Life is Golden

The other week during an especially tedious corporate team building/training exercise we did a thing where you”re to give away one of six things that mean the most to you. Everyone else picked ‘friends’ or’ family’. I picked time because if you don’t have, or indeed, make the time, then you can’t appreciate that which you hold the closest to you because you don’t realise as you live life that you don’t actually have much time. In an ideal world it should be down to oneself to decide what time they decide to waste, but the mundaneness of modern life enforces one to devalue time to the point where you never consider it, or worse, wish it away, to simply exist.

I say this as a friends back in Bristol passed away this weekend from cancer. I’ll not go into to much details as I’m unsure how much he’d, or his family, would like details splashed on the face of the internet, but needless to say it takes something reminding one of their mortality to appreciate time because for him his time is done, and we can only remember the times we all had drinking while watching the football, or talking bollocks in drunken nights down the Cat and Wheel, the local where a small community grew organically over the years.

Now that community which has been scattered over the last few years comes together to mourn and remember as we take the time to give one of our own their dues. It’s sad it takes an untimely death to remember how precious time is but while people remember you by taking the time to do so then there’s a part of you that never really dies. Instead you live on in the fractured bits of memory we all have of people never to fully fade out of existence.

In the end, once time has ran out for us all, this remembrance is all that’ll remain of us and that’s good because if you can get through life having an impact for the better on one person at least then you’ve lived a decent life and that’s all we want to do at the end of the day.

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Morons of Brexit part 216

As the UK stumbles drunkenly towards a no-deal Brexit and total and utter carnage, the grim reality of what people have done is dawning upon the morons who lapped up what the bastards like Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage spouted in a vote which was endemically corrupt and xenophobic.

Today’s morons are those UK immigrants, sorry, ‘‘ex-pats”,  who voted to leave the EU and thought it’d never apply to them because they ain’t foreign innit. As an example of this utter fuckwittery look no further than this article here on the BBC and this wee gem.

Yvonne Stone, 62, is one of the younger members of the club and tells me she voted for Brexit: “I’ve been here for three years and have no plans to go back to the UK – but it will depend on what happens.

“When I voted to leave I didn’t think it would change anything for my rights to live here. We like it here and we don’t want to go back but if I don’t get my pension we might not have a choice.”

We face a situation where hundreds of thousands of immigrants come flooding back, many with long-term health conditions into a country where thanks to their votes the NHS across the UK will have depleted of staff because they weren’t like them. A ripple effect will mean housing becomes scarce as they rush to buy properties in the UK, and we hit a point where things break.

But hey, they get to have blue passports. That’ll make up for having fuck all food or drugs.

Lexit and the ongoing failure of the English left

One of the things about the fact the BBC’s Question Time had the same former UKIP candidate on for at least a fourth time to repeat pretty much the same speech he’s clearly reeled off millions of times in newspaper comments sections wasn’t the fact that Question Time is a big fat fix, but the reaction of some of the English left. To be precise the more Corbynist you were the more likely you were to see an ally in the rantings of an Orangeman. For example;

Which is clear nonsense for anyone actually paying attention to Scottish politics. No such claims have been made and the very idea of independence breaks the status quo clean in half; a fact Bastani ignores because it doesn’t fit his narrative or the idea that’s popped into his head.

And by narrative, I mean this;

There’s an idea among the English left that we in Scotland just need to pay heed to Jeremy Corbyn, fall into line with them and vote Labour yet polls show the Corbyn bounce Labour enjoyed in the 2017 general election is well and truly gone with Labour now firmly third in the polls and slipping. That’s not just down to the simply appalling leadership of Richard Leonard, a right hand man of Corbyn’s and someone who doesn’t even know what is or isn’t devolved. The fact is Labour are tanking partly because of Leonard & the fact the party can’t come up with one workable idea, but also because they’re a party of Brexit, or Lexit, the left wing version if you believe such a thing possible.Labour in effect have put themselves in the position of supporting removing our rights as Europeans, but also thanks to them aping Tory immigration policy, they’ve shown little opposition to the increasing deportations which are happening. This is all because of Lexit and the idea Corbyn is playing ‘a long game’.

Lexit is the idea that it’s possible to have a left wing Brexit. In effect from the ashes of leaving the EU, a new socialist utopia can be built which relies upon one major point; that things for people become so intolerable that they feel the only way out is voting Labour at an election, but polls clearly show Labour lagging, or such such a small lead that it falls within statistical error. So for people to be pushed to Labour they have to essentially suffer and for me, that’s the exact opposite of socialism and I find those advocating such a policy tend to be well off and able to survive when right now, people are losing jobs, or being hurt by Tory policies, or being pushed to take their own lives because they can’t take it anymore. Then of course there’s the fact Lexit throws EU27 migrants under the bus, and it risks the Good Friday Agreement.

So for me, if you support Lexit you’re in the same bracket as Brexiters who don’t care about the effects of what’s happening now, let alone what will happen come April, let alone what is to come longer term when all those folk let down by both main Westminster parties look to further extremes (with sections of both parties endorsing the worst of conspiracy theory led bigotry) out there for answers. With Nigel Farage rearing his ugly head, and talk of a ‘centrist’ party with Tony Blair’s cold, bloody hands at the helm, both Labour and the Tories look ready to tear themselves apart now that the contradictions of what are loose coalitions are being torn apart.

In effect we have the left, like the right, having an aspect who are rushing headlong into the destruction of people, their lives and relationships because they feel their version of political purity is worth a try. For people like myself whose life relies upon just in time distribution the idea that my life hangs on a thread because I’m threatened by zealots from the right, and the left, is deeply depressing. We are insulated in Scotland to a degree, but Brexit will rip that insulation aside, and without the protections of the EU and our European allies, we’ll be left to the whims of people who think in conspiracy theory, idiocy and xenophobia.

Basically we’re fucked. Like the Iraq War though, there will be Brexiter and Lexiter in a few short months desperately recanting as the people who have been ignored throughout all of this kick back and take their anger out on the cheerleaders of what is the single more insane act a nation has done to itself in peacetime.

Good luck to us. We’re going to need it.

Inside John Byrne’s studio

For those of us of a certain age the name John Byrne is associated with the X Men.

As well as his Superman reboot.

Over the last decade or so Byrne’s been doing bits and bobs away from Marvel or DC, though there is a rumour he’s working on an X Men book again. Byrne has a pretty Marmite reputation with fans but this is someone who helped change modern superhero comics, and really probably deserves more credit than he gets.

The video below is a fascinating tour round his studio and his collection of original art. It should make you supremely jealous. Enjoy.

What I thought of Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 is the latest game from Rockstar and is is one of the greatest bits of entertainment you’ll ever experience. If you’re an experienced gamer or someone picking this game up for a play because of the hype then you’ll experience something that doesn’t just subvert games, but it takes time to tell its story rather than bursting through levels to power your main character up ASAP to fight the end bosses.

Your main character here is Arthur Morgan; an outlaw and a cowboy in the final dying days of the Old West, and the early days of industrialisation in 1899. As Arthur you get to ride round the simply enormous map in a super-detailed way and you get to experience yourself things like the forests being cut down or the railways expanding, or more industrialisation sneaking into your world. The world changes around you but there’s still loads of wilderness which means it can take minutes for you to ride from one mission to another, and the exploring I mentioned takes hours and hours. There is a fast track method of travel but it doesn’t immerse you as riding around on your horse, which of course is customisable in a way that makes you grow fond of this digital animal as you would a flesh and blood one.

From here on in there’s spoilers, so be warned.

You play as Arthur, part of the Dutch Van Linde gang and essentially his right hand though Arthur has also had Hosea to help raise him so the game sets up the device where the main protagonist has essentially two fathers (we find out during the course of the game that Arthur’s read father is a bastard he was glad to see die) who have ensured a vague code of honour for the gang to live through. As the game opens, something has went wrong in a heist and the gang are forced to run to the cold snowy mountains to hide and regroup before finding somewhere warmer to settle for a while.  This first few hours of the game are basically your tutorial levels and you get to know the gang slowly. You also get to know Arthur and discover what he is as the game drives you into gunfights and train robberies where you decide whether to beat people to death or shoot them or let them go.

The honour system decides what sort of person Arthur becomes as well as defining how your experience of the game proceeds. So if like me you were killing everything in sight for the first 20 or so hours and then realised that the game was failing to give me the rewards I’d read about I changed my game. Also, I’d grown tired of Arthur as a killing machine so I stopped killing bystanders as well as looting their bodies, and my honour improved. My experience of the game improved as those first hours are hard before you end up being given the freedom to do what you want. When you are given that freedom you have the ability to explore possibly one of the best realised worlds you’ll see in a game.

The game is constructed into chapters that feel more like a season in a TV programme. The first few chapters lure you into a familiarity as well as a video game like invulnerability for your cast. It isn’t til the gang go to St. Denis (a very thinly disguised New Orleans) in what is supposedly Dutch’s big plan, that things start really going horribly wrong, and the Dutch of the start of the game who is a crook, but not a psychopath, is very much on the road in becoming a lunatic. The story then becomes how the gang splinters after Hosea’s brutal death as Arthur and Dutch go their different moral ways. By now I’d started playing Arthur as a bad guy trying to be better, so I realised the game lured me in and I’d become so immersed in the world and the life of this digital character called Arthur that I wanted him to be the doomed melancholic hero I wanted him to be. By now of course you know Arthur is going to die as he has TB, so your task is to redeem him while giving him a decent life (which you can through a few side missions) before he dies.

And dear god, this game is glorious in character building. It takes time to do anything which forces you to be patient, because when the game delivers what you want, it does so extraordinarily well. This from near the end of the game is one of the few moments I found myself laughing at how well, and how perfectly done, everything was.

I haven’t mentioned Micah, but as a bad guy Micah serves his purpose. He’s not Rockstar’s greatest villain (look to GTA: San Andreas for that) but as an out and out bastard he’s brilliant a he nudges Dutch towards being darker & less honourable. Dutch himself is a character you can use to hit those people who thinks video games can’t develop nuanced characters or relationships because Dutch and Arthur prove that to be wrong.

Eventually you come to the end, and depending on how you’ve live your life you die either in agony with Micah’s knife in your back or peacefully with the sunrise shining in your face. It’s a perfect end which makes the epilogue an often tedious task as you start playing as John Marston, the protagonist of the first game which is fine but you’ve invested so much into Arthur that having to actually shovel shit to get to the point where, eventually, you get to kill Micah. In fact the epilogue is one of the few negatives of the game (alongside a simply fucking awful targeting system that can be sort of fixed by fiddling around in the settings) but even then I can sort of see the point of having this slow epilogue that leads to something horrendously violent and cathartic but once done and you’ve sat through the credits (which is essential) you get to carry on playing as John, so you can visit Arthur’s grave where, depending on your honour, interesting things can happen…

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a triumph. It’s a work of art which makes you sad when you leave a fully realised world in a game that forces the player to reassess how games are played or experienced. You live as Arthur and through a mix of writing, acting and your decisions you form this amazing experience that is going to be hard for Rockstar to top. Indeed, I look at the entire industry and think how can anyone top this (Death Stranding looks promising) or even how Rockstar can top this?

I look forward to finding out out how the industry can go better than this game, but for now we have a work that is not just a spectacular bit of entertainment, but a genuine work of art that’ll be talked about for as long as we play video games.

Avengers: Endgame goes all Scandinavian…

The Superbowl has come and went, and for those of us who give zero fucks about the game get to pick apart the trailers for forthcoming films, which this year includes the latest 30 seconds or so of footage from Avengers: Endgame. The footage is dark, as in BBC 4 Scandi crime drama dark as the films looks as if it’ll deal with the results of Thanos’s snap which wiped out half the life in the universe.

It’s a pity Marvel have toned down the Thanos of Jim Starlin, who did the same thing because he essentially wanted to fuck Death so like any lovestruck bloke, he did something massive to impress her. The film Thanos has a rationale which from a certain point of view makes sense, but just keeps Thanos at the level of being a psychopath as opposed to a psycho-sexual tyrannical lunatic who wants his old purple chap in the actual physical representation of death. I admit that’d be hard to sell toys off the back of such a concept but still…

Anyhow, I’m glad Marvel aren’t going to brush over the effects of the Snap but at the same time I’m sure they won’t spend the entire film dwelling on it as this is the culmination of a decade of world-building while setting up the next decade of Marvel’s film and TV production. We also know from announcements that the dead will return and the trailer for the new Spider-Man film suggests the world isn’t affected with the snap, so clearly there’s a Big Red Button reset coming which is exactly what’s happened in the comics so, so many times.

Still, we only need wait til April.