Friday, October 15, 2010


The cartoon I was talking about in the last post was called Skywhales, and it's on YouTube:

It's a little bit different than I remember, and rewatching it hasn't really gotten rid of that weird feeling I get when I think about it. It's just so alien; in how it looks and how it sounds - the "language" that the hunters use, and that dischordant music, which always sounds like it's almost but never quite congealing into something familar.

It's like the whole thing was designed to unsettle me.


Something, I'm not sure what, just reminded me of a cartoon I saw years ago that's always stuck in my head.

It was on Channel 4 in the late '80s; probably '88 or '89, 1990 at a stretch. It had a very minimalist art style and, as far as I remember, no dialogue - just music. It was a one-off animated short, not more than ten minutes long.

Here's about as much of the plot as I can remember: it was about a group of people hunting a flying, white (and possibly skeletal) whale. I vaguely remember there being floating islands, but can't be sure. I don't recall the entire story, but towards the end, one of the hunters was dying. He went on a walk through a cave on an island, and saw visions of the whales they'd hunted at the start of the film. By the time he got to the end of the cave, he had turned into a whale himself, and then he was killed by other hunters.

I remember being very disturbed by it at the time, and every so often I'll remember the image of the whale that was once a man being killed by hunters.

It still freaks me out a little.

Does anybody know what it's called? I think I need to see it again, to reassure the six-year-old me that's still haunted by it.

Let's go make some CRAZY money

Yesterday was the PAL Dreamcast's eleventh birthday, which made me feel old. How must guys who remember the Spectrum feel?

To celebrate the occasion, I dug out my old machine to indulge in some nostalgia, which is becoming a bit of a tradition by now*. The Dreamcast was the first console I ever bought with my own money, and only the second games machine we had in the house growing up (not counting multi-purpose machines like the C64 and Amiga).

After a brief flip through the disc wallet, I settled on Crazy Taxi** - mostly because the recently-dated XBLA conversion had put it back in my mind, and I was wondering if it would be worth the entry price. But after 45 minutes of cruising crashing around the Arcade city, I'm more undecided than I was before.

The problem isn't that Crazy Taxi isn't fun any more; I had just as much fun barrelling through traffic with terrified fares screaming at me as I ever did. But it is very much a game of its time.

The twitchy handling, unconventional controls and inconsistent physics. The bare-faced product placement. It's hard to see a modern gaming audience overlooking these problems, with the advances made over the last 11 years - even if, without them, it wouldn't really be Crazy Taxi.

I know that my enjoyment is almost completely down to nostalgia. All the things that made me smile were based on how I used to play the game back in the day - trying to remember or recreate routes through the city, picking up the sequence of fares to get the best time bonuses, trying to hit the helipad edge at just the right angle to clear the traffic on the other side. The soundtrack, which introduced me to my favourite band for the last ten years.

I'll download the trial at least, of course. And the allure of achievements might be enough to sway me, if they're not too stupid. And the Crazy Box leaderboards - my brothers and I had a long-running Crazy Jump rivalry, which I won by the narrowest of margins (about 0.7m).

But at the same time, I already have Crazy Taxi, it's still brilliant fun in its current form and I don't know if I need or want it to be updated.

*The other Dreamcast tradition we have is Shenmue - my brothers and I play through the game from start to finish every year when everybody's back home at Christmas.
**Really, I should have played Sonic Adventure or Power Stone - the games I actually had on launch day.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Hunter S. Thompson's cover letter

This is Hunter S. Thompson's cover letter for a job application to the Vancouver Sun, written in 1958, before he was famous.

It's worth reading in its entirety, so I've not cut anything down.

Vancouver Sun


October 1, 1958 57 Perry Street New York City


I got a hell of a kick reading the piece Time magazine did this week on The Sun. In addition to wishing you the best of luck, I'd also like to offer my services.

Since I haven't seen a copy of the "new" Sun yet, I'll have to make this a tentative offer. I stepped into a dung-hole the last time I took a job with a paper I didn't know anything about (see enclosed clippings) and I'm not quite ready to go charging up another blind alley.

By the time you get this letter, I'll have gotten hold of some of the recent issues of The Sun. Unless it looks totally worthless, I'll let my offer stand. And don't think that my arrogance is unintentional: it's just that I'd rather offend you now than after I started working for you.

I didn't make myself clear to the last man I worked for until after I took the job. It was as if the Marquis de Sade had suddenly found himself working for Billy Graham. The man despised me, of course, and I had nothing but contempt for him and everything he stood for. If you asked him, he'd tell you that I'm "not very likable, (that I) hate people, (that I) just want to be left alone, and (that I) feel too superior to mingle with the average person." (That's a direct quote from a memo he sent to the publisher.)

Nothing beats having good references.

Of course if you asked some of the other people I've worked for, you'd get a different set of answers.

If you're interested enough to answer this letter, I'll be glad to furnish you with a list of references -- including the lad I work for now.

The enclosed clippings should give you a rough idea of who I am. It's a year old, however, and I've changed a bit since it was written. I've taken some writing courses from Columbia in my spare time, learned a hell of a lot about the newspaper business, and developed a healthy contempt for journalism as a profession.

As far as I'm concerned, it's a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you're trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I'd like to work for you.

Most of my experience has been in sports writing, but I can write everything from warmongering propaganda to learned book reviews.

I can work 25 hours a day if necessary, live on any reasonable salary, and don't give a black damn for job security, office politics, or adverse public relations.

I would rather be on the dole than work for a paper I was ashamed of.

It's a long way from here to British Columbia, but I think I'd enjoy the trip.

If you think you can use me, drop me a line.

If not, good luck anyway.

Sincerely, Hunter S. Thompson

via Boing Boing

Friday, October 01, 2010

Cat Adventures

Savage Chickens - Cat Adventures 3

Third in a 5-part series. Here are episode 1 and episode 2.

This should be familiar to anyone who's ever owned a cat.