June 15th, 2010

10 More Music Festival Survival Tips

It’s that time of the year when we swap the monotony of the daily grind for a few heady days of partying in a field with several thousand like-minded revellers. A liberating experience indeed, but one for which few are fully prepared.

For that reason, Know Your Money recently held a competition asking users for their best festival tips, and published the 10 awesome winning tips last week.

However, since we received hundreds of great entries (largely concerning bowel movements and hygiene matters) – and since the competition was such a close call – we thought it would be fitting to publish a few of the also-rans that, while perhaps not offering the soundest of advice, certainly make for entertaining reading – enjoy…

Festival-Toilets

Go Veggie
Stick to vegetarian food, not only does this help avoid a ruined weekend through food poisoning, but also cuts down on the amount of “solid matter” you’ll need to get rid of. Avoiding long drops is always pretty sweet.

Jake, Manchester

Lady-Fresh Loos
Always go into a loo after a girl has used it – those are usually the cleanest ones!

Claire, Aberdeen

Festival Currency
Forget Pounds, dollars and Euros. The secret international currency of festivals is TOILET ROLL Take some, and you’ll be the most popular person on site.

Grant, Glasgow

Festival-Vomit

Festival Virgin Advice: How To Avoid Being ‘That Guy’…
We all know ‘that guy’ – straight off the coach at the crack of dawn on Thursday morning he sees the crowd, the excitement bubbles in him like so much cheap Asti, and he can’t resist cracking something open. That’s fine – his anatomy has attained the state of polymer-based carbonite in advance of the trauma it is about to endure, and a tipple before the thing even starts is far from excessive. In fact, his friends may well join in with him. Why the heck not, equally carbonated subatomic titans, etcetera etcetera. The only difference is that they heard him on the bus saying: “Boy, I sure hope I’m not that guy who gets really wasted on the Thursday night before it even starts and ends up being carried back to his tent covered in his own offal” and, the insectoid hive-mind of the seasoned festivalgoer being what it is, they choose not to remind you to do what they all already know to do; to punctuate the frivolity with water and food. The end result? At nothing past midnight I was a vegetable, covered in my own offal, being carried back to my tent by a friend. Uh, I mean, you are a vegetable, covered in your own offal, being carried back to your tent by a friend.

Ben, Norwich

Festival Safety
When camping at a festival always make sure you are not camped near any Geordies, Scots or Scousers otherwise you could find yourself coming back to an empty tent…

Kieran, Rotherham

backstage-blag

Backstage Blagging
Hi-vis jacket/vest and find a techy friend from whom you should borrow all the essential techy gear – steelies, tool belt, cables etc, Throw on a lanyard or two and even better a walkie talkie if you can get one and walk confidently with a world weary face/phrase such as “glad I’m being paid to be here – not enough mind” past security – 9 times out of 10 it’ll get you where you want to go, head for catering to eavesdrop for valuable information to aid your disguise. Minus points: set up effort; bonus points: seeing your fave bands up close and they tend to not mind signing things for crew!

Joanna, Erith

Wheelchair Abuse
I’m disabled, I use a wheelchair. I get to go in the “specials” section at festivals! So… break a leg beforehand and you’ll get your own little V.I.P section and a clean loo!

Lynsey, Southend

Festival-Hands

Win The Ladies
Take a little cousin, niece or nephew to watch one of those rubbish girl bands. Normally full of gorgeous screaming ladies, to get talking to someone you got your eye on, just tell them you wanted to see someone else but brought your little one to watch these instead. They will be so impressed and you will instantly go to the top of their hit list.

Shaun, Norwich

Don’t Tell The Missus
Don’t ever, ever, ever tell your wife you are going to Glastonbury with your mates instead of her.

Steven, Redruth

The Best Festival Ever?
Don’t go! Spend the money on downloading music YOU like to your MP3 player – but keep enough back to buy a crate of your favourite beer. Chill out on the sofa and let the other idiots plough through the mud and crowds.

Robert, Weston-super-Mare

Thanks to the entrants who wrote the tips above. Feel free to share your festival experiences in the comments thread below…

February 25th, 2010

10 Female Cartoon Characters You Wish Were Real

By Daniel R Deakin

If you have fantasies over a particular cartoon character, it’s probably time to start taking your medication again. However, it is not unreasonable to say that certain female cartoon characters have an alluring charm to them that can make someone wonder what they would be like if they were real. If you think like that, you REALLY should start taking your medication again. However, until you can find a child to remove the childproof cap from your bottle of crazy person pills, here is a list of 10 female cartoon characters you wish were real.

Lois-Griffin1

Lois Griffin (Family Guy)
Not Marge Simpson shock! If you prefer the fairer sex to be bright yellow and have skyscraper tall blue hair, then Marge is the gal for you. But if you prefer brassy redheads who laugh like a Victorian streetwalker from the East End of London (in other words… dirty) and are quite willing to sleep with incredibly stupid fat men (hurray!) then Lois is the lady for you.

Lois is one of the ultimate animated babes. She is quite happy to flaunt her body, play lurid sex games, get drunk or stoned and still always manages to look after her considerably selfish family and fight off the advances of a horny dog (Brian… and Quagmire).

Penelope-Pitstop1

Penelope Pitstop (Wacky Races, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop)
One of the paradigms of a damsel in distress, this southern blonde bombshell often cried out “help” in honeyed tones that never failed to attract the attention of her quixotic rescuers. Even though she was constantly stalked by either Dick Dastardly or the Hooded Claw, this resourceful heroine never finished a show with a hair out of place. The sort of animated character you could introduce to your mother.

Liane-cartman1

Liane Marie Cartman (South Park)
The quiet dirty one. Liane Cartman has an awful son, Eric. He is loud, obnoxious and demanding, but she deals with it all by indulging in her pastime of random and casual sex (although she has been less promiscuous in recent seasons). Liane is possible the kinkiest character on the list, she has been known to get up to some rather “open-minded” activities in the past. It has been revealed that she is also intersexual and is actually Cartman’s father. Yes it is confusing and disturbing, but who doesn’t want to take a walk on the wild side now and again?

Wilma-Flintstone1

Wilma Pebble Slaghoople Flintstone (The Flintstones)
It’s always Betty Rubble that gets the kudos in The Flintstones. She is the pretty giggling one whilst Wilma is the harpy boxing poor old Fred’s ears again. But the truth is Wilma is a fire-haired fox in a similar vein to Lois Griffin. She easily tolerates a gruff and insensitive macho type whilst running a home and family. And she does all this wearing nothing but a fetching fur cloth with a skirt so short you can see her smile.

Maude-Flanders1

Maude Flanders (The Simpsons)
Although Ned’s dutiful wife has passed on, it isn’t just Homer who remembers her with fondness and desire. Maude was the hot mother in the show, forget Marge, Maude was the one to watch. All the men in Springfield felt a pinch of lust for the Bible-loving beauty, but her affections were only for Neddy, Rod & Todd and of course, to her faith. The one woman who could have potentially split Homer and Marge up… well her and Lurleen Lumpkin… and Mindy Simmons… and Amber Pigal Simpson…

Leela1

Turanga Leela (Futurama)
Proof that being a one-eyed alien (although later revealed she is actually a mutant) does not prevent a cartoon character from being attractive, sensual and desirable to the male characters of Futurama. Although Leela does have a huge single eye, which she cleverly tries to make less conspicuous by brushing her purple hair over it, she also is extremely intelligent, hard-working and has a body to die for. Literally… many men try to get closer to her body and she has no problem with making them nearly die for it.

Smurfette1

Smurfette (The Smurfs)
It is important to make a distinction between the first generation Smurfette and the second generation Smurfette. The first one basically looked like a regular smurf but had bushy black hair and possibly the hint of a moustache. The second generation Smurfette was much more feminine, with her long blonde hair, fluttering eyelashes, flowery dresses and high heels. She took the Female Smurf Rights Movement backwards 100 years.

Daphne-Blake1

Daphne Blake (Scooby-Doo)
Another flame-haired temptress! Ginger people face so much unfair abuse in real life society, but in animated shows they are the paragons of beauty and popularity. Daphne is the typical scream teen that appears in so many slasher flicks, but she always manages to keep her sweater on and Fred’s hands off. She may appear initially as eye candy for Fred and Shaggy and as a latent lesbian symbol of bubble-headedness for Velma, but Daphne pulls her weight when it comes to catching ghosts, which is more than can be said for Shaggy, who is clearly paranoid due to significant substance abuse and Scooby, who has a disturbing compulsive need for Scooby snacks.

Francine-Smith1

Francine Smith (American Dad)
The 40 year old faithful wife of a bumbling CIA agent and loving mother. Francine is the Cindy Crawford of the cartoon world. She nearly always looks impeccable, even when stressed out by a neurotic son, rebellious daughter, German fish and gender-confused alien. She shows incredible devotion to her lug of a husband Stan, who is often portrayed as one of the most intolerant people imaginable. Francine is funny, determined, hard-working and sexy… in a fictional animated character kind of way.

Jessica-Rabbit1

Jessica Rabbit (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)
Gentlemen prefer blondes but animators prefer red-heads. The Angelina Jolie of animated women. Sexy, demanding and commanding, with a hint of fearlessness. Jessica Rabbit is clearly the most provocative and sensual creation of an animator’s fevered mind. With legs as long as a Burmese python and a bosom that defies gravity, Jessica Rabbit has no problem in using what the artists gave her to get her way. Frankly, she makes Holli Would (the Kim Basinger femme fatale from Cool World) look like the female shot putters who used to compete for East Germany at the 1980 Olympics.

February 17th, 2010

Ten Movie Villains That COULD Actually Defeat James Bond

By Daniel R Deakin

Over the years, British mega-spy James Bond has defeated a plethora of idiosyncratic villains. Some of them weren’t especially taxing, let’s face it the bad guy in Quantum of Solace, Dominic Greene, was no Jaws (RIP Richard Kiel… actually that’s just one of those internet rumours, the 7ft actor is still alive at time of writing). Dominic Greene had all the savagery of a butter knife sanded down to make it even less sharp. What James Bond needs is to meet some real movie villains, and lose. After all, he is 007, so there are at least 6 other MI6 agents that can replace him.

Lecter

Villain: Hannibal Lecter
Appearances: Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon, Hannibal Rising, Rugrats in Paris (no not really).
Distinctive characteristic: Unable to pronounce “Chianti and fava beans” without making scary noises.
Special skills/weapons: Great chef, handy with knives.
Outsmarted, outwitted and outacted. James Bond has no chance against a man whose sole purpose is to put 007’s kidneys in a pie. Bond never dealt well with psychopaths, occupying himself trying to work out Lecter’s masterplan. Unfortunately, Lecter’s masterplan is to create a pizza topping out of Bond’s fingers. “Anchovies are for the plebs, real patricians dine on digits”.
Film name: The Spy Who Gave Me Gas

Darth

Villain: Darth Vader
Appearances: Star Wars episodes I-VI.
Distinctive characteristics: Shiny black helmet, suffers from asthma.
Special skills/weapons: Force power, lightsaber.
This is a real no match. Darth Vader is not James Bond’s father/uncle/neighbour/significant other. There is no holding back for the Dark Lord of the Sith. What use is a Walther PPK against a lightsaber? Not even Bond’s famous resourcefulness is helpful here, there aren’t many speedboats lying about idle on the Death Star.
Film name: That’s No Moonraker

Goblin

Villain: The Green Goblin
Appearances: Spider-Man.
Distinctive characteristics: Goblin glider, pumpkin bombs and being green.
Special skills/weapons: Lots of sneaky projectile explosives and maniacal laugh.
The Green Goblin nearly defeated Spider-Man, and he has special powers. What special powers does Bond have apart from charming the pants off practically every woman he meets and making a mean cocktail? This would be a closer fight though, because the “Gob” is reckless. However, the ending has Bond blown to smithereens with bits of pumpkin ruining his tuxedo.
Film name: You Only Live Once

Dracula1

Villain: Dracula
Appearances: A zillion films, but the best ones are with Christopher Lee.
Distinctive characteristics: Pointy teeth, hypnotic stare, bad breath.
Special skills/weapons: Can turn into a bat… or fog.
James Bond faces off against Dracula and suffers from déjà vu (Dracula looks just like the bad guy from the Man With the Golden Gun). Being over confident, Bond manages to track down Dracula to his coffin thanks to the vampire locator concealed in his watch (thanks Q). Unfortunately, Dracula surrounds Bond with his buxom brides, catching the randy old spy off guard.
Film name: Dracula Scaramanga

Megatron1

Villain: Megatron
Appearances: Transformers
Distinctive characteristics: Very tall. Made of metal.
Special skills/weapons: Big metal fists. Many big guns. Basically big.
Really more of a film short than a full feature-length movie. Megatron tricks Bond by turning into a Walther P38 (look it up on Wikipedia). Lulled into a false sense of security, Bond ignores the weapon, even though it weighs 50 tons. Megatron transforms and squashes Bond like a bug.
Film name: From Cybertron With Extreme Prejudice

Jaws1

Villain: Jaws
Appearances: Jaws films, Universal Studios Florida.
Distinctive characteristic: Great white shark.
Special skills/weapons: Swims fast and has large teeth. Can fool Michael Caine (Jaws: the Revenge).
James Bond has famously come up against a “Jaws” before and beaten him. But this time, it’s a hungry and surprisingly intelligent great white shark, not a tall dude with metal teeth and a 70’s haircut. Bond also has experience with dealing with sharks (all part of the recruitment process for SIS). However, this is not a regular shark. This is an angry shark. Great for a cliff-hanger… Bond escapes a boat being attacked by the irritated fish and sets fire to a convenient oil slick, believing he has fried the beast. Canoodling with some random ridiculously named bikini clad girl on the beach, Bond fails to notice the tell tale fin in the water and that this time, Jaws is really angry.
Film name: Fishfinger

gargamel1

Villain: Gargamel
Appearances: Smurf “Wanted” posters
Distinctive characteristics: Animated character, always wears black, likes cats.
Special skills/weapons: Evil wizard, magic.
James Bond goes surreal as he attempts to defeat the nemesis of the Smurfs, the evil sorcerer Gargamel (and his smurf eating cat Azrael). A complex movie idea, Bond falls in love with Smurfette, even though she is blue and 3 apples high. Gargamel kidnaps her and gives her to Azrael in a baguette. Bond vents his rage against Azrael by making the evil cat eat apples until it bursts. Broken-hearted and full of angst, Bond is vulnerable to Gargamel, who turns Bond into a pair of slippers and then wears them as he sets fire to the Smurf village. Utter carnage. Just like the 2005 Smurf UNICEF advert (Google it).
Film name: OHMSS On Her Majesty’s Smurfiest Smurf

Quatritch

Villain: Colonel Miles Quaritch
Appearances: Avatar (and the inevitable sequels).
Distinctive characteristic: Surprisingly cool claw scar on face.
Special skills/weapons: Adept with any weapon, really hard to kill.
Possibly the most equally matched villain Bond has to face on this list, but still difficult. Quaritch is a Bond villain in the wrong film. He can happily beat up 10ft blue skinned Na’vi (not related to the smurfs) whilst blowing up basically anything that gets in his way. Bond is way too subtle for this man and is used to villains who have diabolical schemes involving computers and gadgets and lasers etc etc. Looking down the business end of an RPG, Bond says his prayers.
Film name: The Man with the Gigantic Gun

Voldemort1

Villain: Voldemort
Appearances: Harry Potter Duh!
Distinctive characteristics: No nose, bad temper, not fashionable dresser.
Special skills/weapons: Wand. Loud, explosive and scary magic.
James Bond is hard to kill. But not in this film. Bond doesn’t know his “Avada Kedavra” from his “Expecto Patronum”, leaving Voldemort the easy job of making fireworks out of the suave super spy. Hermione breathes a loud sigh of relief though, she was tired of double-oh 7 asking how old she is.
Film name: Voldemort Never Dies

Sauron1

Villain(s): Sauron, Saruman, Shelob, Witch-King, basically the whole cast of Lord of the Rings who like killing elves.
Distinctive characteristics: Evil, lots of it. Bad teeth.
Special skills/weapons: Swords, spells. The One Ring.
More of a comedy this one. James Bond sees the whole gang of bad guys from the Lord of the Rings coming for him, thinks about standing his ground. However, he sees Christopher Lee again (see Dracula, Scaramanga, every film made since 1896) and runs.
Film name: Middle Earth is Not Enough.

By Daniel R Deakin

Over the years, British mega-spy James Bond has defeated a plethora of idiosyncratic villains. Some of them weren’t especially taxing, let’s face it the bad guy in Quantum of Solace, Dominic Greene, was no Jaws (RIP Richard Kiel… actually that’s just one of those internet rumours, the 7ft actor is still alive at time of writing). Dominic Greene had all the savagery of a butter knife sanded down to make it even less sharp. What James Bond needs is to meet some real movie villains, and lose. After all, he is 007, so there are at least 6 other MI6 agents that can replace him.

Villain: Hannibal Lecter

Appearances: Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon, Hannibal Rising, Rugrats in Paris (no not really).

Distinctive characteristic: Unable to pronounce “Chianti and fava beans” without making scary noises.

Special skills/weapons: Great chef, handy with knives.

Outsmarted, outwitted and outacted. James Bond has no chance against a man whose sole purpose is to put 007’s kidneys in a pie. Bond never dealt well with psychopaths, occupying himself trying to work out Lecter’s masterplan. Unfortunately, Lecter’s masterplan is to create a pizza topping out of Bond’s fingers. “Anchovies are for the plebs, real patricians dine on digits”.

Film name: The Spy Who Gave Me Gas

Villain: Darth Vader

Appearances: Star Wars episodes I-VI.

Distinctive characteristics: Shiny black helmet, suffers from asthma.

Special skills/weapons: Force power, lightsaber.

This is a real no match. Darth Vader is not James Bond’s father/uncle/neighbour/significant other. There is no holding back for the Dark Lord of the Sith. What use is a Walther PPK against a lightsaber? Not even Bond’s famous resourcefulness is helpful here, there aren’t many speedboats lying about idle on the Death Star.

Film name: That’s No Moonraker

Villain: The Green Goblin

Appearances: Spider-Man.

Distinctive characteristics: Goblin glider, pumpkin bombs and being green.

Special skills/weapons: Lots of sneaky projectile explosives and maniacal laugh.

The Green Goblin nearly defeated Spider-Man, and he has special powers. What special powers does Bond have apart from charming the pants off practically every woman he meets and making a mean cocktail? This would be a closer fight though, because the “Gob” is reckless. However, the ending has Bond blown to smithereens with bits of pumpkin ruining his tuxedo.

Film name: You Only Live Once

Villain: Dracula

Appearances: A zillion films, but the best ones are with Christopher Lee.

Distinctive characteristics: Pointy teeth, hypnotic stare, bad breath.

Special skills/weapons: Can turn into a bat… or fog.

James Bond faces off against Dracula and suffers from déjà vu (Dracula looks just like the bad guy from the Man With the Golden Gun). Being over confident, Bond manages to track down Dracula to his coffin thanks to the vampire locator concealed in his watch (thanks Q). Unfortunately, Dracula surrounds Bond with his buxom brides, catching the randy old spy off guard.

Film name: Dracula Scaramanga.

Villain: Megatron

Appearances: Transformers

Distinctive characteristics: Very tall. Made of metal.

Special skills/weapons: Big metal fists. Many big guns. Basically big.

Really more of a film short than a full feature-length movie. Megatron tricks Bond by turning into a Walther P38 (look it up on Wikipedia). Lulled into a false sense of security, Bond ignores the weapon, even though it weighs 50 tons. Megatron transforms and squashes Bond like a bug.

Film name: From Cybertron With Extreme Prejudice

Villain: Jaws

Appearances: Jaws films, Universal Studios Florida.

Distinctive characteristic: Great white shark.

Special skills/weapons: Swims fast and has large teeth. Can fool Michael Caine (Jaws: the Revenge).

James Bond has famously come up against a “Jaws” before and beaten him. But this time, it’s a hungry and surprisingly intelligent great white shark, not a tall dude with metal teeth and a 70’s haircut. Bond also has experience with dealing with sharks (all part of the recruitment process for SIS). However, this is not a regular shark. This is an angry shark. Great for a cliff-hanger… Bond escapes a boat being attacked by the irritated fish and sets fire to a convenient oil slick, believing he has fried the beast. Canoodling with some random ridiculously named bikini clad girl on the beach, Bond fails to notice the tell tale fin in the water and that this time, Jaws is really angry.

Film name: Fishfinger.

Villain: Gargamel

Appearances: Smurf “Wanted” posters

Distinctive characteristics: Animated character, always wears black, likes cats.

Special skills/weapons: Evil wizard, magic.

James Bond goes surreal as he attempts to defeat the nemesis of the Smurfs, the evil sorcerer Gargamel (and his smurf eating cat Azrael). A complex movie idea, Bond falls in love with Smurfette, even though she is blue and 3 apples high. Gargamel kidnaps her and gives her to Azrael in a baguette. Bond vents his rage against Azrael by making the evil cat eat apples until it bursts. Broken-hearted and full of angst, Bond is vulnerable to Gargamel, who turns Bond into a pair of slippers and then wears them as he sets fire to the Smurf village. Utter carnage. Just like the 2005 Smurf UNICEF advert (Google it).

Film name: OHMSS On Her Majesty’s Smurfiest Smurf

Villain: Colonel Miles Quaritch

Appearances: Avatar (and the inevitable sequels).

Distinctive characteristic: Surprisingly cool claw scar on face.

Special skills/weapons: Adept with any weapon, really hard to kill.

Possibly the most equally matched villain Bond has to face on this list, but still difficult. Quaritch is a Bond villain in the wrong film. He can happily beat up 10ft blue skinned Na’vi (not related to the smurfs) whilst blowing up basically anything that gets in his way. Bond is way too subtle for this man and is used to villains who have diabolical schemes involving computers and gadgets and lasers etc etc. Looking down the business end of an RPG, Bond says his prayers.

Film name: The Man with the Gigantic Gun

Villain: Voldemort

Appearances: Harry Potter Duh!

Distinctive characteristics: No nose, bad temper, not fashionable dresser.

Special skills/weapons: Wand. Loud, explosive and scary magic.

James Bond is hard to kill. But not in this film. Bond doesn’t know his “Avada Kedavra” from his “Expecto Patronum”, leaving Voldemort the easy job of making fireworks out of the suave super spy. Hermione breathes a loud sigh of relief though, she was tired of double-oh 7 asking how old she is.

Film name: Voldemort Never Dies

Villain(s): Sauron, Saruman, Shelob, Witch-King, basically the whole cast of Lord of the Rings who like killing elves.

Distinctive characteristics: Evil, lots of it. Bad teeth.

Special skills/weapons: Swords, spells. The One Ring.

More of a comedy this one. James Bond sees the whole gang of bad guys from the Lord of the Rings coming for him, thinks about standing his ground. However, he sees Christopher Lee again (see Dracula, Scaramanga, every film made since 1896) and runs.

Film name: Middle Earth is Not Enough.

February 4th, 2010

Great Internet Trolls of Our Time

There is such a thing in life as schadenfreude; a German loan-word which is used to describe the pleasure a person may gain from observing the misfortune of others. Essentially, deep down, we as a people love to see others fall by the wayside of life: we get off on misery; not to ourselves of course, because that would be bad. But the misery of others provides a sweet nectar indeed.

In these times, we are very much living in an Internet Age, where most people have at least some method of getting online. So, technology may have changed, but human nature remains the same and with our adaptive capabilities, we have transformed the internet into a mere tool via which we cause people misery, all the while revelling in it and crying out for “moar”.

1troll

Ladies and gentlemen, I am of course talking about internet trolls. Whilst they may bear a striking physical resemblance to their fabled bridge-dwelling cousins that populate the nightmares of goats the planets over; in actuality, they’re an entirely different kettle of fish. The essence of a troll is to simply go out on the internet and cause as much misery as humanly possible and Man’s capacity for cruelty is nigh-on infinite. However, on occasion it does cause a whole bunch of lulz.

Trolls themselves are a disease, a virus whose component parts are too numerous to count and document. Many of them will fade into obscurity and rightly so. However, sometimes a troll will gain some diminutive amount of publicity for whatever reason, before schadenfreude kicks in and before you know it, a snowball effect propels the troll into the proverbial limelight of the internet. This article documents a mere handful of some of the more publicised trolls, a mere drop of what is no doubt several oceans of raw sewage and nightmares.

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Bloodninja
Bloodninja is usually a body’s first experience of trolling; it’s that old and well-travelled. Typically referred to as the “Saga of Bloodninja”, his legendary utterance of “I put on my robe and wizard hat” and its effects can still be seen and felt to this very day, no doubt adorning a tshirt from some obnoxiously-named generic tshirt company.

The eponymous Bloodninja took basic internet chat trolling to all-new heights, turning it into an art form and creating results that are genuinely hilarious to read, unlike the numerous subsequent imitators and failures. If chat trolling was black and white TV, then Bloodninja was the guy that made gave it colour and made it awesome all over again.

SerenityNow

Serenity Now Trolls a Funeral
This is probably a troll that everyone has heard of, simply because pretty much everyone plays World of Warcraft, the game in which it took place. In fact, even YOU probably play it, right?

What happened was that a user who had played WoW died in real life, with the friends she had made in the game hosting an in-game funeral for her. Serenity Now, an in-game guild (or a number of players that form a special group, with some numbering in the 100s), perhaps feeling a bit aggravated by this crossing over of real-world issues into what is essentially “a game for fun”, decided to crash the funeral and kill everyone there, diving the community by causing as much mental anguish as it did hilarity.

While on the one side, you have people mourning the passing of a friend in combination with how they all met, i.e. the game, but then on the other hand, a computer game in which people pretend to be elves and hideous gnomes doesn’t need to have actual and genuine real life misery brought into it. Thusly, Serenity Now decided to inflict misery on the funeral-goers by trolling the whole damn thing.

Roomba

Team Roomba
These guys were around at the start of Team Fortress 2 when it first came out and was ridden with bugs, glitches and things that could be exploited for maximum trollage.

Their numerous videos actively chronicle their immense ability to come up with increasingly inventive ways in which to cause grief to other players of the game. They are a team of geniuses, whose sole purpose is to make people cry with rage. Although it does look like awesome fun.

1fortuny

Jason Fortuny
Perhaps a prime example of what our friends across The Pond commonly refer to as a “douche”, Mr. Fortuny took it upon himself to ruin the lives of many desperate men when he posted an advert on Craigslist posing as a woman looking for casual sex of some description. After receiving over 9000 applicants, he then proceeded to post each response (complete with graphic pictures) on Encyclopedia Dramatica (NSFW) for all to see, dubbing it his “Craigslist Experiment”.

Naturally, when this came out, it caused a furore of gargantuan proportions, not least of all for those stupid enough to send in incredibly personal details (and pictures) over the internet to someone they’re never met before. The identities of the men were ousted for all to see, with some of them holding respectable jobs (but not for much longer) and some even being married (also not for much longer). With the subsequent repercussions of Fortuny’s Craigslist Experiment being that there were potentially a whole bunch of freshly unemployed and divorced men out there, it was safe to say that Fortuny was a Ruiner of Lives.

Some modicum amount of justice was dispensed in Fortuny’s direction in 2009 though, as – after bragging that he couldn’t be sued and other similar arrogance – he lost a court case related to the matter, which resulted in him having “to pay $74,252.56 in damages, attorneys fees, and costs”. Gutted.

February 1st, 2010

5 Real Life Video Game Tragedies

Everyone enjoys a good, relaxing game of something; be it a board game, computer game, video game, outdoor game or mind game. Games are created for us to enjoy at our leisure and for fun, they are there to elicit various emotions in our moments away from work, school and the like and for us to partake of either alone or with friends, forming a spirit of camaraderie.

Sadly, as we all know, there are those people out there that will always take things like this far too seriously than is healthy for any normal human being, turning a simple plaything of satisfaction into a fierce do-or-die competition, sometimes even with the “die” part being literal. This article lists but a few of those that have fallen by the wayside of life due – in part – to their unhealthy addiction to video games. Now, please note that we’re in no way implying that video games cause people to be violent, but please think of the article as being written in the spirit of “here be an example of them there crazy people that flip out and kill others for no raisin”.

1tragedy

A Sore Loser
It all kicked off (ha) when young James Callaghan lost three games of football on FIFA 2008 to his brother and a friend. He then took the highly illogical and actually pretty damn crazy course of drinking an entire bottle of vodka before arming himself with long knife and an axe. Now, while the Daily Mail might hasten to come to the conclusion that he was copying the game he was playing, let’s just remember that he was playing a football game and I can’t remember the last time I saw a footballer in a game embark upon a drunken murderous rampage with weapons (we leave that for the football fans to do, amirite?).

Now fully-armed with his weapons of choice, Callaghan went about his neighbourhood like…well…like a crazy person. He attacked and menaced several teens in the area before moving to the coup de grace of his rampage, where in the home of an elderly lady (aged 65), he laid the smackdown on her, raining blow upon blow, beating and stabbing her to death in her own house. After this, he then tried to break into the house next door, demanding even more alcohol.

It was later revealed that Callaghan was suffering from schizophrenia and typically became violent after drinking; so in all honesty, pretty much anything might have set him off on his rampage. If we look back and re-examine the facts, we’ll find that he was playing FIFA 2008. Anyone would go crazy playing that pile of crap.

2Tragedy

The Curse of the Dragon Sabre
In Shanghai a few years back, a murder took place that was related to incredibly popular MMORPG Legend of Mir 3 (I say popular, it’s really only played in Asia, but by many, many people there).
Qiu Chengwei, 41, and Zhu Caoyuan, 26, jointly won a weapon in the online game known as the Dragon Sabre, of which they were no doubt very proud. That pride, however, would soon turn into HATRED and EVIL when Qiu loaned the Sabre to Zhu, only to have Zhu pull the ultimate in dick moves and sell it for the somewhat unprincely sum of 7200 yuan (a savings account-pleasing £473 or $870 back then).

Understandably, Qiu was pretty pissed at Zhu for selling the sword, so he goes to the local police. Sadly, because the item was virtual and not actually real-world property, there was nothing they could do. Furious, Qiu decided to take matters into his own hands, which essentially involved him breaking into Zhu’s house to stab him in the chest, piercing his heart and lung, killing him instantly. All over an item that was probably kind of rubbish anyway.

3tragedy

There’s Beaten, Then There’s Beaten to Death
Online MMOs are well-known for their guilds, or large factions of players that band together in order to tackle the game’s more demanding content. However, in games – as in life – sometimes a fierce rivalry can break out between these groups, which most of the time just serves to heighten the sense of competition, but sometimes things take a turn for the worse.

In Russia, players of Lineage II met in real life to settle a matter that had arisen in the game itself. The problem? Someone from one guild had killed (in-game, mind) the character of a player from another guild, their rival. Naturally, these veritable bastions of sense and reason decided to fight it out in the real world, because when you die in a game your first natural response is to go out and beat a man to d- actually, it probably is, but most of us have an ounce of sanity within us and will refrain from actual murder. Instead, we’ll just think it.

Anyway, what actually happened was that when the two guilds met, a vicious fight broke out, leaving one man so horrifically injured that he died on the way to the hospital. The moral of the story is: you die in the game, you die for real.

4tragedy

Tony Hawk Kills a Child (Sort of)
9-year-old Anthony Maldonado, a New Jersey resident, was stabbed to death by a 25-year-old family friend all due to an argument over incredibly rubbish game Tony Hawks: Ride. It just wasn’t worth it, whatever it was.

Allegedly, the two were playing the game on a PS3, when 25-year-old Alejandro Morales argued with the young boy over the game (sadly, there are little to no details about the argument itself, but it was probably over the game’s inherent shitness), which resulted in Morales stabbing Maldonado several times.

Shortly after being stabbed, the child managed to walk to his uncle’s room to inform him that he’d been stabbed. He died hours later after having been taken to hospital.

5tragedy

17 Stabs but Only One Kill? That’s a Terrible Score
15-year-old Ionut Silviu Savin took matters into his own hands when he decided to stab his own (adoptive) mother to death.

Being severely addicted to the internet can have its consequences and it was those consequences that his mother wanted to stop by refusing to pay the bills for his internet. To paraphrase the article, it was these bills that she’d end up paying for…WITH HER LIFE!

Ionut stabbed his adoptive mother a total of 17 times (which is usually indicative of some considerable instability) before heading out into town to a local internet cafe, where he proceeded to play the popular online shooter Counter-Strike for four hours. After probably getting owned and murdering everyone in the cafe (details on this are sketchy, read: non-existent), Ionut handed himself over to the police, confessing his crime.

January 25th, 2010

10 Apocalyptic Insurance Policies (Inspired by Hollywood)

By Rassam Fakour-Zaker
Know Your Money Editor

If Hollywood is any kind of accurate predictor of the future – and I think we all know that it is – then the century ahead of us will be beset by extreme hardship, unforeseen peril and apocalyptic danger. And maybe some hover cars.

Therefore, as the current glut of apocalyptic and dystopian movies prepares us psychologically, Know Your Money thought it would be a fitting time to take heed of cinema’s prophetic teachings and suggest some niche insurance products to help you offset the financial impact of the impending doom.

1Alien

Alien Insurance
The prevalence of UFO stories disseminated by Mulder & Scully et al during the late 20th century lead to opportunistic US insurers selling alien abduction insurance policies to the public. According to Wikipedia, such providers have actually paid out to successful claimants, although the source’s vague assertions whiffs of ET’s excrement.

Anyhow, Hollywood’s output of late (disregarding the awful The Fourth Kind) suggests that the little green men have lost interest in their dubious probing programme and have shifted focus towards the eradication of our species.

Accordingly, The Invasion and War of the Worlds show savvy consumers the importance of getting covered against the significant financial repercussions of having possessions and loved ones assimilated and death-rayed, respectively. Farmers, meanwhile, should bear the lessons of Signs in mind and acquire protection against the little green bastards dicking around with their crops. Once the alien invaders are repelled in a last ditch effort you’ll be thankful for some financial aid as you rebuild your shattered lives.

1Critical-Illness

Fictitious Critical Illness Cover
While SARS, Ebola, Necrotizing Fasciitis, H5N1, MRSA and Swine Flu can be dismissed as products of manipulative media scare-mongering, Rage, the Reaper Virus, Krippen Virus and the T-Virus are clearly threats of a more significant and tangible nature.

Therefore, when purchasing Critical Illness Insurance make sure that the policy covers the huge range of fictional conditions likely to cause global epidemics in the near future. Cover for lab-created pathogens and anything spread by monkeys is essential and you should also consider protection against unexplained outbreaks of blindness and infertility.

Spiky Dragon with Background

Monster Insurance
As the citizens of Japan have known for many decades, terrestrial monsters are a serious threat. Depending on size, type and disposition, even a single monster can have a catastrophic impact on urban infrastructure resulting in financial hardship for local citizens and businesses.

As well as ensuring that your home and possessions are adequately covered against such threats – especially if you live in a large, cinematic city – there are additional factors to consider. Cloverfield, for example, demonstrates that specialist monster cover for social events can be a prudent investment; while various movies from Tremors to The Mist urge retailers to protect their businesses against the financial repercussions of a prolonged monster siege, which commonly result in the disruption of trade and the mass appropriation of stock by the besieged.

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Robot Liability Insurance
Robots, Hollywood teaches us, are lawsuits waiting to happen. They will inevitably malfunction and/or become sentient and consequently turn on their creators with a mechanical indifference to the human principles of sanctity of life and rights of ownership.

What’s more, as Hollywood soothsayer Michael Bay informed the world (twice), most robot attacks are so disorienting, loud, implausible and mind-numbingly crap that they are difficult to predict.

Businesses conducting research and development for the military technology market should take a note from Robocop’s Omni Consumer Products and ensure that their third party liability insurance can handle a few accidental employee deaths. Similarly, larger operators should follow the lead of The Terminator’s Skynet, ensuring that their corporate limited liability status will get them off the hook should any of their products attempt to eradicate the human race.

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Biblical Apocalypse Insurance
Not being a religious person, and since Hollywood has been suspiciously quiet on the subject, I’m not entirely sure how the battle of Armageddon, the Apocalypse and the End Times all fit together.

The recently released Legion, however, has put an end to Hollywood’s silence on the matter, confirming the fears of nutters around the globe: the big Charlton Heston lookalike in the sky is putting a stop to all this worldly stuff sometime soon. Although, judging by the trailer, it looks unlikely to clear up any theological issues.

So, before you hear the portentous clip-clop of the Four Horsemen riding into town, it might be a good idea to get yourself some Biblical Apocalypse Insurance.

When comparing policies, make sure they provide decent cover for loss of life/property/soul etc, and, crucially, check the small print to make sure that you’re not being conned into buying a policy containing an Acts of God clause.

1Nuclear-Apocalypse

Nuclear Holocaust Insurance
Ah yes – nuclear holocaust, the secular apocalypse du jour and a cinematic staple ever since megalomaniacal nations began hoarding WMDs and adopting the wonderfully comforting strategy of mutually assured destruction.

We recommend Nuclear Holocaust Insurance to everyone, for when it happens, for whatever reason, you will either end up as a shadow on the ground or eking out a miserable existence in an uphill struggle for survival in a barren nuclear winter landscape that will almost certainly be primarily populated by mutants and/or cannibals.

Just think how much more cheerful The Road would be if Viggo Mortensen and his kid had a nice big cash payout to fall back on. They’d be set for kindling and toilet paper for the rest of their wretched lives. That’s the kind of peace of mind that only a quality insurance policy can offer.

1Reality

Reality Insurance
If you are generally happy with your reality then you may want to protect yourself should it turn out to be false. A substantial payout would have certainly helped Neo adjust to his new reality of increasingly inferior sequels, and it would have made Truman Burbank‘s decision a lot easier too.

However, if you follow the logic, then buying a Reality Insurance policy in a false reality is pointless, since if your reality turns out to be false then that would mean that any policy bought within it would not be real either.

Damned insurance salesmen, first it was PPIs and now this…

1Zombie

Zombie Insurance
Climate change, shmlimate shmange (that’s easier to type than pronounce). Zombies are mankind’s gravest threat this century – everyone knows it, even if the blinkered scientific community is yet to catch on. Whether of the shambling, traditional variety or the faster, modern pseudo variety, zombies = doom. We know this because the zombies always win at the end of every decent zombie movie (except for Shaun of the Dead).

Some Zombie Insurance specialists advocate comprehensive policies that include combat training and access to undead-proof cruiseships, but since these policies are relatively rare, we suggest finding a provider who offers a speedy claims process that pays out on infection, so that you can settle any outstanding financial matters before you start craving human flesh. Strongly recommended for shopping mall employees.

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Implausible Natural Disaster Insurance
We are constantly reminded of the horrific damage that our planet’s natural systems can cause. And the only thing more catastrophic than a real-life natural disaster is a Hollywood one.

But it’s not just tidal waves and earthquakes. Oh no, if there is one thing that movies such as The Day After Tomorrow and The Happening and have taught us it’s that catastrophic natural disasters are often of a much more implausible and illogical character. Therefore, when insuring against natural disaster risks, make sure that you are not only covered for threats bound by the laws of science, but also those governed by Hollywood pseudo-science and M. Night Shyamalan’s increasingly impoverished imagination.

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Temporal Divergence Insurance
Cinema prophesises that, unless one of the aforementioned threats wipes us out first, it is inevitable that, at some point in time, someone will invent time travel. And though a few will use it to explore the unknown wonders of the distant future, most will just travel back to balls up the past.

Therefore, those who are happy with their lot (bastards, as some people like to call them) might want to acquire some Temporal Divergence Insurance (TDI) to cover them in the event that some time-tampering tosspot changes a past event which consequently alters their present existence.

Since time travel’s paradoxical nature will hurt your brain if you think about it too much (would you be aware that someone had changed your past? Or would your experience change to fit the new timeline? Would any change affect the contents of your TDI policy? Would you even have a TDI policy if someone altered your past?) we recommend that you buy your policy from a TDI specialist who is trained in causality loops and the general mind-melting nature of these products.

Are there any apocalyptic insurance policies that we missed out? Let us know in the comments thread below.

December 3rd, 2009

10 Most Wanted Video Games of 2010

Officially bigger than the drugs and prostitution industries combined, yet still held in lower regard than either by society at large, what will 2010 hold for the video games industry?

I haven’t got an answer to that. I just thought it was a nice intro. What I do have, however, is the top 10 most wanted video games of next year (in order of most wantedness)…

Alanwake

10. Alan Wake
Format: Xbox 360
Release date: Late March
Alan Wake puts players in control of a writer with a penchant for suit jacket/hoodie combos and torches (that’s flashlights for the US readers out there) who finds himself embroiled in a supernatural mystery that follows the plot of a novel that he cannot remember writing.

Aside from the impressive graphics and promising setup, the most intriguing prospect of Alan Wake lies in the developer’s adoption of a TV series-style structure, replete with an episodic narrative and plot recaps – which sounds like a better fit for the video game format than the usual blockbuster movie template that developers awkwardly stretch out over 10 hours worth of gameplay.

And did I mention that one of the game’s main television influences is Twin Peaks? Fingers crossed for backward-talking dwarves.

BadCompany2

Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Format: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Release date: 5th March (EU) / 2nd March (US)
The next Battlefield incarnation looks to be a slick escalation of the much-loved warfare series. With another full-length single player campaign featuring the amusingly slapdash Bad Company squad, an enhanced physics destruction engine and a robust online multiplayer pitched somewhere between Modern Warfare 2’s bombastic twitchiness and Operation Flashpoint’s mil-sim po-facedness, it looks like this could be the first FPS of the decade to satisfy those semi-mythical, diametrically opposed demographics of the gaming world – the “hardcore” and “casual” camps.

Let’s just hope, for everyone’s sake, that the servers work better than they did for the Battlefield 1943 launch.

GT5

8. Gran Turismo 5
Format: PlayStation 3
Release date: TBA (EU) / 31st March (US)
Due to the legendary perfectionism of Kazunori Yamauchi, racing fans have had a rather long wait for the latest instalment of his beloved car fetishist franchise.

Announced way back in 2006, the arduous $60m development (go compare that with the games on our most expensive video games ever list) has witnessed many postponements, rumours and setbacks. However, further delays notwithstanding, PS3 owners will soon get their hands on GT5’s 1000 meticulously recreated vehicles, lovingly rendered in pixel-perfect HD with full damage modelling.

After recent stiff competition from Forza Motorsport 3, it better be worth the wait…

GodofWar3

7. God of War 3
Format: PlayStation 3
Release date: 26th March (EU) / 31st March (US)
There’s a number of epically-flavoured hack ‘n’ slash titles slated for release in 2010 such as Darksiders and Dante’s Inferno. But while these are shaping up quite nicely, the impending return of Kratos, everyone’s favourite deity-slapping badass, makes their existence seem comparatively insignificant.

The first two God of War games were crowning achievements for the PS2 and created such a joyous spectacle of action that the bar has been set extremely high for the current-gen sequel. Early reports and the recent demo, however, suggests that the scale of the action has increased in proportion with the PS3’s technology and Sony Santa Monica, the franchise developer, have not lost their talent for jaw-dropping set pieces.

HeavyRain

6. Heavy Rain
Format: PlayStation 3
Release date: February
David Cage, CEO of developer Quantic Dream, has always tried to push the boundaries of the video game medium to deliver unique experiences, and Heavy Rain is by far his most ambitious project yet. Weaving together the experiences of four characters on the hunt for a serial killer, the game employs innovative (i.e. bizarre) contextual controls and an immersive narrative full of weighty moral choices to create a meaningful and emotional experience for players.

It’s a bold experiment for such a big-budget commercial game but, if successful, it could represent a significant step forwards in the medium’s evolution from mere children’s toy into respected art form.

Those of less lofty concerns will be pleased to know that Heavy Rain also features the most awesome HD boobs yet seen in a video game. Obviously, their existence is justified by a sophisticated narrative context. And the fact that they can be jiggled about via the Sixaxis controller.

MassEffect

5. Mass Effect 2
Format: PC, Xbox 360
Release date: 26th January (US)/ 29th January (EU)
As well as injecting a welcome dose of action into the RPG genre, the first Mass Effect gave us a huge universe to explore that was as slickly presented as a Hollywood blockbuster and filled with as much intergalactic intrigue as the weightiest of literary science fiction tomes.

Picking up the story some 2 years after the events of the original, Mass Effect 2 sees Commander Shepherd and Co investigating the mysterious disappearance of human colonies throughout the galaxy. With an even grander narrative and some visceral tweaks to the combat mechanics, the sequel looks like it will follow its predecessor onto many a Game of the Year list. Let’s just hope that there have been some huge advances in elevator technology in the Mass Effect universe since we last visited.

Bioshock2

4. Bioshock 2
Format: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Release date: 9th February
Set in those parts of the underwater art-deco hellhole that we didn’t get to venture into on our initial trip, Bioshock 2 looks like it will feature more of the same weapon/plasmid-based combat and an inevitable moral tightrope to navigate.

The big difference this time, however, is that players will be controlling a fat bloke in a diving-suit with a food blender for an arm, a.k.a. the very first Big Daddy. With this leaving a substantial gap in the enemy roster, developer 2K Marin, clearly not wanting to upset their winning formula too much, have introduced the Big Sisters (pictured above) – adversaries of a similar nature to the Big Daddies, but a bit more acrobatic.

Will Bioshock 2 manage to top the dazzling narrative twists of its prequel? Will the Big Sisters prove as memorable as the iconic Big Daddies? And will the ending be less disappointing? We’ll find out in a couple of months.

LastGuardian

3. The Last Guardian
Format: PlayStation 3
Release date: TBC
If ever a game looks like its going to get humped to death by the critics next year then surely The Last Guardian is it. The follow-up to Team Ico’s much-lauded Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, is a thinking-person’s adventure game based around the burgeoning friendship of a young boy and a huge griffin-like creature.

Fans of beautifully rendered universes and affectingly poignant storytelling should probably be excited. Fans of Nazi zombies should probably look for fun elsewhere.

StarCraft2

2. Starcraft II
Format: PC, Mac
Release date: TBC
Last year’s most wanted video games post didn’t feature Starcraft II due to the well-documented fact that it wouldn’t be released until 2010. Nevertheless, an endless parade of “no StarCraft 2 = list fail” comments ensued.

12 months on, however, and it is sitting comfortably in the penultimate spot in all its long-awaited, real-time alien-battling glory. What will you ill-informed heathens complain is missing this time? (It better not be Diablo III either, because that looks like it’s been put back to next year’s list).

Crysis-Logo

1. Crysis 2
Format: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Release date: TBC
For those PC gamers with quantum computers from the 23rd century capable of running them adequately, the first Crysis games were not only jaw-dropping technical showcases for the graphical wonders of Crytek’s CryEngine 2 engine, but also damn good slices of sci-fi shooting action.

This sequel was always going to be big news, but what makes Crysis 2 a particularly exciting prospect for gaming in 2010 is that it introduces the new CryEngine 3 – a fancy new multi-platform engine which could, if all goes well, provide a practical alternative to the omnipresent Unreal 3 Engine which has powered so many games this generation.

PC gamers will get a fully-fledged sequel to a much-loved shooter, and console owners will finally see how far Crytek can push the current-gen systems – according to their humble CEO, it will be nothing less than a “technological breakthrough”…

Are your most wanted games of 2010 listed? Let us know in the comments thread below.

November 9th, 2009

The 10 Biggest Disappointments of the Decade

By Rassam Fakour-Zaker
Know Your Money Editor

There have been some amazing, life-affirming occurrences over the past ten years. But you don’t want to hear about those, do you?

Thought not. Here’s the most crushing letdowns of the decade…

Y2K

10. The Y2K Bug: Crappest techno-crisis ever (1st January 2000)
The disappointments started early this decade. For years there had been rumblings about an impending IT meltdown due to the widespread (and rather short-sighted) abbreviation of years into two digits.

As media scaremongers counted down to the apocalyptic ’00 switchover, the Millenium Bug hype ramped up considerably and, as I remember it, people began stockpiling tins of analogue food and steam-powered hair straighteners in a desperate bid to stave off the annihilation of civilisation.

Now, I’m no apocalypse-yearning Luddite, but I was looking forward to a little post-millennial excitement – maybe some light looting, or the eradication of global credit card data. Plus I had a massive stack of unread books to catch up on.

Alas, the year 2000 arrived and what did we get? Problems issuing bus tickets in Australia. Rubbish.

firefly

9. Firefly gets cancelled: What a gorram disappointment (December 2002)
Joss Whedon’s quietly awesome sci-fi series was doomed from the start when Fox TV’s executive idiots decided to air the initial episodes in the wrong order before unceremoniously cancelling it.

It wasn’t necessarily up there with the best shows of the decade, but many lesser products have inexplicably clogged up our TVs season after season, year after year (*cough* Lost, *cough* Prison Break).

But not poor old Firefly, which ran for less than one of its intended seven years. That’s nearly three quarters of a decade of Cap’n Reynolds and crew’s wisecracks, bar brawls and bank robberies we missed out on. Instead we got the useless Dollhouse.

George-Lucas1

8. Indiana Jones 4: Further proof that George Lucas hates humanity (22nd May 2008)
George Lucas, the bearded Dark Lord of Disappointment, spent his early career lovingly crafting wonderful escapist fantasies that defined our childhood years and captured the budding imagination of an entire generation.

During the 1990s, however, he began his journey to the Dark Side by single-handedly engineering 20th century cinema’s most gut-wrenching disappointment: The Phantom Menace.

This decade, after further defecating over our collective childhoods with two more intergalactic kicks to the scrotum, he turned his Mephistophelian hand to overseeing the destruction of his other much-loved creation: Indiana Jones.

Nuclear blast-proof fridges, long-lost son clichés and alien conspiracies: this was not the rollicking, whip-cracking Indy of old, but a cynical, hackneyed, CGI-spattered sham. Why do you hate us so much George?

Windows-Vista

7. Windows Vista: Bill Gates validates Mac owners’ smug faces (30th January 2007)
The monolithic Microsoft Corporation has taken a lot of criticism over the years. All of which seemed fully justified after the release of their last operating system which managed to be even crapper than the previous one. Security flaws, hardware compatibility problems, draconian digital rights management – the list goes on and on (and it does, at length, on the Wikipedia page entitled “Criticisms of Windows Vista”).

However, the most disappointing thing about Windows Vista was that it justified the annoying self-satisfaction of Apple Mac owners, making them infinitely more irritating and punchable.

Duke-Nukem

6. Duke Nukem Forever: Duke Nukem Never (2000-2009)
13 years. That’s how long we’ve been waiting for the triumphant return of the wise-cracking, decidedly non-PC video game action hero. After announcing Duke Nukem Forever way back in 1997, the developer, 3DRealms, subjected long-suffering fans to a hilariously protracted trickle of screenshots, rumours and bold proclamations of revolutionary content, with the odd teaser trailer thrown in to keep their increasingly tenuous hopes alive.

13 years? What the hell were they using to develop this game? The Antikythera mechanism ? Windows Vista?

Such ponderings – amusing though they are – were rendered irrelevant in May of this year when 3DRealms announced they were shutting down and that development on the eight-time winner of Wired.com’s annual vapourware awards had finally ceased.

Or maybe not? Rumour has it that DNF is still on the cards. Time to let it go people…

LHC

5. Large Hadron Collider gets switched on: Nothing happens (10th September 2008)
You can’t blame them for the hype, I suppose, for the LHC is nothing if not utterly esoteric. Therefore, in order to justify the staggering costs, and to let us simple folk in on the whole thing, they cranked up the media buzz generator.

The popular press excitably proclaimed that humanity was on the cusp of discovering the unifying theory of everything ever in the history of everything (ever), while doomsaying nutjobs predicted that we were about to be sucked into a black hole of our own making.

But dammit, the hype succeeded: it was an undeniably exciting time – absolutely baffling, yet pregnant with the wondrous possibilities of human endeavour. The LHC looked like a Bond villain’s lair for Christ’s sake. They had made particle physics sexy.

But then they switched it on. And there was no black hole, and no instantaneous scientific epiphanies, and our MTV-addled, instant-gratification-seeking brains just switched off.

And then it blew a fuse.

Matrix

4. The Matrix sequels: The Wachoswkis disappear up their own rabbit holes (May/November 2003)
Thanks to the deluge of dire movie sequels, cinema historians will look back on the Noughties as “The Decade That Imagination Forgot”. But while most were pointless, cynical continuations of past-their-prime or previously-concluded franchises (see number 8), the Matrix sequels were of a much more disappointing nature.

The original movie ended the 90s in a hugely satisfying synthesis of existential angst, visual flair, innovative action and intellectual depth that seemed to herald an exciting cinematic future of the new millennium.

But instead of delivering on this promise, the Wachowskis blew it. Twice. The first movie’s inventive action was replaced with tired and overblown CGI exercises; the playful deconstruction of notions of reality gave way to annoyingly oblique cod-philosophy and heavy-handed religious mysticism; and what did we get in place of the original’s effortless cool? That ridiculous rave scene.

Bush-Re-election

3. 2004 US presidential election: Rest of the world slaps forehead (November 2004)
OK, vote-tampering aside, in one way it almost made sense. I mean, the Democratic candidate… umm… hold on… John Kerry (I just Wikipedia’d it), was hardly a memorable candidate. But from every other logical (and illogical) standpoint it was brain-meltingly confounding. Bush? Again? WTF America?

There’s a saying where I come from: vote for a fool once, shame on… shame on you. Vote for a fool twice, umm… everyone… everyone will be really, really disappointed.

Financial-Crisis

2. The financial crisis aftermath: Time for a change? Erm… no (2007 onwards)
When the financial crisis struck in the latter part of the decade, bombarded by grandstanding political bluster about economic reform, I found myself gripped by a fleeting moment of delusional optimism, during which I almost believed that our perfidious, vote-pandering leaders were actually capable of instigating tangible, positive change.

“Finally,” I thought, “the world has accepted that our global economy is a ridiculous sham, our benevolent leaders will surely rip it down and in its place we shall build a progressive, sustainable and just system and our planet will exist in peace and harmony for aeons”. Embarrassment and disappointment soon followed.

To use Homer Simpson’s neologism, the economic crash was a quintessential “crisitunity”. It provided a real opportunity for genuine change. We could have slapped the smug look from the bankers’ jowls and told them stick their damned derivatives and reckless greed.

But with our hands greased by impotent political rhetoric, public apathy and the hegemonic influence of the banking sector, the chance slipped through our fingers. Instead, we allowed the bankers to go about their greedy business, risking global economic security in the ceaseless pursuit of growth and profits. This time, however, with us footing the bill.

To quote Homer again: D’oh!

Alien-life-form

1. No contact with alien life forms: Seriously, this is getting boring (2000 onwards)
We know you’re out there you little green bastards. A simple “hello” would have sufficed. We’d spent the previous decade with Mulder and Scully pretty much proving your existence, stamping the notion of your imminent arrival onto our collective consciousness on a weekly basis. And you don’t even have the decency to turn up.

Here’s an idea for you: give up the covert cavity probing, grow some balls – or the extra-terrestrial anatomical equivalents – and stop disappointing everyone.

You better show up next year with a good excuse and some sweet gadgets or you’ll make Arthur C. Clarke look like a right dick. And that’s not cool.

Were your hopes and dreams brutally crushed in the last ten years? If so, let us know what your biggest disappointments of the decade were in the comments thread below.

August 26th, 2009

Videogame Bad Guys That Could Have Awesome Political Careers

Just as the title says, this is a selection of some of the finest undesirables in videogame history and what they would have going for them were they to quit their day job to dabble in things slightly more politically-orientated. It goes without saying that some may view the information contained herein as being spoiler-tastic, so here’s your obligatory [SPOILER WARNING].

Someone you think is awesome but not on the list? Upset I missed out Wesker or Bowser? Feel free to discuss in the comments section!

1Gman

The G-Man – Half-Life series
Perpetually sporting a crisp suit/tie combo and carrying a briefcase no matter where he goes, Half-Life’s mysterious “G-Man” certainly looks the part. As many will be aware, the G-Man is the sometime-antagonist (his motives remain a mystery throughout the series) that alternatively aids and hinders main character Gordon Freeman’s efforts to do what needs to be done (namely hit stuff with crowbars).

G-Man makes the list because he’s got the look, know-how and skills that would put any current politician or aspiring dictator to shame. He can appear and disappear on a whim, he has “connections” and can get the wheels of any Machiavellian plot turning with little-to-no effort, can operate complex machinery (up to and including nuclear weapons – see Opposing Force). When the G-Man talks, you can be pretty damn sure that everyone’s going to be listening, if not for his creepy voice and elongated “S” sounds, then at least for his uncanny ability to transport you into some weird dimension that appears to consist of only you and him. Oh, he also appears to be able to stop time. Vote G-Man today, lest you be teleported into the midst of an alien horde!

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Dracula – Castlevania series
Having roughly a billion instalments in the Castlevania franchise, big bad Dracula is one guy that just can’t be put down. Or stopped. Or killed. He’ll basically keep coming back like those irritating cold calls you get when you’re at home.

Having such a dedicated PR team so that they see fit to resurrect him every 100 or so years is a must for anyone seeking success in politics these days, so not only does he die pretty much all the time, but his team are always there, backing him up. He has speechwriters that conjure up the stuff of legends, he can summon armies of undead so he has recruitment sorted; the guy is even friends with Death, which must come in handy for a politician. As far as a good team, respect and connections go, Dracula certainly has it going for him.

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SHODAN – System Shock series
As a pathetic creature of meat and bone, it’s not hard to understand how SHODAN has all the necessary tools to perform her duty as a leader. In the fact that she created the Many to do her dirty work, only to then get someone ELSE to dispose of them when her plans didn’t quite turn out the way she wanted, just like a real politician. SHODAN also sticks to her beliefs, no matter what everyone else thinks of them and she sets herself goals and goes about expending many a resource in order to achieve them. She’s also able to gather followers and recruits seemingly out of thin air and spare parts that happen to be lying around at the time, or even creating new and improved lackeys from previously unusable materials, surely a valuable skill in the politics world?

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Lucifer – Ghouls ‘N’ Ghosts
It may have a fond place in the memories of those that used to play it, but have you actually tried playing it lately? That game is damn hard, with a mistimed jump or enemy appearing from NOWHERE causing you much mental anguish and the loss of the few moments of hard work that you spent trawling through one of the many impossible levels the game threw in your direction. The game’s difficulty may have been an initial kick in the teeth, but it wasn’t impossible to rise to the challenge, or even revel in the chance to display some true gaming prowess. However, the real coup de grace, the real ass-bleedingly astonishing stomp on the crotch of gamers would be the fact that the first time you killed what was supposedly the last boss, the game made you play it all over again because it was simply a “trap devisut by Satan”. Bastards.

This cruelty to gamers is one of the main reasons that the boss character (Satan, Lucifer, Weird-Multi-Faced Guy, whatever) deserves to be a dictator. He’s got the credentials, what with having a large number of followers ready to throw their lives away in an effort to thwart their leader’s opponents. The guy also seems to have the leadership experience, to the extent that he was respected enough to have an epic-looking throne made to rest upon as he carries out his nefarious deeds.

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Kefka – Final Fantasy VI
The RPG Clown Prince of Crime (also, mass-murder), Kefka has many despotic qualities and achievements already under his belt. Insanity, slavery, murder, delusions of grandeur, nihilistic tendencies, crazy face paint, the poisoning of city water supplies, and then he pretty much becomes a god. In retrospect, a humble political career is way beneath him; he left such lowly positions in the dust with the feats he was capable of.
For the reasons just mentioned, Kefka is a shoe-in for the “greatest despot ever” title, simply because he had the power to do whatever he wanted and to smite those (even if they numbered in the millions) that refused to do as he ordered (which was – in this case – worship him). He was able to get what he wanted, when he wanted it and probably a bit before that. Any successor would have a hard time following in Kefka’s brightly-coloured shoes.

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Dragon Ninja – Bad Dudes
“Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president?” OK, so the Dragon Ninja might have eventually been defeated by the eponymous Bad Dudes, but had he managed to direct his enthusiasm for wrong-doing elsewhere, he would have made a fine politician.

Look at it this way, like the aforementioned Ghouls ‘N’ Ghost boss, Dragon Ninja is revered enough to have a veritable army of perhaps the coolest things ever: NINJAS. This is a man able to command the respect of the most deadly fighting machine to ever be created: NINJAS. This is a man that has the sheer AUDACITY to use mankind’s foremost stealth force en masse to take over Washington in broad daylight. He knows how to get the ball rolling. By combining the words “Dragon” and “Ninja” – perhaps the two most awesome things ever – into a single entity, that man is thereby infused with the powers of Cosmic Awesome to render his opponents in a stupor, either through fear or awe. Possibly both. Sadly his downfall is assured by someone that is a “bad enough dude”.

June 29th, 2009

10 Movies You Should Have Invested In (The Most Profitable Films Ever Made)

By Rassam Fakour-Zaker
Know Your Money Editor

While big-time Hollywood studios and investors throw massive piles of cash at CGI-filled slagheaps, many independent and first-time movie-makers are shooting films on shoestring budgets with the hope of hitting the jackpot. So, perhaps now the economy has nose-dived and easy credit is but an embarrassing memory we might have the serendipitous pleasure of seeing some new no-budget classics join this list of the 10 most profitable movies ever made.

[Note on figures: Budgets are estimated/confirmed production budgets (i.e. not including marketing costs, post-production etc). Box office revenues are estimated/confirmed worldwide gross box office sales (thus not indicative of actual net profits or investor returns). All figures collated from various reputable sources including Box Office Mojo, The Numbers and Variety. Films are listed in order of budget to revenue ratio.]

10. Rocky (1976)
Production Budget: $1,000,000
Box Office Revenue: $225,000,000
Budget/Revenue Ratio: 1:225
He may be a champ but the Italian Stallion only just scraped his way on to the list (Halloween’s Michael Myers was slashing at his heels). Written in just 3 days and shot in just 28, cinema’s finest and much-loved underdog sporting movie went on to scoop the Best Picture Oscar and made a star out if its writer/lead actor. It’s a shame that Apollo Creed knocked the talent out of him.

9. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Budget: $114,000
Box Office Revenue: $30,000,000
Budget/Revenue Ratio: 1:263
George A. Romero’s debut established him as one of the kings of low-budget movie-making and injected new life into a genre that had grown as stale as one of his shambling zombies. A politically sly, magnificently bleak, taboo-breaking and highly influential B-movie masterpiece.

8. El mariachi (1992)
Budget: $7,000
Box Office Revenue: £2,040,920
Budget/Revenue Ratio: 1:292
The inventive cost-cutting tactics that Robert Rodriquez employed to make his debut feature are legendary. Having raised much of the production budget by taking part in medical experiments he rewrote the guerrilla filmmaking rulebook, shooting El Mariachi with just one camera, a head full of inventive movie-making shortcuts and a new set of tits growing on his back. Probably.

Originally intended only for release on the Hispanic home video market, El Mariachi went on to form the first (and best) part of Rodriguez’s increasingly expensive and ludicrous Mexico Trilogy.

7. The Brothers MacMullen (1995)
Budget: $25,000
Box Office Revenue: $10,426,506 (US domestic gross only)
Budget/Revenue Ratio: 1:417
Edward Burns wrote, directed, produced and starred in this critically acclaimed comedy drama about the lives of three Irish Catholic brothers. It seems that Burns kept the budget low by shooting mostly in his family home. And having his characters do nothing more than sit around talking. (This is mere speculation as I haven’t seen it; please let me know if it features any mind-blowing action scenes).

6. Super Size Me (2004)
Budget: $65,000
Box Office Revenue: $29,529,368
Budget/Revenue Ratio: 1:454
About five years ago this image of a gobful of fries framed by a ginger horseshoe ‘tache was almost as ubiquitous as the Golden Arches themselves. A revelatory exploration of the hitherto unknown detrimental health effects of fast food (who’d have thought it?), the rapid word-of-mouth and extensive media coverage led to a super size profit margin for Morgan Spurlock et al, and another PR nightmare for Ronald McDonald.

5. Mad Max (1980)
Budget: $200,000
Box Office Revenue: $99,750,000
Budget/Revenue Ratio: 1:499
With box office takings of nearly 500 times the production budget, as both movie and investment prospect, Mad Max kicks arse. The groundbreaking success of George Miller’s apocalyptic directorial debut helped put Australia on the cinematic map and launched the career of one of Hollywood’s biggest egos. Not bad for a film that was funded largely by the director himself and investments from Australian car mechanics.

4. The Road to Ruin (1928)
Budget: $2,500
Box Office Revenue: $2,500,000
Budget/Revenue Ratio: 1:1000
According to Kevin Brownlow’s exhaustive chronicle of social commentary cinema of the silent era, Behind the Mask of Innocence, this movie, shot on the cheap in ten days, “held some kind of record for its box office success”. Given the figures above (which are backed up by Brownlow’s research), it hasn’t dropped too far down the list – even after 80 years.

In keeping with the exploitation genre’s trashy self-righteousness, the movie itself was a titillating voyeuristic vision of a young girl’s descent from decency into alcoholism, prostitution, abortion and – in the obligatory tacked-on moralistic ending – death. Brilliantly, though banned in some US cities for its lewd content, in others it was shown to children for educational purposes.

3. Deep Throat (1972)
Budget: $22,500
Box Office Revenue: $45,000,000 (US domestic gross only)
Budget/Revenue Ratio: 1:2000
Which brings us nicely to Deep Throat – one of cinema’s most controversial successes. Indeed, its inclusion here is no exception to since the surreptitious nature of the movie’s production, distribution and financing has stirred much debate over definitive figures for its budget and revenue.

Often described, unofficially, as the most profitable movie ever made, some sources, such as the 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat, put its worldwide revenues at $600m – which would put it way out in the lead in this chart – though such immense figures have been refuted as publicity-baiting exaggeration on behalf of the documentary-makers. Therefore, since I could find no backed-up estimates of its worldwide gross, I’ve erred on the side of caution and used a reasonable estimate of the movie’s US domestic earnings to calculate the budget/revenue ratio – and it still made the top three.

2. Tarnation (2004)
Budget: $218.32
Box Office Revenue: $1,162,014
Budget/Revenue Ratio: 1:5323
Tarnation is a cathartic autobiographical documentary charting the life of Jonathan Caouette and his difficult relationship with his mentally-ill mother. The Cannes Film Festival hit was created from the home videos, photos, answer machine messages and pop culture paraphernalia that Caouette had collected over the years and edited himself using his Apple Mac’s iMovie software. (Though the production budget was credit card-friendly, it should be noted that many sources reported that an additional, and not insubstantial, $400,000 was spent on post-production for the theatrical release).

1.The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Budget: $35,000
Box Office Revenue: $248,300,000
Budget/Revenue Ratio: 1:7094
There are only three things that stick in my mind about Blair Witch: tedious forest rambles, the leading lady’s snot and, most vivdly, the unremitting barrage of hype that turned a resourcefully-produced, no-budget horror into a ground-breaking global hit that went on to make over 7,000 times what it cost to produce.

Like many of the movies on this list the marketing costs far outweighed the production budget, but in a shrewd and pioneering move the creators made the internet its publicity bitch, creating its own mythology and stoking online rumour mills. A practice that Hollywood has been milking ever since.

Go compare this list to our previous article on the 10 Most Expensive Movies Ever to see what Hollywood would rather put its megabucks into…