Feeling Better

When I was 19, I got more drunk than I have ever been in my life. It’s still a high water mark of my drinking career. It was a Christmas, and someone thought it would be a good idea to give me a bottle of really good tequila, a bottle of black sambuca, and — oh God — a bottle of [poitín](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poit%C3%ADn). The tequila and the poitín were almost impossible to drink. At least, they were at the beginning. I remember hitting on the great idea of just mixing all three into one glass to maybe, *maybe* make it the whole thing easier to digest. I can just remember brief flashes of images: swigging tequila out of the bottle and thinking I was just like Jim Morrison (followed by thinking ‘I fucking hate Jim Morrisson’); sitting outside in the back garden as my friend threw a glass at me, missing my head by inches and the two of us cracking up at how hilarious this near-accident was. Then, nothing. I woke up in my friend’s locked bathroom with vomit *everywhere*, under the towels on the radiator and everything. I don’t know if it was my vomit (that I’m not sure is my one glimmer of hope from the entire evening).

Just as sure as night follows day, my worst ever drunkenness was followed by my worst ever hangover. I managed to get home and crawl to the living room where I spent about 8 hours lying on the couch, shaking and sweating and writhing in pain. I felt like I was never going to recover. (Looking back now, I’m sure it actually *was* touch-and-go for a while.)

That evening, around 7pm, the film *Without a Clue* came on the TV, and everything changed. I wasn’t feeling any better, but I knew I wasn’t feeling any worse. My hangover had crested. Right at that exact moment, my ma poked her head in the door and said, “Would you like some rashers and sausages?” And right then, that’s when my worst possible experience turned into one of my most cherished memories. I think I actually cried with happiness, knowing that I was suddenly on the mend. Now, whenever I watch *Without a Clue*, I get hit with a wave of positive emotions. An entirely Pavlovian response that has now transformed this slightly shaky B-comedy into one of my favourite movies.

– – –

The other night, we went for Ethiopian food in a place called [Mesob](http://www.mesob.it/), which got a [really good review from the New York Times](http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/04/03/travel/03bites-mesob.html) a few weeks ago. And yeah, the food there was pretty damn great. The menu wasn’t entirely clear and we spent a good part of the night feeling a bit awkward and ‘what do we do now?’ but once the food came and we were getting nicely toasted, it all worked out just fine.

Except I managed to find a stray chilli pepper in one of the dishes.

Okay, so listen, I was a little tired, a little drunk, and I wasn’t really paying attention. When my mouth started chomping down on something crunchy, no alarm bell rang in my head to warn me that it could be potentially terrible. I thought maybe it could be a bit of celery. I only realised I’d eaten an entire pepper after I’d swallowed the last bite. It was then that my tastebuds managed to place that weird flavour.

My tongue started burning. My eyes started welling up. My nose started watering. Sweat started pumping from my head. If a part of my body could secrete something, it decided now was a good time to do so. To make it clear, I love spicy food. I’m a huge fan of jalapeno peppers and I can eat them fairly handily without any issue. This was no simple jalapeno. This was something else. This pepper really blew my socks off. I spent ten minutes thinking I was going to die, and wondering how I could ask where the nearest hospital was without opening my mouth, which felt like it had started bleeding. I thought my tongue had turned white-hot and was about to melt out the underside of my jaw.

It was such an intense level of pain that I could tell immediately when it peaked and started going away. When this happened, I was hit by a wave of euphoria. Now, the pain didn’t go away immediately. It must have taken a half an hour for things to return to normal, but that didn’t matter. I suddenly knew that, regardless of how long it would take to get better, everything was going to be okay, I’d survived the worst of it and I’d soon be back in the clear again. Such a feeling of joy and well-being as I’ve never experienced eating food before. Is this why people love absurdly, obscenely spicy foods? I can only imagine how [this lady felt](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9cB6Tu5_28).


I’ve spoken to a few people about how Osama bin Laden was a handsome man. It’s a difficult topic to untangle. Elizabeth Kiem does a great job of separating the image of bin Laden from the image of bin Laden.


Joe Griffin Must Be Stopped

Look, I really, *really* don’t want this to descend into a personal attack on someone I don’t even know, so let me just start off by saying that I don’t have a problem with Joe Griffin *in general*. I think that when he sticks to writing about things he genuinely seems to know something about, like movies, he’s absolutely fine. Check out his blog, [Moviedrome](http://www.joegriffinwrites.blogspot.com/). As personal movie blogs go, it’s not terrible. I really wanted to hate it, but the best I can muster is a profound indifference.

What I don’t like is when he steps outside of his comfort zone and starts writing about videogames. Which he does every Friday as part of the Irish Times’ ‘The Ticket’ culture/entertainment supplement. He’s clearly out of his depth and represents everything I hate about the way videogames are covered by traditional media. For example, take a look at [his recent review of *Portal 2*](http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/theticket/2011/0429/1224295653857.html), which is somewhere between a hot mess and a 300-word syntactic nightmare. Here’s my favourite line of the entire thing:

> This is a clever, captivating and sometimes hilarious sci-fi game, with compulsive gameplay. Here’s hoping I don’t have nightmares about GLaDos.

While you’re reading this review, please bear in mind that the Irish Times is *supposed* to be Ireland’s ‘newspaper of record’. Can you imagine if it treated all of its arts coverage this way? Can you imagine if their review of *There Will Be Blood* ended with “I hope I don’t have nightmares about Daniel Plainview.” It’s ridiculous.

Now, it’s completely *possible* that Joe is merely writing within a set of constraints set by the Irish Times. It may well be that Madam Editor called Joe into her office, sat him down and said ‘Listen, Joe, we still think videogames are for children, so we want 300 words written in the same tone you’d use if you were reviewing a [Richard Scarry](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Scarry) book.” I suppose this is *possible*, but why, then, does their other videogames correspondent, Ciara O’Brien, do such a better job?

The other thing that makes me say that Joe Griffin is out of his depth writing about videogames is the amount of times he has gotten the facts wrong. Just basic factual details that he’s either deliberately or carelessly missed. For example, in his [editorial about videogame adaptations of literature](http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/theticket/2011/0422/1224295207332.html) from Friday, April 22nd 2011, he writes (emphasis mine):

> There was some excitement this year when the Great Gatsby videogame resurfaced online. *Originally an 8-bit title for the old Nintendo*, the game is a platform adventure in which Nick Carraway fends off malevolent butlers and hobos.

First, since we’re on it: ‘old Nintendo’? There have been four consoles since the original NES. Any one of them could be referred to as ‘old Nintendo’. I remember talking to someone and they used ‘old Nintendo’ to refer to the Nintendo 64 (God, did that make me feel old). But this is all beside the point. One quick google search for “[Great Gatsby NES](http://www.google.it/search?q=great+gatsby+nes&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a)” and you’ll see the first result is the game itself and the rest of the results are links to that game, with each one explaining how the game is a modern creation made to *look* like an old NES game. It’s a retcon, a fake artifact from a “parallel reality”. [The Escapist explains it well](http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/107870-The-Great-Gatsby-NES-Game-Discovered):

> In reality, Hoey created the game on a whim after creating an 8-bit tribute to the classic novel’s cover. They simply couldn’t stop, and eventually ended up with 4 levels of Gatsby-themed glory. The game includes several characters, places, and lines from the book, and even has a few short cut-scenes.

Know how much I get paid to write this blog? Nothing. Know how much I get paid to write about videogames at all? Not a penny. Know how many people read this blog? I don’t actually keep track, but it’s safe to say it’s statistically insignificant compared to the number that read The Irish Times. How hard would it be for Joe to just either (a) keep on top of the subject he’s getting paid to write about, or (b) do one quick google search before banging out an article?

Onwards and downwards.

[Friday, May 6th, 2011](http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/theticket/2011/0506/1224296189076.html)
> PORTAL 2 HAS been the subject of some rave reviews, but one innovation seems to have escaped critics: the villain’s voice is American and one of the sympathetic voices is English. This is very rare.

Reading his *Portal 2* review, I thought “you know, this is all just fluffy bullshit that you could extrapolate from reading the back of the box – I don’t think this guy has actually *finished* the game.” This article, which appeared a week after his review, clinched it for me. I would bet cash money that Joe has not actually finished the 8-hour game he has been paid to write about. Actually, forget about ‘finishing’ the game, I would bet he hasn’t actually played the game for more than 4 hoursDoes anyone have his Xbox Gamertag or Steam/PSN account name? It would be easy to tell how much of the game he’s finished from any of these.. Why do I say this? Because if you do play the game for that long, you’d realise that there’s a glaring error with Joe’s statement. There’s a second-act twist, which happens roughly three-to-four hours in, and he is completely oblivious to.

I’m not saying that reviewers need to finish all games to completion before reviewing them. This is completely unworkable. How would anyone ever review something like *World of Warcraft* which, in effect, has no ending? But I think it’s a genuine disgrace when someone can’t be bothered to finish a short game like *Portal 2* — or even to play it for four hours — but will happily accept money to review it. It’s like a restaurant reviewer saying “Well, technically, I didn’t *eat* there, but I looked in the window and it seemed nice enough.”

Again, I just want to reiterate that I don’t want this to be a personal attack on Joe Griffin. I’m sure he’s a lovely bloke and, like I said, when he’s writing about movies, he’s fine. I’ve even heard him talk about movies on [Arena](http://www.rte.ie/radio1/arena/) and I thought he was one of the better guests they’ve had on there. He was well-informed and articulate.

It’s just a shame that he can’t be the same when he’s writing about videogames. It’s even more of a shame given the amount of genuinely talented Irish people who are writing passionately and thoughtfully about videogames (e.g. the guys at [Games Toaster](http://gamestoaster.com/) or [Shoryuken](http://www.shoryuken.ie)) and who would gladly write for free to get their stuff in The Irish Times.

Article updated at 21:43GMT+1 to tone down some things that were a little too mean


I would spazz right the fuck out if I had to live in just 24 square metres (shit, all my videogame stuff alone probably takes up about 20 square metres), but fair play to this guy, he seems to be totally zen and came up with a pretty good solution.


“The Portal 2 Authoring Tools include versions of the same tools we used to make Portal 2. They’ll allow you to create your own singleplayer and co-op maps, new character skins, 3D models, sound effects, and music.”
PC-only right now. But still: oh wow.


Can we cut everything but Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock? Even without context, he’s hilarious. The rest of the show? Not so much.


Re-watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, 17 years later

I don’t know what triggered it, but I decided to start re-watching all of *Star Trek: The Next Generation*. There’s something about this show that still manages to evoke certain emotions in me. Like it’s hitting a part of my brain that hasn’t been touched since I was a kid. Even now, the sound of that theme song makes me feel like I’m 16 again and I’m just about to sit down and watch a quick episode on BBC2 before I start my homework. I’ve made it through the first season, and here are some of the things I’ve noticed so far.

* When it first aired, I remember thinking how technically impressive this show was, especially compared to the original series. The effects were great, the make-up was mind-blowing. Was I high? This is terrible! I can’t count the amount of times I’ve watched Worf’s prosthetic head-piece wobble almost completely off his head.
* Speaking of Worf, who decided this guy was supposed to be a big, tough badass? So far, he’s lost every fight he’s gotten into.
* Fuck Wesley. The majority of the episodes in the first season – especially in the first half – are solved by Wesley pulling some *deus ex machina* bullshit in the last five minutes.
* Picard is a bit eager to pull the Enterprise’s self-destruct trigger, isn’t he? I think he’s done it three times in the first season. In the twenty-something episodes of the first season, that means there’s a one-in-ten chance that Picard will try to blow up the ship. I know this is cheating, but there’s an episode in the second season, where the Enterprise is being treated like a rat in a maze, being tested by some huge cosmic being. Picard lasts all of about fifteen minutes before saying “fuck this” and engaging the auto-destruct.
* How the fuck did I never realise how racist this show is? Each new alien is a thinly-veiled cipher for the writer’s unique brand of xenophobia. The Ferengi alone should have warranted some kind of action from the Anti-Defamation League.
* I loved where they brought in Michael Berryman, drew a line down his face with a sharpie and then suddenly they’ve got one of the most believable, fucked-up looking aliens the show has ever seen.