One of the oddest and best jobs I have is writing a column for a magazine called The Cat. The quarterly magazine has been going for over 80 years, published by the charity Cats Protection. My column has appeared in the last four years’ worth or so, and until the current issue (which you’ll likely find in that pile on the windowsill in your local vet surgery) has been about Dexter. The latest features Lucy too. If you can find a copy, I really recommend taking a look, because the illustrations they put on my column (called “Walker On The Wild Side, and NO, I didn’t pick that) are just fantastic. We’ve had a couple of them printed on canvas, and they hang on our walls.
Dexter has been missing for three nights now, which he’s never done before. Obviously we’re very worried, and extremely upset, but we’ve done absolutely everything we can, from posters, flyering the neighbourhood, searches, alerting the microchip firm, and contacting local vets and cat homes. I’ve also added his details to the superb Animal Search UK, who use volunteers to look for missing cats in their area. Amazing. You can be one of those volunteers if you want – you just sign up for emails of alerts near where you live.
So, out of sentimentality, while he’s gone I thought I’d post a few of my old columns from The Cat (these are the unedited versions, so expect mistakes). The first couple were based on articles I first wrote here, so I’ve skipped those, and appropriately gone for the third: a piece about how stupid he is. Because wow, is he stupid.
Scrabbling about Tory HQ, while disguised as an unpaid intern Polish trouser-presser, I found the ten Tory election promises they REALLY want you to forget:
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Here’s a thing. There’s a Kickstarter for Dreamfall Chapters. I’m very excited about it, and have never made a secret of my love for The Longest Journey and Dreamfall. A new TLJ!
A few people have commented that it’s odd that I’ve not written anything about it on RPS, with TLJ/The Secret World expert Adam Smith doing all the Funcom and Red Thread coverage of late. The reason is, TLJ creator Ragnar Tørnquist and I have been discussing the possibility of my contributing toward the new project. As soon as this discussion began I recused myself from writing about Tørnquist’s games. I’m fiercely proud of my games reporting, and I’m not willing to be compromised, even if no one would know. With discussions ongoing, it was entirely inappropriate that I recommend his projects on RPS.
(I should mention here, as I did when writing about Doritosgate last year, that I covered Charles Cecil’s Broken Sword 5 Kickstarter, when I’d contributed to the Broken Sword: Director’s Cut a few years previously. I wasn’t involved in the new game at all, and have no ongoing working relationship with Revolution, but had done some freelance work years previously. But I concluded after that even though I declared it in the posts, it wasn’t ideal, and that I’d not cover his projects in future.)
Exactly what I might be contributing to Dreamfall Chapters is still not decided. But with the Kickstarter launched, I’m not willing to speak/tweet/squee about it without declaring my interests. (I wrote a tweet earlier today, with a joking hashtag about my interest, but deleted it a moment later deciding that it wasn’t okay.) So this is that. I will never write about Ragnar Tørnquist or Red Thread Games’ games ever again, because it would obviously be utterly inappropriate.
Of course, there will be some who believe that contributing to a game while being a games journalist is inappropriate anyway. It’s not unusual, certainly in the UK, for games journalists to contribute to gaming projects. At RPS we have a policy of declaring any such interests, and do so. Some people don’t like it, most people don’t care. I’m aware it’s an ongoing discussion, and one some people feel very passionately about. My position is, rather obviously, that it’s okay so long as a writer is absolutely transparent about it. For instance, RPS has always gone overboard in pointing out that Jim’s Sir You Are Being Hunted is being developed by Jim’s own team.
So I shall hopefully be contributing in some capacity to Dreamfall Chapters. It’s a game series about which I am already far too much of a fanboy to have covered usefully anyway, and I’m thrilled that I may get to be a part of that story.
Going forward, Adam is the main man for covering that project, although I’m sure anyone at RPS will chip in when they have thoughts or news emerges. I’m completely uninvolved. And to answer the question that some may have – how can RPS fairly review it if one of their colleagues was involved? I’ve not discussed this with the others, but my suggestion would be giving that job to a freelancer who doesn’t know me at all, so the result would be completely fair.
I love The Longest Journey. Over the years it’s the game I’ve written about the most, and I’m actually rather sad that I won’t get to do so any more. But that I might get to write into it is utterly thrilling.
Snow snow snow! It actually snowed! It does this in Bath once in every never. Almost. In fact, it snowed in 2009 and 2010, and after a three year hiatus, it’s back! This makes me very happy. Firstly, because everything looks better covered in snow. And secondly, because it means I get to build a snowman!
I remember when it would snow when I was a kid, before that weird eighteen year gap we had from proper snowfall in the South of England, and it was obviously brilliant. But then it wasn’t until the drought began that I discovered the true majesty of Calvin & Hobbes, and was filled with mad desire to emulate Calvin’s snowman building achievements. It was a long wait. But then in 2009 it fell, and I was able to live my dreams. You can see the result here.
Then the next year it snowed again, which was almost too much excitement to live with. So once again I created my art.
It’s been three long, painful years since I have been able to express myself through my chosen medium, but at last my creativity has been unchained. The new one’s below.
As was likely, after I wrote my piece on Paul’s thoughts on women in the church, and the twisting of those words to oppress women for millennia since, a few people have suggested some possible errors. I want nothing less than to spread any misinformation, so wanted to update with things I’ve learned since. The rather crucial thing to know is: the facts remain the case. The arguments against women in leadership in the church remain, as I said, theological rubbish.
I should also add that I’m not a scholar. I’m a games journalist. I do have a (first class!) degree in Youth, Community Work & Applied Theology, and while it taught me some basics, it wasn’t exactly hardcore theological studies. I come to this as an amateur, relying on the works of experts, and as such will of course make mistakes, or at least not have learned enough so far.
Thing is: Paul was, unequivocally, in favour of women in leadership, and those who use his words to prevent this are deliberately perverting the clear and unambiguous message that’s prevalent in all of his writing. As I said before, you don’t need to worry about any Greek interpretation, or get into any arguments about the meanings of specific words, to reach this conclusion. Paul openly and deliberately refers to women as apostles, deacons, church leaders, and heads of families running churches. What’s interesting is that from further study, it seems Paul was even more overtly criticising misogynist oppression in the church than I’d ever realised.
As a thousand new stories appear each day regarding Jimmy Savile, and the papers increasingly try to find someone else to blame in light of Savile’s being dead, one specific, sad fact is being ignored: It’s usual for others to know about a paedophile’s actions.
It’s a horrific fact, but the reason many paedophiles are able to abuse is because family members, friends, and of course victims*, don’t report it to anyone. For all manner of reasons, whether through fear, having been abused themselves, or for perhaps the most insidious – to “keep it in the family” – these abusers go to their graves with many knowing what they did. Lots of people know that Uncle X shouldn’t be left alone with the kids, but would far prefer not to have the lives of their whole families exposed. So they opt for not reporting it, for dealing with it themselves. It’s tragic, and it’s horribly commonplace. And in finding out that so many knew that Savile shouldn’t be let near the young teenagers, we’re not exposing a cover-up by hospitals or the BBC – we’re exposing an enculturated cover-up by the whole of society that allows so very many paedophiles to abuse.
And people don’t want to think about that.
Episode 116 of Rum Doings comes in a week following a week that had a Rum Doings in it! To celebrate our sweet one hundred and sixteen, we don’t discuss whether Apple has the right to unsharp corners. (It’s worth noting that this episode was recorded moments before Jeremy Hunt was announced as health sec, hence our not mentioning that.)
Highlights include thoughts on the Paralympics, booing at George Osborne, and the death of cats. Then we move on to one of Rum Doings’ finest topics – carpet cleaning. John has his hands on one of the finest leaflets we’ve ever seen. We express confusion at US political parties, and predict Jimmy Smits as next Republican president. And out David Hyde Pierce.
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There are some things that are pointless, no matter how strong the urge may be to do them. And trying to observe the discrepancy of discourse between the American right and left is right up there on the Shouting Down A Well chart. But the reaction to the Clint Eastwood appearance of two nights ago means I’m helpless but to just pointlessly post words.
From an objective perspective (or the closest I can get to one as an outside observer with politics that match neither of the competing parties), what was shown was a clearly uncomfortable Eastwood stumbling through a poorly rehearsed sketch in which he pretended to interview Obama, while talking to an empty chair. It was poorly delivered, frequently stumbling, and full of really quite concerning factual errors. There were a couple of well-delivered moments where he pretended Obama was interrupting him, but unfortunately after the very confused and hesitant start it was hard to recognise these from his genuine mistakes. I didn’t find it funny, and I certainly don’t think it had many jokes in it. It was, instead, designed to be scathing and derogatory, and to a baying crowd of Republicans who believe or pretend to believe that Obama is an anti-Christ this is exactly what they wanted to hear. And of course – of course attendees of the Republican Convention are going to be extreme enthusiasts, passionate in their support for their party, and accordingly passionate in their disgust for the other party.
But what makes me abandon an attempt at objectivity, and want to chew my face off from the inside out is the way in which Republicans – as is now always the case – immediately begin the campaign of non-information afterward. This relies on believing, or pretending to believe, a few things:
1) They are in the minority, and are being oppressed.
2) The media is against them, and they are at a significant disadvantage because of this.
3) Any who disagree with them are “politically correct”, “liberal”, and various forms of inverted bigots.
I’ve been joking on Twitter today about certain people being baddies, and how much easier life would be if we’d all accept this and commit to our roles. It’s obviously a massively over-simplified and silly idea, but it’s the parodic distillation of the thought I keep having every time the news reports that Russia and China have vetoed yet another UN attempt at intervention in Syria. That it’s been left up to the likes of William Hague to have to call out these governments, while the news outlets report it with their delusion of “balance”, is a pretty worrying sign. I really do think it would be a lot better if the media just acknowledged what we all know is true – that the Russian and Chinese governments are baddies, and the Syrian regime are baddies, so of course they’re going to stick together.
The obvious flaw with such a comment is that it implies that the other side therefore must be “goodies”. If only it were true, and it’s obviously not the case. But I think we can say quite unequivocally that, for instance, Putin’s regime are proper baddies, and we need to stop pretending otherwise. Surely we’d get a lot further a lot more quickly.
What’s perhaps more peculiar is the Republican party in the United States. The USA is a deeply, deeply weird nation, over 300,000,000 people somehow almost exactly split down the middle in terms of which of two sides they’re on. There are two parties who offer presidential candidates with a realistic chance of winning, and you have to pick one of them. There’s no nuance, there’s no middle ground. You either pick the man in the centre, or the man on the extreme right. (Even more so than in the UK, there’s no notion of a left wing option, with one side calling the other side “socialist” as an insult while the other side desperately protests that they’re not.) And with this bisecting of the country and its politics, it’s become deeply tribal. Not North/South as it once was, but Outside/Inside. When there’s one side or the other to pick, and nothing offering a position that sits between the two, both sides are inevitably going to become caricatures of themselves, and part of that has been to quite defiantly choose between being a Goodie or a Baddie.