Tuesday, May 29, 2007

WTF do I need more blogs for?

I have decided to break this blog down and create two offshoot blogs, so that I can keep related subjects together and save this blog for the truly random stuff.I created a Live Journal account a couple of weeks back in order to be able to post comments on the pages of a couple of my co-students from the upcoming Clarion West course. I've decided to use that journal to keep all my writing-related thoughts together. It's called Painted Fire.

Today, I've created a blog to track all my game-related ideas, hopefully working towards getting something more serious together eventually (like a book!!). That one's called The Persistent Illusionist, from the Albert Einstein quote: Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.

I'll explain more about both names on the blogs in question.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Arvon, Clarion West, and the Great DAoC Aftermath

Lawks, I'd forgotten how pink this place is. And that it doesn't let me title my posts properly, which is strange because other people's Blogspot blogs do seem to have titles on the posts...

I've spent a couple of hours this evening talking to my friend Sharkith about MMO's, and the breakdown of 'community' in virtual social groups. It's a subject that's dear to our hearts at the moment, because we have both recently left Dark Age of Camelot (I haven't offically left but I am not playing). It feels as though there has been a catastrophic breakdown on the Dyvet cluster (Excalibur & Prydwen), but who knows as to whether what we experienced actually had any effect on the population.

I've decided to take a look, as objectively as possible, at what causes so-called game communities to go bad, and what breaks the trust between the playerbase and the company running the game. Does it really make people leave? What can be done to prevent it? I'm partly doing it as catharsis - I am grieving over what I've lost, strange as it may seem - but I have always been fascinated by the psychology & sociology of MMO's.

I shouldn't be doing this as this point, because I am still flailing around trying to complete my novel, a task which has become far more urgent due to my acceptance onto Clarion West. Six weeks in Seattle during which I will not have time to work on it, followed by an imminent Pipeline issue, means I have to have it ready for a final proof-read and edit by 15th June if I'm going to hand it in on time in September. I'm very excited about CW, excited enough to risk the novel for.

I've come to accept that I may not finish on time thanks to a lovely bunch of people that I met last week at a writing retreat at Lumb Bank, a mill owner's house outside Heptonstall that used to belong to Ted Hughes. The place is owned by the Arvon Foundation and MMU takes students there at this time every year. It was a last-minute decision for me, but I'm very glad I went. The tuition (from Nicholas Royle and Conrad Williams) was excellent, the food was good, and the company was superb. Lumb Bank is a wonderful place. It's not the open fire, the comfy sofas, or the incredible view across the valley that make it - it's all those things, experienced through the imaginations of talented and fascinating people. The company of writers brings you to life and makes you appreciate everything around you so much more intently. Thanks guys.

Monday, August 21, 2006

On Being a Media Whore

Time I said something about the magazine I suppose. I meant to keep a diary of the whole process, but somehow the indiviual stages haven't seemed as though they would be interesting to anyone but me and the other directly involved, or that they would remain interesting even to us, once completed.

Of course I was wrong; life always seems mundane when it stretches out all around you, but as soon as you look back and the perspective flattens, it takes on a certain fascinating aspect.

So, we are nearly there with Pipeline. I need to drop the layouts in at the printers later today, hopefully for the last time, and they will start the run of the inside pages and do me a proof of the cover. The launch is booked at Cafe Muse on the 31st. H has been an absolute star and I have fallen at least half in love with her.

The media whoring is fun, but will take a lot of practice to get good at. I limped my way through an interview with the MEN last Wednesday, stumbled slightly through an interview on All FM yesterday (H by my side, so not as bad) and will be, no doubt, slick and professional for my appearance on Thursday on Let's Go Global TV (ha ha). I have to get the press release to everyone else I can think of today/tomorrow, and we should get an interview with BBC Online.

Of course where I should really be focusing is on exploiting all my friends; this takes me back to our gigging days. You WILL come down. You KNOW you want to. OK, I don't care if you don't want to, just buy a ticket. Free glass of wine! (All right, so there were never free glasses of wine at the Roadhouse, not even for the band). I'll make with the emails.

Ee, it's all fun.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Things That Make Me Feel Alive

8v8 fights
cleaning (as long as Simon Le Bon is singing with me)
releasing an arrow
being on stage
the first inhalation

Things That Make Me Feel Dead

staying in bed too long
browsing forums
not writing
ignoring people's texts/emails
letting the plants die

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Placebo at Blackpool

So long since I've blogged. Bad me.

Anyway, Placebo at the Empress Ballroom, Blackpool. I went with NM from the Monday Night Group, our P disliking Placebo. I like to think I'd have gone on my own otherwise, but probably I wouldn't have bothered. So thank you NM! It was great.

We got there just as the doors opened, but there was a huge slow-moving queue, so we wandered around for a bit and then went to a bar next to the Winter Gardens, which was playing Placebo amongst other things. It was fun watching everyone trail past the window, though it did make me feel a bit old (average Placebo fan maybe 20? tops?)

The support was a band called White Rose Movement, who had great hair. The music was OK, I mean nothing surprising, but it certainly worked in that setting and the crowd were all for them. Well, not quite all. There were a couple of lurikeen bainshees behind NM and I, screaming "SCRUBBERS! at the top of their tiny lungs and laughing hysterically all the way through the set. I felt like kicking them, but I was good, dear reader, I was good.

I abandoned my escort and battled my way towards the front for Placebo. Stupid soft-top trainers meant I couldn't risk the really rough areas. And there were plenty of those, so it was a bit hairy just staying upright and not getting my toes broken. Fun though! It's been years since I was in a crowd like that - rough, almost wild, but very good-natured with it. There was no aggression. Most everybody looked like the sort of people you wouldn't mind having a drink with; proving, I suppose, that Placebo attracts a certain kind of fan and they are not the type that spits on people.

Molko sweated and smoked, Stefan leapt about and waved his skinny self at us, and we went crazy.

They played a lot of songs from the new album, all of which stood up. 'Meds' was a terrific opener and 'Song to Say Goodbye' came over very well too. They didn't play 'Pierrot', boo hiss. They played some early tracks with slow arrangements, 36 Degrees worked particularly well, but I think that's a slightly odd choice versus playing some of the early slow songs (what I wouldn't have given for WYIN...) Running Up That Hill was a nice surprise. Couple of old ones played the right way really made the moshpit dangerous: Special K ('I don't like this song but I think you guys like it so...') and Nancy Boy.

I was exhausted afterwards and v. grateful to NM for driving me home where I could sluice the alien sweat from my body (and my own of course), grab some toast before waking P up getting into bed. Poor old P. Abandoned, and I forgot to tape Battlestar Galactica for him on Tuesday so he didn't even have anything to do.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

NFD GG2 Manchester RL Meet Up

So, this weekend was the long awaited meet. Here's my photo-diary of the event. You can click on any image to see it BIGGAH.

Sadly, Paul-the-bard was too sick to travel, so we were a man down, but we put a brave face on it and tried to drink his share of the beer.

Drachais and Shark arrived on the Friday night, and we (Maxis and I) took them to a Greek place on Deansgate. We stayed there until they kicked us out (I noticed that they weren't kicking anyone else out. Were we being disorderly? I think not.)

The next morning Drach and Sharky leaped out of bed at the crack of dawn to go to the Imperial War Museum North. Max and I finally managed to drag ourselves there at about 11:00 and found them playing with a tank. We told Drach to kite it, but he must have been rooted or something. /shrug.

We walked back across the rising bridge at Salford Quays towards the Lowry Centre; here are the lads standing by the bridge...

...and this one is Drach, Shark and me looking back across the dock at the War Museum (this pic's for you, Alex.) It looks nice and sunny, but there was a very cold wind, so actually we are all freezing our tits off in that shot.

Back in town, we met Deadweight, then Tammuz and then Jamiesmallicus at Piccadilly. It was fun scanning the people arriving into Starbucks and trying to spot the internet gamers. Harder than you might think, but we identified each other without too much trouble, refrained from screeching in shock/delight, and went in search of some pre-beer padding.

Here we are sampling that traditional Manchester dish, curry for lunch, except Tammuz who for some reason ordered a pizza. Like, yeah, pizza from a curry house is gonna be nice! Deadweight looks happy though (that's him in the stripes). I think Jamie might have said something mildly amusing. He's such a wag.

Here we are wandering aimlessly around central Manchester, on warden speed, looking for a fight. I mean a pub that wasn't too full. From L-R: Shark, Jamie, Maxis, Tammuz & Drachais.

We had a couple of beers in Night and Day and then retired to a corner of The English Lounge, shown here, where Shark, Maxis and I sampled the tasty warm English ales, much to Drach's disgust. We lost Deadweight in between the two bars. I think he pulled or something.

Jamie went home before supper, but the remnants of the group went into Chinatown. The food was pretty good, as it usually is in Little Yang Sing, but they had some kind of weird restaurant-meme going on, whereby someone has a birthday: cue music, singing, clapping, ice-cream with a sparkler in it etc. Then everyone decides to get in on the act and we have at least 5 rounds of this in a row. It was loud. It gave us headaches. We opted not to invent a birthday of our own.

And so to dancing. Tamm bottled out of it, so we were down to 4 at this point, but we're hardcore so we hit the clubs. Well, FAB Cafe anyway.

Shark: Maybe if I throw enough shapes, this Dalek will be really impressed and not nuke me down.

Dalek: Exterminate!

Drachais: Ah, my pits are as fresh as can be. Come and smell these, everyone!

Everyone: NIPPLES!

Finally, there were 3. The morning after, not feeling too fragile at all (honest) Max and I met Drach in town for a coffee. Shark was meant to be heading back home early; hope he remembered to wake up...

You'd better click on this one to get the FULL EFFECT! This is the MK1 radio telescope at Jodrell Bank, one of the biggest radio telescopes in the world. If you look carefully you can see two little gimpy eldritches standing underneath it.

And that's just about the end of it. We took Drach to the airport, took a peek at Concorde, gave him a hug and a kiss (Drach, not Concorde) came home and fell asleep. Three cheers for RL meets, four cheers for GG2, one cheer for Manchester, no cheers for sick bards (Pol, we missed you.)

Looking forward to the next one


Monday, January 30, 2006

Johnny Marr Plays Guitar

...and sings like a godlike being.

Saturday was the Manchester v Cancer gig at the Arena, Andy Rourke's chums all overcoming their differences in the name of charidee. But that's not being fair; it was a terrific night and most of the performers seemed pretty sincere, even if it came very close to spilling over into self-parody at times; sort of a Manchester Music 101 for anyone who wasn't here at the time (and I'm guessing we all were).

We arrived in the middle of Bez's band's set, which was predicatably messy, and the relatively tuneful yelpings of the skinny redheaded woman co-vocalist only highlighted Bez's own tuneless incoherence. Bad Idea, kids. Then we got a worthwhile contribution from Utah Saints (didn't know they were local) before a set from the majestic 808 State and MC Tunes, for FAR TOO SHORT A TIME. Then Stephen Fretwell (or he might have been before, or later, I forget), then some geezers called Nine Black Alps, who I hadn't heard of. They were a bit boring. Then I think Elbow, then I think it was Badly Drawn Boy, who looked all cute in his woolly hat and forgot the words. Andy Rourke came on and played bass on a number, and goodness me, he looked just like our Shane with a mullet.

Mani from the Roses spun a couple of Mondays singles. He was enthusiastic but I got the impression he hadn't DJ'd before. Never mind, the crowd loved him. Then came the suckerpunch. Johnny Marr's band, The Healers, wandered on, Johnny introduced them, and then came the deadly, dreadfully familiar strains of 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out', and when Johnny sang take me out tonight it brought tears to my eyes. I'm not talking about one or two discreet dampnesses in the corner of the eye here, I'm talking Proper Crying, the best kind, where the tears flow freely, without any pain or raggedness of breath. From time to time it happens, I lose myself, and the emotions get so big they just spill out every which way, and not only do I lose control, I do it ecstatically.

After a handful of Healers songs, pretty fine but not godlike, Andy Rourke joined them for 'How Soon Is Now'. The Smiths have had the capacity to knock me off balance for a long time. I told P on the way home, about having to get away from the music when 'This Charming Man' came on at a party, and although I have since managed to sit through that and other songs in places like Fab Cafe, it's only with a certain amount of nerve. If you'd asked me in 1988 whether the Smiths or the Cure were more important to me, I'd have said the Cure, but dammit, the force of just 2 original Smiths playing just 2 Smiths songs, all these years later, was like some tremendous monster; something squamous pressing against the fabric of reality, threatening to come through and change everything.

After that, the rest of the evening was a comedown. Doves played a great set, and sweetly gave up stage space to guest stars, having the guy from Elbow, Damon Gough and Johnny Marr back, and Barney from New Order. Mr Scruff kept it real (a bit too real for P, who felt no need for Ian Dury in a DJ set). Or, you know, that might have been earlier, it's all a bit of a muddle in me head. 'Cause we had Graeme Park on the decks at some point as well, and he was top banana.

New Order, for some reason, decided only to play Joy Division songs. Transmission, Twenty-Four Hours, She's Lost Control, (I'm missing some here I didn't catch the titles of, or recognise - P would know), Love Will Tear Us Apart and Ceremony. All huge and chilling and wonderful, but pretty damn wierd in an arena setting. The crowd seemed kinda stunned, and mostly stood very still.

Lots of people obviously had to go catch last trains/buses, because they scrambled out of their seats after the New Order set, even though the house lights hadn't come up. Some people half-heartedly chanted 'Manchester, Lalala' (possibly the lamest chant in the world evah), and the foot stamping never got co-ordinated. Is foot-stamping a lost art? The gigs of my teenage years were always graced with a rousing round of stamping and clapping before the encore, which always always managed to sweep the entire crowd into a united rhythm that shook the walls. It doesn't seem to happen any more.

Eventually Manchester's finest shuffled back on to the stage, a great line of scruffy men with guitars, who all seemed more or less clueless as to what was going on. They sputtered into the riff from 'Wrote For Luck', and just as we were thinking "Oh no, surely Bez isn't going to sing again", La Ryder shows up, face completely covered by a hood, like the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, in scally form. It went on a long time. It was amusing to watch, but I was outside of myself by that point. I had no euphoria left. (It's possible that seeing Shaun Ryder eating chips off a bin in Whythenshawe that one night has rendered me incapable of hero-worhip. It shouldn't outweigh those incredible gigs at ULU when I came home black and blue after the Mondays deliberately started fights in/with the audience. But.)

Take me out tonight
Where there's music and there's people
and they're young and alive