Evenings in Rome

Statues

Ah, Roma.

Despite my tragic Italian vocabulary and the fact that, in a land of thin, tan people, I stick out like a sore thumb, our trip was largely successful. We managed to get some sense of what our life in Rome would be like.

The City Itself

An image that keeps popping into my head is of the entire Roman Empire rolling around on the ground saying "Help! I've fallen, and I can't get up!" It's a beautiful city, but it's not coping very well with modern life. Aside from the copious levels of really, really shitty graffiti, the heritage doesn't seem to be respected. There's a lot of history scattered around, at the sides of roads, but this is neglected and uncared for. For example, I can't help but feel that, in any other country, the ruins at Viale Argentine with its beautiful, two-thousand-year old frescos would be treated as a national landmark. In Rome, however, the ruins are used as a cat sanctuary. I guess you could look at this as simple pragmatism but it still feels slightly tragic.

Driving in Rome

I also have a new-found respect for Italian drivers. The motto over there seems to be "keep it moving". Which means that if someone cuts you off, you honk your horn, you wave your fist, you give them a mean glare, but you keep it moving. I saw things over there that would have drivers jumping out of the car with rage, but the Italians just get on with it.

And this means that there are very few traffic lights in Rome. Near our hotel in Gianicolo, traffic from four different directions merge into one lane. I spent an hour just watching this intersection. Despite the lack of traffic lights, noone slowed below 30kph and noone got into an accident. It was beautiful. Balletic.

But it reaffirmed for me that I will never, ever be able to drive in Rome. Just driving home from my mom's house yesterday, I noticed I was starting to drive like an Italian. And it scared the living shit out of me.

And the food

Do you really need another person going on about how great the food is in Italy?

Apartment-hunting

Finding a place to live in Rome is going to be a pain, I can tell.

While I was there, we saw two places. One of them was a beautiful house. Four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two outside areas. Oh, it was beautiful. But it was in a really sketchy area of the town. I live in Stoneybatter and work on Thomas Street, I know what sketchy is. And even I was put off by the area. And besides my own personal problems with the area, it just isn't suitable for entertaining or Embassy work.

The other was a lot smaller; one bedroom, two bathrooms, with not a lot of storage. But it's in a much better neighbourhood. And despite the lack of space, it's a much more beautiful place. And we want to live there. And so begins the dance.

You see, over here, it's a much more simple affair. You like the look of an apartment, it's in your budget, the landlord likes the look of you and, boom, the apartment is yours. Over there, it's a lot more like a mating ritual, with a lot more bum-sniffing before anyone actually gets mounted.

"We'll pay _$amount_ per month"

"Ah, but it's worth $amount*3 per month"

"That's on a short-term lease, we're offering a guaranteed $amount per month for a 3-year lease with a 3 month security deposit"

"I won't do anything less than $amount*2 per month, 6 month security deposit and a bank bond"

...etc...

So God only knows when we'll actually have somewhere to live.

Getting ready to say goodbye

When we were told that H. was being posted abroad, I got scared. Actually, let me rephrase that. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was terrified. I knew it was coming, but I'd hoped that... I dunno... they'd forget about her. Forget to tell her to move. Or they'd say that they wouldn't need her to start until August.

August 2010.

It was not to be. We got word last week that she's due to start on May 7th. Barely a month from now. So time is against us.

Last week, I handed in my notice. I've worked in this company for five years now, and it was such a surreal feeling to be finally saying the words "I quit." I'd wanted to say them for a long time now. I'd almost said them a few times, when things got really tough, when I desperately wanted a change of scenery. But something always had held me back. Stability? You can't really call this place 'stable.' Job satisfaction? Best skip that one. Security? Maybe - a steady pay cheque is a thing of beauty. Most likely, I stayed because of two things: the prestige of working for this company, and the people I work with.

As a geek, especially a games geek, this is a very prestigious company to work for. The sense of geek pride is enormous, especially given its reputation within the Irish software industry. It might not be as big as Google, but sometimes it feels like this is a good thing. With a small team, it feels more select: the elite of the elite, the ubermensch.

And as for the people, well... I'll miss them more than the job.

It feels like it's coming close to the last day of school. Weird, mixed feelings of relief and regret. The door of opportunity has been flung open! I am master of my own destiny once again! There is nothing I can't do!

Nothing, that is, except work with my friends like this again.

Show, don't tell.

When I was doing the screenwriting course, we were constantly being reminded of one of the golden rules of writing: Show, don't tell - describe the scene through actions, rather than words.

And this is why I love The Wire so much. Everything is shown, not told. The writers assume the audience is smart enough to figure out what the characters are doing, without resorting to have the characters ask each other what they are doing.

There's a perfect example of this in Episode 4 of Season One, "Old Cases". This is the entire dialogue (taken from the subtitles on the DVD) between McNulty and Bunk as they dig through an old crime scene. Gold star if you can figure out their actions from their dialogue.

16
  • This is the one?

  • Yup. Hasn't been rented since.

17

Fuck.

18

Motherfucker.

19

Fucking fuck.

20

Fuck.

21

Fuck.

22

What the fuck?

23

Fuck.

24

Fuck.

25

  • No.

  • Fuck.

26

Fuck it.

27

Oh, the fuck.

28

Motherfuck.

29

Aw, fuck.

30

Fuckity, fuck, fuck.

31

Fucker.

32

Oh, fuck.

33

Fuck.

34

Motherfucker.

35

Fuckin' A.

36

Fuck.

37

Check this.

38

Motherfucker.

39

Fuck me.

Sonic and Mario... together?

If we weren't but a few days off from April Fool's day, I probably wouldn't have such a hard time believing this. This is the video equivalent of the Beatles teaming up with the Rolling Stones to form the world's greatest band. Why, there's no way this could not be awesome!

Uh...

TOKYO (March 28, 2007) - SEGA® Corporation and Nintendo Co. Ltd. today made a historical announcement that two of the biggest icons in the entertainment industry, Mario™ and Sonic™, are joining forces to star in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. Developed for the Wii™ video game system and the Nintendo DS™ system, this momentous agreement marks the first time these two renowned stars have appeared together in a game.

Published by SEGA across Europe and North America, and published by Nintendo in the Japanese market, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games will be available for Christmas 2007 and is licensed through a worldwide partnership with International Sports Multimedia (ISM), the exclusive interactive entertainment software licensee of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

In Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, players will compete in events that take place in environments based on the official venues of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Using a supporting cast of characters from the amazing worlds of both Mario and Sonic, gamers will be able to compete as or against a range of lovable personalities including Mario, Sonic, Luigi™, Knuckles™, Yoshi®, Tails™ and more. Innovative usage of the Wii and DS control systems to maneuver a favourite character will allow players to race the likes of Mario and Sonic down the 100m track, engage in exhilarating rallies in table tennis and churn water in a swimming heat, all while competing for the much sought after gold medal.

"We are thrilled to partner with Nintendo and ISM on this groundbreaking title," said Hisao Oguchi, President and Chief Operating Officer, SEGA Corporation. "For the first time, two of the world's greatest games' characters come together to compete in the world's greatest sporting event and we couldn't be more excited."

"Mario and Sonic have been respectful rivals since the early days of video games," says Shigeru Miyamoto, Senior Managing Director and General Manager, Entertainment Analysis and Development Division, Nintendo Co., Ltd.. "In fact, for a long time they have been discussing the possibility of one day competing against each other. Now that they have been given the perfect opportunity to meet at the Olympic Games, we may finally learn who is actually faster, Mario or Sonic?"

"The Olympic Games represent the true spirit of competition and passion," said Raymond Goldsmith, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ISM. "Bringing together intensely competitive and fun characters like Mario and Sonic in an Olympic setting helps showcase the sports of the Olympic Games in a new and compelling way for all generations."

Books - free to a good home!

We're in the process of streamlining all our stuff for moving to Italy. We've gone trough our clothes, DVDs, books and games. The things we're not taking to Rome are going to our mothers' houses. The things that don't go to our mothers' houses are going to charity shops.

Before we start taking the books down to Oxfam, we figured it might be best to offer them around to our friends first.

First batch of books! If you want anything here, drop me a mail. Otherwise, it's off to the charity shop or bookcrossing.

Neuromancer - William Gibson

Hearbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggers

Blockbuster - Tom Shone

Captain Scott - Ranulph Fiennes

Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction - Sue Tonsend

A-Z of Living Together - Jeff Green

Romanitas - Sophia McDougall

The Little Friend - Donna Tartt

Crusader Gold - David Gibbins (second-worst book I've ever read)

Seven Ancient Wonders - Matthew Reilly (worst book I've ever read - fascinatingly, perversely bad)

Tales of a Punk Rock Nothing - Himelstein

The Love of a Good Woman - Alice Munro

Mortal Engines - Philip Reeve

Lord of the Flies - William Golding

Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Haruki Murakami

The Fuck Up - Arthur Nersesian

How to Make Love Like a Porn Star - Jenna Jameson

High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess - Charles Fleming

Megatokyo vol 1. - Fred Gallagher

The Man Who Ate Everything - Jeffrey Steingarten

How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie

the Bagthorpe Triangle - Helen Cresswell

Monster Island - David Wellington

Freakonomics - Stephen D. Levitt

Newfoundland - Rebecca Ray

The Alphabet of Manliness - Maddox

Is It Just Me or Is Everything Shit? - Steve Lowe

Howling at the Moon - Walter Vetnikoff

The Pope's Children - David McWilliams

Notes on a Scandal - Zoe Heller

The World According to Mimi Smartipants

Woman's Inhumanity to Woman - Phyllis Chesler

Short Hands, Long Pockets - Eddie Hobbs

City Chic: An Urban Girl's Guide to Livin' Large on Less - Nina Willdorf

All American Girl: Ready or Not - Meg Cabot

A Certain Chemistry - Mil Millington

Wicked - Gregory Maguire

Kiss and Tell - Alain de Botton

Vernon God Little - DBC Pierre

Urban Bikers' Tricks and Tips

Mysterious Island - Jules Verne

Something for the Weekend

Here's some things to make your St. Patrick's weekend even better.

Listen: Huey Lewis and the News - Fore!

Fuck all these know-nothing assholes who say that "Sport" is better, Fore! is Huey Lewis and the News' best album. It's olde-time rock n' roll, done by a bunch of guys who knew what rock n' roll was. The perfect antidote to all these insipid girly-men whining about how they're missing their girlfriends and it's breaking their hearts, or whining about how they're sooooo misunderstood and it's breaking their hearts (hey, fuck you, Chester Bennington). Huey Lewis, on the other hand, wrote about missing his girlfriend and how he was gonna ride the shit out of her when he got home.

_Everybody else is holding hands I'm here lonely, playing around with my microphone stand But i'm coming home one more week The first three days we won't get any sleep_

To get you in the mood, here's the video for "Stuck with you", which is definitely going to be the first song at my wedding.

Useless Trivia: Huey Lewis played harmonica on Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous.

Watch: Kickboxer

Kickboxer is a great movie at the best of times, but it's a masterpiece after a couple of beers (and this being Patrick's weekend, this is almost a given). After his jackass brother gets his back broken by evil mongoloid Tong Po in a kickboxing match, Jean Claude Van Damme decides to become a master kickboxer himself and get revenge. My favourite thing about this movie is the fact that the people in Thailand keep giving Jean Claude Van Damme shit for being American when he clearly isn't.

It also features the stupidest, most out-of-place dancing ever put to film. Observe.

I really want to remake this movie. I think it would still work as a low-budget youtube kind of thing, shot around the streets of Dublin.

Useless Trivia: After Kickboxer, Dennis Chan, who played Van Damme's trainer Xian Chow, went on to star in "Xiang Gang qi an zhi qiang jian", aka 'Legal Rape', aka 'Naked Killer 2', aka 'Raped by an Angel', aka 'Super Rape'. (And that sentence is going to fuck my google traffic for months now.)

PlayStation 3, Teledildonics and You

Talking to Cliph on IM about the PlayStation 3, we touched on the ideas of how the social space in Home will be filtered. For example, in the public area, people can talk to each other using a keyboard, the built-in phrases ("Would you like to play a game?") or via a Bluetooth headset. It's likely that there will be a bunch of 'banned' words for those using the keyboard input, but will there be any restrictions on what can be said via a headset? Is there anything to stop me turning the virtual air blue with obscenities?

Sony have said that in the private space, there will be few restrictions. You will be able to decorate your 'room' with whatever images you have on your PlayStation 3's hard drive. You can stream whatever movies and sound files on your PlayStation 3's hard drive and everyone visiting your room will be able to see and hear these files. I'm willing to bet that without restrictions, there will be a thriving red-light market in Sony's Home faster than you can say "WELCOME TO JOHN'S COCK PALACE."

But let's go even further. By taking the possible sexual underworld of Home and combining it with Sony's own USB Trance Vibrator (released with 'Rez' on the PlayStation 2), we could be witnessing an evolution and mass-marketization of teledildonics.

I can't wait to see what happens when you put in the Konami code.

Detox

In preparation for the trip to Rome, I'm working my way through a list of 99 things to do before moving to another country. One of these was 'Get a dental MOT'. So, after 10 years of avoiding the dentist, I finally caved last week. Overall, not bad. A couple of minor fillings, but in pretty good shape, considering it's been ten years, and the amount of Diet Coke I drink.

I drink assloads of Diet Coke. Retarded amounts. And it's easily the worst thing for my teeth because not only does the sweetener rot the teeth (although I've seen Mythbusters - it's not as corrosive as people say), the copious amounts of caffeine running through my system makes me grind my teeth in my sleep. I wake up with a sore jaw and my teeth are slightly worse for wear.

This was made worse by the weekend that was in it. H. had over to Rome for a bit of a reccy. Checking out the apartment, checking out the people she would be working with. Which left me with four days all to myself. I did nothing but eat junk, drink Diet Coke and play Crackdown on the Xbox 360. I came out the other side feeling rotten. Not so much a shadow of my former self, but a dirty, bloated, jiggly play-do model of my former self. So, big changes are afoot.

Yesterday marked the first day without Diet Coke. And it was awful. I was sucking down Tramil to cope with the headaches, I was going outside every hour for some air to keep me awake. I was grouchy. I was lethargic. And since I could barely keep my eyes open, I probably shouldn't have driven up to Tesco at 9pm.

Today, however, it's all different. I managed to get out of bed when my alarm went off, instead of hitting the snooze button for an hour. My headache is gone, and I'm already getting work done. Hell, I'm almost lucid.

It'll never last.

Home (or: I think Sony just killed Second Life)

sony_home.jpg

Today at the Game Developer's Conference, Sony officially announced "Home". Home is so many things, it's a little complicated to describe.

Pitched as somewhere between Second Life and MySpace, it's a social space where PlayStation 3 owners can meet PlayStation 3 owners. They do this by navigating an avatar (similar to Nintendo's Mii, but more realistic and with more customization options) around a 3D world. Each user also gets a private space - a virtual apartment - which they can customize as they see fit. They can invite people into this private space and launch multiplayer games, or stream music and videos from their PlayStation 3 to the other people in this room. Sony's Home includes a virtual 'trophy room' where people can display their 'entitlements' (Sony's answer to Xbox 360's achievements) as moving, 3D trophies.

Oh, and it's all free.

sony_home_2.jpg

This was Sony's ace in the hole. A completely unexpected, beautifully executed masterstroke that almost makes you forget about all of Sony's fuck-ups with PlayStation 3.

Almost.

Right now, Sony is still talking about the possibilities of Home, and although a lot of these are still pretty blue-sky suggestions, they do give you some idea of what an online virtual world is capable of when you've got the weight and muscle of the entire Sony Corporation behind it. For example, using its ability to stream high-def movies, there could be movie premieres (in a virtual cinema) of Sony Pictures movies within Home. And for the MySpazz crowd, there's the possibility of in-game appearances by their favourite Sony BMG bands.

I bet the makers of Second Life won't get much sleep tonight.