Following on from my last blog post
, the next must see film, opening next week is Tron Legacy. The original Tron film was something of a game changer (quite literally) in both cinematic and computer game visuals and technology. For those who are thirty years and under Tron was an computer generated and animated film with live action scenes, one of the first modern generation. The thin plot was about an argument between software engineers who end up battling it out inside a computer game. The film then spawned an arcade computer game (rather than the other way around today) and the rest is history.
I’ll not say tron had a big influence on my decision later in life to persue a career in electronics then software engineering
but Im sure it didnt do any harm.
Id always been interested in video games starting with my very own binatone pong console. The pong game was said to inspire the Tron director but it inspired a lot of people, myself included.
After that it was the american type consoles, such as the Atari with games by Atari and Activision (disaffected atari employees spinoff) that were popular at first and I had one of the Atari 2600 ‘woodies’.
The American market was primarily a console with hardware cartridge market which ultimately ended with the crash of 1983-4 whereas in Europe we were using our home computers our parents had bought us for ‘home study’ for games instead.
The likes of the spectrum, bbc, commodore etc thrived whilst the console market crashed, one of the reasons being that console games were expensive whereas games for the spectrum were on normal cassette tape and whilst still expensive at between 5 and 10 quid (yes really) were readily available. Of course the piracy options were limitless as double deck tape decks would just allow straight copying.
In both cases overspend on licensing (such as ET for the atari), overestimating the worldwide popularity of consoles, massive advertising spend and opening up the market competition led to the computer games crash which would leave the industy in a low point for a number of years. Obviously no parallels with today then
The next big thing was more my brothers generation, the nintendo nes, again a cartridge system which nintendo would continue with through the N64 until they finally wised up with the superb Wii console and the low cost and family targetted nature of Nintendo would make sure it was a success.
In the meantime the only real gaming I had was on PCs and it wasnt until the advent of games like Wolfenstein 3D and pga golf that I started to get interested again. When I was doing my MSc Id spend many late nights in the PC lab compiling fortran programs which would take an absolute age to compile, when they worked. So I’d while away the hours with the next pc running Wolfenstein or pga golf. It was then I got introduced to the single person shooter motion sickness that means I still cant play those games until today. In the middle of a Wolfenstein Nazi killing session I had to run into the toilets in the lab, throw up, then back to the game. Would I be that sad these days? Of course I would.
The consoles were still interesting and many a night I would borrow my brothers console then head over to a house with some of my uni mates for a alcohol and football game tournament session. Back in the days when it was just up down left right and shoot as opposed to the X O YX double click backflip shoot options today. Oh and you were allowed to kick the goalie and referees back then too.
It wasnt until the first playstation came out that I started to play games again and this was another step up from the previous games. The games were reasonably affordable with the option of having your playstation chipped so you could play games from around the world. The internet was starting to grow and I was purchasing more DVDs from the States/Canada than I was at home so it made sense to be able to access all the games across the world.
Dipping slightly back into the console wars and the comments above about franchises and cartridges and spend etc, the N64 (Nintendo 64) cartridge system had the star wars franchise games so in a moment of weakness I bought one of them as well as the three Star Wars games available. This was about 4 days before I got an email to say I’d won a Sega Dreamcast, an ill fated console which I thought had the best graphics and best games of the three.
Eventually the Playstation would become almost dominant of the three with the Sega falling by the wayside with Sega left to just deal with games software rather than consoles. I always meant to get a Playstation 2 on the day Metal Gear Solid 2 was released but work commitments and that old ‘growing up’ thing finally hit me.
Then I did something I thought I would never do, willingly buy a microsoft product, the xbox360. Im now on my fifth xbox360 in 6 years, each one has been a warranty replacement, even though I still have every other console Ive ever owned and at times of taking these photos, every one of them still worked.
Of course in another impulse purchase I saw that Punch Out – the old arcade boxing classic – was released on the Wii with balance board so you could actually stand on the board, duck and dive and punch with your arms and it would work on screen. Punch Out was an arcade favourite when I was 15-16 but I didnt realise that it would result in so many pulled muscles as an older middle aged gentleman.
Now we have a multi billion games industry with mega endorsements and games outselling all other forms of home entertainment and one of the true growth industries. Back when I was a kid you played video games you were a loner and a bit of a saddo, now with network connections and online game playing you can play with your schoolmates, form teams, and play with people from the other side of the world, shouting at you in a language you dont even recognise never mind understand. The point came home to me when the 8 year old son of a friend of mine said he liked to get up at 5am to play his xbox as he could go around shooting drunk americans. Whatever floats your boat I suppose.
On a parallel to the consoles, the simple games still continue, last night I had the xbox360, wii, dreamcast, playstation, n64 all sitting in front of me but I spent a half hour playing angry birds on my android tablet pc, followed by a half hour of a flight control game. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.
The games industry now reminds me of the highs of the early 80s, when the secretive Ultimate sponsored a racing team IIRC. Time will tell if it goes the same way but even with the recession and seemingly a slow down on the next gen consoles, things like the xbox kinect and playstation move point in the next direction, more energetic, user activity.
Only problem is those wee cameras remind me of the camera in tron that…
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First time I ever remember going to the Cinema was to see the film ‘Jaws’ so I must have been about 6 at the time. I dont remember much about the film other than hiding beneath the seat when the guy gets his leg bit off, that and being told off by my primary school teacher the next day when its the only bit of the film I could describe to my class.
Even so I was hooked, if you will pardon the pun. I fell in love with the cinema and movies in general, its probably more to do with my dad and his insistance that you really couldnt have a big enough TV, something which holds true for me today with a TV that has killed all the plants in my living room as theres no longer any light coming in through my front window.
Its also easy to tell I lead the single mans life, walk into the living room and theres a single 3 seat leather sofa with reclining seats directly opposite a 50 inch plasma and just the right place for the 5:1 surround sound system, and yes I do have the speakers on spikes and the rears mounted on the wall near the ceiling. I did draw the line though at not placing concrete blocks on the equipment to make sure the sound is completely dead, unlike some of my friends…
…anyway I’m getting ahead of myself.
My next memory of ‘going to the pictures’ was going on a bus with my cousins across town to a special christmas showing of bedknobs and broomsticks, quite a journey in Belfast at the time and one of the last times I would go to the proper cinema for a while. The next outing wasnt really an outing as we went to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind and were turned away after queuing for over an hour as the cinema was full. Back in the days of huge cinema theatres with only one show on. So it was back down the next night, a lot earlier and we got in this time.
By this stage is was the late 70s and not really the place to be taking kids at night into Belfast City Centre so going out to see a fil-um (how we pronounce film) was limited to going to the local working mens club where they set up the screen and super 8 projector and we all piled in there.
Looking back now it was a complete heath robinson outfit but for films like Earthquake and The Shootist there really was no better place. For Earthquake the place was full but I remember me, my Dad and my sister and maybe one other person turning up to see The Shootist. John Waynes last film and one of the last we saw on Super 8 as Betamax and VHS tapes were just coming onto the scene.
My Dad had been wanting a super 8 camera and projector for years but was another one of those things that came long down the list after food and clothes for the kids.
It was time to trudge back into down every Friday to visit the video hire shop where the tradition that lasted almost 25 years of going into a video shop for an hour and arguing over which film you want to watch, someone sulking then getting a film nobody wanted to watch.
Then of course there were the local video shops which provided tapes which didnt come in fancy boxes and were just black tapes, pirate videos werent in the vocabulary at the time and these seemed legitimate shops on legitimate streets, copyright protection was unheard of. It wasnt just copyright that was ignored, I remember on two occasions sitting down and watching betamax tapes that were 10 minutes shorter than the film itself. You then had the daft spectacle of us all going up to the video shop and the guy in the store telling us all the ending. I cant decide to this day if thats good or bad customer service, it certainly was dedication.
It was my dads decision to buy a Betamax video recorder that has shaped my opinion to not be an early adopter of any technology or if there are two competing technologies, to wait it out until one dies a death. Hence the reason for waiting to get a blu-ray player even though I know it is obsolete already and will probably be superceded by online download or streaming.
When I got my first job out of uni in 1992 they were talking about video on demand and the ability to pick and choose one of hundreds of movies down the telephone line and watch what you want, when you want. Of course almost 20 years later we are just getting to that stage.
Ive only a small selection of blu-rays and I suppose its like the whole CD v MP3 debate – MP3s are ok but if you want to sit down and listen to music properly then you stick on a CD, similar with downloads to watch a movie on a wee screen but blu-ray to make a night of it. At least thats what I keep telling myself. I told myself that too when I bought a high end VHS player just as they were being phased out, the reason? Well my large collection of VHS movies, of which I’ve probably played 3 (the star wars originals) since then. More money well spent.
I hate when you go into the cinema and they put on 10 minutes of anti piracy ads, like Ive paid in already! Leaving the piracy part aside, there really is nothing like seeing a movie on the real big screen, with my home cinema coming a poor second.
Since I’ve been small Ive had it drummed into me to see as much live entertainment as possible, whether it be sport, theatre, music or in the case of movies, on the big screen.
Now Ive a HD video cam, HD on demand movies, large tv, dts surround sound, even a popcorn machine but put star wars on a black and white portable in mono and I’ll still watch it.
Ive just finished watching ‘In Bruges’ again for the nth time (thoroughly recommended if you can take bad language and violence), great film, more like a stage play on film.
So take some time out this weekend, get the family in or sit down yourself, turn down the lights, crank up the sound, get the popcorn on and press play…
…go on you know you want to.
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There used to be an ad on TV about something or other to do with banking or insurance featuring a husband and wife, the husband wanting to spend his retirement ‘enjoying the garden’ and the wife wanting to sod the garden buy a big yacht and sail round the world.
Pretty much sums up my sentiments.
Its not that I dont like my garden or indeed dont like gardening, its just that I have a ‘photographers’ garden. Generally speaking when the weather is good Im out working, making hay while the sun shines as it were so other things get neglected and other than family and friends the garden is the next big hit.
I decided to address this a couple of years ago and got the whole garden, front and back redone. The patio area at the back was relaid, the grass was dug up, weedkiller put down, tonnes of topsoil dumped from the back of a huge truck, spread out then grass seed sewn etc etc. Needless to say none of this was done by me. Far too much effort.
The design buzzword was ‘low maintenance’.
I of course now realise how stupid I was, as even if I had concreted the lot, I’d still have to power hose it once a year. Theres no such thing as ‘low maintenance’ in gardening, well certainly not in my definition of the terms.
Low maintenance to me was the odd bit of weeding, odd bit of grass cutting and then picking the strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, putting them in a bowl with cream and eating them. Job done.
I also forgot to include the living on the side of a mountain in Ireland aspect of it. Where it rained so much last ‘summer’ that my freshly sewn lawn as it was 2 years ago, now does resemble wild kingdom.
I remember what it looked like when it first grew, I quite liked the lush green grass, in fact I took photos of it, now it just looks like wild kingdom and the rest of the garden looked like it had been left to grow for a scene in ‘I Am Legend’. It isnt all my fault, we did recently have a ‘summer’ which did involve all that lovely topsoil I bought being washed down the mountain along with a lot of the garden by summer floods. I thought I was badly off but the neighbours had just laid a new turf lawn, the water ran underneath it washing out all the sand and substrate. There was a couple of tonnes of that washed away, with a fair whack of it coating my driveway.
So nothing for it, 3 days of cutting grass, raking out the dead stuff, spraying weeds, powerhosing the patio and driveway, killing slugs, killing ants (which is a new development), laying new grass, putting down fertilizer and countless number of things.
Im all for recycling as well but the local council havent really factored in my laziness. They empty my brown vegetation bin every two weeks and to be honest it could be emptied every 2 years and it wouldnt make the slightest difference. Of course the only time it is ever put into action it could be filled 3 times over and I’m left with 4 bags of rotting vegetation for the next 6 weeks or so as they dont take extra bags and I have to wait for it to be emptied before refilling. Sigh. I do have a compost bin which I could use but its at the back of the garden behind the trees and to be perfectly honest if it was the middle ages, that part of the garden would be labelled ‘here be dragons’.
Despite writing blog entries its now one of the busiest times of the summer so the garden work really had to be done or it would have been pour petrol on it, set it on fire and wait 2 weeks before starting all over again. A necessary task and it was good to get out and get my neck sunburnt in this country. Although there is something about working with powertools that makes men feel like they belong in the garden.
I have to say though the ability to go outside this morning with coffee and just sit and read emails on the laptop in the fresh air is definitely one of those things that money couldnt buy.
This country, if the sun shines has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. Of course the if in the previous sentence should really be in 72 point text as it should be a really big if. Having said that though there were a few days last weekend that it really was BBQ weather.
Theres still a bit to go, theres the fencing I bought 3 years ago for behind the tree line which is still behind the tree line, just leaning up against the tree line, theres the chain saw I bought last year to cut up the wood Id previously cut down and left to ‘season’. Well thats been well seasoned and the chainsaw still doesnt have any petrol in it.
But all that is for another day, in the meantime I have the option of enjoying the bits of the garden that arent hidden by trees….
…but I went out and bought a boat instead.
more gardening photos here
Well it was all going to be too easy. Write a blog post in advance, have it sitting ready to go then just approve it using the wifi on my phone in either washington or london airports. Bang, done, cheerio and goodnight.
The bags are packed, the last of the pesos were spent last night on beer and food for a party, just enough to get me to the airport and buy a bottle of water for the flight to Washington…
…or so I thought. Last night Washington was hit with 2 feet of snow, thats right, 2 feet. It has ground to a halt, all of the airports were closed for a while and Dulles has only a few flights operating. The flight down here was cancelled so sitting now 4 hours from getting a taxi to the airport I have no idea if I will be leaving or not.
There is a thunderstorm here as well so even if I stay there will be nothing else to do, goodbyes were said in the wee small hours this morning etc etc.
Now its just a nervous wait to see if I am going anywhere.
Despìte some of the blog posts Ive enjoyed my time here. Ive tried to live like a local as much as possible but its impossible when you are a relatively rich foreigner with a spending budget about one fifth of what the locals earn in a year. Its not quite the same when you can just buy yourself out of trouble and Im always keenly aware of that and its effect on the people around me.
On any trip I always refer back to my 10 year old self. I grew up in one of the most deprived and the time war torn areas of Western Europe. Back when I was 10 Id flown to England once and hadnt yet applied for my first passport (would do later in the year to go and live with a Swiss family in Geneva for a month). I could only dream of seeing the places I have and the contemporary wisdom would be that I always would dream about seeing what I have done in the last week alone.
I always remember my roots and being here has reminded me of that so often, small black and white televisions, old used furniture, hand washing clothes, going to the corner shops for fruit, veg, meat, bread etc. Local places for local people and people having the time to stop and chat even if you dont know the language. The people in the local shop know me now, know I can only muddle through in Spanish. You dont get that staying in a hotel. I dont have a different view of the world since coming here but its reminded me of the important things in life. I dont miss my xbox or wii, I sort of miss my big tv though but thats genetic
Like everywhere in the world its the people that make the place, Ive been very lucky here, everyone has been welcoming and people braved the worst storm in a long while here to come an hour or two on the busses and trains just to say goodbye. When that happens you forget about mosquito bites and trips to hospitals and so on. Thats just stuff that happens and no point getting annoyed or dwelling on it.
I will hopefully get home sometime and I do feel its time to go home.
Looking back the month has gone quite quickly. As usual with trips the first week seems to last a month then after the halfway point it just flies in.
Ive been unluckly on this trip, a lot of coincidences and a bit of bad planning or no planning on my part.
I came from the coldest winter at home in 30 years to one of the hottest summers here. Just a fluke but the almost 40 degree temperature difference knocked me back for a week, a lot longer than it would usually take to acclimatise. The whole security thing has been an issue and Ive had to be more careful, shelve more plans and just accept the fact I wouldnt be able to do a lot of the stuff I had planned beforehand. With hindsight I would do things differently but again the heat aspect probably would have affected that anyway.
Going to the park with the mosquitos was just bad planning on all our parts. I should have checked if going to the park would be 20 mins on the bus or travelling to another country. Then again if I hadnt had such a huge amount of bites and taken the reaction I did, it would only have been a day down rather than almost a week.
The trip to Colonia was worth it, firstly to see Colonia, to get more stamps in the passport and to travel round with people I just met and have a glass of water with them. Being Aussies Id love to share a beer with them but the previous nights casualty trip meant that wasnt wise (neither was going in the first place). Overall Im thankful that I didnt get booked into a hotel in Montevideo or Id have got the pain on a 2 hour bus ride between Colonia and Montevideo, something hardly worth contemplating.
The trip to Iguazu is one of those life moments, a story I´ll bore people with to my dying day. If the photos are half as good as I think they are then it will cost me a small fortune getting canvas prints done. Nothing more to add to that as its already been said in the last blog post.
Ive enjoyed my time here, enjoyed the people and the company and learned a few lessons as below.
I would come back to Argentina again, no doubt, to explore patagonia and as a stopping off point for Antarctica. Id give Buenos Aires a miss though, theres only so much huge city you can take and a couple of days is more than enough.
I wont be travelling to a sub tropical southern hemisphere climate again in January, I can tell you that for nothing. Its 24C here now and Im sitting with long sleeves on. Boy am I in for a shock when I get home.
Dont go anywhere thats plagued with mosquitos and is 35C plus at midday.
Getting a yellow fever vaccine and malaria tablets for areas that dont have yellow fever or malaria is a waste of time and money
When booking any internal flight in South America, just treat the timetable as a guideline, although saying that with my flight home possibly cancelled, you cant legislate for the weather.
If you ever, ever get the slightest chance to go to Iguazu, go. Dont think about it, go. Dont worry about the cost, go. I cant put it better than that.
At this point I had thought Id tell you a wee story about travelling with friends through Moscow and finish with a witty one liner before heading off to Washington and spending the day wandering round the Smithsonian air and space museum but thats looking increasingly unlikely…
…but heres the story anyway.
I used to travel on and off with my three best friends, we went across the globe together, sometimes all 4, sometimes in 2s or 3s.
One time we were in Moscow. Ive always wanted to go to Moscow. When I was 12 there was school trip to Moscow and my parents heard about it. They knew I always wanted to go and I knew they couldnt afford to send me. Well they would have found the money but I was one of three kids and not that selfish. So aged 12 I told them I would go myself one day.
Aged 27 I went round to their house and told them I was finally off to Moscow with my mates. My dad said that would start my mum crying again as she did when I was aged 12 and said I would get myself there. Ive always been a determined wee bugger.
I loved Moscow, despite the shite food, the shite accommodation, the shite tours, the poor service, the unfriendlyness of a lot of the people we met etc etc. I dont think my travel companions shared my enthusiasm.
We had spent 4 days or so in Moscow and were preparing to wipe Moscows dust from our feet waiting on the train platform for the train to St Petersburg.
As the train arrived one of my closest and dearest friends who has spent more time travelling with me than a human should really have to endure, lifted his rucksack and uttered the immortal words that have come to symbolise returning home after a long or enduring trip. Ive slightly sensored the comments for PG reading but you get the idea.
So all it remains for me to say is…
´Lets get the f*ck out of dodge’
to be continued…..
To see the photos from the Argentina Trip, click here