« December 2008 | Main | October 2008 »

20081102

iPod Random Generator October 2008

Entry 1055 posted in: 9. I, Pod


Also in 2008 my MySpace page will contain some useless iPod statistics. This year however my iPod will always stay in shuffle mode, in other words: the machine will decide what songs will be played. For more information: Random Blueß aka sucking for statistics.

At the end of each month I will publish the ten most popular songs of the year and the ten most popular songs of the past month.

For the top 10 list of the songs I've been listening to in 2008 go to http://www.myspace.com/atagong.

For the top 10 list of the songs I've been listening to in October, go to the MySpace blog section.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: iPod Random Generator September 2008 

20081109

Illegal Aliens

Entry 1060 posted in: 3. Gamebits


I woke up this morning with a Karen Carpenter tune whistling through my head.
Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?
It is the distinct proof that my brain is slowly alzheiming away. Although it is of course a great song… but not very cool to admit that…

I had promised to do a lot of blogthings, there is an article for the Church crying to be written, I need to extrapolate on my ArianeB walkthroughs now that there has been an online update, my friends at the Late Night forum are flooding me with news and goodies about The City Wakes festival, I still have the Orb album The Dream to listen to, the complete series of The Prisoner to watch, and so on…

To add insult to injury I found last week exactly the right time to download UFO: Alien Invasion. I had downloaded it before once, over a year ago, but then the game was way too alpha to be enjoyable and it had quickly disappeared from my harddisk. But this time was different…

I am of course on a nostalgia tour here because UFO: Alien Invasion is an open source equal of the classic game XCOM: Enemy Unknown, that was issued around 1993 by Microprose. The game was known under different names such as XCOM: UFO Defense and UFO: Enemy Unknown, depending on the country or the publisher you were buying it from.

XCOM was a warfare game, with two different gaming layers, one slightly real-time, the other turn-based..

The Geoscape, a map of the world, let you decide where to build a military base. Given a limited amount of money, you had to divide the funds between military buildings and equipment, research facilities, hospitals, the obligatory power plant and radar… With the remainder of the money military and non-military personnel could be recruited, weapons bought, research sponsored, etc….

After a while the radar would spot a UFO attacking a village and it was up to you and your task force to stop the assault.

The game would then switch over to the Battlescape simulation screen. Basically this was an isometric world where your band of soldiers would try to kill the evil aliens from outer space. Capturing them alive was even better so that your researchers could have a go at proper vivisection. These Battlescape scenarios were turn-based: it was up to the human player to position his soldiers so that they would be able to eliminate the enemy without being subject to enemy fire, taking into account the limited energy (needed for movement and firing) every soldier had per round.

Both simulative worlds, Geoscape and Battlescape, would of course interact with each other. Before each battle, weapons and soldiers had to be chosen in the Geoscape world and after the battle wounded soldiers needed a rest in the hospital, provided you had build one and manned it with medics.

In 2007 XCOM was voted the best PC game of all time by the IGN staff. And now you can play it all over again, in 3D, downloadable at UfoAI. Alien Invasion is not a clone of the original game, it uses its own graphics, music (excellent music BTW) and story-line. Some features are still a bit buggy and not all weapons and buildings have been implemented yet. But I suppose it will be only a matter of time before these will be sorted out.


While researching several bits and pieces for this article I stumbled upon Ufo2000.

UFO2000 is free and opensource turn based tactical squad simulation multiplayer game. It is heavily inspired by the famous X-COM: UFO Defense game. While UFO2000 engine was specifically designed to be compatible with the graphics resources and maps from X-COM, you don't need any proprietary data files to play as a new fan-made set of graphics exists and is included in UFO2000 distribution by default, so the game is ready to run out of the box. But if you want an exact X-COM look and feel, you have an option of installing original X-COM and TFTD data files and use them for extending UFO2000 with additional maps, weapon sets and units.

This remake is closer to the original but can only played against human opponents as AI hasn't been implemented.


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

20081111

20081116

Si les cochons pourraient voler…

Entry 1066 posted in: 5. The Pink Thing, The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit


Have you ever seen President Sarkozy on the telly giving a speech? He always thinks he is doing a bloody Hamlet. His performances, because that is what he thinks they are, remind me more of Louis de Funès (or for the non-Francophiles among us: Benny Hill) than Napoleon Bonaparte, another one of those short short-tempered little men with a short fuse who think they can rule the world.

This post contains a fairly well hidden review of the Pink Floyd biography Pigs Might Fly by Mark Blake. To cut the intro, press here.

Flamingoes might fly

Eloquence is a French way of speech but that was not what I was thinking of when I read the following, decades ago:

Je ne sais qui doit le plus à l’autre! La France ou le Pink Floyd?
Le Pink Floyd peut-être.
(translation) I don’t know who owes the other more! France or Pink Floyd?
Pink Floyd perhaps.

The above is the start of a French rock biography (1977 edition), called Pink Floyd, written by Rock & Folk journalist Jean-Marie Leduc and issued by Albin Michel. Rock & Folk was an excellent French music magazine, that started in 1966, hence its name, and that wanted to inform the French public from the new trends in modern pop music. Jean-Marie Leduc hopped to London and wrote several articles about the London Underground music scene and le pouvoir des fleurs. He discovered this incredible band that would soon be the French progressive student movement’s darling, le Pink Floyd.

Although the most common language at London at that time was the language of love it would’ve helped Jean-Marie Leduc a little bit if he had actually understood some English. Which he didn’t. Probably the acid didn’t help either. That didn’t stop him to write a Pink Floyd biography that was published in October 1973, and that could still be found, a decade later, in every bookstore and self-respecting newspaper and magazine shop in France. Selling figures nearly must have achieved the same height as a regular Pink Floyd album; Leduc’s Pink Floyd was an instant classic and a steady seller.

It was also full of blunders. At page 19 Leduc wrongly mistakes the Pink Flamingo club for the band and throughout the book he will name the lads le Flamant Rose (it would take Rock & Folk until July 1994 to officially denounce the fact that Pink Floyd is a Phoenicopterus Roseus). Another botch is on page 49 where Leduc claims that ‘le 2 novembre (1967) (…) un nouveau simple du groupe “Apologises / Jugband blues” est commercialisé en Angleterre’. This one simple sentence has made French speaking Pink Floyd fans look for this non-existent track of the band for over a decade. At the end of the book the mistake is repeated at the discography, Jean-Marie Leduc keeps on maintaining that the Floyd’s third single was Jugband blues / Apologies (please note the different orthography and running order).

Jean-Marie Leduc’s biography was probably the very first biography on the band, as Charles Beterams wrote in the Echoes, a Dutch fan club magazine, and despite the mistakes it also contains a stunning revelation about the bands first recording, forgotten by most of the biographies that would come next. Leduc interviewed Nick Mason in 1973 and asked if Astronomy Domine was the Floyd’s first composition. Mason answered (translated from French back into English): “Not true. Our first composition was titled Lucy Lee in blue tight or something similar. We recorded it on acetate but it was never commercialised.” Once again Jean-Marie Leduc’s average knowledge of the English language made him note the song as Lucy Lee, and not as Lucy Leave, although Nick Mason’s pronunciation of the song title may not have been too comprehensible as well. It would take ages for another journalist to re-discover the truth about the band’s first recording.

Floydstuff

One bloke who does remember Lucy Leave is Mark Blake. In 2007 he wrote a Pink Floyd biography entitled Pigs Might Fly but because I am such a stingy money spender I wanted to wait until the paperback came sailplaning to me. The last couple of years it is raining Pink Floyd related books and accessories as if all kind of shady people want to have their free ride on the gravy train. It is of course a double feeling, here we are Pink Floyd fans wanting to know everything (and we mean everything) on the band but on the other hand we feel as if we are inside an orange squeezer (or to use Gerald Scarfe’s weird world of Floydian symbolism: a meat grinder). The last thing I’ve read on Pink Floyd merchandising is that Converse will bring out a range of shoes based on the cover art of three of their albums. Part of me is yelling yuck!, but another part is jumping up and down, not a pretty sight if you would catch me on my webcam.

About a decade ago, perhaps a bit longer, small record companies suddenly discovered the tribute album. I jumped on it as a hungry louce on a passing German shepherd dog. But when my heap of tribute records, all made to honestly commemorate the band and not to make a quick buck, started to become bigger than my genuine Pink Floyd collection I simply gave up. I think that Babies Go Pink Floyd was the last tribute album I bought, partially because the concept attracted me. If you also feel tempted to listen to it.
Don’t.
Not only the record is tripe and you wouldn’t want to confront any baby with it without giving him or her a lifelong phobia for Pink Floyd music but also it doesn’t actually motivates grown-ups either to start procreating, normally a quite amusing and satisfactory pastime.

Recently I found this add from Dwell records that goes something like this:

The biggest names in hard rock and avant-garde metal have come together to pay tribute to the madcap genius of Syd Barrett. Featuring some of heavy-metals most influential players, this is a hard-rocking trip through the music world’s most idiosyncratic minds.

Some of the bands present on the record are the following: Dreg, Giant Squid, Jarboe, Kylesa and my favourite Stinking Lizaveta. Except in some distant Norwegian fjordic regions where these bands are probably world famous amongst the local satanic black metal scene these bands don’t really merit the eptitheton ‘biggest name in hard rock’ to begin with. I would have written the add for this album a little bit less triumphant:

Several virtually unknown hard rock and avant-garde metal bands that are constantly struggling to have a record contract have come together to rip off the musical heritage of Syd Barrett. Featuring some of heavy-metals obscurest players, this is a fruitless hard-rocking trip trying to get a fan-base that exceeds the dozen.

Now that is what I call a more realistic description of the project. You can listen to the songs at MySpace and I have to confess they don’t all sound like rubbish to me.

But all the above was merely a long, way too long, way to say that I quit buying Pink Floyd tribute records a while ago as most were, are and will be… full of crap. I had the same compulsive buying disorder when it came to Pink Floyd related music magazines and books. Despite the fact that I can’t play guitar I have dozens of guitar magazines that promise you the tablature of the third guitar solo in Comfortably Numb and a brand new exclusive Pink Floyd interview that was in fact already published in another guitar magazine from three years before that I already had in my scrapbook.

I define myself more than the average Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett fan, but less than an anorak, fanorak suits me fine.. Anoraks have the tendency to start flame wars because someone has told that Syd Barrett was wearing green socks on the 7th of August 1967 while every aficionado knows he was wearing brown socks that day. (To avoid death threats: I’ve just made this whole sock-thing up, but the 7th of August 1967 was of course an important day in Floydian history, about the importance of green socks, just check David Gilmour’s inside sleeve of his About Face album and shiver.)

So I quit buying Pink Floyd books as well, more or less… the last I bought was The Rough Guide To Pink Floyd that can now be found at local lo-price bookshops for the third of the price I bought it for. That is a very nice Pink Floyd biography by the way, and if you are in search for one, well don’t hesitate and get it. It’s cheap and cheerful.

Pigs Might Fly  

But this post was originally intended as a review of Pigs Might Fly, a Pink Floyd biography by Mark Blake and all I did until now is take the piss out of:

a) the very first Pink Floyd biography by Jean-Marie Leduc;
b) the various tribute cds that do exist;
c) the growing pile of Pink Floyd biographies…

So I had given up buying Pink Floyd biographies but when I wrote on the Late Night forum that nobody had ever tried to locate Syd’s girlfriend we know as Iggy Mark Blake promptly replied that he certainly had. I more or less apologised and answered that I would read his biography.

So I did.

Who am I to post a review about a book that Record Collector choose as book of the year, that Q magazine described as a ‘detailed, orderly, first-rate read’, while Mojo praised its ‘heroic research’. It’s excellent, well written, full of anecdotes and it seems to please the casual and the more ardent fan of the band, although it still forgets to mention the colour of socks Syd Barrett was wearing on the 7th of August 1967. Anoraks will always find something to grumble about. I did. I found a mistake from microscopical importance about the Publius affair but only people daft enough to look for the Enigma mystery will probably realise that.

A while ago I started a side-project called the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit. In it I am looking for the whereabouts of the girl who appeared on the cover of the Syd Barrett album The Madcap Laughs. It is rather amazing how many bits and pieces can be found after all these years, but apparently Iggy was quite a character in those flowery powery days. The time was ripe as other people suddenly started to reveal their Iggy memories, amongst them Anthony Stern who made a four-minute movie about her in the Sixties that was premiered this year.

I wrote some things about Iggy that I thought were revolutionary but apparently Mark Blake had unravelled these before in his biography, only he didn’t need as many space to write these things down than I did and if this review goes on like this it might be longer than the book itself.

On page 140 Mark Blake writes about how Iggy performed The Bend (Church article: Bend It!),on the next page he reveals the existence of the Anthony Stern movie (before it became an item on YouTube) and how she used to go dancing at The Orchid in Purley (Church article: Shaken not stirred). And all this a year before the Church was started and something of an Iggy hype was created. Hats off to Mark Blake.

Mark Blake is not only an accurate but also a beautiful writer (I’m not speaking about his physical appearance here), reading the bit about the Live 8 reunion gave me tears in my eyes although I normally only weep when I read sweet little things about dying puppies. That more or less sums it up really; Pigs Might Fly moved me and I thank Mark Blake a lot for that.

(In America the book has been published under the alternative title Comfortably Numb, this was the working title of the book but as the cover has a snapshot from Battersea Power Station, including flying pig balloon, this was changed for the European market.)

A final word about Jean-Marie Leduc

One of the funnier parts of the very first Pink Floyd biography are the translated song texts. The Floyd’s first album is called Le joueur de flûte aux grilles de l’aube, but my favourite still is a song that is called Bonbons et pain aux raisins. And what to think about the following, I let you guess what song this has been taken from:

De tortueux signes voltigent.
Lueur. Lueur. Lueur.
Fla. Pom. Pom.
Escaliers d’épouvante et lois de mort…

And a final word for collectors

If you are looking for a copy of the Pink Floyd book by Jean-Marie Leduc be sure to buy the Albin Michel / Rock & Folk versions (several editions from 1973 till 1983). In 1987 another book by Jean-Marie Leduc, also called Pink Floyd, and in the same mini format, was presented to the public by Le Club Des Stars / Seghers. Although based upon the previous versions this book has been completely rewritten and most of the errors have been edited out.


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

20081123

(insert title here)

Entry 1068 posted in: 3. Gamebits


Life is hard for a man who is relentlessly addicted to:
Cycling Manager 4 (Molteni rules!),
Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe (Felix Cars rules!) and, a newcomer that has been burning holes in my harddisk since a couple of weeks,
UFO: Alien Invasion (Atagong’s Green Alien Slime Destruction Team rules!)

Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon trying to figure out where a slimy alien was hiding before I found out that I had been the victim of the stuck person in a game syndrome.

Game glitches are more or less common in most modern games and all of them are caused by buggy programming, insufficient testing and - oh! horror of modern times - stringent release dates.

I still remember that in Star Trek, the 25th anniversary game (1992), you had to stop an auto-destructing machine or something similar by switching a button. The crumby graphics would reflect this change; the switch pointed the other way and some blinking red light at a computer wall turned green to show you that the situation was back under control. But if you left the room, to solve another riddle, and came back to the first one (for whatever reason) the graphics had been reset. Suddenly it was red alert again all over the place. It cost me quite some time before I finally realised this was a bug and that the pixelated James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock wouldn’t be blown into a million little pieces.

Exactly the opposite happened with Little Big Adventure II. I have never been too happy with the sequel as it was:
a: a bit too linear compared to version 1;
b: an attempt in 3D gameplay while they had better used the diametric (or [pseudo-]isometric) graphics from the first part;
c: quite buggy…

At a certain point you could only escape from an underground fortress by using a flying saucer (aka an Esmer shuttle). If you returned later on in the game to the same location the only way to escape was to use the same shuttle. The problem was that you had taken it once before and that its parking spot was empty. It took me literally hours trying to find an (nonexistent) alternative way to escape, before I came up with the daft idea to walk onto the parking spot, enter the invisible saucer, sit down on an invisible chair and press a few invisible buttons. Lucky for me the game proceeded but there have been players who were stuck in LBA II, trying to catch a missing piece that could no longer be located, and had to start the game all over again. (For a post about the original Twinsen adventure, check Twinsen Ma Non Troppo.)

I better shut up now although I do have other examples:
stuck boats, horses and soldiers in Age of Empires;
confused doctors in Theme Hospital;
disappearing submarines in Submarine Titans,…

Not exactly a bug or a glitch but one of the funnier things in The Sims was the fact that you could deliberately kill a person by isolating him/her from the rest of the game. Watching them starve to death or seeing them drown in a swimming pool they can't escape from... but enough about my Hannibal Lecter fantasies…

Shark, from Shark’s Lagoon, has other problems to deal with. He had to find a new pond to put his perverse little games online and did this by creating a new domain called: The Sharks Lagoon. Somebody ought to tell him that it is possible to move domains from one server to another. But to ease the pain he has made an ‘add-on’ to his Nanny and Wendy feature that can be found on Rapidshare. More an interactive movie than a game it can be downloaded as a stand-alone application, not needing the original version. The narrative, as in most pervy storyboards, is not exactly Macbeth but further elaborates on the interaction of the dramatis personae, being a plumber Franck who has to overcome some leakage problems at Wendy’s home.

Macbeth for perverts, now there’s a nice idea.

A cavern.
In the middle, a boiling cauldron.
Thunder.
Enter the three Witches
First Witch: Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.
Second Witch: Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.
Third Witch: Harpier cries 'Tis time, 'tis time...
Wriggling nude bodies all over the place.

And by the way, the title of this post actually is (insert title here), should you be American and not fully understand the irony...


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Illegal Aliens 

20081130

iPod Random Generator November 2008

Entry 1073 posted in: 9. I, Pod


Kiss and tell

Also in 2008 my MySpace page will contain some useless iPod statistics. This year however my iPod will always stay in shuffle mode, in other words: the machine will decide what songs will be played. For more information: Random Blueß aka sucking for statistics.

At the end of each month I will publish the ten most popular songs of the year and the ten most popular songs of the past month.

For the top 10 list of the songs I've been listening to in 2008 go to http://www.myspace.com/atagong.

For the top 10 list of the songs I've been listening to in November, go to the MySpace blog section.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: iPod Random Generator October 2008