Archive for the ‘Music’ Category
I knew that Minecraft existed. I recognised some of the characters and things. I’m quite into Rubik’s Cube-type twisty puzzles, and one of the stores in Mexico City that sells such things is in an indoor market called Friki Plaza. A lot of the other stalls there sell anime, comic, sci-fi stuff. And I’d see pictures of big pixelly swords and stuff. I didn’t know it, but those were Minecraft swords.
And then back in March, I was binge-watching a load of the excellent Ahoy videos on YouTube about computer/video games, their history, design and stuff, and during that binge watched this one about Minecraft:
The narrator said something very early in that video that piqued my interest: “in the beginning, all you need to know is: punch trees, get wood.”
I liked that it was blocky and looked simple, but it also felt a bit weird. I say this as someone whose most recent gaming has been along the lines of Red Dawn Redemption, GTA V, and such lush things. Maybe there was a part of me that also simply enjoyed the mining element. Aside from a Binatone console the family had when I was young, a couple of Nintendo Game & Watch things, and Puck Monster, the first actual computer games I played (on my mate Mike’s ZX Spectrum) were Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy. I’ve spent the last 18 years drawing with pixels, so after watching the Ahoy video, it felt kind of essentially that I try it for myself. I immediately downloaded Minecraft Pocket Edition for the iPad.
It’s sometimes a little weird to feel you are out-of-touch. I’m not a massive gamer or anything, but I did not know it was the second biggest-selling video game ever, having sold 107 million copies. That’s like not knowing who Taylor Swift is.
So, Minecraft PE downloaded, and armed with the knowledge that I should “punch tree, get wood,” I began. I have no desire to play online. I know it’s dead popular, but for me, I like to go at my own pace. Online gaming seems like a super boosted XtReMe version of the cocky kid who’d stand over your shoulder in the arcade, see you not doing so well with Galaxian, and offer to “finish your game for you.” The two other options are Survival and Creative.
I began with Creative. Unlimited materials, just building things. That was fun for a while. Essentially a fancier, iPad-ier version of Lego.
Por ejemplo, this was the very first thing I build on that very first play – a little square cabin dug into the side of a mound:
Then I got brutal and built an almost prison-like shack on a small island:
I had big plans for this next one. I was gonna build a massive moat, but got bored filling the trench with water and never finished it:
The pixelista in me soon realised I could make 3D pixel art, specifically Minipops. Here’s Drake, for example:
But after dicking around with unlimited resources for a few days, the urge to play Survival took over. Punch tree, get wood. But, that’s not really enough knowledge in Survival. I spent a few “days” (that is, Minecraft days, not Earth, real life, days) building tiny huts or digging holes to live in, and a) not sleeping because I didn’t know how to make a bed, b) starving because I didn’t know how to eat, and c) being killed by zombies, skeletons, and most often, creepers.
And that is where the Internet comes in handy. The Minecraft Wiki is something I spent a great deal of time referencing, but most of all, YouTube. I kinda love how the Internet and YouTube in particular has mini universes that you don’t know exist until you are interested in that topic yourself. It was like that with twisty puzzles, and good gosh, it’s like that with Minecraft. Paul Soares’s How to Survive and Thrive series was particularly useful to dip into now and then when I wanted a bit more info, especially when venturing into more complex things like enchanting and using redstone, a substance you can mine and then use to create more complex menchanisms.
Here’s some more photos.
This was the first house I built in Survival mode. It began as a hole dug in the dirt beneath what is now the house. The big tower with the light on top is something I learned in the above-mentioned YouTube series: a way to be able to find your way home when you’ve been out exploring the local area:
A stupid building that took a long time but was ultimately not much fun:
Here’s a few photos of the same project. The first shows the cave I dug into the side of a mountain to live in early on in a new game. Before I crafted a wooden door, I would drop a block of dirt into the doorway every time I entered and left. Eventually, that wee hole was expanded to be a nice apartment with a huge water feature outside the front door. The nearby river was a bit of a pain to get to, so I eventually mined through the mountain and built a wee train line that goes all the way to a nice little riverside cabin:
My most recent thing was on top of a couple of high islands which mean the zombies, skeletons, and creepers are less of an annoyance. Another thing you can do is dye sheep’s wool, and shear that wool off and make it into a nice carpet:
Here’s a stupid gate on one of my projects:
Here’s a zombie riding a chicken for some reason:
There have been many moments when I’ve been impressed with the pixel art of Minecraft. Voxel art, I guess, technically. I love the square suns, and the sunsets are an absolute delight:
Even when it’s messing up and not loading very quickly, the weird stuff it sometimes throws up (not often, I should be clear) are aesthetically enjoyable:
I think that Minecraft is fantastic because of the random generation of the world you play in. The different biomes (lots of photos of such things here) are a joy. And I like that I can play with my own rules. I played one game as a vegan, not killing anything, which makes things difficult in the early days of a game, when you need wool to make a bed and sleep, and obviously, you have to wait for crops to grow to eat, rather than just killing a sheep or pig or chicken or cow.
I played one game as a nomad. No permanent home, just carrying stuff that fit in my inventory, and digging a new shelter every night. That was a wonderful way to see lots and lots of different biomes. It was how I saw the ice spikes biome for the first time (after about two weeks of walking around).
I’m an adult. And Minecraft is fantastic. It must be brilliant for children too. And parents would probably enjoy that their children are playing a game where to get something, you have to put in a little effort. Basic life lesson, that, innit?
A wee bit of artwork
Here’s an interesting Wikipedia article
Jam and Lewis
Here’s my portrait of vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence (please, Estados Unidos, NO!)
And finally, the song in my head when I woke up this morning
Crises by Mike Oldfield.
Here’s a thing that has frustrated me for a long time, but I’ve never really had a coherent thought about it before:
Gmail’s side menu thingy has THREE places where emails you no longer want can go. Why!? Why is there “Trash,” “Deleted Messages,” and “[Gmail]Trash”? And then when I look at the Gmail app on my phone, I can swipe an email away and it’s “archived.” So where does that go? It’s not in “[Gmail]Trash” or “Deleted Messages” and what is called “Trash” on the web version of Gmail is called “Bin” on the Android app. Well, it’s still in “All Mail.” Okay, swiping to get something out of the inbox doesn’t do what one would assume it does. And considering “All Mail” has, duh, all the mail, that folder is just a mess of stuff that I want and don’t want. What what what? Why is this Google and Android stuff so confusing? And we’ve not even mentioned why there are “Starred” and “Important” folders. How has Gmail been going so long and not sorted this out? Is it simply because only a handful of people (me very much included) are bothered enough to keep email tidy? That can’t be it, because Gmail is my secondary email account, so there’s not actually much daily traffic there. For people who like things neat and tidy and use Gmail as their primary account, it must be awful. And, seriously, what the hell is “[Gmail]Trash”?
A wee bit of artwork
Here’s an interesting Wikipedia article
The Fairlight CMI
When people ask (do people ask, actually? OR do we just find a way to tell people because our own opinions are oh-so-important?) what my favourite film is, I either say Singin’ in the Rain or Trading Places. I love both of them. The latter was on TV recently, and, well, it was as good as ever. I was a teenager in the 1980s, so like most heterosexual teenage boys at that time, there were few things as exciting in the world as seeing Jamie Lee Curtis take her top off. Sadly though, for Mexican teenage boys, Mexican TV blurred out Jamie Lee’s boobs.
The song in my head when I woke up this morning
Unfortunately it was (and still bloody is) a Muse song. No idea how that got in there. So here’s an infinitely better song that was in my head when I woke up on 25th Sept: Vroom Vroom by Charli XCX
So, what’s this all about, eh? Blogging again, are we?
I’m trying. I came to a realisation recently that the blog is utterly pointless if I don’t write stuff. It’s all well and good whacking my drawings on here, but you can see them on social media. Without writing, what is the point of keeping this blog going? Plus I’m out of the habit of writing every day and it’s something I’d like to practice more. So, one last stab at keeping the blog alive. I decided that each post should have some sort of structure to help me, more than anything. Some way of feeling like what I’m doing is a thing, not just a paragraph. A 10-minute skip through some of the things in my head delivered hot and fresh to your RSS feed, essentially. I’ve set myself the target of blogging every weekday. Let’s see how that goes, eh?
I went to a concert at the weekend. Not something I do so much these days. I’m quite bad at being “on it” with regard to buying tickets in a timely manner. But, on Saturday, there was a free – gratis! – Roger Waters concert. He had already played two stadium shows during the week before, but the government of the city decided to pay him to do another show for free in the Zócalo, the main square in the centre of the city.
It’s not the first time such a concert has happened. McCartney did it, Shakira did it, Bieber did it. All the greats. I’m a bit of a worrier about getting to places on time, or early enough in this case. My mate and I were checking the streaming Zócalo webcam to see how full it was getting. He wanted to go at 5pm, I wanted to go at 4pm. We compromised – an Anglo-Mexican accord – and decided on half-past-four. That was until we checked the webcam at 3.30 and saw it was already more than half full. We set off straight away.
It wasn’t so bad when we got there, though. It hadn’t filled up too much. Loads of coppers around in riot gear, which is fairly normal for any event of any size in this bloody city. (Seriously, the police here treat any gathering as a potential revolution, it’s absurd.) But the police were doing no security checks. We could’ve smuggled in some booze. Plenty of people had smuggled in marijuana; the whole square had wee pockets of skunky smells.
We found a place to stand, about half way back and time went by very slowly. The PA played Aerosmith and Foo Fighters songs. At around 6pm, there was an announcement that the square was full. Top tip: don’t keep checking your watch when waiting for a concert to begin.
He came on eventually, of course, after an enjoyable 20-minute thing where the huge video screens showed clouds passing over a lunar landscape with an ambient soundscape, for want of better phrase. Setlist off of setlist.fm:
Speak to Me
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
One of These Days
The Great Gig in the Sky
Us and Them
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)
Welcome to the Machine
Have a Cigar
Wish You Were Here
Pigs on the Wing 1
Pigs on the Wing 2
Pigs (Three Different Ones)
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
Run Like Hell
It was a bit weird hearing these songs with a dude from his band singing David Gilmour’s bits. He did a decent enough guitar impersonation, though. One shouldn’t really complain, and it’s no big deal considering it was free, but it would’ve been nice to hear a few more pre-Dark Side songs.
And it would’ve suited me down to the ground to not hear The Great Gig in the Sky (I hate hate hate the bloody wailing) or any of the songs off Animals, which I’m not really into.
Fearless was ace, though, especially the taped bit of You’ll Never Walk Alone at the end. (I’ve often wondered what it’s like to be an Everton or Man U-supporting Pink Floyd fan, cos the YNWA bit must be annoying for them.)
He visually had a pop at the current Republican candidate, with visuals of said candidate projected on the screens during Pigs, and at one point the words “Trump eres un pendejo” in massive letters on the screens. He read a speech in Spanish, too, addressed at Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto:
“Mr. President, more than 28,000 men, women and children have disappeared. Many of them during your tenure, since 2012. Where are they? What happened to them? Not knowing is the cruelest punishment.”
“It’s time to tear down the wall of privileges that divides the rich from the poor, your policies have failed. War is not the solution… Listen to your people, Mr. President. The eyes of the world are watching you.”
Being a concert in the modern era, there was a lot of this behaviour:
There was a fake Battersea power station:
There was a man showing no sign of irony or indeed, loads of irony:
And a couple of dudes with their shirts off having a wail of a time on a nearby building:
There were, apparently, 170,000 people there (photo not mine, I found it on Twitter and forgot to take note of the photographer. Soz.):
170,000. That’s a lot of people, innit? Maybe there were toilets, but we didn’t see any. Imagine the amount of held-in piss.
Getting home was a bit of a ballache. The metro stations in the vicinity were closed for obvious reasons. We eventually walked along the road where there’s a metro line. The third and fourth stations we could’ve used were rammed full. We kept walking, and checking Uber availability. Modern life phone joy. When the car arrived, oh my gosh, it was very nice to finally sit down, weight off feet, etc.
A wee bit of artwork
Here’s an interesting Wikipedia article
The Anglo-Scottish border
The song in my head when I woke up this morning
Oh! Mr Songwriter by Vic Reeves
I’ve got this text document on my computer, which I update periodically. It’s called TELLY.txt, and I use it to make a note of where I’m up to on various TV shows ( Veep S2E3, Game of Thrones S5E2, Louie S4E13, etc etc). Next to the word Lost, it just says, “watch last six eps”. Rather than do that, I started again at the beginning. It’s a fun endeavour. There is so much stuff I’d forgotten. It does, at times, feel a bit like they’re making it up as they go alone, kinda like when you ask a child to tell you a story “and then the plane crashed and then there was a monster made of smoke and then there was some bad people who kept Kate and Sawyer in a cage and there was a submarine, too!” I’m four episodes away from re-getting to that point where I should “watch last six eps,” and I’m kinda starting to realise why I didn’t just finish it the first time. The sixth season, so far, is just a mess. It feels like they’re trying to cram in loads of stuff, but I also don’t feel like we’re getting anywhere. It is fun, though, to completely binge on Lost. Way more fun than it was watching it in real broadcast time back in the day.
51.89% of this square is green. Or, what some will have you believe is “a clear mandate.” #brexitwankers
Work in progress:
I like that there is a Wikipedia page for what is, at its core, an imaginary line in the sand: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico-United_States_border
The song in my head when I woke up this morning:
I just had a lovely trip to Belize. Blogged about that place before, so not doing that again this time. One thing that was interesting for me was that it was the first trip of any kind that I’ve taken since 2003 without headphones. I was never really one for using a Walkman or Discman back in the day, but as soon as I got a 3rd gen iPod in 2003, I have used them virtually on every flight, bus journey, etc. I have never left my headphones at home. This time I did. No music on my iPad, no headphones. I was at the mercy of other people (bus drivers, cafe or bar staff) when it came to the music I listened to. But I’d kinda forgotten that I might actually have an internal jukebox playing in my head. I made a note of every song that played on that jukebox on my trip. All but three of those songs are available on Spotify, so I made a playlist. (The other three songs: “Receptacle for the Respectable” by Super Furry Animals, “All Too Well” by Taylor Swift, and “6 Inch” by Beyoncé.) Most of the songs would have been on my iPod had I taken it. Nearly all of them are at least on my iTunes on my computer. A couple of them were songs I’d heard in a bar that stuck in my head. But most of all, it was interesting that, actually, while there were a few times that I fancied hearing something better than soca covers of Peter Frampton songs, I didn’t miss my iPod at all.
From 2006 to 2008, I used to do a monthly mix on this blog. I listened to some of them recently and realised that I kinda miss doing it. We have Spotify now, therefore it’s a ton easier. So here we go: twelve songs that I really like at the moment. They’re mostly pop songs. But pop music is the best music, as we all know.
This week I downloaded the iPad-friendly Pocket Edition of Minecraft. Mostly out of curiosity. I figured that because I do a lot of pixelly drawings, I really should at least know what’s going on with the most famous pixelly thing in the universe. It is a lot of fun. The lack of instructions was a bit frustrating at first, but the Internet exists, so it wasn’t too stressful trying to find a bit of help.
So, I’d just done a Minipop of Drake in the Hotline Bling video, and figured I’d try building it in Minecraft. And as you’ve already seen above, I was relatively successful.
The real Minipop is here.
Found a note where I’d scribbled this all down, but somehow forgot to mention it here at the time…
In a local bar in July, they played these three songs in a row.
When I was a teenager, I thought it was really cool that a band named themselves after a watch. And they had a club! A SOCIAL club! How do I join? Can I send off a stamped addressed envelope? Do I get membership card? A badge?
*Searches eBay for “BW” music stand thingy*
And then they played this in the bar:
It was July. Now, I am very much in favour of this sort of behaviour. Christmas songs, some Christmas songs, are wasted on only being heard for one month a year. And nobody is ever gonna stop me listening to Mariah whenever the hell I goddam want.