Tuesday, 30 December 2014

alone in the dark

my older brother is currently obsessed with gog.com. he's a few years older than me so he remembers a load of old games from the 90s he played as a kid. every now and again he tries to get me to play one, as like a history lesson or something. for christmas he gifted me the alone in the dark trilogy and in return i agreed to actually play one of them. this is why i'm reviewing a game from 1992.


the story is that you're a detective (or there is a female character you can choose who i think is some relation to the owner of the house) hired to investigate a haunted house for some reason i've forgotten. the character turns up at the house, walks up into the attic and then you are left to explore. the graphics look pretty clunky by todays standards and the control system is hard work - it's really hard to get any accuracy in the fights and there's this awkward double-tap the forward arrow to run thing. at first i wasn't sure how far i was going to get and almost texted my brother to say 'tried it, as expected it's rubbish'. i mean, it's cool to see the origins of the survival horror genre and i get that it's kind of like watching a silent film, except the control system makes it really hard work. silent films aren't any harder to watch that contemporary films, if that makes sense. but there's one thing about this game that is amazing, and superior to most horror games now. it's the atmosphere.


there's a moment in the game where you walk into a kind of lounge and there's a ghost sitting in a chair - a transparent figure with glowing eyes. one of the many books you pick up in the game talks about this ghost. if you touch it, the ghost stands up and turns into a blobby monster thing and eats you, so you have to edge around the room. it's a really creepy sequence, and it adds to a building atmosphere of dread that runs throughout the game. the background material in the books you find adds to this as well, and what it does is present a world in which your character is dwarfed by the vast evil he is up against. i found this atmosphere and the process of piecing the story and history of the house together to be utterly compelling and it was this that made me press on to the end.

i admit, i did use a walkthrough a couple of times. life's too short to be wandering aimlessly through a house full of monsters with no idea what to do next.


overall, if you haven't played alone in the dark and you enjoy this type of game, i'd recommend checking it out. it does require a bit of perseverance to master the controls and has some frustrating moments but there are some genuinely creepy moments too and it's dripping with atmosphere and dread. i'm definitely going to check out the next one in the series.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

blogmas 24

okay, to anyone who is still with me, merry christmas! or happy holidays or whatever! i'm not spending christmas with family this year, but will probably be watching this later because that's what we used to do on christmas eve in our house. i will probably disappear for a week or so but i will return in 2015 with more stuff! my new year's resolution is to start posting videos too...


happy new year!!!

blogmas 23

i know, i'm a day late, but look! i found a weird al christmas song!


Monday, 22 December 2014

blogmas 22

i know we're probably a bit too close to the big day for a bah humbug song, but i only just found this and i fucking love corey taylor...


Sunday, 21 December 2014

blogmas 21 - black mirror, white christmas review

there's this tv series on channel 4 called black mirror. charlie brooker writes it. recently there was a christmas special. it was one of the best and most depressing things i have ever seen.


if you missed it you can still catch it on 4od. it was pretty amazing. jon hamm from mad men (which i've never seen, but he's always jon hamm from mad men) is in it, and rafe spall who was in that rom-com with the mentalist. and nymphadora tonks is in it too. it's kind of like the twilight zone movie, where there are like three stories within a framing story. as with all those things some of he stories are better than others but the way they're tied together works really well. there's stuff about social media and artificial intelligence in there, but the central conceit is that in the future you will be able to block people like you do in twitter in real life. this idea isn't just a gimmick to hang a story on, it becomes central to the story itself and leads to a truly horrifying and very miserable ending. so yeah, if you want to feel really depressed this christmas and at the same time inspired and uplifted by the fact that a christmas special this amazing actually exists in the world, then check it out.

Friday, 19 December 2014

blogmas 19

bob clark not only directed black christmas, he also made this...


blogmas 18

i did warn you that when i ran out of ideas i would probably post the black christmas trailer...


but it is a fucking awesome movie.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Sunday, 14 December 2014

paz vs youtube - part three - iamGeorgeTown

so i am planning to start my own youtube channel in the new year but i have lots of questions about how to do it and what to make videos about. i thought it might be useful to ask other youtubers these questions and then i thought everyone else might be interested in the answers too. the first interview was with morgan gleave, then i interviewed amber goluckie and the latest is with musician george reece who has a channel called iamGeorgeTown.


george is the most prolific and experienced youtuber i've interviewed so far and there's a real evolution evident in his videos. there is also huge amount of variety on his channel, from music videos to narrative shorts, but while the subjects may vary the videos are united by george's standout wit and effervescent charm. he is also a musician and you should check out his music on his bandcamp page. here's what george had to say about his channel...

what made you decide to start your own youtube channel?

First of all, thanks so much for having me on your blog! Truth is, my sister made me start YouTubing. I already had a YouTube channel, which I used to upload the occasional bit of music to in a hangover from the beautiful days of MySpace, but it only occurred to me that there was more I could do with YouTube when my younger sister Katy started getting into vloggers like Bertie Bert G and CharlieIsSoCoolLike in early 2012. She said ‘You’d be good at that,’ and although she was clearly terribly, terribly wrong, I found I thoroughly enjoyed it.

how would you describe your videos?

I make an idiotically wide range of videos, from proper serious music videos to simple live cover songs, and from the most basic of talk-to-camera vlogs to more complex narrative short films. It’s not that I don’t know what I want to do – it’s just that I love doing lots of different things, and I find it hard to focus on my favourites to the exclusion of all others. I also like that my channel isn’t just a bombardment of sameness. I started it as an excuse to do something creative besides telling people about the music I’d made, to provide context and colour to my main music work, and I hope that through all the reviews of different salsa dips, and the competitions with myself to see how fast I can tie my shoelaces, it does that.



 
what type of camera do you use and what do you edit on?

I started off with a cheap old Sony Handycam, and I’d advise anyone to start making videos using whatever equipment they can get their hands on. The content is vastly more important than the quality. It needn’t be fancy to begin with, especially if you’ve got something worthwhile to say, or you’re good at what you do. I currently shoot on a Canon 600d (with stock 18-55 lens) and edit on Serif Movie Plus (because it’s cheap and does almost all the same things as proper software, only slower). I’m playing around with a new audio setup at the moment involving an external Zoom H1 mic attached to my camera. So far it’s not going all that well…!

do you consider yourself primarily a musician or a youtuber or both, like if i met you at a party or something and i asked 'what do you do?' what would your first answer be?

I’m always a musician first. Partly because I can rely on the average person having a clue what one is. Partly because that’s my ‘main thing’ and primary love. But also partly because YouTube is just a vessel for other things. I don’t think anyone is a YouTuber and a YouTuber alone. Some people are filmmakers, journalists, presenters, comedians, agony aunts/uncles, but it’s only the format and the distribution technology that is new. So just like someone forty years ago might have been a musician/performer who occasionally appeared on TV/Radio, I am a musician, writer, presenter, ‘actor’ (perhaps…?), who makes things on YouTube.


when you made those first two videos about reasons to and not to vlog, did you have much of a plan in place and did you think you would still be doing it over 300 videos later?

I’ve always tried to just wing it – do what feels right at the time. It just happened that I liked doing it enough that I kept going. It’s still shocking to me how much I enjoy it, and it’s kind of compulsive in truth, like an addiction. But I’ve always simply planned to do what I think will make me happy, and that continues to be to continue to make stuff.





i really liked the narrative sketches like 'not alex day' and the 'i found charlie' video. have you made any more narrative short films and is directing something you're interested in doing?

Thank you! Yeah, I love making that kind of thing, and I’ve been lucky enough to direct a few music videos since those short films in the early days of my channel. I kinda just enjoy indulging in any creative activity. Any ‘making’ of any kind. So yes, I hope I’ll be writing and directing more narrative stuff soon, as well as some scripted non-fiction, some documentary and edutainment-y things. But there’s a lot more work and focus required for that sort of thing, so I rarely find the time to get going with it. Soon, soon, soon!

i thought the subscriber contest you did with sam hammond was a fantastic way to boost interest in your blog and a good way to challenge yourself. have you thought about trying this again and who would you challenge now? also, did he ever do the forfeit?

Yes! Haha. I have thought about it. It was a huge amount of fun, but there are a few reasons why I haven’t done it again yet. One is that I don’t like to repeat myself in too obvious a way, so if I do it again, it’ll likely be with some new twist. Another reason though, is that I think the audience has changed in the two years or so since we did that. The average YouTube viewer is significantly more cynical now, for a number of reasons, so I think it’d be harder to create an event like that and have it be taken in the right spirit. Thirdly, I haven’t done it again because I have no idea who I’d do it with. It’d have to be someone with very similar numbers of subscribers, and similar levels of ambition, and I just can’t think of anyone. I’m willing to listen to anyone who wants to challenge me though!
As for the forfeit, no I don’t think Sam ever did the forfeit, which was a shame. He did have the last laugh though, because a few months after our competition, he made a video which went super-viral (like, a couple of million views) and to this day, even though he’s more or less stopped making videos, he has more subscribers than I do! And much deserved, because he’s amazing :D




you seem to have an uncanny ability to keep your videos to a reasonable length but it doesn't seem like you're editing out a whole lot of mistakes. is that preparation, multiple takes or natural talent?

You know what? I have an absolute horror of my videos being too long. So I guess it’s just fear. I shoot everything in order, and just repeat each paragraph until I think I’ve said it the way I want to. If I think a video’s likely to be too long I’ll actually write down a script, so I stay on-topic and avoid repetition. But no, not really any of those things. It’s just trying to keep things formatted as briefly as possible. I figure I can always make another video tomorrow and say more stuff, so I try to keep each chunk as bitesize as possible.

your 'how to be posh' video has over 28,000 views. when you have a video that successful, do you find yourself over-analysing what made it work?

It’s funny, because that video was actively designed to prove the point that there is a formula. I’d heard a lot of chat suggesting that there wasn’t, so I deliberately made that video with an eye on it being ‘viral-able’, if that makes sense. I made it short, silly, a bit controversial, very searchable (‘How To’ videos match up well with frequently searched terms) etc. etc. precisely in the hope that lots of people would share it and it’d bring traffic to my channel. That’s why I introduce myself and invite people to subscribe at the end (which I don’t do in all my videos).

It’s been my most successful video by a mile, but still far from being properly ‘viral’. So on reflection, I think the truth is that you can’t create a formula for what will be crazy popular overnight (like the ‘Get Out Me Car’ thing… baffling!) but you can predict with some accuracy how well any given video is likely to do on average, and create things with those factors in mind. As for why I don’t make more stuff with those qualities that made this video a success… I don’t know. I find it kind of tiring, and disingenuous probably. It’s lots of fun, but I don’t feel like it’s my great calling, if you know what I mean, so I tend to leave that sort of thing to people who are better at it than me so I can get on with writing songs with too many chords in them.




it feels like your videos have become more serious over time, taking on subjects like feminism, theology and sexual abuse. was that a conscious decision or just part of growing up?

It’s partly down to the increasing cynicism of the audience I mentioned earlier. As the platform matures, the content is bound to mature as well, and as I’ve become closely attached to the community of YouTube, I sometimes feel compelled to add my thoughts to a particular debate or issue. I think my thoughts and opinions, such as they are, tend to be significantly different from the average YouTuber (although I try to present them in as non-confrontational a way as possible) so it’s usually just when I feel I have something to say that hasn’t already been said. And issues that need addressing are cropping up more and more as the community becomes aware of itself. It’s kind of fascinating – like a living being passing through a difficult adolescence.

But for my own part, I much prefer to make light-hearted things, and I hope that’s the part of my work that resonates best with people.


can you talk about the evolution of your opening titles?

Yeah, so I thought I should have some right from the beginning. I always based pretty much everything I did on YouTube on WheezyWaiter, because he’s awesome and exemplary in more or less every way, and the titles were the same. A little three-second sting with the name of my channel, on a background of Grand Cayman (the capital of which is George Town). I re-recorded the audio at one stage, then for a while had title sequences which were submitted by viewers for a competition – that was a lot of fun. I may go back to some of those some day. My current thing is a picture of Naples, Maine, lifted from Google Earth. I drove through Naples once, and just felt instantly at home. It’s what GeorgeTown would be like if it really existed. Not too big, not too pretentious, near the water… people knowing each other’s names and being nice to each other… y’know.

do you have any advice for youtubers just starting out?

Absolutely! My main piece of advice is ‘do it do it do it!’. Lots of people talk about making videos, even set up channels and call themselves YouTubers, but never really make anything much and then complain that no one’s watching. Until you have a fair few subscribers and a back-catalogue, it’s important to let people know what to expect. Otherwise there are like a billion other channels they could be watching. But if you say ‘I’ll be making a funny video every Monday, and a song every Saturday’, and you actually do, then slowly but surely people will start clocking in to watch, so long as you’re good. Because that’s the other thing. You’ve got to play to your strengths, and continually try to strengthen those strengths. I’d advise lots of self-examination and honest reflection, and lots of practice (whatever your discipline). For example, I’ve looked at myself in a mirror and decided I’m never going to be an action movie superhero. So I don’t do that sort of thing on my channel. I do music, and I really work hard at it and try to get better. Find your thing, and do it really well. It doesn’t mean you can’t try other things too, but be honest with yourself!

can you recommend an unsung piece of art (book, film, videogame - whatever) you love that people may not have heard of?

I’m so glad you include ‘videogame’ under the heading of ‘art’. I still feel like a lot of people don’t really get that. Final Fantasy VIII is pretty much the most wonderful piece of art I’ve ever beheld. It’s an entire world that has lived with me for fifteen years or so and shows no sign of growing any less beautiful.

Then there are a couple of pretty stunning Monets in the National Gallery in London… I mean… I’m conscious that all my answers are already pretty long, and I could keep on recommending great art for ages. It’s one of my favourite things to do.

Tell you what. Here’s one, and it’s the last for now, I promise. If you ever get the chance to go to a promenade theatre production by Punchdrunk theatre company, take it. Take it immediately. You won’t regret it. I saw their Faust in 2006 and it changed everything.



what can we expect from your channel in 2015?

More scripted, narrative, and ambitious film content. Less sincerity. And at some point, a new album of original songs, which I’m determined is going to be my best yet. Better than my previous five combined… plus a bajillion. 2015 is going to be magical in GeorgeTown.

can you nominate a fellow youtuber for my next interview?

I think you should interview Maddie Moate and Dodie Clark. They do what I do, but better.

subscribe to iamGeorgeTown, follow george on twitter, check out his music on bandcamp and consider supporting him on patreon.

-----

thanks to george for taking the time to answer my questions!

if you have your own youtube channel and would like to be interviewed you can e-mail me at pazvsstuff[at]gmail.com or find me on twitter @pazvsstuff

blogmas 14

funnily enough, i'm not that big a fan of nightmare before christmas. i feel like i should like it but i never quite got into it as much as most people i know. i am, however, a huge korn fan so korn covering kidnap the sandy claws is kind of amazing...


blogmas 13

a bit late, i know, but this is worth it. behold the trailer for the most terrifying christmas film ever...

Friday, 12 December 2014

kontrolfreek - fps freek vortex

full disclosure - i was sent these gaming accessories for review, so this isn't just a random 'hey, look what i just picked up!' post, it's more of a 'someone sent my free stuff for a review!' post. i hear you have to be clear about such things these days.

so anyway, kontrolfreek make gaming accessories for consoles and specifically they make these little...er...really want to call them noggins...yes, these little noggins that you fix to the sticks on the controller so they make playing games easier. there's a whole video about how it's supposed to work right here...



now, i'm not a huge fps fan but i do and have played a lot of them. i tend to choose games based on the story rather than the type of game and sometimes the stories i want to experience happen to be in first-person shooters. the thing is, i'm not terribly good at them. would kontrolfreek be able to cure my inability to shoot any bad guys at all ever?

so i was sent the fps freek - vortex. it looks like this.


there's a tall 'noggin' for the right stick to improve aiming and a little concave 'noggin' for the left stick. they snap onto the sticks really easily, like this -

in real life, on my sofa, they look like this -



the two games i tested them on were bulletstorm and call of juarez. yes, they were random choices, and yes call of jaurez came out in like 2005 but they were the two first two fps games i had to hand. for the sake of being contemporary and relevant i also downloaded a demo of destiny and tried them out on that as well.

overall, i found they did actually help. i did feel a lot more in control with the aiming, and they did make the whole experience smoother (this was the same on all three games so it wasn't anything to do with the quality of the game). one thing that really stood out was that the left noggin is particularly good for walking. you know, when you're trying to walk slowly up to a precipice or something (this happens a lot in call of juarez) and nudge the stick that little too much by mistake and your character breaks into a run and throws her/himself over the edge. well, this fixes that. accuracy is much easier and you can make much more subtle movements. after using them for a few days i started to wonder why joypads aren't built like this already?

oh, that's why. because playing anything else with them (like when my housemate and i went back to fable 3 for the first time in like a year so neither of us knows what's going on), is a bit annoying. but it's okay, because kontrolfreek have a whole range of accessories for different types of games! look, you can check them out here.

overall, i wouldn't call kontrolfreek accessories essential but they defintely work and they're reasonably priced. last week they started selling them in game so you can pick them up in there or get them from their website.

blogmas 12

hey! i know! how about a really cheery christmas song to celebrate the fact that it's friday and you don't have to go to work for two whole days (unless your stupid employers have their christmas party on a saturday and you feel obliged to go even though it will mostly feel like being at work except with alcohol)! this is a song by harvey danger called sometimes you have to work on christmas...


Thursday, 11 December 2014

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

blogmas 10

never been much of a 'trekkie' (is that the right term?) but this is fucking awesome...


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Monday, 8 December 2014

Sunday, 7 December 2014

paz vs youtube - part two - amber goluckie

i have become fascinated with youtube and the people who post stuff there and one day i hope to upload videos myself. to this end i have started interviewing youtubers. you can read the first interview with morgan gleave here. this next one is with amber goluckie, a british youtuber who makes videos on a range of subjects including her own experiences with a re-enactment group.


amber's channel typifies what is so interesting about the vlogging medium. at first glance her videos look like they cover a random selection of topics from bus etiquette to cash machines, but after watching a handful of the videos patterns begin to emerge. there is a real sense someone who has an appreciation of the past, particularly in the re-enactment videos but also in the letter writing challenges. at the same time, this contrasts with the medium itself as well as with the subjects of some of the videos, and this contrast makes for a really interesting and consistently surprising channel. here's what amber had to say about it...

what made you decide to start your own youtube channel?

I had lost my job and as I began my search for employment I decided to film it so there were a few videos of me scrolling through the internet and then I documented my first trial week at my new job. I am not sure if those videos are still up on my channel or not but they did help me and even made me a friend through them. I suppose the rest of my channel came from there as I began to make other videos that interested me.

 
how would you describe your videos?

A mess, Haha, there is  a bit of everything in there, my hobbies, my family and friends and of course my vlogs and tags. I tend to do the videos that I feel like doing at the time, I have an ongoing, never-ending list of videos I want to make.

what type of camera do you use and what do you edit on?
 
I started with just my laptops webcam and now I am using a standard HD camera my mum got me.

the letter writing challenge videos are really interesting. do you think people present themselves differently in letters than they would in a text or email?

Yes, I do find that people will often tell you more in a letter then in a face-to-face conversation or through social media. I have also noticed that a lot of people write the same way that they speak. I wonder if this is because we have lost our letter writing skills over the years.


are you going to continue the interviewing not famous people series? also, when you interviewed chelsea, was that steampunk hat you were wearing?

Yes, I do plan on continuing with the series, I just need to find the time to sit down and film them, also get enough people to agree to the videos. It was a Steampunk hat you're right, another little hobby of mine. 


can you talk about how you became involved with re-enactments and explain a bit more about it?

Re-enactment is where a group of people get together to portray a period of history. The group I am a part of spans the time of 1800 to 1900 America. So things like the civil war and settlers in the west.  My parents met through doing this and so my brother and I were born into it. I love it and couldn't imagine my life without it. I have made many friends through re-enactment and we also get to wear some very pretty dresses.


there's a really interesting contrast on your channel between the old (letter writing, re-enactments) and the new (heartbleed, phones, youtube). was this intentional or is it something that's developed over time?

To be honest it has developed over time and was not intentional. I suppose really it portrays all sides  of my personality, I am an avid fan of history but a slave to my generation.

it's great that you managed a daily vlog for a month. did you learn anything interesting from making videos every day? what were the challenges and would you do it again?

Oh Blimey, I went crazy doing those videos, it is a documentary of my descent into insanity. It was hard going to work all day then filming and uploading in the evening. I was lucky to have some very good friends, Chelsea and Laura, who put up with shoving a camera in their faces all the time. I would love to do it again.




the 'short-lived paradise' music video seemed like a bit of a departure and it really worked well with the music. have you considered making more music videos and are you interested in directing?

Yeah I wanted to do something different to my normal videos. The guy who made the music, Nicky Soaralot, Became a good friend of mine and I hope I did justice to his music. I am looking to do another one in the nurture. As for directing it is something I only do well on the spur of the moment to be honest. I would be so erratic trying to direct other people.




i thought the video 'i dont even know what this is' was really interesting because it addresses the question at the heart of the youtube community - how much do we really know about the people posting videos on youtube? how important do you think authenticity is in a youtuber?

Everything I put on is true of me and I hope that all youtubers are truthful in what they say. I do think it is important to not put on a front to your fans.

do you have any advice for youtubers just starting out?

In all honesty I am still starting out myself, but you just have to keep going with it.

can you recommend an unsung piece of art (book, film, videogame - whatever) you love that people may not have heard of?

Art is perspective, what I enjoy might be nonsense to other people but I think maybe I would like to put a good light on fanfiction. In my eyes the kids who write these are amazing writers and have wonderful imaginations. I hope that some of them go on to write novels and get them published in real life. Perhaps not fanfictions but original stories.

what can we expect from your channel in 2015?

A lot more hopefully. More re-enactment footage, and a couple of collaborations are booked for next year, so keep an eye out for them!

can you nominate a fellow youtuber for my next interview?

That Lad Davie. He has been a great help to me since we meet through our love of the internet.  As part of his community I have learnt a lot about editing and filming and I  enjoy his videos immensely. 

subscribe to amber's channel and follow her on twitter.

-----

thanks to amber goluckie for doing the interview!

if you have your own youtube channel and would like to be interviewed you can e-mail me at pazvsstuff[at]gmail.com or find me on twitter @pazvsstuff




blogmas 7

probably everyone knows this already, but there's this podcast called professor blastoff, and it's very funny. it's three comedians (tig notaro, david huntsberger and kyle dunnigan) and a guest discussing science, although mostly they joke around. anyway, kyle dunnigan released a christmas album last year, here's the video for one of the songs -

blogmas 6

still feeling rough, but do have a bit more festive spirit today. enough to track down this amazing retro xmas atari ad anyway...

Friday, 5 December 2014

blogmas 5

okay, this isn't particularly festive but i am ill today. i mostly feel like this...


Thursday, 4 December 2014

blogmas 4

i could probably post 24 different versions of carol of the bells for blogmas as there are some awesome ones out there, but this is probably my favourite...


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

the fear

the fear is a four-part crime drama that was broadcast a couple of years ago and is currently available to watch on 4od. it stars peter mullan as a brighton crime boss who starts to lose his mind at a point when his two sons become embroiled in a brutal gang war with an eastern european gang.



i'm not the biggest fan of crime dramas but peter mullan is always worth watching (he was in a brad anderson horror film called session 9, which you should check out if you haven't seen it). also, it was filmed in brighton, where i live. it's pretty amazing watching car chases and gun battles taking place on the streets i walk down on my lunch break every day. the filmmakers really make brighton look pretty too, with some fantastic shots of the seafront. there's this great moment that opens the series where mullan's character is completely dwarfed by the ruined west pier, and the pier looks like something straight out of lovecraft, like it was built by the old ones. third reason to recommend it, harry lloyd is in it. you may remember him as the dickhead brother of khaleesi in game of thrones. in this he plays the most sympathetic character in the whole story, plus he is incredibly fucking hot. also, richard e grant, fucking withnail himself, is in it. that's an awesome cast and they all do a great job.

on a more critical note, i felt like the dementia plot kicked in too early. like everyone is talking about how great mullan's character is and how fucked they'll be if he's lost his mind, but when we meet him he's already losing his mind so we never get to know what he used to be like. also, there's one moment when he's walking along the seafront and he's almost knocked over by a fleet of unicyclists. now, i know people who ride unicycles in brighton, i've seen maybe two at most on the seafront at any one time, but this was like ten of them, as if everyone in brighton rides a unicycle because we're all a bit wacky. but these are minor issues.

overall this is a classy series with awesome performances and a great setting.


blogmas 3

what are the best movies to watch at this time of year? christmas horror movies of course! i could be obvious here and post the black christmas trailer (i still might do that, black christmas is a fucking awesome movie) but i thought i'd go with something more obscure.


p2 is a rather fantastic little film and worth checking out if you can find it. plus it's all like festive and stuff.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

blogmas 2

jill tracy is a goth/noir musician whose songs are very pretty and very dark all at the same time. she probably one of the artists you would least expect to release a christmas album. in 2012 that's exactly what she did, and this song was on it.


if that doesn't get you in a festive mood, nothing will.

Monday, 1 December 2014

blogmas 1

it's december, people are doing christmassy things, lots of youtubers i like are doing vlogmas but seeing as i can't manage one video yet let alone 24 i thought id do blogmas instead. so here's the first of 24 random christmassy things -


as evidenced here, ten benson are awesome, you should check them out.

Friday, 28 November 2014

code name verity - elizabeth wein





so i've been working on a review of a book i read recently for this blog but it was hard because while i liked it there was a lot wrong with it and i was trying to explain that with as few spoilers as possible, which is sort of tricky when that was one of the things wrong with the book.  and in the meantime i've been reading code name verity which is sooooo gooooooooood i have to rave about it right now. 

synopsis from waterstones.com: only in wartime could a stalwart lass from manchester rub shoulders with a scottish aristocrat. but then a vital mission goes wrong, and one of the friends has to bail out of a faulty plane over france. she is captured by the gestapo and becomes a prisoner of war. the story begins in "verity"'s own words, as she writes her account for her captors. truth or lies? honour or betrayal? everything they've ever believed in is put to the test...a gripping thriller, code name verity blends a work of fiction into 20th century history with spine-tingling results. this is a book for young adults like no other.

just wow.  this is also going to be hard to write without spoilers, but i am determined not to spoil because everyone should read it.  where to start?  'verity' is such a fabulous narrator, you get so swept up in her story you forget everything she tells you about her skills as a spy and manipulator.  you utterly sympathise with her even though you know she is collaborating with the nazis, because you are sure she is going to get the better of them in the end.  and by contrast, her friend maddie, is also so utterly convincing and three-dimensional, an extraordinarily brave pilot who is scared of pretty much everything else.  i loved both of them and felt they were my friends too.  probably because of this i found it really easy to put myself in their shoes, and experience wartime britain and occupied france the way they must have done.  i've read other novels about the soe but i think this brought it to life brilliantly.  and basically, what i really loved, is that by the end of the book, both maddie and verity make katniss everdene look like a wimp.  this is a proper 'women doing stuff' novel, real stuff, stuff that matters.  and it isn't in some extremely violent fictional dystopia, this is based on actual events and actual things real people did.  it blew me away.

but the 'book for young adults like no other' did make me think about what exactly makes it a young adult book.  is there really a distinction these days?  rather than the content being amended for a young audience (code name verity can be hard hitting and brutal), it seems to really mean 'about young people' or maybe more cynically 'marketed at young people'.  because this is a fantastic book that ought to be on every bookshelf.  really, read it.  read it now.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

x: the man with x ray eyes - live score by pere ubu

when i was a kid, probably too young to be watching horror films, my dad showed me x: the man with xray eyes.

it terrified me, but it stuck with me as well, especially the ending. i won't spoil it but if you haven't seen it you need to check out this film. anyway, when i heard it was being shown at duke of york's in brighton with a live score from pere ubu, i had to go. it also just happened to tie in with a visit from my old man so i took him along as well.

i'm not going to go into huge detail here, you need to see the film, but you do need a bit of background to understand where this ends up.

first of all, the man with x ray eyes isn't as schlocky as the title makes it sound. yes, it's a typical science gone wrong film, yes, it was made by roger corman, yes, it should by awful. but it's not. i don't know whether that's because of ray milland's performance in the title role, or the story that is more similar to something like nightmare alley (one of my all time favourites) than any sci-fi b-movie. it's a film about ideas, and ultimately for me it's a film about misfortune and tragedy. milland's character pushes the boundaries of science with a recklessness that will get him into trouble time and time again in the story, and yet he presses on. he strives to see something no man has ever seen, but once you've seen the heart of the universe you can't unsee it. milland's character gets all he ever wanted in the first ten minutes, but from then on there is only horror and disappointment.

secondly, you need to know a bit about pere ubu. they were an experimental rock band that started in the 70s in the states and have been around in one form or another ever since. frontman david thomas is the only constant ad he pretty much is pere ubu. my dad was more familiar with them as a band, while i only knew of them from their live score to carnival of souls, which i'd seen a few years earlier. that screening ran a whole lot smoother.

so here's what happened. david thomas comes out with the band and introduces the film with some facts and jokes about how drinking will help make sense of it all. then he describes how everyone knows the ending is missing the line 'i can still see' (makes sense when you see it). in the first few scenes thomas made fun of a couple of the lines in the film, setting a light-hearted tone. but then things got serious.



from where i was sitting it seemed like someone in the band wasn't doing what they were supposed to. thomas gestured furiously at the musicians in front of him and a couple of times he shouted at them. if you were just listening to the music it didn't seem like anything was wrong. the score added a layer of depth to the film that was always there but didn't quite shine through before. onstage, however, it seemed like thomas might stand up and walk out at any moment. i found myself completely distracted and in a state of high tension because it looked like this was a man on the edge of a breakdown.

he didn't walk out. he made it to the end. then he said 'goodnight' stood up and staggered off the stage shouting 'turn the fucking stage lights on!' confirming to me that all had not gone to plan. but then i started to wonder. was this part of the performance?

whether intentional or not, the parallels seemed clear to me. there's a moment at the end of the film when milland's character is staggering around in the desert having just crashed his car. he's just lost everything, an yet he still has this power to see the secrets of the universe. it's worthless to him now. the score at the this moment was particularly moving.

as i watched david thomas shouting and cursing his way off the stage i couldn't help seeing a living version of the character from the film. here was someone who had seen too much. someone who had an idea of what perfection was, and who was striving for that thing, but in the end all he was left with was disappointment and sadness.

it was one of the most profoundly moving performances i have ever seen.

Friday, 21 November 2014

paz vs youtube - part one - morgan gleave

i mentioned a couple of posts back i wanted to start an interview series with youtubers. i tweeted the same thing earlier this week and the first response came from morgan gleave, a musician and animator with an interest in thrash ukulele and paranormal investigating cats. 


morgan's channel perfectly sums up what i find so exciting about youtube. there's an intimacy in his performance videos that you would never find in traditional media, and at the same time there's this unfettered creativity in the animation and music videos that's really inspiring. it's the kind of channel where you're never quite sure what's coming next, in the best possible way. here's what morgan had to say about it - 

what made you decide to start your own youtube channel?

I did video, animation and set design on my Graphic Design degree in the 90s.  I've been filming and animating ever since.  YouTube seemed like a logical progression, and a great way to share my work.

how would you describe your videos? 

Ummm... A bit of a mix really. I make stuff as the mood takes me.  I started off with straight performance videos, then moved onto making more elaborate videos and simple animation.  I'm really enjoying pushing what I can do with basic software and cameras!


what type of camera do you use and what do you edit on?
 

I'm lucky that I used to be a media technician at a local college, and as I still study there, I can borrow really nice solid state cameras.  I prefer Canon video and SLR cameras.  I've also got an old Fuji I sometimes use, and a mini Muvi camera.  I like to mix it up!  I tend to edit with Movie Maker on PC or iMovie on Macintosh.  I love working with Adobe Premiere Pro when I can!

how long have you been playing the ukulele, and was it always your instrument of choice? 

I bought a cheap ukulele 5 years ago, not being able to play a note!  A year later, I bought a lovely Ovation ukulele, and started making the kind of music I really like... Heavy! I like the idea of corrupting what is seen as a light instrument and make heavy music with it.  I started out as a harmonica player, which I'm focusing on now, making 'Harp Hop'… Harmonica hip hop.  I just love music of all kinds, and love making it too!


on one of your bandcamp pages you describe the album 'triad of despair' as 'songs about depression recorded in the woods on a dictaphone with the wind in trees'. how did this idea come about? 

Mental health and psychology are pet subjects of mine.  I'm training to be a Counsellor at college, and plan on working with children when I qualify.  Writing about depression and the feelings and thoughts associated with it was great therapy when I was in a dark place with mental health.  The woods where I filmed the video are a peaceful place, even being next to a small country lane.  I went there when I was in a bad way and just recorded the songs.  Even though I'd done clean recordings at home, I love the sound of the wind and cars going past in the background.  It just worked,  I spent half an hour recording there.  The songs just flowed out and I was so calm afterwards... Music therapy.  Filming the video there was just natural.

i liked the idea of occult feline investigator patches mcginley. can you talk about this character, and is there more to come?

Patches McGinley is one of my comic characters, named in honour of my lovely Irish Grandad who died last year.  It's a homage to Mignola, Hellboy and BPRD, which are some of my favourite comics.  There are three comics with Patches in so far, and at least four more plotted.  He's a great character, and I keep going back to him.  I have some plans for his development in the new year.  I like the idea of illustrated videos, so there may be more with Patches in...


the video for gravedigger has a very experimental quality to it. how did you go about filming this? was it all planned out or did it develop organically as you were filming?

I'm really proud of that video. I took time storyboarding, making the mask, filming, making graphics and editing.  It's probably the most complete video I've done so far.  As I mentioned, the songs were recorded in the woods there, so using them as a location was logical.  I love horror movies, so I knew I wanted a creepy feel to the video, which I think I got.



your performance videos are a real contrast to most videos I've seen on youtube in that you don't look directly at or address the camera, which makes the viewer concentrate on the music. was this the intention from the beginning or was it something you developed? 

Mostly stage fright!  I'm gaining confidence as a performer, but I tend to concentrate on what I'm playing... I think the music is more important.  Stage presence is really important live, but video is different, it's an opportunity to tell a story.

do you have any advice for you-tubers just starting out? 

Have fun!  Make lots of different kinds of videos and watch lots of different kinds too.  Don't get stuck in a rut!

can you recommend an unsung piece of art (book, film, video game - whatever) you love that people may not have heard of? 

She Makes War, Matt Stevens and The Fierce and the Dead.  Two fantastic UK bands that make stunning music, and are so inspirational.  They've been supportive of me whilst I've been finding my voice, and I love what they do.


what can we expect from your channel in 2015?

Lots more!  I'm working on some hand-drawn animations for my next EP, and I like the idea of making a short film too.  I love being creative.

can you nominate a fellow you tuber for my next interview? 

Fonzi of Bout Dat TV.  He's an amazing dude from Birmingham who is a one man powerhouse of music, video and words.  He has so much positive energy, and a great brain to go with it!  He's a forward thinking man!


subscribe to morgan's channel, check out his music on bandcamp and visit his website

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thanks to morgan gleave for being my first interviewee!

if you have your own youtube channel and would like to be interviewed you can e-mail me at pazvsstuff[at]gmail.com or find me on twitter @pazvsstuff

Thursday, 20 November 2014

lit at the haunt, brighton


just a quick one. last night i saw lit at the haunt in brighton. you may remember them from years ago when they had a hit my own worst enemy. this was just before the uk had a brief affair with pop-punk and nu-metal and mtv started to show some decent music. i was a kid at the time and they were one of the first bands i really liked. it's been 15 years since a place in the sun was released and lit had decided to tour to celebrate this.

what a night. it was loud, bright and sweaty fun. they blitzed straight through the album, start to finish, and I was happily surprised that they also managed to squeeze in a few other songs closing with over my head as used in the unappreciated sci-fi cartoon titan ae (fun fact - when released, this cartoon bankrupted fox animation).

back to lit. 15 years on their songs definitely hold up, and even played live, sound perfect as though straight off the album. the guys look a little older, wiser maybe, but not to the point of it all being a bit embarrassing. I think they've definitely got a couple more album left in them.

a great night.


what i've learnt from 3 months of blogging

can you believe it's been three months? probably you can. i can't. it's gone really quickly and i thought i'd have time to write loads more than i have.

here's what i've learnt -

- i like writing about films, particularly horror. i like having a reason to watch more horror films.

- i like writing about short films too, and i like interacting with filmmakers.

- i'm shit at writing about music. i love music, i listen to a lot of music, i go to gigs, but i don't have the vocabulary to write about it. i get stuck and just want to say stuff is awesome over and over again. i'll continue to post music reviews if i think it's music that demands attention (like the laura moody album - see my last post and check out her album if you haven't already) but i might not review so many random albums anymore.

- i don't have time to play videogames so even though i'd love to review more it's unlikely to happen all that often. i started arkham origins on monday night and i'm not sure i've even clocked up an hour yet, so it doesn't seem fair posting my thoughts at this point.

- i watch a lot of youtube. i'm starting to think i'd rather be vlogging than blogging. it is something i want to do someday, i'm just not sure i can yet for reasons too boring to list here. mostly i don't know how to do it. what camera to use, what to edit on, what to make videos about...it's a bit of a mystery to me. so i had an idea. i thought i'd ask.

i'm going to start interviewing youtibers. i'm sure this isn't a new thing, but i certainly feel like i need to know a lot more and i think this could be a really interesting project. i have a couple of interviews lined up already and i'm hoping each interviewee will be able to recommend another channel, so it evolves in an organic way rather than being directed by me. having said that, if you have your own youtube channel or know someone who does feel free to get in touch.

you can e-mail me at pazvsstuff[at]gmail.com or find me on twitter @pazvstuff

first interview to follow soon...

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

laura moody - acrobats


acrobats is the debut album from one-woman singer/cellist laura moody. i'll say this up front - this is the best fucking album i've heard all year and certainly the most original. check this out -


i think memento is probably one of my favourite tracks. it's really sad and beautiful at the same time. i listen to a lot of music on the way to work or when i'm writing blogs and stuff, so i'm not always paying all that much attention, like sometimes it's just background noise. but every time that song comes on i find myself stopping and listening to the whole thing. it's amazing.

the whole album is amazing and beautiful and sad. if you've read any of my previous music reviews you know i'm not that great at talking about music. i know what i like, i just never really know how to put it into words. i listened to the track we are waiting on a loop when i first got the album and on the third play i was in tears. i don't know what that's about. i don't know how to explain what this music does to me. i just know it's good.

i can give you facts. all the songs are performed by laura moody and a cello. she has an amazing voice and sometimes she makes crazy noises with it. that's the thing, i know what a cello sounds like and i know what someone singing sounds like but laura's sound is so unlike anything i've ever heard before. the closest artist is probably zoe keating, if zoe keating also sung on her albums. but that doesn't do it justice.

what i'm saying is you should go and buy this album. it's on spotify, but really you should go buy it from the official website. then you should tell everyone you know about it, because this is an artist worth supporting and talking about.

oh, and check out this awesome video -


Monday, 10 November 2014

blackfish


blackfish is a documentary about killer whales (or orcas) in captivity, centring around one orca in particular called tilikum. we follow tilikum from his capture as a two-year-old in wild to his current home at seaworld orlando. the film uses archive footage and interviews with the various trainers who worked with tilikum to tell what is ultimately a modern-day horror story. except the out-of-control killer whale isn't the scariest part.

i don't want to give away too much in case you haven't seen it, but this is a fairly shocking depiction of what happens to wild animals in captivity, particularly those like orcas that seem to have some level of emotional intelligence. we hear about how tilikum was tortured so he would perform tricks, we hear about how his life in captivity contrasts with what his life would have been like in the ocean, and then we see the consequences of his imprisonment. i'm not that clued up on animal rights issues, but when you see this huge animal being tortured and locked away for it's whole life it seems pretty obvious something terrible will happen. the orcas in this film show so much behaviour that's similar to human behaviour it's hard not to imagine what would happen to a person's mind in that environment.

what tilikum does is pretty shocking, but what's more horrific is that the corporation that owns tilikum is in complete denial about how dangerous he is. after every single incident there's a hasty cover-up or reworking of the facts, even going so far as to blame one of the trainers that died for her own death. that's ultimately what this film is about; that to a faceless corporation (who refused to be interviewed for the documentary) money really is more important than lives, whether those lives are human or animal.

the filmakers do a great job with the story in blackfish, starting with the most horrific event and then working back to show us the events leading up to it. we also see other incidents and learn about how tilikum has been used to breed more orcas in captivity. it reminded me a lot of project nim, another film with similar themes. mostly what i've learnt from these films is that we shouldn't really be keeping animals locked up. it ends badly more often than we're told.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

the small hand

i like horror theatre, but mostly i come away wishing it had gone further. i saw ghost stories, which was cool, but i really expected there to be more audience interaction. i went to see a punchdrunk production of faust that was in this spooky archive building and used all these horror tropes, like there was this one moment where one of the characters was killed, and i stuck around to watch what happened because the performance runs on a loop so i figured the actor isn't just going to lie there for the next hour. and he doesn't, he sat bolt upright just like michael myers from halloween and then the staggered towards me like a zombie and tried to touch my face. that shit was cool! but i needed more of it.

the closest i ever got to really being scared by a show, outside of a horror maze, was the woman in black. i know it's been around forever and it's a movie now so it's old news, but the staging of that play is fucking amazing. it's like watching a live haunting, and it's fucking terrifying! so when i found out that there was a stage adaptation of another susan hill story (susan hill wrote the book what the woman in black was based on) i was really excited.



the small hand is about this art dealer named adam snow who goes to this creepy old house by mistake and is then haunted by the ghost of a 5 year old boy. as the haunting becomes more and more intense he begins to unravel the boy's story and to understand why he is the target.

the play is really fucking intense. andrew lancel's performance as adam snow starts frantic and becomes more crazed with each scene. by the end he's throwing himself on the floor and pulling out his hair with what feels like a genuine display of a man insane. he's sympathetic too, and he needs to be because like the best ghost stories he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. there's an m r james quality to the story; this idea that once the ghost sees you, you're fucked. there's no digging up the bones and giving them a christian burial or some shit, you're just fucked. japanese horror films use this idea as well. here, the sense of impending doom is presented really well from the start.

the supporting cast are great too and the story moves along at a quick pace, using a simple set to great effect with some really seamless scene transitions. the non-linear narrative is a bit confusing at first but makes sense by the end. overall, it was a great story well told.


my only niggle? i wasn't scared. sure, it was creepy and there were some good uses of big bangs and screams. there was one really creepy moment, reminiscent of woman in black, when snow is outside the house and you can see the silhouette of a woman in the shadows behind him. but there is a rule in horror, particularly ghost stories, that you absolutely must follow if you want to scare your audience. don't let them see too much of the monster. woman in black gets this right, jaws gets it right, alien gets it right...here, it's a problem. that ghost kid is fucking everywhere! and yeah, he's a creepy little bastard but he appears so often he just stops being scary. if they had held off having him appear until the final scene of the play i swear i would've lost my shit. if for the whole play you thought it was in snow's head and at the last moment you see what he sees...that would have been amazing. instead, the kid punctuates every scene and it's never truly scary as a result.

that said, the story is cool and there are some great moments. there are a few more performances in brighton and i think there are still tickets so you can still catch it if you have chance. otherwise i think there are still a few stops left on the tour so look out for it.