Tragedies bring people together but they can also be divisive. While sad and absolutely a tragic waste of talent, Amy Winehouse’s untimely demise must have been one of the least unexpected young deaths. Those expressing deep shock display at best a severe lack of imagination. And for the media outlets who hounded her for years now disingenuously to oversell this loss is only as surprising as her death. However, others are more concerned, and in some cases angered, by the fact her death has garnered such a deluge of emotion on social networks when the horrific events in Oslo, the violent murder of nearly 100 people, did not. This, to me, seems entirely natural. There is no doubt that gunning down 80 youths on an island constitutes a larger and more serious event, one that has left a country in shock and mourning, but it is also largely impersonal. A sole figure, even one who has seemed broken for many years, but to whom people relate on a personal level, will always evoke greater sympathy. Perhaps Stalin’s wisest observation was, “One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic.” A hundred may not be merely a statistic, even on Stalin’s terms, but humanity will always find one death more tragic.
In less serious news, the first trailers have emerged for next year’s Batman and Spider-Man films. The Dark Knight Rises is the third and final Nolan-helmed outing and after the last I think it’s fair to say everyone is already incredibly excited. It is disappointing then, to find a trailer almost solely rehashing old footage, which serves only to dampen that excitement. All we discover is that Nolan’s fascination with architecture, immediately evident in Inception, remains alive and well. Personally I wish they’d waited until they had something to show us.
Meanwhile The Amazing Spider-Man reboot brings the wonderful Andrew Garfield to the role, while thrusting Peter back into his school days origin. Marc Webb (yes, the Spider-Man reboot was given to a director named “Webb”) takes the franchise in a direction more grounded in the real-world. With limited dialogue I think the teaser hits the right notes and ends with an unusual first-person sequence exploring the city as Spider-Man sees it; the CGI impresses though arguably it feels a little too much like videogame footage. Two ideas emerged:
Tom at Theater Hopper pointed out that a much cooler trailer might have been as the first-person sequence alone, leaving the viewer slightly confused as to what they were watching until that familiar reflection comes into view on the side of a skyscraper.
How awesome would it be if someone gave the Mirror’s Edge devs the Spider-Man licence?
I ended up miles away with no idea where I was, covered in vomit.
-Adam describing either a Boomer attack or his average Friday night
Adam has spent a while trying to convince me to pick up Left 4 Dead, Valve’s apocalyptic zombie survival shooter. It’s less that I needed cajoling about the quality of the game — it is Valve after all — but rather that with four-player co-op as its backbone, I wanted to be assured there would be people with whom to play. Once Sparkie started pestering me as well, I swiftly realised there was nothing to worry about and jumped in. The game succeeds through its tempo, a mad rush of zombies is always followed by suitably edgy respite with staccato moments as the super-infected appear. These zombie specials each have their strengths, but it was the Witch (having read many review references with scant detail leaving me irrationally terrified) that I was anxious to meet. And what an introduction I had: spotting her in the boiler room, three simultaneously launched molotov cocktails and a hurtling fiery zombie later, I was left with a huge grin on my face. Particularly knowing next time will be completely different since the zombies do not spawn in pre-set locations but are rather controlled by the game’s AI director. Survival horror games are not normally my cup of tea, but this is something else.
Continuing my plugs for DRM-free music download stores, Amazon mp3 has finally launched in the UK. Hopefully this brand, coupled with bargain £3 albums from major artists, will finally draw the masses away from iTunes. Like 7digital they offer a small, tidy application to manage downloads. Interesting to note is that although the tracks are nominally encoded at 256kbps, a cursory glance at my downloads shows this is in fact VBR. At last. For those interested in what I bought, it was a perfect chance to pick up the debut album from LA rockers The Dreaming without an inflated import price tag. I’m a big fan of front man Christopher Hall who was the vocalist for Stabbing Westward.
Now that things have settled down, in both work and life, I should be in position to resume writing here more frequently. It probably won’t be regular because I’m still never quite sure when things of note are actually going to happen, but they do seem to. Which is nice.
This post was actually written before the American elections finished so I will only touch on Obama’s victory briefly (at least until I can digest the results fully). While his platform of change became popular enough to secure the White House, actually effecting that change will still be an uphill struggle, particularly in the current economic climate where massive financial bailouts have left America’s national debt even more monstrous than previously. The rest of the world, however, is breathing a collective sigh of relief —arguably less that Obama is in and more that Bush(‘s cronies) is out and Palin wasn’t allowed anywhere near! I also particularly liked ad agency Grey NYC’s recent campaign inverting the races of the two candidates, urging voters to vote on issues rather than race. Londonders will likely have seen it on the cover of yesterday’s Metro. The posters quickly became collectors’ items.
Currently I am preparing for the glut of high quality videogame titles heading this way. Although the numbers are roughly the same it seems significantly more daunting when combined with a job. Gabe and Tycho’s Operation Myriad is not far off. Better make those holidays count, I guess. I’m currently exploring the wastelands of a post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C. in Fallout 3 and the feeling of isolation they have captured is fantastic, travelling between small communities. Rather than just being quest hubs, there is a real sense that these isolated pockets are just people trying to get by.
I am also very pleased to announce that the demo for free running game Mirror’s Edge has placed it firmly at the top of the pre-orders list. I already loved the clinical art style of the metropolis and the videos they have released, but with jump puzzles generally being the bane of any first-person game, devoting an entire experience to exactly that would require a seriously impressive control system. Fortunately, that’s exactly what they have delivered with a surprisingly intuitive system for vertical interaction with the environment. The momentum you build up as you run is also key, particularly if you want to land on something soft after ziplining between buildings, since your momentum is conserved as you drop. The bottom line is that it can make you look and feel as cool as Assassin’s Creed, but without taking all control away from the player like that game’s one-button mechanic. I’m really impressed by this new EA, turned from churning out sports games, sequels and movie tie-ins to producing some really impressive and innovative new IPs.