All posts by Ash

A plan for 2012

I spent some time yesterday debating whether or not to attempt the whole ‘One a day’ business again. I’m not entirely sure why; I spent a horrifying amount of time staring at a blank ‘Add New Post’ screen on the WordPress backend last year and I seriously doubt I’d make it anywhere near six months if I tried again. Obviously, I decided against it.

I have been looking for an excuse to start using this site again though, so I’ve decided to attempt something much less time-consuming, that will mean I can update the site a little more regularly. It’s nice and simple, and an idea I’ve had for ages: A film diary.

I have no idea why I’ve been wanting to do it for so long, but for some reason I quite like the idea of looking back of the films I watched over the course of a year. That would obviously lead to incredibly short and quite dull blog entries, so I’ll fill them out a bit with my thoughts on the film. I don’t plan on writing a full, in-depth review, just some of my first thoughts and feelings.

I’m hoping that writing something more frequently (and without spending 2 hours trying to think of anything to write) will mean I can write about something a little more interesting during the year too. I have a lot of gaming-related thoughts bouncing around my head almost constantly, so I’d like to write a few of those down as well. Either way, I’m hoping to write a lot more stuff here in 2012. Sorry about that.

A letter to Keith Vaz, MP.

Hi,

First of all, I should clarify that I am not a member of your constituency, but given that your comments today regarding violence in computer games, specifically ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’, are not specific to your local constituency, I thought it would be more than reasonable to contact you regarding them.

There is one particular comment that I would like you to clarify, regarding the “increasing evidence of a link between perpetrators of violent crime and violent video games users”.

I’ve played games of a huge variety for over 20 years now, and I’d hazard a guess that the majority of these were in some way violent. I don’t think this is a reflection of my personality or any particularly violent tendencies on my part, it’s more a reflection of the content of games. I won’t lie and say that I’m comfortable with the frankly overwhelming amount of games geared towards hurting or killing people, and I have no doubt that the games that I enjoy the most often involve a lot of thought as opposed to brute force (I can’t recommend Portal 2 enough), but even after twenty years of mostly-violent games I can safely say that my feelings towards violent crime are much the same as most non-gamers; disgust, horror, anger – I don’t like it, basically.

I also happen to be good friends with a lot of people who, like me, play a variety of games with a tendency towards those including violence of some sort. Now, I can’t say for certain that they aren’t living a secret life committing horrific crimes, inspired by the games they play, but I’m happy to stick my neck out with some degree of confidence and say that they aren’t. That said, this is just anecdotal evidence, which doesn’t really hold up in official reports and the like, I’m just trying to give you an idea of why I find your comments so confusing.

Lastly, and this is quite important, I’d like to know what this “evidence” you mention is. You’re not the first person to express their distaste for computer games and I’m sure you won’t be the last, but up until now there has been no evidence to indicate a link between violent computer games and violent behaviour. None. There’s a school of thought that would argue committing a violent act in a game would desensitize you to doing such a thing in real life. That’s probably to be expected. But there is no evidence. In fact, some would argue that it does the opposite.

I can recall a time when I was in a particularly bad mood, so I turned on my console and played Grand Theft Auto IV (Again, a great game, but probably not your sort of thing) so I could drive around like a maniac and cause a lot of carnage, some of it violent. Now that obviously doesn’t mean that if GTA IV didn’t exist I would have stolen the nearest car and attacked anyone who stepped in my way, but it also doesn’t mean that I’m any more inclined to do so now. I can’t stress that enough. There is no evidence. None. Again, that’s just anecdotal evidence, not the real, scientific stuff.

So please, Mr. Vaz, either share this evidence with us, so we can ban these violence-causing games for good, or stop making wild, unfounded remarks about a past-time that I have no doubt does a lot more good than it does bad.

Thank you.

Doing it because it feels good

I’ve spent some time thinking today, due to this blog post/video by @buxtontheblue. Go on, watch it. I’ll wait. Done? Good. First of all, I can’t stress how brave/insane Nina is for posting that; As I explained to her on Twitter earlier, I once decided against posting a video of Molly on YouTube because my voice could be heard on it, so posting a video of myself (including my face! Imagine!) singing and playing the guitar is frankly terrifying to me.

After telling her that my “thing” is the same as hers, Nina then requested that I post a video of my own. That was the main point of her video, after all. I was reluctant. I also felt guilty for being so reluctant – she had done a brave thing and flat-out refusing seems rude to me. I thought I’d at least think about it for a while. And I have.

The thing is, and this isn’t a cop-out so I don’t have to embarrass myself on the internet (and it would have been embarrassing), I’m not so sure that playing the guitar and singing is my “thing” after all; It’s the thing I wish I could do, but I didn’t stop doing it because of what other people might think of me, I stopped because I’m bad at it. As someone who has sung on stage in front of a fair crowd of people, my parents included, I can safely say that I don’t enjoy singing for people. I also played guitar (and bass, though not at the same time) and I would do that again in an instant, so it don’t believe it was just nerves. I’m a perfectionist and when I find myself doing something to a standard below where I’d like to be and don’t feel I could improve any further, I find the enjoyment being sucked out of it. I hate it, but I have no idea how to stop myself feeling like that.

So I started thinking about what my “thing” could be and remembered a link that appeared in my Twitter timeline sometime last week. I’ve lost the link unfortunately, but it was to a forum post in 2002 from someone who had decided to wanted to start drawing because it had always interested him. He’d never been very good at it, but he wanted to improve and thought he could document his progress there. The first few pages were of cubes and items on his desk, showing how he got to grips with perspective. Seventy pages on (I didn’t read them all), and his work was astonishing; Oil paintings and self-portraits that could be mistaken for photographs. Genuinely brilliant stuff; I felt a bit inspired. I’d always like art at school and I have a very clear recollection of drawing my guitar (fancy that!) in an art exam in secondary school.

That was a long time ago, so I couldn’t say with any certainty why I stopped, but I do remember feeling quite intimidated by how good other people’s work was. I can’t remember the last time I tried to draw something, but as someone who designs websites on occasion it’s occurred to me that it would be a handy skill. Now that I’m thinking about it, the main reason I still haven’t tried, despite it’s obvious advantages and the enjoyment I got out of it, is because of how easy it would be for someone to tell me that it’s shit. There’s an element of laziness too, don’t get me wrong, but if I think about getting a pencil out and doodling an idea I get quite excited by the thought but never act on it.

So, inspired by Nina’s video (please watch it) I will make a trip to the shop in a little while to buy a pack of pencils and dig out the sketch book I have hidden away somewhere. I don’t know what I’ll draw. No doubt, it will be something fairly basic and it will look like it was done by a small child, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll enjoy it. I’ll be doing it because it feels good and that’s good enough for me.

Lastly, here is a video of Molly, featuring my voice:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pu_xMm6igJA&feature=youtu.be]

Perspective and fear

I’ve always been aware of how lucky I am: I live in a first-world country, so I know of the many millions of people living in horrible conditions and I’ve witnessed plenty of footage of natural disasters. I won’t lie and say that it’s made me a good samaritan and I’ve given whenever I could, but I like to think it’s at least given me some perspective when complaining about the trivial things like us lucky people often do.

The footage of the rioting in London tonight has made me realise how lucky I am on a more national, local scale though. Our country has never been under attack from another nation during my lifetime, and I’ve never lived in a city where an explosion has gone off, for example. But it’s also made me feel something that I never thought I’d feel leaving the house for five minutes at 1am: fear.

I finished work at 1am tonight. I work from my home in Sheffield, so thankfully there were no incidents of rioting (that I’m aware of) and even if there had been, I wouldn’t have had to make my way through them to get home. After finishing I had to walk the dog around the block. The area I live in isn’t exactly a leafy suburb, but I’ve never felt at risk until tonight.

Obviously, a good deal of this worry and nervousness is in part due to the horrible footage being shown all night, but it’s also because it gives the impression that the rioting is due to these people having fun and, worryingly, like they can get away with it; it’s like a circus of destruction.

You have to be incredibly naive to think that the vast majority people are trying to make a political statement of any sort and are anything but opportunist criminals taking advantage of a clear shortage of police. I felt a small twinge of panic when it started to appear that these people were organising themselves. The fact that similar riots have started up in other places around the country, with no apparent link to the events in London, is frankly terrifying.

I guess we’ll know tomorrow if the police can get this under control, but the two videos that appeared in my Twitter timeline a short while ago have damaged my faith in humanity a lot more than I thought would have been possible. As a cynical sort of person that absolutely loves being proved wrong (at least when it comes to other people and their motivations) that’s a pretty depressing thought.

Still, as I said earlier, it’s important to keep things in perspective. I’d like to think I’ll take more opportunities to do something nice now and I’d urge everyone else to do the same. Someone has to and it certainly won’t be any of the people in the following videos…

Facebook video link

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4pcbiO4flY&feature=youtu.be]

Apologies if it appears that I’ve contradicted myself or rather clumsily tried to make a point. I wanted to at least write something before going to bed tonight and I’ve no doubt left myself open to gross misunderstanding and/or confusion.

Calling it a day

Being quite a bit stubborn, I really didn’t want to have to write this post, but I think two weeks worth of entries to catch up on has finally convinced me to quit while I’m…well, two weeks behind. I had been struggling prior to the holiday, but I feel a little refreshed after the holiday and I’m eager to do more of the stuff that I’ve half-heartedly done for a while now and it’s beginning to feel like this is a drain on my time, or at least a bit of an unwanted distraction.

I’ll probably still write something every now and then, as there have been posts that I’ve really wanted to write, amazingly enough. Having to write an entry every day has made me comfortable with the idea that I’ll never write anything that’s perfect, so that’s not something that bothers me anymore for anything I write in the future. Plus, I bought this domain so I’m not letting it go to waste. I’m not made of money!

The idea of using the site as a blog for posting the occasional thought or silly video actually appeals to me much more when I think about it. Hopefully the other one-a-dayers that are still going strong will be a reminder that this site exists.

So, this isn’t a farewell as such, it pretty much just means there won’t be a 9gag picture here every other day, which can only be a good thing.

France, day three

Well, this isn’t good. I’m finding it genuinely difficult to both remember, and find the energy to write something here since the holiday. The holiday itself has actually been really good in terms of my general laziness. That is, I don’t keep thinking, “Oh, I’ll do it later” to everything I ought to do. Maybe that’s why this feels like so much more effort than it was before, or it could be just because I haven’t gone back to work yet, so I don’t fully feel like I’ve adjusted to being back home.

Anyway, this was taken on the third day of the holiday, after a short period of rain in the evening. It was 44º on the day we arrived, and only slightly lower the day after, so rain was very welcome by this point. We even got a nice lightning show after we ate and sat in the garden.

It’s not the greatest picture, but I like it. For reference, this is the vast majority of the village we were staying in. Our gîte was on the right down a small path and a barn.

Home sweet home (almost)

Hello you! It’s been a while, how’ve you been? You’re looking well. Me? Oh, I’m fine, thanks. Yes, France was lovely, but then who wouldn’t be happy with a diet consisting mainly of red wine, bread and cheese, and obscenely cheap beer?

Sorry, not sure what was going on there. Right now, I’m in holiday purgatory: in a French hotel for our last night before returning to the UK. I’ve said for some time that I use the internet too much and mentioned to my girlfriend on a few occasions that I was looking forward to being cut off for a couple of weeks. Internet, I apologise. I was right, we do see each other too much, but good God, I’ve missed you.

It’s rather expensive to use 3G over here on my contract, so I’ve tried to limit it (about 5mb use in total), but I was somewhat horrified when my RSS reader informed me of a Steam sale in the middle of our second week. Almost as horrified as when I realised it’d cost me about £4.50 to find that out. Thanks, O2. A slightly-more-expensive-than-planned call to my parents tonight has rectified it slightly though: Portal 2, Dead Space 1 and 2, and Crayon Physics Deluxe. Lovely.

Amazing, isn’t it? I’ve not written anything here for almost two weeks and I’m already writing about Steam sales. I’d like to write about what I’ve been up to – and I’ll probably some pictures of the stunning house we stayed at, amongst other things – but it was a holiday of doing as little as possible by (or in) the pool, so that may not be particularly interesting. I’ve spent a good deal of my time finally playing GTA: Chinatown Wars and finally finishing the first Professor Layton game on the DS, so it’ll be even less interesting if you’ve played either/don’t like games.

Anyway, it’s gone 11pm here now and I’m surprisingly tired for someone who’s spent most of the day sat on their arse in the back of a car. I also appear to listening to Lady Gaga, even after my girlfriend fell asleep about a song and a half in. So, bed it is. Words cannot describe how excited I am about arriving at the first UK motorway service station and buying an overpriced coffee. In UK currency. From someone who understands me and who I understand. Probably, anyway.

The journey to France: LIVE!

I’m writing this on my phone, in the car, just outside London, I believe. For fairly obvious reasons, I find this amazing.

I don’t have anything interesting to write, but the 3G connection has been fairly good so far, so I thought I’d try to fire a quick post out to lighten the load when I get back.

The journey so far has mostly involved the last third of Simon Pegg’s Nerd Do Well – which is excellent, after a slow start – and my girlfriend singing loudly.

The weather is looking increasingly grim as we get further south, which is fine as long as this trend reverses once we leave the country, and I don’t get wet on the ferry. I tend to go a bit ‘drowned rat.’

Anyway, I’ll wrap this up now as we are pulling into some services for a wee break; that’s Scottish for ‘small’, or, in this case, another word for ‘piss.’

Holidays and books

At 1am last night I finished work until the 13th of July. It would be an understatement to say that this makes me happy, but what makes me happier is knowing that I will be in France in a few days by the private pool in 35 degree sun, if the forecast is to be believed.

It’s going abroad that makes me realise how I spend way, way too much time on the internet. The weather isn’t particularly exciting to me if I’m honest, the idea of sitting around with nothing to do but read a good book or play on the DS is infinitely more interesting to me.

Even if it’s just a two day trip somewhere away from home, I get an excited buzz packing three or four books that I’ll never have enough time to read. It baffles me that I don’t get this feeling at home: I’ve had Simon Pegg’s autobiography, Nerd Do Well, since my birthday at the beginning of March and I’m still only about two thirds of the way through. I’ll have read it within an hour of arriving at our gîte.

If I’d thought this through, I would’ve asked for recommendations a few weeks back, but I’m an idiot. Thankfully, I still haven’t read Catch 22 or Down and out in Paris and London since I bought them about 5 years ago, so after I’ve read Ninteen Eighty-Four for the eight millionth time, I’ll start them. Or not.

In summary: Woo, Books! Yay, holiday!