Saturday, 7 December 2013

England's World Cup Group.

England's World Cup Group

So England have been drawn in what some are calling a 'group of death' with Italy, Uruguay, and Costa Rica. The cynicism of England fans abounded with even more immediacy than usual after this news. 

I do actually agree with cynical fans that we probably won't progress because I think Italy and Uruguay will prove too much for us. Let's face it, in 2010 we barely progressed from a group with the United States, Slovenia and Algeria...and I don't really think we have improved much (if at all) since then. However, I think there are positives to take from being put in a group like this. If we had been put into an average group like last time we would probably see a repeat of what happened then; a bunch of boring, sub-par games that resulted in us barely progressing before taking a hammering in the knockout stages. 

If you are going to progress in the World Cup then you are going to eventually be facing world class competition, that's what makes it exciting. We may as well face those quality teams now because avoiding them would just be delaying the inevitable. Furthermore, it gives us the opportunity to watch some football of a high standard early on. Even if we lose, surely this is better than painfully sitting through the ninety minute drudgery of another 0-0 draw with Algeria? Also, we aren't actually in next years group of death, that privilege is reserved for Germany, Portugal, Ghana and USA. 

If we progress from a group of this quality then we have shown that maybe we can compete with some of the decent teams in the competition. If we don't progress then let's just hope the matches are more exciting than last time. Either way, enjoy it, it is the World Cup after all!

Football, it's a beautiful game.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Picture Of Satan Discovered.

The Daily Mail Have Done It Again

Another brilliantly awful article based on one nutters odd interpretation of an image. Basically, some couple discovered a picture of Henry VIII and realized that when they turned it upside down it was, in fact, a terrifying portrait of Satan himself. Do you want to see this terrifying picture of the Dark Lord (not Voldermort)? Do you? Are you sure you can handle it? Okay, here it is...

Diabolical: When the portrait of Henry VIII (left) is turned upside-down, it is transformed into the head of the devil

Yep, that's supposed to be Satan. I guess you can vaguely see the outline of a demonic face if you squint your eyes and use your imagination...a lot. 

So, a couple of things. Firstly, I reckon if I turned a few pictures upside down I could find something that looks as vaguely like Satan as this does. Secondly, how is this news? A better news story would probably have been 'Mad Couple Claim To Be Seeing Visions Of Satan'. If that is Satan, why does he look like he's got cocktail sticks poking out of his eyes?

On the plus side, it's nice to see a story in the Daily Mail that isn't trying to convince stupid people that all immigrants are evil scroungers and the Royal Family are actually really down to earth. 

Click here to see the brilliant journalism in question.  

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Russell Brand And Tom From McFly Go Viral.

Russell Brand And Tom From McFly Go Viral

The two video clips that have probably been most shared on my Facebook recently are this one, involving Russell Brand almost making Jeremy Paxman look stupid, and this one, involving Tom from McFly announcing his baby news to the world

First of all, lets talk about the Russell Brand clip. I am a complete convert to Russell Brand. I used to have a negative view of him until I watched a few interviews and saw that he is actually one of the most interesting celebrities currently in the media. In this clip, I feel that Russell does a brilliant job of eloquently verbalizing his general views on the current political status of our country as well as other things. I have heard a few people say that he is punching above his weight with the issues he talks about and that he doesn't have all his facts straight. Although there might be some truth to this, at least his fame and wealth haven't just turned him into some vapid, soulless celebrity that does nothing but smile for the cameras. We are all entitled to an opinion and I admire Russell for having the courage to share his positive and thought provoking ideas through the mass media. 

Secondly, we have Tom from Mcfly announcing his baby news to the world via the medium of pumpkin carving. This reminded me a bit of when he did that wedding speech/song video that also went viral. He seems a nice guy but am I the only one who finds it all a bit sickly sweet? Actually, if I'm honest, I'm just jealous that he has once again made the women of the world fall in love with him for his smooth sentimentality. Damn you Tom, you lovable bastard. 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

My Least Popular Opinions.

Some Of My Least Popular Opinions

There are certain things that everyone seems to agree on. People can even get annoyed if you convey contrary opinions to these things. Here are a few of my opinions that have made people gasp with disbelief when shared among my peers. 

#1 - I think 'Finding Nemo' is the most overrated Disney film ever. 

I agree that 'Lion King' is a masterpiece. I agree that the emotional sequence in 'Up' is amazing. However, I don't see why so many people put 'Finding Nemo' in their top Disney films list. It has no emotional pull whatsoever and it's not funny. Furthermore, I can't stand the character of 'Dory'. When I tell people this they always insist on quoting her to prove me wrong. This only cements my opinion. 


#2 - I don't like any Will Ferrell film (that I can think of). 

Yep, this shocks people more than the 'Finding Nemo' thing. This includes 'Anchorman' and 'Step Brothers', both of which I find pretty bad. It's not to say I don't like Will Ferrell because I have seen sketches and interviews in which I think he comes across as quite amusing. How movies however, I just don't think any of them are very funny. 

#3 - I don't think Freddie Mercury was an amazing songwriter. 

You know when a Queen song comes on in a pub or a bar and people start singing every line with a look that shows they think they are practically quoting Shakespeare? Am I the only one cringing? Thought so. I do like the fact he's called Freddie though.

#4 - I quite like big money football transfers. 

Normally, I hate the worship of money but for some reason I do enjoy following the ridiculous amounts of money spent in the transfer windows. Maybe this is just so I can be contrary to the people who insist on lecturing you about how 'football is only about the money these days' when they find out you like football. Almost as boring as people who go on about how 'football is for wimps, real men watch rugby'.

#5 - My favourite 'Fruit Pastilles', 'Wine Gums' and 'Jelly Babies' are the orange ones. 

People think I'm being generous when I let them have all the purple or red ones. Little do they know... 

Who else has an unpopular opinion?

Saturday, 7 September 2013

My Top 5 Children's Books.

My Top 5 Children's Books

I work with kids and I love books. So, obviously, I think children's books are awesome. This is my top 5 list of my personal favourite children's books. Nobody could ever agree on a list like this because everyone has such different opinions on which books were important in their childhood. Here's what I think. 

#5 - 'Redwall' by Brian Jacques. 

A bit like 'The Lord Of The Rings' for children. The little kingdoms of woodland creatures were described so vividly that I was always able to picture them clearly. There was something magical about the settings and the characters each had strong, unique personalities that seemed to suit them perfectly. 

#4 - 'Peace At Last' by Jill Murphy. 

I love Jill Murphy. I consider almost every picture book she has written and illustrated something of a classic. Her books always had a cosy feel about them and 'Peace At Last' is no exception. Mr Bears predicament seems even more relevant to me now than it did at the time.  

#3 - 'Horrible Histories' by Terry Deary. 

These are, by some margin, the best non-fiction books for children that I have ever read. I genuinely still enjoy reading them as an adult. They present large amounts of information in a way that is so easily accessible to children. Anybody who can do that has achieved something great in my eyes. 

#2 - 'Whatever Next!' by Jill Murphy. 

The most poignant picture book from my own childhood. It captures the essence of childhood imagination perfectly. I think a lot of people will remember travelling to space in a cardboard box...right? The illustrations are just as good as the story and the whole book has a warm, sentimental atmosphere about it. 

#1 - 'Once' by Morris Gleitzman.

Simply, the greatest novel for children that I have ever read. He manages to tell a story from a child's perspective in a completely non-patronising sort of way. It has an incredible emotional impact and the fact that it was inspired by the life of a truly amazing person called Janusz Korczak makes it even more special.  

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Book Review - 'On The Road'.

Book Review - 'On The Road'

'On The Road' by Jack Kerouac is probably one of the most quotable books I have read in a long time. I imagine that there are hundreds of people with Kerouac quotes tattooed on them somewhere and this doesn't surprise me because he is a master of one liners. On the face of it, 'On The Road' is basically a load of anecdotal stories about a group of friends going on road trips. In this sense, it reminded me a lot of 'Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas'. The stories are often crazy and flit between being funny and being sad. The characters in the novel (who are all based on real people) are all desperate to enjoy themselves and find the true essence of life but they are also tragic and this comes across often in their stories. 

It was a very good novel but not quite as incredible and life affirming as I expected it to be through its reputation. Problem is, I have heard Kerouac be compared to Charles Bukowski in similarity of style many times and Kerouac was nowhere near as poignant a commentator on the human condition as Bukowski was. However, what Kerouac was doing at the time was still pretty groundbreaking and his writing has actually stood the test of time well. There were times when I found it difficult to remind myself that 'On The Road' was published in the fifties because parts of it seemed so modern and relevant. 

That's the great thing about road stories. Nobody will ever get bored of the age old idea of someone going on a journey that is both literal and spiritual. I don't know if spiritual is actually the word I want but it's all I can think of right now so it will have to do. The novel is separated into five different parts and I feel the last two parts were by far the strongest. The story of their visit to Mexico is the craziest and this was when I feel the novel reached its full potential. I will read Kerouac again if only to experience more of those sublime one liners and wish that I was on a road trip with a bunch of people as crazy as those guys. I give it seven bananas out of ten. 


On a side note, here is a shameless plug for my own novel that I have self published. You can buy my novel here.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Bubble That Looks Like The Virgin Mary.

The Bubble That Looks Like The Virgin Mary

I read a lot of news articles on the internet. The two main news sites that I use on a daily basis are The Guardian and The Daily Mail. Why The Daily Mail? Well, despite largely being a crock of shit I like to see both liberal and right wing takes on current affairs (and their sports news is often quite good). I really am used to seeing quite stupid stories on The Daily Mail Website...but then I saw this one. 

Daily Mail Bubble Story.

Yep, a bubble that looks like the Virgin Mary. 

The first thing you will notice (as I noticed) is that the bubble looks absolutely fucking nothing like the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. I mean, is it just me or is that not even close? Seriously. I guess there is a very vague outline but basically if I took a few pictures of some bubbles I reckon at least one would look as much like the Virgin Mary as this one does. 

I would like to say this was on the tail-end of the website but it was quite high up and it was one of the stories that had a bold headline and a big picture to try and grab the readers attention. How bloody slow can a news day be? 

Can you find me an even more pointless news story? To be honest, I know you probably can. 

 The offending picture.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Stuff People Make Facebook Profiles For.

Stuff People Make Facebook Profiles For.

#1 - Cats, Dogs and other pets.

I've had a fair few friend requests from cats and dogs. Usually this bores me, however, now and again I have found myself thinking 'yeah, that dog is pretty funny, he deserves his own Facebook'. Of course, cute animals seem to be the second most popular thing on the internet after that thing they are trying to ban so it isn't that surprising. 

#2 - Stuffed toys. 

Also had a fair few friend requests from these. It usually seems to be a bit of a spur of the moment thing. They think it's a good idea, upload a few status updates from the perspective of the stuffed toy and then never touch it again. One of those Facebook friends you immediately delete when you're having a Facebook clear out. 

#3 - Toddlers/babies. 

At least making a profile for a pet or a toy is harmless. To me, there is something inherently odd about making a Facebook profile for a toddler. I had one contact who tried to send me a friend request from a profile they had made for their three year old. This profile had pictures, personal information and nonsensical writing supposedly bashed into the keyboard by the child that would say stuff like dhfuriodsfbjnvbSDJH. I didn't get it either. 

 "Now listed as single? I knew it wouldn't last!"

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Royal Baby

The Royal Baby

There seem to be two reactions on Facebook to the news that the royal baby has been born. I would reference Twitter instead of Facebook but I'm not cool enough to use it properly. 

First type of reaction - 'OMG, CAN'T BELIEVE THE ROYAL BABY HAS BEEN BORN! Literally the most exciting news I have heard in ages!'

Second type of reaction - 'I don't give a shit about the royal baby being born. Why is everyone so worked up about it?'

Both reactions show the somewhat scary amount of relevance that the royal family still seems to have in our culture. Whether you love it, hate it or loudly insist you aren't interested in it, you are still helping to push the huge media circus that it has created. Just by writing this blog post I am also entering myself into the fray so I won't pretend to have no interest in it. 

It's hard to express an opinion on a baby because, well, it's a harmless baby. It is sure to become some sort of iconic symbol for our nation regardless of the opinion people have on the future prince.  

Because of this, I can only really bring myself to judge the parents. I guess I'm vaguely anti-royal because it seems a little unfair that we basically pay for these people to be born into immense wealth and then idolize them for it. However, I can't help but like Will because I've always thought in his various media appearances he has always come across as a genuinely nice bloke. Kate on the other hand seems to be as a sort of beautiful mannequin who stands around being nice to look at but doesn't show any semblance of a personality. 

Anyway, David Icke says that really they're all just gigantic lizards...

Is he crazy? Decide for yourself.

Friday, 17 May 2013

My Top 30 Video Games of All Time (Update).

My Top 30 Video Games of All Time

I had to redo my top 30 games list after realising just how many of my favourite games I had managed to miss off my original list! The only rules are that there can only be a maximum of two games from a single series and the system listed will be the one I most remember playing that particular game on. These are my PERSONAL favourites.

#30 - Donkey Kong Land III (Gameboy)

There are lots of great platformers on the gameboy. I am still currently playing this one but it has quickly become one of my favourite games on the system. The graphics are good for the era and the gameplay is just as good as the Donkey Kong Country games on the SNES.  

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#29 - Super Smash Bros. (N64)

Quite simply, this might be my favourite multiplayer game ever. The controls and gameplay are simple but with one or two friends this becomes hilarious and frustrating in perfect measure.

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#28 - Portal 2 (Xbox 360)

You can't believe how clever some of the level design is in this game. Never before has a game made me feel so stupid at my frequent inability to solve the puzzles without hours being put in. You don't feel annoyed though because the complexity is part of the enjoyment.

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#27 - Tetris Blast (Gameboy)

The first game that I ever owned on the Gameboy and my favourite incarnation of Tetris. Tetris never gets old and it never gets boring. Proof that you don't need good graphics or even a storyline to become completely absorbed in a game.

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#26 - Marble Madness (Master System)

Another incredibly simple game. You literally control a marbe that has to get to the end of different courses. On paper, it sounds absolutely terrible but in practice this game has perfect balance. The only problem being how short it is to complete.

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#25 - Micro Machines (Megadrive)

I've never been particularly interested in 'serious' racing games and it can probably all be traced back to my love of Micro Machines. The track design is perfect and the game keeps changing enough to maintain your interest right up until the end.

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#24 -Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (Playstation)

This is another game that has a good amount of variety. It was a vast improvement on the original Crash Bandicoot and there was barely a bad level in the whole game. 

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#23 - Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Gameboy)

It was impressive that Nintendo managed to make a Mario game for the Gameboy that seemed just as epic as any that had been released on consoles. Again, it was a huge improvement on the first game and all the worlds felt well thought out.  

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#22 - Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers (NES)
Possibly the most underrated platformer on the NES. Many film/tv licence games were pretty awful but this really was an exception. The slight variations in how you needed to approach different enemies helped to keep it interesting from start to finish. 

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#21 - Mario Kart: Double Dash (Gamecube)

My favourite Mario Kart game was close between this one and the original on the SNES. However, Double Dash won out because I remember playing it much more than the original. I've heard it derided as the worst in the series but for me it has the most memories attached to it.

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#20 - Medal of Honor (Playstation)

For me, the original is superior to all of it's sequels. I particularly loved the sound effects of the weapons which felt somehow satisfying. It had a good learning curve and nothing in the game felt as if it had been overdone.

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#19 - Half Life (PC)

The game that really is as good as everyone says it is. It has an interesting storyline that progresses you fluidly through the game. 

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#18 - Smackdown (Playstation)

A game that I was genuinely addicted to when I first owned it. For a kid who never had Sky television this was pretty much all I knew about wrestling (along with the magazine). The gameplay was simple but as always in wrestling, the differences between the characters made it enjoyable. 

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#17 - Hearts (PC)

The best time waster ever to be pre-installed on windows computers. I have played this far too much in the past and at one point I was better at it than I care to admit. I was particularly addicted to it at University where it became yet another distraction to writing assignments.

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#16 - Tekken 3 (Playstation)

Tekken 3 felt like a universally loved game at the time and for good reason. The gameplay was almost perfectly balanced. I wasn't actually that good at it but I had my older brother to unlock all the characters for me. 

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#15 - Streets of Rage (Megadrive)

The second game in the series is better but this was the only one I owned as a kid and therefore this is my favourite Streets of Rage game. I have many memories of playing this with friends and 'accidentally' punching their character. I always played as Blaze. 

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#14 - Wolfenstein 3D (PC)
One of the first FPS games ever made and still one of my favourites. Killing nazis is always good fun and I have lots of memories of endlessly pressing space bar against walls to try and find secret passages. 

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#13 - Killzone (PS2)

Another very underrated game in my opinion. I pretty much enjoyed playing it just as much as Halo and the levels had a real atmosphere about them. I don't remember binging on many games as much as I did when I first got this one.

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#12 - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Megadrive)

I never owned this game as a child and actually only completed it fairly recently. I would say that it is the best of the original trilogy and obviously far superior to any Sonic game that has been made in recent memory. Also, it has the best bonus levels ever. 

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#11 - Halo (PC)

The Halo series are all good quality games but I have the best memories of playing the original. The mechanics felt a little different to FPS games I had played previously but the pace of the game was a refreshing change to what I was used to. 

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#10 - Crash Team Racing (Playstation)

One of those games that never gets old. I can play this now and still enjoy it just as much as when I played it as a child. Superior to any Mario Kart game in my opinion and it is a shame that the sequel wasn't better.  

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#9 - Fifa 98: Road to the World Cup (PC)

I have loved pretty much every Fifa game ever. Lots of gamers don't appreciate it because it's always been a bit too mainstream for them but I quite like the universal appeal it has. You can go to almost anyones house and have a game of Fifa with them. 98 had indoor football!

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#8 - Ignition (PC)

The definition of a hidden gem. If it wasn't for the lack of content in this game it would be even higher in my list. The racing mechanics are perfect and don't take themselves too seriously. We got it for a fiver when I was a kid and we definitely got more than our moneys worth.

 Image result for ignition game

#7 - Unreal Tournament (PC)

Another game that seemed to be universally loved at the time and for good reason. It was a brilliant time waster and had some of my favourite weapons from any FPS.

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#6 - Half Life 2 (Xbox)

Just like the first Half Life, it really is as good as everyone says it is. Everything had been improved from the original and you can see why the number of people waiting the elusive sequel has become such a joke. Not a moment of boredom in this game.

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#5 - Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

Possibly the first game that ever got me into gaming. Everything about this game is incredibly nostalgic for me. I can remember all the different worlds and enemies even though it's been a long time since I played it. Which makes me think, I should play it again! 

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#4 - Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360)

It was a good feeling when someone finally got the atmosphere for a Batman game right. Pretty much the only reason I got a 360 in the first place and well worth it. The gameplay is deceptively simple but, despite this, fighting enemies never gets dull.

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#3 - Duke Nukem 3D (Saturn)

Probably the only game I played a lot of on my Sega Saturn. It's an FPS that doesn't take itself too seriously and is all the better for it. All the added little touches help to give it a personality such as Duke saying, 'Damn, I'm looking good," when facing a mirror.  

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#2 - Pokemon Blue (Gameboy)

Another game that evokes very strong nostalgia. One of those few times as a child when something seems just as good as you hoped when you finally get it. I don't think any subsequent sequel has ever quite matched the charm of the original.

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#1 - Civilization II (PC)

Quite simply, the best game I have ever played. We got this for our Windows 95 computer and I still play it sometimes to this very day. Also, a game that can make winning peacefully as fun as winning through warfare has to be doing something right.

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