Videogame Ghosts

Lack of interactivity is something I’m noticing more and more in games. It’s not that the worlds used to be more interactive – it’s that as the detail in games has increased the level of interactivity has not kept pace. So while the Paris of Assassin’s Creed Unity is a really amazing thing – I’ve spent house exploring it – after a while I felt like a ghost. So many games we move though these amazing worlds without being able to really reach out and touch them.

Perhaps these lonely avatars wandering though Paris or Chicago of Watch Dogs are a metaphor for a lonely generation. Unintended of course. But I want to be able to give money to a beggar in Watch Dogs, or just talk to someone in Unity, tell a busker they are great, hold someone’s hand.

So many games with amazing game worlds and the only time we can touch them is with a blade or a bullet.

Ending the Social Media Experiment

I had given up Twitter and Facebook for Lent, joining my wife in this endeavour. But today I’m packing it in with regards to Twitter. The truth is that I live a rather isolated life here at the Vicarage and with friends and family so far away I’m somewhat lacking in social contact. In many ways Twitter has become that social contact. And while I can take or leave Facebook with its endless postings of feelgood photos to “pass on”, I’m returning to Twitter today. The truth is I’m lonely.

The couple of weeks I’ve been away from Twitter have changed the way I will be using it though. I’ve gone through my following list and removed lots of websites and news sources. I’ll make more of an effort to visit sites I want to support. More importantly I want to avoid the kind of knee-jerk Twitter rage that has become all too common now. 144 letters is too few for nuanced reporting. So on the whole I’m going to try to steer my usage of Twitter away from controversy and more to conversation, sharing and fun. I want to talk about things like videogames and photography – not subjects that make my blood boil.

If you want to see this as an acknowledgement of my own misuse of Twitter then you aren’t far wrong. I seem to spend half my time on Twitter being cross about something I read on Twitter. Sometimes that anger is useful – Citroen fixed our car a heck of a lot quicker than they otherwise would have done thanks to my Twitter posts. But I’d rather use the platform to chat and stay in touch with friends. I make no promises of getting this right – but I’m going to try. So I’m unfollowing the stuff that winds me up and trying to be a better Twitter citizen. And I’ll see you back there shortly.

Contrasting Days

Patrick & Kitty on their 8th birthday

My twins were eight years old yesterday. Eight. I can hardly believe it. Those eight years have passed so quickly and so slowly. It seems such a short time ago that I held them in my arms for the first time. So short a time since Lanie and I cooed over Patrick as he breathed the open air for the first time. Pat had a slight issue with his breathing for the first few minutes and it sounded like he was saying “ello, ello”. Or as we waited an eternity for Kitty to show signs of life – silent, still, no signs of life for a few seconds. Seconds that seemed an eternity, then she burst into life with a lamb-like cry that had the whole room moved. The struggles of the previous year forgotten as we held our twin babies, our pride and joy. I have never felt as happy as that moment. To see the smile on Lanie’s face, the relief there and the love for our new little family. I shut my eyes right now and picture it. One of life’s most perfect moments.

That was the day we celebrated yesterday. A day very much to celebrate. The day I became a grown up. The day I became a father. A father of twins, no less. I fussed around during the day yesterday. I made them pizzas, I bought a little cake and some other treats. I helped with Lego constructions. I took photos while they opened presents and took in their joy for my own. These children are becoming funny clever people that are wonderful to be around. So today was worthy of celebrating them. I am so very proud of them.

But every year brings that bitter-suite contrast. The hangover. First we have the day of celebration, where I think of those moments when Lanie and I were united in our joy. Then comes the next day. The day of a less happy anniversary. It’s eight years ago today I held a one-day old Patrick in my arms and told the little pink bundle “I’m so sorry Pat, your mummy has just died.” The beginning of an unfolding nightmare of grief and the hardships of solo baby care. I think of Lanie often, I miss her every day. But the anniversary is always a day when I look deeper into the darkness in that direction. I try not to, but one can’t help it.

I’d love to offer some kind of resolution to this. Some kind of lesson here, but it’s hard over the anger that still burns. Hard to offer anything other than “Go fuck yourself Essex NHS”. I miss Lanie. I wish her babies weren’t robbed of her by laziness, negligence and stupidity. I wish a lot of things. Today is my self indulgent day, the day I wallow in it. I’ll be fine tomorrow, back to normal.

Should you be raising a glass today then please think of my twins, raise a glass to them. They are wonderful people. They light up my life. And raise a glass to Lanie, a wonderful woman, my wife, the kindest and funniest person I ever met – and the most wonderful mother that never was. I see her in the twins, I see her smile, her humour, a cheeky twinkle in the eyes. She’s never far from my thoughts. As the years have rolled by I tend to remember the happy over the sad, memories of her bring smiles not tears. Today is the day I allow myself a little self indulgence and wallow in self pity. She was a drama queen too, she’d understand, and allow her grumpy boy a grumpy day.

Guardian Offers Fact Free Top Gear Trolling

I’m not going to enter directly into the whole Top Gear debacle, the world and his dog are doing that this morning. Social media is awash with it. I tend to feel if you punch a co-worker then you can’t really complain about being in trouble.

However I did think it was worth mentioning this dreadful piece in the Guardian by Zoe Williams which uses the fuel of her distaste for Clarkson to launch a factually incorrect attack on Top Gear.

Williams proudly states on Twitter she has been trolling Clarkson. Trolling? Really? That’s the intellectual heights you aimed for with this? There’s a good debate to be had around the goings on at Top Gear but this isn’t it. This dizzying intellectual prosecution is built on calling him a dick and then lying about Top Gear’s content.

Williams’ piece reads like she is someone who has heard of Top Gear, doesn’t like the sound of it, and has then written an article about the show. How else could one explain her complete failure on the subject of hybrid cars and specifically the BMW i8. It’s Chinese Whispers journalism, it’s all part of a culture that has phone hacking at one end and junk like this at the other. This was very much a phoned-in piece of work.

TG in recent years has acknowledged that the future is electric. The problem the show’s hosts often have with the technology is not the shift to electric but the method of doing so. Batteries are expensive, heavy, polluting, rare resource hungry and a stop-gap technology in their current form. TG favours hydrogen fuel cells – though these bring a whole new set of problems. But let’s not get too deep into the science – suffice to say TG is not anti-electric.

Zoe Williams does not know this – she just makes assumptions. But – says Williams – forget petrol, there’s this wonderful new car from BMW called the i8. You’ve probably never heard of it as Top Gear hates that stuff, it’s the future, not the past. This is the kind of car my “eco feminist” Top Gear would cover. Top Gear reviewed the BMW i8 two weeks ago. Clarkson loved it, chose it over the standard petrol M3. Perhaps Zoe knew this and just didn’t care about the facts, trusting her audience not to watch TG and find her out.

What of the most exciting cars on the show in recent times – the ones the hosts have loved the most – the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 and Ferrari LaFerrari? All petrol/electric hybrids. These cars showcase the technology that will be in our family cars in the next five to ten years. Did TG hate them? Quite the opposite, the talk of the last few weeks has been about how they can convince the manufacturers to let them test them head to head. This is exciting technology that will be at the heart of motoring for the next decade. Top Gear has covered it quite extensively and positively.

I get it Zoe, you don’t like Jeremy Clarkson. That’s fine, he doesn’t seem very likeable, so I can’t blame you there. But your article about Top Gear was pure fact-free junk. Zoe said on Twitter she stayed up late writing her piece. It shows. Punching a colleague shows very little integrity, but neither does calling someone a dick then either lying or getting your facts wrong. People who are obstinate, pig-headed and hold views based on prejudice rather than facts are always likely to come unstuck, look at Clarkson, but the irony is Zoe Williams piece shows all the same traits. They should work together.

Lewesdon Hill

2015-03-05 Lewesdon Hill 002

Lewesdon Hill is the highest point in Dorset – which isn’t saying much – Dorset is not a county that reaches for the skies. Yet this hill affects the weather in Broadwindsor, the village in its lee which we call home. One can climb the hill from various directions but The National Trust doesn’t do a good job of making the most of this location. The pathways are muddy, overgrown and poorly maintained. Even worse, once you’ve made the climb to the top there’s very little to see – the top is so overgrown most views are obscured. Nearby Pilsdon Pen isn’t quite so high but does offer clear views in all directions. If you are looking to see the sea from this far inland it is the place to go.