Making Mixtapes For Girls

So this weekend I’ve been getting a music education. And by that I mean, I struck a deal with a colleague.

Apparently the deal was, she linked me to songs by Mariah Carey and Beyonce, and I died a little inside each time I pressed Play.

In return I got two of my best shots in – a boozy, depressed Alkaline Trio number and a downbeat but defiant Tom Waits effort.

This experience, along with a memory of a ridiculous bid to impress an ex-girlfriend that I remembered while out on a recent tune-filled stroll, has got me thinking about all those lengths I used to go to, to let the music do the talking for me.

Moe the simpsons declaring intentions

Everybody’s got their views on mixtapes – Rob from High Fidelity, Barney Stinson and his friend Not-Moby among others. But for all the tapes and CDs I made with romantic intentions, I still couldn’t resist including a couple of tracks that were more just ‘this is what I like, and you should like it too’. Not especially romantic, not especially friendly even – for every ‘nice waking up next to you’ there was a ‘this is a rock ‘n’ roll takeover’ that blurred the message somewhat.

But more than my insistence on enriching a special someone’s music experience with whatever I was listening to that month, comes the annoyance with myself for taking the lazy route. It may be that ‘all my favourite singers have stolen all of my best lines’, but looking back I wish I’d still exerted a little more energy in expressing my own true feelings.

VH1’s (hiding) behind the music

In everyday life just as in my life’s worth of mixtape-making, I have this awful habit of hiding behind pop culture, when I should just be expressing my raw feelings and emotions instead. Rather than making an accurate articulation of my hurt, or pride, or surprise, or affection, I immediately make a lateral move into an impression from that episode of Frasier where he bellows “I…am…WOUNDED!” instead of just saying it in my own voice. Instead of dealing with the feeling from my gut, I find myself reaching past it into my brain for an equivalent from TV or films because it’s easier not to admit it out loud.

But before that, I settled for the long and drawn-out efforts of filling up 74 or 90 minutes of CD or tape with a bunch of songs that said more about my likes than my feelings. That’s why, if you were the unlucky lady somewhere between 1998 and 2006, you were more likely to get Every Time I Die than Elvis – a generational thing, I can only suspect.

(Out of interest, how do young men and women make their intentions clear nowadays? A Spotify playlist doesn’t have the same done-it-myself level of care taken, and you can’t use all your different coloured pens to make a nice cover either.)

I was reminded of an early and embarrassing romantic gesture the other day; my head full of all that nonsense I mentioned up top, a song came on my iPod which made me remember one of the first albums I ever gave to a girl. Trust me, there’s nothing on here that makes you think what a romantic sod I could secretly be – I’ve checked.

But the fact of the matter is, she wasn’t particularly that type anyway, so even if I had dared to give her something that was of the more flowery variety than this post-hardcore classic, she’d have laughed me out of the room.

Back then, at the age of 17 or so, I was hardly likely to possess the emotional intelligence to say much beyond ‘thanks for paying attention to me, now can I see your boobs?’ (In fact, that could’ve been the title of the first mix I made.) I definitely didn’t have the confidence for it – talking to girls was never something for my Lurve CV – so in a way it was something of a rescue. To be able to hide behind someone else’s music to promote feelings that, if not genuinely shared by me, occupied a close enough space in my head that I didn’t feel like too much of a fraud for setting up shop next door.

While I’m glad that I don’t really need music now to tell someone how much I care for them, thinking about those CDs I used to burn in lieu of spoken affection does make me wish I’d tried a bit harder to express myself back then, so that maybe it wouldn’t be so much of an issue for me in the future.

BBC Three – heading online-only for the youth market

I’m going to use that word tonight, aren’t I. That catch-all phrase for marketers who want to spend money making videos and podcasts and live streams to promote their product.

Content.

Eww. But since the government’s been content to slowly murder the BBC – death by a thousand cuts – they need to start up generating the other form of that word in order to get some bang for their buck.

So once BBC Three goes online-only (two weeks tomorrow if I’m not mistaken), the producers, programmers and bosses are confident that they’ll catch more of their market. Why’s that?

BBC Three logo online

BBC News reported on a study by Childwise, which has found that for the first time ever, five to sixteen-year olds are spending more time online than they are watching standard TV. And even then, Netflix is the most watched channel.

Less than a quarter of 15 and 16-year olds will watch TV as it’s broadcast, and nearly a third did not name a favourite TV programme.

All of a sudden I can’t tell if the BBC Three move online is a good or a bad thing.

I do know that the BBC’s been producing video content – shudder – and posting it online for a good long while now in an attempt to hook the yoof into watching their stuff on proper TV.

We all know where the youth dollar goes now – vloggers. I hate that word even more than ‘content’.

And, tellingly, the BBC has been painfully slow in getting to cover this topic for de yoofs market. Only tonight are we promised a programme about ‘superstar vloggers’, which for some completely unknown reason is being hosted by one of the very same superstars.

Bit much, really. Without caring to watch it – because fuck that, Impractical Jokers is on – I don’t see how you can expect to make a neutral, one-step-removed look at the whole thing by asking one of them to present it. It’d be like getting Robbie Savage to present a show about irritating ex-footballers.

There’s more programmes to come in this ‘online’ season of youth-oriented documentaries. I will be watching tomorrow’s – about eSports, for research – but I may join those youngsters with their hip hop and their happy slaps and watch it online at a later date instead.

I suppose we’ll yet find out how the new focus on the future will affect BBC Three viewers after it disappears from our telly boxes and exists solely online. I wonder if they’re expecting more hits than Zoella. Or if they even know who she is.

(Why do I know who she is? I work in content marketing, innit blud.)

Talking Points From The 2016 Royal Rumble match

Like most WWE PPVs of late, the Royal Rumble had its ups and downs. Let’s talk about some of the biggest issues and incidents.

Royal Rumble 2016 talking points

Your winner…and new WWE Champion

Roman Reigns went in at number one, and not many thought he’d be capable of wrestling more than hour in order to retain his title. So when Vince McMahon sicced his League of Nations (minus King Barrett) on Reigns, and Rusev sent him crashing through a table, Reigns received the stretcher job treatment – meaning it was only a matter of time until he returned to win.

So as Reigns began his comeback out of nowhere against the incoming number 29 entrant, Sheamus, the fix appeared to be in. That is, until Triple H entered the Rumble at number 30 and duly took the title. Reigns was actually the second-to-last man to be eliminated from the match, leaving Triple H in the ring against an absolutely fantastic Dean Ambrose, who the crowd got behind fiercely.

The art of salesmanship

Speaking of fierce, the reaction to both Ambrose and Kevin Owens’ Rumble entrances following their absolutely fantastic Last Man Standing match was something to behold. Meanwhile, after taking a particularly intense beating himself, Reigns sprang as if out of nowhere to surprise Sheamus with a Superman Punch in the aisle, later in the very same match.

It reminded me very much of the events of the 1994 Royal Rumble, in which co-winners Bret Hart and Lex Luger were both subjected to some rough treatment. Earlier in the night, Bret was attacked by his brother Owen, who took his frustrations out on Bret’s leg. The image of Kevin Owens’ entry into the Rumble last night was almost identical – maybe even in homage – to Bret, as both men dragged a bad leg behind them on the way into the ring to equally big pops from the crowd.

bretrumble

Luger, like Reigns, was jumped and beaten by two assailants before he could enter the match – but as soon as his number came up, Luger hit the ring like a house on fire, with absolutely no regard for selling the condition he’d been put in. Reigns’ entrance and subsequent domination of those in the ring was equally far-fetched.

I get that last night was all about defying the odds, but Reigns’ sudden revitalisation as he re-entered the match came off as so clumsy.

Brock vs Bray

It’s looking likely that a match between Brock Lesnar and Bray Wyatt is set to happen at Wrestlemania 32. This after Lesnar’s impact in the ring was dampened by the members of the Wyatt Family, whose leader Bray oversaw Brock’s elimination by his loyal subjects. The Wyatt Family put on a great performance in the ring – well, Luke Harper did at least but that’s nothing new – and may be on their way to establishing themselves as the big deal fans always thought they could be.

It’s just a shame Lesnar will go over at Mania – and that their big green giant of a man, Braun Strowman, continues to receive any prominent focus.

Chris Jericho – iron man?

I always liked Chris Jericho – he’s had some fantastic wrestling matches in his time, and can always be relied upon to put in a great performance and help put over young talent.

Which is why it’s so baffling to me that Jericho went more than 50 minutes – only Reigns ‘went’ longer. All that and with only one elimination to his name, I found it kind of strange that Chris Jericho was portrayed in the Rumble run-up as one of the frontrunners to win the match. But with the depleted roster, and the resultant need for a big name, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he’d been offered a big deal to be portrayed as a big deal in return.

Standouts and surprises

What with the match being for the World title rather than a shot at Wrestlemania, it made sense not to rely on the surprise guests and comedy spots – but that doesn’t mean we weren’t treated to some excellent Royal Rumble surprises.

AJ Styles WWE

Image by Zohyo

 

The worst-kept secret in professional wrestling was revealed, as the number three entrant turned out to be AJ Styles, fresh from NJPW and a bona fide wrestling star. His entrance was somewhat tainted as we couldn’t see the reveal of ‘The Phenomenal One’ on the Titantron – the TV cameras were trained on Reigns. And while it was too much to ask to have a debuting Styles go deep into the match, he still put on a great showing in his debut match.

The chain of events around this time were especially great. It was left to the other indie darling, Kevin Owens to eliminate Styles, who’d gone nearly half an hour in the match – only to be dumped out by his former friend and NXT Championship rival, Sami Zayn.

All in all I quite enjoyed the Rumble event – it certainly an improvement on the last two – but once again it’s been a case of making the best of what they had instead of planning ahead a little more. Assuming Roman Reigns is going to get his crowning moment at Wrestlemania once again – and assuming as well they don’t have an emergency ripcord to pull like they did last year – it could be an interesting few weeks ahead.

Dave Bowie, from t’ Dave Bowie Band

I’ve had three Bowie albums in my Amazon basket for over a week now. Even though they’re physically out of stock, they’re still hovering in the ether, waiting to be bought.

David Bowie died, and made a hole in the B section of the Rock & Pop shelves at HMV.

David Bowie Low album cover

He had his own section at the front of the store. I thought the grief-vultures had already moved to maximise their profits but then I remembered Bowie had a new album out anyway, so it was probably already there – along with a couple of 90s efforts that they just wanted shifting.

Bowie made music while he knew he was dying – probably because he knew he was dying. Nothing like teetering on the edge of forever to get you feeling creative. It’s bound to add some sense of perspective.

Everybody had something to say about him, even those who have wasted 140 characters of their life on Twitter to say that they have nothing to say about him. Maybe they just didn’t want to feel left out.

I’ve been trying to work out how best to say it myself. A brilliant talented man gone, having touched so many of the people in my life:

 

David Bowie Heroes album cover

My dad, a fellow cancer victim, absolutely loved him. His vinyl collection is in the corner of this very room; there’s definitely some Bowie in there.

My older brother who, like me, grew up liking all the same stuff our dad inflicted on us. We don’t normally text each other with ‘OMG did you hear’ texts, but this time it felt more than necessary.

My fiancée, who was charmed and frightened in equal measure as a little girl by seeing Labyrinth so many times. When we first met, ‘Bowie and his massive package’ was the subject of more than one drunken discussion with friends. The inclusion of ‘Magic Dance’ in our wedding ceremony was and is up for debate, even before he died.

There’s been more than a bit of hand-wringing for each ‘national treasure’  that we’ve lost since, in what’s been an absolutely horrible run of it. But for all the usual outbursts of ‘aww, not that guy, he was cool’, Bowie’s death actually turned me silent, contemplative, inwardly reflective.

That quiet reflection was best summed up today, which is why I wanted to write about it. It’s a nice bookend to the whole thing.

David Bowie Lodger album cover

My local independent record shop; 1.30pm, Saturday afternoon. I decide that I don’t want to wait and see if those Bowie CDs are in stock at Amazon before I order them and have to wait some more.

There’s a Bowie section in here, too – but again, there always was. Right next to The Rolling Stones.

That’s an especially poignant placement because as I approach the shelves, I realise what’s playing in the shop – his cover of ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ from Aladdin Sane.

These shelves have been well ransacked too; no copies of Station to Station or Young Americans. Not even Ziggy. Even HMV had a couple of copies of Ziggy left.

Only a few left in here, including the exact three I wanted: Low, “Heroes” and Lodger. Multiple copies left of each.

I approach the counter. The bloke looks up and takes my CDs off me.

Let’s Spend gives way to Suffragette City; there’s a weird feeling in the air as I go for my wallet, buying Bowie CDs in an otherwise empty record shop that’s playing Bowie.

He only tells me the price. I only tell him thanks. No more needed to be said, really.

——

With him gone, there’s fewer people around who can so effectively suck up all that creative energy out of the air and turn it into something beautiful. This evening I’ll be listening to the ‘Berlin Trilogy’ and trying to figure out how I can hoover up my fair share of it.

Royal Rumble 2016 predictions

In which Roman Reigns is made to look really strong.

We’re under a week away from what’s probably my favourite WWE event of the year, but at the time of writing I can’t even decide if I want to take the next morning off work to watch it.

Normally going into a Royal Rumble match there’s a large enough degree of uncertainty about what’s going to happen to keep it interesting – but in the company’s latest mission to make Roman Reigns look like an unstoppable superhuman it’s verging on the incredible. And not in a good way.

Royal Rumble 2016 predictions

For the first time ever, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship will be defended in the actual Royal Rumble match. Unlike previous years where the winner gets the World title shot at Wrestlemania, this year they’ve decided to lob in the actual belt instead.

At the 1992 Royal Rumble, Ric Flair won the vacant World title thanks to some screwery involving Sid Justice, but this year there’s going to be a defending champion; it’s an awful lot of pressure on Roman Reigns in both kayfabe and real-life terms.

The odds. The stacking. The againstness. The adversity. The overcoming: all things which we’re being treated to in the story of Reigns’ upcoming title defence. And while that worked for a little bloke like Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania XXX, I don’t know why Reigns has ever been portrayed as the underdog when he’s chiselled from granite and one of the most powerful men in the game today.

Forcing him into the Rumble with his title on the line – you can thank a returning Vince McMahon for that, who at 70 years of age deserves a big hand for bumping around like he has in the last few weeks – is a compelling enough storyline to keep me interested, but what happens at the end of the night is where it really gets interesting.

The way I see it, the Rumble’s going to go one of two ways; one of them only slightly less offensive than the other.

If Reigns retains

If Roman Reigns is going to make history by defending his Royal Rumble title, then for the sake of credibility he needs not to be in the first five, or even ten entries. The match has been won from an early position before – Shawn Michaels won it from the number one spot in 1995, but wrestled for less than 40 minutes. Chris Benoit won the Royal Rumble in 2004, clocking in a more impressive 61 minutes. But both men were a lot more capable workers than Reigns is now.

Not that any of that matters, because this is Superman we’re talking about. For Reigns not to be booed out of the building in winning his second consecutive Royal Rumble match – for all the marbles this time – the order of entry will be key; the later, the better. For the sake of believability – and of the WWE not ramming him down fans’ throats for the second year in a row – Reigns must enter later if he’s really going to win it all, despite it seeming like less of an achievement.

If Reigns loses

On the other hand, if it’s decided that someone else will be walking out of the Rumble as world champion, the likely scenario seems to be that Reigns – on the verge of victory and achieving the impossible – will be screwed by some Authority…screwery.

With the McMahon family seething, as well as Triple H seeking revenge for Reigns’ attack at TLC, we can expect even more of the deck-stacking as the Authority sends out stooge after stooge in an attempt to take out Reigns. Sheamus, Del Rio – even Bad News Barrett and Rusev who are sadly injured at last count – will be set to take out the champ as soon as possible.

Reigns, naturally, will overcome – but you can expect some last-minute tomfoolery to put down the champion if they decide not to go with Reigns as the champion heading out of the 2016 Rumble. Of course, that will be immediately remedied with a Wrestlemania main event against whoever does win that match – let’s not pretend that Fastlane is important enough to see a title change – so Reigns fans need not despair if he does lose the title at the Royal Rumble.

So if Reigns does give up the prize, who can we expect to take the belt?

Sadly, there are whispers that if you want the job done right, you’ve got to do it yourself – which is why it could be Triple H closing out the night as Royal Rumble winner 2016. Outside of that, the usual suspects would be Brock Lesnar, or…actually, there isn’t really anyone else is there?

Last Man Standing

Who would I like to see win? Dean Ambrose. Kevin Owens. Two hugely popular wrestlers, so popular in fact that WWE have already taken measures to ensure it won’t be either of them – by booking them opposite each other in a Last Man Standing match for the Intercontinental Title. So bizarre is this booking, in fact, that it’s the champion Ambrose who issued the challenge rather than the prizefighter Owens.

So with those two outside hopes swiftly taken care of, it’s going to be a matter of how badly WWE wants to get Roman Reigns, supreme champion, over at the Rumble. It’s strange that they can’t even wait for that Mania moment to ensure that Reigns gets the glory – or at least enough of the rub to get some sympathy via villainous interference – but I suppose we’ll see what they have in store for us.

Reasons to watch the Rumble

Despite the lack of intrigue this year surrounding the main event, there’s always a reason to tune into the Royal Rumble match – the surprise returns and debuts. And with the various members of Bullet Club all but confirmed to make their WWE debuts over the next few weeks, it’s going to be well worth tuning in to see which of the talented performers steps out onto the stage in Orlando, Florida, this Sunday night.

 

Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector – cute and cuddly mobile fun

This week I’ve been looking for a new gaming adventure for my mobile phone – AdVenture Capitalist only gets you so far, and the Christmas game was pretty disappointing – when gradually all my social feeds were taken over by pictures of virtual cats. One download later and I’m the proud owner of some cute kitties courtesy of the Neko Atsume game.

neko atsume mobile game

Let’s get this out of the way first – IRL, I’m really not a cat person. I just don’t get the appeal. If I were to share my living space with a pet (and my fish, Dean Venture, doesn’t count, because he doesn’t take up sofa space) I’d at least want it to depend on me to some extent. Cats seem to just do what the hell they want, regardless of my presence.

But over the last few days my Instagram and Twitter feeds have been taken over by pictures of the cutest virtual pets; lazing on cushions, playing with balls of yarn or just plonked in boxes and buckets – so adorable. These pictures were all shared by Neko Atsume players, and I decided I just had to have a go for myself.

neko atsume mobile game

How to play Neko Atsume

It’s quite easy to get involved, with just a quick download to your iPhone or Android device.  The tutorial then takes you through the simple process. The aim is to attract the cats to play and relax in your yard, which you can do by using silver and gold fish as currency to buy a range of treats – from posh cat food to luxury furniture and balls of yarn.

You’re then meant to check in with the game several times a day to see who pops up in your yard – at the moment there are 49 cats to ‘collect’, which you can do by taking pictures and adding them to your galleries and cat profile pages. These profiles also keep track of how many times each cat visits and which items they like to play on best.

neko atsume

When a cat leaves they’ll leave you a gift of either gold or silver fish which you can use to buy more treats. You can spend real money to obtain gold fish, but the good thing about this particular microtransaction system is that you’re in absolutely no danger of falling behind in the game if you choose not to. Many a free-to-play game gets this balance completely wrong, but being as this game is the very definition of ‘casual’ it’d be pretty hard to get wrong.

It’s that gentleness which is my very favourite thing about it; Neko Atsume is hardly even a game, more an interactive experience with virtual pets that are overloaded with kawaii cuteness. It’s so soothing too – always a sight for sore eyes and good for a few relaxing minutes.

If you’re pining for the days where Tamagotchi ruled the playground (and the teachers’ desk drawers), I’d definitely recommend checking this out.

Guitar Hero Live – a welcome return?

With the recent release of Guitar Hero Live, Activision has revisited (another) franchise that had suffered some major overkill in the past decade, with new features and a redesigned guitar controller that I’m still having trouble getting to grips with.

I owned the first three instalments of the Guitar Hero series, and enjoyed rocking out in my living room to a diverse playlist of musical acts. But with the constant releases of updates, sequels and expansion packs it wasn’t too long before my fellow empty-walleted fans of the series would stop showing up, both for this and the rival title from initial GH developers Harmonix, Rock Band.

So after a five-year break, and a new generation of shiny consoles on which to try their luck, has Guitar Hero Live got it right this time? The different play modes each have something new and interesting to offer.

guitarherolive

Guitar Hero Live – an innovative idea

Strictly speaking, I love the idea – Guitar Hero Live puts you in the role you were born (or bought the game) to play, seconds before stepping onstage with your band. Choose a band and showtime, and take to the stage for an as-live performance. Using video footage of the band and the baying crowd, you play along in the usual manner.

The cool part here is how well-made the videos are, showing a first-person view as you walk around onstage, interacting with band members and the audience alike while you’re busting out some rock music.

But while in the old games, a song would end abruptly if you played badly enough, Guitar Hero Live instead has you endure the full brunt of the reaction from audience and band members alike; in my very first playthrough of a metal song I hate, I was getting daggers from my bass player all the way through, while the other guitarist made pointed shakes of his head between verses.

Of course, if you’re playing well, all is forgiven as your band shout out the words and have a good time, while the audience chants and unfurls signs like ‘you’re my hero’ and ‘hit me with your rhythm stick’ (okay, maybe not that one). It’s a very cool touch and avoids any potential embarrassment of being booed off halfway through your solos.

But as pioneering as this new live approach is, there are a fair few problems with the execution. Namely, the acting. For the most part, it’s cheesy as hell and looks like an advert; one of those aspirational, middle class ones for mobile phones or posh cider that I’m forced to endure during trips to the cinema, where everything is ok because there’s some twee acoustic music on in the background and people are able to manipulate their entire physical environment because they have a new app.

Not only that, but due to the intricate nature of this video production, there are only so many ‘sets’ of songs which they could make. Again, for the most part – and this is purely subjective – a lot of the songs they’ve chosen to include are awful. Who the hell thought it was a good idea to have Mumford And Sons in a Guitar Hero game anyway? Not a sniff of actual stadium rock here, just poppy singalongs and some dire ‘screamo’ for all the angsty kids. I just about survived a triple onslaught of Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry and Rihanna yesterday – this was most definitely not the live experience I had in mind. Fortunately, there’s a whole other side of the new game which I enjoy a whole lot more.

GHTV

gh1

One of the reasons for the constant sequels and updates to the Guitar Hero franchise was so that players wouldn’t get too bored of the playlist – not that you could ever get bored of GH3. And where games have tried and failed before with downloadable songs as micro-transactions, here we get a streaming service called GHTV.

At the moment GHTV is two different channels playing songs online 24 hours a day, for everyone to have a go at around the clock. With scheduled programming dedicated to different genres, plus mini-ads showcasing the best of the freeplay catalogue (just so you can get a quick break to stretch the muscles), I found GHTV to be a brilliant platform on which to experience the game. I’ve also discovered a lot of good music on here – despite having only been playing the game over the past two days. Best of all, rather than the graphical tour de force that was blocky polygons playing a gig as it was in old versions, GHTV has the real music videos for every song it features. It can be pretty distracting sometimes when you’re trying to nail a complicated riff.

As I mentioned before, the trouble with micro-transactions is always finding the neat balance between those fans who will gladly pay more to get further enjoyment of a product which is already providing enough, and not pissing off anyone who would resent having already paid top dollar for the game, only to find that there’s a secret chord which you need to complete any play-throughs properly, and have to pay extra for. Here on GHTV there’s an option to buy the Party Pass, which offers all on-demand music, which can also be paid for via ‘Plays’ bought with in-game cash, for a 24-hour period. I think it’s £3.99 here in the UK. That’s actually okay if you’re having some mates round – only slightly more than one beer would cost you in some of the more upmarket bars; y’know, the ones whose patrons would really enjoy the cheesy Live feature.

The music selection on GHTV is actually pretty great, and with regular updates, you’re always likely to find something to have a crack at.

So, Guitar Hero Live is very much a game of two halves. And while I’m not especially keen on the GHTV portion making out as if I’m competing with other online players, the experience itself is as fun and imaginative as it’s always been, with some great songs to boot. For this alone I’d recommend picking up a copy of the new game, especially if you’re a fan of the old ones – for everyone else who might actually enjoy the Live feature, you should get involved too. My own personal highlight was getting some sultry looks from the hot bass player; you should let me know if that’s just me reading too much into band chemistry.

 

Defeating ‘The Nag’ – My New Year’s Creative Resolution

So. We’re into the year 2016, and I’m already struggling to keep up with my New Year’s Resolution. Not because it’s impossible – it’s not like I’ve promised to run a 10k by this time tomorrow – but just because it requires my patience, and my mental discipline, and not to feel so bloody tired all the time.

I’ll show you what my resolution is, because it involves a bit of the task itself.

My New Year's Resolution(1)

My two-part resolution: to feel more productive, and to be okay when not feeling productive.

Because it’s one thing to be productive – I’ve read more books (nearly two) since Boxing Day than I have in the last six months – but it’s another not to let it nag me when I’m not feeling productive.

Thanks to some hand-wringing at my angelically patient fiancée earlier this evening, I’ve come up with a name for it: The Nag. We’re only four days into the new year, and The Nag is already getting at me to get something done.

Which, again, would be fine if I’d spent the 93ish hours of 2016 so far doing absolutely nothing. But I have been doing things. Plenty of things. I just about managed the first day back at work today after a good long break, and I’ve done plenty of reading. I’ve even broken the back of the main storyline of Fallout 4, if we were really struggling to list any achievements.

But I shouldn’t be struggling to say I’ve done anything in 2016, for two main reasons:

  • I’ve definitely been productive.
  • We are less than 100 hours into 2016.

Pretty unreasonable, right? A brace of blog posts ready to go in the coming days, plenty of writing done, nearly two books read. But there’s The Nag.

TheNag.jpg

Ay, there’s The Nag.

It’s kind of a vicious cycle, really. If I’d been markedly non-prolific on a regular basis, I’d have been okay with The Nag because it would’ve kept me creating. But it persists now despite all my efforts. And my writing about The Nag in an attempt to reveal all its petty, silly demands and make it sound silly, is beginning to make me sound silly.

100 hours into 2016? I’ve only had Fallout 4 for about six weeks, and I’ve almost certainly put 100 hours into that too. Playing the game non-stop for an equivalent amount of time now would be (heaven, and also) conceivably a waste of my time.

But when I’ve stopped being productive for the day, The Nag persists. That’s why I’m making it my resolution; to be productive when I want to be, and not to let The Nag get to me when I don’t.

If any of that made sense to you, please, share your battles to stay content. I’m off now to Nag some raiders, and gunners, and deathclaws.

2015 – The Blogging Year in Review

I was hoping to write a fairly in-depth analysis of Alpha Signal Five’s year, but before I knew it it had turned 7pm on New Year’s Eve, so you’ll just have to settle for something a little briefer while I wait for my takeaway to arrive.

So. In 2015 (and at the time of publishing, as we might yet squeeze in a few more tonight) Alpha Signal Five received

  • 6,732 views
  • From 5,120 visitors

That’s pretty bloody great isn’t it! I’m well chuffed with the fact that the site got more than 5,000 (not unique) visitors. Compare it to 2014, which got

  • 5,107 views
  • From 3,883 visitors

And I’m extremely pleased with the improvement. Certainly enough to pay my WordPress bill when it’s time to renew in the next few weeks.

According to that Year in Review thing which I got from WordPress the other day, I wrote 74 posts in 2015 (not sure if that includes the one about Guitar Hero Live which I’ve got saved in Drafts right now). That’s 1.42 posts a day, roughly one every four days.

That’s not too bad actually. But I certainly wish I’d got a few more in, maybe 100 or so. I know that there were long spells where I’d been a bit neglectful, and given myself some internal grief as a result. I’ve sort of arrived at a decision about that…a resolution, if you will…but we’ll get to that next week.

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Most-viewed posts of 2015

My top five most read posts of 2015, also written this year (cos god knows we shouldn’t be talking about that guy – the most read of 2015 overall – any more.)

Happy Birthday, nWo! Hulk Hogan’s 1996 WCW Heel Turn

Oh crap, there he is again.

Who will win the 2015 Royal Rumble?

Not a classic match by any means, but the Rollins-Cena-Lesnar match was my favourite of the year.

The Fallout 4 Pip-Boy Edition is BEAUTIFUL…but not for me

A look at the expensive side of geek culture, and the first of three this year on what’s definitely been my gaming highlight of 2015.

Why did Tom DeLonge leave Blink 182?

A bit of a shocker, this, but I enjoyed a trip back into teen nostalgia while celebrating a lifelong favourite band.

WWF – the story of Fake Diesel and Fake Razor Ramon

Inspired by the story of the genuine articles joining WCW, and the WWF’s completely weak response.

Mainly wrestling, but unlike 2014 when I promised not to write about it for the sake of writing about it, these pieces have met that promise as I had genuine interest in the topics at hand.

Improvements on 2014

I make a regular habit of saying ‘I’m not in the habit of making resolutions’, which I clearly am. So let’s take a look at last year’s equivalent post and see what went right.

The one thing I know I’ve worked on here is writing for myself; I’ve binned the news in brief posts and instead concentrated on news when I’ve actually got something to say about it, instead of just regurgitating the news and ending with a summary of my brief thoughts.

There’s only that, really. But I don’t mind. I’ve done my best to make the blog into something a bit more ‘me’ and I think I’ve achieved that.

And now as we get into 2016, I’ll be off to a pretty good start with some posts already in the making. Let’s see what the new year brings. Have a good one, dudes – and thank you for being on the other end of this mass of tubes they call the internets, reading the stuff I write. It’s a good feeling.

 

 

Cards Against Humanity – a fun way to be morally bankrupt

I think Bill Murray says it best in Scrooged ­– Christmas is the time of year where we all feel like we can be a better person. But I doubt that Frank Cross had got his hands on my new (joint) favourite card game, Cards Against Humanity, where the reward comes from being as dubious and outrageous as possible.

Cards Against Humanity (CAH) is a card game that makes use of players’ deepest, darkest imagination to provide wholly inappropriate punchlines for jokes.

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How to play Cards Against Humanity

The rules and format of the game can be altered to suit the number of players and answers given, but generally each turn one player takes the role of the Card Tsar.

The white cards are dealt to each player; these contain a variety of answers such as (to name the worst offenders off the top of my head), ‘Michael Jackson’, ‘Nazis’ and ‘Dead parents’.

(The game is helpfully available in a UK edition; having played a different version before I was completely baffled by some of the references to chat show hosts, food products and so on.)

The Card Tsar than places down a ‘question’ card, and asks the players for the most inappropriate answer available from their deck. Strong overtones of black comedy ensue; safe to say Cards Against Humanity is not one to break out when the relatives are visiting.

Once the cards are in, the Card Tsar reads out the question and each potential answer, before awarding their favourite answer an Awesome Point, and the black card they won with.

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Fun for the whole family…?

I received Cards Against Humanity as a Christmas present from my mum, which made it all the more difficult to explain myself when it came time for a game before dinner against my fiancée and my brother!

Having known each of them for an indeterminate amount of time between ‘ten years’ and ‘my whole life’, fortunately we’ve got quite the iron will for a poorly-intended joke, and as such our own brand of black humour was richly celebrated within these cards. I really must stress the offensive nature of some of the question-answer combinations which may enter your head once the cards are down – but if you don’t mind being seen as one of the ‘horrible people’ the makers have themselves targeted on the box, you should be fine with the spirit of the game.

I really enjoyed playing Cards Against Humanity – not just because I’m a horrible person, but because it somehow turned out to provide some of the strongest family bonding time I’ve had in months! I’d definitely recommend it for anyone who wants a break from the usual stuff.