What's the Best Way to Register Distaste?

Since I’ve been doing a lot of to’ing and fro’ing between Ireland and Rome, I’ve made a firm decision to never fly Ryanair ever again, unless it absolutely cannot be avoided. There’s a few reasons behind this.

  1. First, and most obviously, Michael O’Leary could possibly be the world’s biggest cunt. The kind of person I would be very happy to hear had spontaneously burst into flames and choked to death on his own melting oesophegus.

  2. I’m sick of being treated like a piece of shit by Ryanair’s barely-competent ground crew. I was blind drunk one night and went into Zaytoon, where the extremely condescending guy behind the counter started acting all “wellity, wellity, wellity, what a surprise, the drunk fat man wants a kebab”. I remember thinking “Hey fuck you, dicknose! You’re the shithead who works in a kebab shop, you’re in no position to judge anyone. Just slice the meat and shut your stupid face.” This is kind of how I feel about Ryanair ground staff.

  3. I’m sick of being hawked shit every ten minutes on their flights. Especially when I just want to sleep.

  4. They’re a false economy. Ryanair gives you 15kg for your checked luggage, and it’s €20 per kilo above that. Aer Lingus gives you 20kg. So whenever I’m booking a flight, I’ll always add an extra €200 to the Ryanair price. They’re never cheaper than Aer Lingus.

Simply avoiding them isn’t enough for me though. I want them to know each time I avoid them. Down the street where I work, there are a bunch of bars that we used to go to, but that we now avoid because they decided it would be better to try and rip us off once than have our continued, regular custom. Now, I’ll occasionally walk into one of these bars, wait until someone acknowledges my presence, and then leave and go to another bar. It’s ridiculous and petty, I know, but so am I.

So I want to do something like this with Ryanair. Every time I take a trip, I’d like to send a letter saying “Hello, I’m flying between $city_a and $city_b, but I decided to fly with one of your competitors because I think your business practices are appalling.” I thought this was a great idea until someone pointed out that they’re such cheap cunts that they’d probably charge me an administrative fee for having opened and read the letter/email.

So what’s the best way to let Ryanair when they’re missing out on a fare from me? The pettier and more ridiculous, the better.

Assassin's Creed 2

Playing the first Assassin's Creed was like going out with some very cute, bi-polar girl. She's attractive, and crazy enough that the sex is amazing, but you have to watch out because her mood could change in the blink of an eye and next thing you know, you're waking up in a bath of ice with a giant hole where your kidney used to be, just because you didn't compliment her on her new shoes.

To strain this analogy even further, Assassin's Creed 2, is like her cute, completely stable younger sister. She's just as attractive as the older sister but, most importantly, she's learned from all her older sister's mistakes (Lesson number one: don't be fucking insane). And yeah, the sex might be less wild/dangerous, but you know where you stand. It's safe.

I loved Assassin's Creed 2. It never had any real moments of standout genius in it, but at the same time, it never had me repeating the same six missions-types for five hours, unlike the first game. Instead, it had a continuous string of smaller, more diverse missions, which meant that you were constantly doing something new. One mission would begin right where the last one finished. You never had a chance to get bored, and you never really felt like turning the game off was an option. I'll say this now: for me, Assassin's Creed 2 did a better job of doling out missions than GTA IV.

In fact, I liked this game so much, I'm ploughing through it to make it the fourth game I'll have gotten all 1000 achievement points on. At least, it would have been, except there's one achievement - for kicking a guy while flying your little Hudson Hawk hang glider - that you could only get on one particular mission that you couldn't replay. Of course, I didn't know this when I played the mission, or else I would have kicked that little bollocks off his perch and gotten my achievement.

With the first batch of downloadable content for the game, titled The Battle of Forli, Ubisoft dropped a whole load of these flying machines into various parts in the levels, which means that people like me who missed the achievement first time around could finally get it.

Oh, and they threw a bit of a story around it too.

And here's where I lost interest. The story in The Battle of Forli is bullshit. Total bullshit. The 'dramatic' climax has you fighting a metric fuckload of guards as you chase down the last remaining bad guy. I only bought this DLC to get the achievement, so at this stage, I cared so little about the story that I just ran past all the guards. It was like a Benny Hill sketch, me tearing through the Tuscan countryside with 50 sword-wielding soldiers chasing after me. All it was missing was a bit of Yakkety Sax. In the end, the bad guy reaches his pre-scripted "end" spot and turns around to fight me, at which point I smack him in the head with a hammer before he can even draw his sword. End of DLC.

The perfect end to a storyline I couldn't have cared less about.

Update: I got the last of the 1000 achievement points this evening. As if you care.

Why is No-One Watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia?

I don't get it. 30 Rock is massively successful and gets nominated for all sorts of awards every year, despite coasting on fumes for the past three seasons. I can't remember the last time that show made me laugh. Meanwhile, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - the one show on TV that will consistently make me gut-laugh until I feel like I'm going to pass out - slips under almost everyone's radar.

Okay, I understand that jokes about main characters developing crack addictions to get on welfare and finding dumpster babies aren't exactly for everyone, whereas Tina Fey joking about eating pizza instead of going to the gym is something completely inoffensive that everyone can find adorable. But fuck, is that really an excuse for hardly anyone to watch It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia?

Not only is this show funny, it's also full of great ideas, especially if you're on a race to the bottom. This show introduced me to the idea of drinking wine out of a soda can, which has immeasurably improved my ability to party. Now I can dance and gesticulate wildly while not spilling a drop of my wine. And then, of course, there's Kitten Mittons:

Seriously, if you haven't seen this show already, you should stop what you're doing, turn off your phone and spend a weekend getting caught up. If you have seen this show already, wouldn't now be a great time for a re-watch?

Why is No-One Watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia?

I don’t get it. 30 Rock is massively successful and gets nominated for all sorts of awards every year, despite coasting on fumes for the past three seasons. I can’t remember the last time that show made me laugh. Meanwhile, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia — the one show on TV that will consistently make me gut-laugh until I feel like I’m going to pass out — slips under almost everyone’s radar.

Okay, I understand that jokes about main characters developing crack addictions to get on welfare and finding dumpster babies aren’t exactly for everyone, whereas Tina Fey joking about eating pizza instead of going to the gym is something completely inoffensive that everyone can find adorable. But fuck, is that really an excuse for hardly anyone to watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia?

Not only is this show funny, it’s also full of great ideas, especially if you’re on a race to the bottom. This show introduced me to the idea of drinking wine out of a soda can, which has immeasurably improved my ability to party. Now I can dance and gesticulate wildly while not spilling a drop of my wine. And then, of course, there’s Kitten Mittons:

Seriously, if you haven’t seen this show already, you should stop what you’re doing, turn off your phone and spend a weekend getting caught up. If you have seen this show already, wouldn’t now be a great time for a re-watch?

Is This Thing Still On?

Oh, hai.

If you know me, you know I'm not particularly great at managing my time. I'm not one of those smug cunts who can churn out 3 books and a PhD defense before breakfast. I have trouble staying focused and finishing the things I start. My wife loves it when I leave wet laundry lying on the bed because I got distracted halfway through hanging it up.

Right now, college is sucking all of my time. I'm in my final year (fingers crossed!) of an arts degree, and so I'm up to my nuts in postmodernism, victorianism, romanticism -- lots of -isms -- Kant, Plato, and the various ontological and cosmological reasons for God. It's all fun stuff - even more so when my computer hard drive craps out right in the middle of writing an essay. Hilarious.

This is something I really, really want to finish. I don't want to look back on the past three years of college and think of it as a giant pile of wet laundry. So, this means that I don't have much time for anything else. Sorry, Dragon Age! Sorry, Demon's Souls! Sorry, Bioshock 2! Sorry, this blog!

I've got my final exams in the middle of May and then I'm heading off to the Primavera festival in Barcelona immediately after. Things might get back to normal after that.

Is this thing still on?

Oh, hai.

If you know me, you know I’m not particularly great at managing my time. I’m not one of those smug cunts who can churn out 3 books and a PhD defense before breakfast. I have trouble staying focused and finishing the things I start. My wife loves it when I leave wet laundry lying on the bed because I got distracted halfway through hanging it up.

Right now, college is sucking all of my time. I’m in my final year (fingers crossed!) of an arts degree, and so I’m up to my nuts in postmodernism, victorianism, romanticism — lots of –isms — Kant, Plato, and the various ontological and cosmological reasons for God. It’s all fun stuff — even more so when my computer hard drive craps out right in the middle of writing an essay. Hilarious.

This is something I really, really want to finish. I don’t want to look back on the past three years of college and think of it as a giant pile of wet laundry. So, this means that I don’t have much time for anything else. Sorry, Dragon Age! Sorry, Demon’s Souls! Sorry, Bioshock 2! Sorry, this blog!

I’ve got my final exams in the middle of May and then I’m heading off to the Primavera festival in Barcelona immediately after. Things might get back to normal after that.

Ira and Philip Glass Performing Live

This sounds amazing - From This American Life:

Hi everyone—

Ira here. Philip Glass, the iconic composer of operas and film scores who—there's no non-weird way to say this—is also my cousin, is doing a live performance at the Apple Store in Soho this Thursday, January 21st. Apple is filming it and is going to offer the video on iTunes at some point, maybe that same day for all I know.

I've been asked to perform a piece that Allen Ginsberg used to perform with Philip, Ginsberg's great Vietnam-era poem "Wichita Vortex Sutra." Philip set it to music years ago, and there are a few great recordings of them performing it together, which you are just a google search away from, or try this YouTube clip, and at this point by the way are we still supposed to capitalize Google when we use it as a verb or adjective?

I've performed this with Philip once before. He plays that piano a lot louder than you might think. It's like reading a poem inside a helicopter. It's also really fun. Ginsberg used to perform the thing with a beat poet grandeur I'd be embarrassed to attempt. When he calls down the gods in the second half of the poem, he really calls down the gods. Needless to say, it's kind of the opposite of talking on the radio, where the whole point is to sound off-hand and conversational.

I'm the smallest part of this event. Philip will be playing solo, and with cellist (also his GF) Wendy Sutter which is always fantastic and really emotional, and with his chamber group.

If you've ever listened to an episode of This American Life, then you've probably heard Wichita Vortex Sutra before, because they use it as part of their interstitial music all the time. It's the one that isn't by Why? and isn't from the Amelie soundtrack. It's also one of my favourite songs in the world - actually, all of Philip Glass' Solo Piano pieces are terrific - and I'm completely psyched to check this performance out.

Ira and Philip Glass Performing Live

This sounds amazing - From This American Life:

Hi everyone—

Ira here. Philip Glass, the iconic composer of operas and film scores who—there's no non-weird way to say this—is also my cousin, is doing a live performance at the Apple Store in Soho this Thursday, January 21st. Apple is filming it and is going to offer the video on iTunes at some point, maybe that same day for all I know.

I've been asked to perform a piece that Allen Ginsberg used to perform with Philip, Ginsberg's great Vietnam-era poem "Wichita Vortex Sutra." Philip set it to music years ago, and there are a few great recordings of them performing it together, which you are just a google search away from, or try this YouTube clip, and at this point by the way are we still supposed to capitalize Google when we use it as a verb or adjective?

I've performed this with Philip once before. He plays that piano a lot louder than you might think. It's like reading a poem inside a helicopter. It's also really fun. Ginsberg used to perform the thing with a beat poet grandeur I'd be embarrassed to attempt. When he calls down the gods in the second half of the poem, he really calls down the gods. Needless to say, it's kind of the opposite of talking on the radio, where the whole point is to sound off-hand and conversational.

I'm the smallest part of this event. Philip will be playing solo, and with cellist (also his GF) Wendy Sutter which is always fantastic and really emotional, and with his chamber group.

If you've ever listened to an episode of This American Life, then you've probably heard Wichita Vortex Sutra before, because they use it as part of their interstitial music all the time. It's the one that isn't by Why? and isn't from the Amelie soundtrack. It's also one of my favourite songs in the world - actually, all of Philip Glass' Solo Piano pieces are terrific - and I'm completely psyched to check this performance out.

Ira and Philip Glass Performing Live

This sounds amazing — From This American Life:

Hi everyone—

Ira here. Philip Glass, the iconic composer of operas and film scores who—there’s no non-weird way to say this—is also my cousin, is doing a live performance at the Apple Store in Soho this Thursday, January 21st. Apple is filming it and is going to offer the video on iTunes at some point, maybe that same day for all I know.

I’ve been asked to perform a piece that Allen Ginsberg used to perform with Philip, Ginsberg’s great Vietnam-era poem “Wichita Vortex Sutra.” Philip set it to music years ago, and there are a few great recordings of them performing it together, which you are just a google search away from, or try this YouTube clip, and at this point by the way are we still supposed to capitalize Google when we use it as a verb or adjective?

I’ve performed this with Philip once before. He plays that piano a lot louder than you might think. It’s like reading a poem inside a helicopter. It’s also really fun. Ginsberg used to perform the thing with a beat poet grandeur I’d be embarrassed to attempt. When he calls down the gods in the second half of the poem, he really calls down the gods. Needless to say, it’s kind of the opposite of talking on the radio, where the whole point is to sound off-hand and conversational.

I’m the smallest part of this event. Philip will be playing solo, and with cellist (also his GF) Wendy Sutter which is always fantastic and really emotional, and with his chamber group.

If you’ve ever listened to an episode of This American Life, then you’ve probably heard Wichita Vortex Sutra before, because they use it as part of their interstitial music all the time. It’s the one that isn’t by Why? and isn’t from the Amelie soundtrack. It’s also one of my favourite songs in the world — actually, all of Philip Glass’ Solo Piano pieces are terrific — and I’m completely psyched to check this performance out.

Guardian's Best TV Drama

Something very strange is going on in the offices of The Guardian.

Before, I thought maybe it was just a temporary blip - that someone had spiked the punch at their Christmas party, and that's why they voted Team America as the fourth-best film of the noughties. I thought maybe they were just giddy with the excitement of 2009 finally being over - surviving the first decade of the Will-enium - and that's why they voted Borat as the second-best.

Because it definitely seems as if they sobered up, realised what they'd done and made up for their moments of giddiness by finally doing the right thing and voting There Will Be Blood as the best film of the 2000s.

There's no excuse for their list of the 50 best TV dramas of all time. A lot of the results are artificially inflated by bullshit sentimentality, or worse.  For example, your teenage boner for Sarah Michelle Gellar does not mean that Buffy the Vampire Slayer had better drama or was a better show than, say, Battlestar Galactica or even Band of Brothers.

But seriously, Mad Men at #4 and _The Wir_e at #14? Did some wires get crossed somewhere? Let's leave aside the fact that The Wire isn't the clear winner and focus on Mad Men for now. I'm sure that if she was still around, Vivian Mercier would describe Mad Men as the kind of show where nothing happens, a lot. In fact, so much nothing happened in the second season that I'd be hard pressed to find any one of my friends who managed to watch the entire thing without having to go back and start again. Don't get me wrong, I still watch Mad Men, and I still enjoy it. I just think it's a little premature to put it anywhere near the top of a list like this.

As if to acknowledge that their list is completely pants-on-head retarded, the Guardian has launched a TV club to go through some of the shows that didn't make their list, starting with the terrific Edge of Darkness. It's a great idea and I hope it goes on for a while.

And maybe when it comes around to 2020, their next list will be better.

Guardian’s Best TV Drama

Something very strange is going on in the offices of The Guardian.

Before, I thought maybe it was just a temporary blip — that someone had spiked the punch at their Christmas party, and that’s why they voted Team America as the fourth-best film of the noughties. I thought maybe they were just giddy with the excitement of 2009 finally being over — surviving the first decade of the Will-enium — and that’s why they voted Borat as the second-best.

Because it definitely seems as if they sobered up, realised what they’d done and made up for their moments of giddiness by finally doing the right thing and voting There Will Be Blood as the best film of the 2000s.

There’s no excuse for their list of the 50 best TV dramas of all time. A lot of the results are artificially inflated by bullshit sentimentality, or worse.  For example, your teenage boner for Sarah Michelle Gellar does not mean that Buffy the Vampire Slayer had better drama or was a better show than, say, Battlestar Galactica or even Band of Brothers.

But seriously, Mad Men at #4 and _The Wir_e at #14? Did some wires get crossed somewhere? Let’s leave aside the fact that The Wire isn’t the clear winner and focus on Mad Men for now. I’m sure that if she was still around, Vivian Mercier would describe Mad Men as the kind of show where nothing happens, a lot. In fact, so much nothing happened in the second season that I’d be hard pressed to find any one of my friends who managed to watch the entire thing without having to go back and start again. Don’t get me wrong, I still watch Mad Men, and I still enjoy it. I just think it’s a little premature to put it anywhere near the top of a list like this.

As if to acknowledge that their list is completely pants-on-head retarded, the Guardian haslaunched a TV club to go through some of the shows that didn’t make their list, starting with the terrific Edge of Darkness. It’s a great idea and I hope it goes on for a while.

And maybe when it comes around to 2020, their next list will be better.

Middle Age Perspective on Lady Gaga — Just Dance

I’ve had a little bit too much
All of the people start to rush (Start to rush by)
A dizzy twister dance
Can’t find my drink or man.
Where are my keys, I lost my phone.
What’s going on on the floor?
I love this record baby, but I can’t see straight anymore.
Keep it cool what’s the name of this club?
I can’t remember but it’s alright, alright.

Just dance. Gonna be okay.
Da-doo-doo-doo
Just dance. Spin that record babe.
Da-doo-doo-doo
Just dance. Gonna be okay.
Duh-duh-duh-duh
Dance. Dance. Dance. Just dance.

Wish I could shut my playboy mouth.
How’d I turn my shirt inside out? (inside out, right)
Control your poison babe
Roses have thorns they say.
And we’re all gettin’ hosed tonight.
What’s going on on the floor?

As someone who is approaching middle age, this song fucking terrifies me. In a best-case scenario, this girl is blind drunk. Worst-case, someone has slipped something into her drink (which make me worry about the answer to the question of “How’d I turn my shirt inside out?”).

In either case, it’s not ‘alright’, it’s definitely not ‘gonna be okay’, and she should absolutely not ‘just dance’. This is the last thing she should be thinking about right now and will only make matters worse. She should find her ‘man’ (unless he’s the one who spiked her drink), or phone someone to come pick her up and take her home so she can get into her pyjamas and get a good night’s sleep.

Middle Age Perspective on Lady Gaga - Just Dance

I’ve had a little bit too much

All of the people start to rush (Start to rush by)

A dizzy twister dance

Can’t find my drink or man.

Where are my keys, I lost my phone.

What’s going on on the floor?

I love this record baby, but I can’t see straight anymore.

Keep it cool what’s the name of this club?

I can’t remember but it’s alright, alright.

Just dance. Gonna be okay.

Da-doo-doo-doo

Just dance. Spin that record babe.

Da-doo-doo-doo

Just dance. Gonna be okay.

Duh-duh-duh-duh

Dance. Dance. Dance. Just dance.

Wish I could shut my playboy mouth.

How’d I turn my shirt inside out? (inside out, right)

Control your poison babe

Roses have thorns they say.

And we’re all gettin’ hosed tonight.

What’s going on on the floor?

As someone who is approaching middle age, this song fucking terrifies me. In a best-case scenario, this girl is blind drunk. Worst-case, someone has slipped something into her drink (which make me worry about the answer to the question of “How’d I turn my shirt inside out?”).

In either case, it’s not ‘alright’, it’s definitely not ‘gonna be okay’, and she should absolutely not ‘just dance’. This is the last thing she should be thinking about right now and will only make matters worse. She should find her ‘man’ (unless he’s the one who spiked her drink), or phone someone to come pick her up and take her home so she can get into her pyjamas and get a good night's sleep.

Middle Age Perspective on Lady Gaga - Just Dance

I’ve had a little bit too much
All of the people start to rush (Start to rush by)
A dizzy twister dance
Can’t find my drink or man.
Where are my keys, I lost my phone.
What’s going on on the floor?
I love this record baby, but I can’t see straight anymore.
Keep it cool what’s the name of this club?
I can’t remember but it’s alright, alright.

Just dance. Gonna be okay.
Da-doo-doo-doo
Just dance. Spin that record babe.
Da-doo-doo-doo
Just dance. Gonna be okay.
Duh-duh-duh-duh
Dance. Dance. Dance. Just dance.

Wish I could shut my playboy mouth.
How’d I turn my shirt inside out? (inside out, right)
Control your poison babe
Roses have thorns they say.
And we’re all gettin’ hosed tonight.
What’s going on on the floor?

As someone who is approaching middle age, this song fucking terrifies me. In a best-case scenario, this girl is blind drunk. Worst-case, someone has slipped something into her drink (which make me worry about the answer to the question of “How’d I turn my shirt inside out?”).

In either case, it’s not ‘alright’, it’s definitely not ‘gonna be okay’, and she should absolutely not ‘just dance’. This is the last thing she should be thinking about right now and will only make matters worse. She should find her ‘man’ (unless he’s the one who spiked her drink), or phone someone to come pick her up and take her home so she can get into her pyjamas and get a good night's sleep.

Fuck 2009 →

I don't know about you, but I thought that -- as years go -- 2009 was fairly shitty. There were a few good points (awesome birthday party, Primavera, holidaying around Italy with my wife), but when I look back, I can see a whole bunch of shit that I really didn't want to have to deal with. So hooray for 2010.

Except when my wife asked me what I was most looking forward to about 2010, I went blank. The joke about it being the year we make contact is getting a little old. The only thing I could think was "at least Lost will FINALLY be over."

The AV Club lists 32 of their most anticipated movies, games, books and albums of 2010, and that's a pretty good start. I'm pretty psyched for Shutter Island and Tron Legacy, but I have to be honest, I'm not particularly fussed about Bioshock 2.

Most of all, what I'm looking forward to about 2010 is that it won't be 2009. That's good enough for me.

Jersey Shore

Are you watching Jersey Shore? You should be. It's perfect car-crash TV. Self-obsessed guidos and guidettes living together, all boozed up, horny and aggro. It's entertaining in the same way that nature documentaries are entertaining. The pure, primal instinct of a pack of lions is always fascinating to watch because you never know when things are going to kick off. Now, imagine those lions were drunk - how much better would that be? Well, that's what Jersey Shore is like. Drunk lions, covered in fake tan.

How good/bad is it? UNICO, "the largest Italian-American service organisation in the USA" has called for it to be canceled, describing it as "trash television" and saying the show "relies on crude stereotypes" and deliberately highlights the worst aspects of guido culture.

Trash television? Crude stereotypes? Why not just put out a press release, saying "Everyone, stop what you are doing and go watch this show now"?

During a promo for the rest of the season, they showed a clip of one of the girls, 'Snooki', getting a full-on punch to the face. From a big, muscly dude. Now, I'm totally against violence towards women, but HOLY FUCK LOOK AT THAT SHIT! HE BOPPED HER RIGHT ON HER STUPID FUCKING NOSE!

Idiots like me have been posting this clip all over the internet. It's huge. It's, as they say, "gone viral". And so, MTV have decided to cut the scene with the punch out of the episode. They said that "seeing how the video footage has been taken out of context to not show the severity of this act or the resulting consequences, MTV has decided not to air Snooki being physically punched in next week's episode." I'm no expert, but if they're that concerned about the context of the clip, I would have thought that the best way to give some context would be to show it in full? If I search for this clip now, I just get a load of user-uploaded videos taken from the the promo clip. If MTV don't show the full clip, with context, then this is all there will ever be. There won't ever be context.

Oh well. Punch or no punch, this show is still ridiculously entertaining.

Nicolas Cage, Goodwill Ambassador →

This is just bizarre, Nicolas Cage has been appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. My favourite quote from the press release:

"Until today, justice has been a cause without a rebel. Now we have one," said [UNODC Executive Director] Mr. Costa.

Cage has said that he will "use the performing arts as an engine for global justice and victim support".

Now, let's take a look at a couple of Nicolas Cage's movies that are coming out in 2010.
Drive Angry - "A vengeful father chases after the men who killed his daughter".
The Hungry Rabbit Jumps - "After his wife is assaulted, a husband enlists the services of a vigilante group to help him settle the score"

This is Nicolas Cage's interpretation of "global justice"? What next? A right-wing homophobic actor with a history of drug use and sexual assault being elected governor of California?

Wait, what?

Nicolas Cage, Goodwill Ambassador →

This is just bizarre, Nicolas Cage has been appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. My favourite quote from the press release:

"Until today, justice has been a cause without a rebel. Now we have one," said [UNODC Executive Director] Mr. Costa.

Cage has said that he will "use the performing arts as an engine for global justice and victim support".

Now, let's take a look at a couple of Nicolas Cage's movies that are coming out in 2010. Drive Angry - "A vengeful father chases after the men who killed his daughter". The Hungry Rabbit Jumps - "After his wife is assaulted, a husband enlists the services of a vigilante group to help him settle the score"

This is Nicolas Cage's interpretation of "global justice"? What next? A right-wing homophobic actor with a history of drug use and sexual assault being elected governor of California?

Wait, what?

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

When it comes to videogames, sequels tend to be less like the Godfather II and more like Jurassic Park II: The Lost World. Rather than making something that stands alone, that rips up the play-book and starts over from scratch and, as a result, creates something truly exceptional, you tend to just get more of the same, only slightly bigger and slightly sillier. So instead of "I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart!", you get Jeff Goldblum's child lepping about on monkey-bars and drop-kicking a velociraptor out a window. (Not that I'm making a judgement-call here, both films have their times and places.)

It's kind of hard to tell where Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 falls. On the one hand, it completely obliterates the first game in terms of the scope of the action and the improvements to the multiplayer are just a shade short of revolutionary. It's probably the most beautifully rendered conflict I've seen in a videogame and every level manages to create its own unique sense of tension - from close, claustrophobic fighting through corridors and narrow streets, to giant open levels where you're being attacked on all sides.

On the other hand, it really is dumb as a bag of hammers.

The narrative is all over the place. With the first game. developers Infinity Ward lifted heavily from all the big modern war movies - Black Hawk Down, Jarhead etc. I guess they must have played their cards early. With this new one, we get a couple of bits taken from Generation Kill ("Put the camera down, Spielberg" "CNN's gonna pay loads for this footage!") before they seem to say "fuck it, there's nothing else we can steal" and go all Red Dawn - RED FUCKING DAWN - complete with Russians parachuting down into suburban America. I shit you not.

Now, I love Red Dawn as much as the next guy, but like I said, there's a time and a place for everything. And the time for Red Dawn was thirty years ago, because now it's just a dumb relic of a dumb time. Here's the thing though: the writers make it very clear that they're aware of how dumb this is. The level where you're battling the Russians through a middle American neighbourhood is called "Wolverines!" - you know, an explicit reference to Red Dawn. It's a knowing wink to the audience, like they're saying "hey, we know this is stupid and ridiculous and over-the-top, but it's all just a bit of fun, y'know?"

Which makes the now-infamous airport scene all the more curious.

(If you care about this game, don't know what happens in this scene and don't want to be 'spoiled', then stop reading now. The game came out almost a month ago, which is like ten years ago in internet-spoiler time, so don't complain if I ruin the impact of this scene for you.)

Still reading? Good. If you don't know what happens in this scene, then I'll explain. You're playing an American agent who has infiltrated a Russian terrorist group. The level opens on a crowded airport full of civilians. Your group walks in and starts shooting indiscriminately into the crowd. How you take it from here, is entirely up to you. You can get through the level without killing anyone, or you can do what I did, walk through the level spraying bullets at everything that moved and tossing grenades in every direction. (I don't feel even slightly bad about this because I can tell the difference between real life and videogames). The level ends with the head of your group shooting you and leaving you to die, placing the blame on the Americans for the massacre.

Outside of the game, though, it's a little more confused. Why did the developers feel the need to include this level? Most other games would have been content to tell this part of the story through dialogue or a cut-scene. "ring ring Hey bro, you'll never believe it! The Russians killed a load of people and are blaming Americans and - wait, are those parachutes?" Instead, they actually had you walking through the scene with a gun in your hand. Even if Columbine and Virginia Tech had never happened, this would be an uncomfortable sell. As it happens, they're impossible to escape throughout this scene. And a lot of people are asking why Infinity Ward chose to include it, especially when you spend every other part of the game mowing down various nameless, hard-to-distinguish ethnicities.

Now, here's my take on the whole thing. I don't think that anyone telling a story is obliged to cover all bases. They tell the story that suits them best. Within the context of the game, the airport level makes perfect sense. The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games take place in an alternate near-future where Russian ultra-nationalists are in power, and this is just the excuse they need to send the country to war. Placing you in the thick of the action, then, draws you in. Even if you go through the level without firing a single shot, you feel complicit and spend the rest of the game trying to 'fix' your mistake.One thing I found interesting though is that despite the fact you go through suburban and central Washington, there's not one American civilian to get caught in the crossfire. And in those levels where you're supposed to be saving hostages, if even one of them dies, it's game over and you have to try again

As to why the rest of the enemies in the game don't get the same level of attention to their back-story or motives, well that's just as simple. Why should it? From a narrative point of view, what purpose would it serve? Does the fact that your virtual enemy has a wife and child and perhaps dubious motivations change the fact that when he's shooting at you, you're going to pop his head like a melon? It's similar to the complaints labeled at Black Hawk Down, that it was about dehumanizing the enemy. The story was about American soldiers and their point of view in this fight. The film split its time between five or six main soldiers and the story was told almost from their first-person point of view (well, as first-person as you can get in a movie without it being a gimmicky pile of ass. Right, Doom?). If the Somalis had a back-story, the US soldiers didn't know it and so we, the audience, didn't know it. Isn't that why we invented the unreliable narrator?

Of course, this all changes in games like Modern Warfare 2 where you are the narrator, and you are narrating the story of the enemies. We will probably need a new paradigm for this kind of storytelling, but I'm not sure I'm going to figure it out in this (already long-winded) blog post. Don't get me wrong, Modern Warfare 2 is a great game, and the only thing that has helped me kick my Modern Warfare 1 addiction. I just wish there had been some consistency throughout it. The airport level was something completely new to videogames and extremely well done. They laid the groundwork for an amazing story, but the Loony Tunes cartoon violence bullshit they followed it up with just felt a little flat.