Saturday, 28 February 2015

CHER HOROWITZ'S WARDROBE ORGANISER IS REAL (KIND OF)


OK so I don't ever like writing that something changed my life, especially not an app, but as I started unpacking my clothes into our new place and realised I didn't have room for all of them in my wardrobe, and didn't want to just shove them in the attic and forget about them....Well that's when the Stylebook Closet App stepped in and totally changed my life guys!

It's also as close as you can get to Cher Horowitz's wardrobe computer program without travelling back in time to a fictional universe created by Amy Heckerling.


There are a couple of apps that do similar things (My Dressing and Metail for example) but I found Stylebook the easiest to use.  It works like this - you take a photo of the item of your clothing you want logged, or grab one from the internet (I just did all the summer stuff I don't need out at the moment, but you could do EVERYTHING), you put the image in the right folder, and then you can make notes on where it is.  For example, my yellow tartan Cher Horowitz skirt is currently in Summer Box No. 1 in my attic.  Oh god I get such a shiver of organising joy to know that.  You can also plan outfits using the app, Cher style, or decide what dress you're going to give to charity because you haven't worn it in two years.  It's also a great way to keep track of potential duplicates.  I have so many white vests because I forget I have all those white vests, so when I walk past the white vest shop I always think, "Hmm, I should get a white vest, I don't have a white vest". #whitevest

Anyway, it's a life changer.

Monday, 23 February 2015

I'VE KNOWN THE SECRET OF 'MONKEY ISLAND' FOR 25 YEARS


I got to write about my favourite game of all time for Vice, I still play Monkey Island, and still love it, it's pretty perfect.  Also it's now available for the iPad...

I called you again today. I couldn't help it. I knew I had to be quick – my parents were downstairs, but they could have come up at any second. Or, far worse, they might have picked up the extension and heard you talking. I know it's a cliché for someone my age to say, "They just don't understand!" But they really don't. I'm too young to be able to go out on my own, too old to play on the streets, so the weekends and holidays stretch out in front of me, silent, blank, achingly dull. Boredom is always the trigger for our very worst behaviour.

The funniest thing is that it was really my dad who introduced us. I remember when he brought home the new computer (which had a soundcard!) and plugged it in. The warm air on my bare legs as it hummed, the comforting whirrs and beeps as it booted up, the sound of the CD drawer sliding open, the screen he cleaned with his sleeve causing crackles of static. I fell in love.

In the evenings it belonged to him, but during the summer months while he was at work, that baby was all mine. I played the games that came with it – Beneath a Steel Sky, some Star Wars thing, Doom – and was hooked. I started pulling my dad into GAME in Kingston on Saturdays, entranced by the boxes on the shelves – Theme Park, Sim City – and the magazines that promised, and quite often delivered, cheats that made games loads more fun, but only for a couple of hours. I didn't want to know everything; I just wanted a couple of hints.


Then, one rainy Sunday, I watched the son of my parents' friends play The Secret of Monkey Island for three hours in his dad's study. The next week I convinced my dad I needed this game in my life. Being the amazing father he is, he indulged me. Monkey Island was unlike any game I'd ever played before – so funny and so smart, it was pure escapism. But oh my god it was hard, and for some reason cheats for the game were never featured in the magazines I bought.
I would reach points where I couldn't work out what to do for months and months, stuck going round and round the island, systematically trying every item on any man woman and child I came across, getting increasingly frustrated with (main character) Guybrush Threepwood's response: "I don't think I can do that."

Can't you at least try, Guybrush?

I wanted to reason with him, to bargain. Inevitably, I would just keep trudging around the forest until the next time I was sat in my parents' friends' study, when I could quiz their son on what to do next. The solution would always be something that worked because of a pun, or was the punch line to a joke – something I would never have been able to work out for myself.

But sometimes even he couldn't remember the solution. Those were the dark days.

It was after one such occasion I started rifling through the box the game had come in, desperate now, hoping maybe there would be some sort of cheat sheet. And there it was, at the back of the installation booklet, written very small: your telephone number. I stared at it, I couldn't believe it – this would make everything so much easier. But it was a premium number. I knew it wouldn't be included in our BT free calls, and that it would show up on the telephone bill. The telephone bill that my mum had begun going through with a highlighter, asking my sister and I to explain the numbers she didn't recognise. She had two daughters, one a teen, the other not far off, and this was the golden age of the landline – can you blame her?

I'll just call it for a second.

I'll be so quick.


My hands were shaking as I dialled the number, then a recorded voice played down the phone, "Welcome to the helpline for LucasArts games." You started reeling off names of games, OH MY GOD THERE WERE SO MANY GAMES. My heart was pounding. Finally you sighed, "Monkey Island," and I pressed the number. "If you need help with the first part of the game..." You sounded so bored, but of course you had the luxury of being bored – you knew all the answers.

I wish I could say that I only ever called the hint line once – that it was enough and I used my own guile and wisdom to complete the game. But that would be a lie. I called many, many times. Never for longer than a couple of seconds, but enough that I had to pay my parents back in instalments (they were really nice about it). But I still carried on calling. Eventually I could just fly through the intro section, the confident caller who knows the extension number they need. I still play Monkey Island and its sequel, LeChuck's Revenge, regularly, at least once a year. The beauty of the game is that it's so complicated that it never really gets boring, and I still always get stumped. Only, nowadays I just Google a walkthrough. It's not the same.

Sometimes I think about myself playing Monkey Island at a time in my life when I knew only one other person who loved games. I felt so isolated – it's weird to have an interest you can't really share with your friends – but now I love the idea that other kids were feeling the same way, sneaking off to a quiet area in their house to call the hint line, heart pounding. Listening to that voice, then slamming the phone down as quickly as possible. I know some of those kids now, and it's a wonderful thing.

I miss you, hint guy. Do you ever think of me?

Thursday, 19 February 2015

BJORK'S NEW ALBUM IS LIKE BILL MURRAY


A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Bjork's new album for Noisey, and decided it was like Bill Murray.  Basically, it's very difficult to review the work of an artist as seminal, a genius, whose brilliance is consistent throughout their career, without slipping into hyperbole.  So I resorted to a gimmick.  

A lot of people have Björk stories. Not, “I saw her playing in New York and it was amazing” stories, I mean personal, “I saw her at a fish market in Reykjavik and it was amazing” stories. I always think of her as the Bill Murray of the music industry—which is a far bigger compliment to Bill than it is to Björk. Although the stories I've heard about her differ to the Bill stories in one big way: I doubt when Bjork kisses you and sings at your 27th birthday, or when you find yourself dancing next to her at scuzzy London club Electrowerkz in the 90s, or when she makes you a spontaneous dessert tray of yoghurt, candy, and chocolate bars after you interview her (all of which have happened to people I know), that she's doing so thinking, “This is going to be such a great memory for this person, and it's totally going to bolster my public perception as an *unusual* person.” Whereas when Bill whispers in your ear on a New York City street, or spends the night with you, introducing you to strangers with the wrong name (both of which have also happened), there's a degree of knowing, a sly wink. 

That being said, Björk and Bill are beloved artists who exist and operate in the system, but do not engage with it in the usual way. It's almost like they hover in another dimension, which they allow us access to as they see fit.Yesterday Björk released her ninth studio album, Vulnicura. What a title. I couldn't find a dictionary definition for that word, but it sounds resolutely female, and I guess at a time when feminism is more than an abstract idea, it's a trend you can actually sell shit with—it's pretty timely. 

But Björk isn’t sitting at label meetings discussing how to market her next release. I don't think she's looking at Madonna's faces of historical figures wrapped in black cable, pondering, “Do I want to try that kind of tactic?” I don’t think she has tactics. I think she works on what she wants to work on and just does what feels right to her. Which is probably incredibly difficult to keep up after nine albums and a working relationship with the music industry that goes back to 1977. If anyone has creative freedom, it must be her.

But back to Vulnicura, a break-up album that should come with the warning: “On listening you will feel every sharp stab of loneliness and pain that the end of a romance brings.” On “Lion Song,” Björk hopes the person she loves will “Come out of this loving me,” which is crushing enough, but actually Björk is at her heartbreaking best when she's thinking about more philosophical ideas. Opening track, “Stone Milket,” introduces us to the strings she employs for a stack of the tracks on the album. They are the recurring characters, beautiful and ominous, weaving in and around each other, accompanied by sparse beats, a dollop of doom. You can feel your life eking away, as she sings, “Moments of clarity are so rare / I better document this.” You’re living an as of yet unscripted Bill Murray movie montage: you see your parents dying, you're at your daughter's wedding, you're holding your grandchild's hand, your face is old and grey. And all the while Bill's sitting on top of an incredibly steep mountain, on a purple chair, as the wind lifts his hair and he cry-laughs at you. At the same time though, this song could be about how we're all addicted to our phones and incessantly documenting everything. That's what makes Björk so wonderful: it's one thing just as it's another.

Sometimes Björk talks to you about sex. She's doing it right now, although in fact it's sex and death, because the two dance together, their tango brings them a hairsbreadth apart. Take “History of Touches” where she's singing sweetly about how she wanted to wake you up and make love to you because she had this feeling that maybe it was the last time you’d have sex together, because for everyone there will be a last time, a last time with a specific person, of course, but also a last time with anyone ever. And she's holding your hand and singing, “Sensing all the moments we've been together / Being here at the same time /  Every single touch / Every single fuck we had together.” And you're nodding because that is so true and also something you'd perhaps not fully realized before this moment, and you remember again why you love Björk so much. Björk is singing all of this over juddering beats, and on this occasion she hasn't invited the cellists and violinists into the bedroom—it's just you and her, a hissing synth, and some sexy, melancholy thoughts.Björk isn't all relationships and Big Ideas. Sometimes she just wants to freak you out. “Not Get” is uncomfortable and challenging, but “Family” goes one step further. It's a full-on, wide-eyed, mouth-gaping-in-speechless-terror, horror film. Björk’s really scaring us. With the sawing strings, irritating beeps, and creepy thuds, Björk is in your attic and she's banging something, and cutting something up, and you have no idea what the hell it is. She's singing, but she’s discordant, and it keeps getting louder and then suddenly it’s oh so quiet. “Family” is unsettling and yet still so beautiful—the combination a very Björk-ian balancing act, here, hitting its apex. "There is a swarm of sound,” she sings, then yodels into the ceiling. It's like watching your whole family die and then seeing the most awe-inspiring sunrise.

After that a palate cleanser arrives in the form of “Atom Dance,” a duet with Antony Hegarty set to an introductory set of plucked out strings. The pair somersault over each other, flooding your ears with feeling: It's glorious. For the first time you feel hope that this ache and longing will fade. This is reinforced by the album’s finale, “Quicksand,” with its jittery, tense, nervous energy. Beats skitter at high speed and the strings loop and loop, a repeated refrain that carries on long after the vocals and drums have stopped. Although she is moving on, it's going to take time, “Our mothers philosophies / It feels like quicksand / And if she sinks / I'm going down with her.” Björk is looking deep into your eyes, stroking your face, and telling you what you've always known, always felt, but possibly never articulated, “When I'm broken I am whole / And when I'm whole I am broken.” Just like when Bill Murray's grey-blue eyes and rumpled face somehow expresses 42 emotions at once, Björk fucking gets you, and Vulnicura is the only heartbreak you'll want to experience more than once.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

PILOTS PODCAST - EPISODE 3 'THE WEST WING'


OK so this time Anne and I had a lot of feelings (should that be #feelings?) about the writer of the show rather than the show itself.  We also talked about dating and kissing and working at a jean store.  If you want to know more, press play.