Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Stuff done since June 14th, 2012

Yep, one of these again.

Books read

I actually finished Middlemarch. It took me a year, not including a false start which saw me devour a mere 300 pages of it back in 2008. Completing it was a relief, I won't lie. Still, I definitely enjoyed it, or I wouldn't have finished it. Life is too short to read books you don't enjoy, whatever their merit (see: Dickens).

In the meantime I also read Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, which I enjoyed despite it being quite strange, and What I Talk about when I Talk about Running by the same author.

I also started reading Game of Thrones because I realised I haven't read any fantasy since Harry Potter. I'm usually more of a sci-fi person but I felt like reading a big yarn about swords and Game of Thrones hit the spot. Trying to read the book at the same time as the television show is being broadcast while simultaneously avoiding spoilers is quite a challenge for a person who spends as much time on the internet as I do.

Since I haven't seen the TV show and am too terrified of spoilers to look it up, I'm not entirely sure who this is meant to be (Ned maybe?), but, you know... swords, Boromir, a bunch more swords... What's not to like?

Speaking of faddy books, I have not read and will never read 50 Shades of Grey but Karl Webster listed its 15 worst sentences on his blog and it's quite funny if you find bad writing as much as I do.


Things done

I've actually been running since January but I haven't mentioned it on Well-Rendered so far because I'm not especially good at it.

I was forced to do cross country at school between the ages of 8 and 11. The school was situated at the top of a hill, and the course led down the hill, into some woods, around the woods, around the playing fields and back up the hill. I (and the second-most inept pupil at the school) would race down the hill as soon as the teacher's whistle went, allowing gravity and torrents of mud to carry me to the bottom, at which point I would double over, exhausted, and proceed to walk the rest of the way, arriving back at the showers approximately forty minutes after everyone else had gone home.

I found running deeply unpleasant, and it simply did not occur to me that a little effort each time would make each succeeding occasion slightly less unpleasant. It continued not occurring to me for the next 14 years, at which point I realised that the only way I could continue to devour steak and beer without a) spending my entire salary on a new wardrobe (FYI - video game PR: not where the money is) or b) dressing entirely in togas for the next 60 years.

Then on Christmas Eve 2011, plagued by preemptive seasonal guilt, I thought it would be a really good idea to get up at 6:30 in the morning and run along the Thames Path. I managed to keep running for about seven minutes before I collapsed in paroxysms of wheezing pain and was unable to move my legs for the next three days despite going to the effort of doing "cool-down" stretches (quote marks added because I'm not convinced they actually do anything). 

Fast forward eight months and I'm now able to run eight kilometres in forty-five minutes and now run between ten and twenty-five kilometres a week. Which isn't amazing, but it's pretty good for Dumpy McPloddalong. So if you see a bespectacled woman in a Devin Townsend T-shirt running along the Thames Path while mouthing the words to Yellow Submarine, please don't say hello, I will be embarrassed.


Gigs attended

I went to Download festival in 2009, and while it was sunny and fun and I got to see the Prodigy, it made me realise that I simply cannot be bothered with the time, faff, discomfort and expense of a music festival. Not because I'm cheap and lazy (I am, of course but never mind that), but because I want something better than bad lager, obnoxious students in designer wellies and the kind of bad acoustics that none but the most budget music venues would ever dare to charge money for in return.

Want incredible music and a communal experience? Go to a gig. Want to sacrifice personal hygiene for convenience? Go trekking somewhere rugged and spectacular. Want to spend £500 and use up 3 precious days of hard-earned holiday? Go on a European city break. Geez.

Anyway, this tide of misanthropy is the main reason I'm glad that Download 2009 wasn't a complete waste of time. I'll never go to a festival again (unless I get rich enough to afford a massive campervan and/or miraculously start liking Coldplay), so it's good luck that the one time I went, I got to see Faith No More perform almost all my favourite tracks. Here they are performing my desert island #1, "Ashes to Ashes":



In July, I went to see them again at the Hammersmth Apollo, which wasn't quite as EPIC (geddit, FNM fans?) but it was still pretty rockin' and they also covered Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up", which as every child of the internet knows, is the soundtrack to the second greatest meme of all time after goatse.

Mum, please do not google "goatse". I'm really not kidding. Seriously, don't.

Films watched

I've been watching every Bond film in order, one every Sunday. I can't remember when I started, but I'm now up to Octopussy, so it must have been about three months.

To celebrate making it half way through the Roger Moore (best. porn name. ever.) years, I went to the "Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style" exhibition at the Barbican and drank a Martini. The ambiance of glamour and sohistication that shrouded the evening was perhaps smudged a little by my insistence on ordering a bowl of stilton shortbread to acompany the aformentioned Martini (I don't think Vesper Lynd would have done that), but it was thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless.

This is a poster from Thunderball, which has a really confusing underwater sex scene where Bond and Domino are wearing snorkels.

Games playedI have currently earned 95% of the PS3 trophies on Tomb Raider: Legend and 76% of those in Tomb Raider: Anniversary. Yes, that's all secrets, hard difficulty, time trials.

The endeavour, whilst utterly pointless in the conventional sense of the word, has made me realised how very well designed and executed those games, particularly Anniversary are. It made me look forward to the upcoming Tomb Raider, which I've been feeling pretty ambivalent about of late. Let's hope the level design wizards who made the Egyptian levels in Anniversary so fiendish yet fluid are still working at Crystal.

I also just finished Batman: Arkham City. It's awesome. More on that later.

Stuff written

Yes, the point emerges!

I've just started a fortnightly column over at GodisaGeek called "Character Select", where I write about a different video game character each week. First up, Mordin Solus, the fast-talking salarian scientist from Mass Effect 2 and 3.

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