Saturday, 17 November 2012

My Favourite Memoirs

My Top Six Favourite Memoirs

1 - Ham on Rye - Charles Bukowski

Quite simply, the greatest novel I have ever read. Bukowski writes in simplistic prose that the cliched term 'gritty realism' was made for. He writes about everyday life in a way that is so brutally honest and true I could completely relate to almost everything he said. Bukowski also recounts a childhood that was fairly unusual and abusive which, of course, makes it more interesting to read about. Despite this, the novel is also one of the funniest I have ever read and actually makes me laugh out loud everytime I read it. This is because, as well as pointing out the tragic moments of life, he also beautifully recounts the humour and lightness we experience in everyday life too.

2 - Things Unspoken - Anitra Sheen

I only read this recently. It recounts a childhood even more unusual than that of Bukowski. The prose is so odd and dreamy that it takes a while to get into. However, once you get past this, you become immersed in a story that actually flows like the life that is being recounted. It also isn't a novel that pushes you to think a certain way, it simply tells you her story in a simple but storng narrative voice and lets you make up your own judgments.    

3 - The Story of My Experiments With Truth - Mohandas Gandhi

In my opinion, the greatest man who ever lived (that I know about). As with Gandhi himself, this book manages to be both great and humble at the same time. It recounts his political, philosophical and spiritual beliefs whilst also giving you a somewhat simple recount of his life from early childhood. This means it can be enjoyed on a number of levels. 

4 - My Life in Orange - Tim Guest

Another book that recounts a very unusual childhood. This shows what happened to children who were brought up within the confines of what was basically a spiritual cult. It doesn't push the reader to judge whether this life was better or worse than a mainstream upbringing. It simply recounts a childhood and lets the reader decide how shocked they want to be by it. 

5 - Junky - William S. Burroughs 

The story of somebody addicted to heroin (among other things). The hopeless cycle of addiction in this novel is beautifully portrayed in all its tragedy. It leaves little light at the end of the tunnel but it does make you think. At times, it is definitely hard to have empathy for the protagonist but sometimes it is better to not have all your questions answered. 

6 - Scar Tissue - Anthony Kiedis 

It's about a rock star taking a lot of drugs and shagging a lot of beautiful women. It's not exactly 'Crime and Punishment' but it's pretty entertaining nonetheless. 


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

6 Most Disappointing Games I Ever Bought.

The 6 Most Disappointing Video Games I Ever Bought. 

My last blog entry about video games got 900 views and people gave me some fairly good feedback about it. Therefore, in a desperate attempt to keep up my publicity I'm writing another entry about video games. I'm not a big gamer really, I don't even own a 360 or a PS3, but video games were an important part of my childhood and youth. Here are the 6 most disappointing games I ever bought.

1 - Shadowgate Classic - Gameboy Color.

When I was a kid, the best Christmas I can remember is when I got a Gameboy Color and Pokemon Blue. I played this game until absolute death before eventually deciding I should probably buy another game for it. I only got 50p a week pocket money to save up so it took me quite a while but eventually I had enough money to go into town and buy a new game. I chose Shadowgate Classic thinking 'this looks like an awesome action/adventure game. There was nothing on the box to say it was a bloody point and click adventure game. Room after room of this terrible game (which I have since learnt is a cult classic) you just have to click on every part of the room until something happens. For example, after clicking on 300 bricks you might click on a brick that opens a secret door. Terrible. 

2 - Robot Wars Metal Mayhem - Gameboy Color

Never mind I thought, I'll just save up to buy another game for my Gameboy Color. After weeks of saving I went into town and bought this piece of shit. I remember completing it on the hardest setting in about half an hour. Why you ask? Well, all you had to do was drive your little robot into the opposing robot and bash the 'A' button repeatedly. There was literally nothing else to it. Sigh. 

3 - Space Hulk - PC

Like many geeky white losers of my generation I was obsessed with the Warhammer franchise. So what absolute joy when I saw that there was a game for the PC based on the franchise! I instantly put it on  my Christmas list and I was lucky enough that my Mum actually got it for me on Jesus Christs birthday. It very quickly became apparent that I was very much out of my depth. Instead of just blasting your way happily through enemies you had to control a small group of 'Space Marines' through what felt like the pits of hell. The moment you left one of your marines alone you would hear him scream through the intercom that he had just been killed. Needless to say, I was scarred.

4 - Toejam and Earl - Megadrive

For most of my childhood my main games console was the Sega Megadrive. Most my friends had a Playstation but I didn't get one of those until a couple of years after my mates. The good thing about this was that by that point you could get most Megadrive games for about £2.99 from my local secondhand games shop (Gamezone in Shrewsbury). The one exception to the rule was Toejam and Earl which, for some reason, cost £14.99. I had wanted this game for quite a while but had not been able to afford it. However, one day, my Dad just got it for me as a surprise. It turned out to be the slowest moving and longest game I had for the Megadrive. Because there was no save feature I had to just leave my console on and paused for hours on end. Headaches ensued. 

5 - Final Fantasy X - PS2

The only Final Fantasy game I have ever attempted to get into. My friends at the time were all obsessed with it so I thought I would try to join the bandwagon. What I experienced was some of cheesiest story telling I've experienced in a 'serious' game coupled with tedious, repetitive game play. What made it even worse was that my friends all had some weird geek crush on a character called Rikku. Admittedly, I did once fancy Sophitia from Soul Blade but I was about 8 so...

6 - Fight Club - PS2 

Fight Club is literally the greatest film I have ever seen. It's the only film I have watched more than 3 times. I'm normally more of a book person you see. My friend Jack bought me this game because he knew I was obsessed with the film. I was so excited to play it because Fight Club has my favourite fight scenes I have ever watched. How can you take something that is so intelligent, grimy, dark, realistic, brutal and atmospheric and turn it into a terrible fighting game? Why, by turning it into a mindless button basher of course!

I'll write something happy next time. 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Dougie Freedman joins Bolton Wanderers.

Dougie Freedman joins Bolton Wanderers

So, Dougie Freedman has become our new manager. This worries me. Freedman is a young up-and-coming manager who has had one good season. The last time we had one of those it was Owen Coyle and look how that bloody turned out. At this stage Bolton need consistency and there were other more tried and tested managers available who could have provided that. Then again, the good thing about having a young and exciting manager is that it can sometimes provide an immediate boost to a team who need something fresh. This happened when Coyle first came into charge. The problem is, as seen with Coyle, that this can often fade away fairly quickly and you are left with the same old problems.

Freedman has a big task on his shoulders. Bolton are not playing well at the moment (applause for captain obvious). I think the main problem is our defence. When you have a central defender like Zat Knight regularly making it into the first team you know you have serious problems. In fact, a way that Freedman could make an immediate positive impact would be to keep that complete liability on the subs bench for as long as possible. Simple as that. However, even with knight on the bench he still needs to improve a defence who are about as good at keeping a solid formation as a trifle strapped to the back of an angry Donkey. There is also the fact that Kevin Davies (as much as I love the guy) needs to start being replaced by Sordell or even Ngog at the helm of attack more regularly. I won't criticise Davies because he still works his battered old legs off in almost every match. They are old legs though.  

Also, why do I keep seeing neutral fans criticise us for getting rid of Coyle and treating him badly? He wasn't a very good manager, no but's or if's, he just wasn't very good. Furthermore, he had more time and support than most managers I see struggling nowadays.  

If you're wondering why I support Bolton Wanderers, it's because I come from a small town so don't have a local team. All the kids at my school supported Manchester United or Liverpool so when my Mum bought me the 1998 Premier League sticker album I decided to pick a team nobody else I knew supported. Maybe it's a shit reason but at least I didn't just pick the same team as the other kids, right?

Where the magic started people!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

3 Signs You're Too Addicted to Video Games.

3 Signs You're Too Addicted to Video Games

#1 - You're Facebook page contains more status updates and pictures about video games than it does about real life. 

Most of us (including me) have done the odd status update to apologise for the humiliating defeat we had on Fifa or uploaded a picture of whatever game we are currently playing. However, for some people these gaming updates and screen shots seem to be the only semblance of life you get from their Facebook page. Obviously, Facebook isn't the be all and end all but when someone has uploaded 50 pictures from Call of Duty yet there isn't a single picture of them in a social setting you can't help but think 'this guy doesn't get out much'. Furthermore, you also get people who will never put a status update mentioning something they have done in the real world but will continually give you oddly specific updates about what they have been doing in a game such as 'currently playing the 360 version of Skyrim after clocking up 300 hours on the PS3 version, has anyone noticed the grass is a slightly different shade of green?'. The answer to that is, no, I hadn't.   

#2 - Your thumbs are the most exercised part of your body. 

Is the rise in popularity of gaming contributing to the rise in childhood obesity? Yeah, probably, but then again so is a load of other stuff. Most people I know that I would consider too addicted to gaming have the skin tone of a Twilight-esque vampire and a body similar to something that goes gooey when you toast it over a bonfire. However, I don't doubt for a second that they would completely kick my arse in a thumb war. This has probably been the case since the N64 came out where to work one of their controllers you needed three thumbs that were each about six inches long and contained bones made out of steel. Unless you own a Nintendo Wii in which case you probably just have a good old-fashioned case of tennis elbow. 

#3 - Your virtual aspirations have overtaken your real aspirations.

You know that South Park episode where the boys are desperately trying to defeat that player on World of Warcraft to the point they basically dedicate their entire lives to the cause? This was the guy they were trying so hard to defeat. 

As usual, South Park was making a pretty good point. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

First Album I Ever Owned.

The First Album I Ever Owned

Me and my friends like to talk about a lot of our firsts. It might be your first kiss, the first time you got drunk or the first time a Dr told you to "get it out so we can see what the problem is". Another first we often discuss is the first album we ever owned because let’s face it, we all had a pretty terrible taste in music at some point. In fact, I still have a terrible taste in music but I mostly keep it hidden. When cool people are telling me about some Indie band I've never heard of who supposedly mix Ska, Funk, Reggae and Soul into an eclectic mix that only people in the know can truly appreciate I just keep my mouth shut and hope I can still get her number by the end of the night.

The first album I ever owned was 'Talk on Corners' by The Corrs. I remember wanting to get this album when I was about 8 after seeing the video for 'What Can I Do?' on television. It wasn't so much the song that drew me in; it was the lead singer Andrea Corr who instantly became my first celebrity crush. Strangely enough, she's actually quite a class act compared to the celebrities I've fancied ever since. The Corrs are made up of three sisters and a brother. The sisters are all incredibly stunning and their brother, Jim, is a completely ordinary looking bloke who thankfully only ever took up about 5 seconds of time on their music videos. Clearly, nobody else wanted to look at him either (poor Jim).

It took me a while to save up for their album because I only got 50p a week pocket money. However, I was eventually able to go to Virgin and buy the album on tape because I didn't yet own one of those new-fangled CD players. To my absolute joy the tape included a mini poster that you could fold out and was separated into four squares that each contained a picture of a different Corr. I was quite handy with a pair of scissors so was quickly able to cut Jim's square out of the poster which, in hindsight, seems unnecessarily harsh. Now and again (far too often) I used to give Andrea's square a little kiss as a testament to my love for her.

The cringe doesn't stop there. When I started dating girls in my teens I used to play 'Talk on Corners' when they came over because it was the only album in my music collection I deemed romantic enough for the situation. Probably because I was a walking cliché and almost everything else I owned was Metal.

Thanks for all the help Andrea.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Debunking Reasons to Hate Andy Murray.

Reasons to Hate Andy Murray Debunked

I was really happy to see Andy Murray win the US Open the other day. He has been one of my favourite British athletes for quite a while and it is just good to finally see a Brit win a grand slam! However, not everybody seemed to share my enthusiasm. I have noticed that Murray is an athlete who really polarizes opinion. One of the main ways I have noticed is through people posting Facebook status updates criticising him and expressing various negative opinions about his character. These people usually give ridiculous reasons for disliking him that I will now attempt to debunk. 

1st Reason - 'He hates the English and doesn't consider himself British.'

Well, he did once claim that he was going to support anybody except England in the world cup but anyone with a mild understanding of sarcasm would know that this was probably a joke. Furthermore, even if it wasn't a joke I personally couldn't care less whether he was going to support England in the world cup or not. Scotland and England have had a bit of a footballing rivalry forever so saying he would support any team except England is the kind of harmless banter that I would expect from pretty much any Scottish person (or English person if it was vice versa). It is obvious from interviews and reactions I have seen from him that although Murray is proud to be Scottish (and why not?) he does genuinely care about the fact he is representing Britain. Even if he didn't care I would still support him as a British athlete anyway.

2nd Reason - 'He is too grumpy and/or doesn't have a personality.'

One of the things I like about Andy Murray is that asides from the fact he is an amazing tennis player he actually seems like a genuinely ordinary guy. He doesn't have the slick charm of a more popular tennis player like Roger Federer but that is exactly the reason I like him more. In order for him to please the people who refuse to support him for being grumpy and boring it seems he would have to smile for the cameras, showboat for the crowd and say all the cheesy things in interviews that you expect sports people to say that make people think, 'wow, what an inspirational guy'. Well, he probably isn't smiling because he's in the middle of a professional tennis match. The reason he doesn't showboat is because he isn't a cocky twat and he doesn't say what you want because he might feel being the best British tennis player in decades should be enough to impress you. 

3rd Reason - 'He is overrated and has a negative style of play.'

I really like Andy Murray’s style of play because I feel he changes the pace of a match more than most other tennis players whilst using tactics that make you wonder what he's going to do next. Also, he isn't really overrated because he has one gold medal and one grand slam title more than you.     


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Book Review - 'One Day'.

Book Review - 'One Day'

'One Day' by David Nicholls is one of the most disappointing novels I have read in recent history. I thought it was going to be amazing from what friends had told me and reviews I had read about it. Of course, I knew it was going to be light reading due to its mainstream popularity but I'm not a literary snob and lots of my favourite novels could probably be classed as light reading (such as The Time Traveller’s Wife). 

The main reason this novel isn't great is because of the female protagonist, Emma. In his attempts to create a female character that is an 'every woman' type of figure that women can relate to whilst not being threatened by he has created a character that is utterly boring. Her main ability in life seems to be a constant onslaught of dull, sarcastic one-liners. To give him credit, Nicholls has created a character in Emma that I can believe because I have met people like her who use this constant sarcasm as a cover for their obvious insecurities and complete lack of depth. I kept wishing Emma would say or do something that gave her a bit of an edge but she never did, she remained completely flat for the entire novel.

The male protagonist is called Dexter and he makes the novel a little better. He spends most of the novel being a bit of a prick but at least he is remotely interesting. He is more complicated and seems to go through many more interesting experiences than Emma because he is in a constant search for a true happiness that eludes him for the majority of his life. The fact that what he wanted was always in front of him is clearly a huge cliché but this didn't bother me because his life story had been interesting enough to make the obvious ending seem okay.

However, the thing that really saves this novel from being completely rubbish is the ending. It doesn't just end on Dexter and Emma realising that what they wanted was always in front of them. It goes beyond that and ends up asking some good questions about the nature and frailty of life. I won't say any more than that because I don't want to ruin it for you anymore than I already have.

Overall, this is a novel that has the potential to be great but is somewhat ruined by a boring lead character. I give it 5 bananas out of 10.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Dogs in Lima.

Dogs in Lima

They seem to have an unusual relationship with dogs in Peru. Then again, we can be pretty odd about them in the UK too. You know how in the UK young men like to walk around with those snarling, ugly and seemingly inherently stupid breeds that they have clearly got to try and fulfil a stereotypical image of being a council estate hard man but they insist there is nothing wrong with their dog whilst it bares its teeth at anything that walks past and you read yet another article about how these particular breeds have maimed another child but it had "never bitten someone before"? Well, young men in Peru seem to have very different tastes. They prefer to walk around with silly little dogs that they have dressed in ridiculous outfits. Something that is only usually reserved in the UK for attractive young women who have a penchant for mild animal cruelty. If a young guy walked around with one of these Paris Hilton style abominations in the UK I'm pretty sure they would get laughed out of the park. However, I probably prefer this fad slightly to the child maiming breeds that you see outside the Costcutter's of the United Kingdom.

Another thing I have noticed Peru is how people you see walking around that don't own dogs seem to very often be terrified of them. Since I have been here I have been taking a very timid Golden Retriever and a friendly (if not a little annoying) Black Labrador for regular walks. On many occasions one of my dogs has gone and sniffed someone’s shoe only for them to recoil, run away, or in one case actually scream. My only explanation for this is that Peru is absolutely teeming with stray dogs (which can make dog walking quite difficult) and people are scared of getting rabies. But even so, you would think the fact that I'm casually walking them around would be proof enough that they probably don't have rabies. 

One of the favourite breeds of dog in Peru is the 'Peruvian Hairless Dog'. These are probably the ugliest canines I have seen in my life (apart from 'Sam: The Worlds Ugliest Dog'). A couple of times I have had one of these wander up to my dogs and they actually make me feel a bit sick. If you want to understand why I feel like this then just have a gander at one of the little horrors below.

Fancy a lick?