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20090801

iPod Random Generator July 2009

Entry 1586 posted in: 9. I, Pod


July. I'm sitting on a commuter train writing this post. Lucifer Sam from Pink Floyd on the iPod. Life could be much worse.

Also in 2009 my iPod will be in autoplay mode and that for the second consecutive year. Neon Heart, The Boomtown Rats followed by Iron Maiden. Fear Of The Dark [Live At Rock In Rio]. Spoken about a timeless track.

The results from past year, apart from the song ratings, have been reset on the database. One - Johnny Cash (only Cash can what Cash can).

Every month a graph will be published here, the playlist of the month will appear on my MySpace blog and the overview of the year will be glued on my MySpace entrance page. Nothing to be excited about. Humanoid Boogie, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

For those who still want to know the how and what and where and when I give you this old link: Random Blueß aka sucking for statistics 


If you want to know how the graph looked like last month: iPod Random Generator June 2009 

When I'm 64

Entry 1587 posted in: The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit


Brethren Dan5482 visited the several Church locations that can be found on the World Wide Web and confessed the following to the Reverend:

Despite all that collective amnesia I think that Iggy can still be found. There are journalists, detectives... who have found more difficult "targets".
However, an intense and widespread interest for her is a necessary condition. Your Church is a source of hope in this sense. It lets many people know that once such a mysterious woman existed.

Time for a roundup.
What happened to Iggy when she closed the door in April, early May of 1970, Ig and left Wetherby Mansions?

All this and more at The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit.

20090808

Catwoman

Entry 1589 posted in: The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit


Rejoice, dear followers of the Esqimau, as The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit celebrates its first birthday. On the eight day of the eighth month of the eight year of the second Millenium the Church was born.

In the summer of 2006 Denis Combet, professor at Brandon University, wrote a collection of poems as a tribute to the musician and painter Roger Keith Barrett who passed away in Cambridge on the 7th of July 2006. The poems describe fragments of Barrett’s life, his youth, his hometown, his friends and relatives and one of them is all about Ig.

The poem From Quetesh to Bastet and its (unpublished) French counterpart De Quétesh à Bastet can be found on The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit.

20090815

Gimme Some Golfing

Entry 1591 posted in: 3. Gamebits


Some days ago I got a mail from an Internet publicity agency that wanted to use my site to promote a new online golf simulation game. I politely thanked for that, not that I’m rich enough but a cent per click will not pay me for a Ferrari, and I meant the sunglasses. But I promised I would have a look at the game. Promise kept.

I used to be a kind of a golf lunatic in the past, not the real thing of course, as a real computer nerd I hate green open airy spaces, but the digital pixelised version of that. Over the years my favourite golf game became Shot Online that combines sport simulation with MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) elements. I even developed my own little Shot Online Distance Calculator utility that is still downloaded from time to time. I needed this utility, basically an Excel sheet with a lot of formulas inside, because Shot Online uses quite a sophisticated method of calculating the distance of the shot and takes into consideration different weather conditions, such as temperature, wind speed and direction and even air humidity (next to the club and balls you are using, of course, the different levels you have acquired as a player and the shoes you are wearing).

I haven’t played Shot Online for a while, basically because my old PC is getting rather sluggish and creates unnecessary lag between holes, but a second reason is that a 18-hole game in Shot Online with four players takes well over three hours. Games are played in real-time, each player takes his turn and one has to wait for the others to finish the hole before the game proceeds to the next one, just like in the real golf-playing world. So for 75% of the time you are looking at the screen, watching how the others are screwing up before you get a chance to screw up yourself.

Shot Online is free to play, and here is the secret addictive ingredient, with every game you get some virtual in-house money that you can spend to buy some gear. It is logical that an expensive set of golf balls will fly longer distances and land more accurately than the free ones. The makers of the game know that humans are an impatient species and instead of having to play hundred games in order to buy a decent set of professional clubs, which come in dozens of colours and sizes, you can also buy these immediately with real-world money. Like in the real world you have the have-nots who have played every single day of the year in order to get to level 35 and you have the haves who have obtained level 35 in a week thanks to a bucketful of cash.

There are some vanity issues involved as well, the initial characters look all the same, are wearing the same clothes so the game has a shopping mall were you can, à la Sims, change clothes, shoes, hats or gloves. It goes beyond saying that these have to be paid for as well, in virtual or real currency. Some of these attributes will also have an influence on skill, stamina, impact, and power settings so choosing the right set of clothes can improve your gameplay. I wasn’t kidding about these shoes, you know.

Gimme Golf made my appetite for online golf grow again and so I tried it, simple as that. The website promises thousands of players, more than 500 tournaments and hundreds of winners. But whenever I logged in there were never more than a dozen players around. I literally mean a dozen, like in twelve. It made me feel like Judas on the last supper, read further why.

Gimme Golf is free to play but as there is nothing like a free lunch the money must come from somewhere. The cash comes from (optional) tournaments where each player pays an entry fee, using a Paypal account, and can collect the fee of the others, provided he/she finishes on top of the list. As a teaser you get a 1$ account, but when I entered a 1$ tournament I found out that I had to enter a second dollar to play the top nine holes. I should have seen this coming, at the Skill Technology website the developers all have the second hand cars salesmen grin and if there is one certainty about second hand cars salesmen it is that they are always trying to insert a financial butt plug while claiming to be your friend. Scallywags! (Update: a recent post on their forum complains how one can enter the same tournament twice - or more, always against an entry fee - but the price money is only paid once, even if you hold first, second and third place.)

Download is pretty easy and takes only 100 MB, (as a retro-gamer I am a bit ashamed to write only 100 MB, some of my preferred golden oldies can be placed upon a floppy), turning into 130MB on the harddisk. The game is Java-driven and installs in the Application Data folder (if you happen to run XP, like I do), there is no uninstall option, but the FAQ explains that manually deleting all files does the job. The website is simple and easy, perhaps a little too simple, because at the time I write this the game-server is down but that isn’t mentioned anywhere.

Now for the game itself, that I managed to play a couple of times before (and after) their server exploded. The graphical quality is lower than Shot Online, but that last one is at least 5 times bigger (their download now takes over 500MB). There are only a few characters and courts to choose from and these are all relatively easy. Gameplay is simple comme bonjour, you take a club (obviously), choose the direction you want to aim at and hit the ball as hard as possible. There is no state of the art tuning as in Shot Online where you can add back- or sidespin to the ball, neither is it necessary to train on an accurate 3-click movement to get your ball flying where you want it to go, basically one click does the job. Rather than a simulation I would describe Gimme as an arcade game version of the noble game of golf. I’ve got nothing against that, of course.

The main difference with Shot Online is how the multi-player games are handled. In Gimme Golf every player plays his round at his (or her) own pace and he/she doesn’t have to wait for the others to tee off or to finish a hole. A plus point is that you can quit in the middle of the game, reload the course a while later, and continue without penalties (there are some time limits involved though). A Gimme Golf is very fast paced and I could play 18 holes in less than twenty minutes.

The backside of this all is that basically you are on your own. There is no interaction with the other gamers, apart from the ubiquitous chat screen, and all you get to see is the scorecard between each round with the results of the others. In Shot Online you observe your opponent’s moves and if his ball lands in a bunker it gives you the chance to adapt your hit and decide to go for an alternative swing. That kind of in-game tactics is impossible with Gimme.

The ideal online golf simulation lies somewhere in between. I once proposed the idea to Shot Online to have semi-simultaneous games where the 4 participants, each at their own computer screen, would swing at the same time. A par 3 would only be a couple of minutes shorter but a complete match would benefit from 60 minutes or more. (There are some issues to consider: normal gameplay should perhaps be resumed when a ball lands out of bounds, in water, sand or the rough. Personally I like to watch the ball in-flight movies, as this is where the fun is, but others could prefer split screens, etc…)

Shot Online is quite overwhelming for beginners with its abundance of settings and statistics, but Gimme Golf is perhaps a wee bit too simple. That all players are equal and use the same sticks and balls is nice, at least you’re fighting with the same weapons, but sometimes the arcade has really taken over the simulation. Here are some buggy things I found…

Heights
There are no height indicators, but the landing point is different when the fairway is lying much higher (or lower) than the tee. Height differences are even more important on the green. The graphics make it difficult to see if the green is going up, going down or if the path to the flag is tilting to the left or the right. (I remarked this myself when I saw, to my amazement, that my ball was rolling back to me instead of disappearing in the hole!)
Update: the developers told me they are working on a grid system.

Measurements
I’m a bloody European, I confess, but distances are given in yards on the irons and in feet for the putter on the green. This got me totally confused when I tried the AW swing on the green and couldn’t remember how many foot were going in a yard (don’t bother, I looked it up now). I would like an option to use the international standard for measurements, metres and centimetres.
Update: the developers told me they are working on a system to avoid confusion on the green…

Drop Ball
The drop ball isn’t always activated (I came into a situation on the fairway where I could have used it) and when it is it doesn’t let you decide where to drop the ball. At the 13th hole of Lakes of Sogndal the ball was dropped at least 100 yards away from the place it had landed.

Lobby
The server doesn’t always react adequately. I tried to enter a (free) tournament because the lobby screen read there was an open spot. I got the warning that the game had already started. These things happen from time to time when several people all try to log in at the same time. But more than five minutes later the game was still on the list asking for people to join.

Scorecard
After each hole the scorecard should appear with the overview of the previous shot. But this fails every so often, I have witnessed it in solo and in tournaments games. This could of course be related to the previous point.

What is the verdict then? Gimme Golf is a quick arcade style game without a lot of bells and whistles, perfect for the lunch hour. But if you have patience and a fast machine the real thing still is Shot Online, which is also free but has the advantage that it shows you your evolution from day to day.

These kind of games live by what the players want, as they pay the bill, and if Gimme Golf is still around in 2010 it will probably be quite different from now. For the moment nobody can predict in what direction it will evolve, although I’m pretty sure that there will be a ranking system soon with goodies attached if you attain a certain level.

A final thing about the name. The game is called Gimme Golf but that particular shot can’t be chosen. Perhaps that would be a nice addition as well…

Note: The previous was written before I found out that the game isn’t really so new after all, a beta test was launched in April 2008 and the game was officially released in November of last year. It puts the many promises to do fast upgrades into a different perspective….

PS: A last word on problem gambling. Gimme Golf describes itself as a game of skill, directly matching ones intelligence and ability against that of online competitors. In US states it is completely legal to play these kinds of games for money, in other countries this may not be the case. But legal or not, it still means that you can pay up till 25$ entrance fee for the bigger money tournaments. You are warned.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Fish, nipples and donkeys

20090825

The Style Council

Entry 1592 posted in: The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit


The Cromwellian existed since 1964 or 1965 and in the autumn of that year jazz-singer, writer, critic and generally bad tempered journalist Georges Melly wrote a piece about the place, that was later re-printed in his excellent account of the pop art days in Britain Revolt Into Style. In contradiction with most flower power studies his book did not appear two decades or more after the facts happened. Melly wrote his essays when Swingin’ London was still swinging although it was slightly running out of breath. The Reverend finds it funny how many of the anecdotes that Melly has noted on the spot can now be found in other books.

Starring in the latest post from The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit (in order of appearance):

Georges Melly
Roy Harrod
Bart Kimber
Georgie Fame
The Zombies
The New Faces
Jonathan King
Dusty Springfield
The Beatles
The Rolling Stones
The Animals
Princess Margaret
Lord Snowdon
Jimi Hendrix
Syd Barrett and... introducing...
Iggy the Inuit

20090827

Saint Cecilia

Entry 1593 posted in: 6. Self-Made Monsters


you're breaking my heart My brain is like a sieve, did sing the very underrated Thomas Dolby on a sunny day once, but today Felix suddenly had a heroine-like-flash of memories from, what he thought were, his anarchic student days. Try to visualise young Felix Atagong, pimple faced jam jarred glassed weirdo who was frenetically trying to belong somewhere, anywhere, but has always been too afraid to do so.

Caught in a crossfire of childhood and boredom, brought up in the deep-rooted Flemish catholic tradition that it is not done to get up, stand up for your rights, Felix’s small-town boy thoughts were a maelstrom from the baroque and the bizarre.

Felix lost his religious beliefs somewhere between the age of twelve and fourteen, as this was the time when he had finally realised that magic didn’t have a place in the real world, and this included Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas, the European version of Santa Claus), the mystery of transubstantiation and the miracle of the loaves and fish. In first grade that last miracle had been explained as something that had really happened, but the progressive priests in second grade tried to explain that the story had a symbolical meaning and that no wizardry had taken place in order to multiply 5 loaves and 2 fish into a giant barbecue.

Felix’s mild condition of the ailment that is defined by torturers of the human language as ‘pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified’ has made him classify the outside in small wooden boxes where Schrödinger’s cat doesn’t fit in. In Felix’s world the cat is either alive or dead and not both simultaneously like Schrödinger maintained. To continue this train of thought and liaise it to the story of the 5 loaves and 2 fish; either this is a miracle or either it is an allegory, but not both. As there was obviously a lack of consensus regarding the loaves and fish problem the only logical thing to do for Felix was to abandon catholicism. The fewer boxes there are the better. Leaving catholicism behind wasn’t such a big step, Felix thought, he had never been too found of men in drag throwing smoke curtains around in church.

If catholicism imprinted something into little Felix’s little brain it was a nagging sense of honesty and morality. Strangely enough the people who openly adhered catholicism didn’t seem to behave ethical at all, another paradox that didn’t fit into one of Felix’s small wooden boxes.

Leaving religion behind left a void into Felix’s brain although he didn’t always realize this. So he went looking for something else, and every time when he thought he had found something this would be investigated very thoroughly and rather maniacally. One day it was Erich Von Däniken’s UFO theories, another day it could be a would-be groupie-fashion-model whose picture he had found on a record sleeve.

Europe in the seventies was a battlefield between conservatives and progressives, left and right (paradoxically the USA were situated on the left and the communist block on the right side of Europe). American readers will perhaps fail to understand this, but as Europe was literally sandwiched between capitalism and communism, we tried to obtain the benefits of both worlds (although some countries didn’t really have a choice). In Europe communism (or its softer counterpart socialism) wasn’t always frowned on as in the USA, where even the term liberalism was (and still is) suspicious. In Europe a liberal defaults to a right-winged-conservative although some left-liberal parties do exist or co-exist.

Students in the Seventies didn’t take la démocratie à l’Américaine for granted. Once too often our western capitalistic regime ignored the democratic voice of the masses in favour of NATO’s (read America’s) nuclear strategy. Even today our prime minister may neither confirm nor deny the fact that about 20 nuclear missiles are present in Belgium and members of parliament have got no right to ask questions about these. Master and servants.

It was no wonder that the young Felix listened eagerly to the progressive voices that were omnipresent in the university of Louvain. Although catholic in name the university mothered dozens of progressive clubs whose saviours were not named Jesus Christ but Mikhail Bakunin, Leon Trotsky, Vladimir Lenin and mass-murderers Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, although in those days his name was still known as Mao Tse-Tung, a dictator famous for his poems and for his musings in the little red book. Felix has to retrospectively confess that the progressive movement was quite overenthusiastic regarding the Marxist model. Western progressives were often bragging how excellent the communist crumbles were, but they deliberately ignored the fact that the bread was bad, the oven broken and the baker corrupt.

Anarchy Day (Louvain, Belgium) Then

Poor Felix didn’t quite fit in. He sneaked in at a symposium that was organised by the anarchist collective La Cecilia (it was not hard to spot the Belgian secret service, the suits were the only middle aged men drinking Fanta at the bar downstairs) but was taken aback when he found out that the participants were merely discussing the Belgian anarchist interbellum movement or the ideological differences between Henry David Thoreau and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Organiser was Luc Vanheerentals, who wrote the definitive Belgian anarchist bible, and now an independent journalist whose latest article, a hagiographic piece about the effectiveness of the Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, is sponsored by KBC and CERA banks. That is how Children of the Revolution become Grannies of the Restoration.

Felix soon discovered that intellectual left didn’t allow labourers (nor their children) in their caste, although they kept on pretending that the power had to be given to the masses. The left elite was as paternalistic as the catholic priests had been and if revolution came they would – obviously – fill the seats that mattered and do the thinking for the proletarians. Felix still remembers the gorgeous girl in the designer jeans who turned her back to him when she found out that he wasn’t studying politics at the free (free as independent from church and state) Brussels University. When she walked away he saw Lenin's picture stitched on the back of her jacket. Felix now pities her daughter who still has to explain why she has been named Ulrike.

In 2007 Johan Vande Lanotte, presiding the Flemish socialist party SPA, begged the socialist movement to get the labourers back in Parliament, as there weren’t (and still aren’t) any. Vande Lanotte, whose political career started within extreme-left, is now a master in law and professor at the Ghent University, and was swiftly put aside after the elections from this year as being to radical. Labourers in parliament, the insult!

An encounter with Peter, the anarchist squatter, wasn’t really fruitful either. Full of radical ideas Peter was a prominent follower of proletarian shopping and was mostly seen in pubs, where he developed his theories as long as someone else was paying for his beer. In Felix’s wooden box proletarian shopping was regarded as stealing, even if the stealing was done in big super-capitalistic supermarkets getting super-profits. He simply didn’t grasp the concept how borrowing a cheap bottle of wine from the mall would help the masses to brake their ideological chains.

Thus the only radical action done by Felix was driving through the city of Antwerp, on a stolen bike, without any lights on, in the opposite direction of a one-way street, and being caught by the police. The pigs didn’t torture him, they didn’t put him into jail, they even didn’t give him a fine but just a kind warning to fix the light. Doesn’t add up much on the revolutionary scale, does it?

Now

Nearly 3 decades later Felix has become salonfähig, which is quite an expensive German word for couch potatoe, but he still can’t help having some revolutionary thoughts from time to time, mostly when the brown fog of Guinness has entered his brain.

Felix has always wondered how it comes that a terrorist attack on American soil could lead to an invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the attacks in the first place and how this event made the greatest democracy on Earth evolve into a cheap pastiche of the Soviet Union, including its own infamous Gulag. America’s anti-terrorist actions reached a surrealistic zenith with the unintelligible boycott of French fries. As if throwing a potato-stick in a 190° oily bath is an act of freedom.

More serious is the fact that since 2001 775 human beings have been kidnapped and deported to Guantanamo Bay. It is believed that eventually 60 to 80 of them will be put on trial, the rest will have to be set free. Guantanamo prisoners have testified that they have been repeatedly tortured with pepper spray, broken glass, barbed wire and burning cigarettes, they have been chained to the floor. They were sexually degraded and assaulted, drugged and religiously persecuted. In Iraq, in violation with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions, 14000, that is fourteen thousand, people were imprisoned by the US authorities at the Abu Ghraib prison. So far the humane and democratic actions of the land of the free.

The above stands in shrill contrast with the recent economical crisis that didn’t come from an Afghan grotto but from offices at Wall Street and the American monetary policy (or non-policy, if you will). Predictions go that over 50 million jobs will be lost in 2009 alone. However, and here comes Felix’s anarchic streak again, how many bankers have had their homes raided by US soldiers and how many have been shot? How many have been abducted from their houses and put in economic prison camps? How many have been waterboarded, raped or sodomised by security contractors? How many had to stand nude in public so that hordes of newly unemployed could have a laugh at them?

No future, did sing The Sex Pistols once, but Felix still carries some hope. After all if history repeats itself and if America is really turning Soviet, we may never forget that the USSR reformed its regime through a democratic process, although that, so told us the American propaganda machine in the Seventies, was inexistent.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Giordano Kazemi

20090831

iPod Random Generator August 2009

Entry 1598 posted in: 9. I, Pod


August. I'm sitting on a commuter train writing this post. Five Miles Out from Mike Oldfield on the iPod. Life could be much worse.

Also in 2009 my iPod will be in autoplay mode and that for the second consecutive year. Allez Allez, Allez Allez (Belgian new wave from the Eighties) followed by I'm Bound to Pack it Up, The White Stripes. Spoken about a timeless track.

The results from past year, apart from the song ratings, have been reset on the database. (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea - Elvis Costello (from his angry young, I'm the king of Belgium, days).

Every month a graph will be published here, the playlist of the month will appear on my MySpace blog and the overview of the year will be glued on my MySpace entrance page. Nothing to be excited about. Baby Lemonade, Syd Barrett.

For those who still want to know the how and what and where and when I give you this old link: Random Blueß aka sucking for statistics 


If you want to know how the graph looked like last month: iPod Random Generator July 2009