliminary preview no coding has been done yet. As a matter of fact the community has been very busy lately fighting some internal forum wars about the most efficient programming language to use.

Yoot Attack

All is not well with Yutaka ‘Yoot’ Saito either. He released a couple of tower remakes for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS and invented some weird gaming concepts like Seaman (a virtual fish with a human face, and guided by a voice recognition module) and Odama that tried to combine pinball and warfare (you defend your castle with giant flippers that shoot the balls into the enemy troops, as in this YouTube movie). Needless to say that these games seem to be popular in his homeland Japan, the only country in the world where they do like fish flavoured icecream, but are regarded as terrible stinkers in the rest of the world.

Recently Apple rejected his iPhone concept for a ‘virtual caveman on a lost island’ game, called GABO, because they found it ‘unpleasant’. As a demo trailer on YouTube shows, the game is a bit weird, but unpleasant?

SimTower links
Review at City Empires, contains an (old) interview with Yoot Saito.
Uval And Harel's unofficial Simtower Page
Zellgamers, guide, hints, tips and tower downloads
Walkthrough/FAQ for SimTower
Sean's Page for Sim Tower Help
Smoser2's SimTower Headquarter
McLure's Sim Tower Stuff 2
RoadWolf's SimTower: Review, ‘Cheats’ and Guide (2008)
Scott's Addictions (review)

Yoot Tower links
Astoria Theodor Lauppert's Yoot Tower (review)
ATPM review
GiantMike review
A Misacrope's Guide and Commentary for Yoot Tower(2009)


Update 2009.07.05
This post was only a few hours old when I received an answer from Mr. D, a semi-admin, of the OpenTower community:

The "Current Situation" you speak of and refer with a blog post of another blog is not the "Current Situation" today. The reason development has been slow has been for a few reasons:
1. Is at the beginning of the year we had to trash what we had in terms of code because it needed an outdated library to run so a new Dev is in the process of writing a new code (Which has evolved into an alpha as seen here).
2. It is a hobby and is taken as such.
3. The Dev's RL lives have to take then away from the Comp. from time to time so there is periods of inactivity.
Now about this "Active Fighting" about programming language. Is is not as you say, a squabble amongst ourselves, but is more like one person creating an account and being "Fanboy" about Python (Programming language). He has not been around the forums in a while so this issue should not pop up again.

If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: open Theme Hospital - 3 different ones 


The ArianeB 5.8 walkthroughs (2): Whiskey in the Jar

Entry 1547 posted in: a. ArianeB

NEW: THE ARIANEB WALKTHROUGHS have now got their own domain:

Virtually Date Ariane (aka ArianeB aka Ariane Barnes aka Ariane Brodie) has been upgraded to version 5.8. Going to the kitchen after dessert (and after the chance to play the spin the bottle game) will make ArianeB consider what options are still open. She will then propose one of these and the player may agree or disagree.

If you don’t like ArianeB’s proposal she will think of another one, and another,… until she runs out of ideas and the game has got no more options left… and there is a rather big chance she will kick you out if you don’t go along with one of them. The programmer, whose identity is still harder to find than Osama Bin Laden’s nice little grotto, has extended a few situations and created an entirely new one.

Although I have played ArianeB a couple of hundred times now I am still baffled by the complexity of the game and the different situations that are created, not randomly, but as a result of previous decisions.

Warning: ArianeB is an 18+ game containing some virtual nudity. To put it in other words: if your mommy, church or government forbids you to look at pixels that may give you the illusion of nude female flesh you are advised not to play this simulation and to contemplate your fate of chastity and boredom. I will not visit you in prison and if you do get there I recommend you never to pick up the soap!

Update: the latest walkthroughs for the ArianeB 6.21 game can be found at: The ArianeB 6.21 walkthroughs: All in one

Sun was so gentle to let me know that the Hold your liquor!-scenario is no longer valid in version 5.8. There may be others, but as the game has so many different highways, roads and in-between paths it is quite impossible to find them all. Qbv8, who has worked on alternative ArianeB stories, told the Shark’s Lagoon community that the game has about 1800 nodes, and rather than counting these myself, I decided to simply believe him.

Arnulf, who is a philarianist (a skilled specialist for each version of ArianeB) in his own right and who has published several add-ons for the game, came up with an alternative way to get the liquor in the lady and gave me the permission to publish it here.

These walkthroughs for versions 5.5 and higher are now a mess, I confess, I will have to do a very thorough cleanup but as this blog is called Unfinished Projects I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you...


Introduce Yourself.
Say something funny. One small change in the opening bit, just to let you know that it is possible.
Compliment her outfit.
Kiss her cheek.
18 or over.

Turn on some music.
Kiss her while dancing.
Stop kissing.
Change music or dance again.
Soft Rock.
Kiss her while dancing.
Stop kissing.
Dip and kiss her neck.
Stop necking.
Go back to the couch.

Go to another room.
Get wine to drink.
Finish drink.
Drink wine.
Finish drink. Arnulf added in two drinking sessions in his walkthrough and thus I don't know what I should think of him...

Make Spaghetti for dinner.
Eat Spaghetti.
Drink Wine.
Compliment her.
Talk to her. ArianeB can't eat spaghetti without making a mess of it...
Go somewhere else.

Go to the bathroom.
Wait for her in the hallway.
Use the bathroom.
Go to the kitchen for dessert.
Eat dessert then go somewhere else.

Go to the kitchen.
Let`s get in my car and go for a drive downtown.
Ask if she has other ideas.
How about we take a walk to the park and do something there?
Ask if she has other ideas.
We could sit on the bench out back and look at tonights beautiful sky.
Say: OK, let's do that.

It’s up to the human player to win the stargaze contest. An easy way to always win the game is to download my basketball / stargazing patch that contains the answers to all questions. Or you can have a peek at the moon regions... and here are the stars... Win the contest and as a reward ArianeB will...

"Take my shirt off".
Let her undress.
Go back inside.
Go to the kitchen.
You have seen my pool. Let`s go swimming.
Ask if she has other ideas.
What do you say we grab some whiskey out of the cabinet and get plastered? Now we're talking...
Say: OK, let's do that....

Drink whiskey.
Finish drink.
Compliment her.
Grab her breasts.
Stop fondling her boobs.
Rub her thighs.
Stop massaging. ArianeB suddenly finds she is slightly overdressed...
Let her undress.
Rub her thighs.
Stop massaging. Hmmm...
Let her undress.
Touch her pussy.
Stop fingering her pussy.

Finish off the bottle.
Carry her to bed.
Make her more comfortable.
Tuck her in.
Get in bed.
Go to sleep.

On a scale of 1 to 10, you get a 7.


In a previous walkthrough we showed you how to get into a striptease contest with ArianeB's friend from the lingerie shop, Rebecca. but there is an alternative way to get into the cabaret.

Do the introduction from above but don’t go for the spaghetti, instead invite her to the bistro for the steak dinner...

Suggest going out to dinner.
Wait for her in the hallway.
Go out to dinner.
Be seated.
Order dinner.
Continue to eat.
Compliment her.
Talk to her.
Drink wine.
Pick up the check.
Head out. If you have played the game before you'll remember that ArianeB wants to have a drink...

Go to bar.
I'm driving so club soda please.
Ask her to dance.
Keep dancing.
Protect Ariane.
Get her away from this guy.
Get out of the club. ArianeB wants to leave the town asap...

Head to outskirts.
Go to the Live Cabaret.
Ask her to join Amateur Night contest.
Encourage her to striptease.
Let's get started. The (difficult) dstriptease routine can start...

Remove Jacket.
Pole Dance.
Remove Skirt.
Pole Dance.
Remove Vest.
Rub Body.
Sexy Dance.
Chair Dance.
Remove Bra.
Rub Body.
Chair Dance.
Sexy Dance.
Remove Thong.
Sexy Dance.
Chair Dance.
Rub Body.
Live Sex Act.
End routine.

Contest result. Guess what, ArianeB has won the contest and she wants to celebrate it back home...
Get dressed and celebrate victory.
Take her back to her place.
Wait for her in the hallway.
Go naked hot tubbing. All is open (no pun intended) from here on... such as...

Go somewhere else.
Go back inside.
Get liquor from kitchen.
You have seen my pool. Let`s go swimming.
Ask if she has got any other ideas.
We could take a shower and wash off this chlorine?
Ask if she has got any other ideas.
I`m out of beer, lets go to the convenience store for a six pack?
Ask if she has got any other ideas. Remember, never let her propose more than three times, because if you do...

ArianeB throws you out. You should’ve taken one of the three options, dude!

Here are the ArianeB 5.5 related posts, most of them are (being) updated...:
ArianeB 5.50 final and finally! 
The ArianeB 5.5 walkthroughs (1): The ArianeB Chronicles 
The ArianeB 5.5 walkthroughs (2): Meet, Greet and Meat 
The ArianeB 5.5 walkthroughs (3): Bistro Dinner and a Fight 
The ArianeB 5.5 walkthroughs (4): Rock Paper Scissors 
The ArianeB 5.5 walkthroughs (5): Rebecca 
The ArianeB 5.5 walkthroughs (6): Fast Food, Fast Games, Fast Girls... 
The ArianeB 5.5 walkthroughs (7): Photoshoot by the Lake 
Here are the ArianeB 5.7 related posts, so far:
The ArianeB 5.7 walkthroughs (1): What's New Pussycat? 
The ArianeB 5.7 walkthroughs (2): Pool Party 
Here are the Ariane 5.8 related posts, so far:
ArianeB 5.8 
The ArianeB 5.8 walkthroughs (1): Kitchen Talk 
The ArianeB 5.8 walkthroughs (2): Whiskey in the Jar 
And if you are interested in the most recent ArianeB add-on (from Arnulf & Qbv8 & probably a few others I have forgotten)...
ArianeB UP 16


Spirits in the Sky

Entry 1575 posted in: 7. Star Trek - The Original Sucker

$pace Every kid has this period in his life when he’s genuinely interested in UFO’s and all that conspiracy theories mumbo jumbo. I wasn’t an exception either and in my bold and beautiful days I devoured, next to the obligatory Clarke and Asimov SF stuff, the serious scientific works of Erich Von Däniken.

Erich Von Däniken was the man, or better said the early seventies phenomenon, and promoter of the theory that aliens had visited Earth in the past and had left proof of that, dispersed all over the world. Kids who go to the beach for a midnight swim will leave empty Cola cans, Nacho cheese wrappings, not to mention the odd contraceptive, to be found the next day by amateur beachcombers and these extraterrestrials had just been the same, leaving some valuable artefacts behind when they hurried out of the grotto when Mr. Neanderthal came home after his mammoth hunt and wasn’t too pleased finding out that Mrs. Caveman had been frolicking with Artoo-Detoo, Artoo-Dethree and Artoo-Defour.

God is an astronaut

Chariots of the Gods (1968) was a bestseller and it made Erich Von Däniken an instant superstar. Of course these were the Sixties and crazy ideas were more or less the rule, rather than the exception. Even Carl Sagan (with Iosif Shklovsky in 1966) had been uttering the idea that it was not entirely impossible for aliens to have visited earth but, so they added, that it was very improbable to have ever happened. Von Däniken promptly ignored the final part of that particular quote and Carl Sagan later regretted that he may have been an indirect inspiration for the tsunami of pseudo-scientific paleocontact articles, books and movies... Although Von Däniken’s theories weren’t that stupid to begin with (and weren’t original either, Wikipedia lists 13 other authors promoting the same theory before him) he couldn’t resist misinterpreting and even falsifying proof in his many books that sold over 60 million copies.

Cultra Rare

In the early seventies I watched the immense popular Chariots of the Gods documentary at a local movie theatre (thus were the times that it even got nominated for an Oscar) and when, a couple of months ago, I wanted to trace it back I stumbled upon the Cultra Rare Videos website that contained not only one, but 3 different alien astronauts documentaries, downloadable for free, and one narrated by the übermeister of extraterrestrial encounters himself: Mr. William Shatner.

Cultra Rare Videos (CRV) was a website that had specialised in so-called public domain movies, but not those public domain movies that can be found on other places on the web…

A wonderful site specializing in offering free (and legal) downloads of B-movies, low-budget splatter films, public domain horror movies, and movies that the motion picture industry simply forgot and doesn't care about. (Taken from High Weirdness Project)

Let's get geeky first. A public domain movie is a film…
a: released to the public domain by its author;
b: whose copyright has expired; or
c: that is hibernating in the grey area of copyright land because the owners or their companies can’t be traced anymore (a bit like abandonware games)…

The 3 different space god documentaries fell in that last category as they were distributed by a company called (Schick) Sunn Classic that closed down three decades ago. Although a movie company with the same name still exists today it appears to have lost the copyrights for the pseudo-science and paranormal documentaries its predecessor was famous for in the Seventies.

I made a mental note to return to CRV later on, but in April of this year it became a pay-site that had become, in its own words, a victim of its success.

As of Tuesday April 14th, this website regrets to inform those who have made it a success that it will no longer offer free downloads of rare motion pictures not found in the United States, and for most of the world for that matter.

But now I write this the site (and its spin-off) seems to have disappeared altogether. One can only hope that its huge movie database has been saved somewhere because it contained a huge collection of bad to very bad flicks.

Public Domain

I had to look for an alternative place to download these documentaries. There are plenty of websites that offer public domain movies, but CRV had a collection that was quite unique (and I fear that some of them weren’t really public domain).

Wikipedia contains an alphabetical list of free movies and the most impressive public domain collection is without doubt the Internet Archive although its search system is a bit of a hassle.

Other sites, that are more manageable, are The Entertainment Magazine Online and Public Domain Flicks. If one browses these websites by the year one will notice that most movies date from before the Sixties, starting (obviously) with the classic Nosferatu from 1922; Movies Found Online even has A Trip To The Moon from 1902.

But alas, I did not find what I was really looking for.

Several blogs exist that offer free movies as well: Free Public Domain Movies or Filmschatten; as a torrent aficionado I also tried Public Domain Torrents and Legit Torrents.

La Vallee Subterranean Space

So did I finally find these Von Däniken documentaries, I hear you ask, and as a matter of fact I did.

The très très bizarre Subterranean Cinema happens to stream several Sunn documentaries including:
¤ Chariots of the Gods (1970, 92 minutes, imdb),
¤ In Search of Ancient Astronauts (1973, 55 minutes, imdb) and hip-hip-hurray...
¤ William Shatner’s Mysteries of the Gods (1976, 87 minutes, imdb).

The site is a mess (really!) and StumbleUpon gives the following review:

A smorgasboard of all films subversive, campfare, cult, and kitsch. All free, submitted for your perusal and fangush. This site is chock-full of critical texts, unearthed images found and scanned, lost footages on streaming video, and various indelible links.
Buried treasures that await you include:
1. A lost Rospo Pallenberg screenplay adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand, which George Romero was supposed to direct.
2. Recovered and compiled footages on MPEG and the screenplay (final draft and rough draft) of Jerry Lewis' lost film The Day the Clown Cried, a retelling of the Pied Piper of Hammelin set in a Nazi concentration camp. It was never released to the public.
3. The entire text and imagery from "El Topo: A Book of the Film" which features a commentary and play-by-play scenario of the cult classic El Topo by director Alejandro Jodorowsky himself.
4. The tie-in novelization of Bernardo Bertolucci's hard-to-find film La Luna.
6. The Titicut Follies, circa 1969 --- the documentary that shocked the whole world on streaming video.
7. Syberberg's Hitler on streaming video.
8. Images and critical texts on The Rolling Stones' Cocksucker Blues.
9. A feature on the arthouse collective carnage of The Vienna Aktionists.

and last but not least Pink Floyd lovers might find some interesting stuff as well...

If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Popular science books are fun 


Foreign Affairs

Entry 1578 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash

I seldom write about politics here. Because...
a) the visitors of this website have a tendency to be mostly interested in pixel-combinations that appear to the mind as sparsely clad virtual girls; and, of slightly more importance to me…
b) criticism on the Belgian political system immediately results in the accusation that you belong to the opposite camp (whatever that is) and…
c) criticism on the Belgian political system only feeds anti-politics, so they say…

What you need to know about Belgium in one sentence (well, two actually...)

Belgium is a democratic federal monarchy with two populations, speaking different languages, and whose regional parliaments have diametrical points of view. The federal government supersedes the communities, but as important issues demand a majority in all regions and as small communotary problems have been blown-up to symbolic levels, nothing moves anymore and important Belgian federal political decisions have come to a standstill.

Just one painful example: a personal quarrel between a Flemish and a Walloon minister halted all progress in the political refugees dossier for over a year and a half. In July Fedasil (the Belgian asylum seekers agency) closed its offices in protest against this situation and the Red Cross had to set up an emergency tent camp to accommodate new asylum seekers and give them humanitarian help. All this happened because a Flemish (Annemie Turtelboom) and a Walloon (Marie Arena) minister were not on speaking terms anymore which is strange because both bitches look like bloody asylum seekers themselves if you ask me.

Crisis? What Crisis?

Lucky for the federal government, which was balancing between catatonia and stupor, the international monetary crisis arrived and thus they could sweep the regional differences aside and try to save our Belgian pants (especially those with pockets full with money). The Belgian government didn’t do very badly; they sold a few banks to our neighbouring countries, a minister (who is now a European commissioner) sold his Fortis shares just before the bank collapsed and the prime minister had to step aside because he had intimidated the judges who were investigating, on behalf of the share-holders, the legality of the nationalisation of those banks. Belgian political business as usual.

But things are slightly getting better; we just had some regional elections and this means that the community issues are back on the agenda. It is estimated that every living soul in Flanders donates 2000 Euro (2833 $) a year to Wallonia, so the slogan from the extreme-right-wing waiting for the worms Vlaams Belang that an average Flemish family (blond haired mama, blue eyed daddy, heterosexual son and virgin daughter) is giving a small car to a Walloon family every year is not that far-fetched. Things will not get better; on the contrary, the Flemish government promises a budget break-even in 2012, Wallonia and Brussels will not be able to adjust their budget before 2019 (give or take a year).

The last few days it was a touch and go of political big shots who left the federal government (or parliament) for a day, were sworn in at the regional parliament and then immediately returned to the federal level, their place taken by a reserve player who would never have been elected on his (or her) own account. It's shady politicians that feed anti-politics, not those criticizing...

Belgian Follies

But, and this is not a political farce by Molière, the biggest political swindle is the return to national politics of Michel Daerden, whose intoxicated appearances on YouTube made him a Wallonia superstar and a Flemish castaway. The regional Walloon parties vehemently refused to have Daerden in the regional government, for obvious reasons, so they lured him in a box by holding a bottle Black & White on a stick and shipped him to the national level where he was welcomed with open arms (one member of the opposition quipped that the bartender in the parliament will be glad to see him back). But there isn’t only foolishness at the francophone part of the country.

The chairman of the Flemish parliament, Jan Peumans, is an active republican and refuses, as such, to shake hands with the king of Belgium. Whenever the Belgian monarchy invites the most important political representative of Flanders, and that happens a couple of times a year, he will refuse and send a replacement instead.

Part of me finds this attitude rather foolish, but another parts finds it rather cool. Some days ago a royal spin-doctor invited a busload of journalists to the Paradisio animal parc that was visited incognito by the crown prince, his wife and his children. The children were having a great time and reported their enthusiasm to their parents in fluent French. After 180 years the royal family still doesn’t talk the language of the majority in Belgium and as such I agree that the prince is perhaps the official crown prince, but that he will never be our crown prince.

Other political musings on this blog:
20090110 2-0-0-9
20080621 EUlogy
20080324 Just like Belgium
20071110 Belgium: WTF?


Babylon By Bus

Entry 1580 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash

I don’t read a lot of books anymore like I used to. An iPod in the ear and a game driven smartphone has replaced the pile of printed letters that some people refer to as a book.

On top of that my right eye, the good one, is slowly dying on me. At the local hospital they stuck a needle through the lens and injected some oily substance. For a minute or so it made me the centre of a highly personal Mike Leonard’s light workshop but that is all the fun there was as for the next couple of days my eye hurt as if it had been hit by Muhammad Ali. And don’t you believe the crap either that sticking a needle in one’s eye is completely painless.

I now have the choice to do absolutely nothing and to literally watch my right eye slowly fadeout or to go regularly to the butcher, spend thousands of Euros for injections and get blind anyway, although much slower and beaucoup more painful. I’ve always been the optimist, anyone can see that. And also I am a bit more receptive now for the saying that wanking makes you go blind.

But enough about my personal besognes, on my weekly hunt at the local record- and bookshop I was intrigued by a paperback written by Imogen Edwards-Jones, its title was Pop Babylon and the blurb went like this: sniffing out the secrets of the world of pop. Now I am a sucker for rock books but I had never read a novel about pop stars before. Mostly that is because rock’n roll non-fiction is so incredibly weird that no fiction can compete with that.

Take a story about a boy and a girl who are deeply in love. They marry. One day they have a drunken fight on their yacht and she throws her wedding ring in the water. A while later, the guy, high on dope, dives in the water to get the ring and his marriage back, but he doesn’t surface anymore… Would you read such crap? I wouldn’t. But this is what happened (more or less) to Dennis Wilson though…

Once there was a time when one bloke met another bloke on the train, carrying some blues records under the arm, and, with the help of some other unemployed friends a successful rock band was born, although rock was often the last thing on their mind. "I hope they don’t think we’re a rock’n roll outfit", said Mick Jagger when he announced the very first Marquee outing of his little rhytm and blues band in Jazz News. If you would like to know, it was on Thursday, July 12, 1962 and the lineup was: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Elmo Lewis, Dick Taylor, Ian ‘Stu’ Stewart and Mike Avery.  

Boy meets boy, it’s the story of many Sixties groups and even the proto-Floyd used to have blues afternoon sessions at Syd Barrett’s place in Cambridge (his mother furnished the lemonade and cookies).

Nowadays it’s different in the music industry. If a manager wants to make a quick buck, he doesn’t wait anymore for a band to knock on his door, but he creates the band himself. It's much easier that way and the victims are ready to sign whatever that is presented to them (see also X-Faxtor and Pop Idol).

This is what the protagonist of the book does (if he has got a name I have already forgotten it) to keep on leading the good life he has had up till now. The popular indie band he manages gives him the sack – once famous all other managing bureaus and record companies are drooling over them - and the other artists he owns all fail to get their songs in the charts.

A friend from the music industry advises him to invest in a boys band. Boys bands are big business and give less hassle than girls bands who are ‘twice the trouble and half the cash’. A while later Band Of Five is born. The band consist of two good-looking boys who can sing and 3 ‘passengers’ whose only task it is to dance a bit and to mime in front of disconnected microphones (although they are not aware of that). We are learned that there is safety in numbers for a boysband and that the perfect number is five. 'Because if one member leaves you’re still on the safe side.'

To turn the downtown thugs into popstars The One Agency hires different specialists who teach the lads to dance and sing, writers are needed to pen some songs, an engineer is hired to record the demos, others will (re)mix the album and finally a promotor has to organise a tour. There will be a first small tour in and around schools (and some gay night clubs) to make the brand name known and then a full UK tour to cash in on their first number one hit.

And here is where Imogen Edwards-Jones and her anonymous co-author(s) kick in. Whenever the band or their managers meet a personality from the music industry that person will first spit a few pages with real saucy anecdotes from the music business before the story goes on. A lot of these anecdotes sound familiar like the alternative way in which Stevie Nicks used to snort cocaine. Others were new to me; I didn’t know that Axl Rose used to have a roadie to blow-dry his testicles (luckily, this was done backstage). And although Mötley Crüe is mentioned once it is not for Nikki Sixx’s egg burrito pastime. Perhaps that anecdote was a bit too unsavoury for the Babylon series.

Sex and drugs are omnipresent in the novel, and it absolutely shows that the industry, nor the agents, really care for their product. Powdering my nose has an entirely different meaning in music business and during an after-gig party some band members can be seen walking around with their ‘nostrils frosted white like a margarita glass’. When the manager does a feeble attempt to stop this self-destructing behaviour he gets the reply to ‘leave us kids alone’. That one Band Of Five member is legally underage is apparently no problem either; to make the boys look more manly there is a stack of socks to pop down the front of their trousers to give them ‘great big cocks’. The endless gigging, partying, snorting and shagging demand their toll as well, at a certain moment they all have to line up, pants down, to get a pinprick that’ll keep them going for the show.

Music business is swimming with sharks, says one agent to the other, the thing about it is that it's controlled by a bunch of middle-aged men who enjoy a lunch and a bottle of wine and have the flocking instinct of lemmings. It all turns around percentages and at the end ten pence worth of disc is selling for £10, which is a mark-up of ten thousand percent. In 1972 not all were aware of that. Clare Torry, who did the vocals on Pink Floyd’s Great Gig In the Sky, a track on (The) Dark Side Of The Moon that apparently sold over 35 million copies, received 30£ for her input (and rumours go this was a double fee as the recording took place on a Sunday). Even Alan Parsons, who engineered the album, worked for a flat fee and was still angry about that years later in a Dutch Playboy interview. (It took over 30 years for Torry, EMI and Pink Floyd to come to a settlement. In 2005 they all agreed and the song is now co-credited to her.)

Just when Band Of Five is starting to go strong the band breaks up due to the Yoko effect; the partner of the lead singer finds that one fifth of the band’s income is not enough and reveals to the 3 passengers that they are just cute faces without any (singing) talent. The breakup takes place at about the worst moment, although the band has existed for about a year they haven’t seen a single penny yet. Royalties will only roll in after the record company has made the financial balance and if there is any money left the managers will have to deduct their investments first, plus of course a 20% management fee. The future of the boys, if there is a future at all, will lie in occasional television appearances such as Dancing On Ice where ex-celebrities can cash in on previous successes.

Boy bands are over decides The One Agency, the future is female singer-songwriters from now on… and perhaps it is time to have Pop Babylon 2, the sequel then…

But is the novel well written? Well..., it is written and sometimes not even too bad. Edwards-Jones can punch nice one-liners around but doesn’t do it enough in my opinion. The story is a bit bleak and the several encounters between the band and the record people have only been inserted as a vehicle for the many anecdotes, but that is what the Babylon series is all about. The revealing secrets behind the music industry are not that shocking (not if you have been reading Q and Mojo for the past 20 years) and overall the novel has the impact of a fart in a wind tunnel (to quote one of the better ones). Or are you shocked to find out that Madonna wants 50% of the writing credits of a song before she agrees to put it on an album? I am not.

Easy to read. Easy to forget. Just like boy bands basically. And if you would try to start one yourself you don't even have to read the complete book, just consult The golden rules of Pop Babylon where most of the secrets are out in the open...

P.S. Mike Avery (see above) was a pseudonym for Brian Jones that didn't stick for long.

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The Purloined Ladder

Entry 1582 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash

Based on a picture from Pascal Vyncke, SeniorenNet.be Six prisoners escaped from a Belgian prison by putting a ladder against the wall and jumping down, obviously at the other side where one of their mothers, Ma Baker, was waiting in a getaway car. Four could be arrested almost immediately; two are still on the loose…

Is it normal, so wanted to know a journalist, that a ladder high enough to climb over the wall is lying there out in the open? This was a pertinent question because it had already been established that nobody had visited the escaped convicts carrying a four hundred centimeters long cake under the arm. Well, answered the prison spokesman who was visibly annoyed. He clearly was aware of the fact that he was running for the imbecile of the week award, technically the ladder did not belong to the prison but to a subcontractor who was doing some repairs inside the prison.

The press officer then overzealously added that any fule kno that ladders and construction sites go together as dry bread and water, police and thieves or computer helpdesks and sheer sadism. The journalist, who for once was not a total nitwit, was not impressed and slightly rephrased his previous question.

Is it normal, he asked, for construction sites located inside prison walls to have unattended ladders lying around for about three weeks? Foreign readers who are not accustomed to our rich Belgian culture need to know that in the beginning of July the annual summer holidays for the building sector kick in. Moving a ladder on a construction site during the holiday period would create chaos all over the country, a possible revolution and almost certainly a general strike… (but only in August, after these holidays, of course.)

The press officer looked indecisive and his eyes made clear that he wished to be in Torremolinos with those construction workers on leave, drinking beer and burping very loud. We will have to investigate on a national level how we can ameliorate the safety in our prisons, was the neutral answer, but besides that I would like to add that the prisoners deliberately ignored the forbid sign and illegally entered the construction site when they stole the ladder.

As I put before: imbecile of the week and this time he was not even hiding it.

These inmates were in the nick for rape, torture, attempt at murder and violent theft and thus it is a bit silly to think that a sign saying


will keep them from doing so, see also the cat and the milk, the kid and the cookies or Felix Atagong and ArianeB

Thieves will steal, that is what they do for a living, so assuming that a NO ENTRY sign will stop them from doing what is written in big friendly letters on top of their résumé is a bit naïve, even for a prison spokesman.

It is no wonder that Belgium has been invaded so many times since our Neanderthal days: Belgae and Gauls suffered attacks from Germanic tribes, from Julius Caesar, Germanic tribes again, Vikings, French, Spanish, Austrians and even the Dutch, and when our little country was finally independent, basically because Luxembourg refused to take its turn, those Germanic tribes tried again, twice, just to honor their rich tradition of conquering other people and states…

If there is one point that glues this country together, normally so divided in feudal feuds between Wallonia and Flanders, it is that we are all so damn mediocre. That is our only common point.

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