Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Caribbean Dictators in SPACE!: Reviews of some videogames.

I'm sure that most of my readers friends you guys have long since deducted that I have a mildly crippling videogame addiction, both from the subtle hints that I include in just about everything I write and the less subtle fact that I never leave the house. Your Holmes-like intuition has proved correct once again it seems as, yes, I do engage in tons of "any-goddamned-thing-BUT-real-life" simulators; and yes, it impacts on my already lazyness-marred productivity something fierce.

I've always wanted to write proper pieces about the activity that eats up the vast majority of my free time, but I've aways had the niggling sensation at the back of my mind that the infinitely cool members of my friends list just wouldn't care.
I mean, seriously now: VIDEOGAMES! Just think about the enormity of how much you don't care right now. Go on, just think about it.
Scary isn't it? You see what I'm working with here?

However, after having finally come to the inspiring conclusion that No-one cares about ramblings regardless of their subject matter, I've decided to share my thoughts on the latest four dastardly software-contributors to my eventual total emotional death anyway!

I recently bought Mass Effect and Tropico 3 for dirt cheap online, having heard good things about all of them. I'll give my thoughts on how they measured up:


"So uh, after we kill these dudes and save the galaxy from an army of robotic dreadnoughts bent on the total extermination of organic life, you wanna catch a movie or something? If we're not killed in some contrived plot twist I mean.

Mass effect is one of the newer games to be released by Bioware, the studio who developed Baldur's Gate and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Bioware are widely regarded as the kings of the Role Playing genre (i.e. games where you decide how your character develops as the game progresses, both in combat style and how he/she reacts to in game situations), but although character development, equipment arranging and conversation play a large part of Mass Effect's gameplay, the core combat revolves around cover-based shooting from a third person perspective a la Gears of War.

As in most RPG's, you choose a class for your character that caters for your preferred methods of inserting bullets into certain undesirables' faces. You have the soldier, who can use all types of weapons with which to shoot people in the face; the Biotic, who has a wonderful array of psychic ways of knocking people over so someone else can shoot them in the face, and the engineer, who throws explosive mines with a variety of effects that aid in the shooting of guys' faces by you and your somewhat useless companions. There are also hybrid classes that mix aspects of the existing base three (e.g. Soldier/Biotic or Engineer/Soldier). As you complete objectives, resolve problems and of course, engage in face-shootery, you gain "experience points" which allow you to gain combat abilities or upgrade old ones, once again, standard fare for a Bioware RPG.

The combat itself is where Mass Effect differs from the Dungeons & Dragons based battle systems that Bioware utilized in its other games (feel free to skip to the next paragraph if you're familiar with third-person cover-based shooters). When attacked by guys with faces deemed shootable by the game's moral code, you'll have to use cover to survive the deadly gunfire of your assorted opponents. taking out your weapons will make your character automatically stick to walls where, once attached, you can press the fire button to pop out quickly and shoot (before automatically ducking back into safety) or press the aim button to stay out of cover and shoot accurately using your weapon's sights for as long as you feel your face can risk it's consistency.

Fairly unique to shooter-gameplay is the ability to pause the game to issue orders to your two squadmates and queue an ability to be used accurately when you un-pause, so you can respond to threats tactically. Many missions also require exploration and combat within an armored buggy, which has some satisfyingly bouncy controls, but isn't used to do anything particularly interesting.

The combat is decent fun and keeps you on your toes both in terms of reflexes and tactical reasoning, and fighting your way through the often gorgeous setpieces is as thrilling an experience as you're likely to find without prying your gargantuanly lazy buttocks from your safe, comfy chair.

The stories of Bioware games are usually top-notch and defy the standard videogame premise of "There's aliens or terrorists or some shit and YOU (alongside your wisecracking ethnic sidekick) are the ONLY ONE who can STOP THEM!. In Mass Effect, a particularly unpleasant member of the galactic secret police has gathered a massive robotic army behind him to serve his mysterious agenda, while you (the only human member of this group) and your mostly alien squad have to...Waaaaaaiiit a minute.

Ok, so the premise isn't exactly oozing originality, but it certainly has its high points, not least of which is your cool, sinister antagonist, and a twist which brilliantly and hilariously both explains and parodies the game's own spotty sci-fi setting. More critical players may find some plot points to be a bit contrived and manipulative of one's emotions, but for the most part, it's Bioware doing what Bioware does best, making you genuinely give a shit about the lifeless polygons on your screen. Of course, the heart of every Bioware game is its characters, and fans of the studio's previous efforts will find learning about the game's universe through exploration and conversation with the game's great cast of characters to be as entertaining and fulfilling as ever, even if said characters lack the usual emotional depth seen in the studio's other efforts.

The conversation system itself, one of Bioware's signature features, which almost always appears in one form or another, is not without its flaws. Whereas other Bioware RPG's let you choose from a list of fairly complicated responses for your character that non-player characters (NPCs) will respond to (provoking your response and so on) Mass Effect provides a radial menu (seen in the following screenshot) with shorthand indications of the lines your voice acted character will say.

For example: Here's a screenshot of a conversation with the ruggedly handsome Wrex, one of your companions/squadmates/guys who hopefully die before you do. One of the ridiculously vague conversation choices for your character to say is "keep talking". Now, the dialog your character produces (and the direction of the conversation) only roughly follows the tone of the option you choose, and connotation-ambiguous stuff like "keep talking" can and WILL be interpreted in ways that you don't intend. You might choose "keep talking" thinking it means you'll say "Go on, I'm interested in your tales of reptilian badassery and want to be BFs-4-LYF" while the game might interpret it as "Tell me everything you know or I'll blow you back to the discovery channel!" or worse: "Oooh, keep talking, I like the way your sexy lizard lips move." You pretty much have to roll the dice at each turn and hope desperately that you don't get boned one way or another.

There are some other minor issues: The non-linear progression on the plot screws with the game's pacing in that you can inadvertently get too much conversation and too little action (or vice versa) in one stretch depending on order in which you do missions. The game is also a tad reliant on the lacklustre non-essential missions that have nothing to do with the main plot, since the missions on the main storyline can be very difficult if one hasn't gained the combat skills and equipment that these "side quests" offer.

Overall though, the game is great, and though it may be Bioware's worst game: calling it the worst thing to come out of the studio is hardly a major knock on its quality.
It's combat is fun and satisfying, it's world is great to fall in to, and its story, although somewhat mediocre by Bioware standards, is miles above most other studios' attempts to pull at your heart-strings.
4 pairs of space pants out of 5


I'm sure most of you have played some sort of simulator in the past, whether it be a game about the building of an expansive metropolis in "Simcity" or the micro-management of The Sims' pointless little lives. Tropico 3 takes all the best aspects from other simulation titles and combines them into a complex but relatively easy to learn sandbox of political buggery that will finally answer the age-old question of how how things would be "if only I was running things!"

You take the role of a small Caribbean island's new "El Presidente", and can subsequently either lead your small island nation to a future of prosperous democracy, embezzle your way through your own personal brand of dictatorship, or anything in-between; all within the context of the cold war-dominated mid-20th century. The game has a great sense of parody around it, and everything in the game, from the light-hearted propaganda spouted by your island's radio station to the loading-screen quotes by real-life dictators, seems to make fun of the kind of "democracy" that sprang up during the last century's dingier periods.

Where Tropico 3 really shines as a strategy/simulator is its ability to cater for any type of playstyle by offering the choice of many entertaining solutions to the many problems your island might face. For example, say it's early on in the game and the island's religious faction feels neglected because your burgeoning farming nation hasn't built a full-on cathedral yet: You can either tighten your belt and build the darn thing (after appealing for foreign aid from the USA by letting them test their nukes on your pristine tropical paradise), ignore the protestors and build up your military to fight off the inevitable rebel uprising, bribe, arrange an "accident" for the faction's leader or stage a public book burning and/or order a contraception ban to appease the rioting devout at the cost of education efficiency and a huge influx of job-requiring, food-guzzling, for-you-probably-not-voting youngsters respectively. Every choice has (highly amusing) consequences for your island, and the game has a great way of mixing in unforeseen consequences so you'll never fall into bored complacency in between show trials.

Aside from balancing approval of different factions on your island, and keeping the ever-looming forces of the USA and the Soviet Union from deciding to practice their invasion techniques on your dictatorial buttocks in the name of "democracy", Tropico 3's core gameplay revolves around construction of infrastructure and the managing of your Island's economy. Unlike most building sims, which tend to revolve around "build magic money generating structure X so you can build a few of non-profit building Y", Tropico 3 has a much more realistic system to be exploited in the interest of keeping the presidential slush fund healthy. Structures have to be built by hired construction workers, and goods produced from your farms, mines and other resource generating structures must be picked up by teamsters and shipped to your dock for export before the sweet caress of cash can fill the nation's coffers. More advanced industries (and their more advanced profit margins) require said resources to function, and must be staffed with educated employees, who must be either educated on the island or hired from abroad. Managing the different aspects of your country feels really stimulating, and as in most large-scale simulators it is immensely satisfying to build from this:

(Gotta love how every cent of the island's wealth has so far been invested solely in your presidential palace while your loyal subjects have barely a handful of shacks to their name.)

to this:

*Disclaimer: This republic was in no way contributed to by the selling, eating or concept of bananas.

You can also take direct control of your own avatar, who can boost buildings' efficiency and help out in military skirmishes with any rebels that don't buy into the idea of your presidential perfection.

The graphics are beautifully vibrant, the the engine remarkably optimised so that your island will be breathtaking at any level of zoom, while keeping the strain off of your computer's hardware. Foliage sways, buildings catch the sunlight with a realistic gleam and your citizens perform the myriad actions in their daily lives with realistic animation (even though you'l spend the majority of your precious presidential time hundreds of meters above them,where you won't see it).

The level of complexity might feel overwhelming for some, especially those not used to gaming problems that require more complex and premeditated solutions than "click on these bad guys with your death-laser equipped." Luckily the game features a tutorial and a set of campaign missions that will teach you how to deal with a variety of situations, while introducing all the wonderful ways to toy with the lives of lesser mortals. The game also features a level editor and a thriving online community with which to share custom scenarios and compare mission scores.

Overall, Tropico 3 is brilliant. It's beautiful, functional and entertaining at every turn, and the gameplay's economic and political depth will definitely satisfy the control-freak nerds among you. But that's also a problem. This is a game for nerds. Big nerds. The kind of nerds who watch Dr. Strangelove and discuss the political allegories of Watchmen in internet forums while fantasizing about revolutionary income-tax systems: My type of Nerd. Many might not derive the same level of fun from the game, but if you have the patience to discover it, the inner workings of Tropico 3 will give you everything you've ever wanted out of a management sim, while its lighthearted sense of satire will keep you chuckling throughout.
5 defrauded elections out of 5 (Though it might not be your cup of tea)

Dreadlocks, Taxis, Jacob Zuma and the Flossy Courtesan: My walk down the road.

This could be interesting. The “residence what has a right screwy name” (RWHARSN) as I have named it, as it’s titular right screwy name has made it absolutely necessary that I do so, requires that I get some photos of myself to accommodate their intricate legislation cipher. Old fashioned glossy studio photos, mind you. Not like the wonderful digitally captured and meticulously printed out set of images I handed them. Seeing as I prefer not to keep stone-age devices in my presence, on account of that thing Og D. Caveman said about my mother and the walrus that one time, I lack any kind of camera that could get the needed snaps. I therefore have to scope out the local chemists for photography booths all the while hoping they don’t share my sentiments (and only keep the damned things around with a sense of detached irony, if at all).

Since my fine self lacks any personal transportation, it seems I’ll be exploring Rondebosch’s labyrinthine roadworks on (soon to be quite sore) foot. Woo. At least I have an actual existential map this time, lacking any specific indication of chemists of course, but if I check around the area filled with the pretentiously roofed condos, I’m sure to find something vaguely pharmaceutical. Upper-middle class socialites gotta get their happy pills somewhere, right?

Judging by my ravishingly high quality and not at all needlessly overpriced digitally printed map, the condos in question seem to be lingering around the quite inspirationally named “Main Road”. Since my shrewd detective skills have suggested that this Street could possibly be quite Major, I’m guessing that there’ll be at least one chemist in which I may obtain my gorily glossy goals. The road even shares a border with my Residence. This should be easy too.

*One fairly uninteresting yet long and pointless walk later*

Okay, how in the Sam Hill did I manage to walk in the exact opposite direction to the one I read off the map? There I was: Standing at a T-junction, looking at my map and thinking, “Alright, I have to turn left here”, and then I go right for some reason. Gah! Sometimes I think there’s a neuron stuck between my sense-of- my direction head meats and my doing-shit head meats that’s gone completely off its tits. Anyway, I’m back to my beginning with lead legs to bear me forward and a crystal sigh to bear the failures left behind. Or something. Damned if I get it wrong this time.

The road isn’t quite as bustling as it seems when you’re speeding down it and fifty kilometres per hour. I’d put it down to the early time of day but somehow I get the impression that this city isn’t as vibrant as the 2010 organisers would have you believe. The air shifts between various chemical flavours, from choking to sickly sweet to metallic. The people, the walkers anyway, seem to slouch onwards into the smoky beyond, shielding their eyes from a world in which they’ve seen it all before, and it had betrayed their expectations.
Upper-middle class socialites I tells ya. No sense of perspective.

Hey! Street-lamp billboards. I’m not quite as clued up on current events as I’d like to be, and we all know how reliable the abstract headlines on these cardboard curtailers of wisdom are!
“ANC big-shot behind killing.”
Whoa, that’s news. On the one hand I wouldn’t put it past some of our illustrious politicians to bestow a nasty case of death on election opponents or puppies, but since ANC-needling seems to have become a national sport popular among the media and disgruntled whities, I’m a bit sceptical on whether to believe this little factoid. I’m guessing some ANC bloke’s secretary ordered a hit on her ex-boyfriend or something and he’s getting the blame; as people whose public humiliation and suicide would cause a strong sense of arousal in Helen Zille (and her horde of flying monkeys) tend to do.

There seem to be an impossible amount of hair and beauty salons along the street. God knows how they all stay in business, though my guess is that they won’t for long. I’m getting the image of regular battle-royales between the various owners for the rights to an indecisive customer. “Five Stylists Enter the Thunder Dome; ONE Stylist Leaves!” The funny thing is, most of the salons seem to specialise only in braiding and dreadlocks (apparently, dreadlocks require something other than just dipping your locks in mud and waving ‘em around as Tarzan had me believing up till now). I guess you should work with what you know, but seeing as I’ve seen less than five people on this whole (Main) road with braids or dreads, and I doubt there’s much future in reggae stylings amongst the Upper-middle class socialite market, the continued existence of these glorified groomers seems even more unlikely.

“Zuma says sorry (again)” blurbs the next lamp-post poster. Gosh, I wonder what our glorious leader has stepped in this time, or at least gotten caught fo-WAIIIIT a minute! I wonder if this has anything to do with that other poster. “ANC big-shot behind killing”, well there aren’t any bigger shots than Big Jake up in the impenetrable sky-fortress from which the ANC rains down commands and defamed ex-members down upon our tiny heads. My aforementioned shrewd detective skills (and sense of humour) have me utterly convinced of these stories’ connection! We shall have to gather some more info! (Unofficially from these billboard headlines of course, I wouldn’t want to get the wrong idea.)

*Beeep Bip Beebib* *Phweeeeeee*
Kerrr-ist! That taxi-driver isn’t half obnoxious. Beeping and whistling and whatnot and with no potential passengers in sight. There’s gotta be a reason behind it. I guess it’s about attention more’n anything else. This guy’s a taxi driver; he soars the highways making precious little and not making any meaningful contribution to anyone, save for their convenience of getting in his taxi rather than the one further along. He probably knows he hasn’t got much time left, soon to end in a mangled heap of metal and flesh after one risky hard turn too many, or shot to pieces by another minibus jockey pushed too far into poverty to afford competition. He knows he has no future, he knows he’s insignificant, and he’s hooting his horn as if to say “I’m here now. Take a look”. He wants to get his whistle: his unique exhalation of pure sound, into as many heads as possible and as hard as possible, if only to have left something behind.
He still annoys the hell outta me though.

‘Allo: “Travoka defends Zuma”. Well he’d have to; murder is for serious and you need an alibi up ins when you’re accused of it. Unless we’re talking a more practical and involved kind of defense here. No one said this Tavorka, or Tagover, or Titpoker (I forget) was a politician! I’ll bet he’s a famed mercenary that Zuma has stationed outside the impenetrable sky-fortress (Though I wonder why he’d bother, it being impenetrable and all) and equipped with a spear tipped with a replica of J.Z’s remarkable skull (A viciously pointy weapon that my diseased brain tells me is standard issue in the secret “Zumarmy”)

I seem to be wandering dangerously close to the boundaries of my map. One turn-off outside the shown area’s comforting embrace and my well documented directional quirks will probably get me lost for eternity. No chemists so far either. I’d better head in the other direction…Hold on.
“Church of Latter Day Saints”, eh? Seems quiet now but I bet if I were to wait around I’d soon see an immeasurable wave of pamphlet chucking, doorbell ringing, me annoying Mormons emerge from the building’s black heart. I’m totally okay with you, your beliefs and your five wives, guys. Just keep the hell off my porch.

Another headline! “Pastor’s wife stabbed to death”. Yowie, that’s not a great way to go. Though it kind of annoys me that if this chick wasn’t a pastor’s wife (the epitome of socially perceived purity) and got brutally stabbed, no-one would lift an eyelash. Anyway, since the fact that this particular tidbit showed up right after the ones ousting Jacob Zuma as a cold-blooded killer CAN BE NO COINCIDENCE, it looks like we have a victim and a murder weapon. If this had all gone down in a spooky mansion and had Zuma been a military Colonel, I might almost have a joke there.

Finally! A pharmacy! Now to get immortalised on crappy wax paper that will inevitably fade and crumble in a thoroughly un-digital way (NOT THAT I’M BITTER OR ANYTHING!).
“Excuse me, miss? Do you guys do photographs?”
“No, photographs. Pictures. Like pictures of me.”
“No, sorry.”
“*sigh* Alright. Thanks anyway.”

Coises! Foiled again! Well there’s always the bit of Main Road on the other side of RWHARSN (pronounced “Rawr-son”). I foresee another long and pointless walk ahead of my tired but still unmistakeably fine self.

*Another long and pointless walk later*

Whew. I should really organise a petition to have some benches set up along here; my dawgs are killin’ me!* At least there’s another chemist over there.

*Disclaimer: Dawgs here being the old western term for feet, not hip-hop enthusiasts of my acquaintance. Those guys would totally let me off with a light beating.

“Yo. You wouldn’t be in the photos of ruggedly handsome wanderers of the roads business wouldja?”
“Of me. Can. Photos. You take?
“That service isn’t available on Sundays, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, don’t worry yourself, miss. You get used the regular minor heart-attack when you’re in my line of cruel existence. I guess I’ll be seeing you tomorrow.”
“Very good sir.”

I’m definitely noticing a recurring theme in my adventures. Were this fiction, I’d guess my adoring multitudes would be chanting “HACK!” in a glorious chorus. But hark: a final headline! Perhaps this one shall shed light on our little political murder mystery. “Ellie’s love for a sheep”.

Yes! It’s all clear to me now! J.Z, in all his lecherous splendour, was involved in the sordid business of Ellie, the publicly loved wife of the local pastor. A business, peddling SHEEP WHORES no less! Yes, for all the charms of his 15 wives and their possibly even more numerous genitalia, the ol’ king of the sky fortress just couldn’t resist the occasional woolly embrace of his sheepish mistresses. Once Ellie threatened to come clean to the authorities (apparently because God isn’t that warm to the idea of flossy concubines after all, as one mistranslation in the holy bible led her to believe) Jacob unsheathed his presidential kukri and added a few less desirable orifices to the Molly merchandising madame. Our fearless leader then made a run for the sky fortress, leaving the infamous Titpoker McGee to hold off the authorities while the presidential death ray warmed up.

I should really get more involved in politics. It could be interesting.

UCT: Day 1

*The following is a first-person perspective description of my first day at UCT, for those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a first person perspective, just imagine having your consciousness jammed into my quivering head-meats and experiencing the world as I do. Resist the throes of madness that may claw at your soul as a result, and read on.*

Alright, I'm up. Barely. Only three hours of sleep accounted for but I think I can avoid sinking into a coma by rolling out of bed. Drastic, sure, fatal maybe, but if I don't shock my way into sprightlyness, there's no conceivable way today or any point up to next month is happening with me. Okay, count down from ten. 5; 4; ... ; 2... Alright, the next ten: 7; ...; 4; ...; 1. OVER I GO!...*WHUMP*

Ahh, Christ on a bike! Moses in a flaming hemp handbag! That was a bad idea. The hell'd I leave a God-damned game controller next to my bed for? And in line with my uncannily fragile falling face-bits? Urgh.
Nose? Yup, barely. Eye? 'S been through worse I guess, if you take into account alternate dimensions in which UNHOLY, UNSPEAKABLE FLYING EYE-SKEWERING SKY TERRORS are kind of an every-day thing. Never liked that pancreas anyways. Up I go.

*Soon afterwards*

Teeth? Sanitised to all possible yet minor extents.
Hair? Eh, I'll call it a new style on account of hedgehogs being so IN right now, probably.
Face? Lost cause.
Clothes and sundry? Pants are overrated. Got my bag.
Willingness to step out into the wide world of terrible responsibility and vicious reality? I'll get back to me on that one.

That'll be the doorbell and...Here we go...
I am so screwed, you don't even KNOW.

*One coma-enriched drive through the mindless metal hordes of Cape Town rush hour later.*

Nice, we're here and I'm only an hour late for the welcome ceremony. Who needs inspiring acceptance and initial guidance into the adult world anyway? I've been in it for like 5 seconds and less than 10 arguably-essential emotions have short-circuited under the pressure. My mainstays: Irritation and regret seem to have buzzed out. I'm all good for another 5 ticks if I try not to think about kittens. Crap, I just thought about kittens, and how fluffy and adorable they a-OH GOD I'M DEAD INSIDE!

Kittens, meh. Lets just find some warm welcomage before the senses fuse out too.

Say goodbye to Justin, lucky bastard's just in time for his welcome and he knows just where to go. Try not to look envious of this fact or the fact that he has his own car and drum-set and state-of-the-art computer and social life and the way the girls' eyes are naturally drawn to him as he walks away. Nope. Not envious at-goddamned-all. I'll just get out my trusty map with these hands that seem to be trembling with unbridled rage for reasons my totally non-envious mind can't even IMAGINE, dammit!

Let's just check where this welcome dealie is then. On the map. Which I don't have and vaguely doubt I ever had. Shit. No problem, there should be signs pointing to the orientation since it's kind of a big deal up ins.

Signs, signs, signs...Aha! There's one for commerce orientatees (Orientatites? Orientatots? Blood sacrifice to the ATM god?). Too bad I'm a wishy-washy hippie humanities student with no sense of calculation or direction. I'll just keep walking till I see a humanities version. Doo-doodly-bing-bang-skidoo, commerce, commerce, commerce, sciences (Variety isn't dead it seems.), commerce, commerce, com-fucking-merce, Humanities! Sweet, now we're cooking with the hot stuff!

Hrmm, "Humanities Orientation |^| " One arrow, brilliant, I now know that the orientation is going down somewhere to the right of a point ten steps from the left-most parking lot. Thanks Douche McDirection pasterson! Never mind, there's gotta be more at least five steps, no, twenty steps, no, OH GOD MY FEET HURT AND NOT A SIGN TA BE SEE(G)N! Still a five parts commerce direction poster to one part dust particle ratio gong down. They must have a great sense of confidence in Humanities Students' impeccable sense of calculation and direction.
OH. WAIT. *grumble* *grumble*

Right, I'm just going to have to abandon every masculine instinct in my body and ask someone for directions. I'm going to have to stop secreting testosterone for a moment if I'm to pull this off. Now let's see...Hrrrrrrgggg *Ding!*. Phew! Now that I'm free of all that absolutely beastlyman-junk, I just have to find a little guidance. Aha! There's someone, now I hope he'll be a dear and...GAH! Oh crap, I'd better get some of that advice and butch up again before I break into a song and dance routine! That bloke seems a bit paint-splattered and grungy for a distributor of sagely advice, but he IS and adult, and if Barney is to be believed, he must therefore be a living pool of vast amounts of wisdom up to and including the non-suicidal use of safety scissors, and I certainly know better than to question Barney's wisdom a second time. I like my remaining toes.

"Uh, excuse me sir? Could you tell me where the Humanities Orientation is happening uh, sir?

"Whussat? 'Ewman'ties? Thessa ewman'ties building a little way back theh."

"Sweet, thanks!"

A linguistically challenged reservoir of infinite wisdom, it seems, and his directions do seem to contradict what the immensely solitary poster told me, but I'll take what I can get. For all his colourfull perspective on the English language, he has at least a million brain cell on that hopelessly vague son-of-a-pink-slip, so I'll be sticking with team human on this one. The humanities building it is!

*A quick walk later*

Can't believe I missed the "Humanities Graduate School" sign earlier. I'm tempted to accuse that dubiously placed shrub of machinations against my line of sight, but I'm a friggin' adult now! I'm gonna take responsibility for somehow missing the gigantic notice-board with "Humanities" plastered across it in large friendly letters, dammit!
I'm totally ratting out that bush if I'm pressed though.

Let's just take a look around then, surely they wouldn't skimp on humanities orientation directions in the thrice-damned humanities building?
Hmm, lots of notices about exam results and info on how awesome the bloke/blokette that this dump got its name from was, but nothing big and colourful to calm and guide the wild and tortured psyche of your average undergrad. I might be really late to the party but I highly doubt that the cleaning staff are the type to be taking down helpful notices an hour after the start of the event, whether out of and inflated sense of duty or spite or otherwise. This whole deal is really starting to piss me off and I'm feeling DANGEROUS. I guess I'd better look for another reservoir of infinite wisdom to harass for information. I might not even remember to say please this time because that's just how DANGEROUS I'm feeling baby!

*One frantic search around the whole damned building later.*

By the many wondrous orifices of Venus! That tired me out! How the hell does a major university manage to keep a whole damned building abandoned? The building that would under normal circumstances undoubtedly have someone who could help me, no less!
I'm guessing that someone up there hates me, probably because of my habit of declaring that certain someone's position relative to various house-hold items and Richard Simmons whenever I'm surprised or pissed off (which is pretty damn often considering my love for video games in which players constantly sneak around and blow eachother into soup). Divine interference be damned though. I shall overcome!...

Okay, new plan: I head to some sort of secretary's office and get some directions from there. The issue of directions to the office itself immediately arises, but if I check out the area around the important looking pseudo-classical age buildings atop the right-large stairs, I should run into a teacher or politician or foreign dignitary or something. This is a major university after all.

Damn it's hot today, and all this walking around isn't helping matters. I'm sweating like a polar bear at an Al Gore global warming seminar. I bet I stink too. This might be par for the course for some politicians and foreign dignitaries I could mention, but if I have to deal with an actual human being things could get sticky in less literal ways.

Ah screw it! Cleanliness may be close to godliness but godliness on a certain someone's part clearly isn't doing me any favours, so I'll just have to try not to linger near anyone and do my best to seem French when I do. I'd bet the Frogs have some kind of cultural pardon going on for this problem by now.

Now if memory serves, the fancy steps are somewhere uphill from here so I'd best head in whatever direction hurts my calves the most. Seems to be the right-hand side road. That way then...
Hold on, there's a specimen of the local breed of studentia and he seems in a hurry. He looks fairly sure of himself, or at least as sure of himself as someone with more hair covering his face than I have on my entire body can look (for those of you fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with my entire body, this is quite a lot). I'll just be following him straight to the welcome then. no need for any more being run around by the aging multitudes.

He's going into what yet another deviously concealed sign tells me is the Leslie Social Sciences building. That was totally my second choice of random wandering destination so it's still a personal victory.
Yes! He's heading for the lecture theatres (which seem oddly quiet, but this can be put down to sound-proofing I guess). Strange...He's passed the main theatres and headed down a passage way. Perhaps the welcome is meant to be completely hidden from the godless commerce students' prying ears. There's a door straight ahead and "Chewbacca Lite" over there just went in! Finally my triumph (or lack of complete and utter failure anyway) is at hand! I'm at the door, my hand's on the doorknob. I can't begin to describe how relieved I am to have finally reached...

The bathroom. Lovely.

Well I'd better play it as if it was always my intention drop a number in the wonderful white waste wagerer. I wouldn't want to seem like a creepy guy-follower or worse yet, an honest to penis dude who actually DOESN'T know EXACTLY where he's going! Since I'd rather not swap measurements with strange university guys, I think I'll opt for the private stall as opposed to the urinal.
Unzip; Unpack; Unload....Dude, I said unload!
Alright, listen Dick Willington or whatever I may decide to call you if my ego ever reaches critical mass, my masculine pride's on the line here so are you going to make with the waterworks or am I gonna have to slap a bitch?
*tinkle* *tinkle*
Better, now back to plan: Secretary's office.

*In light of the previous exchange, the idea that Grant has been engaged in a one way dialogue with his penis this whole time, rather than talking to himself like a SAFE kind of lunatic, may have arisen in the mind of the less civilised among you. We at the Organisation for Suitable and Nurturing Article Pieces (O.SNAP) would like to assure you that such a thing would be unacceptable to our high moral standards and as such is mostly not the case.*

Alright. No more distractions or detours or directions from suspected hobos. I'm heading straight to the source.

"Sup, Grant?"
Hey! It's someone from my high school! A dick by any other description but with all that's been happening, it's nice to see a familiar face, even if it is one I'd like dearly to rearrange.
"Sup, (name of jerk)"?, I say as coldly as it is possible to say "Sup".

*A painful uphill hike later*

Finally, the right-massive stairs. All I have to do is haul my pathetic carcass up these and find an office.

*An extremely painful dragging of my pathetic carcass (and my body too) later*

I'm really going to have to talk to mom about her ideas for an appropriate packed lunch some time. As much as I'm loathe to look a gift carcass in the mouth, I'm going to have to dump this thing. Come on, birdies! Lunch!

Eh? Thought I heard something coming from that main hall with photographers standing at the entrance. Probably something vastly important and newsworthy that I shouldn't interrupt, now where's that office?
There's one! "Student Orientation and Advocacy Centre". Well if that can't help me get to Orientation, I'll eat the rest of my packed lunch, and no-one wants that, believe me.
I'll just peak inside and...OH COME ON!
Another abandoned settlement, there is something DEEPLY wrong with the karma system and I'm getting slapped with the pointy end of it. All plans have failed. Pretty much all hope too. The only thing for it is to run around the whole damned campus until I find hints of a large and important gathering.

*MULTIPLE runs around the kilometres of upper campus ensue*

Hgggh, hehggggh *wheeze* Nothing for miles around and I'm back at the stairs without a prayer. There's that sound coming from the main hall again. How am I supposed to hear for any major gatherings if...


"Uh, *wheeze* is this the humanities orientation, miss photographer lady."

"Why yes, just find a seat, you're very late aren't you?"

Fai-nah-lee! It took more impossible difficulties than I've ever experienced up till now, but I'm here now. Frankly I can't be bothered to listen to what the stage-jockey up there is on about, and seeing as my timetable foretells nothing but lectures for the rest of the day, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be conscious enough to have any more wild misadventures, thank goodness.

Ah, they're bringing in the student adviser/orientation leader guys. They seem nice. Wait, what the hell is that guy calling himself? J-Money? Urgh, I hate all that pseudo hip-hop persona bullshit. If I ever have to talk or deal with that guy I may have to kill myself with a spork.

"Alright students, It's time to split you up into groups and assign you to your orientation leaders who will accompany you and spend a great deal of time helping you adjust to UCT life. That row, go with Pumi. That one, with Kyle. And that one, including that disheveled looking gentleman with the somehow visible body odour, yes you, you lot are with J-Money."

You know, if I could stop weeping for just a second, I may actually chuckle at the entire universe's incredible dedication to screwing me over.

*All events described here, with the possible exception of a certain pathetic carcass, are unfortunately completely true. I was certainly not shitting you when I said my life had gotten interesting.*

UCT: Day Zero.

So Wednesday was a pretty big day for me.

After an impossible length of time goofing off and devoting the entirety of my energy to transforming virtual Zombies and Dragons into a thick paste upon my trusty Devourer of Social Skills and destroyer of my already meagre chances at getting a date, the very machine that I extend my slothful existence by typing on right now, it seems reality has arrived on its gigantic meat-wagon of responsibility to cart me off to the slaughter-house of NOT sitting on my ass and clicking on dudes before they click on me.
Oh the horror, amirite?

From the moment I gained the ability to perceive the world as more than a cramped wet room with magical automatic meal delivery and waste removal built into the contract, life has, if not handed everything to me, at least presented it in a completely idiot proof and user friendly way to prevent my delicate mind from experiencing the ravages of the badlands of tax returns, application forms and generally not getting shit for free (mostly, as I'll explain later).
Gotta sort out school lunches? "Let mommy write you this note and draw you a map."
Need to go to a birthday party? "Ag, it's too far to walk, let me drive you, darling."
Got a school project? "Here's an in depth rubric telling us EXACTLY what we want from you, and take your time dearie"
As of two days ago, my entrance into "big big BIG school", I've been thrown into the adult world with all the force, abruptness and surprise of a lightning bolt somehow made of fat guys smacking me in the temple on a sunny day.

Suddenly I'm organising my own transport half way across the world (as I know it) every day; I'm having it drilled into me by my own common sense and the entirely more abundant common sense of others that the whole (9 : 0.3) ratio between vidjeo games and every-goddamned-thing else isn't going to be working out quite as sweetly as it has been for the last 14 zombie apocalypses (or however you socially adjusted people calculate time these days).

Up untill now my life hasn't really been interesting enough to warrant any bloggy behavior on my part, seeing as how it's revolved around nothing more than the aforesaid vidjeo games and what schoolwork I got done in between new Super Mario titles.
Before, I could only really make up fictional parodies about what I could glean of the world at large with my jaded and badly degraded Nerdeyes(tm). Now that I'm out there, having real life experiences as the adult I swore blind never to become (and yet somehow get rich and famous while doing fuck-all), I think I've got some interesting stuff to say about reality; stuff that might cause reality to become a little red-faced were it to get out.

Suck it, Reality. I'm here now and you're quite hilarious, looking forward to messing witcha.

Crap, I haven't even gotten to the anecdotes about mah first University day yet. Tell ya what, I'll have those on your desk(top) by tomorrow, but right now: Reality has gifted me with a peace offering of the first full night's sleep in days, and though I'm naturally cautious of this possible Trojan Horse, I'm also too damned bushed to do much mocking today one way or another...

... but don't think you're getting it any easier now, Reality Old Chum, I haven't even gotten started.

Grant out.

Couch Picasso - A study of television and its impact on human creativity.

Television: both the babysitter-of-convenience for modern parents and the drug of choice for our time's kids (or at least the ones with meagre allowances and less meagre morals) and a good number of the rest of us too, has never been bigger. Countless different shows (of equally countless degrees of quality) have the potential to bounce in and out of our magic picture boxes every day. The ol' teevee is one of the most exciting (to the average Joe) and certainly the most convenient source of entertainment to society at large, but does so easily being able to watch the fruits of others' creativity discourage the viewer to create something worthwhile themselves? Wouldn't the creative juices poured into our better spent as oils for the creation of (what is commonly considered to be) fine art?

"But is it art?", is a question that the world's elitists constantly stamp on all forms of modern entertainment, and television is no different. It's certainly true that the vast majority of "The Box's" programming is uninspired rubbish (the words "Reality Shows" spring instantly to mind), and I have no doubt that the human race would be a fat lot more cultured if the time spent watching a group of sweaty and grimy Americans scheming against each other on an island were spent on reading (or better, writing) a fine work of fiction.

On the other hand, high budget affairs such as "Lost", "Heroes", "House" and (I reluctantly admit) "Desperate Housewives", although doomed to sink into mediocrity due to the thoroughly un-bottomless well of human creativity, are shining examples of storytelling and cinematography in their early seasons. The really good episodes can leave the reader asking themselves deep moral questions, and the soul searching from these art-induced (and yes, I said ART) dilemma can be more enriching than a lifetime of staring at the Mona Lisa and trying to decide what the frigid bitch is smiling about. Of course, one can vegetate mindlessly in from of these shows (as many pretentious gits would do in art galleries and claim to be "cultured"), but ultimately it is up to the calibre of the viewer to determine whether any deeper message is gleaned from the dancing screen. In that sense, good television is just like any other art form, and is just as worthwhile to create.

Of course, even with the wealth of quality entertainment that television provides to the enlightened few, if those with the potential to make a valid contribution to the global culture pool needs only to press a button for his or her daily culture fix, how can they have any incentive to create art of their own? In my opinion, artists do what they do for two reasons: Firstly, to express their own emotions and opinions on life, and secondly to fill a percieved gap in society's consciousness. I'm betting that one of the top reasons that Shakespeare pulled on his writing pantaloons and scribbled down his plays was that he wanted to make the usual incomprehensible grunts of the filthy archaic proleteriate and in-bred nobilty a tad more high brow. What with television, internet blogging, telecommunication and other such modern ways of forcing your creativity (or lack thereof) into the world's collective noggin, these days expressing oneself is just a click away, and with enough "culture" to fill ten civilisations similarly accessible through a simple grabbing of the remote control, the average Joe will be unlikely to be compelled to dig his pen out from the depths of his couch and write a sonnet.

Once again though, the choice to put in some effort and make something amazing is entirely up to "the Box's" eagerly watching (and sometimes drooling) public. Despite modern society's subtle pressure on its populace to become mindless drones chasing after the almighty dollar and eagerly following the "career" of Paris Hilton, and the apparent lack of a need for new art, the fact remains: new paintings still appear in art galleries, the occasional new symphony (classical or techno), and despite all apparent odds, yet another new quality show often makes its rounds in the T.V. guides. Visionaries still roam the Earth, gentle reader, and there's no getting rid of them. The times, bad luck and the omnipresence of cretins have always opposed the creation of art. Whether it be how Beethoven had to compose despite is nasty case of deafness or how Homer had had to write the Illiad while having to flee from the occasional barbarian horde. Art has prevailed, in all possible forms, throughout history and we should stop fussing over it so much. It's old enough to take care of itself by now, after all.

Television's impact on the modern world's culture and our minds is impossible to ignore, and I suggest we accept the intrusion with open sensory organs. Some television good, some television is bad, and some television is "The Bachelor" (*shudder*), as is the case for all of mankind's attempts at art, but it's in the eye of the beholder whether to take something meaningful from it. Television may rot the brains of the modern neanderthal and the lazy artist (it's not like we were seeing anything out of them anyway) and it might oppose the emergence of the next "Great Bard", but ultimately, it simply creates a new platform for art and abundant potential for the emergence of something new and beautiful.

It's a fair trade, I'd say.

The Cod Delusion: A brief but stirring tale of Life, Loss, False Hopes and a whole mess of terrible fish jokes.

"So I says to Freddie," ranted Salmonella McScales in his excruciating wetlandish drawl, "I says: Ya gots fashion and ya gots batshitzania, and by my reckonin', keeping that hook stickin' out've yer head with yer goddamn brain matter danglin' off of it and all, just because Shellvin Brine says it's some kinda new-tide fashion statement steers pretty far to the latter."

Calfin Cuttle floated idly, trying to seem empathetic to Salmonella while desperately scanning the riverbed for lifelike objects and/or actual aquatic life whom he could convince Sally to share his opinion on sea ranching with, giving Calfin the chance to make a swift retreat.

Salmonella was known as Sally to his friends, or at least any marine life that were subjected to his personal brand of psychological torture (that rivaled Ricki Lake in its IQ decimating capabilities) on a regular basis. Said "friends" generally complied unquestioningly to his demands that he be addressed by this girly moniker, mostly out of fear of hearing the five-hour epic on why "Sally's a right respectable name for a feller cos what with gender equality, I kin' have an equal name to a girl and not get shot when I enter a sports bar, see?". Sally's stories were so legendarily boring that were Gordan Brown to die and be reincarnated as a sea cucumber, any observed activity on his part would be to Sally's anecdotes what a good sized nuclear explosion would be to that "Make your own volcano" experiment your parents got you when you were nine, and which did little more than gurgle menacingly at you and subsequently fill you with the horrifying knowledge that this would be the ultimate height of your scientific achievements.

"Listen, Sally," cut in Calfin as Salmonella was spreading his fins to their limit so as to describe a human he claimed to have caught once, "You know that our incredibly regular talks bring meaning to my otherwise pointless fishy existence and all, but I've got a plankton parmesan sam'mich in the oven and..."

"GRRRREETINGS, my fishy followers, my submarine subordinates and my liquid lackeys! I come bearing news of my latest and once again (what are the odds) GRRRREATEST discovery!"
Freddie Freshwatersworth drifted pompously into sight with all the pseudo-grandeur of a hobo who had just been told by a slightly less well mentally adjusted hobo that he was the second coming of Jesus Christ. Freddie, upon arrival in the pond through the W.P.P.D wetness protection program, had taken to his new identity very quickly, though not quite as quickly as he had begun with the same batshit insane shenanigens that got him transferred in the first place.

"Urgh, hi Freddie," groaned Calfin upon seeing his second least favorite friend. Even Sally looked a bit exasperated through his regular mindless staring visage, if only because he subconsciously knew that he would no longer be the least enjoyable company around, and he resented this for inadequately explored reasons.

"Freddie ? I know not of this Freddie of whom you speak, mayhaps (Freddie loved inventing pseudo-thespian words to sound cultured rather than dangerously mentally retarded) this identity was once associated with the sad lump of flesh that was this body before my divine enlightenment, but this vessel is most certainly a Freddie no longer! Nautical nether-fishies such as yourselves may address me as The Great Sashimi! Gaze upon my uncanny ability to swim upside-down, ye scaly, and despair!
With this, Freddie indeed exhibited his admittedly-uncanny ability to swim upside-down for a few seconds, giving himself a small heart attack in the process, but when displaying his believed superiority over lesser littoral life-forms, no price was too high as long as no actual cash was involved.

Sally watched this spectacle with dumbstruck admiration, as suicidal feats of daring-do appealed to his Highly cultured sensibilities. Calfin simply rolled his eyes and groaned at the supreme stupidity of the world and peers around him (He'd have made a believable female). He had just remembered that Freddie had recently adopted this latest personality a few days prior and had pioneered no less than five revolutionary programs to "improve" the lives of the pond's inhabitants in new (read: stupid) ways.

"I have come to this humble corner of the halogen-light district to tell you, my chosen disciples, of the plan to rid ourselves of the metaphorical shackles that this cruel concoction of crap that would call itself water has placed upon us!"

"Gleh?" inquired the two-fish audience.

"You see, toadies, all our lives we have been imprisoned in these liquid walls, forced to desperately and endlessly squirm through its thick, restricting density with every movement! I bring news of a world above: Infinitely larger and with no surface tension to restrict how high we can climb! In this world above that our oppressor, the very water around us, has kept us from, we need never swim just to keep water flowing over our gills. we need never want for kelp, for endless fields of shorter, altogether more manageable kelp shall stretch endlessly around us upon our liberation. This liberation is within reach, flunkeys, thanks entirely to my brilliance and generosity in sharing it! I have, through the wonders of modern holistic science, constructed a device that shall send us forth into the great unknown and the liberty it brings us! Now, minions, shall you aid me, your savior, in my holy exodus, or shall I have to beam you a hypnotically hurt expression and guilt you into it?"

"Gleh?" Sally reiterated, though Calfin's having a relatively infinitely more complex mind than the wetlandish wonder (an achievement he shared with several mineral groups) allowed some semblance of understanding of Freddie's speech, resulting in a response more akin to "Huh?"

"Ah, I see you are confused and dazzled by my brilliance, guppies. Swim in my majestic wake for a while and maychance shalt your ignorance be purged!"


"FOLLOW ME YOU DUMB SHITS! er, I mean, blessed are the me, and the meek too, maybe, and stuff...FOLLOW!"

With this, Freddie did a U-turn about as pretentiously as it is fishily possible to do and swum off, put slightly off balance by his recurring heart attack, but in a way one might describe as elegant if one's perception of elegance was built around secret Queen Mother shower-cam videos.

"He said sumthin' 'bout dumb shits, think he's a talkin' ta you," whispered Sally to the slight water disturbance where Calfin had previously floated.

Upon realizing that the condensed insanity that Freddie was spouting was a vastly superior spectator sport to Sally's drivel, Calfin had followed post-haste, knowing that when things got unbearable as they usually did, Freddie's spastic emotional state left lots of windows for slipping away unnoticed. Besides, Freddie was carrying no deadly weapons to speak of this time, so the window into Batshitzania that now called himself The Great Sashimi wouldn't be able to cause any lasting harm to anyone but himself with this latest endeavor, so it might be entertaining in a train-having-a-head-butting-contest-with-a-puppy sort of way.

Somewhat disheartened by the disappearance of his favorite bullshit receptacle, Sally decided to head home and engage in his second favorite hobby, filling out internet surveys. This, he felt, was the best way to share his brilliant opinions on a large variety of subjects and have a significant and positive impact on society. It is rumored that the "Idols" series of television shows have survived based solely on his repeatedly submitted opinions on good entertainment. It is also rumored that as a result of this, the massive arms build-up in the Middle-East exists due to anticipation of finding Sally's home address and that all the hoo-hah over the Gaza strip is just target practice.


The swim to what Freddie called the "Exodus-O-Matic" was, as Calfin saw it, unnecessarily tedious. This was mostly because said device was on the far side of the pond. Since the pond's size and volume had nearly doubled in the weeks since the pond-side outhouse broke down (which did not do the local aquatic real estate market any favors, let me tell you), the swim from one end to another was both long and about as pleasant as having four good-sized platypuses infected with rabies and left to roam free in your pants. Twice.

The device itself somewhat resembled an archaic catapault or trebuchet, but made mostly out of rocks, seaweed and the remains of an unfortunate human hobo that had dropped in for a paddle three weeks prior and had, through the wonders of modern alcoholic beverages, clean forgot how to float.
Picture this, then remove any semblance of intelligent design, add three parts decomposing hobo-bits and you've got the Exodus-O-Matic in a nutshell.

"I lack the higher brain functions required to process smell, but I still somehow know that this...thing , and to a larger extent, whatever your plan that involves it is, stinks," said Calfin upon witnessing the device that Freddie was now proudly gesturing towards similarly to the way a parent would gesture towards a child that has used its alphabet soup to formulate a comprehensive plan to end world hunger and eliminate the French in one fell swoop.

"You wound me, my dear inferior," whined Freddie, a single tear glistening in his eye before collapsing and evaporating under the pressure of its own insincerity, "can you not see the brilliance of this device? Using the wonders of Freddionics(TM), I have converted the brilliance swirling around my divine noggin into physical form! This device shall be Fish-Kind's chariot to the heavens above! I just need a little help in its operation on account of my heroic injuries is all."

Calfin could argue many points of that statement, but the bit about Freddie's injury was somewhat sincere. In his last revolutionary scheme, Freddie had put forth a program to end human persecution of the pond's inhabitants through dolphin impersonation ("If they are to love us as they do porpoises, then we must BE porpoises, toadies!"), and had subsequently badly sprained his fins in an effort to clap them together while simultaneously whistling the national anthem and doing a double back-flip. Clearly actions do not speak loader than brain-cell count.

"you see, my bottom-crawling compatriot, sources from the great above have informed me that once we escape the unholy pull of our oppressive watery surroundings, we shall be freely relocated to a terrestrial integration center, where we'll be given our start in our new land-living lives. Said sources would offer the service to us right now, but what with all of this oppressor around and all, it's a bit difficult for them to effectively make contact. My device will brilliantly launch us out of our aquatic confines so that we can be easily airlifted (the most luxurious way to travel, trust me) to the centers by our avian brethren."

"Avian, you said? As in Birds? As in storks and fish eagles and shit?"

"Ah, I see your vocabulary is relatively impressive, lackey, my influence must be rubbing off as planned! Yes I do mean birds, glorious isn't it?"

"Depends. Are you the first one to be, err, liberated?" asked Calfin, the wonderful truth of the whole affair dawning upon him.

"Why of course, my dreary disciple, as your messiah it's only fair that I get first dibs on liberty," replied Freddie as he blissfully ignored said truth with a sense of denialism that would make Thabo Mbeki blush.

"Very glorious then. What do I do?"

"Oh, it's brilliantly simple, really, any lesser mind would have been completely unable to make such ingenious use of hobo-physics, but as luck would have it, only my mind could be arsed to do so. Just pull that femur once I've positioned myself in the Launcher-me-thingy. I'd do it myself if not for my valiantly buggered fins."

"Gladly, Freddie, ol' pal" chuckled Calfin Evilly as he positioned himself to yank the hobone and permanently free his home of its greatest hazard since hippie skinny-dipping.

"Gladly: The Great Sashimi, if you please, subservient," retorted Freddie indignantly, "You may pull when ready."

"Messiah says what?" Asked Calfin innocently.


Freddie rocketed upwards faster than Sonic the Hedgehog and Roadrunner's ill-conceived love child would if it were on ecstacy. After a second or so of upwards velocity, a faint plop signaled Freddie's ascent into the world above, followed by a frenzy of squawks and highly pretentious screams as numerous large dark shapes flocked around the distinctly Freddie-like shape that could be made out from the pond bed. Perhaps it is wise, when making inter-species deals, to stick with business partners that are lower than yourself on the food chain.

"Exactly," grinned Calfin, smugly, before going off to see what Sally was doing.

Well let's see you come up with something more exciting to do at the bottom of a friggin' pond!


Those ARE rather nice trousers though.

"Wow, having been in this industry for five years, I sure see a lotta abominations of science. But you, Bro, you really take the cake!"

I wasn't sure how to react to that. Seeing as I was strapped to a filthy operating table and half sedated by anesthetic that this particular seedy secret laboratory had probably scored off the fine folk in the next-door crack house, I couldn't pursue the obvious actions that immediately came to mind, them being:

1) Smash the be-labcoated jackass in the face with a chair.

2) Think up and write a mile-long essay that comprehensively explained that as the experiment had not yet taken place, I was not yet a scientific abomination of any degree of attractiveness and that he fornicated with goats.

3) Smash him in the face with a foot-stool.

Feeling that the natural way of things had suffered a great loss, I settled for giving the smug bastard a sheepish smile and incomprehensibly (thanks to the wondrous aforementioned drugs) pointing out that no essay was needed to conclusively prove his obvious sexual preferences.

"Hehee, good to hear it! You take care now , bro!", Suggested the abominable Merv (for Merv was the name I groggily made out to be on his greasy name tag) before smugly joining his cohorts in scientific villainy, who all stood giggling in a small control room overlooking the lab I found myself in.

The low-budget nature of this week's dubious corporation was made apparent by the fact that said control room didn't have any of that nifty one way glass you see in shitty police shows, for I could hazily make out that frantic work was being done by said cohorts, on what must have been intensely complicated panels and switchboards.

I mused briefly about the fact that in every single one of the godawful jobs that the temp agency has set me up with has been shared with at least one member of the "Obnoxious Dickwad" archetype, a role now filled by the towering pile of solid bacon grease unconvincingly assuring the human race that it is a human called Merv. I've been told that finding consistency in one's life is a good way to deal with trying times, and I can tell you that thinking about how every position I've been in for the entirety of my working life has been spent alongside people who deserve nothing less than to watch "The Hot Chick" repeatedly for the remainder of their natural lives almost completely took my mind off the ridiculously elaborate and pointy looking device hovering evilly over my crotch.
(It looked kinda like this, but with flesh-hooks placed around the tip and a sticker on its base advising not to point it at any living body parts. My new employers clearly weren't all that concerned about the well-being of temp-agency employees. Shocking, I know.)

As the activity in the control room became more frantic and the (rather cliche'd) Tesla-esque electro-thingies positioned around my unfortunate self began to crackle with static (as a result, I'm guessing), I resolved then and there to pay more attention to the job descriptions my temp agent might give me in future. From this job's description, all I could vaguely remember were the words "Guinea-pig", "Synthesis", "Wombat" and "Paste". The fact that these words were all part of the same sentence probably should have tipped me into not accepting the job. Hindsight's a bitch, ain't it?
Ah well, "Terminal Test Subject" was a pretty new field for me, and it's always useful to have some variety on your CV.

The crotch-pointed-at device (which I had lovingly nicknamed "Manhood-Muncher", if by lovingly you mean the precise and utter opposite of lovingly) began to hum menacingly, much like a thuggish bee would after having being told that "This whole honey thing is a hippie fad anyways". As the pointy bits of the machine began to spin and glow to the great delight of Merv and his posse in the control room (and my not quite so great delight), a new irony about the term "Temporary employee" became painfully apparent.

Closing my eyes and contemplating in horror that I'd probably have to share the pre-afterlife waiting room with Michael Jackson, I waited for the inevitable *BBBRRRIZZFWORP*, unimaginable burning crotch pain, and the end of my altogether-too-wasted-on-videogames existence on this mortal coil. In that order unless I was lucky.

What followed was more of a *KLAKBWOOANG* and not so much of a burning crotch pain as a mildly warm reprieve from the chilly lab air around my entire lower body. This was surprising to me and the total lack of exclamations concerning the status of my life signs implied that the nutty scientist blokes felt likewise. Merv was the first to react with anything other than a valiant attempt to break the record for the largest distance between one's jaw and skull by bursting out of the control room and rushing towards my table, lab-coat constantly catching on the unnecessarily spiky parts of the dingy lab's architecture.

Other than the fact that I evidently would not have to ask future romantic interests if they felt particularly aroused by the concept of raw mince, I wondered what the possible presidential candidate was so surprised about. Looking down with a level of caution previously restricted to Viet Nam veterans at a landmine convention, I noticed that the reason for my newly acquired leg-coziness were a pair of brand new trousers. At least five shades of purple at once in any given place and inexplicably glowing a faint orange in the dim lab lighting, but completely tangible backside-attire nonetheless.

By now Merv was standing next to my table in a state of shock and confusion and was staring at my new and embarrassingly flamboyant pants. Although somewhat understandable under the circumstances, the idea of a slimy looking gentleman staring at my lower half while lay strapped to a table and wore nothing but a pair of glowing purple denims was one that seemed a bit dodgy to me, and mostly with the hope of this status quo changing I quickly demanded to be untied and told what-in-the-sweet-name-of-your-mother-and-all-of-her-friends-named-Dave was going on.

"Well", said Merv, "it seems that instead of doing it's, um, intended purpose, the device seems to have knitted you a pair of rather fabulous trousers."

"Well yes, I've got that. What I'm not clear on is how that makes any damn kind of sense."

"Urgh", groaned Merv, cradling his likely to be illegally ugly face in his altogether unhygenic palm and showing signs of great annoyance, "I've been warning the guys upstairs about this shit going down for years! It's just with having the underground lab in the secret moon base and all the maniacal laughing over experiments while guys called Igor prance around and singing "Deh Marstah iz a geniosss", the inherent wackiness of the whole goddamn system (Joe from accounting has crazy Einstein hair for fuck's sake!) actually becomes tangible and leaks into the machinery, leading to, err, THIS I guess."

"I'm not so sure making glowing purple trousers appear out of thin air is so much wacky as it is completely fucking impossible, Merv."

"Guh, I dunno...Wait, can you move them?"

I gave a quick tug on the pant leg which yielded no movement and caused my leg to seemingly explode with burning and previously unimaginable pain

"Ah", said Merv, knowingly, "It seems they're knitted out of your own leg hairs. Wacky, amirite?"

"Very", I grunted, blinking tears from my eyes, "I suppose that explains why they're purple and glowing then."

"Indeed." replied Merv, the sarcasm flying over him with all the majesty of an eagle in flight, "They ARE rather nice trousers though."

"Thanks, I thought so too. Hey what's the time by the way?

"About 5pm", Merv stated after glancing at his novelty Dr. Evil wrist watch.

"Well that'd be the end of my shift, when's the next shuttle leaving the moon base?"

"In about five minutes, you can probably make it if you cut through The Sea of Tranquility."

"Thanks. Guess I'll see you tomorrow, Merv."

"Catch ya later, Bro!"

"Asshole", I muttered as I bounded out of the lab, taking some comfort in the fact that I was leaving work slightly less naked than usual.

50 things you already knew about me and wished to god you had not got me started on!

The guy from Jurassic Park, the one with the cowboy hat.

Yesterday, but you should see the other guy.

It's untidyness occasionally transcends the boundries of modern lettering and transforms into a form of hieroglyphics thought lost to mankind up until that foolish wench of a 1st grade teacher made the mistake of teaching me my ABC's. SOON THE WORLD WILL KNOW THE TEACHINGS OF THE $&^%(_L@#!!!!!

Pickled mole rat, but I'm partial to Llama

Sometimes I make "them" call me daddy...

Now that's just silly, I'd have nothing bloody new to say to myself would I?

I use the truth on secretive-personal-opposite day.

Yup, I have named them Jerome and Greg, they tap-dance.

Am I the only one getting annoyed by the way the quizz shouts at me all the bloody time?


Heck I don't even untie 'em to put em back on if I can help it.

That one with the two guys.

My overwhelming desire to ask them these EXACT 50 QUESTIONS AT EXACTLY THIS VOLUME!

I feel my options are somewhat restricted beyond my tolerance here.

That I lack the resolution to do anything with my life except answer smelly quizzes such as this and murder hobos.

Darkwing duck.

I want everyone on this earth to burn and die for allowing such a travesty as this quizz to come into existance, but I guess forcing everyone to answer it should be a close second.

Yours! *nudge*--*nudge*--*wink*--*wink*--*implied rape and theft*--*implied rape and theft*

The voices in my head begging me to follow the tuxedo'd leprechaun to the land of the peanut brittle where I may find the sacred herpes medication.

The kind that causes massive gastric hemorraging in the f*cker who turned me into a bloody crayon upon seeing me.

Money with blood on it (and that's the only honest answer I'll give)

Nice enough chap, seemed a bit pessimistic though, awful hung up on something happening in 7 days though. I wasn't really paying attention, "The Lab" was on.

No-one bloody sent it to me, I'm answering this out of my own free will as is the only way for this thing to work as far as I know. If you want to publish crap, at least learn its bloody format.

THAT ONE WITH THE TWO GUYS....So table tennis or martial arts I guess.

I believe my profile covers this sort of question but if you're interested in my ideal hair colour I'd refer you to 22, but replace the word "f*cker" with "Extended family and Geese"

As described in 27, but with a dash of royal purple, for flavor.

My optometrist has insisted that contacts are the tools of satan used to chisel his teachings onto our cornea's, though I suspect the price difference between contacts and regular specs plays into it.

I know for a fact that I've answered more specific versions of this question 5 times already. You are clearly treading water here, Bucko McQuizzwriterson

Well I feel that I don't show any particular preference to either genre in the general sense but I feel that it must be said for Ha-THE ONE WITH THE TWO GUYS!!!!!!!!!

Richard Simmons' adventures in Boy's Town: A tale of loss, hope and courage in the face of constant butt-sex. 4 STARS OUT OF 5!

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to come up with sarcastic answers to every one of these god-forsaken menial questions? DO YOU!?

34. Summer or winter?

THE ONE WITH THE TWO...oh right, um, I dunno. Going to go do manly stuff now, yeah...

Greg, he was always the talkative one.

My sense of dignity, but that's to be expected as he buggered of to the Bahamas years ago.

THA- Oh screw it, Burmese Days by George Orwell, happy now you persistent text based demon you?

A small birthmark and a couple of leftover hairs.

A taped recording of the brutal execution of that one pet your parents said had run away.

The sound of a pick-axe being embedded in the skull of a dust mite, ya need some heavy machinery to catch it but hoo-boy does it satisfy!

Resisting...urge...must...skip..predictably answered question...

Home is where the heart is, I suspect therefore that I since am currently over 5 light-years away from the nearest black hole, I'm sitting on my record.

Making people want to murder me due to my actions in 14

In my house's downstairs bathroom, no jokes.

Not so much the answers themselves as the methods I'll use to extract them.

Oi, I signed up for 50 questions, If you're going to be shirk your unholy responsibilities to go for the full deal then I'm afraid I'll feel compelled to begin the answer to 47 immediately.

Well I hope you've all learned some valuable things about me today. I just hope you're good at dealing with regret.

My Extremely Manly Papercraft Adventures.

Disclaimer: This was the first humour article I ever wrote, and is a product of my younger and much sillier self. I include it here only because of its historical significance in my life.


In the early days of my Summer holidays, I found myself faced with the dreaded "buffer" period during which all my contacts have gone on some sort of holiday abroad, but my own scheduled holiday shenanigens are still far off, and with no decent TV on, entering a vegetative state and hibernating the empty days away was out of the question.

Clearly the only course of action to take would be to fill my empty afternoons with dozens of manly activities until the time for eating turkey, guiltily accepting cash presents from relatives who I can't stand and desperately trying to keep my mouth shut while my abominable grandmother ignorantly rattles on about how the country has gone down the toilet since her era, arrives.
I still wonder if the cash presents aspect is entirely worth it.

Anyway, after about a week of such manly endeavors as working out, punching communists, putting out fires and eating hundreds of t-bone steaks, It was pointed out to me by Mrs. Van Vreekazoed (whose cat I had just rescued from a tree for the forty second time), that I may need a hobby.

"Of course!" said I, out loud and in a dramatic and infinitely manly way, before rushing home and putting a shirt on for the first time in weeks. A hobby would mean I could pass the time with minimal effort and I wouldn't even need to leave the house! The hobby would still need to be really manly though, and therein lay my problem: What stay-at-home hobby could be manly enough to fulfill my gender imposed standards?

The answer: PAPERCRAFT!
What could be an activity more undeniably rugg
ed than cutting out images, folding them and pasting them together to make various 3D shapes? Just about anything else you say? I would direct your attention to this promotional poster which I obtained from one of Hulk Hogan's many secret and unreachable blogs and which I totally did not make with MSpaint just now:
And There you have it!

So what would be my first papercraft creation? After all there are countless animals, people and objects that some guy somewhere decided would look a whole lot better made out of paper and subsequently spent da
ys designing a hugely elaborate template so that others may share his dream.
(Dr. Some guy Somewhere also enjoys painting individual sand grains and tallying his own nasal hair)

Suddenly it dawned upon me! Papercraft Pokemon! After all, what could be more manly than this!
And so I embarked on an epic epic online search spanning, like, FIVE web-pages and found a template for making my very own Turtwig, one of the newfangled Pokemon that, along with the online trading introduce in the latest series of games, has destroyed the time-honoured tradition of tackling that brat from down the street with a link cable and stealing his charizard.
After heroically pressing the print button, I retrieved my paper and got to work.
Cutting out the little blighter proved to be my first and possibly greatest obstacle on the road to manly papercraft Nirvahna, carefully cutting out every fold and flap was time consuming as hell, and and mishaps would ruin the final product, thus an air of unbearable tension was created around my latest (and arguably greatest) excuse not to go and do something productive with my life.

Incidentally, the "Helpful Assembly tips!" which I printed out to aid me in my struggle states that, aside from the fact that small (manly) children should make sure they have grown-up help and should refrain from castrating themselves with their safety scissors (as kids are quite prone to do, judging by the HUNDREDS of newspaper headlines telling us "FIVE YEAR OLD LOBOTOMISED WITH SAFETY SCISSORS! PARENTS NOT PRESENT!" and other such realistic tales of woe), the entire project should take roughly 2 hours to complete.


Cutting out the damn thing took damn near an entire afternoon to do (at least if done RIGHT!). The remaining steps which I'll go into shortly took as long combined, leading me to one of two conclusions:

1) The target market for these papercrafts are steroids enhanced versions of Father Christmas' elves which cut and past papery products at speeds bordering on supersonic
2)The corporate hobo's who published the helpful hints are too damn lazy to assemble their own damn papercraft
I'm guessing the latter.

Anyway, after much sweat, tears and scissor induced blisters, I finally had my component parts!
After a tedious half-hour of folding along EVERY GOD-FORSAKEN DOTTED LINE on every seperate part the time came to stick the little tag doo-hickeys to whatever open area the folding directed them to. But horror of horrors, there was no glue or equivalent sticky substance in the house!

"Hindsight is always 20/20," said the snarky bastard that lives in my cupboard and whom I punched quite hard before rushing to the nearest seven-eleven to obtain the sacred and necessary adhesive! (and a soda)

Stationery was clearly not this store's strongpoint though, and despite my subtle legal threats to the establishment, I was denied the crucial sticky requirement needed to proceed in my quest.
Dejectedly, I returned home for one last rummage through my school bag and, as luck would have it (sexually anyway, "it" being dressed in a scaly bikini and eating a cheeseburger, but that's neither here nor there), I found and ancient relic from my primary school days!: A glue stick so thick and dry that you would probably have trouble carving it with a chisel, but glue nonetheless!

After soaking the remaining glue in the sink for a while and sticking it in the microwave, I got it into a semi-sticky gooey state, and fashioned a glue brush from an old pencil. I could finally get to the all important assembly stage of my creation, and assemble I did, easily enough since the pre-folded paper guided the flappy things to their appropriate places. I now had the distinct body parts of my creation, all that remained would be to stick 'em together in some sad mockery of Turtwig's form.
Before you lies a dismembered Pokemon, now there's something the TV program won't give ya!

After gluing what flaps I could to what spaces my not-so-nimble-as-they-used
-to-be fingers could manage, and ingeniously fashioning a few modifications to the design to get the damn head to stay on, my prize finally took shape!
A bit of a far cry from the original idea, but you get what you anonymously download I guess...

My Ultra manly quest had reached it's apparent end, I had spent one more day lying between me and the oh so desirable cash gifts of Christmas-time, But more days lay ahead, and more manly activities were necessary! I resolved to stare at my creation and marvel at it's glory until my waiting period was spent, but as I looked down to begin my long hard look, my eyes met only the bare counter-top, my creation had vanished! Where it is now, we may never know, more importantly, what was I going to without my newest time waster? A new papercraft was needed and it was needed soon...

Tune in some time in the foreseeable future for part 2 of "My extremely manly papercraft adventures!" In which I shall attempt to create a new and previously unheard of critter!

(Unless I catch up to the old one somehow, but I doubt it, judging from this newspaper article that got printed and delivered to my house just as I was writing this and was totally not modified in any way:

Oh my.