David Lynch Teaches Typing

Sure, we all loved Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet but have they helped you in your day to day life and taught you new skills? No! So why not remedy that with a Mavis Beacon style typing tutorial game, presided over with the face of one David Lynch. David Lynch Teaches Typing is a free to download and play game from Rhino Stew which presents an interesting concept to life, filled with crying babies, unsettling creepy bugs and a fag break in-between.

David Lych Teaches Typing

For anyone with a penchant for the strange, and if you're into Lynch you probably are are, why not check it out?

Coraline: The Opera Review

Coraline is a modern classic children's book with a story that is in the tradition of Grimm fairy tales. The novel is about an 11 year old girl, Coraline,  who moves to a new and mysterious house with her busy parents. As Coraline is left to her own devices she explores her new abode and discovers a doorway to a parallel world where everything seems much the same as her mundane world but with one key difference, the people have buttons for eyes.

"Fairytales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." This quote, attributed to G. K. Chesterton, prefaced the original run of the book in 2002 and seems suitable, as the tale of a lonely but resourceful young girl recalls the morals we learnt from fairy tales of old, before the Disney-fication of darker threads and plots from the original folk tales.

The book has an interesting premise and was turned into a popular stop motion animated movie in 2009 and has now, remarkably been turned into an opera. The story by Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods, the Sandman series of graphic novels and much more, seems to be a favourite amongst adults and children alike so seems like a good fit for the stage... but an opera, that is a bold move to say the least.

For a two week run the set was pretty impressive.

Whenever you bring a book and adapt it for the stage there is a difficult balancing act to perform, you want to make sure it stays true to the source material for the fan base without alienating those who don't know the original source material, but you also want to add flourishes and touches that are afforded by changing the medium the tale is told through. Couple that with the fact that this is an opera aimed at the youth and you have an incredibly difficult task on your hand.

So with all this in mind, how does the Coraline opera fare? Well, my only experience with opera was when I watched Count Hoffman by Offenback at the Theatro De La Scala in Milan 10 years ago (my friend and I did it to be all cultural but loved it), Satyagraha, the (very) long opera about the life of Gandhi which nearly drove me to madness with its Philip Glass score and 3 1/2 hour run time and lastly the amazing opera scene in Final Fantasy 6. So, my knowledge on the subject is scant at best but I really enjoyed this production.

The staging was impressive for an obviously small scale production. The music was good but hardly hummable or memorable, but it did the job well moving from sweet strings in one moment to a dark facsimile with a more herky jerky feel, recalling Susamu Yokota's creepy colliopy sound from his track Fukuro No Yume. Even though the whole performance had no surtitles, being familiar with the book and film I understood what was going on as everything was spoken in sing-song English.

The opera was just over 2 hours long and this seems like the perfect amount of time. I liked the opera but it did seem to take a long time to move along and there were periods where I was nodding off, but that's me listening to any type of music nowadays whilst being seated rather than a knock on the production. The show was a sellout and there was a huge mix in the audience with lots of young children as well as adults. 

Coraline the opera is worth seeing but not being an opera lover I won't be rushing to see any more operas for a few years.

Science Museum Power UP Brings Retro Gaming Back

Okay, so the Easter holidays have started and it looks like it may be a washout (at least initially if the weather reports are to be believed)

Well, if you're looking for something to do you could do a lot worse than visit the Science Museum in London, which from the 30 March – 15 April 2018 is holding Power Up, a retro gaming exhibition. The whole thing is hands on and children get a chance to play the best of video gaming from the past 40 years including Space Invaders, Pacman, Sonic, Mario and even VR.
Tickets can be purchased at the link below but why not do yourself a favour and head over. I went to this same event a couple of years ago and loved it. 

Life Is Strange Recalls Twin Peaks

Life Is Strange feels like a teen drama video game envisioning of Twin Peaks. The game is set in the Pacific Northwest and has the mystery of a missing-but-probably-murdered popular girl at the center of it all, Rachel Amber.
Rachel Amber is the prequel games (Life Is Strange: Before the Storm) Laura Palmer, but without the dark drug addled abuse victim background. Rather she has a family revelation that rocks her quite privileged world to the core. The game adds depth to her, just as Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me movie did for Laura Palmer.
Rachel Amber is no longer just the missing and misunderstood girl with a complex family history but a well-portrayed character with agency... she is, for her best friend and protagonist in the games, the girl who lived down the lane.
Fans of Twin Peaks should definitely check out both Life Is Strange games as they are games with heart, that examine the human condition and look at friendships forged in times of adversity. I think this is part of reason why these video games resonate so strongly with me.

Sega Master System: A Visual Compendium

Bitmap Books have been releasing some amazing visual compendiums of retro game consoles over the past few years. I've already spoken about the NES and SNES compendiums before but I am very excited about their latest announcement. Sam Dyer, founder and graphic designer of Bitmap Books, is working very closely with SEGA to make the 6th visual compendium a reality and this one will be about the Sega Master System.

The new book will be official and so Dyer will have access to a lot of files and assets. I am looking forward to the Kickstarter going live on 7th May.

Mario Kart in Google Maps

Google and Nintendo have come together to celebrate March 10, Mar 10, as it spells out the name of video game legend, Mario. The simple collaborated brings Mario in his kart to Google Maps.

The fun navigation arrow enables users to see the Mario Kart icon as they drive to their destination.

Getting Mario is easy in Google Maps if you follow the simple step-by-step guide below.

Coraline at the Opera

Coraline is an atmospheric, spooky book by Neil Gaiman, author of The Sandman graphic novel series, American Gods and many other books and comics. Coraline was turned into a brilliant stop motion animation movie nearly a decade ago but more recently it has been turned into an opera! The adaptation for the stage is by Mark-Anthony Turnage and runs at the Barbican from 29th March to the 7th April 2018. I've got two tickets and will be going but if you're interested click on the link below for the Barbican website.

DC Exhibition: Dawn of the Superheroes at the O2

DC Exhibition: Dawn of the Superheroes, is a celebration of DC's comic works, which has given the world icons such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Joker.
From 23 February at The O2 the exhibition will feature over 200 original comic pages, around 300 preparatory sketches and concept art from the films and over 40 original costumes, models and props used in the iconic films.

The exhibition will run in chronological order and  each room will provide people with a behind the scenes look at the creation of the legendary DC Universe.

DC Exhibition: Dawn of Super Heroes’ features:
- Exclusive artworks from the recent Wonder Woman film.
- Costumes and props from more recent films such as; 1989 to 1999’s Batman franchise directed by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher, the acclaimed The Dark Knight trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan, as well as The Man of Steel, Batman V Superman and the recent Justice League by Joss Whedon.
-Original drawings of DC's Super Heroes and Super Villains. 
-Original costumes from blockbuster DC films including the famous cape worn by Christopher Reeve in the Superman movies and Lynda Carter’s iconic Wonder Woman costume from the 1970s show.

If they have the Batman costume from the Schumacher films which have the Bat nipples I'm sold! But in all seriousness this does sound pretty good and I'm hoping to go soon. As usual I'll report and review if it's worth going to.

LINK- DC Exhibition Official O2 ticketing Website

Pluto Brings Astro Boy to the Stage

Osamu Tezuka is known as the God of Manga and his most beloved creation, Astro Boy, is now hitting the stage at the Barbican Centre in London. The story follows the protagonist, Astro Boy an android with human emotions who is created by Umataro Tenma after the death of his son. Eventually Astro is sold to a robot circus as an exhibit but is saved from his servitude by Professor Ochanomizu. Astro becomes a surrogate son to Ochanomizu who helps him to live a normal life like an average human boy, whilst accompanying him on his many adventures. The original manga ran from 1952 to 1968 and has been made into numerous movies and television series.

Pluto is the modern interpretation of this story by famed write Naoki Urasawa (creator of 20th Century Boys and Monster) and Takashi Nagasaki. The show is directed by Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and is a mixture of stage and puppetry. The show looks amazing and I would love to go but due to prior commitments won't be able to go, however if you've got a spare afternoon or evening over the next few days why not check it out?

Natalie Portman SNL Rap

Natalie Portman is an amazing actor and to shake up her clean cut image Portman adopts her hardened rap persona to spit some sick bars. The rap is a follow up to the 2006 skit and also stars Andy Samberg, of SNL and Brooklyn 99 fame. The new rap is a follow up to the previous skit and pokes fun at the terrible Star Wars prequels. It made me crack up and is well worth a watch.

The First Time (interview) With David Lynch

The BBC is a well respected British public service broadcaster. It produces many shows and often some of the shows are aired once and then rarely aired again. Well luck has shone on fans of singular director David Lynch as a 2013 hour long interview with Matt Everitt about his musical influences has been shared online.

For a link to the radio interview click on the link at the bottom of this article.

In the words of the BBC:

In a rare interview, recorded in 2013, Lynch speaks to Matt Everitt about his formative early musical influences (Chopin and the sound of B36 bombers flying over his childhood home), his passion for Elvis and early rock 'n' roll, directing David Bowie, his love of jazz, how he creates his own unique music and how the imagery and plot of his classic film Blue Velvet was directly inspired by Bobby Vinton's 1963 classic single, which would never sound the same again.
David Lynch, filmmaker, writer and television director and creator of Twin Peak, Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, Eraserhead and Wild At Heart discusses the pivotal moments and music that have shaped his life and career.
Lynch is also a musician, having helped create the music for many of his movies (he wrote the lyrics to the Twin Peaks theme - Falling sung by Julee Cruise) as well as solo albums such as The Big Dream - a record as hypnotic and disturbingly beautiful as his films.

The show is only available for 19 days and also only for those in the UK but for those who can access it do as it offers a rare insight into this intensely private man.

LINK- The First Time (interview)... With David Lynch

DIY Nintendo Labo for Switch Revealed

Nintendo has been on a bit of a roll of it lately with the Switch selling record numbers and many of its games sweeping the various Video Games Awards at the end of last year. This year it seems to be targeting the customisable creative kit market with the reveal of Nintendo Labo. The Labo involves DIY cardboard accessories that transform the Switch's Joy-Con controllers and screen into everything from a piano to a motorbike to a fishing rod. Alongside the games cartridge it offers a new way for players to interact with their games.

The kits shown so far vary in size and complexity, similar to how there are different scales of Lego sets available, but offer enough customisable options for creative types to alter, improve and even make their own designs. In the same way that many experienced VR first through Google Cardboard this could be the first full VR experience with arm and leg movement for many and all at a relatively low cost of $80! It isn't intended to be a high power solution to full body immersive VR gaming but could offer people interested in that area a taste of the possibilities at a good entry price point.

As a teacher this is really exciting as there are so many possibilities available, whether its creating new toys, robot or forming a new way to interact with games. Even more exciting is the possibility that there could be a game making tool, similar to maybe Wario Ware, to teach children to code and create interactive designs. The idea that you could create anything for the price of cardboard is exciting. With the right execution and engagement of the Etsy et al. community Labo could be something with a long term future.

Nintendo Labo is slated to be released for the Switch on April 20th and will retail for around $70. I for one am excited to see what it will do for the video game industry.

Black Mirror Charlie Brooker's Desert Island Discs

Desert Island Discs is a British Institution. The format is simple: a guest is invited by the host to choose the eight records they would take with them to a desert island. Since it was created in 1942 the show has had hundreds of guests including such illustrious people such as Tom Hanks, Lily Allan and Bill Gates. Now Charlie Brooker, writer of Black Mirror and Screen Swipe and former video games magazine writer and fan, has appeared on the show and given his top seven choices. His selection was suitably eclectic but typical of the renaissance man. The insight into his background and life are interesting and is well worth a listen.

His choices were:

  • The Beatles: Tomorrow Never Knows
  • Eric Thompson: Florence's Sad Song, from the soundtrack to Doogal and the Blue Cat
  • Jonathan Dunn: The theme music from Robocop for Nintendo GameBoy
  • Pixies: Debaser
  • Richie Warburton: The Scoops
  • Irma Thomas: Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)
  • Radiohead: Present Tense
  • Denim: The New Potatoes

Tournament Fighter SNL Sketch Love Letter to Mortal Kombat

Saturday Night Live is a bit of an American institution. It has been running for  40 years and over this time has helped launch the career of many comedians and actors including Bill Murray, Martin Lawrence, Eddie Murphy, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Some of its sketches have entered the pop culture zeitgeist like the Melissa McCarthy Sean Spicer sketches, Tom Hank's Black Jeopardy and David S. Pumpkins, Debbie Downer at Disney Land and Alec Baldwin as Trump.
Now a new sketch shown this week may enter the pantheon of greats. Tournament Fighter introduces us to Boo Boo Jeffries, an empowered young woman who hates fights and whose greatest strength is her relationship with her mom. The problem? She's in a fighting game reminiscent of Mortal Kombat. The sketch is  a love letter to 1v1 fighting games of my youth but can be appreciated by non gaming fans alike. Enjoy.

Streets of Rage III Soundtrack Vinyl Release

I'm a HUGE fan of the Streets of Rage fan a large part of that is due to the stunning soundtracks by Yuzo Koshiro. Well Data-Discs, the London based record company is releasing the Streets of Rage 3 soundtrack later today. I will be ordering the album of course as I want to complete my vinyl collection. I have the first two and they are very impressive. The album will retail at £24.99 and will be a double disc release, remastered for the format. Once I get the album I'll post a review but for now you can check our my vinyl soundtrack reviews for Streets of Rage and Streets of Rage 2 on the links below. 

Playstation in Concert at Royal Albert Hall

In a world exclusive event the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will perform tracks from PlayStation games live at the Royal Albert Hall. The tracklist has yet to be announced but games that are to be included are: Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian, Uncharted and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.

I'm no Sony fanboy but do appreciate music in all it's forms so it is wonderful to see video game music get the due recognition it deserves, and as such I am patronising this event so that more may occur in the future. The event is on Wednesday 30th May 2018 and tickets start from a very reasonable £20.

© Sony, Playstation, Royal Albert Hall

Battle Angel Alita Trailer Drops And It's... Interesting...

I have been a huge fan of the Battle Angel Alita manga for a long time and so when the new trailer for the big budget Hollywood film dropped a couple of days ago I was suitably stoked.

The film is directed by Robert Rodrigues and seems to follow the story arc of the original manga graphic novel by Yukito Kishiro. I'm looking forward to the film as the original manga is an immense sci-fi masterpiece, however I do have a few reservations, namely the fact that Alita herself has HUGE eyes and looks strange. I know that in the manga she has big eyes, even in relation to the others around her but I hope that she doesn't fall into the uncanny valley genre where she looks out of place with the rest of the cast. The recent Planet of the Apes film worked because most of the cast were digitally created and so you didn't really notice the difference between computer created and real world actors. In this case the difference might be just too great to take. We'll see but I hope to be going day 1 to see this film.

LINK- Battle Angel Alita Finally Ends (article)

LINK- Creating Realistic Worlds Without Photorealistic Graphics

Mystery World Dizzy NES Cartridge Kickstarter

As a gamer in my mid-30's I have fond memories of gaming in the 80's. But there is one series which came out on the micro computers that holds a special place in my heart, and that series is Dizzy, the lovable puzzle solving egg. 

I have always had a soft spot for the good egg so when I heard that there was a Kickstarter to release a new (old found) game from the Oliver Twins I jumped at the chance to get in on the action. I played nearly all of the original Dizzy games on the Amstrad CPC 464 back in the 80's and held the games and their creators in high regard, fulfilling a geeky dream by listening to them at a retrospective of their career, meeting them and getting some of my games signed by them a few years ago. 

For those who are unaware Mystery World Dizzy is the NES game that was never released, even though the Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy had done so well on the platform. The game was discovered in the attic by the Twins and with the help of the online community was fixed and repaired to become playable and free to download online.  I have Kickstarted the physical NES release of the game and hope to get my mitts on the cartridge in February 2018. As of writing the campaign is still on, so if you are interested get on it now!

Mystery World Dizzy © Chris Wilkins, Oliver Twins